NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 4

Friday, 6 November 2015

Can’t talk. Writing.

Also finished my Astronomy course assessments today, and I passed, so hopefully by next week I’ll have my final results and certificate of achievement. Interestingly I’ve noticed that since doing this course I’m using a lot more space analogies in my story. Yesterday I likened something to a pulsar; today to a black hole.

Yesterday we had a tiny tornado touch down somewhere near the Melbourne airport. Melbourne weather is crazy at the best of times, but yesterday managed to pack every season into the space of two hours. One moment we’re receiving Bureau of Meteorology warnings to take shelter, a tornado is coming (they aren’t meant to happen so far south of the equator); half an hour later, no exaggeration, it was hot and humid and sunny. It made for some fascinating cloud formations.

We have a saying here, “If you don’t like the weather, look out a different window.” It proved to be very true yesterday. There’s a popular instagram hashtag, #melbourneweather, which often shows the absurd flip-flopping of our local climate here.

Current word count: 11,203 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: the sound of two cats snoring in the clean washing pile.

So many Melbournians shared this picture yesterday that I had to share it, too. I have no idea who made the original post.

NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 1

Saturday, 31 October 2015

It’s the last day of Nanowrimo planning. I awoke feeling pretty horrendous. I can never anticipate when my anxiety and depression are going to hit but in the last week I had my first severe anxiety attack since last Christmas, followed by days of a sharp increase in my depression symptoms. For people who aren’t familiar with how this disease works, basically it makes normal, everyday activities about a thousand times more difficult than they need to be.

However, I pushed through and it was worth it. The kids had their weekly swimming lessons and it was strangely quiet. Here in Melbourne, Australia, today marked the beginning of the week-long Melbourne Cup Carnival. My personal opinions about horseracing and its attendant animal welfare concerns aside, and to put it all in context, the first Tuesday of November each year marks the running of the 3,200 metre VRC Melbourne Cup, first held in 1861. Much of the most recent centuries of Australian history are inextricably intertwined with horses and the Melbourne Cup is huge. It also constitutes a public holiday in Melbourne and in at least some parts of the state of Victoria. I don’t know of any other city that has a public holiday dedicated to horseracing. Because of this, often people take the Monday off, too, gaining a four-day weekend in the process. A lot of people take it as an opportunity to go camping. Since my kids switched to public (government funded) schools they no longer get the Monday off (to their dismay). But it did mean that they were the only kids in their swimming class today which resulted in a lot more personal attention and practice than normal.

After swimming we got dressed into our Hallowe’eny finest – for my daughter it meant her black cat and full moon t-shirt, for me my HP Lovecraft-inspired dress, and for my husband and son it meant, well, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. As always. We drove down to South Gippsland in coastal South-East Victoria, which has the unique distinction of being where I and my children were born, not to mention where most of my family still live. (!) Today’s stop was the town of Korumburra, and the Coal Creek Historical Village, for their annual Hallowe’en event, where we met up with my mother and sister. I haven’t been to Coal Creek since I was a teenager and I had many fond memories of it. It was really thoroughly enjoyable to return – it looks like they’ve done a lot of work to it and if you’re ever in South Gippsland it’s worth seeing if you can get to one of their special events.

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I love Hallowe’en, and I freely admit that. I know there are very reasonable laments that it’s merely some Americanised and opportunistically capitalist festival that’s been forced upon an unwilling Australian culture. But I think there’s more to it than that. For starters, a lot of Australians (myself included) have Celtic ancestry, and Hallowe’en lines up with the Northern Hemisphere’s Samhain – an ancient Celtic festival marking the thinning of the veil between the worlds. For Aussie Celtic neo-pagans it falls on roughly the same time as Beltane, the bonfire festival marking the beginning of summer (though technically we consider December 1 the beginning of summer). I think in some ways our Australian versions of Hallowe’en appear to be a blend of both – though it would take me a while to try to explain on what evidence I base that assertion. As a frustrated wannabe Goth, I do enjoy the visual imagery associated with the event.

However, after spending their entire lives thus far in the Pentecostal community, Hallowe’en has an interesting and largely negative set of associations for my husband and children. My son was only willing to attend after I repeatedly assured him that we wouldn’t participate in any genuinely occult activity and that we were taking a stroll around to see interesting costumes and the historical park. I felt this was a positive and safe way to highlight for the kids that these events are not a matter for fear. I fully respect my children’s choice to not participate in occult, and think it’s really important they can express that. At the same time, I think that often the Pentecostal fear that there is “a demon behind every bush” as I once heard it phrased in church, easily becomes a debilitating kind of prejudice towards things and people that look different. The reality is, a bunch of families at a community event where people get to dress in fun costumes, ride an old steam train and eat good food is not a matter for fear, and I don’t want my kids avoiding the broader community out of an understandable but misguided fear fed by their paternal side of the family’s somewhat marginal* set of religious beliefs.

*In Australia, the statistics show that the most common religions are Catholic at 25%, No Religion (Atheist, Agnostic, or similar) at 22%, and Anglican at 17%. Pentecostals, while representing a fast-growing segment of Australian Christianity, consist of less than 2% of the Australian population. It’s interesting marrying someone who was raised entirely within that system, and noticing that moment he realised that his religious views were not normative, as he’d been led to believe, but really quite fringe in relation to the rest of the surrounding culture.

After the Hallowe’en event we headed into my hometown Leongatha for dinner with my mother and aunty. We went to an old favourite Chinese restaurant, the Orchid Inn, which I’ve been to more times than I could possibly recall. Once upon a time the restaurant was owned by one of my father’s university classmates, and we would regularly eat there on smorgasboard and karaoke night. I have a lot of happy memories of birthdays celebrations and meals in that place and it was nice to return. I enjoyed a great and filling vegan-friendly meal of tofu, Chinese vegetables and fried rice.

It was the first time seeing my mum since her recent trip to England and Wales, and she gave me a book she bought there, Supernatural England: Poltergeists, Ghosts, Hauntings edited by Betty Puttick (2002). It looks absolutely fascinating and reminds me of this interesting website I found recently, Legendary Dartmoor. I love “true” stories of the uncanny and unsolved mysteries and I look forward to reading it.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Screenshot: Let the writing begin! Nanowrimo 2015, Day 1.

Screenshot: Let the writing begin! Nanowrimo 2015, Day 1.

It’s day one of writing and already I’m facing my first hurdle, a mere one-and-a-half sentences into my draft: do I want to write in first person perspective, or third person? I have changed my minds on this point multiple times over the last fortnight of planning. Normally I write from the third person: I like the sense of distance it gives in making it clear that my writing is not intended to be autobiographical. It’s interesting as an aspiring writer to realise that often my first person creative writing has been mistaken for autobiography by those who know me in real life, but don’t realise I write for fun and as a way to explore the perspectives of others. I also like that third person allows for moving between different characters’ views of the events of a story.

However, I find that third person is a bit too distant, because I find that I can’t delve too far into the the mind and motivations of my characters without becoming self consciously embedded within the story as the omniscience and omnipresent narrator. I also love the flow of stories like Interview with the Vampire, which feels first person – though technically I guess it’s a third person narrative depicting basically two scenes: most of the novel is one scene in which a vampire discloses his life story to a journalist. Dracula too is first person, but the perspective is shared between characters and the story is pesented as a collection of journal entries and letters. I really like that kind of immersion in a character’s psyche.

I find that having a writing space conducive to creative writing is easier said-than-done. Because today is a Sunday, the children and husband are at home, and it seems to me that I can’t write without someone looking over my shoulder. I am a very guarded kind of creative: I simply cannot do a first draft of anything, whether written, painted or drawn, when I feel that I’m being watched. However, my Scrivener files are all on the big computer in the shared living space of the lounge room, and anyone walking past would be able to see what I write. So I’ve now locked myself in my bedroom with my laptop, and will write from here for today. Later I’ll transfer the files across to Scrivener – and just hope that my plot isn’t going to be so complex that I need to refer to my Scrivener notes.

Time to begin.

Essential Nanowrimo supplies. Apart from writing materials, that is.

Essential Nanowrimo supplies. Apart from writing materials, that is. Having herbal teas to try to avoid Nanowrimo-induced caffeine overload.

Current word count: 28/50,000 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: Ravenhead by Orden Ogan; Schock by Eisbrecher.

Monday, 2 November 2015

It’s a typically gloomy Melbourne spring day and not particularly conducive to wanting to write. It’s grey, damp and chilly. The house always has this messy, cluttered feeling after the weekend. My compulsion is not to write but to clean. But I know that cleaning, as important as it is, can also double as procrastination. I need to take advantage of the fact the kids are at school today – tomorrow is a public holiday – and churn out as big a word count as I can manage in the next six hours!

The first person versus third person question became surprisingly difficult for me, so I ended up writing a page’s worth of the story in both perspectives. I loved the first person perspective for my story but it felt too limiting by reducing the story to the thoughts and experiences of a single character. Third person it is… Though if any of you have read the hilariously awful Atlanta Nights you’ll know that the collaborators didn’t quibble over stylistic problems like third versus first person narrative – that book has it all, bewilderingly changing midway through chapters.

Current word count: 882/50,000 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: Polaris by TesseracT

Around the Garden – September, 2015

11 September 2015 – Tesselaar tulips

11 September 2015 – Bunnings tulips

12 September 2015 – The kids helping with a neglected section of the garden.

12 September 2015 – Getting the kids to help really improved the appearance of the garden.

12 September 2015 – the view from the front window

12 September 2015 – late afternoon sunshine through the apricot trees.

12 September 2015 – Flowers on the Tuscan kale.

14 September 2015 – Apricot blossoms.

14 September 2015 – The weeds have overtaken the veggie garden and it’s going to take a lot of hard work, digging and planting to tidy it up. The kids cleared the patch of soil that our cat Riker decided was for him.

16 September 2015 – Sweet corn and tomato seedlings in the mini-greenhouse waiting to be planted.

17 September 2015 – Writing labels to remember where I’ve planted out the seeds. In September I planted 1,500 alyssum seeds. I may have gone overboard, but I just love those little flowers. They remind me of my grandparents’ garden.

18 September 2015 – We had a salad made from homegrown veggies. All of the ingredients shown here were picked out of the garden half an hour earlier.

19 September 2015 – We live at a rental house. Our landlords clearly loved their garden while they lived here (we’re the first tenants they’ve ever had) – but it seems that they never thought to plant a single native plant (they’re migrants from Europe and I think the plants they liked must’ve been the ones that reminded them of home!). Here is a small callistemon (bottle brush) that I planted. They produce lovely big red flowers that attract native birds.

19 September 2015 – after clearing away some weeds in the veggie garden I uncovered some lettuces, parsley and tiny strawberry plants.

19 September 2015 – I planted out the sweetcorn and tomatoes. I also scattered tomato seeds around the weeded sections of the garden.

19 September 2015 – having tidied up a lot more of the veggie garden, I scattered around some onion, nasturtium and chive seeds.

23 September 2015 – I hammered in some stakes and sectioned off the veggie garden. Now The Husband knows where to mow and he hopefully won’t run over the veggie seedlings! I also find that the line makes the garden look a lot more deliberate. Rather than being a haphazard collection of weeds and veggies, it makes it clear that it’s a garden bed in progress.

23 September 2015 – A much tidier-looking veggie garden. The cat run is to the right. The cats get most of their outdoor time inside the run. This is partly to keep them safe, as well as to protect the wildlife. Domestic cats wreak havoc on Australian native animals and birds. In the foreground of the veggie garden are some massive cauliflowers I grew from Aldi-brand seeds that my grandmother gave me.