A Blog a Day in May

It’s Not A Problem

If you’re a reader, you are about to read a blog post which will echo through the pits of your soul. It’s not a problem, we all know this. But whenever us readers are faced with this sort of conundrum, there is definite…friction would be the best way to put it, in my mind.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will already know that I am blowing this issue (the one I’m about to tell you about) up to be something it absolutely is not, creating drama where none is needed, creating blockage when there probably is a clear path that I just can’t see yet.

But the thing is: this feels big. Like a pickle. And when something feels like a pickle to me, I will set my brain to work until it has come up with a logical solution that will bring me peace and clarity and a bin (you know, a bin to throw the pickle into.)

What is the pickle, you ask? Books, that’s what. I’ve started reading three books that are wonderful…and I’ve started them all at the same time. The pickle is this, and the pickle is also the fact that I’ll not finish any of them at this rate.

I won’t go into the details about each book but I will say that each is illuminating, genuine, inspiring, and each has a very clear reason to be read by a bookish dreamer named Brooke at this point in her life.

So.

How do I choose which one to plow on with? Surely it’s an essential question, like asking myself: should I brush my teeth, have a shower, sleep, eat? You’re laughing aren’t you. You’re laughing because you’ve been here before, but currently you’re not so it’s kind of like you’re looking back upon a distant nightmare set in a far-off land.

But for me, it’s here. It’s now. And I’ve got to DO something, I’ve got to get TOUGH.

I’ve got to put two of the books away. When it comes down to it, that’s just what I’ve got to do, isn’t it? One at a time. I will not find un-friction until I make a choice, and the time has come for me to make it—to choose the apple, the orange or the pear.

What a bookishly frantic conundrum. What a pickle of the totally me kind.

woman lying on bed holding book
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A Blog a Day in May

Beautiful

A face in the mirror; a gentle head tilt; a naked, swan neck.

Her fingers find the soft of her collar bone and drift upward: chin, cheek, forehead— every part of her, delicate. Like a bird, she thinks. The mirror shows her nothing new, and yet everything has changed.

Everything.

Because for the first time in her life, her beauty becomes her. This time, it hasn’t found her through the hungry eyes of a man, or through the careless words of a well-meaning shop assistant.

It’s found her from the softness of all that she is.

So this,

she thinks,

is what beautiful really feels like.

woman wearing black and white polka dot shirt
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A Blog a Day in May

A Friend Of Convenience

Her art is a friend of convenience.

It absorbs her.

It turns her delicate into raw and beautiful scenes of naked flesh on linen.

It turns her hard into lashings of angry black with no recognisable form.

The artist removes the brush from her mouth and strokes, one final touch of pink and she’ll be satisfied.

But she won’t. She’ll never be satisfied.

Because she is an artist.

And an artist, she knows, is always a work in progress.

An artist—a passionate, heart dwelling artist—will always be full of too much life, and never full of enough.

This is what living has taught her.

This is her reason for art.

woman sitting on brown stool
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Writing

The Happy Driver

Arki was a taxi driver, but in his heart he was a writer. He knew he was a writer because the words never stopped racing in his mind until they were out. Neither did the joyous feeling they stirred in him.

Everyday Arki would think up his words and send them into the world. He didn’t need a computer. He didn’t need paper. All he needed was to flash his words onto the windscreen of his cab, onto the night shining road, onto the cars that sped along beside him. He didn’t care where his words landed. All he cared about was that they landed.

He didn’t need his words to change anyone else’s life, either, because they changed his, and that was enough. In changing his life, they fixed a permanent light in his eyes that everyone who crossed his path could see and feel.

Joe, the frequent flyer who dressed for business and laughed like a monkey, slapped him on the back and called him, The happy driver. Jennifer, the lonely lawyer with sad eyes and a happy smile, insisted on a hug once they’d reached the office of a morning—just to say thank you. He’d wrapped his arms around her this morning and wondered if her eyes were closed and wishing to ‘catch’ some of his happy.

Arki had grown up with the burning need to change the world in some grand way. But as he drove along the road to home, thinking of his wife curled up on the couch and his baby boy, nose whistling in his cot, he smiled. He had changed the world in greater ways than he’d ever imagined.

And that, he thought, was good.

lighted taxi signage
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Twelve Days of Christmas

Tonight

On the sixth day of Christmas, I craved a feeling.

A specific feeling, really.

I craved a couch. And a book. And me.

All of us rolled up together,

where nothing and no one could find us.

photo of woman sitting near the christmas tree
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It’s not like I wanted to escape the day

or the responsibilities that lay before me.

I just wanted to read.

I wanted to remember the warmth—

snuggling on the couch with a book

and a lovely new imaginary friend (or two.)

christmas cold friends frostyPhoto by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There’s nothing quite like that feeling.

The touch of a book, the smell.

The firecrackers that tickle the skin,

melting me—word by delectable word.

Thank goodness there’s tonight.

I think I’ll read, tonight.

woman wearing white dress reading book
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Reading, Writing

Alexis Wright: Boisbouvier Oration, Melbourne Writers Festival

I’ve never read an Alexis Wright, book. Until she won the 2018 Stella prize, I’d never even heard her name.

But I can’t stop thinking about the speech she gave at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Wednesday night, and I absolutely think you should read it, here.

It’ll be good for the writer in you.

It’ll be good for the human in you.

It’ll just…be good.

I promise.

xx Brooke

I absolutely believe that we need deep thinking and deep imagination in our literature to shock the daylight out of us, to make us see what is happening in the world, to make us think, and if we teach how to read more deeply, think more, then perhaps, perhaps, we might stop harming ourselves and the planet.

Alexis Wright, Boisbouvier Oration, 2018

(One more post to go for my Melbourne Writers Festival series. I’ll try to get that to you over the coming days. xx)

blur book close up coffee
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Books, Writing

The Miles Franklin Literary Award. Melbourne Writers Festival

I was power walking and angry listening. In my earphones was the voice of an award-winning Aussie writer, discussing his concerns about the literary prizes of the world, and how potentially harmful he thought them to be, considering the subjective nature of reading and writing. I could see his point, but overall I had to disagree; great work should be acknowledged.

A couple of years later, I entered a short story competition…and won. The announcement was electric. I clapped my hand over my mouth (you know it, just like in the movies) and flicked my head around to where my sister was smiling back at me. Someone had liked my story. Someone had loved it, in fact, and I couldn’t quite believe how wonderful that kind of validation felt. This was one of my babies—one that I had agonised over, questioned, written and re-written so many times I thought I was going nuts. And now I was seeing it light up the world outside of me, making a difference in other peoples lives. Gosh, I was proud.

Over the coming days, though, I started to consider the validity of my win. Did I really deserve it? Of course, I was proud of my story, and, using the skills I’d picked up along my writerly way, I was confident that my story had technical merit. But was it the best? What did the best really look like?

My biggest punch of reality was the story that came in second place. It was a good story. It was a really, really good story. Not only was it superbly written, but the final paragraph delivered a twist so satisfying that my mouth flew open and a great big, ‘Hah!’ came flying out. That had never happened to me before while reading. Ever. This was clearly an award-winning story. And yet…it hadn’t won. My mind went straight to the podcast, to the writer who’d questioned it all, and finally, I could see what he was talking about. Comparing two stories is a bit like comparing an apple and an orange. Who’s to say which is sweeter?

With that said, as I sat in the audience of this Sunday’s announcement of the Miles Franklin award—clapping wildly as Michelle De Kretser took out the 2018 prize for her novel, The Life to Come— I decided once and for all. Literary competitions are good. They will never be entirely black and white, or fair; an opinion is an opinion, after all. But perhaps we should try to see the good in literary competitions, look at them through those glasses I love so much: the rose-coloured ones.

Competitions like the Miles Franklin, The Stella Prize, The Man Booker (just to name a few) can provide a roadmap, a huge wavy flag that says, ‘Look here! This is one way to write, this is one way to live!’ My passion for reading and writing—and for being a good human, for that matter— naturally leads me to think of these competitions as a rich source of learning and growth.

And, as for the subjectivity that places a question mark over the heads of every award-winning book out there…the great news is this. We get to decide the true winner. Us. The voracious readers. The learner writers. We know which books and authors resonate with our own sensibilities. And if our own opinion just so happens to be the same as that of the judges, well. Hi-fives all ‘round, hey?

Congratulations, Michelle De Kretser. I read your words and I wish they were mine. xx

books stack old antique
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Nerdy Party, Writing

How Mood Affects Writing

I’ll be honest with you. I-am-cranky. There. I’ve said it.

And now I don’t even know what words are going to end up in this sentence because my fingers are just banging away without me even thinking, without me even caring about what comes out of this cranky mind of mine.

Now.

In the spirit of maintaining some of the glass half fullness that I believe to be a more accurate representation of me, I thought I might take this opportunity to gather in my little nerdy corner and make the most of this mood. To close my eyes. To breathe. To think all the lovely nerdy thoughts. And to have a little nerdy party.

You guys wanna come? We could hang out in the corner for a while, have a little chat about how language and tone indicate mood in a piece of writing? More specifically, we could analyse some little pieces of cranky me above, and try to dissect and plump up some of my cranky, writerly ways? (Omg. Fun, huh?)

Yes! Let’s DO this!

I suppose there were a few indications at the start of this little post of mine that may have given cranky me away.

Readers (ahem, humans) are creatures of habit, tradition, and pattern

In my experience, the sentence I’ll be honest with you often leads to something negative. So, even though the words themselves might seem kind of innocent—depending on the context in which they are being used—in this case, we all knew what I was really saying. (Hint. I am cranky!)

Example: ‘Omg, Brooke. I’ll be honest with you. These nerdy parties of yours are such mega buzz kills.’ (Sure, you guys. I know you secretly love them. Wink face emoji.)

yeah printed white board
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Impact. Start with a bang

In fact, if I was really serious about bringing a reader into my cranky world, I’d have completely chopped out the I’ll be honest with you, and gotten straight to the point:

I-am-cranky. Boom. Like a punch in the face.

Imagine if that was the first sentence? Right away the reader would have been invested in my story. They’d have been curious. By starting with the words, I-am-cranky…I may have raised their eyebrows, a little. I may have prompted them to say, ‘But Brooke. Tell us why!’

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
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Sentence length and flow

Humans really are creatures of symbolism and expectation, don’t you think? We often learn cool tricks without really even being aware we are doing so. One of those sneakily learned tricks is our ability to translate the flow of language.

You might have noticed my first few sentences were short and snappy, splattered onto the page like spitballs shot from the end of a pen? I suppose it’s dependent on many factors (such as culture or context) but often times, short sentences and singular words can indicate aggression. Anger. Hostility. (Ahem, crankiness.)

And then there’s the opposite side of the cranky coin. Long, rambling, breathy sentences. There’s something like one of those if you go back and have a look at paragraph two: a long sentence snapped in half with a single comma, delicately laced with the odd italic to really hit the cranky ball out to left field. (Btw. If we’re going to be really nerdy about it, bold seems a better way to emphasis angry words, to me. It’s just that italics is so much prettier, don’t you think?)

antique background blur book
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Well! I hope you enjoyed my little nerdy cranky party. I sure did! In fact, have you noticed? I’m not cranky anymore! Just look at all the joyful exclamation marks a simple nerdy party can bring to this life of mine.

Yes. I really do think I should have more of these nerdy parties. Especially if I ever get the cranks up again.

Ps: Thanks for coming!

xx Brooke