Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Autobiography 2020


after Madeline Gins

my name, 


belongs to my body

I am 45 years old and have 

so many years to live

another name for me might be doctor

I move according to 

the gravity of the situation

I am composed of contact points

another name for me might be mother

I try to stay in the moment

I think about that all the time

I breathe with conscious force

I wake up with pain 

or lie down with it

wrapping it around me

I married that pain and only death

will part us

let me tell you about 

the world we live in now 

or the world as it was

poetry has always been necessary 

the throat of life


stones communicating with stones

but where I am now 

is the end of poetry


are the new poetry

Monday, January 04, 2021

Day three

Today is day four but this is my day three poem. 

Image credit: The Book Connection (Buy The Survivors there!)

Prologue, The Survivors

(for Jane Harper)
The sun goes down and stays down,
The sky unwrapping itself, pure sound.
If you’re going to do it –– She looks up.
She tells him of the weather they’ll be having,
Noticing the birds shrieking and circling the cliffs.
She stands in the shallows, swaying, the weather is inside her,
Lifts her skirts above the incoming tide,
She hasn’t given up on her art, or on wanting to live a good life.
She wants to make things that count, things that are new.
Despite what is going to happen next, dreamlight and darkness,
If you’re going to do it ––
She moves towards him.
You know those nights, you think you lie awake and never sleep?
And then the morning comes, you lie there, blinking,
Thick with the memory of dreaming.

Friday, January 01, 2021


We should be leaving the moon
In yesterday’s year,
It saw too much
And could not look away.

A fresh wind springs up,
A murmuring older than hills,
The veil of smoke has lifted,
Everything new is old again.

Saturn: hold on to your suffering
Jupiter: believe in miracles
Earth: sometimes it's necessary to be in it
Dust: never settle

Moon: Reduce your fears and anxieties,
The rest will help you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Golden Love Triange Suite

For C––
You know who you are.


Change, Bella.
This is not your life.
Their burdens cannot keep you on the earth,
You love me too,
You see it!
I can touch the clouds
But I can't handle the darkness.

It does not matter
Everything has changed
And what do you do?
Bella is your favourite animal.
But who is the lost wolf?

Because it happens often,
Because it will be him every time
And always like this,
Take me.
Please don’t make me choose.

Why am I covered in feathers?
Destroying everything, destroying the world,
I didn't realize I was crying 
until it was time to watch the sound.

I prefer a night without darkness,
where we will never see the stars.

In the middle of the night
My life was rough and unchanging.
Tell me my name before you go to bed.
I always have to stay in the middle of the night.

Despite an ideal day, it should always end
How does the sun shine now?
If you can dream, it will be up to you,
Spending time with you is not enough.


Twelfth sky, 
how do you think this problem will be solved?

Maybe like everyone else, 
I expect the answer to hang on a tree. 
I’m in trouble and this is the only way 
To attract your attention.

He will kiss you. 
You should not forget. It looks like this.

The ways they hate each other,
Know how I treated you,
I feel this as I watch your kissing kiss.

I searched for ideas and secret despair. 
Boys and girls visited the forest and were inseparable. 
Are these boys and girls happy?

What would happen if there were no women in the capital? 

I'm fine with you.
Honestly, I can live almost alone.

Well, this is the girl I always remembered. 
Staying beautiful is not a weakness,
Something you have to deal with.

No, it happened.
When the song ended, 
I knew that I was done. 
The birds keep listening.

You love me. Real or not real? Really or not? 
True? Do I love you so much it is true? 
How tired are you?

As for kissing!

I swear all the birds in the window are silent.
People tend to be a burden. 
I’m fine. I know you are here.

I do volunteer work.
I put up my hand. I volunteer as PR!
What am I doing? 
I raised my hand 
as if to remind me of the black and white wings that I wear.

Just kidding. I don’t like this language, let’s be honest.

Later I was there, broken and small, with a thousand eyes
Then someone in the band laughed,
Take a deep breath, three fingers. 

If I believe he is dead, I will not return to the forest.
Survival is not a fire of anger and hatred. There are 
many flames. I want to be a dry spring. 
The yellow spring is yellow. 
Until you lose, life goes on. 
Life should be good again.

I want to sleep in the open window. 

Your hands were there to please 
and your lips were finally healed.

This is what you and I do. 
Protect yourself.


Jo decides to forgive Amy and forget about the mistake.

That is all.

I love you, I am you,
And you must listen to me. 
I couldn't help it, you were very good for me, 
I ask and I answer. 
Now listen listen.
I know what you did, 
but the girls are so sad 
when they say yes, they say no.

I thought you were thinking but it didn’t help,
I loved you so much that I loved you 
And I didn’t complain.

Think about it now, but there comes a time 
when you have to take care of something, 
love it, live and die. 
I know you in your way would recommend it.

Oh, is that so? Okay. Forget it.
Great. I’m fine.

Shame on your do-nothing hand, 
I know I have no right to tell you.
Yes, love her every day if you want,
But don’t throw away the gift of her refusal.

No need to say more,
I know you're awake,
And a man.
This is the patience of girls.


You, who will be happy in the process
have to love what you do.
We are all parents of strangers,
In fact, love does strange things to you.

I’m tired of dancing around big words
I want to be honest with you:

You were born and died, and made many mistakes in between

And I didn’t want to do this simple route
Because I realized that if I lived here, I would be stronger. 
I need to know more about that. 
We grow up into small accidents in life

We continue to change our mind and even our heart.
In general, forgiveness is the only real thing we offer.

Are you ready for everything you kiss?
You do remember.
I want to laugh, I want to laugh,
I don't want to write a poem about love.

It ends,
But at the same time, it lasts forever.
Be heartfelt and full of heart.

You see,
Why not stop it?
There is a real need for this,
We found our way.

If you just stay here, please.

Are you really going to do that? 
And good, good; I have to believe 
that I am in a situation that is not possible. 
Let's put it this way 
I'm down and down
The worst I've ever fallen. 
What can you tell me?     

The only decision left:
I know who I am.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Lesson 2: How do I weave all my ideas into a story?

I have lots of fragments of ideas, but how do I bring all these snippets together into a story?
Early planning stage of one of my PhD chapters - old school cut and paste
I outsourced this one to Twitter.

Pick the ideas that provide great turning points. And the ones that give it a twist. Throw out the rest and start writing. Add fresh ideas as they come.

I like to take a few idea snippets that aren't naturally matchy, and see what happens when I stick them together. Usually, good story grows in the gaps between them.

Write down every snippet, every idea - always. If they don't pertain to any current story, just dump them into a file (I call mine The Abyss because I loved that movie & it was released when my file started). If you're ever stuck for an idea or direction, look in the file.

Put the ideas onto separate sticky notes than arrange them into groups which feel like they belong together. Then summarise each group onto new sticky notes and discard the originals. Then take these new sticky notes and form them into a sequence or timeline.

Sometimes, when you take two unrelated story ideas and bang them together, you get sparks.

I have fragments of sea glass, interesting stones, gumnuts and nibbled-on leaves scattered on shelves around the house. They’re tiny treasures with little purpose; much like the story ideas I jot down simply because daydreaming is so fun. It all exercises creative muscle.

I write vignettes around interests and then step back to find the bigger picture. I think this is a natural process for poets ie. an image or idea leads you into a piece, then individual pieces get shuffled and sorted to shape a collection.

This is such a good question. I think mine accrete around a kernel. Orchard was ‘what if kids find a magic thing and have to stop it being demolished?’ Then added a local, a newcomer, a weirdo, family, some silly things, secrets, jokes. Editing was working out which didn’t belong

I forget my snippets almost immediately, but if I remember them enough times they prove themselves worthy to make it into the first draft

As an editor I'd say don't take ALL of them, focus on and develop one idea through into a story. Sometimes two 'snippets' will wrap around or resonate with each other ... but you don't ever want a story to have too many ideas

After I have ideas that spark off each other (and discard others) I think about whose story it is first, then I think about possible structure elements to pull it all together a bit.

I... don't? I don't think that's how my story-making works. Exactly. Maybe. Now I'm confused...

As for me, I agree with Sherryl that character is the way forward. The novel, The Endsister, started with a conversation I had with my middle child when they were very young. I had a phrase (‘I know what an endsister is’), which immediately implied three characters: someone to say it, someone to hear it and ‘the endsister’. Who these characters are, and how this phrase changes them was key to unlocking the plot of the story (see Carole's note above about turning points). Taking some of your 'snippets' and ascribing them to characters may a way to proceed.

Also stories are dynamic: stasis and disruption. Someone once told me that the reason a river twists and turns is because water wants to be round, it wants to be a pool. Stories are like this, a chain of pools (static moments), tugged along by the current. I guess in this analogy your characters are the little leaf-boats eddying along on the surface, struggling against the odds to stay afloat.

Put it into action
Make a list of all the things you are interested in writing about, all the snippets of ideas that you have for a story. Write each one on a post it note. Now spend some time sorting through them, putting them next to each other, seeing if you get any "sparks". Collect a bunch that seem like they go together. Place the ones you discard aside for now (don't throw them away).

Now take another piece of paper and put an x on it to divide the sheet into four sections. Give each section a title: Character, Plot/Story, Theme, Imagery. Divide your ideas between them. Are there any areas that are empty? Are there too many post it notes in one section (hint: if they are all in imagery and theme and there are none in character or plot you don't have your story idea yet). Do you need to go back to your discarded pile?

Just for fun, try moving some of them around. Put things that seem like characterisation in themes, or turn images into plot. What happens if you introduce a random sticky note from your discard pile? What sort of river bends have to happen to accommodate that shift? Sometimes it's the unexpected bends and deviations that give your story momentum.

Once you're happy that you have a bit of a spread across the four domains and you can see your story coming into shape, try arranging your sticky notes into a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or just start writing. Stuck at the first words? Open a book to a random page, find a word or a phrase and use it to begin. I'll do another mini lesson on finding/constructing a narrative voice soon.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Lesson One: Showing and Telling

How do I balance showing and telling in (especially) genre fiction like fantasy and sci fi. How do I reveal plot points in a short story?

Warning this passage contains minor spoilers for Kelly Link's The Faery Handbag. You may want to read it first. 

There are two things at play here. How much do you need to tell? (That is, can you leave things implied? Unsaid? Mysterious?) Or if you do need to reveal information in a straightforward way, at one point should you do that? Can it be trickled in, or is it easier if you just drop it on the page and have it out there.  Here’s an example of a story that focuses on worldbuilding first, The Faery Handbag It’s a long short story (8000 words). But the first 566 or so words (7%) sets up place, character and atmosphere (creating a sense of magical possibility without stepping over into full fantasy). Then the next group of sentences set up the transition into the main premise of the story.

EXERCISE: Print out the first 673 words (up to ‘But it’s true’.) With a pen in your hand, do a straight line underneath sentences, phrases or images that feel very grounded in the real world, familiar and realistic. Use a wibbly line to mark passages, images or phrases that feel other-worldly or imbued in magical possibility. See how the author does the work of both drawing you into the world of the story by anchoring you with concrete imagery and opening up new possibilities to take the reader where she needs them to go by implying a heightened reality, or strangeness within the familiar.

It’s at the 5724 word mark (71% into the story) that we are told exactly what this narrator’s problem is, what the big problem that drives the story is and even then this problem never gets completely solved in the story – the story is about the slow reveal of the world. Sometimes the whole story is really just about revealing the story so far.

Black Swan Event by Margo Lanagan relies on some prior knowledge of fairy tales. Maybe you have that knowledge, maybe you don’t. Does the story come together for you? Try using the same technique from above – identifying the grounding passages and the more defamiliarizing or mysterious passages. How does the story deviate from your expectations, how does it meet it? Does the setting make the story more or less strange?

Writing exercise:
1. Set a timer for five minutes. Make a list of abstract nouns (awe, courage, law, love etc). Find a method for randomly choosing one. (Cut them up and put them in a hat, ask someone else to choose one for you, close your eyes and point...) This is the theme of your story.

2. Draw a map of somewhere you know well. It could be your own street, a route you take every day (such as your trip to work, uni or school), a wild place you used to play in as a child. Take your time over the map. Put in as much detail as you can. Annotate it with memories and story snippets (birdseed lady's house, barking dog etc).

3. Take a fairy tale and write out the main plot points and motifs. For example, Hansel and Gretel: poverty, cruel or weak parents, pebbles shining in the moonlight, birds and breadcrumbs, a candy house, a stranger, a bird cage, an oven, gold).

4. Combine your personal map with the fairy tale story twists and turns and motifs (you may, like Margo Lanagan's story, take up long after the original story leaves off, or you may, like Kelly Link, repurpose one specific motif to create an original fairy tale) to tell a story that explores your theme.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Story Dark

Moment when the tongue falls
word by word
is not a poem
a poem is not a child

my child plays 
with the animal figurines
standing the real
against the imaginary

the word
parts and folds 
talks the truth 
about the body

my child cries at bedtime
he asks are you real
I trace his name on his back
with my fingertips

the word
will be a mouth
the true body
at the skin’s edge

we read the one
about the children
who climb down the iron ladder
and hide under the ground

where the words stop
where the rocks open 
and go in the dark
it flows blood

we close the blinds
the dark is outside,
the mountain, the river, 
we bring darkness inside

blood, sky, sun, blood, blood
at the beginning of the story
your name
your own name