Monday, January 19, 2009

What I've been up to lately

1. Rearranging the furniture. Amazing how much of a difference that can make. I love our house so much more now that we have a 'cul-de-sac' lounge room, instead of a walk through one. I so want to pull up the carpet, and have been getting some peer group pressure on Facebook to just do it, but I need Martin's complicity to move the furniture out of the way. We've got a few more changes planned, a lick of paint for example, and we're both keen to get rid of the conara fireplace and get a split system instead.
2. I've been asked to teach a novel class or two this year. 3rd year students. Looking forward to it because teaching is fun, and phew, because it takes some financial pressure off.
3. Rethinking my PhD. I got knocked back, did I tell you? Turns out no one wanted to supervise a digital novel. Le sigh. I can't say I blame them, I'm not sure I am brave enough to write one. Anyway, so I am oscillating between shopping around for braver souls, and creating a whole new proposal, which is bringing up all these other issues about PhDs generally. What are they for anyway? To contribute something to the academic landscape? Or to showcase your skills? Or for personal development? (I suspect I'd get a different answer from everyone). But I don't really know how to answer the question for myself. The reason I proposed the digital novel was because it was an opportunity to get funding for a novel that would otherwise possibly have no other income stream, but would offer something up in a new and developing field, and would potentially help my publisher wrap their heads around how the pitfalls and possibilities of publishing digital narratives.
4. Applying for a job (gulp). It's a part time lecturer position in literary studies, but they emphasise Creative Writing in the ad. While I'm not wildly overqualified, I do actually meet all the requirements and I actually think I'd be great at it and that I would love it. It interests me that I want so much to apply for it. I love the idea of a clearly delineated worklife for a while. I love writing and being a writer, but sometimes I hate it too. Perhaps I shouldn't be allowed to peruse job sites when I have writer's block. But it's only a part time position, so I'd still have time to write in theory
5. Getting Una settled into a new creche. After the recent post we found out that there was a place available at the next door's ex-creche (Tommy finished up last year). We rang up, secured Una a place and went to take a look. It's a bit of a drive and it will take some logistical planning to get her there and home, but it's a STUNNING centre, a really beautiful space, with a good staff and a very settled feeling. Una is in the kinder room, with a qualified carer and a kinder teacher, so I think it will be a stimulating environment for her. We've got one day and we're going to talk about a second day, for her sake and for my sake. I've gone from having 2 days a week to work to 3, maybe 4. It hasn't quite relieved the pressure in my chest, but it's a start. I think I'll feel better once we're into the rhythm of our days - the school year begun for all of us. (Since starting this post I've had another visit at Una's creche and we've definitely got a second day - yay). This centre basically fell into our laps, but I don't think I could have chosen a better one for her.
6. We went to see Bolt - it was Una's first cinema experience, and the first time we'd taken Fred for about a year. They both stayed till the end (bonus) and no toilet visits (*gobsmack*). The movie was actually a bit of a miss, though both the girls enjoyed the characters and were reasonably entertained. Neither of them grasped the Truman show type concept that Bolt was a television star who believed he was really the super-hero character he played. Which means pretty much for them, there was no meaningful narrative whatsoever. We had a lot of confused questions and equally confused explanations as I tried to convey real and pretend to them in the context of movies and television. Which is funny-strange, because they have no problem with metafiction in picture books, they have a sophisticated notion of the layers of storytelling. Martin and I were both mildly entertained by Bolt, but I felt that there was a layer of story missing, and it was quite slow in the middle. I'm thinking of taking them to Desepereaux before school goes back. It was exciting being at the movies, Martin and I don't go very often. I have heard mixed reports about the movie but I am a huge admirer of Kate DiCamillo, who wrote the book on which the movie is based.
7. And I've been reading and researching Thumbelina and related fairytales, as well as dollhouse and mouse fairytales and stories, particularly Beatrix Potter's Two Bad Mice, which is mine and Fred's favourite story, especially the line: "Then there was no end to the rage and disappointment of Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca" which is the best example I know of telling rather than showing for maximum impact. This is for the fairytale in Only Ever Always. Apart from that I have writer's block thank you very much, and no I don't want to talk about it.
8. And finally Martin and I have been sticking needles in our eyes trying to have a reasonable conversation with [Home Loan Company]. You see, as a writer I get paid at all sorts of different times, and so we pay our mortgage with a lump sum well ahead of schedule. So it turns out the nice man who said that he would make that work for us has actually set up our account so it goes into arrears, we get a credit note and then they take the monthly payment out of our redraw. Which makes us look like bad mortgage people, when we're so not, we're suckhole good mortgage people who always make our payments well ahead of time. We need to borrow off our mortgage to buy a second car, but it's looking unlikely at this stage because of this situation. Surely there must be other people in our position, other primary producers like farmers and artists and small business owners whose repayments need to be made in lump sum payments. Luckily Martin's been making the calls and managing to keep his cool as he explains our situation for the hundredth time to yet another small backboneless fish in the big murky bog that is [Home Loan Company].


  1. Anonymous3:40 PM

    I'm very sorry about the PhD knockback. It must be disappointing. I'd love to do one too, but for a variety of reasons, perhaps all you listed, maybe more. Everyone I know thinks they're ego trips, anyway. Still, it's a nice one :) ;)

    I've applied for a job, too. Don't know if I want it. Kids, eh? Writing, eh? Makes things complicated... :) :)

  2. Penni, just a thought - but I can't help thinking that RMIT might be friendlier to a digital novel. (Antoni Jach &co?) As you were.
    Good luck with the exciting moves, all over.

  3. Warning - long comment!

    I haven't found a Phd to be an ego trip at all - quite the opposite. (ie - lots of uncomfortable realisations like - can i really be so bad at this?)

    I reckon a PhD is an apprenticeship. It's to train you how to make an impact on your field; the actual phd itself doesn't have to be the best thing you ever do (it's a bit scary if it is, actually). It's not about navel-gazing, it's about learning how to communicate in new critical contexts.

    But I'm not really sure how this translates into creative writing phds, which I suspect sometimes are just to help people to finish novels when they'd have trouble otherwise...

    I'm sure they're more than that though. In your case, given that you already have publications, I guess the advantage of the PhD would be that it would make it easier to get work teaching creative writing at university level.

    Anyway, I reckon that you should talk to some people at the university to see why it wasn't accepted. (Try talking to a few different people - I guess start with whoever wrote your references, if they are at the same institution.) Sometimes it's just the luck of the draw. Before I moved to the UK I applied for PhDs in Australia in case the masters I wanted to do in York didn't work out. I got offered scholarships at Sydney University and Deakin and ANU, but I didn't get even onto the waiting list for scholarships for where I really wanted to go, UWA. The admissions secretary was really sweet and told me she didn't know why I didn't get in, and that it was down to internal politics...

    So next time I reckon you should apply to a few different places (as many as possible - there's quite a few universities in Melbourne, aren't there?)The reasons you gave for proposing the Phd you did sound good to me - but I think you should talk it over with potential supervisors at each place you apply to, to get an idea of how much of a chance they think it will have...

    Getting a potential supervisor in place before you apply is pretty much essential for all phd applications, from my experience.

    Sorry, have gone on and on... It's weird - they keep telling you PhDs must be original - but it often turns out only a certain amount of originality is actually useful. I have friends who've done cutting edge phds bridging different fields, and now they can't get jobs because they don't fit into any of the pre-defined categories...

    That's awesome about the creche for Una. And I can totally understand the desire for work which includes interacting with people, after three and a half years staring at my computer screen...

    Good luck with everything!

    word verification: spleez. (which is a cool word if ever there was one.)

  4. och- i loves two bad mice and so does dub BUT we can't let him read it too much because his favourite line is: heh, heh let's smash it all up! The other day he carried an oilburner into the kitchen, said the thing, and threw it and it splintered. Heh heh heh. I am so blase about possessions since motherhood.

  5. Pity about the Phd knockback - the thought of a digital novel from you was vey exciting - brave new frontiers indeed.

    If/When you pull up the carpet, we discovered a really easy way of treating wood floors, if they're in OK nick.... a carpetless house is such a joy. More dirt to see (which I'm fine with) but easy to clean when you decide you need to.

    We have a pretty decent mortgage broker if it ever got to that stage.

  6. Thanks everyone. I was disappointed initially about the PhD but also flooded with relief. I am glad I have some time and space to think more about the kind of thesis I want to write. There's so much that interests me that I don't know how anyone boils it down to just one topic.

    Karen - good luck with your job (either getting it or not getting it, wherever your secret heart lies). And with your complications. Bless their cotton socks.

    Genevieve - Yes, I think you're right. And thanks!

    Meli - I was hoping you'd reply, I was very curious to hear your thoughts. It's very interesting what you say about an apprenticeship. I think you're spot on the money with the creative writing PhD, perhaps that's why I've struggled so with it, because I know I can write a novel anyway, it feels like it's sort of cheating to do one for a PhD, not that they aren't all bloody hard work of course. I think I'm a little bit masochistic when it comes to work and study - it's only worthwhile if it causes serious pain. Which was why I proposed the digital novel in a way, I wanted to set myself something deeply challenging, something I could possibly fail at. But yes, considering especially the nature of the topic, it was silly not to organise a supervisor in advance. I had ummed and ahed about putting in the application and by the time I decided to, I only had a few days to pull one together. Since I'll be going into the uni to teach this semester I'll be able to talk casually to a few people about it. I do think they were genuine though when they said they had no one to supervise it. It's a lovely department full of clever people, but it's been changing a lot, and it seems to me that only a core staff remains. They are mostly poets, lovely wonderful poets, but they don't strike me as the type to be embracing of the new technologies. I would love to talk to you more about this, is your email address on your blog? I must go and look. Otherwise, could you give it to me spleez?

    Simmone - gasp! Children are such weapons of mass destruction. Good thing they are small and cute, or we wouldn't be allowed to take them on planes.

    Janet - Next year when Martin starts working and we look like real grown ups I think we'll renegotiate our loan, so I might ask you then for your broker's details.

    We pulled up a corner of the carpet and Martin had a crawl around under the house, looks like the boards are in good nick (phew) but pretty rough. How did you do your floors? I think we'll paint the walls first, it all might have to wait till we have a bit more money.

    Ah money, you cruel master of destiny.

  7. Penni

    I really wanted to reply to this---still do, but no time right now. It seems Meli already covered much of what I wanted to say, but i will have a think about some of the points you raised and get back to you soon.


  8. My favourite Two Bad Mice line:

    The little girl that the doll's house belonged to said: "I will get a doll dressed like a policeman!"
    But the nurse said: "I will set a mouse-trap!"

    Hmm, yes, I'm with the nurse on that.

    My word verification is ketso. I quite like that, too. Ketso.

  9. My two older kids had read Despereaux before seeing the movie and their verdict was that the movie was ok but the book was better. I found it a bit disappointing myself.