Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why I Write

As part of National Young Writers' Month 2011, I answer a couple of questions here about why I write and what inspires me. Funnily enough when I was talking I felt like a babbling fool but watching the video I actually sound a bit like I know what I'm talking about. Bwahahaha.

Anyhoo, National Young Writers' Month is an excellent idea. Instead of focussing on competition or product, it's all about process. Sort of like Nanowrimo or Blomomofo (or whatever it's called - the blogging every day for a month thingy) but writers set personal goals for what they want to achieve, with the opportunity to join what I'm sure will be a very warm and supportive online community. Learn more about it here.

I really love Express Media because a lot of interesting people are involved with it (including many of my ex-students - bright and shining stars that they are), and they provide real support and genuine opportunities for young writers. But mostly I love them because the lighting in that video is SUPER flattering and it makes me look ten years younger. Hurrah Express Media!

In honour of National Young Writer's Month I am going to set myself a modest goal of writing three short stories in June. I'll let you know how I go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Timeline: Coming of Age

1990 - I am 15. Jim Henson and Roald Dahl die (oh gods of my childhood) and the first Macdonald's opens in Tasmania (I am vegetarian). I watch Pink Floyd's The Wall concert live on television commemorating the fall of the Berlin wall. The Cold War is almost over, but the Gulf wars are just beginning.
1991 - Stores stop stocking vinyl records, though many households (like my own) do not yet own a CD player. This is the height of the cassingle era. The crackling sound as a vinyl record begins to play becomes a sound of my childhood and I learn the particular skill of knowing exactly how long to rewind a casette for to relisten to a favourite song.
1992 - Unbeknownst to me on the other side of the world, the first SMS message is sent by Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis, wishing him a Merry Christmas. It will be ten years before phones are small enough and cheap enough to be interesting to young people, and eighteen years before I will buy one for myself.
1994 - A second commercial television station begins broadcasting in Tasmania, which brings total number of stations airing in Hobart to four. Around the same time they stop "closing" the stations at midnight with a religious "thought for the day" and the national anthem.
1995 - In Hobart all day Saturday trading is introduced. I am pleased about this, being at this stage of my life pathologically incapable of getting out of bed before midday. (Now I think it would be quite nice if all the major stores closed at 12 on a Saturday and remained closed till Monday morning.) My boyfriend of the time helps me sign up for my first email address.
1996 - This is the year I move to Melbourne. The use of the word Internet enters common usage. Bob Brown is elected as the first Green, and first openly gay, Senator. The following year the state laws in Tasmania that discriminate against homosexuals will be lifted. This is also the year Martin Bryant killed 35 people in what had been a pleasantly boring tourist destination of my childhood and altered the landscape forever.

I have been thinking about this lately. To me it felt like the world came of age when I came of age. Lost its innocence alongside me. The explosion of capitalism, the proliferation of the mass media, the commodification of childhood, the emergence of the Internet, the changing political landscape and the mainstreaming of environmental issues. I was not longer the protected child, and the world was no longer designed to protect and shelter me - this was all too clearly brought home by the horrific murders in Port Arthur (I can't bring myself to use the inflammatory and sensationalist word "massacre"). Oh course in 2001, around the time Martin and I were talking about getting married overseas, the second airplane crashed into the twin towers as we watched on live tv, and the world really did seem to sever in two - Before and After. But it wasn't all bad. Generations of discrimination ended, and continue to end. Vinyl made a comeback. The Internet and the telecommunication revolution lives up to its promise to connect us, to bring the world closer together, to give people a voice in countries where they have been previously voiceless, to offer a model of true democracy.

And surely every generation must feel this way as they reach adulthood - that they have the seen the world grow up. My father was a young man at the end of the second world war, a returned sailor, heady and powerful with relief to be alive. My mother came of age in the 60s in country Tasmania, and though she tells me it was a lot more conservative than in other parts of the world, she came of age in a world where she could have increasing control over her own body and choices - she wrote her Masters thesis (after I was born) on the confluence of women's employment and access to contraception (though she had been basically forced to quit work herself by sexist maternity leave policies in the Tasmanian education system in the 70s).

The world grows up again and again - perhaps it grows older and wearier and more cyncial, or perhaps it is always being unshucked, and what's underneath is always new and raw and vulnerable. My children are innocent in the face of it (yes, despite ongoing wars, and earthquakes, fires and floods, and Tony Abbott, and the rise and rise of commercialisation) and at the moment the world reflects their innocence back to them.

Who knows what will happen when my children come of age. What beast will emerge from the outgrown skin? What will the cracked mirror show? The best and the worst, I suppose, of humanity.

Happy Anniversary Martin

We have been married for nine years and together for thirteen. We have three children - I still feel shocked writing that. We have lived in seven houses (one of them twice, several years apart). He has done a four year degree and changed careers midstream - it was a huge gamble that has paid off in more ways than we could have imagined. I have written books, done a Masters, started this blog, gained and lost 15kg.

An anniversary is a measure. Measures of time - how many people have we made? What have we done? How far have we come? Far enough, for sure, but always in intricate movements, like a dance, round the hall, back in each other's arms before nightfall.

We're not rich. We don't have a new couch or a house with spare rooms. But we have enough. We have the right amount.

At the end of the day, we're happy. What more could we ask?