Asking for, giving and receiving feedback

I have started back teaching the creative writing this year in Caroline Springs and have added in a group in Kensington. While the Kensington group is a new for me as a facilitator, it’s not new for me altogether. It was here that I honed my love of writing when I had only two little children before pursuing it more seriously at RMIT.  It was so lovely to see my Caroline Springs writers again to hear about how their summer has gone, and what they’ve been reading and writing. It was equally lovely to reacquaint myself with some familiar faces in Kensington, and to meet new ones and hear about what everyone’s writing plans are.

I started both of the groups with a session on feedback as this is one of the most crucial things as a writer. Asking for, giving and receiving feedback are a crucial part of being a writer. The more you do it, the better your writing becomes. There was a time when I would hear feedback on my writing from others and it would sting so hard. One of the things about doing it more is that I get better at removing myself from the words and take the feedback on as just that – feedback. However, I (like most creative people) suffer from a terrible case of the imposter syndrome).

The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you.

—Neil Gaiman, author (Address to the University of the Arts Class of 2012)

There are three sides to feedback:

  • asking for feedback
  • giving feedback
  • receiving feedback.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Reading lists and book club

It’s that time of year again where the Listmaker of our book club receives the list for the year. In December, we all bring our suggestions to our Christmas dinner gathering. The Listmaker carefully writes each one down as we sit in a circle enjoying our sweets after our book-themed Kris Kringle. It’s a tough job for her as she always ends up with a list of over 50 odd books. Some of us come prepared with a basket of books to help influence by the look of the book, others have a paper list that they hand over. We leave having eaten, drunk and talked to our hearts content.

In January, the Listmaker brings a draft list to the annual picnic and over drinks and food in the Women’s Peace Gardens, the titles are debated – sometimes more fiercely than others – until it is too dark. Then before January is done, the list is sent out. Continue reading

And that’s a wrap

My 2017-2018 summer reading pile

This year is about to end and in some ways I feel like it has only just begun. So much has been packed into the year and time has slipped away. It’s really easy to only focus on the things that haven’t been completed and the things that went wrong, but I need to also remember all the things that went right.

Publishing highlights

This year I had some poetry and an essay published in Shaping the Fractured Self: poetry of chronic illness and pain. I bravely volunteered to read one of my poems at the launch at the DAX Centre in Melbourne. Up until the moment I read it out loud, I wondered how on earth I managed to have words of mine sit alongside such accomplished Australian poets. The feedback I received from the audience, and since from members of the public, was overwhelming. It has been absolutely heartwarming to hear people say that I was telling their story and that I had put their chronic pain into words. My own chronic pain (migraines and neck and shoulder pain) continue, but I refuse to let them take control of my life. Many of the other poems and essays within this anthology remind me that it is important to live life to the full, but to also know when to shut the door, and take some time for self-care. There is a wonderful review of this anthology by Kevin Brophy in The Conversation. Continue reading

The art of procrastination

I’ve been a procrastinator from way back. I write a list as long as my arm of all the things I need to do, and pick of the easier to do first, often leaving what most needs to be done until the end. Even writing this is really just another form of procrastination. I’m not too hard on myself about it though because I always get the things done when they need to be done. Most often I need that pressure of the deadline to make it happen. In the meantime I often get a bunch of other stuff done that needs to be done.

Today has been a great display of the art of procrastination. It’s a public holiday here in my town, and helicopters fly back and forth over my head as they ferry the rich and famous to the race that “stops a nation” (it certainly stops my suburb as we are gridlocked). Last night after I had a great writing session I hopped into bed to finish reading a fab book (Storyland by Catherine McKinnon) and I realised I would have a whole day that I could lie about, read, write, watch Black Mirrors and write. I only have two members of my family at home and one of them is brain deep in VCE exams, so I knew I would pretty much be in my own brain for the day. I imagined I would probably crack 5000 words today (I have been known to have unrealistic high expectations on myself and this is also known as ‘setting myself up for failure’). Continue reading

Broken pieces

img_1518This is my view. I’m inside listening to the fire crackle, to the heater fan rising and falling, to the tap on various keyboards of fellow writers. I’m editing, or to be honest I’m staring out the window.

I’m in the umpteenth draft of my young adult manuscript and I’ve made a change (a biggish one) and it feels like I broke it.

This is a good and a bad thing. I needed to do that I could mend it, but the process of mending it is tough and mind bending.

At the moment it feels like my story is something like this wind chime in the picture. One stray piece stuck in a bush on the other side to the body of the chime. It’s a pivotal piece and needs some careful wrangling to get it back in the right place.
Sigh. More staring. More thinking. More wrangling.

Carving space to think, write 

img_0923
I’m packing for four days in Sydney. It’s a holiday with an old mate, and a moment to research a new story as well as time to edit and write. I’m getting better at this. That is, taking time for what I need.

Two years ago I had only been away from my family for a total of three weekends. In the last two years I have been away for five writers retreats. I now toss my bag together the night before and walk out the door.

These times away are becoming an important part of my practice. It’s time I can dedicate my mind to thinking story and character and allow ideas to grow. Not only does it make me a better writer, but it also makes me a better mum and wife. I come home refreshed (and tired). I come home ready to spend time with them.

As I pack I’m tempted to throw every book I might want, but I now know that I don’t need to. I’m taking what is relevant right now. I have a notebook to scribble in when we are out and about, Watkin Tench’s book 1788, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and my current read The Forrests by Emily Perkins. Probably before morning I’ll through another book in.

Sometimes taking less is more. More space to think. I’m planning to stand where Anne, my First Fleet convict ancestor stood and imagine what was going through her mind as she gripped her swelling belly, father long gone already. As she stared at the strange wilderness surrounding her, trapping her. As she stared at the light glinting off the harbour water that would one day swallow her. I hope to feel her in some tiny space there and let her whisper to me.

Shaping the Fractured Self

I have been fairly silent here for a little while as my migraines spiraled out of control with a long six month period of daily (nightly) migraines that robbed me of sleep (and sanity). Fortunately for me, a change of neurologist who made some subtle changes to my preventative treatment and some more drastic changes to my rescue treatment, my brain has now calmed down to a much more manageable level.

This Thursday, along with some other writers, I will be reading at the DAX Centre for the launch of Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain. I am chuffed to have three poems and an essay included alongside some wonderful writers*.

My poems and essay in the book speak about my experience of over thirty years as a chronic migraine sufferer, but I am pretty sure anyone who has suffered from any long-term and chronic (and often invisible) pain will relate.

All of the writers have captured their experience of chronic illness and pain in their poetry. It is a great read. I’d love to see you at the launch and you can either grab at copy at the launch, or via the UWA Publishing website.

A massive thank you to Heather Taylor Johnson who came up with the concept, found us all, found a publisher and pulled it together.

*The other writers in the anthology are: Andy Jackson, Anne Carson, Beth Spencer, David Brooks, Fiona Wright, Gareth Roi Jones, Grant Cochrane, Gretta Jade Mitchell, Ian C. Smith, Ian Gibbins, India Poulton, Jessica Cohen, Kevin Gillam, Kristen Lang, Leah Kaminsky, Margaret Owen Ruckert, Peter Boyle, Quinn Eades, Rachael Guy, Rachael Mead, Rachel Robertson, Rob Walker, Sid Larwill, Sophie Finlay, Steve Evans, Stuart Barnes, Susan Hawthorne and Heather Taylor Johnson –also the editor of the anthology