Thursday, July 31, 2008

August Audit

For month's I've been thinking about designating a month to go back through my back catalogue of work. I realise that I'm great generally at generating work, but once it has been posted for Fiction Friday or Musical Musings, it ends to be save the ever growing 'creative writing' folder on my hard drive, and the increasing number of sub folders within it. There it just sitting there collecting figurative dust.

I've been writing regularly now for more than a year, though I have yet to chalk up my one year anniversary with Fiction Friday which really heralded my huge leap of faith into writing in a serious determined manner. And after a year or more, I have no idea what I have written. According to my labelling system on my blog there are 29 short stories - but I'm not sure if I might have accidentally included some NaNo extracts in that. But 29 stories? Off the top of my head I can probably only easily and quickly remember half a dozen at best.

I'm therefore declaring the coming month "August Audit" and it has nothing to do with keeping the tax man at bay - as if you're anything like me there is no income stream for the taxman to nose around in. August is about trawling through your hard drive and your paper archives to work out exactly what work you have lying around.

First job is to catalogue what it is you have - the title of the work, the date you completed it and the genre to which you think it might belong. If the last one alludes you (as it does to me often) leave it be. Don't procrastinate from continuing just because you can't give your work a genre pigeon hole.

Second job is to read everything that you have. Yes, go back and enjoy the blood, sweat and tears invested into each piece. Give yourself the opportunity to cringe at early work, or work that cashes in too much on adverbs, too many adjectives, poor character construction, the lack of a story. Love all the quirks and warts .. they are part of your journey as a writer. Going back over old work also allows us to have perspective on our journey as writers. How far we've come and how far we still have to go. Lastly reading gives us a chance to become reacquainted with characters we may have forgotten, scenarios that may work in a different setting. If you have a NaNo project that you have touched since last year .. go back and read it. You might be pleasently surprised at what you fine.

Third job is to pick a dozen stories (or more if you are incredibly motivated) that you want to re-edit, polish up and make a committment to yourself to have them in a final draft form by the end of the month. Share them with a writers' group (if you don't have a writers group think seriously about forming one, or seeking one out either in the flesh or online) Get some critical feedback, see where your strengths are and where you are needing additional work.

Lastly, explore publishing options. In Australia we are lucky enough to have the Australian Writers Marketplace which is a phenomenal publishing resource for writers. It has been on my 'to do list' to join up, so August is the month I'm going to walk the talk. I am certain that there are writers resources for publishing in other countries to help you traverse the mire. Leave a list here to assist other writesr in your area.

Feeling brave, feeling inspired ... feeling daunted? That's OK ... so am I, but I'm always up for a challenge. Blog your progress and each week I'll work out a way for us to reconnect with each other to tap into the vertible well of support and encourage we have for each other.

Joyous auditing!
Cartoon from the Accord site - which not surprisingly has to do with accounting and data collection!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A little housekeeping

It's currently the dark moon, the very darkest aspect of the moon. As night is darkest just before the dawn, the same is with the moon. And it's the perfect time to clear space. I've been taking to heart the Feng Shui advice given by author and comic Nury Vittachi at the Byron Bay Writers Festival - clear the space. Nury commented that each piece of correspondence we receive is an energy transaction. What do we do with each piece of paper we receive - we file it in a pile on our desk, and when the pile grows unweildly, well then we take the pile and put it under our desk.

The amount of laughter in the marquee was testament to the number of people who know the routine. Nury remarked that it was no wonder that writers working in such an environment, with so much dead energy around them, struggled to find inspiration. In this age paperless environment (sure you only need to look at my desk a few days ago to know how true this isn't!) the 2500 emails in our inbox cause the same congestion of energy on our computers. Nury's advice - read and delete, or read-reply-delete. Don't keep the dead energy hanging around.

The past two days I've been doing just that. It's embarrassing to admit the amount of time it has taken to scour my inboxes (I run two email programmes) and delete out all the unwanted emails. The sad truth was that around 99.9% of the emails went. I have an adversion to deleting emails, after three years of editing, it was always after one of these huge clean ups that I would be searching for 'that particular email' that I had of course designated the week prior as having no future value. It's wonderful to open my email and see only a couple of emails in there ... and no they haven't merely been filed away to all those wonderful side folders. I even went through my filing system and delated out all the old emails from there.

As for my desk - I have one bill to pay, some kindy photos to order. All the books from the recent book fair have found homes downstairs and I'm contemplating the perfect place to store the growing number of filled notebooks that constitute almost a years worth of morning pages. I think I'll build my altar on them downstairs? Also on the list of contemplation is a shuffle of my books - wondering what should leave for shelves else where and what might be needed closer to home. And then some stage tomorrow or Friday morning, I'll wave my smudge stick around, give my creative space a psychic clean and leave all the neighbours to wonder if I sit and smoke funny cigarettes while my son is at kindy. After all - isn't that how all mothers of four year old boys cope?

So - my challenge to you before the new moon hits on Friday evening (in the Sth Hems or around 11am if your in London, 6am-ish in LA) be savage, be rampant, be unforgiving in your decluttering - even if it's just attacking your indominable inbox. Seriously - you'll feel better for it.

Photo from which incidentally has some articles on it about decluttering! How's that for a spot of synchronicity!

I'm back

Hello and welcome back … It’s been a while.

At the moment I am literally bristling with creative energy. I imagine I look like a cartoon character who has been hit by lightning and the electricity is still flickering around and through my body. You know what I mean?

What bolt of lightning have I been hit by? I was lucky enough to get a leave pass from my family to attend the Byron Bay Writers Festival (BBWF) this weekend just gone. For two days I got so sit and listen to some Australia’s best writers, comedians, film directors, actors and musicians talk about their lives, their work, their creative grounding. And don’t get my started on all those beautiful hands …. it was the perfect location to test the assumption that a certain hand shape is a marker of creativity in a person. I can still see Mark Seymour’s (former front man of Aussie band Hunters and Collectors) hands.

It was just the creative top up I needed after a pretty harrowing month finishing up Reclaim Sex After Birth which not only ran my creative well just about dry, it also exhausted any of my energy reserves. In the final week of writing the eBook I had three nights in a row tumbling into bed at 2:30am then dragging myself out of bed and back into the life of mother, partner, home maker …..

I have struggled in the last six weeks or so to find a creative outlet again. My ideas for writing seemed to dry up all of a sudden and I couldn’t bring myself to commit to contribute anything for Fiction Friday. My saving grace was the amazing whirlpool of the Adventures of Captain Juan that allowed my to plug into the creative outpourings of Annie and Paul, to let them wash over me and to surrender to the plots, characters, intrigue and energy created their. I might have contemplated turning my back completely on creative writing had it not been for that.

I was able to anchor myself in that project, and hope, pray and wish that like a tide turning, the sea of creative bliss would find its way back to my shores. And it has.

Last week a friend asked me if I was excited about going to the BBWF and I had to admit that I felt so swamped by life and drained by the eBook project that I had given little thought to the adventure that lay ahead. By Thursday morning, after a better morning dropping Dylan at kindy, I was starting to feel the energy build.

I feel incredibly blessed, and very thankful to Dave and Dylan for giving me the opportunity to go and soak up the wisdom, expertise, advice, life experience, creative idiosyncrasies, anecdotes, tall tales and revel in all those beautiful hands at the festival. I’ll be documenting the high lights of my trip to Byron Bay in a seven part blog series called ‘Not Without My Gum Boots’ over the next week.

Until then, I’m glad to announce that:
* there are more stories of personal and emotional intrigue brewing for the Captain Juan series with a new character about to be introduced … Father Paulo.

* my NaNo project from last year is about to be hauled from the dusty depths of my hard drive and onto real paper, for review in the next month after my characters began badgering the crap out of me on the way home from Byron Bay to be able to see the light of day again. Keep an eye out for new blog postings from there.

* new twists and an ‘in’ have been found for my 2008 NaNo project ‘Adam and Eve’ after a weird but ultimately uneventful trip to Byron Bay’s “Northern Hotel” on Saturday night.

* there are probably half a dozen seeds of stories laying about in my creative conscience awaiting a little fertile hummus, rain and sunshine. Watch this space

* I’m committed to be back blogging full time – though you know how I am. It will probably be as sporadic as ever, but one can always hope …. I miss all the comments!

* Getting a business project properly off the ground after a few months of discussions and exploration. Watch this space because it’s going to be BIG!

* I will be participating every week in Fiction Friday and Musical Musings as a continued commitment to creative writing.

* And I’m about to launch a new writer’s project for August (more in the next few blog posts) to give all writers a kick up the derrière and out of the hole of create, write and file that many (all?) of us fall into.

There is also a very big bright amazing new moon eclipse brewing for Friday evening in the Southern Hemisphere. It is at 9 degrees Leo, so if you know your chart, this is the sector of your chart that’s about to have big doors close and open. I can feel myself humming with anticipation of what the next few months holds. I hope you can all come along on the next leg adventure with me …..

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Review This #3: Fortified and dessert wines

Review This!

A writing meme for journalistic reviews

Assume that this is a new addition to the market about to be launched nationwide. You are writing a small article (100 – 200 words) in conjunction with other writers to be included in a best selling monthly food and wine magazine. Choose a dessert wine, a port or some other Fortified Wine to review.

Knappstein’s Fortified Shiraz is the dessert/fortified wine with a twist. Pouring the wine the first thing that strikes you is the colour - is a sensual shock of deep, royal plum that the small liqueur glass really didn’t do justice. The second is that it has a consistency more reminiscent of table wine, than the fortified variety.

The initial tasting is a surprise. Knappstein’s Fortified Shiraz has none of the stickiness, heaviness or sweetness distinctive of fortifieds. The label promises a “ripe and mouth filling” wine and it definitely delivers on both counts. The spicy pepper notes characteristic of Shiraz are absent but the robust fruit body remains. While the label notes “hints of mocha and cedar” as well as liqueur black fruits, the mocha accents were lost on me, though there was a definite woodiness in the after taste. It has a light, clean palate, with a surprising explosion of warmth that begins in the mouth and travels all the way to the chest. Towards the end of the glass, the brandy base does become more apparent and tended to overpower the complexity of the wine.

Knappstein’s Fortified Shiraz is a unique wine and will be embraced by wine lovers who are looking to experience something different after dinner. Valued at $17.99 for a 375ml bottle, it is well priced and a stand out among the other fortified wines in the same price strata. It is a fine companion on a cold winter’s night, though be warned though, you’ll need a corkscrew as elegant bottle comes with a real cork.

Knappstein’s Fortified Shiraz rates four warmed cockles of the heart.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Review This #2: The Five Rhythms

Review This!
A writing meme for journalistic reviews

This week -A New Experience
We all have goals, dreams and experiences that we'd like to do .... sometime.....This is an opportunity to choose something that you have never done before - explore it, review your expectations and outcomes and then write about it.Imagine that you are writing for a specialty magazine. (i.e if you are rock climbing for the first time - its a rock climbing magazine)You are a guest writer reviewing your first experience with this…... encounter. Write up to 500 words and feel free to include a photo.

The Five Rhythms

It’s a wintery Tuesday morning, 7:15am and I’m downstairs in our rumpus room. Upstairs my four year old son is asleep, my partner has left for work, my Morning Pages have been written and my business partner in London has not come on line yet. All is quiet.

This is not the first time that I have danced Gabrielle Roth’s The Five Rhythms. This is however the first time that I have been brave enough to challenge my body and soul, uninterrupted, in my own home.

The Five Rhythms, as the name suggests moves through five rhythms that each evoke a certain emotion, with dance the medium to explore each, working to shift any blocks that are held and felt in the body. My intention was simply to dance and use movement as a medium to reconnect with my body.

I choose the CD Waves. As soon as it starts, I’m aware that there is a different feel to this album. The first track Invocation is perfectly named – a didgeridoo, sticks tapping out a tribal beat and a woman’s voice singing a deep primal language. I ground myself, eyes closed, feeling the carpet under my bare toes. I move my arms about and above me - claiming this as my space - sacred space, then stretch and move gently to warm up.

The flowing rhythm of Surrender begins the journey. My body moves - hips gyrating in sensual circles, arms in soft, flowing, wavelike movements. This is the rhythm of grief. Nothing stirs, nothing shifts – but I’m not disappointed. I’m enraptured to simply be doing this – finally!

Flowing gives way to the staccato of Waves - the rhythm of anger. My movements become precise, punchy and repetitive, my body working hard. The music moves into chaos with the track Ecstasy and my movements have no pattern. There is no grace – this is dance equivalent of bedlam, freedom and I let myself truly go. No one is watching me. My energy is faltering but my conviction to keep going overrides it. It is the shortest track but it feels like an eternity.

Trance breaks through, gentle, hypnotic with the beautiful voice of a woman that raises me up in the rhythm of joy. I’m ecstatic to have made it here. I dance with love and awe. The movements are relaxed and sensual. I indulge in watching the fluid movements of my body reflected in the TV screen and don’t care about the extra bulges. And finally the rhythm of stillness filters through with Spirit. I pull the energy up, the divineness, into my body … and when the music finally ends I am buzzing. It carries me through on a high for most of the day. This is how I remember feeling the day after a big night of dancing session – no wonder I danced five or six nights a week when I was younger.

My only criticism of the whole experience is the pauses between songs. I would prefer the rhythms to bleed together seamlessly from one track to the next. Waves did not resonate with me the same way as Bones, which is personal preference rather than a substandard album.

Dancing reinforces to me at a body level that I am beautiful; I am succulent – that I am a sensual woman. The Five Rhythms is movement as meditation, perfect for those, like me, who find sitting still and clearing the mind impossible. It is a spiritual practise like no other I know. There is so much power to tap into, as women, when we move our bodies that we should make the time each week to ground ourselves in the earthly woman energy of dance.

Dancing The Five Rhythms should be part of every woman’s week, whether they are young or old. Each song lasts for between 6 ½ and 8 minutes, giving you plenty of time to explore each rhythm and an intensive 45 minute work out. It can be enjoyed alone or collectively with other women, depending on your personal preference.

The Five Rhythms process gets four and a half shimmying hips. The album ‘Waves’ gets a less enthusiastic three shimmying hips.

For more information on Gabrielle Roth and The Five Rhythms process, CDs or book sales see or download the music from eMusic.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Succulence and Sensuality

Over the weekend I was honoured to be part of a women's spirituality workshop on 'Succulence and Sensuality'. It came at just the right time for me, as I travel to transcend the beliefs I have about sexality and sensuality that are no longer serve me. Over the past six months I've had my beliefs about sex throw up in my face numerous times.

It started last year when I tried to read Linda Savage's "Reclaim Goddess Sexuality" as part of my preparation for creating the 'Sex After Birth' issue of Down to Birth. I read the word sensuality and realised that I've never thought of anything in my life as being sensual - least of all myself. I started to question and query how it could be possible that I could be 34 and have never consider life from a sensual point of view, never considered that sex was more than 'sex' that it had a distinct and important sensual element to it. So sensuality entered my life.

Writing the editorial for the issue was hard -because I had to face up to all the things that I'd been hiding from for the past three years ... and then I had to send it to Dave, for him to read it and OK that it went to print. Putting it all down on paper seemed to make it real, gave substance to the issues I had had. There is something to be said for not just putting something down - whether it be writing or saying it, but for having it witnessed by others. My editorial was witnessed by 300 other women who read that issue (and it's about to go to print again!)

About a month or so later, I picked up "Reclaim Goddess Sexuality" again. I got a little further this time and began the exercise on intimacy. Again, like sensuality, I wondered where my beliefs around intimacy had grown up, as I realised that almost all of my relationships in the past, have been light on in terms of intimacy. It came to me the following day. When I was eight I was in a pantomime, my first time on stage in a live theatrical performance. Over the two week period, I developed a close friendship with another boy in the pantomime. He was older than me, had a track record on the stage and helped to ease me through the worst of my stage fright. What started off as friendship, developed into more ... slowly and what I would consider now, quite innocently. Until one day he kissed me. The kiss was overseen and all hell broke loose. What I learnt from the experience was that intimacy was wrong and it was also dangerous - it got you into trouble.

Reflecting back now - all my relationships (with one exception) grew from one night stands or very short periods of 'getting to know you'. I learnt the lesson well at that tender age that intimacy was to be avoided at all costs. Now I find myself at 34 trying to reconnect with intimacy and find all kinds of walls being thrown up.

About a month back, I was invited to a 'Sex Party' ... something that really pushed my boundaries. I couldn't imagine sitting there discussing vibrators, lotions and potions - trying on lingerie. But I agreed to go - saying I would sit at the back and put a paper bag over my head. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable afternoons I've had in years. The manner in which the products were presented made them normal - sex portrayed as pleasure! Afterwards we were discussing with the presenter how we all learn at a very early age that sex is dirty and dangerous. When you add that to beliefs around intimacy you come up with some potent barriers to sex.

In my last kinesiology session we went to work on my libido - what was wrong with me? There was nothing wrong with my hormones or my biology. What was wrong - emotional and intellectual issues that were blocking my libido. Jacqui cleared away the blocks and left me in a state to trascend my beliefs. Yeah right ... easier said than done.

Then came the workshop on the weekend with two ladies that I have been lucky enough to sit in circle with over the past three years, both body based psychotherapists. The workshop on 'succulence and sensuality' incorporated elements of the dance workshop that I attended back in February, invoked the Goddesses Hathor, Innana, Freya, Lillith and Lakshmi and provided much process work. The first part of the workshop was held Friday night, with a break over Saturday and then a full day Sunday.

Saturday we were invited to sit with all the things we didn't like, to look in an acknowledge the parts that were hurting or broken, blocked or hidden. What came up for me, is a hatred of my own body. This stunned me, but by the same token seemed to make quite a lot of sense to. When I began to cut Dylan's breastfeeds back to just a feed before bed last year, I started to stack on the weight. I had real battles with an appetite and metabolism that still ran at a breastfeeding rate, and I put on a lot of weight as a consequence. I've had people assume that I am pregnant -very pregnant, and although I've tried hard not to let it eat away at me, obviously it had.

I realised that if I hated my body - then I wasn't going to consciously or unconsciously treat it with the love, reverance and nurturance that it deserved. I realised that if I considered my body unworthy, then I was actually telling myself that I was unworthy. Neither were the type of self talk that I wanted running in a subterrean stream. Sunday I sat in circle and said all of this - and how I had felt tired and nauseous ... but how in the evening, going out to see live theatre and laughing, I'd felt exhilerated and free. Part of me was going up and part of me was going down.

By the end of the workshop, I felt succulent and I felt sensuous. While there is still many more skins to peel from the onion, I feel as though, for the first time in years that I've had a break through. I can think of sensuality, without sexualising it. I can ponder the beliefs I have held around sex - of sex being about power, of it being wrong, shameful, dirty and dangerous ... and now those beliefs just don't resonnate. They feel like shadows. I understand now that it wasn't having a baby or being a mother that 'destroyed' my sex life. Becoming a mother birthed me as an authentic woman, and sex has remained on hiatus while I have sought out and rebuilt a matrix that conforms with my new beliefs, experiences and world view as a woman.

And I've taken up dancing again ... but not in a class. I've finally burnt onto discs the music I downloaded of Gabrielle Roth's (the 5 Rhythms) and created space to dance in, and an altar of sorts. I've come to understand that I can't 'think' my way out of this, I won't transcend these beliefs mired down in circular thought patterns. The only way I will transcend is to (literally) move through them ... and the only way I know now, is to dance. My body feels alive, tired and sore as this layer of the onion skin is peeled and discarded. The journey continues ....

... But I love my body as I dance, the slow circular movements of my hips, the flowing movements of my arms, the way my head and thoughts quieten and I can just be in the moment. The way my heart quickens, the blood races and my body temperature rises. The freedom the movement lf dance brings with it. And I dance only for me and the Goddess ... and it feels rich and succulent, divine and sensual ... it feels like being truly alive.

Artwork: Sensuality (Lak and Ang) by Louis Parsons - art with soul

Review: The Chasers Age of Terror Variety Hour

In a new writing meme 'Review This' Annie Evett challenges us to review and write about something new every week.

This week's challenge: " Go to a live show - be it your childs play, a comedy show, a theatrical production, a dance or mime. Get out of your comfort zone and go to something you might never usually see. Support a local theatre group or go and see a huge production - be creative!Write a review on the show as if you were submitting it to your regional/city daily newspaper for the Saturdays Arts Edition. You can find more reviews here

Ever wanted to know if Osama discusses occupational health and safety when he gathers his top men together? Is it possible that anyone could out segué Anna Coren? And just how far will the nightly news go to fill its thirty minute quota of stories? All is answered when the boys from the Chaser tread the boards in the all singing, all dancing, all laughing Chasers Age of Terror Variety Hour.

The line up is a little different to what fans of The Chasers War on Everything will be used to. Joining Julian Morrow, Chas Licardello, Craig Reucassel and Andrew Hansen is Dominic Knight. Absent is Chris Taylor, though his satirical genius lives on in his continued musical collaboration with Andrew Hansen.

With ninety minutes to play with, the boys go all out to entertain with extended slots that the confines of a half hour weekly show just don’t allow for. Chas walks us through internet dating, Julian combines PowerPoint and Shakespeare, Andrew sings us through Hillbilly love, Dominic woos the audience with his body hair and finally there is Craig’s taut butt. Enough said!

The show opens with a song and dance number … as Julian and Chas clamber through the front rows on their way to the stage. And that’s not the last we see of the Uni Review-esque performances. The boys take us through the eight days of Frank Ford’s prime ministership, Broadway style. But the highlight is Chas hip hopping his little Sicilian heart out in a gold quilted lamé, wide legged and hooded tracksuit. His dance moves, including the caterpillar are worth the entry fee alone.

There are the usual political references and pokes, though with the Howard Government gone, much of the steam has gone out of what we’ve come to love and expect from The Chaser’s political satire. Making full use of the huge screen behind the stage and the audience, the Chaser combines the best of live theatre, stand up comedy and television in a visual and comic feast.

The Chaser’s Age of Terror Variety Hour is a rollicking ninety minutes that passes so quickly that it’s hard to believe that it is over when the final song is announced, and you wish you had a ticket for the next show. The boys show that their talent is as good, if not better, live. And the ending is just what we’ve come to expect – totally irreverent.

The Chasers Age of Terror Variety Hour scores five grinning Osamas.

.... and in case your wondering what a real journo had to say, here is the Sydney Morning Herald interview with Julian Morrow and Dominic Knight on the eve of their first performance earlier on this year.