Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Another book that was recommended to me by a friend, The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan) had been on my book-radar for years but I’d never picked it up. The themes of the book appealed to me: mothers and daughters, how your birthplace and your family shapes your cultural identity, and the cultural gap between generations,. In Amy Tan’s novel, this gap is exacerbated by the emigration of the four mothers of the novel from China to America, where their daughters are raised.

The Joy Luck Club seemed more of a collection of interlinked short stories than a novel. I was reading it as an e-book, and without the physical thickness of the remaining pages to alert me that the end was near I was quite surprised to ‘turn’ the page and discover I’d reached the end of the book. Surprised and disappointed, because I was immersed in the stories of these four families and I wanted to read more.

The narrators alternate between a mother and a daughter, sometimes with both telling tales of their childhood and at other times giving different perspectives of the same event, illustrating the gulf between them. Tan’s exploration of facets of Chinese culture was fascinating to me, delicately weaved into the narrative.

I was reminded of a book I read many years ago, called Wild Swans (Jung Chang). In the weeks after reading Wild Swans I often found myself thinking of it, still immersed in the stories of the three generations of Chinese women who are its subject. Wild Swans had more impact on me than the Joy Luck Club, but perhaps this was because it was a far longer book and had the immediacy of a family history rather than a novel.


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I’m a little tired of reading young adult fiction with love triangles – Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Selection – and it seems a little trickier to find adult fiction categorised as ‘Love Triangle’. Luckily, I had picked up Never Let Me Go when it was on sale on iBooks (another case of buying a book based mostly on its cover)

I’ve never read Kazuo Ishiguro before, although I now know he also wrote Remains of the Day. I’m keen to read some of his other works – he reminds me a little of one of my favourite writers, Margaret Atwood. Both have written dystopian science fiction novels set in the very near future or an alternative present, but the setting is in some ways incidental – the appeal of their novels is often as much as in the relationships they convey as the complex themes they illustrate.

At times the story is a bit slow-paced for my liking. The hints and implications throughout the novel are sufficient for the reader to figure out the true nature of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Sometimes it seems a little like Ishiguro is trying to be mysterious about their secret before the big ‘reveal’ at the end, even though it really doesn’t tell us any more than we have already guessed.

Kathy’s emotions seemed dampened throughout the novel, and I rarely got a strong sense of her grief or happiness – the main emotions seemed to be irritation, frustration,

Never let me go left me thinking for days about the value of human life and the many ways we can construct people as ‘other’. But for deft handling of human nature in dystopian society, I’ll stick with Atwood.

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PopSugar Reading Challenge

I’m planning a series of posts covering the PopSugar Reading Challenge. If you’re doing this too (and blogging about it), please link your blog in the comments as I’d love to read about it.

I didn’t make a 2015 resolution to blog more, but I do want to read more (and more widely), and to write more. I like the PopSugar challenge because the sometimes offbeat categories mean I’ll have to try at least some books and genres I wouldn’t normally read. And by blogging about each of the fifty odd books after I read them, I hope I’ll be thinking about them more deeply and critically than normal.

I’m still writing too, and about to start the flash fiction course over at www.hollylisle.com. Holly suggests (at least I think it’s Holly) that one of the key jobs of a writer is to read. (I’m sure she says it much more elegantly though). So I’m declaring that for me, 2015 is going to be a year of reading.

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In my search for images and creative techniques to help draft my book, I began coming across decks of story telling cards. The ones at thecards.com were recommended, but the folks there seem to have some problems with my billing address being in Australia and my delivery address in the US (a remailer) so I’ve kind of given up hope on getting the Archetypes deck.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing, because it led me to Herewood Gabriel’s site http://www.herewoodsart.co.uk/. Herewood publishes a deck of storytelling cards with his original artwork. His deck of 40 cards are bright and full of inspiring imagery (and he had no problem figuring out how to ship the cards to me in Oz!) One of my favourite aspects of the cards is that they have not all been created in the same medium, so the sense of variety and space in the deck is much stronger.

Little Pearl and I are enjoying the cards together. Because the designs are more concrete than abstract (yet have wonderful surreal elements as well), they are very suitable for a young child (Little Pearl is not yet three) to spin a tale about the place depicted, or what the people or animals are doing in the picture. Some of the discussions we have led to learning conversations about why people throw things away, or where thunder comes from.

I can see these cards getting a lot of use over the next few years. Do you have story telling cards? How do you use them, either for yourself or with your kids?

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Index Cards

I recently got an iPad (readers of this blog will be familiar with my love of all things Mac). Cruising the App Store for useful or interesting apps is my new favourite time-wasting activity. I began thinking though – what do I really want my iPad to do?

Not surprising that the first answer that came to mind was a digital replacement for index cards. I’m doing some additional research and outlining for Last Ride (yes, it’s still going) and keeping the index cards straight was driving me nuts. I was researching categories for Religion, Magic, Culture & Society, People, Places, Language and Mythological Creatures – I didn’t have enough coloured index cards for all my categories plus they were getting mixed up with my scene cards. I wondered how hard it would be to learn how to develop an app… but of course I realised that someone else must have had this idea first.

Enter Index Card. Inspired by Scrivener (and yes, it syncs with Scrivener), this app gives you a corkboard with index cards. You can manage information by projects, stacks and index cards; there are 14 background colours to choose from; you can write on the front and virtual ‘back’ of the cards. Simple to use and beautifully laid out, I am sending my index cards digital.

I sent a message to the developer suggesting that they include support for Text Expander, another useful little app for those of us who do a lot of writing on the iPad. I was delighted to receive a response within 24 hours, with information on future plans for the app that addresses the need for typing shortcuts.

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2011 rolls in

I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and New Year.

For me, the last week or two has been the perfect end to a very nearly perfect year. All my stars must have been in alignment in 2010; here’s hoping they stay that way for a bit longer.

Every New Year, I make resolutions. One of my resolutions is appearing on my New Year list for roughly the fifteenth time, as I’ve yet to achieve it; another has been on my list for at least ten years.

It doesn’t bother me that some of my resolutions are recurring. ‘Quit smoking’ was on my list for a good ten years before I finally quit – but I did. ‘Write’ was on my list for more than two decades – and last year, I did. Buying my own house, finding a new job starting my own business were all re-run resolutions – goals I set but didn’t achieve in the first year I set them.

Some things just take more than a twelve month timeframe, and I’m okay with that. I keep making the resolutions, because if I didn’t, it would feel like I was giving up on those goals.

I’ve got a list of seven or eight goals for 2011. One of them is to write MORE, and to finish the first draft of my novel. I wrote over sixty thousand words of first draft this year, so I think I can manage another sixty this year.

Good luck with your New Year Resolutions and your goals for 2011!

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A fellow blogger and Think Sideways student, Tanja, posted a photograph that got me thinking.

It’s a photo of the view from her living room.

Tanja loves the view from her living room, and I can understand why. But I think we probably love it for different reasons. To me, living in Australia, the view is exotic and ‘other’ – the buildings shoulder to shoulder, the white framed many-paned windows, the spires, turrets and domes of the background, the green moss-tint on the black slate roofs… nearly everything in her view is unfamiliar and interesting to me.

The other thing that speaks to me about this picture is the sense of a secret place. I love the spaces between and behind buildings. The spaces beneath cities, the places you might not even know about it even if you’d lived in the city for fifty years. I love the whole concept of urban exploration.

The view from my living room is both familiar and other. I lived in Perth, Western Australia, for most of my life. Ten years ago I moved to Canberra, from a coastal plain to an inland mountain region. I miss the ocean, but I wouldn’t give up the mountains to have it back.


You can just see the dark line of the mountains in the distance. No snow on them this year though 😦

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