Browsing Category

Beautiful Things

Beautiful Things

Some things that are good

August 13, 2014 | 14 Comments
true-detective-harrelson-mcconaughey-610x348

I don’t know about you, but I needed to write down some things I actually like for a minute, so I didn’t plummet into a kind of oblivion for which I’m not yet ready. So here are five things I like today.

1. We Were Liars.

16143347

This is the book I’m currently reading at school pickup time. Not to be confused with the book I’m reading at bedtime, which is A Man Called Ove. It is speedy and in all ways YA clever romance in the spirit of John Green, but that is just fine. It reminds me of times when I pushed my heart all the way into a teenage boy and knew, unequivocally, that it would definitely and absolutely stay right there. And the other times when I retrieved my heart and it was missing the bit at the top reserved for warm breath on my ear.

2. Avocado and feta mash.

tumblr_loifsf47E31qdei8m

At the boulangerie, which is a fancy word I use because I went to France once and read books in a claw-foot bath, they sell two kinds of baguette. You can buy a campagnard baguette, which is one made of bread, or a rustic baguette, which is also one made of bread but is $1.00 less than the other type of bread.

Choosing a good avocado is very important, and I do this by selecting the one that most resembles touching the end of my nose. Helpfully, this is also a good way to determine when you are not ovulating (when you are ovulating, your cervix will feel soft, like your bottom lip). You can also pick off the dried stem end and look for green underneath. Buy some feta from the fromagerie, which is another word you learn at private school, and then mash the two things together with a fork, paying careful attention to the smugness of your face.

Spread all up and down the baguette and top with a little lemon juice and some cracked pepper.

3. The David Attenborough DVDs in the Herald Sun.

Obviously the Herald Sun itself is terrible in all ways. But the kids and I sit down every evening now and watch the day’s DVD. We’ve learned about leopard seals and fungus that lives inside ants and the cartoon face of a horny bird of paradise. We push ourselves together on a couch designed for two and wrap one pink blanket all the way around. Our knees get cold, but our brains get full.

4. True Detective.

true-detective-harrelson-mcconaughey-610x348

We watched Parks and Recreation three times (fast forwarding the Ann/Tom thing, spoiler alert). Which was great, but it did mean that we missed watching True Detective at the same time as everyone else. Now, though! Now we are watching two episodes a night, which means we will be finished by the weekend. The writing is amazing. And I mean, everyone said that it was, but the words that come out of Matthew McConaughey are spellbinding.

5. Excellent people.

Gift_Aladdin

It will come as no surprise to you that there are people on the internet with big hearts and big brains, and that yesterday when we were all blanketed with sadness, they spoke thoughtfully and wrote insightfully.

And what can you even say about it, about the way the world crushes some of us? Stuff like this:

Leave a comment | 14 comments
Beautiful Things, Mentals

Musings on remarkable women

June 26, 2014 | Leave a Comment
Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 12.09.41 PM

I had the great pleasure last night of seeing Tara Moss speak at an event Georgia’s school had put on. And I’m having a lot of feelings now, so I hope you like sentences that mean nothing and go on forever.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 12.09.41 PM

I’ve seen Ms Moss on the telly, of course, and thought her astute and articulate and accomplished. In the flesh, though, she is beyond remarkable. It was in the things she said, yes, and they were compelling and fascinating, but it was also in the way she revelled in the achievements of others. A demonstrable, genuine interest in and concern for change, social good and the advancement of women.

What I was most struck by was her ability to incorporate the things that she finds personally rewarding (like writing, which she called “its own reward”, as it is) with those global issues that require more compelling action, more diverse involvement, more self. On the one hand, she gives voice to violent crime issues in her books, but she backs it the hell up with her UNICEF work. She has big feelings and small feelings and local feelings and wider feelings and they culminate in this incredible, truthful, driven woman.

Her book made me feel the things I wrote here. Big things, things about identity and purpose. But ultimately, they are still selfish things. They are things about the way I see myself, and the way I deal with the issues I have, my issues, just my own minute issues that mean I sometimes live in a blanket and sometimes cry at the traffic lights and sometimes shout at my reflection. My issues. Mine.

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of work with Family Life, as part of their SHINE project. It is really something, SHINE. I’ve been spending my time writing the most harrowing sentences, sentences that keep me up at night like Everyone feels sad sometimes and Anxiety is just your body responding to something your brain says. The thought of these children with their big, fluttering hearts tears me to shreds. In each word I see my own children, lying in their beds and trying to comprehend the whole universe all at once.

octopus

(This is a SHINE octopus)

As luck would have it, Family Life’s CEO, Jo Cavanagh OAM, was also being recognised at last night’s event. Jo is the reason I work for Family Life. When I first met with them, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew they did work in my local community, and I had seen their op-shops down the road. What I didn’t realise was that they’re lead by this woman who is 5% human and 95% ideas for social good. Jo sees opportunity for change in everything, and I could spend entire days just listening to the cadence of her voice as she speaks from her heart.

So, I’ve been trying to understand what I can take away from these two (different, but similar, and utterly wonderful) women. I have always been open about my mental health issues, with everyone. In the beginning, I didn’t have words for them. My mum used to tell me I was at a loose end. She didn’t have the words for them either. We were just two people, feeling different things and kind of looking out in bewilderment and wondering how much longer we had to endure them. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but for lack of knowledge.

But I have some words, now. I am thirty-one years old and I have words to describe the way the brain feels. Not as a clinician, but as a person. And I think that, slowly, so slowly, slowly like a big anxious slug, I am learning of ways to put all of these things together, for the good of the brains that come after mine. That maybe the intersection of my personal challenges and the ones with wider significance is not nothing, and to feel is not for naught. If you’ll just bear with me, cheers.

Leave a comment | No comments
Beautiful Things

At the seaside

May 9, 2014 | 2 Comments
shells

I like to write about the places around me. Probably this is partly because I don’t go to many places, and because my imagination about other places is limited, but also because I like to write about the entirety of a place. Its mood, its want, the way it moves in different seasonal light, the types of footprints that are left on it.

beach_1a

At the moment I’m writing a story that’s set in Sandringham, which is a bayside suburb of Melbourne. There’s nothing really notable about it, or of bayside Melbourne suburbs generally, but the man in my story has lived there his whole life, watching.

Most mornings, I go down to the beach and see how Sandringham is wearing itself. I take some photos, I breathe some air, I write some notes.

beach_5

beach_2

The past couple of weeks in Melbourne have been very cold. People walk out of their front doors, catch a moment of icy wind on their faces, and take the car instead. By the end of the week, the bay is coated in a slick of grime. All of those extra cars, with their extra pollution.

I wonder what the birds think of it. Whether they get up in the morning and look out and go, well, can’t see Corio today, back to bed. They talk a lot, these birds. They’re always in groups, having their conversations, and they move around a lot while they do it.

beach_3

beach_6

They mostly seem unfazed.

beach_7

It’s against the law to remove shells from this part of the beach. The shellfish are protected species, and that’s probably why there are so many birds. Maybe they’re not fazed by the pollution because the very still water is their open bar.

Leave a comment | 2 comments
Beautiful Things, Book, Writing

Book news and other feelings

May 3, 2014 | 58 Comments
cover

You know as well as I do that this post will start with “When I was a little girl.”

When I was a little girl, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I am so very lucky to have parents who spent the first eighteen years of my life insisting that I could be anything I wanted. “You can be a supreme court judge! You can be a bus driver! You can be a metaphysicist!” They never told me I could be a digital strategist, but I’m sure if such a thing had existed then, they would have.

The fact is, I can only ever remember wanting to be one thing. The specifics changed as I got older, but I have been fundamentally and perhaps unhealthily attached to one distinct goal since 1985, when I developed independent thought.

I wanted to be a writer.

I’ve written before about the process of deciding what kind of writer to be. And you know, writing for magazines and newspapers and the inside of juice lids and websites about nappies is excellent. Every time I reached a milestone as a freelance writer, I felt closer to my goal. I felt my ten-year-old self tugging at my shirt and speaking close to my ear, “We’re going to be a writer! Well, you are. I am stuck here in 1992 and frankly the fashion is miserable.”

The first time I wrote more than 5000 words in a row was NaNoWriMo 2011. It was a genuinely appalling story about a woman who was in love with her best friend, and his wife got cancer, then the best friend got pregnant, and they gave the baby to the dying wife. It was like if they fired all the writers on Home & Away and just let infants bang their fists on keyboards. But I finished it, and that was the first time I knew I could.

I started writing LATKES WITH SYLVIA for NaNoWriMo 2012. I wrote about 18,000 words about a woman who was being haunted by her dead mother-in-law while gestating a baby. It wasn’t awful. It was much, much less awful than the previous year.

He was right, though, it wasn’t as good as hers. Four of us sat around Francesca’s dinner table, eating tasteless mince and watery bechamel from Francesca’s plates, drinking stale red wine from Francesca’s glasses. She sat in the chair in the corner and watched as her brothers and son reminisced: nothing could compare to her panettone, Christmas would never be the same, she was literally a saint from heaven. I grew embarrassed for her, but each time I looked over she just sat there, hands folded in her lap, eyes fixated on Dave. Dave, whose hair was plastered against his drunken forehead in liquorice ribbons; whose swollen eyes hardly blinked, staring out at his empty world like black moons.

‘We should go home soon,’ I said. My hips ached from the hours of wooden stools and hard pews and funeral cars.

‘My mother died,’ he said.

‘I know she did.’ I reached for his hand. ‘But we gotta go home sometime.’

‘We are home,’ he said, and Francesca nodded.

Then I put it in the bin, because Francesca was a drag and I wanted the main character to shut the hell up. But I had written this Dave character, and he came with me to the next iteration. I spent eleven months writing a new story about a woman called Meg who had spent her life thinking her father had died, only to uncover a family secret tied up in her own grief. I worked on that story with my very brilliant Writer’s Victoria mentor. It also wasn’t terrible. I think it was probably some of the best writing I’ve done. But I didn’t know what the story was and I couldn’t find a place to hang up my coat while I was in it, so after 60,000 words I put it in the bin.

My mother wore a pink ribbon the day she took us on a picnic. We all went: dad, Jim, Charlie and me, and Sarah in her pusher. We walked along the Yarra where it thinned and twisted to the north, and when we were halfway to town we threw a blanket on the ground and took out our sandwiches.

Under the branches of the silver gums we could have been a real family. Charlie kicked a footy and the dappled light moved in and around my parents’ linked hands. My mother swayed in time with the breeze but no one talked about the redness of her eyes. It might have been the first time we’d all been together without any screaming. It might have been the only time.

Sarah could walk by then. Maybe she was eighteen months old. Tight blonde ringlets and a face like the renaissance and legs that were rounder than they were long. She loved to be by the river. A pigeon: duck! A magpie: duck! The kind of self-assuredness reserved for the very young and the very rich.

Maybe I did see it. A ripple. When the police came to ask their questions, maybe I lied when I told them I didn’t know.

But I couldn’t have. Her shoes are right here in the hall.

But I kept the house from that story, and the man who lived next door, and I smushed Francesca from the first story into Nina from the second story and came out with Sylvia.

And so I started on this version of the story for NaNoWriMo 2013. I took a couple of thousand words from my story about Meg, changed her name to Heather, and wrote. I wrote and wrote and I thought about the things that had been wrong with the old stories, and wrote different things. I wrote and wrote and dripped in the essence of a man I’d seen at the supermarket and the tree outside the library and I sat at that one desk for the whole month and wrote.

“Finishing the draft” had been my goal for 2013, and I did so at just after 10pm on December 31st, at which point I ate pizza.

I was very fortunate after that. Fortunate to have good friends who were willing and able to help with the next part. Fortunate to have interest from people who were able to make decisions about stuff. Extremely fortunate to somehow trick Sophie Hamley from Cameron Creswell into representing me, and then again when Alex Craig at Picador liked it too. When I got the call that started with, “How are you feeling?” and ended with, “PLEASE CALL ME BACK TOMORROW IN CASE THIS IS IMAGINARY.” I sat on the couch and I cried and cried.

And my ten-year-old self was like, “Yeah! Not long now!” and I went to the bookshop and took a photo of the gap where my book will slot in.

Latkes With Sylvia (title TBC) will be published by Picador sometime in autumn 2015, and my next book (which is about an old man who loses his wife in a shell) will be published in 2016, universe willing.

Leave a comment | 58 comments