Thursday, October 29, 2009

Full Tilt Folly

Ok, this is my public declaration. I'm throwing down the gauntlet now so that I am less likely to throw in the towel later. Got another metaphor I can mix in there? I'm going to need as many as I can get coz I am doing the NaNoWriMo thing. Oh yes I am.
A novel in 30 days? 50 000 words in 30 days. That's 2000 a day, with a couple of days to breathe in between. Or, more precisely 1666 point 666666 per day. Yikes.

Thing is, I wrote this half formed premature breach story, oh about 14 years ago, when I had to submit a novella as part of a writing course I was doing. The thing itself was shite, but the world that it spawned was compelling, and the characters that poked their heads out of the primal soup still prattle to each other on the pages of my notebooks from time to time. As I wrote two posts back, if you have the urge to write a novel, ignore it. If it doesn't let go and doesn't let go, you have to pay attention. So I'm rewriting the thing from scratch, starting Sunday. That's not cheating, apparently, because you're allowed to do some plot notes and character research, as long as all the words you post start from 1 November.

Craziness? Absolutely. What I need now is some fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants, shoot-from-the-hip rollicking keyboard smashing. Silence the left-brain editor because, as they say on the site, "editing's for December."

Talking of throwing all your cliches in one basket, does anyone else get as much joy from tangled metaphors? A dear fellow I knew once used to mix n match his in the most delightful way. "I went white. White as a sheep."
And my husband and I have collected some fantastic ones from our encounters with corporate consulting. The cliches themselves are spectacular enough, like "pluck the low-hanging fruit", but there are some truly inventive ones too.
"Don't lets saddle up someone else's monkey" has to be my all-time favourite. What are yours?

So, 50 000 words, who's going to join me? Chimera from Holey Vision did this last year and I was awed and inspired by her courage and endurance. I reckon it's worth a try. 50 000 words? I can do that. Getting them in the right order, now that may prove a little bit harder. But if I just collect them all and make sure they're in one place, well then maybe I can unscramble them later?

Come on, sign up, it'll be - um... fun?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who's that girl?

She is going to the gym twice a week.
She is waking up at 6.
She is writing 800 words a day.
She is sorting papers into neatly labelled files.
She turned down a second glass of wine last night.

Who the hell is she?
Ask her to stay.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Stone Gods

[images from the Hubble site]

There is a book that I thought didn't exist but it does. I thought I was going to have to write it. Isn't that the reason people write books? Because no-one has written the one you want to read? But I'm happy to have discovered that it does in fact exist. Jeanette Winterson has written it. Its called The Stone Gods

This is a relief. I'm glad I don't have to write it, because I wouldn't do as good a job as she has done. Writing such a book myself would have been long, arduous and painful. Now I just get to read it and delight.

Y'see, I think its true that we only have one book in us, as they say. But there are also books on the outside of us, ones that float around looking for a home. Book ghosts seeking out potential carriers, vessels they can pour themselves into. This book, or parts of it, swooped past me a couple of times. I heard it, but only in the way you hear an aeroplane overhead and think wistfully to yourself, I really want to go to Costa Rica.

I resisted. I'm like that. My approach seems to be - if you have the urge to write something, resist it until it goes away. If it comes back and back and back, then you've got a story. Or, as Gustav Holst once said, "Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you."

Obviously, in this case the ghost gave up and tried someone imminently more receptive and worthy, namely Ms Winterson. She netted it. ("The word you put down is the net for the one that got away," she writes).

Oh, obviously I'm being whimsical. Its not exactly the same book that fluttered past me, but its speculative fiction (a genre I love) and its threaded on themes I've wanted someone to write about - what would happen if we did discover a new, life-supporting planet? What would we do with it? Intergalactic travel, post climate change evacuation, corporate control, space tourism, love between a human and a beautiful robot. A repeating world.

The imprint in me is Atlantis. Technologies and civilisations so separated from emotional integrity that they follow the doomed survivor imperative: destroy ourselves as we exalt ourselves. For Winterson, it's Easter Island. People that ran out of trees whilst erecting the gods that would destroy them. Well, stories such as these litter our histories, don't they? Great Zimbabwe, I seem to remember reading, had to be abandoned because the environment could no longer support the civilisation.

So she takes this premise of a repeating world, a world where we don't learn. Where we simply cannot lift ourselves out of our cycles. Programmed to forget as fast as we learn. She takes this premise and she spins it into gold-skeined meditations on starting over.

What I am completely smitten by in this book are the melodic incantations. The swelling, cresting breaking rhythms. The way she can make tension and narrative bust out of a list - not a preposition in sight.

Its not a perfect book. But she is such a magician with language.

These are some of the repeating themes that underpin the book's philosophy:
"Is this how it ends?
It hasn't ended yet."
(the repeating world)

"And I remember it as we had seen it on that first day, green and fertile and abundant, with warm seas and crystal rivers and skies that redden under a young sun and drop deep blue, like a field at night, where someone is drilling for stars."
(the hymn to earth)

"A quantum universe - neither random nor determined. A universe of potentialities, waiting for an intervention to affect the outcome.
Love is an intervention."
(the universe of potentialities)


"Everything is imprinted for ever with what it once was."

I'm glad this book imprinted on her. Read it, and let it be imprinted on you.

Friday, October 16, 2009



It's not what you do it's
the way that you do it
Its not what you do, its
the way that you do it,
that's what gets results...

is what's been lilting through my head lately.

So many things
So many things

Yeah, I have a Life, Haha
But I also have a
Back Log

and that's bad news for me. Coz when I have a Back Log (yes, its as nasty as it sounds, with just as nasty a stink to it), is when I get realllllly slow. Like I just shut down. There's too much to do, from too long ago, and so I just pedal down, and go into rebellious mode.

Oh. I don't even know where to start.
Like, stuff from the wedding. April. No, I can't even. Photos, thankyous, unfinished business.. oooh, hang your head, lady.

Like, Marking. Student essays. Oh, tell me, what is the real difference between a 65 and a 70 and why should I strike my pen in either of these directions?

Like, Tax. I can't even. I shan't. I shush. I must.

Like, the state my office is in.
I dream of a warehouse in Doornfontein. Like a Faaarm in Aaaafrikaaaa? Like that. A loft, a studio, a spacious old warehouse downtown. A room of one's own. I have one, you know. It's just that, I'm spoilt. I want triple volume. I wish it to be a rehearsal space too. And a space to build models (as in, scale models for theatre designs) and a space to put a lot of books, and like Dave Eggars, for it to be a space where kids come and read, and in the background we (me and my whoevers) are busy making Stuff, man, like, plays and books and stuff. Y'know? Like that.

Like, I have this list of Unfinished Fiction. You wanna see it? Sies man, it hurts. I'm going to put it up here, why? Because its 2 in the morning and its brinkmanship and there is not enough at stake, so here we go -
What I am (still) busy with:

Kestral the novel

Thin Air the play

The Atlantis Papers – letters from an ageing planet

Captions for photographs that don't exist (A memoir of sorts - from 2 sisters)

Road movie ( a short movie in sms time)

Zambezi play

Susi and Chuma ( a play, part of a trilogy about David Livingstone)

Unsigned: some poems

The above are in various states of finishedness. Some nearly, some not even close.

I'm not in a squeeze about them, its more like a slow unfolding. But some of them are old, and are getting that whiff about them. They need to be aired. Perhaps one of you could help? I need
a) someone to kick my ass and hold me to a few promises,
b) someone who will give me honest to goodness true fair feedback (family members need not apply)
c) some-one who knows someone who knows someone who can get the dem things in print.
d) Or, someone who can, if its necessary, tell me gently but firmly that I must go back to the writing desk and I'm just nowhere near ready.

Well, I'm not, you know. But by December I will be.
And so will my dem tax return!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kreativ silence

I haven't much felt the urge to post here lately. There's been a lot happening in my neck of the Egoli woods, and something had to give.

Then a recent post of Mud's jolted me out of my complacency and I remembered that I have some bloggiquette that I must pay attention to.

Dear Val of Monkeys on the Roof gave me this at a time when I ws too rushed to acknowledge it properly. And besides, it had rules attached and rules make me procrastinate. This has been sitting in my drafts folder for a couple of weeks. Oh, I haven't been online much. I've been teaching, or in rehearsals, or in the car... and when I do get screentime my inbox is like a clogged gutter. Ok enough with the excuses.

Thank you Val, I humbly accept and will pass it on to those bloggers I regularly read and love - sorry if they have already received it.

The award is the Kreativ Blogger award and the rules are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award. (Thank you Val, I wasn't really ignoring you.)

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.

4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Ok. 7 things about me.
1. This year, I teach design and drawing to a group of first year students at Wits University. I love them and they love me and we have a three times a week great relationship. I also supervise post-graduate research essays and that's damn hard work. I don't know if I will be doing this next year. I haven't decided yet.
2. I try to dedicate Tuesdays and Fridays to writing. That means fiction. That means in theory the day belongs solely to me. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get co-opted into income-generation activities, and I find it very hard to switch in and out of fictional worlds. I need long debriefing sessions, and long psyche-up sessions. Perhaps this is why I have several unfinished fiction projects.
3. I have a fascination with Atlantis. As a real place, as a metaphor and as some kind of memory. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that places I lived as a child no longer exist - they were swallowed up by a meandering river.
4. I have an elephant spirit who visits me in my dreams. I cannot explain the exchanges we have, but they are profound.
5. One day I will build a ceramic house and glaze it on the inside. I read that you can do this - a clever man called Nader Khalili has developed a technique called super adobe. This gets my motor racing.
6. I plan my life around Mercury Retrogrades
7. I am not as credulous and new-agey as I may sound. I believe that certain things like the influence of Mercury, angels, higher selves and whirling chakras have a plausible explanation, and just because we haven't been able to 'prove' it yet doesn't mean its not real. (but don't get me started, coz with the exception of Reya, you will all think I'm nutsos)

7 Kreativ bloggers:
Miranda my sister of the Times of Miranda who is a very kreativ lass
Chimera of Holey Vision who can make you roar with laughter while breaking your heart
Shiny of Almost Thirty Three to whom we must be very grateful because she writes the important letters that we never get around to writing
Tessa of the Aerial Armadillo (of course she already has it, because she is a supremely kreatiff and luminous soul, but hey, now she has it again)
Fush of Fush and Chips (I don't think he's the award type, but I don't mind if he takes it and runs or ignores it. His words and his mix tapes are proof that four years at a certain university did not blast all the kreatiffity out of him)
Reya of After the Gold Puppy, who is part of the mystery.
Siren Voices - fantastically written stories about scenes you don't want to witness first hand.

I also had another one from Val some time back - this little mermaid.
And, wasn't there also one from Miranda some months back? See? I'm a shocker. No manners. I do however greatly appreciate the recognition, so thanks Val, Miranda.

And I will break the silence soon.