Sunday, December 31, 2017

The old year is (almost) dead. Long live the New

2017 will be over in less than 16 hours. It has been a monstrous year in many ways and for many people - but also a year of bringing sunlight into dark places, and letting it do its painful but necessary disinfecting work.

2017 at large


It's been Year 1 of Trump, which has impacted the whole world, although nowhere more severely, of course, than the US itself. It's been the year of Weinstein and the undercutting of the
whole house of cards (double entendre intended) around Hollywood and its systemic sexual and other abuses of the young, the female, and the powerless.

Sparked by that, it's been the year of #metoo ... and for millions upon millions across the world, that has opened up the places we got hurt, and it has not been an easy experience.

In New Zealand, a Labour government took office, signalling a shifting tide there, while erstwhile human rights hero Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese hero, has been shown to have feet of clay, with her government's systemic and brutal persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

It's been a year of crisis across the world - every year has its crises, but that does not make 2017's any less painful. Refugee rates continue to rise, and the ability and willingness of rich safe countries to handle refugee intake has been further abraded. Famine is biting hard, again.

In Australia, it has been a fairly ridiculous year politically, with the keynote being the dual citizenship crisis that has sucked in over a dozen federal parliamentarians to date (I mean. HONESTLY). Socialised medicine remains under threat, and the NDIS is a debacle. International corporations pay no taxes, and welfare recipients are demonised and squeezed to the bone.

Australia continues to imprison refugees in offshore jails for the non-crime of seeking asylum, and that situation grows ever more desperate, and our country's shame ever more profound, with every month that passes.

In Victoria, we've got a lot of new infrastructure projects bubbling along, a progressive government that's doing pretty well on most fronts but has shown recent signs of being rather worryingly willing to bed down with big corporates, and is facing a perceived law and order problem that might unseat it if it can't change the narrative around this.

There was one overwhelmingly good thing, at a national level, in 2017 too. The marriage equality postal survey was a terrible and wastefully cruel thing to put the community through, but we got through it and now marriage equality is law - this is a victory to be celebrated.

Our 2017

For us, as a family, 2017 was a year of contrasts and mixed outcomes. It was not the easiest or happiest year we have ever had, but we did rise to most of the challenges and we got through it. It's been such a jam-packed year that it's hard to know where to start, so I am going to use the tried-and-true category analysis method.

Work, Study, Hobbies and Creativity

This was a good year under this heading. My secondborn made a successful transition to high school, while my youngest had her best year yet at school in Grade 3, coming along in leaps and bounds in all areas. 

My eldest had a great Year 8, and took up inter-school debating, at which she excelled, and continued her clarinet studies to good effect. 

Both the elder two started writing more
creatively this year, and are producing some wonderful stuff. The secondborn was rewarded for her efforts with both the Community Award and the English Award for year 7, while the eldest received the Social Justice Award, reflecting her commitment to and engagement with the school's social justice program.

My freelance business continued to expand, and I worked on a lot of different projects for four different clients over the course of the year, including a new client in Adelaide. Juggling the workload wasn't always a cakewalk, but using subcontractors certainly helped. With booked work, my business is set to continue apace until at least mid-2018, which is an encouraging thing.

I also did more this year creatively than I have been able to in the past two years, which was very encouraging. I wrote a lot of poetry and had one piece published for actual money, which was very nice. I did January's Month of Poetry and got one poem down every day. I also wrote three short stories that I liked, and had an ultimately unsuccessful go at NaNoWriMo (but even the attempt was
worthwhile). 

The biggest creative achievement of the year for me, though, will actually come to fruition in 2018 - I am almost finished compiling, editing and writing all content for my planned poetry collection, She Said: Women of Story, which will be released in June 2018. It comprises 31 poems currently (I'm hoping to add in one more!), all focusing on the female characters in various stories - Torah, mythology, and fairytales. 

Health and Activity

Our health has been generally good this year. I have had a couple of scares - an imaging error in August suggested that I had a major heart defect (I don't!) and there were another couple of things that caused angst - but on the whole, the chronic conditions were pretty well managed and we did not get any serious acute events barring a few nasty colds. It was a nil-anaesthetic year for me, which, given the frequency with which I have to have minor procedures done to manage my various bits and bobs, was a good outcome.

My mental health has also been reasonable this year, although I have had flares of anxiety to deal with. I think this is just par for the course when you have an anxiety disorder, but it did not stop me doing anything I needed or wanted to do in 2017, so I'm calling that a win.

In terms of activities, I started personal training this year and I think it has helped, although I still struggle with the time and money commitment. I am going to try to transition to self-directed exercise in 2018.

My second born took up ice skating as her sport and has embraced it wildly, progressing extremely fast. My eldest took up jujitsu and is diligently attending her classes and passing all her belts. The youngest returned to gymnastics and continued with her swimming lessons, while my husband increased his cycling and continued his power walking.

Holidays, Birthdays, Special Days and Keynote Events

Holidays
We had three family holidays in 2017. In January we went to Warrnambool for 9 days, which was extremely relaxing. In July we visited with friends on the Mornington Peninsula for a few days and explored Cape Schanck and the Sculpture Park at McClelland. 

In September / October we went to Sydney and had a massively active week of walking everywhere, including the Eastern Beaches Cliffside Walk and all over the city itself, culminating in helping our friends at Sydney OzComicCon. 

The three holidays were all very different from each other, but all were great in their own ways. 2018 is going to be a cat of another colour under this heading - see below!

Events

Events were not quite as big a feature in 2017 as they were last year, but there were still some. We helped our friends at both Melbourne (July) and Sydney (September) ComicCons, and that was fun, if exhausting. My husband took the elder two girls to the Madman Anime Convention in November.

I went to one day of Continuum, the science fiction writer's con, in June. I went to the Pop-Up Globe with my friend in October to see As You Like It, which was hilarious. While we were in Sydney in late September, we went to see the Sherlock Holmes International Exhibition, which was terrific. And perhaps most excitingly, I took my eldest as her birthday present to the Stargate 20th Anniversary Con in November, which we both enjoyed hugely.

We celebrated Halloween as usual, although in a more subdued mode than in past years as it fell on a weeknight this year. Christmas was, as always, Christmassy ... we baked a metric tonne of cookies, ate a great deal of food, exchanged gifts and celebrated with family.

2018 is likely to feature more in this category, with ComicCons and Anime Fest again plus tickets already procured for the Roger Waters concert in February (husband and I), the Evanescence concert in February (eldest and one parent), and the Dan and Phil shown in August (I am taking the elder kids and their friend).

Birthdays and Key Events

Birthdays were, as always, a feature. My youngest had a swimming party at the local pool in February, complete with Piplup (water Pokemon) cake. My secondborn had an ice skating, Star Observation Wheel and sleepover party in May. I hosted a How to Host a Murder dinner party in June to mark Turning Very Old Indeed. And my eldest, who turned 14 in August, opted for a dinner out at the local fancy hotel with several friends, complete with Star Trek comm badge cake.

Probably the most exciting and lovely "event" of the year, though, was our hosting of a Japanese exchange student for two weeks in July / August. It was such a positive and enriching experience for us all, and we are so looking forward to seeing her again in April.

Looking Ahead

2018 is a year that holds both promises and challenges for us.

I think it's fair to say that the focal point of at least the first half of the year is going to be our long-awaited, obsessively planned, and greatly desired three-week trip to Japan in April.

We have already sunk a lot of money and effort in this trip, and there is more to come, but I am hoping it will reward all our investment. My elder two daughters are learning Japanese and all three are heavily into Japanese manga and anime culture, so I feel like it is the right place for us to be visiting for their first overseas trip. (Going in April also means we should get to see cherry blossoms, which is a massive drawcard for me!) We'll be catching up with our exchange student while we're there are well, which will be lovely.

In terms of other holidays, I am semi-planning - perhaps better say "hoping"- to take the three kids to Brisbane in the July school holidays for a few days to escape the winter and stay with a dear friend and her family who relocated there last year. Other than that, I doubt we will venture far from home for vacationing purposes, although I will be nipping back and forth to Adelaide for work throughout the year.

School and work commitments will continue without much projected change at this point,
although the nature of my work is such that I can't predict what the year overall will bring in a work sense.

Everyone is keeping on with their hobbies and activities at this stage, which means the shape of our weeks should not be radically different (at least not in the first half of the year - things often shift after a couple of terms).

A hotspot in the year for me will be the release and launch of my first poetry book, She Said: Women of Story, in June. I am hoping to have a small launch event for the book.

I'm also committed to Month of Poetry (starting tomorrow!) and have resolved to submit at least one poem every month of the year for either publication or to a competition. In 2017 I submitted only three times - twice to publications and once to a competition - and one poem was bought and published, so that is a 1/3 strike rate that gives me encouragement to continue to try.

We have some familial and interpersonal challenges to address in 2018; the mechanics of life are one thing, and fairly well-oiled for us now, but the emotional underpinnings are something else again, and I will not pretend that the road ahead is going to be smooth and easy.

I know, though, that we will all do what we need to, so that we have the best chance of having a happy, healthy, and forward-facing year in 2018.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017: The Year in Books

The year is wearing on, so it must be time for some bookly reflection.

What are your top 10 (or if you don't have 10, top 5) books read this year? They don't have to be newly published this year, just new to you!

Mine are, in no particular order:

1. Their Brilliant Careers (Ryan O'Neill): My goodness this is a clever, clever book. It's sly and hilarious and so intelligent. I've already re-read it twice trying to figure out more of the clues!

2. Hunger (Roxane Gay): This book hurts and sears, but you should read it anyway. It is a game-changer.

3. Anything is Possible (Elizabeth Strout): I reviewed this here.

4. Exit West (Mohsin Hamad): I reviewed this here.

5. Autonomous (Annalee Newitz): Planning to do a double-header review of this and Sea of Rust, so I won't say too much here, but do yourself a favour, it's terrific.

6. Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders): I reviewed this here.

7. See What I Have Done (Sarah Schmidt): This is one of the genuinely creepiest books I have read in years, and it's superb. A fictional retelling of the Borden murders, full of viscera and disgust and psychological manoueverings.

8. Autumn (Ali Smith): Beautiful.

9. Sea of Rust (C. Robert Cargill): As I said above, I'm lanning to do a double-header review of this and Autonomous. This is a cracker of as story in the real old meaty sci fi vein.

10. The two newest Penric novellas, Penric and the Fox and The Prisoner of Limnos (Lois McMaster Bujold): There will never ever be a year that the Queen puts out something new and it doesn't appear on my Top 10 list, but TWO new Penric novellas was a superb treat this year.

There were other books I read and liked this year too, as well as some re-reading of old beloveds, but these 10 were the cream of the crop for me. I'd be interested to know what the literary year looked like for others.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Done!

So November comes to an end, and with it, my daily blogging commitment.

I'll most likely do a Christmas set up day post at the weekend, but life is super, super hectic at the moment - I am not promising to do much more than that until I close my doors for business on 19 December. That is, both happily and scarily, only two weeks from next Tuesday - but there is a large tonne of work I need to get through before that!

It's been fun. In a busy month, it's been a good anchor, and I have enjoyed it. I think it was always a more realistic commitment than NaNoWriMo, to be frank, and one I'll try to do each year.

But for now ... adieu!

(This is post #30 in NaBloPoMo. DONE!!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On tricking my brain and lessons learned the hard way

Today I had a day where, for absolutely no rational reason, I felt convinced I was pretty much rubbish. A fraud. An Imposter, you might even say. I started to feel negative as all get out about everything. I became convinced that:

a) my poetry was all garbage and the poetry book planned for next year was An Epically Bad Idea;
b) my freelance work was all garbage and all my clients were soon going to discover this;
c) I am a terrible parent;
c) my ability to do anything at all except cook and perhaps do laundry was simply illusory.

What triggered it? HowthehelldoIknow. Feedback on documents, maybe? (Although it was very professional and cogent, and not at all difficult, and in fact they are giving input that will definitely shape the documents positively). A slightly cool email from a former client in response to a request for work that I had to turn down because I'm just too busy? An email from the travel agent with a few curveballs for our trip that I wasn't expecting? The heat? A sore gut? Christmas approaching while I am in a state of unreadiness? The clash of my older and younger kids' end of year events which is forcing me to miss one or the other? The position of the moon respective to the rise of Venus?

It could've been any of those things or none of those things or a few of them together. (The last is most likely). But whatever the reason, this is a mood state that I recognise. I've been down this road a time or ten, and it never feels good, and it always drags me down.

But here's the good part of the story.

When I saw a psychologist for 6 months back in 2014, when my brain was actively trying to kill me, one of the things she helped me work on was recognising when my brain was lying to me - either by telling me things that were, verifiably, untrue, or by catastrophising perfectly normal incidents or roadblocks as being major indictments on me as a person. I practised - and it was hard to learn, really hard - identifying unhelpful thoughts and pushing back on them. I practised logic in the face of illogic.

All that work I did in 2014, I see the benefits on days like today. Because although my mood remains recalcitrantly low, I have had some success in combating the irrational negative *thoughts*, and arguing myself into recognising that actually there are objective measures of my at-least-adequacy in most areas of my life. Strangling off those operatic I B CRAP thoughts is still not easy, but I have to say, when I am able to do it, it is satisfying - and it puts me in a better place to get up and get on with life tomorrow.

(This is post #29 in NaBloPoMo. Just one to go now!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Untitled Poem

the moon on a hot night:

two-thirds full but I can see the shadow of the rest of it
bright enough to catch the furtive tails of the cats slinking along the wall

not bright enough to drown out the weak city stars
trembling their faint pinpoints against a grey-washed light-polluted sky

weird enough to paint ghosts in a too-soon-summer miasma
bunched-up fists of clouds skittering like air-rats around a knothole

the moon looks down, and forgets:
the world washed in chrome below.

- Kathy, 28/11/17

(This is post #28 in NaBloPoMo. 28 down, 2 to go!)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Domestic And Admin Day

I think I need to schedule a domestic and life administration day this week.

Normally, this far away from the last one, I'd be looking for an opportunity for a mental health day (day off!), but realistically those are very hard to come by in November and December. At this time of year, the best  I can do to protect my mental health is to set, and enforce, boundaries around time on a weekly basis - refrain from working at weekends, making sure I switch off the computer by 9:30pm so I can have an hour to read before bed, and so on.

That said, with being so very, very busy with work (both paid and creative), family obligations, trip planning and end of year stuff, I am sliding a little out of control in the domestic sphere. I mean, I am not a neatnik (thank God, given my family's propensities!) but I have a limit, and we are over it and then some in terms of household functionality. In particular, our laundry situation is suboptimal +++, which is starting to have a daily impact. Additionally, there are a bunch of life administrative things I need to get onto - booking and going to appointments of various kinds (for me and the kids), doing paperwork, dropping stuff off to op shops, picking up things, etc etc etc.

This is definitely the week - very possibly the only week before Christmas! - to do this. I'm sitting in the eye of the storm work-wise and it will not last. I'm about to send off a major piece of work to my interstate client, after which I need to wait for their response and confirmation before proceeding (likely to be early next week). For one of my local projects, I have items out for consultation which closes on Thursday night; until that happens, I can't progress in that project either. With a third project, I do have interviews booked for Thursday, but cannot do anything else before that. That leaves only one project which can be usefully worked on this week, and while there is certainly plenty to do for it, I can definitely see programming in a day (or two half-days) of house and life work is a possibility, especially in the first part of the week.

I think I might do it as a half-day on each of Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons actually. Make a list, try to get through it. Although it can be useful to have a consolidated housework day sometimes, two half-days might be easier to motivate myself to stick to. I can bribe myself with the promise of listening to podcasts as I clean / sort clothes / fill in superannuation paperwork.

(This is post #27 in NaBloPoMo. 27 down, 3 to go!)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Questions I Ask Myself At 3am (Poem)

A Madrigal: Questions I Ask Myself At 3am

The one I ask most oftentimes is this:
What is life and living even for?
An existential commonplace to bore.

Sometimes I ask what it is I miss
by refusing all the darkness and its spore;
by closing down the lid on all of this
the fresh pains and the old ones; hearts are for

the opera of knife-blades and a kiss
the beauty and the fury still at war
a storming sea to reach translucent shore.
At 3am I sometimes wonder this:
What is my poet's yearning looking for?
To find truegold, how deep must I learn to bore?

- Kathy, 26/11/17

(This is post #26 in NaBloPoMo. 26 down, oh my goodness only 4 to go that means it is almost December HOLD ME)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Jorōgumo (Poem)

This is a multi-verse haiku with a running foot (ie lines that flow on from each other) that I am working on as a possibility for the poetry book. The story is that of Jorōgumo, a type of Yōkai (monster, ghost, or goblin) from Japanese folklore. Jorōgumo is a woman-spider - she can appear as a beautiful young woman to lure men into her webs, but in fact she is a venomous spider who traps, kills and consumes her prey. She usually lives near water, often a waterfall. In some versions of the story, she appears to be holding an infant, which is actually made of thousands of spider-eggs which then burst open.

I am not especially arachnophobic, but I will not deny that this story is a little shuddery even for me. Sometimes it's good to go to darker places, though. As usual, I am trying to find (or create) another meaning in the story.

Because this might end up in the book, feedback SUPER, SUPER welcome! (The phrase "clever abyss" is a reference to one version of the story where a traveller tricks a Jorōgumo by ensnaring the web tendrils around a tree stump instead of themselves; the Jorōgumo whispers "clever, clever" as the stump is drawn into the water, and this is the source where Kashikobuchi, or "clever abyss", takes its name).

Jorōgumo

the waters fall; clear
and pure above my hidden
snares; my damp, dark nest

a clever abysss
whirls in my jewel-bright eyes;
the stars and the moon

look down, say nothing.
I put on breasts and belly,
costuming for them

baiting my skein-trap
with the scent of their desire
within the forest

in the dark I spin
in twilight i am hunter
in the dawn, legion

my children bursting
life life life to run and dance
a thousand splinters

I am as I am;
I hunt and I eat, and men
fatten my she-blood

their eyes grown wider
as they look upon their death;
all iridescence 

and long-legged, red
in sting and mouth-bite
sticky with longing

the hunger that drives
them into my arms, and I
to sing their dirges soft

and aching-sweet; the
water forgets all that was,
and the web shimmers

caught in the sunlight;
I consume, and create, and
yes am born again.

- Kathy, 25/11/17

(This is post #25 in NaBloPoMo; 25 down, 5 to go!)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Japan dreaming

Japan planning is almost done now! Yes, yes, I know that makes us weirdos given it is still 4 months til we go, but we prefer to be organised.

We leave Melbourne just after midnight, and arrive in Japan on the morning. We are in Tokyo for 5 days initially. I've booked an AirBnB in Shibuya, and we've got a number of things planned and locked in, including Studio Ghibli Museum and a day trip to Mt Fuji. We are intending to spend a day in Akihabara (the anime district), a visit to the Skytree, some time in Harajuku, and general street-watching.

Then we are off to Nagano for two days to visit the Snow Monkeys Park, for monkey-watching and hot springs. We are staying in a ryokan there which should be lovely.

Next to Kani, where we are hoping to catch up with our exchange student and her family; then on to Kyoto, where we will hopefully have a little time to relax.

We're in Kyoto for 6 days, staying in the "nicest" of the AirBnBs I've booked to give ourselves a good breather, and have absolutely nothing locked in, although there are lots of things that look interesting, so any suggestions welcome (I expect to have a minimum of one day doing very little there though!)

We're then going to Osaka for 2 days, one day of which will be a mega day at Universal Studios Japan (just finalised the tix for that!) and the other, which is more of a half-day really, we might just wander a bit.

Train from Osaka to Hirsohima that afternoon, and we then have a day and a half in Hiroshima - we're staying directly opposite the Peace Park, and we are also hoping to get to Miyajima Island.

Back to Tokyo from Hiroshima, then we have two nights, one full day, in Tokyo before flying out early-ish on the morning of the second day. I expect the final Tokyo day to be a shopping day, as I am encouraging the delayed purchase of souvenirs so we don't have to lug them around the entire country on the train!

Flights, accommodation and insurance are all now fully booked and paid for. We're still to get, but have confirmed all details for, the things that have to be booked closer to the time, such as rail passes and some of the attractions. My husband is Mr Internal Travel Logistics and is busily setting up detailed Google maps and route information to make things easier while we are there. The kids are honing their conversational Japanese to a knife edge.

And I? I have started dreaming about cherry blossoms on the regular.

(This is post #24 in NaBloPoMo. 24 dowb, 6 to go!)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Best and Worst Festive Day / Public Holidays

The best three public holidays / festive days of the year, in my opinion, are:

1. Halloween. I LOVE Halloween. I love the dressing up and the trick or treating and the way the kids get so into it. I love the "safe spookiness" and the decorations and the candy and the community spirit and the fun. It never feels stressy for me. I look forward to it every year.

2. Grand Final Eve. I am not in the slightest a football person and I detest Grand Final boozers and loud GF parties, BUT the advent of this new public holiday has given us the lovely gift of a long weekend at the end of the spring school holidays were we can go away as a family. In the first year of the holiday, we went to Bendigo and visited with friends; in year 2, we went to Ballarat and had Sovereign Hill largely to ourselves; and this year, we incorporated it into our Sydney trip. All good stuff!

3. Easter. There is something super fun about Easter when you have kids, and Easter lamb is the business. This is another holiday that never feels stressful for me.

The worst three public holidays / festive days of the year, for me, are:

1. New Year's Eve. NO CONTEST this is hands-down the pits. The bass thump of loud parties all around all night, people doing stupid shit in stupid ways, the animals getting agitated and terrified ... There is nothing I like about it. (Well, I don't mind fireworks - the legal ones anyway, the illegal ones make me super anxious about fire risks).

2. Australia Day. This one is especially yuk if located next to a weekend, but either the night before or the night of, it also spawns too many loud parties. I am also extremely uncomfortable with what it "celebrates".

3. Melbourne Cup Day. This is not because of noise exactly, but because I am increasingly disturbed and a bit disgusted at both the animal cruelty involved and the excess manifested by racegoers. Spring racing carnival is my least favourite time to be catching trains, especially near the end of a race day - I've had shoes vomited on not once but twice in my life, and both times were by pissed racegoers.

The other holidays / festive days I would bracket together as "mostly enjoyable, occasionally a bit stressful or else not remarkable": Christmas Day (which is usually good but can be a bit pressured); Boxing Day, Queens Birthday, Labour Day and ANZAC Day (all of which are fine, good even, but not especially notable, particularly now I am a freelancer and I don't get paid public holidays so I tend to treat them like any other day really).

So there you go. My Holiday Primer!

(This is post #23 in NaBloPoMo. 23 down, 7 to go!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The delicate dance

I've been reflecting lately on where to draw the line in social justice conversations between shutting up and listening, and offering factual information that might be pertinent.

I fully accept that in most discussions, I am in a position of great relative privilege, and the discussion is neither about me nor for me. My opinions and feels on racism, homophobia and so on are not relevant or interesting. My role is to get out of the light, listen, reflect, and where appropriate, change my behaviour and outlook as a response. As a born argumentator, this has not necessarily been an easy lesson to learn, but it is very necessary one.

So my dilemma now is not about curtailing my own desire to add my views, or express my feelings. But I still struggle with holding back from offering facts / data where it seems relevant to the conversation - and, in particular, correcting obvious errors of fact which are leading to conclusions that might not be all that supportable.

Look, I get that facts are not neutral, and that the interspersion of some kinds of data can be a very hostile and undermining act. I get that it is not up to me to ride around the Internet arguing with everyone who's misreporting or misinterpreting data (or purveying fake news, for that matter). I get that a lot of the time, the facts are not the issue anyway.

But when you see someone basing their argument on an objectively false piece of data, what's the right thing to do? Do you try to engage with why their feelings about that thing may be so variant with the actual data? Do you accept that lived experiences aren't always reflected in hard numbers? Do you look at the argument as a detatched thing from its putative evidence base, and try to read it on its own merits? For me, it is hard to accept the validity of something that is based on false or misunderstood facts, even if I can see the logical or emotional scaffolding of it. That may well by my failing, but there is no use in pretending it isn't a real thing in how I read and respond.

I do not know the answer to this, but I am increasingly sure that whatever it is, it ISN'T "pipe up with stats and a link". It is just as inappropriate in a different way as making the conversation about my straight white lady feels or 'pinions. Sit down, shut up, and work through it in the privacy of my own head needs to be the watchword.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tired and bored with myself

I am getting sick of this.

(This is post #21 in NaBloPoMo. 21 down, possibly 9 to go if I can be bothered)

Monday, November 20, 2017

The List

I am reaching PEAK LIST at the moment.

I am one of those people who doesn't necessarily function super well, or remember things, without a fairly detailed list to guide me. It is not a procedural document (I don't include instructions on how to do the things, or detail about them) - it's a mnemonic, but without it, things constantly slip through the cracks, and I find myself chronically underestimating how much I have left to do and how long it's going to take, and that's where the dread midnight working sessions come in. (Maaaaan, I hate those).

So I have made a pretty detailed list for the coming 7 days, and wow does it look horrific. My workload has edged above fulltime as projects enter critical stages and everyone tries to race the clock to beat end-of-year shutdowns (as my client base is universities and government, the summer lock-out is real and it causes immense pressure in November every. single. year.) Family commitments are high too, as is end of year stuff coming up. Never have I been gladder than today that I decided early on that this was not the year for me with NaNoWriMo - if THAT was on this list too, I would probably be in tears right now.

I am churning through my list - I made it three hours ago, and I do have some satisfying ticks already - but there is a long, long ways to go before I can take any rest or enjoy any reading / pop culture / creativity. As Frost puts it:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.
(This is post 20 in NaBloPoMo. 20 down, 10 to go!)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Haiku for Sunday (Poem)

heat rises; sticky,
we hunch inside beyond the sun
summer is afoot.

(This is post #19 in NaBloPoMo. 19 down, 11 to go!)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Banana Tipping Point

 Every year in spring, there comes a week that I describe as the Banana Tipping Point. This is the first week where the heat, and more importantly humidity, gets too much for our fruit bowl bananas and they start to turn mushy long before they can be eaten.

I know we are at the banana tipping point when I can see 6+ brown spotty overripe bananas lurking below the apples and citrus, slowly but surely perfuming the air with the scent of almost-gone fruit. At this stage, the courses of action are really only two - throw them out, or bake them into something. (One of these choices must be made and implemented before fermentation, because that gets very mucky!)

So this morning, I was up first in my family and marched to the kitchen full of purpose to do something about Bananagate before the situation really slipped out of control.

I used up 5 overripe bananas and the rest of an almost empty tin of cocoa, 1.5 packets of gluten free SR flour and 2 cups of brown sugar, a hefty slug of vanilla, all my remaining eggs and a fair bit of milk, but at the end I have 24 good sized choc banana muffins, which have already provided treat breakfast and will do nicely for serving to guests and also for lunchbox snacks for the first half of next week. Being gluten free, thy won't be super edible after about Wednesday, but I am confident we can work our way through them before that!

I much prefer the baking solution rather than the chucking solution, if it is feasible to do it.

(This is post #18 in NaBloPoMo. 18 down, 12 to go!)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Poetry Day

Even this dark cloud coming can't shadow my lovely day doin' poetry for the book with my exceptional editor :-) We spent four hours eating sushi and reading poems aloud, playing with imagery, rearranging the order, and chewing over what works and what needs work.

It's exciting to work on this heart project for me. I can't spend too long dwelling on how my poems aren't clever or as worthy as other people's - they're not, but they are mine and I made them, and with the massaging they are getting now, I think they will end up being a coherent body of work that might give a few people some enjoyment.

This is why, really, I've never felt any pull to be part of the poetry scene in Melbourne (or Australia more generally). Exposure to other working poets has a crippling effect on my creativity and self-belief, rather than an empowering one. I love *reading* (or listening to recorded readings of) poems by established and emerging poets. I just don't want to actually meet them or have to talk to them about MY poems. My Imposter Syndrome takes care of that.

But working one-on-one with my editor is entirely different. It feels intensely engaging and great. I think we have a final set and a running order now, which is extremely exciting but also nerve-wracking!

Next step: follow up on design elements, learn how to do a proper layout, and write the introduction text / story for each poem. We're still on track for June 2018 launch, even factoring in my blackout zone between late March and early May (due to Japan trip). I think I will feel shy and embarrassed and a little bit thrilled to let this word baby lose on the world.

(This is post #17 in NaBloPoMo. 17 down, 13 to go!)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pesky animals and sleep deprivation

This morning, I am grainy-eyed, nerve-trembly exhausted, and I feel a health crash lurking in the wings.

This is multi-factoral - we have some family stresses going on at the moment, plus I had a major medical appointment yesterday (went well, but the lead-up was anxious), plus the tension before the postal survey announcement, and the emotional release afterwards, took a toll.

However, a very key factor in my state of grumpy zombieness today is the extremely irritating behaviour of my cat.

With the warmer weather, Roxy (the cat) has taken to wanting to sleep outside in my covered courtyard adjacent to my bedroom. Fine, good, so far froody, right? EXCEPT. She also has a habit of deciding she wants to come inside for cuddles and "inside" water (somehow very superior to "outside" water) around 5am.

Until the last few days, she's mewed to get in, I've woken and let her in, she's had a drink, then curled up on the bed and we've both gone back to sleep. Not ideal, because it can often take me a long time to resettle when woken so far into my sleep, but borderline OK.

Her new pattern, though, is DOING MY HEAD IN.

Today, I awoke at 4:50am to her mewing. Got up, let her in, went to loo, back to bed. She had a drink from her water bowl then ... went back to door and mewed to go out again. I sighed, got up, let her out, back to bed.

Then three minutes later, she mewed to get back in again.

Rinse and repeat every 3-5 minutes for the next 45 MINUTES and I was a wet rag. Literally just as I would be starting to get sleepy, off she'd go again. I got super cross in the end and just left her in the courtyard and ignored her complaining. (I'm not a monster, she has a bed, a cathouse, food and water in the courtyard, and access to her preferred toileting zone near the front fence, so she didn't actually *need* anything).

She continued to grizzle for about 15 minutes before she finally gave up and (I assume) went back to her bed, but by then it was almost 6am and I was het up, not in a good state to sleep. I eventually did drop back off for a hectic 20-minute nap around 6:30 or so, but I am wrung out now and expect to fade severely later in the day, which is just what I do not have time to do with my current workload.

I am going to need to do something about this new behaviour. Sleep is a precarious blessing for me at the best of times, and a sooking cat is NOT going to be the reason that I do not get any and end up getting sick. I need to have a think about the best solutions to what is an increasingly troublesome problem.

(This is post #16 in NaBloPoMo. 16 down, 14 to go!)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

YES we said YES we will YES

Today the results were announced in Australia's postal survey on marriage equality.

I could opine for a long age about how unnecessary, expensive, cruel and gutless it was for the government to put us all (but especially LGBTIQA people) through this nonsense. I could rage about the terribleness of the very idea that we get a vote on the civil rights of other people. I could bang on about the duplicity and moral bankruptcy that has been displayed over and over by the No campaign throughout this painful, excruciating process.

But today, none of that is my focus. None of that is what matters most. What matters most is this:

WE. SAID. YES.

To marriage equality, to legal equality for everyone, to love rather than bigotry, to families and couples and joy.

We said YES.

There is much more to this story. Many more hard roads to walk. The legislation hasn't even changed yet, let alone the social changes that will be many more years in the building.

Today? Today it's just enough, to celebrate and say, YES we say yes we will yes.

(This is post #15 in NaBloPoMo. Halfway there!)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pictures of me

Me, 44 years old
(This is post #14 in NaBloPoMo. 14 down, 16 to go!)

Monday, November 13, 2017

A snippet of NaNo

Today I thought I'd post an excerpt from my aborted NaNoWriMo verse novel, Concept of Self. I'm in two minds about whether I'll ever go back to it - I think the idea might be not up to the weight of novel or novella length, but there might be a couple of OK-ish long poems lurking in there.

So, without further ado ... Here is a little bit of Erika, Minder-Kinetic, fighting a fire (literally) on her space repair station. Gemina is her station AI.

Now that the Bowery gate is stabilised, I slacken my chokehold on it and cast my sense around,
feeling out the ships nearest by the damage point.

There is the Ancient of Days; she’s a nickel and iridium mining girl, big in the belly, short in the stern.
She’s in hospital for a life support upgrade, but that scar of burn on her gate-side curve
does not bode well for a quick recovery.
No active flames there though, so I push on to the Amal; she’s a lighter, nimbler bird
designed to thread the needle through the showers and pick up knocked-loose platinum.
Her size has been an advantage, here; the fire seems to have caught only her delicate front bow
leaving a lace tattoo that is nothing but surface-deep.

Then – ahhhh, yes. The Ashling Gray.

Tough iron-mining grunt ship – built like the workhorse she is.
This ship has hauled metal from the Belt for the past 15 years, month in, month out;
this ship, and her captain, have also hauled out at least a dozen wrecked boats
saving crews from months-long slow deaths marooned in the Belt.

This ship brought me from my home in Mars Prima, here to Station 203-Beta
five years ago and change, now.
When I needed to hide and be no more, she gave me unsentimental refuge
made a space for me in her blocky alloyed guts, and showed me a sky
with room for me in it.

And now. Now the Ashling Gray is burning.

I throw down a suppressant layer and straightaway the fire fights me,
squirming in my mindgrip like a birth-slick pup.
That this is ground zero for the fire is beyond any doubt.
There is some sort of accelerant at play, and I can’t immediately tell what.
I’d give anything in the moment for another Kinetic.
Gemina, omnipresent as she is, cannot sense, outside of her sensors
and the Mind-Nots are of no use here, not until the fire is dead.

Think, Erika. This tricksy dancer is bile-green,
the colour of tree-moss and dart-frogs, jewel-bright and witchlike.

What makes a fire burn green, and resist?

(This is post #13 in NaBloPoMo. 13 down, 17 to go!)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Sestina for the Ones Who Said (Poem)

This is a sestina based on the found poem idea, but with a twist to make it much harder for myself because - why not!

What I did was go to my six most visited websites (excluding social media and portals for services) and randomly select a line from what was on their front page, to form the first stanza. In order, these are:

The Guardian Australia
Ask A Manager
Captain Awkward
Gimlet Media
Girls Will Be Girls (Literary Journal)
Overland (Literary Journal)

(Yes, I am that boring OK).

So here we go ... I'm calling it A Sestina for the Ones Who Said. It's turned into a thing about the Thing, which I guess is not surprising, given the mood at the moment.

We are not very caring.
How clear are you being when you say no?
Everything is twice as hard and takes twice as long:
We go back to the time our divisions turned into war,
Not for male consumption -
I am still learning how to protect my own consent.

A twisted tangled mess where there should be consent
But to understand the depths of it requires caring:
To truly see a person, not a body for consumption.
To hear the ways in which the multitudinous No
is given: in shout or whisper; semaphore; portents of war.
The act measured in minutes, its shadow dragging long.

It feels this journey has been so long,
and so unfinished, while old men in power debate consent
and what it means. Pitching it like it is a culture war,
like the young, the vulnerable, the women are somehow wrong for caring:
like there is something mutable about the No
like resisting is revolution, an affront to consumption.

And everywhere, it's packaged for consumption:
Sex sells, and with it, the dark ideal of access; for so long
there has been permission to not hear the No.
Do we really own our own consent?
In the broken mirror, we see the shards of caring -
And power and the powerless in uneven war.

Some write polemics about a gender war,
Which is just deflection, packaged neat for angry male consumption.
The contempt that reeks for all that reflects caring:
The paradigm has held up for so long,
Regardless of the threadbare-thin consent,
We did not agree, but no-one heard the No.

The day is coming, when we'll shout the NO
and call out power and the running dogs of war
and start to learn the value of consent.
When the only thing we line up for consumption
is the food and drink we share, as days grow long
and the cruel will become weak, and all power vest in caring.

And although it hurts, we cannot turn from caring:
Power seems so firm, and yet its fall is long;
And hearts rebuild, and love usurps consumption.

- Kathy, 12/11/17

(This is NaBloPoMo post #12. 12 down, 18 to go!)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Spring (Finally!)


Critters and gardening and warm evenings and BBQ food and pasta salad made by the one kid of my three who's a reasonably keen cook.

The cat is unimpressed that her nice squishy outdoor bed of weeds has been removed, but she'll get over it. We gardened all morning and things look much more orderly now, then played Monopoly all afternoon (Team Me + 8 year old was victorious - go us!)

Not so bloody terrible, actually.

(This is post #11 in NaBloPoMo. 11 down, 19 to go!)









Friday, November 10, 2017

Flashback Friday

This is a photo post only, because the words have gone AWOL. It's a Pictures from My Life situation.

November 2003
November 2006

November 2009
November 2014
(This is post #10 in NaBloPoMo. 10 down, 20 to go!)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

An Everyday Madrigal (Poem)

My friend's cat's kittens are growing daily on the Internet,
There's a ginger trio, a tortoiseshell and a dark gray;
When things are bad, I like to watch them play.

My kitchen ceiling swarms with spring bugs and I fret:
Are they flying ants or termites? Either way
I look for pictures frantically on the Internet
And read grim pest control sites backlit in gray.

My own cat thinks she's master, not a pet,
She kneads me til I crack and push her away;
She will, no doubt, strategise to make me pay.
I waste time on the Internet -
The sun is bright outside, internal climate gray
The ropes draw tight and I wait out the day.

- Kathy, 9/11/17

(This is post #9 in NaBloPoMo. 9 down, 21 to go!)


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

On deciding to withdraw from NaNoWriMo

I made the decision today to officially withdraw from NaNoWriMo this year.

It wasn't necessarily an easy decision. NaNo has given me a lot of joy over the years, especially in the three years I've completed it (2010, 2011 and 2015). The community I have been part of has been wonderful. And I did - I thought - have an idea that would go the distance in verse form, as Theory of Mind did in 2015.

However, what actually happened was four days of enthusiasm, two days of fumbling about as my plot got lost after the first scene transition, and then a very very intense (but great) 2-day business trip, from which I am about to return home.

There has been neither time nor headspace to look at the novel while I have been away, and this has been a good thing. It's given me a chance to reflect on whether I think the story has enough oomph in it (no, I don't), on my work and family commitment level in November (extensive, to say the least), and my need to protect my health (last week's crash day was a good wake-up call there).

In the end, I concluded that rescuing this story was going to take much more time, sweat and angst than I am able to give it this month, and that pushing on would be simply another chore to add to my daily list, at a time when literally the last thing I need is new chores.

I feel good about recognising this early on, before the overload stress kicked too hard, and the 8000 words I have done will keep for a less frenetic time to see if they are worth salvaging, perhaps as a shorter piece or series of pieces.

Instead, my big creative goal for November and December is going to be to get my poetry collection through second edit and into first layout. I feel like that is really a better goal for me at this stage. I'm already committed to the poetry book, and I have the content there; I feel like it is both a more achievable, and more satisfying, way to direct my creative time.

Of course, I do intend to push on with daily November blogging too!

(This is post #8 in NaBloPoMo. 8 down, 22 to go!)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Glenelg


I am in Adelaide for work at the moment. After getting up at sparrow fart for my flight, having only had 5 hours broken sleep, and having 8 hours straight of meetings with terrific people who I had never met before, I am shattered.

I shall shortly try to get to sleep, which I never find too easy in a hotel but I think my fatigue will help me along tonight! I am post a nice warm scented bath and feeling very nicely thank you.

I did wander down to the beach front here in Glenelg a little earlier though and had a nice small walk and some stir fry veggies, so I have not entirely wasted my evening :-) Glenelg is awfully pretty - I don’t think I have ever been here before (or if I have, I don’t remember) but it's well worth a longer look sometime.

(This is post #7 in NaBloPoMo. 7 down, 23 to go!)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Four weeks in review, four weeks in view

This has been a packed 4 weeks. These are words I think are likely to lead off every recap and planning post for the foreseeable future, to be honest ... maybe til after we get home from our overseas trip next year, even. I guess it's better to be busy than bored!

Aside from all the other stuff, this four weeks will include our traditional annual Christmas Tree Up and Baking day. We usually try to do this on or before 1 December, but that dog won't hunt this year, as the 1st is a Friday and the weekend before (the last one in November) has no room at all. Doing it a day late will be OK - I am sure it will not be noticed by anyone but me, tbh!

This year, honestly, has wings...

FOUR WEEKS IN REVIEW (9 October - 5 November)
- 16 paid work days
- Kick-off on new interstate project
- Extracurriculars x 4: Gymnastics and swimming (8 year old); jujitsu (14 year old); ice skating (12 year old)
- Online Book Club (18 October): Exit West
- Halloween shenanigans! (Man this was fun :-)
- Stargate 20th anniversary convention (me and 14 year old)
- Anime convention (12 and 14 year olds with my husband and their friends)
- Commenced NaNoWriMo journey (on 1 November) - this will dominate writing goals in November overall
- Wrote 9 new poems
- Submit at least 2 poems to publications or competitions

FOUR WEEKS IN VIEW (6 November - 3 December)
- Interstate work trip (7-8 November)
- 16-18 paid work days across 4 projects
- Extracurriculars x 4: Gymnastics and swimming (8 year old); jujitsu (14 year old); ice skating (12 year old)
- Continue with NaNoWriMo and complete the 50,000 word target by 30 November
- Poetry book: Editing session #2 and layout commencement
- Online Book Club: Lincoln in the Bardo (15 November)
- My Dad's birthday celebrations
- Christmas planning and decorating

(This is post #6 in NaBloPoMo. 6 down, 24 to go!)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Return to the Gate

I took my eldest daughter to the Return to the Gate convention today, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Stargate SG-1, a show that she adores beyond measure and one that I enjoyed watching with her (although I am less of a devotee than she is!)

For my 14 year old and I, watching episodic SFF TV of shows that have already finished has been an important bonding experience for us over the past two years as she's growing up and in many ways growing away. We started with Stargate Atlantis, which she saw on Netflix and wanted to give a try, and ended up watching the whole five seasons of that show together over a few months. We then did Stargate SG-1, which she loved and is still her most devoted fandom overall, and now we've moved into the Trekverse, having done Voyager and being halfway through DS-9. (She, her father and I are also watching Discovery weekly, natch).

When I saw the advertisement for Return to the Gate, therefore, I did not hesitate to offer it as her big birthday present. I myself had never been to a single-fandom con before, so I did not know what to expect, but I knew she'd be thrilled - and she was.

I have to say - it was a much better experience than I was expecting. The con organisers had managed to get three of the four stars of the show (Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks), which certainly added to the lustre. Having a smaller event with much more talking and opportunity for interaction was really nice, and all five of the actors from the show who attended were friendly and social to people, which is not my universal experience at the big cons, I have to say.

My daughter and I paid a small fortune for a photo with the three stars - the photo is her Christmas present! - but I have to say I think it was actually worth it. The actors were very nice and the photo came out really well, and it'll be a memory that my girl will have forever. I'm not sure how many, if any, opportunities she'll have to see all of them together in the future (RDA is 67, after all - international trips may not be on his long-term agenda) so it was worth not missing this chance.

The panels were great. My daughter and I both enjoyed Amanda Tapping's the most, but RDA and Michael Shanks were very good too. Amanda's stories of life as a female director in an industry that is still pretty rankly sexist were fascinating. They are all charming, engaging speakers - I get that it's their jobs, but some actors do it way better than others, and these ones were super good.

Overall it was a really worthwhile day and hella less exhausting than a big nerdcon - I don't feel anything like as shattered as I do after a day at ComicCon. (Of course, being seated most of the day and not serving on a stall no doubt helped with that!)

Would I go to a similar fan event again? For a show I was really into, maybe I would, yeah. It's a much more mellow and detailed way to engage with a fandom than via the mania of a big show floor.

(This is post #5 in NaBloPoMo. 5 down, 25 to go!)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Crash Day and Stranger Things 2

I had a crash day yesterday. Was the full monty too - shaking, cold chills, joint ill, gut pains, headache, tiredness so overwhelming it was hard to move. That sick buzziness in every nerve was back. Anxiety spike showed up to the party too, because: of course!

It took me by surprise in a way, although I had been feeling fatigue creeping up for the past fortnight (which has been just ridiculously busy and has featured some difficult stressors). I realised that crash days have become so rare now that my autoimmune cluster is better managed that I have almost forgotten preceisely how shithouse they really are.

But yesterday was a sharp reminder - I have chronic illnesses. They are mostly manageable and they are all relapsing-remitting in type, which means a lot of the time, I can live a perfectly regular life (if I am vigilant about my diet, of course). However, it also means my resilience to physical and emotional stressors is undeniably less than it would be for a person blessed with fewer mutations in their genome.

I think, looking back over the past month, that I have been burning the candle at both ends for too long really. My schedule would be a full and busy one for a completely healthy person, and much as I would like to be such a person, the plain reality is that I am not. Our Sydney trip was ace but pretty exhausting - so instead a resting on my time off, I just took on a different range of stressors (mostly physical but some mental for sure). And I came back from that trip into a maelstrom of work issues, a heavy workload, and family things to be navigated. I guess it is not surprising that my body called Uncle.

I seem to be a lot better today - still heavy-eyed and low energy, but my joints and nerves are settling and I do not have a headache. This in itself is a massive improvement - before my Hashimotos diagnosis and treatment, a crash like this, fuelled by low thyroxine levels, would've knocked me out for a week. Keeping up my thryoid meds means that when the other conditions flare, they don't get a rocket blast assist from a wonky thyroid, so I can pull up much much faster.

So yesterday, feeling pretty lousy, I was super grateful to be able to have a Netflix and chill day with my spouse. We watched the new ep of Star Trek Discovery. We ate sushi. We had some chatting time, especially about our Japan trip. I did my daily words on my NaNo novel. And we binged the last 6 eps of Stranger Things 2 across two sessions - one while the kids were at school, one at night once the youngest was abed.

I have to say this about Stranger Things 2 ... it was superb. Better than the first season and I loved the first one, so that's saying something. The acting is absolutely first class. The emotional affect is pitch perfect. The story is tight, beautifully paced and internally consistent. And the 80s vibe is just .... ahhhhhh. If this doesn't win all the things, I just don't know what to think anymore.

And without too much commentary, because I know lots of people haven't seen it yet and I don't want to spoil, I will leave you with these thoughts: Winona Ryder gives the performance of her career as Joyce. Sean Astin is absolutely adorable. Mad Max! The ship I always wanted finally sailed. 80s male hairstyles are still hilarious. And Eleven KICKS ALL THE ARSE.

(This is post #4 in NaBloPoMo. 4 down, 26 to go!)

Friday, November 3, 2017

A haiku for a down day

words tremble and fade
gone before the type can pin;
the muse is asleep.

(This is post #3 in NaBloPoMo. 3 down, 27 to go!)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

On writing NaNo with a group

I'm off and away on my NaNoWriMo journey - Concept of Self, my verse novel in progress, is a sequel to my 2015 NaNo novel, Theory of Mind, and so far, at 3640 words on day 2, it's tumbling along quite well.

This is the fifth time I'm attempting NaNo. I tried, and failed badly, in 2008 - my kids were just too young and I too pregnant and too tired. I tried again in 2010 and won with a middle-grade detective novel, to which I wrote a sequel the following year, 2011, and also won that year.

For various reasons, I wasn't free to give it a go in 2012-14, but I got back on the horse in 2015 and produced my favourite long-form piece I've ever written - Theory of Mind, my first verse novel. I re-read it recently and while it is an obviously unpolished piece of work, I still kind of like it. I enjoyed writing it immensely; it was one of the gifts I gave myself for coming out of a not-right-for-me work environment and being brave enough to strike out on my own in business.

I skipped NaNo last year, due to being busy with work, but I moped around all month pining for it; so, despite being even busier this year than last, here I am, doing the thing.

The most important difference, for me, this year from previous years is that I am in two Facebook groups of people I online-know (so not generic for-NaNo-only groups) to offer mutual support, cheerleading, and commiserations in the rougher moments. (Not that we've got to many yet but I am seasoned enough at this gig to know THEY ARE MOST CERTAINLY COMING).

These are all people I've spent enough time with, online or in some cases IRL, to feel really comfortable with. These are people whose own creativity enhances mine in sometimes unexpected ways.

And you know, it's really nice, to be able to post your word count to people who get what it means and validate you for it. It's really nice to high-five each other at plot breakthrough moments. It's really, REALLY nice to post daily snippets and have people say what they like about it (NaNo is not a time for critique - editing, which must certainly come, comes later).

Will it help to motivate me? Yes and no - my motivation is more intrinsic than extrinsic with writing, and I have, after all, smashed the word target three times before on my own. But will it help make this journey richer, more engaging, and just more fun? Undoubtedly. It already is.

I'm going to be stepping it up over the next four days, trying to get at least 3,000 ahead of the target before Tuesday (to account for activities on Tuesday and Wednesday that make it unlikely I'll get much or any words down on those days). I feel like my groups will have my back in helping to jolly me along to extra output, and that's a good way to feel, here at the start of what is always an exhausting but exhilarating race.

(This is post #2 in NaBloPoMo. 2 down, 28 to go!)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Remember, remember, the first of November ...

Halloween is done and dusted (was a bit quieter than previous years but still really fun - I love Halloween so much).

Which brings us to November - the month in which I am going to:

write a 50,000 word verse novel,

post here every day,

work on four big work projects  (including kicking off an interstate project, involving work travel) and,
hopefully, not collapse.

Here is a wee haiku to capture my feelings about that:

anticipation
is part terror, part delight
waterfalls of words

Onwards and upwards!

(This is post #1 in NaBloPoMo. 1 down, 29 to go!)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Spring Rain (Poem)

all night long it rained
big fat thrumming teardrops on the roof and the ground
like the heart of the sky was breaking
like heaven itself was grieving the wounds of the world
the deep cuts and the little ones

this morning the soil is rich-brown
there are puddles everywhere
the paths are washed clean,
the birds feast on surfacing worms
and droplets, like silvered mirrors, lace the roses

and sadness bears its fruit, as it always does -

from pain, growth.
from tears, beauty.
from grief, life.

- Kathy, 25/10/17


Monday, October 23, 2017

Welcome to the Word Factory

In one week's time, it will be November. In November I am going to:

- start a new big project for an interstate client
- push hard to finish two big existing work projects
- do NaNoWriMo - that's write a 50,000 word novel in a month
- post every day of the month on this blog
- probably, go a bit strange in the brainpan region

In November, I am not going to:
- do any seasonal preparation whatsoever
- cook anything new
- bake
- talk to anyone except my family, my clients and my NaNo buddies
- do anything social, houseworky or otherwise responsible

It's still going to be a very big stretch, and I am flexing my mental muscles in preparation already. I expect to be a very tired, very depleted woman on 1 December.

But I missed NaNo SO MUCH last year. I ached to be doing it. I don't want to let it go again just because things have suddenly got hot with work.

So onwards and upwards! Once more into the fray! I can (probably, possibly) do it! Anything is possible! And all that good stuff :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Gift (Poem)

This news story DEMANDED that a poem be created in its honour. I mean, the headline itself! "First-seen neutron star collision creates light, gravitational waves and gold". That's the poetry of the universe right there, isn't it?

The poem is another English Madrigal. "Keep practising until the form collapses in submission" is my motto :-)

GIFT


Two stars in helix, dancing to their death;
Miasma clouds of many kinds of light
The show unfolds, and look! Einstein was right.

Ripples in space-time for half a breath
as precious atoms, formed-unformed, take flight.
Through telescopes, we spy on our own death
writ large in starbursts, etched out in the light.

The sound you hear is breaking shibboleth:
a universe that cuts through all we write.
No earth-bound stories hold us down tonight.
The neutron suns that, somehow, in their death
gave to sentient primates, here, some light:
spoke their cosmic truth, and became right.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Book Thing

Saturday night bravery, because if I don't say it publicly it's too easy to back out:

I am bringing out a collection of poetry in 2018. It is not titled yet but it is a themed collection of poems about women from key iconic stories - from the Torah, from mythology, and from fairy-tales.
The poems are in a range of styles, from my favourite form (villanelle) to sestinas, pantoums, rondeaus, haiku, madrigals, stream of consciousness, and free verse.

Each poem is accompanied by a prose version of the story of the woman who it is inspired by. Some of the poems are fairly straight retellings of the story; some are reinterpreted or twisted in a range of ways. Sometimes the story is just the jumping-off point for the poem.

I'm self-publishing it and it will be available via a few online book-buying channels and (hopefully) to bricks-and-mortar retailers as well. It'll be a paperback and probably also an e-book. I have a lovely editor and a talented designer lined up to hopefully make it the best book it can be.

I am aiming for a June 2018 launch date and when we get closer to that time, I will put an invitation here for anyone who wants to come along to the party thing, which will include fuds that I make and perhaps a cake if I can talk someone into making one (I'll look forward to seeing all three of you, and my Mum, there! :-P)

This is all quite scary. My imposter syndrome is screaming in my ear constantly, telling me it's all garbage, but stuff it, I'm in my mid-40s - if I don't do this now, it's odds-on I never will. So I thought I would share this plan, to keep me honest and keep me going.

Here is one of the poems that will appear in the book, in case you are interested. This was previously published here and is inspired by the story of Scheherazade - the desperate bride who was the teller of the 1,001 Arabian Nights tales.

A Thousand Nights

Listen, king, and I will tell you a tale.

It starts in a city of saints high in the desert
where the morning light has such a clarity
and the pink hills all around glow with life

and then there is a boat that goes under the sea
nosing up to the shallows like a curious porpoise
inviting you to come beneath, and yet

the sky gallops like a wild mare, ribbons of white foam
chasing each other towards heaven

there is a woman in it, with eyes like muddy stars
a gaggle of geese in a field, and a treasure -
only time will tell what kind

I saw it when I slept, and the song the colours sang
tore my heart into pieces at my feet

Listen, king, and I will weave you a new palace
the filigree of dreams is finer than any lace

honey-golden with promise and the longing,
that aching longing,
that comes when you look to the west
or at the vast night sky, and the soul cries out -

Once upon a time in a land far, far away...

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Madrigal for Roses (Poem)

 My final go for now at an English madrigal - inspired by the inexplicable yet undeniable mood lift I always get, every year, when my roses bloom. 

I grew up with roses - my Dad had beautiful standard rose trees in both our front and back yards and tended them lovingly, and it was my job to water them in the warmer months. I always, always loved them and the way they smelled and the way they felt and the colours and the joyfulness of the exploding buds. 

When we moved into our current home, 13 years ago now, the very first thing I planted was the deep pink rose tree. (My partner's first planting choices, which has been equally successful, were our lemon tree and our front-doorway lavender). I planted in the white and gold roses some years later. I love them all with an irrationally deep love, and this poem sort of picks at why that might be.

A Madrigal for Roses

It must be spring, for now the roses come
Fibrous and silken, deep pink and gold and white:
pink for friends, white for love, and gold-delight.

Dense around, the air is filled with hum
of bees and flash of hunting birds in flight.
Soon enough, the rogue loose tendrils come,
creeping up the wall pale green and white.

A weed so beautiful it makes me dumb;
caught in reverie in lemon light,
life that whispers pleasure in the night.
Old blooms fade but new buds always come
And birth as well as death is dressed in white
And in all heaviness there is, still, delight.

- Kathy, 13/10/17