The ups and downs of a creative life

2018 has been a good year. Well I think it has, but with that good fortune has come the lowlights too, the ones where you continually question yourself, your motives and your abilities. First of all, I finished a manuscript I was confident to show the world. After two rejections and 3 non-answers and a follow-up with 3 agents (with 2 rejections and one non-answer) I now question that misplaced pride. It still needs work, still needs refining – I completed the first draft of it in 2017 during Nanowrimo and edited it several times over an eight-month period. I entered it into competitions, only for further rejections to follow. I’ve even edited further since submitting it and entered it into two other competitions, again one of those I put down to another failure. No one is interested in my novel. No one thinks it has merit for publication (aside from friends and family and they’re biased) and hearing the good fortunes of other writers and peers – is only bringing me down – misery loves company it seems (I want to cheer for them, but there’s a human behind these thoughts and I can’t stop myself).

Shout out to Brittany Dashiell

But I shouldn’t dwell on this – I have published my first work of fiction – a short story in Tulpa Magazine (a local lit and arts magazine) and found some stability in my employment. I participated in Nanowrimo again this year and wrote another rough first draft – part of it I also ‘won’ a design cover through their ‘30 covers in 30 days program’ My synopsis enticing enough to attract someone’s attention.

None of these achievements stop the feelings of inadequacy, with a small measure of imposter syndrome to boot – does this qualify me as part of the writer’s club now? I’ll persevere, it’s the key after all everyone keeps telling me, but some days are just hard.

 

 

Book review – A helmet for my pillow, Robert Leckie

I read and enjoy a wide range of fiction but rarely nonfiction and was recently compelled to read a war memoir, something I haven’t really read much of – here is my review from Goodreads.

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Years ago, a family friend told my parents that I would not like a certain movie because it was a ‘war movie’. Little did they know or understand that as war is part of the terrible human condition it’s one I find both fascinating and terrifying in equal measure and was driven to read some of the personal memoirs after watching the excellent HBO series ‘The Pacific’. I found here in the comfort of my home – at peace time and never been close to war – I never really knew or understood what the war in the Pacific entailed, aside from the Hollywood movies that so inspired Robert Leckie to write and ‘tell the story of how it really was’. Leckie’s personal narrative of life as a young enlisted marine is beautiful, eloquent and at times a humourous account of the horrors faced in the jungles by an enemy as equally dogged as those that opposed them. Starting in bootcamp in the USA, then on to the Solomon Islands and Guadacanal, Melbourne, New Guinea, Cape Gloucester, before he was wounded on the island of Peleliu, Leckie’s prose falls off the page with delightful ease. I found it difficult to put this book down – at times it was irreverent and made me laugh, at other times heartbreaking and full of the sorrows of war. If you have an interest in WW2 history or even in personal narratives of historical events I would thoroughly recommend this read.

The indecent flower

red yellow flower tulips

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

The glossy layered curves fold gentle around into a cuplike shape.  The main colour is vibrant and dramatic and transitions into a flamboyant golden colour hue at the edge in stark contrast with the main.  It dazzles the eyes if you look too long.  Inside the cup, the soft folds reveal ominous, yet velvety, filaments that poke upwards towards the rim to seek out the sunshine.    The base of the cup changes colour again, this time, to one of gentle pale green, underneath which, the supple petals merge smoothly into a rigid stalk.  Towards the base, the pale green leaves expose themselves; they are strong but soft enough to ripple like glossy waves or silken sheets, shadowing the foundation of rich dirt beneath.  Its fragrance is not sweet-smelling, but it emits a pleasant earthy aroma, one that hints of early spring and suggests more to come.

Evie stands and stares at the pot and the tulip within and gives a soft giggle. The wine glass in her hand is almost empty.

“What are you laughing at Evie?” Malcolm asks.

Evie contemplates the tulip again before she replies. “I think I have figured out why I love these flowers.”

“And why is that?” He slips his arm around her waist from behind and nuzzles her neck.

“Well…” She laughs again, “It’s not even spring, and yet here they are, on a sunny winter afternoon, displaying themselves like dancers at the Moulin Rogue. They’re so, um…. suggestive.”

His interest piques. “Suggestive, of what?”

Evie can feel Malcolm’s grip tighten on her waist, and she senses the mischievousness in his voice. She reaches around and playfully smacks the back of his head. “I’ll tell you later my love; our guests will be here any minute.”

Day 8 prompt: The curtain of grapes

The carpet of green grass rolled down through the rows of vines and down to the bottom of the paddock.  Joseph ambled down the gentle slope to the fence line then began a gentle stroll back up to the homestead.  The smell of ripening fruit hit his nose as he hit the top of the hill.  He came to the homestead gate where a curtain of grapes on wild grapevines covered the homestead fence line.  He picked a bunch before meandering to the front porch and sitting down on a large swinging chair. There were days where the quiet invaded his senses, brought him peace and a sense of belonging. Today was one of those days and as he plucked a cluster and greedily popped them into his mouth he felt the calm of the valley wash over him.

farm land during sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A life in pictures and in words of love

My Dearest Pa,

There’s this picture of you from when you were a boy sitting in a small go-cart surrounded by three of your sisters. You don’t look happy. Surly is the best description I have for it, but it makes me laugh when I think what might have been going through your mind at the time. ‘I’m hungry’, ‘why is Jean allowed in the go-cart too’, ‘why am I here’, ‘why do I have to smile’ part of any four-year-old boy’s nightmare – to stand still for a photo for five minutes.

The next photo I look at, you’re fourteen, and it’s your first British Merchant Navy passport. You look so damn young — too young to be off to sea, without a parent and without the doting sisters around you. There are photos of you on the ship smiling, hoisting rigs, chummy with shipboard mates, drinking beer and sharing a laugh.

There’s a photo from your first visit to Australia, outside a Fremantle hotel, then there’s the one of you crammed into a photo booth laughing it up with a mate.

As you became older you became more handsome, you dressed smarter, looked dapper and there are pictures of you with your arm around pretty girls, the prettiest of all being mum. There are photos of you and mum at your wedding, standing stiffly on the church steps and later there’s honeymoon pics, Blackpool I think, standing on the deck of a ship your arms around each other, on the beach in fashionable swim wear. Later you’re holding Jan or Stu, or the dog who’s name I never remember. There are ones from when you came here, cooking barbeques in late setting summer suns wearing nothing but the skimpiest of seventies shorts. There are party shots too, laughing and drinking and dancing and canoodling. There is so much laughter and life in those photos.

That is what I want to remember, what I want to thank you for sharing. When I look at these photos, I see your gentle heart, the man who teared up at Lassie films, who sang me silly songs with snippets of languages you learnt on your travels. I see the man who knew many fine Scottish folk tunes, ones he sang in houses and halls drunkenly slurred when your arms were around friends or family. Or as you donned a kilt or slew us with your terrible skills on a bagpipe.

You were the one I went to when I needed to remember the lighter side of life, you made me laugh, you made me forget that life is sometimes not fair. I love you and will never forget you.

Nancy

Day 7 Prompt: the magpie and the cockroach

Sleek and quiet, the black and white of the magpie blends into the shadows of dusk.  One last meal is all it’s after, before the sun sets and only streetlights illuminate the grey asphalt of the road.

Focussed and alert the magpie observes the sleek antennae of the cockroach glimmer in the last rays of the sun.  It’s preening itself, unaware of the danger that lurks barely three feet away.

A flurry of movement and feathers.  The magpie hurries back to its roost, belly empty once more.

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Day 6 prompt: nightflight to Venus

Eva dug her elbow into her companion’s rib cage.

James, shaken from slumber barely stirred and Eva rubbed her elbow in annoyance.

“How can you possibly sleep?  We’re supposed to be on a romantic flight to see Venus.”

He yawned and stretched, stroked her hair and her bare shoulder before laying a kiss on her lips. “We don’t need to go to Venus to see the stars. They’re right here.” He kissed her again and gave her a sleepy smile.

Eva sighed, snuggled in under his arm and closed her eyes.

 

Day 4 prompt: A sound, a smell

The bell rings for the second time.  Fashionably late in unfashionable clothes.

He sidles close and I can smell him, earthy and fresh.  His formal attire sits well on him, far better than I thought it would.  You can see his figure, stout but not fat, poised and surprisingly handsome.  His posture is almost perfect yet I notice a slight hesitation in his gait as we walk into the ballroom together.