Tag Archives: writing

And so my friends, I finished it.

It’s Good Friday. Or as I so hilariously quipped on the twitters this morning when the water was turned off in the street while I was in the shower – Just Ok Friday. Adding to the just okayness was the blossoming of the UK Man Flu which my father thoughtfully brought back from his holiday and shared firstly with my mother, then my sister and lastly, me. It was turning out to be a day of headaches, boredom, thirstiness and remembering not to flush the toilet.

For those who have put up with my continued worrying about my inability to read fiction and enjoy it (slow reading appreciation collective aside) we may worry no longer. Also, thank you for your patience. For now I feel I may say that it wasn’t me! I wasn’t the problem! It was the books!! They were rubbish. Boring. Dull. Not interesting. All of the above. A better book was I all needed.

I thought I had found it a couple of weeks ago when on the recommendation of a friend I whipped through Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett in under a week. Unheard of pace for me especially given I was reading it at night which is usually “read to fall asleep” time. But there was still a niggling concern. Sure, I’d managed to read an entire book without giving up on it. I’d felt compelled to finish it. All positive reading signs. But it was a memoir. Did that count? I love memoirs, biographies, autobiographies. They’re my go to for recreational reading. I still hadn’t read a novel by myself since last year. (All the Light We Cannot See – recommend). A new novel. And read it without falling asleep before finishing the first chapter never to return to it again.

Then came this:


It’s been sitting on my coffee table for some months after an impulsive purchase in town. And there it remained while I bought a version on my Kindle late last night. (Yes, I know. Stupid. You don’t like reading on a screen. Wendy, you already had a perfectly good copy in the next room. I know all those things. Shush.)

And I knew that this was the one. From the first pages. (Ok, just pipe down “real book” pedants. I know the Kindle doesn’t technically have pages but come along with me). I had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep. And today, being double Sunday/ Just OK Friday meant I had time to read. I tentatively started back into it this morning wondering whether I had been mistaken last night. Whether suddenly it would all go wrong and I’d (as usual) put it down and never pick it up again. Whether it would be one of the many novels on my Kindle that I have started and left glowing in the night, never to return to them. (Jasper Jones, the one about the lighthouse that is also the Worst Movie in the World, the Marion Keyes, the list goes on and on and on).

Fear not! This book had me On Board. From the Start to the Finish. It was haunting (literally and metaphorically) and I Could Not put it Down. And so my friends, I finished it and wondered whether I would ever read another novel again that swept me up so completely with such exhilaration.

(Meanwhile, Tim Winton’s The Shepherd’s Hut languishes on the same coffee table….started about 10 days ago….and not particularly inclined to pick it up again. If I wanted to read about toxic masculinity….wait….no….I don’t).



tiny writing

Well that was flipping frightening. In the end it was best to do it like a band-aid a la the advice of Jerry Seinfeld “One move! Right Off!. It was that or dither about for another week, fiddle faddling with verbs, tenses, synonyms and the like.

Let’s go back a few steps. 2017 was the first year in more than I would care to imagine that my job has not involved writing of some form or other. There’s been everything from a thesis to copy for a 30 second radio ad and all forms in-between. But last year…nothing….unless you count report card comments, which I don’t. And strangely, I felt dulled by about October and I couldn’t work out why. It took some time and reflection and chattering with another thought terrainer about the entire kit and caboodle as to what the heckfire might be happening. Ding dong! No writing in life ya big doofus. (that’s me. the big doofus).

I had also arrived at an interesting point where I was feeling the need for something that I would make, create and put out into the world without fear or favour AND in the process try to not worry about other people think. If you know me well you’ll know worrying about what people think of me is one of my special powers. I have it down to a fine art. I’m an expert. I guess now if you don’t know me well you’ll know this too now. #confessions

So it seemed time, and timely (given I had 6 or so weeks of the school holidays that they give to good for nothing school teachers like myself) that I give this all some thought, throw it in a saucepan, stir it about and see what came out. What came out were all sorts of things some of which I may eventually do. I thought BIG! which was great and exciting….and then I lay on the brown lounge for a few weeks and thought about time management and changed a few things. For one, I thought I was going to make every edition Winifred Bell Tiny Writing by hand, and send individual copies out in the post. Romanticised much? Yes. Would I still like to do this? Yes. Is 2018 the year that will happen. Sadly no. Because reality.

What I did manage to do was take some inspiration from my ordinary days and my memories about summer, write two poems and three pieces of prose, find a free flip book maker, use canva to make my pages including a front and back cover and get it online. I set up a FB group. I have just now with much trepidation sent it out into the ether on the social media. That’s actually a little achievement for me. Especially the last part of sending it out into the world. Because instead of being the endless armchair critic I have publicly put my feet in the creative waters (that’s a little bit Kath and Kim eh!) and said, “me too”.

I also committed to doing it 9 more times this year. It was frightening and scary but I did it anyway.

Here it is




Clinging to the earth like lunatics

Dear Richard

The Slow Reading Appreciation Collective (note: name is a work in progress and may change) met again last Monday evening to continue First Person. We’d had such fun (“such fun”!) the first time that unanimously and unequivocally decided we should keep going. Perhaps unanimously and unequivocally are the same thing? You would know. You’re quite the wordsmith. We are a Collective of two who had a fabulous time reading your prose out loud. Yes. OUT LOUD.

I wonder if when we do that, because the book is written in first person (and is also questioning the whole idea of writing in first person in terms of authorship, narratorial reliability, truth, beauty and a picture of you….whoops I fell into a song lyric there) that as we read it OUT LOUD – do we start to not only express the character but inhabit him as well. Do we become Kif in the act of not just reading, but speaking. OUT LOUD?

Ok I’ll stop with the all caps now because it’s annoying even to me. But I think this a legitimate and sort of interesting question and if anyone can shed any light on it thanks in advance. Well it’s interesting to me. Because it seems like your narrator (who may be and may not be you) is starting to wrestle with becoming the person he is “first personing” (verbed something there)…..and then if we’re also becoming Kif/you are we also going to be tainted with Heidl-ness?

We’ve now got up to p. 60. That’s a lovely even number. We’ve got further in our individual reading but you would be bloody well amazed at how much more comes out of the book when it’s read out loud in comparison to when we read it to ourselves separately. Bloody amazed Richard. Bloody. Amazed.

I’ll tell you something for nothing. It was fantastic to get some background and context on Ray. But before I get to that, we really felt your pain as you tried to get Kif to put something together on Heidl. Is this not the perfect way to explain all creative processes: “The goat story was great…But when I wrote it up…it didn’t work” (p. 34). How often has that happened to all of us? The performer, the artist, the writer, the dancer, the singer, the musician…..

And then you wrote this on the same topic of creating…..and I think the Collective may have collectively and silently gasped in recognition. “I have been missing since I was born……It read like something but what that something was wasn’t clear. It felt like a voice in the desert. Lacking anything else, I resolved to follow it. I felt it move something within me, or, more precisely, I heard the line and that line, that sentence, led me to start hearing other sentences, at first one or two, then more, and finally so many that head began to crowd with them” (pp. 37-38). The Collective returned to this and read it over, aloud, again, and looked in wonderment at your insight…and your capacity to express it so succinctly.

The Collective was also struck with some special verbs that you peppered throughout the story.

Gurned…..(p. 35). Super evocative verb Richard. We’d never encountered it before. Would you be pleased to know we actually looked up what it meant rather than just whooshing over it (as I normally do when I’m reading). “His face gurned like a junkyard dog’s straining at the end of its chain”. There’s some simile action right there. Watch and learn everyone.

Slimed ….(p. 43). “Chagall’s early genius slimed over time into a cheerful high kitsch”. What?! The perfect word that nobody would have ever used before or since, we’ll wager, to write about Chagall. Slimed.

Continue reading Clinging to the earth like lunatics

Augusts with Wendy

A few years ago, Tuesdays became my least favourite day of the week. It was all accidental obviously, but there was a year when Tuesdays always seemed to go pear-shaped. Bad news would arrive. I’d have a headache. Little irritations that just took the glow off Tuesday. I became a little obsessed with the stupidness of Tuesday. And then it went away.

These days it’s a month. August. Over the last few years August has not covered itself in glory. In fact, it’s been a bore, a pain in the rear, a month of boring Sundays that never seem to end while we wait for the first sniff of Spring. It’s been like that again this year, except, this year, 2017, I’m fighting back.

On the weekend I did a violin exam. This was a self-imposed challenge I set myself about 7 weeks ago, which isn’t actually very long to get organised for a music exam. But I was becoming unhappy with my violin-ing. (That’s not a technical term for playing the violin but it is my term). I’d put in lots of hours in 2014 and 2015 relearning and learning technical skills, bringing my playing to a standard where I was able to pass my Associate diploma exam. That was also a self-imposed challenge. It was a now or never, early mid-life crisis kind of moment. Either pick the violin back up again – fix myself up – and do it properly – or resign myself to never ever playing something like “well”. It was immensely rewarding. Then I preceded to get myself a lovely new instrument and faffle around without much consistent practice at all, thereby losing some of the work I’d done in the previous two years. Silly billy much?

So it was time. Stretch myself again. Set myself a goal. Am I goal oriented? Indeedy I am. Without something to work towards nothing happens. As soon as I put the entry in June, things started happening. In my impulsiveness to do something for myself I forgot it would be happening in August. The horrible month. The month I just try to survive. I struggled with a lack of motivation, but the deadline sitting out there on 12 August eventually got me moving. And then I managed to get myself involved in the CRUSH Festival’s Text as Art exhibition. As a writer. I applied for this. October is when it happens so I hadn’t considered the fact that I would need to write something in August. That’s now. Another deadline is looming. Damn you August, making me think about stuff. And then, I managed to successfully apply for QSO’s A Day in the Orchestra which is coming up this weekend. That’s right. A weekend in August. Suddenly I had HEAPS of music to practice and not much time to do it in. And I had something to write too.

These things are all challenges I zeroed in on and set for myself. I’m thinking now that these things – the exam, the QSO, the Text as Art – might all have been ways that I am making myself cope with August. Yeah that’s right. The old subconscious has been at work. August might be my least favourite month in the year after February. August can still be cool. The sun isn’t up early and I have trouble motivating myself in the morning to GET OUT OF BED. However, I am forcing my self to do stuff. To not give in to August’s Augustiness. Its lethargy. I will beat you August. You will not get me down. Yes I might be lying in bed until the last possible moment every morning, necessitating that I eat breakfast at work, but I will be busy, active and doing new things whether I like it or not.

Without realising it I had filled August to the brim with experiences that are asking me to move out of my comfort zone. What does my comfort zone look like? Basically it’s a brown sofa with lots of throw pillows and an Apple TV remote close at hand. Just right for the usual, dull August. I’ve spent a lot of the last few months sitting there watching reruns of Will and Grace. Clearly, I’m telling myself this needs to stop. September is just around the corner and I need to be prepared. So this year I’m thankful for August. Perhaps I’ve broken its nasty spell at last…….

Milk and mandarins

It’s that time of the year, or the month, or just the morning when I’ve suddenly been taken over by the need to take stock……Is it the winterish blues I wonder?

Making : this crochet rug in a bid to use up all the leftover yarn from last year’s crafty efforts. It’s called the oblong story blanket. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll bother with the pom poms.

Cooking : Not much at all but I am planning to make soup FROM SCRATCH on Friday.

Drinking : Tea, chai, water. That’s it really. My go to beverages.

Reading: Lots of articles on the interwebs about USA politics and then despairing.

Trawling: through articles about makerspaces and redesigned school libraries.

Wanting: a new Radley handbag but being financially responsible and holding out.

Looking: forward to spending some days in Brisbane early next week.

Deciding: what to wear every day in what passes for winter here in the subtropics. I’ll give you a hint. No cardigan required.

Wishing: I could get used to my new glasses without feeling queasy.

Enjoying: the luxury of time.

Waiting: for my Princess Leia Baccurelli brooch to arrive in the post. It’s been AGES. #firstworldproblemobviously

Liking: my new Everest violin shoulder rest. So comfy.

Considering: starting a podcast with a friend.

Wondering: if there are already too many podcasts in the world

Loving: the sunny days

Pondering: whether and when to get a new cat……

Listening: to the birds chattering away outside this morning

Buying: Milk and mandarins yesterday at Aldi.

Watching: let’s see….Glow on Netflix, Will and Grace on Stan, the Office (US) from ITunes, Doctor Who on ABCTV, Ronny Chieng International Student on ABCTV…..other things…..

Hoping: the last remnants of this cold finally disappear in the next few days. It’s been a month.

Marvelling: at the cuteness of my baby nephew!

Cringing: at Trump, Trump always Trump.

Needing: to change my violin strings

Questioning: just why I thought it was a good idea to enter the footy tipping at work. Such a pain every week. Perhaps it would be better if I actually followed the football? Who can say?

Smelling: my lemon and sage shampoo

Wearing: a grey linen and rose top, 7/8 jeans bought in New Zealand. I’m quite the fashion plate.

Noticing: the ache in my hip….from too much sitting

Knowing: I need to up the exercise.

Thinking: I need to do some violin practice

Admiring: People who are intrepid, brave and not scaredy cats.

Getting: thirsty for a cuppa.

Bookmarking: see Trawling (above)

Disliking: my endless FB checking on my phone. Solution: FB app deleted for a bit.

Opening: bills, bills, bills. They never stop.

Closing: my old income protection insurance policy despite that relentless efforts of the guy on the phone to convince me to keep it yesterday afternoon. I was kind but very firm.

Feeling: mostly content. Can we ask for much more than that?

Hearing: the traffic humming out on the main road

Celebrating: being on holidays for a week or two.

Pretending: I’m about to do the washing up when really I’m going to leave it until later.

Embracing: my addiction to new shoes.

Belated reflection on writing

I spent the weekend doing the thing that all educators should do on a regular basis.

I became a student.

I don’t do it often enough. I don’t think teachers do it often enough. There’s a difference between sitting through some professional development session with a group of colleagues to actually putting yourself out on a limb and participating in a workshop as a student with other people (who may or may not be teachers).

What’s the difference? I’ll give you a hint. One scenario often involves a degree of cynicism and frustration at being “made” to participate in some kind of training that someone else has decided is essential for you. The other scenario means you have chosen to learn something new for your own enlightenment. So you have to leave your  ego at the door and give yourself over to the learning experience.

That means answering questions when you’re not sure if you’re right or wrong. It means trying when you think you are wrong or hopeless. It means sharing your work with the class and teachers even if you don’t want to, and your heart is pounding in your chest, your mouth is dry and you just want to hide under a conveniently located table.

I wrote more about it here: