Busybird Publishing

We offer a range of services – from layout to editing to design – to help you get your book out into the world.

Farewelling 2014

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

Blaise van Hecke and Kev Howlett – Busybird Publishing.

Blaise van Hecke and Kev Howlett
The wife and husband team behind Busybird Publishing.

So we’re almost at the end of the year, which is a time both to reflect and also to look to the future.

What did we accomplish in the past year? Did we finish that book we wanted to write? Or have that exhibition? Or read at that open mic night?

Going into 2014, we all would’ve had plans, things that we wanted to achieve. If we did achieve those goals, we should commend ourselves. If somebody else had written a book, we’d congratulate them and flatter them, yet we’re always unkindest or – at the very least – the most blasé to ourselves. So if you achieved a goal, commend yourself. Reward yourself. Celebrate a little.

And if you didn’t, now’s not the time for self-flagellation. Why didn’t you? It’s important to look at why we didn’t manage what we set out to do. Is it a case of not having a time? If so, how’s that something that can be addressed in the future? Maybe there were personal upheavals. Ultimately, the reason themselves aren’t as important as the examination of how we learn from them – and we can learn – and plan to address them next time we encounter them.

As any type of artist (writer, poet, singer, paint, illustrator, sculptor, etc.), learning is pivotal. It’s not about doing the same thing over and over. There’s a constant evolution occurring – we not only get better at our craft (whatever that is), but about learning how to approach it and how to tackle any obstacles. This is how experience arms us.

Here at Busybird, we released a number of books in 2014: [untitled] issue 6, page seventeen issue 11, The Book Book: 12 Steps to Successful Publishing, Self Made: Real Australian Business Stories, and Walk With Me. It’s an eclectic mix, and yet it wasn’t everything we wanted to get out this year, but we did the best we could and we’re proud of each of them.

On top of that, we also helped a number of authors self-publish. The term ‘self-publish’ has always held a stigma, particularly as self-published books could look cheap and amateurish. Now, as printing’s becomes easier, it’s become a much more accepted and respectable medium to self-publish, and it’s a worthwhile avenue to pursue given big publishers can be so risk averse with what they decide not to publish.

Also, with self-publishing, you can undertake every component of the publishing process that big publishers do (e.g. structural editing, copyediting, layout, design, proofreading, distribution, launch) and end up with a product that is indistinguishable from books released by commercial publishers. That’s how easy and accessible it’s become. Most importantly, we take pride in nurturing authors – many who are inexperienced in publishing – through the process and giving them the best result possible. That’s pivotal to us.

This year, we also had a string of exhibitions, ran workshops, and held our monthly Open Mic Nights, which continue to grow in popularity. They’re all things that will be returning throughout 2015 and we’d love to see you at them. If you have suggestions for the sorts of workshops you’d like to see, why not shoot us an email?

In 2015, we hope to release another issue of [untitled], another issue of page seventeen, Below the Belt: Experiences with Prostate Cancer, Joffa, The Uncanny Love of Jimmy Panagakos, The Launch Book, The Writer’s Companion, and more.

So there’s plenty happening for Busybird in the new year, and we hope to continue to grow, to go from strength to strength. To everybody who’s supported us, we thank you.

But what about yourself? What individual goals are you setting for 2015?

And what’re you doing about making them a reality?

Busybird’s closing its doors for a fortnight, from Saturday 20th December 2014 to Sunday 4th January 2015.

See you in the New Year!

Read More

The Reason Why

Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

dogreaderThe definition of the word writing denotes it to sound like such a plain, everyday concept; as in the context of writing an email or writing your name. The people who see writing just as that are missing out. They obviously don’t experience the need to get words down on paper, to craft, to create. They definitely don’t understand why anyone would want to make a career out of it. For writers, it can often be difficult to justify why we write, because it’s a difficult thing to explain.

But I’ll give it a try.

Think of the last time you read a really good book. Not just an okay, enjoyable book, but one that you would curl up with for hours on end. With these kinds of books, you slip away from the real world without realising it. The distinction between fiction and reality becomes increasingly fuzzy. You become so invested in the characters; you cry with them, you laugh at them, you become one with them. Your eyes don’t read words on a page; they see into another world. You live a different life.

Then comes that moment when there are no more pages to turn. Despite this, you’re not ready to leave. You stare at those final words, refusing to accept that what you just experienced was not real. You were buried so far into the pages that now your own life feels like the fantasy. Following this state of denial, reality slowly seeps into your consciousness, even though you desperately cling to pieces of that other world that’s drifting away.

That feeling of emptiness, the post-book-depression you’re left with is now an issue. What to do now?

I’ve found only one thing to fill this void: write.

The thought of writing something that has the potential to take someone on a journey even half as good as the one you’ve just been on is unbelievably satisfying. Crafting words into sentences and stringing sentences into stories that create life, it provides a thrill achieved by little else. Hours of frustration searching for that perfect word or phrase is worth the excitement of finally finding it. Even the hours of writer’s block are lost to those times when the pen scrawls wildly across the page, and cannot write fast enough to document all the ideas pouring out of you. It is all worth it in the end when you have rid yourself of that sense of emptiness, by doing none other than writing.

Holly Bromley
– Busybird Work Experience Student.

Read More

P17 Interview – S A Jones

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Our Books | 0 comments

isabelle_cover_grandepage seventeen has had a lot of varied authors featured across eleven issues – close to 400 individual writers if we wanted to sit down and count them all. That’s a lot of authors and poets – and while we may never be able to give due acknowledgement to every contributor who has ever graces the pages of page seventeen, we can try to shine a spotlight here and there as we go along.

S A Jones is one of those writers, with her article on the nature of being an author, ‘What is Writing For?’, appearing in Issue 09 of P17. For anyone interested in reading the article and the rest of Issue 09’s goodies, back issues are available through Busybird Publishing. But recently her second novel, Isabelle of the Moon and Stars, was released to critical praise. We at P17 caught up with S A Jones to have a quick chat about the novel, the article and her influences as a writer.

 *             *             *

Describe your main influences in writing Isabelle.

Isabelle of the Moon and Stars did not have direct influences, which may be one of the reasons it was so damnably difficult to write. I had ‘anti-influences’ more than anything. My motivation derived partly from my dissatisfaction with the way mental illness is portrayed in popular culture. I wanted to see if it was possible to write honestly about the experience of depression and anxiety without falling back on the tired old tropes of ‘suicide chic’ or ‘protagonist is unbalanced but endearingly quirky’. Whether the novel is the best form for exploring an illness characterised by wearying sameness and repetition is something I’m still grappling with.

In ‘What is Writing For?’, you described the writing process as ‘psychological taxonomy’. How would you say this idea applied to you in writing a book described as both personal and historical?

Isabelle is a story about dark and light states and places: how they contrast, how they connect, how they differ across space and time. For example, part of Isabelle’s fascination with the city of Prague involves the Libussa myth. Libussa was a seer and visionary, prone to trances and altered states, who prophesied that a great city would emerge where Prague now stands. To twenty-first century sensibilities Libussa sounds quite ‘mad’, but her contemporaries recognised a power in her unconventional consciousness. Isabelle evinces some of Libussa’s ‘symptoms’ and is labelled ‘mentally unwell’. But is she any more or less sane than her boss Jack, with his reliance on inane management strategies, or her best friend Evan who runs his life according to a singular childhood experience? I’m interested in the way states (personal and geopolitical) are ‘read’ as adaptive or dysfunctional.

In the same article you also discuss the ‘addiction’ of publication and its negative effects. As a published novelist, what advice would you give to writers still seeking their first publications?

I hesitate to give advice because I’m not sure any writer outgrows their apprenticeship. I certainly haven’t. What I will say is that rejection is an endemic part of writing for publication. Rejection can be crushing and demoralising, especially when it takes years of one’s life to complete a novel. All writers need to find a way to process rejection, take what’s useful from any feedback, pick themselves up and keep writing. I generally give myself twenty-four hours to wallow after being rejected. I drink wine, cry, seek solace in the company of writing friends who know how it is and generally feel sorry for myself. Then I keep going.

Your admiration of the Brontë sisters’ works – Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in particular – is well documented. How have these books influenced you as a writer?

Wuthering Heights is a master class in structure. When I figured out the ‘how’ of Wuthering Heights it was a revelatory moment for me. As I’ve written elsewhere:

… the duality, the symmetry, the very patterns evident in the architecture of the novel all led inexorably to one conclusion. This was no anarchic work of random genius. It was a painstakingly crafted work built on well thought through ideas, imagery and structure. Discipline, not divine intervention, created Wuthering Heights … if this book with its sublime power is the result of discipline, study, revision, trial and error then writing – even writing of genius – is a process. And that means that I can learn it.

I’ve been greatly inspired by the persistence and dedication shown by the Bronte sisters. When Charlotte Brontë asked the poet laureate Robert Southey for literary advice he told her, ‘Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be.’ Jane Eyre is the ultimate middle figure to such nonsense.

You developed your own management strategy when writing Isabelle. Can you tell us a little about how you managed your time and how it affected your writing process?

I am very disciplined and rigid when it comes to my writing time. I have to be, as I have a demanding full-time job and a family. I must be at my desk and writing by 9am on Saturday and Sunday and I don’t move until I’ve achieved my word-count objective for the session. My time is limited and I cannot afford to wait for inspiration. Even then, it took me seven years to finish Isabelle of the Moon and Stars. I went through thirteen drafts, three points of view and junked near on 130,000 words before arriving at a version I was happy with. There were times I wondered if I’d crossed the line between admirably persistent and woefully dogmatic.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a novel called The Fortress. It’s a radical departure from anything I’ve published before. It is about an all-female civilisation running parallel with the modern world and the experience of a man who takes a vow of total submission to enter that civilisation. The novel is interested in what male sexual submission looks like, if readers find it sexy or strange, and how a female civilisation might operate. Its Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Handmaid’s Tale at a cocktail party thrown by Anais Nin!

 *             *             *

Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is available now from UWA Publishing.

Read More

Writing Your Story

Posted by on Nov 27, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

birdflyingA lot of people want to write their life story.

And yet a lot of people have the same query: Who’d be interested in reading about me?

The answer? Sombody. That simple.

Wherever you are in your life, you’ve gone through experiences that are, in all likelihood, both relatable and useful to others.

Here’s a basic example: you’re a survivor of an illness – it might be cancer, it could be depression, it could be anything. You were low, and didn’t think you’d make it. But you went through the hospital system, tried some alternate treatments, had some ups and even more downs, but you pulled through.

Would you think you’re the only one who’s gone through this sort of experience? The knowledge that you haven’t, might seem to make it common, thus is there any point writing about it? But think about your ups, your downs – there’s a very good chance that somebody out there had even more downs. They might feel even more hopeless. Yours might be the story that helps them through whatever they’re going through, physically, intellectually, spiritually, and/or emotionally.

You have something to offer.

Or maybe you don’t believe that’s the case. Perhaps you don’t believe you’ve had anything significant happen to you. You might just be a divorcee with two kids who had to re-join the workforce following your separation so you could support your kids and your household. How many people would this scenario apply to? Thousands? Tens of thousands? If you were able to make a success of your life following a divorce, yours could be the story which inspires others in a similar situation to do the same.

Or maybe you believe you’ve had even less than that happen to you. Possibly you’re in a happy marriage – forty years in the same marriage, working the same job, living in the same house. Nothing to talk about at all. Other than forty years in the same marriage, working the same job, living in the same house. That in itself is an accomplishment. Not a lot of people can boast the same. How do you do it? What do you have to offer others who may be pursuing a similar sort of solidarity?

The point is we all have something to offer. We mightn’t believe it, but if you think about your life, we all have a message to convey – a message that an audience out there might be waiting for.

Think of it this way: if you were a reader, and were looking for a memoir, biography, or autobiography written by an everyman that could help with some aspect of your life, what would it be? Is it something grandiose? Or something simple? Is there something you believe you have to share?

If you have a story, a message, you want to shout to the world, then it is up to you to write it. Granted, it mightn’t lead to fame or fortune – so few books do. And a commercial publisher mightn’t pick it up simply because it is by an everyman – there are more than a few examples where a commercial publishers has descried a story told by an everyman, but picked up something similar by a celebrity, because the celebrity’s name would publicise and sell the book for them. So if you’re going to write, you need to be clear about why you’re doing it. You also need to be clear that you may need to self-publish (either in print, or digitally) to get your story out there.

Here’s some tips, if you consider taking up the challenge:

  • Be yourself: don’t try and sound like somebody you’re not. If you have a story to tell, it should be told as only you can tell it.
  • Be honest: just tell the truth. Don’t embellish. Don’t twist. It will always catch you out in the end.
  • Be searching: a lot of people who write autobiographically only skim the surface of their lives, especially in early drafts. It might hurt to go deep, to expose yourself and leave yourself vulnerable, but readers respond to vulnerability and raw truth.
  • Observe a chronology: it’s a simple structure. Don’t jump forward. Don’t go back. Just stick to what happened, as it happened.
  • Avoid waffling: don’t believe that more is better. It’s not.
  • Avoid repetition: trust that your reader is intelligent enough to get the point the first time. They only need it once. Repeating a point or, worse, belabouring a point, only dilutes it, (unless it’s done stylistically for effect).
  • Don’t write to a word count: your story is as long a it needs to be, no more, no less.
  • Be fearless: if this is an endeavour you’re going to pursue, then leave nothing behind. Spend it all on the page.

If this is the sort of writing that you’ve considered pursuing, or want to pursue, but always disputed whether anybody wanted to hear your story, think about what you’ve learned and, remember, we all have a story to share.

LZ.

Read More

There and Back for CMT

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

In March-April of this year, Busybird’s own Kev Howlett trekked up to Mount Everest Base Camp and back, taking photos for a gorgeous full-colour coffee-table book, Walk With Me, as well as an exhibition of the same name, to raise funds for CMTA Australia.

Here’s an interview with Kev, as we prepare for the launch this Saturday …

 

walkmountaindistanceTell us a bit about your background
I was always good at art at school and after deciding not to join the Air Force I ended up at Preston College studying Finished Art. After a year, my art teacher said I had a flair for photography and might want to think about changing courses. After a bit of back and forth I decided to swap to photography and I completed the two-year course.

I got a work experience placement at a commercial photo studio at the end of my final year and they liked me so much they offered me a job once I left school. I worked there for a few years as an assistant and when the senior photographer – my mentor – decided to leave and go freelance, he asked me to go with him. We worked together for many years until I started getting my own work and then freelancing myself.

I worked in lots of different studios photographing everything from cars, food, fashion and products through advertising agencies. I then worked for an electrical company full-time running their in-house photographic studio, which was great to grow from a primitive analogue studio using old cameras and film to a fully modern digital studio. I ended up setting up one of the first high-end digital studios in Melbourne at the time. I had Kodak and Nikon reps visiting me regularly to calibrate their new cameras and software as we were all in a development stage of the digital revolution.

Seven and a half years there I then started doing technical illustration for Ford’s Global Catalogue on the side from home after the day’s other work. Blaise and I did this together, and part-time jobs on the side; this is where Busybird grew from.

After many years of that and being so busy we couldn’t handle any more, Ford decided to give all our work to India and South America where monkeys were doing it for peanuts. So there we were with no clients and all this equipment.

Luckily, Blaise and I saw it coming for a while so we had the publishing side slowly forming and as we lost Ford we concentrated on clients who needed books made. I did it part time for a while as did Blaise, although she was working full-time at the library and doing Busybird at night.

About eighteen months ago we spotted this building for lease while out walking our dog one night and rang the real estate company to have a look inside. It was six months earlier than we had thought about moving the business out of home but we took a risk and here we are today, both employed full-time at Busybird with a busy and bright future and a publishing house. It has been a long journey but now we look back it’s kind of what we were always aiming for and where we always saw Busybird going.

 
stupaagainAnd how about CMT …?
CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease) is a nerve degenerative disease that our oldest son Dylan has. We had never heard of it until Dylan was diagnosed with it so it has been a learning curve for us as to what it is and the effects it will have on him. We first noticed it when Dylan was in his early teens. He played football for a local club and up to this stage was excelling. He loved it with a passion and I think he thought it might be a career one day.

After noticing he was slowly starting to lose his impact on games, lag behind the others, and fall over a lot more than usual we got him looked at and the normal GP didn’t really have any clues as to the problem. After seeing a podiatrist he first mentioned we should get him checked for CMT so we did. It turns out he has it but as research is very limited, they are not quite sure the type he has because there are new strains being discovered all the time. All we know is that he doesn’t have the most common type, which is very quick-developing and debilitating.

The effects Dylan suffers from are his feet are curling up (hence the falling over) and he was losing sensitivity in his feet and hands. As there is no cure or treatment the only option for him was to have both feet totally reconstructed. This was all as he started his last year of high school VCE so he had to cope with a lot during that year. They operated on one foot with sixteen weeks recovery and then the second so his whole year going to school was interrupted and he was in a wheelchair or on crutches for most of it. He passed his year after missing large chunks, so a great effort on his part.

The reason for my fundraising for CMT was the fact I wanted to spread the word on this and inform others as to its existence. I have loved talking about it and watching people learn and know more about it and what Dylan has had to go through. When I contacted the CMTAA (Charcot Marie Tooth Association Australia) and said I wanted to raise some money for them I remember their humbleness and gratitude toward my offer.

I made a statement that I would love to see a cure or at least some helpful medication developed for Dylan in my lifetime, so hopefully my little trek and efforts are helping that become reality.

 
walkingstepsWhat made you want to climb to Mount Everest Base Camp?
I had heard about Base Camp in the past but hadn’t really looked into it much until a friend of mine approached me and said we should try it. Both of us have kept reasonably fit and thought that as we were approached the big five-oh we should do something a little adventurous. Both of us are photographers and we knew of some other photographers who had done it. We thought it would be a great place to do something hard on our bodies but also an amazing place to photograph.

After doing some research we both decided it was the adventure we were looking for so set about planning it. After meeting more and more people who had done it or knew people who had, we heard so many horror stories of attempts gone wrong and abandoned that secretly I was a little worried if I could get there. There were times on the trek I thought, What the hell are we doing? but we got there and back and lived to tell the tale.

 
walkingsunAnd how did the idea for the book, Walk With Me, come about?
Well, being a photographer I always thought I should do something with my photos rather than store them on my computer and forget them. I think it was after that, that we came up with the idea that we could have a reward for pledges to help make the book a reality, and that we could use the book as a way to raise money for CMT.

The Walk With Me title came to us and felt perfect. I wanted the people who took part in my fundraiser to, in a way, come with me on the trek, walk it and feel a part of the experience.

I tried to capture the Walk With Me theme in my photos so when you look at the photos it’s like you are looking out at what I was seeing and feeling. I also thought since people with CMT like Dylan probably will never be able to try such a long and strenuous trek with their condition, I would bring it to them in the book. I love the title as it sums up so much of what the whole project was about.

 
walkyakketyyakWhat was it like taking photographs of the trek?
My photographer mate Norman – who I went with – and I agree it was not the photographic trip we had assumed it would be before we left. We thought we would have time to play, set things up and wait for conditions and light to be perfect.

Well, that wasn’t the case at all.

The trek is very demanding physically and with time so we were always on the go. The sherpas would say zoom, zoom after five-minute rests and off we went again. Nearly all the photos we got were on the move, shot as we quickly saw things, which made it a little tough. With limited camera battery charging opportunities we were always worried about draining all of our batteries and losing use of our cameras so we couldn’t even preview our photos to see if we had gotten what we wanted. We were in a sense shooting blind, just relying on our skills and knowledge to correctly expose and frame the scenes.

Most trekking days were planned to start early in the morning and get to camps early afternoon, so Norm and I thought we would then have the afternoons to go off and set up shots and capture sunsets, etc. Well, as it happens, in Nepal the mornings are crisp and clear but by 1.00 pm the clouds form over the mountains and come in to white the whole place out. So there went our plans.

Another thing I tell people is that there really wasn’t a lot to photograph. Now that may sound weird as we are walking through the Himalayas, one of the most stunning places on the planet. The reason I say this is that the place is amazing, the mountain scenes and hilltop villages were stunning but after a week of photographing them we were looking for something else, something different.

Most villages were the same and as we turned around every corner another amazing mountain scene showed itself and, like anything, you get a little blasé after a while. I wanted to photograph the local people and capture their life and culture, but again I was blocked a little. The trail we were on is quite full of tourists all year and the locals I guess are a little over having cameras pointed at them. Most times you try to photograph them they yell at you or ask for money, children would yell no at you and run away. Although I got some lovely people photos overall it was like pulling teeth and not as easy as expected.

I think I took the right camera and gear and had a good system worked out where my camera was in my hand all the time because things happened fast so you had to be ready. Walking over steep rocky ground meant most of the time you were focused on the feet of the person in front of you so you picked your walking line and didn’t slip. It was a real effort to look up, see what was around you and appreciate it. It was quite annoying to just see the backs of people in front of you all day but that is the nature of trekking. Stopping, even looking back to where you had just come from now and then, was the way to capture the scenes from different angles.

 
walkingclosestonesWhat personal and professional achievements did you get from the climb?
I am a very competitive person so the idea of failing to get to EBC was a scary thought. I had 80 people pledge money and who were riding the trek with me so to come home and say I didn’t quite get there wasn’t an option. I did lose my appetite for a week or so on the way up and I must admit I was running on empty most days. I couldn’t even get plain rice and bread down. Our main sherpa, Roy, was quite concerned with me as he saw me refuse most meals. He wondered how I was still going with the little I had eaten but I did and surprised him and myself.

On a professional level I guess I learnt I have the skills and experience in photography to handle tough conditions and time limits. We were shooting blind and quick and I was adjusting the camera manually in most cases to compensate for light and snow etc. So when I finally got to sit down and check what I had captured, I was pleasantly surprised my instincts had been correct in most cases.

 
walkstupaAre you happy with the final product?
Yes I am. It has been a long process sorting through over 3000 photos and trimming them down to my best 300 or so. Then sorting into an order and theme. It took quite a few hours of putting all this together and I do love the photos I have used and how they are presented. I am not a very ‘look at me’ kind of guy so I must say I am a little nervous with the attention the book will get once released. I hope it lives up to and exceeds the expectations of all who are waiting for it.

 
walkriverAny words of wisdom for anybody else with a dream?
All I can say is that the process from dreaming of something and then doing it isn’t that far apart. It just takes a commitment and a desire to do it. I remember thinking that going to Base Camp was a tale I had heard from others, it’s an adventure others take but not someone like me.

I think back now and smile because all the hard work, sweat and pain to get there has been what the dream is all about. I remember thinking about what people had said before I left: ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey’.

That’s how the trek was; eleven days to get to a pile of rocks but that’s just the turnaround point – you still have half of the journey left. I think that’s like a dream. You think of something you desire and as good as it is when you finally get it, you find it’s the anticipation, planning, waiting, and excitement that is the thrill of the dream.

That’s the journey.

Kev Howlett.

Walk With Me,, the book and the exhibition, launches 3.00pm, 22nd November (this Saturday!), at the Busybird Studio ~ Gallery. If you’d like to come, please RVSP us by calling or emailing, or by saying yes on our Facebook event.

All the pictures here were taken from the outtakes page of Walk With Me.

Read More

P17 Issue 11 Reflections – Joshua Coldwell and Anne Hotta

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Our Books | 0 comments

Reflections #6One more day. That’s it. That’s as long as we need to wait for the new issue to be available.

From 7pm on 19 November, Issue 11 is live and ready to go. I hope you’re all as excited as I am – please come along to the launch and open mic performances at the Busybird studio and help us in celebrate.

In the meantime, a final teaser. Two more contributors have something to share about their work in Issue 11 – hopefully it tides you over for one more day!

 

*             *             *

 

Joshua Coldwell on ‘Swan song’

The inception of ‘Swan song’ came about during a slightly inebriated walk along the beach at St Kilda. A fellow actor I was touring with, Sean Watters, was regaling me of the last moments of one of his friend’s uncles. Despite being quite ill and barely able to speak, the gentleman managed to summon enough energy to land one last line: ‘I wonder how far I’ll kick the bucket.’

So, naturally we got to talking and wondered, what would we say? Sometime after and back in Adelaide, I found myself with a rare treat, two nights off. Two nights with nothing planned. Naturally I went mad within the first hour, but remembered the anecdote of the dying man. Thus after assembling the tale between teaching classes during the day and collating the pieces the next night, what followed was ‘Swan song’.

Effectively, it represents my philosophy on death, one that centres on death’s inevitability. Death is sombre, hilarious, violent, calm, surprising and oncoming, it is what it is, and the best we can do is to not get caught up worrying about it or what we will leave behind. Just have a sense of humour about it, respect it, but don’t dwell on it, otherwise it’ll be there before you know it. Death can be awkward like that.

Joshua Coldwell spends his time treading the boards of Adelaide’s theatre scene in various on and off stage roles. When he is not sinking his figurative teeth into his beloved Shakespeare he earns his keep as a High School biology and chemistry teacher. His students find him ‘complicated’.

 

*             *             *

 

Anne Hotta on ‘The taste of cedars’

The story began with three ideas and gradually unwound.

I was curious about what happens when a person uses religious beliefs from another culture to tackle certain things their own culture doesn’t. Would it be wrongful moral appropriation?

I am also interested in the animistic spirituality of Japan – where I lived for a long time – and how it infuses quotidian activities. That Natural beauty and mystery can permeate as deeply as it does, is fascinating for a foreigner.

My third preoccupation was with inter-cultural relationships and how ‘east’ does actually meet ‘west’. Love interests us all and writers try to capture its essence, whenever and wherever.

Perhaps three concerns are too many for the slight frame of the short story, but this genre also   allows for inference, imagery and the unspoken. I felt I could indulge my preoccupations to some degree without any disloyalty to the form.

When I first went to Japan, the sensuous aspects of climbing up to a Shrine, the trees, smells, sounds and then the place of worship, made a deep impression. The Jizō shrine dedicated to babies who have been aborted affected me greatly, especially the belief that these beings had not yet atoned for the sins they carried at birth. I imagined the grief it would bring to the ‘mother'; it reminded me of anecdotes I have heard from friends about what abortion can do. It seemed possible that a western woman, might reach across the divide to find comfort.

Anne Hotta has written non-fiction articles for newspapers, journals and magazines, but would like to be a successful writer of fiction. She has had a story published by Overland and received an Honourable Mention in the Boroondara Literary Awards.

WorkshopWikipedia: Beginning with the Industrial Revolution era, a workshop may be a room or building which provides both the area and tools that may be required for the manufacture or repair of manufactured goods. Workshops were the only places of production until the advent of industrialisation and the development of larger factories.

Read More

Wanted: Verb

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

wantedverbIf you wanted to hang a picture, and had to hammer a nail into the wall, you’d use a hammer for the job. Sure, you could probably use the blunt end of an axe, or a heavy-heeled shoe, but the best tool for the job would be the hammer, because that’s what hammers do.

They hammer.

When writing, you need to treat your selection of verbs the same way. You need to find the right verb for the right job. It doesn’t have to be a fancy verb, it doesn’t have to be a verb that’ll send readers to the dictionary, it just has to the verb designed for that particular job.

Of course, there are lots of different verbs that do similar things. If this occurs, then you need to find the verb most appropriate for what’s happening. Sometimes, this is easy. Sometimes it’s not.

Consider this scenario: Bob’s partner Gloria sits on the couch in the lounge. The kitchen explodes. Bob wants to get Gloria out of there fast. So how does he grab her from the couch?

      Bob grabbed Gloria’s wrist and pulled her from the couch.

It’s simple. No extravagance here. And it works … doesn’t it?

Yes, it works, but lacks the immediacy the situation demands. The damn kitchen’s just blown up! And he’s just pulled her up, like he’s inviting her to dance? Uh uh. So what’s the alternative?

      Bob grabbed Gloria’s wrist and pulled her quickly from the couch.

That tells us more, right? He hasn’t just pulled Gloria up; he’s pulled her up quickly! But the reality is if you need an adverb (quickly) to modify your verb (pulled), then your verb’s probably not the right tool for the job. You need to find a verb that is going to do the work of, in this case, ‘pulled quickly’.

      Bob grabbed Gloria’s wrist and yanked her from the couch.

How’s that? Better? At the very least, ‘yanked’ communicates the immediacy and urgency the situation demands.

As writers, we develop our craft through one primary tool. Can you guess what it is?

If you said ‘vocabulary’, well, you’re not quite right. A good vocabulary is important, but the primary tool is actually ‘habit’. We like to say things a certain way, use certain phrases, develop certain idiosyncrasies – this becomes our voice. That’s fine, but if we develop the habit that we just go with the first thing that comes to mind, then we won’t think about the verbs (or words) we use.

Stop. Think about it. Look at your narrative. Are the right words doing the right jobs? Or do you have half-assed workers just making a good fist of it? Or, even worse, do you have imposters?

      Gloria shouted at Bob, which caused Bob to be upset.

Or:

      The wind blew across the river, causing the surface to ripple.

At least in the case of yanking Gloria from the couch, pulling is in the realms of the same action – pulled, yanked, jerked, etc. Caused? Well, it tells us something happened, it just doesn’t tell us how. It’s a trigger that turns the actual verbs (upset and ripple) into adjectives. This dilutes what’s going on. Here, we should put the verbs back in charge.

      Gloria shouted at Bob, which upset Bob.

And

      The wind blew across the river, rippling the river’s surface.

Or, with this second example, even something like …

      The wind rippled the river’s surface.

As an aside, note with the second example of the river, we leave out ‘The wind blew across the river’, because that’s now become implied. If the wind rippled the river’s surface, the wind must be blowing across the river.

In any case, aren’t these examples better than the ones using caused?

Get in the habit of thinking about your writing, about the words you’re using, and finding the right ones for the right jobs.

LZ.

Read More
Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonYouTube IconSubscribe on YouTubeTwitter Icontwitter follow button