fears

Tumblr has become my confession box; this place remains slightly more honed. But my most recent ‘yes, this deserves a frenzied Tumblr post’ moment seems to have grown and spread, an idea or a virus. The end result is what will tell the difference, I suppose, but ultimately it is this – what are the fears that are creeping on my mind, and will  writing them out, sending them into the internet (so the world and the ether all at once, audience depending) change anything? Will admitting them in this space lighten the load, or simply provide more ammunition for people to doubt me, and for me to doubt myself?

Only one way to find out.

Here some things that I fear. In moderate detail.

I fear that my best writing days are behind me, that I haven’t improved my craft since I was sixteen. I have not had creative work published since I was in my first year of university, and that was only because I’d been lucky enough to have work submitted by my glorious former English/Creative Writing teacher at high school. I had chances to make the most of noteworthy names in my undergraduate courses – but I was too anxious, too depressed, too insert-synonym-for-terrified to let my classmates see my work, let alone the tutors and lecturers that we had. I passed my stage three prose course with a fairly good grade – but I’m sure it could have been an absolutely glorious grade if I had gone to more than the first lecture and workshop and then had borderline panic attacks every time I thought about going to a class taught by Witi Ihimaera.

On that note, I also fear that if I did find myself accepted into a masters programme (as I have wanted to do since the aforementioned English teacher basically introduced me to the concept of the IIML etc), I would descend into the same I’m-not-good-enough spiral, that I would take all judgements too harshly, that I just couldn’t hack it. Honestly, that sort of fear is probably part of why I decided that I should investigate publishing and editing as a career choice. So that I could think critically about my work from the perspective of the people with the power. So that I could learn what people are looking for when they work their ways through submissions. The contacts and connections that I have made since I moved to Wellington are probably helping that somewhat – I don’t feel like the total outsider to the literary world that I once did, but I still live on the fringe.

I fear that I have shot myself in the foot with pursuing ‘journalistic’ writing in various forms, especially over the past few months. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing these things, but I feel as if it jeopardises some people’s opinions of me and my work. Yes, I have written reviews, and feature type pieces, and musician interviews – but that doesn’t define me or what my goals and intentions are. My first and foremost love is still prose (and sort of poetry too, even if I won’t admit that up front terribly often). Articles are a way of getting paid to write things. And that’s still rather amazing to me.

Not everything has to do with writing, don’t worry.

I fear loneliness. Oftentimes, since I’ve moved here, it feels as though my connection to friendship is through the internet, and real life is just a place where I work and go to class. I don’t choose for it to be that way, but I’m still so stuck in my ways of the same group of friends through undergrad, and attaching myself to D’s friendship groups – and generally just using the (reasonable) excuse of being too sick (both in body and mind, thanks hindsight) to put effort into things like socialising. I’ve lost my touch, if ever I had it – and the problem is, the people whose company I tend to like most are probably those who least feel the need for another person in their life.

Related to that, I fear my own desirability – both romantically and platonically. I look at myself critically, and struggle to figure out what would draw anyone to me. This is before I even take into account the whole busted gut situation. Sometimes I worry that I’ve thrown myself too far into this book world – it is, after all, all that I’ve ever really known. Music, and words. I know that in theory there is more to me than that, but so often I struggle to come up with anything else. It’s reading, writing, publishing – or listening, playing, singing. Every gerund rooted in decisions that I made many years ago.

I have never felt ‘attractive’. I have always been the pursuer in any potential relationships (not that my backlist is terribly heavy there), I don’t have people paying attention to me in any way. When the fact that I ‘like’ someone comes up (rarely do I let that happen, but happen it has), I’m always faced with a ‘wait, really? I had no idea’. I just don’t know how to show it. I fear that this is something I just have to accept, that people don’t consider me a possibility until I put myself out there, ready to be shot down. It’s what I have come to expect. I didn’t walk away from the three years with Dom and keep my ability to trust people intact.

I fear my body, what it does and what it may not be able to do. This is where things maybe get a bit heavy. You’ve been warned. I have a chronic illness – we know that. It’s not fun, but for the most part, it’s manageable. Ish. But let’s now add to that the fact that at my age my mother had melanoma. One of my medications also makes me more susceptible to melanoma. More recently, she has had seizures and been hospitalised for them.  My father, not yet 60,  has had arthritis for years, has another autoimmune condition (not Crohn’s, like I do) and has also had heart issues. So I come from… imperfect stock healthwise, shall we say. All of this contributes to a fear of my health’s twists and turns. I already get IBD-related arthritic pain, at times. Bad knees are not the domain of one in their mid-twenties.

And related to all of that, I fear for my future. I was an IVF baby. I took eight years to come about. And whilst my two younger siblings then came about naturally, there was obviously something not cooperating that needed to be nudged for things to start happening. Because of the strange tag thing on my ear, Mum used to say that they mixed me up badly in the lab – now it feels a little more self-destructive to say that, since my health has deteriorated. So I fear having a genetic tendency towards problems in the future – not to mention the fact that since I have already had abdominal surgery and am guaranteed at least one more… it all adds up to make things like pregnancy that little bit more difficult. And it’s all the worse to worry about these things when you don’t really have a means to make them happen, anyway. It was one thing for me to wonder about it 6+ months ago when I was in an established relationship – not as something to have happen any time super soon, but something to be aware of.

Now that there’s nobody alongside me, it feels pointless to even wonder about these things, but still they play on my mind.

There are other things, of course – noises in the night, disasters, the usual. I am lucky, I suppose (ha), that I don’t have any crippling phobias of any kind, I can dislike spiders but not leap away from them – I’d flinch if a mouse scurried by but I wouldn’t scream.

But these things, even if they are me wrapping myself in knots, are weighing me down.

the invisible man (with no disrepect to wells or ellison)

I wrote this for you, before I knew better, before I understood how to reach in and tease the air from greedy alveoli back into the process, less catching in my chest as when you’re on my mind. I wrote this in the moment, reflexive and bemused, a parallel existence in my imagination, not dramatic enough for paper, not reasonable enough for real life, just a hope, skip and a dreamy jump away from this moment, alone in the hills.

Learning so much, about overwriting but not underwriting, about strange magician’s ciphers and the things that people do not know. Dozing in the swansong of summer, so far past and still it lingers, warmth better than any medication at slowing the mind to a couch-bound crawl.

The lives of others, in other words, the world I threaten to join, leaving my own in the dust, my stories coagulating in a past now forgotten, embracing The Word in other ways. And I may wrap myself in them all day and night, but I will need you, or another, or another still – someone to listen, to read me in another way.

2014 in review. prematurely. sort of.

books gotta get read…

Well, it’s the first day in a year that I don’t have to post on here, and yet here I am! You haven’t gotten rid of me yet, internet.

I will at some stage compile a bit of a collection of my favourite picks from the 365 pieces project – though if any of you have any particular favourites from them, do let me know! I’m definitely interested to know what readers have to say, rather than just my highfalutin feelings.

On the subject of readers, though, that leads me onto my new ‘project’, though less official than my previous one, since I’m planning on giving myself a little more creative flexibility this year, in terms of specific output. However, I’m still a reader, a listener, a consumer of art and media and entertainment. And I feel like I have not paid proper attention to these areas on this blog, especially considering that was what I originally intended this to be.

So each week, for the most part, there will be at least one review posted here. The emphasis will be on books, but if I am in the middle of something and don’t wish to distract myself – or if something amazing comes into my ears and/or eyes , it may well be interposed with music and film and even TV reviews, because why limit myself, am I right?

As a bookseller/buyer/soon-to-be-publisher-in-training/writer/generally bibliophile, I always have a ridiculous number of books either on the go, or on my to-do list. One only need check out my GoodReads account for that – and that doesn’t even contain all of the madness, since I don’t keep it totally up-to-date with my Kobo readings too. And most of my books are still boxed up from my move, so the only ones I have around are more recent acquisitions/ones that were shelved in strange places.

But here’s a cursory list of what I’m in the middle of, or have at least started (excluding re-reads… Suzanne Collins and Tamora Pierce are like comfort food, okay?)

The Great Gatsby – F. S. Fitzgerald (I know, I know, most people read this when they’re 15 in high school, but we didn’t, sorry ’bout it).
Allegiant – Veronica Roth (already finished Divergent and Insurgent, but will review them all together)
The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling (way overdue)
Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood (I have started this book SO MANY times. I don’t know what it is about it. But I’m determined to persevere)
The Sandman – Preludes and Nocturnes – Neil Gaiman (also way overdue. I feel like a fake Gaiman-fiend, but I’m remedying it!)
The Gift Lewis Hyde (the only NF title on this list – Eleanor Catton referred to it in her Booker acceptance speech, and then I saw that Margaret Atwood wrote the introduction… sold!)
Snake Ropes – Jess Richards (a publisher rep or a review or something recommended this book as excellent for people who like Margaret Atwood. So I bought it, obviously.)
The Twelve – Justin Cronin (so far taking longer for me to power through than The Passage did, but still proving worthwhile, bit by bit)
Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley – Danyl McLauchlan (NZ author, really good so far, just need to push distractions aside!

And here’s the vague to-read list, as it stands (see the photo at the top for appearances of a fair few of these…) The links are becoming a bit draining, so I will leave you to do your own searches on them, should you wish to investigate further.
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt (actually, I should really review The Secret History, since I read that recently, hmm)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson (I was a 18 y.o. semi-hipster lit student working in a chain bookstore when this was at peak popularity, so naturally I avoided it at all costs. Having enjoyed both adaptations, I’m going to give it a go)
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card (even though OSC’s a pretty awful person, I did really enjoy Ender’s Game, so I kind of want to pursue the series further)
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace (just because)
– Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (sounds a bit trippy and fairly good)
On The Road – Jack Kerouac (left my original Popular Penguin somewhere in Brooklyn, I think, so am starting from square one, only, err, four and a half years later?)
Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems – Allen Ginsberg (been on my to-do list for ages, thanks Book Depository sale!)
The Flood – Maggie Gee (#2 book acquired via the Book Depository 25 hour sale – looks cool, will expand later, naturally)
The Best of H.P. Lovecraft – um, H.P. Lovecraft (lucky last book purchased in the Book Depository sale. Never read any Lovecraft, thought I should fix it. This fairly weighty tome should do the trick!)
The String Diaries – Stephen Lloyd Jones (advanced reading copy from work that our gen. buyer thought I might like, and still haven’t gotten around to it, but it does sound interesting, so on the list before the move!)
Persuasion – Jane Austen (because I’m the worst English major ever and have never read any Austen. Several people have told be Persuasion is her best work, so I bought a lovely leather bound copy and hope that aesthetic allure will encourage me.)
The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales – Edgar Allan Poe (ridiculously, I’ve never really read any Poe, despite taking a ‘Theory and the Gothic’ course in my final undergrad semester – but then, I was pretty much in max-sickness situation then, so my reading list had more than a few holes in it.
– 1984 – George Orwell (another classic lit hole to fill)

Yeah. I’m a bit all over the place. Any recommendations are more than welcome – I love love love making new discoveries, so bring a little joy to my life!

nanowrimo snippet #5

Her alarm is set for way too early, she has pre-purchased a can of Red Bull so as to have instant caffeine upon waking up. But she’s like a kid at Christmas, trying to make herself go to sleep early and failing miserably, waking up before she’s supposed to. Half an hour before her alarm she gives up, and goes to get her Red Bull, downing it far too quickly. She is ready, stealing a couple of individually packaged crackers from the pantry and adding them to her little bag, dressed in no time at all, despite having three times as much dressing to do than usual.

The Gare Central is easy enough to get to, as she walks along the 7am streets to her metro station, and just sits, waiting for her stop, no changes, no running through streets she doesn’t know her way around yet. Still, the signs are in French when she hops off, and it takes a few false starts for her to successfully find stairs to lead her up and into the main station. But Petra is a powerful woman, who can do anything. This is her mantra.

nanowrimo snippet #4

“Her routine…” Petra starts to ask, and Emma starts laughing out loud.

“Every semester. My god. She has to be home early the night before, to sort out a week’s worth of lunches. While whatever thing she’s making sits in the oven, she tries to memorise her timetable, figure out the best routes between any classes that are one-after-another, make the big decision on where her ‘spot’ is going to be that semester. She always has to have somewhere fresh and new,” she explains. “My money’s on the somewhere in the architecture building again this time.”

Renée nods. “Definitely.”

Petra is confused. “But isn’t she – aren’t you all psych students?”

“Well, technically, I’m neuroscience, not psych-”

“Basically the same damn thing,” Renée interjects.

Almost the same damn thing,” Emma continues, pausing as a waiter puts down a bowl of pistachio nuts on the table, “merci, monsieur! But anyway, the architects have the best coffee on campus, we discovered early on. So the café there has always been our go-to establishment, when we’re too lazy to go off campus.”

“And Olivia drinks a lot of coffee. So it’s easier for her to set up camp somewhere by the good stuff.”

“Ja. So, she’ll be planning all that. Then she’ll need to distress, so she’ll steal my yoga mat and attempt a few half-assed poses, since I still haven’t managed to drag her to class, and she refuses to learn from me, only from hacks on YouTube. She’ll get frustrated, bundle the mat up and use it as a pillow to nap until the oven timer goes off. Then she’ll eat a whole lunch’s worth of her carefully measured meal, curse her stupidity, grab a wine cooler and call it a night.”

Petra almost feels like applauding, such was the delivery and detail in the story. “And that’s what she does every semester?”

Emma shrugs, cracks open a pistachio with the shell of another. “More or less.”

 

Promise I’ll get back to non NaNo stuff soonish – right now I’m just trying to stay ahead of the goal word count, to keep things ticking along – and it seems to be working well so far! In theory, with a constant pace, one should be up to 6668 words by day 4, and I’ve just finished up with 7596. Woo!

nanowrimo snippet #3

Everything is white with snow. Even in the dark, the world seems to glow brightly, the shelf outside her window already stacked high with flurries. Quickly she pulls out the days clothes from her laundry basket, dresses haphazardly and runs out the front door, not bothering with gloves, jacket unbuttoned. Her inner temperate climate child is shrieking with glee, and she can barely contain herself from letting it out externally. If any person were to look out their window on that stretch of Rue de Bullion, they would see what seems like a madwoman – what could well be a madwoman – spinning around with her mouth open to the heavens, letting the night’s fresh snow fall upon her waiting tongue.

 

Before long, though, her fingers start to grow stiff with cold, and she has tasted enough of this mysterious substance, felt it melt in her mouth and turn to nothing at all. “Good night, you strange, magical place,” she whispers, before gently closing the front door before her, and once in bed, falling into the sweetest sleep she has known in a very long time.

 

The next couple of days are spent in cafes drinking chai tea and reading course outlines, and in parks, throwing snowballs with her amused flatmates, lying on the ground and twitching limbs around to make angels with Sasha, another exchange student

nanowrimo snippet #2

“’Wish you were here’ postcards are a crock of shit,” Emma says, watching Petra shuffle through the small stack that she has accrued over the last few days. “The people who you feel the need to send those kind of postcards to are the kind that you’d never want anywhere near your vacation.”

“You may have a point,” Petra replies, squinting at a twilight skyline. “This is Chicago, right?”

Olivia peers over her shoulder. “Well, it’s not LA and it’s not here. So unless you took the most circuitous route ever to get to the Mont, then yes, it’s Chicago.”

Petra turns it over. Greetings from Chicago at night! “Well, I don’t know, maybe they were supporting a sister city or something.” She flips to another one. “Welcome to the shores of Lake Michigan? I barely even saw any lake. It should be Welcome to O’Hare International Transit Lounge! Over priced fast food, uncomfortable chairs! Why did I tell people I’d send postcards?”

nanowrimo snippet #1 [backdated 1st november]

“You’re, like, one of those manic depressive dream girls, or whatever.” Vanessa twirls herself around on one of the bar stools as she tells Anya this, red wine swirling precariously in her martini glass.

“Manic depressive dream girls?”

“Yeah, you know, like Zooey Deschanel.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“She means manic pixie dream girl,” Jamie says, trimming his sideburns and using the kettle as a mirror. “And you are. Well, you want to be.”

“Right,” Anya says, slowly. Petra sees her study her reflection in the kettle as well – Jamie keeps it shiny, which seems at odds with the relative hygiene of his facial hair maintenance habits. “I still don’t know what you mean.”

Jamie sighs, puts down the razor. “You’re quirky. You work in a gift shop that sells fake sugar skulls and necklaces with old-school cartoon characters on them. You’re relatively attractive, by conventional measures – waist size, shininess of hair, etc, but you’re just a little odd. You talk a lot about your vinyl collection and your penchant for children’s fantasy novels, and wear overall dresses. And you’re totally oblivious to the fact that you’re a walking cliché.” He crosses his arms. “Et voila. I hope this experience has been enlightening for you.”

Anya frowns, Petra snorts. Jamie resumes shaving.

party mix

In her hand they rattled, Skittles or Smarties, in a similar variety of colours. Some tasteless when she gingerly licked them, others leaving a residue like sour lollies, forcing lips into a pucker, powdery and permeating.

When she held one of them up to the light, she could see through it; if she shook it right beside her ear, tiny things rattled inside. Like people jittering around a house, the walls protecting them from the outside world.

Janet did not know exactly where her home ended and the rest of the world began, and she didn’t care to find out.

She knew it was someplace between the rhododendrons and the footpath that was so cracked and forlorn, but every time she thought to test this boundary, it seemed to change – sometimes even as she emerged from the backdoor, creeping past the flower beds, someone from next door or across the street would smile at her, wave. The grins on their faces reminded her of sharks, or of that Johnny guy in The Shining, which her brother made her watch when she was younger. She had nightmares for weeks, axes and bodies and being frozen to death in the snow. It didn’t really snow where she lived, just sleeted a little on occasion; but she feared it all the same. When they went on a school trip to a hedge maze, just out from the city, she had a panic attack, hyperventilating into her sandwich bag, and she could smell ham and mustard for the rest of the trip, sitting at the picnic table with a classmate’s mother.

She could never eat ham and mustard sandwiches again.

words on a paved place

Walking through open spaces leaves you open to all kinds of outside influences which could strike at any time. A set of impossible to predict possibilities, unwinding with each step in a thousand different directions like a cage of doves opened upon the skies. A man in a robe stares at his feet: one strap of his intricately braided sandals has come loose. A man with a face you recognise and a voice you don’t walks with grim intent, talking on a Blackberry, clutching a carton of eggs. The are not free-range; each single egg lies perfectly white against the grey-purple crinkled cardboard nests. The man in the broken sandals sees this, yells at the man-you-may-or-may-not-know that he is contributing to the human-induced natural apocalypse. The man-you-may-or-may-not-know ignores him and talks louder. A group of school children come pouring into the plaza, dosed up on hyperventilating action on the silver screen, their hands all gripping invisible weapons as they launch small wars against one another. The sun shines on Aotea Square, it is, after all, Tuesday again.