About Jodi Cleghorn

Emerging author, editor, publisher and innovator with a penchant for the dark vein of humanity. Creative Director (eMergent Publishing) and creative spark behind the conceptual anthology imprints Chinese Whisperings and Literary Mix Tapes. Author of ELYORA (Dec 2012), a horror novella set in rural New South Wales and co-author of the epistolary serial POST MARKED: PIPERS REACH with Adam Byatt. Known to dance like no-one is watching.

‘First To A Hundred’ published in Tincture 8

I remember years ago an author I knew saying publication was like buses – nothing and then they all arrive at once. The next few weeks are a bit like that.

Today I’m ecstatic to see Tincture Eight go live, with my story ‘First to a Hundred’ in it. It’s almost two years ago now, since I first put pen to paper to write a ‘cricket story’. Only ever intended as a piece of flash fiction and some kind of bent challenge to myself as an up-yours to Australia’s cricket loving summer, it quickly evolved into something all together different.

The first section I wrote in less than an hour after spending several days chewing on the idea of beach cricket and equality for girls. I left it at the end of that first section, expecting that was it, I’d achieved a piece of flash fiction and went to do the weekly shop. Ten minutes later as I was pulling into Garden City Shopping Centre I knew that wasn’t the end of it and what was going to happen next. By the time I’d got a trolley and begun the shop I was choking down tears knowing how it was going to end. I rushed home and poured it all out onto the page in a little over two hours. And it was done.

All in all, it was one of those effortless stories that you are gifted once in a blue moon,  appears fully formed and writes itself. It went out to beta readers that night who tweaked next to nothing in it (except for the alignment with a tissue box and some spelling mistakes) and since then it’s been goodwill hunting for the right home.

I’m so very glad that home is Tincture. Daniel Young, the publishing editor, has been a brilliant support of my non-speculative fiction writing since Tincture first began in 2012.

The 1st December, the start of Summer, is the perfect publication date for a story that drips with the heat and pressure cooker environment of the summer before high school. Think Duran Duran, Reef Oil and Sweet Valley High books. Then think blue cabbage hat, green zinc cream and the spin of a soggy tennis ball on sand. That’s just the start.

Many thanks to Adam Byatt, Paul Phillips and Dan Powell who all beta read it back in 2013, and also to Stacey Larner, who proof read it. And thank you to Daniel.

Congratulations and happy publication day also to Sean Wright and Adam Byatt who both have poems in Tincture Eight and Emily Craven who also shares the Table of Contents with a short story.

Here’s a little snippet of ‘First to a Hundred’.

- – -

Five minutes. Five runs. Six balls to bowl.

It’s going to be over before lunch one way or the other. I look down the churned up pitch to Dougie, wondering how I came to be the one he’s facing down. I look at the battered stumps and imagine putting the tennis ball through them, like I’ve already done three times today. I weigh up the pros and cons of a short bounce or a long bounce on the hard sand left by the retreating tide.

Or bugger it, I could just throw under arm and let him thump it out into the surf for six. Let Dougie claim his moment of glory. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter to me.

They only tolerate me because I can bowl as good as, if not better than, most of them.

“Amazing natural off-leg spin,” Gibbo commentated from the footpath, when he saw me throwing a ball against the garage door two years ago and invited me down to their summer-long game.

So each year my bowling action and the fact I can’t hit to save my life, so I don’t hog the batting order, gain me entrance to the game on the beach. Charlie says it’s really only because the Connors, who had two sons, sold up at the summer before we arrived and they were short bodies in the field. Gibbo tells me Charlie is full of shit.

It’s Jimmy who starts the chant: Dougie—clap clap clap—Dougie. It’s infectious and one by one the others join in. I throw the ball up and down as I’ve seen the other boys do and wait for the chanting to die out.

I’ve no idea what the deal is, with throwing the ball up and down, see no point to it, but I do it anyway. I’ve learned in the last two summers you find your place blending in; everything else is, as Gibbo says, icing on the cake.

SpeedPoets Call Back Final

callbackpoetEarlier this month I shared my cut-up poem. Yesterday I had the pleasure of performing it as part of my set at the SpeedPoet’s Call Back Finals. And allowing myself a moment of additional reflection, it’s a year since I first put down the first few dodgy lines of what became ‘Paper Mâché’ in the cafe area of an indoor playground post corporate Christmas party (and NaNo and 79,000 words in 28 days!).

ACCIDENTAL CALL BACK (with apologies to Andrew Phillips)

The first time you step onto a stage to perform, the last thing in your mind is winning. In fact, I’d only ever been to SpeedPoets once, to the 2013 final and had no real idea how the whole thing worked. So I was a bit gobsmacked when Simon Kindt announced back in April that I had won the Call Back slot for the month.

Since then I’ve been silently (and more recently, not so quietly) stressing about performing eight minutes of poetry. In the last few months, with my self esteem and confidence bottoming out to a new low, the prospect of writing new poetry, practicing and performing felt entirely overwhelming.

Two weeks ago, I started to catalogue in my head what I already had and hadn’t read over the course of the year. I’d been hording ‘Paper Mâché’ just in case I didn’t write anything new–which was lucky, because I hadn’t written a whole lot. There was ‘How Fossils Form When Conditions Benefically Interact’. And upon opening No Need to Reply to look at ‘Eclipsed’, the poem that closes the collection, I hit on turning the final piece ‘Closure’ into a poem. With a few simple tweaks, and then a few extra lines last week, it became ‘Body Warmth of Beginners’, a title I’ve had in my notes app for a very long time.

On the first run through, the three poems came in at 8 minutes and 11 seconds and I knew I didn’t have to look any further. Sometimes you can just be lucky.

For the last two weeks, while I battled a renewed plunge into depression, I practiced when I could–inflicting the set on unsuspecting friends (thank you Rob and Rowena) when the opportunity arose.

THE FINAL

Although I wasn’t able to get up and perform from memory yesterday, as I had hoped I’d be able, I was actually able to perform the poems, rather than just read them. And because I knew the poems well enough, there was a chance to engage with the audience from the stage during my set. There was this lovely moment, where I zoned in on a couple sitting to the right hand side of the stage and I whispered into the microphone ‘his lips pressed to the inside of her wrist’.

Chris Lynch (who read the most exquisite and sensual poem about mangoes!) and savanu (who did not crucify himself on stage although he assumed the stance of the crucified) tied as Call Back Poet of the year. But there was so much excellent poetry – Vanessa Page’s closing line was among my favourites.

As a new poet and a beginner performer, it was an honour to stand on stage yesterday with more experience performance poets. Many thanks to Helen Stubbs and Ben Payne who came along as my pit crew. Thanks also to Sean Wright and Stacey Larner who were exposing me to poetry long before I thought I might even have a chance to writing it. And also to Andrew Phillips, who insisted before he left the country, that I stop calling myself an ‘accidental poet’ and instead embrace it.

Cutting Up Depression

or how poetry came along to rearrange the pieces of the future

Last week Devin pointed me in the direction of this wiki article on Cut-up Technique. It came at a time when I had started to excavate my depression.

Part of the depression (what originally alerted me to the fact something was terribly wrong, and ongoing wrong, rather than just oscillating in and out of wrong) was my rapidly deteriorating memory. Combine that with an inability to focus and a disordering of the way my brain functioned it’s been a long slide into not being able to write. Add to that mix an absolute gutting of my confidence and it’s become a pretty lethal pill.

But I want to write.

Writing has always been my antidepressant.

To not be able to write compounds the problem.

The Techtonics of Depression

This time I see my depression like layers of earth, each one with its own characteristics and stories compacted between what came before and after. I can see where it started. I can see how over time I haven’t got better, I’ve just normalised how I felt. And with each knock back and each knock down I’ve sunk lower, normalised it and then sunk lower again.

Inside me are strata of misery and disappointment and hopelessness and bleakness and a pervading sense of being utterly lost and alone: this layer here, where the boy first refused to go to school in 2012; this one here where the school shunted us into Distance Education and called it help; here where I turned up every day to help with Distance Education, hating every minute of it; this one here where I suffered through glandular fever several months out from my 40th birthday; the one here, where the boy dropped out of school a second time after 10 weeks of being caught at school everyday and the privilege of driving hours a day to get there and thousands of dollars down the toilet; the one here, where it hit I was going to be imprisoned in my house forever with no hope of achieving anything I ever wanted to do, to watch dreams die; this one here were I came to see how I was already disappearing, becoming invisible to the suburban landscape; this one here where no matter how much others cared for me, I had stopped caring for myself.

On Cutting Into the Future

Conceptualising the last two years of depression, as one might see a core sample of earth, and with almost two weeks of gingko and positive thinking under my belt, I went in search of possible texts that I could put together to create a cut-up poem. It wasn’t exactly writing, but it was interacting with words in a creative space.photo 1I found a personal account of depression, “An Open Letter to Depression” at 20-nothings and the Oxford University of Natural History’s article, ‘How Do Fossils Form‘. I copied and pasted them into individual Word documents, tweaked the font and line spacing so the sentences ran into each other when they were folded in half. This made what I was about to create more ‘fold-up’ than ‘cut-up’.photo 2I then cut each article in half and taped them together. Immediately phrases bleed out of the jumble. Others slowly unearthed in the process of blanking out words and sentences, like a geological dig, brushing dirt from fossils. At the end of blotting out, I came across the title.

photo 3With the poem transposed from the page to the screen and assembled into lines, I moved a few up or down, cut out more words, made consistent (where possible) the tense and other mechanics for readability. And “An Open Letter on How Fossils Form When Conditions Beneficially Interact” was born.

William S. Burroughs, one of the main proponents of the cut-up technique suggested cut-ups may be effective as a form of divination saying, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” Sitting here on the cusp of being well again, I like that and how it adds another frame, another filter to the poem.

The future is one I fashion for myself, above and beyond of the bedrock of depression I’ve been trapped in.


An Open Letter On How Fossils Form When Conditions Beneficially Interact
With thanks to Meghan and Oxford University of Natural History

Just because depression is ‘gone’
means nothing.
Sometimes sleeping feels like slipping.
Happiness and well-being rot away.
The animal dies and its body sinks.
Skeletons fall from the ocean above.

Buried, explains how life may die.

The skeleton thickens as sediment,
added to depressions of life.
A story dissolves,
pressure,
and a mould preserving the shape
of the original brilliant visions
crystallise inside happy pills

Illness,
none of its internal features have
a reason to stay alive.
Reason;
medicine and therapy,
worn away
by wind and rain
and minds.

Release Day: No Need To Reply

It’s been a little over three years since I last embarked on a brand new publishing project (From Stage Door Shadows). It’s been 18 months since I last published a book through eMergent (The Machine Who Was Also A Boy). So today breaks quite a few droughts.

It’s somewhat fitting that my 13th publication is my first solo work.

Thank you to every who helped along the way–from those who got their hands dirty in the text or trained eagle eyes on the graphic design, to those who cheered from the sidelines. Even though this is a solo collection, it as always, feels like a team effort.

I hope you enjoy No Need to Reply.


“I used to think there was an unexpected freedom in unread letters. To know at the end of writing I’d be the only one intimate with the contents. Now I think it’s the worst kind of invisibility…that I’m disappearing slowly with each word.”

No Need To Reply new1Experimental in style, structure and form, the eight stories explore the pain and euphoria of finding your voice. From a man confronting the price of a lie and a woman wrestling with the legacy of her mortality, to a young girl lost in a war of misunderstandings, the collection delves into conversations that define the struggle to be heard.

ADD TO GOODREADS


TABLE OF CONTENTS

No Need To Reply
It Could Be
Squeezebox
Holding On
Olives
Shuffling
Wishing, Happily Ever After
Closure


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Buy the chapbook
$12.00 includes postage wherever you are in the world and a free eBook.
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New Collection Announced: No Need To Reply

I’ve been hinting around the social media traps for a while that something was in the mill with a collection. Anyone who follows my author page would have noted a new cover banner yesterday preceding today’s announcement!

Next Thursday, the 16th October, NO NEED TO REPLY will make its way out into the wild. It will be available as a pay-what-you-want eBook and a limited edition, numbered and signed chapbook.

The release coincides with the publication of one of the stories, ‘Olives’, on Ink, Sweat and Tears. The collection is the first part of a rolling collaborative project.


“I used to think there was an unexpected freedom in unread letters. To know at the end of writing I’d be the only one intimate with the contents. Now I think it’s the worst kind of invisibility…that I’m disappearing slowly with each word.”

No Need To Reply new1Experimental in style, structure and form, the eight stories explore the pain and euphoria of finding your voice. From a man confronting the price of a lie and a woman wrestling with the legacy of her mortality, to a young girl lost in a war of misunderstandings, the collection delves into conversations that define the struggle to be heard.

ADD TO GOODREADS


“24” – The Complete Story List

in collaboration with Claire Jansen

5313696612_f064cd9bec_oThree days before Christmas Amber lands in Australia to celebrate the festive season with Ben. But he’s not expecting her or the news she brings. Her presence sends radial fractures into Ben’s life and those close to him, from his sister to his lover and beyond.

Told across a single day, through the eyes of five characters, ’24’, delves into the complexities of the relationships closest to our hearts.

“24” – 06:00

“24” – 08:00

“24” – 10:00

“24” – 12:00

“24” – 14:00

“24” – 16:00

“24” – 18:00

“24” – 20:00

“24” – 22:00

“24” – 00:00

“24” – 02:00

“24” – 04:00

Image: Walt Stoneburner Time – 12:35 via Flickr

“24” – 02:00

The deserted streets with their festive lights, the 80’s music marathon on the radio and the warm wind whistling through the windows gave the night a surreal edge on the way home. Amber slept on Ben’s shoulder in the back seat and I wondered again, the wisdom in taking her home and not to hospital given the state she was in. Tiredness furred the edges of my thoughts and I struggled to keep focused.

“Remember the vibrator Aunty Sue gave Mum for Christmas,” I said and turned Springsteen down.

“Mum said how funny she was for sending her a torch without a light,” Ben said. I laughed and the tension of the last twelve hours washed away. “I was certain there was a way to make it work.” His sounded present but he was lost to something out in the dark street. “I’m going to make this work, Leesie.” He looked into the rear vision mirror and our eyes met. “No more fuck ups. Amber needs me.”

I nodded and we drove with the radio filling the silence.

The closer we got to The Old’s the sharper the salty tang in the air became. Then the ocean was there, sprawled before us, flat and peaceful under the crescent-bowl moon.

“I was thinking,” I said, turning into The Old’s street. “We were going up to the beach house on Boxing Day. You and Amber should go up instead.”

Ben didn’t answer and we sat in the driveway with the car idling and the lights fading in and out of colour in the front window.

“You always preferred that mode,” Ben said eventually. He unclipped his seat belt and gently laid Amber’s head against the seat. “Lights to bore yourself by.”

“Better than your brain melt setting.” Our words were hollow. I cut the engine and said, “I’m going in to make a coffee. Then I’d better go home.”

“Hey.” He followed me up the driveway, alone. “Thank you. You didn’t have to stay.”

“Yes, I did.” I hugged him tight and even though he was half a foot taller, he felt insubstantial in my arms, like the small, gangly boy who begged me to take him swimming.

“I wish I could say everything was going to be all right.”

“She doesn’t want to go home. She said she wants to stay here. With me.”

“No one has to decide anything tonight.” I yawned and let him go. “I’ll go in and sort the bed.”

Inside, I stopped at the Christmas tree. Tomorrow, while Ben and Amber slept, I’d come back and pull it down, give them the opportunity to put it up together. Ben needed to make memories because too soon it would be all he had of Amber.

I was about to walk past when I saw the empty vodka bottle on its side near the coffee table; a ring of hot pink around the neck when I picked it up. Ben was at the front door with Amber in his arms and I hurried to his room.

“Put Amber in my old room,” I called from the end of the hallway and closed his bedroom door. “It smells of vomit in here.”

I needed to think quickly so he wouldn’t need to know there was a naked girl passed out in the middle of his bed.

The final part of 24 will be available here at 4am.