[Fiction] Friday: A Lovers’ Tryst

fiction friday

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for August 14th, 2009:

End your story with “Hello Jones!”

A breeze picked up from the south, shaking down the cherry blossom tree, showering him in soft pink confetti.Behind him cheers and whoops erupted as he brushed the fragrant petals from his shoulders and thighs. In a tiny green velvet box, a square cut diamond winked conspiratorially at him, as one of the facets caught the sunlight. Looking up, wispy clouds danced across the sky, taking it in turns to kiss the face of the sun before moving onwards. The ring on his finger was scratched, slightly bent out of shape from years of continual wear and it made his finger itch now, as it had been doing ever since he first met her. One last round of cheers messed with his nerves, as the sweaty young boys behind him gave away the touch football to return to their bottles of cold beer.

His heart beat faster as he flipped open the box to stare once more at the two thousand dollar gamble, reminding himself diamonds were a girl’s best friends and diamonds were forever. He hoped so as he tugged at the ring on his finger, trying to pull the band over the knuckle, cursing under his breathe that he hadn’t thought to do it before he left home.

As she approached the tree where he sat waiting, she noticed for the first time how vulnerable he looked with his long legs drawn up to his chest, his fingers playing with the slightly too long sideburns at his ear.He fought the urge to turn when he heard her approach but thrill turned to horror when he heard his wife say, “Hello Jones?”

This vignette was based on a writing exercise we completed in critiquing class on Friday.  I’ll be sharing more in my Write Anything column this coming Monday.

My Highlights of Byron Bay Writer’s Festival

top-ten-goldAfter four days of conversations, insights, revelations, tears and laughter it is hard to pull 10 highlights … but well I had a go.

1. Meeting and having chats with Nick Earls.

2. Being asked by Sam Cutler (the former tour manager of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead) if I’d pop on into the book tent for him, peeling off two $50 notes, “It’s OK, I’ll mind your bag for you” to buy Stephen Dando-Collins “Pasteur’s Gambit” and Domenico Cacciola’s “The Second Father”. Which of course I did. I told him I can’t wait for him to be on Spicks and Specks next so I can tell Dylan I bought books for that man.

3. Sharing with Gretel Killean that it is actually a weird sort of compliment for a mother to walk up to her in the airport and tell her that she read her son to sleep with her book.

4. Meeting a new Brisbane writing friend – hi Shelly! All because us Queenslanders are so crap at reverse angle parking and we happened to be trying to do it next to each other on the last day of the festival. So in a weird way have to say thanks to the guy at the hostel who didn’t turn up at all to open the office and refund my key. And thanks to said guy’s brother who did. Perfect timing.

5. Meeting the director of the Castlemaine Arts Festival and being able to swap a business card with him.

6. Hearing Don Walker read from his book Shots and sing “Angry Women” … and seeing his face light up when he laughs. What a glorious sight to behold.

7. Seeing Judith Lanigan, hula-hoopist extra-ordinaire do part of her dying swan act and sharing the crazy story about the clown-napping of 1572 – which forms some of the basis for her book. I know know that dwarves were owned by royal families and given as gifts. There has to be a Captain Juan story in that.

8. Sharing with Craig Silvey – via the microphone, that yes teenage girls do create hypothetical story situations – they just do it Dolly quiz style, rather than interrogation style – and to then ask if writing give men permission to be vulnerable.

9. Mungo McCallums recounting of an Indonesian journalist’s story of the caucus consensus among journalist of what would be sent back via newsfeed after the original Bali bombings 1. no pictures of mutilated/bloodied bodies and 2. every story to have something about the Muslim relief effort … because they were all certain the attack was from Muslim fundamentalists and were aware of the retaliation which would rain down like Sodom and Gomorrah on the innocent Muslims in Bali if they reported it like they normally reported the news. Mungo was choked up and had tears in his eyes as he told the story – illustrating why it is sometimes dangerous to pander to the public’s right to know everything.

10. Hearing the Buttery Recovery Choir, introduced by Jonathon Welch (best known for his work with the Choir of Hard Knocks) I was moved to tears to hear their voices soar and had the luck of meeting and chatting with one of the female choir members the next morning when I went in for breakfast.

These are the first things which come to mind and as I wade through my notes I’m sure many more will come to mind. I was also wonderfully looked after by the staff at Why Not! … with their amazing food, friendly service and their free wifi –if only I had have known that earlier. I look forward to going back next year. I see a tradition developing.

This Weeks Goals

goal-smSo impressed at the start of this month with Benjamin Solah’s list of monthly goals and so bloody overwhelmed at this point by all the writing ahead of me and so underwhelmed by the goals I set for myself at the start of the year – I’ve decided to trial for a couple of weeks publicly posting  my goals for the week.

Well actually, it’s really just a glorified to do list. I’ll return and mark them off as they’re done. Normally I’d write this sort of thing in my diary and forget about it!

1. Write and post my Write Anything column

2. Write up my experiences of Byron Bay Writers Festival

3. Write my breastfeeding column

4. Resign my position as Breastfeeding Editor

5. Email Kate Eltham of Queensland Writers Centre in regards to eMergent Publishing

6. Critique the stories for class on Thursday

7. Finish this draft of Graceville for class on Thursday

8. Finally write up my discussions with Constantine about Fourth Fiction (decided these were so out of date now given we’re a round into the competition and Dan Powel has been doing some pretty hard core critiquing of the entries.)

9. Find a replacement writer for Chinese Whisperings

10. Finish Skinny Dip so I can move onto my swag of books from the Writers Festival

11. Book sessions for the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Monday: I marked one off (WA column) – and have written several posts about Byron … so I could almost cross two off – but I wont. Have also contacted Paul about the need for a new CW writer.

Tuesday: got onto finding a new writer – and as always happens Paul waved his magic wand and found someone. This was all done after getting just about no sleep – which is why it’s a good thing Paul was in charge of it.

Thursday: did the last crazy dash down the line to get all of the stuff done for class. Including having a suitable re-write available for next months crit class. And spoke in person to Kate Eltham after class last night and got the name of an accountant who can help us out with eMergent … and she accepted an invite for lunch to discuss the project further – woo hoo!

Saturday: wrote my opening paragraph for Fourth Fiction and a short vignette for Fiction Friday – both not on my to do list!

Sunday: finished Skinny Dip. Did the final re-write on my Write Anything article. Two in the one week!

Strange Cross Roads

too many babie - letchLast year I had a dream I was asked out on a date by someone I really admired at the time (and no – for those who have been following my thrilling mini adventures in meeting Nick Earls – it was not him. But it has a connection to my escapades at last year’s Byron Bay Writer’s Festival.)

In the dream, as we were leaving the hall we had been in together, some beautiful hand made cards caught my eye and I stopped to look at them. When I left the hall to catch up with the gentleman in question he had gone. Swallowed and dissolved by the crowd.

When I woke up I was left with the terrible feeling of having lost something important to me, because I’d been distracted by pretty, sparkling things.

I revisited the dream a few weekends ago – the same man, similar circumstances and the same message. Keep your eye on the ball Jodi!

The dream came at just the right time.

Last Monday I saw a new story shape up before my eyes. Like the Facebook Lactivist story I had the feeling it was big AND it was newsworthy. But the Facebook/Lactivist publishing debacle had taught me enough lessons to know what to do with my story – and what was the most important thing at the end of the day – which surprisingly enough to NOT money.

So I put some feelers out through Facebook – to see how many women and babies were affected by QANTAS’s booking system not imposing the safety limits on infant booking and the time of registration and payment.

After a number of windfalls – including the wonderful Jo Hunter picking up the ball when I dropped in Tuesday and going to the Sydney Morning Herald … after QANTAS didn’t call back, the Courier Mail didn’t pick the story up and Dave’s mother who is staying mentioned to me “this writing business” was fine for single people who didn’t have a child and a house to care for. The story was picked up by wonderful Kate Benson who offered half way through our first telephone conversation the chance to collaborate on the story.

The article which appeared under a number of different titles (including “Too Many Babies Cries QANTAS”) across the Fairfax media was published on Thursday.

I spent the entire day unable to buy a newspaper nor get to the internet. I had Dave between meetings describing the cartoon attached and the leading sentence. Kate Benson left a message on my phone checking to see what I thought of the story (because I didn’t actually write the article – just did all the grunt work behind the scenes getting people who wanted to talk and sharing the bones of the story) And between sessions in the marquees, I checked into Facebook on my mobile.

I missed seeing my story as the lead story on the SMH website (though I do have a print out thanks to Dave of what it looked like!) and I didn’t hear it as a story on ABC radio – but was told by both my gorgeous friend Robbi in Melbourne and Nick Earls two days later when I finally got around to having him sign my copy of Butterfish. It was weird to have put all this work into a story not to see it realised in the media. In the fuss and the excitement of the festival I didn’t even get a chance to call my parents and let them know.

But I liked the quiet irony of that. After all – the last story wasn’t realised in the media because I didn’t know how to play ball and misplaced my loyalty. And I liked the fact the first person I got a chance to share my tiny little writing triumph with, outside of my direct family or the women involved, was Nick Earls. It is a strange strange world that I was living in last week.

So in that weird fashion – where exciting roads cross … I have this written in the front of my copy of Butterfish.

nick earls inscription

Julia Cameron says in the Artist Way the Universe is abundant, we just often choose not to accept the gifts and opportunities which It provides us with. My experiences last week showed me Universal gifts while given freely and readily aren’t realised with ease – but they are all worth the work.

Read my Write Anything column Influenced by One Sensible Sentence about meeting Nick Earls.

Deperately Seeking My Tribe

I’ll be honest here (am I ever not!)  Had I been more observant I would have discovered days ago the wonderful culinary hang out which is Why Not! has free internet.  Anyway – all if not lost, I know they have it now.

Had I know I had the ability to get on line, on my computer and connect with everyone perhaps the last two nights would have not been so horribly lonely.

There is something about coming to a festival that makes me feel like I am a walking example of being lonely in a crowd of people.  I had it last year and was hoping this year my business plans with Paul would allow him to fly here this year.  But the business trajectory didn’t quite have the life I’d dreamed of as I sat in this exact same seat a year ago.

It made me realise how much I rely on my online connection to nourish and sustain me both as a writer and as a person on an everyday basis.  And how being without the internet can feel in some way, like having had a communications lobotomy. If only though I could forget I have a deep yearning.

I was a groupie as a young woman. I loved to hang around musicians because I loved music … and I so desperately wanted to belong. And there are simliar lines in attending a writers festival.  I long to be part of the crowd.  And it doesn’t even have to be the ‘in crowd’  of popular or famous authors – though I would be lying if I said that wouldn’t be lovely – the change to shoot off any number of questions in a private setting. I wish I was belonged.  Wish someone would take pity on me and sweep me off into the social malstrom with them.

Alas .. here I am … sitting alone at the bar, waiting for my mojito – looking at a similarily solo man at a table across from me … but I won’t venture over. And hoping there will be no forlorn phone calls to Paul from the beach later on.  I think I’m on top of it.

Instead I will relish the brief interludes during the day.  The serenpiditous moment of sitting next to the director of the Castlemaine Arts Festival this morning and slipping him my business card. Of sitting next to the lovely Lori this afternoon who shared her delicious dolmades.  The fact that Nick Earls not only remembered me (yes I’ll share the story on Monday on Write Anything) but managed to immortalise my moment of “fame” on Thursday when he signed my book (photo pending).  Small talismans, where you could possibly get lost in the bigger picture.

Now back to my mojito which has the kick of rocket fuel.  And who knows.  Perhaps I might invite that solo man over for a chat.  He’s got to be a writer.  Byron Bay is currently crawling with them.

Hero Worship: no pressure style

hero worshipIt never really occurred to me where the word “fan” came from.  The word has been part of my vocabulary forever and is one of those words I’ve never thought too much on the origins of.  That was until we watched the Dr Who episode last week, the one from the first series with Christopher Eccelston where he and Rose meet Charles Dickens.  Dr Who comments “I’m you’re number one fan,” and Dickens looks at him as if he has two heads and asks “Fan?”

Fan is an abbreviation/derivative of fanatic (though others will argue is comes from baseball terminology “fancy”). Of course – why had I never thought of it like that – fanatic.  I guess in our world of fanatics and fundamentalists a fanatic has come to mean something a little more sinister than an avid follower.

Semantics aside, I am a huge fan of author Nick Earls who is one of the writers appearing at the Byron Bay Writers Festival this weekend – my one solo holiday a year which I pass off as professional development.  Nick is a Brisbane writer who I first came across in 2002 when I got a deal on his book Perfect Skin and an omnibus by Ben Elton.  While I really enjoyed Elton’s work, I’ve never sought out another of his books.  Nick on the other hand … I have five of his books sitting in my book case.

Reading Perfect Skin on the public transport became a public humilation hazard for me. On one trip from Altona station into Flinders Street I caught myself, not just laughing out loud (to the bemusement and horror of other commuters) but howling out loud, tears running down my cheeks. I remember reading one of the passages about Flagg to Dave when we were first together.  I’ve always wanted to know if Flagg really happened to someone – because no one’s imagination is that warped.

Through Perfect Skin I got my first taste of what Brisbane might really be like.  So when we moved here a few years later part of me felt like I knew Brisbane. In 2007, on the way to singing group I drove down Coronation Drive and saw Toowong Village for the first time.  “Oh that’s where Jon and Ash did their shopping” was my first thought – even though Jon and Ash are fictional characters who’ve never been in Toowong Village – much less caught in a traffic jam on Coro Drive! Or needed to pay attention so as to go the correct way at the insection there.  But Nick made them real enough that I could think they do shop there.

It is from Nick’s books that I’ve learnt to appreciate and not cringe from celebrating location in my writing – the location in this instance Brisbane.  His writing has challenged me to ask myself – how can I include the beautiful, vibrant city I am lucky enough to live in, in my stories, in unique ways.  I’m no longer shy to pull out the obscure and the well known landmarks. I pay attention as I move through this city – always observant.

I set my NaNo manuscript in a futurist Brisbane last year – with part of the narrative twist hinging on the perfume of the Jacaranda trees and my MCs phobia of them. I also wrote Graceville (and am still rewriting it) – firstly as a generic short story then as a story embedded here in the suburbs of Brisbane.

Earlier this year I read ZigZag Street – Nick’s first adult novel.  I used to part my car a block up from ZigZag Street in Red Hill when I had my hair cut to Rokstar – which was just up the road from where my dear friend Anna and her family used to live.  My soul sister has a painting of Zig Zag street in her home so it has always been something of a Brisbane Talisman in my cultural psyche.  While I was reading Zig Zag street my writing friend Edwina rang to arrange our first writing group for the year. I mentioned what I was reading and she laughed.  “Oh the house in that, that’s where my sister Tash lived.  She’s a friend of Nick’s.” She went on to ask if I had got to the chopping bit in the kitchen – which I hadn’t.  “He got that from Tash.”

I honestly thought second hand stories about Edwina’s sister was the closest I was ever going to get to ever meeting Nick.

Not one to publicly pontificate myself at the feet of someone I admire – I had been chatting to my friend Catherine over the weekend about my Byron Bay pact to have Nick Earls sign a copy of his latest novel The True Story of Butterfish. I’ve never done that before.  Never thought to get an author to sign a book or anything like that (though I did once contemplate having The Chaser sign anything which may have been handy to carry their signatures but couldn’t be stuffed standing in line to do so at the Tivoli after the Annual launch in 2007) But every Byron festival has to have it’s tiny challenge for me (one day I will fess up to what I did last year!)

This week in my Write Anything column I discuss mentoring in writing.  In the wonderful sandbox which Dale has created for the end of our posts I wrote:

Jodi Cleghorn will be chanting “I am open to receive” as she prepares for her yearly pilgrimage to the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival this week. Also “I will string together a sensible sentence when I meet Nick Earls.”

When I went in after dinner there was one comment on my article – from Nick Earls himself.

“Okay, now you’ve got me waiting for that sensible sentence. No pressure though.”

Well bowl me over with a feather!! No pressure. It is not every day your favourite author makes comment on the writing blog you are a regular writer – infront of all your peers so to speak.  So now I can’t back out. At least I hope Nicke read my article and can see I am able to string together a sensible written sentence if my verbal skills defeat me at Byron!

So tomorrow I will be taking myself off to Borders to buy my copy of The True Story of Butterfish for Nick to sign.  And maybe after all these years, if I can string together a sensible sentence I will be able to ask him about Flagg the cat (though that may not be so sensible) or at least say thanks for the influence he has had on my writing and the many hours of howl out loud laughter he’s brought to my life (and to others unlucky enough to be in my vicinity at those times)

Never underestimate your power for manifest what you truly want in life!