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.

While You Were Away; A Letter

IMG_0080Tasmanian indie publisher Transportation Press’s new project  is a joint undertaking with Iranian-American writer-editor Shirindokht Nourmanesh and Twitch Tasmania. “The Letter Project” seeks to create a dialogue between one part of the world and another. I was chuffed to arrive home from holidays this afternoon to find my letter had been published earlier in the week while I was far from Brisbane, internet or mobile phone service.

To Wish A Letter Into Being

Have you ever been asked to write a letter to you in the past?

It’s one of the sappy kinds of self help exercises I’ve always detested. But somehow, in the last few years I’ve found myself wishing I could actually write a letter to teenage me, a way of saying “hey, there’s all this juicy, awesome stuff in the future. Hang in there” rather than needing or wanting to impart my hard won knowledge *cough* and wisdom *cough* (which I assume is the reason behind the letter as an exercise).

I’ve really just wanted to say, “Hey, here in the future, you get the things you want. They’re just not in the shape you want or expect them or in the time frame you wish it would happen. But it’s all here.”

Post Marked: The Past

Other than the actual practical ability to do so, the idea of sending a letter such as this into the past is based on a couple of assumptions :

  1. The way you remember the past is they way it actually was.
  2. The way you feel in the present about the past, is the way you actually felt in the past, and
  3. Past You wants to hear from Future/Present Day you.

Ah, but what if they are all erroneous assumptions and the tech was two-way?

Dear You

“Dear You” is a semi-fictious, semi tongue-in-cheek, semi-autobiographical piece that opens:

29th October 1989

Dear You,

(I’m not addressing this to “Future Me” because I’m not any version of you.)

You go to all the trouble of writing to me from the future about “that boy” but you don’t tell me who he is. Is he someone I already know? Someone I already like? Someone I have already lost? Someone I’m yet to meet?

And what the hell do you mean by “be patient…

Read on

I have Kris’s gentle nudges to thank for making me sit and write while on holiday and with only a very basic smidgen of an idea to fly a letter by the pants of.

You can read Kris’s letter here, and there’s also a letter by S.G. Larner, plus half a dozen other great pieces of epistolary writing.

Awaken the Social Media Army

And… because I am only a small way through my social media sabbatical I need your help. It transpires, getting the word out about your work without social media is the proverbial silent scream.

So… If you have a minute, please share “Dear You” on Facebook or Twitter. Transportation Press makes it simple with a bunch of social media icons on the bottom of the letter page.

And before you leave… would you or wouldn’t you write a letter to past you if the technology was available?

Image: Letter Box (c) Jodi Cleghorn 2012

Hello Silence, My Old Friend

IMG_2083My former business partner always said to be wary of me when I came calling with crazy ideas because they had a habit of catching. There is something of the catchy crazy idea in my friendship with Rus VanWestervelt. We don’t have the sort of friendship where we talk every day. We might go months without talking but you can be certain, when we inhabit the same think space, there’s a tilt of life’s axis.

Last week was no different.

But first let me back track a little…

The Social Media Sabbatical

When I was growing up television and radio were our main platforms for media consumption. The default was always ‘if you don’t like it, turn it off’ (and this was in the days when you actually had to get up off the couch to work your magic with the TV!)

Unlike no other time in my life (perhaps no other time in this planet’s history) has there been such a saturation of incoming data and a reliance of being ‘plugged in’. Last year in my fragile state, the bombardment of ‘unsolicited data’ began to take its toll on me. And it wasn’t always the general negative state of the news or inappropriate online behaviour of the minority. It was just as often a friend’s happy news that threatened to undo me.

In the end I unplugged. I announced  I was taking a break from social media, removed all the apps from my phone and steeled myself away from accessing Facebook and Twitter from my laptop. I took time, in the silence, to recalibrate. I did it several times, each time when I felt  I was unable to cope with what might come through my newsfeed. Usually it was for a week, one period lasted just shy of a month.

I was doing what I’d been groomed to do in the 70’s and 80’s. If you didn’t like it, turn it off.

This year I’ve taken a week’s break every month. I’ve taken it when I’ve felt I needed it and when I was sure I didn’t. I’ve tried to be a quiet advocate for less time engaged in online interaction and more time spent in other forms of interaction, championing as always, written correspondence (as the woman who continues to embrace her phobia of the telephone).

A Struggle

While taking time off social media has gone a long way to help me start to regain some equilibrium with my mental health, I still struggle with long term issues that stem from my son leaving mainstream schooling in 2012. It’s hard not to feel like you are not disappearing when your entire life shrinks to the size of your house. I’ve struggled with irrational ideas of being invisible and of suburbia slowly consuming me, until the point of disappearing forever. A bit like my dreams and ambitions which have been put perpetually on hold.

This year though, I’ve been trying hard to embrace the lot I’ve been dealt. I’ve been rethinking how I conceptualise myself. In March, rather than say I was a ‘shadow of my former self’ when I needed to turn down three project proposals, I looked for a more positive self expression because I’m not sure the person I was in 2011 was the best version of myself – someone who was a workaholic, who had no close friends and was barely writing. That’s hardly the best iteration of myself. The template for whom I do a compare and contrast.

So, on the way home from having coffee with a friend, as I cried barely able to see my way to walk, let along text, I said that perhaps I could think of myself as the strongest distillation of myself rather than a shadow of my former self – all the fire and heat and steam burning away all the things that didn’t really matter. At the end of it all, I had my family, my friends and my writing. Perhaps this was the strongest I had ever been, the purest form of me?

Accepting Limitations

Rather than change my limitations or mitigate them, rather than try to fix them or hope someone else might do it for me, I could instead try and own them. Make them my own. And I didn’t necessarily have to rebrand them to make them palatable.

As writers we are more often than not bound to perform within arbitrary parameters: word count, style, genre just to name a few. Given this is the world I inhabit, surely I’m able to work with my limitations (or what I perceived as them) rather than my limitations work again me.

Invisibility

The motif (aka the irrational fear) of being invisible remains indelible on my psyche, no matter what I do. The ridiculous thing is, Invisibility in any other realm would be considered a a super power  If I were to Facebook now and ask: What would you do if you were invisible for a day? I am pretty sure no one would answer: sit in a corner and cry. (And just in case you wanted to know, I’d be leaving the house without my clothes if I could be invisible for the day).

So I decided several weeks ago (and purely by accident, all this ‘insight’ is after the fact), that perhaps I could embrace my invisibility. I went to Continuum (the Victorian science fiction convention) without any one knowing. I didn’t nominate for panels. I didn’t organise to meet up with any other writers. I went as a writer, without adding any publishing credits or any other hats, to my name. While I did end up hooking up with other writers, I by-in-large lurked in the audience, knitted and soaked in the conversations around me. I enjoyed myself more than I have at any Con in the last few years. Being invisible had been far from awful.

But my extended social media sabbatical with Rus is a whole new level of invisibility.

105 Days

Rus has very fixed ideas on what he wants to achieve in the next 15 weeks. I’m more here because I can never say no to Rus, and I think it’s a really interesting social experiment, to black out all social media for 105 days. I’m hoping it’s an experiment that won’t leave anyone scared and will provide the opportunity for some enlightenment on the way.

While Rus has conceptualised our social media sabbatical as The Darkness (and yes, invisibility definitely fits with that idea) I’m thinking of it more in terms of The Silence (I won’t be getting around and wiping memories though!) I can live with my own invisibility within the world I usually inhabit by taking myself off social media and in doing so, I can seek the kind of silence and stillness that the here-right-now, at your finger tips, instantaneous type of communication and information stream doesn’t allow for.

It’s daunting though.

My life hasn’t changed since the end of 2012 when it reduced down to my home and even further, to the kitchen table where our lessons happen. Social media has always been my ‘water cooler’ – the place I’ve gone to for social interaction when I haven’t been able to have that kind of interaction in the real world. With it gone, I need to make a greater effort to stay in contact. I also need my closest friends to know that we need other forms of communication to keep in touch. Text messaging has always been my best friend, now it might have a slightly angelic glow about it. I’ll be forced to get out of the house. My son will be forced to deal with it, and come with me.

Coda

It’s one thing to own your invisibility as a concept. To embrace it. To live it over a weekend. It’s another thing entirely for it to be your default for 15 weeks. I know Rus is there, on the other end. The only catch is we both agreed to communicate entirely though letters for the duration of our sabbatical. So whatever I pour out on the page will be history by the time it reaches the US. But at the same time, in the perfect time machine a letter is, it will also be the present.

In the silence … there will be plenty of time and space to begin mending the brokenness I’ve inflicted on myself in the past six years. At no other time has the name of this blog been more pertinent: 1000 pieces of blue sky, all waiting to be fitted together.

Short Film “Golden Opportunity” for April Release

One Friday evening in late 2011, Adam Byatt and Laura Meyer fell into a Twitter discussion about how they both dreamed of seeing one of their stories made into a film. This immediately piqued the interest of Devin Watson.

On the 16th of this month, the first of the films conceived after that conversation will be released.

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John Rackham reports the Fedalitas Mandatory News

“Golden Opportunity” is the story of the Madisons — Will (Richard Alan Reames) and Maria (Ana Maria Castenades) — a couple whose relationship is on the verge of disintegrating under the brutal religious junta governing North America (Ken Dodge plays a seriously terrifying Fedalitas commander). P.J. Kaiser penned the original story for “Nothing But Flowers: tales of post-apocalyptic love” and Emma Kerry adapted the story for screen.

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Your explanation is not satisfactory.

The film owes its existence to the passion, skill, patience and perseverance of Devin Watson (director) and Dustin Masters (director of photography). Dustin became enamoured with “Golden Opportunity” early on and his persistent interest kept the script front and centre of a larger project.

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The squads are getting closer every night.

Kudos are due Devin, who put his money, time and efforts into bringing the story to the screen. Mike Bruno’s score, John Rackham’s voice over and some amazing composite shots round out what is an amazing visual transformation for PJ’s story.

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Things had gone so very wrong. First the world went wrong and then somehow they had gone wrong.

Being part of a film has opened my eyes to a brand new way of conceptualising storytelling and working cooperatively. It’s shown me a different way of taking ideas, dreams and passions to create a new accessibility to the worlds we authors create.

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Now do you believe I will do anything for you?

Please like the Golden Opportunity’s Facebook page. The film will be released next Thursday — April 16th.

For now I leave you with a sneak look inside the world of “Golden Opportunity”.

“Because, Science” is not a Valid Argument

I’ve noted a growing trend in social media, what I’m calling “Because, Science.” At it’s least extreme it is permission to structure a discussion in such a way it invites lynch mobs of people to take the piss and have a good laugh at those on the other side of the issue. At it’s most extreme, it’s the propagation of all manner of hate-speak toward anyone with differing or dissenting views, where science is used as justification for it: because science says XYZ I have the right to accompany this information with commentary that is degrading, aggressive and insulting.

I’ve realised it’s the most insidious of persecutions, because it often comes from intelligent and articulate people, people I respect and admire. People who hold themselves up as advocates for civil rights, social justice, equality and freedom of speech. The people who would stand up and rally against similar degrading, aggressive and insulting commentary on a “Because, God” argument.

And it’s sinister, because of the gag that comes with it. Why open yourself to a full frontal assault by being honest about your position, from sharing your personal experiences or the facts you’ve accumulated in your research, from being able to articulate your different point of view, to engage in a discussion, when everything is couched in vile, degrading or derisive judgement. Of people. Like you.

From being summarily dismissed and silenced.

Because, Science.

What happened to agree to disagree, without the vitriol?

I’ve always been lead to believe science was the objective exploration of ideas, and the articulation of those ideas, in theory and practise. That science was based in the rigors of methodology; of the efficacy, objectivity and transparency of results; a passion for debate and RESPECT for divergent and alternate schools of thought and the appreciation that such discussions had the potential to be a catalyst, the genesis, of the next great hypothesis. Of the next big discovery.

I want to read both sides of a debate. I want to widen my understanding, my knowledge base. I want to read ‘evidence-based’ outcomes that rely not just on empirical, ‘quantitative’ evidence but also on anecdotal, ‘qualitative’ evidence’. I want to see where these two different forms of inquiry merge and cross. How they mirror and diverge. I want to share ideas and be part of feisty and insightful discussions. I want to feel safe to do so.

I don’t want to convert you to my opinion — after all it is only an opinion and we all have the right to have those — any more than I want to be converted to your opinion. I’d like to explore your opinion, to help me understand how you came to feel like this, to believe this, maybe learn something new along they way, as I’d like to invite you to explore my opinion in the same way. I want to be respected, like I respect you.

I don’t want to read science accompanied with emotive, offensive and abusive frames and comments. I don’t want to read anything that is accompanied (intentionally or unintentionally) with shaming or humiliating language. It doesn’t matter that it’s generalised; that it doesn’t specifically name me. But it ‘names’ those who don’t agree with you, which might be me or a friend, a family member, a colleague, someone you care about. It has the potential (at best) to offend, at worst to leave someone feeling victimised, in fear of recriminations and ostracism if they were to speak openly.

When you couch your information like this, it invalidates everything you want to say. And maybe I want to hear what you have to say. It denies me the chance to have my say. Do you want to be someone who steals the voices of others?

It’s not Because Science at all. Science is just facts. Science is not personal. Only people are.

Image: Christian Mohn, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Welcome, Year of the Green Sheep

Western ideas of the sheep are in contrast to those of the East. When we think of sheep, we think brainless, follow the flock, kind of mindless behaviour. Susan Levitt writes:

The mildness of Sheep can hide an independent streak. In the wild, Sheep are surprisingly tough and able to tolerate severe weather and scarcity of food. Sheep have this natural ability to survive when one must, and are far stronger than they appear.

One of the themes of the sheep year is ‘wild heart’, to be open to love and acceptance at all levels. It is also said to be a good year to express your creative side, to cultivate beauty and artistic development. I’m a few weeks late in posting this, but yes, I am ready!

THE GREEN SHEEP

greensheepThe last time my medallion arrived before the start of the new year was was 2012, the Year of the Water Dragon. It was the last year when there was a modicum of things running to plan, of creative bliss, of feeling as though I belong to and of this world. So this year, I was on it early. And I actually spent almost a month waiting to put on my Green Sheep, beautifully hand-crafted by Kurt from A Touch of Native Beauty. It is a Navajo petroglyph of a long horned sheep.

THE YEAR OF AMPLIFICATION

It was a long way round to this years themes and I picked brains along the way, like bread crumbs until I arrived at AMPLIFICATION. This is not, and will not, be about a signal boost. Amplify is to:

  1. make larger, greater and stronger
  2. enlarge
  3. expand

It also encapsulates ideas of intensification, development and broadening. I am ready to be stronger this year. I am ready to work on longer form works – to literally enlarge and expand my creative pursuits.

To this end, I have a novella, a noveltini, a novel, a feature script and possibly some collaborative long form projects to work on. There’s also short stories and poems to craft and submit. I have chosen not to engage in any eP projects and I am grateful for the opportunity to reinvent the sabbatical I never quite got in 2013.

This is the first year I’ve had a writing partner who is unattached to a specific collaborative project. This changes the creative landscape for me. At a time when I’m still feeling the pressure of isolation and loneliness in my suburban stronghold, having Nic makes writing that little bit less lonely as an every day pursuits. It’s also means I can’t slack off. It’s one thing to make excuses to yourself. It’s another to have to make them to someone else.

May the Year of the Green Sheep amplify your hopes, dreams, opportunities, successes and the manifestation of your deepest desires.

On Saying No

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I’ve never been good at saying ‘no’. I am always afraid that no comes with it an inherent loss of the ‘big break’ or the ‘big exposure’. But with my change in circumstances in the last two years, I’ve had to really stop and assess things and how they fit, what I can contribute, what I can get out of something and how much time, energy and focus I have. It’s the kind of budgeting I never had to do.

This year I have decided there is time and space for homeschooling and writing. It’s meant having to say no to two projects already – one a potential, another an ongoing one. I’ve spent the better part of the day crying because I am not the uber organised, highly motivated, high-achieving person I used to be who could juggle multiple publishing projects with multiple authors and keep it all straight and on track. Now I’m hard pressed to just be able to write a to do and I hate myself for being unreliable and unable to function.

And while all this was going on, I had in front of me a brand new writing project, which fits all the parameters for what this year is about. Sparkling, shiny, with an in built cheer squad and loads of padding in case I fall while doing it. It’s what I really wanted. And it was just waiting there for me to get over myself.

Sometimes it’s easy to get sidetracked by everything you think you’re missing out on and in doing so, miss out on all the important stuff right in front of you.

I know I’m not the only one here who struggles with saying no. But sometimes in saying no, we create pathways to wonderful opportunities to say yes! Even if it’s just saying yes to loving yourself as the best person you can be on the day.

No Fear by VincePal via Flickr used under a Creative Commons License