Over half way to May!

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This is just a brief update post on what’s happening in April. Things have been progressing well in my world. So far I have completed my poem each day (not today but shhh) as part of NaPoWriMo and making good progress on the show for the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Firstly, the poetry. I’ve been writing everyday, which has been great. I’ve been hand-writing my poems, and then transcribing them onto the computer for posterity and editing (of which I have done little). So far most of the poems have been on the ranty end of the spectrum. There are one or two with potential to become something more polished. I wouldn’t show the raw poems to anyone, but as a way of getting some stuff out of my brain it’s been very effective.

I try not to judge the quality of my first drafts, but it’s a challenge to stay away from that judgemental thinking.

Last Sunday I attended a workshop run by one of the writing groups I’m a member of, the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild. We had well known author and all around champion human C. S. Pacat to talk about world building. It doesn’t sound much like romance at first but creating a sense of authenticity to the setting is important in any book, especially in fantasy or sci-fi.

The part of the workshop which really stood out to me was the idea of the creative phase versus the skeptic phase. The creative phase is when you write down every idea that comes to you. You ascribe no value to it. The skeptic phase is when you then go back and evaluate whether the ideas will ‘work’, if they’re practical, or derivative etc. Pacat said that these two types if thinking inhibit each other and doing them at the same time will not produce good results.

I’m very good at critiquing ideas as soon as they come to me, which is not very useful creatively. I’m sure it’s a skill, like any other, to allow yourself to ‘go mad’ in the first phase, and really hone in in the second phase. I aim to improve this skill set in future.

Secondly, Melbourne Fringe Festival registrations are now open. This means we’re de-prioritising script development to focus on venue selection and application submissions. I’ve also bought a bunch of materials to start making puppets, which is for later, but I’m excited to get started on them.

Alex and I attended a ‘venue speed dating’ event yesterday run by the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Artists and venues were brought together to meet. We spoke to a number of great potential venues, several of which I would not have otherwise approached.

It’s still all very up in the air and I can’t tell you anything more. Watch this space for an image reveal in a few weeks – Fleur and Alexandra are Out of this World and they’re coming to a theatre near you.

Things are chugging along happily for me, I hope things are coming along for you too.

NaPoWriMo 2018

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I did NaPoWriMo two years ago. In the last few months I’ve had loads of compliments for my poetry chapbook, My Body. No Apology, so I’d like to produce some more poems and make a follow up chapbook.

Much of the raw material from NaPoWriMo last time was not so great. I guess it’s all first drafts and they don’t always work out anyway, but surely one or two will be useful.

I’m not very good at having a daily practice; I get distracted with the band and other projects. I do write faithfully every week, particularly on my days that I don’t work.

I’m just coming out of a particularly busy period at work, preparing for our yearly external evaluation. As a result of doing some extra work, and being part time, I will have eleven days off, including the Easter long weekend, so I’m going to write. In addition to my poem a day, I’ll be finishing some additions to my manuscript from last November.

The manuscript will go into a Box Set with a number of romance authors. It will be released as a collection of short novels/novellas, and we’ll be self-publishing them at the end of the year. More on that as it gets closer.

During that time off work, I’ve rented a little cottage in country Victoria for a few days of walks by the lake, coffee, and catching up on my reading pile. Bliss!

I’m constantly inspired by the productivity of other writers and artists and I know once this stressful period in my day job is over my energy for creation will be back in full swing.

Is anyone else planning to spend April doing a poem each day? Let’s be writing buddies.

Metamorphosis

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When I was fifteen
I built a website
a fan page to a band
I filled it with my poems
I used words over and over
blood death bones hate
Repetition with no subtlety
stuff to make
a Gothic novelist cringe
obsessed with bodily functions and decay
with the cold and the dark

the website still stands and
though I know the password
it can’t be changed
my teenaged rage is encased forever
in the graveyard of the internet

each passing hour, week, year
each word that comes from me
I learn, I change

I won’t awake one morning
from troubling dreams
 to find myself changed
into a monstrous vermin
but perhaps my transformation
will produce some art of worth
from my rotting flesh prison

Too busy? Me?

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I read an interesting article on the saying no to the Cult of Busyness yesterday. It advocates doing only one thing at a time, and I can’t say I’m completely on board with that, but I do think that our society undervalues down-time.

I’m particularly bad at this, juggling a few competing priorities; social contact, work, creative activities, outings and rest time. I have a bunch of projects on the go, including a couple of writing projects, two music projects, and one theatre project. I like to get as much value as I can out of my time, but last night as I lay in bed not sleeping I felt oppressed by the sheer number of balls I was trying to keep in the air. It doesn’t help that my day job is particularly busy at the moment either.

I will be able to take a bit over a week off around Easter, partly because I am working a bit more in the lead up to our big assessment. I’ve arranged to go to a little cottage near Lake Eildon for four days, just on my own. I plan to go for walks, get coffee, eat out, write in my journal, read a nice book, and possibly get some ‘proper’ writing done.

I will never be able to do one thing at a time, that’s not my style. I think I operate well when I can give things time to stew in the back of my mind while I’m doing something else. I can get better at scheduling in times for resting, and exercising.

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Here is a photo of one of my favourite bands, a local Melbourne crew called Destrends, who I saw yesterday at the Sydney Road Street Party. Apologies for the quality of the photo, they kept moving (and I didn’t get the drummer, sorry Nathan). I’m glad I went, but after a really intense Saturday I didn’t have the energy to hang around and soak up the atmosphere.

Once work is less busy, I’ll be heading to some Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows, and getting stuck into a week off! While I’m doing that I’ll practice saying no to (some) things.

Baby Steps vs. Leaps of Faith

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I’m not going to talk about the fact that today is Valetine’s Day and I am not seeing anyone.

I’ve recently started attending a Meet-Up group called Abundant Artists. The purpose is to get together with other local artists, predominantly working in visual art, but there are some performers too, and discuss what you’re struggling with and what you’re working toawrds. We talked about the ways in which we sabotage ourselves, procrastination is one of my big ones, and the things we fear.

So I’ve been thinking about the next steps for my writing. I could keep going with baby steps, learning about creative writing through various short courses and workshops and producing manuscripts, or I could take a leap of faith and dip my toe into self-publishing.

My leap of faith is to engage a professional editor to look over my Choose Your Own Adventure Novel. I think this is a good book to test out self-publishing with; it has a lot of nostaglic appeal to 90’s kids, and it’s probably a bit weird for a big publisher.

It’s expensive to have a manuscript professionally edited, but it’s an investment in my future career. If the experience is positive, and the feedback constructive, then I’ll look into having other manuscripts edited for self-publishing.

I’ve also entered by manuscript ‘My Mother’s Secret’ into the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. I entered last year and was not shortlisted, but this is a new story and a new year, so I’m hopeful!

Finally, I created a poetry chapbook – a small collection of my work – which I’m going to take to The Sticky Institute. Sticky specialises in zines, so it’s the right place to test out the market for angry feminist poetry.

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Poetry chapbook pic from my Instagram

I would like to thank everyone who has told me it’s worth investing time and money into my art/writing. Without you I would never get through those days when it all seems pointless. With you I have the confidence and resilience to keep on keeping on! Whether it’s one small step forward at a time or one giant leap into the unknown, I know you’ll all be there to catch me.

PS: I’m still accepting donations towards my Get Hairy February campaign.

Get Hairy February

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Some of you may have realised by now I have feminist leanings. If you haven’t you haven’t been paying attention.

I recently came across a campaign called Get Hairy February. Founded by Alex Andrews, the concept is simple; grow out your body hair for the month of February, spruik the bush, get people to pay you money for it, and the money gets donated to organisations working with people experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault.

For more info about what the campaign stands for, background and further reading, go to their beautiful website.

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Me, with bush, photo by Jamie MacFadyen, courtesy of Get Hairy February.

A while ago a Facebook group I’m in put out a call for women who choose not to remove their body hair to model for this campaign.Of course I put my hand up!

The shoot was held in an enormous warehouse/photography studio in North Melbourne. There were seven women involved, including the founder Alex. Photographer Jamie MacFadyen was behind the camera and, under direction from Alex, helped with the art direction.

As well as individual photos I participated in some group ones, you’ll have to follow GHF to see those. The two photos in this post will be used for publicity for Get Hairy February on social media. Everyone involved volunteered their time, and were lovely to work with.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Alex about what my hairiness means to me. Talking with her, I realised how much internalised misogyny I carry around with me, especially about the hair. Externally it may appear that I don’t care what people think of my gender presentation and my hair but I do. I don’t want to be shouted at in the street because I don’t see the point of adhering to beauty standards that involve painful and time consuming removal of my natural hair.

Then again, I frequently wear make-up, I wear sleeves and stockings at work, but I tell myself it’s to cover the tattoos on my arms, and not the hair under them. I guess how I present myself is not an all or nothing affair.

Now that I’m one of the faces of the campaign, I’ve signed up to fundraise. Go here to donate to my page: https://www.gethairyfebruary.org/fleur-blum

I encourage you to free the bush, even if it’s just for February. If your bush is already free wave it in the wind! If you have some money, give it to the campaign, it’s good.

Let’s raise awareness of oppressive standards of beauty and help end gendered violence.

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Me, with bush, photo by Jamie MacFadyen, courtesy of Get Hairy February.

Not Enough

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I’ve been having a somewhat difficult week. Nothing has happened to make it tough specifically, more a lingering, nagging feeling that something’s not right.

I was thinking about this riding my bike home from work last night. The feeling I’ve been having this week is most easily summed up by the phrase “Not Enough”.

  • Not thin enough
  • Not smart enough
  • Not fit enough
  • Not kind enough
  • Not tough enough
  • Not pretty enough*
  • Not likable enough
  • Not productive enough
  • Not patient enough

A subset of these can all be prefixed with “Not Good Enough:”

  • At my job
  • At being a friend
  • At being a writer
  • At Fringe Shows
  • At playing bass
  • At singing
  • At taking care of myself
  • At taking care of others

…I could go on.

Now I’ve named the feeling, it’s a little better. I know that I’m beating myself up using completely unrealistic standards. That’s one of my go to though patterns.

It’s possible that I’ve been stressed from work, or from some other thing, and I’m projecting this stuff onto the feelings of discomfort. Knowing myself a little bit now, I’m getting overwhelmed by trying to do everything and then getting really down when I can’t do everything I had wanted to do.

It’s hard retraining my brain. Especially when something external taps into underlying feelings about myself.

Last weekend I went to a Meetup group for creatives to meet and encourage each other to move past our blocks and self-sabotage behaviours. My initial thought was it would be hippy dippy bullshit, but I went along and tried to keep an open mind.

The organiser was very careful to create a safe space for people to share their experiences and the other members were cool and diverse. I’m keen to see what comes out of it, even if it’s just a new group of people to hang out with.

I’m nearly finished my fourth round of edits on a choose your own adventure novel which I may self-publish as an ebook, or potentially online as a free story using twine. I need to do some more research before I commit.

But back to the topic. Now I’ve discovered the unacknowledged self-talk which has been stressing me out this week, I hope to have a refreshing and moderately productive weekend and start next week knowing I am enough, I’m doing a good job and everything will be okay.

*PS: I apologise for anyone who now has this song in their heads.

Was it Worth the Price of Admission?

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A few weeks ago I started working on the new show which Alexandra and I will be performing at the Melbourne Fringe festival in September. Currently titled ‘Fleur and Alexandra are Out of This World‘ it will be a pseudo-sequel to our last show, ‘Fleur and Alexandra Save the World’.

We’ve got a plot and we’ve started drafting the script, so we’re well on our way. I’m getting excited designing the puppets and set dressing and coming up with jokes and then late last week Alex suggested that we submit our script to a competition run by the Australian Writers Guild (AWG). I’d never heard of them, but apparently they’re THE people to talk to about writing for the screen/stage/radio in Australia.

The competition promised a cash prize which was to be used for development of the project, as well as the opportunity to pitch the Head of Comedy at the ABC. It looked good and I told Alex I was keen.

She did all the work to get the script from the first show into a screenplay format and down to 30 minutes, as well as most of the work to come up with plots for additional episodes (we needed to pitch six episodes).

Then we read the fine print – we had to be members of AWG. It was $210, double that of the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA). It didn’t really seem like something I wanted to sign up for, but if I wasn’t a member we couldn’t submit to the competition.

In the end I decided that it was worth it for the prize. I would do my best to get value out of the membership while I had it, but it got me thinking about the value of professional memberships, especially in the arts.

I’m a member of the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, who meet once a month. The meetings and writing retreats are immensely valuable for both motivation and learning my craft. Writing is so often a solitary pursuit and meeting others in the flesh really helps you not feel alone.

I’ve been a member of the RWA, however the membership expired this month and I haven’t decided if I’ll renew it. I would have access to discounted rates for the conference, which I’m not going to this year, and to the online writing courses, but both of those can be purchased without membership, although one has to be a member to enter their competitions too.

I’ll do some more thinking about the pros and cons before committing. The RWA doesn’t have meetings I can attend regularly, which makes it feel like a much more ephemeral membership.

The tight-arse in me is skeptical of spending money on something for which I don’t earn any in return. Then again, I’ve paid for writing courses, I’ve paid for acting classes, I’ve paid for rehearsal spaces, and I’ve paid to record an EP.

Perhaps thinking of these things as strictly transactional is not helpful; measuring what’s put in against what comes out. It’s also possible that these transactions will have payoffs down the line. Networking with people in these memberships could end up creating an opportunity which bears fruit, or one day I’ll be rich and famous and all the money and time I put in will pay dividends.

We’ll have to wait and see, I guess. On the plus side, I now have a membership to AWG, an opportunity to win a sweet prize, and the seeds for four new shows. At least we won’t run out of material!

Hello 2018!

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I’m writing this a few days early because I’m going to a music festival over New Years. If you’ve read my Reflections on 2017 you’ll know that I’ve had a pretty productive year.

There were some ups and downs, especially this last week around Christmas. It’s always a weird time when people go away, have family commitments and there’s sort of nothing to do. It sounds relaxing but I find it hard.

My family lunch was good, my grandmother was mostly inoffensive. I was given a hammock and stand which I’m taking to the festival – it’s books in the hammock in the morning and music in the afternoon.

What are my goals for this year then, I hear you asking. Well, here they are:

  1. Win NaNoWriMo 2018
  2. Enter 5 writing competitions
  3. Redraft ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ and publish it online (from 2017)
  4. ‘Fleur & Alexandra are Out of This World’ Melbourne Fringe Festival Show
  5. Edit ‘The Discovery of the Franklin’
  6. Submit ‘My Mothers Secret’ and ‘We Can’t Have Nice Things’ to publishers
  7. Perform with the new band regularly
  8. Two blogs per month

The big one in terms of time commitment is the Fringe Show. The show I did last year was a six-months-long intense project. We’ve already started work on the new show; we have a plot and we’re ready to start drafting the script. We’re already way ahead of where we were last time.

I’m also considering entering a self-published box set with a contemporary romance story of ~25k words. I think I could use the project I did for NaNoWriMo in 2017 for this, so that will be another job to put on the list if I commit to it.

I’m thinking of taking some evening acting classes. I’m a pretty confident performer and there is always room for learning and improvement.

On top of these goals I will do my best to make time for exercise, good eating, friends , live music and all that other normal stuff.

My blog activity over the last year has been a bit slack. I’m going to aim for two posts per month, but I also want to have good content. If I don’t have anything good to post, I won’t put anything up, but with all the projects I’m working on, I’m sure I’ll have material.

As always, 2017 had it’s highs and lows. It’s time to close that door, learn what I can and move into the next phase. I hope next year I’ll be in a more stable place and that stability enables me to create more consistently.

All the best for the new year. Bring it on 2018!!

 

Reflections on 2017

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve done over the year even though there are still two weeks left of 2017.

If I made a list of what I did this year it would be sort of inadequate to express what I’ve achieved. I’ll try to make this an interesting reflection on the things that went well and the things that didn’t go so well for me in 2017.

Writing

My commitment to my writing this year has had a few challenges. I finished a manuscript that I started last year in NaNoWriMo. It was 104,000 words at the end of the first draft in July. I pitched the manuscript to three publishers at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Brisbane in August. Of those three, two wanted to see it. I thought I was finally getting the hang of this writing thing.

Since then one has come back to me with a no, the other hasn’t yet replied.

I participated in a weekly workshop for much of the year. Unfortunately that workshop became something I dreaded and sucked the joy out of my writing. I suspect the other members didn’t like my style, and so looked for something positive to say, but it felt forced. As a result, I felt like a fool even when I got positive feedback.

I’ve also written about 50,000 words on a new story, this year’s NaNoWriMo project. I’m considering using it for a self-published collection coming out next year. The story is reasonably solid, and it will need a bit of work to get it into shape.

Finally, I entered three writing competitions. I had aimed for five, but it didn’t quite happen. Perhaps I could count my pitches as competitions.

I’ve learnt the valuable lesson that I can’t listen to all criticism all the time. Not least because it depends who you ask. Editing is a skill I’d like to improve however I became so disheartened trying to please everyone that I didn’t even want to read my own story. From now on I’ll try to be more discerning in taking on critique.

Music

I joined Hello Volume in September of 2015. The three band members and I got on well, we were great at improvising and jamming out new material and I really enjoyed the process. One of my goals for 2017 was to get Hello Volume performing regularly, as well as working on new material.

Unfortunately, as of last month, I am no longer the bassist for Hello Volume. My priorities for the band were not the same as the other members, and I chose to move onto another project which was more in line with my personal goals.

Hello Volume played a number of cool gigs while I was involved: the Bendigo Hotel and the Workers Club, and open mics at Cherry Bar and Mr Boogie Man Bar. Thanks for jamming with me.

I wish the band all the best for the future and I’ll keep you in the loop with regards to my new project.

Day Job

I’m slowly coming to accept most art creators have a day job. There are lucky humans out there who make their living from their art, and that gives me hope. Most creative people I’ve met over the last year have jobs in the ‘real’ world.

It doesn’t make me any less of an artist that I have a job. I keep telling myself that. Artists have to make opportunities for themselves, self-publishing or putting on an independent show, or finding music performance opportunities, for the love of the art. If there’s some monetary reward then that’s a bonus.

It saddens me the world is structured like this. We are a society who doesn’t like paying for art. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. I work hard for my money and I often don’t value art with my dollars.

My day job has been going along pretty well since my new boss started in late July. It’s probably sadistic of me to say I feel validated she’s getting frustrated by the same roadblocks I was before she started.

 

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Relaxing with my backyard banana lounge and a book (not pictured)

Overall, I think I’ve achieved a lot and learned a lot this year. I’ve done many things I’d never done before. I coped with some pretty difficult life crap too, like being evicted from my home with three days notice (the building was unsafe) among other things.

I think I’m starting to get a handle on the things I need to do to keep myself happy. I’m allowing myself to sit with my feelings more, particularly anger and loneliness. After having four good friends move away from Melbourne last year I’ve been looking for new people to hang out with. It’s a slow process.

Next year is looking busy and exciting. I’ll be doing my annual New Year’s Goals soon so stay tuned!