Solitude or Loneliness?

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It’s been a while since I posted here. I’ve been so busy doing this and that I guess I forgot.

The last few weeks I’ve been thinking it might be nice to have a dog for company. I’ve been living alone, for the first time in my life, since I bought an apartment in late March. Sometimes the solitude is glorious; I don’t need to worry about bothering anyone when I get home late(ish), or worry about being woken up early by someone going to work. I can make as much mess as I want (I don’t because I’m a bit OCD, but that’s not the point). I can wander around in any state of dress without worrying about shocking my housemates. But other times, when I’m sitting on the couch watching some dross on my computer, or after having scrolled endlessly through social media feeds, or more often while doing both of these at once, I feel lonely.

I can’t just get up and talk to someone. I have to put effort into arranging catch-ups, or leaving the house to make new friends. It feels like hard work, and it feels like I’m always the one making approaches to see people.

I’ve noticed a couple of articles recently on what might be called a ‘loneliness epidemic’. I’ve been feeling loneliness on and off for quite a long time, probably since I was a child. I guess part of me struggles to really connect with people, and I worry a lot that people have forgotten about me; I think that’s genetic, my Nan seems to be the same. But part of me thinks that the illusion of connection that we have through social media actually makes us less connected.

I’m trying a few different things to counteract the feelings of being isolated that come up occasionally. I’ve found a good little cafe locally where I can sit and read a book, or do a bit of writing, the people working there seem friendly but I don’t know if they recognise me yet.

I thought I might adopt a greyhound, there are so many who come out of the racing industry and need to be re-homed. I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to foster a female brindle for a week as a trial, and unfortunately I didn’t even make it through the week. She was not like any pet I’ve ever met; not surprising as she doesn’t really know how to ‘pet’, but she was defiant, and hard to handle, and I didn’t feel like we bonded. In the end I asked if there was another foster carer who could take her off my hands. It was disappointing for a number of reasons, not least because it wasn’t really the dog’s fault we didn’t get on. I was also surprised by how traumatic I found it looking after a creature who was so dependent on me with whom I didn’t share a bond of affection.

I was reminded how hard it must be for people suffering post-partum depression; imagine giving birth to something that you didn’t feel connected to. It made me feel terrible to look at this dog and really resent having to fulfil her needs; toileting, feeding, exercising, and entertaining her.

I find it quite hard to admit when I can’t do something, particularly something that was supposed to be really fun like getting a dog. I’m not looking to try it again any time soon, I’m not sure that I’d be able to do it even with a dog I really loved as a person living alone. Perhaps I’ll get a fish, a colleague recommended a budgie, but I’m not keen on birds.

A lot of my time spent alone is blissful solitude, but I need to make sure I’m having contact with other people. Cultivating relationships will be important for the next year or so to ensure that I have enough good, strong relationships to keep me feeling connected. And I know I should spend less time on social media – because it really doesn’t help, but one thing at a time.

So I’m project managing an art competition!

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I’m sure you’re all aware that one of my jobs is modelling for art classes and drawing groups. I’m also heavily involved in the running of an organisation called the Life Models’ Society – a collective of models who advocate for better pay and condition for life models.

The LMS has been around for thirty years, as of 2019. We, the LMS Committee, decided as part of the anniversary year we would run an art competition. The idea is to generate more work for our models; the full competition rules are here.

It’s open to anyone in Melbourne, but you have to have made the work this year and feature an LMS model as the subject.

This is a fantastic opportunity to promote art and life modelling in Melbourne. We will be hosting the accompanying exhibition at Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park in December. It’s probably the biggest event I’ve ever organised – much bigger in scale, budget, etc. than the book launch I hosted earlier in the year.

I’m really relishing the challenge of managing the working group,  and approaching sponsors, judges, artists and models to participate. It’s taking up a fair bit of my non-work time.

I’ve been working on a novel manuscript as well, and I’m now over 52k words into a book I didn’t write as part of NaNoWriMo. After all the input I’ve had from my writing groups over the years, I think this story is one of the most polished and interesting I’ve written and I haven’t even finished the first draft!

I look forward to seeing how the competition all works out, and for the skills I’m developing in the events management arena. I’ll keep you all informed on how this progresses.

Auckland Airport

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Untitled design

I sit, headphones on, but no music playing
I can listen to things around me without attracting attention
The woman next to me on a phone call, the two men across
the way watching some code of football. Rugby I’d guess
based on the city I’m in. Slow revelation of meaning through
poetry has never been my strong suit. I don’t do well at
layering. I tend to put my subtexts into the main text.

If you were teaching my work, it would be easy for the
students. Although perhaps, as Judith Wright said,
I didn’t write that in there. Of course, the postmodernists
don’t care about the author so I suppose what I do
doesn’t really matter

The lighting is dulled, outside it’s dark, but like a casino
they don’t want too much reality seeping into an airport
People with different body clocks, different destinations
different languages, all want to sit, alone, protected from
other passengers by their books/laptops/phones/ear buds

There is half an hour until I head home
away from one family and back to another
I have created a life and a home – a settled little
nest. Friends have flown to create new nests with
new lives and young lives in tow. No one to greet me
at the airport this time, just long-term parking and
the promise of sleep in my very own bed.

NaPoWriMo Wrap-up

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I made it through the challenge of NaPoWriMo again for April 2019!

It is always a struggle to feel that my poems are any good when I do this challenge, I seem to churn out so much rubbish, but as with NaNoWriMo, the point is quantity over quality.

I will have to set aside some time to revise and review the poems I’ve written this month, although I did publish one poem here and one poem on a couple of Facebook groups for life modelling. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

The art studio

1 convener
5 minders
9 artists
21 models

A room full of nude bodies
Holding perfectly still

The sound of one voice
And scratching on paper

The knowledge that in a few
Minutes we break to eat

Working to create great art
Together sharing our vulnerability

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Seven poses over four hours by a Monash University student (April 2019)

It was written on the last day of the challenge, close to midnight, after a full day of work at the day job, followed by a four hour life-model training session. I am not particularly good at drawing, but the act of performing as a model to be drawn has been something I’ve enjoyed for over five years. 

The Life Models’ Society is having an art competition at the end of the year. I’m helping to organise it and we’re finalising details now but I may even submit a work to the competition. I’ve been thinking about something like a charcoal drawing, perhaps several figures all together, with my poems about life drawing printed on transparency over the top. I think it could look quite good – obviously dependent on the quality of the drawing(s) I manage to produce.

I spent a little less than a week over Easter with my beautiful friend Cathy and her family in New Zealand. It’s been difficult the last few years as a number of my close friends have moved away from Melbourne. It’s not the same as having them here, but knowing I can pop over and visit and have their love and warmth on tap 24 hours a day is a great comfort.

My next projects are going back to some of my incomplete prose manuscripts; I wrote 1500 words in one today despite my procrastination!

Thank you to all my friends, family and supporters – I wouldn’t be here without you, and I hope that I support you in return. Big love.

The Painter

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‘I have done five layers of background
I want to make it twenty,’ she says.
‘What’s the background of?’ I ask.
‘Just colours, like everything I do.’

‘I spent hours on this one
making the background.
I was really pleased with it –
a rich matte black
but then I got drunk when I did
the foreground and now it’s ruined.’

I don’t agree. I think it looks like galaxies or
cells joined together with shining
bridges of silver and ink, but I’m not
the painter so what I think isn’t worth much.

Her works fill her lounge room
vast pieces of converted detritus
‘These are wardrobe doors
I found on the street one time,’ she says.
Now they are covered in
splotches and splashes of riotous
flamboyant colour. They didn’t deserve
to die on the side of the road
as doors, so she saved them.

NaPoWriMo 2019 WIP

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So far I have written eighteen poem as part of NaPoWriMo this year. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re all good, but they’re not all bad either. I will probably go back to them later in the year and review them, There’s sure to be a couple that are worth working on.

I had be usual monthly meeting of the poetry group I’m a part of on Wednesday night. I didn’t take any of my new poems, I took one that I started working on in my mind while at a book launch in February.

I promise I was listening and not being distracted by my own inner genius; sorry Chris.

I am not a poet

I am a teller of stories
long and complicated ones
or shorter ones
no less complicated
each person I create
or recreate
from fragments as deep
and complex as I am

I am not literary
I prefer pulp
to dense poetic prose
but I’m a snob
adverb tags
unchecked repetition
trite tropes and
prostrate plots
enrage me

I am not an editor
in my own work
I skim over
obvious errors
I skirt plot holes
with ease
reading others’ work
I find plenty
to fault

I write in a world
between
high and low brow
a place where I
aspire to greatness
but can’t explain
what that means

I will always admire
styles different to
my own
more sophisticated
more practised
more authentic
more colloquial
there will always
be something
to aim for.

And now for some poetry

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It turns out I work best when I’m working on a deadline, and a month-long challenge is like a deadline every day.

In April I usually participate in National Poetry Writing Month. Modelled on the popular National Novel Writing Month, which I do in November, NaPoWriMo provides prompts and encouragement to help you come up with a poem every day for the month.

I’ve done this challenge a couple of times in the past. Some of the poems are dreadful and I never look at them again, some have excellent potential and are worth working on at a later date.

I have been a bit quiet here on the blog lately; I moved house last week, and into a place I bought! It feels very grown up to have a mortgage. I have a two-bedroom apartment near a park in a very nice Melbourne suburb. It feels very decadent to have a whole bedroom to spare. I may get a housemate down the track, but there’s no hurry.

I hope you’ll join me in the April poetry challenge, it is motivating to know that other people are also participating.

The month that was, the month to come

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Phew! February was the month of book launches. I had my own launch on 17 February, you can read about that here. I also attended three others: a novel, Small Blessings, by Emily Brewin, on 13 February; a poetry collection, Palmistry, by Chris Ringrose, on 23 February; and a collection of poems and photographs, Blue Milonga, by Edward Caruso on 28 February.  That’s not even counting the one I couldn’t make because my band were playing a gig. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been to so many launches in my whole life, let alone in a single month. Perhaps there’s something in the water at the moment. Each one was different, as were the books themselves, but all involved the signing table, and schmoozing of guests. Emily’s launch had the most wine, while mine had the best catering (if I do say so myself).

March is shaping up to be intense as well. To begin with, Wasted Monday are trying out a new drummer, hopefully we all agree that the relationship works and we have a full band again. Lu and I will be doing open mics around town to keep our performance skills up until the drummer is ready to join us.

I’m also moving house at the end of March. I recently made the bold, and terrifying, decision to purchase an apartment, so I now have the joys of mortgage repayments to look forward to instead of rent. At least this time I have enough notice to plan my move.

It’s also the time at work when we have an external body come to audit us, so that’s shaping up to be a pretty busy time.

My writing has suffered a bit as a result of all the stuff I’ve been doing. I’m trying to get myself back into a good writing practice but am very good at finding excuses. I have purchased, but not yet started reading, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, which is specifically about the tendency to procrastinate when attempting to do a large, long term project like writing a novel. Hopefully I’ll get around to reading it soon and it will give my a burst of renewed enthusiasm.

Things are ticking along. With a hectic last month and another hectic month approaching I hope that I’ll be able to make time for some productive writing work, apart from my morning pages which are going well. I look forward to keeping you all informed.

It’s launched!

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On Sunday I released my second novel. I decided to throw a small launch party for it.

Here are a couple of photos from the day courtesy of Stuart.

I would like to thank everyone who came along, and everyone who bought a copy of the book. I was very nervous about it, but I think it went smoothly and I hope everyone had a nice time.

Special thanks to Savannah Blaize for being the MC, to Alison for doing the lion’s share of catering, and to Lu for providing the tunes.

Discovering the Franklins is available in e-book on Amazon and other good retailers, and in hard copy from me directly.

Happy reading and thanks for the support.

Pre-order ‘Discovering the Franklins’

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I’m super excited to announce that my second novel, Discovering the Franklins, is now available to pre-order on Amazon and all other relevant sales channels!

Over the Christmas break away from my day job I finished the very last edits and I’m ready to show my new baby to the world.

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I am also having a book launch event in Melbourne for fans who are interested in purchasing a signed, hard copy version of the book. It will be February 17, 2019, from 5:00-7:00pm. If you’re interested to attend please email me for address details.

For international hard-copy readers, I can mail you a signed copy, or you can order through Amazon.

I will have copies of my first novel, Sophie’s Path, available to purchase at the launch and copies of my poetry zine.

Thank you to Charmaine Ross for the gorgeous cover, to Annie Seaton for editing, and my mum, Jenny for the beta-reading and proof reading. Thank you also to all my supportive writing buddies, my friends and by family for helping keep me on track to get this done. I couldn’t have done it without you (please buy my book!).