Possessing Beauty – The Collection

The Write on Wednesday Spark:  Possessing Beauty
Write about a collection. Write about something you or ,someone you know, collects. Think about the “why” behind the collection – why is it important to collect this particular thing? How does it make the person feel to add another piece to their collection? Is the group of objects there to be seen, to be studied or simply kept together? Write a real life story or a piece of fiction. Wherever the prompt takes you…Keep your post on the short side: up to 500 words OR a 5 minute stream of consciousness exercise. Link your finished piece to the list and begin popping by the other links. Oh, and enjoy!

The linky will be open each week from Monday to Friday. If you are playing the game, try to visit the other linkers, at least three of four would be nice. Encourage, critique and support your fellow writers.

Write on Wednesday is hosted by – inkpaperpen blogspot

 

My fingers run across the fabric, reading the texture as if it’s Braille. The delicate, fragile appearance hadn’t prepared me for the ridges of hand-cut lace and the stitched thread weaving its way across the plain linen. A cloth that has spread across tables of meals and conversations; protected, adorned and then forgotten. Folded away in a drawer or boxed in a cellar until finally released.

The cloth, with its secrets, its yellowing age spots, is piled with layers of other people’s lives, other families’ stories like the books on the table next to it. And why choose this one and not the one under it or the one that covered it. Often I don’t really know. Perhaps the design of the embroidery, or the texture of the fabric whispers to me in a way the others do not. Maybe it reminds me of a cloth that belonged to one of my grandmothers or my mother. But whatever the reason, this is the one that I need to take home. To carefully launder, clean of the fusty antique shop smell that clings to its fibres.

But it isn’t always old material that I take home to my bower. Fabric shops lure me in with the same siren call. I buy lengths of fabric for the beauty of the design and colour and then wonder what I might do with them.The irony for a lover of textiles, a hunter/gatherer of cloth, is that I’m not a great seamstress. Although I’m always optimistic that my basic ability will flourish into a yet to be revealed talent.

Some pieces I frame, so instead of decorating tables or worn as a scarf, they on my walls. A Japanese handkerchief, traditional Lao embroidered collars, a silk wrap from an Art Gallery. Fabrics too delicate to wear. Fabrics that I want to look at, dream and reminisce with.

I don’t know why I’m so drawn to textiles. Could it be that I hanker for a time of substance, when materials were kept and treasured, not made from disposable fabric with the intention of being used once only. Is it from peering into cupboards as a child and searching out my favourite doilies, tablecloths and linen hand towels to use at my grandmothers’? I don’t really know, other than it’s a way of bringing beauty, colour, and design into my life. Of mixing the old with the contemporary. An expression of my personality and the incredible satisfaction and happiness of finding an object beauty.

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Rediscovering Joy

Joy

 

Joy. It’s not an emotion most people feel very often. Happiness, contentment, a sense of achievement, they’re all far more everyday. And the negative emotions come quite easily too, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, ennui, frustration. But joy – such a small word for such a profound, enriching and powerful emotion.

My first elephant ride

 

In this year of mine that has been dominated by sorrow, with brief interludes of happiness and achievement, I have rediscovered joy. Childlike, laughter-filled, uninhibited joy – on the back of an elephant.

 

Not so graceful dismount

I’ve always loved elephants. I love watching them at the zoo.( Despite the concerns of animal conservationists, I think that elephants rescued from lives of misery and near-starvation are certainly far better off at the zoo.) It’s not just their impressive size, the rolling, exploring movement of their trunks or even the gorgeous hair that sits up like a bristle brush across their heads. It’s their gentleness,  intelligence and inquisitive natures that are so appealing.

Mae Uak, enjoying some sugar cane

So, of course I grabbed the opportunity to have an elephant ride on my recent trip to Laos. It was everything and more than I’d anticipated.

Elephant riding on the Nam Khan

 

Yes, they’re big. Yes, you’re a long way off the ground and they walk with an undulating lope that belies their heavy-connectedness to the earth. They can be mischievous and playful and just plain stubborn. But I felt secure and confident riding bareback on my elephant (knowing full well that the mahout was actually in complete control). Even if my elephant didn’t seem to understand Laos spoken with an Australian accent. (She had particular trouble with ‘how’, which is Laos for stop!)

How to control your elephant - in Laos

Feet on Elephant

As we lumbered through the Nam Khan river, I laughed joyfully, my inner child fully released and out to play. I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, stroking the beautiful elephant who had been rescued from logging work.

Mr Phun, the mahout, texting while driving

Laos is traditionally a Buddhist country, and during my day with elephants, I lived in the now. Completely and joyously.

The beautiful spotted ear

Yep, that's me on that elephant

I channeled my inner circus performer and stood on my elephant’s back in the river as it sprayed water all over me with her trunk. Joy.

Bonding over bananas

Playing

Write on Wednesday

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises – there isn’t a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment of support and constructive criticism. 


Write On Wednesdays Exercise 27   Mel suggested that we look at the “12 Days of Christmas” poem/song and select one of the days/lines for our writing inspiration. So, whether a Partridge in a Pear Tree or Five Golden Rings, write your line at the top of your page, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head. 

Your second choice is to use Coming Home (to you this Christmas), a song by Achoo, Bless You, as your writing prompt. I heard this song on the radio this morning and besides thinking that this Sydney Folk Duo have come up with the cutest, sweetest name for a band ever, I also thought the song serves up an alternative to the more traditional tune of the season.  Write down the song title, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head.
I’ve been off having a wonderful writing experience in Laos and Vietnam (more of that here). I’ve lots of work to do, but love these five minute prompts! It’s always so fascinating reading others’ interpretations too.

Three French Hens - en vacance in Laos

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Three French Hens, plump, juicy and perched on their roost. Squawking at their chicks, preening their feathers, it’s always been the same. Every Christmas, the aunties take their designated spots at the long table and pretend to ooh and ah over the bedecked table. Really, they’re trying to outdo each other. Who has the rummiest rum balls, the lightest pavlova meringue, the most perfectly stuffed, rolled turkey. Ava, Eve and Lily, the three sisters. My dad’s sisters. The youngest of four he’d spent a childhood trailing behind bossy girls who marched ahead, leading the way and issuing orders. Now he retreats to the couch,  beer in hand, an emasculated cockerel. Deaf to the clucking, wishing that like the partridge, he was alone in his tree.
You can read the other contributors at inkpaperpen blogspot

Finding the Way In (meditating on the Mekong)

Early morning on the Mekong

Sometimes all it takes is one sentence.

It might seem a bit extreme to travel from Sydney to Luang Prabang in Laos, via Hanoi to hear that one sentence, but when you’re feeling lost, extreme measures might be just what you need.

So, I’d written a first draft, 105 ,213 words. I’d received very exciting feedback and some suggestions for a rewrite. Shouldn’t be too difficult to launch into the second draft then, you’d think. Except I was completely lost. I needed to lose 20,000 words. But which words? I also needed to add some flesh to a couple of the characters, put a couple of new scenes in, possibly rethink the first three chapters. All I could do was look at the 105, 213 words, printed, bound sitting on my desk weighing me down like the stones in Virginia’s Woolf’s pockets.

I packed my manuscript, notebooks and startled bunny look and headed off for a writers’ lab on the banks of the Mekong in Luang Prabang. And joined a group of five other women who are all working on some fabulous creative pieces. All understood the challenges of the creative process, the grappling with words, structure, ideas, self-doubt and criticism. It was an extraordinarily supportive and freeing group.

Writing in Luang Prabang

Every morning we sat through a guided meditation, from Jan Cornall, and were then free to write, or wander, or cry or a combination of all three.The meditations are a very powerful tool, helping you create a visual image, a jumping off point into the deep end of ideas and character. At the end of the meditation, picking up your pen and writing is the most natural step and it’s amazing how the words flow. And it’s not just the saffron-robed influence of chanting, drumming monks in the pre-dawn.

Heading Home

In the late afternoons, we would come together as a group, read, unload, and receive feedback. It was during one of these sessions that I heard the one sentence I needed to hear. My light bulb moment. One of my fellow writers has a four book deal (yes that’s right – four books!), two of which are published and she is making good progress on the third. Her advice and experience for a novice like myself, was invaluable. Over a Kir at the French bistro, L’Elephant, she said, ‘Just go through the manuscript and get rid of any unnecessary words. That’s your second draft. Then you’ll be ready to make the third draft sing.’

Sunrise over Luang Prabang

‘Just get rid of any unnecessary words.’ I can do that. I’d found my way in.

Sunset on the Mekong

It was worth every cent in airfares, hotel accommodation, shopping and eating out in French bistros to hear that one sentence.

And more than that, I have deepened existing relationships and formed new ones. And I have stood on the back of an elephant in the Nam Khan river…. but more of that later.

From First Draft to Publication

My poor blogs have been rather neglected lately as I have succumbed to a bout of writers’ block. This isn’t the first time I have struggled with this, but it’s certainly the time when I can least to afford to be suffering from this terrible affliction.

For me, writers’ block has always been a reflection of my self-doubt and the haunting fear that I’m just not good enough to achieve my goal of being a published author. I’ve had scripts I’ve written used on an internationally screened TV drama and articles published in newspapers and magazines, but that does nothing to soothe the ragged nerves I’m facing now.

I’ve recently received the kind of feedback on the first draft of my first novel, that I would put in ‘my wildest dreams’ category. It’s been read by a top literary agent who also had a reader’s report done for me and they were both overwhelmingly positive. The words ‘a very good chance of being published’ were actually used. The agent has asked me to send in my rewrites when I’ve completed them which, at my current rate of progress,will be sometime in 2015.

Motivated? No. Scared witless that I won’t be able to deliver the goods. People talk about the second novel syndrome, for me it’s the second draft syndrome. What if I only ever had one good draft in me?

But I have a cunning plan to outwit the incredibly protective critic who is only trying to prevent me from being disappointed when my dream of publication is shattered in  the bottom of an editor’s recycling bin. And this is the first part of my plan, go public! Share the news that I am rewriting and that I have a goal to finish it by the end of February 2012.

Part 2 of the plan is very exciting. I am going away on a week-long meditative writing trip to Luang Prabang in Laos with my writing mentor extraordinaire, Jan Cornall and a group of four or five others. Everyday for a week I will have to front up and write, read my work and listen to feedback. There will be nowhere to hide, no excuses available.(Except visiting temples and elephant trekking)

I arrive in Luang Prabang on the 20th November, so instead of taking part in NaNoWriMo, I am doing my own private NaNoRewriMo, but feel free to join me. In fact, I’d love a cheer squad.  And I will take you along for the ride on my journey from first draft to (possible) publication.

Hitting Your Mark - the first draft