Mowing at 6.40AM is a Good Thing

I didn’t think so, either.

This morning, oh dread, my mower-man started mowing at 6.40am. I thought, there goes my writing time! But no… Rohan slept through the mowing and brush cutting — sounds which he hates. So I got to write a thousand words on a collaboration, and a couple of poems. And Rohan got to avoid all the anguish of whining grinding machinery. And I didn’t have to try to comfort his ‘scared ears’. That’s what he says… “It’s scaring your ears.” (He doesn’t use ‘I’ and ‘you’ properly, yet.)

January has been awash with words, thanks to Magic Puppy challenges of journalling and poeming. I also set the goal of getting through my ‘Neve’ novella second draft within about six weeks (as part of a Magic Puppy challenge), and I’ve made some progress. I wanted to add 20,000 words, which might not work. But I am a lean writer in my first drafts, so it might happen.

And I stalled that to work up Sequestration of Chaos to submit to SF&F, which is done. It’s not as polished as I’d like (what, ever, is?) but I thought there was a deadline! And CC Finlay gives very helpful feedback, dear man.

Tomorrow I’m joining a Gold Coast Novel Writers’ meeting, as critique leader sort of person, with Russell Cornhill! I’m pretty excited about that. I’ve done some homework about genre (which we’ll be talking about) and realised there’s quite a bit I don’t know. I’m so comfortable in my speculative fiction work that I don’t tend to think about what’s going on outside it. I might post up my notes after the session tomorrow.

Everyone is welcome at this group at Robina Library from 9.30-12.30, tomorrow the 17th of January.

Good writing!


Awful plus Wonderful = Survived 2014

I was dreading 2014.

I was dreading 2014.

I was dreading 2014 when it started.

For Rohan, my six year old with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I was looking at limited childcare and lots of therapy.

Rohan: As cute as he is naughty.

Rohan: As cute as he is naughty.

My mum was very ill with cancer and, as parts of my family are very private, I couldn’t really talk about it with the world, which is hard for a writer.

I was elbows-deep in editing a difficult anthology.

I was just hoping I could cope with the demands of 2014. I didn’t really have any goals besides getting through it, going back to yoga and being more comfortable with who I was.

Dubious selfie.

Dubious selfie.

Because of the stress, I did a lot of ice skating to escape from my problems; round and round, and chilling out. Which inspired a story… which got published. Lol?

Ice skating with Leah who drives my car's girlfriend.

Ice skating with Leah who drives my car’s girlfriend.

There was plenty of positive also, thanks to my double life as a literary wannabe, and my wonderful friends who listened to me whinge and accepted my weirdness and seemed to understand, and help me however they could. [Thank you wonderful friends.]

music mummy friends 1

Gold Coast Music-Mummy friends.

wstacey

With Stacey

kirsty

My sister, Kirsty. (Everyone thinks that, anyway.)

furies

My other sisters, the Furies, Stacey and Jodi.

wben

Ben (my final sister).

rowena ben and stacey

With Rowena, Ben and Stacey

I had a great trip to Melbourne for Natcon, and a few days before that I hung out in Melbourne enjoying the solitude and quiet a mummy almost never gets. I saw art [the Italian Masters of the Spanish Court, my chubby sisters!] and drove the Great Ocean Road. Little breaks like that keep me afloat…

I’ve had lots of fun times getting to know more local writers and hangin’ with my besties Jodi, Stacey, Ben and Kirsty.

The highlights of my writing were:

  • Winning a Ditmar with the Galactic Chat team! Doing more (not that many, sorry Sean) interviews for Galactic Chat, including interviewing Ken MacLeod (so nice!), Rebecca Fraser, Sue Wright and LynC (all so nice!).
  • Doing interviews for the Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot.
  • Having three stories accepted for publication (and maybe a fourth which is in edits.)
  • Seeing “Blood on the Ice” published in Subtropical Suspense Black Beacon Books.
  • Seeing Quindrebel up on Mirror Dance Fantasy online (So pretty!)
  • Working with Sue Wright at Tiny Owl on “Twire”, coming out in Unfettered
  • Working with Mitchel Ackhurst on “Hard”.
  • Writing about 90,000 words. Surprised myself. Maybe I added it up wrong.
  • Sharing critiques with the brilliant Magic Puppies including Stacey who went way beyond the call of duty to edit the fuck out of my 11,000 word story “Helheim.”
  • Sending out about 35 submissions. Getting about 30 rejections – some are still in the pipeline!
  • Finishing about 12 stories.

I was surprised to tally up my writing and see that many words. So, I did do some writing. I didn’t think I’d written that much, but I guess it came about because the Magic Puppies are high output machines, and I’m driven to the escape of writing thanks to my sweet little monster child, and my mum’s illness.

Mum

After a lot of suffering, Mum passed away in October. It was very sad, but with where she was with her cancer (quit smoking, people!) I was relieved that her suffering ended. I have no belief in Heaven or anything beyond this world. That makes dealing with someone dying a bit harder, I think. You have to accept that their life is complete, that you’ll never see them again, that they’re not watching over you, etcetera.

mum3

Making Faces.

mum2

Jazz and Mum.

There’s a kind of beauty to that though: to see life as one finite package. This is all you get. Do your best with it.

I’ve noticed that after someone dies, how you see them changes. I guess everyone deals with grief differently, but I found that a lot of things that seemed a bit bad became funnier, easier to forgive.

Be warned, if you’re a writer, when it comes to writing the eulogy, they look straight at you.

And I even got to write it on my birthday. Life just likes to torture me, right, so I have angst to write about, and the desperation to escape into fiction.

This was Mum’s eulogy.

Mum's selfie. Portrait.

Mum’s selfie. Portrait.

Loola Stubbs was a confident and strong willed woman who loved a drink and to dance the night away. She was a creative and emotional person, and a brilliant painter. Her soulful nature shone through in her artwork – from her stormy sea-scapes to the dignified portraits of people she admired.

Her love of painting the sea, and the sea itself, originated in her love of Sydney’s coastal surrounds, and her homeland Greece where she lived as a child on the small island of Scopelos. She emigrated from Greece at the age of seven, with her mother, Helen, and grandmother, Mahi. It was surely a frightening voyage: a long journey by ship to arrive in Australia and live in the large city of Sydney, when she didn’t speak a word of English.

However, she learned quickly, studied hard and thrived, winning a scholarship to art school. She went on to a career as an artist who hung in the Archibald, and an art teacher at PLC Pymble and PLC Croydon, and later, Mount Saint Patrick, Murwillumbah, where she helped students with both their artwork and any personal problems they brought to her.

Loola encouraged her students to feel free to express themselves though their artwork and to experiment without fear of failure. While some students went on to careers in visual art in major cities, Loola couldn’t walk down the street in Murwillumbah without bumping into an ex-student or two. They would recount pleasant memories of art lessons with ‘Stubbsy’ as she was known.

Loola will be remembered by many as a gifted artist, a hard worker, and a passionate and honest person who bought real feeling into everything she did. She was not one to gloss over the truth.

Those who she loved, she loved fiercely, and it was a brave soul who crossed her – and at their peril. She was very proud of her Scorpio’s scorpion sting.

All of Loola’s friends and family loved her deeply.

Her family are grateful for the care she provided and all the delicious meals she cooked, especially her unusual desert creations. [Like the Davros cake – which we didn’t mention at the funeral, but it looked a lot like Davros].

They are grateful for the fun she brought to their lives – the Greek music and Flamenco dancing they shared with her.

Her family members: Don, Paul, Helen; Kat and Brian; Jasmine, Rohan and Zachary; will remember her smiles with love in their hearts.

 ~

So that was Mum. And I kind of love that she and her mother came to this country with nothing, and in debt, yet made a successful life for themselves. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer new immigrants and refugees the same opportunities.

Mum taught me a lot of things. Not to be scared of art, and by art I mean anything. But also, that you can always do better, and you should never stop trying to do better.

What I most regret, for her life, is that she stopped doing what she loved – she stopped painting. The cost of giving up her passion and dreams were alcoholism and depression; though maybe they made her give up as well, it’s a negative sort of cycle.

My take home message was it doesn’t matter if it feels like no-one appreciates your art, just keep doing it because you’re an artist, even if you’re never exactly happy with what you’re making. Also that all art has value because it will evoke a reaction in someone, and even if your art isn’t great, it might inspire someone else to make something great.

So… 2014 was exhausting.

Orienting Rohan to prep has been hard too; as is having one child in, one child out, of a private school. But prep is looking good. Maybe I’m seeing a sort of light at the end of the tunnel for what have been really hard years of ASD and ADHD behaviour from my little monster. Maybe. And Jasmine is going to be dancing her way through 2015.

For the first time in nine years I might be able to spend a couple of days a week writing, if Rohan settles into prep okay and they don’t lose him every day. He is more of a Houdini than Houdini was. You can’t imagine it until you’ve seen it. Small, wiry, flexible. He might be an X-Man.

Oh, also I got a lovely knew car who I love. TXA, my Baby Racer, the Rocket. She’s a lesbian Golf R dating Leah’s car… at least last I heard. They might have broken up. She could be polyamorous with a penchant for Audi S4s.

TXA, Racer, Rocket.

TXA, Racer, Rocket.

 

I’m kinda spoilt by the man who makes paella. Apparently real Spanish people don’t mix seafood and landfood in paella, but this is Australia! We eat everything all at once!

Paella!

Paella!

New Exciting Stuff in 2015

There is exciting stuff! SOMETHING IS COMING. I’ve volunteered as treasurer for an exciting upcoming speculative fiction event in Queensland! What could it be!? That hasn’t been officially announced yet…

I’m also helping out with a new Gold Coast Novel Writers Crit Group, which is kinda funny considering that my novels are, um… a bit shit.

I’m kind of chuffed that I’m in the headspace to feel like I can make goals for 2015! Rather than merely trying to cope with everyday life. Loosely, my goals are to write another better novel length work, improve my current novellas/novels and resubmit, get fitter, keep everyone at home happy; to help the kids be happy and grow into good people.

And nurture my friendships. Friends: I love you. Thank you for everything! Thank you for putting up with me.

I wish everyone all the best for 2015.

 meandro


Quindrebel and Real Life

My flash fiction piece “Quindrebel” was released in the Winter edition of Mirror Dance, yesterday. Mirror Dance is a beautiful free online publication run by award winning writer, Megan Arkenberg. “Quindrebel” is a bit Cinderella-ish, about the feeling of being trapped and needing to escape, and about taking risks and helping each other.

I’ve also done some serious re-writing on a story which might be included in a future publication. It has been wonderful to work with the editor on that story. Even if I can’t get it quite right for inclusion in that anthology, the story is so much better for the editor’s input that I’m sure I’m more likely to find a home for it! That story is really quite weird, too, but in a different way to “Quindrebel”. It’s great to find publications open to taking risks with strange work.

And I’m making slow progress on my longer WIP. The working title is “Neve”. It’s about a strangely shaped baby who is born into a mountain village in which the weak or weird are not tolerated. The baby is condemned to death by the ruler, but the Dark Sisters secretly raise her and reintegrate her to the village… I won’t tell you the whole story! Though I do know how it ends, for a change.

On the real life side of things I’ve spent a lot of time at school concerts watching the daughter perform, and meetings and appointments for the son. She loves dancing and he is getting ready to start school next year which is a major event because he has special needs. His transition into school is looking good though. Fingers crossed!

No wonder I needed a party on Friday night! Jodi, Ben, Alex, Clwedd and I rocked it out on the dance floor at the Books and Writing Christmas Luau at the Powerhouse. It was heaps of fun! But we missed Stacey.


SpeedPoets Call Back Final

Helen Stubbs:

It was wonderful to see Jodi Cleghorn on stage again. Great presence and wonderful words.

Originally posted on 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky:

callbackpoetEarlier this month I shared my cut-up poem. Yesterday I had the pleasure of performing it as part of my set at the SpeedPoet’s Call Back Finals. And allowing myself a moment of additional reflection, it’s a year since I first put down the first few dodgy lines of what became ‘Paper Mâché’ in the cafe area of an indoor playground post corporate Christmas party (and NaNo and 79,000 words in 28 days!).

ACCIDENTAL CALL BACK (with apologies to Andrew Phillips)

The first time you step onto a stage to perform, the last thing in your mind is winning. In fact, I’d only ever been to SpeedPoets once, to the 2013 final and had no real idea how the whole thing worked. So I was a bit gobsmacked when Simon Kindt announced back in April that I had won the Call Back slot for the month.

Since then I’ve…

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Interview: Gillian Polack on Langue[dot]doc

Dr Gillian Polack joins me to talk about her new book, launching at Conflux 2014.

Congratulations on the launch of your new novel, Langue[dot]doc. Please tell us about it and your experiences of the places in the novel on your recent trip.

It wasn’t my recent trip that fed into this novel (I suddenly feel very adventurous and travelled) but the one in 2011. The University of Western Australia and Arts ACT helped me get there and I did a bunch of things, starting with a masterclass in SF criticism and ending with a week in the Languedoc, which is where my novel is set. I was bitten by something nasty in York and by the time I reached Montpellier I had to make an emergency hospital visit, so my whole time there was coloured by sunshine, icecream, and quite powerful antibiotics. I don’t know what influence this had on the story, but my research in France was done in a pleasant summer medicated daze. I spent my evenings watching the French-dubbed version of Fringe and Clone Wars, which possibly added to the surreal atmosphere.

Most of the story is set in and near a place called Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, which is spectacularly beautiful.

I didn’t know it was beautiful when I planned my novel, however. I chose the town because it has a lot of surviving Medieval buildings (so it was easy to construct in my mind), and because William was an interesting bloke and his bones were there and I wanted an excuse to say ‘hi’ to him. Let me give you a picture of Saint-Guilhem and of his bones, so that you, too can say ‘hi’.

The memory of the man features very heavily in the novel, but the story isn’t about him at all. It’s about a bunch of scientists (mostly Aussie) who are going to 1305 to change the world through their research. These people do not travel back to the Middle Ages and suddenly become perfect: they carry all kinds of problems back with them. The heroine is, of course, a historian. Her name is Artemisia and she’s an expert in Clemence of Barking. Clemence of Barking has nothing to do with the Languedoc in 1305. So why is Artemisia the in-house historian? And just how many things can go wrong when a bunch of very clever people travel back in time? I think I’m going to move onto the next question, very quickly…

 You can find a copy here.

A street in St Guilhem-le-Desert.

A street in St-Guilhem-le-Desert.

What were the other highlights of your trip?

This recent trip had an impossible number of highlights. I met two Drs Who (Tennant and Davison) and I presented a Hugo. I saw the Northern Lights and ate fresh-picked blackberries at a deserted Anglo-Saxon village. I fell in love with Croatian fandom and Finnish fandom and Irish fandom (and I was already in love with British fandom). I was taught to make basic Dothraki jewellery by someone who worked on such things for Game of Thrones. I ate many splendid meals and listened to many splendid people say interesting things.

I was travelling as the GUFF delegate for Australasia (as you know, for you supported me – I wasn’t expecting to win, so my amazing experience felt like a gift, which it was), and there will be a trip report. I thought I’d already finished my report, but I keep thinking of things that I ought to add. I’ll let you know when it’s released.

Being the GUFF person opened many doors: I met (online) Singaporean writers and publishers and (in real life) so many translators and writers and con organisers and academics and generally fascinating people. I don’t think I had a single day without new experiences or wonderful things happening. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

William's bones in the abbey of Gellone.

William’s bones in the abbey of Gellone.

It’s great to hear that Baggage (Eneit Press) is being relaunched as well! What is it about and how did it come to be relaunched?

Several people pushed to have it republished and spent a lot of time asking various publishers if they’d give it a go.
Wildside/Borgo said, finally “We’re willing to take it on.”
I said “It’s this strange Australian book, but the stories are spectacular.”
“We can do strange,” they said.
I miss Rob Reginald, who made these decisions: he died last year. We were swapping stories of seasonal change and then, suddenly, he was gone. I didn’t know Rob long and I never got to meet him face to face, but he supported Baggage and got it back into print and was so generous with it (allowed us to keep its Austraian character in its entirety, for one thing): he was a good bloke. He was also very easy to work with.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my regular academic stuff (mainly a monograph on how writers use history) and I’m starting a new novel. Right now it’s only at research stage, but it’s going to be set in the late seventeenth century and it’s going to be about Women Who Travel. It may take a while to be finished, for I have other novels being published soonish, and they will need their time. Satalyte didn’t just take on my time travel novel, you see – they signed up several books of mine.

The church at S-Guiilhem-le Desert. There used to be two, but this is the surviving one and is now a tourist office.

The church at St-Guilhem-le-Desert. There used to be two, but this is the surviving one and is now a tourist office.

What have you enjoyed reading, lately?

Seventeenth century books and pamphlets. I really enjoyed Memoirs of a Secret Service Agent (1699), but it’s one of about 50 books I’ve already read from the last decades of the  seventeenth century, and quite a few of them are rather cool.

I’m also reading for the Aurealis Awards, but I can’t talk about that, which means most of my favourite modern books are under a cone of silence. Ask me again in four months time!

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Enjoy your launches, Gillian!


Tiny Owl Hoots for Galactic Chat

Just a quick note to let you know my Galactic Chat interview with Sue Wright from Tiny Owl Workshop goes live in the evening of Friday 3rd October. I loved doing this interview. Sue is a lovely woman doing wonderful things for Australian writers and artists. Check out Tiny Owl’s stuff!


Women’s education helps avert child marriage

Helen Stubbs:

Touching stories about the benefits of education from some women who received education and some who didn’t.

Originally posted on World Education Blog:

This week, a Girl Summit is being held in London, aimed at rallying efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. This blog looks at the vital role that education plays in helping reduce child marriages and the child pregnancies that often occur as a result.

girls
Around 2.9 million girls are married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, equivalent to one in eight girls in each region, according to estimates in the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report. These shocking statistics mean millions of girls are robbed of their childhood and denied an education.

Our Report also showed, without a doubt, that ensuring that girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways to prevent child marriage.

marriage Click to enlarge

Education empowers women to overcome discrimination. Girls and young women who are educated have greater awareness of…

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