Archive | February, 2012

Finding my Mojo (and other serendipitous events)

28 Feb

I think every writer has them – moments when life imitates art in a way which raises hairs on the back of your neck. Coincidences multiply until you start to feel that the act of writing is almost magical – a prediction of events to come.

I have been struggling away for over a year now, on a novel about a woman who loses her mojo. I feel like it has been the hardest of my novels to write (I have written five previously), but perhaps I always feel like that. Perhaps the act of finishing a novel is like childbirth and you instantly forget the pain that came before.

Yesterday, to clear my head, I went down to the beach for a swim. I threw down my bag and noticed next to it an abandoned dog collar. The tag on the collar read – you guessed it – mojo. I FOUND MY MOJO. Perhaps I have been on the north coast too long, but I find this, like, totally amazing.

This is not the first time I have had this type of rather woo woo experience. Another scene in this novel requires my mojo-less heroine to visit the Big Redback in Brisbane. I wrote this scene before I went there, adding a garden gnome, which I described in some detail, to serve the needs of the story.

I got to the Big Redback, had a bit of a look around, and was just about to drive off when I saw it – hiding shyly among the ferns – the gnome just as I had already described it.

And wait, there’s more! Those of you who have read Liar Bird – check out this link. If you haven’t, hold off so you don’t spoil the story.

Have you had any similar bizarre cases of life imitating art?

 

I am running a workshop called ‘Beyond Sex and Shopping: Writing fiction that sells’ on the 17th of March in Byron Bay. If you are interested, contact the Northern Rivers Writers Centre.

Ice-fishing, anyone?

6 Feb

We have it easy in Australia, not having to deal with snow. Here in Hokkaido, just functioning in any normal way requires daily snow shovelling. Kids learn this early. Pass any local pre-school and they are busy digging with their snow shovels. One day, if they show promise, this can lead to any number of job opportunities.

Out of the many varieties of snow shovelling that go on, my favourite is the rooftop shoveler. These daring men wander around on steeply pitched roofs with no safety protection. The other day, we watched a man standing on the edge of a roof about fifteen metres above an ice-filled canal. He steadily worked his way along, swinging a mallet to dispatch the icicles which hung from the roof. It looked like the momentum of his swing would be enough to launch him into the canal at any moment. 

When you’re ready to take a break from shovelling snow, you can take your pick of any sport, as long as it involves snow or ice. Ice-fishing is big over here. Every frozen river or lake is dotted with little tents. These are wind breaks where the fishers sit all day long; pulling up fish through a hole they have drilled in the ice.

If you’re not into ice-fishing, skiing or ice-skating there is always alcohol. A plastic four litre bottle of whiskey sells for around twenty dollars. That’s a whole lot of whiskey, but then the nights are long in Hokkaido.

Book Review: All That I Am by Anna Funder

5 Feb

All That I Am is Anna Funder’s first novel. Her previous non-fiction book, Stasiland, about communist East Germany, was highly acclaimed. All That I Am is set in the 1930s, prior to the start of the Second World War. Real people and events are used as a springboard to an involving work of fiction.

Told through the eyes of Ruth, now an old woman living in Sydney, and Toller, a left-wing playwright, the story revolves around Dora Fabian, an anti-Nazi activist. ‘We were the two for whom she was the sun,’ says Ruth.

Toller dictates his tales about Dora to a secretary in a hotel room inNew York. Meanwhile, Ruth’s mind wanders to the past while sedated in hospital after an accident. This complex setup and the time shifts between Toller’s voice, which is in the 1930s and Ruth’s, in the present, took a bit of getting used to.

The three have fledGermanyduring the first wave of Nazi terror, when thousands of opponents of Hitler were jailed or killed. Living as refugees inLondon, they try to expose the threat of the Nazis to a country bent on appeasement. A climate of fear and suspicion is created as the reach of the Gestapo extends further.

The complex romantic relationship between Dora and Toller, who is married to a teenage bride, adds tension to the story. Ruth is married to the handsome Hans, who finds refugee life aimless and difficult to endure.

This story is about courage, love and betrayal. Each of the characters has to choose where they stand in the face of suffering. As Ruth says; “It is not that people lack an imagination. It is that they stop themselves using it. Because once you have imagined such suffering, how can you still do nothing?”

Writing a fictional tale based on fact can be a difficult task to pull off. Constrained by real events, the author must imagine the internal landscape of the participants. Funder, who is clearly passionate about her subject, has largely succeeded in this.

While I did find the book difficult to get into, by the end I was fascinated and moved by this story of a part of history which was unfamiliar to me. All That I Am will reward those who can hang in there long enough to get over the initial confusion.

Lisa is on a mission to review at least six Australian Women Writers in 2012. To find out more see http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/

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