Thursday, 29 March 2018

Week 4: the sentence

Tredinnick exercise - go to your window or door; in three sentences of different lengths, describe what you can see going on out there.
The egg-shaped leaves on the cumquat tree glisten transparently in the dappled afternoon sunlight.  They quiver slightly as the wind gently touches them.  The tiny orange fruit dangle sporadically like Christmas ornaments.
I chose this exercise because I think that often I try to fit lots of long, convoluted sentences into a paragraph to convey a really vivid image.  This exercise allowed me to be vivid by using 3 relatively short sentences instead.  Also it meant I looked up from my study and computer ha!! I know that the sentences do not differ that much in length, but it was still a good exercise for me to have a go at.
One piece of advice that I felt helped my writing - where you can, choose for for those key parts of every sentence words short and clear and vivid.
I find this helpful as it reminds me that a sentence doesn't need to be long with lots of unnecessary words to convey a vivid picture of something.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

It’s alive...

Time to revive this blog given I'm undertaking another writing subject as part of my Bachelor of Arts.

Thought I would post an excerpt from a screenplay I submitted to a previous writing class, just to get my mind into the right (write?) frame of mind.  Will probably continue this throughout the semester, bit of new stuff mixed in with a bit of old.

The group is busy bundling up the campsite, each of them carrying packs full of supplies.  There is lots of quiet, ambiguous chatter between them all.   GIBSON, late forties, rugged, the last 10 years have aged him considerably with his eyes telling a tale of grief and loss.    He appears uneasy, distracted, he stares off in the direction where LIA was last seen headed.  It’s been a while now.  BEN, early twenties, his thick copper locks tied up into a messy bun, his youthful face covered by an equally thick auburn beard, approaches GIBSON.
We’re pretty much done here.
Start to head north, towards the cliffs. I’ll stay back and wait for...
THWIP!  An arrow zooms past GIBSON and strikes BEN in the shoulder.  CLOSE ON BEN as he drops to his knees.  THWIP! Another arrow zips out from the darkness, this time striking BEN right in the heart.  He slumps backwards, dead.  Before GIBSON can react, THWIP, THWIP, THWIP, more arrows dart out of the darkness, raining over the group.  Our survivors disperse, running for cover.  Another two of the group, CHARLIE and OLIVER are felled by arrows before they can make it to shelter.
Suddenly, FIRE!   
TIGHT on the first fire bomb as it sails through the air, exploding into flames the instant it smashes into the ground.  The fire spreads quickly, engulfing the area where the group have taken shelter.  Another fire bomb hurtles through the air, into the campsite and another. A fluorescent wall of orange consumes the dry foliage, the flames lapping at our group’s feet.  GIBSON scrambles to join them, crouching low to ground and covering the distance on all fours.  He reaches the survivors, only six left now, they cough and splutter as the smoke from the fire begins to overwhelm them.  For a moment, the onslaught pauses.  From the darkness, incoherent howling and ramblings as the SCAVENGERS seek to unsettle the survivors.  
Harry and Georgia, stay with me.  The rest of you, get to the river and just keep going.  Don’t stop, you hear me?! 
What about you guys?
Don’t stop!
HARRY, muscular, quite short and compact, he is quiet and unassuming and GEORGIA, lean and taller than HARRY, she is tough and tenacious.  The two of them are considered to be the best shots within the group.  HARRY takes cover behind a fallen tree.  TIGHT ON HARRY as he readies his rifle searching for a target amidst the flames.  GEORGIA takes up a position to HARRY’S right, behind some boulders on a slight rise, she works the lever on her lever-action rifle, loading a fresh cartridge into the barrel of the chamber.  For an instant, it is calm.  HARRY and GEORGIA wait for their moment.
INTO FRAME leaps a screaming SCAVENGER, he hurtles through the flames brandishing a small axe.  
BOOM! The screaming SCAVENGER stops dead in his tracks, stunned.  He looks down at his chest in disbelief as blood starts to ooze from a large wound in his torso.  He drops to the ground, dead.  HARRY turns to GEORGIA and smiles as she cracks her lever back and forth to load another round into the chamber.  Seeing the opportunity, OWEN, followed by LEE and VAL take off at speed towards the river.  They hurdle through the flames and smoke, disappearing into the darkness.  MR.  GIBSON slides up in between HARRY and GEORGIA.
Suddenly a SCAVENGER appears to HARRY’s left.  He charges at HARRY catching him off guard, bundling him over.  HARRY uses his rifle in an attempt to keep him at bay, but the SCAVENGER is strong.  Whilst this is happening, another SCAVENGER appears to GEORGIA’s right but she is distracted by HARRY.  The SCAVENGER grabs GEORGIA from behind, knocking her firearm away.  GEORGIA struggles violently as GIBSON reaches for the rifle.  The SCAVENGER pulls GEORGIA backwards into the smoke and darkness, her screams muffled by his hand.  As GIBSON retrieves the rifle, he looks up to assist GEORGIA but it’s too late, she and the SCAVENGER have disappeared into the darkness.  GIBSON spins around to where HARRY is struggling to defend himself against his attacker.  GIBSON grips the rifle like a baseball bat and takes a massive swing, collecting the SCAVENGER’s head with the stock of the rifle.  The force of the swing knocks the SCAVENGER out cold instantly.  He collapses on top on HARRY who immediately scrambles out from underneath him.  Blood begins to pour from the fresh wound atop the SCAVENGER’s head.
GIBSON pulls Harry in close and embraces him.
Re-group with the others.  You have to keep moving.
GIBSON pushes HARRY away.  HARRY stumbles into a run and then sprints off in the direction of the river.  A towering colossus of smoke and flames now confronts GIBSON. Trees and foliage explode into embers; the wind blasts them ahead of the main fire front like a grenade launcher.  The blistering wind, roaring like a jet engine scorches GIBSON’s face.  He starts to cough, the smoke is inescapable, invading his lungs like a weed.  He pulls his shirt up over nose and mouth and scampers to where the SCAVENGERS launched their attack from.

Monday, 26 September 2016

thoughts on David Sedaris - "Me Talk Pretty One Day" - City of Angels

Haven't quite finished this book...

I am sure I have mentioned before that I am a terrible the sense that I start something, get right into it, usually about a quarter of the way through, and then it sits, next to my bed gathering dust like most of my good intentions.

I want to share my thoughts on the chapter "City of Angels".

I could really relate to how Sedaris described New York.  As a tourist there, many years ago, just after 9/11, I honestly marvelled at how "un-American" the place seemed.  I loved it.  I loved that the Americans there weren't "Americans", they were "New Yorkers", they were different, much less obnoxious, much more fun.  So I laughed as he described Bonnie, I mean he essentially described  the American stereotype.  I have met a few like Bonnie in my time working and travelling, so it's always funny to hear an American describe a fellow American in that way.

I did question how Alisha could not see Bonnie's true colours prior to travelling with her, however then I remembered the two times I went overseas with people who I got along great with in my everyday life, but who in the travelling life - were the complete opposite.  Now I know I am not the easiest person to travel with, but it's so interesting how you can take two people who have great relationships out of their comfort zone and see the relationship capitulate.  Flash back to me, left standing on a subway platform in the middle of NYC in 2004 as my "best friend" stormed off after I mentioned we'd caught the wrong be fair, I may have mentioned it in a certain tone....come on, don't judge, it was the end of the trip, we'd been travelling together for a month, it was time for a break!

Week 7 - Humour "Missy"

Missy was a RSPCA reject, a dog on death row because no one wanted her.  I wandered in there, a 23 year old looking for some K9 companionship, something I had never really had.  As soon as I entered the gates of the compound I burst into tears.  I'm such a sook when it comes to animals, couldn't even watch the opening credits of "My Dog Skip" without crying my eyes out - cause we all know movies about animals end the same freaking way!

Missy and I traveled, we gallivanted, we had some great times and some shitty times.  Missy loved the beach.  I used to love watching her sprint along the break before the sets came in, you could see Missy was carefully choosing which wave she wanted to "surf".  The confusion on Missy's face when we moved back to Darwin and there were no waves - gold!

After almost 10 years, Missy had become dog aggressive.  The dog companion Missy had lived with in perfect harmony for the past almost 6 years was no longer someone she wanted to curl up with next to the heater.  The first fight wasn't too bad and then they kept getting worse and worse.  It was impacting my relationship with my partner, there were a few ultimatums thrown back and forth.


"I'll take her"

I paused and because pauses are hard to decipher on a phone, and perhaps because I paused for a little longer than what would be considered "normal" length and perhaps because my mum has no faith in technology, she immediately assumed that the line had dropped out.

"Are you there? If you're talking I can't hear you, I think the service has dropped..."

I put her out of her misery.

"I'm here Mum, would you really?" I had to make sure. 


I reminded her of the last time she took my dog in, when I gallivanted across the Australian countryside - trying to find myself - mum had Missy for 6 months.  I left her in prime condition, 12kgs, 2 x walks a day and a very specific diet.  When I had settled and mum sent Missy back to live with me, Missy was 8 kgs heavier, resembling something sausage roll like - she is a staffy.  Mum had admitted that she "may" have fed Missy a few plates of spaghetti bolognaise here, immediately justifying it with "But Amber, she loved it!" Well of course she loved it, Mum!

"No leftovers this time mum, Missy's too old too be fat now!" I pleaded.

There was a huff at the end of the phone line, obviously I had missed something.  Perhaps she'd changed her mind, oh gosh, please take her mum.

"Amber, I am a pensioner now," She bleated "I can't afford leftovers!"

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Week 4 - thoughts on Fun Home: A family tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Just some thoughts on Fun Home.  I feel so much sadness for Bechdel's father and their relationship.  I see parts of myself in her father.  Perhaps it's the self loathing, the yearning to be "normal".  You end up beating yourself up about it so much that you end up being a complete arsehole to everyone you love.  I've been there, and sometimes I'm still there.  The book made my cry and it made me wonder if Bechdel's father ever truly experienced any form of happiness throughout his life.  His effort to conform to society's expectations of the norm meant that he had to hide his true self, resulting in resentment and pain.  I think that as Bechdel got older she realised that the father she had grown up with, was not his real self and I think that helped her to at least understand why he was the way he was.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Week 5 & 6 - Addiction: gambling.

Some of my fondest memories as a child was accompanying my mum and dad to the horse and greyhound races.
"Which number is your favourite, Ambs?"
"What colour silks do you like the best?"
"What horse do you think will win?
All conversations I remember having with both of my parents.  We never talked about the losses, only the wins.
"We got a trifecta! We had a roughy in that race so the payout should be pretty good!"  A bet that saw us take home $100, meanwhile no mention of the hundreds that had been "donated".
We always got scratchies and lotto tickets.  Running around trying to a find a pen to write the numbers down on a Saturday night draw almost became an Olympic sport in our household.

My first real taste of winning was on Saintly in the 1996 Melbourne Cup.  Mum had let me take the day off school.  She went to local races and we had agreed before she left in the morning on who I would like her to place bets on in the "race that stops the nation".  I can remember the excitement and adrenaline I felt as Saintly crossed the line first, I felt the most amazing high, I was 13 years old.

I spent my 18th birthday at Crown Casino.  I got carded whilst sitting at the poker machines with my mum.  As soon as they learnt it was my birthday they gave me some "free money" to spend on the machines or tables, whatever I wanted. Geez this place knows how to look after people I thought.  I cannot believe how naive I was.  Mum was just as excited as me.

As I got older I found myself heading up to the casino during my lunch breaks.  I was betting on horse races overseas.  I was selecting multi bets that were impossible to obtain.  I know they are 15-1 to win, but if all of the outsiders get up I could win over $1000.  Online betting made it worse.  I could gamble on anything, at any time, any where in the world.

Its the thrill of the potential win that keeps drawing you in, not the actual win itself.  That's what kept me going back, and that's what keeps gnawing at me every now and then when I see another add for sports betting, or I pass a casino, or the Melbourne Cup rolls around.  I hate that it still has this hold over me, but I remember how good it felt when that adrenaline rushed through my body.  Some days are harder than others.

-I feel compelled to write about my struggles with gambling because I feel like even with all the coverage gambling gets, it's still not really considered a "mainstream" addiction.  Gambling is everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE! And yet it is mostly still recognized as a "pastime".  I want people to start having discussions with their kids about this and how dangerous it can become.  

Monday, 8 August 2016

Week 4 - Relationships: childhood memory...

I don't remember exactly how my dad told us he was leaving my mum.  I remember him arriving to collect us early from a church youth camp.  He spoke briefly with a nun who then called my sister and I over.  We greeted dad, he was distant and distracted.  We collected our things and followed him out to his car.  He drove a red Ford Courier which doubled as his off road racer.  It had two tiny butt seats in the back behind the main cab.  My sister and I used to clamber over the front passenger seat and fall into these seats, our knees touching our chins.  We sat there watching dad as he looked at our reflection in the rear view mirror.

"Listen," he started "your mum and I aren't going to be together anymore."

My first thought was of camping and fishing.  I guessed I just wouldn't get to do those things as much any more.  I had no inkling whatsoever of what it really meant.  I had lived a sheltered childhood, one that with all of my dad's misgivings as an adulterer, had provided me with stability, love and encouragement.  There was maybe one or two kids at school who came from "broken homes", but it was still very far from the norm back then.

Dad started the car and pulled into the street.  I looked at my sister, she was completely oblivious as to what was going on.  9 years old and thinking everything would be fine as soon as we got home.  I wouldn't be being honest with myself if I didn't acknowledge that I was thinking exactly the same thing.  Mum and dad had fought before, but they always ended up back together.  But as dad refused to look at us in the eyes as he drove us all home, somehow I knew that this time was going to be different.