Sunday, June 04, 2006

My exchange teacher, Meg Files, has landed, safe and sound. I arrived at the airport to discover that four international flights had all come in within 20 minutes of each other. The trouble with Melbourne Airport arrivals is that there are four doors that people can emerge from, and they are spaced about 12 feet apart. And of course, I didn't have my glasses with me so the strategy of standing down one end and scanning all four doors at once wasn't going to work (I save my glasses for night time and TV when I'm tired, refusing to give in!). After 40 minutes I was starting to get worried that I'd missed her but she did emerge five minutes later. Phew!
I took her to the staff house and after much fiddling with heating units and her new laptop, and taking her to the supermarket for food (the house has a kitchen and all the requirements to be self-contained), I left her to sleep, if she could.
Dinner Saturday night was Indian (local restaurant that has maintained its quality - yummy food and not too expensive) and great conversations about writing, teaching, books, US politics and Australian politics (known around these suburbs as sucking up to Bush) and a whole lot of other stuff - three other teachers came along to welcome Meg, which was great.
Today it seemed like my whole day was going to be swallowed yet again by chores, such as cleaning the new oven, testing the new oven (which proceeded to burn my cookies), preparing for class, and thinking about how I should finish scrubbing the kitchen ceiling and clean the fridge.
Instead, I spat the housework dummy around 2pm and sat down to write the first draft of the children's book (emergent reader chapter book) that has been growing in my head for the past three weeks. It's times like these that I bless the internet. Twice I got stuck in plot details and both times the internet gave me enough information to get past the blockage and keep writing. Sometimes not knowing some factual details can really hold you up. Will the story go this way or that? Well ... it depends on this piece of information that I don't know yet.
So I quickly researched both magician's tricks and clown's tricks (just enough to keep me going on the draft) and by 5.30pm the draft was finished. I'll do further research later to make sure I've got my facts correct, but it was great to be able to just keep the words coming.
If it sounds like that was a draft that came way too easy, these days it's how I write. Sometimes I have lots of full days to focus on novels, which is what I need. But this was supposed to be around 2000 words, and I had been plotting and devising and revising in my head for several weeks. It's a skill I learned a few years ago when I realised that actual hard writing time was going to be limited so, by golly, when I sat down at the keyboard, I'd better have something ready to go.
A small chapter book or short story can work itself up in my brain over a few weeks, bubble and ferment, and when the hours are available, away it goes.
Reading has been fevered. I started the new Mark Billingham last week and after about 50 pages I thought, This is pretty slow. But it did pick up and became a book I kept having to read at every opportunity (over breakfast cereal, over a sandwich, in bed when the eyes were drooping), so I finally finished it at 11.30pm one night, not being able to leave the last three chapters for the next day. Title? "Buried". Not the best of his books, but a good read!
Have just started "All the Fishes Come Home to Roost", which is a memoir by Rachel Manija Brown. Meg brought it from Tucson for me as I couldn't get it here. I'm not overly keen on memoirs (the depressing dreariness of "Angela's Ashes" got too much for me) but she was a student of Meg's at Pima College and I love to see what students achieve.
By the way, for those in Australia, Frank Moorhouse has published a 3-part article in the Weekend Australian newspaper discussing "What the hell is wrong with Australian fiction writing?" or something like that. Parts 1 and 2 seemed to be leading towards him blaming writing courses for all the terrible fiction writing around, but in Part 3 he kind of backed off. What is wrong with Australian fiction writing? (this is literary fiction here, not genre fiction which is doing very well, thank you). Well, dare I say it but it's just too safe. And nice. And meaningless.
I have found two novels in the last 4 years have been worth reading - "The Dressmaker" by Rosalie Ham (her second novel was safe and boring) and "Everyman's Guide to Scientific Living" by Carrie Tiffany.
I'm probably extremely biased though. I don't read enough of it. I did a radio show on writers and books for 7 years, and I read more boring fiction then than I care to remember. It put me off in a big way. That's probably a shame, and I should make more use of my public library. But let's be honest - if you had a choice between a rather boring, stylised, no-plot literary novel and a cracking good crime novel that kept you on the edge of your seat - what would you choose?
I'm over force-feeding myself fiction that's supposed to be "good for me". Probably why I read so much YA and middle grade fiction too. They are usually really good reads!

1 comment:

Lee said...

Except that not all literary novels are boring, stylised, no-plot (which are not either/or, in any case, but an entire continuum).