Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Poem: 10 days, one night

I wrote this some time ago, overwhelmed by a theatre show I'd just watched. But with 10 days to go until the Lifewise Big Sleepout, where I'll be "sleeping rough" in the Auckland CBD, it seems amazingly to fit.

Homeless for a night

In 10 days, I'll be spending a night out in the open - in the middle of Auckland's CBD. The reason? It's all part of a fund (and issue) raising campaign, to sleep 'rough' for a night. I'll be sharing my patch - but hopefully not my piece of cardboard - with other "business and community" leaders - among them ex mayors, rugby players and banking (well they should come in handy!) staff. We've each pledged to raise $1000 or more to support Lifewise, which provides support services to the homeless.

In my work, I often deal with kids who have been affected in some way by poverty. It astounds me that people (especially politicians) don't realise, or pretend not to realise, that poverty is inherited in the same way that wealth is. In other words, if your parents can't pay for decent shelter, or feed you enough, or keep you warm - then it's pretty obvious that your health is going to be affected, along with your sense of self, your ability to attend education and to learn, and your resilience. There's many other things besides, but it all pretty much comes down to poverty being a root cause, with symptoms like drug abuse, poor mental health, and social dysfunction feeding into a vicious positive feedback cycle. And all too often it's something perpetuated through generations. This is when sticking a drip in a kid who's got pneumonia from living in a drafty garage starts to feel quite a bit like waiting at the bottom of a cliff with an ambulance.

But anyway, enough of me ranting tonight... if you want to help, either donate directly to Lifewise or (please!) sponsor me here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do writers need social media? Part 2

(crossposted from The Big Idea)
In my previous blog post, I discussed how blogs, Facebook and Twitter (ie social media) can be used by a writer to hook a readership and publisher. But are they worth the time away from ‘real writing’? In this blog, I explore how social media could enhance the writing itself.

As Musk and others say, exploring inner worlds in order to share them is what writers do anyway. I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing that sense of vague fear and dread before starting a new scene or chapter. The fear might be linked to the worry that this time, we might not be clear enough thinkers or complex enough psychologically to pull it off this time, and then our lack of depth would be exposed. So writing is also a quest to become a better, wiser person, a person with something to say (you see how cleverly I’m circling here?)

If this quest for self-betterment is what you would do anyway, then the only question remaining is whether you would feel comfortable sharing it. For some the answer is no – it would endanger their inner world and disturb their writing process. That’s OK. Having a blog doesn’t mean you have to bare all – you can choose to bare only some (although sincerity and truth are important, and readers make smart lovers.) For others though, discussion and dissection of issues are exactly what they crave, the thing that feeds their writing and fires off further ideas. They actively seek to connect, to graze ideas, to converse, to follow links until they hit one which might be the key to understanding their character or anchor a plot point. Reading, watching and linking to good writers, readers and thinkers is not a side activity – it is part of the process of writing.

read more here

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Appetite: or, an Allegorical journey

o come to where the Fat Dog wags
its nimble backside, where you’ll be glad
you rolled your rotund form on
in through the door, the
rolling slippy slidy wooden floors
where waitstaff glide
waists pinched and arms long
with heavy jowled food, warm lumpy cups
of coffee, plates indigestive
with chocolate cake.

Come to where the cream is piled high as an iceberg,
swerve to avoid creaking chairs
as schoolgirls sail upon
their swooning love affairs.
For your own chair sits
beside the potbellied stove
which has swallowed a fire
much too big for it. Stay, guest;
but not too long – for they say
we make our own nests; and then we must lie in them.

Slipping sliding, the hippy trippy
waitress slides along olive oiled
avenues towards you. You consume her
as you have already consumed the grape painted walls,
the twisted chandeliers, the candles, the poetry painted above the toilet. You consume
her, whole, in her tight black T-shirt with the Fat Dog wagging its brisk tail until the
end. You lick the fat globs of cream off his backside and belch wholeheartedly, for
your heart is not yet in its last convulsions. You drip silver drooled coins through
the hands of the man at the coffee machine and then you jangle merrily on your way
through the door.

The Fat Dog Cafe is probably one of the best cafes in the country and my favourite place to eat in Rotorua. In my first year as a doctor, I worked at Rotorua Hospital - one of the defining periods of my life and a year when I really grew up. With my flatmates, we were "regulars" at the Fat Dog - going there once a week, as a treat or when we couldn't be bothered cooking and just wanted to lounge around in front of the fire and eat chunky lasagne and garden-crisp salad with gobs of mayonnaise....

Monday, June 13, 2011

talkwrite blog: Do writers need social media? Part 1

(crossposted from The Big Idea)

This weekend, as a way of procrastinating about getting in the right frame of mind for writing, I’ve spent hours reading Justine Musk’s fabulous blog, Tribal Writer. Justine is a YA and fantasy writer, a mum of twins and triplets. (She’s also the ex-wife of billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Paypal, Elon Musk, whose high-profile divorce has had journalists and lawyers slavering for the last few years.*)

The quality and frequency of her blog posts has me wondering how she ever finds time for writing, unless she gets another talented writer to pretend to be her. (I know, I’m supposed to be writing right now, and what am I doing...?) Basically, Justine practices what she preaches: the engagement of a writer with their community of other writers and thinkers, and with their ‘audience’, two groups which should necessarily intersect. She does this through several blogs in which she collects her own and others' thoughts about the business of writing, which necessarily contains a large amount of candid self-reflection. She says that the tools of social media are just as important tools for the writer as paper and pen.

This fits with what I heard at the publisher’s event at the recent Auckland Readers and Writers Festival, in which an international panel agreed that in the current environment, publishers are looking for a writer who is not only ‘marketable’, but also comes with the social savvies to allow them connect with and grow a readership. Having a good manuscript is still the baseline condition, mind you. But on top of that, a potential new publishee will be asked if they have a blog on which they post frequently, are on Facebook and Twitter, and have skills and experience in appearing friendly, personable and accessible. As one publisher said, “They need to be stand-up comedians.”

for more, click here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Talkwrite blog: One Day Moko

(crossposted from The Big Idea)

* * *

As a writer, I’m intrigued and a little threatened by devised theatre. (What use is a playwright if plays can be made without a script?!) Yes, I’m playing devil’s advocate – I’ve since learnt that writing is actually integral to the process of devising, it’s just that often the writing happens after the story or scene has been found by the actors’ bodies. Following the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy, I recently took part in a couple of devising workshops, which were great fun (if a little painful for those who had to watch me ‘act’).

I met Tim Carlsen and Sophie Roberts at John Bolton’s excellent one-weekend course, run by The Actors Laboratory. By then Tim’s play One Day Moko, which Sophie directs, was well advanced. Tim is a recent Toi Whakaari graduate and met Sophie (also a recent graduate) as she was tutoring the graduate Solo shows. One Day Moko gives the one man show a surprising twist as Tim, embodying a homeless man (and his dog), interacts with other characters via a TV set, which he takes with him on his travels.

(more here)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Transformance - comment on an exhibition at Pah Homestead

This afternoon, I went to A sense of dislocation, a dance/installation performance at Pah Homestead, an art gallery which is pretty much in my hood (Roskill/Hillsborough). I arrived late, but the performance, which featured music by Jed Town and movement by Elise Chan, Jeong Yeun Whang and Kristian Larsen, was earthy and quite discomforting, especially in the polished-wood surrounds of the Homestead.

The performance was related to an exhibition called Transformance, part of the just-started Auckland Festival of Photography.

The exhibition takes just two small rooms in the sprawling mansion. The works, by recent arts graduates from AUT, are linked by their exploration of the body/image as representations of self. Significantly for me, two of the artists in this exhibition are immigrants from Asia - part of the '1.5' generation (not born in NZ, but moved here early enough for NZ to have some impact on their worldview) which is increasingly gaining presence on the visual arts scene.

Jane Loo's video work is confrontational. She presents 'case studies' of Asian migrants (or children of migrants) - each character is presented staring face-on into the camera. Loo uses moving, scrolling and blurring text to give them their 'voice' - the tales, of an Anglo-Indian man who is not reemployed, he suspects, because he doesn't "look like a New Zealander"; a young woman who struggles to get an explanation of "adequacy" from her trusted tutor; and a young waitress who is chided by a "local woman" for her poor english - these are all familiar stories, but presented in a fresh format which is haunting in its spareness. There are touches of humour - misspellings which are hastily corrected - but overall this is a sad work, with no conclusions as to where to go from here. Perhaps it is enough for now to give the silent a voice, but I wonder where a follow up project might go.

Grace Chai, who moved to New Zealand from Taiwan at fifteen, shows off a series of manipulated digital prints of nude male bodies bonded together and augmented with machinery and natural materials. Beautiful, grotesque, and slightly erotic, she references classic myths in their titles. Unlike Loo, there is nothing directly "Asian" about her work, but perhaps her background pushes her to look more closely at the myths of "body" and "appearance"and how this limited view is restrictive, creating monsters of us all. Her work is more subliminal, challenging how we perceive, market and response to images of flesh: perhaps she is asking why we would judge one thing as beautiful and another as ugly? (or for that matter, how do we choose what is art and what is just artifact?)

Shekhar Kapur: We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves

I like this guy!! Especially his assertion that "panic is the wellspring of creativity". (I thought I was doing the right thing.....) More importantly,I like how he sees stories as the very stuff we are made of.... we define it, it defines us. Although he discusses this in the context of film, he references many other art forms - we're all interconnected.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Asian writerly staunchness.

OK, a quick skite. Click here for a radio article that recently aired on Radio NZ on Asian writing on Aotearoa. Beautifully produced by the unflaggingly enthusiastic Sonya Sly!

And here's a link to a recent interview with my friend Chris Tse (no not the ex-boyfriend, the other one), who is also interviewed in this piece.

Joining the Twitterverse

Spent last weekend (when not saving lives) obsessively reading Justine Musk's blog on writing - she's so witty and engaging it seems unfair that she is also beautiful and exceptionally well connected. Despite this, she succesfully projects herself as "one of the plebs" when it comes to writing, and getting yourself noticed as a writer.

It's no longer enough to be a very good writer - that's just the baseline these days. Publishers are also looking for people with the ability to lift their own profile, connect to a loyal reader base and do some of their own promotion. How to do this? One clue: it begins with an "I".

After reading the article on how the internet's "three pillars" (Facebook, Twitter and blogging) can help bolster a writerly presence, I have bookmarked her article on Twittering for writers and am following it. I admit to being a little nervous, being already so much of an internet addict that even I can't deny its impact on my ability to finish drafts. But Justine's blog is just the latest persuasive tract on the power of Twitter as a social force. And apparently, it's good for research....Alright then. (reluctantly, deep breath): one, two , three, dive.