The space between letters

Apologies to my followers for the gap in posts … the space between letters of one sort anyway.  So much for my ambitions to post more regularly.

Let me tell you why … and it has to do with the space between letters of another kind. I edit for a living –  rewrite, redesign, write, source photos, arrange printing.  And I love it … I feel useful, craftsmanlike, in the zone.  And I am good at it – not pedantically so, but pretty sharp in terms of intention, tone, structure and punctuation.

So there’s been a big project on at work… 150 pages big! Which has meant that turning around and even collecting a thought on life or the written word lately has escaped me!  This project was so complex I even got down to the old tradesman-like art of cut and paste – which is highly reliable if messy and always reminds me that everything I learned about PR I really DID learn in kindergarten.  Except the scissors have got larger and sharper, and the glue comes in handy sticks now, rather than sticky hands!

So it’s done, the last tiny annoying edits are off to the designer in the morning. For anyone writing a novel, this lies before you.  The great drawn out tea-time of the punctuated soul!  And just when you think “oh no, do I have to read this again?” and “there cannot possibly be anything more to fix in this work of genius” it happens….you spot that mistake, that little jot of punctuation or worse … that misspelt or misplaced word, the one you hadn’t seen on the last 3 revisions but which now sits crooked, blunt, jarring, and (apparently, for some sudden reason but it happens every time!) in capital letters surrounded by neon strobe lights which beckon “look at me!”.  The great skite of a spelling mistake, the great showoff of a misappropriated word, the screaming irritation of a misplaced comma!  Welcome to the twitching, endless twilight zone of the 3rd edit!

So that job done and dusted,  I switched edit to another document which is well down the list of urgent BUT after the 3rd viewing it seems to have got worse, with spaces missing between letters and other oddness!  Most annoying are brandNames with capitals, or perhaps not with capitals, in the middle of the word which requires a check on the company’s website to find THEY aren’t sure if it’s it one word (capital letters notwithstanding) or two!

So for light relief I had a baking class in the country on Sunday – quick and easy bread recipes and wonderful views of big hills in autumn… my next blog entry!

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Favourite fictional characters

We readers read plenty … but who do we identify with? Who makes us smile? Or sad? and who makes us worry (I think this is a key element when you connect with a character…I can fret for days over a character!)?

I am putting my hand up for Qfwfq in Italo Calvino’s Cosmi-Comics and Time and the Hunter.  I love that little particle and all his/her/its adventures…especially with the moon which used to be close enough to the earth that you could row out to sea and climb up to it on a ladder! And on those evenings when the moon is close to the earth and rising out of the Pacific Ocean …just 2 minutes down the road from my home … I can believe it was once true and that Qfwfq actually was up there for a bit!

For me, it was a natural progression from the Moomintrolls when I was little, to hobbits to classic Star Trek, Dr Who and Lost in Space once TV entered the house, to Calvino’s work.  Mind-bending but still human.

I often think of Qfwfq (I roughly pronounce it kwifke – the nearest I can get!) when confronted with hard to understand science and harder to understand humans!  The Halon Collider is a case in point –  who understands why all those scientists are bothering to find a missing particle, or who the heck is mad enough to be funding the enormous amounts of cash for this remote pursuit! The thing is BIG really BIG to find something so small that they are almost, quite, nearly possibly believing they might have spotted it zooming by in a nano-second!

Perhaps they have read Calvino’s tales – part fairy story, part adventure, part myth, part philosophy, part science – and Qfwfq is what they are looking for?

All writers should read Calvino. Whether you ‘get it’ or not doesn’t matter.  The joy is in reading a brilliant writer and thinker, who makes you very conscious of the rabbit hole you are being led down, and having your mind stretched and squeezed and bent by a story  … and still being left to believe the story might actually have happened … well, for just for a moment (like those scientists and their collider in the mountain! Now there’s a fairy story!).

Isn’t that what writing is all about?

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Sorry, but it’s summer!

I suspect Blogging 101 is invented to keep people occupied indoors during a northern hemisphere winter! Summer here in Hawke’s Bay is warm and sunny … more humidity lately than is nice but basically too warm and lovely to be sitting inside and blogging.  So to my followers, apologies for the gap.

But we are back into our year already in NZ.  I am back at work – editing the state of the environment chapters for our science team. It’s a job I really enjoy and learn from…this week I more clearly understood how the macroinvertebrate index works for assessing water quality and stream health.   Yes, really!

And choir rehearsals are back on. I sing with Napier Civic Choir under the musical directorship of the marvellous Jose Aparicio.  And he really does direct our music in ways that are exciting, demanding and intriguing… basically he has taught us to sing well and think about the music.  So if you are in the neighbourhood come and listen to a concert this year!

Faure’s Requiem is on the programme for March. I have only ever heard the Libera Me before (possibly I have heard the whole thing on Concert  FM and not been aware of what it was).  So I am playing it on Spotify as I type this to get familiar. I found the most wonderful version with NZ’s own fab bass Teddy Tahu Rhodes singing the Libera Me … ahhh bliss!!  It’s this recording of Sinfonia Australis  if you want to take a listen.  Stunning!

Off for a bike ride in the sun …

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Blogging 101 Starts Here (like going to school)

I decided to kick start my occasional blogging efforts with a WordPress class, Blogging 101, recommended by my friend, Jill (check out her website, she’s touring South East Asia at the moment and enjoying the local food and experiences).  It seems to have done wonders for her writing and sharing so I decided to sign up. Already I have more followers in 2 days than in all the years I have picked away at this blog, so that’s an encouragement to us all right there!

So the first assignment is to publish a “who am I and why am I here?” blog.  Ignoring all the deeper philosophical discussions that this question could prompt, here goes.

I live in New Zealand, in one of the wonderful unique treasures of this country, the art deco capital of the world, Napier.  I moved here 20 years ago from Wellington expecting the stay 2-5 years but in that time made wonderful new friends, bought a house and rediscovered myself as a writer.  Oh and the Mediterranean climate, the wines, the fine cafes makes this a great place to live!

So the house still needs redecorating and fixing, and the writing has had some occasional successes but I have floundered on the Big Question “which novel to write?” and its corollary “do I really have the focus and energy to write one?”.  So even without finishing anything and winning a publishing contract and seeing my novel on shelves and then in the discount bin a year later, life is still good. And I still get back to Wellington regularly – I love my friends there and the city is fabulous.

So “why am I here”? 1) I need to keep up with social media skills for work , and like to have new skills anyway. Looking back on posts, 2) the blog should be about writing (it’s what its ‘ mission statement’ says but seems to have dissolved into being a record of books that I am reading or have read, although the commentaries have no great insight or focus….I read widely, I dip in and out…but with a literature degree I could be thinking more about what I am reading.

On further reflection, it is probably 3) to save me keeping a diary of the mundane (shopping, hair colour, work, cafes) so I can keep my own track of the passing of days. On this basis it should really reflect my reasonably wide interests – science communication, public service issues, theatre, music, art, libraries, architecture, design, other cultures.  My other option would be to pick one and focus on it single-mindedly … but nah … I am too curious about too many things.

So “who do I want to connect with?” … it would have to be other writers of fiction or of articles/stories in any of my interests.

PS You will notice I use lots of ellipses … easier to create on a keyboard than a dash.

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Essential New Zealand Poems

Since Christmas Day 2014 I have been enjoying this present from my dear friend Marie [who knows me well!]…


It’s full of intriguing, lovely, local and fairly contemporary poems [including one by music superstar Lorde’s more-clever-Mum, Sonja! (because, Lorde, mothers always are!)] .

Best of all was finding Bub Bridger’s poem “A Christmas Wish”.   I have misquoted it for years, so it is great to have the real thing!

I saw Bub perform this live many years ago …. complete with the most generous, amorous gestures ever seen in a woman of 60 plus! She had the room filled of shocked and delighted laughter! I think it was the men who didn’t quite know where to look!

So after a small false start and collecting my dramatic courage, I narrated it on Christmas morning – in true Bub Bridger style…with Marie and Adrienne peeling with laughter. The Mimosa/Buck’s Fizz helped!

Here’s the opening (you’ll get the gist!). And a quick explanation for readers who are not Kiwis or rugby union historians, the Whetton brothers were All Blacks …

I want a Whetton for Christmas!
Either Alan or Gary would do…
I’d lo-o-o-o-ve a Whetton for Christmas
For some frolicsome festive woo…

Sets Christmas off just right for the ladies! The poem really should be on those little strips of paper in Christmas crackers!  Although let me be clear … Bub fancied the Whettons, while my favourite players have always been my nephew and cousins!

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The Year of Dangerous Resolutions

Here’s a resolution I won’t keep:

To finish the books on my bookshelf that I have started but been diverted from by another, more glossy, more recommended (or ‘more thrust into my hand and you must read this!’), more appealing for where I am now, or just won or about to win a prize.  My challenge is to be one of those classic readers that finishes each book they start.  A novel idea!

So …

  1. NO book groups, book clubs, book anythings where the reading list is defined for me.  Having quit a book club last year because of my own bad behaviour – I am usually too tired by the time I get there and so find it hard to relax and am cranky if I hate the book (which I did!) and/or overly talkative after a wine – this will not be hard to maintain.
  2. YES to supporting friends who are writers, directors, musicians, actors, artistic geniuses … people who actually create work. After all reading is so passive…all you really are is another audience.
  3. SOAK UP the books already on my shelf, unless I need to read a book for real research (ie not just to see how another more worthy writer – ie someone who finishes something written! – does it.)
  4. ENJOY my own writing style… which is good! And write more. Write lots.
  5. SIGN up for blogging 101 – which I just did, big tick.

So why won’t I keep it? Because I just know me … magpie me, looking for the next shiniest brightest book out there.  Perhaps short stories will be my saving grace … I can finish those easily! Just read Hilary Mantell’s story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher this morning and really liked it.  Even more so, as it must set alarm bells going in MI5 (or is it 6?) every time someone googles it!  I can see it as a play so perhaps Emma Thomson and Alan Rickman could chat with Hilary about that!

What did I finish in 2013? ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’ by Chris Hadfield – which was a moving perspective to life by my favourite astronaut since Michael Collins!

‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin who simply makes sense.  The book has been loaned around the office so we can all have a happier 2015!

So you see the problem … non-fiction is winning!

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A cold spring

Today’s blossom blows in
on a cloud of snow.
Spring turns back to winter.

Cherry blossom petals.
A pale pink snow
clings to the cold glass.

We’ve had a cold spring here in Hawke’s Bay (actually the whole of NZ has been cool and snowy), and these are two haiku I wrote for an online writing course I am doing with the Iowa Writing School … and yes, I mean THE Iowa Writing School!

I am enjoy the challenge of being set tasks that make me think about the placement of each word. Even in pasting these, I have revised the first poem and its better.  That’s it … enjoy!

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