“It’s Just Like Joseph Always Says…”

October 16, 2008 at 4:14 am (Uncategorized)

Have just filed another story – it never rains! So unstable, freelance. I love the fact that it’s always changing, but a week like this one just leaves me feeling like a blue-arsed fly, I guess particularly because I generally structure my workday, no one else (a delicious freedom), and many of my deadlines are self-imposed. But this week it feels like I’ve been interviewing, transcribing, and writing around the clock – with one very long lunch in between, true…

Yes, the Sydney chapter of the Dark Girls, a.k.a the Darklings, met for lunch yesterday, the first of what we’re planning to make a lifetime of reunions “A.V.”, or After Varuna. After we left Varuna, I finished off a little hybrid piece of writing retelling one of our nights there. It was one particular conversation, in fact, that I thought was hilarious (and yes, we’d been drinking). Where it suited me, I made up comments that were never uttered, and attributed personality traits that may or may not be accurate, but the main thrust of it was very much my impression of the night. Anyway, I tell you this only because I assigned us all names based on our novels – indeed, I’m Hybrid – so in case any of them would prefer to remain nameless (a bit too late for the Changeling, I think, since I’ve already talked about Wasp Season several times here), I’ll use those names now: the Dark Heart, the Disappointed Daughter, the Changeling and the steamy, flesh-obsessed Sensual Bookstore. 

The Melbourne chapter comprises the Changeling and the Sensual Bookstore, and it was very sad meeting up without them. It emphasised again just how perfect the whole Varuna set-up was: a whole luxurious week of space and time for writing and talking. But desperate women who spend an inordinate of time sitting alone in a silent room really cannot afford to be fussy, so we had no choice but to press on without our Darklings down south. Dark Heart, the Disappointed Daughter and I met in Glebe at Sappho, the bookstore/cafe next door to Gleebooks. I had not been to Glebe since dinner at Lai Heng and Roberto’s house months ago, and I can’t even remember the last time before that. It’s always good to be there, in a great part of town with any number of relaxed cafes as well as one of Sydney’s most beloved bookstores.

Weren’t we just three Cheshire puss-alikes, colliding happily in the doorway, a tangle of white teeth and open arms? Do you think we were maybe just a little bit pleased to see each other? You betcha. What did I even do before they came into my life? Oh that’s right, I very often despaired of ever being part of a community of writers, and I felt increasingly desperate and isolated about it as I toiled away here on my own. Now we’ve established our Virtual Varuna, exchanging work and comments and ideas over email on a near-daily basis, I don’t feel that way anymore at all. And let me tell you, it is a merciful relief even knowing they’re out there, so having two out of four of them sitting opposite me at lunch was beyond exciting. 

We talked about everyone’s stuff, but I guess I got a bit greedy, because we certainly spent a long time talking about mine. The Dark Heart had read the whole thing, and came to lunch with pages of notes. See what I mean? How great is that? For someone who is GAGGING for feedback, a chapter-by-chapter breakdown is about as good as it gets. Of course it is disappointing and frustrating to realise that I still have at least one more major redraft ahead of me, I’d be lying if I said that didn’t bother me at all (Tim sent me a fabulous Joseph Conrad quote the other day on this very thing. Conrad wrote to a friend that the thought of rewriting made him want to butt his head into a wall, which he followed with the eerily familiar words “I feel like screaming and foaming at the mouth, but I daren’t” – oh, I hear you, Joe, I hear you!). It feels a bit wretched, actually, staring at the long list of problems that need fixing – and it was a long list! The Dark Heart did not hold back, bless her. But it’s so invaluable getting that other perspective, or both those other perspectives in my very privileged case yesterday, that it’s hard to feel anything other than glad overall (she says, pulling out another clump of greying hair). And the truth is, I probably haven’t done enough of the purely technical work yet. There is a lot of technique that goes into supporting the structure that becomes the novel, and if I am totally honest, I haven’t paid my dues in that area at present, so it’s little wonder the foundations are still a little wobbly. 

So now that I’ve filed this latest story (on cancer; trust me, you don’t want to know), can I please go back to facing the music? Thank you. I think I shall.

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