Carving – Day 122 – Derek Weeks

Last night I was walking in Southbank with some friends and I heard Katie Perry coming from a boat… that sounded like a school semi-formal to me. On closer inspection it was my old high school’s semi-formal. I spotted my old film teacher Derek Weeks among the sweaty dolled up teens, and decided to go up and have a chat. 

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Without Derek’s classes I’m not sure I would have gotten into writing, because I never would have chosen film as a degree. He was certainly a mentor to me at school, and his enthusiasm for film and story rubbed off on me- so I asked him for some advice and a story prompt.

It was then I remembered how frustrating (and genius) Derek’s teaching methods are: he always forces you to draw your own conclusions and (occasionally) he’ll let you know you got it right. 

He wouldn’t give me anything, “I don’t know just go and live,” he said. So here’s my story:

Kit was an apprentice. He carved stone every day. At the end of every day the head artisan would look at his work and ask the same question, “What do you think?”

Kit never knew how to answer. He assumed if it was good, he wouldn’t ask that question, so he would pick out it’s flaws and try harder the next day.

On his days off, Kit would travel to see ancient carvings and take notes. Every day his work would get more intricate and more creative. He built towering structures that seemed to defy gravity and even perfected new ways to carve. But in the eve he was always met with the same question.

“What do you think?”

One day he cracked like an over chiseled stone.

“I don’t know how else to impress you!”

The artisan smiled.

“To be honest, I was impressed with your first ever carving,” he said. “But my opinion isn’t important, what do you think?”

Kit looked around at his constructions, as if he was seeing them for the first time.

“I think they are beautiful,” he said.

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Sisters – Day 121 – Cinnamon

It’s my friend’s birthday today. We’ve been friends since I was born, 22 years ago, and it’s got me thinking just how lost I could have gotten so many times throughout my life without her. Happy Birthday Cinnamon! Here is us pulling pranks together on the night of the new millennium- 14 years ago.

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There were two sisters

Born to different parents

Guiding eachother

Astro-naught – Day 120 – Georgia May

I think a good friend is a mentor, and Georgia is a very good friend. She suggested “Shy Astronaut”.

Herman watched the pod float past the ship, his colleagues trapped inside. He could save them with ground’s help, but his mouth was suddenly as dry as his mother’s humour.

His finger hovered over the ground control video intercom. He’d never done the reporting, he was just the brains. Besides, his office crush was on shift and he’d never been able to speak to her.

He pressed the button.

“Ground. Hello? Do you copy? Hello?”

At 35, this was the day Herman finally learnt to speak to girls.

Listening to Rooms – Day 119 – Alex Niell’s Found Photos

I pulled out the last photo sent from Alex Niell today, I’d been saving it for a rainy day and well- it pissed down most of today in Brisbane. Also, I thought it’d make a good mentor story. I really like the photo- whoever he is seems to be having a nice moment. The stickers on his bag kinda look like the ABC symbol and I’m pretty sure they’re in Russia (hammer and sickle on the wall)- but that’s where my Sherlocking ended.

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You used to listen to rooms. We went all over Europe, my rucksack filled with film and yours with cassette tapes. I never understood why. I’d stomp around the room inspecting every detail and there you were just sitting and listening. It would frustrate me that you were missing out.

When I came home, I hung some of my photos up. I remember laughing, imagining you setting up tape players around your house in a similar fashion.

Then the other day I was painting with my daughter. I watched her chubby fingers smear across the paper, she was making a terrible mess. So I decided to close my eyes for a minute, and I realised she was humming. It was beautiful, so I asked her if she made it up just then. She told me she makes up new ones every day. I’d been missing them.

So now I’m wondering if I can have a recording from our trip. We could do a swap, I’ve always liked this photo of you, perhaps you will too?

Love

Sammy

Pumpkin – Day 114 – Anon/Susan MacGillicuddy

20140319_165529So I met with my old screenwriting lecturer from uni and asked her for some Mentor March advice. She’s a very inspiring teacher and her advice was very simple:

Q. What are you good at that you can pass on to me? 

A. Blazing my own trail- not trying to mimic someone else’s.

Q. How do writers improve?

A. They get older.

And then came the challenge: “ask a stranger for a secret.”

It was a pretty daunting thought, but as it turns out surprisingly easy. I headed to Melbourne today, and while waiting for my overpriced airport bagel, a man offered me a seat at his table.

So I asked him, and he was incredibly obliging. He bravely launched into a tale about a girl he loved, which ended in an awkward threesome. I wont go into all the details, but he’d loved her for a long time and she had gotten together with someone else. Then he met her at a party years later and they got talking about plants.

She interjected, and he found out all was not quite as it seemed… I liked the detail he’d added about talking about plants so I took it for my story today:

“I tried to grow a pumpkin from the seeds once, but it didn’t work.”

“Maybe you didn’t spend enough time on it?”

“I started out watering it every day. I’d heard plants respond well to music so I even sung to it. I liked to imagine a little pumpkin embryo dancing under the soil. But after two weeks I gave up, I knew it wasn’t going to grow.”

“You were too impatient. If you’d stuck by it, maybe it would have seen how much you wanted it to grow.”

“I can’t spend all my time singing to potential pumpkins.”

“It wasn’t potential, it was real, you just didn’t notice. It needed you. You could have eaten pumpkin every day if you’d just looked a little harder!”

“I dreamt of pumpkin every night. No one wanted it more than me. I’ve even left the garden bed empty all this time.So don’t tell me how to garden.”

Melt – Day 112 – Josh Donellan (& Terry Whidborne)

A few months ago I attended Laura Street Festival in West End, and saw a brilliant slam poet (and author too) named Josh Donellan. He was funny, charismatic and insightful. So I decided to get in contact with him to see if he’d be one of my March Mentors. This project has definitely opened my eyes to just how easy it is to get help from those you admire when you just ask.

We met up yesterday and he was just as kind and inspiring as all my other mentors (I don’t have a picture of us because I got flustered and forgot). 

As usual I asked him what he was good at that he could pass on to me, and he answered with art/life balance. Josh splits his life into teaching and writing/performing. He loves teaching because he gets to tell stories and sing songs with the kids, but it doesn’t sap him of creative energy, so when he gets the time to write he’s completely onto it. He told me to search for what works for me and treat my mind like an athlete would their body.

Then it was time for the challenge. Josh started off with an anecdote about having to perform poetry to a group of 150+ 16 year old boys. When he finished he said “I challenge you to give your art to someone you think will hate it.” He explained that it will help me deal with criticism better. 

So I wrote this story based on Terry Whidborne’s tweet prompt from today: “melt”. (Terry is another amazing mentor/person I admire- his brilliant mind and stunning illustrations are on display at 7th World)

Her brain begins to melt. Thoughts slosh about, mixing like bad cocktails made by inebriated teens.  She cocks her head and it trickles out her ear onto the desk.

Mortified, she scrapes it up, trying to reshape it. It doesn’t work. The edges are wonky and little bits from the outside world keep sticking to it. Accepting futility, she stuffs it back inside her head.

Surprisingly it works. Colours look a little different and ideas begin to stick together, but it seems to think even better than before.

And then I hit the streets looking for someone who might hate it. This turned out to be hard… really hard.

For starters I had to stereotype people (funky glasses- no they like art… beard? No they probably run a blog themselves). And to top it off, I am very nervous about striking up conversation with strangers.

Finally, I decided to ask a construction worker, but he was directing traffic and said all the others would be too busy to read it too. I sat down in despair, then a man sat down next to me. He was holding a book about sporting injuries. It was a long shot…

“Excuse me, do you like short stories?” 

“Not really…”

“Great! You’re exactly who I’m looking for- can you read mine and tell me what you think?”

“…I guess.”

He looked as if he was wishing he’d sat somewhere else as he took my story.

After a minute he handed it back.

“Not bad, it’s a lot shorter than I expected which was good. It’s way better than reading my podiatry text book.”

Not a glowing review but I’d take it. I took a picture and off I went. A wave of relief hit me. The prospect of live feedback was way more daunting than actually receiving it. 

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Genetic Code – Day 111 – Simon Groth

Me and Simon laughing at the difficulties of selfies with huge height differences. (Simon is stooping... a lot)
Me and Simon laughing at the difficulties of selfies with huge height differences. (Simon is stooping… a lot)

Last year, before I began my writing challenge, I saw Simon Groth present a speech about writing a book in 24 hours (Willow Pattern). Simon is the manager of if:book Australia, which explores new forms of digital literature and the changing connections between writers and readers. I’d never heard of if:books before, but I loved their experimental and interactive projects! I thought they sounded a bit like mine- but better thought out and funded.

 I decided he would be a great person to talk to about my project. I remember getting sweaty palms as he finished his speech and sat down. Was I actually going to go up there and tell this professional author my half baked idea? 

I looked down and my feet were already carrying me up the aisle to the front row where he was sitting. Thank you feet… 

Simon turned out to be incredibly approachable and helpful. Since then he’s linked me to amazing sites & people, and even swapped war stories about writing for 24 hours with me on his podcast.

So I met up with him this week for Mentor March and found out a whole bunch of cool things about him. For instance, he has a saying “park your arse” – basically quit your jibber jabber, sit down and just write (everyday at that). 

I asked him what he was good at that he could pass on to me. He told me he’s always had good feedback about his dialogue, suggesting I try to write dialogue with deep subtext as much as possible.

Lastly he told me not to be afraid to be influenced by other artists. It doesn’t muddy individual voice, it will ultimately make it stronger. 

I then asked for a story prompt, he answered simply. “Codes”

18/03/2010

Hey Dad,

I know you haven’t been able to move around too well lately. The days must be so slow- they probably feel like time is going backwards. So I’ve left you a code to crack for the day:

teas rouy rednu stiucsib dih I.

Frankie

7/01/2014

Dad,

I usually love getting your call to say you’ve cracked the day’s code, but today I’m hoping you don’t get it. I guess I’m an even closer reflection of you than we thought.

yɿɒƚibɘɿɘʜ ƨ’ƚi ,yɒboƚ bɘƨonǫɒib ƨɒw I

Love,

Frankie