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.

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

Teal – Day 108 – Christopher Currie

Writing everyday has been a massive effort for me and pretty hard at times. So I decided to contact a  talented author named Christopher Currie who wrote a story everyday for a year between 2008-2009 (you should definitely read his amazing blog furioushorses.com). I wrote him an email asking for advice and he was amazingly obliging. We swapped stories about the difficulties of this type of challenge and he linked me to some other similar projects for inspiration. It was really useful and weirdly therapeutic- and now I have a lovely mentor.

I asked him for a story prompt and he sent me back this:

“So you have to get a challenge from someone each day? Now that’s impressive! I’m actually in Germany at the moment until later in the year, but you can always catch me on email.

A prompt, eh? Well at the moment I’m writing stories based on colour and World War II, so why not take that as a starting point?”

And I did. I looked up a website of WWII noises and listened alone in the library. They were haunting. I wondered how I would link them to colour, and then I remembered watching a documentary on Synesthesia (where your senses get mixed up and linked in odd ways). This is the result.

My dad’s voice was always teal. Soft and gravelly; it almost looked woven, like the fabric of his coat. Everything I heard had a colour, but no-one had a teal voice like dad’s.

The whining air raid siren was always a blinding white, only pierced by the whistling of falling bombs (yellow). It was always a relief to hear the long note that signalled the all clear (a soothing forest green colour).

One night I awoke, blinded by white. I could feel dad lifting me up as a yellow flash streaked across my vision. He took us down to the basement and left to help put out the fire down the street. I huddled close to my aunt and sister hoping for green. Instead, another flash of yellow blazed a trail across my vision in the dark.

I never saw that teal again. Years later I married a girl with a delicate blue voice. I made sure my wedding suit was teal and the bridesmaid dresses too, but I could never find the right shade. It was so long ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d know the colour if I saw it.

We had a baby boy. He cried as soon as he was delivered and so did I. Soft woven teal was echoing through the hospital.

Mountains – Day 106 – Mentor Mountain

I was here all day for a photo shoot and started wondering how mountains are made. I Googled it and found the term ‘fold mountains.’ I read a little – but not being a geologist – I started to get confused. So I wrote my own explanation:

Bored, the earth decided to try origami. It took a nice flat plain and started folding.But folding the earth’s crust was harder than it had anticipated. It tried over and over discarding uneven shapes across the plain. And so the first mountain range was created.

Having lived their entire lives up till then as flat beings, the mountains were very disgruntled. Twisted and hunched they felt like unwilling contortionists, with no older mountains to guide them through their transition.

But in time, they learnt to rely on each other and now animals come from all around to climb the mountains and learn from them.

Lesson – Day 104 – Morag

When I first thought up this challenge I visualized that I would be doing it just for fun (self torture?). Until a lecturer told me I should use it as an Honours project. Now I am in a class with lots of clever, talented people. Watching them all working passionately on their own projects makes me realise how blurred the boundary between peers and mentors really is. So I decided to ask one of these people for an idea. Her name is Morag and I don’t know much about her other than she has mad organising skills and a cool foot tattoo. She gave me the prompt “a mentor turning on a student” after telling me a short story about her own mentor. 

The two bespectacled journalists would meet most nights. Graham would sit back thoughtfully as they discussed the intricacies of interview technique and the finer points of editing. All the while Jack’s notes would make indents on the next page; clear markers of his enthusiasm. Their favourite topic was how to crack the elusive case Graham had been working on for years.  

On the day Jack was invited to accompany Graham to an interview, he sweated so much his glasses fell off and shattered. But something about his nervous energy charmed the interviewee. She sent Jack a full honest account the next day. Excited Jack showed it to Graham who merely nodded.

The two never saw each other again. Graham took the interview and published it as his own. Jack was left struggling to make ends meet interviewing dodgy plumbers for a local tabloid.

Years later Jack saw Grahams face staring at him from a cover in a bookstore. He walked into the shop and opened the autobiography. The acknowledgements read:

For Sweaty. I was blinded by greed. In the end, you taught me the biggest lesson.

The next day Jack received a huge anonymous check.