Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Giving book birth

No babies were harmed in the making of
this image (I hope).
The writing of a book is kind of like the conception of a child -- fun, on the whole, provided it doesn't take too many do-overs or require the daily monitoring of one's temperature to ensure that the whole thing isn't an effing waste of time, with nothing but a sore 'back' and worn weary sheets to show for your efforts.

But the publishing and promotion of a book, that couldn't be more like the giving birth part of producing a child if it bled and wailed and tore at your tender bits till you said: 'stuff this, I've changed my mind. Let's get a dog.'

The only difference between delivering a book and a baby is that the reward part -- the publishing --comes first, followed by the labour pains of promotion, a pain for which there is no known drug relief (I've investigated a few), and no known end. After my first month of promotion contractions even the snarliest of dogs on our local beach are starting to look appealing.

In truth, though I do have three, more or less well children, I was next to useless at the giving birth part and fear I am not altogether acing the promotion part of this book birthing business either. I am doing my best, of course, but as with the baby birthing business, my best seems to be proving inadequate to the task, to the point that, eventually, men in white coats with long faces and forms for loved ones to sign will be brought in.

I don't seem to know when to push and when to pull back and pant patiently, you see, and don't take as kindly as some to being told. Then, before you know it (34 hours later) they tell you the baby is in distress and your husband (number one support person and reader) is asleep.

Still, I do have an exceptionally high pain threshold -- as you will know having read my dance memoir -- so I'm not done in yet. The one saving grace of the book birthing business is that there's no biological clock to say your time's up. You can do it, if necessary, on your death bed, which, at the rate I'm going, looks increasingly likely.          

Friday, May 27, 2016

Muslim Mayor

I think this is the first time I have used the M-word in a title. I wonder if it sets off alarm bells somewhere; I wouldn't be surprised.

LONDON, my favourite city in the world -- though that's mainly because outside of my two home cities (Sydney, Auckland, which I also love), I have only lived in London -- has just appointed a Muslim man called Khan to the mayoralty. Hurrah for London! Hurrah for Khan!

The media are reporting that London's population of 9 million or so is now 44% 'non-white'. 'Non-white' is a very large category of people. If they unite against us, we, the weary whites, are -- just between you, me and the white gate post -- fckd. I hope it doesn't come to that.

But before that, indeed to ward that off, a big hurrah to Mayor Khan!! It even sounds right.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Flog the blog

What I didn't do.
Crikey! What a week it has been on the blog!

Not only have I gained four beautiful brand new 'followers' -- after begging for them right here on the blog (previous post) -- but I have lost my original, and much nicer settings template, without knowing how!

I was trying to change the colour of my link highlights font to make links stand out more, but it all started unravelling: the layout, the colours, the font, everything! In the end, link font colour was about the only thing I didn't change.

Everything else was radically unfamiliar and different for a while there. Now it's only a little different after I managed to get the original background back. But I lost that twice, saving other changes, so I don't want to risk it again.

That means, I'm afraid, that this insipid version will have to do. It's a blunted and blurred version of the previous design, which seems especially unfair to my newest followers who didn't get to properly experience the better blog design, or perhaps to my regulars who had gotten used to it. But as I said, I'm a complete f''king tech idiot.


Frankly, I'd rather deal with pigeons.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wrestling with the F-word (followers)

Since my first book was published three weeks ago with this blog address included in the author biography and Amazon profile, I have gained a total of three new 'followers', bringing the titanic tally to nineteen. My viewer stats have increased by a larger degree, an estimated 20-30%, but nobody sees those rather more impressive stats except for my trusty followers -- and me -- at least as far as I can work out. I don't really know what my non-followers (stalkers) see, which might be my first problem.

My Facebook page says I have 83 friends but my paltry follower stats say different. I have ever so gently tried to coax followers from FB 'friends' in the past, but to little or no avail. I don't like to PUSH. It's undignified and desperate.

Also, I am told Blogspot doesn't make it easy to follow (thanks for telling me that three years ago when I got started), and yet those nimble nineteen seem to have managed it without any need to return to university to re-qualify in following.

Of course the word is a major turn-off; 'friends' is clearly a much more persuasive lure -- if ever there were a clever euphemism (!). Still, it's not a blind, sheep-like following to follow an erudite and entertaining, up-to-the-minute-in-all-that-is-hip-and-happening blogger; I know because I follow a few such blogs without feeling the need to ba-aa-aa. Ha-aa-aa but not ba-aa-aa; there's a difference.

This Easter, getting less dignified and more desperate by the minute, I even came out for the cause as Jesus's sister, an identity that although hard to say, and slightly harder to believe, I thought should up my follower numbers some (naught). As a feminist I was not naive enough to think I could match my brother's follower stats (2.8 million trillion), but I had thought some of his followers, perhaps especially the female ones, might be tempted to switch allegiance to a living woman rather than a long-dead man. More fool me.

So now I'm resorting to begging. Next step the crucifix. If you don't wish me to go to those lengths, I ask that you please -- hands held together in prayer-like pose -- consider going through the rigmarole of following OWW. I'm sure it's not as painful as it sounds, and certainly not as painful as crucifixion -- especially for me.    

Thank you and God bless.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Coming insideout in sympathy

After some upsetting writing-related news yesterday, I found myself feeling not quite right. I got up in the night, unable to sleep, and put my underpants on insideout. When I later discovered this I left them like that; insideout underpants fit my mood rather well, I decided.

Later, I discovered my jumper had been on insideout all day too, again without my noticing, much less anyone else noticing (all male house mates), though the dark red seams are chunky and knotted like varicose veins. Clearly I hadn't bothered with a mirror.

It's strangely comforting to be insideout, and as it's a lazy bad-weather Saturday, I haven't had to take my insideout self outside yet, which simplifies things for the neighbours.

Still, I wonder about this rash of insideoutness. Although I am a little vague by nature, and frequently upset by this, that and the other, I normally manage to put most items on outside out and inside in. So why two items insideout in one day? Perhaps, I consider, my body knows my brain suffers and is coming out, or rather insideout, in sympathy?

I decide I rather like this idea; it's far preferable to the alternative -- I'm losing my mind, one or two items of clothing at a time, and will soon be resorting to yoga. Ommmmmm...... (or should that be Moooooooo.....).   

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Glorious Steinem

Gloria Steinem at the Aotea Centre in Auckland last night was extraordinary. She made me feel proud to be a feminist again. Sometimes feminists are made to feel less than heroic (believe me).

Steinem knows how it is and is not afraid to tell it true. You'd never believe she is 82, except by how much she knows.

Questions from the audience covered everything from does 'liberal' or 'cultural' feminism (white feminism) have anything to say to Muslim women, to abortion hypocrisies and the value of stay-at-home mums. Steinem had an intelligent and nuanced response to each of them.

Steinem is the first to say things, you don't hear cliché or jargon from her. She coined the term 'reproductive freedom' and suggested people should have rights to such a freedom.

She dedicated her latest book to her abortionist.

She doesn't accept that in not having children she sacrificed motherhood to the cause. She says she has not one ounce of regret about the life she has led, and when she says it, you believe her. Who wouldn't want Gloria Steinem's life? Most women would -- particularly if it included her face and legs.

So go glorious Gloria, the original second-waver. If women ever do achieve reproductive freedom around the world, it will be very much thanks to you.

** The link 'Gloria Steinem' in the first line of this post takes you to an interview with present-day Gloria. Check it out.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Winterson and Wife

I stalked them along Queen Street, having caught a glimpse of Winterson's profile and feeling sure, or almost sure, it was her, snapped around and followed them back to the Aotea centre (we had been going for a walk).

My husband wondered if I'd forgotten which way we were walking. When I told him, he made us cross the street (only six lanes of it), worried I was going to approach them. He doesn't like scenes...

Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? was with her wife, Susie Orbach, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue among other powerful academic treatise on women and bodies and emotional health. They were both invited to the Auckland Writers' Festival to talk separately and together about their books and lives. They don't live together, Jeanette and Susie, one likes the light, the other the dark, as they revealed to us at an intimate gathering of 150 or so people last night, but they are partners, and I think are officially wed.
Susie Orbach's most recent book

I have been a fan of both authors and women separately, for a long time. Orbach was first. All the way back in 1992, I wrote a 5,000-word essay on eating disorders in my third year of university -- whilst a practising bulimic. Her book was almost foundational in the discipline of medical sociology I was studying that year, though the doctors, and some academics, did not necessarily acknowledge that.

Winterson came later for me when I became interested in life writing. Her memoir and autobiographical novel about growing up tough and strange in the north of England were highly influential on my approach to the task of writing my own, somewhat strange if not exactly tough memoir about growing up in Sydney. I guess she taught me it's okay to be strange.

... Sure enough, I stalked them all the way to the Aotea Centre, where they disappeared, without being noticed by anyone else, underground like a couple of literary gnomes, small, light and springy, and each with a similarly abundant head of fuzzy hair, as if they are equally matched in the power of their brains that are so hot-wired they frazzle the hair that grows out of them.

Their 'pop-up' demand-driven talk as an extra feature of the Auckland Writers' Festival and set up underneath the Aotea Centre, was fabulous: intimate, funny and insightful. Unfortunately their solo talks for the festival were sold out before we got there, but tomorrow night we go to see -- or rather to hear -- Gloria Steinem, so mustn't grumble.

And a big hip-hop-hooray to the Auckland Writers' Festival for hosting all these great writers!!!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Orange grass

The grass is so thick
with autumn,
you imagine it minds
its lush green skin
dulled and dampened
beneath that shaggy,
burnt orange coat --
no doubt sweating.

There are so many fallen leaves
all flicked and flecked about,
like waves on an orange sea,
or butter icing on a cake,
they almost taste and tickle.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mothers' Day Night

At Tok Tok -- Asian fusion for talk talk perhaps; I have no actual idea. A lot of tok tok was had, though.

Two poems inspired by the day and night (Sunday 8 May) of celebrating mothers the world over.

Mothers' Day

Listening to my new
Mothers Day Beethoven
is walking through
a fresh garden,
familiar yet surprising.

Leaves fall
carefully to the ground
as if selecting where on the grass
they want to come to rest.

One nose-dives now
showing off
caring not,
unless we should think leaves all alike.

How sad when the power runs out
and there are
no more mums;
no more leaves,
and no more Beethoven!

When Beethoven is switched off forever,
that will be
in itself
almost sadder
than the end of the whole world --

Beethoven, mums (my husband and children), and autumn leaves...
Mothers' Night

I put on my glasses
to better see the darkness; 
we could be in outer space.

I'm not sure
if the glasses help;
my instincts are rather dulled
by the early hour.

After a while
they sharpen
and I begin to see
and hear the darkness. 

A car whooshes past;
a truck
much more distant
roars and whispers both,
grunts made sighs on the wings of distance.

Happy Mothers Day Night 
to one and all rock 'n' roll mutters!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Launch in fast motion

I was so nervous for my book launch I'm blurry in just about all the photos taken. But it was a great Tuesday night, enjoyed by many (50-60) and by me, once the worst of the the talking and reading from Chapter Three was done. I even gave, and got, a few laughs. But sorry about the blur.

A nervous start. 

A good turnout. 

All very serious, pre-talk (mother and son).

The fabulous Stephanie Johnson 'introducing' me.

Rachel from Paradox Books reading a launch statement from the publishers, Finch Sydney.

Reading my book, the most nerve-wracking aspect of the night, though the audience laughed in all the right places.

Now I can laugh: book signing.

The camera hasn't quite figured out that I'm no longer nervous.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The other woman

Meet Sacha Jones. She is a tennis star, a New Zealand tennis star, who recently defected to Australia in the hope of becoming an Australian tennis star (hasn't happened yet, but you never know). Check out the link.

Meet me, Sacha Jones, an Australian dancing star who some years back defected to New Zealand, perhaps not in the hope of becoming a New Zealand dancing star -- it was too late for that -- but otherwise the parallels are uncanny. I look just like this in my black Nike singlet, though my snarl is much more fierce; perhaps the Australians can work on that for her.

There's no media link to my defection story, mind, indeed nobody seemed to miss me when I left Australia, and Sacha is not my real name, but otherwise it seems this other Sacha Jones is living my life in geographic reverse, and in sport instead of the arts.

I don't know who got the better end of the bargain, Australia or New Zealand; I guess time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm off to work on my backhand.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

P is for Published (and period, and paranoia, and...)

A lot of good words start with P, or so it seems to me, published is one of them. 

Today, May 1 (May 2, actually; it seems I got my ones and twos mixed up -- IT'S THE STRESS!!), is the day my book goes on sale in Australia and New Zealand, and beyond that in e-book form. And I am happy. Hurrah! 

But it seems to me I should be happier than I am. And after some reflection on the matter, I have decided that the likely culprits for the derailment of my delicious delirium, are three, not quite so good P-words: period, paranoia and pursuit. 

Generally, all that is happy and delicious for me on my heaviest period day (today) is cake, preferably with cream and/or custard -- so C-words, not P. Chocolate is good too.   

Everyone is paranoid to some degree, and increasingly; social media has seen to that. But now that I've stuck my neck out almost as far as a neck can be stuck out, in writing a tell-all memoir about some of the most embarrassing moments of my life, as well as the lives of a few other people who may -- or may not -- be amused, my paranoia has been cranked up to about a 10.5 on the writers' Richter scale. And I live in New Zealand, an earthquake-prone country.

Pursuit. Well, this is the real culprit, I suspect. For although you can't know it till you get there, even if you've seen the film more than once, it is the pursuit of happiness and success that counts; the getting there rather than the being there that feels, at least on good days, like something approximating proper happiness. And therein lies the rub.  

Of course, if you were to enjoy (buy and recommend to the world) my book; if it were to make you happy indeed to read it, and you are in your many many many thousands, then I think I could find a way to overcome these obstacles and be very happy indeed -- even on the bloodiest of days. And as that is a process and pursuit that need have no end, as numbers don't stop at the thousands, my happiness need never end. 

Which brings us to one more P-word: people. It's all about people. Indeed, it's all about you. My book is about me, but my enduring happiness is about you. Or rather, it's about us, this enduring happiness business, and that's a bloody good U-word (us) to end on -- except for this link to the publishers' page for my book -- the quickest way to our mutual happiness.