Friday, October 14, 2016

Is a writer responsible for their characters actions?

I read J.M Coeztee's book "Disgrace" this semester for university. It's about racism in South Africa. Its main character is David Lurie, an old entitled white man who was once distinguished and powerful, but is now just a second rate lecturer at a university that is a shadow of its former glorious self. Lurie is old fashioned and very unlikable. He is a racist but doesn't come out and admit it. He is a product of the era that he was raised in. I've met a lot of people like Lurie. Older people mostly who make comments about immigrants and how things were so much better when they were younger and how much they dislike the way things are now. I've been doing some reading about Disgrace because I have to write an essay about it. Apparently the book caused a bit of a stir in South Africa with a lot of people calling it racist and the author racist and wanting it banned. A lot of people thought that Lurie - a white man - had to be based off the author J.M Coeztee and his own political thoughts and opinions.

Writers are often judged for the actions and opinions and beliefs of their characters because people think that we - writers - are using our characters as a way to express ourselves. And that might be true for some writers. A lot of writers use their stories as a bit of a soap box for them to preach about something that they are passionate about. But for many others what their characters might be the polar opposite of them. I've always felt that writers should have the freedom to write about whomever and whatever they want to write about. We should not be censored and we should not be held accountable for the actions of our characters. When I write a story I cease to be myself and I become my character. I am whoever they need to be. I breathe life into them and I make them come alive. The character lives and breathes through me. But we are still separate beings. If my character does or says something rude or inappropriate I am only doing that for the sake of the story their actions should not be a reflection on me and my own opinions not unless I specifically say that it is supposed to be.

It's unfair to call Coeztee a racist just because his character David Lurie has a hard time adapting to the political changes that sweep through South Africa. It's like calling the author of American Psycho a psychopath just because his main character is one. Coeztee wrote a story that was unpleasant to read about but was something that needed to be shared. You shouldn't try to ban things just because they pull back the curtain on a truth you do not want to face. Disgrace is fiction. We need to remember that there is a line between fiction and reality. Instead of pointing fingers at Coeztee and calling him a racist what people should be doing is discussing Disgrace and the important questions it raises about race relations and politics in South Africa.

I am about to graduate from university

Well, here I am. Six years later. I am finally on the verge of finishing university. I've been looking forward for this day for so long and now that it is so close I feel weird about it. I am going to be glad to give it all up and move on but I will miss it. Its been apart of my life for so long and its given me something to focus on and a goal. I've enjoyed it and I've hated parts of it. Some highlights! Introduction to Journalism was the best class I took and really helped me figure out what career directions I could go in as a writer. I realized that I could do journalism if I wanted and it inspired me to begin writing articles online. Graphic novels was fun. I got to read some classic books and learnt about the history of the genre. I am really glad I switched my minor from editing to history and writing. I was CRAP at editing. My dyslexia just put up her hands and said "No, fuck this!" and left the room and did not come back. I did not blame her. University level grammar is pretty god damn horrifying.

I enjoyed learning how to make websites even though it was horribly stressful at first. I eventually got the hang of it and managed to build some websites from scratch. Fun stuff! I learnt about the black plague and witches in some more history classes and who can forget my very first assignment which I did about Klingon language? The best thing about doing university is that I've proven to myself that I am capable of doing a lot of things in this life. I am smart. I might not be as smart as my brother but I have gotten some pretty decent grades. I averaged between a CR and a D in most classes which I think was pretty good. I got a couple of HD's and I will never forget one teacher who told me he thought I was very talented and could have a career in journalism if I wanted. I liked his comments so much I kept the paper he wrote that on and still have it in my bookshelf. I have achieved a lot in this life but graduating from university might be at the top of that list. I have four learning disabilities and someone said to me once "You have to accept that there are some things you cannot do" I will never forget those words because I use them as inspiration to prove her wrong! I am not an idiot. I am not hopeless. I am not broken. I can do whatever I want to do. It helps if I have encouragement. And I have been surrounded by the most loving family my whole life who has done nothing but encourage me. Its funny what I can achieve if people pat me on the back and tell me to have a go. If you drag me down I will believe I am worthless and I will achieve nothing but if you pick me up and give me a little push you will be surprised what I can fucking achieve.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sometimes I have no respect for the media

I want to get a job as a writer when I finish university. I've been looking into my options and there is a lot of stuff I can do from positions in government departments to universities to journalist positions. I have no idea if I'm going to be successful in getting one of these jobs. There are very, very few where I live. Most of them are in the Eastern states. But I'm looking. I have been dabbling with article writing these past few months and have even tried calling myself a freelance journalist. But the title doesn't feel right. I think I'm just a writer. I might sometimes write fiction, or an article, or a blog post...but I'm just a writer. I would love a job writing for a blog someday but I want to be able to keep my opinions and my voice. I dislike how some news organisations are really, really fucked up. Like total propaganda for the government and I find it extremely disturbing. I'm talking about the right-wing media of course. There was an article recently about two girls who were a "new breed of bludger" who didn't want to work. It was so ridiculous. Bloody Scott Morrison even said he would "personally look into their case" which really conjures up the image of him re-arranging his belt, doesn't it? "I'll handle this, fellas." Christ.

Well! It turns out the article was (surprise, surprise) total fucking shit. Lies. Total lies. And all I can think is "How could they do this to that girl? How could they call themselves journalists?" This isn't the first time the media has lied to gather hysteria and outrage. But it really disgusts me because they went after a pair of god damn highschool girls who haven't even been on Centrelink and have now ruined their lives. Who is going to want to hire them now? God knows. Those poor children. They took advantage of them. And for what? To push the government's agenda that the poor people are to blame for all of our problems. What's stupid about what they did was it was just so...well dumb. You're supposed to have ethics in journalism and they took a big, giant steaming shit on them. What's even more dumb is they committed slander and deliberately ruined this girl's life and reputation and have given her a successful suit for slander on a silver platter if she wants to go ahead with it. And I hope she does.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My thoughts on No Man's Sky

I got a PS4 last night and I love it. It's great. It's so much better than my Xbox One and has amazing games. If I had to rank the 3 current machines I would rank them PS4, Wii U and then the X Box. I've had a lot of fun with my X Box but the PS4 is just so simple and fun to use and they have some great games. I've been playing No Man's Sky this past week whenever I can find five minutes to myself. A lot of people are complaining about this game online and saying that it was a big disappointment. I've had some mixed thoughts about it but have decided that I like it. But it is not for everyone. It all depends on what you like in your games.

A lot of people say it hasn't got content. I disagree. It does. You just have to find it. What I find unique about this game is that it hasn't got a plot or a character. You could be a man, a woman, black, white, whatever you want. You're just a person with a back pack and a ship. And I think that's great. At first I wasn't that sure about the lack of plot but I've realized since then it IS there is will just reveal itself to me slowly as I unlock more of the game. And that intrigues me. I've just unlocked a space cannon and I'm about to get my hyper drive and I'm psyched.

I've been playing Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U for months now and it's the polar opposite of No Man's Sky. It is about 100% more detailed. The world of Mira is astonishing. It's the biggest world I've ever played in. It's beautiful and creative and insane. I have spent hours exploring it and then there are all the different animals and monsters and things to collect and stuff to do. I've put in over 120 hours in this game and I still have not finished. XCX is frustrating and addictive as hell but it's also too difficult. Part of the thing that has kept me going back to it has been the determination to figure out WHAT THE HELL I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. The more I figured out how the game worked the more I wanted to play more because it got a little bit easier...until I upped a level and it got hard again. But sometimes that difficulty frustrated me. I want to play and achieve goals every single time. It's incredibly maddening to instead lose my skell and then have to spend the new few tries scraping together more money to get another one.

What I like about No Man's Sky is that it is a lot simpler and easier to achieve little goals. I don't find myself grunting in frustration and wanting to storm out of the room like I do with XCX. Part of the fun for No Man's Sky for me is the quiet exploring of the worlds and finding new things to collect. It's a bit like Animal Crossing in space. There's no skill involved. It's a good way to unwind. Kind of like having a bath. The game might not be as colourful or inventive as XCX but it does what it does well. It can be fun to play difficult and frustrating games because when you pass that level you were stuck on for so long you want to jump up and punch the air in celebration. But it can also be fun to play a game that is so simple you can just sit down and heave a happy, relaxed sigh and have some fun.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Writing is a lot like dating

I know how the world of publishing works. People are very busy. Editors don't have the time to respond to every single letter and email. I get it. But at the same does it suck sometimes. I feel like I'm in the dating world again. I find myself obsessively checking my email account multiple times a day hoping for an email. And when it doesn't come I feel so dejected. I wonder how long do I have to wait until silence means no. It's so frustrating. You get so tempted to write an email to them and ask "Hey? remember me? did you like that story?" but I refuse to do that because I think it is unprofessional. Sometimes silence means rejection. As a writer you just have to deal with it. You have to be professional. Yes, you wasted all that time writing and researching that article, that's true. But at least it was fun writing it, right? At least you almost got that bite of that apple, right? It doesn't stop it from being frustrating. But I think that writers should act in a certain way. Don't be the writer who writes a snarky reply to a critique. Don't be the writer who argues with an editor. And DON'T be the writer who won't accept when they've been rejected. I wish they could find five minutes to write me a quick letter saying "Not for us, thanks" because at least then I know and can stop wondering and move the hell on. But alas the publishing world doesn't always work that way.

My articles are little depressing

I've been writing some articles about my childhood and I've noticed that they tend to be a little depressing. I don't mean to write such depressing stuff! I'm just writing about my life and experiences and to be honest the years I spent in school were just not good. But that's normal. Being a kid is hard. Kids are assholes and school is hard. It was just double hard for me because I have learning disabilities I had no idea about on top of being bullied. But I think kids today have it a lot more worse than I had it. When I was a kid I always loved coming home because I felt free at home. I could be myself. The bullies could not reach me. I could unwind and relax and try and cheer myself up.

I am so, so glad I did not grow up in the era of social media. I'm not that much of a dinosaur - we did have computers growing up and mobile phones - but this was the late 90s early 00's so it was a lot different to what we have now. If social media had been around I shudder to think what it might have been like for me. I probably would have been trolled online, on facebook and youtube, whatever you name it. And that peace I got when I came home would have evaporated. I would have been miserable all the god damn time.

They say you should "write what you know" and I'm doing that with my articles I am writing about my experiences growing up. I think I have a unique story to tell. I hate that my schooling years were so miserable and I didn't enjoy them much but things DID improve. When I was in high school I met my best friend for life and a few years out of high school I met my husband. I think my experiences in school - both good and bad - helped to shape me into the person I became. I think bullying is total fucking shit but it's not something you can get rid of in schools. People will always be jerks to the weak and the vulnerable. The best thing you can do to help kids is to teach them the best way to cope with bullying and to not let it affect them and to learn the right way to respond.

I think being bullied and socially isolated helped to turn me into a writer. I was lonely and sad so I escaped into writing and reading. I'm grateful for that. When I discovered writing it gave me a much needed confidence boost and gave me something to focus on. I wish the bullying hadn't have happened and that I'd been happier as a kid but I am very happy now. I might have hated school but that doesn't mean my entire childhood was terrible. I had a wonderful loving family and was perfectly happy and content at home. It was only at school I was miserable.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

My last semester of university is a little insane

I started university in 2009 and have been studying part time ever since. I am finally in my final semester. I thought I was going to miss studying. It has provided a wonderful distraction for me and given me something to do. But I'm glad I am finishing and am looking forward to putting down my pen and reference book and not writing another essay for a very long time! I want to move on with my life and live my life and try and forge some sort of writing career for myself because right now at this point in my life writing is keeping me happy. I'm so glad I decided to step back from fiction writing and expand into other areas of writing because - holy shit! I've suddenly had SO much success with writing articles and it's just getting better and better. I am building a port folio and getting that wonderful, sweet experience. My goal is to be able to do this full time eventually and to be one of those people who wakes up every day happy to be doing something that gives them joy.

But...this last semester. My god. It's a little...intense. I have two essays to write, a play, a short story, and an exam. Oh and about eight novels to read. I've gotten through one and it was pretty good. I tried to get into two others and it was like having my fingernails pulled off one by one. Why...are some literature badly written? I spent my childhood learning the craft of writing and throwing myself onto the sacrificial alter stone of critique and letting people tear me apart. I learnt how to take criticism with a smile and a nod an curt "Thank you for your time" and I willingly read grammar books in my spare time to learn how to write better.

So it annoys me after I spent so long to learn the rules that some writers take a big steaming crap on the rules and call it art and not only do they get published their books get made into frigging' films as well. I know art is subjective and what someone thinks is crap another person might think is the best thing since sliced bread. But I wonder sometimes what the hell is wrong with agents and publishers? I expect books to follow a predictable formula. I want to know WHO the main character is and WHAT is going on and WHAT the goal of the plot is all within the first few pages. What I don't want to read is pages and pages of incoherent ramblings that read like the crazed manifesto of a drug addict. It's just so exhausting. I wade through pages and pages of crap and try to think "Who the hell is the main character? what is going on? WHAT IS HAPPENING?"

It's fine to be creative and break the rules from time to time. Someone said to me once "Learn the rules, then learn how to break them" and it's true. The "rules" in writing are really suggestions. You can throw them out the window but it's risky as hell and you have to be damn good at what you are doing. Obviously, these books are not for me. It's going to be a long semester.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Girl on The Train my thoughts

I know I'm massively late to the party but I FINALLY read this book and it was great! I couldn't put it down! I really liked how the point of view was split between three women Anna, Rachel and Megan. I had a bit of trouble getting into it at first because the plot wasn't linear to begin with and jumped around a lot and the three main characters kind of all read the same at first but after a couple of chapters in things began to get more clear and I started to understand who was who and what was going on.

I won't spoil the book for those who haven't read it. I really liked the characterization in the book. Rachel, the main character, was very fascinating to me. Rachel suffered from depression and was an alcoholic and I don't think I've ever read a more realistic portrayal of someone with those issues before. I spent most of the book switching between dislike and pity for Rachel. You really felt bad for her sometimes. When she couldn't get out of bed or cook herself a meal or stop drinking I just wanted to reach into the book and shake her by the shoulders and help her somehow.

It's a sign of a good writer when the characters you're presented with have multiple layers to them and are not always likable. It's realistic. Rachel was battered down and pathetic and broken. They're not just another cookie cut out of a typical book character. You keep wanting to turn the pages because you have so many questions. You become invested in their lives and want things both good and bad to happen to them. They become real.

Another thing I liked about this book was how the plot wasn't linear. It takes a lot of skill to structure a plot that is not a straight line. The typical beginning-middle-and end is the easy route to take and I don't judge writers for taking it. If you can master the more difficult road of the non-linear plot you're going to get a nod of respect from me. You put in the extra work and did something different. Good for you.

I also liked how this book highlighted domestic abuse against men. This is RARE. It certainly added some spice to the plot. It made you question things and just pulled me in further. Very well done.

The Girl on the Train had a strong Gone Girl vibe to it. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a mystery and something a little bit different. A movie based on the book is coming out soon. I will definitely be going to see it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A much needed update

I've been meaning to update this blog for a while but I've been too busy writing articles. I've decided to have a bit of a career change. I took a class on journalism last semester and have decided to chuck my hat into the ring and see if I can have some success writing articles. So far so good! I am now a writer for Perth Mum's Group, Weekend Notes and I've been published on Introvert, Dear and the Baby Vine. I'm very pleased! This has done WONDERS for my writing. My muse has been dead for years but now it is awake and doing business. And I feel great about it. Getting married and having a kid killed my muse. I didn't want to write anything longer than a blog post and it depressed me. I thought I was a writer but I didn't want to do it anymore. I eventually realized that what I didn't want to do was shut myself away from the world and devote endless hours to writing anymore. I had a family now. I wanted to enjoy spending time with them. I still write. I'm still a writer. I just didn't have the energy to write big projects anymore. That doesn't mean I'm never going to write fiction again. It just means for now at this point in my life I am going to try something different for a while and so far it's been a lot of fun. I've found that even when writing articles I still write like a fiction writer. I am descriptive, I paint a scene, I tell a story. I think it's too deeply ingrained in me at this point to not to do that.

And I am having a BLAST. Articles a short, sweet, and easy as FUCK to write and it allows me to be creative and still feel like I am can call myself a writer. I'm flexing my muscles, spreading my wings, and trying new things. And in the process I've flung open a door and discovered just how much work there is for writers out there if you know where to look. I'm going to try and build up a portfolio and get enough experience that I can get a proper, well paying job doing this someday. Writing at the moment is providing a fantastic distraction for me. It is a great hobby and is giving me a purpose and something to focus on. It makes me so happy. It doesn't matter that I haven't been paid anything (yet) because just having something to write about and wanting to sit down and write is enough to make me grin like a loon.

I'm still going to call this blog "fiction writer" because I am still that but I am also a blogger and a freelance journalist as well. I will write fiction again I just don't want to do it right now. Things might change years from now when my daughter is a bit older and can look after herself a lot more. I might want to sit down and do it then. But not right now. And that's OK. I'm having so much fun trying something different. Being a writer is such a huge part of my identity. It feels great to re-connect with it. I hope that one day I can do what I love full time.

I will be updating this blog soon with a new page that will have links to all of my articles and will update it each time I publish something new. These are exciting times!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Dyslexia and Me

I found out at 29 that I had dyslexia. It made a lot of sense. When I was a kid I used to write my d's and b's back to front and my Mum showed me a piece of paper of my writing once that kind of freaked me out - every single letter was written backwards! It was kind of awesome. It was like I'd invented my own language. I have no memory of ever writing like that though. Looking back on my childhood it kind of bugs me that no one ever noticed I had this stupid thing. I can remember telling my teacher's I could not read the black board and that I could see weird floating balls of light in my vision. No one listened. Surprise, surprise, I did not do well in school. I grew up thinking I was stupid. I stopped trying at all in school eventually - it didn't help that I also had dyscalculia and dysgraphia on top of my dyslexia and dyspraxia.

It wasn't until I was in Year Nine that I met a teacher who actually paid attention to me. I can't remember his name now (and this bothers me) but I can remember he was from Canada and here on exchange. He would turn up at school in shorts on days the rest of us were freezing and tell us in his hilarious accent "What are you talking about? this is not cold! this is beautiful weather!"

He was the first teacher who ever gave me an A. I was so used to seeing D's and C's and F's I thought it was a mistake when I saw that A. He was also the person who encouraged me to start writing. I would give him my stories to read and he would critique for me. He said to me once "When you become a published writer and your book comes out in Canada I will be in first in line to buy it." I wonder if he ever knew how much he helped me or gave me encouragement I desperately needed. Up until that point I thought I was good at nothing but he showed me I could be good at something if I worked at it. And that was that. I became a writer. It consumed me. I poured all of my energies into learning creative writing and slowly - bit by bit - my grades began to pick up a little as my love for writing trickled over into other grades. Amazing what a little attention from a teacher can do to a troubled student, eh?

I'm learning more and more about my disabilities and how they affect me when I get older. I tried to take a couple of grammar classes in university and apparently for a person like me it's like trying to learn Klingon. I tried really hard but my brain is just not wired to understand grammar that difficult. I know the basics - barely - but the fact is there is just too many grammar rules to remember. I think even a "normal" person would struggle to remember all the different terms. And let's be honest important is it really that we need to know what a modal verb is? I think most people probably wouldn't know what it is. The more I tried to stuff more grammar knowledge into my brain the more I forgot what I'd already tried to memorize. Somehow though I passed both units. And learnt a valuable lesson...grammar is not my friend!

What's been annoying me about dyslexia lately is I've been realizing more and more how much it affects my writing and reading ability. I can read OK enough. The words do not move, I don't do the backwards writing thing anymore, but I do have problems with light. But the thing that annoys me the most is my spelling. I insert random words into a sentence that have nothing to do with what I wanted to write. I might plan to write "The cat wears a brown hat" and somehow - randomly - insert an extra word in there like "e-mail" maybe because I got distracted for a fraction of a second and thought about sending an email. But when I go back and re-read that sentence I might miss the extra word. I do other things like write "administrate" instead of "administration" and since the word is so similar to the one I wanted and written correctly I will miss it.

Sometimes this will mean I will make some hilarious mistakes. I sent an email at work once telling people I'd found a thumb drive and asking if it belonged to anyone. Instead of writing "sand disk" I wrote "sand dick" but did not realize it until after I'd sent the email. When I realized my error I collapsed into fits of giggles. I corrected the mistake and sent the email again. Whoops!

JK rowling can write whatever she wants

I've been following the criticism that has been building online for a while now as JK Rowling fleshes out her wizardly world to include America in it. There is a spin off Harry Potter movie coming out soon called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them and its obvious that the work JK is doing is supposed to tie into that film (which I am super excited about) but people have not been that happy with what she has revealed about the American wizardly world. There were complaints that the terms she'd invented like no-maj sounded nothing like a word that Americans would use and didn't have the charm of Muggle. People didn't like it. But so what? It's her world. Her story. Weird silly names are her thing. But that criticisms did not end there. When JK revealed even more about the American wizard world people freaked out over the inclusion of Native American myths and accused her of racism and cultural appropriation.

It was silly. It was a huge over reaction. JK rowling has done nothing wrong getting inspiration from Native American culture. Its what writers do. We get inspiration from history and mythology and fairy tales. Its one of the oldest traditions in writing. How many stories are based off Greek myths or Roman myths or Norse myths? J.R.R Tolkien based Lord of the Rings off Norse myth. This has been happening forever. And its ok. If no one owns an idea or a story then a writer does not have to ask permission to use it. It belongs to everyone.

At the same time I can understand why some people were upset with her though. JK Rowling's decision to include Native American's in Harry Potter has pulled them and their very real beliefs into her fictional world. Their beliefs are not a joke. And then there is the stereotype of the wise and mystical native to think about.

But if JK Rowling had not included them people would have asked "Why not?" so I feel like she was stuck between a rock and hard place. Could she had done a better job? Sure. Could she had pleased everyone? Oh hell no. Even if she had gotten an American to help her flesh out this new corner of her world she probably still would have done something or said something to offend someone. You can't please everyone. Someone will always find something to complain about.

What I find interesting is the air of entitlement coming from a lot of the people who have been complaining about her choices. I know Harry Potter has been around for a while and has been apart of a lot of people's lives for a long time but we do not own this story. She does. It's her world. If you don't like the decisions she is making then don't see the new film. But stop getting so worked up over a children's book. Do the new houses have bad names? Yeah. They're not as adorable as the British ones. But who cares? Seriously. Stop whinging. Its just a story. She doesn't owe you anything.

It would be nice if I could make a real living at writing

I gave up on making a career out of writing a long, long time ago and that was before I decided to switch from fiction writing to article writing. I used to joke that there was more of a chance of me finding money at the beach with a metal detector than there was me becoming a success with writing. It's just too difficult. It can happen, sure. You might make some money. But enough money to live off? Only a very select few are that lucky and sometimes I pity them. Look at George R.R Martin. The poor bastard can't go anywhere without someone asking him "Have you finished your next book?" I couldn't handle the pressure.

Since having a child I don't have the time or energy to write fiction anymore and I was feeling a bit down about it. I felt like I wasn't really a writer anymore. But then I decided to change direction and switch to writing articles. I felt encouraged again. I could do this. Writing an article is a lot like writing an essay. You do a lot of research and then you put your thoughts onto paper. What's good about writing an article compared to fiction writing is it is a lot easier than writing fiction and I can finish an article in a weekend. A decent short story or novel could take me months or even longer.

Once I finish university next year I am going to try and devote a lot of time to writing articles and see where it takes me. Will I make a career out of this? I don't know. Maybe. I think there's more of a chance of it happening than me becoming a best selling author. I am in the process of trying to build up experience and a bit of a port folio. One thing annoys me though and that's how many people expect me to work for them for free. There are benefits to working for free. You get exposure. You get experience. Those are both good things. But not being paid annoys me. It doesn't seem fair. Writing is hard, hard work. I find it frustrating that writers let themselves work for peanuts or even less. If we are working for you as writers for your magazine don't we deserve minimum wage at least? You would think so right? But apparently, nope.

I like places that will pay me $100 per article. It's a decent amount of pocket money. It's fair. It's rewarding me for my work. I've accepted I can probably never make a living doing this but the very least publications can do is chuck me a couple of peanuts per article. Give me some reward. Don't get me wrong. Being published is great. But you know what else is great? Paying the bills.