Published

I mentioned in a 2014 recap post that I had a short story accepted for publication by a literary magazine. Having been asked by everyone around me, “Are you proud? Because you should be.” I thought that I should let myself really be proud and give it a short post to itself. Preemptive apologies for this festival of self-love. Continue reading “Published”

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In Defence of the Teenage Girl

With the burgeoning success of posting videos on Vine, Instagram, Facebook etc, it is likely that you have come across some kind of short video of teenage girls doing something ’embarrassing’. Most likely you will see that these videos are accompanied by comments such as, “dumb sluts” / “would like to see them try that in my house” / “kids these days are so effing dumb and disrespectful” / “the world is doomed” / “fuck this generation”. And so on because people need to type their own variation of the comment despite the 1000 comments already there. Continue reading “In Defence of the Teenage Girl”

‘Favourite Book Covers’

This idea came from the wonderfully blog-talented, Wanton Creation / the Other Watson, click the link to check his favourites out.

Shall I open with the perhaps over-used line, you can’t judge a book by its cover? I know this is true for a lot of books (dodgy cover, good plot) and for people, the true subjects of the analogy, (pretty cover, ugly soul) but for whatever reason, I tend to feel more connected to the books whose covers caught my eye first. Picking a preferred cover for a specific books helps the book feel personal. When different books by the same author have covers in a similar style, I like to buy the one that matches what I have. Continue reading “‘Favourite Book Covers’”

Brother’s Grimm

I am constantly reminded that the internet is brilliant because it can put you back in touch with things you thought you’d never see, hear or watch again. Remember having to listen to the radio for 3 hours so you could press record on your tape when the one song you wanted finally played? Good times.

Continue reading “Brother’s Grimm”

When a Goose Meets a Moose

When a goose meets a moose,
At the house of a mouse,
I wonder if all three,
Sit down and drink tea

I wish that I could explain to you what the stories and poems I read turn into in my mind. A collage of emotions and thoughts and pictures, all mixed together. An image isn’t simply an image but has attached to it the emotion of the writing’s tone and circumstance. Imagination is behind all this. The mind’s eye acting out another’s imagination through symbols typed on a page. If you are a person who enjoys reading you know what I am trying to say, don’t you?

Continue reading “When a Goose Meets a Moose”

How To Spend a Friday Night Alone

Ah, a night with your close friends at a new restaruant you’re all trying, you all have some drinks and laugh a lot over dinner. Then you all go out to an awesome new club or bar or music venue and dance all night. It’s 3am when you come home and fall into bed maybe with somebody else… or maybe just content alone.

Snapping back to reality: It’s Friday night and you are not in fact throwing a dinner party or dancing or hooking up or seeing a live show. You’re actually in your pajamas, alone, it’s probably cold and you haven’t even spoken to any friends today. The thing is, you can still enjoy yourself tonight. How? This is for those of us home alone on a Friday night with that restless feeling.

Continue reading “How To Spend a Friday Night Alone”

Glorious Sadness! Books With Sad Endings

For the most part, stories end well. That’s kind of how our story-telling works: character gets into conflict, then the conflict is resolved and he’s okay again. In fact, he’s probably better than before.

everything-will-be-ok-in-the-end-if-it-s-not-ok-it-s-not-the-end-368781-475-559_large

Sometimes, though, stories don’t follow this formula exactly and that ‘it’s now okay’ sentiment above proves false. Sometimes, characters end up in way worse situations than what they started with. These are the books that give you a downlift over an uplift. These are a sampling of the books that have tugged my heart the most, two of them actually made a tear roll down my cheek. But just one tear, one manly, strong tear. Pfft, I don’t sob over fiction. Whatever.

1. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
You can’t really say that this ended well for Heathcliffe and Cathy. It wasn’t the romantic love story you get used to from movies but the what happens when 2 really flawed people fall for each other but it doesn’t work out.

2. Beloved, by Toni Morrisson 
This was the kind of story where the lives of the characters are so wrapped up in bad pasts that the guilt / depressive feel / no-escape is suffocating. Plus, who doesn’t feel super happy when people slit the throats of babies? Laugh a minute right there.

3. The Kite Runner by Khalid Hoessini 
Though the book ends on the slightest of hopes, there’s no denying that there’s enough bad bits to make you wonder why the kid didn’t attempt suicide sooner. Story of how life, country, situation and relationships with parents affect the friendship of two children from different privileges. Man, I’m sensing a theme for dragging your readers through turmoil here: make the bad stuff happen to kids.

4. Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein
Yeah, the bad stuff happening to kids doesn’t end above. The children of a loving couple suffer when their mother develops post-natal depression after her last baby. Your heart will stop during the scene with the mother and baby in the bathroom, and the search for a safety pin. The bad childhood doesn’t end in adulthood, either. Yeah, not every character gets over the shit that happened to them when they were young.

And that was the last time they ever went barefoot.
And that was the last time they ever went barefoot.

5. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
I began the story thinking that the character would eventually not be a giant bug by the end… unfortunately, good things just don’t happen people who transform over night into different creatures.

6. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Situated during the Salem witch trials, you quickly realise – against your will – that the bad, lying people are going to triumph over the good, moral people. You know how bad that feels? Really bad. And totally real because that’s generally what happens in reality.

7. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Piccoult
About a highschool shooting, which is pretty much a good enough setup for tragedy but Piccoult adds in a sub-story that seems as sad. Again, a book that involves young people. I know that Jodi Piccoult is known for her tear-jerkers, but this is the only one of her books that I’ve read so I’m not sure what’s the biggest tragedy out of all of them.

8. The Boy in The Striped Pajamas
Centred around the holocaust and one German boy on the right side of the fence (for a while) the story shows the innocence of children. You have to read it with ‘a pinch of salt’ and remember it’s fiction because some little things don’t make sense.

9. I’m Not Scared by Nicolo Ammanti
The bad things happening to kids just does not end! One summer, five friends discover the secrets of their town and parents, and innocence and life are lost.

"Man, killing your parents is going to make such a great story. You heard of Batman? Don't worry, you'll be just like him when you grow up. Except poor."
“Man, killing your parents is going to make such a great story. You heard of Batman? Don’t worry, you’ll be just like him when you grow up. Except poor.”

10. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
I believe this book falls under the genre of chick-lit, and I was led to believe that chick-lit didn’t have any scenes of domestic abuse, just love and silly squabbles. Oh, how wrong you can be. Told from multiple perspectives that was at first annoying but then awesome, the book shows how one man can manipulate many women in his own douchey, sexist way. Want to read something where a lady gets punched in the throat? This book is for you. Charming stuff.

11. The Alison Rules by Catherine Clark
Okay, don’t judge for me this because this one is a tween book but  I read it when I was a tween. I hadn’t really read any sad books before, and it hit me quite hard when the character’s best friend suffers an ill-fate. If you want your 13 year old to cry – give her this book. Start ’em on the misery of fiction and life nice and young. Like all the characters in these books.

Honorable mention: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet for including a character so beastly you wanted to punch the pages.

There are a lot of other books I have read where bad things happen to characters to the point where you don’t know if there’s any goodness in the world any more, but these were the ones where the good resolution I craved didn’t happen. I do believe – if I can recall correctly – that the last 2 ended well, but the rest didn’t have the happily ever afters that you expect when heading into a book. So I guess this list is actually lacking a lot of sad books that could technically be included.

A story with a tragic ending does not necessarily make a for a tragically awful book, however. Even if children die and adults are awful to each other, the writing, story and characters can still be interesting. Saddest thing you’ve ever read? Book where the ending never became happy?

Quick Fix

I love short stories for their length, quirkiness, twists and subtleties. They’re short snippets of time but still complete stories, which makes me happy. Roald Dahl is fantastic at that mixture of reality and quirk with marvelous twists and turns throughout. Plus they’re funny. I even enjoy the short stories written by non-author friends. Some short stories can be really powerful, like Dahl’s Genesis and Catastrophe, some can change the way you think about things in just a few pages and others can entertain you long after you finish the quick read.

Today I read a short story called The Yellow Wallpaper that I enjoyed. From the start you can feel the character’s frustration, and see the dynamics in her marriage. Then a surprise comes, and then some madness. It was one of those stories that though told solely from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, you can see the characters quite clearly, which means you can feel things about them straight away, and so, attention is captured from the start. It wasn’t until I checked it on goodreads that I realised it’s a famous little tale, but I can see why it has lasted since the 1800’s!

Finding faces in wallpaper is fine, so long as the face doesn't try to get out.
Finding faces in wallpaper is fine, so long as the face doesn’t try to get out.

When reading a collection I always read the shortest ones first. Part laziness, but in larger part because the shorter the story is, the tighter it is. When writing short stories, I always feel like mine should be the tight, quirky moments like the ones I love but I have found that trying to write in a specific way doesn’t work, you kind of just have to write the story you imagine and then edit from there. I also apologize for saying ‘quirky’ so many times, I dislike the way it sounds, too.

Short stories always remind me of lounging on a wet, wooden balcony after a summer storm while on holiday at some nature-entrenched villa. I’ve never been on such a holiday, but I’d like to. Reading under the big trees and mountains with the sounds of birds in the background and a rich sky clearing after a steamy rain sounds a little heavenly. In reality I would read one on my lunch break at work, but this was also great because it meant that I could escape into another place while I ate instead of being aware that I was really in a dingy office in a uniform with customers waiting. Still, a short story is welcome any time.

Read a short story this week! Any favourites you have?

Being a Hermit Sucks

When we were younger, a friend and I used to joke about her becoming a hermit when she grew old. I promised that I would bring her groceries and leave them by the door. It seemed like a great idea at the time; retreating from the world, not having to deal with people, doing what you want when you want. Unfortunately, the dream has been shattered this year for me.

The thing about living a hermit-esque lifestyle is that you get both lonely and bored. Days go by very quickly and you find yourself feeling sedentary. This week I have been starting my days with exercise instead of my usual roll out of bed, make the bed, sit on the bed and do some internet-ing from the bed. Not really ideal. Well, it certainly fills in an hour and gives me a happy, light feeling. The problem is that it gets me all motivated and ready for the day… a day which involves nothing but sitting alone with my homework and chores.

Ah I guess I'll just keep watching the old ocean since I don't have anything to do today. I'm cold.
Ah I guess I’ll just keep watching the old ocean since I don’t have anything to do today. I’m cold.

Hanging out with friends is harder now because they all have wonderfully busy lives, while I am quite the opposite thanks to leaving a job and online study. Filling in days with mini triumphs is my new way of marking the passage of time: an appointment here, drinks at the pub there, driving lesson for good measure. One awesome triumph this week was the passing of my Hazard Perception Test. Oh yes, this blogger right here can safely recognize road hazards and is one step closer to being able to drive.

Very soon I will be on the roads and as my friends tell me, it will change my life. Walking the streets of my town alone can be a bit of a gamble. Just yesterday I witnessed the man in front of me walk into somebodies front yard , turn on their outside tap and wash his face. Two blocks before him it was a gang of leering teenage boys. Before them it was an angry junkie. Was I attacked or mugged by any of these people? No, but I prefer not to have crazies jeering at me from cars or walking too close behind me on the street or making me feel threatened on my block. Ladies who have to walk around by themselves will know the feeling I’m talking about! However from a car I won’t have to worry about whether I have enough energy left to make a run for it if the shirtless guy talking to himself decides he’d like to chat with me. I can visit friends and go places. Amazing! I also can’t wait to visit some towns nearby.

Freedom.
Freedom.

Ah, social interaction! People need it. As much as stowing away as a hermit for a while seems like fun, the truth is that you need regular contact with different people. Even a telephone call can brighten your day. I’m looking for work so that I have some structure and people in my life. People are social, and even for someone like me who likes alone time and can be tied over for a fortnight on one single social activity, you can’t be alone forever.

Besides, all this hermit-ness is sucking my inspiration dry. Talk about lack of ideas flowing! This is purely because I don’t see enough, hear enough, experience enough new and different things each day. Unless I write about monotony like this post… You have to seek inspiration, not wait for it to hit you. If you spend all your time doing the same things then eventually your mind will be sucked of all it’s enthusiasm and hope – you’ll just be left with a hollow feeling of needing something, someone, anything to get outside. It’s just that at the same time it stunts you from being able to do those things.

At least we have the internet? It’s a shame that interacting on the internet doesn’t fill you up as much as interacting in person. Nothing can give you that feeling of purpose and satisfaction like talking to a good friend face to face. In a couple of months I should (if all goes to plan) be driving, and then working, and writing and exercising and studying and blogging and playing and hey, suddenly the empty days will be filled up and I’ll be wishing that I had a little more time to just myself. Better savor this time.

How Many Followers Do You Need for 100 Likes?

I’m guessing that you need a lot, because while I see that many people I follow have well over 500 followers (some of you popular bastards have about 800) the posts themselves don’t often get over 40. This isn’t an indication of bad blogging, in fact, a lot of the time I read funny, honest, great posts that don’t get the kind of attention that you think would come from 700 followers. Buddies, if I could like your stuff 10 times I… probably wouldn’t because I’d look super stalky.

How I feel after writing that introduction.  Always watching, blogging pals, aallwaays watching.
How I feel after writing that introduction.
Always watching, blogging pals, aallwaays watching.

Perhaps there is some kind of ratio in play. For every 100 followers you’re eligible for 1 like, or something. If I were a mathematician I could have worked out some kind of average / guide by now but sadly, I still count with my fingers. I do not believe that you need to have 100 likes for every post you write, because it’s all about the quality not the quantity but it is funny when you see a post you whipped up in 5 minutes get twice as much positivity as the one you spent more time and effort on.

There are bloggers out there getting 300 likes a post. I’ve seen them with my own eyes! Just over the mountain! And these people tend to have 2,000+ followers. When you think about it, that’s still quite a gap between followers : likes. Where is everyone? My theories – which I have totally spent heaps of time thinking about and aren’t just come up with right now, pfft – are as follows:

– Time differences. While you’re posting maybe your followers are sleeping then going to work and by the time they log on, your post is lost down the bottom of the reader.
– They don’t remember when or why they followed you and are too lazy to click and remember, preferring to stick the ones they know.
– Your post was very specific on one certain topic that only concerns / interests other people from that specific thing.
– You wrote something offensive to that person but only to that person reading. Or just offensive in general, I dunno, made you’re a bastard.
– People just didn’t really like it enough to hit click. It was good but they read and moved on.

Besides, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. 

But darn it if I didn’t wish I could. Imagine for a moment being so spectacular that nobody dislikes you. People don’t even resent you for being so well liked. Meanwhile, back in reality, your post wasn’t fussed over as it should have been. So how do you appeal to a wider range of followers?

Ah yes, this would actually work.
Ah yes, this would actually work.

Cats? Sex? Scandal? Brilliance? I don’t know, I apologise if you thought I would have answers, I just know that sometimes I read a wonderful post that gets 12 likes and an alright one that gets 67. I have only a few ideas about it:
Some bloggers are great at keeping up their activity and reading so people feel obliged to come to their page and like a post. They gain popularity through the hard work of interacting first with others. You sometimes have to lead readers to your post – but be genuine, don’t just hit like on 50 posts you didn’t even read because some bloggers will tell that you aren’t really interested in their super specific bee farm posts when you’re writing about inner-city night life.
Some blog posts have titles that are catchy. Some have titles that are googled often – one of my posts has over 7,000 views but only like 30 likes, because the viewers aren’t bloggers but regular people googling a topic.
Some people share their posts a lot on other social media sites.

In the end, the weird magic ingredient that makes one post liked twice as much as another of equal or greater quality is a mystery of timing and followers and words.

On Friendship

One of the saddest parts of growing older is that the number of friends you have goes down after highschool. People simply disappear into their own lives and journeys, and it can be a long time before you start building up new friendships. If you’re a shy person, well, you might have to prepare for some tough years of loneliness. Combat some shyness by taking a deep breath, smile, listen to the person, ask questions, just talk politely- it gets easier.

Making friends at high school is often as easy as sharing some jokes with the person you’re allocated to sit next to. Classmates are easy to make friends with – you’ve got 24 people to choose from and after a while you find you have something in common with someone, you talk, you sit with one another, you have lunch together and suddenly a year later you’re best friends. I wonder if this kind of approach would work for the real world. Do you think if I just like, follow someone nice looking around they’ll eventually accept me and agree to hang out? Work is another place where you are thrown together and so end up having to converse together, and eventually (or quickly, if your workmates are cool cats) you might become more than workmates (real mates, wow!).

Perhaps if I take my hood down she will know I just want to get a coffee, play scrabble, have a chat, you know, that kind of non-violent non-murderous thing.
Perhaps if I take my hood down she will know I just want to get a coffee, play scrabble, have a chat, you know, that kind of non-violent non-murderous thing.

It’s actually making a friend for real that’s harder. Finding someone who you just ‘click with’ and want to spend time with in a non-romantic way that is more difficult to find. I read a magazine article once by a woman who took up the challenge of making a friend. She asked her current friends and workmates to set her up on friend dates to see if there was anyone she got along with really well. After meeting with multiple women, she ended up with (I think) 1 new friend. The others didn’t work out, but she was surprised to find that all of the people who agreed to help her did so with enthusiasm and well-wishes. Apparently, it’s common for women to find themselves a little lonely as they get older. I am really very fortunate to have a partner that doubles as a best-friend who’s fun to do stuff with.

This is what we all need.
This is what we all need. Except it’s hard when you’re a Chandler.

Maintaining friendships is also harder than it was in highschool, or at your job – you don’t see them everyday. You have to put in effort and time. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired because of pesky things like working six days a week, having family commitments, study… if you want to keep friendships healthy you have to be prepared to ring them up, and see them. This is something that I know, but aren’t very good at practicing. I have to work on it or else when I whine, “I have nooo friiiennnds” it will be really true. Sleepovers were my favourite past-time when I was younger, but there’s something less easy about them now – we all have more things to do than play the sims and eat chips, unfortunately. ‘We’ referring to my friends, I’m in my pajamas on a Friday eating chips and blogging.

 Ah, I know what I need to do! Lock a bunch of different people in a room with me for 8 hours and see where the fun takes us! Baring our tortured souls, smoking some dope, dancing to '80s soundtracks... perfect recipe.

Ah, I know what I need to do! Lock a bunch of different people in a room with me for 8 hours and see where the fun takes us! Baring our tortured souls, smoking some dope, dancing to ’80s soundtracks… perfect recipe.

Being a good friend, is also hard. Damn, I am not making friendship look good in this post, am I? But they are, really. Friends are the people who we can hang out in the sun with, vent to, talk with, see a different perspective of yourself from, see other lives in play by, laugh with, cry with, and simply not feel lonely with. We make friends because we’re social creatures. However, it is true that making and maintaining friendships and being a good one can be hard. Do I have any tips? Well, I think it helps to let your friends know that your door is always open for a chat, to always be there at their birthday parties, to let them know you haven’t forgotten them, to send them links or things that they are especially interested in and to always say thankyou when they do the same for you. The little things that show you listen and care, you know.

All this talk(..ing, to myself.) is to muse on one thing. What kind of friend am I? Probably – most likely not a very good one. Do I want to be a better one? Yep! Can I be a better one? Let’s hope so! I’m going to be the Leo to your Kate, mates. 

If all the work you put in fails, that’s just the course of nature. Friendships dry up. It’s inevitable for some. I read something once about how most female relationships begin with becoming as close as you possibly can be – you talk about everything, but they often end in silence. They can fizzle. I don’t know how to stop that from happening. It’s just life and people. I just know that the ones that don’t are special and deserve your extra consideration, and that there’s always someone out there who could possibly be your newest friend. I don’t know when I’ll meet my next one, but when I do, I hope it’s lovely. And that they like midoori, horror movies, walks and sarcastic comments on things currently happening. Man, we’re going to have a great time.

Semi Related Youtube Video: Be My Friend!