I’m back to writing. Not as often as I’d like but at least keys are being pounded and ideas recorded.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I’d been considering writing my next story as a graphic novel, partly because I love stories told this way (everything from Tintin to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. I took a masterclass in writing comics and graphic novels last year and came away inspired but somewhat intimidated by the concept of writing in such an unfamiliar form. As a result, I procrastinated way too much.
So, while I can see the next book as a graphic novel, I’m going to write it in novel form first. Having made that decision, I’ve started sketching characters, scenes and more. I love these early stages of assembling a story.
The idea I have in mind is essentially a love story, but one concerned with fathers, sons and the links between generations. Which brings me to the title of this post.
A friend invited me to this documentary today and I really enjoyed it. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi has an 85-year-old sushi chef as its central character – a man whose alcoholic father died when he was seven. Jiro has worked for 75 years and is considered the best sushi chef in the world. He has no plans to retire, which feeds into the stories of his two sushi chef sons. It’s slow-burning, exquisite stuff.
And mouthwatering if you enjoy sushi. You can get a taste of the tale here:
When a torrent of water swept over much of Queensland this summer I was able to assist the people affected, in a small way, by donating books to Writers on Rafts and the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal. It wasn’t the same as donning the gumboots and helping with the clean-up but it was something.
Watching the Japan disaster left me feeling helpless and torn on several levels. The devastation was immense. The repercussions unthinkable. As mentioned in a previous post, I have flights booked to Tokyo in 10 week’s time. Part of me still thinks we should turn up and help the locals by spending tourist dollars. Another part has a deep fear of nuclear radiation/fallout/pollution that dates back to the ’80s and movies like The Day After*. I’d never forgive myself if my family travelled to Tokyo and my children’s health suffered in any way.
Besides, friends told me a recent flight from Tokyo to Melbourne had to detour to Osaka just to collect bottled water and meals. If things are that grim in Tokyo I believe tourists should stay away for the time being and let the locals try to achieve some form of normality, rather than placing extra demands on a very polite and generous population.
So, what can I do to help? I’ve purchased the Songs for Japan fundraising album, which is a start. I’m also keeping an eye out for Quakebook which is a collection of stories from around the globe about the personal impact of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear emergency. The graphic novel written about the residents of New Orleans after Cyclone Katrina was extremely powerful. I suspect Quakebook will be similarly moving – and a reminder of how stories connect us across countries and cultures.
In the meantime, here’s a song written for Japan that has become the Quakebook theme.
I’m embarrassed by how neglected this blog has been lately. Apologies to anyone who has tuned in and failed to find anything new.
The truth is that my work status has changed and, with new responsibilities and deadlines, I’ve had to cut back on non-essential tasks. Blogging and tweeting are among those. As for writing, sigh, let’s just say you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Book 3. I have the ingredients, characters and a good chunk of the plot – but no time to knead and bake.
Indeed, this post is being tapped out in a lull between cooking dinner, doing dishes and wrangling the kids towards their beds. Storytime beckons and I’ll soon be plunged into fictional worlds of noisy new babies and lusty vampire ninjas.
So, please find below a bulleted list of things that have consumed the first quarter of 2011:
I’ve had a week’s residence at a secondary school where the Yr 10 English students studied Five Parts Dead. That was impressive on several levels. 5PD is a novel that’s less than a year old but the staff found it somehow and felt it would connect with their students, including reluctant readers. The feedback has been incredibly positive and the college is looking at studying the book in 2012 with a fresh batch of Yr 10s. I’m indebted to a group of teachers and teacher-librarians who were willing to think outside the usual bunch of school texts. As for the students, they certainly came up with probing questions about character and plot. I reckon I understand my own work better, thanks to their dissection.
I have sold three short stories, two of which will be used in literacy tests. The third will feature in a school textbook for Grade 5 to Year 8 students. I haven’t had any junior fiction published before so I’m quietly chuffed about this.
I attended my first interstate speaking engagement, joining the smorgasbord of storytellers at the Newington College Literature Festival in Sydney. I applaud Newington for generating so much enthusiasm and interest in words and writing from their students and staff. And it really was fun to meet and spend time with other speakers.
My family booked tickets for Japan – and then watched in horror at the devastation wrought by the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear contamination. Our holiday plans are on ice but this is inconsequential. My heart goes out to the generous people of Japan as they grapple with a social, environmental and economic toll we Australians can’t possibly comprehend. I heard a father interviewed last week who lost two children to the tsunami. Every day after work he returns to the wreckage to search for even the smallest sign of their bodies. There must be thousands of other heart-breaking stories like this.
I spoke to a group of 250 Yr 12 students just off the buses at their first day of study camp, in Week 1 of term. Chances of them remembering my words? Slim if not nil. Apologies to the student that asked for tips on writing short stories that I haven’t posted yet. (I haven’t forgotten though – and will do so ASAP.)
I’ve spoken to Yr 7 and Yr 8 students about finding and reading great books – and launched the Premiers’ Reading Challenge at two schools.
I spoke to a large group of fathers and their Yr 7 sons about Books for Boys and how to get their sons reading.
At my editing job, which is basically full time now, I’ve hired four new staff and begun an intense six-month project.
This set of images was prepared for Simmone Howell’s Anatomy of a Novel series, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Copyright was an issue with some of the images I wanted to include but this is still a pretty fair snapshot of the influences wafting through my mind while writing Five Parts Dead.