You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘National Library of Australia’ tag.

My life for a screen. But it's worth it. Maybe?

My life for a screen. But it’s worth it. Maybe?

Come and go
This blogging thing: really, what’s it all about?  The blog-shaped hole in the universe that you’re currently in came into existence back in mid-2009 and somehow it’s still chugging along.  I’ve seen some truly brilliant blogs come and go; for whatever reason, the blogger has decided to end it all.  I, too, have thought of throwing in the towel – many times, in fact.  But then I think of the people I’ve met, the conversations had, and the points of view and life experience shared, and I realise that there’s no real harm in continuing on.  Perhaps I also like the fact that Under the counter of a flutter in the dovecot (which is still officially the most ridiculous name in all of the blogosphere) is archived by the National Library of Australia.  What’s been created here will exist forever.  In theory.

The pieces
Across the years I’ve often wondered about the point of a blog like this one.  It’s partly a depository of pieces I write for the Canberra Times and related Fairfax publications; if the house burns down and I lose the physical file of clippings there will always be the digital copies kept here.  Then there are the outrageously self-serving updates on my adventures in Fiction Land – frankly, they rarely sit comfortably with me, but writing and publishing literature, especially in Australia, is too difficult to justify being a wallflower.  Then there are the brief, diary-like flashes about my home or my hometown or the writing life.  Then there are the reviews, mostly of albums that I’ve bought and I want to talk about – some of the albums I’ve loved, others not so much, but I still want to work out what I think by writing about them.  Have I ever mentioned how hard it is to write about music?  It’s near impossible!  Finally, sometimes I post collages or simply photos with captions. When I’m all out of words.

For the stumblers
Does all this add up to much?  I’m not sure it does.  But for the bugger who produces it all there’s still some enjoyment to be had, and I sincerely hope there’s still enjoyment to be had for those who stumble here.

Lashings of thanks
As others have noted, what keeps a blogger going are the comments, many – most – of which have been amazingly thoughtful and thought-provoking.  So thank you to everyone who’s commented.  What surprises me even more are the subscribers, some of who have been with the blog from day one.  So here are lashings of gratitude to each and every one of you for following UTCOAFITD – I appreciate it very much.  I do hope you get something out of what’s posted and the comments that generated.  All writing, even if it’s fiction, is an exchange of information.  I just hope that you enjoy the exchange that happens here.

All the best, till next week. Unless I get hit by a bus.

One of these jugglers might also be a writer. With any luck.

One of these jugglers might also be a writer. With any luck.

Exhausted already

Writers make good jugglers.  There’s the juggling of time to write and time to earn money and time for family and friends and time for your own mental health, which being a writer is more than likely quite precarious.  There’s the juggling of ideas: fine ones, not so fine ones, appalling ones.  There’s the juggling of character and plot and point.  There’s the juggling of words, getting them all exactly where they need to be so that magic is the result.  Oh my, I’m exhausted already.  But we’re not done yet.  There’s the juggling of writing fiction and non-fiction and poetry.  In terms of fiction alone, there’s the juggling of the writing of novels and novellas and short stories and micro-stories, and, those slipperiest of beasts, prose-poems.  It’s enough to make you want to chuck it all in and become something simple, like a duck-farmer, or a grower of daffodils.

Hooked

For some reason, after twenty years, I haven’t yet chucked it all in, although I do think about it every second day, every single day if things aren’t going well, which is usually the case, if I’m honest with myself, and honest with you.  I began my writing life, as in with seriousness and an almost religious sense of purpose, in my early twenties as – drumroll please – a poet.  I wrote a poem, miraculously it was published, so I wrote another, and miraculously that, too, was published.  Remembering that I loved reading short stories as a boy, I wrote a story, which was short-listed for publication; that it didn’t end up in print wasn’t the point – I was hooked again by words and their meaning, and by play, and by dream.

Wait, there’s more

Since 1994 I’ve had over 40 short stories published, including in literary journals such as Meanjin, Overland, and Island, and in the USA.  In 2003 my novel Remnants was published by Pandanus Books.  In 2011 and 2012 respectively, my novellas Fall on Me and I’m Ready Now were published by Blemish Books.  Okay, now I’m just boasting.  Wait, there’s more.  Wanting to expand my readership, and add another string to my bow, in 2007 I began doing freelance work for the Canberra Times, primarily for the paper’s weekend magazine Panorama and its First Words column (along with Marion Halligan), as well as feature articles.  Clearly not having enough to do, in 2009 I started this blog, ridiculously named Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot, which was selected for archiving by the National Library of Australia.  I still write a post for the blog every Saturday morning.

More life

Despite now working across these different modes, my mission hasn’t changed: I’m still just playing with words and their meanings.  No matter what form there’s nothing like crafting and re-crafting until a piece hangs together, everything in its right place, it all makes sense; with any luck it might engage readers, perhaps – with an extra dose of luck – it might even move readers.

Ever since early 2010, when I spent a month in Launceston as a writer-in-residence courtesy of the City Council (as written about on this blog ad nauseam), I’ve written everything by hand.  My handwriting is truly appalling, which, oddly, helps – I’m forced to slow down, to think about every mark on the page, but I’m also forced to follow my head and heart and gut.  When writing like this is both mental and physical work, you want it to be worthwhile in the end – for yourself and the reader.  These days, everything, even blog-posts, even articles for the local writers centre magazine, is first written with pen and pad.  Because it’s better this way: there’s more life.

A decent dose of honesty

There are, however, subtle differences between the various forms of prose.  Short stories, of course, are a cousin of poetry, so every word has to do more than one job.  In the writing of a novel there’s greater opportunity for exploration and multi-layering and depth (and that awful flipside of getting tangled up and lost).  Novellas are an especially peculiar creature: neither a short story nor a novel, they have their own prospects and hurdles; but in some ways I feel that this in-between mode is my natural home, because I’m an in-between kind of guy in an in-between stage of my life.  Writing for newspapers requires turning down the literary fireworks and turning up general accessibility, although I still like strong characters, some kind of plot, a decent dose of honesty, and perhaps the odd writerly trick to create a spark – there’s nothing like an email from a reader saying that my work brings freshness to the newspaper.  And there’s the writing of blog-posts, which can be more a terrific whoosh of words, maybe even something experimental (why not?), but still I like to make sure it’s as fine as possible.

A writer must have wine

One side of all this that I’ve become better at over the years is choosing the best form for an idea.  Is there enough in it for a short story?  Or perhaps there’s a lot in it and could run the marathon length of a novel?  Or perhaps a novella might rein it in?  In terms of creative non-fiction (which is my euphemism for journalism, because I really have no idea what I’m doing), is it something for the First Words column or a feature or an opinion piece – where in the newspaper might it belong?  Blogging is interesting, too.  When I first started Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot I committed to never self-publishing fiction on the thing, and I’ve held to that commitment, so it’s a place for everything but fiction.  Except there’s something else about blogging: every so often, if I try harder, I can get the piece up a notch or two so that it can first be published by a journal that pays.  Because, quite frankly, I need the money – a writer must have wine.

Writing is writing is writing

Despite all these years of juggling and practice and more juggling, writing is still about play – playing with words and their meanings – and dreams – dreaming up characters and predicaments, or imagining a non-fiction piece into existence and making a contribution to the broader cultural discussion.  Scottish comedian Billy Connelly once famously said that ‘funny is funny is funny’.  Perhaps I can echo Connelly by somewhat less famously saying that writing is writing is writing.

*

First published in ACTWrite, the monthly journal of the ACT Writers Centre (August 2013).

Let’s be honest: when all this started I had no idea what I was doing.  But it’s best we go back a bit.

In the autumn of 2009, I spent a month as an artist-in-residence at Bundanon, Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s gift to the Australian people on the Shoalhaven River just south of Sydney.  On the last night the other artists and I had a few drinks and shared stories of our time in the glorious creative isolation as well handed out business cards and email addresses and website URLs.  I had none of those things – really, how committed was I to writing?  By the time I’d driven home, I resolved to at least get the internet put on at home and set up an email address.

By October of that year, I had indeed got these things, but I also had a website designed, and I set up this blog.  I knew next to nothing about blogging other than it might be a good way of sharing news, if, that is, anyone was interested.  So here we are, in October 2012 and it seems almost impossible to believe that Under the counter or a flutter in a dovecot (which is, to be frank, a ridiculous name for a blog, a ridiculous name for anything) is heading into its fourth year.

It’s probably as good a time as any to reflect on the positives and challenges, so let’s do it, the reflection thing.

On the whole, I’ve enjoyed my time in the blogosphere, even if most of the online energy appears to have shifted to Facebook and Twitter, leaving blogs to feel just a little old-fashioned, which to a certain extent suits me fine because I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy.  Thankfully, when I started this thing, I promised that I’d post only once per week, and I’ve kept to that, more or less.  Is it true that at the beginning I had no idea what I was doing?  Yes, it’s true, and I still might have no idea, although I have come to think of this blog as a diary that I write with other people in mind.  But it’s not a personal diary; I’ve been fairly keen to focus on writing and literature, music, other arts activity, and some quirky investigations into those little things that happen in a day that might have deeper meanings.  Like the last days of a chook.

I’ve enjoyed asking myself during the week, what will I post this weekend, what’s happened or happening that others might be intrigued about?  There’s a discipline to that, on a number of levels.  I’ve also found it fun to try out different things: writing music reviews (which is surprisingly difficult), trying to approach technology in new and weird ways (the On the other side of the city ‘survey’, and what sprung from it, has been a highlight), and it’s good to know that every one of the fifty or so First Word columns that I’ve written for The Canberra Times is stored here, and the features I’ve written have also had a second life online, meaning that the artists I’ve interviewed have been able to link to them (The Canberra Times has only very recently made Panorama, the paper’s weekend magazine, available electronically).

Plus there’s been the great pleasure of getting to know a number of the regular readers of Under the counter – all of whom, it’s amazing to realise, aren’t from my real-world community, some are even from overseas.  In a way, you are modern-day Pen Friends, or maybe that should be Keyboard Friends.  Some of you have become significant contributors to Verity La, that other part of my online life, and for that I thank you.  And, of course, there’s the handful of blogs that I comment on regularly, because the posts are frequently excellent and thought-provoking – have a look at the blog-roll to the left for the links.  Some of these blogs, for example Whispering Gums, are becoming influential, particularly in the funny little world that is literature, and that’s a great thing – a strong and sophisticated writing culture comes from articulate and erudite public discussion about creative practice (even if that observation and the sentence make me sound like a wanker).

What about the challenges?  There have been times, it’s true, when I’ve been all out of ideas, though this can also be a positive, as it’s forced me to still produce something, even if it’s a hastily put-together collage that looks like a six-year-old did it.  A key part of my blogging routine is commenting on other blogs – I can hardly expect readers to comment on this blog if I don’t comment other blogs.  Do comments matter?  Yes, they matter.  I do want to know what people think; I do want to know if readers have been moved, and a comment is a sure sign of that.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for commenting – it’s made my day.  But it can be exhausting – and time-consuming – to find posts that I want to absorb and comment on.

It was – and continues to be – most gratifying that the National Library of Australia selected Under the counter for archiving in-perpetuity (if that isn’t a tautology) as part of its PANDORA program.  To think that maybe, just maybe, a researcher will stumble across this little old place in a hundred years time is a bit special.  There’s no doubt that without the commenters commenting and the National Library’s interest I would have stopped long ago – there’s only so often you can call out into the digital abyss.  And there have been times when I’ve wondered if the end might be in sight; in fact, to be completely frank, I can see the end right now.  I won’t keep this blog going forever, nor should it just keep rolling on and on and on.  But I’m not done just yet; there’s a bit more fuel in the tank, even if the engine’s developed a rattle.

Many many thanks again, and here’s to a bit more Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot.  For the time-being at least.

Not that I’m counting – okay, I’ve been counting just a little – this humble little blog-shaped place in the world came into being a year ago today.  This is quite something for someone who didn’t even have the internet on at home until the beginning of 2009.  One minute, so it seems, I was happy going about my life ignoring all the possibilities that the on-line environment has to offer, the next I was creating Under the Counter or a Flutter in the Dovecot, posting this and that, finding other blogs to love, and – gasp! – even getting to know people through the interwebs.

Crazy, just crazy.

I won’t deny that there have been times when I wonder why I keep doing it; indeed I only committed myself to blogging for a year, promising that I’d review whether or not it was worth continuing.

What do I like about blogging?  I like the fact that it makes me engage with the world – seeing something interesting, taking a photo, then writing a post about it, then editing that post so it’s something that might actually be read.  I like the fact that I’ve realised that writing about a new book or album is actually really hard – I never set out to write reviews, but I do set out to write something of value about something that I’ve valued.  I like the fact that when I post a piece I’ve written for another format, for example something written for a newspaper, people actually comment, and the comments are almost invariably thoughtful and incisive.

I like the fact that I’m realising that a blog is simply another tool to create – a tool to explore and record and communicate.

What don’t I like about it?  Sometimes – not often, but sometimes – it feels more like a game than a serious pursuit: it’s easy to get trapped by the stats: subscriber levels, daily visitations, who’s googled what to reach the Fluttering Dove (except the latter can be pretty hilarious, it has to be said).  And sometimes – not often, but sometimes – it takes me away from the main game, which is writing good fiction.

But the pros outweigh the cons so I’ll keep this little guy going, at least for another year.

Which is handy, because I’ve just been informed that the National Library of Australia has selected Countering the Under-Dove for archiving as part of its PANDORA project.  According to the National Library of Australia, PANDORA is:

‘a growing collection of copies of Australian online publications, established initially by the National Library of Australia in 1996, and now built in collaboration with nine other Australian libraries and other cultural collecting organisations. The purpose of the PANDORA Archive is to collect and provide long-term access to selected online publications and web sites that are about Australia, are by an Australian author on a subject of social, political, cultural, religious, scientific or economic significance and relevance to Australia, or are by an Australian author of recognised authority and make a contribution to international knowledge.  PANDORA is a selective archive. The National Library and its partners do not attempt to collect all Australian online publications and web sites, but select those that they consider are of significance and to have long-term research value.’

So there you go: all contributors to Fluttering Cot-Counters are imortalised in the National Library of Australia!

Thanks to everyone who’s visited, thanks to those who comment, and a special thanks to those who comment regularly.

I appreciate all the thoughts and opinions and feedback.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 177 other followers