March 29, 2011

Gathering writing, and what I'm reading

A new story I started isn't going along so well—seems lifeless—so I'll leave it for a bit. Certainly I'm lagging on the new writing front, though I am revising and reworking the existing pieces I am gathering together.
Last year I took part in StoryADayMay, which produced some of those short pieces, but I don't think I'll do that again this year. I have signed up, at the same website ( for their warmup. Plenty of resources regarding keeping track of ideas and websites, most of which I won't use, though I'll check out some (more!) websites. The thing I am finding with websites is that it takes a fair amount of trawling to come up with a few that really offer something I want. Stands to reason, of course, how many books are exactly the book you want? The first actual exercise was to write a twitter story (a story in 140 characters or less, including punctuation and spaces). Here's mine:
When I met my husband he was married to my sister. Family gatherings at Christmas are so twentieth century. (108 characters)
On a recent visit one of the Spinifex publishers, ( Susan Hawthorne, left us a pile of books including My Sister Chaos by Lara Fergus, which I have just read. It's a strangely compelling tale, about twin sisters from a nameless country that they left as it was breaking up in turmoil. Only minor characters have names. One sister is a cartographer and is obsessively mapping the house she rents. The arrival of her sister disrupts this process. An original and disturbing novel about obsession and trauma. I recommend it.
I'm still collecting phrases from Dostoevsky's The Idiot with the idea of trying to write a story "in the style of". Phrases like, "said impatiently and wrathfully," and, "with a strange ardor." Hmmm. One of D's preoccupations is that we appreciate life only when we know we are close to losing it—only when we have some kind of death sentence do we appreciate that we have life. I don't agree with this myself. It goes along with another concern of his that if one doesn't believe in an afterlife, a crime such as murder, especially when one is close to death, has no consequences. I can’t wear this; it may have little consequence for the perpetrator but does for others, and our humanity demands a regards for others, even when we are about to die. (If we have no regard for others we cannot expect them to have regard for us and our well-being, which would make for a very sorry world.) For an online  group reading Dostoevsky see
I often have a non-fiction book going at the same time as I am reading novels and at the moment it is Alex's Adventures in Numberland by Alex Belos, with the subtitle, "Dispatches from the wonderful world of mathematics." The jolly tone of the title is largely absent from the text, thank heavens. At about halfway through I am enjoying his explorations of areas like tesselations, equilateral triangles, the history of number systems, pi and so on. I'm enjoying it. I imagine it is too basic for anyone who has a real mathematics background, which I do not.
Re-reading The Price of Salt by Claire Morgan (aka as Carol by Patricia HIghsmith) after about thirty years is proving more of a treat than I expected. I'll say more about this in a later post. 


  1. Really enjoying the Dostoevsky tweets. I think there is a brilliant idea in there. Also recently re-read Patricia Highsmith and it was so much fresher and more relevant than I was expecting. Can't wait for your post on it. Will leave the maths one to you.Tesselations sounds more fun than it would be for me I suspect.Feel free to change my mind. xx

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jicca. Doing something with the D phrases will be a real challenge, I think, and may not come off. The first challenge is to think of a story as a framework for the words. Haven't done that yet.