Old Brain stuff

Am reading Zizz! The life and art of Len Lye, in his own words and found this great quote:

“When I’m in the mood to draw, I cultivate a vacuous, seaweed-pod state of kelp in my skull. Attached to a pencil, I doodle in a bemused attitude. I try to create shapes that seem significant. One type seems to be about nature – rays, galaxies, primeval plants aZizzBooknd organic forms, viruses, birds and so on, usually benign – and the other type, such as triangles and diamonds, is geometrical and decorative … I don’t have to wonder what on earth I will use as the starting point for a painting I lay out my stored-up fund of doodles and select the one my Old Brain is in the mood to commune with.”

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Eileen Myles

images-1I’ve just discovered this wonderful American poet, Eileen Myles:


That whole part of the world
where I won’t go any-
that whole separation
that I won’t feel
high in this house
in this hemisphere
in this artificial light
that is artificial
in the earliest morning; dark
in pages and pens
in an unfamiliar bed
in the foot curl
each rumble
when morning comes
and it’s still morning
and it’s still night
I married a dead girl
we were born in her bloom
remember that fat bumblebee
landed on a lamp
I opened the doors
and I forgot and the house
got colder and colder
where is this house
the seam between boards
merely gains my attention
it’s dark and thin
I monitor each situation
my bladder growing full
climb down climb up
what tree am I waiting
my whole life in weather
waiting for my raft
I’ll fly to another island
I’ll take a train
already I know
it will hurt
this is the hurt country
I came here
to hold the hurt like a bird
like a tree
traffic has rings
we watch it whirl around
damaging our night
great continents hold
the feelings and the ages
what is mine
going blind
great masses of them
not going home
the country drew a line
because of memory
one said
I feel my heart race ahead
in eternity there is this ache
there is this wakefulness

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Wonderful ceramics

While in Wellington recently I visited an exhibition of Bronwynne Cornish’s work. It was brilliant to see these pieces ‘in the flesh’ – and even to take photographs. Pacific Sphinx Ceramic House Ceramic Woman

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Landfall review of TCP

A wonderful review of my novel The Children’s Pond has just gone onto Landfall Review Online http://www.landfallreview.com

David Herkt comments:

Shaw is always more than she seems as a novelist, going the extra distance. An attentive reader will find the novel filled with exactitude: real houses are identifiable, views precisely described, and trout pools those on river maps. Complex quandaries of individual lives are revealed with spare precision as they mesh with each other. The characters are individual without being caricatures and, while the novel feels complete, each of them has a personal story which will continue beyond the final words.

And the review finishes with this note:

The Children’s Pool seems perfectly tailored for both a New Zealand and international crime fiction market; it is easy to envisage it as a movie or a television drama, filled with the visual allure of its background scenery and the resonances of a landscape barely subjugated to human will.Berries

About which I can only comment: Watch this space.

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On creativity

Some pertinent comments from Kevin Ashton, author of How to Fly a Horse: The secret history of creation, invention, and discovery:

“The people who are truly passionate, truly engaged and incredibly persistent and take lots of small steps by showing up early and staying late, those are the people who succeed. I don’t know if you’d call that genius – it’s more likely to be passion and work ethic.”

And very relevant to writers: “… if you work on something every day, you’ll look back and be amazed how much you’ve done. There’s no drive-through for creative success. You really do have to do the time,potter-hands-creativity not just to do the creating, but to learn the craft.”


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Where ideas come from?

Writerly thoughts from Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mark Strand who died in November 2014:

 “One of the amazing things about what I do is you don’t know when you’re going to be hit with an idea, you don’t know where it comes from. I think it has to do with language. Writers are people who have greater receptivity to language, and I think that they will see something in a phrase, or even in a word, that allows them to change it or improve what was there before. I have no idea where things come from. It’s a great mystery to me, but then so many things are. I don’t knowunnamed why I’m me, I don’t know why I do the things I do. I don’t even know whether my writing is a way of figuring it out. I think that it’s inevitable, you learn more about yourself the more you write, but that’s not the purpose of writing. I don’t write to find out more about myself. I write because it amuses me.”

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Good writing

One of the many wonderful things Donna Tartt does in her writing (see The Goldfinch) is use descriptive ‘lists’ … this is a technique that really adds depth and interest to her writing:

“What I somehow hadn’t expected was a city prinked-up for Christmas: fir boughs and tinsel, starburst ornaments in the shop windows and a cold stiff wind coming off the canals and fires and festival stalls and people on bicycles, toys and color and candy, holiday confusion and gleam. Little dogs, little children, gossipers and watchers and package bearers, clowns in top hats and military greatcoats and a little dancing jester in Christmas clothes a la Avercamp.”

This is Amsterdam, by the way … and Tartt gets a lovely rhythm going in this description.images-1

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‘What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt from your failures?’

IMG_0382Failure is something many writers come up against time and again, so I was interested to read this response from young Australian artist Gemma Jones:

“That a knock-back stings, but it doesn’t really injure you. That I sometimes live in fear of failing, and when the crunch comes it is disappointing, but it turns out I’m still standing. And, in the end, you forget about your losses and your failures – so sometimes I just choose to fast-track the forgetting bit. Coming to a deadend can also mean that you have a chance to pick a new adventure.”

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Finally, a positive article on publishing

From The Economist, a marvellous essay on books and publishing. Here are a few quotes:

‘… to see technology purely as a threat to books risks missing a key point. Books are not just “tree flakes encased in dead cow”, as a scholar once wryly put it. They are a technology in their own right, one developed and used for the refinement and advancement of thought. And this technology is a powerful, long-lived and adaptable one.’

‘The growth rate of e-books has recently slowed in many markets, including America and Britain. Publishers now expect most of their sales to remain in print books for decades to come—some say for ever.

There are a number of reasons. One is that, as Russell Grandinetti, who oversees Amazon’s Kindle business, puts it, the print book is “a really competitive technology”: it is portable, hard to break, has high-resolution pages and a “long battery life”.’

‘Books will evolve online and off, and the definition of what counts as one will expand; the sense of the book as a fundamental channel of culture, flowing from past to future, will endure.’ 9682_Greg_Straight_Fantail_Dot_s

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Latest review

Neat review of The Children’s Pond by Karen Chisholm on the AustCrimeFiction blog: www.austcrimefiction.org/review/review-childrens-pond-tina-shaw

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