Tuesday, July 31

Teased Hair and Eye Shadow

Last weekend was my school's performance of The Great Australian Rock Musical!  I am pleased to say that it went very well, and though the turn out wasn't quite a big as we had hoped, the people who did come raved about it afterwards.  My whole family, most of my teachers, and even some of my old friends came to watch, and everyone of them was surprised by how much they enjoyed it.  

Set in the Australian outback during the 80s, it is full of Aussie humour, classic rock tracks, and plenty of nasally accents.  The focus of the script it to share the highlight amongst the entire cast, and so for a highschool production, it was very special to have each singer, dancer, and actor enjoy a moment in the spotlight.  

We've been rehearsing since the 28th of February, and it seems that two nights is much too quickly for it all to be over in.  Now we're all trying to readjust to normal life.  We can hardly believed how much time we have - an extra three hours on Tuesday, and extra six hours on Wednesday plus an hour in Friday lunch break.  I'm rich in time!  

The performances themselves went very well, though we had issues with miking on both nights.  It's frustrating when it's out of your control like that.  Anyway, no one forgot lines, hurt themselves, messed up lyrics or dances.  Perhaps, if I regret anything, it's my nerves.  I totally took performance nerves for granted during rehearsals and so I was surprised on the night to find that my throat was so dry I could hardly sing and my feet were so sweaty that when I sat on the edge of the stage with my feet dangling down, I was scared that my shoes would slip off, and I would be shoeless for the rest of the show!  

I also learnt that glitter sticks to sweaty palms... and does not comes off.  Oh, and that when you wash hairspray out of your hair, your hair goes really quite luscious and silky.  

I really dislike having my hair teased, I learnt.  Even with very short hair like mine, it is ridiculously painful to brush out, especially when it is stiffened in place with copious quantities of hairspray.  

I did however, learn that I enjoy having my makeup done.  OK, well that's partially true.  Eyeliner and mascara I did myself, and I abhor both inventions with a vengeance.  It was my first experience with eyeliner and I was terrified by the concept of drawing on that lovely little, pink rim!  Anyway, when it came to having the tragic 80s eyeshadow done by a teacher, I really enjoyed the process of sitting quietly with my eyes closed, having someone gently touching my face.  I'd never thought of it before, but I felt it was a lot like having my hair done.  People often say that they find it soothing to have someone play with their hair.  I felt like this with someone touching my face.  I could almost have gone to sleep, it was just so nice and relaxing.  

It really was altogether a wonderful experience - one that I will definitely mourn now that it is over.  

Monday, July 23

All the Things I Should Have Said!

It was lovely, Many Colours of Happiness, to hear how much you enjoyed the words from yesterday!  Aren't they just beautiful?  I have something similarly special today which you will probably enjoy too.   This French idiom is basically the story of my life.  I have tried to share this discovery with as many people as possible since I found it a few days back, and all of them have said "ahhh!  That's awesome!  I always wanted a word for that!"  So here you have it.  

Saturday, July 21

Translating the Language of Love

I was just wasting time on Stumbleupon tonight, hoping that somewhere, somehow I'd gain a new perspective or make a discovery.  I have done both, and I want to share my discovery with you.  Here is a list of words from other languages relating to love and relationships that that have no translation.  I was delighted, surprised and thrilled by the relevance these words have to me, and also to the beauty of language.  I think I had at least three epiphanies!  I feel now like I'm obliged to know these words off by heart because they're just so important.  I thought of paraphrasing the article, but the original author does such a lovely job of explaining the concepts that I decided to quote, instead.  Please revel as I did in these words.

Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start.  
Oh yes, this is an exquisite word, compressing a thrilling and scary relationship moment. It’s that delicious, cusp-y moment of imminent seduction. Neither of you has mustered the courage to make a move, yet. Hands haven’t been placed on knees; you’ve not kissed. But you’ve both conveyed enough to know that it willhappen soon… very soon.  
Yuanfen (Chinese): A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends. 
From what I glean, in common usage yuanfen means the "binding force" that links two people together in any relationship.  
But interestingly, “fate” isn’t the same thing as “destiny.” Even if lovers are fated to find each other they may not end up together. The proverb, “have fate without destiny,” describes couples who meet, but who don’t stay together, for whatever reason. It’s interesting, to distinguish in love between the fated and the destined. Romantic comedies, of course, confound the two.  
Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone's hair.  
Retrouvailles (French):  The happiness of meeting again after a long time. This is such a basic concept, and so familiar to the growing ranks of commuter relationships, or to a relationship of lovers, who see each other only periodically for intense bursts of pleasure. I’m surprised we don’t have any equivalent word for this subset of relationship bliss. It’s a handy one for modern life.  
Ilunga (Bantu): A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time. 
Apparently, in 2004, this word won the award as the world’s most difficult to translate. Although at first, I thought it did have a clear phrase equivalent in English: It’s the “three strikes and you’re out” policy. But ilunga conveys a subtler concept, because the feelings are different with each “strike.” The word elegantly conveys the progression toward intolerance, and the different shades of emotion that we feel at each stop along the way.Ilunga captures what I’ve described as the shade of gray complexity in marriages—Not abusive marriages, but marriages that involve infidelity, for example.  We’ve got tolerance, within reason, and we’ve got gradations of tolerance, and for different reasons. And then, we have our limit. The English language to describe this state of limits and tolerance flattens out the complexity into black and white, or binary code. You put up with it, or you don’t.  You “stick it out,” or not. 
Ilunga restores the gray scale, where many of us at least occasionally find ourselves in relationships, trying to love imperfect people who’ve failed us and whom we ourselves have failed.  
La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have. 
When I came across this word I thought of “unrequited” love. It’s not quite the same, though. “Unrequited love” describes a relationship state, but not a state of mind. Unrequited love encompasses the lover who isn’t reciprocating, as well as the lover who desires. La douleur exquise gets at the emotional heartache, specifically, of being the one whose love is unreciprocated. Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love. This is different than “love at first sight,” since it implies that you might have a sense of imminent love, somewhere down the road, without yet feeling it. The term captures the intimation of inevitable love in the future, rather than the instant attraction implied by love at first sight.  
Ya’aburnee (Arabic): “You bury me.” It’s a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person, because of how difficult it would be to live without them. 
The online dictionary that lists this word calls it “morbid and beautiful.” It’s the “How Could I Live Without You?” slickly insincere cliché of dating, polished into a more earnest, poetic term.    
Forelsket: (Norwegian):  The euphoria you experience when you’re first falling in love.This is a wonderful term for that blissful state, when all your senses are acute for the beloved, the pins and needles thrill of the novelty. There’s a phrase in English for this, but it’s clunky. It’s “New Relationship Energy,” or NRE.   
Saudade (Portuguese): The feeling of longing for someone that you love and is lost. Another linguist describes it as a "vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist." 
It’s interesting that saudade accommodates in one word the haunting desire for a lost love, or for an imaginary, impossible, never-to-be-experienced love. Whether the object has been lost or will never exist, it feels the same to the seeker, and leaves her in the same place:  She has a desire with no future. Saudade doesn’t distinguish between a ghost, and a fantasy. Nor do our broken hearts, much of the time.

Pamela Haag, (2008), The Top 10 Relationship Words that Aren't Translatable Into English.  Retrieved 2012 from

Sunday, July 15

The Beauty of Books for Both

There is something very special about the books that I love the most, that I want so desperately to put in the books that I will write.  

Books like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Psammead Trilogy from E. Nesbit, Anne of Green Gables, National Velvet - the books that have founded me as a reader, a writer, and a person.  

Not only do they help a child to feel more important, and special, they also help the parent to reconnect with the inner child inside them.  I want to write books that parents read to their children.  I am not afraid to write with long words at times.  Long words were my favourite when I was a little kid reading to myself.  They were challenges to learn.  When I saw a word that I didn't know, I would run to the dictionary and look it up, writing it down afterwards in a little index book - my own dictionary of new words.  

Also the gift of reflection.  If I read a book that I didn't quite understand, there was a different challenge - to think about what I had read until I made up my mind that I understood it. Of course, being young, what I often ended up with was quite different to the author's actual meaning, but there you have it - room to grow, room to reread and relearn each time as I age.  

So for myself as a writer, I want to offer children at least these two challenges - to learn and to think.  And these two challenges can be surrounded in a story that they can share with their mum and dad as they snuggle up before bed for a bedtime tale.  

For parents, reading to their children is a big deal.  Of course there is the connection that they make with their child - the process of growing closer and closer as they journey together alongside their favourite book heroes.  But also, there is the deeper, more personal appeal to their own inner child - that childlike wonder that might easily have been marginalised or even entirely abandoned during their adulthood.  Reading children's books can be a simple way to reopen that path of communication with wonderment - to feel young and get excited, and wonder what will happen next.  

In the books that I love the most, and in the books that I hope to write, there isn't a line between a story for adults and a story for children.  The stories that I want to tell are for both, especially if they are shared together between them.  

Wednesday, July 11

The Musical is Coming Up!

The school musical is coming up soon!  We're just passed the three week mark, and we're both excited and stressed for opening night on the 27th.  We're performing The Great Australian Rock Musical, and I play Karen, one of the female leads.  

We've had plenty of day camps, and every weekend plus Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons are devoted to run-throughs.  Now that we have our full costumes sorted and are starting to talk about hair and makeup, it feels startlingly real.  It's set in the 80's and of course that means we are vamping up every stereotype.  Huge teased or crimped hair, tragic prom dresses, flouncy off the shoulder shirts, metallic hot pink leggings, fish net long gloves, leg warmers, neon nail polish...  

The song list includes:  Eagle Rock, April Sun in Cuba, Working Class Man, All the Boys in Town, Bow River, Run to Paradise, Two Strong Hearts, It's a Long Way to the Top, Help is On the Way, Most People I Know Think That I'm Crazy, and  Shout is our grand finale song.  

It's amazing how it's all come together, almost unexpectedly growing into something big and strong from shaky roots.  Although I didn't have much faith in the show to begin with, I, and everyone else in the cast, feel very fond of this baby of ours.  I hope it keeps on developing within our last three weeks, and that the complete performance will be just as great as we believe it can be!

Tuesday, July 10

The 'What is Writing?' Challenge

Mum made a metaphor for writing.  She said:

Writing is a journey with many milestones.  Every day you can only travel so far before you have to stop, take stock of your surroundings and feed.  

I agree with her, but I had to respond with my own metaphor.  This is how I had been feeling a lot with my writing recently.  

Writing is a gladiator battle.  Each day you go into the ring, battle it out, and either emerge victorious or are wounded and defeated.  It's a process of small battles and little triumphs.  

When I first started writing my book I had this picture in my mind that I just couldn't shake.  I saw my book - at this stage made up only of a unconnected ideas - as a tube of toothpaste.  It was full and fat with possibilities from end to end.  Beginning to write the book was like taking a card, starting at the far end, and smoothing the tube out flat with it.  Each finished chapter is centimetre of flat toothpaste tube, final, non-negotiable.  

My challenge to you is to put into words what writing is like for you.  It doesn't have to be creative writing.  If you're a student, it could even be assignment writing.  If you have a metaphor, simile, or even description for your writing, why don't you share it and I'll put it into a post.   

Monday, July 9

My Writing Style

I keep thinking about my writing style.  It was only when I started writing my book these past couple of weeks that I've accepted my style as my own.  I know that I am still growing as a writer, but at least now I have come to terms with it, and accepted it.  I used to think it was inadequate, unoriginal, childish, sometimes overly flowery, sometimes not flowery enough.  But I have psychologically found a happy medium.  

C. S. Lewis says that "... no man who bothers about originality will ever be original, whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

So that was where it started for me.  I stopped thinking about how such and such would say this.  I just said it how I would say it.  And I am proud of my results.  

It's actually quite amazing how I can see the influences of other writers in my work.  Within a couple of chapters, I was able to clearly recognise which books I read had impacted me most powerfully as a writer.     My greatest influence is The Chronicles of Narnia.  It's not at all like I'm copying the style of Narnia - not at all.  It's that I can see how my values have been shaped through my childhood reading of it.  I respect certain things from authors, and I appreciate and adore others.  For example, I have always loved when authors interrupt the narrative to make quick, personal observations.  Not only am I the sort of person who enjoys this in writing, but I am the sort of person who finds it easy to do this in my own writing, because of the nature of my own personal observations.  

I also see my other childhood favourite in my work - E. Nesbit.  E. Nesbit has a beautifully uncanny knack of making extraordinary things seem ordinary, and ordinary things seem extraordinary.  This has been a huge part of my book, and I feel I owe it to her for my appreciation of making both the little things special and the special things normal.  

Things like short chapters, descriptions of scenery and all five senses, have been pounded into me by the things I have read.  My style is built upon a lifetime of learning, incorporating my knowledge and my learnt likes and dislikes to weave a new writer.  Even if it has grown from the influence of others, it is still my own.  

Saturday, July 7

I Write a Book

The book that I have always wanted to read does not exist.  This book consists of particular characters, particular places, enshrouded in a particular atmosphere.  As a writer, it is my conviction that I must write this book in order to fulfil my dreams of the perfect book.  

I feel that there is a book that I am always in the mood to pick up and read, and it doesn’t exist.  Therefore, it is my obligation, both to mankind, and myself as a reader, to create this book – to birth it into existence and therefore appease a dark longing of my soul.  It ties in to my notion of being doomed to be a writer.  I am not destined to write, I am doomed to write.  Writing is an insatiable craving, in indefatigable aspiration, one that seems never to be satisfied, as there is always so much more, so much more to say, always, always. 

So it my greatest delight to share with you something that I have perhaps hid for a little too long.  At first, it was because my internet didn't work.  But then during that dark period of non-internet usage that something began to stir in me creatively.  And by the time the internet connection was back on line, I was so preoccupied, that I just couldn't think how to begin to explain to you the great something that is now in my life.  

I started writing a book.  

I have suffered from an incredible lack of ideas and inspiration for close to six years.  I write half pages that I am proud of - paragraphs that make me go: "I really can write, actually!"  And when I expressed to my brother my thoughts and feelings on writing, he responded very simply with "why don't you write a book?"  

Picasso that that "inspiration does exist, but it must find you working."  This is so true.  I started with a tiny thought - a picture that played in my head as I lay falling asleep two weeks ago.  I decided to write the scene, and then I had an idea on top of that idea, and then a couple of characters on top of those ideas, and on top of those characters, a myriad of stories.  And so it began.  

I had so many problems with the story.  I got half way through, and just got so stuck that I was in despair, but I got my mum and my brother on the scene, had them read the offending chapter, and asked them for their opinion.  I cannot stress enough how smart it is to seek other perspectives.  In an instance, I was given observations that hadn't occurred to me - it was a tool with which to break out of my monotonous train of thought and widen the range of possibilities open to me.  So I got back onto it and wrote some more.  It had characters that I needed to know, and places that I needed to be, enshrouded by an atmosphere that is real to me.  It's becoming the book that I want that I always wanted to read.  

I now have a tree of lime green Post-It notes stuck on my Prince Caspian wall poster - a dot point outline of my story.  It is not a very long story.  I have divided it into chapters, 13 in all, each chapter averaging 2 pages.  When I am complete, I calculate that it will have about forty pages, or eighty pages when cut into a chapter book format, and I would love to illustrate it myself, too.  I have written almost half of it already these holidays, and my goal is to write a chapter each weekend and so finish within the term.  

It has been amazing, though, this process.  I have gone to hell to heaven, to hell, back to heaven.  But I am absolutely sure now about something else.  Not only do I have to fulfil my dreams of the perfect book by writing it myself, but I, by writing, can fulfil my human need for perfect happiness.