Friday, May 31

A Little Dream of Me

This week has been jam-packed with cramming for deadlines, so unfortunately there hasn't been much time or energy left for me to put towards fun.  I am taking a short break, however, to quickly tell you about a new project that I have started.  

I am one of those people who has a dream every single night.  And most of the time, I remember them clearly.  Have you ever experienced that feeling when you're dreaming and you think

"my, this is a great idea, and as soon as I wake up, I'll turn this idea into a bestselling novel / blockbuster movie / billion-dollar invention..."

but when you wake up, you realise

"that was the most ridiculous idea I've ever had"

and you see that it only made sense in dream-land?  I have experienced this so often that it's become a little frustrating.  

So, I thought, what if I kept a Dream Journal???  That way, I would have a catalogue of all my whacky, nonsensical ideas, and eventually, I bet there will be some context someday in which those ideas will make sense and be brilliant.  Or maybe, when they are combined to make one BIG idea, they will be awesome!  I can dream, can't I?

So, that's what I'm doing.  Every morning, first thing after I wake up, I sit in bed with my Dream Journal and write down my dreams.  Already, I have an eclectic cacophony of absurd inspirations, some of which, I am beginning to wonder if they might work in a story.  You never know.  I might just need to sleep on it.  

Saturday, May 25

The Second Circle

I've had to learn a lot about Patsy Rodenburg's concept of The Second Circle for my drama literature review.  It's all very exciting, and I couldn't resist spilling out my new knowledge here.

Rodenburg is the world famous voice and acting coach who taught stars like Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Natalie Portman.  

Even though she directs her concept of The Second Circle to actors, it is also amazingly relevant to every person in everyday life.  It is all about connection, being present, and being intimate.  

She identifies 3 circles of energy.  Everyone uses all 3 as times, and it's often necessary to flit between them.  They are:

The First Circle:  First Circle energy is inwardly focused on yourself.  It's disconnected from others, and 'past-tense', often quiet or trailing off.  

The Third Circle: Third Circle energy is generalised and pushed out from yourself, too big and too loud, 'future-tense', like actors performing Shakespeare.  

THE SECOND CIRCLE: Second Circle energy is the circle of survival.  It is the circle of alertness and presence necessary to survive.  Patsy Rodenburg explains that babies are born in this circle of energy in order to survive, and she describes how park rangers in Africa live every moment in this Second Circle of alertness to stay safe from the dangers of the jungle.  

Second Circle energy is also the circle of intimacy.  In this circle, you are completely connected, communal, and vulnerable with those around you.  Patsy Rodenburg explains that this is the circle of energy in which great love and connection is born.  

She also says suggests that paying attention to diaphragm breathing and posture helps to maintain your presence in the Second Circle of energy.  

Learning about this concept has given me so much to think about in the last few months.  I am currently  putting a lot of conscious effort into being in Second Circle as often as possible, and immediately I noticed the changes.  

Firstly, people smile at me more.  Even just random people on the street.  

Secondly, I enjoy conversations with people much more.  I can talk and talk to people very deeply and passionately for long periods of time without feeling anxious or stupid, and I enjoy listening to others more, without getting bored.  I definitely feel like the connections I make are real, rather than superficial.  

The Second Circle is a beautiful thing to pay attention to, because it's so easy to be disconnected or inwardly-focused all the time, while it gives you the ability to make community and be connected.  

I strongly recommend that you watch Patsy Rodenburg's video in which she explains the 3 circles in her own words:  

Also, this interview with Wow! Women on Writing gives a lot of information on the benefits of The Second Circle, the disadvantages of modern living, and ways in which The Second Circle can be achieved and maintained, and how it can positively influence so many aspects of your life.

Thursday, May 16

Da Vinci Mode

On my way home from uni on the train, I like to read the MX Newspaper that is handed out for free at the station.  In the Monday, May 13th edition, a strange little article caught my eye. Have a read of this!

If you can't read the tiny print, here's a transcription of the article:

THE bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code hangs upside down to help him write.  Dran Brown told the Sunday Times about his unusual technique of seeking inspiration by strapping himself into a piece of gym equipment that can be turned upside down.  Brown, 48, said when he suffers writer's block, he suspends himself upside down in his New Hampshire home and the effects are "just wow".  

My Mum is constantly urging me to stand on my head when I get writer's block.  It seems I shouldn't have disregarded this advice, especially since Dan Brown is so adamant about its effects.  Is it all about getting the creative juices to flow to the brain?  I love that the newspaper would put in an article like this.  It just seems so random, but funny too.  

I might be doing some head stands today as I try and finish my short story for uni!

Thursday, May 9

A Group Poetry-Writing Activity

Last week my creative writing tutor gave the class a poetry-writing exercise, which I thought I’d share with you.  It is very simple, but it was fun and it might be something you’d like to try with your friends, family, or class. 

TASK:  In small groups, we were instructed to go around the campus and record a list of at least 20 things that we saw, smelt, heard, felt, or tasted, (although we were sternly reminded this was not an opportunity for a coffee break). 

FURTHER INSTRUCTION: However, we were also encouraged to record these things with as much description as possible, and consider what these things reminded us of, or made us think about, which led us to create some very whacky metaphors and similes.  We strolled about for half an hour, peering through windows, stroking the dewy lawn and tickling tree trunks, smelling garden mulch and exhaust fumes and hot coffee.  Our imaginations went wild and we experimented with weird, courageous ideas. 

STEP 2: When we finally went back to the classroom, we had a long list.  We were instructed to spend a minute or so going back through our list and refining or adding to them.  Then we had to divide the list between our group members so that each person had five or so items. 

STEP 3:  We then used our five items to individually write a verse of poetry.  We could use as many or as few of the items as we liked – the chemistry was up to us. 

STEP 4:  After writing our verse, we rejoined as a group and read our verses aloud to each other.  (We were surprised how a common theme of nature vs. pollution ran through all of our poetry.)  We were instructed to combine our individual verses as one full-length poem, and so we chose a running order and gave it a title.  We then read it aloud to the class.   


It was a fun exercise, because it gave us the opportunity to get out of the classroom, to interact more creatively with classmates, and to push our perspective on ordinary things, just like we did when we made the ordinary extraordinary in a challenge last year.  It might be something you'd like to try if you're feeling blocked creatively.  

I'm hoping to post a couple more writing activities like this, since I've had some pretty cool ones to do in class which I'm keen to share.  Look out for them.  

Sunday, May 5

Guest Lecture from a Literary Celebrity

Carrie Tiffany
Image from
You'll remember earlier this year how we followed the events of the Stella Prize for Australian women writers.  Well I'm very excited to announce that this year's winner, Carrie Tiffany (see picture), is coming to my university to give a very special guest lecture.  

Carrie is the multiple award-winning author of two novels, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, and Mateship with Birds.  She is visiting the Queensland University of Technology on the 13th of May (Monday week) to talk about her life, her inspiration for Mateship with Birds, and her writing process.  

As an avid reader and writer, this is unbelievably exciting!  Needless to say that I raced to reserve a seat in the lecture.  For me, this feels a lot like meeting a celebrity.  You should definitely have a read about Carrie Tiffany and her Stella Prize winning novel, here at the Stella Prize website.  

I'll let you know how it went!

Saturday, May 4

The only word I had was 'WOW'

You might be starting to feel a tad overloaded with Jack Kerouac posts, but there are so many cool things about him and his novel, On the Road.  I simply can't resist sharing them.  I was reading from it just last night, and you know that feeling when you read over a paragraph, a tingle goes through you, and you know that you have to read it to someone else?  Mmm!  It was the greatest feeling.  I have no doubt in my mind that this is a book I will be rereading fervently for the rest of my life.  Listen to this:

Under a tremendous old tree was a bed of green lawn grass belonging to a gas station.  I asked the attendant if I could sleep there, and he said sure; so I stretched out  wool shirt, lay my face flat on it, with an elbow out, and one eye cocked at the snowy Rockies in the hot sun for just a moment, I fell asleep for two delicious hours, the only discomfiture being an occasional Colorado ant.  "And here I am in Colorado!"  I kept thinking gleefully.  "Damn! damn! damn!  I'm making it!"  And after a refreshing slep filled with cobwebby dreams of my past life in the East I got up, washed in the station's mens room, and strode off fit and slick as a fiddle to get me a rich thick milkshake at the roadhouse to put some freeze in my hot tormented stomach. 
and later on the same page...
I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet that has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was Wow.  
On the Road: The Original Scroll by Jack Kerouac, 2007 ed.

Don't these passages just fill you with shivering desperation to breathe more deeply?  My smile gradually pulls bigger and bigger until the only thing left to do is laugh.  I just love this!  

To me, these passages perfectly capture those feelings of infinity (to use a word we now all associate with The Perks of Being a Wallflower).  Specifically, these passages let us relive as many times as we choose, those mornings with everything is exactly right, and you feel properly awake and powerful,  yet tiny, and still everything.  Those mornings that you want to last forever, but which slip away almost instantaneously.  How is it possible that someone can capture this so beautifully?  Kerouac has blessed us with the gift of a perfect morning - the very first perfect morning that can be infinite.  The only word I had was WOW.  


It was listening to this audio file that made me realise how completely I had to get a copy of On the Road.  You can hear the author reading it exactly how he meant for it to be read, with a swinging, jiving, rhythmic canter.  

This book is jazz transposed from time signatures to sentences.  

I hope that you don't mind hearing about my journey with Jack Kerouac, and that you might even be convinced to make the trip yourself!

Friday, May 3

Hitchhiking with Kerouac: The Original Scroll

I have just bought an original scroll edition of Jack Kerouc's On the Road.  After looking at his experimental style in my creative writing class, I decided that it was 100% essential that I owned a copy.  However, it has been since I started reading that I have come to realise just how special this book is.  

Have a read of the blurb:

Jack Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, and over the following three years he, along with Neal Cassady and a few other friends, made the cross-country journeys that were to become the raw material for the book.  During this time Kerouac filled his journals with notes and drafts in which he tested out different possible main characters and situations.  After coming under the spell of some wildly exuberant letters that Cassady sent to him in late 1950 and early 1951, Kerouac finally decided that the best way to do the novel would be to write the story of his life, to "write it as it happened".  In three weeks in April Manhattan, he composed a version that was satisfactory to him.  It was typed out as one long single-spaced paragraph on eight sheets of tracing paper that he later taped together to form a 120-foot scroll.  It was not until more than six years later, and several new drafts, that Viking, on September 5, 1957, published the book that is known to us today.  
Here, on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, is the never-before-published original scroll edition of On the Road.  It represents the first full expression of Kerouac's revolutionary aesthetic, the identifiable point at which his thematic vision and narrative voice came together in a sustained burst of creative energy.  The original version of On the Road is rougher, wilder, and more sexually explicit than the published novel.  Kerouac also uses the real names of his friends... 
On the Road: The Original Scroll is undoubtably one of the most significant, celebrated, and provocative documents in contemporary American literary history.   

Kerouac unrolling the original scroll
Reading that blurb is so exciting for me.  Everything about the creation of this novel is amazing, and it feels like such an honour to be allowed to read it in its rawest, freshest, most naked and uncensored form.  It is also a great gift to be able to see into a writer's thought process like this.  It is completely unedited.  This is how he thought and felt!  


This original scroll still exists, would you believe it?  Thank goodness too!  The story behind it is so momentous and wonderful, it definitely deserves the celebration and reverence that it has received.  

In 2001, the original scroll was bought by Jim Irsay for $2.43 million.  Every now and then, the first 30 feet (9 metres) are unrolled for public viewing.  It has been on display in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland.  

The original scroll on display


Director Walter Salles has produced a fresh film adaptation of On the Road.  I am waiting to finish reading before I watch it, but the trailer is a window into the energy, vibrance, and atmosphere of the novel.  One concern that I have is that the names of the characters will be different, because in the original scroll, Kerouac used the actual names of the people he met.  These were changed in the editing process.  Hopefully this won't be too confusing!  Have a watch of the trailer.

Are you hooked yet?  Grab a copy and share your favourite bits!  I've already compiled a little list of amazing lines that I look forward to sharing with you.  It did take me a while to get into it, but now I am definitely a part of this story, and I'm not getting off this wild ride until the very end.