Welcome to the blogspot of Melbourne writer, Elizabeth Jane

Welcome to the blogspot of Melbourne writer, Elizabeth Jane

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Art of Concealment

I have reached the end of my TAFE term feeling less confident than when I started. Wondering what this whole writer’s journey is all about, wondering if I am staring at failure, shaken to know that I have invested three years in a novel, only to find myself caught in a maze not quite knowing how to get out.

Enter the Victorian Writers Centre. It is one of those unsung heroes of an institution that sits alongside public libraries and state schools. An institution that runs on a AAA battery, for the good of a community. In this case my community, the aspiring writer I share my body with.

Every month or so, the Victorian Writer, the VWC’s magazine, arrives in my mailbox. I read it avidly, circling competitions, classes and mentoring opportunities like wishes in the sand. I also read its articles.

This month, there is an article by John Armstrong called The Art of Concealment. I am going to quote from it liberally because it has touched my soul:

“About two thirds of the way through each of my last four books, I’ve made a resolution: this is the last time I am ever going to put myself through such misery again. At this stage I feel like I have been working on the project forever and it’s never going to be good enough.”

Perhaps I am normal, I think. Perhaps I am a writer after all.

“I have gone through this enough times to bear with it – I hate it but I don’t stop. It’s not that I know all will be well – I don’t know that. It’s much more like an addiction.”

This has resonance with me. Ask my family. I am tired, stressed and distresses, yet I turn on the laptop day after day like an old alcoholic, determined to keep going (yes, I know, I need to take a break). Here is my final quote:

“My core experience of writing is that the pursuit of writing is that the private image of perfection creates a lot of mental disturbance. And that one has to bear the disturbance, and not be too terrified of it. And not let others see much of it. It’s an art of concealment.”

Do not be terrified. I repeat the phrase over and over as Jesus walks to me across the Sea of Galilee.

Do not be terrified that you can’t find the perfect opening line.

Do not be terrified though the waves are high and you can no longer see the shore.

Do not be terrified when conflicting opinions come flooding in.

Do not be terrified. It is an old liturgy, made new for me.

Relax, take a break, this is normal.

Do not be terrified.

Listen to that gentle voice of reason — that still small voice.

Do not be terrified. Let the old made new wash over me.

Do not be terrified. Trust in God - yes, why not! and celebrate the writer within.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sorta, dunno, nothin' ...

This is for the aunties, uncles, parents and grandparenst among us. Or anyone who simply wants a good laugh.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What life is like ...

Sometimes my life feels like a pinball machine. You know, the kind you put money in and out comes the disc and you flick it with little levers and every time you get a point it goes ping! I work from two diaries and a mobile phone reminder system. But I still scurry about without managing to be in the right place at the right time.

Last Wednesday this helter skelter existence finally came apart spectacularly. I missed an important, and expensive, medical appointment. I also forgot to take my car to the mechanic as scheduled. As I lamented this unfortunate (but not unusual) series of events to Andrew and Seth over coffee, I regregretted that I did not own a diary small enough to fit in my handbag.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It would make a huge difference. Perhaps when Linda (at work) takes the diary requests for 2009, I will order a more compact organiser.’

‘Mum,’ Seth said, leaning over and speaking earnestly. ‘I don’t think you should wait until next year.’

I went straight to the newsagent.

I now own a modest shiny black synthetic leather volume designed and produced by Tai Shing Diary Limited. I sat down and transferred all my data, feeling buoyant with hope and achievement. I even went so far as to clean out my in-tray (heaven rejoiced). I saw a letter from the bank in my in-tray. It that had been sitting there for over a week with a replacement card stuck to it.

‘Look at that,’ I said, signing the back of the card with a flourish. ‘They have made the new Mastercard the same colour as my old Keycard.’

I chopped my Mastercard up and put it in the bin.

Feeling very righteous, I made room for the new piece of plastic in my purse. It was at that point I realised, my new Mastercard actually had the word Keycard written on it.

I phoned the bank.

A replacement Mastercard will arrive within five to ten days. Meanwhile I have my new Keycard to go on with.

Since Wednesday, I have been taking my diary around everywhere. I sleep with it beside my bed. It is the first thing I see every morning. The last thing I look at each night. I go to sleep mouthing imminent appointments like a sacred liturgy. I think it is helping.

On Friday, I managed to get myself to the airport, park the car, and board the correct flight to Adelaide without hiccup. I even rang my Mum to say the flight had been delayed. Yes, I thought, I can change. I was born to be a chess set. Not a pin ball machine.

I disembarked at Adelaide Airport feeling regal, calm and serene. It was lovely to see Mum. We gathered my luggage (no mistakes there) and made our way out to the car park. All was going well until Mum realised she had forgotten where the car was parked.

Mum has a new car so I didn't know exactly what we were looking for. I knew it was a red car. She thought the number might have an X in it.

There were quite a few red cars in the car park. As we walked around the car park pointing her automatic locking system at cars hoping for the lights to flash, I had a dark epiphany. Even with my Tai Shing Limited diary bumping against me, I knew in that moment, that I would never be a chess set. No matter how hard I tried. My problem is genetic. I was born into a family of pinball machines.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I did not get selected for the ASA mentorship program.

I only got 9 out of 10 for my last TAFE assignment.

I am not upset or anything. I am a mature adult. I can handle disappointment - not!

I think the following video from Dylan Moran says it all.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I believe in Fairies

I believe in fairies. I am sure you do too. Ever since my mother explained to me that the terrifying roll of thunder was merely the fairies having a party, I have found it a convenient explanation for a range of peculiar happenings.

Tylwyth Teg is the Welsh term for fairies. They are a diminutive race, resembling humans, who ride miniature horses, and are often accompanied by small white dogs (I think Biskit is probably a fairy dog). In Wales the fairies can live side by side with households, in a sort of unseen Harry Potter style world. The Welsh Fairy Book, by Jenkyn Thomas documents their existence. He tells the story of Gutto Bach of Llangybi, who disappeared from home, and one day, two years later, re-appeared. Little Gutto wasn’t a day older than when he disappeared, however, because he had been playing with the fairies.

Ianto Llywelyn of Llanfihangel on the other hand, was a friend of the fairies. He used to keep his fire burning all night long. He also left a vessel of water and bread with its accompaniments on the table, taking care, to remove everything made of iron before going to bed. For you must know, iron acts as a deterrent to fairies. This is where the old custom of hanging a horseshoe above the door comes from because if you offend the fairies, they can become rather a nuisance.

Such was the case with Morgan Rhys and his family from Ystrad Fellte in Breconshire. They heard all manner of noises in the cowhouse. Yet, when they went to the cowhouse to investigate, they found nothing. When they eventually returned to the house, they found everything upset in the kitchen. Night after night, their crockery was broken and their cows were milked dry. Their horses ridden until their wind was broken.

Now as you may know, I am writing a novel. It is an emigrant story set in 1841. One of my main characters is Welsh (which is how I discovered this interesting stuff about fairies). I have very little about fairies in the book (just in case you are being bored witless) but I am developing a breakthrough historical theory. I would like to suggest that it was not only humans who came across the sea from Britain. The Tylwyth Teg came too.

There is a historical precedent. Morgan Rhys’ family were so desperate to escape the fairies they packed up their belongings and proceeded to move temporarily (for it was the custom of the fairies to quit an establishment that passes from old into new hands), only to find that the fairies had packed up their belongings and moved with them to Ystrad Towy.

It seems to me that the fairies came with the first emigrants from Britain and have been coming ever since. Indeed, I suspect a whole family might have emigrated alongside my family in 1968. Now before you object, I will ask you one simple question. Where do your odd socks disappear to? Are you with me? Ok here is another thought. Why can you never find a ball point pen or a tennis balls when you need it? As you can see, I have s strong case. It must be the fairies.

Our household have forever been plagued by fairies (I am not sure what we have done to offend them). When the children were little it was spoons that went missing. I know that is peculiar, because spoons are made of metal, but I suspect that during the evolutionary process, some fairies have become immune to it (the tooth fairy is a prime example). Anyway, I was forever missing spoons. Occasionally I would find one in the sandpit (which is how I first came to suspect the fairies), but mostly they just disappeared.

The sandpit is now long gone from our garden. It has been replaced by MSN, iPods and P Plates. I thought the fairies had gone too. But I was wrong. I have lately begun to suspect they are still with us. How else do I explain the recent and mysterious disappearance of the forks in my cutlery drawer?

The truth about the missing forks has dawned upon me slowly. At first, it was simply a fork here and a fork there. With the rapid rotation of cutlery and crockery in and out of the dishwasher, and the very haphazard habits if those rostered on dishes duty, it was easy to miss the decline in numbers until last week ... When I realised there were no longer enough forks to have dinner with.

Andrew was in America at the time, so we only needed four forks. But no matter where we searched – the dishwasher, the various cutlery drawers, Seth’s bedroom (very scary) Priya’s bedroom (even worse) – they were nowhere to be found. We had to face the cold hard truth. We had twenty knives, forty spoons (including soup spoons and teaspoons) and three forks. It had to be the fairies. There is not other explanation for it. I am wracking my brains to work out how I have offended them.

I may never know the reason for this attack on my cutlery drawer. But the answer is simple. I must placate the fairies. It is vital for the continued well being of my forty spoons. I will convince Andrew of the value of running the heater all night (never mind the gas bill). I will watch what I say from now on(word watch fairies); I will write nice things about the fairies on my blog (blog watch fairies); I will practice random acts of kindness (benevolence fairies), I will not nibble and eat badly (Doctor Tickle’s diet watch fairies); I will be firm with Biskit (Alpha dog training fairies) and of course I must leave food and drink for them like Ianto Llywelyn of Llanfihangel did.

There is only one problem I can see with this plan. It is the cockroaches. Melbourne is in the throws of a nasty roach plague. This is not the fault of the fairies (or my housekeeping). It is because of global warming. As the earth warms, our Melbourne cockroaches are growing bigger and uglier. It is a kind of King Kong or Honey I blew up the Kid situation. To reach my carefully placed snacks the fairies will have to mount an assault, more gruelling and devastating than the ANZAC campaign at Gallipoli. I don’t know how they are going to deal with it. I will have to consult the Welsh Fairy Book to see if there is a precedent.