Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

SHE TOO didn't win but the judge liked us!

When SHE TOO was just an ebook, we (its four authors) entered it into the poetry category of a big competition for new self-published ebooks. Our feedback is just to hand.

We were told that books were evaluated on a scale of 1-5 with 1 meaning 'needs improvement' and 5 meaning 'outstanding'. We were also told that some categories, e.g. Plot and Story Appeal, wouldn't necessarily apply to poetry — but in our case they decided it did. Here are our excellent scores:

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot and Story Appeal: 4

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 4

The judge suggested we might have done better to arrange the book into categories or sections, but in general the review was very favourable. Omitting the more detailed passages, this is the judge's commentary:

This is a lovely idea for a collection, and what a good description of "(Almost) Harmony"!

This feels like a wonderful conversation among a group of women, and sectioning could give some sense of the variety of subjects.

The combination of four poets was an interesting reading experience too. I found myself reading each poem and only then glancing at its poet, to see if I could guess! And I could. That shows the power of the individual voices within the whole. I began to see not just the themes within the collection but within each poet's collection, what intrigued and plagued her. I also started to notice individual poetic devices.

There's an intriguing undercurrent of anger and frustration about the alluring but intrusive bonds of family. I think this balances well against the expectation that these poems will be "nice poems from nice ladies". The shock of the "real" is that much more striking considering the soft expectation set up by the cover and the introduction. Very good!

— Judge, 2nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards.

We didn't win or even get placed. In a huge field of strong contenders, that would actually have surprised us, though we took the view that 'you've gotta be in it to win it'. We learned a lot from the exercise of entering, though. It immediately threw us into enquiries about achieving professionalism and excellence in an unfamiliar field — and with very little time to spare before the entry deadline.  (I have been a small publisher in the past, but that was long before the advent of ebooks, which have different requirements.) 

I'm proud of what we achieved. It's a good book!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Found My Christmas Earrings from Andrew!

Some readers may recall a tale of Andrew's frustration at not being able to surprise me with a gift of earrings for Christmas — because he wasn't well enough to shop by himself, and I was handling the money.

That was his last Christmas alive, though we didn't know it then. It was 2011. I didn't find out until some time after he died, when I came across the note in his journal, asking rhetorically how he was going to get the $30 he needed to buy me 'the earrings'.

He didn't describe the earrings. As my earlier entry also records, I tried to honour his wish by getting some I liked, but didn't really know what he had in mind.

This week, there they were in the pharmacy again, just as they were three years ago — beautiful Swarovski crystals in a variety of colours including a deep purple that's just perfect for me!  And then I remembered.

We had been to get his regular blood test to monitor his Warfarin dose. The pharmacy was just near the lab and we ducked in the side door as we went past, as I had some stuff to pick up. He was using his walker, as he always had to by then, sitting on it while I did the buying. There was a stand of Swarovski crystal earrings in all colours, including the deep purple that friends call my colour because I wear it such a lot.

I love Swarovski crystals, So did he; he bought me some lovely pieces of it in the past. I admired the earrings, and asked the price. I seem to remember that he said I should get them. It would have been like him. But money was tight (it's always tight) and I didn't.

It all came back to me when I saw the same crystals there this week. Perhaps they vary their special Christmas stock year by year; anyway they haven't had those earrings again until now. I asked the price. $29.99. Yes, definitely the ones he so wanted to get me.

This time I had absolutely no money left in bank or wallet, after paying bills, posting presents and making sure I had the food and petrol I need. But I get paid on New Year's Eve — and I have an account at that pharmacy. This time I got them!

They are in a little purple pouch, resting on what used to be his bedside table, for me to open tomorrow morning, Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Hard to stay in retreat mode with the Sydney siege happening.

Ignorant of anything that might be going on in the world, I turned on the TV late yesterday morning to watch an innocuous half-hour program that wouldn't have interfered, only to be confronted by breaking news — which had evidently first broken a couple of hours earlier.

You can't detach from something like that! Although, half way through the afternoon, when nothing was changing and the journos were reiterating the same information, I did turn off the TV. Turning off the mind from such a thing was, however, too difficult.

I'd already started the day by watching online a live telecast: the funeral of a young man, some of whose family are like my family. He was taken suddenly in a car accident. The picture disintegrated just as his wife broke down in tears while trying to read her tribute to him. Distressing in various ways! I gave up. When I tried to access the archived footage a little later, I couldn't. 'Too soon,' I thought, and turned on the telly while waiting — straight into the siege.

No, not a day for staying cocooned.

Nor can I stay that way today, having woken up to discover the sad ending to the siege, with loss of life and injuries.

I had already realised that it wasn't going to be practical to stay on retreat as xmas got closer. I'd have to cut it short. Following these recent events, I'm cutting it shorter still — reluctantly, but I came too far back into the world while all that was happening; I may as well stay.

I've already said what I could to the family of the young man. And the whole world is still saying all sorts of things about the siege. I can add nothing more.

About the retreat, I can say it was illuminating and that I enjoyed it. How to integrate the results into everyday life is now the question.

I imagine few of us could live in contemplative detachment for long periods; instead I intend to incorporate some practices into my life in shorter, more frequent increments. The possibility of going about my daily life with some different underlying attitudes is also something to explore.

Who's listening?

In passing, I'm astonished that — although I posted a facebook status update to say I would be absent from there during December, and also advised close real-life friends by email that if they needed to get in touch urgently they should text — many on fb, even in the second category, went on blithely messaging, tagging me, and posting to my wall.  Many seemed to assume I was still there, others to be taken aback on getting an inkling that maybe I wasn't. Very strange!

If one of my fb friends doesn't respond to communications for a while, I go looking to see if their timeline sheds some light on this. It seems a simple and obvious enough thing to do! Apparently not.

I suppose it sometimes appeared that I was there. Birthday notifications come into my email, which I did check occasionally. I could and did send greetings direct from there. My blog posts have links by which I can share them to facebook, Google+ and twitter without actually going to those places. I did that too, as I was still writing things during the retreat. 

This doesn't mean I got to see anything else on fb. I deliberately refrained from investigating any 'notification' pings on my iPad. Surely the point of a retreat is to retreat!

I'm seriously thinking that if I do this again, I might de-activate the account next time. (After all, it is so easy to re-activate.) 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Art Afternoon

Slowing down, doing other things than I'm used to, I discover the Saturday afternoon arts show on SBS. I used to watch similar programs on the ABC years ago (on Sundays) then they gradually tailed off. Perhaps they've been on SBS a long time; I just never looked. Too busy keeping busy. Wasn't looking for that today, either, just happened to notice. I'll be looking on future Saturdays!

I love the arts, though I don't consider myself a scholar. They feed me.

It's 20 years since I lived in a big city. We do have an excellent regional art gallery here, with wonderful, changing exhibitions as well as a substantial permanent collection. But it's rather small, let's face it, compared with the big city galleries. And if I want to see top-notch live performances, I have to travel, which I am more and more reluctant to do as I get older and poorer. So it is great to live in an age where I can see so much brilliant art in cinema or on TV.  (And let's not forget online.)

First there was a program on an artist called Edward Hopper, whom I knew nothing about. Now I do. it was fascinating. He was an innovator. He is dead now. (If you don't know about him and want to learn, you must Google. This post is not to describe or discuss his work.)

Then there was a thing called Music in the Air, a history of musical events on television: exactly what I was just talking about, making art widely available — and preserving it too, in the case of live performances.

I listened to that with only half an ear (or rather, watched it only partly) as I also used the time to do a water-colour sketch. I intended to make this sketching a hobby, when I first began doing it some months ago, but I haven't indulged in much of it lately. I've been experimenting with kiddies' crayons too, and with pastel pencils (although the pencils are not new to me). I've decided I like water-colour sketching much the best.

You mustn't think I mean water-colour painting; what I do is different from that. No washes, for instance. I use a small spiral notebook of special water-colour paper. It's nice and thick so the colour won't run through to the other side. (Well, not usually. I have had the odd mishap from over-enthusiasm.) I use a little tin of kiddies' paints like we had at school, with two tiny, skinny little brushes. I found another brush someone had dropped or thrown away on the ground. I thought it was a gift from God, so I took it home and cleaned it, and now I sometimes use it too. It's a bit thicker than the others. 

I have a screw-top jar made of thick, clear plastic which I use for water; carried, for extra safety, inside a plastic bag knotted at the top. And I have four little plastic pots, very small but deep, that I can use to pour the water into to wash off my brushes between colours. They are really for mixing paint, and the lid of the paint tin could also be used as a palette, but I don't do that yet. So far, if I want to mix the colours, I do it directly on the page. Sometimes I paint with plain water to thin the colours, or with a dry brush to make lines across them.

What I have discovered is that it's good not to know how to do it — which I don't. This means I'm free to play and experiment.

After the music program, there came one about a painter and sculptor called Marc Quinn, who is very much alive. Another fascinating show in quite a different way. This fellow is very innovative too. He plays and experiments. I'm sure he knows how to do things, in terms of being trained; in fact they said he had studied Fine Arts — but he finds new ways, new approaches, things not done before.

He was quoted as saying something I like: 'With our desires and choices we create the future. We don't even know we're doing it.' That was in the context of his interest in evolution. The way he explained it, as the long-term effects of human attention and consensus over time, made a lot more sense than the usual New Age version of 'You only have to think it and it's yours'. (You could Google him too.)

I don't relate either of these artists to me with my sketching games, and I don't want to sculpt or paint with oils anyway; but it was still a treat to look at their art, with a knowledgeable guide in each case, and to get to listen to the artists themselves talk about their work.

What a lovely, leisurely afternoon feeding my soul!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Announcement — SHE TOO Calendar. A great gift for yourself or another poetic soul.

A monthly calendar of your favourite pin-up poets and sample poems. Click on the pic to view and buy.


Buy the book (over there in the right-hand side bar, see) and get a free one-page calendar as a gift (just the rudie-nudie photos as above!).

For details, click here.

Storm Diary

Nature is wild outside. The thunder cracks so loudly, I hastily put up blue domes of protection over my home, my car, the guy next door's unit ... heck, the whole top end of this street, and a few friends' homes elsewhere in town for good measure.  

But I don't think of this until some time after already seeing huge hailstones falling, and fearing for my car, out there by the kerb. The only consolation is that those falling near the house, where it's more usually parked, are even bigger. 

The rain is now torrential. 

Crikey, that was a tremendous crash! I.m surprised my lights are still on. Computers, modem and phone are unplugged, TV is off, and I listen to sharp cracks of hail on roof and windows, sounding as if they'll break the glass, or as if they are coming through the ceiling right into the room.

The only tree close enough to the house to do damage is the frangipani, and that's very sturdy and right up against the front wall, only a few of the top twigs against a window. All the same, I might prune it down below the sill real soon.

I think of another friend's house that may well be at risk, and another's, and another's, and whack up a few more domes. Then I strengthen the ones already in place.

The lights flicker briefly. 

I'm glad this didn't happen yesterday while I was out and about.

Ah, there goes the power off. And back on again almost at once! Just when I was getting up to fetch the torch (which I keep handy) and think about lighting candles (quite handy too). 

Both thunder and rain quieten, and/or begin to  move away.


It abated, and I went outside to check my car. It already had a few hail dints on the roof, acquired before I bought it. I don't think there are more. The neighbour across the road was checking his car roof at the same time, and it was OK. 

We stopped for a bit of a chat; hadn't seen each other in weeks. Then the rain started again, so we hastened back inside our houses. The thunder swung around and came back here for another go, with yet more rain and hail. The sky went very dark.  But now it does seem to have finished at last.

Again, as so often lately, no need to water my garden for a while.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

How I Got a New Vacuum Cleaner for Free — a Saga

AND a free carpet shampoo.  And even a spare vacuum cleaner to give to a friend who needs one.

Mind you, this is not a recipe others can easily follow. It was all quite unintentional.

I have a belief that the Universe is always listening, and will give us what we appear to want. (Maybe that is the recipe to follow.) Anyway, I was recently looking at my carpet and thinking that I MUST find the money to get it cleaned again. It was two years since the last time. I also noticed, as a separate matter, that the cheap little upright vacuum cleaner I bought only 15 months ago wasn't working quite so well any more.

So I was sitting out on my front veranda a few days ago, doing some writing, when a van stopped and a young woman emerged and walked up my driveway to ask if I'd like a free carpet shampoo.

It was a promotion for a particular brand of vacuum cleaner. No obligation to buy; the staff got paid for doing the demo.

'We want to create some word of mouth, a bit of a buzz about the product,' she said.

'I know it's a good product,' I told her. 'I used to have one a long time ago. And yes I would like my carpet shampooed. But I can tell you now, I won't be buying.'

Well, it wasn't her job to sell me the cleaner, only to sell me the free demo. She didn't have to twist my arm.

In the course of conversation — they chat you up — it emerged that I'm a poet. So was her mum in Ireland, she said, a  frequently published poet. I didn't know the name, but gave her my card and said her mum could look me up on facebook. She saw that I'm also a professional psychic medium and asked if I could tell her something about a situation that was troubling her. She didn't say what.

'Well,' I thought, 'I'm getting a free carpet clean. I can give her a freebie too.' So I sat down with her, held her hand and tuned in. I got some stuff which meant little to me, but which she seemed to think was helpful. It wasn't a proper reading, just a quickie.

We set a time a little later for the demo. In due course a young man arrived. We moved furniture out of the way, and I perched on a dining-room chair in the now crowded kitchen.

'Don't worry about the cat,' I said. 'He'll clear out as soon as the noise starts.' Not at all! Levi was extremely interested, and perched on another chair beside me to watch too.

Young Man said that Young Woman had mentioned I'm psychic.

'What do you pick up if you, er, look at my aura?'

I tuned in across the room, and started telling him about himself as a small boy in dramatic circumstances. Spot on! He confirmed everything.

'So, am I psychic?' I asked.

'Well, it could be a matter of asking the right questions. I'm a bit of a sceptic.'

'Hang on,' I said. 'I didn't ask any questions before I told you all that.'

I was also given a lot of advice for him, for now and years ahead, which I hope he will take. It seemed very important.

I explained to him that as I was clear I wasn't buying the vacuum cleaner, I'd asked myself why the Universe had brought these people into my space. Maybe they needed something I had to offer? They had both asked, and that's why I gave them each a quick freebie.

He was back in sales mode, telling me that other people often started out saying they weren't going to buy, and then ended up getting one after all.

'Age Pensioners?' I asked, sceptical in my turn.

'Yes,' he said. 'How much do you think it costs?'

"About $3,000?'

'Actually it's more.'

He explained that there were a number of attachments to do a variety of cleaning jobs, and the way pensioners afforded the machine was by not getting all the attachments. There were several I felt I could well do without, e.g. I'm really not going to be sanding any furniture at my time of life.

The amount of dust he removed with deep cleaning before shampooing was very convincing.  But, remembering the early model I'd had decades ago, I said I thought it would be too heavy for me to lug around.

'Try it,' he said. It was amazingly light.

'It seems quite complicated, though.'

'Not at all. Look, all you do is this, this and this.' He did make it look easy.

'Is there any reason that you wouldn't LOVE to have one if you could afford it?'

'Love's a bit of an exaggeration — but I'd like it if I could afford it, yes.'

'Let me phone my boss and see what sort of a price he can offer. If you were to buy it, would you want to pay by cheque or credit card?' I laughed.

'Payment plan, with very small amounts.' I still didn't think it was at all possible.

He got his boss on the phone, and took notes as they talked. Then he told me:

'Because you're not taking this, this, this and this attachment, we'll knock off this much.  Because it's a promotional offer, we'll deduct this much. Because you used to have one in the past, we'll take off this amount. And we'll also give you $200 for your old cleaner as a trade-in.'  [They knew that was more than I bought it for.]  'That brings it down to this amount, and you can pay it off at $32 a week for 36 months.'

'$32 a week,' I said. 'That's $64 a fortnight — I have to think fortnightly because that's how my pension is paid. You know, I think that's do-able.'

The boss came to do the paperwork and started by asking the exact amount of my income — which turned him a bit pale.

'Um, so you'd be paying $32 a week, plus 22% interest ...'

'He didn't mention interest,' I said.

'No, he's not authorised to. I do the paperwork. I think you would find these payments difficult, and frankly I don't think the finance company would cover you. How about I give you the previous model for $25 a week for 100 weeks and no interest? It's just the same, only a different colour.'

Of course I was rapt. And he just happened to have one in his van, so he brought it in, we filled out the forms and I signed everything.

Next morning I told this tale to some friends I was breakfasting with. One of them had a strong intuition I should try it out before the cooling off period was up (only 10 business days). So yesterday I prepared to do that. I looked at the instruction manual. I watched the DVD that came with it. And I nearly cried. I was thoroughly bamboozled. It's one thing to see someone show you, quite another to try on your own.

I have always been intimidated by machinery, and this was a case of: 'Open this, flip this to that side, line up these arrows if you're doing this, or the other way if you're doing that, press this button, make sure this colour is showing for this operation or that colour for that one, adjust this lever with your foot...'

Should I persevere and learn the bloody thing? But no, I wasn't even game to try. I rang up to cancel the contract.

'The manager will phone you back,' they said.

It was the same guy who'd done the paperwork before.

'What happened?'

'It's just not for me.' I told him. 'It's too complicated for me.'

'What? How can it be too complicated?'

But I'd read the documents closely by then.

'Look, according to the contract, I'm not obliged to give you any reason. But I am giving you one. It's just me — I'm an old lady and I can't get my head around it.' Nothing to do with my age really, and everything to do with my head — but the old lady card can be a good one to play.

'OK, I'll get there some time this afternoon.'

I'd already had dinner by the time he showed up that evening. He didn't argue any more, in fact was quite pleasant and polite; just packed up the machine and took it away. Only after he was gone I realised and phoned him back.

'Hey, I need my old vacuum. The one you took as a trade-in.'

'Oh, I'm so sorry. To be honest, I forgot all about it. What does it look like?'

I described it and told him the make. He said it would be late before he could get back to me, but he could leave it outside my door. I said that would be fine. Half an hour later he rang back.

'We already gave yours away to charity. How would you like a [well-known brand]?'

'I don't know anything about them,' I said. 'I'd have to see it. But I'll tell you what I need: light and upright.'

'This is a barrel type. But it's a very good brand. It's worth $700 - $1000.'

'Well, you'll have to bring it for me to look at.' (I can always sell it on eBay if I don't like it, I thought, and then buy the one I want.)

'What time do you go to bed?'

'I'm usually late.'

So at 10.30 he knocked on my door, bearing an upright Hoover.

'Oh, you found me an upright!'

'Wait! We have two for you to choose from,' and up my stairs came his off-sider lugging the Well-known Brand.

Both were light. The WKB was only one month old (!) and very easy to manoeuvre despite the barrel. That barrel had great capacity, I noticed, and it didn't need bags. And this machine would clean under furniture that an upright couldn't fit beneath. It also didn't need any instructions, it was so straightforward. I took it!

'I think I've come out of this rather well,' I said.

Then he asked if I'd like the other one too.

'I have to give it to charity, but we're on our way back to Sydney tonight.' (Thank goodness I'd rung up to cancel when I did.)

'I'm charity,' I said. 'I'm an Age Pensioner; of course I'm charity! I'll find a good home for it.'

He shook my hand goodbye. He looked exhausted after all his running around, and still a long trip ahead.

'I hope they pay you well,' I said.

He shrugged and grinned weakly, with a funny look in his eye. Only later I realised: of course, he'd be on commission.

Oh dear!

Oh well.

Today I phoned a friend who has been needing to replace her vacuum cleaner and told her the whole story.

'This Hoover might not be what you want permanently,' I said, 'but it's free, and it'll tide you over at least.' When I described it, she was delighted.

Thank you, Universe!  I think two quickie readings, and some Reiki zaps through the ether to help the boss on his drive to Sydney, were a small price to pay.

More seriously, I also think Young Man had great need, and that he has great potential. Perhaps what I said was crucial. Perhaps the Powers That Be considered it worth a clean carpet and an almost brand new, good quality vacuum cleaner that suits me nicely.

As I sometimes tell people, I work for the Universe and the pay is good.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A Club I'd Like To Join!

Satirist Jonathan Swift (born November 30, 1667), author of Gulliver's Travels, was a founding member of the Scriblerus Club, along with fellow wit Alexander Pope. This literary society's sole aim was to ridicule scholarly pretension. — Goodreads

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Gratitude Quilt

I am grateful for the internet, which so extends my circle of friends, the audience for my writing, my access to the news of the day, and my scope for indulging my hobbies such as photography. ~ Rosemary

That's what I wrote when Laura Hegfield asked me to jot down for her what I was grateful for in that very moment.

Every year she asks everyone she knows to do that, and from all the responses she makes a gratitude quilt of words and posts it at her blog to coincide with (the American holiday of) Thanksgiving.

I've just finished reading the 2014 gratitude quilt. Now I feel wrapped in peace and beauty.

Some people wrote just one word, or one sentence. Some wrote long lists. Some used plain, down-to-earth language. Some wrote in lush, poetic phrases. 

Above is my 'patch', reproduced just as it appears there. But the great joy of the quilt is not in reading any one entry in isolation, but taking the time to read through them all. You have to find enough time to do so at leisure. Each is individual and unique, but there are repeated themes, all adding up to a human appreciation of the great gift of life. 

I hope you give yourself this gift of reading the lot!

Friday, November 14, 2014

New ebooks, new Amazon page!

How exciting: I have a new Amazon page! Click here to see.

This has been created in conjunction with the release of two new chapbooks which I've been working on for some time. There they are at the right, in my sidebar, look!

LIFE AFTER DEATH consists of poems I wrote in the first intense weeks after Andrew's death, chronicling the adjustment to such a radical change in my life.

THE IMAGINED OTHER is a series of somonka, love poems in the form of pairs of tanka, each pair forming a conversation between two lovers, like a call and response. They were written for a form challenge at Robert Lee Brewer's 'Poetic Asides' section of Writers' Digest. I wrote some by myself, taking both voices; the rest were collaborations with other poets.

These are very short books — but, I hope, not slight!

They are ebooks. I don't intend to produce them as paperbacks.

My Amazon page, set up by my publisher, surprised me in a couple of ways. For one thing, I found out I am included in a Bibliography of Australian Literature — but I am unlikely to find out what they say about me, as the volume costs around $80!  Next time I am in a major city with a major reference library, perhaps I'll check.

The other surprise was to find that my 2005 publication, SECRET LEOPARD, is selling second-hand for over $400! In fact that's the lowest price. Other used copies are selling for over $700! I assure you that neither I nor Amazon set those prices! And if anyone is foolish enough to buy at that price, I won't see any of the money. I did sell it through Amazon myself when it first came out, but it wasn't exactly a best-seller, and Amazon eventually dropped it. Now some sellers are evidently treating it as a collector's item. It's true there are not too many left, but until they run out you can get them from me at $10 each, plus postage. Clearly a bargain!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

DHARMA THE CAT — Philosophy With Fur

By David Lourie and Ted Blackall

I've just reviewed this on Goodreads, and this is what I said:

I fell in love with Dharma the Cat at first sight, when I saw the paperback edition. I think any cat-lover must! You can tell that David Lourie, the author, is very well-acquainted with cats himself. He probably also has a good knowledge of Buddhism. Most of us these days have some idea of its precepts, but that’s not essential to enjoy this book. They’re made clear in context, and without spoiling the joke.

It’s a dry humour with a touch of philosophy and lots of ‘Aha!’ moments, as Dharma’s human, a novice monk, tries to instruct Dharma in enlightenment but manages to miss the point most of the time — in the most endearing way. Ted Blackall’s simple, expressive drawings help make the characters endearing and the jokes even funnier.

I’ve started giving family and friends copies because I love it so much that I want everyone else to enjoy it too. So far they all do, very much.

While the black-and-white paperback, available from Amazon, is a joy, you might prefer the ebook — a full colour expanded edition with even more cartoons. It’s available either in Kindle, or from its own award-winning website.

I gave it five stars.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Levi and Me — Making Our Adjustments

The first week without Freya, Levi moped and I cried a lot.

I kept his routines as close as possible to normal, and gave him lots of attention and affection. This helped me too.

After two weeks he was already noticing the upside of being the only cat. 

Some things changed. She was always the spokesperson — like lionesses in the wild, who do the hunting while their males loll about. 

Levi soon learned he needs to speak up for himself now. He has become much more vocal. In general he is becoming more assertive and self-reliant — just as I did after Andrew died.

He has taken over what used to be Freya's favourite spot in the garden, curled up under some bushes.

And he is now the bedtime cat, who comes and says goodnight to me with cuddles when I retire — even if he doesn’t stay there all night. (But he’s always back by morning.)

By the third week it seemed as if the gap of her absence had closed over seamlessly. I made up reasons for this — it was because she didn’t suffer, it was because the timing was right….  Then I took Levi to the vet for a check-up. 

When I brought him home afterwards, he looked for her. Of course — in the past she would have been here to greet him and be told telepathically (and by smell) all about it. He looked all over before he gave up. It made me start crying again.

The good news is that he himself is doing well. Anaemia and kidney disease stable, no deterioration; lungs good; no indication of any stomach cancer, which they once thought might be causing the anaemia. No reason he shouldn’t be around for a long time yet.

Now that we are only two, he is even more demonstrative. He licks and head-butts me like mad. According to something recently aired on facebook, it means he’s claiming me. ‘Yes,’ I tell him, very Game of Thrones: ‘I am yours and you are mine. My lion.’

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Overflowing Books

In February I showed you a picture of all the books waiting for me to read them, piled up in and on an old TV stand in lieu of a bookshelf. I did eventually get a couple of assemble-them-yourself bookshelves from The Reject Shop. Of course the number of books waiting to be read has grown to fill the space available. Initially the whole top shelf was book-free; now I'm wondering how long it will be before it too will hold nothing but books.

(These are just the excess books, you understand. This little bookshelf is in my bedroom. Some others are in the living room. The great big shelves, as well as a whole lot of medium ones, are out in the garage — which has never been used to house a car.)

Meanwhile the old TV stand has been pressed into service to hold all my journals — plus a couple of items from the soft toy collection. I tell myself that one day I'll get around to transcribing all those journal entries on to the computer, but I secretly doubt I'll live that long. I haven't even started yet.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Farewell to Freya

Her name was Freya, and she left on Friday, Freya's day, to go on to a new life on another plane.

She was diagnosed in May with mammary cancer. In recent weeks her lump softened and shrank, so that the vet thought perhaps it was benign after all. But a few days ago it was suddenly back, and it was large and hard.

She had shown little sign of being ill apart from the tumour, and she was still agile, affectionate, communicative — the most communicative of cats, this one — and had a good appetite. You'd never, at any time, have taken her for the 16 years old which she was. But this week it began to be apparent that she was not entirely comfortable any more, not entirely happy. She slept most of the time, didn't go outside much, and when she did she came back in soon. Her breathing was sometimes audible.

Her ritual was always to wait until I went to bed at night, then arrive on the bed — knowing the exact moment even if she had been outside — and snuggle up for a cuddle, purring. Eventually she would move away and I'd turn over, and we'd go to sleep. The last few days she still did that, but was quicker to move away, and the purr was not so loud. Again, it seemed as if it was hard for her to be comfortable, even under my Reiki hands.

She could have lasted longer, but I didn't want to wait until she was even more uncomfortable. There were just a few days of decline — but I've seen decline before; I know how fast it can be. I knew on Thursday that her time had come, and phoned the vet, but couldn't get in until Friday. By the time of her appointment, I had confirmed my inner knowing via Reiki and Tarot. And when the vet examined her, she confirmed it too. The cancer had spread to Freya's lungs. 

I stayed with her. It was a remarkably quick and peaceful death. I was strong while I had to be, but afterwards collapsed in tears. The vet's nurse gave me a can of Malibu and Cola. I'd never had it before. I bought more on the way home, and tim tams and cashew nuts. Comfort foods. 

My household has shrunk to a very small family now. Just me and my black panther, Freya's brother Levi. As siblings, they loved each other but also had spats. They played together and rested together, and there was sometimes jealousy. Now it's just him and me. He has all my attention at last; but he is already missing his sister. 

'The first two years are the worst,' I was told about widowhood. They were not fun, that's for sure! Freya was my in-house support during that time. There were many supportive friends, but sooner or later I had to come inside and shut the door. Then she was there to help. She grieved for Andrew too, but she also made sure to give me what comfort she could. She was very good at it! (Poor old Levi, always a sensitive soul, was extremely attached to Andrew, and went through terrible grief for many months. I had to look after him, not the other way around.) Now the two year milestone has been reached. The 3rd of September was the second anniversary of Andrew's death. Freya went two days later, on the 5th, her work done.

Freya was my familiar. If I was doing energy work, she would quietly come and add her energy. Sometimes she knew about it ahead of time, and would be waiting ready.  Levi is more my guardian. Although sensitive and clingy, he can be fierce in the face of any threat.

He is clingy now, following me about like the dog I believe him to have been in his last life. And he is subdued; he looks lost. It's a bleak little household we have now, the two of us. Andrew took a lot of warmth and colour when he left. Freya, with her purposeful personality, has taken more.

Levi is a cat who hates change. I'll have to keep everything as close as possible to what he's used to while he adjusts. I'm going to start putting Rescue Remedy in his food for a while; should have thought of it more promptly. Spats they may have had, but she has been his companion all his life. Their telepathic bond was strong. Each would come and tell me if the other needed something.

Perhaps he knew this time was coming soon. He used to sleep elsewhere at night, and come onto the bed first thing in the morning for his cuddle. Just lately he's been spending his nights on the bed with Freya and me. It has become his place too. I'm glad he will keep me company now.

My little girl looked so beautiful when she went to sleep for the last time. As the vet took her away afterwards, the last thing I saw was the white ring around the tip of her tail. She was a faery cat, all tortoiseshell but for that white ring which marked her, I thought, as faery. All her life, right up to and including the last week, she would sometimes race around the house, executing occasional leaps, as if playing chasey with something invisible. I thought she was having fun with her faery friends.

The vet gave me a package with things that might help — a sweet poem, a bit of her fur, a paw print in gold paint, and two small candles. I chose the purple candle to light for her, to accompany the (Pagan) Prayer for the Dead which I say when someone I care about crosses over.  She too is a soul, a beloved soul. I did what I could to help her journey.

I know she is better off where she is than if she had stayed here any longer. I know that Friday was the day she had to go; that it would have been wrong to keep her even a day or two more. 

I told Andrew, on the way to the vet, 'You better be there to meet her!' and I'm sure he would be. 

But I'm doing a lot of crying now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Trailer

While you eagerly await the virtual launch of SHE TOO, why not entertain yourselves with our book trailer?

Monday, July 28, 2014

SHE TOO — an exciting collaboration

I've got a new book coming out! Not all by myself, though. WE have a new book coming out! Four of us: Helen Patrice, Leigh Spencer, Delaina Miller and me. Four friends, four poets, "four voices in (almost) harmony" as our subtitle says.

How did that come about? Thisaway:

Back in 1988 Helen read my poem "Universe Cat" and sent me a fan letter.  It was my first ever, and included a cat poem of her own. Touched, I replied. Shortly afterwards I met her at a writers' gathering. and that was the start of a long friendship. By now we have total permission to call each other on our shit, insult each other outrageously, demand to know intimate details of what's going on with each other (and get answered honestly), and request — and receive — all kinds of help or rescue at a moment's notice.

In 2008 Leigh and Delaina both attended a workshop at the University of Arizona and, as Leigh tells it, bonded afterwards over a 99 cent bean and cheese burrito the size of a football. That both were poets and feminists no doubt helped.

In 2009 Leigh and I both participated in one of the September poem-a-day challenges John Hewitt used to run at his Writers' Resource Centre website. I was enraptured by her writing, and at one point felt moved to hunt her up on facebook and make a friend request, accompanied by the message, 'I love a woman who isn't afraid to say "fuck" in a poem'. Then John Hewitt started the facebook group Free Verse for Fun and made both Leigh and me co-administrators.

Helen asked if I knew any online poetry groups worth joining, so I added her to that one. She agreed that the members are the real deal as poets, not the "bunch of wankers" she'd found elsewhere, and entered in with cries of relief. And at some point Delaina joined too, and we started taking notice of her words. We discovered we're all very much on the same wavelength. We're mad about each other, and about each other's poetry.

John Hewitt doesn't do the September challenge any more, but there are various April challenges in conjunction with National Poetry Month in the US (which, online, has become international). This year, after we all participated, and shared the results on facebook as well, Delaina suggested we join forces to produce a book of our April poems for 2014.

So we did, and it's been a lot of work — which has taken place in great harmony, all contributing according to our strengths.

We're starting to get it up on various ebook sites and are planning the virtual launch, with all sorts of goodies to give away to those who buy the book then.

Stay tuned for date and details!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Reading on a Screen: iPad or e-reader?

For people who own both a iPad and another ereader (Kindle/Nook/Kobo/Sony/etc), which do you prefer reading on?

Reading an Erotic Novel at a Late Age *

Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed (Sons of Sin, #1)Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed by Anna Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After I set up my Kobo Mini e-reader, I was surprised to see this title among the books synced from my desktop app. I didn't recall having purchased it. A title like that? Surely not! But it had been some time since I'd used the app. Maybe I'd just forgotten. Maybe it wasn't what it sounded like.

So I opened the book and started reading. I hadn't read it before (I definitely would have remembered) and it was not something I would have chosen to buy if I'd known what it was. It was an erotic novel. I now know (from the Kobo catalogue) that this is the correct term; at the time I was thinking "soft porn" or maybe just straight-out porn.

It's not that I'm a prude. It's that I would have expected pornography to be a boring read. I saw some excerpts from "Fifty Shades of Grey" online and thought they were incredibly boring, largely because they were so badly written.

This one isn't.

The plot is fairly unbelievable, but there is a plot. I have since learned from friends that erotic novels can be very lacking in story line. This one not only has quite a complex story, but it is also an historical novel set in an aristocratic milieu far removed from our present experience — which makes it easier to suspend disbelief in the improbabilities.

And the writing is good! The sex scenes are explicit without being crude or sleazy. Nor are they embarrassingly silly. In fact they're gorgeous, and very exciting. Not kinky like "Fifty Shades", though the hero does have one (fairly harmless) idiosyncrasy. For the most part the descriptions are of normal sex at its wonderful best. I admire and envy anyone who can write sex scenes well. I can only manage it in metaphor. Luckily I'm a poet, not a novelist, so that works for me. Erotic novels, however, need to be a lot more realistic.

"Seven Nights" was convincing enough to get me hot and steamy — and to remind me that I haven't missed out on much in that department, over the course of my life. It's good to realise that descriptions of superlative sex could be accounts of one's own unforgettable experiences! I'm grateful all over again to my excellent lovers.

I have since realised that Kobo gives you a free book these days when you set up a new e-reader, so that's how it came to be in my library. I have also discovered that they are now offering a lot of free books in any case — always the first of a series, in the hope that if you like that you'll buy the rest.

Yes, I do intend to buy the rest of this series! And soon.

View all my reviews

* The title of this post is a reference to a poem by Barbara Giles, with the same title.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Earrings (back story to a poem)

Some time after Andrew died, I found a frustrated little journal entry in one of his notebooks, wondering how he was going to manage to get $30 to buy me some earrings.

I remembered a time when he complained about not having access to money. By then he was so physically incapacitated that he couldn't go out without me, and although his Alzheimer's was mild, I had taken over the financial management. He had been making some potentially disastrous financial decisions until I did, getting us into situations I had to rescue us from.

I tried to reassure him that it was still our money, and if there was anything he needed or wanted, I'd get it for him. But he just became evasive when I asked what he needed money for. Pretty dumb of me! It was coming up to Christmas, and of course he wanted to surprise me. Instead, that year I bought Christmas presents we could enjoy together, with his agreement. Food. DVDs. I guess he decided to settle for that, as he couldn't figure out a way around his dilemma.

I wonder, had I admired some earrings somewhere while in his company? Had he seen some online or in a local shop that he fancied for me? He had very good taste, and bought me some lovely jewellery over the years, albeit suited to our modest budget. The brief journal entry was specific about the price, but didn't describe the earrings at all.

There came a time when I wanted some earrings to go with a particular bracelet and pendant. I chose some zircon studs, a little under $30, and told myself they were my present from Andrew, just a bit late.

During our life together, from when we were courting, he loved to present me with big bunches of red roses. After he became incapacitated, he would sometimes say to me when I went shopping, "Buy yourself some roses." Which I did, as a gift from him. He was happy enough, in that circumstance, to know it was our money, and to delegate the task to me. I guess that was because there was no surprise involved.

Occasionally I still buy myself roses, remembering how he liked to give them to me. Recently I came across some sweet little earrings carved in the shape of red roses. They were affordable. I had a fantasy that he had nudged me in that direction, to notice them. Of course I bought them. Again, I told myself they were from him. Now I always have that gift of red roses.

Another journal entry expressed his readiness to go on to the next life and see his father and brother again. He asked God to look after me when he was gone.


These things are all strands in my poem, Love's Winter, which doesn't explain them. The poem felt complete as it is, albeit a trifle mysterious. When I tried to add more clarity, it became clunky.

Some readers who are aware of my widowhood have understood what the poem is about. Others have, naturally enough, interpreted it differently. That doesn't matter in terms of the poem, but some also read it (correctly) as autobiographical and attach their suppositions to me and, by association, to Andrew.

Perhaps that doesn't really matter either. But it's unfair, although unintentionally, so I thought a bit of back story wouldn't go astray.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I've been waiting impatiently for this book! It is all I hoped and more.

Here is my review. It is also my Introduction to the book, which I was honoured to be asked to contribute.

This book is well titled. Helen Patrice is good at digging below the surface to turn up the bones of the past. She is good at fitting the fragments together to create illuminating pictures and stories. She digs deep, and brings it all out into the light. From memory and hindsight she creates insight, and shares it with us in ways that make it both warmly familiar and startlingly new. Above all, she engages our emotions.

We met through poetry decades ago and became lifelong friends. We have found many things in common, not least our love and respect for each other's poetry. I've seen Helen's writing mature into the confidence and power she exhibits here. The originality of her voice was always there.

I think she's a master of metaphor, e.g.

The year turns over in bed,
ready to become dark,
sleek with fat,
marinating itself deep within,
while its bare bones of oak and willow
beg the sun to return.

That's typical of her command of language — heightened and musical while at the same time clear and accessible. These poems don't put on airs, or yell, "Look at me, I'm so clever!" They're beyond clever: they are deep, brilliant, and totally authentic, whether she is writing of sexual desire, mothering an autistic son, or waxing humorous about her cats. She does humorous very well, by the way, as readers of her columns in Nova will recall, and has no trouble marrying it with the serious. (And yes, the verse I've quoted is a mixed metaphor, if you like — but not in a careless, messy way. Instead it's a progression, a segue from one image to the next, deliberate and effective, carrying the reader along with it.)

She can be uncompromisingly realistic too, as in

I catch my reflection.
Head to foot loose mismatched green,
with unintended bustle,
hair awry,
wild eyes.
My poetry writing look.

While Helen's poignant verse novel, A Woman of Mars, is one of my favourite reads, I've long wished she would compile a more representative collection of her poems. I'm delighted and honoured to have been asked for this introduction to the strong book she has produced.

-- Rosemary Nissen-Wade
poet, editor, writing workshop facilitator, and former publisher

My regular readers at this and other blogs will know that Helen Patrice and I are friends — a friendship which began through poetry. I would just like to make the point that I am not waxing enthusiastic about her poetry just because I am her friend. On the contrary, one of the many reasons I am her friend is because I am so enthusiastic about her poetry.

It's a beautiful production physically, too. The publisher has done justice to Helen's brilliant work. The book is available from Amazon.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The "Nonce" Poetic Form

I just discovered, via this excellent article by Jeanette Ostermeyer, that this is a name given to self-created forms — that is, where there is some regularity or pattern of metre, rhyme, syllables, whatever.  The specific form is created because it seems to fit the needs of the particular poem. Sometimes, we're told, one of these may take on, be used widely by other poets, and acquire its own name.

The term can also apply to variations on traditional forms, such as rhyming sestinas and unrhymed odes. (I have also come across 10-line sonnets.)

I think maybe we all do a lot of this without even regarding it as anything special. I, for instance, like my stanzas to be the same length even in free verse — whatever length, or variable pattern of lengths, happens to suit the poem. I'm not sure that's sufficient to constitute a new form, however.

One of my widely-published early poems, The Day We Lost the Volkswagen, has a pattern all its own (as far as I know) because it just seemed to need it. It's basically a rhyming ballad (abab quatrains) with an extra line added per verse, and the extra lines rhyme with each other — in a four-verse poem, the last lines of verses 1 and 2 rhyme with each other, and the last lines of 3 and 4 have a different rhyme with each other. (It's a lot more complicated to describe than to read!) I've never used the form again, though. I never felt any need.

(Funny — I once read it to a group of writing students by way of example of something or other, and one who had been listening with an expression of rapt delight, said afterwards, "And not a rhyme in it!"

"Excuse me," I said, "It has a complex scheme of full rhymes."

But I decided to take it as a compliment. I guess that for her the rhymes were unintrusive and the language just seemed natural. That's gotta be good.)

Recently, members of the dVerse online poetic community were invited to create a new form. Because I like to play with a non-traditional or "free" version of the ghazal, and because I also like playing with American sentences, which Allen Ginsberg invented as a Western style of haiku, I combined them both. You're welcome to read the result.

I found that the sentences went neatly into 3-line verses, and the whole had some of the features I like in a ghazal. I called it Ghazal-type 17-3 — which I think a clumsy name, but I hoped it would suggest that there might in future be other, different ghazal-type poems. (Because of my departures from the strict form of the traditional ghazal, I think it's more accurate to say "ghazal-type".)

But I haven't used it again. And I haven't made up any other ghazal-type forms. I make poems in whatever way seems right at that moment, then go on to the next moment.

Ostermeyer, whose article focuses on metrics, alludes to Peter Davison's book, Breathing Room, in which, she says,

"... nearly all the poems conform to twenty-five lines cast in seven tercets and a closing quatrain. These lines are set in a flexible pattern ..."

Perhaps it would be fun to create a form (or even adopt an existing one) and then stick with it for a whole book.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Strange Dream — What Does It Mean?

I got dressed up all Goth, including my magickal black cloak, and went to a "special event" screening of a vampire movie last night. In reality I was accompanied by some women friends, but in the dream that I had just before I woke this morning, they were nowhere to be seen.

In the dream I was one of the last to leave the theatre, packing away my iPad Mini, on which I'd apparently been taking notes. (In real life I do a lot of writing on my device, via the Pages app which I uploaded.) There was only one other person left in the theatre, a man still in his seat. He caught my eye, showed me what he was holding, and informed me it was his device.

The lights were up, but a bit dim; it took me a minute or two to realise he was showing me a pen and a notebook in which he'd been busily writing. Then we exchanged some witty banter about this, before I told him seriously that I too used to use that device, and still would at times if need be. Then I left ... and woke up.

In actual fact, although I usually take my Mini everywhere, it wasn't with me at that movie. My regular handbag isn't Goth enough. I used a slender black evening purse and, in the absence of my Mini, did tuck in a pen and a tiny notepad — I don't go anywhere without writing materials of some kind, "just in case".

Oh yes, the man in the dream looked like the lead actor from the movie — not as he looked in the film, but the way he looks in ordinary life. I've never seen him in anything else, but I did Google after I got home. (I prefer the vampire version, actually.) I wonder what it signifies, that it was the real person in the dream?

Is my subconscious trying to tell me to go back to using pen and paper? Or was it simply a reassurance that it's OK to do so when necessary? As I was in costume and the bloke was in civvies, was the dream just noting how magickal modern technology is? No, not entirely that, as there was a strong endorsement of the all-purpose usefulness of pen and paper.

Interpretations, anyone?


The movie we saw was Only Lovers Left Alive. Jim Jarmusch and the incomparable Tilda Swinton were good reasons to see it, and I was not disappointed. It was stunningly beautiful visually, and not very much like any other vampire movie I've ever seen. What I didn't expect was that it would be funny — exquisitely funny. And oh yes, Tom Hiddlestone, the male lead, was everything he should have been in the role, and then some

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Moving the Magickal Memoir

or, Confronted by Truth-Telling. 

I've taken down the "Living a Magickal Life" blog and merged it with "Cronewyze", my witchy blog. It felt too intimate to share in its own right, boldy exposed as it was. Details here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Step one: Acknowledge the person and site that involved you in the blog tour.

That's the wonderful — and busy! — Canadian poet, Pearl Pirie, whom I met online years ago when we both responded to a month of poetry challenges at John Hewett’s site, then known as Writer’s Resource Centre and now an extremely useful archive. Pearl's own blog tour astounded me just now, when I read about all of her activities! (And that's just the literary ones.)

Step two: Answer the 4 questions below about your writing process:

1) What am I working on? 

There are two collaborative poetry collections. The main one is a year-long collaboration with three other poets, Aussies Jennie Fraine and Helen Patrice, and Brit Michele Brenton. It's a renshi, a Japanese form consisting of a series of linked poems. As we write them, we're posting them on a blog, "Poems by the Followers", and our intention is to turn them into a book. I am already enthralled by the way this is developing. Some of the last lines can be quite a challenge for the next person to take as a starting point!

The other is also a collaboration with Helen and Jennie. In 2013 we all did a series of moon poems spanning a lunar month. We recently decided to choose the best to combine in a book: Three Cycles of the Moon. It has been compiled. Currently we're looking at ways to self-publish it as a e-book, and are seeking the right cover illustration.

I'm also working on a memoir about the experience of widowhood (my husband died in September 2012). That too is taking the form of a blog at present: The Widowhood Chronicles. Again, the plan is to turn it into a book, perhaps covering the first two years, which people say is the usual period of readjustment. 

I have poems on this subject as well, naturally, and have created a chapbook covering the first six months, which I am getting ready to submit to a publisher.

And I’m putting together a chapbook of poems I wrote (some in collaboration with others) for a somonka challenge issued by Robert Lee Brewer of Poetic Asides. A somonka is a pair of tanka, one responding to the other. One by American Bruce Niedt and me was runner-up in the competition and has been published in a recent issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine.

I have a memoir about the spiritual/magickal aspects of my life, again in blog form so far, but I find it hideously confronting to put that intimately personal stuff out there. (I’ll tell you about my sex life, my financial situation, my politics, but….) So I am discontinuing that blog and will be writing the stuff somewhat more privately until I think it’s ready to become a book.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

Only by being mine, in my voice and style. There's no huge, dramatic difference otherwise. I haven't reinvented the chapbook or the memoir.  And I write all kinds of poetry; I love to explore. 

The renshi project is unashamedly based on a similar book by four Hawaiian women poets, No Choice but to Follow(It's available in Kindle and paperback. Helen picked up a copy of the paperback on a trip to Hawaii and asked for collaborators for a similar project. I read the book while visiting her, and now own the Kindle edition.) Our imitation is meant as flattery, so our collection is likely to resemble more than it differs from theirs — except in some details, e.g. in our case three of us are Australians and one British, and we are not sponsored by a literary magazine as they were.

3) Why do I write what I do? 

Poetry's a vocation, the thing I can't not do. It began when I was a small child. I hope and trust it won't stop until I die. It sustains me. It is my comfort in sorrow and my companion in joy. Although I am on a low income, it makes me feel rich. 

I began the widowhood memoir simply as a blog, for emotional release, and in the hope it might be helpful to others. People found it beautiful and begged me to publish.

People have been asking for years that I write a memoir about my esoteric experiences. I can see that it might have value to seekers, and hope to slant it that way. Though I find it so difficult in practice, I’m not averse to the idea in principle. I think there must be lots of past lifetimes of needing to keep that knowledge secret, so perhaps I need to clear some blocks.

4) How does your writing process work? 

Poetry starts with a line or two in my head. That might turn out to be at the beginning or end, or somewhere in the middle. It might even end up being discarded — but it's important to write it down asap, or else I might lose the whole iceberg of which it's the tip. 

In recent years I have sometimes also written poems to prompts. They can trigger ideas and memories that might otherwise have lain dormant all my life.

I used to write by hand in notebooks I could carry with me everywhere. Nowadays I compose straight onto computer, and love to take my trusty iPad mini with me for writing as well as reading. (I uploaded the free Pages app.) I still carry a tiny notebook and a pen too, “just in case”. (In case of what? I haven’t yet specified that to myself.)

When I was the mother of young children (long ago), if I couldn't get straight to pen and paper when inspiration struck, I’d memorise the line or lines in my head and hold them there until I could. These days I trust my unconscious more, and allow things to percolate unattended if necessary. They’re there when I arrive at the page. Or the idea is, and it finds its words. Mind you, I try not to leave it too long before arriving at the page, or they can fade away and be lost.

A friend recently said she thought  my poems just flowed out spontaneously, without a lot of revision. I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or insulted. I do a great deal of tweaking and polishing at the point of creation. I do also come back to them after time has elapsed, and re-examine them.  I have been known to scrap things and do complete rewrites in other forms, styles, whatever. But it’s supposed to be good if one’s art appears effortless, so I decided to take my friend’s remark as a compliment — even while acquainting her with the facts! I thought she seemed a mite disappointed that her theory was wrong.

I do a lot of revising and editing of the prose, too.  

In prose, it is usually the idea that comes first and then I find the words — except for prose poetry, which I write occasionally; and unless I am journalling, which is a dump straight on to the page (and may or may not need a lot of cleaning up afterwards if I decide to make it public).

Trained by being a mum, and then by Natalie Goldberg, who suggested writing in caf├ęs, I don’t need perfect peace and quiet in order to write. This is very useful!

Trained by poetry communities which issue prompts, and perhaps also by decades of experience, I can now toss off a creditable first draft quite quickly. Participation in these groups requires that the drafts go up on my blog straight away. I do come back later — sometimes a lot later — to revise and if necessary make changes, but most people see the first draft and probably don’t revisit. This is perhaps a good reason for submitting “finished” poems to literary magazines and anthologies (usually online nowadays) and for creating chapbooks.

Step 3: Who’s Next?  

I was asked to choose three other bloggers to whom to pass on the torch. At first I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t feel they were too busy. Then two people agreed: American poet and social media (content and design) professional Delaina Miller, and Aussie poet/muso/digital artist Phillip Barker (aka Soma).

If anyone else would like to jump in, please do! Email me for details.

(Cross-posted to my website)