It seems like the last three months have disappeared into a black hole of tiredness, work (the paid variety), and bleakness because I’ve had no time to write. How are other people able to carry on with their lives so blithely when, if I don’t write, I’m dogged by guilt and the sense that I’m not really present? Sometimes I wish I wasn’t wired this way.
That aside, here are some things that have been happening:
I gave a reading from my current novel, Depths Exceeded, at The Library Café at an event organised by the lovely people at the Queensland Writers Centre, two of whom I met. They said there were some 65 people there, which was amazing and wonderful. Plus I met a writing friend I had made on Twitter who bravely introduced herself, and later we mused on the need for etiquette to help smooth over the virtual/real world divide.
I gave another talk on my two novels at Hamilton Library yesterday, and spoke to a bunch of interesting and interested people. Meeting readers, and new people in general, is one of the best parts of the job.
The VIDA stats came out. These tally up the number of reviews in prestigious literary journals that are written by women, and the number of reviews of books by women, as opposed to those by men. The results are still pretty damning (they’ve been gathering stats since 2010), as shown by the pie charts on their website. These stats were also behind Elizabeth Lhuede’s motivation to begin the Australian Women Writers Challenge in order to do something about rectifying this bias. The implications of the stats are also discussed in a searing and necessary post by Marilyn Brady, who makes the observation that, ‘At a basic level, some men aren’t very interested in woman generally and therefore are not interested in reading books about them, which men assume, falsely, included anything written by a woman.’ This is the consequence of aeons of male-dominated culture, as Marilyn continues, ‘For several centuries Western and (probably other) Civilizations have taught us all that the male experience is the norm–the white male experience to be specific. What it means to be human is all too often is defined as doing the things men typically do.’ The effect of this, when it trickles into literature, is that subject matter such as ‘Quest plots, literal and symbolic, are highly regarded, and domestic ones are considered trite.’ Yet all of the men who have read my novels, which are quite domestic, have said that, although they weren’t books they wouldn’t normally pick up, they thoroughly enjoyed them. I agree with Marilyn that the problem begins with education (is it a mere coincidence, after all, that JK Rowling used initials to disguise her given names?) and that we ‘desperately need to revise how and what we teach as literature in our schools, so that both genders can imaginatively explore what it would be like to be the other.’
I wrote a roundup of reviews showcasing issues of diversity in books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
I worked nearly full-time on a research project on remote technology and didn’t write any fiction and so felt like I was having a bit of a nervous breakdown, but now it is Easter and I can write again.
I made a quick trip to Sydney to see H and my bestie Dr P, who dropped her bundle a week later. The amazing girl and her hubbie came to the beach with us at Balmoral (digging a hole for her belly in the sand), dipped in the sea (which she appreciated, for feeling weightless), while H and I perved on the hot men on the shore. The next day she came with us to the MCA to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition, then H and I left her and another friend at the top of Observatory Hill while we had a look at a marvellous exhibition of botanical art in the S. H. Ervin gallery, most of which came from Ballarat Art Gallery. I was beside myself to see some of the names of English collectors and nurserymen I had researched in conjunction with Western Australian botanist Georgiana Molloy, but I don’t think H was quite as enthused. We drank wine in the lowering sun near the Sydney Theatre with B&T, and also caught up with our former flatmate, who was as sanguine and lovely as ever.
I looked often and despairingly at the huge pile of books on my desk that need to be read and reviewed. They will disappear. I will read and review them and make them disappear.
So. Easter is here, thank God. Friends wanted me to go to their annual shebang at a property near Coonabarabran, but I’m too burnt out, and socialising requires yet more effort for a deaf person. Instead I shall sleep and swim and do something about the unsightly kilos that have crept up since I’ve been working too much and not had time to exercise. I have also set a target of writing 15,000 words of my mermaid novel, the first draft of which I intend to have done by the end of June. How lovely it is to have time to write at last.