Counting the days

The winter Sydney skyline has been glorious these last days. It´s the view I’ve been seeing since Boxing Day from the window of the guest room at our daughter´s and her hubby’s place. Gotta have a room with a view, someone once said.

We were meant to fly back to Vienna on 23 March when Austria closed its airport. The young voice manning the Ministry hotline for those wishing to return to Austria advised us to take a train to the German border and a taxi from there. At our age, with a paid return ticket, the answer laughingly was: No way! We had arrived in Sydney on Boxing Day, had traveled to Melbourne, seen bushfires close range, read about floods, and hey, this must be pestilence since not one cicada around to pass as a locust in a land where the PM believes in a rapture of a certain kind.

Social distancing was really physical as socially folks met on zoom and the like, although my preference was a plain old phone call since hubby had shorn my tresses in a most debatable way. But I did participate in a great series of zoom courses on getting out there digitally provided for members of the Australian Society of Authors. Yes, I know you can blind your face, but that´s not too welcoming for the teacher. 

Although I couldn´t concentrate with all the counting of cases and deaths, the politicizing, the double standards and scaremongering that made newscasts and papers more dystopian than any novel. I did manage to read the following:

  • on Kindle, Nick Gerrard´s Punk Novelette, that opened my eyes to a whole generation and what it had become. I kept thinking of Vivienne Westwood, and am even in more admiration of that woman having learned about her time through Nick´s novelette.
  • I don´t know how many times I tried to get into the big book that was all the rage, but the fact is, the fact is, I just couldn´t. Maybe this was the wrong time and place for Ducks
  • I read several copies of The Monthly, about the only affordable and for me interesting reading matter at the local newsagency. 
  • And I read online: flash fiction pieces, enjoying many and trying to work out why my own ones kept bombing
  • personal essays, notably by P.K. Read who now has a series on Medium entitled Feast: A Cookbook of Terrible Solutions to Very Bad Problems in addition to her Pandemic Diaries.

When you know you have a deadline you can organize your work around that, but when the goalposts keep getting moved through flight cancellations, everything´s up in the air, in a completely unexpected way. Day by Day. Bird by Bird, as Anne Lamott says in her writing book of the same name. I was reminded of related lessons thanks to an online group led by Michael Loveday to jumpstart our creativity in times of lockdown.

And I needed to be active apart from almost daily walks; and I needed structure. So I set about revising Ambergris, the novel I´d written for my PhD back in 2009. Armed with feedback from brilliantly supportive Debi Alper and an updated copy of Scrivener on my laptop, I set about editing all 42 chapters. The going was slow at first. I needed deadlines, so submitted the first chapters to a competition, and also sent them to two beta readers in Austria with the question, would you read on? I now have only two chapters to go, one I have to write anew and the other to adapt to make a satisfying sense of the whole. Then I have to read through again and see that my characters are in action, breathe more life into them, cull as many superfluous adverbs and adjectives as possible, see how instability on instability helps with the plot. And all the while my new deadline – “check in opens in x days” – ticks away forcing me onwards.

But there´ve been reviews of All the Beautiful Liars that make me feel I´m on the right track with my writing. There´s even been an interview with the antagonist, Jaimie Stadler, for a little tongue in cheek.

And there is change in the air. People are waking up. Black Lives Matter. Winds of change blew once before. May they blow again strongly for they may be our last chance at humanity. 

Check-in opens in 17 days.