Turning Nine

last night

Can you even imagine nine whole years? Or devoting that length of time to another person? I’m sure you can if you are old or have children or have been married for eons or in the same job for your entire career, but it’s certainly new and exciting for me.

It astonishes me every day how you can travel so far from where you started, metamorphose and evolve over and over, yet there is some magical common thread that is and will always remain the core of the person you love so dearly. It shocks me how it simultaneously takes all the hard work you can muster but feels effortless. It amazes me that my heart felt so full at one year, or five, or even a year ago – yet the depth of what we have just keeps multiplying. I’m sounding incredibly smug, but I just really love the guy.

I wrote some of this on the card I gave to him, but I love: his phobia of anything ham and pineapple; his overgrown toddler feet; the constant evolution of his inner feminist; his terrible Simpsons impressions; the way he plays with the puppies; his hilarious shower monologues; his ability to make people feel at ease; when he forgets to be grim and actually smiles; his encyclopedic knowledge of ancient civilizations; that he introduced me to meat lovers pizza with sour cream on it; all the adventures we’ve gone on together, as well as the comfort in having each other’s back through some of the most horrible things ever. Although some of our flaws are magnified by our pairing (ahem, housework), we are such a great team in so many other ways and probably the best puppy-parents that ever lived. I’m so glad we’re finally getting married next year, after so long of both of us being cynical about whether ‘forever’ was an attainable goal. But as Winona Ryder says in my favourite film ever:

I know our marriage has as good of a chance of being wonderful as it does missing the mark. However, I’m banking on our love for each other to weigh a bit heavier on the wonderful side. As Anna says about making a quilt, you have to choose your combination carefully. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull the colors, hide their original beauty. There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by your instinct. And you have to be brave.

To our tenth year, and to being brave.

I love you Bugalugs!

Typhoon

Inspired by the incredible C. Jane Kendrick, I’m doing some writing prompts by Ann Dee Ellis. Eight minutes, unrehearsed or edited. Here’s today:

typhoon

I remember when we had our first typhoon, and it happened to be a huge one. It was 1996 and we were Taiwan newbies. We knew we had to stay indoors for a few days, but it wasn’t clear whether you closed all the windows or left one open just a little bit so that they all wouldn’t shatter – different people said different things. We didn’t have the internet to consult back then.

It was fine, for a while. I think it was close to Mum’s birthday or something, so she had a box of fancy chocolates. We watched the palm trees lean and their fronds all pull to one side, blown by such a strong and sustained effort that it looked like they were barely moving.

Then the water started coming in. We were on the fourth floor (four means death in Taiwan, so only foreigners live on the fourth floor), but it still came streaming in through the window frames. We dabbed it with towels, thinking it would be over soon. But soon it was pouring in, flooding the entire lounge room. We moved all the furniture and the rug, then mopped it up and got rid of the buckets to start all over again. Suddenly it seemed a bit scarier. I knew we were high up, but I couldn’t shake the idea that somehow there would be a flood that would reach so high that we would all drown.

Somewhere in the forested valley that we could see from our window there was an explosion. You could see this long cloud of brownish-grey dust form an arc, showing the direction of the wind. When it reached us, it smelled like burning rubber.

Days later when we finally got the newspaper again, I read about all the typhoon deaths. One was an eight year old girl, like me, who had been jumping on her bed with the window open at the height of the typhoon. She got sucked out the window. I remember thinking that she was so crazy, but feeling like that sounded like something I might have done too.

Hand-me-downs

We have a big old papasan chair near the front windows in my house, a relic from Taiwan. It is falling to pieces and creaks every time anybody sits on it. It has to sit on a piece of thick foam because there are some rusty nails that stick out of the base and threaten to gouge the floorboards if they aren’t cushioned by something. The original cover – white with ivy – is so hopelessly stained and awful that Mum made a new brown cover for it, that the dogs have subsequently wrecked. There is very little furniture in this house that we actively chose, we seem to have just inherited a bunch of stuff. I’m not one of those people that can just buy something brand new when the old one still works perfectly fine, so it will be a long while until all the furniture gets churned through to stuff that we actually get to choose. Even the drinking glasses are something that Nathan’s mother chose for us. Apart from this sofa, we have never gone to a furniture store and seen something that makes our hearts sing, pointed at it and said, “I’ll take that one”. It would be nice though.

Anyway, this chair. We used to have a glass front door that Posie would sit by all day long, pressing her nose against the glass and being a total busybody about what was happening in the garden and street. In winter, I’d set her up with a little bed in front of the door and a pile of blankets to stop the draughts, and she would just do her job, all day. She can’t do that anymore since we got a solid front door, so the papasan chair is her consolation prize. It’s near the front windows, so she perches on the absolute top of it and bark her little brains out at cats, the mailman, dog walkers, kids on bikes, or any beep or squeak or rustle. But the chair is also round, cushy and lumpy (from the aforementioned wrecking), so it’s the perfect bed when she needs a break from her guard dog duties. The chair is only in its current position because I moved it to make way for the Christmas tree one year and never moved it back. It seems cruel to deprive her of her occupation now, so I guess that’s where the chair stays.

The neighbours aren’t too fussed about her barking, luckily. They are ‘blessed’ with two little yappy dogs that like to make themselves heard, too. Sometimes Posie and Rupert will go outside and hear a distant dog bark, which they will repeat, which will be echoed by the dogs next door, then their next door neighbours, and so on. You can hear the barks carry through the neighbourhood like a chain, getting more and more distant. I’m sure there is some old biddy somewhere who is horrified by all of this and is busy writing letters to the council about the horrendous noise. But we rarely let our dogs bark outside. Maybe I’m immune because of Posie, but a neighbourhood that wasn’t filled with distant dog sounds wouldn’t seem very homely to me.

Neither would a home filled entirely with furniture I had just picked out, all new, all perfectly coordinated. It would be very nice to waltz into a store and pick out a whole house, all new, all perfectly coordinated. But as I look around, there is some sort of weird affection for some of this stuff. The hand-me-down coffee table with gnawed corners, victims of Posie’s puppy teething stage. The grand lacquered dining table from Taiwan, that is striking in the total oddness of its octagonal shape, even if most of the chairs are long gone. The falling down 90s IKEA bookcase in my room that I’ve had since I was a preteen and tried to decorate the wood with nail polish. The most impractically shaped bookcase ever in the spare room, that takes up so much space, but Nathan’s dad built it for him from scratch.

Posie’s asleep in the papasan chair right now. I can see where the cane frame is cracking and the cover seam has come undone. But she loves it, and until we absolutely have to get rid of it, I might as well let her enjoy it.

Conference 2016

I did it! I survived my first conference – the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference. To go from the company of mostly only two small dogs to being surrounded by four hundred plus women was a bit of a leap, but it was worth it. I mostly attended the academic stream where I heard about things like femininity/masculinity, ageism, subversiveness, stereotypes and so on. In the non-academic component, I learned a lot about the state of genre publishing… which will be extremely interesting and useful in the next couple of years for me. The absolute standout, though, was an address by author Fiona McIntosh. She told hilarious stories, but she also trashed so many of the long held clichés I’d held about writing. It is an art, but it’s also a business, and you can’t just be creative or talented, you have to be savvy and strategic. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and now I’m busy making up my lists of writer/career goals for the short, medium and long term. Some are realistic, some are incredibly fanciful, but it was nice to hear from somebody who has been there, done that.

While I will never knock the amazing education in creative writing I’ve received so far at university, I sometimes feel like I know so much theory but not a great deal of practice. There is a definite split between what is literary and what is genre, how these two groups are perceived, what is considered valuable or not. Sometimes I feel like a sellout to be aspiring to eventually make money from my writing, but then some other times, I feel like literary writing and poetry can be subject to the exact same rules and trends and targeting that happens in genre fiction. There is snobbery in both worlds about the merits of the other, but I just feel like they don’t have to be so at odds with each other. It’s just complicated. I hope that I can eventually figure out a way to carve out a career that lets me straddle the divide and have my fingers in both pies, to be totally cliché. I want to write literary fiction that remembers that a good, engaging story is more memorable and emotionally satisfying than showing off how stylistic I can be; I want to write genre fiction that allows itself to stray from the plot to find real moments of beauty and intellectual clarity. Basically, I just want to write stuff that I would like to read.

Only a few people know this about me, but my main job right now is writing erotica and erotic romance under a pseudonym. None of what I have written is particularly polished, none of it is part of a strategic plan, and a lot of it has been experimentation to see what niche ‘sticks’, so to speak – hence not publicizing the pen name, to anybody. There has been freedom in this; knowing that nobody I know would be reading my work has taken pressure off and allowed me to be more risque than I would be otherwise. It has felt extremely good to be able to say that I have made money from writing – hell, it even took us to Bali the first time. But it’s time to get serious now, I really want to write something under my real name, something that I can proudly tell people about. So many of these women didn’t start until they were much older than me and still managed to build amazing careers, so I wonder how far I can go if I start now.

Long story short, I am very glad I went to the conference. There are always naysayers, in everything I do; people who would think that this whole writing thing, or even daring to travel interstate to a conference was just an exercise in self-indulgence. Just a ‘holiday’. But I learned so much, and I did made a few contacts. Even when there were people who I didn’t personally meet, I now have that point of reference where when I do meet them, I can say, “Oh, I saw you speak at RWA’s 2016 conference, your presentation was wonderful”. More than anything, it was nice to participate. I have spent so long following people on twitter and reading blogs, feeling like I was on the margins and not really a part of things. Now, even in the tiniest way, I am a part of it.

Plus, I did have some fun too!

stamford grand

The Stamford Grand was seriously one of the fanciest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The foyer reminded me of the start of Beaches. Plus my room was huge! Best of all, it had a bathtub. Until our bathroom get renovated, we are bathtub-less in this house, and it seriously drives me to tears on cold winter days when I have a cold or end up caught in the rain.

love

It was like they knew we were coming or something…

bathrobe

cocktail party

Thursday night to Friday night transformation. I pinned my hair into something like a bob and borrowed a dress from Mum. Add some red lipstick and voila – instant glamour. The theme was cabaret but I wasn’t game enough for fishnets and frilly knickers (some were, and more power to them!) – next year’s theme has something to do with butterflies and being wild, so I might have to up my costume game for that one.

view 1

view 2

Two views from the hotel. The beach at Glenelg was so picturesque – especially the way it was perfectly oriented to show off the sunset. And they had this giant heart sculpture on the foreshore – again, it’s like they knew we were coming!

heart

But best of all, I got to come home to this.

tongueouttuesday

Unluckily for me, I woke up on the Monday morning with a wicked sore throat, which quickly turned into a fever and a feeling like all my bones were broken. I have slept probably eighty percent of the hours that I have been home, somehow managed to lose an entire day to sleeping, and the doctor says I have the flu (the real flu, not just a dramatic cold). It’s Friday now and I finally feel a little better, but I know that even walking to the mailbox would require a panadol and a nap… but if I am stuck on the sofa wrapped in blankets, at least I can get some writing done!

First Conference!

Tomorrow I have to get up at stupid o’clock (thanks Jetstar for rescheduling my flight) and fly off to Adelaide all by myself – first time ever in South Australia, and it’s kind of neat that I will be able to say I’ve been to every state/territory except NT. Once I land, it will be down to business though: it’s my first ever conference. I thought this one would be a good intro for me, because it’s a mix of workshops about writing craft as well as an academic stream. This may be an area that I’m considering for the PhD, so it’s especially important. I am so nervous though. Apart from the flying thing, there is the pressure of not knowing a single soul at a 400+ person event. I have a feeling it will be like the first day of high school. Apparently all newbies get a different coloured lanyards so that people know to be nice to us, but you know that there will be certain people who will take that as a signal that we’re not important or established enough to talk to. Oh well, it will be great to meet the lovely people there, and if anybody is mean… well, I’ll just name a villain after them in my writing.

Packing for this has been a challenge – on previous trips, I’ve taken a bunch of casual and practical mix and match clothes that can be reworn or washed without too much fuss, plus one ‘nice’ outfit. That’s all I’ve needed, but stakes are higher for this trip. If I’m going to be spending time with the same people all the time, I can’t wear the same cardigan two days in a row. And this time, I can’t just get away with one nice sundress and some dressy sandals – there is a fancy dress cocktail party and a black tie gala, and from what I have gleaned, people go all out. I have already packed way more than I ever did for Japan and Taiwan, and I’m only away for five days. I talked about it a little bit in a previous post, but I’m in a frumpy, lumpy, unstylish season of my life, so looking classy enough for black tie seems a little beyond me at the moment. But I will try my best – honestly, there will always be people who are older than me or lumpier than me or heavier than me or whatever, but if they smile and have confidence, they will look beautiful… and I guess I can too.