Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reader Writer Reader

Good Friday wasn't all Bad. A few hours after all the excitement of a close encounter with Super Fisheries Officer Guy, the managing editor of indigo journal drove me out to Denmark, to the Tea House Bookshop. She'd twisted my arm into reading my stories, for the launch of her latest edition.
I am not a media tart. I am not a media tart. Despite being called that all weekend because my picture was on the front of the local paper sitting in a little rowboat with a bald pirate and brandishing some pilchards, I really am not a media tart, honest. I like to sit at home and write things and then go fishing. It strikes me that a lot of people known for their gregarious, out there, 'yang' nature, are actually quite shy. The thought of standing in front of forty people and reading my story out loud was, and still is, quite horrifying.
"Have you got a copy for me to practise reading?" I asked Donna in the car.
"Have you practised at all?" she sounded a bit worried.
"Well ... not really."
It was getting dark, so I read it out as quickly as possible.
"You've got to pause for commas and full stops, Sarah."
"Okay ... At least most of this story is true," I mused. It was in the non-fiction section.
"What do you mean? Are they verifiable facts?"
"Well, everything happened ... just not all at the same time. The bit where the Maori woman scares the crap out of that bikie, that happened at the Royal George in 1989. But that doesn't matter does it? It still happened."
Poor Donna. First, her opening act had not, ever, practised a word of reading out loud, then I get flaky with the facts in my non-fiction piece.
She drove on, resolute. It wasn't a patch on getting her house flooded during the Perth storm only a few days before, anyway.
We got there and I read it out and it was fine, after the first few minutes when I thought I'd do an octopus and die of apoplectic embarrassment.

Esteemed local poet Caroline Caddy selected the poetry for this issue and she gave a talk on her selection process. She said something - and I really want to write about that tonight. I cannot remember her exact words but got the sentiment, so I'm paraphrasing here:

"The poems that I selected are aware of the reader. They are not insular, inward-looking poems. They attempt to communicate something to a person unknown, who, in return, sees what the writer is seeing and feels what the writer is feeling. This kind of poetry negotiates a kind of relationship between the writer and the reader."

Caroline Caddy put this so succinctly and elegantly (perhaps her profession of putting words in the right order has something to do with it) and I can't really do her quote justice enough. But it perfectly encapsulated something that I began thinking about a few years ago.

Perhaps all writers begin with introspection, sorting out their minds with pages and pages of scrawled down emotions. I don't know. I know I did. The heap of diaries, had not they been burnt in a fit of teary pique, would be testimony to that. About eighteen months ago, I realised that I didn't really want to write stories for myself anymore. I wanted to write for other people, tell them ripping yarns, a lot of fibs that lie closer to truth, in that insidious, convoluted way that only beautiful lies can do.

This minor epiphany changed the whole way I saw the writing thing. Now it is more of a construction effort, in constant need of tweaking. It's not gonna kill me, like it may have a few years ago, if someone gets out the red pen. Editing is nearly exciting as ice cream with sprinkles, now.
I want to communicate with a reader.
I'm not happy, anymore,
with good work stashed in a drawer.
I just need to practise the act of reading out loud, maintaining a heartbeat and breathing, all at the same time.


  1. I think your epiphany is what naturally happens to any artist Sarah, and follows a time honoured tradition. My own journey has been similar, being completely self-indulgent and needing to make art to survive and stay something close to sane. But then there is this compulsion to share so that others get something from it too. At first I thought it was a bit wanky, but I truly do stuff now with that in mind, everything has to streamline to that intention. Now my doctorate does too, because the words accompany the images.
    The paradox is (and the danger for those who enjoy the applause too much) is that I still can't afford to deviate from what I am honestly saying. It's a position of integrity I simply won't sacrifice, but it is interesting that I also am able to accept 'guidance' from the red pen in the hands of people I trust so that my message is as clear and audible as it can be.
    Well done doing the reading. You will get more used to it. I used to be so scared of public speaking that I just froze and my body just wanted to shit and vomit!! The fight or flight mechanism would kick in at the most inconvenient times. But I have only recently delivered my first paper to a small group at uni and I really enjoyed the performance side of it. I reckon you will too.

  2. Sarah,

    thank you for explaining your writing journey. Good for me to hear other author's trials. I am introspectively writing today and looking forward to my turn at telling 'beautiful lies.'

    Congratulations on your public appearance. Sounds like you were a hit with your community. (you are not a media tart!) Thank you for sharing your talent with me also. I enjoy your blog.

    Happy Easter.
    peace today,

  3. Hallelujah! Sarah saw the light, and it was good. Fabulous experience, Sarah. Your insights are so exciting. Sail forth and conquer, pilchards and all. Nothing is holding you back now!

  4. Michelle, yes it is a performance, as opposed to sitting in a room alone in front of a computer. That takes a bit of learning. You are right also about checking the need for applause against the authenticity of your creation. Very interesting, thanks!
    ~L Thanks for your comment. I like the introspection on your blog. the first thing that drew me to your writing was the universality of people and their lives.
    And BT - a big thank you, complete with a snort and a giggle, brandishing pilchards in my little journey boat. You are a great inspiration.