Friday, 27 April 2012

Words, Prizes, & Other Conundrums

In the Dec 31 2011- January 1 2012 edition of review (extract from The Weekend Australian) a picture of Miles Franklin and Vogel Awards winner Tim Winton caught my eye. Quite the Aussie writing legend, I figure anything with him in it is worth a decent look and progressed to read the article by Matthew Lamb (full 'Show and tell' article here) about whether or not prizes and literary awards are causing a bias further down the track for writers new and old.

Are those prize-givers who have the last word shaping publishing trends by the nature of the competitions and awards given?


Lamb argues that fault may not necessarily be at the feet of authors "but perhaps with the ambiguity of an award culture that imposes narrow limits, usually in terms of word length and theme, to which writers must conform to be eligible to and then to win."

Among the to-ing and fro-ing of persuasive argument in the article, two paragraphs that followed this brave statement jumped out and caught my attention because they remain so much at the forefront of writer's beefs today.

"I have banged on about the question of word limits before and shall probably do so again. Be patient with me. The problem is that good fiction writing ought to find its limits within the story being told and not fit itself to the external limitations dictated by the allocated time judges have to read or the limited space publishers have to print.

"It takes skill to write a good story in 1000 words, yes. But it is a skill like jumping through a hoop. And writing ought not to be about performing tricks but about telling stories. The problem is that writing that follows its own course but does not conform to the award culture, which is the likeliest point of entry into the publishing comminuty, is not likely to succeed."

Don't even get started on showing vesus telling or first person vesus third POV...  ;)

Decide: What do you think? Is he right, or just being idealistic? Do you think self-pubbing will shift the playing fields? Does going with a House truly weed out the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Letters of The Week

Usually I don't read the newspaper but when I sit down and get into it (mostly because there's no other reading material in front of me) it's pretty enjoyable. Two weeks ago I was reading the paper everyday and one of the sections I found most insightful to character were the letters to the editor.

As is always the case, people have a lot to say, yet the best ones were the short ones (novelists take note) because they were straight to the point instead of flogging very dead horses.

I'm not up-to-date with the background of why the people wrote in, but the gist is more than easy to get. I'm presenting them here with the very same wording but withholding the writer's names and suburbs. Check these out...

Heather Shockman (Letters, 13/4) quotes Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing". If they do nothing they are not good men. R.E. 

And my favourite...

Please ask Richard Dawkins to explain, in simple words I can understand, how Nothing exploded and turned into Everything. He seems able to grasp this concept but it is eluding me. J.P.

In an increasingly anti-Christian world, I loved these letters and their Ocker simplicity. You go, guys.

A discerning man keeps wisdom in view,
   but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. Proverbs 17v24

L'homme avisé a les yeux fixés sur la sagesse,
      mais les regards de l'insensé se portent au bout du monde.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Back in the olden days I got a job at a fabric boutique and met a lady there who shaped some very fun years in my life. She introduced me to the work I came to love as a costumier, sharing her secrets and techniques and sending her extra work my way.

She passed onto me a job for a young lady who was having a Titanic party on a large steamboat for her 21st and I re-created the diaphanous dress Rose wore in the movie of lilac, pick, and white that she wears in the sinking scenes. It was always a pleasure to get the designs perfect, and even more so for a client who appreciated the costume.

So impressed was she with my work that she invited both my friend and I to her Titanic birthday. Our eyes popped and we set about constructing garments from the era as fast as we could using whatever we could find in our fabric boxes. I settled quickly on the cream and blue velvet outfit Rose wore in the bow scene ("I'm flying...") and got many comments on the night because it was so recognisable.

In the car on our way to the party (my friend was driving) we realised a grave error had occured in our haste to make patterns over the last 24hrs. The underarms of our overdresses were too short and we could barely lift our arms. Perhaps Edwardian ladies never needed to lift their arms either! How unladylike. We laughed our heads off as she moved the seat of the car right forward purely so she could reach to turn the steering wheel.

'I know why the people on the Titanic didn't survive. They couldn't move their arms... They couldn't swim!' she laughed. A terrible joke but hilarious at the time just the same.

At the party we mingled effortlessly, and finally settled on a table with some friendly folk who became gradually more embibed which led to their conversation detouring south to the gutter with remarks that made us want to move tables. Throughout the night thus far I'd kept a secret (known only to my friend) and we elected to turn the conversation away from the raw remarks.

I removed my wig, revealing a very short crop of hair and stated I was going through chemotherapy. Everyone was stunned, and it opened up a path to talk about God's amazingness through it all. The reactions were mixed. It surprised me to see how people will gloss right over God to see what they want to see. They asked human questions and expected human answers, but the only ones I could give were to His glory and His alone.

Others at the table continued with their drinking and jokes, but others were caught up in the story and asking questions. Even so, it was amazing how people still referred to my "faith" as if speaking aloud the Name "God" were out of the question.

I can't say what came out of that night except that seeds were sewn at this party we were invited to, and we did have a lot of fun. There's an opportunity to tell of God's goodness all the time, you just need to recognise it when it's facing you.

I am still confident of this:
   I will see the goodness of the LORD
   in the land of the living. Psalm 27v13

Monday, 16 April 2012

My Heart Will Go On

At this time of year clichés abound, and so I couldn’t resist the title to this post. We have just returned from a fabulously tech-free holiday (they are the best kind) and yet I collected every newspaper article on the RMS Titanic I could find. I have been a buff since grade 3 when I first checked out Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember from the school library and read of the bitter-sweetness of the tragedy.

Why would an almost 8 year-old check out such an unusual book from the library when topics like Dr Seuss and Sesame Street are generally of far more interest to developing minds? I have no answer except that all things maritime truly resonate with me as if they’re part of my make-up (just bought a book called Pirate Outrages: True stories of terror on the China Seas).

Amidst the collecting of state newspaper articles that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, several readers wrote in and decried the massiveness of the sinking, saying “What about the Lusitania?” and “What about the Gustloff?”.

What indeed?

Lusitania (1200 souls lost) & Wilhelm Gustoff (9,400 souls lost). Comparitively Titanic was still the larger ship.

Were not these other sinkings far greater in terms of loss in life? Weren’t they more significant? Aren’t they worthy of the so-called honour of being touted the greatest maritime tragedy of all time?


But these writers forget one thing. These were wartime disasters. Titanic sank pre-WWI and the adage can be quoted for it that pride comes before a fall. In the James Cameron movie Rose says to Jack after dinner that the men would retire to the smoking room “...where they will congratulate each other one being masters of the universe.”

Masters of whose universe? Titanic was a crowning glory of her age, and that age was fast coming to its end and would never be in sight ever again. Man had been fooling himself into trusting in his own greatness. Big mistake.

When you take stock of all the happenings surround that journey it truly becomes a comedy of fateful errors.

The lookouts had no binoculars because they were locked in a cabinet and the key holder disembarked at the last stop (they key was in his pocket).

titanic auction record letter 2

The Titanic’s wireless response to the Californian’s ice warning was “Shut up...” (there was A LOT of wireless traffic to and from Titanic as sending messages this way was as novel as the first ever text message and equally as popular). The Californian turned off its wireless about 10-20 minutes before the Titanic struck the berg and the Captain went to bed. They were only 10 miles away and would have been a saving grace.

After the ship struck the iceberg and stopped, they soon began steaming ahead only briefly thinking the watertight compartments would save her, but this only forced more water through the holes in her bow and a message was sent to the bridge to stop completely. Even striking the iceberg was such a glancing blow. If she’d struck it head-on, it would have been far, far worse.

J. Bruce Ismay (President turned pariah of The White Star Line) said after the tragedy, “Any ambitions I had are entirely gone, and my life’s work is ruined. I never want to see a ship again, and I loved them so much. What an ending to my life. Perhaps I was too proud of my ships and this is my punishment.”

Titanic became the lesson humanity and the maritime world had to learn, and that’s why it remains the greatest tragedy. No matter how over hearing about it you may be, never forget not to get too big for your boots. Don’t learn the hard way. Remember what you are not so that there’s room to be all you can be—all that God has placed in you to become.

Answer if You Can: Why is it that we can only see our own pride after it's bitten us in the butt?

"But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall." Chronicles 26v16a

"In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." Psalm 10v4

Le méchant, dans son arrogance, déclare: «Dieu n'existe pas.»
      Il ne va pas chercher plus loin, c'est là le fond de sa pensée.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Don't Lose The Plot

One of my favourite songs is by the Newsboys and comes from their absolutely CLASSIC album, Take Me To Your Leader. Easter is drawing near and I'd like you to take a Selah moment and remember why on earth we are still here, and why Jesus was sent by God to redeem us. Now is not the time to grow weary in doing well. Don't get too comfy here on planet Earth...

Lost The Plot (click for audio)

When you come back again
Would you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumour that the end is near
But I just got comfortable here.
Let's be blunt.
I'm a little distracted.
What do you want?

Headaches and bad faith
Are all that I've got.
First I misplaced the ending
Then I lost the plot.

Out among the free-range sheep
While the big birds sharpen their claws.
For a time we stuck with the shepherd
But you wouldn't play Santa Claus.

Let's be blunt.
We're a little distracted.
What do you want?

Once we could follow,
Now we cannot.
You would not fit our image,
So we lost the plot.

Once we could hear you,
Now our senses are shot.
We've forgotten our first love.
We have lost the plot.

When I saw you for the first time
You were hanging with a thief
And I knew my hands were dirty,
And I dropped my gaze.
Then you said I was forgiven
And you welcomed me with laughter.
I was happy ever after.
I was counting the days
When you'd come back again.
We'll be waiting for you
When you comin' back again?
We'll be ready for you
Maybe we'll wake up when...
Maybe we'll wake up when
You come back again.

Let's be blunt.
We're a little unfaithful.
What do you want?

Are you still listening?
'Cause we're obviously not
We've forgotten our first love
We have lost the plot.

And why are you still calling?
You forgave, we forgot.
We're such experts at stalling
That we've lost the plot.
Lost the plot

When you come back again
Would you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumour that the end is near
But I just got comfortable here.

lyrics found here.

Please don't let this Easter pass without reverencing the King and what He has paid for FOR YOU. Acknowledge Him, seek Him, and obey Him. Be challenged and do something about it. God did not send His Son into the world to condem the world, but to save the world through Him.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7v21

 ---Pour entrer dans le royaume des cieux, il ne suffit pas de me dire: «Seigneur! Seigneur!» Il faut accomplir la volonté de mon Père céleste.