Love among the ashes

Saw a sweet couple on the station – both of them good looking and hip in t-shirts and jeans, probably in their early sixties, but both of them with the walking sticks and tremors that speak of Parkinson’s disease.  They seemed in the throes of new love, nuzzling each other, cuddling and laughing intimately. It came into my head that they might have met at Parkinson’s rehab class at the nearby hospital.  Where there’s life there’s hope!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my friends!

Happy New Year from Jane and Station Stories!!

The United Colours of Metro
Waiting for the 2.40 a couple of Fridays ago were : a regular who is a DVD pirate (he used to own a video library before net flicks put him out of business and this is his revenge) on his way with his bicycle to play Bingo, two hipster girls in black having a little snuggle together and one of the regular English as a Second Language class groups. One tall (and very talented) African guy is dancing with an Indian guy (bollywood meets zulu dancing) while the rest of the class clap and make whistling noises. 
The Railways. Where different cultures meet. (Cut to shot of noble looking Metro staff (actors of course) staring heroically/stoically into the future)

Tor Roxburgh is on ABC Online

My friend and fellow writer Tor Roxburgh was kind enough to mention me in this charming  article on ABC on-line.  Everyone fusses about the death of written communication but Tor thinks its just about a change of style.


Tor Roxburgh. Photgrapher : Velislav Georgiev
Tor Roxburgh. Photgrapher : Velislav Georgiev

The Online Style Revolution

By Tor Roxburgh ·

One hundred and fifteen years ago, my great-grandfather and great-aunt left Ballarat on a European tour. Great Aunt Minnie wrote letters home.

She complains of ‘flatulency’, comments unfavourably on fashion in Marseilles and mentions catching sight of Queen Victoria in Nice.

If young Minnie had been online, you can imagine her posting a selfie with Queen Victoria in the background, blogging about the merits of trousers for women and posting her intention to go gluten free (probably without mentioning her flatulence).

Back then, people shared their ideas and experiences in letters. Today, we share online.

In contrast to Minnie’s letters, my great-grandfather’s letters are dreary and bigoted. He says the ‘natives’ of Colombo are ‘a dirty slovenly lot’, is focused on money and is affronted that Europe’s Catholics don’t respect ‘the sacredness of the Sabbath’.

While we might have to adjust our style to suit new media, our chances of engaging our readers haven’t changed.

So what style adjustments need to be made?

Online writing is a very new form so thinking in terms of rules is misleading. Both new and established writers are equal participants in the various evolving online styles.

Looking at examples of other people’s work is helpful, but feeling your way forward is the key to writing online.

A good example of a member of my local community who has been actively exploring online writing is Concetta McFall. Concetta writes memoir, journalism and family history for ABC Open.

Reading Concetta’s work, you can almost feel the pleasure that exploration can bring.

An interesting example of a novelist who is exploring new styles is Jane Routley. Jane writesobservational pieces based on what she sees in her day job at a Melbourne railway station.

In the past, it would have been difficult to publish this sort of short, narrative non-fiction. The online world makes it easy.

While the online world is open, there are constraints, most frequently word or character limits. Don’t be daunted. Creative boundaries tend to stimulate new style developments.Think of the changing language and punctuation of texting and Twitter. Be playful. Experiment.

Sometimes, it pays to constrain ourselves even further.

Online writer Kevan Lee reports that we have a better chance of being read if we use 71 to 100 characters for Twitter; 40 to 80 characters for Facebook; and 1,600 words for blog posts. Online dating hacker, Amy Webb, found that 97 words is the ideal length for a profile.

While everything we write is part of a continuum of practice that is thousands of years old, each online piece contributes to the emerging shape of online writing.

Published 3 days ago.  Ballan VIC


Golf cart versus train


A titanic struggle took place at my station last weekend though it wasn’t on the level of Godzilla and Mothra.  Some golfers got stuck on the tracks while driving a golf cart over the pedestrian crossing. They wisely jumped off as the train approached (you’d be amazed at how many people think a train can stop in time) abandoning the poor little cart on the tracks all alone.  The golf cart put up a good fight.  It took a couple of hours to get it out from under the train.  I was working at the junction and spent the morning directing disappointed zoo going families to alternative transport. But on Monday looking at the cart’s poor little carcass sitting by the gates, shattered screen, broken axle and missing wheels it’s easy to see who won the match. I wonder what the Golf Club said to the golfers.


Station Stories – A dog’s life

The police arrested someone down on the platforms at the junction.  Judging from the fist-sized item wrapped in a plastic shopping bag, the charge was possession.  (Aren’t the supermarkets sooo thoughtful for providing people with something to wrap their drugs in?) They lead the downcast man up and waited for the Police van just beside the barriers where I was working  They also brought the dog the man had with him – a docile black and tan Kelpie cross which they tied to the fence.  “We’ll just take this guy down to the station and charge him.  Then we’ll let him out and he can come collect the dog,” said they.  And off they went in the van.

This was about 5.00 pm.  The dog sat there for a while peering alertly in the direction the van had driven off.  Then something scared it and it started to cringe and shiver.  You could tell it was afraid it had been abandoned.

Dogs make me itch and sneeze, but the young medic and various customers and PSOs made soothing noises, patted the dog and brought it water which might have comforted it but didn’t stop its shivering.

People rushed past on their way home, the day darkened, the lights came on and by the time my shift had finished at 7.00 the dog was still waiting. It was a lovely dog and had many offers of a home.  We seriously discussed calling the RSPC but wiser heads told us that everything goes very slowly at a police station and the guy might still be back for his dog.  Sure enough when I rang back at 9.00 the dog had been picked up. Would the dog have been better off if we had called the RSPC?  Or would we have been separating a troubled man from his most devoted friend? Hard to call that one.

Market Development Skills for Writers Workshop

The Market Development Skills for Writers workshop at the Writers Victoria was one of the most useful pieces of professional development I’ve ever done.  Over a free full day workshop for established writers sponsored by the Australian Council for the Arts, Hachette publicist Jaki Arthur gave us an insight into how big publishing works and how they work their publicity.

Cutting through the natural tendency of writers to over explain their work, she helped us formulate snappy descriptions of what sort of writers we were. (Historical fantasy with a chick lit twist) seven quick themes covered in our books, ( i.e. love, sex, death, travel, cookery, women’s power, the Great Barrier reef etc.)  and showed us how to write a strap line for a book.  (A beautiful courtesan, a deadly necromancer and the innocent young mage caught between them.)  We worked on a list of media outlets and taste makers we wanted to get the attention of and she gave us some pointers as to what these sort of people might be looking for.

She also showed us how to formulate more concrete and finite writer’s goals as an important way of nurturing and directing our careers. For instance, we broke down a general goal such as “ Make enough money to write full time,”  into something like “ Get my book in front of Jill Bloggs at the Write Place publishing house by the end of 2015.”

I found Jaki’s positive can-do attitude really encouraging and was reassured to feel that when faced with an important person to pitch myself to, I could bring out my themes and strapline instead of searching for words and babbling anxiously.

I had worried that the workshop wouldn’t help overcome my deep and innate talent for self-depreciation, but now armed with what I learnt I’m starting to feel that this whole big bad publicity thing might be … well … doable.

Thanks very much to Karen Le Roy from the Australia for the Arts, Kate Larsen from Writers Victoria and Jaki Arthur for running such an excellent workshop

First chapter critiqued

Put my first chapter up on the critters web site and felt extremely down all week because only one person did a crit. But what do you know? Everybody puts their crits up at the last minute (just like me, der!) so now I have seven sets of useful feedback and one offer to read the whole thing. Who would have thought criticism could make you feel so loved?

If you want to join Critters – and its open to everyone – the site is at www.critters.org