Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: July, 2014

 beautiful girl

A FACE TO LAUNCH A THOUSAND DREAMS

 Whenever I’m asked how I best like to waste time, I have no trouble immediately replying, ‘I Trove.’

‘You trove? What’s that and how is it a verb?’ you might ask.

‘Why, it is both verb and noun,’ I most certainly grin: ‘Trove. It’s the National Library of Australia’s online database of just about everything – newspapers, photos, magazine articles – and they go all the way back to 1803. I can lose days in there. Trove, Trove, oh how I love Trove!’ I skip from toe to toe and pirouette.

‘That’s nice.’

It is. Some people like to knit, or go mountain climbing, or play the piano accordion to relax. I like to go Troving. Sometimes I have a specific question to ask of Trove’s vast treasure-base, a particular rabbit hole I want to fall into, like: ‘What were the most popular perfumes in 1900?’ or ‘Which Sydney department store had the best sales discounts on during Christmas that year?’ and I’ll spend the rest of my lazy Sunday afternoon dreaming that I’m in the old Grace Brothers building on Broadway buying silk flowers in their bargain basement.

But sometimes, a picture sends me to places I’d never imagined, into whole new worlds of characters I haven’t yet met. Like the woman above. Who is she? According to the photo record she is simply ‘Unidentified’.  She is utterly lovely, to me, and immediately intrigues with her style and her eyes, so full of quiet strength, and yet there’s something sad behind them, too.  A secret perhaps, or a disappointment.  And suddenly her name is Flo and I’m meeting her for tea and cake in the common room at Women’s College across the other side of Sydney University, where she’s studying law, and she’s annoyed more than sad that, while she’s doing well at her studies, it appears the Boys Club will never allow her to practice. She thinks she’ll leave for San Francisco, where women can do anything they like – apart from vote, of course.

Go Flo. Then in walks her best friend Irene:

woman great hair

Turns out they’re planning to go to San Francisco together, where they’d like to set up an office exclusively for women clients – helping them extract cash from deadbeat husbands and bosses who’ve ripped them off.  And once their formidable reputation is established, they’ll storm home to Sydney and do the same here, and with all the money they’ve made they’ll finance a massive campaign for the female suffrage, which will ultimately see them pushing the legislation through Australia’s brand new Federal Parliament themselves – carrying it aloft into the house on a tray decorated all around with big blousy bright pink shantung roses. Irene’s laughter is deep and rich and the traces of Glaswegian brogue in her words make them a promise.

Suddenly these women are more than a highly structured daydream. They are my friends too, and I’ll never forget having met them.

Or their other friend, Alice.  She’s an Arts student, from Goondiwindi, and though she has no idea what she’d like to do with her life, she’ll be going along on this adventure with Flo and Irene too – as security:

woman shotgun

 If you’d like to go Troving too, go here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/

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MINING: A LOVE STORY

I recently had an over-a-cuppa conversation with someone in the city that went something like this:

‘So what does your husband do?’

‘He works in mineral exploration, making maps, mostly,’ I said.

‘Oh – is that like mining?’ She lowered her voice and glanced sideways at me, suspiciously.

‘It’s information the mining industry uses,’ I began to explain, ‘to find out what’s in the groun-‘

‘Oh!’ she squeaked with horror, her worst suspicions realised. ‘There’s too much mining going on in the world as it is.’

I’ve had this kind of conversation a few times before and, this time, suppressing a heavy sigh at intractable condemnation, I left it there and changed the subject.

But most often, what I’d like to say is this:

Mining is more than Gina and Clive and ripping coal and iron ore out of pristine wilderness; it’s more than gas and oil and the money-grubbing disgrace that is fracking. Mining is just as much gold, copper, tin, gravel, sand, sandstone, clay, opals and diamonds. Even that mystical crystal you have by your bedside is got from mining. Some dude dug it up for you.

Now, close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world without any mining at all. Really imagine it. You would have no laptop, no tablet or phone. No electricity, with no wire to conduct it anywhere. No surgical impliments, no braces for teeth, no pins to fix broken bones; no needles to sew pretty frocks with. No cars. No trains. No roads. No sparkly jewellery. No fine Meissen porcelain teacups, no ceramics at all. No kettle. No pots and pans. No tinned baked beans. No glasses – drinking receptacles or seeing spectacles. No paint. No pencils or pens. No chalk. No bricks. No concrete. No garden pavers or swimming pools. Or diving towers. No wells or bores for inland water. No ships or planes. No Sydney Harbour Bridge. No radio. No x-rays. No weird vases to buy in op shops. That favourite ornament your grandmother gave you, of the little dog with the wonky face and chipped ear – it doesn’t exist.

No dude to dig up stuff to make your world. No darling husband of mine coming home to tell me with odd but endearing enthusiasm that he’s been working on an interesting cross section of a quartzite deposit. No husband of mine at all, actually, as he’s presently still on kidney dialysis as we await our date for transplant, and there’d be no dialysis machine to be had without mining. No nails for his coffin, either.

I hate dirty coal-powered yuckness and smogness as much as all sensible people do. I’m ashamed of our government’s repeal of our carbon legislation; angry about it. I love recycling, repurposing and renewables – our future depends on getting ourselves clever, and quickly, with these. I also have a bit of a whackball theory that the Earth itself in all its vast rockness is a bit more alive than we ever give it credit for. But I can’t imagine a world without mining. It would be a dark, cold world – not even an ochre painting on the cave wall. Not a nice cup of tea to be had anywhere. Not a world I would want to live in, really. Unless I was a bird. Or a tree. Or maybe a pebble…

 

 

 rose (2)

Just because I’m feeling particularly in love today, here’s one of my favourite odes to this delicious emotion – “Vow” by Clare Shaw.

Say yes.
That word on your lips
is a kiss;
is a promise already made.
We made it.

Love did not turn from hurt
or hard work.
When lights failed, it did not switch off.
When love had no road,
we willingly built it.

We shouldered its stones
and its dirt. So thank god
there are days like this when it’s easy.
When we open our mouths
and the words flood in.

Put the word of your hand
in mine.
We have learnt to hold to each other
when nothing was given by right;
how love will insist
with its ache; with its first painful
tug on the guts;

its snake in the nest of the ribs;
the bomb in the chest;
in the Y of the thighs; the red, red
red sun of it, rising.
How love must, at all costs,

be answered. We have answered
and so have a million before us
and each of their names is a vow.
So now I can tell you, quite simply
you are the house I will live in:

there is no good reason
to move. Good earth,
you are home, stone, sun,
all my countries. Vital to me
as the light. You are it

and I am asking.
Say yes.

Love opens a door
then slams it. It does.
It loses its touch and its looks.
But love needs its fury.
We have fought

and when times make it necessary,
we will again. When night draws in,
we won’t forget
how once the streets ran wet with light
and love. Like blood. They will again.

But for now,
we make our promises gently.
This extraordinary day we have made.
Listen –
the birds in their ordinary heaven.

Tonight the sky will blaze
with stars. Today, my love,
rooms bloom with flowers.
Say yes.
The sky is ours.

 

You can check out more of Clare Shaw’s poetry here:: http://www.clareshaw.co.uk/3.html

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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EDITED

“I don’t need an editor,” said no writer ever. Well, not a serious writer – unless they are lying. And in all my years of being an editor, I have heard one or two authors tell some quite incredible porkies on the editorial front. You know, those kinds of authors who have difficulty drawing the line between fiction and reality.

“Oh, my editor did little but run my manuscript through the spell check,” happened to no writer ever. Unless you are very, very famous and powerful and the editor is petrified of receiving an email from you, never mind an entire manuscript.

I certainly need an editor for my novels. Despite being excruciatingly particular about language myself and reasonably accomplished at using it, there are things I miss in the wordiness of so many words that make up a big, long book sort of narrative. And I’m not talking about typos or inconsistency in spellings or split infinitives or hanging prepositions or any of that rubbish that grammarians bang on about. Such pernickety quibbles are often redundant in fiction manuscripts anyway.

It’s the trees you can’t see for the forest – no matter how many times you look – that are the most significant things a good and kindly editor might point out to you. And once you see one of these pesky trees yourself, it is usually so obvious it has a bushfire around it.

“Oh God, did I really have Bill running away to join the army at the age of six? How did I get the timeline that wrong?”

Or:

“Yes, quite right, why is my otherwise stoic character having a mental breakdown in Chapter Seventeen over her son not doing his homework? Does this reveal some latent emotional problem of my own? Indeedy it might do.”

Thank you, editor.

I’ve just been working on one of the best and loveliest manuscripts to cross my desk in quite some time, and it was a veritable minefield of trees concealing unexploded bombs. A multi-person narrative that constantly shifted back and forth in time, I was seeing trees everywhere – in the sky, on roofs, in fish tanks and among kitchen drawers. Not because the author was in any way lax or lacking skill. But simply because, in all those words, in all that rush of heart and soul, in all that grappling with grand themes and the hugeness of mental space required to create one protagonist, never mind fourteen, details – sometimes important ones – are overlooked.

All this, and still most people I speak to outside the trade think that editing is pretty much running a book through a spell check. This is probably why, apart from financial considerations, many self-published authors either skip the editorial process or misunderstand what it’s for. I’ve been approached by one or two over recent years with the instruction: “I only want my book proofread, as I am a schoolteacher/lawyer/academic and I know more about language and literature than anyone else on the planet.”

Needless to say, I passed on these. As will most editors. Because we really care about what we do: we care that an author’s finished work is the best, most sparkling, most wonderful thing it can possibly be before it hits the presses.

It’s a job that’s at the opposite end of the ego spectrum from writing. Editors are invisible, and rightly so, but we are there, in every good book. Always…