Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: September, 2014

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TO THE YOUNG AND IMPOSSIBLY BRILLIANT

A very wise writer by the name of Kim Wilkins recently said something somewhere about the importance of cultivating and maintaining good relationships in the publishing industry, if you’re serious about your work – particularly if you want to see your work in print.

It’s good gristly food for thought – and absolutely true. A piece of advice that should be given from the outset to all bright and bushy brained new players.

In short: apart from working very hard at learning how to write, be nice.

You don’t have to be a push-over or a brown-noser or a nodding Neddy to get published. Au contraire. You need one thoroughly robust ego, for sure, even if you must walk across miles knee-deep in the jagged shards of your own fragility to get to it. But you also have to be aware that, especially in Australia, our industry is small, and if you say unsupportably mean or dismissive things about others or their work as you’re jostling for contention, word will get around. And, unless you are a mega-selling bona fide genius, your intellectual generosity will be questioned.

As a writer, your intellectual generosity – your capacity to think, feel and behave in a way that is both disciplined and expansive – is your back bone. The rod that holds everything else in place. The font of nerve and will from which all good shit comes. That precious and most useful structure of character which you might fall back on when your writing fails you – and your writing will, if you are diligent about your business, fail you at some stage. So, spend more time exercising that backbone than the jawbone then.

Publishers want writers who can go the distance, withstand the slings and arrows, and keep digging and digging for stories. Smartarses, whingers and wankers tend not to recommend themselves well in this respect.

It’s easy enough, though, in the trollish argy-bargy of social networking and all the mirror-gazing of bloggery to get carried away with the sound of our own voices, the look and style of our words. But there’s a difference between your opinion of another writer’s work and your analysis of it. It pays to learn that difference.

If you are a writer of any fair dinkum ambition and want to criticise another’s work do it thoughtfully and intelligently. Substantiate your arguments with actual textual evidence, insights into the author’s execution of intent and knowledge of the context in which they write.

Or simply shut up and get back to your own opus magnus, to show the world how clever you really are.

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THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE…

I’m one of those people who makes home wherever the heart is, and I’ve never really attached to one place.

I grew up by the sea, at Little Bay and La Perouse, on the eastern axe-edge of Sydney that juts into the Pacific, my grandparents having both raised their families just a little way north in Coogee. When my own children were small, we lived in Clovelly and Randwick, always a walk or short bus ride from the beach.

Then Sydney house prices compelled me to look elsewhere for somewhere to buy, away from the crush and rush of the city, and the Blue Mountains caught me for value and beauty. The cool climes of Blackheath, Katoomba, and Leura followed, and I was often asked, ‘Don’t you miss the sea?’ No, I didn’t. I’d say, ‘Have you seen the trees?’ That forest is an ocean, especially when the wind is pulsing through it.

The whole while I lived in the Mountains, though – thirteen years – it seemed I was only ever stopping by. Many people feel that way about life on those vast escarpments: we’re just visitors, and not entirely welcome.

As well, I’d long harboured a yearning to go further west. I’d fantasise about finding a perfect little place in the hills, lingering over real estate ads featuring properties just outside Lithgow, Portland, Oberon… I don’t really know why I fell in love with those hills – the shapes, the light, the spectacular geology, powerful and gentle at once.

Some need to escape.

Some whisper of fate through the trees.

As fate would have it, out of the blue I fell in love with a Central Western boy – Dean, of course – and after several years of poor dear devoted him making the weekly commute from Orange to the Mountains while the boys finished school, it really was time to find our house in the hills.

It took eighteen months to stumble across it, midway between Millthorpe and Blayney in the rolling folds of the tablelands, painted green from decent rain soaking the rich volcanic earth. Neither Dean nor I had ever been here before – not even passed through en route to somewhere else – as it’s well tucked away, deep inside a warren of dusty lanes.

But the strangest thing occurred when we first saw it emerge from around a bend: it felt like home. The closer we got, the more it simply was home. Dean is a fairly laconic chap, the emotions always in check, but I could feel the excitement radiating from him in wild bursts of sunshine and surprise. This place had to be ours. This place of newness for us both, lush and begging discovery.

We’ve just moved in, and I’m still pinching myself that we are actually here. Gratitude fills me up from toes to fingertips. I want to grow old in this house, on this land. I want to have wild sprawling Christmases and Easters here, watching my boys grow and change as men. Watching the birds come and go in shifts – the finches, the wrens, rosellas, pink galahs – and the neighbours’ goats grazing up the fence-line at four pm so that you might set your clock by them. Watching the green crisp to gold in droughtiness, and sprout again with the next decent rain.

Please.

I’ve never really known what it’s like to feel home, to feel that I belong to a place beyond it belonging to me. To feel planted. But I think I might do now.

And Jazz Cat is looking pretty comfy too…

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