Hecticity

It’s been an uncharacteristicly long gap between posts. This is probably due to the hectic schedule I’ve been keeping in these pre-Christmas days.

Christmas

Pretty much all presents have been bought. However, to get to this point, Ange has been driving me like a slave (albeit a happy one), and we’ve taken up a timeshare at Karrinyup, Joondalup, Whitfords, and Warwick shopping centres. It’s seems odd to say this is the most organised Christmas we’ve had for a long time – all gifts for extended family were purchased and sent at the beginning of the month. It’s only been the ones close to home that have caused the shopping headaches. I’m pleased to report that only one shopping trip remains, and that is more a grocery run than anything else.

Oh, and we haven’t put up the Chrissie Tree. Yet.

F*!king bureaucracies!

As a consequence of completing my Advanced Diploma, I’m now looking to get into a university Associate Degree. My uni application was lodged before the deadline (back in September) and all looked good. All I had to do was submit a copy of my results/academic record when it became available.

So it turns out that West Coast TAFE came to the party on this and true to form, they sent me my academic record this week. Bravo, step one complete. Unfortunately, this was the lesser of my two recently completed qualifications, so I sweated on Australian College for my Advanced Diploma results. After a slurry of ignored emails, I phoned them to be greeted by a message. They did get back to me – on Monday morning at 7am! The woman was quite apologetic when she realized the three hour time difference from Sydney to Perth, but hey, the damage was done. She rather apologetically advised me the College was closing down for two weeks and results would be available no sooner than mid-January – well after my uni application deadline of 7/1/05. She was kind enough to offer verbal conformation to the Uni Admissions crew, so thus armed, I tried contacting them.

Two days after another unanswered email (a query submitted through their website that promised a turnaround within 2 days), I braved the STD charges and called their office. Upon hearing the surly tone of the female bureaucrat that answered, I knew I was in trouble. To digress, my years of public service have raised my awareness of ‘surly bureaucrat tone’. As a manager in a fragile, stressed customer service environment, it was my duty to eliminate this evil of evils from my staff. So hearing it from someone else sets my nerves on edge, particularly when my future direction is at stake.

To cut this story short, she assured me in no uncertain terms that despite my disadvantage in not having documents confirming my qualification (the one that would guarantee a uni placement) through no fault of my own, and especially despite my institutions ability to confirm my qualification by phone, fax or email, the uni admissions people basically said: ‘tough luck’.

With this piece of (not so) good news, I then raced around town looking for a postal manager to witness a copy of my Certificate IV (a qualification that may/should/could qualify me for the uni course, but is certainly inferior to my Advanced Diploma as far as the admissions people are concerned). It turns out that with the Christmas rush, all the postal managers had left town. The only good news that came out of this was I came home, hit something, then phoned a JP. Luckily, there will be a JP available tomorrow to sign this bastard of a document so I have at least a fighting chance of qualifying for uni entry.

*sigh*

A final piece of bureaucratic crap landed in my letterbox the other day. My ArtsWA grant to assist with airfares to/from Clarion South has been denied. I’ve enjoyed dealing with them for their piecemeal advice and ability to make me feel insignificant and grovelling in the face of haughty artsy-type toffs. Bravo!

Despite what the officer considered a thorough application, apparently I missed some sort of artificial deadline they couldn’t see past to help an emerging West Aussie (adopted) whose using a literary talent the way it’s supposed to be used – telling a story. No, I’m not a ‘write a piece of graffiti crap on the wall in broken english and call it art’ or a ‘spew a random stream of pretentious, half-arsed consciousness to the three people still sober enough to ignore your prat-boy poetry in the pub’ kinda guy. Perhaps because my growing body of work may actually have some sort of commercial appeal (or at least make a few cents here and there), and is not blowing literati snobbery up people’s peepholes, they thought it’s best not to go out on a limb and make life just that little bit easier for me.

They also stated:

“The panel acknowledged the writer’s dedication to his craft, but considered that the writing targets he has set himself during the workshop will be very difficult to achieve.”

Bah! I say. Not in my universe. Fie! Fie to thee!

Clarion South

Less than two weeks to go. The ripples on the net seem to indicate my fellow attendees are growing nervous. The same applies for me but in different ways. I’ve just read the stories up for critique in the first couple of days (including my Singing in Prague). I’ve already noted I’ve completely fluffed the context of the word ‘falsetto’ (thanks to Satima for pointing that one out). However, it’s good to see a few little typos (should that be ‘typoes’?) in the other stories as well. It reminds me that despite the obvious talent, these guys are as human as I. No comment on the stories – that’d be breaking the rules. They were an interesting read. I just hope they come down to shorter lengths as the workshops gets under way. Reading 4k-7k stories could be murder every night!

One of the reasons for my stated nervousness is the living arrangements. Specifically the food. I’ve yet to add my two cents (probably tomorrow morning at this rate) but it seems I’m shacked up in vegetarian-ville. This could be interesting, given my radically changed diet (more on that below), but I’m at heart a traditional aussie who loves eating stuff that used to have a face.

Also on Clarion – in a case of the groceries, the conveners have been extremely kind enough to grant us shopping money for the first week. It’s the small stuff like this that makes a good experience like Clarion should be, and transforms it into something great. Onya conveners!

They also came up trumps with some extra funding which helped out with the failed ArtsWA grant. My philosophical nature tells me this is karma’s way of providing. Onya karma! Onya conveners (again)!

Oh, and amid all our rampant Christmas shopping, I picked up three spunky new pairs of shorts. I say ‘shorts’ but the current fashions dictate most pairs of shorts end up below the knees – even when you wear them under your armpits like me! They’re cargo-type shorts. Green, tan, and black. Colours for soldiers, tough guys and freaky-eyed weirdos.

Diet

Coming up to week four and I’ve dropped five kilos. Excellent stuff. The hunger intrudes every so often, and because of the hecticness of the last few days my diet has not been the best, but it also hasn’t been the worst either. I’m looking forward to the next few days – where I can kick back on modest amounts of cold meats, chocolate nuts/sultanas, and plenty of salads and fruit.

Writing

I’ve had a few end of year rejections trickle in this week. Had an absolutely glowing response from new magazine Apex Digest, who loved the Cruel Summer series – unfortunately they want sci-fi with horror, not contemporary horror. Also had Revision is Murder and In the Absence of Heroes come back unwanted.

However, the biggest blow was tonight when The Hanged Girl was rejected by Corpse Blossoms. As with my other rejections from them, they are quite thoughtful in their comments, but it seems in this case it boiled down to personal preferences. I think it’s one of my most technically proficient pieces – and a damn creepy one at that. They thought the story was too slow, despite ‘strong writing’ and ‘an intriguing ending’. I have absolute faith in this story, and as this is the first rejection for it, I will pepper other professional markets with it. It will no doubt find a home. The only thing that bugs me – and confirms exactly what Ange has been saying – is various editors are reinforcing that my ability is high, my writing is good, even the ideas are original and captivating – it’s just the story as a whole doesn’t quite work for them. I can only take so much of ‘this is very well written but…” Maybe it’s my characterisation, or conflict-climax cycle? I don’t know. Perhaps Clarion will help me identify the problem.

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