Sam van Zweden




Coming home and The End Point

That’s it. Semester over! This semester was big. Really big. Fourteen novels for just two of my subjects and that’s only the stuff with covers. At least two reams of paper, lots of ink, hours and hours of reading off my screen because I couldn’t afford to print any more. Twelve weeks of sacrificing the reading I actually wanted to do, to make room for things that were mostly worth reading, but not always what I wanted to do.

But that’s over now! It’s holidays! It’s lovely weather! The real reading can begin. I can cross billions of things off my “to-do” list, and work through the huge stacks of books that I’ve been buying but not had space or time to read. I can make sense of my writing desk, make some narratives happen, rather than torturous essays comparing texts which should never, ever be compared (Camus’ The Outsider and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea being the most recent hideousness).

So here I am, back at home in the blogosphere. I can blog whenever I like, I can dedicate that section of my brain to planning posts as I live. I can work my way through my poor, neglected Google Reader feed! Oh poor Google Reader…

Today I read a piece that really got my attention, which was re-tweeted by Angela Meyer. The article, “Where Did The Web Go?“, talks about a lot of things that got my attention.

First point of interest: A quote from Stephen Mitchelmore: “Finding a way to talk about the reading experience is, I’ve realised, the greatest pleasure of writing; where it ends is of no importance.” I love this quote. Stephen’s talking about how it doesn’t matter if your online literary efforts never really take off, because that’s not the point. The point is to find a way to talk about your “reading experience”. Reading is a strange thing in a similar way to writing – it’s a necessarily lonely activity, but there’s a definite pleasure in finding ways to share that loneliness. For me, LGWABP is a major way that I do that. I’m not sure that I always (…ever) provide insightful contributions, but I enjoy doing what I do. Stephen’s right – it is “the greatest pleasure”.

Second point of interest: “Choose what you want your site to be, and then do it” – I like this. Sometimes I feel like my blog misses the mark because I’m not sure what I’m doing with it. Successful blogs have something that is specifically theirs, whether that’s a layout, a tone, a bunch of memes, whatever. They own it.

Other than these two superficial things that caught my eye, the article itself is actually a great contribution to the discussion of the role of online media, in particular online literary criticism. Check it out.

The Literary Legacy of a Trip I Never Took

My father and stepmum recently got back from a 3-month holiday. We caught up yesterday, and they gave me some presents from around the world – they did well.

This sign now sits in my study looking endlessly cool. It marks my space as mine. This is where the genius happens!

Also a fantastic gift – magnetic fridge poetry! These are those little words that stick onto your fridge, and you can arrange them as you please, making fantastic little poems with a limited set of ideas. I spent about an hour at the fridge last night messing around.

Results that are still on our fridge:

“explore the cracks
in every spine
this villain could never tell
of beautiful poetry
beneath human monsters”

“always create
inspire another wisdom through fiction”


above science I can wander
and begin whispering magic”

a Aren’t they great? Get yourself a set, they’re fun, and they’ve provided me with a real excuse for walking out of my study and into the kitchen when I should be writing – I’m making poetry! I want to build up a big set of these, because I know there’s other sets (this one being the ‘book lover’ one, containing words like ‘page’, ‘chapter’, ‘hero’, ‘villain’ etc), and have a huge choice of words. With a small collection, though, it’s a lot of fun to get all Oulipo and see what you can do with a limited set.

Thanks, travelling family!

Passive/Aggressive Cheek and A/I Excitement!

This is a messy post – I’m just putting that out there now, so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Mess. Which proceeds thus…

I’m back at uni. We started back on Monday, and it’s been really good…Until today. I have a terrible tutor for a course that has the potential to be fantastic, and this upsets me. In an earlier draft of this post, I ranted about what was flawed about this tutor’s teaching style, but I re-thought that, as it probably has no place here. I’ll simply carry on with my passive/aggressive cheek toward said tutor for the remainder of the semester… Good luck to her.

I was going to post another “Comment July Challenge” post today, with highlights from the last week. But having done a lot of thinking in the last few days, I’ve realised I’m over-committed and things are suffering for it. So in an effort to de-frag my life, I’m culling those commitments which I don’t absolutely need. Unfortunately, the Comment July Challenge is one of them – I’ll still be commenting on as many blogs as is possible, contributing to discussions where I can, but without the pressure to do five per day. It’s an admirable project, and I wish Megan and the others involved the absolute best with it.

And now for the “A/I Excitement!” part of my title – tomorrow I’ll be posting the interview I was referring to the other day. The admirably haired and wonderfully talented Sage Francis (yes, that Sage Francis!) was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so that will be up tomorrow – get excited with me!

Admiration/Inspiration Thursday: A Week of Inspiration

This week, I’ll be sharing with you some of the inspiration for my writing this week. Via the wonderful Steph Bowe I discovered “We Heart It“, and have been sourcing a lot of inspiration from there.
So here’s kind of an inspiration journal for the last week:

I’ve also taken inspiration from an old chair I used to own. It was big and red, and I bought it with one of my best friends for $25 – he bought the matching one. He still has his, but mine broke. I have a lot of memories that go with that chair, and they’ve been inspiring me.

I’m reading Jane Austen (still) and her language has been creeping into mine. It’s frustrating to know I absorb things like that, I’m so unsure of my own voice. It becomes really obvious when Jane Austen shows up in my work, I wonder how much more subtle stuff gets past me. I don’t know if it’s inspiration so much as influence here…

I’ve been playing with my hair all week. I got it cut last week and I’ve been trying to make it work for me. Not there yet, but the attention to myself for however long it takes each morning leaves me feeling a little better about myself. Self-confidence inspires me.

The Importance of Creative Peers, Again

A few weeks ago I posted about creative people’s hierarchy of needs. The one that resonates most with me is “the need for creative peers”.

The last week has really solidified that for me.

Currently in the last week of semester, which is followed by two or three weeks of things-still-due, my fellow course-mates have been working furiously on a final writing folio for one subject. Mine isn’t due until next Tuesday, so I’m still breathing easily, but some others were not. I received a 5am email begging for help to cut 500 words from a 2,500 word story. I did my best.

All throughout the week coming up to this, I’d also received copies of many other people’s stories for feedback.

My boyfriend laughed at me. I didn’t mind though. Because I know that when I get up to 24-hours before the due date and stress out about my idea being no good, and can’t see the typos for the words, and have to either make up or cut out 500 words – well then I know my creative peers will be there, inboxes wide open, ready to help.

And even when it’s not about editing, I can’t stress how grateful I am to have all these creative people around me. There’s a group of slam poets waiting to hear my latest lyrical bonanza. There’s a publication group waiting for me to send in some work to help make it great. There’s a TV show waiting for my reviews and interviews. And there’s you, dear reader, waiting with bated breath for my next post.

All these people just make it so much easier to produce. I’m thankful for you all.

Reading Anxiety

Am I reading enough? I constantly ask myself.

Jacinda Woodhead at Meanland says no.

Jacinda talks about the guilt she feels when she does other things instead of reading. I get this. Somehow in my mind, reading has a privileged place which nothing else quite lives up to, meaning that anything else I do with my time creates guilt – apart from writing. That’s worthy. But the two should certainly be balanced and in much higher quantities that they are right now.

This last week I’ve had the flu, completed (to genuine satisfaction, too) three out of four assessment pieces that are due next week, organized a great many overdue things and put things in order… All of these things, including the homework, made me feel guilty for not reading. Somehow homework reading doesn’t feel like it counts. Most of it, anyway.

So Jacinda talks about all the different sources of reading she has, and it’s no wonder she hasn’t got enough time to keep up with it all. I know this feeling, and I’m sure you do too.

Jacinda talks about Google Reader – are any of you guys onto this? I’m not, but I know I have a few readers who are. I check back to a LOT of different blogs daily, so I think this would really help … but it has the potential to be very crap. So tell me, bloggosphere – to Google-Read, or not?

And Twitter – I’m well and truly into it now. I never knew I could get so much amazing independent news from one place! Honestly, there’s always something great offered to me via Twitter. I love it!
…but I also hate it. I follow 57 people on Twitter. and that adds up to a LOT of extra reading every day.

One problematic reading-source that Jacinda skips over pretty quickly is blogrolls.
You read someone’s post and they blow you away, and you wonder, “What does this person read?”  Enter the Blogroll… Some are so extensive that they take multiple visits to work through.

“I have so many books within arm’s reach waiting for my attention,” says Jacinda… Oh yes. The To-Be-Read Pile…
I thought I got smart on mine, I put many of them on my shelf. Not in a pile at all! Haha! Outsmarted, Reading Pile!
…but no. I took four of those books and put them next to my bed in a micro-TBR. I thought this would make it easier. Now when I go to bed I pick one until my eyelids won’t prop themselves open any longer. I don’t know if this has helped it or not though…

Jacinda also nods to awards lists and literary journals as incoming reading.

Besides these, I also have Classics (a very big pile and growing), books recommended by respected friends (friends who don’t read yet recommend things are ignored), review books for Yartz , and the supplementary stuff for school.

The world of literature is not shrinking. Does it scare the shit out of you?!

Too perfect = blank pages.

I’ve had this problem for a long time, and I suspect that for a lot of writers this is the root of the “terror of the blank page” problem.

This morning I came across a post by Fiona Gregory of “Bootcampers 101” blog. While the writers who contribute to this blog are all romance writers, they often have something to say that applies to the rest of us literary folk.

In this post, Fiona talks about how her perfectionism often holds her back from writing at all, or at least following through on anything because what’s in her head struggles to match what ends up on the page.

Thankfully, this post isn’t just a whine about how hard it is to get the cogs moving.

Some of the more helpful solutions Fiona suggests include:
– Writing to a timer. Set a timer for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or two, and don’t move until it goes off. Just write. Don’t edit either – that’s for later.
– Scheduling a time for editing so that it doesn’t creep into your writing time. I certainly find that the more I allow myself to edit while I write, the more that filter gets in the way of my getting anything at all onto the page.

While these are small tips, and almost a bit obvious, I found them helpful. Especially as I sit in front of an impending deadline or five, banging my head against a brick wall.

DS Breaking into eReaders?

I’m absolutely flat out.

So I’m linking to something I found incredibly interesting, utterly horrifying, and somewhat amusing:

The prospect of Nintendo DS becoming an eReader.


I’m beat. Bushed. Buggered. Sooooo tired. I feel like I woke up on Saturday, and haven’t stopped since.

Up until this point, I’ve avoided blogging about my latest achievement simply because I was terrified it wouldn’t stick – that I’d get there and the collective psyche would vote me out. However, on Saturday afternoon the first episode of Yartz featuring my pretty porcelain face was filmed.

Yartz is an awesome community TV show on Channel 31, (airs at 10pm Mondays and a repeat I think on Thursday night – also on youtube) which basically acts as a very independent cultural commentator, picking out all the cool things in the world and letting you know all about them…At times fanatical, at other times utterly scathing – which is where I come in.

I have been appointed book-fan extraordinaire, working with the Yartz crew and contributing to the bookish side of things. A more lovely bunch of people you could not find, so a big thankyou to one Misha Adair for his expert casting skills, and to the rest of those I’ve had anything to do with thus far for being so ready to have me on board.

Not having television myself I won’t be able to tell you when I’m on, I’m not sure if it’s this week or next, BUT as soon as it hits youtube you can expect to hear about it.

In other beginnings, today was the first day of my life at RMIT completing their Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing). AMPED! First days are always less productive, and it did enough to get me excited about the course overall. It’s still a very new course, only in its second year, and it’s a very small group. There’s 42 of us in first year.

Today I had Cinema Studies, which consisted of Lumiere shorts and The Wizard of Oz… While it’s a 9.30 class, I get to be all cozy in a Hoyts cinema and watch films, so it’s bearable. Enjoyable, even. The news of needing to purchase a $110 textbook was a little less than welcome, but I’ve since found a filmmaker-friend who is willing to lend me a copy – thank god for commonly used textbooks!

I have to admit, this viewing of The Wizard of Oz was the first time I’d noticed the Wizard calling Scarecrow a “blundering bale of bovine fodder”… That’s the kind of insult I wish I’d penned!

The afternoon saw an “orientation” type talk in the space where Telling Stories would usually take place – and my goodness, the second year students have got me excited! The thing that always discouraged me about Swinburne was the lack of community feeling and a total lack of enthusiasm for writing. It was seen as an easy elective and not something to be pursued outside of what was forced upon us. That didn’t stop me, of course, but I was always chasing the extracurricular opportunities by myself.

Now, writing’s such an alone activity that I feel that this community feeling I’ve been wanting is absolutely crucial to being able to do it. The second year students in my course are so excited about the writing opportunities they have and create, especially those they do outside of school and share. They’re really pulling together as an artists’ collective and making it all work for themselves. Good on them, and I can’t wait to join the ranks!

So, a few new beginnings and much, much, MUCH excitement.

…just a bit proud of myself at the moment.

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