Sam van Zweden




Goals: Making Them, Kicking Them, Putting Them Out in Public

In the spirit of oversharing, which I’m very fond of (and fond of the internet for), I’m posting some of my latest writing goals here so that you can all keep me accountable if I try to let them slide away into the abyss.

Having (just five minutes ago) finished timetabling my next uni semester, I’ve realised I’m committing to some big things here:

– I plan on reading at least one essay a week. This is pretty easy to do during the semester, but outside of it I tend to let this slide. I really want to expand my short non-fiction knowledge base, as it’s something I’m interested in writing a fair bit of myself. So. That.
– This second point is bigger: I’m committing to doing at least one writing exercise every day. Furious Horses style, only without the public sharing. Perhaps at the end of each week I’ll post on here the exercises I’ve done, and whether they’ve been helpful or not, because I know a lot of this site’s readers are writers, and you never can have enough ideas for writing exercises.
– Competitions! I want to start entering competitions. There’s money to be made, folks. And recognition to be given. Might as well give it a crack. If I don’t, crap people might win. And we can’t have that.
– Every quarter, I plan on sending off a piece to a publication which I don’t really honestly believe will accept me. This is how we make impossible things real. This is what happened with The Big Issue, and it’s inspired me.

I’m hoping that making these plans public will create some extra accountability. If I try to pretend this post never happened, give me hell.


NYWM Day 4

Essential Reading” is my creative output from today, as suggested by the exercise on the National Young Writers’ Month blog.  “Blackout poetry” involves you, a sharpie, a book or newspaper you don’t want or need, and your “on” brain. For me, this resulted in a piece about what it is to be human in the modern world: something equal parts positive and negative – there’s the drive to connect with others and find pleasure, but there’s also the domineering will-to-power type stuff. I think it worked well. Hit the link above to view the piece (as a pdf). And give it a go yourself – it’s a good brain-starter!

As for National Young Writers’ Month itself and my goals for the month, I’ve started working on a short story I’ve been meaning to write for some time. I’ve also started thinking about possible destinations for things I’ve polished that are ready for submission… It’s all systems go here. While EWF’s wrapping up, NYWM is fulfilling my acronym-desiring project-based needs.

A Story for a Public Holiday…

It is unclear what Leo does, but Camilla suspects that the machinery has something to do with it. Leo’s property is full of machinery. Leo is an old Dutchman, all white hair and mystery. Camilla knows very little about him, only the machinery, and a taxidermy eagle in the corridor of his house, and 8 or 10 sheep he keeps on his small patch of land here in Queensland.

Camilla is 6 years old, and a diminutive 6 year old at that. Her father helps at Leo’s property, though the nature of the jobs is beyond what Camilla cares about. She likes to spend the time at Leo’s looking at the eagle (only later does she realise that its eyes are the unsettling bit), and teasing the sheep.

Today, Camilla is “herding” the sheep with her sister while their father helps Leo. They hold sticks that are as tall as they are, slapping the ground to scare the sheep into action. Camilla’s sister will later insist that they were hitting the actual sheep, but this is not how Camilla will remember it.

Amongst the sheep is a large ram called Bubby. He has a black face, and comes up to Camilla’s shoulder, she guesses, though she hasn’t gotten close enough to properly tell. He is the only male in the pen.

Hitting the ground with their sticks, the sisters send dust flying into the air. The female sheep move into a huddle in the corner of the pen, and the sisters think they are doing a great job. They could be farmers. Then Camilla sees Bubby.

Bubby stands at the far end of the pen, his eyes gleaming at her. He lets out a sinister baa. Camilla looks for her sister. She’s nowhere.

Bubby walks at first. Then he gathers speed, and when he reaches Camilla he knocks her straight down. There is dirt in Camilla’s eyes. All she sees is a black blur, and feels an immense pressure on her chest. Bubby rears on his back legs like a startled horse, coming down heavy on Camilla’s chest. The dirt, the pressure, the oily smell of wool, the dry taste of dust.


Camilla’s father runs into the pen. With the kind of force only an angered parent can produce, he drives a blundstoned foot into Bubby’s flank. He literally kicks the sheep off his daughter. It doesn’t send the hefty animal far, but it is off Camilla.

Later, Camilla will be somewhat casual about the memory. She will not be fond of sheep, and she will remember how it felt when her father told her to walk the few blocks home. But when she recalls the event, it will not be one of trauma, it will just be a story, like any other story, from her childhood.

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