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!

It’s In The Stars

This morning, I read my star sign for the first time in over a year.
Vague, vague, vague…Then:
An impending tempest”.

Week four reading: Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”… An impending tempest, indeed!

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.

Library Greed

I’m quite a fan of libraries. Especially since the Kew library is only a ten minute walk away. Even on wet and cold days, I can make that trek relatively unscathed and unsweaty. Libraries are warm and wholesome places – good for the soul.

However, a strange sort of greed overcomes me at the library.

Yesterday I went in to pick up a book I’d had a reservation on (Lark and Termite by Jane Anne Phillips), and to print some school work.

“Ten minutes,” thought I, “and I’ll be out of here.”

I picked up my reservation. I printed my work.

Then I thought I’d check for any books relevant to my current school work. I came out with Borges: A Life by Edwin Williamson, and Borges on Writing by Giovanni, Halpern & MacShane (eds). While one of these books might be handy, there is no reasonable way that I will get all my school reading done plus a biography, plus a collection of short stories, plus a book of interviews, plus some fiction book I picked up last week…all in the next three-ish weeks before the due date.

Libraries do this to me though. I get in there and the fever overcomes me. I see a book and panic that it won’t be there when I come back… This is ridiculous of course; it’s a library, the books will always come back and I’ll get a chance to read it when I actually do have time.

It’s almost like an ownership thing, only I’m well aware that borrowing a book doesn’t constitute ownership. Perhaps it’s my reading anxiety at work again, trying to get as much in as possible, even if it’s an unreasonable amount.

My library isn’t helpful in this matter either. They have lovely displays of “featured books”; themes and new acquisitions which take on a certain importance and urgency. I tried taking a smaller bag yesterday, but my library even provides free bags… I’m running out of ideas. Reason simply doesn’t suffice. My library-mind is a reasonless grab frenzy.

Is anyone else out there suffering from this curse?

The ways I reach the people…

Running a blog through WordPress is quite a novel experience. There’s so many nifty things you can do and see at the back end of the blog, like how many posts you’ve made with which tags and in which categories, what links people actually click on while reading your blog, how many people have visited when, and my favourite – what search engine terms people have followed into your blog.

A piece of advice for all you young would-be bloggers out there: when you start a blog, try not to include anything in the title which might be a typo of anything pervy. The word “pen,” for example.

Some search engine terms that I get are really obvious. At least once every day I get a hit or two from a search concerning Nick Cave’s “The Death of Bunny Munro”.

I also daily get hits from search terms containing really interesting uses of the word “pen”:
– “big pens young girls”
– “wife needs big pens”
– “how to get big pens”
– “man who has big pens”

There’s the downright disturbing, “sex with very very young girls”.

Then there’s the searches that are a little more puzzling, like “bed head realism”.

My personal favourite though?

“story: she slept nipple”


I just saw an ad in Voiceworks for SYN.

It’s a cartoon of a cityscape, which highlights all its features and breaks them down to their parts.

For example:
“Local Share House:
24% accumulated junk mail and bills
28% negleted home-brew project
15% rent assistance rorts
3% linoleum
8% cold teabags on sink
22% vintage gaming consoles”

I like the idea of breaking something down this way. And not just characters either, but emotions, buildings, ideas.

I just love lists.

Our House:
9% last week’s dishes
5% growing mould
7% online gaming
10% notebooks and novels
30% “how will we pay for…?”
19% drafts, dreams, ideas
20% illegal downloads

Big buckets of LANGUAGE!

I haven’t blogged for a few days. I’m being entirely self-indulgent today, sulking and wallowing in self-pity – I suspect I have the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where the hot weather just stresses me the fuck out. Bring on the rains.

Anyway, I am an avid collector of language… Not surprisingly, some of my favourites have come from kids.

“Look Mum, that dog is a crocodile!”

(Kid on tram, looking at raised tram platforms): “They’re boats, those ones! Look at the people on the boats!”
Father: “Boats?”
Kid: “Yes. Anchored to the road.”

(Kid at my work): “Dry white wine? But it’s all wet!”

(My 4 year old neice being a monster, so we say): “what, are you just going to stand there and whine? That’s fine, we’ll watch the movie by ourselves, you can go to bed.”
(she pauses for a while, then as sulkily as possible): “I don’t drink wine.”

…gosh. They just use words so unashamedly!

Literary Tattoos

The mind-alteringly hilarious Melbournian siren otherwise known as Marieke Hardy last week wrote an article on “literary tattoos” for The Age, which you can read here.

“Literary ink,” says Hardy, “is the epitome of the nerds striking back.”

She suggests that tattoos don’t strictly have to be quotations in order to qualify as “literary tats”… I’m not sure if mine would fit into this category, or if my next planned piece of ink will either – something unoriginal (I’ve seen it on someone) yet witty: a set of quotation marks which open on one shoulder blade and close on the other.

While I certainly applaud those who sport quotations, I’d be terrified about putting someone’s words on myself. Some authors have been with me for a very long time – Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, John Marsden, C.S Lewis, Ginsberg, Kerouac… But I’d be so scared of choosing the wrong words, for fear of there being more poignant words I could possibly have printed on the fleshy loveliness that is my body.

“In the end, the only thing that matters is that the words … inspire you on to greater things”

Do you have a tattoo that does this? Do you see another function for having someone else’s words tattoed on your body? Do you agree with it?

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