My prose poem ‘In the Mall’ was selected as an entry in the Microflix Writers Awards and was available to be chosen by filmmakers for adaption to a short film for the 2019 Microflix Awards. The theme was ‘sound’.
Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.
‘In the Mall‘:
In a café inside a mall in Sydney a small curly-topped girl sobbed and sobbed. She sat on her father’s lap, stabbing her finger into a slice of banana bread. Her dad soothed, whispered, coaxed. What would you like, Tara? He cut into his poached egg. Toast? he cajoled. The girl sobbed more loudly, wailing, coughing, staring out into the mall. I want my mum. She cuddled a pink soft piglet. Our eyes scanned the glass display of croissants, pies and pastries. I loved every carb that did not pass my lips. I loved the sobbing child who heard no one else in that cafe but herself, whose lungs fought hard to reach a soaring, sorrowful pitch. What have you got? an elderly woman asked her. Still crying, the child held up her toy. Her father gave up on his poached eggs and carried her out, still wailing. We went and sat at the table with the stabbed-at bread her finger had made and swept the moist crumbs into a heap.
Copyright (c) Libby Sommer 2019
Sounds, sights, and smells are all part of creating an atmosphere.
‘The creation of the physical world is as crucial to your story as action and dialogue. If your readers can be made to see the glove without fingers or the crumpled yellow tissue, the scene becomes vivid. Readers become present. Touch, sound, taste and smell make readers feel as if their own fingers are pressing the sticky windowsill.
‘If you don’t create evocative settings, your characters seem to have their conversations in vacuums or in some beige nowhere-in-particular. Some writers love description too much. They go on and on as if they were setting places at the table for an elaborate dinner that will begin later on. Beautiful language or detailed scenery does not generate momentum. Long descriptions can dissipate tension or seem self-indulgent. Don’t paint pictures. Paint action.’ – Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction
Bringing in sensory detail is a way to enrich a story with texture to create the fullness of experience, to make the reader be there.
What about you? Do you use the senses, apart from sight, to create atmosphere?
Have a read of my prose poem, ‘The Cellist’ first published in Quadrant September 2020.
Hope you enjoy it.
I was grudgingly ancient. Not older, wiser and ancient. But easily recognisable as ancient. Skin was the culprit – the human body’s largest organ. I had his mobile number and he had mine, the cellist from the seniors’ dating site. I examined its configuration. Was there a pattern I needed to decode? I hated initiating, but he needed reassurance. It might take him forever to ring. Composing a text, my palms sweated. My heart thumped. Was he okay with texting? I hated my impatience. I hated my unexpected fragility. I sent the text. Yesterday’s meet-up was fun. I’d like to go for a ride on your motorbike sometime, although the helmet will squash my hair.
Then I worried I’d gone too far. My legs wrapped around him on a bike? I sounded like a whore. A desperado. A woman too long without a man. His reply was immediate. Had he been holding the phone in his hand? We can start with a short ride around the block. I’ve got a large helmet. Everyone gets hat hair.
I don’t want you to go on his motorbike, my daughter warned. I’ll go for a ride on his bike, my granddaughter offered. What sort of boat’s he got? A tinnie or a sail boat? asked my grandson. I googled: ‘what to expect when riding pillion’. Hang on. Brace for braking and acceleration by holding on to the rider’s waist. Bikes must lean to corner. Relax. Tyres provide plenty of grip.
We had dinner, exchanged silly jokes, leaned towards each other, went back to my place – and had incredible sex. The sensitivity of a stringed instrumentalist was really something else. If I knew how, I would have burst into song.
Copyright 2020 Libby Sommer
Celebrating the launch of ‘Lost in Cooper Park’. The book is reviewing well. Always hard to know how your work will be received. So far so good.
Have a read of my poem ‘His Coriander’, first published in Quadrant magazine September 2020.
Hope you enjoy it.
Flourishing above the planter box, it’s ready for harvesting.
I snip the curling tendrils with their skinny stalks,
hearing the clean snap of stem from dense green foliage.
At the end of a rain-filled night, the earth smells heady.
He took his suitcase, his cello, and his sheet music.
He left the fragrant coriander seeds,
said, Tending a relationship is like keeping a plant alive.
So I’ll take this herb
inside to the kitchen and chop it.
I’ll disperse it piece by piece with my hands,
the longed-for exotic spice of citrus and curry.
I’ll be forever grateful for escape,
from my infatuation
Copyright © 2020 Libby Sommer
When I used to teach classes to beginning writers, it was good. It forced me to think back to the beginning to when I first put pen to paper. The thing is, every time we sit down and face the blank page, it’s the same. Every time we start a new piece of writing, we doubt that we can do it again. A new journey with no map – like setting off towards the horizon alone in a boat and the only thing another person can do to help is to wave from the shore.
So when I used to teach a creative writing class, I had to tell them the story all over again and remember that this is the first time my students are hearing it. I had to start at the very beginning.
First up, there’s the pen on the page. You need this intimate relationship between the pen and the paper to get the flow of words happening. A fountain pen is best because the ink flows quickly. We think faster than we can write. It needs to be a “fat” pen to avoid RSI.
Consider, too, your notebook. It is important. The pen and paper are your basic tools, your equipment, and they need to be with you at all times. Choose a notebook that allows you plenty of space to write big and loose. A plain cheap thick spiral notepad is good.
After that comes the typing up on the computer and printing out a hard copy. It’s a right and left brain thing. You engage the right side of the brain, the creative side when you put pen to paper, then bring in the left side, the analytic side, when you edit the print out as you settle back comfortably with a drink (a cup of tea, even) and read what you’ve written.
Patrick White said that writing is really like shitting; and then, reading the letters of Pushkin a little later, he found Pushkin said exactly the same thing. Writing is something you have to get out of you.
Whether writing a story or writing a blog, start writing, no matter what.
Happy new year to you. May 2021 be a healthier happier year for us all.
Wishing you a happy and safe Christmas.
‘Stay safe, stay sanitised.’ – Kathy Lette
Famous in India! That’s me holding my book, ‘The Crystal Ballroom’. My stories ‘Aravind’ and ‘Aravind Again’, included in Agathokakological Aussie Summer story mosaic, are self-contained chapters from ‘The Crystal Ballroom’. A great review of the story mosaic is in Indian national newspaper, News Mania. Well done to editors Sharon Rundle and Indranil Bengal Halder
Agathokakological Aussie Summer is an Australia – India collaborative online story mosaic. All free! Enjoy the stories at:
Just press a star to begin.
Big news! My new book, LOST IN COPPER PARK has just been released by independent award-winning Ginninderra Press. Just in time for Christmas. Huge thank you to my wonderful publisher Stephen Matthews. The book is available direct from www.ginninderrapress.com.au or print and ebook editions from Amazon, Book Depository and other online booksellers, $27.50 or ask your bookstore to order it in ISBN 978 1 76109 042 4.
Cover image by Russian contemporary artist, Zoya Kriminskaya.
Bring on the celebrations.