May-Ling

picture of table and chair with vase of flowers collage
Artwork by Natasha Sommer 2008

May-Ling calls out to me as I get out of the car.  She is fourteen months old and her sweet voice bounces out through the screen door where she is standing and out on to the street in North Ryde where her Chinese grandparents live.  I climb over the small white iron gate that leads to the front door.  Every week she waits for my arrival after Playschool has finished on television.  May-Ling has soft chubby legs and tiny artistic fingers.  Her hands are so well co-ordinated that now she is able to grasp a spoon and feed herself.  She has almond shaped brown eyes and very white teeth that you get to see very often because she laughs so much.   In her pink and white gingham floppy hat that she wears to the park, she looks even cuter.  What a cutie, say people on the street when I take her out for a walk in the stroller.  What a cutie.

I am the apprentice grandmother.  The Chinese grandmother shows me what to do.  She might correct my nappy changing skills, show me that I have done the nappy up too tight, that I need to be able to slip my hand in between the nappy and May-Ling’s fat tummy.  Or she might show me how I need to rock May-Ling back and forth and pat her gently on the bottom so she’ll fall asleep in my arms before putting her into the cot.

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Towards the End

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He leaned back on the chrome chair, stretched his legs out under the square black table and placed his mobile phone in front of him. He looked over to the counter at the back of the cafe at the cakes and muffins on display and the Italian biscuits in jars. He turned back to the glass windows and wondered if he had the guts to tell her today. He wanted to. By Christ he wanted to. He straightened up, his elbows on the table, his hands clasped together in front of his face. There’d been some good times, that’s for sure. But what the heck. A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

The sliding glass door clanked open and Anny walked in. He looked over at her, first from the rear as she closed the door and then as she approached, her face flushed, her dark hair flying back from her shoulders. Not bad looking. A bit on the heavy side but not a bad looker all the same. Yes, there’d been some good times. Especially in the sack.

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Art and the Mermaid

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FORTNIGHTLY SHORT STORY

Art and the Mermaid by Libby Sommer

first published in Quadrant

Once upon a time it came to pass, so it is said, that an enormous storm swept the coast of New South Wales, doing extensive damage to the ocean beaches – destroying jetties, breakwaters and washing away retaining walls.  Mountainous seas swept Bondi Beach and dashed against the cliffs carrying ruin with every roller.  At North Bondi near Ben Buckler a huge submerged block of sandstone weighing 233 tons was lifted ten feet and driven 160 feet to the edge of the cliff where it remains to this day.

One day a Sydney sculptor, Lyall Randolph, looked upon the rock and was inspired.  The sculptor was a dreamer.  Let us, he said, have two beautiful mermaids to grace the boulder.  Using two Bondi women as models he cast the two mermaids in fibreglass and painted them in gold.

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Autobiography in Fiction

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When people ask me where I get my ideas from, I tell them I use the world around me. Life is so abundant, if you can write down the actual details of the way things were and are, you hardly need anything else. Even if you relocate the French doors, fast-spinning overhead fan, small red Dell laptop, and low black kneeling chair from your office that you work in in Sydney into an Artist’s Atelier in the south of France at another time, the story will have truth and groundedness.

In Hermione Hoby’s interview with Elizabeth Strout in last Saturday’s Guardian newspaper the Pulitzer prize winner said her stories have always begun with a person, and her eyes and ears are forever open to these small but striking human moments, squirreling them away for future use. “Character, I’m just interested in character,” she said.

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Narrative Momentum: ‘but then’

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This is my first blog post.  I intend to post either once a week or once a fortnight on matters related to creative writing.  Probably each Sunday evening.

So here goes.

I was listening to someone talk about the craft of creative writing the other day and she was speaking about the necessity of forward momentum in narrative in order to keep the reader engaged.

The speaker suggested keeping in mind the words:  “but then …”

 

Using those two words, either on the page, or in your head, gives a twist or complication to the story.

 

Seems a good idea to me.