And then I realised a scattering of bloggers

When I started my first WordPress blog on April 29, 2009 I couldn’t find anyone else I knew personally among the millions of WordPress bloggers.

Today as I read through some of the writing or reflective blogs I follow, I realised they were mostly by people I know in the real world and all offer something unique and encouraging.

So here they are, mostly on WordPress, why not check them out:

Chrissy Guinery, author of Falling Upstairs, reminds you why life is living large.

Bronte Sawtell, is 19 and thinking and has fallen in love with Newcastle.

Josiah Hallett is tossing out the pros and finds hope in the midst of angst.

Stephen Baxter is an old mate from Alive and On Being days and is keeping the heaven2earth connection going.

Rachael Stevens is a talented young writer (The Skeleton Diaries) and influencer and has a great website and blog which I daresay is designed by husband Tom.

I’m thinking there is groundswell of (Christian) writing evident here of which the sites I’ve listed are just a small sample.

Share your own favourites in comments (below).

PH

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‘It is nothing’ – the assassination of Franz Ferdinand

To mark 100 years today since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinaz of Austria and his wife Sophie, here’s a chapter from my unpublished WW1 novel, Shot: a great war story, that among other things retells the events of that day.

 

June 28, 1914

‘One comes here for a visit and is received with bombs…. It is outrageous!’

Franz had never felt so furious. How could this be, how could they let this happen? To think that his life and that of his Sophie had been in mortal danger from the actions of some fool in the crowd.

He saw again the slow loop of the explosive as it headed towards them, first bouncing off the bonnet of the car, before he had instinctively swatted at it, knocking it away. Then only to learn that Eric and the Count had been badly wounded in the car behind. And now this simpleton of a mayor is intent on giving a welcoming as if nothing has happened.

The scorn of his uncle and the Imperial court over this debacle would be insufferable, Franz thought, when he felt Sophie take his hand. She was standing by his side at the top of the town hall steps, where they were supposed to be basking in the warmth of an official welcome and the appreciation of the people, and where a stunned mayor stood fingering his notes.

What point is there after what has happened? Franz thought. Someone has tried to kill us! The realisation of how naïve he had been, how unrealistic, began to dawn on him. He turned to Sophie, feeling her trembling, seeing her lip quiver, and reached to wipe a tear, then noticing a slight graze on her cheek.

‘Sophel, oh my dear wife, I see you have been injured in the blast. My God, how close we have come to tragedy!’

She flinched from his touch, produced a handkerchief from her sleeve and dabbed at the graze.

‘I am all right, Franz, do not fuss. We must not be overcome by this. Look, the people do really love you,’ Sophie said,  whispering in his ear.Read More »

I finished a novel and didn’t notice

I’ve been stealing moments to write my first novel for so long now that when I wrote the last scene I was caught unawares.

Tidying up some spelling and rushed typing I saved the file and then noticed that the pressure to go on, to finish, had gone.

Then I realised. That was it. The place I had always planned to end had been reached. It was over.

So I immediately began re-reading and re-writing….

While the breadth of the novel is complete, the depth and dimension no doubt will require some work.

And in the end, who knows if anyone but me will read it.

Not to worry, I don’t care.

Still, I did submit it to a publisher today.

If you are interested to know more, leave a comment, I could be enticed to share a few details from my secret life of writing.

I’d say 100 comments might be enticing enough….

Central Railway Pedestrian Tunnel #2

‘Get your copy of the Big Issue’.
[Sees me]
‘C’mon big fella,
We’re looking for a good
second rower…
Just five dollars
All proceeds to help the disadvantaged’.
[Nervous laugh – mine]
Girl to girl, ‘You don’t want too?’
Voice in the air, ‘See ya dude!’
[Exit up the stairs]
Pool of thick, red substance near the bus stop
And two reddened tissues
Could be blood
But seriously looks like the remains of a jam donut
[Second rower? What was he thinking!]

Central Railway Pedestrian Tunnel # 1

Murmur of walking feet
Warm, very warm
‘He’s a great vocalist, but he’s just not pulling his weight’
Two Asian girls standing in a sea of walkers
‘And she’s consulting him
Two nuns, one speaking, Canadian, flourish of the arm
‘It’s good karma’
Young, white, with long dark hair, and not a clue about Hinduism
Cool near the end of the tunnel
Murmur of walking feet

Speechless of late

I know I’ve been speechless of late
Without utterance
It’s what happens when your ears are full
Your mouth is empty
And your heart is silence overflowing

I still see things and wonder and create
Small chains of ideas
But the energy to bother has been cruelled
Slipping through cracks
And running down the dirty city gutter

It occurred to me as a small example –
Our life addiction
How we settle for many impoverishings
Because we at least
Are alive to breath and remember

Or to notice the man with maddened hair
Dark tanned cracked face
Sitting on a shady step on hot King St
Counting his coins
Black eyes catch mine before we separate

Or to feel tears swell when crackly speakers
Come to life and bid
Us all stand and silently remember
I saw just a boy’s name
And recalled the worth of two quiet minutes

Here’s to all the dreamers and lovers and stealers
For the ‘sparks soul’
Where ‘love is the only art’; so mention
It again to yourself
And open wide your flailing utterance

Walking at the precise speed of menace

We were all just waiting for the bus, of no great stature or intent. He came prowling down the footpath, walking at the precise speed of menace and power. Black shoes and trousers, dark brown leather jacket and impenetrable sunglasses. Tanned face and pony-tail, probably taut muscles beneath his impeccable attire. He put the cigarette to his mouth with his fingers making a crooked V across his lip, and paused, as if the whole world depended on his inhaling. He stalked through the bus mortals, studiously ignoring our existence, not even props on his stage. The bus arrived and I clambered on board, watching him appreciate his reflection in the window. As the 438 pulled away, I caught a glimpse of him turn sharply and shout. Despite his glory, he’d missed the bus.

‘Are you there yet?’

She only asked if she could go home once, and was quickly distracted by a passing motorbike.

‘Are you there yet,’ she asked often, as if her presence was barely of note.

A song came on, and I sang along quietly, ‘better than a hallelujah’. A stillness joined us, and a deeper Presence.

‘You’re a champion I said,’ when we arrived. And her smile of acceptance was worth the journey.

Suffer into Freshness

I wrote this poem on my phone, hence the short lines and meter. Clearly some angst on this particular day…

Suffer into Freshness

Is there a faith that is safe
From fading vacuous jargon
And well-intentioned simpletons
Who trample through the garden?

The further I remove myself
From religious ways of thinking
The more I notice emptiness
And sentiment that’s sinking.

Is this a sign of my decline
Into a heart that’s hardened?
Or a clearing of my sight
To metamorphing pardon.Read More »

Kill the church but go easy on the gurus…

As a wobbly sounding plane flies over head through the cloud and light rain of an early Leichhardt morning, I consider another staple of inner west life, the Inner West Courier.

It has thrown up a spiritual conundrum, a coded message of religious reality in our time. Actually, it’s just demonstrating the bleeding obvious…

On page 12 of the August 31 edition, a story celebrates the awarding of the Australian Writers Guild Kit Denton Fellowship Award to Petersham resident George Casti for his script I Want to be Slim.

Great, I think. Good to see some local talent being rewarded and $30,000 can make all the difference as a writer seeks to stave off poverty and establish their craft.

I read on to see what his script is about: ‘…award judged on courage and excellence… Catsi’s “anti-Hillsong” script won… religion is a very polarised area… satirical script is about the Rev Slim Limits and his performance in getting the masses to follow his evangelical ways.’

Mmm, so George gets $30,000 to perfect his script, poking fun, in a courageous and excellent way, at a section of society that, obviously, it is perfectly appropriate to ridicule. The Courier report is matter-of-fact, as if we shouldn’t be surprised that a local church is award-winning, satire material.Read More »

Utterance passes 10,000 visits this year

Oh, I just noticed Utterance has clocked over 10,000 visits. Nice. It all started with a New Year’s Resolution to blog every day, something I haven’t managed to do, but almost.

My best effort was seven posts in one day, including three audio posts via mobile phone, all while participating in the 14km City to Surf. Have you ever tried to jog and type on Nokia E71 keyboard…

Anyway, we have a way to go in the year and lately I’ve been thinking of a little book of Utterance, maybe available around Christmas time. Some of the best of Utterance in a nice little real-book package… What do you think?

And some Utterance trivia, I posted a story about Masterchef and the seven deadly sins back in July and it continues to be one of my most popular postings. To date, more than 350 people have visited it directly, many in the past couple of weeks. Is it a fascination with Masterchef or sin? Not sure… If you missed it, check it out.

Masterchef’s seven sins; God’s endless forgiveness

Relentless, restless reading confessions

People with blogs often tell other people, with or without blogs, about what they are reading. This may be to come across as a clever, readerish type or out of a genuine attempt to stimulate reading and discussion.

In my case I’m going to tell you what I’ve been reading because the litter of books next to my bed could be ignored no longer. I suddenly noticed it one day and thought, mmmm.

Anyway, here’s what I’m reading and feel free to use the comment facility with this post to inflict on me what you are reading. No, seriously, I’m generally interested! By the way, this reading does not include the portions of novels I am required to read for the publishing and editing courses I am doing which so far has included Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, James Bradley’s The Resurrectionist and Brett Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park (and that’s just the first week…). And then there is the constant noting of books other people are recommending in my lectures so that I now have a list of about 37 books that simply must be read…

But back to the leaf-litter around my bed:

Read More »

Gretel, Gillard and ‘god’ in an age of convenient Christianity

Gretel Killeen is now a columnist for The Sun-Herald and, I believe, we did the same communications degree too long ago to remember. Known to most as the host of Big Brother for many years, she is actually an acclaimed author in various genres and did time as a stand up comic.

She counts her most important achievement as being a single mother to her two children and apparently believes in a small ‘g’ god, whatever that means.

Gretel made a fairly intelligent contribution in Sunday’s column to the commentary on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s declaration of non-faith:

‘And despite the fact I do believe in a god, I’d like to give praise… to Prime Minister Julia Gillard for declaring her atheism last week. In a hypocritical world, it’s not uncommon for allegedly God-fearing politicians to treat the Ten Commandments as though they were a smorgasbord rather than a set meal, choosing their own custom-made combinations to both impress others and serve themselves. It’s therefore thrilling in this age of convenient Christianity to hear someone tell the truth on an issue that could actually lose them votes.’

If she was seen wearing sackcloth and ash and saying some of those things, especially ‘Ten Commandments as… smorgasbord’ and ‘impress others and serve themselves’ we might easily mistake her for Joan the Baptist.

It is possible (and not mutually exclusive) to respect the honesty of a Prime Minister and the measure of faith of a newspaper columnist while still earnestly praying that they would both encounter the living Jesus. PH

God purposefully stringing me along

God had me on a string today, I thought. Everywhere I went, seemingly by chance, I met people, seemingly on purpose. I arrived at Lunch just in time for the Young Woman to ask me about her mental health. ‘I don’t want to be kicked out on the streets or get locked up. How do I seem to you?’ My answer was sweet and sour like the steaming bowl of food before me. ‘You have been more unwell than this but you were right to say the best thing is to see your doctor as you are not quite yourself.’ She was reassured and I left Lunch just in time to see the Old Woman exit the building opposite, heading for the bus. I walked up beside her and gave her the gift that was tucked away in my bag. She kissed me with delight and yelled thank you as we parted. After eight kilometres walking with Tall Boy in misty rain around Blackwattle Bay, I considered my next move and headed for a hair cut. Crossing the road I saw the Owner, who I had just been thinking off. He spotted me and came over with friendly smile and clipped accent. We chatted and he offered me a job and I said for us both, ‘It’s in God’s hands.’ Young Man appeared as we continued talking in the street, also heading for a haircut, which he beat me too. It has been some time and at least we locked eyes and I was able to find him in the barber’s seat and grip his shoulders. The Iranian was all smiles and curls and pleased to see me. I said I would return tomorrow and headed for the bus. Waiting at the lights before the River of Traffic, I spotted the Older Man, on the other side. We waved across the rapidly moving, and I let my green man go as Older Man crossed over. We shook hands, and affirmed friendship and there was more deep eye contact, much-needed assurance. As we spoke, Woman Carrying Box appeared next to us and so as the green man appeared again, we farewelled Older Man, and I switched conversations once more. ‘Growing in confidence’ I thought, as we talked at the bus stop, with women looking on it seemed. She asked a question or two and the red 10 arrived to deliver me from the enjoyable relay-conversation in which I had just featured, all on a city corner. Later, having left Something, I was driving back when I missed Someone’s call. I was not surprised (considering the day) upon reaching my destination to see him parking too, as if we’d planed a rendezvous. We talked in hushed tones and found the Walker sitting cross-legged on the floor, but that is one story too many. As I prepared to leave, having intended to ‘slip under the radar’, Woman of Art arrived but I left with a wave, thinking that if this piece of string continued, I would never get home. But I did.

What drives you – plot, character or both?

In literature, stories are said to be either plot-driven or character driven, but what about life?

Some novels are all about the plot – the unfolding of action and drama – while the development of character is less important. A Matthew Reilly novel would be an example – we don’t really need to know his characters other than have a vague sympathy or antipathy for them, as long as something blows up every few paragraphs.

Some novels are character driven – the characters are highly developed and the plot flows out of who they are. Jane Austen meticulously crafts her characters and we watch and see how they negotiate the life that unfolds from the authentic decisions they make.

Of course no story can be one or the other – plot requires people and unless we replace them with plankton, some degree of characterisation is required. People do things and have pleasures and problems and so a plot will develop. If all we had were just endless descriptions of people, we might prefer they were plankton.

For me it is the issue of starting point, of emphasis. One emphasises things happening more than the people to whom they happen. The other wants us to see inside people more fully as things happen.

I can’t help but draw a line to real life, our lives. Is our life more about plot – what’s happening next – or more about character – who we are as things happen?Read More »

Utterance hits 6000, blogs top 110 million

Today Utterance ticked over 6001 hits, after my somewhat reckless New Year’s resolution to attempt to post every day.

Like most bloggers, once I got into the habit of regularly recording my thoughts for the benefit (or otherwise) of others, the issue becomes having too many things to say, and not enough time.

It’s interesting to consider that there are more than 110 million blogs in the world today but blogging only began in 1994, with one of the very first being  by Chicago-born Justin Hall, sometimes described as ‘the founding father of personal blogging.’ That’s some growth rate…

At the same time as blogging had its meteoric growth, the genre of creative non-fiction also increased rapidly in popularity and today is one of the most successful forms of literature.

Creative non-fiction is the presenting of substance in a literary style, or applying the technique of story to facts.

We all know instinctively that people love to tell and hear stories much more than be confronted with flat slabs of information. (How often have you found yourself re-telling a true-life illustration a preacher gave in a sermon, and not recalling much else?)

The idea is not new of course and the Gospel writers, if not inventing the genre, certainly perfected it as they told the factual story of Jesus’ life in a way that continues to compel, thousands of years later.

Would Jesus have blogged? Not likely, he gives his life and his Spirit, something much greater. But Matthew, Mark, Luke and John almost certainly would have been bloggers. Hopefully I do them justice. PH

PS. To celebrate 6000 + hits I’ve introduced a new theme for Utterance – quite a departure from the very neat and today theme I’ve been using. But then again, my life has got rather more loose ends than it had a few months ago, so it’s probably fitting!

How atheism led me to faith…

If several billion God believers can’t dint the unbelief of an atheist, perhaps just one family member’s faith might make the difference.

Christopher Hitchens is famous for his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and is one of the poster boys of the new atheism secular liberalism. He was a special guest of this month’s Sydney Writers Festival as he promoted his memoir Hitch-22.

But while Christopher has been busy debating Christians and even threatening to have the Pope arrested, his brother Peter has rediscovered faith and published The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.

As the Hitchens brothers’ books battle for bookstore ascendency, we see a microcosm of the struggle between belief and unbelief in the world.

While most atheists will cite logic and reason for the reason of their non-belief in God, behind this for many is a personal religious atrocity that has led them from grace. For Christopher Hitchens it may just have been the brutal, even sadistic regime he encountered at a church boarding school from the age of eight.

And while brother Peter went through his own atheistic ‘revelation’ it was not to last and his book now attacks the blind spots and flaws of atheistic argument.

There is no doubt much more to run in the story of these two men’s lives, and it is a reminder that wherever darkness seems to flourish, a resilient light is close at hand. Pray for Christopher and Peter Hitchens, that both would find themselves beneath the grace of God as they play a part on the world stage.

An excellent article on the belief and unbelief of the Hitchens brothers appears in the Fairfax media today . It is written by Simon Smart, the head of research and communications at the Centre for Public Christianity. PH

Dear CheapBranded, thanks for your caring email…

My computer makes a doorbell sound, ‘ding-dong’, that used to be associated with Avon calling but is now better known as Windows default for a new email.

A shadowy preview of the new message appears in the lower right of my laptop screen and tells me it is from someone called ‘CheapBrandedViagra’.

(Just mentioning the word Viagra in my blog will send the spam protection software for this site into overdrive, such is the inter-connectedness – euphemism for lack of privacy – on the internet.)

A train of thought begins, thanks to my new friend CheapBranded, and I wonder if many of us realise how often we turn to the latest email, Facebook status, Twitter tweet or blog comment to fill deep emotional needs and stave of dreariness.

If our dearest friends are those who connect with us electronically, I have an amazing friend in CheapBranded as he has shown incredible determination to bypass not only my own spam protection, but that of my internet provider.

(I thought you should know I have worked with great commitment to avoid any unfortunate Viagra puns in this posting…)

But wait, perhaps CheapBranded is just that, not a caring friend who searched me out today with a loving email as my life faces precipitous change, but a cheap charlatan hoping to profit by pushing his brand at some perceived need.

Read More »