2012 Mardi Gras Short Story Competition – The Interview

Tuesday 6 March 2012

So here’s my other entry in this year’s competition. I’m honest about my work and always knew this wasn’t a strong story – more an excuse to do some very silly jokes – so I was pleasantly surprised it was included in the finals. I thought at the best Highly Commended, and that’s all it got, but I was shocked when. on the day, the other – and I think superior – story was called out for reading first. “Uncle Anthy” is a far better story and – in my opinion – should have placed.

The judges did say that one of the great thing about the competition was the diversity of adaptions to the theme, referring particularly to how my two entries represented that. One of my stories is a serious reminiscence of a respected family member, the other an excuse to do jokes about super heroes and capes. Both, I hope you agree, address the brief being a story based on the theme of “Heroes”. 

I should say that when writing this I kept thinking back to the Playboy mags buried in the back of my Dad’s cupboard (and, to save us some trouble, anyone who’s dad didn’t have Playboys or equivalent buried in the back of his cupboard is a loser) where the “Readers Write” section always began “I’ve read about this sort of thing in your magazine but I never thought it would happen to me.” Deep down, guiltily, I thought my story read a bit like that: a male fantasy about women getting it together.

(Actually, reading that back, to any troubled kids out there, please know that reading your dad’s girly magazines is an OK thing. I used to fantasise about the guy’s cocks. Just remember you’re with friends.)

Talking to the judges afterwards, they told me they had argued over whether this was written by a man or a woman. Both my stories this year were from a woman’s perspective and, to my delight, both were considered stories written by women. Apparently they have this thing about making sure both sexes are represented equally in the awards… it’s sort of nice to fuck with their minds. 

On another note, my Cambridge Satchel as arrived and it is BEAUTIFUL. Negative prize money well worth spent (and it’s a far richer red than photos suggest).

batchel

Enjoy the story.

The Interview

“So,” the first says biting the lid of her pen, “shall we begin?”

The second nods.

“Right then. An orphanage is on fire. A person is seen running away. What do you do?”

The second smiles and takes a deep breath. “I’m so glad you asked me this. This is a situation I’m very familiar with and one where I always follow the golden rule: Orphans First.” The first smiles and begins to scribble on her notebook.

The second continues. “Unfortunately, I’m not blessed with super human strength like some of my … fellow colleagues, but I’ve got something that they don’t have – brains. First thing, ring the fire brigade; sometimes the most sensible option is the most appropriate solution. In addition…” She straightens the pleats of her mini skirt while she collects her thoughts. “In addition, I’d look for a way in to start getting those orphans out. A door’s a good option, even a window. Sometimes a blast has knocked out a wall. Whatever the method I get myself in.”

The first looks up from her notes. “Aren’t you concerned for your own safety?”

The second lifts up a corner of her cape. “See this? Double Spandex coated synthetic vermiculite triple interwoven fibre, this is. It’s great, picked it up on eBay. The flames can be licking at me and I don’t even break a sweat.”

The first pauses in her note taking. “Licking at you, you say?”

The second leans forward in her seat, tilting her head slightly without releasing the first’s gaze. “Without even breaking a sweat.

The first absentmindedly runs her fingers through her auburn tresses. After a moment she drops her glance and focuses back on her notebook. “You’re forgetting something, the person running away.”

The second shrugs. “I leave him –”

“What makes you think it’s a man?” interrupts the first.

“It’s always a man,” the second answers simply.

The first stares back. “Go on.”

The second takes a deep breath before commencing again. “Well, regarding the person running away, I leave him to my superior to deal with. I see this position not so much as sidekick, but as executive assistant.” She gestures towards the first. “It’s your job to catch the baddies, it’s my job to make sure that nothing interferes with you doing yours.”

She smiles at the first and waits patiently. Finally the first says, “That’s an interesting choice of word: superior.”

The second blushes and looks away. “I use the word in its adjectival sense.”

“You think I’m superior?” asks the first, a slight raise of her eyebrow and slight tweak of her lip. “To whom?”

The second gives a little laugh before looking back at the first. “To everyone.

“Oh,” says the first. “I see.” She closes her notebook and sits nibbling unconsciously on her pen. Eventually she continues, “I must say that cape really does suit you.”

The second smiles. “You like?”

“The cut, it’s… becoming.”

The second blushes again. “Thanks. I wasn’t sure about the dress though, thought it might have been a bit tight. What do you think?”

“Oh no, no,” says the first, pressing her teeth down harder on the pen. “It takes someone who’s very sure of themselves to wear Spandex, and I’m sure you’re very sure of yourself.”

The second frowns. “Is that a problem?

“No, says the first throwing down the pen, “far from it.”

The first lets out a sigh and stretches her back cat-like in her chair. She pushes the chair back and stands. “Well, that’s that then.”

“Are we finished?” asks the second, a little concerned, as she stands to greet the first.

“Far from it,” replies the first, “We’ve only just begun.” She takes the second’s hand. “Congratulations. You’re just the ward I’m looking for.”


2012 Mardi Gras Short Story Competition – Uncle Anthy

Monday 27 February 2012

My second year in entering, two stories submitted and two finalist places. Ninety-eight entries and my two make it into the top nine – that’s pretty good. Unfortunately (it was going so well) I again only managed to make the Highly Commendeds – two out of the three. I will be very honest and say I was very disappointed and a tad upset by this, especially as I felt one of my stories was better than two that placed. To be extra painfully honest I had already spent some of the prize money… DAMN YOU CAMBRIDGE SATCHEL COMPANY!

This year, the task was to write on the theme “Heroes”  in no more than 750 words. Another great and flexible topic, and it was a conversation with The Lovely Benson, when he said a hero could be anything from a superhero to a favourite uncle, that set the trigger in motion for the following story. People always talk about where artists (of any media) get their ideas… I woke one morning and – BAM! – wrote this out pretty much finished. It had a different ending and a few extra bits here and there, but it was pretty much complete. 

Also, I’ve been asked, and this story is no way autobiographical. However, the backyard is the one from my childhood home; I loved that trampoline. 

You can download a PDF booklet of all the winners at the gay-ebooks website here, but please enjoy below my story. I’ll post the second in a day or two. And, as always, for those participating, oh bugger it for everyone, Happy Mardi Gras.

Uncle Anthy

Mum had a brother a few years older than her. Nan said Anthony and Mum were inseparable, the best of friends, fixing her bike, fighting her battles. Once Anthony came home with two teeth missing and his t-shirt splattered with blood – some kid had said something mean to Mum and Anthony went at him. Nan said Anthony always had a big smile but that day it was twice as big and somehow even wider with that great gap in the middle. Lucky they were baby teeth, but he went about with that damaged smile for a year. Still, Anthony was as proud as punch, Nan said, and Mum was in awe of her brother.

I don’t have clear memories of Anthony. He’d moved to Sydney pretty much as soon as able and left the family behind in Dubbo to do whatever it is country folk do.  But I do remember that he always brought me a present – he once gave me a snowdome containing the Sydney Opera House, which made me think Sydney must be a magical place – and that I could never say his name properly. There were too many letters you see, so the best I could manage was Anthy. Uncle Anthy he was, and I was his Little Stace.

One Christmas, I must have been ten or eleven, Uncle Anthy arrived like he always did, bursting through the door, his arms chocked with presents for all us kids. That was the year that right in the middle of lunch Anthy let out a huge huff that stopped all conversation, picked up his plate and came and sat at the kids’ table. He plonked his plate next to mine, pulled over Mum’s tapestry footstool, sat himself down, and then continued eating as if nothing had happened. The adults watched frozen like overstuffed greasy dolls, but eventually the spell broke and they went back to their bickerings, and I whispered to Uncle Anthy why he was now sitting here. “You know what Stace,” he said, “that bunch over there are really boring. This table looks like much more fun.” He smiled as wide as the paper plates we where eating from, squinting his eyes to make room for all that grin, and I looked at my brothers and cousins. We all had the same expression: we were The Cool Table.

That evening Uncle Anthy gathered the adults into the living room and us kids were sent outside. After a while we could hear yelling. Not long after that Aunty Nance and Uncle Rob came out to collect their kids. “Come on, we’re leaving,” said Uncle Rob. “But Daaaaad,” whined my cousin Graham. “Now!” yelled back Rob. Soon all the others disappeared in similar fashion leaving just me and my brothers behind. We sat on the trampoline and didn’t say a word.

Eventually it got dark, and us hungry or tired or both, so we tiptoed back inside. Dad and Pop were in front of the television. Nan had gone to bed. Mum was sitting at the kitchen table, just sitting there. When she saw us she wiped her eyes. “You kids must be starving,” and she busied herself making up plates of leftovers. “Where’s Uncle Anthy?” I asked. “He had to go,” Mum said after the littlest of hesitations. “When’s he coming back?”

But he wasn’t coming back. That was the last Christmas – the last time – Uncle Anthy ever came. I would ask: When’s Uncle Anthy coming to visit?… Perhaps I could ring him like I used to?… Perhaps we can go see him?… but the requests were always met the same. Dad would get angry and Mum always ended up crying. Soon I learnt it was best not to mention Uncle Anthy at all, so his name and memory faded away.

On the day that Australia turned 200 I turned 18, and a month later I made my own trip to Sydney where I was lucky to snare a shared flat in Randwick just around the corner from uni. The first thing I did was grab the L-Z and look up the name Anthony Marshall. There were five A Marshalls, but Uncle Anthy was none of them. Perhaps he has an unlisted number, I consoled myself, perhaps he doesn’t have a phone?

The second thing I did was place that Sydney Opera House snowdome on my windowsill.


A poem for Scott

Thursday 12 May 2011

Scott's new vase

My dear friend Scott once bought a jug,
A tiny thing from history.
The salesmen thought him quite the mug:
Such fuss for some old pottery!

Scott paid the bill and pock’d the prize
(All carefully wrapped in cellophane)
Then told the man, to his surprise,
“Tis priceless piece from Grecian fame.”

The man, his jaw gobsmacked it fell
And echoed round his antique freighter.
Scott thanked the man, then said he’d sell
It back to him on ebay later.



Script Frenzy – Winner!

Monday 2 May 2011

If you’ve been reading during the last month you might have wondered what all this “Script Frenzy” stuff is about, but, then again, you probably weren’t as you were too busy making little bunnies

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. It’s like NaNoWriMo (where your write a 50,000 novel in the month of November, an event I failed dismally when I first attempted) but you write a script instead. The counting system differs as while a novel writer could use a gamut of fonts or spacing sizes, meaning their 50,000 word novel could fill an unknowable number of pages, script writing is very precise and governed by formatting rules. How I’ve dumped my writing scraps sort of mimics the layout, but only just. The notion is that in true script formatting one page of script is equal to one minute of screen time, so a 100 page script is 100 minutes, the average length of most films.

Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages wins, and – yay me! – I wrote 115 pages during the month. (Click on the icon on the right for more info on Script Frenzy.)

So what did I win? I win the bragging rights to say I wrote a script in a month. I also won this:

Pretty nifty, hey?

My script (which was also chosen as a 30 Posters, 30 Days entry) is still going. I’m only up to the morning of the Final Battle and, I must admit, am having a bit of trouble trying to work out what happens next. To keep the momentum going I’m sticking with the daily page requirements, writing at least three pages a day, until it’s finished. It might be all rubbish at the end but at least I will have it out of the head and on to the page, and in a few months time I’ll be able to go back and edit the hell out if it.

Ernest Hemingway wrote “The first draft of anything is shit.” Mark Haddon said “Crossing out was the secret of all good writing.” Justice Louis Brandeis remarked “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” And Richard Back noted “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Me, I’m with Winnie-the-Pooh:

For I am a bear of very little brain
and long words bother me.

Hope you keep enjoying.

Clyde


Let’s Make: Little Bunnies!

Saturday 23 April 2011

In one of those walking home bursts of pure inspiration I decided this Easter to give everyone in the office a chocolate egg. Nice gesture you may say, but the inspiring part was I was going to make little bunny covers for them all – Brilliant!

Little Bunnies 9

Here’s how you can make some too.

You will need:

  • scraps of fabric: cottons, polycottons, that sort of thing (I’m using up a pile of gingham I’ve had for ages)
  • light pink 13mm pom poms
  • white 20mm pom poms
  • googly eyes (I’m using 12mm stick ons)
  • black embroidery thread (or a black texta pen such as an Artline 70)

Little Bunnies 1.

You’ll also need the pattern (download here). Finished bunnies are 90mm tall by 70mm wide, big enough to fit over a chook egg. A 5mm seam allowance is included in the pattern, though I used the width of the foot as my guide and even then was pretty slapdash. You may wish to adjust the pattern accordingly. Please note I’ve provided the pattern twice on the sheet – share with a friend!

What to do:

Using the pattern sheet cut out 2 bodies and 2 ears each from your outer and lining fabrics.

(As I’m using scraps of gingham for all pieces I’m just grabbing colours randomly but you may wish to have a particular lining fabric and a more bunny-coloured outer fabric.) 

You will have 4 body pieces and 4 ear pieces for each bunny.

(I mention this as I realised when I started sewing that I’d only cut half the number of pieces I was supposed to and had to go back and cut the rest. This is probably a good time to mention that I bought twice as many bunny noses and tails too. And I topped Maths back at high school…)

Little Bunnies 2

For the body, take an outer and lining piece and sew right sides together (RST) along the short edge. Trim loose threads.

(You may also notice from the photos that I’m using different bobbin and upper thread colours. No reason besides me grabbing whatever I had a lot of. Remember, for me this is a quick project but please take as much as much care as you wish.)

Little Bunnies 3

For the ears, take an outer and lining piece and sew RST, this time along the long arched edge. Trim loose threads. Clip the seam allowance to make it easier to turn RS out, then turn RS out using your fingers to push all the way to the tips of the ears. Lightly press with an iron.

(I must say that the ears are really tedious to do and are far more fiddly than I had originally thought. Still, you get on a roll and they’re soon done. Perhaps try not to do 80 odd ears at a time though.)

Little Bunnies 4

Next, fold each corner of an ear across itself so the unsewn edge of each ear is now a third as wide. Sew along this edge to hold these folds in place. Press lightly.

(Great chance here for a bit of individuality as how tight the angle you fold will then affect how streamlined or floppy each ear is. Don’t bother cutting the threads in between each one – let them flow on to form a bunting of bunny ears.)

Little Bunnies 5

Now, let’s sew it all together. Lay one body piece flat RS facing up, and lay two ears across the top of the outer fabric end, lining the raw ear ends with the raw fabric. You’ll end up crossing the ears something like this:

Little Bunnies 6

(This is another of those wonderful chances to express some uniqueness to your work. the closer the ears are to the top of the body piece, the higher they will be on the final bunny. Enjoy, have fun, play around.)

Top with another body piece, RST and matching the outer ends together and the same with the lining end of the body pieces. Pin all together so that the ears are sandwiched in between. Sew everything together starting at the inner lining end and around, leaving a small gap, about an inch (that’s 25mm) on the round part of the lining end to turn the piece RS out. Once turned inside out, give it a light press.

Now, proper people would whipstitch or ladderstitich or whateverstitch the opening closed. Me, not being proper-like, did a quick running stitch on the old sewing machine. However way you sew up the opening, once you done it, tuck the lining part of the body inside the out part of the body and give another quick press. And that’s pretty much your bunny done.!

Little Bunnies 7

All that’s left is the details. Stick the tail, nose and eyes on.

Little Bunnies 8

One last thing – the whiskers. Now, if I had been more prepared (and wasn’t just a teensy bit over the whole thing) I would have sewed little crosses with the embroidery thread, but considering I have run out of time (and am quite a bit over the whole thing) I’ve drawn little crosses with my trusty Artline 70. Sewing the whiskers would have looked better but, really, I’ve got better things to do!

And that’s that! All you do now is place one over each Easter egg. I used Heritage Fine Chocolate eggs, which claim to be “The Tastiest Chocolate in the World”. Bold claim, but the perfect size for my little bunnies.

Little Bunnies 9

And there you go! Hope this inspires you and please send me a photo if you get a little crazy inspired yourself!

And Happy Easter Nail-a-Man-to-a-Two-by-Four Day Five-Day Piss-Up Long Weekend!

Clyde


Script Frenzy – Scene: Ultimate Bad and the Cookie Jar

Sunday 10 April 2011

EXT. THE QUADRANGLE – DAY

All the trainees are lined up military style. Ultimate Bad is out the front finishing his pep talk.

ULTIMATE BAD

By the end of your training you will be my perfectly trained and able army of lackeys… you’re lucky to be my lackeys, give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve earned it. Feel the love, feel the love. Now, is there any questions?

A THUGGY FELLOW slowly puts up his hand. Ultimate smiles like the cat about to get the cream.

ULTIMATE BAD

Yes? You there!

He waves to Thuggy who moves to the front of the crowd.

ULTIMATE BAD

You have something you wish to say?

Thuggy puffs out his chest.

THUGGY FELLOW

Yeah. What if I don’t want to join your army of lackeys?

A murmur runs through the trainees.

ULTIMATE BAD

You don’t want to be one of my self effacing servants and help me overtake the world?

THUGGY FELLOW

Nah!

Ultimate considers this.

ULTIMATE BAD

Is there anything else?

Thuggy tries his luck.

THUGGY FELLOW

Yeah. I’m hungry.

ULTIMATE BAD

Hungry?

THUGGY FELLOW

Yeah. I haven’t had a bite since you dragged me from that bar.

Ultimate nods to Gormenghast, who clicks his fingers to a SERVANT, who clicks his fingers to ANOTHER SERVANT. This happens down the line till from the main building saunters a RAVISHING SLAVE GIRL carrying an ordinary cookie jar as if it was a Ming vase.

The Slave Girl passes the jar to Gormenghast who delivers it to Ultimate.

ULTIMATE BAD

Then perhaps you’ll like …. a cookie?

Another murmur mutters through the crowd. Thuggy looks around him for support but receives none.

He puffs out his chest even further, sets his jaw.

THUGGY FELLOW

(brazen)

Sure. Why not.

He swaggers closer to Ultimate and takes the lid off the jar. He looks into the jar to get his cookie. SWOOSH! A VENOMOUS COBRA springs out and attaches itself to his face.

Thuggy tumbles to the ground and writhes, screaming in pain, until the Snake has finished him off. Thuggy lies there dead, the snake curls itself up on its new kill.

Ultimate addresses the masses.

ULTIMATE BAD

What we have just witnessed there are two very important lessons. One: Never disobey me or I will kill you! And the second: Never takes candy from strangers, didn’t your parents teach you anything?!

Ultimate hands back the jar to Gormenghast.

ULTIMATE BAD

And now, I leave you in the capable hands of my Number Two. Gormenghast, they’re all yours.

Gormenghast salutes his master and Ultimate strides back to the main building.

ULTIMATE BAD

(to Slave Girl)

Come Annabelle. I’m in desperate need of a hard rub down.

Ultimate and the Slave Girl return to the main building.

Gormenghast is still holding the cookie jar. He suddenly feels foolish, so drops the jar and steps away.

GORMENGHAST

Right!


Oh, as you’ve probably heard…

Monday 28 March 2011

I lost my bet.

Happy Hippy