Have pencil cup(s) and ready for NaNoWriMo. Well, sort of

How bad can it be?

I mean I don’t have an outline, characters to last through a book or a proper plot. But, once I sit down to write, magic happens.

What I have though… is pencil cup(s).

Here’s one…

pencil cup

This pencil cup is from New Zealand and a gift from my husband. I just love the koru (monkey tail) so much, I get presents like this all the time. I also have koru photos on my wall.

For those of you who do not know what a koru is… Koru is New Zealand’s most enduring art form. It represents renewal of life, energy and new beginning. It’s also seen in the fern and breaking wave. I think it’s very appropriate in this case, don’t you think?

The other NaNoWriMo related gift is something that I bought for myself and it’s such a surprise that my gift to myself arrived a day before NaNoWriMo starts. And that is…

pencil cup

… another pencil cup! I saw this on Amazon and bought it like 10 days ago. Some call it Hemingway pencil cup. I absolutely LOVED it when I saw it online. It was love at first sight.

Today, I cleaned my desk, pulled out my minuscule outline of sort, printed out my NaNoWriMo word count calendar (as seen in the photo below), ordered my Xmas cards, Dad’s desk calendar and my 2018 personalised diary, tidied up my notes and watered my desk plant (just in case I forget for like a month, or something). All I need right now is: direction in my writing.

pencil cup

My Scrivener is ready. Thank God, I’m an advanced Scrivener user. That on it’s own makes things (I mean, writing) a lot easier. Things were very easy for the first time around because of Scrivener. God bless its binders.

For this new story, though, I’m still looking for some bisexual female people to interview. And painters. Do you know anyone?

I hear Pink Floyd playing downstairs. Dark Side of the Moon. During November, that’s what I’ll be facing. But who cares? I have my pencil cups…

NaNoWriMo 2017: Shitty First Drafts

Shitty first drafts: we owe this technical term(!) shitty first drafts to Anne Lamott. It was mentioned in her book called Bird by Bird. By the way, it is still one of the most recommended books on writing to date.

What are shitty first drafts? How shitty can they get? Do they have to be shitty?

Shitty first drafts are the ultimate raw material. It’s your dumping ground and yes, it is messy. It has to be. It’s the nature of this type of mess in writing. Every writer in the history has written them. No exceptions! That is your starting point. It’s your unpolished turd. When it’s time to polish it, your end product will read differently.

Here, I put together the best advice out there when it comes to writing shitty first drafts…

When you’re writing a first draft, don’t worry if what comes out is any good or not
Like Natalie Goldberg said: “You are free to write the worst junk in the universe.” Give yourself permission to write atrocious first draft.

shitty first drafts

Quality is not concern, quantity is
Because you’re writing a shitty first draft (please refer to the section above for it if you need to: the part that says turd), quality of it is not your concern here but quantity of it is what you need during NaNoWriMo. Learn to pile up that turd.

Don’t judge, don’t analyse, just write
Like Bob Dylan said: “The first thought is the strongest.” The first thoughts are the ones you will need to capture.

When writing, don’t listen to your inner critic
You need to learn to get out of your own way, so that creativity can work through you. Julia Cameron has something to say about that: “Make this a rule: always that remember that your Censor’s negative opinions are not the truth.”

Get through your shitty first draft as quickly as you can
Dump, dump, dump. You don’t have time for anything else.

Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or what you’re wearing when you sit down to write
The rules for morning pages or sex apply to first drafts, too. They are (probably not in that order, specifically):
• Don’t think
• Keep your hand moving
• Lose control
• Be specific

Your shitty first draft will be rewritten anyway
Did you know that Tolstoy made several attempts to write and rewrite War and Peace? Eight times!

Embrace the uncertainty of a shitty first draft
Listen to this:
“Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punch line you’ve forgotten. As someone said, one writes mainly to rewrite, for rewriting and revising are how one’s mind comes to inhabit the material fully.”
Ted Solotaroff

Most of all, enjoy the process. Good luck everyone!

P. S.: While I was writing this piece, I was wearing my NaNoWriMo winner 2015 t-shirt. I thought you might like to know. And, if you’d like to be my buddy on NaNoWriMo website, my user name is agulden.

 

Büyük İnsanlık Kendi Sesinden Şiirler by Nazım Hikmet

I have recently read/listened Nazım Hikmet’s Büyük İnsanlık Kendi Sesinden Şiirler which lead me to write this post.

It’s a poetry book of Nazım Hikmet in Turkish and it comes with a CD. I remember buying it from Turkey during one of my trips.

Nazım Hikmet

There is an interesting story behind the book and its recording. Since you cannot get the book in English, I thought I would write about it for English speaking Nazım Hikmet fans out there. Kathryn Stripling Byer in particular who was one of the judges of Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival in North Carolina.

The CD contains real recording of Nazım’s voice, reading out his own poems. There are two poems in the recording which are new to Nazım’s fans one way or another. One of them has never been published before, neither in Turkish nor in Russian. The other one was published in Russian but not in Turkish.

The Story of the Tape Recording
Nazım Hikmet and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu (another famous Turkish poet) got together in Paris, perhaps in 1961 to record Nazim’s voice, reading out his own poems. At the time, everything about Nazım Hikmet was banned. As a precaution, Eyüboğlu starts reading one of his own poems, Mor (Purple) in the beginning to make it sound like it’s him all the way through, not Nazım Hikmet.

The book and the CD contain fifty-eight poems by Nazım Hikmet. I must admit, his voice is nothing like I expected to a degree that I’m now struggling to match his face to his voice.

Hiding the Recording
Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu constantly changed the hiding place of the recording in his home as the place was raided and searched by the police regularly. Eventually, after Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s death, Mehmet Eyüboğlu (his son) and Hughette Eyüboğlu (daughter-in-law) inherited the reel. However, it was after Mehmet Eyüboğlu’s death, his wife decided that it was time for the recording to be published.

Because the recording was always well hidden, when Hughette Eyüboğlu finally decided that it was time to hand it over to Eyüboğlu’s publisher (İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları), it took her a week to locate it within the house. She was also looking for something else: Nazım’s portrait done by his mother, Cemile. Nazım had given it to Badri Rahmi Eyüboğlu years ago (see photo below). Now, it’s in the inner cover of this book, protecting the CD.

Nazım Hikmet

Copyright Issues
After the famous ‘Nazım Hikmet’ ban was lifted, all of his poetry was published by Yapı Kredi Yayınları. On the other hand, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s publisher was İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları. Since there are poems in the book which have been published before, you would expect some copyright issues here, wouldn’t you? However, through a unique collaboration between the heirs and the publishers, it wasn’t a problem. Everyone seemed to have focused on getting the book out unconditionally. And for that reason, the book has two publishers.

Nazım Hikmet may not have been able to return to Turkey or even burried there but because of this unique book/CD, at least his voice returned to his beloved country. It just took some fifty years, that’s all.

After NaNoWriMo 2016 (National Novel Writing Month)

NaNoWriMo 2016

On November 30, I typed in ‘The End’ and finished my new novel; Bonded in Heaven as part of NaNoWriMo 2016. We celebrated with a bottle of vintage Morton.

This year, I wasn’t well prepared—just a very big research on each character and their countries, that’s all. And yet, I managed to write 60,433 words in 30 days. Well, two of those words are ‘the end’ of course and you might like to subtract them from the total word count. But if you do, I name one of my nasty characters in my next book and kill you!

Last year, I hit 50,000 words benchmark pretty much around the same time as I did this year but the story wasn’t finished. I stopped writing. I thought I would go back and finish the manuscript during January. I didn’t. Once I was out of dangerous waters and swam to safety, I simply wanted to stay there. On top of that, I had no idea about tying up the lose ends and conclude the story. The idea of the right series of events to match the ending I had planned came to me very recently. It’s scribbled on a tiny piece of paper, waiting to be inserted into the novel now. I promised myself not to make the same mistake with my second book. So, I now have a finished shitty first draft.

Even though I wasn’t at all prepared for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I had cleared my schedule properly; I cancelled my singing lessons, didn’t go out much, didn’t even shave (much), got groceries and everything else (sometimes even meals) delivered, Olly didn’t get a bath and remained in his ‘skunk’ state till the end of NaNoWriMo 2016.

The topic of Bonded in heaven was an incredibly difficult one to write. It is the kind that makes my blood boil, shreds my insides and turn them out to expose to the outside world. On top of that, I killed six ‘darlings’ in my novel while I was carrying their load all the way through November. I lived with those imaginary people who became very real for me in the end. Actually, each one is based on a true story. It was pretty hard going, Peoples.

NaNoWriMo 2016

Now that I finished my shitty first draft, I can shelve the manuscript for at least 6 weeks before I go back and edit and rewrite (you know how it works). In the meantime, I need to shave, give Olly a bath, clean the house, book a hair appointment, mail Xmas cards and put the tree up or even order my NaNoWriMo winner t-shirt. While I’m doing all of that, I will also be visiting my last year’s manuscript and finally finish it. Promise.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Exhibition

Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to see Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition at Art Gallery of New South Wales (the exhibition catalogue above). I have always been fascinated by Frida Kahlo’s work as well as her relationship to Diego Rivera. This was a rare chance to see masterpieces from them both.

The exhibition presents 33 artworks from the renowned collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman, including Natasha Gelman’s portraits done by Diego Rivera. Alongside Kahlo’s self-portrait paintings, drawings and major examples of Diego Rivera’s canvas paintings are over 50 photographs, some videos and their letters. Here I have some of my favourite photos from the exhibition but you can view the other ones on my photo blog.

The only artist in the history of art who tore open her chest and heart to reveal the biological truth of her feelings.
Diego

Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera

Diego on my mind (Self-portrait as Tehuana) 1943

Diego was everything; my child, my lover, my universe.
Frida

Frida Kahlo Diego RiveraSelf-portrait with braid 1941 (above)
Frida Kahlo painted Self-portrait with braid shortly after she married Diego Rivera in 1940. She portrays herself covered only by a grapevine, a symbol associated with the Roman god Bacchus and often used by the artist to symbolise everlasting love. The Fantastic braid references a hairstyle worn by young women from the Chinantla region of Oaxaca. Kahlo’s exaggerated version is fashioned into the shape of a lemniscate, the symbol for infinity.

To be an artist, one must… never shirk from the truth as he understands it, never withdraw from life.
Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera

Self-portrait with monkeys 1943 oil on canvas (above)
In 1943 Frida Kahlo was appointed professor at the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking. For Kahlo, who had not received any formal art education, this was an exceptionally high honour. In Self-portrait with monkeys the viewer is caught in a stare that is at once proud and all too aware of the irony of her appointment. Her white blouse, a traditional outfit worn by Yalalag women of her mother’s native Oaxaca province, is fastened with tassle of a doctoral cap. This painting is also arguably the earliest manifestation of ‘Fridamania’, with the four adoring monkeys representing a group of students who so admired their teacher that they became known as ‘Los Fridos’.

They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo Diego RiveraCalla lily vendor by Diego Rivera 1943 (above)

I guess I’m not done yet with the exhibition. Thinking of going back during the week perhaps but definitely after I’ve read the catalogue.

Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera

Author Sightings: Rayya Elias at UWRF

October 4 2014 at The Salon in Ubud, Bali

The first time I met Rayya Elias was the time she came to Sydney with her best friend: Elizabeth Gilbert. She was part of Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things talk.

As I talked about it in one of my previous posts; I didn’t know that she was going to be there. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about her, let alone her memoir: Harley Loco. I made this little gift for Elizabeth Gilbert, at the time. It was a little hand-made pouch with beads from Turkey, hiding a personal note in it. If I had known that Rayya Elias was going to be there, I would have made one for her, too! Because I hate favouritism, I felt awful for having made something for one and not for the other.

Well, I recovered the situation in style when I went to see Rayya Elias seven months after the first encounter. It was a literary event organised by Ubud Writers’ and Readers Festival. Here’s how the event was advertised:

 

Enter the festival’s den of iniquity where stories of rock stars, drug addicts and inept gangsters will be served along with a healthy dose of Mozaic’s addictive martinis and canapes. Liam Pieper, Kate Holden, Rayya Elias, Carlos Andres Gomez and Skid More will spill the adults-only, behind-closed-doors stories that we all want to hear.

 

Rayya Elias

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival catalogue

So, I made up my mind: this time, I was going to attend the event for Rayya Elias and be fully prepared, too. First of all, I bought my ticket to Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Second, I made the exact same gift for her–with her own personal note in it. Third, I bought the Kindle version of Harley Loco and read it. And lastly, just before I travelled to Bali, I purchased an American First edition of Harley Loco for Rayya Elias to sign.

I guess, it is safe to say that I really was prepared, isn’t it?

The program started with Skid More’s introduction but it was a very short one because she was to attend another event. So, she didn’t have much time. After this quick introduction, each one of the authors took the stage and told us adult-only stories while Mozaic’s sporadic yet delicious cocktails and canapes were being served.

Here, Rayya Elias is playing one of her songs for us.

After the talks, stories, poetry and in Rayya’s case; playing the guitar and singing, I approached her and introduced myself. To my surprise, she remembered me from Sydney! I presented the little gift which I made for her. We chatted for a while and I asked her she would be kind enough to sign my book. She took one look at it and exclaimed: “American first edition!” I told her that I was a collector. After signing my book, she gave me one big, warm hug.

Rayya Elias

Here’s my personal copy of Harley Loco signed by Rayya Elias. I had to reorganise the whole shelf after I came home. This one is placed right next to Elizabeth Gilbert’s signed books I own. I just didn’t want to separate best friends.

Who was who at The Salon
Rayya Elias – USA
Rayya Elias’ debut is Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post Punk from the Middle East to Lower East Side. It charts growing up in Syria, trying to find herself in Detroit, and getting lost in New York’s underground music and drug scene of the 1980s.

Liam Pieper – Australia
According to Liam’s grandmother, he is “My grandson who writes for the internet.” His 2014 memoir, The Feelgood Hit of the Year, follows his journey from starry-eyed flower child to inept gangster. He is co-recipient of the 2014 M Literary Residency.

Kate Holden – Australia
Kate Holden is the author of the memoirs In My Skin and The Romantic. She publishes short stories, teaches writing and contributes literary criticism and features for the major papers and journals.

Carlos Andres Gomez – USA
Carlos Andres Gomez is an award-winning writer and performer from New York who starred in HBO’s Def Poetry and Spike Lee’s Inside Man. He is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir: Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood.

Skid More – Canada
Skid More worked as an art critic, columnist and alternative press editor before devoting herself to writing and performance. She has performed widely in Canada and beyond and recent works include the newly founded Bali Gong Show.