Musings on Spike Jonze’s Her and how technology can set us free

The credits rolled at the end of Spike Jonze’s latest film ‘Her’, a film I had been waiting to see forever (I saw it the day it came out).

I swiftly felt the ramifications of the film ending, as though someone had punched me in the stomach repeatedly and only paused to see my reaction. It seemed like my head was trailing metres behind my body as I exited the cinema.

‘What the hell just happened?’ I said to my cousin as we walked out.

‘I don’t know…I’m confused and not sure if I liked it’ she replied.

But it wasn’t a question of liking it or not. It was a matter of picking my heart up from the floor, peering inside to see if it was broken and then placing it back in its socket, so it could resume pumping blood to the rest of my body. Only I couldn’t articulate that in so many words.

Torn between not knowing how to feel about the main character who, in the trailer appears to be lonely, forlorn and a bit of a loser, thereby eliciting my sympathy, to suddenly seeing him in the feature length film in a whole new way. He’s just another messed up person — your average, emotionally disconnected male. No sympathy really, just empathy.

He’s a real life human. And so seems she, her, the operating system named Samantha.

***

The setting for Spike Jonze’s film is quite out of this world, but so palpable at the same time. Like you could reach out and grab it by the face. The technology was tangible, possible. You could relate to it but you also couldn’t relate to it. You felt on the cusp of something bigger, brighter, more daring.

I wanted to be there in that place.

The tones were warm, full of rich reds. The colour blue was notably absent from the film, to further accentuate that warmth, a real antidote to Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (Sofia is Jonze’s ex-wife).

I know a lot of women who found the whole film slightly jarring. Like my cousin who found the sex scenes weird. And yet most of my male friends seemed to love the film unconditionally, citing it as one of the best they’d ever seen.

My director friend Jeremy Brull wrote:

‘So I think ‘Her’ may be the greatest cinematic love story of all time.’

It’s a weird sort of thing. Does Spike Jonze just get the male concept of a love story. Or does it transcend gender?

At one point Rooney Mara’s character in the film, Theodore’s ex-wife, blurts out sarcastically,

‘You’re dating your computer?’

And later Theodore would say to the voice called Samantha;

‘You’re not a real person’.

I know what it’s like to hear that level of skepticism in someone’s voice. I know what it’s like to love someone who isn’t real, someone who mostly lives within your head. I know what it’s like to become addicted to that fictitious notion, even if it’s in the conventional sense of that person definitely existing in real life, just differently to how you imagined them, and so far removed from you, that the only way you can experience them is through their voice.

It’s a special kind of madness. But I know how powerful that voice can be.

I believe we are capable of understanding and translating these complex human emotions from a distance, from a voice, through words on a screen. And I fear that there are still those who are unable to understand it, or who are afraid of it and how much it makes them feel and it holds us back.

I can’t vouch for the more formalised online dating because I’ve never tried it, but I can tell you that I spent my early teens meeting all kinds of ridiculous crazy characters via the Internet. Most of those resulted in friendships but for many, there was something that transcended friendship. It was a confusing time to be a teenager. We were literally on the cusp of that technological shift.

We knew both worlds. We still do.

A girl I had literally met through the comments on a band’s MySpace page and who I developed a kind of online pen pal friendship with, once flew halfway across the world for me based on that friendship alone. She had no idea if I was even real. She was my modern day internet pen pal. I’ve known her for 8 years and we’re still good friends who hang out (IRL) to this day.

I have other stories too. The photographer we met in New York through Tumblr (still good friends to this day). That guy I met through Twitter who I ended up casually dating for a stint. My most recent boyfriend who I met through Facebook mutual friends. The list goes on.

And of course, my favourite of all the stories — that time my heart leaped into my mouth almost instantaneously for a person who would go on to become one of my closest friends, someone I really did love in the end and all from an accidental, case of mistaken identity on Microsoft’s Messenger. He is like another version of me, my other person, a kind of soul friend, anam cara. Someone I look at and recognise almost instantaneously. That’s a kind of connection that transcends the every day, a kind of lasting rarity you don’t just find or stumble upon in the middle of the street, but one you trip over in a late night chat room.

He was the first person I ran to when I saw the trailer for Her.

‘You’ve gotta see this! It’s like us’.

***

‘But in Her, he’s meant to be all by himself, responding only to a voice, and so the performance is a floating, free form solipsistic dance. It’s not pure solipsism because Samantha exists, but you might be watching a four-year-old talking to an imaginary friend — it’s that inward.’

I had imaginary friends as a child. I was lonely and severely shy to the point of being a mute. I refused to speak to another person I didn’t already know (and even when I knew them I struggled). I couldn’t understand others. I shut myself off from the world and created my own in the forms of characters, stories, scenarios. As an adult, we call this being a ‘writer’, lol.

***

Every now and again a boyfriend will look at me with concern and ask,

‘What’s wrong?’

And I usually respond with a curt ‘nothing’.

‘I can hear it in your voice’ (what can you hear?)

And then they’d ask:

‘Why don’t you love me as much as I love you?’

I’d argue back, somehow trying to make the emotions more apparent. But you can only reproduce so much before you have to admit to yourself that maybe you’re not as capable of showing as much raw, unfiltered emotion as you once believed yourself to be. Or maybe the emotions you used to feel were different, stronger and more powerful.

I wonder if my story is the reverse of Her — if I started off knowing technology’s powerful hold over my emotional landscape and have since struggled with the translation of that to the real world.

I remember as kids how my brother and I used to have profound, existential conversations late at night in our bunk beds. He had wanted so much to teach me. And he used to have these grandiose predictions about future technology that would both scare me and leave me in a state of perpetual awe-filled wonder (some of those predictions have come true but not as fast as he thought they would).

‘When you go to Loreto…’ (I was enrolled from a young age) — ‘…you’ll all have your own computers!’

‘Nooo’ I’d cry out. ‘I want to have typewriters’.

‘Nah Ree, computers are the future! Everyone will have their own laptop one day too! Fuck typewriters’, he’d say.

(We were both right, the hipster version of me eventually got my way with two typewriters that I never use, while the practical, realistic me is typing this on a Mac).

A few people and critics have remarked that Her is a chilling warning about the dangers of technology. That the film is a cautionary tale to put the smartphones down and step away from the computers and connect with people.

And I have to ask – did we watch the same film? And Spike Jonze himself asks that question for real with an irritating interviewer.

Because what if technology quite simply helps us connect with people in a more profound way? Why is that so impossible a thing to believe?

‘The relationship is real enough to make us ask what a relationship is and whether the coming so-called singularity — when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence while humans’ minds will be broadened by machines — will change the way we relate (or don’t) to one another.’

I don’t see the film as a critique of our dependency on technology. I think our boy Spike used film and technology as the medium through which he has chosen to tell a love story that transcends the human experience. It’s as simple and as powerful as that.

Our fear of technology is a paralytic one. It hinders progress, it shames those who look inward and struggle to interact on a day-to-day basis. Sure, it can have a negative impact when used to the excess or when people become addicted. But truthfully, how often is that the case?

Recently at a family gathering, most of the kids were on their phones or iPads. We staged an intervention, forcing everyone to put their devices on a table in the middle of the room and we each took turns going around the room and answering questions about our interests. The Beatles movie was on in the background and we started singing along to the song. Later on my way home, I used Shazam to tag that song and then I listened to it on Youtube, Instagrammed a photo of our hijacked devices and tweeted about the song on Twitter, humming the song all the way home.

And the outcome? I felt more connected to everyone than ever before, and that one moment of indescribable beauty had a kind of prolonged longevity, recorded for the ages, there for us to look back on. It became permanent.

I’ve had at least four previous boyfriends comment that I was addicted to my phone (so pretty much all of them). I’m one of those rare senior social media managers who has been in this industry for too long. So apart from the fact that I’m paid a lot of money to monitor and be responsible for many high profile online communities (sometimes having a second phone to do just that) that close minded attitude always irritated me and still elicits a very frustrated reaction when those concerns are voiced in a condescending manner.

What are they afraid of? That I would pay less attention to them? That something was more important to me for a nanosecond? That this was what my life had become and they’d just have to accept it? That I had made a choice to step away from the old world and catapult myself directly to the new one, with or without them?

And with every dissent from this old, tired, echoed voice, it sort of cemented my own independence and how much I didn’t want to be dragged down by the closed off archaic world. Maybe the definitions and parameters of love have changed and have already evolved into something more, something you can’t back down from or shut out as easily. Perhaps it’s a very real and tangible thing in our lives, existing in a myriad of ways.

And I can assure you that if you haven’t yet experienced it, technology will help you get there.

‘I am smart’ or how I feigned stupidity in order to read books all day

‘Literally my first memory of you is just of a silent curly haired human’

– my best friend

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I was five-years-old when I first decided to speak in public. Up until then, I communicated by way of pulling at people’s clothing. This treatment was reserved for everyone outside of my immediate family, including my extended family. I had a lot of cousins to visit back then and they would take my ignoring them personally. They would try everything to coax me out of my hiding spot to go and play, but I refused.

‘Preeeeettty please, come and play! Pretty please with a cherry on top!’ even going so far as to literally drag me to my nightmare.  ‘Unhand me, Yankees!’ I would say in my head, run away and then proceed to stare at them from a safe distance, as though they were lepers.

I had nothing to say to actual humans because they disinterested me and I did not know how to be myself around them. So I made up friends of my own and they lived in my imagination. These friends were based on things I noticed around me, like a bartender named Moe, possibly born from watching too much of The Simpsons. A likely scenario might entail the following, while hanging out on the patio, leaning on the fence.

‘Another round Moe, it’s been a tough day. Yes beer, you fool. I was expected to speak out loud on two occasions! Make it two beers for every time I had to SPEAK pah’ *spits*.

My kindergarten teacher Miss Cordial (her name sounded like cordial) would say,

‘Sheree you can’t keep tugging at my skirt when you want something, you have to speak up and say, ‘Excuse me Miss Cordial’. Do you understand what I’m telling you?’

I stared blankly at this person, talking to me like I was an idiot and tugged at her skirt again. She made me sit in the corner to think about what I had done. Instead I thought about how ugly her brown skirt was and how badly I wanted to communicate using nothing but the power of my mind.

Due to my assumed ‘muteness’ or extreme shyness, I was relegated to special one-on-one ‘reading classes’. This was a compromise. During a parent-teacher interview, my teacher feigned surprise at hearing my mother speak fluent English.

‘Oh, you speak English?!’

‘Yes, I was born in Australia’

‘Oh it’s just…well we thought you didn’t, because Sheree refuses to speak’

‘She’s just very shy’

‘Yes well perhaps we should run some tests?’

(What happened next is a flurry of angry exchanges, before finally agreeing to the reading classes).

It was assumed that the reason for my non-speaking had something to do with having Lebanese ancestry. This puzzled me, as we spoke English at home and still to this day, 20 years later, my main method of communication with my grandmother is to speak in English with a slightly exaggerated Arabic accent, wild hand gestures and the occasional role-play. Good job, School, with your casual racism. The only reason they suspected a different ancestry was due to a high profiled football player’s nephew also going to that school and them being related to us (that cousin was also in the special classes but I suspect it was because of his physical disability rather than any mental one. GOOD JOB, SCHOOL!)

I remember once in kindergarten, we had to present something to the masses for Show and Tell. I had no possessions of any substance, so I opted to speak of my weekend.  I conquered my speaking fears for this one moment, to speak in the tiniest of whispers:

‘So tell us Sheree, what did you do on the weekend?’

‘I went to see my Sita’

‘Your sister?’

‘No, Sita’

‘Yes your sister’

‘I don’t have a sister’

‘Then what are you saying?’

‘My sita, she’s the mother of my mother’.

‘Oh. That would be a grandmother Sheree’

‘No. She’s not a grandmother, she’s a Sita’.

I assumed everyone knew that Sita meant grandmother, like how everyone knows that Nonna is Italian for Grandmother. But this was 1993 and Aladdin hadn’t come out yet and ‘kebab’ was yet to enter the lexicon, so I was the stupid one, yet again. The only other Lebanese girl in the class disassociated herself from me, the peasant village girl, by way of shrugging.  ‘We say Tayta’, she spat out indifferently.  I stared at her stupid snobby face and whispered, city slicker traitor.

***

To my surprise the special English classes were with a lovely older woman with white hair. Let’s call her the Fairy Book Godmother. She was the mother of a student who volunteered to come in once a week. At first I continued with the not speaking thing but she threw a spanner in the works when she started bringing books and asking me to do the same. She would read to me and I would read back. I was six at this stage and already reading more advanced books. This surprised her. She asked me to spell difficult words and I would do it effortlessly. She trained my memory by asking me to recall the most insignificant of details from books she had read to me weeks ago. She stopped with the lessons at some point and we would just read together. That one day was the highlight of my week and I couldn’t wait to leave normal class for it. My teacher suspected this and began plotting how to get me out of the classes to which she had recommended I do in the first place.

I continued to play dumb so I could stay.

One day the old woman whispered to me,  ‘Don’t tell anyone but I think you’re a tiny little genius!’

I smiled and hugged the doll she had asked me to bring in, which was apparently, as I’ve since discovered, a very creepy faceless rag doll named EC who made dreams come true (ABC kids shows were very creepy back in the day).

The Fairy Book Godmother encouraged me to make friends with the new girl in my class. She loved to read like me and we were both little recluses with no friends. We’d write notes to each other and plot ways to secretly read our books when the teacher wasn’t looking. We’d spend lunchtime in the library, exchanging books. Occasionally an English boy named Benjamin would try to tease us, probably because he knew we were secretly awesome and wanted to hang out with us but we shrugged him away. He often chased us through the library and eventually the librarian kicked him out, possibly physically as they were wont to do in that time.

Rachelle was my only friend apart from the made up ones. She even kept all the notes I used to write her back in the day.

Clearly a gifted writer from the beginning.

Clearly a gifted writer from the beginning.

Maybe the reason I chose to move through the world quietly was because I was surrounded by so much loudness. My uncle lived next door to us in a house with my grandparents. He had an uncontrollable rage and a variety of life threatening conditions, which affected him both physically and mentally, leading to frequent violent outbursts. He was a gargantuan man who couldn’t possibly fathom his own strength. They said it was a rare case of Elephant Man’s Disease, but to me he was always the Big Friendly Giant.

His heart was pure and real and big and he would do anything for us. My brother and I were his favourite niece and nephew; he loudly proclaimed this to his siblings whenever he could. We would play cards and watch football and he’d tell us all the little life secrets he had picked up and we would hang on his every word. He was kind and gentle for the most part, but around other adults he would get frustrated, often snapping and exploding into a frightening and dangerous rage. There was always a fear that someone might get seriously hurt, although it was never his intention and he never let himself lose control while we were there.

You’d find him alone, standing outside his sister’s room, guarding it while she was away in Japan, refusing to let anyone go through her things and yelling at anyone who tried. Sometimes you’d find him quietly weeping, self conscious and scared. He was 27 when he died. My estranged aunty returned for the funeral with my little cousin who didn’t know who her uncle was, and couldn’t understand why I was  now, more than ever, adamantly opposed to speaking.

***

Not long after all of this and two years after the reading classes began, I stopped going to the special lady and went back into an elected silent mourning.

Then came the big bang. I attended a ‘Book Fest’ which consisted of a few local authors signing their children’s books. I was awestruck by the whole affair and instantly began plotting my dream of becoming an author, so I too could sign books at a local fair. I knew I had to stop with the no speaking stuff. There was no time for that now. The Fairy Godmother of Books wasn’t coming back. It was all me now and I was determined to fulfill this dream.

(Another note Rachelle kept confirmed this dream, nay nerdom at the age of 8:  I wrote: ‘I got some stationary from book club! Oh and also I’ve started a special thing that will help me with my writing and will publish my books!’ – BOOKS, plural, good God, no wonder I had no friends.)

I started writing in a journal for my teacher, who would stare at me with suspicion, like she couldn’t quite understand how the girl who had trouble spelling ‘the’ (way ahead of my time with ‘da’), could suddenly start producing tiny works of fiction about toy bears who suffered from loneliness. She’d ask me how I learnt to write like that and I would shrug and point at the books on the shelf, stating that I had read them all and would it kill her to order in some new ones? She smiled and sent a brand new book of poetry to my house. The racist teachers had left the building. In came the literary ones, the ones who taught me words and who would spot me reading in class and say nothing.

One day a thought flew into my head, so I wrote it down in my journal.

Three words: ‘I am smart’.

The Fairy Book Godmother had left the building but her impact did not go unnoticed. She helped me discover the one thing I would go on to love more than anything else in the world. Perhaps the saddest thing is that I cannot for the life of me, remember her name. I can only remember that glorious golden feeling of opening the books and reading the words out loud.

tender is the night

“You will walk differently alone, dear, through a thicker atmosphere, forcing your way through the shadows of chairs, through the dripping smoke of the funnels. You will feel your own reflection sliding along the eyes of those who look at you. You are no longer insulated; but I suppose you must touch life in order to spring from it.” 
―    F. Scott Fitzgerald,    Tender Is the Night

that time I wrote 25,000 words in 19 hours.

They called it the Rabbit Hole writing challenge. I called it the Viet Cong Tunnel of Writing. You can make it sound as fanciful as you like Emerging Writers’ Festival, but we went to war that weekend.

The mission, should you choose to accept it, you crazy mofo, is to write 30,000 words in 22 hours over 3 days. It had to be impossible. I set my brain the task of working out the logistics. It couldn’t be done. But it had to be. People have done this before and that scared me. I just had to sit down and do it.

At the time I was what you might call ‘a struggling writer’, a term that has never been used ever before in the history of anything. I would try to write one page, just a measly little page, of a novel draft and I couldn’t do it without trying to edit the whole thing and then burn it to the ground. So basically by undertaking this challenge, I was coming down from the roof suspended by a cord, dodging imaginary lasers to get to the bottom.

I left work early and rode to the supermarket to stock up on an assortment of energy foods, namely Ovaltines and Kit Kats (have a break? have a Kit Kat? I’LL TAKE ONE MILLION OF THEM). Other procrastination food included stocking up on string cheese, iced coffee, red bull and maybe an apple just to balance it out. I used my bike Clomo as a makeshift shopping trolley.

I was running out of time before the 6pm start and couldn’t complete a last minute manic clean of the house, which upset the obsessive compulsive within. I wasn’t even wearing special writing sweat pants that I could be proud of because I didn’t own any (this has since been rectified). The Tweets and Facebook comments on our collective page were making me anxious. My head was swarming with abandoned tumble weed, knowing that my general brain area was a barren landscape devoid of inspiration. People were talking about the notes they had prepared in advance to help them along. The only notes I had were in the form of a to-do list:

‘BUY OVALTINES. CLEAN HOUSE’.

Check and no check.

When the clock switched to 6pm, the writing commenced. I sat there, paralysed, utterly dumbfounded. I couldn’t get my fingers to move fast enough, if at all. The idea was to post when you reached 1000. I couldn’t even get to 100. What the hell was happening? I never have writer’s block. I might end up writing like a deranged clown but the words are there regardless. On this day the words were not there. I was lost. I ate some Ovaltines. I made myself a tea. I sat back down, closed my eyes,shut out the impending panic attack, breathed in and out and listened to the wise words of child prodigy Laura Marling. She’ll know what to do.

Soon enough, the words began to crawl out, slowly, timidly. I felt how bad and clunky it all sounded, not to mention the atrocious grammar. All my writing habits were slowly annihilated. But I stopped caring at maybe the 550 word mark. I kicked my inner perfectionist out the door in a grand spectacle, maintaining that they were no longer welcome in the chaotic frenzy that had since taken over my body.

I wrote with a carefree abandon, stepping outside of myself to watch in awe as ideas began to form, raw and on their own accord, as though I had minimal control over them. I watched as segments came into their own, knowing that the story existed, it was just a matter of telling it now. When I finished one part, I didn’t go back and edit. I just kept going on the good ship that sailed across a sea of words. Occasionally I would break that rule and go back to read what I had written, surprising myself that it wasn’t all bad. The best part were the nuggets of ideas that formed in the middle of the chaos. I was forced to come up with them to make the space, but they were beautiful in the end.

When I hit 25,000 words before the finish line, knowing I had missed 3 hours in which I could have written perhaps another 4,000 words, my hand was numb, my brain exhausted. The number didn’t matter. I collapsed into a heap on the desk and then walked around in a state of delirium, randomly high fiving anything I could, like the fridge or the pantry door. I giggled and did a little victory dance.

It was not easy to say the least. What surprised me though was how easy it was to put my social life on the back burner. This was the part I expected would be the most difficult. In actual fact,I was happy to have the excuse of prioritising this very important part of my life over the time and money-wasting activities we feel compelled to attend constantly.

I was also overwhelmed by the reaction I received from others. Everyone had an opinion about how incredulous it all was, some wishing they had joined in. It was nice to discover that people were also curious about what I was working on, exclaiming that they couldn’t wait for it to be finished (might be waiting a while there bud).

In the end the only thing that mattered was this: the fact that I did it, that I was writing again and most importantly, that I was ‘writing like a motherfucker’ quote Sugar unquote.

 

NB: I actually wrote this last year but forgot to publish it. I was reminded of it again after stumbling across an event in my calendar that I had completely missed in my feed. It was wonderfully named ‘Aspiring Writers Collective Weekend’ and it is, you guessed it, a 30,000 word challenge, created by a lovely friend of mine named James. Here’s the best part though: this little footnote: PS. Kudos to Sheree (that’s meee) from whom this idea was plagiarised after her participation in the Emerging Writers’ Festival last year.’

Boom. Inspiring the shit out of people since 2012.

enter the golden era of writing…

I started writing this as an email until I realised the year is not 1999 and I have a blog. This is an apt realisation, considering that the topic of the aforementioned email was around revolutionary means of communication.

Enter Medium.

From some of the geniuses that brought you the groundbreaking Blogger and Twitter (that micro thing with the tiny bluebirds which you can read more about here thanks to Sam Twyford-Moore writing so nicely about it and Teju Cole, who is awesome), comes Medium, a wonderful content haven that organises submitted content like text and photos into collections that can be viewed and edited by the public.

‘Medium is elegant and easy’ they said in a blog post, ‘and geared toward those looking for a simple way to post to the Internet without taking on the responsibility of a personal blog brand.’

“Our philosophy is that quality begets quality, so we will grow Medium smartly, ensuring that our platform is valuable to everyone in this increasingly mobile, connected, and noisy world,” said Williams.

Been there, loved that is the perfect example of how they use collections for photos.

And my personal favourite already: Writers on Writing.

***

I haven’t been this impressed with a social medium since I first discovered my French exchange student friend using a site called SkyBlog in 2004. It was a French blogging platform. She put a photo up of me that was quite lovely, so I showed this friend of mine who was much older and who had a crush on me and he left an awkward comment declaring his love for me on the photo and I was all like, noooo, now the French are going to know that an older man likes me and that I was narcisssistic enough to show it to him in the first place, my life is over, what fresh hell is this Internet thing!?!

It was all in French but the message was there: meet the Future.

Often I fall into a Black Hole Vortex of Mindless Meandering on the Internet, I come out of it dazed and confused, annoyed at myself for the inconsequential outcome, mainly of an infinite amount of BuzzFeed animals jumping mid air or studying Ryan Gosling’s face for any signs of other life species.

Since stumbling upon Medium (after reading ‘7 new Social Media you must try in 2013!’ that I undoubtedly discovered while holidaying in the Internet Black Hole Vortex), I feel that I can now jump into the aforementioned Vortex and still come out enlightened, educated, intrigued, surprised, excited and wanting desperately to contribute something, while also recommending things I appreciate to other people worthy of these things. Which is really how the Internet should make you feel.

I am overwhelmed now with the possibilities for me as a writer, in a way that I haven’t felt since seeing my first article published online. Admittedly I felt frustration over the years with online publishing and how ‘easy’ it all seemed. There was always someone behind the screen controlling the narrative, the puppeteer you had to ‘convince’ to publish your work but who would then go on to betray the code by changing your words to the point of them being unrecognisable simply to suit their site’s style and feel and voice. Don’t get me started on the comments section, the internet version of the Angry Villagers Carrying Pitchforks.

I secretly dreaded this world and didn’t want any part of it as a writer, but outwardly pretended I did, for who wouldn’t want to be part of the burgeoning digital content age? The elderly, that’s who. I half heartedly ‘contributed’ to a few pages but I was lazy and apathetic. Starting up my own blog was liberating and an antidote to that feeling of nothingness but it still felt like a small, silent enclave that very few people were actually reading, mainly because I was far too unmotivated to reach out to anyone.

What I adore about Medium is how it’s the first social platform that is actually attempting to focus on and encapsulate that elusive thing that good content creators have long strived for. It’s the answer to everything we’ve ever wanted; rich, quality, long form storytelling that is not condensed, dismissed or discarded as inferior. We want content that is easily accessible to anyone who has the good stuff at the ready. We want that verb we all crave so much: TO FILTER so that we can filter through the bullshit.

Oh yes, everyone is a publisher now! And you’re happy for the democracy of that revolution. But what about the revolution that filters the ‘everything’ on the internet from the mundane, repetitive, boring; leaving you with the incredible, awe-inspiring, life changing shit that makes you hit the ‘RECOMMEND’ button so hard, it might fall out? When does the internet become known for the good stuff lurking in the shadows?

Now, starting here.

Here’s a thrilling tid bit but from an article on the platform already:

‘Enter the writer’s internet.’

‘We’re about to enter a golden era of writing again. A gray area full and robust with opportunity. Writers will likely be able to write for a living more than any other time online, and potentially, be paid better for it. If blogs opened a crack for writing online, the next three years will be as if a door opened to an enormous new frontier of possibility. It’s going to be magical to see.’

a recipe for dreaming

 

 

Before I could read I often tried to circumnavigate my mother towards toy stores. The moment I learnt how to read, books became my entire world. My mother had to change her route to try and avoid the local Dymocks store. It was here she spent so much money buying me books. I would hold up a book in my tiny hands and she would give me the ‘frown smile’ (where her eyes are frowning in disapproval at yet another book but she would be smiling to say she’ll give in anyway because my mum is the kindest, most generous person I’ve ever known).

She had always loved the author Bryce Courtenay so she would read The Power of One to me. If bile rises to my throat and tears well in my eyes when I hear of racism, it is all my mother’s doing. Her emotional character taught me so much about love.

***

One day I came home from school to find my mother excited, holding her car keys. Bryce Courtenay was at our local Dymocks signing copies of his new book. I was shocked. We didn’t have time to pick up a book for him to sign, so mum said I could pick any book I wanted and she would buy it for me. I picked up the one that spoke to me immediately.

A Recipe for Dreaming

And she let me buy two books. I waited in line. When my turn came, the lovely man was so thrilled to have an 8-year-old fan, exclaiming I had to be one of his youngest. He was jovial and excited by every person. He made me come around the table to sit next to him and he asked me what on earth a young thing like me was doing visiting an old thing like him. My mum said I wanted to be an author, just like him. That I would write stories in my notebooks. She told him how much I loved his book The Power of One with a big smile on her face, which meant that she had loved it too, but didn’t think she had any right to say so.

He declared with resolute determination, ‘Sheree, I will help you become a famous author one day. Bring your stories to me and I will help you publish them. You’re going to be famous one day, I can tell’.

And so he wrote in my book, The Potato Factory: ‘To Sheree, the Famous Author’.

And then in a recipe for dreaming, ‘To Sheree, the Dreamer.’

***

My older brother texted me just hours ago asking me if I had heard about Bryce dying of terminal cancer, with only months to live. I had not. (It was a big deal that I had met him at such a young age…my family saw it as a sign). My brother told me I had better finish that novel I had promised to Bryce.

The soul-crushing weight of my unfinished novel impacted me and my tears flooded the taxi I was in on the way home. The eight-year-old in me wants so desperately to finish writing it, chipping away at it every day, in order to show it to Bryce before he leaves us and fulfil a promise.

And I can’t help but think…if only I could fly.

‘We need to dream, as a soaring imagination is the glue that keeps our soul from shattering under the impact of a prosaic world’. – BC.

a bit about fly

If I had a peanut for every time someone asked me about my novel, I would have sixteen peanuts.

I REALLY LIKE PEANUTS, OKAY?

Peanut-related psychotic outbursts aside, I feel like it’s time I gave some kind of overall insight into this work of fiction I am attempting to create. The last straw was when someone joked that I must have spent the 19 hours writing 25,000 words of a Mills and Boon novel. I cannot allow such rumours to gain traction, not until I have at least one decent novel under my belt. Right now I don’t even have a belt. I am just a baggy Hessian sack. The other issue here is that most people expect a succinct one-sentence answer. They don’t take too kindly to you sitting them down for a 2-day marathon workshop sesh (or so I’ve learnt the hard way).

Right now I have a great big fat rock on my shoulder that I have named ‘THE UNFINISHED THING IN MY LIFE’ (TUTIML or Tim for short). Tim crushes me often, weighing me down with the knowledge that I have taken on more than I can handle. So when someone asks me about it, they’re basically jumping on that rock and gyrating on it, and there I am trying to remember what the story is even about. What we end up with is a flustered response along the lines of ‘something epic, Fly girl, I can’t talk about it, you’re not the boss of me!!’

I forced myself to buck up when one of my fellow RABBIT HOLE team members asked for the synopsis of the project I was working on. I won’t lie to you. I was caught off guard. I knew that synopsis meant ‘lengthier than thou outline’. Naturally, like all struggling writers with a full time day job and no time at all in the world, I didn’t have one. So I wrote one on the spot and thought I’d share it with you. And the next time someone asks me about it, I will hyper link their faces to this blog.

Deal?

Here goes nothing/everything

It’s an epic story about love and the universe and how everything is connected. There’s a Gaelic spiritual theme with some faint feminist undertones. On earth there’s a constant, subtle presence from a parallel universe called The Lost Chord and it surrounds the earth in one giant invisible glass dome. The main writing style is magic realism when writing about earth (most prevalent) and elements of fantasy when describing the other universe.

It starts with an old man who we discover is The Keeper of Souls. He knows about the lives of every single human on earth and even has access to all of their memories. But when the earth ends in a cataclysmic event, he has no idea what caused it, because the only survivor and person most likely responsible for it all ending, doesn’t have a soul. He can’t read her at all. He was not even aware that the girl without a soul existed.

This is because she was created by a woman named Destiny (her name is also her job title), a powerful and feisty woman who forgot to mention her side project: Fly. When Destiny first predicted the end of the world, she panicked and tried to prevent it from happening by creating a powerful girl named Fly and sending her to earth. But what happens if the world was always destined to end? What if she couldn’t actually alter destiny (ironically) or even the fate of the world? What if, in actual fact, sending Fly down was only going to exacerbate things?

Destiny realises her mistake, that she got too carried away and was overly ambitious because Fly is *too* extraordinary to fix the world. She is the catalyst. She feels the emotions of the universe through a larger-than-life bout of empathy. When she feels normal human emotions like sadness, heartache, loneliness or mourning, she feels it on such a scale that her small actions have the effect of leading to a chain reaction of terrible things, which lead to mass disasters. This unique part of her is meant to start a chain reaction of wonderful, happy things. But she can’t create happiness and goodness from nothing. She has to channel it from somewhere. The thing about Fly is the way she’s extraordinary but so completely oblivious to the effect she has on the world. Her only concern is searching for the goodness, love and happiness in humanity, so she can fulfil her mission (a mission she’s not even sure about).

The story traces back the steps of her life, how she came to exist, the tiny yet extraordinary and inexplicable happenings, the story of the woman who adopted her and how all of it leads to the end. And of course, like all narratives, only Fly can breathe life back in to the world….BUT AT WHAT COST?

*ominous eerie music to take us out to the sponsored advertisement*