Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fire at will - Burns Fortnight #3

Detail, Otago Muslim Association, Clyde Street

1. Fellows Welcome

This fortnight started hospitably, with an event at the Hocken Library to welcome the University of Otago's five Arts Fellows (visual arts, dance, music, children's writing and, uh, just writing).


As you can see from the pic attached to that write-up, it was a gloriously sunny late afternoon (last fortnight's good weather stuck around for another week). It was nice that my wife and kids got to come along for the first bit (before bedtime beckoned).

When the Pro Vice Chancellor was reading out the bios of the Fellows, my daughter, Lia (4), turned to me and said, excitedly, "That's you!". But I was quickly forgotten when the bio of the dance fellow was read out. "Ballet! Daddy, he said ballet!"

When it came time for the Fellows to say a few words in response, my wife had to disappear with my son for what turned out to be a toilet false alarm, so I ended up going on stage with Lia. She casually held my hand the whole time and declined the opportunity to say anything, so I thanked the people of Dunedin and the university on behalf of the both of us.


2. Productivity (& spectatorship)

Total words this fortnight: 9,121 (4,896 on THE LOCATION SCOUT, the rest on this blog)

It was a fortnight of two halves again. The first week was solid. I felt comfortable with where I'd gotten my short stories, and was itching to start my novel before February was over, so I started (techincally restarted, after last working on it in earnest in 2015) a day early.

The next four days I made good progress, averaging an additional 933 words to the manuscript per day. That's passable for any point in the novel, but pretty darn good for the first ten or so pages. This reflects the fact I had a fairly decent (7,000 words) false start behind me, and 18+ months to mull over what wasn't quite right. Oh, and in the last week of Feb I had story-boarded out the first three scenes/chapters. So, really, why shouldn't I be productive?

Then came the weekend, and my brother came down from Wellington, so I had to show him around and generally have a great time. See part 3.

Later in the week, I tried in vain to resist the combination of sunshine and test cricket occurring a 5-minute bike ride from my office. So productivity suffered. But, as I told my wife, watching test cricket by yourself is great thinking time. I think it set me up pretty well for fortnight #4 (at least the first week... I sure hope this won't be a pattern!).

I'm off to the Warriors vs the Bulldogs at the stadium this Friday. Probably won't be as much deep thinking going on there!


3. Tourism

The Mole at Aramoana (the black line across the path is a fur seal)

Looking back from the end of The Mole, with terns and gulls

White dots = albatross (including parent with chick if you zoom into the 'dot' that's just right of centre),
Harrington Point viewed from the end of The Mole at Aramoana
Fur seal and Harrington Pt Lighthouse

The view from Signal Hill

Snack at St Kilda Beach


4. M.O.R.

Something that happened in Fortnight #3, but I only properly reflected on afterwards:

People talk about two Dunedins. The students and the locals. Or maybe it's Dunedin during term time and Dunedin during the holidays.

Before Orientation started, I felt young. As in: below the median age in town.

After Orientation: way old.

That influx of 20,000 18 year olds (okay, they aren't all that young, but...) sure is noticeable. Of course, working (I'm trying hard to leave off the inverted commas) at the university means I'm at Ground Zero for the change.

What influence will being around so many people born when the Y2K bug was a thing to fear have on my writing / me? These young people fall into my generational blindspot - too young to be siblings or cousins (or direct reports, just yet), too old to be kids of mine or my peers. What interaction will I really have with them, beyond reading Critic and trying not to run over them on my bicycle?

Time will tell.


5. Open to the universe

One good thing about having had some halfway decent productivity to start my fellowship is that I feel I can start to say YES to things that pop up.

Event formation seems to be quite organic down here. At the Fellows Welcome I was asked if I want to take part in three separate things (a theatre thing, a library thing, a creative writing thing). No firm dates. No firm anything, really, but I said Yes, because that's part of why I'm down here.

(I also found out one of the University's leadership team is reading my blog - though maybe he was just cyber stalking me in the lead up to the Welcome and will stop now - and got invited up the clock tower in the iconic admin building. I said something about that being a great setting for a murder mystery. Who killed the Vice Chancellor? Quick, barricade the stairwell. Now I'm not sure if that invite still stands.)

Doing a stonking job with a novel manuscript is my primary objective, but doing things that make me feel like a writer again (or, heaven forbid, a thinker) should help with the novel and life beyond it. Because, hard as it is to conceive of right now, there will come a time when I need to move on to other projects. If I keep adding to the reservoir this year, I should be spoiled for choice in 2018 or 2019 or whenever I finally put THE LOCATION SCOUT to bed.

Since the Fellows Welcome, I've said yes to two events for the Dunedin Writers Festival in May, and another thing for the Dunedin Amenities Society. (Next fortnight I might share with you my theory about why it's better to live in a town that's seen better days than one that's still growing, but suffice to say one reason is things like Town Belts and Amenities Societies exist)

I still feel like I have capacity for more. In fact, I have an idea for something that I'll probably need to drive if it's to become a reality.

And I like surprises. So hit me up, universe.