When I lived in Darwin I went on a road trip west to Broome through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, it flows through your heart that country. We arrived in Fitzroy Crossing, filling up at the servo before pitching tents for the night. There were a lot of dogs milling around, a lot of tourists coming and going, movement and activity everywhere; and in the middle of it all, like a buddha, was this bloody, wounded dog. She appeared to be in a state of deep meditation or maybe she was just holding in all that pain to stop herself from falling apart. That dog haunts me, she’s still in my mind, she glows. I felt compelled to capture her in words.
2. Tell us about your process. (Do you start sparse and widen out, or do you write down every possible association and cut back? Do you research the subject matter you are writing about? Is it pure intuition?) Take us through an example if you want.
‘One Blue Eye’ came to me fairly quickly as a whole with minimal editing, mostly for rhythm and tense. That’s rare for me. I’m a slow writer and often labour over drafts. I research if I need to but for this one the research was the experience of being there.
3. What advice do you have for other writers? (About the first or last line? About how to choose the title? Do you follow any rules?)
I tend to follow the rules of the piece I’m working on. I’ve heard it said that a writer should get a rough, complete draft of a short story out in one sitting, that it loses energy and momentum if you don’t. There’s some truth in that but sometimes you might be grabbing at something, an idea or story, that isn’t ready yet and you go back to it years later and know exactly what to do with it. Don’t throw anything out, that’s my advice. A writer friend suggested the title for this one, the one I had previously was giving too much away. I like the concrete imagery and distinctiveness of one blue eye.
4. Who or what inspires your writing?
Every time I read Donald Barthelme I’m inspired to write. Angela Carter, the same. Terrific writers are a wonderful inspiration, I get so noisy reading their stories – oohing and ahhing and OMG, they wrote that, I didn’t know you could write that?!! And of course there is real life, landscape, photographs, writing exercises, dreams, dogs …
5. Tell us what you do if you haven’t written anything in a while and you want to get started writing again? Could you share your favourite writing exercise with our readers?
My practice changed a few years ago when I stopped writing plays and began writing prose in earnest. I wanted a map for this new terrain and at the Darwin tip I found it – a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. That afternoon I read it cover-to-cover. It’s book that has helped me pay more attention to my environment and to be less precious about writing. My latest writing exercise obsession is cut-ups … taking an unfinished chunk of story, cutting it up and sticking the words, phrases & sentences back together in a different order so I can discover something else about the work. It’s so much fun and when writing begins to feel like pulling teeth I turn to this exercise to stop me from getting so serious about things, to remember that pleasure and excitement can be found in the world of words. I love surreal imagery and what it shows me about the subterranean landscape of story. Here’s one I prepared earlier:
Caroline Reid’s short stories and poems have been published in anthologies and journals. Her plays have been performed and broadcast. Prayer to an Iron God was published by Currency Press in 2010.