Monday, February 24, 2014

My writing space


Many years ago, Mr A and I went to see a house that was for sale. At the time, we weren't thinking of moving or anything, but we wanted to get an idea of what sort of home we could eventually move to within the next few years. (That's my long-winded way of saying we pretty much had nothing better to do one Saturday. Oh, how times have changed since then - thank you, Saturday sport.)

The house was great. Very big. WAY over our price range, unfortunately (which we didn't realise until we got there and asked the agent the price - gulp!), but gorgeous. The thing I loved about it the most was the study. It was a fairly plain room, but had huge potential, mostly for its position. It had french doors leading out to a small patio, overlooking the backyard pool. I imagined myself sitting in there, my desk facing the french doors, the walls painted a pale green and the existing wooden bookshelves removed or repainted white. Oh, yes. I had it all planned. It was going to be ALL MINE, and Mr A's study would be relocated to an upstairs spare bedroom.

From that moment on, whenever we looked at a house, I would always compare the study, or study space, with that house.

The house we live in now has a study, with enough desk space for two. (I loved this house so much when we saw it, that it became the first house that I didn't compare the study to the one in that other house!) The study here is nice enough, but note quite what I had imagined for myself. I'd always imagined my own space. (And there's no spare room in this house for Mr A to create a study in, unfortunately!)

Before we moved in, I thought about creating a study space for myself in our bedroom, because the bedroom is fairly spacious. Mr A thought that a pretty good idea, but when we finally moved in, I changed my mind. (A woman's prerogative, you know.) Although it's a lovely outlook from the bedroom, I couldn't imagine myself sitting in there, writing at my desk, as cute as I'm sure I'd have made it look!

I soon found another option. You see, we have a nice, large kitchen bench, and at one end of the bench we have some cupboards hidden behind some fold away doors. Underneath the kitchen bench is more cupboard space. There's a lovely outlook from the kitchen in both directions and the light in there (here) is fantastic. I realised I didn't need an actual 'study', just a study space, and the kitchen bench meets every requirement I can imagine. (Besides, it's also close to the coffee machine. Very important.)

My 'desktop' is my laptop on the bench and my pens, pencils, stationery items etc are in the bench top cupboard behind the fold away doors (that I mostly leave open). I have even adorned the shelves with photos of my family and best friends. Everything else I need is stored underneath the bench top in the cupboards there. Perfect.

Moving here made me realise that you don't really need an actual study per se these days. Most people work on laptops and iPads anyway so we're all pretty portable. At best, you need a filing cabinet somewhere (which you can put pretty much anywhere). And besides, I don't just write at the kitchen bench. I also write on the couch, outside on the balcony, while lying on my tummy on our bed ... wherever I feel like it.

Whatever works.

Where do you write?


Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Club: Barracuda

I met up with my Book Club last week. We went to a Lebanese restaurant. The food was so yummy, but the aftermath probably wasn't worth it. There must have been a ton of salt - or perhaps MSG - in it. A number of us were so thirsty all night and felt terrible the next day! Bummer.

We were there, of course, to discuss our last read: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas. 

Due to a lot of noise at the restaurant, the book was mostly discussed in groups of four. I do know, however, that most - like me - felt it hard to put the book down. We were engrossed. I found it an interesting look in to society: putting a boy from a low income home in to a fancy-pants school filled with privileged, entitled boys after receiving a swimming scholarship. (This brought up the topic of a certain Sydney private boys' school that was accused of poaching boys from other schools and offering them sporting scholarships to boost their own sports program. Hmmm. Interesting.) It's also an interesting look in to Australian society. Like he did in The Slap, Tsiolkas puts a magnifying glass over modern day Australia. 

Here's a spiel about the book on Booktopia:

Tender and brutal and blazingly brilliant, the new novel from the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap takes an unflinching look at modern Australia - at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families - and asks what it means to be a good person and what it takes to become one.  
He asked the water to lift him, to carry him, to avenge him. He made his muscles shape his fury, made every stroke declare his hate. And the water obeyed; the water would give him his revenge. No one could beat him, no one came close.
His whole life, Danny Kelly's only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he's ever done-every thought, every dream, every action-takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.
 His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny's win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys-he's Barracuda, he's the psycho, he's everything they want to be but don't have the guts to get there. He's going to show them all.
He would be first, everything would be alright when he came first, all would be put back in place. When he thought of being the best, only then did he feel calm.
Should we teach our children to win, or should we teach them to live? How do we make and remake our lives? Can we atone for our past? Can we overcome shame? And what does it mean to be a good person?
A searing and provocative novel by the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap, Barracuda is an unflinching look at modern Australia, at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families. It is about class and sport and politics and migration and education. It contains everything a person is: family and friendship and love and work, the identities we inhabit and discard, the means by which we fill the holes at our centre. Barracuda is brutal, tender and blazingly brilliant; everything we have come to expect from this fearless vivisector of our lives and world. 

Apart from Danny finding it challenging fitting in with his new peers, there is also the flow-on affect the move has with his family and his old friends.  

It's essentially a story about social displacement, and yet more. I love how Tsiolkas doesn't sugar-coat Australian society. Through his characters, he shows Australian society's warts and all. 

I love the following quote from the book. Clyde, a Scotsman, is discussing Australians:

'You all think you're so egalitarian, but you're the most status-seeking people I've met. You call yourselves laid-back but you're angry and resentful all the time. You say there is no class system here, but you're terrified of the poor, and you say you're anti-authoritarian but all there is here are rules ...'

The book touches on a number of subjects. Some of us thought perhaps too many in one book. (To me, it's frustrating when authors try to tackle too many subjects in one book. It feels as though they're trying to write three books in one because they can't quite not write about their storyline ideas. All it does is frustrate the reader and confuse him/her!) And certainly there is one point in the storyline, when Danny finds himself somewhere he doesn't want to be (I'm trying not to give too much of the storyline away!) and there are some moments that were stomach-churning to read. Tsiolkas isn't afraid to show a side to his characters that potentially make them unlikeable and yet continue to give them depth. 

I, personally, love that in an author.  

In any case, Barracuda is incredibly well written, engaging, interesting and real. Maybe too real for some? Not me.

Thumbs up!

Our next Book Club choice is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees).

You can read a little about the book on Goodreads here. To be honest, I was a little disappointed at first that we didn't have yet another Australian author, but it's always good to mix it up, right? Besides, I'm only a couple of chapters in and I'm already hooked.

Our next meeting is set for Friday 18 April. If you want to read what we thought, check in here about a week after that.

Happy reading!