Dear thesis

Dear thesis,

It’s time for us to say goodbye. Not forever, just for now. It’s time for you to go out into the world, strike a path of your own, leave the nest and learn to fly. *Sniff*

You’ve grown up so much over the course of a year. You started as a vague little idea, a direct product of my musings and research. You grew into something polished and considered. Something grown-up, in my opinion anyway. And now it’s time for you to go out into the big wide world. I’ve done everything I can to prepare you for the big, mean world and the scary examination panel that dwells within it. But your paragraphs are clear, your literature review is comprehensive, and your references are immaculate. You’re ready. I’m not sure I am though.

We’ve had our rough periods, especially during those rough teenage months. I didn’t know what you’d become, you thought I was old-fashioned and stuck in my old ideals. It got so bad I couldn’t look at you, and you crashed. A result of a binge, an overdose: too many tabs open, too many pending actions. But we got through it with a little help from some friends. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It definitely takes at least a suburb to make an honours thesis.

Now it’s time, armed with your lodgement forms and statements of originality, you’ll travel back to Australia to learn your fate. Our fate.

I won’t be congratulating myself or celebrating just yet though. You’re the academic equivalent of getting a puppy to see if you’re ready to have a baby. The practice run. But we made it and that sure as hell counts for something.

So good luck, little thesis puppy! May your arguments be strong and your word count be overlooked.



What I learned from Anna Karenina


I have been lacking in my posts once again. My only excuse is that my thesis is in its death throes and I’m trying to deliver the final blow. Die! Die! Nearly there.

When I haven’t been contemplating my life choices and cursing word counts, I finished reading Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina.

It’s a nice, impressive one at add to the bookshelf; nothing like a bit of classic Russian literature to impress visitors. It was a surprisingly easy read though, particularly compared to Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. While Anna is still sitting on my bedside table, Crime and Punishment is gathering dust very impressively in the corner of the bookshelf.

Anna taught me a lot about writing. The subject matter was dense and foreign to me, the language was littered with French and Russian phrases which required translation, and all the characters are pretty unlikeable, yet I had to keep reading.

Levin was an insecure, overly intellectual snob, Vronksy was vain, Anna was her own worst enemy (spoiler alert: other than the train), and Oblonsky was an irresponsible philanderer. But I wanted to know more. I wanted Anna to get her divorce and go to the country. I wanted Oblonsky to go home to Dolly and look after his thousand kids, and Levin… Levin, smile you miserable bastard! How did Tolstoy make me care so much about these flawed, desperate characters?

They say a writer must write what they know. It is so much more than that though, everyone knows something but not everyone is a writer. My theory is that it comes down to observation and words. The minute details of every scene, every conversation and every description in Anna Karenina make it easy to picture and imagine that you too are sitting in a box at the Petersburg opera, or sipping vodka with peasants after a tough day’s harvesting. Tolstoy must have been a perceptive observer of the world around him. But he also must have been a great sculptor of words. I think sculptor is the most appropriate word because crafting meaningful sentences is about more than stringing words together. It’s foraging for the perfect word, the right medium to convey your message, and melding it with others to create something bigger than the words along. Finished sculptures seldom resemble the clay they started as. You could be the best observer but if you can’t find the words to describe what you see, you may as well not have seen anything.

I think that’s probably my take-away from Anna Karenina. Along with some other stuff about cheating on your husband, wheat prices, and train platform safety. It’s probably a little lofty to aspire to write like Tolstoy but his descriptions are something I’d like to incorporate more into my own writing. Elaborate descriptions are a bit of a weak point for me. A background in journalism has left me equipped with short sentences and scenes heavy in dialogue. But as soon as this thesis is laid to rest, I’ll turn my attention back to basics and back to describing.

As for reading, War and Peace is up there on the list, but everything in moderation. I’m cleansing my palate of Russian Society with a biography of Hunter S. Thompson.

An excerpt

As some of you may know, I took part in a little challenge a little while back. It was my own personal NaNoWriMo. I wanted to write a novel (loosely defined) in a month. And I kind of did. It’s almost finished and on the verge of being sent to one of my harshest critics. So here’s an excerpt from ‘title pending’. Feedback encouraged, please be kind!


Ray glared up at the grey plaster ceiling. That irritating ray of morning sun had once again come in through the gap at the top of the curtains to shine in his eyes.  He could have been in any cheap guest house anywhere in the world but this one was the one he’d chosen year after year. He scrunched his eyes closed. He hated the spider web cracks on the ceiling, he had spent so long staring at them that he could trace their paths without looking. He was frustrated, restless, bored and lonely. It was debilitating in a slow, quiet way. He tried not to think about it but this restless, angry energy was the only thing that got him out of bed each morning. He’d rise from the same bed, in the same room, he reserved at the same time every year. His knees creaked as his stood up. He grabbed his grey slacks from a pile of clothes on the floor and rooted around in a drawer for his brown, wool jumper. He shuffled to the window, the air had a chilly bite to it but Ray pulled it open anyway. The light streamed in, the street below was already bustling, and the lake, as ever, was calm and pensive. He went to the bathroom and splashed water on his face, avoiding his gaze in the mirror. Morning ritual complete, he left his room and went down the hallway to the balcony. As always, Mya was waiting with his tea. “Good morning, Mr Ray.” She could set her watch to his arrival. 7.30am. Ray was usually a coffee man, but here it was always tea. He hated the taste of the 3-in-1 coffee Mya served up to the other guests. It tasted like soap. He sipped his tea from the chipped cup and looked down on to the street below. The market would be in full swing already, it was just the late-comers rushing down to the canal now. Ray and his thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of some young German girls. Brushing sleep out of their eyes, they slumped at a table next to the railing. Always attentive, Mya bustled over to learn their drink of choice. Ray was not in the mood for Europeans. He found them inscrutable and exhausting. These two were no different by the looks of it. The girls perked up over 3-in-1 and nattered away. One was seemingly taking inventory of what was in her day pack. “You hire bicycle today?” Mya asked them, simultaneously delivering their toast and confirming Ray’ suspicions. It was in the guidebook, you see. “In TripAdvisor we trust,” Ray thought to himself, accepting his own toast.

First impressions of Colombo

imageI’m still yet to find a word that encapsulates the experience of Sri Lanka so far. Special is the best I’ve come up with and that, well, sucks. Partner 2 and I landed in Colombo on Sunday. It’s not a place that necessarily wants you to like it. Some cities exist to be liked and loved, to have sonnets written about them, Colombo isn’t one of them.

Similar to Australian country towns, there is not much happening in Colombo city on a Sunday, much to my initial chagrin. Walking through the streets, fresh off the plane, felt like walking blindfolded. One moment, you’d be walking through a market, taking in the haggling and strange vegetables. Then you’d make a turn and be on a dusty, empty street: stores shuttered, rubbish tumbling in the breeze, the only living things were a pack of mangy street dogs and a slightly more appealing pack of leering construction workers. One second you’re on solid ground, the next your foot is sinking into the unknown.

We eventually yielded to the unknown and convinced a tuk-tuk driver to take us to Galle Face Green, which turned out to be about 500m away from where we were. Easy money for the driver. Suddenly the Colombo we heard about materialised. People had told us mixed things about the Sri Lankan capital: some loved it, some left as soon as they arrived. I wanted to find what people liked, it couldn’t just have been the market. Galle Face Green was it. After whizzing past well-preserved examples of colonial architecture, we made it to the beach. It wasn’t the beach itself that was the attraction, the water was polluted and the waves were erratic from the swirling currents. No, it was the concrete stairs and path above the sand, and the stretch of open grass after that. We had burst into a snapshot of a Colombo Sunday afternoon. Families were sprawled on picnic rugs, flying kites and snacking on vendor food. Couples shuffled along the path, playfully arguing, never touching, making eyes at one another all the while. There was even a spirited game of cricket.

We were suddenly given insight into life in Colombo away from the grumpy stall-holders and dirty streets. The uncertainty of earlier slipped away and we found our footing. Here, people were smiling and laughing at our attempts at simple Sinhala, rather than just staring.

It always takes a while to hit your stride when you’re travelling, to get used to the unknown and unfamiliar. Colombo didn’t make it easy, but we got there in the end.

July is going to be busy.

Yikes. So marks are out for uni. Somewhat surprisingly, moving overseas at the start of exams didn’t impact my marks as badly as I thought it would. Little bit disappointed but probably shouldn’t be, all things considered.

Now that marking is finishing and I’m “settled”, my supervisor and I finally had a chat over Skype about how things are shaping up. He was happy but had a few pointers. And by pointers I mean massive overhauls to the entire focus of my thesis. There was much talk of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY.


What started as a little radio project has snowballed to something much bigger, but still (hopefully) focussed and within scope. Writing about how to improve democracy is great for the old ego. *Climbs on to soapbox.* But it presents the challenge of a near-complete re-write of my two-thirds complete thesis. While trying to write a novella. While writing pitches for articles to earn money. *Gets off soapbox and hides under table.* Hmm. July is going to be busy.

A challenge

As you may know, my partner and I have recently moved to Singapore from Australia. His company moved us over so while he has been trotting off to work every day, I have not been. Thanks to a holiday that was booked way in advance, as in before we knew we were moving, I’m in the middle of seven weeks off from work. I’ve been using that time productively, or at least trying to use that time productively, there may have been some TV watched at one time or another.

Anyway, I want to be a writer, and this is the perfect chance to give it a crack and see if I have the discipline, oh and maybe the skills, to do it. So now that we are officially moved in and settled in our new apartment/suburb/city/country, it’s time to get serious. This post is to hold me to account. I’ve dabbled in a few blogging challenges, writing around different themes and not using adverbs primarily, but I stumbled across a phenomenon called NaBloPoMo. Sounds like an upwardly mobile suburb of New York but it’s short for National Blog Posting Month. Basically you sign up and write a blog a day for a month, I think around a dedicated theme. Upon further investigation, NaBloPoMo is a spin-off of NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. This is where writers, amateur and professionals, sign up and commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in one month. Crazy, huh? When you break it down though, it’s potentially do-able. 31 days in July, minus 8 for the weekends equals 23 days. 50,000 divided by 23 days is about 2175 words a day; eight hour work day equals about 270 words an hour. Sounds achievable? I hope so, because that’s what I’m going to try and do. I’m a journalist by trade and there’s nothing like a looming deadline to get me motivated. So this is my commitment to these 50,000 words. On the side, I’ll still be blogging and writing articles, oh and probably working on my thesis… but I am going to write a novel in a month. You watch.

Disclaimer: I had a head start on today’s 2175 words so I guess tomorrow the real work begins. I’ll keep you updated but I won’t post any of the story, most likely because it will be rubbish! Wish me luck.

Between two storeys

She still remembered which ones creaked. As a child, she would wake early and creep downstairs to play with the dogs or cajole Pop into giving her sweets. She thought of him. Hands stained with oil, rising at 5am to spend time in the garage. “This is a car hospital,” he explained one morning. She picked flowers from the garden, “For the sick cars.” Pop wheezed and gave her a fistful of sweets. The stairs groaned, interrupting her reverie. The agent clip-clopped into the room, “It cleaned up quite nicely. I don’t think there’ll be any problems making the reserve.”

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