Playlist: spoken word / rap artists

14 September 2018 / Leave a Comment

The writing that has touched me the most deeply lately hasn't been found within the pages of a book.

Although it did all start with a book - Kate Tempest's 'The Bricks that Built the Houses'.

I was telling a friend how much I was loving this book and she told me Tempest was also a spoken word artist / rapper and she played me a song of hers - Tunnel Vision ... and when I heard the words 'I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more' it was like someone had taken an electrical cord, plugged it straight into my heart and turned the switch on.

I listened to Kate Tempest's two albums 'Let Them Eat Chaos' and 'Everybody Down' repeatedly, discovering many of the same characters from the book were mentioned in her songs. The book 'The Bricks that Built the Houses' was an extension of her albums.

Then I bought 'Brand New Ancients', a Ted Hughes Poetry Prize-winning poem about two London families, reincarnating the spirits of the gods. I read it aloud from cover to cover and then I read it again.

I started reading articles and listening to podcasts with Kate Tempest. And then I started wondering if she's touched me so deeply, and she's so unique, are there any others out there doing similar things?

I wanted to find out who her contemporaries are - who are her influencers and who are her influencers' influencers ...

I went on a spoken word search.

This led me to stumble across Scroobius Pip, a spoken word poet and hip hop recording artist, and I was awestruck all over again.

Any writer or creative will surely relate to this song of his 'You will see me'. Watch it now, and then watch it again:

And then, finally, listen to this beautifully confessional track by Sage Francis 'The best of times'. The film clip doesn't do justice to the words, and I want you to listen, so this is the audio only version. 

The first time I heard it, I was walking on the beach, headphones in, sun on the face, and I cried thinking about how such angst creates such beauty. Then I listened to it again and cried some more and smiled ...

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Crystals, creative meditations and a vow of silence

14 July 2018 / Leave a Comment

Life has been a bit like the first draft of a novel lately - rushed, chaotic, characters with unclear motives, meandering side stories, an unresolved plot, but full of promise.

In between, I've been working hard on a new young adult novel which I'm quietly excited about.

I've discovered that creativity crystals from Spellbox in the Royal Arcade placed near the laptop keys do not make my ideas flow any better than usual.

What does help, however, is Heather Demetrios's Mindfulness for writers blog and meditations. I discovered Heather Demetrios's young adult novel Bad Romance last year. This book is a real gem, much more powerful than the $9.99 crystals from the magic shop. It's a cautionary tale about toxic relationships.

The other day, I sat down at my laptop. I'd gotten the kids off to school. I'd had my coffee. I was poised to write. And yet my mind was buzzing to distraction and blocking any worthwhile words from coming.

I did one of Heather's 20 minute meditations. The first five minutes I was like come on, hurry up, I'm losing time here ... I want to write a chapter, I've got to clean the chicken coop, I have to pay my car rego, did I wash the footy socks? Should I reword "sinkhole feeling dissipates" to "sinkhole feeling dissolves". Blah, blah, blah ... and then ten minutes into the meditation my mind went quiet and my shoulders relaxed.

Heather took a broom and swept out all that noise. I went on to write quietly and calmly, without even getting up to make a cup of tea. That 20 minute meditation easily equalled an hour and a half of solid, concentrated writing.

Any creative should check out Heather's meditations here:

I recently caught up with my lovely friend, illustrator Narelda Joy at the launch of her new picture book 'Message in a sock', written by Kaye Baillie and published by Midnight Sun Publishing. At the launch at the National Wool Museum we learnt about Narelda's rigorous research and her collages and how her sister even knitted miniature socks for the book. The story centres around the efforts of volunteers who knitted socks for the soldiers in World War I.

I went along to the Melbourne Writer's Festival The Book of Fete - Chapter Four at the State Library of Victoria. As we entered we had to take a vow of silence for the night, as an experiment in non-verbal communication.

At the end of the evening, Kate Miller-Heidke came on stage and sung John Farnham's 'You're the voice', and after hours of silent immersive experiences we were all invited to join in. It was a perfect ending to a somewhat surreal night heralding a new era of MWF with Marieke Hardy as the new artistic director.

And my final precious gem discovery, in this world of rubble, is Kate Tempest, poet, author, musical artist.

It started with the raw, unflinching, percussive writing in the novel The Bricks that Built the Houses ...

Then I was introduced to Tunnel Vision by a good friend, from Kate Tempest's album Let them eat chaos. When I heard these words it was like something vibrating in my heart ...

Trust is, trust is something we will never see
Till love is unconditional
The myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost, and pitiful
I’m out in the rain
It’s a cold night in London
And I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more
I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more

And then I discovered this ... the gods are in us ...

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8 tips for having a writer's retreat at home

12 January 2018 / Leave a Comment

The last few days I've indulged myself with a writer's retreat at home. I've taken a couple of days off work, the children are with their father, I've said no to social invitations and I've encouraged myself to write as much as possible. It's been a lovely few days of letting my characters speak to me without all the usual noise surrounding me.

Having a writer's retreat at home is a great way to knock off thousands of words in a day.

Clear the decks for a few hours, a few days or a week and see the difference it makes to your word count ...

Here's my top tips for enjoying a writer's retreat at home:

1. Make your writer's retreat at home as dreamlike as possible. Haruki Murakami says that he likes to stay in a dreamlike state when he writes. In between writing, do your best to laze about and daydream. Imagine you have a velvet chaise lounge in a wood-panelled library. Take a break, lie down and think, whatever your surroundings are like.

2. Avoid cooking complex meals, calling customer service centres to pay a bill or answering a message from a needy friend. Avoid anything that will ruin your daydream state.

3. Be anti-social and say no to seeing people. If someone asks you to catch up, the answer is no. You are taking a holiday from real life. Other people may not understand this, but you have a date with one of your true loves ... your book.

4. Read an inspiring novel. Reading motivates writers. Read for pleasure and to study 'how did they do that?' Read while you're eating breakfast, read in between writing, read before sleeping. Just read.

5. Have an afternoon nap. There is nothing as effective to re-set your brain than an afternoon nap. Set your timer for 40 minutes and marvel at the words you write in your next writing session.

6. Eat and drink well. Be aware of the fuel that you are putting into your body. Have a good breakfast and healthy snacks (see my previous posts on healthy writing snacks and best brain foods). Avoid sugar slumps. Be prepared beforehand and have some easy 10-minute meals in the fridge or freezer for dinner so that you don't waste too much time cooking.

7. Create a familiar environment for yourself each time you write. Like a baby is soothed by a structured bedtime routine; a bath, a book, a lullaby, so too can a writer be soothed by a familiar environment and routine. For me, I like to sit on my fluffy blue chair at my teak writer's desk in the study and I play Sigur Ros on the stereo - the same two albums each time.

8. Avoid mental fatigue. Write for as long as you are focused. If you feel your mind drifting, step away from your computer. Don't sit there and browse things on the internet or check your Facebook feed - all this drains your brainpower. Go on a walk or water the garden, do something pleasurable to restore your mental ability.

I'm Rowena. I'm an author and blogger. My latest novel is The Replacement Wife, available as an ebook from HarperCollins, from $2.99. Luisa tries to find a wife for her husband so she can exit an unhappy marriage happily.

Subscribe to my newsletter for tips on reading, writing and publishing in the digital revolution and receive a free ebook of Love Potion, featuring my flash fiction and a short story about stitching the heart together again ...

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