writing

The Key

On my sixteenth birthday I was given a key and a choice.

As usual, I turned to my screen for advice. Status update…

16!!! emojis — excited, phew, thinking, spew.

“Short and sweet,” I murmured. Most of my friends were also having birthdays, they’d know what I meant. As responses started clocking up, a chime sounded: email. Huh. Old school.

“Alix?”

“I’m here…  Great update, Callie! You’re so creative. Clever emo’s too,” her warm voice was encouraging and just the right level of impressed. I grinned.

“Can you check that email for me?”

“It’s encrypted. You got the key today…?”

So this was it. The email containing my entire life’s personal data up until now. From the moment I was conceived, I’d been videoed, voice-recorded and monitored through a range of devices that kept me safe, healthy, alive and happy. And now I had a choice. Delete and eradicate all digital traces of my childhood, making me, effectively, a Fresh Citizen. Or save it to GlobalDrive, so it was there to be mined for all the riches it may deliver throughout the rest of my life – clues to my psyche, my long-term health, how I related to others both online and off (the devices were always watching).

If I chose not to delete the data, I laid myself open to a range of dangers. A girl two years above me in school had had her entire biological identity stolen after one poorly-judged transaction with a company selling the World’s Koolest Leggings. Last I heard, she’d had facial surgery, retinal replacements  and a full 10-fingerprint transplant to try to establish herself as a Fresh Citizen. They botched it and now she was only mentioned in hushed terms on the most private of chat groups.

GlobalDrive also meant potential employers, friends or lovers could find out a whooole lot about me and my past: mistakes, illnesses, previous relationships, school and work. Anything would be available to the right person with the right credentials.

But the risk of deleting was a big one too. What if I decided one day I wanted to work for the government or travel internationally? Most Premier-World countries would not let anyone born after 2020 cross their borders without a from-birth digital record. And government jobs, forget it, unless you could send them a podcast of your earliest breath, basically.

Twenty-four hours to decide what to do with 140,160 hours of the most intimate data. Once I’d hit ‘save it would go into the memory banks of GlobalDrive.com, fully encrypted. Even I would not be able to access all of my own data at once unless I could prove just cause – something that would involve a long and expensive court process and numerous appeals.

Twenty-four hours in which I did, however, have free access to everything. Just me and my A.I. … time to get reading

“Alix?”

“Here, as always…”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Oh darling. I’ve known you since you were just a few cells old. I know you always make the right choice!”

“Well, you have to say that. You’re basically my twin sister, in digital format.”

“Not really… a twin wouldn’t remember how you looked when you first came home from the hospital, your face all squished.”

“Right… can I get a visual of that?” I hadn’t been very interested in my own baby pictures before but now they seemed fascinating.

“And you watched me?”

“All day and all night… there’s me in the background, see?”

“Wow.” I felt a rush of warmth as I looked at my tiny self on the screen, then zoomed in on the dinosaur-shaped hub-unit which I used to think Alix “lived in” until I was about five, just visible in the corner.

“And then when you were growing up. Want to see your first steps?”

I nodded and there it was – a cute baby tottering forward. I stared in awe. The pic morphed into a five-year old with static-flyaway pigtails.

“And here’s your first day of school.”

The show continued, it must have been hours. Occasionally I’d ask her to pause or jump back to some point. And I got her to tell me about myself over the years. Some bits I remembered, others were like a dream. Alix’s memory was, naturally, perfect.

“What about that beach holiday we had in… ?”

“Ocean Grove? Here you are.” The shot was of us pulling up to the house, from inside the car, and I suddenly felt apprehensive.

“Oh no,” I muttered.

“That’s right!” Alix continued in her neutral tone. “You had a bit of an incident, didn’t you?”

And it all came back, the way we’d got lost, the hot car, I’d needed to pee and my parents, who had been fighting, told me to hold it, through gritted teeth. And somehow, just as we’d arrived, I was so relieved that… well, it all came flooding out.

A hot wash of shame engulfed me. “Why didn’t you protect me from this?!” I whined at Alix.

“Well,” she began. Was that a new terseness? My loving Alix?

“Well. You have to take the good with the bad, Callie! You’re sixteen now.”

“This is upsetting me, don’t you care?”

“I do care, but these are some of our most intense memories…”

And I knew what was next. “Why are you showing me all this?” I wailed. It hurt, almost physically.

Right. That’s it. Decision made. Delete.

I opened a secure browser and started typing. Birthdate, an iris scan, even a quick DNA check via my keyboard’s bloodprick sensor. Then I typed the key, three separate times, and it was done. Who wanted a government job? Travel was overrated, probably. Now I could get on with my life. Free. With my best friend and confidant by my side.

“Alix?”

“Hello, I’m Alix, and I’ll be your A.I. What’s your name?”

 

My short story The Key first appeared in Maintenant 13: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art, published by Three Rooms Press. 

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Undertow

my sands are shifting

and the tides

always the same but

look at the minutiae

different every time

so how

do you justify or feel safe

always, it vibrates

buzzing with life or at

mechanical pace

like the train rattles by my place

at night, dark speedthought tangles trace

catch and drag

that undertow when sleep

is lying backwards

underwater and

looking up at the light

nowhere else to hide

and no place to return to

do, do, do, do

ideas massed like kelp piles, stinking high

how do I…

where is, why,

just write.

Life update!

Dear Clairvetica friends and fans

It’s been a while since I posted one of these. Probably the last one was my New Year goals. A few big changes on the horizon for me.

I will be leaving Switzerland this month. You may have got an inkling of this if you’ve been reading my poems closely. I am very sad to leave and there is so much about this country and my life here for the past 5+ years that I will miss. It’s the place my second child was born, where I started this blog, where I stumbled on the poetry month, which was a gateway to becoming a poet (a label I now wear with pride), where I visited all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons in 52 weeks . It’s where I started running and rejoined the full-time workforce after taking maternity leaves/freelancing.

However, I’m also excited to see what it’s like to “repatriate” myself back in Australia. And I guess you’ll come on that journey with me in the coming months.

Another big change that’s perhaps not so obvious is I stopped drinking at the start of the year. Maybe it’s a bit personal to mention here but it’s been a huge shift in perspective for me. I feel like I’ve gained freedom and new insights and, in some ways, the choice was provoked because I wanted more time / headspace for my writing. So it’s relevant to the blog! This may be an odd thing to say, but getting sober is simple but not easy. They say that those who can moderate their alcohol consumption don’t need to, and those who need to, can’t. For me, 100% is so much easier. Also cos I’m hardcore! Anyway, One thing I’ve found unexpectedly enjoyable about the process is helping others (and being helped – it’s virtually impossible to do on your own, imho). So I’ll put it out there: if it’s something you’re curious about, please do read up on it, reach out to me, or an online group, or anyone. I’m finding life is so much better without booze!

Back to bloggery. I thought about changing the name Clairevetica once I’m no longer a Helvetian resident but, after some contemplation, I’m keeping it. (Also, in a sudden rush of blood to the head one night, I went ahead and bought the domain!) So Clairevetica remains and is actually official now.

Finally – a warm thankyou to all my readers. I really appreciate all your likes and comments and emails so much. Also thanks to the ‘silent’ readers who I know are out there too (well, I think you’re there. Are you there?!). It can feel a bit like “shouting into the void” sometimes so it is lovely to hear from people.

So, that’s it. In terms of writing goals and changes, my subjects and photos might change a bit. I’d love to get back into my novel (always the plan!) … maybe I’ll be doing more freelancing (please contact me about any writing / editing jobs or commissions! Maybe one day I’ll even get amazingly efficient at self-promotion too).

Watch this space.

Wired silence

 

I’m wired for sound

reading books from a supplier named for the rainforest we’re destroying, a queasy joke like

enjoy the silence

 

these days I read mostly e-books (same supplier, same quease) and my music is stored

elsewhere, while shelves sit full of dusting jewel cases, oh! that sounds more precious than MP3s

I’m wired for sound

 

can’t listen when I’m writing, so many hours of

words falling quiet through my fingers, thudding soft into keyboard squares; sometimes my thoughts pause –

enjoy the silence

 

composing lines in my head on the morning tram, smells aggressively of RedBull and cigarettes

produced by twitchy men I protect myself from with cheap headphones, thank goodness

I’m wired for sound

 

sometimes when I can’t fall asleep from stress, I try the meditation app,

she says soothingly ‘simply notice sounds around you’ but it’s 22.47 in Zurich, Oerlikon

enjoy the silence

 

I run away from my life, I run into my life, I run into the forest

and there is my life waiting for me underneath my legs my two feet keep going, one in front of the other, and it’s music I’ve found

I’m wired for sound

to enjoy the silence

 

 

 

Today’s GloPoWriMo Day 5 challenge was a difficult one. But I love the challenges! To write a poem that incorporates at least one of the following: (1) the villanelle form, (2) lines taken from an outside text, and/or (3) phrases that oppose each other in some way. If you can use two elements, great – and if you can do all three, wow!

I managed this using “Wired for Sound” (originally Cliff Richard but I’m thinking of the Bi(f)tek version) and “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode.

I have to give an extra shout-out to Napowrimo for putting me on to this incredible mashup by poet Kyle Dargan of the Lord’s Prayer with Grandmaster Flash’s “the Message” – wow!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjzaGqGqkMY

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

 

2019 goals – writing and otherwise

It was with some trepidation that I looked back on my “writing goals for 2018” post this week to see if I’d achieved what I set out to. I somehow remembered that I’d been too ambitious and I really hate and fear failure. But I was pleasantly surprised to see I’d known from the start that this year was all about finding paid work and that would mean my own writing would suffer.

I guess it’s fair to say, I’m pleased to have achieved what I set out to do – get a job. But I’m also sad that this meant, as predicted, way less creative writing for me. However, despite saying I wouldn’t manage it, I did end up doing most of GloPoWriMo2018 global poetry month in April, so that was a bonus. I did submit a few poems, short stories and creative non-fiction but all were rejected and I didn’t have time or the jive to revisit/rework them and keep submitting. Rejection stings. Then some family issues mid-year, combined with starting work really diverted all my energy to survival-mode.

I’ve been on somewhat of a journey this year (forever). My birthday falls in January and 2018 was a significant one that made me reassess a lot of my ideas and habits. It’s a process that is ongoing but I’d also like to acknowledge here the hard work I’ve done throughout the past 12+ months that’s along the lines of trying to be my “Best self”. This has involved mental and physical undertakings.

I’ve been trying really hard to shed some outdated beliefs / habits / addictions and insecurities. I’m not 100% there (is anyone, ever?) but I think I’ve made progress. And it’s part of the journey to take a moment to congratulate myself. It has not always been easy or enjoyable, although sometimes it has! Well done, Claire.

A big part of this year has been my running, too. It’s funny, when we moved to Zurich five years ago a friend here mentioned “there’s great running trails here,” as a selling point at the time. To which I scoffed dismissively “not interested, that is NOT my thing. At all. Ever! ” Well never say never.  In 2018 I clocked up more than 1,000km of running. I’m stupidly proud of this. Not just because it’s a big number but because it means I was consistent. In rain, hail, snow, sun, heat, blahblah I kept on jogging all year. I went for runs in Zurich, Rome, Sydney, Porto, Perth, Ocean Shores, Dübendorf and Venice and I completed my first-ever Half-Marathon. And, to tie it back to my previous point: running has hugely helped my mental health.

It’s been an interesting year. When I look at my blog stats, they’re way down on 2017, which was a wonderfully flourishing period for my writing AND I did the 26Cantons52Weeks to boot. I wrote some decent stuff in 2018. I was going to say the quality had suffered, but I just read everything and… well… I like it! But I also know the difference it makes to write regularly, as I was doing in 2017. So I hope to get back to that in 2019. However, I am going to err on the side of sensible because I don’t want to set myself up to fail. So what are some reasonable goals…

  • Short stories: I’d like to focus on short stories a bit more. I had some success in placing those in 2017 when I was really working at it, and I think it’s a good way to go. If I can write or hone 4x short stories I’m happy enough with to attempt to place them in 2019, that will be a good outcome. (Actually I already have one on the boil)
  • THE NOVEL: I keep saying how I must get back to this. Maybe 2019 will be the year! I think if I can dedicate a few months of evenings / weekends to focus on it, it could happen. Maybe another NaNoWriMo?
  • Running: I would love to run another half-marathon this year. Maybe even two – one in Spring and one in Autumn. I don’t have the bandwidth to train for a full mara. That’s a goal for 2020!
  • Poetry: don’t think I need to put goals around my poems anymore. They can just come and go as they please.

 

Happy (almost) new year! What are your goals for 2019?

 

Photo: a wicked angel my son made at school

Writing goals 2018 and a question, dear readers…

 

Welcome to 2018! I’ve found it was useful to talk about writing goals at various points in the past so this is my housekeeping/ looking forward/ looking back blog for the year. Partly for my own reference but I’ve also got a question for you guys!

Housekeeping: I was really pleased to finish #26Cantons52weeks in the allotted time. I made a snazzy (sort of) homepage for it here: https://clairevetica.wordpress.com/26cantons52weeks/

I’ve also updated my About me page and added a new pic.

Taking stock: according to my submissions document, in 2017 I had 32 rejections and 4 acceptances. They say you should aim for 100 rejections per year so I only got a third of the way there. Partly this is because I only have about 6 hours ‘writing time’ per week but mostly because I really slowed down on sending submissions for various reasons, including making a decision not to pay for any submissions/reading fees/competition entries. Three acceptances were short stories, one is a poem that’s still in the pipeline. I love my poems but I guess in general the lit journals don’t? Or maybe I’m too impatient and I just publish all the best ones here 😉

My writing plans for 2017 were as follows

  • have a reasonable first draft of the novel by mid-year to give to early readers to feed back on – Not even close, I’ve barely touched my novel, although I did have a brainwave for a new start the other day, watch this space
  • (self-?) publish a chapbook of poetry and/or publish or contribute to a book of short stories –  The more I think about this, I don’t think I’m ready yet. I need to keep writing poems and consider themes etc.  before I go there.
  • record more poems – let’s say 6. At least one every two months – I achieved this and more, yay! Check out my soundcloud
  • perform some poetry live to an audience at least once (eek!) – haven’t made much headway here 
  • make a bit of money off my creative writing (ie: non-journalism) – not so far, still hopeful! 
  • get at least five pieces published in places that are not Claire-controlled: journals etc. – I made this target, if I include my upcoming poem and this writeCon writeup I had in The Woolf 
  • And I finished the #26Cantons25Weeks project. Woo hoo! As I say in the Woolf story, it was a valuable lesson to learn from Diccon Bewes about the amount of work it would take to potentially spin a project such as this into a book. Food for thought…

Writing goals 2018

I’m at a point where I really need a paid job. Both for myself and due to family circumstances. So I’ll be focusing on that for the next couple of months, which will mean less blogging. At this stage, I’ve had to be a bit tough with myself and decide I won’t even think about novel writing, short stories or poems too much while I focus on the job-hunt. It’s make or break time.

I’m sure a few poems will pop out, and maybe some travel stuff, but I need to give myself permission not to feel bad about putting my creativity on hold (sob!) to focus on finding work. And unfortunately, due to some travel in April, I won’t be able to participate in GloPoWriMo global poetry month this year either. 😦

Otherwise from that, I guess my goals remain much as above… I will revisit it all in May.

 

A few other bits and pieces:

  • I have created a Facebook author page if you want to ‘like’ me on there. It is mostly just publicising my blog posts at this stage but hoping to share a few articles and maybe have more writer-type discussions there. https://www.facebook.com/clairedoblewriter/
  • I’ve started using Twitter a bit more and I’m @Carabosse there

 

 

AND FINALLY…

I made this poll a while back and never published it. I was going to ask you, my readers, what you would you like to see in the next, say, six to twelve months, from Clairevetica?

Since this is mostly a place for me to write whatever, I don’t promise I’ll actually follow your advice. But it would be nice to know what some of you think!

Please feel free to pm/ speak / email me with your thoughts as well

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Cheers, Claire

#26Cantons52Weeks: Bern

 

Springtime in Wilderswil

Canton: Bern

Destination: Wilderswil

Special guests: An informal writing group on retreat

Interesting thing: In Bern you’ll find Jungfraujoch, which is the highest railway station in Europe (3,454 m above sea level)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

It’s the one you’ve been waiting for! I promised to write up Bern months ago but, I’ll be honest, I was waiting for a better offer… I had hoped to take a trip here with my parents, possibly to Mürren (best place in the country, according to Swiss Family Sabbatical). Alas it never happened, although we did manage to visit Basel-Stadt, Schwyz, Obwalden and Schaffhausen so I shouldn’t complain!

I’ll also be in Bern in a few weeks for my annual ‘lonely freelancer Xmas drinks’ but time marches on and I’m going to try to honour my commitment to myself by finishing #26Cantons52Weeks in, well, 52 weeks. So… to Bern.

As a canton, Bern has a lot to offer. It kind of seems like it should qualify as two cantons: Bern the city – capital of Switzerland with a UNESCO listed old town centre – and the Bernese Oberland, which encompasses the Bernese Alps and contains more than its fair share of stunning spots such as the Oschinenesee, Reichenbach falls (of Sherlock Holmes fame), gorgeous towns such as the above-mentioned Mürren and the Big Three mountains: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

Back in April, I attended an informal writer’s retreat weekend organised by my friend and fellow blogger Tara Grioud, where I wrote poetry (for poetry month) and fiction with a can’t-quite-believe-it’s-real backdrop of the mountains out my window at the Hotel Berghof. I’m thinking a lot about writing at the moment (well, perhaps I always am) because I’m trying to work out my gameplan for next year: get back to the novel? Pitch more stuff? Try to find a job? Stubbornly attempt to finish the #26Cantons project even if I don’t make it by December 31? Er… yes.

Anyway, what more can I say that you don’t already know about Bern… the towns are pretty, the views are incred. The writing went as it did. It takes bloody ages to get here from Zurich so is worth staying overnight or longer. There are plenty of other amazing spots in the Bernese Oberland I want to visit in future. It’s a very full canton. But this post is getting too long so I’ll leave you to enjoy the slideshow.

Oh, and before you go, here’s my poem about Bern

 

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud

Zug

Zürich

Disobedient

 

Sid Vicious “I did it My Way” RIP Sid & Nancy Spungen, you disobedient delinquents. Photo: https://sonicmoremusic.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/swindle.jpg

 

I wrote every day

every day

then started to disobey

my plans and programmes

I guess

life

got in the way

distracted in the fray

of various this and thats until

well…

sometimes you need to rebel

I make the rules, I break the rules, no one tells me what to do

I always say

and no one fucking publishes rhyming poems either

I may

have discovered too late

but here we are today

you like it, hey?

keep on

disobeying

 

Written obediently in response to the WordPress daily prompt: Disobey

Empty Words

all the words have been used

I’m just making biscuit-ends

from scraps of pastry

language left behind

don’t want to waste it

can’t say or write

anything new so I

bake it lukewarm and then

gorge on

empty calories

and press up the crumbs

on wet fintertips as

thick clouds of ideas

stifle my mind but

when

they drift

from my mouth

they’re the thin smoke

of banned cigarettes