Monday, February 27, 2012

Submissions, success, synchronicity and why it is probably all fated anyway

Inspired by some of my fellow writers and their submission successes of late, I decided to put some effort into the process - a process with which I don't bother too much - and had to laugh because I got two instant acceptances out of two lit mag submissions.
What made me laugh even more is that two of the three accepted are paintings! Some 20 years writing and some 3 years painting and one lit mag. took two paintings and a short story and the other one painting. Although I did get poetry accepted last year. I love the way life messes with our heads. Writing however remains my first love. And I have a new premise for a novel I started a few months ago.

And perhaps pondering just what success means is important. I decided long ago that people matter and everything else is things and stuff and writing comes under the 'stuff' but if one is going to create - whether meal or painting or poem or prose it is nice to think that someone, somewhere, sometime appreciates it.
I also believe age makes a difference. I suspect it might have meant more to me in my thirties although I did not begin writing creatively until I was about 40 and had moved overseas and was not allowed to work. Over the years I have submitted on occasion, but not a lot - living in Africa and India when agents and publishers demanded, as many still do, hard copy which I was simply unable to post most of the time did make it more difficult.
And then as time passed I worked through what it all really meant - because I do believe, in the main, success and talent are not synonymous in any field and life is littered with authors and poets who are 'one-book wonders' - even those who win awards - and who end up in the remainders bin in 12 months.
And in truth, few people make any money out of writing and those who do are rarely the most talented - just the most 'in fashion' or the most fortunate. So in pondering what mattered or how much it mattered I came to the conclusion 'not much.'

Having said that, what I love about the world-wide web is that it has made it possible to share one's creative output so easily and I do believe that the raison d'etre for creativity is to share - so, with sites like WOWH and blogs and the like there are far greater opportunities for sharing.

It has also become much easier to submit. No more printing out heaps of pages, packaging it all up and heading to the post office - you open the submit page, download your offerings, click Submit and off it goes.
But I would add, pondering my astrological energies at work in 2012 I did see that this was a year where success after much effort (and no success) was likely. Not that getting a couple of subs means much in the scheme of life but better than the alternative. :) Here's to a productive 2012 for everyone on all counts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I know it's pathetic but I like a semblance of order

I am now following myself on this Blog. Yes it is pathetic but it was the only one of my Blogs without a Follower and it just didn't look right.

Maybe if I had only one Blog it would look halfway impressive but I wanted to separate the ponderings, pontificatings, paintings, poetry and prose and ancestry probings as much as I could.

Finding Charlie Ross is doing best with 16 Followers - Small Stones has kicked off in the last year and now has 10 Followers - A Spiritual Life has 7 Followers - The Cassandra Letters has 4 - The Blossom Collector and Blantyre Street have 1 each. That's around 40 people who might actually read something I have written from time to time.

Does it matter? Probably not but it beats filling up drawers with my work.

One kindle copy sold - on a scale of one to none!

Well it may be as good as I get but it's better than I had - at this point in my life as a writer I have actually sold a novel, just one, but that is one up on nothing.

Amazon Kindle sent me an email suggesting I look to see what was happening and there it was - one purchase. No doubt a kind friend given that I did let a few people, who, over the years had said they would like to read some of my work, know that here was a $9.99 opportunity.

I am not sure it means much but at this point in time, having looked at what is at work astrologically, if I am ever to get anything accepted or 'out there' this year will be the year.

In that funny way of things I sent off some submissions to a new literary magazine including a painting and had a response re: the painting saying it is not quite their thing - how often have I heard that? - but she would be interested to see more of my work. I have no expectations. I am a serious amateur having only begun to paint two or so years ago but what the heck, if you are not in it as the saying goes.

After two crashes of the net. trying to load four oils and four water-colours I sent them in two separate emails. Who knows? As my husband laughed and as did my son, funny  if after years of writing, and to be honest, minimal submitting but still submitting, the first creative manifestation ever accepted by anyone was a painting? Although even as I say that I remember that a poem was accepted by a website - along with just about everyone else's submissions from what I could see - but hey, guess that makes it possibly two acceptances in twenty years of creativity!

It was interesting pondering the painting request - nervous, because I actually have faith in my writing as I don't in my painting - but the thought flashed through my mind, 'do I really care?' 'would I really like to have my work acknowledged?' It may seem a ridiculous question but I am beginning to think I am a hermit at heart and as they say, what you expect or desire is what you get. Perhaps my lack of 'success' is exactly what I expect and desire.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

One of my novels on kindle

And why not I thought? Give it a go.

Lusaka Diary

I’m not sure that Lusaka fits the description Greg gave me when I was in Oz, of clean and green, although he was right about the absence of razor-wire Joburg- style. And certainly, compared to Luanda it is cleaner but the roadsides are still littered and you see women washing in rubbish-filled drains. But that, sadly, is Africa.

He may well be ultimately right about the ‘green’ however,  but,  for the moment, as the season dictates, the leaves are dressed in a heavy coat of dust. When the rains come in a few months time the tree-lined streets will no doubt be a picture. Although the Jacarandas are in gorgeous purple bloom now and they are abundant here, breaking up the otherwise dun-coloured horizons with gorgeous abandon. The  orange-flowered Poinciana’s  have yet to burst into bloom, but the  white and pink blossomed Bauhinias are beginning to bud, and so too are the frangipani and the bougainvillea.

Sadly, the most common thing that one sees ‘blossoming’ here is the ubiquitous plastic bag, fluttering in branches, lining the roads, crammed into drains. For whatever ‘gift’ it may have provided to the world, the plastic bag is an ugly ‘curse’ in Africa.

Lusaka has the same brown, square, dusty feel to it that I have seen in many other African cities. You can blame the communists for a lot of the ‘squareness.’ In Lusaka’s case it was the Chinese and in Luanda’s it was the Russians. The communists seem to have turned block-ugly architecture into something approximating an art-form and Africa is one place where the skill has been most finely honed

But, unlike Luanda, the buildings here are not pock-marked with bullet holes and the roads are not bone-shatteringly pot-holed. Although I am told that the state of the roads, and by that I mean the main roads, has improved only in recent times, through the efforts of the Japanese.

The roadside vendors are not as prolific as one finds in Joburg or Luanda, but  they gather at some major intersections, selling everything from plums to puppies and avocadoes to air compressors. They also appear to be singularly good-natured but then that seems a given for Zambians in general.

This country, in the heart of Africa, although ringed on all sides by war-torn neighbours, has managed to remain relatively peaceful. The lack of one dominant tribal group is given as the reason, but whatever it is, the Zambians are clearly fortunate and perhaps they know it, living cheek by jowl as they do with the Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe. Not to mention also sharing borders with Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

Zambia has been described as a great butterfly spreading its wings in the heart of Africa but studying the map in the guide book,  it looks more to me like a large liver, resting slightly to one side in the body of Africa. The liver is probably the most miraculous organ in the body, given its power to re-generate. Perhaps that is Zambia’s secret.

The ancestors of the present Bantu speaking peoples, the majority of whom have origins in the Luba-Lunda kingdoms slightly to the north in the present Democratic Republic of Congo, came to Zambia between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. As late as the eighteenth century, the people of Zambia had hardly any contact with non-Africans. Due to its location, the country was largely ignored by the great powers of the day and remained a vast unmapped tract of land between the Zambezi and Lake Tanganyika, until it was drawn into the world economy through the slave trade.

The importance of the region was recognized and exploited by the Swahili, Arab and Portugese slave traders, but European interest only really took off after the arrival of David Livingstone. By 1889, sixteen years after Livingstone had died, Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company was administering Zambia. At that time it was split into two regions, known as North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia. In 1911 the two areas were amalgamated as Northern Rhodesia until the independent republic of Zambia came into being in 1964, under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda.

Lusaka is situated some two hours flight north of Johannesburg and about the same distance, south of Kinshasha and Dar-es-Salaam. Harare is a hop, skip and a jump away by comparison although given the state of things in Zim, there is not a lot of incentive for tourists to make the relatively short drive.

And so here, now, in my latest home, I am learning something new about somewhere new. In the particular sense, home for the moment is The Holiday Inn. The lawns at the front are lush, green and ruthlessly trimmed. It is a popular place for weddings with little girls in white meringue dresses playing in the shade of two enormous trees while photographs are taken of the happy couple. At least three flower girls and three page boys seems to be de-rigeur, and three bridesmaids, usually dressed in a  rainbow-bright long skirt and firm fitting short-sleeved top.

We have a large room called a suite but suite-looking only perhaps in terms of size.  It is pleasant enough although seating constitutes two not particularly comfortable cane chairs and the coffee-table for the moment is the suitcase rack, topped with a suitcase, covered with a sheet. We went out yesterday and bought a bar fridge to replace the tiny cooler fridge that was hardly a cooler and certainly not a fridge.

 Living in hotel rooms for extended periods (a year in Bombay) is demanding and it is nice to be able to have some food to eat in the room and more importantly, a chilled bottle of wine, given that the drink of choice here seems to be beer and wine by the glass only comes out of a box. Too much of anything is never a good thing and that includes eating out. As experience has taught me, familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt but it always breeds familiarity, and familiarity’s handmaiden is boredom. I am reminded of how little people have in Africa as I make that comment, and feel instantly guilty that the comforts we have should ever be experienced as boring. But all things are relative and in relative terms, while my less may be someone else’s ‘more’, it remains my ‘less,’ and is judged accordingly.

Perhaps the lesson is, as the Quakers teach, to find in the moment, no matter how trivial the experience or the action, a depth of appreciation that transcends judgement and transforms any ‘less’ into ‘more.’

But, with my computer set up on the small desk, a few books, CD player, ground coffee and leaf tea to hand (both brought in) it is comfortable enough.  Fortunately  the hotel has a few pleasant areas which provide escape from the challenges of living in a confined space.  

There is a pool area, although the water is still a tad cool, despite the increasingly hot days. This is the dry season and temperatures will rise from now on .  October is the hottest time, reaching 32C plus I am told.  It is dry heat though and easier to take than the humidity of the wet season. Rain also brings a greater risk of malaria, which is prevalent in Zambia, although not as bad as Angola.

The three-storey hotel is built around a large lagoon and courtyard area where the priority guests appear to be hundreds of Masked Weavers. These little yellow-bodied birds with black faces and wings, weave the fascinating hanging nests so commonly seen in Africa. The nests hang like small upturned gourds from the tall palm trees and from the long lengths of reeds and canes which rise from the water.

They are cleverly constructed from grass, forming a ball with a funnel-neck off to one side, and they are strung in the dozens along the palm fronds; hanging like  green and cream lanterns,  depending upon how newly made, catching every drift of breeze. At dusk they seem to  ‘grow’ flashing  black wings as the birds hover underneath and poke their heads in an out of the narrow neck. It’s room service with a twist.

The other guests in this watery haven are crocodiles. Baby crocodiles actually which is something of a comfort. One presumes that as they grow in size they are removed. Greg says to become handbags but I prefer to think of the pool as a crèche and like to think that with greater maturity, the crocs are returned to something approximating the wild.

The baby crocs drape themselves on small mudbanks spaced between the reeds. When they are not sleeping, which is not much of the time, they tend to keep an eye on the birds. But like all kids, excitement gets the better of them and thin, long tails splash noisily, giving fair warning, should any be needed, to the dive-bombing Weavers.

But that is what being a kid is about. Possibility is  always more exciting than actuality and when you don’t have to worry about where you are going to get your next meal, the sign on the wall says Tuesdays and Thursdays are crocodile feeding times, then the indulgence of possibility is yours for the taking.

The pool terrace  is a pleasant place to sit at dusk although any conversation has to compete with the cacophony of the birds, a shrieking twittering that rises in waves, just as they do,  careering from nest to branch,  and back again, as they fulfill their parental duties.

It’s not only the Masked Weavers that have a strong sense of duty in Zambia. The place, I am told, is awash with Christian do-gooders, seeking  to bring salvation to the African ‘heathens’. Then again, Zambians are considered to be fairly religious, and church attendance is recorded as high,  so one assumes they are more than happy to be saved.

And to be fair, there is probably some ‘saving’ in a practical sense that could be done given that Zambia has at last count, a  million orphans.  Out of a total population of around 11 million, that is a lot. The Government says that 750,000 of these are the result of AIDS.  Africa has always had its dangers but AIDS is proving to be the most deadly of the all.