Category Archives: Other arty things

Singing, acting, writing

Last time I blogged, I’d just spent 10 days in LA researching my novel. Since that time I’ve been incredibly busy. But instead of hunkering down during the cold winter months and working assiduously on the novel itself, I busied myself with entirely different projects… it’s weird how procrastination works.

Here are the things I’ve been up to:

SINGING

James Summerfield, a UK-based muso and Americana-meister, asked me to sing on one of his tracks. I agreed of course, and was pleasantly surprised when he actually sent me four tracks to sing on. It was my first experience of making music with someone I’d never actually met. Here’s a little sample of the songs on the album. You can pre-order it here. The female vocalist – yup, that’s me.

 

ACTING

My brother is the actor of the family. He starred in New Zealand’s longest-running soap opera Shortland Street for about four years, as well as starring in Spartacus and various other shows and films. Acting is something I’d never considered doing myself…

But then, suddenly, I felt like trying it. And with the help of Pigville Productions I created the pilot episode of a weird little comedy called ‘Immi the Vegan’. More Immi the Vegan to come soon!

WRITING

Most of my writing time has been spent co-writing a found-footage horror web series, along with writer Guy Pigden. It’s been a very different experience for me, writing with someone else, and also writing to commission – with very clear outlines given by the producers. The most important thing I’ve learned so far is to not write too much before showing it to the production company – because in all likelihood you’ll have to scrap the whole damn and start again. The shoot for this show is in October, and I’ll post about it then!

But in other writing news, three of my poems were published in the latest edition of takahe magazine, and can be read here. The first poem, in particular, is very special to me.

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Filed under Music, Other arty things, Poetry

I had a fisty cuff with my micro fiction

I have a love-hate relationship with micro fiction.

I am a sucker for the competitions. No matter what project I’m currently working on, or how important the project is to me, I will throw it aside in an instant (I couldn’t bring myself to say “in a flash”) to spend the day writing – and then filing down – a micro-fiction. I think this is mostly because I’m a shameful procrastinator. I’ll do the dishes, clean the toilet, water the plants, rearrange the cupboards, write lists, budgeterise, plan trips, (write blog entries…) – anything instead of actually sitting down to work on whatever project I’ve set for myself. So if a micro-fiction competition sidles into my peripheral vision I GRAB hold of it and yank it directly to the foreground. I can then happily procrastinate while convincing myself I’m honing my art.

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The problem is, I’m not very good at writing them. I send them off, waving enthusiastically as they wander down the street all by themselves, and only a few weeks later I get the inevitable rejection letter.

So I decided (tonight – when I should, ahem, have been doing something more productive with my time) to figure out where I’m going wrong. To good ol’ Google I went, with my sincere question: “how to write good micro fiction?” I found contradicting advice, some dos and don’ts, some practical tips on keeping the word count low. I’ve chosen to use David Gaffney’s (author of Sawn-Off Tales) six simple instruction on how to write micro fiction, because they make intuitive sense to me.

You can read the full article by clicking on the link above, but in a nutshell he says: (1) Start in the middle; (2) Don’t use too many characters; (3) Make sure the ending isn’t at the end (ie avoid the twist/punch-line/“drum roll and cymbal crash” ending); (4) Pick a good title; (5) Choose an excellent last line that leaves the author thinking and even struggling to understand what the hell it’s all about; and (6) Write a longer story then cut it down.

Here is one of the three unsuccessful micro-fictions I recently submitted to Micro Madness, a national micro fiction competition running throughout June. It is exactly 100 words long.

Shark

It looked too small to be a boat, but it moved at a phenomenal speed. Brian watched it from the shoreline until he realised it was a huge fin. He took out his phone to get footage. Could even be a Great White.

It circled round and started heading towards the shore. Like it had noticed him. Brian smiled at himself, shook his head.

It kept coming. What was it doing? Trying to beach itself? Phone still in hand, Brian took a cautious step backwards.

As it hit in the sand, Brian turned to run. He only got three paces.

I’ll now go through David Gaffney’s steps one by one and see if I can improve this story.

(1) I believe that this story starts in the middle. I haven’t bothered explaining who Brian is, or why he’s walking on the beach. So I think it’s passed step #1.

(2) I only have one character.

(3) Oh dear… egg on my face. This story clearly ends at the end. Brian dies / is eaten by some weird oceanic creature. But this has got me wondering: do I stop the story before he is attacked? That would be boring, and would miss the point. The alternative is to carry on with the story after he’s been attacked. But as the story is told in a “close” third person point of view (that is, we see Brian’s thoughts) it seems impossible to carry on after he’s being eaten or at least horrifically dismembered. I’ll try writing it from an omniscient perspective and see if I can stretch it out further…

(4) I hate choosing titles (especially for flash fiction, when the title is arguably more important). I’m a very lazy title-creator. I’ll concede that the title isn’t that great. It probably leads people to believe the creature is in fact a shark.

shark

(5) Since I have to change the ending (so it’s not the end) I’ll have to change the last line anyway.

(6) You know, with this story I didn’t actually twiddle it down much. Which probably means there’s more story I could have told.

Here is my second attempt. Since the guidelines specified the story had to be 100 words or less, I’ve maintained that restriction.

Over 1 million hits on YouTube

It looked too small to be a speedboat. Brian watched it from the shoreline until he realised it was an enormous fin. He took out his phone to get footage.

It circled round and started heading swiftly towards the shore. Phone still in hand, Brian took a step backwards.

Later, the police found what appeared to be hurried footsteps heading away from the shoreline and abruptly ceasing. The boy’s phone was found three days later, damaged beyond repair. A video went viral on YouTube, showing a great, angular beast erupting from the water. Critics dismissed it as an amateur prank.

Comments are most welcome! Here’s a link to the Micro Madness page – it’s worth checking out!

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Haikus and Mindfulness

What is a haiku?
About three years ago I picked up a small, slim book of haiku poetry from a person selling books on a suburban street in Whakatane (a small town in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty). It was only $1 and I thought, “what the hey”. I’d never read any haikus before and the book looked quick to read. It’s called “Haiku Poetry Volume Four”, by James Hackett.

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Floating with fallen
petals on a pool of sky:
a fledgling sparrow.
(James Hackett)

 I read the author’s preface (a sign that I’m getting older, I think) and was unexpectedly struck by the profoundness of what he was trying to express. A haiku, I learned, wasn’t simply a poem that goes 5 syllables – 7 syllables – 5 syllables (Mrs Hines, why did you put me so wrong?). To write a haiku is to capture a moment in time truthfully. To “hold a mirror to nature”. To observe (nature) without judging or analysing. You don’t bother with analogies. You don’t try to be clever or arty. You sit, you watch, and you capture what you’ve seen in 17 simple syllables (though it seems most people will allow you some artistic license to break this rule if you really must fit in that eighteenth syllable, God what a glutton).

I’ve since learned that you can write other 5 syllable – 7 syllable – 5 syllable poems, say about human nature or human things, but these aren’t haikus. They’re  senryūs. You can be as arty or as clever as you want with those.

Her bull-like snorting
is so mechanical it’s
like a train, or sex.
(I.K. Paterson-Harkness)

What is mindfulness?
The reason I started thinking about haikus again is that I’ve just begun a yoga teacher training course. I’m not entirely convinced I want to teach yoga, but I was offered a scholarship, and well… I’m sure it’s good for me. When most people visualise yoga they imagine people with their legs tied in a knot around their neck, so I’m going to disappoint you right now by letting you know I actually can’t do that. And I’m not sure if being able to do that would really help me much in life, except to impress/disturb people at parties. The real purpose of yoga is to “calm the fluctuations of the mind”, and this can be achieved with more practical bodily positions. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying tying your legs around your neck is bad for you per say. Just that you don’t have to do it to be doing yoga.)

Mindfulness is when we observe what is happening to our mind and to our body, without judging or analysing. We simply notice – our breath, our racing thoughts, the noise of the truck outside, the feeling in our knee – and fully accept what is occurring. The point of being mindful is to bring you into the present moment. So often we’re reflecting on the past (“Did I tell John I’d be home at 6?”) or we’re projecting into the future (“I hope Mary likes the present I’ve bought her”). If you take the time to think about it, it’s kind of sad that we do that so often. The present is where we are now. It’s the only place we’ll ever be.

How to link the two?
To be honest I’m not all that good at being mindful. I find it nearly impossible not to analyse or judge, or even more impossible to stop my racing thoughts. It’s true that yoga does help, but let’s face it, I’m no guru.

But I am a writer! And I’ve decided that to write a haiku properly one must be mindful – at least mindful of the present moment that we observe with the senses of our body: sight, sound and touch. So my general conclusion is that writing haikus will help me practice being mindful. And being mindful is good for me. So writing haikus is good for me. There’s some unbreakable logic for you, so go on – go write a haiku.

Watching only to his
right, the strutting seagull
walks in a circle.
(I.K. Paterson-Harkness)

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Auckland Street Art

In the dwindling light of afternoon I set off with my camera to capture some of the new street art that has suddenly popped up within my neighbourhood (the streets surrounding K Rd, Auckland). In the space of only a few blocks I found seven murals either newly finished or mid-creation.  I don’t know if it’s a new council initiative or what? Are there more to come? (I hope so). I’m not overly fond of drab concrete walls, so if there’s a mural-movement going on then I’m all for it.

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At the bottom of Mercury Lane. A crowd had gathered…

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On Upper Queen Street. I think this is awesome.

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Also on Upper Queen, not quite finished. Not entirely sure what it is, either? Can anyone help me here?

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Poynton Terrace.

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Is this new? I really like it. Also Poynton Terrace.

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Pitt Street, next to the Methodist Church.

I saw this one being finished up today – on East St, against the wall of the needle exchange.

 

I did a quick search to find out something (anything) about the increase of street art in the area, but came up with nothing. I’d be keen to find out what it’s all about / who the artists are, if anybody knows.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

These past couple of weeks I’ve had the privilege of creating a music video for this beautiful song, by Sarah Macombee.

Filmed at Karekare, North Piha, and Laingholm’s little beach, we were buffeted by the wind, showered by rain – but the dolls didn’t complain, so neither did we.

And it was nothing that a cocktail coudn’t fix, after a few hours holding up a camera, bracing myself against the bluster.

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About me!

I’d been putting off creating an “About Me” page because, well, I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable writing about myself in such a cold and factual fashion. Each time I’m asked to submit a bio along with a piece of my work, I deliberate on it for ages. I write “I.K. Paterson-Harkness lives in Auckland”, then delete it, then write it back in, and then sit there scratching my head, wondering what else to include. What counts as being important? Does anyone care that I taught logic for several years, or that I was once told by a doctor to stop eating so much curry? Is it interesting that I knit plastic bags together, or that I got a tattoo of a garlic plant only to find out soon afterwards that I am intolerant to garlic? Is it better to make a joke of myself (which is far easier), or be all wanky (proud?) about my achievements? I actually have no idea… and I just plain don’t like any of it.

BUT – I knew I ought to write something about myself (since this is what bloggers and writers do, you see), so I’ve created an About Me page. Click on the link, and learn something new and exciting.

art6

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And… action

Last week I filmed Auckland band Loud Ghost‘s newest music video, for their song FIRE UP. It was utter chaos. The beautifully clean and tidy art gallery we had hijacked for the occasion was, in a matter of moments, transformed into a post-apocalyptic scene. All the rehearsed cues were quickly forgotten, and all I could do was try not to be beheaded by a guitar. But all in all, I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

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