Tag Archives: Creative Writing/Stories

Short stories are back in fashion


I am not quite sure where any stories or short stories were in or out of fashion but I had to share this post from The Independent. Perhaps this point was made based on the literary publications’ responses to short stories in the past. All I could think of was, things must be looking better for short story writers.

Short stories revived: They are back in fashion, as established, and fledging, writers return to the form

Aesthetica magazine writing competition
ARIFA AKBAR Author Biography Thursday 18 December 2014

Raymond Carver, in a Paris Review interview, spoke of seeing his first short story, “Pastoral”, published in a literary magazine as “A terrific day! Maybe one of the best days ever.”

When he reached another landmark moment in the 1960s and his story, Will you Please Be Quiet, Please? was printed in The Best American Short Stories Annual, he took the book to bed with him.

This year, I helped to judge a short story writing competition for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual – a collection of new writing in poetry and short fiction. The writers in the annual, plucked from a longlist of over a thousand entries, should feel the same sense of reward and validation as Carver. These are stories that the reader can take to bed and there, encounter the joyous flexibility of a form that can present an entire fictional world in just 2,000 words, or the entirety of a single, crystallised moment in the same word count.

It is particularly satisfying to see the fortunes of the short story revived in recent times. Following Alice Munro’s crowning last year as Nobel Prize winner for literature, some of our most revered writers – Margaret Atwood, George Saunders, Lorrie Moore, Graham Swift – have since proved with their latest collections that the short story is to be taken seriously and not merely a transitional form for fledging novelists-in-training.

I found a refreshing breadth of style and subject matter in competition entries. What makes them so diverse is not just the internationalism of their entrants but their imaginative scope. Themes range from family dysfunction, love and loss to the hard-edged social realities of dementia, domestic violence and public acts of terror, though there is playfulness too. Several dramatise the fragile, polar states of old age and of childhood in original ways.

Corinne Demas’s Thanksgiving, a subtle story of sibling bonds and betrayals, stood out for judges as this year’s winner. It is an unshowy piece of writing – nothing more, it would seem, than a brother and sister taking a car-ride together after a festive family dinner. Yet, emotional undercurrents swirl beneath the surface to give it heft and complexity, and there is a quiet, controlled confidence in its telling.

Each selected story was marked by its distinctive voice, from the lyrical to the spare to the loud and large-hearted. These are the tales that wriggled their way beneath the skin, working a groove in the mind to surprise, impress, or merely to remain memorable. We hope that readers will be as moved, unsettled, and dazzled, as we found ourselves in their reading.

*The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, now in its eighth year, s an annual prize hosted by Aesthetica Magazine. It is as an opportunity for emerging and established writers to showcase their work to an international audience, and the winners and finalists are published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual – a collection of new writing in poetry and short fiction.

For more information visit, http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/creativewriting

Mucga’s Song


When you are a child, things can seem simple and beautiful. You may know something more and you can sense it, but you are afraid to ask. You pretend to only understand what you could because you knew –  you were told only what you needed to know. As you grow and your mind opens more, you lose that innocence and protection of your thoughts. Your older mind sees the ugly side to those things such as people and how they treated others or bad places and bad things.

This story is about a friend of mine. Many that knew our small village, Wagang, on the Coast of Lae, Papua New Guinea may remember Mucga. She was a distant aunt. We had a special relationship which no-one really understood but sometimes, friendship and love do not need any explanation- they can just exist. My story is for Mucga.

Mucga’s Song

It was a crispy morning about 9 o’clock. The blue sky threw dancing crystals on the Budac River. The river had a lazy flow today. My eyes could see through the water to the other side of the bank and the river was full of fish feeding on the mud and shell fish on the beds and mangrove roots. A slight breeze rustled the pandanus and swept the long green leaves over the golden ripe seeds. Already the seeds were attracting insects and birds with its sweetness. The breeze gathered sand and dried leaves bounced quickly along the hardened sandy bank to the river then floated back gently.

I had to be first to get to Budac before all the other children so I can catch enough dinner. The fish did not tolerate crowds nor noise. It was the main river used by Wagang villagers, just along the coast of  Huon Gulf in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.

I set up my trap, an empty 500g Nescafe coffee jar and waded into the water. I had filled it with a quarter cooked rice and water. With the labels and lid removed, it was one tall glass cylinder. The rice grains were twirling around in the clear bottle as I filled it to the brim to let out the bubbles, holding it under water. I took a deep breath and just as I went under water, I heard singing;

‘Musawa ke se leng geleng gwec, oh geleng gwec ngademu geo sasa, geo kesuc

Oh geoc ke soc o Bukawa.

(The giant easterly was drenching in the ocean as she swept and stirred the sea dirty and rough – outwards and then inwards and finally she arrived at the shores of Bukawac).

Bukawac is a coastal sub-district down the coast. It would take more than three school lunch breaks to get there by a motor boat. On foot, it takes nearly a day.

Muc ga! I yelled out loud.

She was startled and stopped on her next deep breath before her second verse. Mucga looked over the water at me. In our culture, we would sing while we worked. With the corners of her lips turned downwards quickly, I upset her because she wanted to sing to help me catch fish. Then suddenly, she gave me a very big grin and stood up.  I had seen this grin too often and knew what it was for.

‘Are you catching OUR fish?’ she asked coyly as she walked up to the bank near me. Quickly my annoyance turned into a smile.  Mucga had mental illness at a very early age. She was a grown up now, but I would not know for sure how old she was. The children in the village called her ‘longlong’ in pidgin. She would act funny and talk funny. Most times she was like a child. Mucga can go from a normal conversation to an extremely angry or sad mood and say very bad words like “Satan” and the  “K” word which is really the “C” word.

When I was growing up, I would hear her cry and scream and an ambulance would come and take her to the Angau Hospital. I heard the adults say she was in Ward 9. I didn’t like it went she was beaten. I knew she was mis-treated. She would be gone for weeks so I would fish alone at Budac. In her good days, Mucga would tag along.  My mother told me not to fish with other children because they used many bad words. Often the children would torment me and call me names. A couple of those words were “bastard”, “white bastard” and “sting” which was a pidgin word for stinky. I often wondered if they meant that I smelt funny because I look different or that I was lighter.

My cousin Elsie Joseph who was younger then I would fish with me sometimes. I loved her. We always had fun. She was often sick with head Malaria. My other two friends did not like fishing.

When I asked grandma about Mucga, grandma said Mucga’s spirit was not at rest. If Mucga’s spirit was rested, it would stay calmly inside her and Mucga would be herself. The restless spirit was something Mucga was born with and we have to accept her.

Mucga’s walk was up and down and sometimes sideways with her bad foot dragging behind her. This foot would draw a line on the sand as she went. Mother said it was because leprosy ate her leg. I always wandered how leprosy chose to eat Mucga’s leg and not everybody’s leg. Mother said that when you wear another person’s shoe and they have leprosy, that leprosy would eat your feet too, then your leg. That always worried me because in my head,  I had pictures of people trying to walk without their feet and legs.

Mucga stood in front of me. Her sore feet pointing at me and every now and then she marched quickly to chase the flies off.

I can catch OUR fish, I stressed, but only if you stop singing. You know the fish don’t like singing or noise and if you keep singing to the big easterly wind, that wind will come, I said.

Mucga’s usual troubled eyes were reflecting the dancing happy crystals from the water. She was happy, thinking she was helping me. Mucga looked straight at me again with her 20 year-old eyes and then nodded. She had a slight smile and I saw her teeth – never been touched by beetlenut stain.

At seven, I had never felt any animosity from this woman. I felt like hugging her.  Mucga had always frightened children and adults alike in my village. She would scream and launch at them when they abused her. I was glad she did. They all deserved it.

Mucga tried to smile, showing just a handful of teeth this time and I knew she would wait there for me – the whole day. I also knew, there was no guarantee the singing had stopped.

I waded further into the river and eight metres from the sandy bank, water quickly came up to my neck. My feet stirring up mud and the softness indicated that I was deep enough. I let myself into the water and with two kicks I steadied into position and placed my coffee bottle ‘trap’ on the river floor. The bottle’s mouth faced the bank. With a gentle wave of my right hand underwater at the mouth of the jar while holding the jar with my left, I encouraged the rice grains out in a trail along the body to the mouth of the coffee jar. It is the bait.

If I placed too much rice outside the jar, the fish will fill their stomachs outside the jar and then leave. This is a routine I have expertly mastered in my many years of fishing with coffee and jam jars.

Now the fish would innocently come for the rice and follow the trail to the back of the bottle. When the fish discovers it is a trap and starts to panic and struggle to turn to get out of the bottle, I dive in, close the jar mouth with my hand and swim to the shore to empty my catch on the bank. The whole process is repeated until I had enough fish. Sometimes my cousins or aunts would give me an extra bottle but rarely do the fish get trapped simultaneously.

When I returned to the bank, Mucga started singing again and the wind picked up.

MucGa – nem we tom. I called to her – don’t sing, you will make the wind come, the water rough and scare the fish.

She nodded and looked down; peeling at her sore toes. Her very faded floral cotton dress hung loosely and her skin was palely dry. I looked at her contrasted wet black tight curly hair; a rough cut closely to her ears. It was not fetching. That haircut would have been forced and she would have fought her barber, I thought.

Lost in five minutes of thoughts, I suddenly caught glimpse of scales flashing and ran and dived into the river to my coffee jar. When I got out to catch my breath and held up the fish in the jar, Mucga was jumping up and down making strange noises. She was in already dancing in my waiting spot. I came up to her; water running down my shorts and T shirt and emptied the fish onto the wet sand.  As the fish jumped, she jumped and started singing out of tune.

I told Mucga – Ok you can have the first one, but please, be quiet. I refilled the bottle and walked back into the water. This routine went on for a few years. At the end of each day, we split the fish.

Just before I reached ten, my aunt told me Mucga had died in the Angau Hospital, in Lae. I took my fishing tackle that morning and made my way to the river. The Easterly blew hard and I sang her song loudly. I wanted to frighten the fish, rustle the leaves and scare the birds in memory of my friend.

 

 

Introduction – About Tribalmystic Blog


Welcome and thank you for reading my blog. My name is Joycelin Leahy. My blog name is Tribal Mystic. I am an Ahe (pronounced: aah hee) woman from Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG); one of the most unique and diverse countries of many tribes, languages, cultures and natural beauty. I now live in Brisbane, Australia and work between the two countries.

Whether you come from PNG or not, we all come from tribes and we belong to some kind of tribal group and material objects or things that give us our identity. I believe each person and each thing has a story. I am hoping to share with you some of these stories about people, animals and things that have been part of my life. I hope that you would find these stories interesting and share them with others. I have been a journalist, artist, an arts curator, business woman, climate activist and story-teller and a mother of two amazing sons. I have also been a cleaner, house painter, body painter, sales person, renovator, telemarketer, campaigner – you name it, I have tried many things…As present, I write for pleasure and I paint and teach others to paint while I run my art gallery in Bellbowrie called Beyond Pacific Art.

I am very passionate about sustainable heritage particularly with the effects of climate change. I would also like to see more women in PNG and the Pacific Islands become self-sufficient by using their traditional heritage to do contemporary business and at the same time, not give in to too much commercialisation and losing their traditional skills. Teach your daughters and grand daughters your skills now. I only hope for eco-tourism in the future and I would like to see Pacific Island countries, particularly the Melanesians work extra hard to preserve their unique heritages.  We are losing many languages. I support visual artists and embrace all the challenges that women face around the world and particularly in my country and the islands. There will be posts about many of my interests I have just mentioned as part of my introduction to this blog. I hope what I write would support, educate and be simply enjoyed. Please give me some honest feedback.

I have been contemplating this role as a blogger for almost three years and was always afraid and concerned that I would never have the right content or quantity to write about. Just writing this tonight makes me feel like a very excited small kid dying to play in a large playground with strangers. I took some time to speak to friends and family who are expert bloggers (thank you Mari Ellingson – Island Meri) and looked at veterans Malum Nalu and Masalai and after some research and feedback I have finally taken the giant step. I hope that I can stand comfortably on my feet in the coming months and make another step towards sharing extraordinary stories and pictures. I will write about art, culture, heritage, climate change, creative writing, nature, family women, business, music, beauty and fashion, but to name a few. Each post will be different and could be from any of these topics. In this first blog, I would like to share an image of two birds – both lorikeets that have come to live with us here on the outskirts of the city in Bellbowrie. Over the years my sons and I have loved and cared for animals and insects and I often get a shock when without warning I find a dead beetle in the freezer, waiting to be buried properly. I have also been deeply moved often when my sons make me stop at roadsides to pick up road-kills and take them home with us. Whether it be a possum or bird they wanted us to take the animals home to give them a good burial in our yard. Next blog I will share with you one of my short stories about life in Brisbane City. Tenk yu tumas na lukim yu! (Thank you very much and I’ll be seeing you!).

DSCN1424
Kaz (rainbow lorikeet) breaking the ice on their first day they became friends. It was Christmas day 2013. Nisha (scale breasted Lorikeet) was not impressed but they got on better as the days progressed. Kaz has been with us four months and Nisha,  just under a month. They both fell out of their nests and could not fly.

Tribal Mystic tribalmystic