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September 13, 2018

Exercise courtesy of Rachel Matthews.
Write a story in linear form. Then rewrite it using a flashback or a flashforward.
Prompts: An Ikea spice rack, a newspaper from 1954 and a man wearing a purple suit

70s wallpaper

The wallpaper isn’t coming off without a fight.

Decades of rising damp have bonded it to the plaster like skin. Matt and I have spent whole weekends on stepladders, wearing goggles and wet hankies tied over our faces, scraping off strips and scabs of orange-and-brown 70s flowers, hoping against hope that the clouds of white dust hanging in the air aren’t asbestos.We knew we were buying a ‘fixer-upper’, but this is ridiculous.

The shed layers accumulate on the floor, along with chunks of plaster that have crashed and shattered, revealing wads of yellowing, brittle newspaper, a previous generation’s make-do insulation.

During lunch (takeaway fish ‘n chips in the backyard), we compare finds: a 1960s home-decoration article proclaiming The Future is BEIGE! from behind the Ikea spice rack; a 1950s ad for men’s suits (PURPLE SHARKSKIN 50% OFF!) shoved down behind the stove.

“The bottom must have dropped out of the purple sharkskin market,” I say
when Matt shows me this.
He sniggers. “Who knew that trend would have a limited shelf-life?”


The next morning, just after daybreak, I’m woken by a jaunty knock at the front door. Matt is snoring on his camp-bed, and I’m tempted to ignore the knocking myself until whoever-it-is gets the message and pisses off. But the knock is repeated. And repeated. Goddamn Jehovah’s Witnesses. I drag myself off my own camp-bed and pad out to the hallway.
On the doorstep is a square-jawed, 30ish man, wearing a purple sharkskin suit and black fedora, and carrying a suitcase. He grins, showing all his teeth. I smell Old Spice and … is that Brylcreem? I haven’t smelled that since before my uncle Neville passed away.

“Good morning Madam, and what a very beautiful morning it is too.”
I scowl. “Could you keep your voice down? My husband’s still asleep,”
The smile doesn’t falter. “But of course,” he whispers. “I am glad the man of the house is home, though, because he wouldn’t want to miss out on the marvelous special offer I bring with me today.”
“Look, whatever you’re selling, we’re not -”
But he already has his sample case open. “I represent Harrow and Spare, tailors to the discerning businessman, and we’re having the greatest sale in our sixty-year history! Look at this quality. Any combination of style and fabric is yours for the asking, and at prices that have to be seen to -”
“Really not interested, thank you.” I start to close the door, but a shiny wing-tipped shoe is blocking the way. His face is suddenly right up next to mine, so close I can see the grains of black stubble pushing through his skin.
“Come on, Daphne,” he breathes, enveloping me in a fug of tobacco and synthetic mint, “don’t do this to me. I’m going out of my mind.”
“You’ve got the wrong person.” I bang the door on his foot, hard, but he doesn’t budge.
“I can’t keep up this facade any longer. I’m leaving Pearl, I mean it this time. Leave Sid and come with me. We’ll run away to Queensland, isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Matt!” I call over my shoulder, “come here, quick!”
At this, the salesman’s eyes widen. He withdraws his foot, and bolts down the path, scattering fabric scraps from his still-open sample case all over our lawn. A sudden breeze lifts them up and whisks them away.

Matt shuffles into the hall in his boxers, rubbing his eyes. “What’s wrong, babe?”
“It’s okay.” I kiss his cheek, feeling a bit silly now to have taken fright at some harmless local lunatic. At least it makes a change from the muggers and druggies who hung around our last neighbourhood. “He’s gone.”
“Just a deranged salesman.”
“Oh, okay.” He yawns. “Want some coffee?”
“Yes please.”

Matt stumbles off to the kitchen. I’m just about to close the front door when I notice an old lady in a housecoat standing in the front doorway of the house across the road, glaring at me.

1950s-door-to-door-salesman-man-ringing-doorbell-at-suburban-house-CMT3FG (2)











Cover Versions

September 6, 2018


I’ve been listening to Jordie Lane’s song The Publican’s Daughter a lot lately. It tells the story of a visiting musician in a country pub, being warned off the local femme fatale. I started thinking about the story from her perspective, and ended up writing a response to the song. Below are Jordie’s original lyrics, and my answering ones.

Try this for yourself. Choose a piece of narrative writing – a short story, a poem, a song – with a single point of view, and retell the story from a different perspective than the author’s narrator. Try to replicate the author’s style as well; if it’s a verse piece, use the same rhythm and rhyme schemes; if prose, try to match the author’s vocabulary and cadence.


The Publican’s Daughter
by Jordie Lane

Well the publican’s daughter
Was working at the bar
I’d just rolled in
From a town afar
I sat myself down
And ordered a beer
She had those kind of eyes
That said Tonight, you’ll be my dear
But when she went outside
The farrier said, “Son
Don’t go near that one”

The car dealer’s dog
He was barking at the gate
I was walking a country street
Trying to change my fate
I said, “Hey there, dog
Have you got any ideas?”
He said, “Do you know what you want?
And can you face your fears?”
I said, “Well, the girl back at the bar
She looks like fun”
He barked and said
“Don’t go near that one”

Back in the green room
I noticed on the wall
Engravings from other bands
That had gone before
One said We just lost our drummer
To the publican’s girl
He fell right in
Got cradled in her curls
Then the last thing he saw
Was the barrel of her daddy’s gun
We beg you please
Don’t go near that one
Don’t go near that one
Don’t go near that one


The Publican’s Daughter’s Story
by Mileta Rien

It was just another night
Working in my father’s bar
When the band arrived
In a beat-up car
They sat themselves down
And ordered some beers
The drummer caught my eye
More than any man in years
And as they took the stage
My heart began to drum
And then I knew he was the one

When the gig was over
He was waiting at the gate
He said his name was Johnny
I told him mine was Kate
He said, “What’s a girl like you
Doing in a place like this?”
I said, “Waiting for a man like you,”
And then we shared a kiss.
I said, “Watch out for my Dad,
He keeps me like a nun.”
Johnny laughed and said,
“I don’t fear no one.”

I ran to pack my things
And meet Johnny in the yard
But caught up in the moment
I let down my guard
I ran into my Dad
On my way downstairs
He said “Where’d you think you’re going?”
And dragged me out by the hair
It was in vain I cried,
“Go now Johnny, run!”
It was already too late for that one.

So now I’m back avoiding
The whispers and the leers
From the folk who know my story
I hide my tears
I’m always on the lookout
When a new band comes to play
For a man who takes my fancy
To take me far away
For a man who understands
That I’m not easy won
Oh God, please send me such a one.



We got into the ‘Shorts’!

August 9, 2018

Manspreaders_Funniest Shorts.jpg

Big big news: Manspreaders, the VODville sketch I wrote and directed last year, has been selected for Australia’s Funniest Shorts festival!

Huge thanks and congrats to our brilliant cast, to Maddy Butler for her canny script suggestions, and Julien Chichignoud for his classy camerawork and editing.

Funniest Shorts_Official Selection


July 30, 2018


look out our back window

and see a morning moon

hanging like pale, pitted fruit

among winter-bare branches

and hopping birds

against a delicate

eggshell sky



look out this same window

and see

the falling-

down fence

that needs


Pilot Writer’s Diary Exercises

May 30, 2018

The stranger approached him and whispered … the secret to happiness, but he had his earphones in and missed it.

The sound of his voice made her … want to grab his pen and stab him repeatedly in the larynx.

Mary had everything she wanted, except … a job, a place to live, enough food, and someone to love, but she had a pram full of aluminum curry containers, and that made up for a lot.

Today I will say yes to … the checkout person who asks if I have a Flybuys card, just to see what happens next.

My worst fashion moment was … one Wednesday when my pants went out of style at 8.45am, too late to go home and change.

The table started to shake and … I knew for certain that parking our caravan on a construction site had been a mistake.

If I were immortal for one day I would … probably be unaware of it, unless I got hit by a bus or something.

Another Paint Swatch Poem

May 16, 2018

Sweet illusion of security

Déjà vu is just recycled foresight

It’s all fun and games till someone loses.

Who will it be?

Grey knight, pretty lady,

Frivolous daredevil diva artiste

Mystification, mysteria

Has our valentine

Energy peaked?

This is my most private tone

my signature:

Frail pink. A wiggle of indecision.

This sinful wilderness

This tender kiss

Clinton Blue is the colour of my dress.


September 15, 2017

Today we’re going to experiment with personal pronouns. As you work through this exercise, notice how altering these changes the tone of your writing.


Find a picture of a stranger. Now write something (approx 2-4 paragraphs) from that character’s point of view, in first person (“I”, “me”). 

I’m the best in my ballay class. Mums always telling me not to go around saying that, but its true. I know its true becorze I herd Mrs Deaken say it to Mum when she was pikking me up after class one time. Mrs Deaken is my ballay teacher.

You shoodnt have been lissening is what Mum says when I say this, which is dum becorze they were talking rite in front off me. But Mum says it was still a privatt grownups convosayshun because they were torking in soft low voyces so the other girls woodnt hear.

Mum says the other girls will get discurraged if they think Im better than them. But I say its ovbious anyway becorze I allways get pikked for the leed rolls in our resitals. Then Mum sies and says if I go around bragging I wont have any frends.

little girl yellow dress


Now rewrite the passage, still from the character’s point of view, but in second person (“you”). 

You’re the best in your ballet class. Your mum’s always telling you not to go around saying that, but you know it’s true because you heard Mrs Deaken, your ballet teacher, say it to your mum one time when she was picking you up after class.

Your mum says you shouldn’t have been listening, which you think is dumb because they were talking right in front of you. But your mum says it was still a private, grown-ups’ conversation, because they were talking softly so the other girls wouldn’t hear.

She says that the other girls will get discouraged if they think you’re better than them, but you say it’s obvious anyway, because you always get picked for the leads in the recitals. Then your mum sighs and says if you go around bragging then you won’t have any friends.

little girl green dress


Now write the same passage, still from the character’s point of view, but in third person, and in a different tense; if you wrote the two first passages in present tense, switch to past tense, or vice versa. 

Jacinta was the best in her ballet class. Her mum was always telling her not to go around saying that, but she knew it was true because she’d heard Mrs Deaken, her ballet teacher, tell Mum when she was picking her up after class.

“You shouldn’t have been listening,” Mum said, when Jacinta brought it up in the car on the way home.
“That’s dumb. You were talking right in front of me.”
“Don’t be rude. It was still a private, grown-ups’ conversation. You’re old enough to know the difference.”
“We were talking in soft, low voices, so the other girls wouldn’t hear. They’ll get discouraged if they think you’re better than they are.”
“But they all know anyway. Mrs Deaken always picks me for the lead parts in the recitals. It’s ovbious.”

Mum sighed, but Jacinta could see in the rear-view mirror that she was trying not to smile. “Just don’t go around bragging about it. You won’t have any friends if you do.”

little girl red dress