Monday, January 31, 2011

Better late than never....

Last night we had our staff Xmas party. Yes, I am aware it's now February and Xmas was quite some time ago. We're always too busy around Xmas to take a night off, and because so many people go home to their families, we never have everyone around to celebrate. So we tend to have our parties later, just before the students go back school and have crazy schedules all over again.

For the first time in my tenure as manager here, we actually left the cinema for our party. We went to dinner at a little Italian place a few blocks away and ate, drank and made merry. It was fantastic and everyone had a wonderful night. Perhaps too wonderful in a few cases - there were a lot of green - faced people wandering in this morning.

The party was a chance for us to celebrate our working relationship. For me, work is my social life so I consider the people I work with my friends. Some of them have been here since I started the job, and as I'm heading toward the six year mark, that's pretty impressive. Cinema workers tend to be fairly transient, but both here and the cinema I managed in Melbourne mange to keep people for crazily long times. I love that. And it makes me feel like I must be a good manager, because if people hated me or my management style, they wouldn't stay would they?

How do you measure success in your job? In life?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Late night drama

I had a very long day at work yesterday. Almost 13 hours... Too long. I was just about falling asleep at the counter, despite the loud rock music coming from the theatre (we were hosting a midnight record release) and was talking to the other staff member who was on to try and keep awake. A guy wandered up the stairs, well dressed and not looking particularly threatening. He stopped at the table where the band's friends were collecting the door charge and offered his cash card. Of course they didn't have an eft-pos machine, so they explained he needed cash and told him where the nearest cash machine was (just downstairs). He kept shoving his card at them and saying he wanted to pay, and they kept explaining he needed cash.

Around about this time, I realized he was pretty drunk. I pointed him out to my staff member and told him not to serve him if he came to the bar. Around about then, the guy just barged into the theatre without having paid the door charge. One of the guys on the door chased after him and told him to leave. He wouldn't. I went in and told him I was the manager and he needed to go. He followed me out of the theatre, but wouldn't go down the stairs and out of the building. My staff member and the two door people formed a kind of barrier across the top of the stairs so he couldn't go any further into the foyer. The guy still wouldn't leave, just kept saying he wanted to see the band.

Around this point, I realized he was too drunk to reason with. There had been a huge fight outside earlier, and I knew the police weren't far off, so I sent my staff member down to find them. I told the drunk guy that the police were coming, and he might like to leave before they arrived. He just laughed.

A few minutes later, four cops arrived and escorted him out of the building, although it did take some time for them to actually get rid of him.

Now, this is the incredible part of the story.

A few minutes later, I went back downstairs to make sure he was gone, and to lock the three doors we didn't have wide open to let people in. While I was down there, this guy showed up again and tried to get in. I stood in the doorway and told him there was no way he was getting in again. He tried to push past me. I told him again that he was not welcome. He shoved me up against the wall and ran up the stairs (for someone so drunk, he was pretty nimble). I ran up after him and told everyone upstairs he was coming and I was going to get the police again. I ran down the street and found the police half a block away. A lot of police. About fifteen of them. I told them the guy had come back and ran back down to the cinema - as the bar manager, I'm not really supposed to be off the premises - and they followed.

This time he tried to take off when he saw the cops, but it was too late. They grabbed him, got him up against the wall, and cuffed him. It took about four seconds. Then he was gone. Very impressive work.

I wasn't tired any more. Not one bit.... I guess he was a huge fan of the band, who of course knew nothing about what was going on outside the theatre. Crazy stuff!

Why do people act like such goons when they drink?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My good friend Loralie Hall is hosting a blogfest, and I'm going to take part. It's all about those random scraps of ideas you save on your hard drive and forget about until you're looking for something else... It sounds like fun! So get yourself over to Loralie's blog and sign up too!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Not so hard...

I've been agonizing for weeks about how to rewrite the chapters I've already written in my new book. I know I need to make the two voices more distinctive, and I know I need to give both characters larger concerns, outside of the event that brings them together. I've been unsure how to do either so I've been putting off doing anything.

Last night I sat down with a brand new document in front of me and rewrote chapter one. And it really wasn't that hard. And even better, I'm actually quite happy with it! Okay, so it's just one chapter, and I'm sure it'll get harder from here on in, but I think having taken the first step is important.

I even posted that first chapter for my critique groups to review, something I've never done before. I tend to write and revise whole books before posting them for review, but this time, I thought I'd try something different and post as I go. Unfortunately I have to work tonight, so won't get the chance to dive into chapter two, but I've made a start. And that's what's important.

How do you approach revising? I find thinking about it is usually worse than actually doing it. Somehow I tend to forget that in between times....

Monday, January 24, 2011

A return to scheduled programming

Yes, I'm back. It was really weird being in a place with so little internet. I realized how much of my life I live on-line. It's a lot! But now I'm back and can settle back into my regular routines and projects. I've done a lot of thinking about my new book while away, and am now ready to dive into the much-needed revisions.

But first, what did I do on this vacation? Well, very little actually. I spent a lot of time at the beach, swimming and making sand castles for my 3 yo to smash. One day we went on a walk in the National Park, 15 km which I thought was pretty good going for the 6 yo. We played mini-golf once, and I got a hole in one (and stung by a bee). Heavy rain one day sent us scurrying to the nearest town where we holed up at the library for a while. I managed to quench my internet thirst while there too... What else? Um.... I read a lot. I finished 4 books over the 9 days, something I don't think I've done since my oldest child was born.

One of the books I read was most inspiring. It was a novel told in short stories and made me realize something like that can get published. I feel more inspired now to finish my collection of beach house stories, and now have an idea of how to introduce each one in sequence. I was interested too in the way these stories were written, in present tense but with the perspective of someone looking back on his life. I meant he could mention things that happened in the future to him, while keeping it in the context of the story. In The Raft I did just that, and all the critiques I got said you couldn't do that, but now I've seen it done, and well too!

If you're looking for something fun to read, check out the book. It's called The Chester Chronicles and is by Kermit Moyer. Lovely writing and engaging stories of one boy's coming of age. Of the four books I read, this was the one I plowed through fastest and is the one that will stay with me.

Have you read anything good recently? With 326 work emails waiting for me in my in-box, I suspect this is the last fun reading I'm going to be doing in a while...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Apologies for my absence...

I'm going away. Internet is spotty at best where I'm going so there will be no blog posts until I return.

But just so you don't miss me too much, I'm guest posting here on Monday.

I'll be thinking of you all while reclining in the sun on the most beautiful beach in the world...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Male Enclave

I took my son to the barber shop the other day. It's a little old-fashioned place just down the road from my house, a little shabby, a little quirky and very traditional. It has the blue, red and white barber pole and they don't take appointments. You just rock up and sit on a hard wooden bench while you wait for one of the two chairs to be free.

The day we went, only one barber, Mark, was working so there were a lot of people waiting on the bench. They were all men. In fact, one old guy got up and left when he saw me come in with O. Clearly barber shops are not meant for women...

Sitting there was fascinating. The magazines were all about sports or cars or male sexuality. The posters on the wall were for rugby games and soccer matches. The conversations going on around me were all about home renovations and women. Elderly men stepped up to the chair for their weekly trip, getting un-needed haircuts I think, so they had someone to chat to for a few minutes.

One man let two people, including my son, go ahead of him, perhaps because he wanted to get rid of us - especially my unwanted feminine presence - but I think it was more because he enjoys the companionship of being there. Women have many gathering places where they can chat about anything and everything under the sun. The gym is one that comes to mind, the salon, the playground where we take our kids. There aren't so many places where men gather to talk, other than bars, and when you add alcohol, it changes things.

While I don't believe women should be excluded from going anywhere they want to go, maybe we should leave the barber shop to men...

Monday, January 10, 2011


As part of my new year's plan to lose enough weight to be the 14 year-old me again (yes, I know it's probably unrealistic, but I believe in having really BIG goals) I am exercising more. That means 4 trips to the gym per week instead of the 3 I've been doing over the last year or so. I'm not great at motivating myself, and really feel like I work harder when I'm in classes so I've worked out a series of classes I can make it to around all my other commitments. So, on Tuesday's I'll do combat (which is really hard) and Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I'll do spin.

I can't think about anything but combat when I do combat - I'm super uncoordinated and would probably kill myself or someone else if I tried - but I find I come up with lots of great writing motivation while on the spin bike. Often whole scenes come to me, fully formed while I'm tackling a steep hill, or racing through a speed section.

Then all I need to do is write it down when I get home, dripping sweat across my keyboard as I do.

What exercise do you do? Does it help with your creative pursuits?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Year In Film

Over the holiday period, and until early February, I have been taking part in a weekly film panel on New Zealand's National Radio. Each week, the show's host, a film critic and I pick a recent release and discuss it, then move on to other film related topics. Since it's been that time, one of the topics we've been covering is our 'top ten lists' of films for 2010.

In my opinion, 2010 wasn't a great year for films. Most years, 3 or 4 films really blow my mind, leave me reeling and unable to think of anything else for hours or even days. In 2010 I can really think of only 2 films that did that (I can't count Black Swan since it isn't releasing until Jan 27th). In fact, I couldn't come up with ten titles for my top ten list; I could only manage 8. There were several things I could have put on there, but none of them deserved to be in a top ten list really, so rather than subvert the idea of a TOP ten list, I've limited mine to 8.

You want to know what they are?

1. Winter's Bone Beautifully shot, simply written and with skillful performances from a bunch of unknowns, this is the one film that stood out head and shoulders above all competition. It's moving, powerful, surprising and horrifying all at the same time.

2. Toy Story 3 I cried, I admit it. My kids thought I was nuts. But how perfect was this conclusion to the series?

3. This Way of Life A family brings up their kids in harmony with nature on New Zealand's East Coast. The gorgeous scenery became a character in this thoughtful documentary about an unconventional family and their struggle to live the way they believed was right. And it's been shortlisted for an Oscar nomination!

4. Animal Kingdom This Australian film is perhaps the hardest hitting crime film I've seen in years. This is family dysfunction to an extreme! And at the head? Grandma.

5. Antichrist Six months later I still can't decide if Lars von Trier's film is brilliant or horrible. But it certainly affected me. I may never be able to watch Willem Dafoe again without thinking about this one...

6. I'm Still Here I think the brilliance of this mockumentary was lost on a vast majority of people. I laughed myself silly the day I saw it, and am chuckling even now, just thinking about how the media and Hollywood were duped by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck.

7. The Millenium Trilogy The second part was kind of a mess, but overall, the three films of Steig Larson's hugely successful novels are excellent. I'm dreading the US remakes. Nobody could embody the mixture of toughness and vulnerability in Lisbeth Salander better than Noomi Rapace.

8. Silent Wedding Hardly anyone saw this Romanian gem, but it was both hilarious and terrifying, the tonal shift not subtle, but the dramatic heart of the film.

And that's my list. There are some other films of note, but nothing I felt was good enough to include here. And I must qualify this, by mentioning that I've been to the multiplexes only to see kids' films in the last 12 months, so I missed out on seeing things like Inception and The Social Network which appeared on so many other critics' lists.

What was your favorite film in 2010?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Scary new software

After hearing other authors rave about Scrivener, I got it for myself a few moths back. I looked at it, tried the tutorial and kind of put it aside as being something possibly too complicated for me to really put to use. I was right in the middle of NaNo and not really in any place to start fiddling around with something new. So it has been sitting there in my tool bar, glaring at me, for weeks. Over the last few days, while off work, I decided to take another look at it.

I'm still pretty foggy on how it all works, but I'm beginning to understand its potential. Especially for a writer like me who likes to write out of sequence and kind of piece the novel together in editing. I can also see it as being a very valuable editing tool. Over the last couple of days I've loaded the two books I'm currently working on (P &P and Taillights) into Scrivener and plan to edit them both in there. How it's going to work is another question...

Does anyone have any super clever tips about using Scrivener? I'm curious about whether it keeps different drafts on its own, or if you have to save each new draft as a new project. I'm a little nervous about doing too much work in there when I don't know how it works. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?