Our fifth and last module in the Sydney Writers' Centre short Creative Writing Course 1. This module was about the publishing process. It was shocking - the time that it takes to get published, and the potentially low monetary return. However, after some reflection, I am sure that I was never trying to write to get rich or famous. I want to get my writing in print. I want my writing to be good enough to be acknowledged. So long as I don't have to pay for the publishing process, I think I'll be happy.
The assignment for module 5 was to create a scene around the dialogue assignment that we completed in module 2. Here is mine:
Condensation slid down the side of the icy cold glass and bubbles slowly rose in the amber liquid to the froth at the top. Michael's mouth watered as he lifted the glass slowly, savouring the anticipation of the first mouthful of his first beer on this Friday afternoon.
Swivelling on his bar stool, he leant back against the dark wooden bar and watched as other utes pulled into the curb out the front of the pub. All his fellow farmers were congregating here from their various outlying farms, as they did every Friday ... and Saturday ... and sometimes Sunday as well. Men greeted each other as doors slammed and they hurried into the shade of the wide verandah, out of the burning sun.
Michael had turned back to the bar to order a second beer when someone reached over his shoulder and thumped down a magazine on the bar in front of him. Trying to focus, a stubby finger pointed at something on the page that was supposed to catch his attention. Horrified, Michael realised he was looking at the Women's Weekly classifieds.
"Mike ... what the ...!" His friend, Pete Mollison slapped him on the back, raising dust and releasing the smell of hay.
Pete had obviously found out about the ad that had been put into the magazine for Michael. Since the Women's Weekly wasn't Pete's usual reading material, Michael was already wondering which of his sisters' big mouths was to blame.
"Fuck. Who told you?" Michael looked up at his mate's grinning face. Pete's eyes were twinkling, and Michael knew that he would never live this down unless he offered a proper explanation.
"Your sister ran into Jode at the primary school this morning. She ran out and bought this straight away."
"No, which sister?"
Michael could picture the gleaming face of his sister at the front gate of the school yard, as the words gushed from her, bursting to spread the secret that she'd been sworn to keep.
He couldn't be angry. Why had he expected that Kate could keep her mouth shut? She had been spilling secrets since she could point her finger as a toddler, especially if it got her one and only older brother in trouble.
Pete plonked his solid bulk onto the stool beside him and shut the magazine, turning it over on the bar so that they wouldn't have to explain themselves to the men around them.
The familiar old barman placed two frothing beers in front of Pete and Michael, who had known each other since their mothers had put them to sleep in the same bassinet as babies.
"She can't keep her mouth shut. I s'pose I shouldn't have expected it to stay a secret round here," Michael sighed, pulling his beer in close and turning it around on the bar mat.
Pete stayed quiet, watching his beer, decided not to make fun of his mate just yet.
"You know how me mum and sisters get after a few wines. This ad was their latest idea. You should've seen their first effort. No way was I letting them post that! It was cross between a romance novel and an ad for a housekeeper! Mum's even getting the emails sent to her, so she can go through them first."
"But you didn't have to let them go through with it at all. Shit, isn't this a bit embarrassing?" Pete asked.
"Only because you know. No one had to know."
"You've got to be kidding," Pete sounded incredulous. "You sound desperate."
"Maybe I am," Michael said quietly, before taking a deep gulp of beer.
Pete's drink sat untouched, despite the heat. He had turned towards his friend, leaning on the bar. "You just haven't met the right chick yet. Someone will come along," Pete offered.
"When? Where from?" Michael punctuated each question by looking pointedly at his friend and raising his eyebrows.
Pete shrugged, knowing Michael was right. There were very few women who stayed in the Mallee who were single. "Someone'll come along," Pete repeated, less convincingly.
"But mate, I'm getting old. How long've you and Jode been together now? Twelve years?" He waited for Pete to nod. "You'll be a fuckin' Pop before I have kids. I don't wanna be an old dad. I wanna be able to kick a footy around with me son. I wanna come home to a meal around the table with a family. I want my name passed on, and the property to stay in the family. There are no girls around here my age that haven't been through every guy already. How else am I gunna meet someone? I never get away from here. Mate, this has to work."
Both men sat quietly for a moment, twirling their beers against the bar mat.
"Are any of 'em gunna be good enough for Helen's boy, do ya reckon?" Pete turned his lopsided grin on Michael, trying to lightening the mood. It worked. Michael snorted. They both knew that his mother's standards were ridiculously high for her only son.
"We can only hope that she digs up a supermodel that cooks, cleans, fixes a tractor, and drenches sheep!"
Here is the tutor's comments:
I very much like the sense of family and deep community you are setting up here. If this were a story I was reading I would be looking forward to meeting Helen!
The relationship between the men works well and I believe that they’ve known each other all their lives.
There are a couple of bits I particularly like: when Peter turns the magazine over, which tells us that this is a real friendship; and the way they twirl their beers on the beer mat – that’s a lovely piece of observation.
If you were writing this for real, you would need to make a twist in the tale somewhere soon – set up our expectations and then confound them so that we see this theme given fresh life.
You have a little glitch in point of view where ‘Pete shrugged, knowing Michael was right.’ This is Pete’s pov, not Michael’s, and then we pop back into Michael’s at ‘He waited for Pete to nod.’
There are a couple of other moments, like Pete’s lopsided grin, where the pov is unclear. Have another look at it and see if you can go just a bit deeper into Michael pov.
Other than that, good reading!
I will be enrolling and completing the Sydney Writers' Centre's short Creative Writing Course 2, which starts on 7 April 2011.