Have bicycle, will ride around in the pouring rain for three hours with the Beijing manflu, actually. But having a bicycle makes me feel instantly at home, especially here, and returning to Beijing is (despite aforementioned manflu) nothing short of delightful. Yesterday’s rain has cleared the air of smog, and I can see the mountains from my new office window on the 18th floor. Settling in well, despite the adjustment to a new climate, altitude, language, and routine. Not being able to communicate much beyond the simplest demands has reduced me to some kind of giant white baby. I’ve enrolled in intensive language classes, so hopefully the vocabulary will grow. But it’s very humbling for a writer to be so linguistically helpless, and it makes me stretch myself at the desk when I’m faced with sentences in English, when I can show off some of my moves.
Yes, for those asking, I am still fiction editor at the most excellent Overland, and will be co-judging the third short story competition soon. The magazine is celebrating its 60th birthday at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year, and it’s been wonderful to be a part of the year’s commemorations, including the Fancy Cuts project – the next one coming up is a very powerful story from Christos Tsiolkas that plays with language and translation. It’s been incredible to watch him push himself – there is nothing so satisfying to an editor than to have a writer of his calibre take up her challenge and double it!
I was sorry to miss the Pay the Writers meeting in Melbourne the other day but there are notes from it here and you can get involved in the ways mentioned therein. It’s incredibly rewarding to see Pay the Writers go from a simple blog post to a full-scale campaign, and I’m very pleased that it has developed in the way it has so far.
Blogging has taken quite a back seat over the past six months – moving here has been like picking life up by the heels and shaking it until all the crap falls out. Some of the systems and connections that seemed vital and necessary have simply fallen away. There is something in me that has a physical need for this kind of process. I love to shed a skin, to disrupt my stability. Some of the losses have been startling, but it is all beginning to feel worthwhile now, and to make sense. The joy and terror of risk. I can hardly contemplate what it must be to begin again in a new country with nothing, from sheer desperation, and to arrive in a place that apparently wants you to lose your mind.