Zoë Writes

An Australian author living in Norway

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Quiet is the New Loud

Last night I went to a concert I had been waiting to see for six years—the last time I saw Kings of Convenience I was six months pregnant, and it was, without a doubt, the best concert I’ve ever attended. Eirik and Erlend are a Norwegian duo I have been following since their first album came out in Australia in 2001; not by coincidence, I discovered them because I had just begun dating a Norwegian boy. The concert began with an interview by journalist and author Ørjan Nilsson, who released a book about the band last year, followed by a performance of the entire debut album that shared its name with the book, Quiet is the New Loud, and which contained the essence of their appeal: unassuming, profound songs that are at once relaxing and deeply passionate.

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Fighting the Inner Impostor

“You don the disguise long enough, and you can’t even recognize that you are acting. That you are behaving inauthentically, from a place of fear and insecurity. That you can’t figure out how to reconcile the real you with the pretend you.”

So writes Facebook’s Product Design Director, Julie Zhuo, in her article The Imposter Syndrome. She talks about the insecurity and fear she used to feel while she studying and working in software development. It spoke to me because not only have I felt that way working in software development myself, but because even after a change of career paths, I still worry that I don’t belong, despite feeling all the while like this is what I was born to do. And I’m not the only one; so many of the writers I’ve come to know have these thoughts all the time.

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A True Throwback Thursday

What is it about being in your thirties that makes you particularly nostalgic? It can’t just be that it’s the most likely time to be raising children and therefore thinking about your own childhood; previous generations were equally susceptible, and most of them were well into parenthood by the time they were in their thirties.

I can remember growing up in the ’80s amid a wave of ’50s nostalgia, echoed in movies like Back to the Future, The Karate Kid II, and Grease. I remember a car commercial [see the whole scary thing here] featuring a woman in ’50s style polka-dot dress over layers of tulle singing “Gotta Get a Holden Nova” to the tune of Blame it on the Bossa Nova on which I based my primary school graduation dress—with the inevitable addition of 80s iron-crimped hairdo. Poodle skirt + poodle hair = cringe-factor one million. But I was twelve, so I’ll give myself a pass. The ’50s were everywhere in the ’80s.

Year Seven graduation

Year Seven graduation

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The Journey to Feminism

I would love to be able to say I’ve always been a feminist. And, in fact, if you had asked me fifteen or twenty years ago if I was a feminist, I would have said yes. I was never one of those girls or young women who think feminism belongs to some mythical hairy-underarmed, bra-burning, man-hating monsters. But honestly, I didn’t even know what the word meant back then. I would have said yes because I was a Lisa Simpson-esque goody-two-shoes who would identify with, and pledge allegiance to, any social justice-related cause. I wanted to save the world, even though I had no idea what I was saving it from. But if you look at some of the life decisions I made back then (case in point, moving in with an idiot right out of high school because he said all the right adoring words), you’d know I was clueless at best, a hypocrite at worst.

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A Woman out of Tech

An ode to women still in the game in 2015

Writing this post feels like playing a game of Bloody Mary. Put your finger on a keyboard and say “Quinn, Wu, Sarkeesian!” and a bunch of gamerbros will appear as if by magic to take your life and/or your sanity.

Before I was an author, I was a Woman in Tech. Yes, capital letters are needed these days, because it’s a Thing. It didn’t feel like much of a thing then, and I don’t know if that’s because I worked for a company that never made it a thing, or because Our Time hadn’t come yet, but there is something happening in the tech world that makes me glad I’m no longer part of it, and yet simultaneously sorry I’m no longer part of a solution that needs to be realised.

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Seasons between seasons

The Norwegians I know who have been to Australia, even lived in Australia, say one of the things they missed the most was a sense of the seasons changing, something they felt was demonstrably absent from their time down south. Being from the south of Australia, I never really understood this claim; it’s only way up north that they talk about “The Wet” and “The Dry” as opposed to the four seasons. But after nine years here in Norway, I begin to see the difference with greater clarity, and it is not really about four seasons at all, it’s about at least eight.

Now, in early March, there is often still snow and ice about, and not only that, there is frost that reaches deep into the soil, reminding the dormant seeds and bulbs to go back to sleep; it’s not yet dawn. This year, however, almost all the ice and snow has melted after an unusually warm February, with a lot of rain and—very unusual for this part of Norway—wind. But, spring has not come yet. Spring, as I describe it to my almost-five-year-old daughter, is when the trees get their leaves back, the birds and animals bear the results of winter snuggling, and colour returns to the earth in a confetti-like spray of flowers and fresh, green leaves. This is not what we have now. We are in between, balancing, waiting . . .

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Two lives and homeless

I lead a double life. One life, the one I was born to, exists in the heat and dust; the other, the one I chose, stands knee-deep in snow. Once every two years, I forsake one for the other, give up my knee-high, wool-lined boots for sandals, and expose my pale, vitamin-D deficient skin to a sun that is as ferocious as it is glorious.

The flight, thanks to new routes, is now down to a minuscule twenty-two hours, but those twenty-two hours are spent in the sort of limbo that separates one life from the other as surely as sleep is separated from waking; whenever I am in one place, the other is like a dream I can’t imagine was ever real.

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YA and Proud

When an author says, “I write children’s books”, the reaction is often one of approval and respect. After all, what more noble pursuit in literature could there be than creating the foundation for future generations of life-long readers?

But when a writer says, “I write young adult books” the reaction can be, sadly, quite different. And the more I talk to other writers of young adult fiction, the more I discover how many of us are still having to defend our choice to write it.

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NaNoWriMo. Again.

It’s November again, and for the second year running, I’m attempting NaNoWriMo. That’s the thing where you write a whole novel draft in thirty days. Okay, technically you only need to get to 50k words to “win”, but we call it a novel. Last year I wrote daily throughout November and December and completed the fourth book in my Eidolon series, but this time I’m attempting something completely new. And something I’m keeping completely under wraps until it’s finished, my agent has had a look, and we decide what to do with it. All I can tell you is that it’s contemporary (i.e. no dead people walking among us like those cheeky eidolons), and that I’m very excited about what it might become. For the first time, I’ve decided to write about something I’m personally passionate about—which is kind of terrifying.

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Last weekend, two of my best friends (also writers) and I went up to a cabin in the ski resort town of Hemsedal, about three hours north of Oslo for a mini-writing retreat and jentetur (girls’ weekend). I had a plan to finish revising one of my novels, Audrey had some school work to do before heading off to a “real” writing retreat in the States the next week, and Chelsea just needed some inspiration to get started again.

Chris had generously offered to drive us up there, and his ears were likely throbbing by the time we arrived due to the incessant chattering and laughter that made the four hour journey (we stopped for lunch and grocery shopping) seem so much shorter. We talked about everything from inadvertent climbing expeditions to a nine-year-old boy’s fascination with googling pictures of butts.

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