Grappling with the Annual

I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired of puns like that title. I am sure I’ll have a lot more to reflect upon later, beyond the production line, but right now, with the edits nearly (eternally ‘nearly’, it sometimes seems) done, the design work underway and the printer’s quote sitting there in my inbox, Grapple Publishing and The Grapple Annual feel more real than ever.

Of course, things never go as smoothly or swiftly as planned. It’s one of first things people tell you when starting up something like this, but you never know until you get underway just how, despite all you’ve planned, it will apply especially to you. But still: soon. Soon it will be an actual object in my hands, a complete package I can give to people or send, completed, around the world. Soon, others will be able to grapple with its contents, hopefully taking something from the process. I know I have.

I’m one of the n00bz when it comes to this editing/publishing/slapping-books-together-somewhat-professionally caper. One of the big things I’ve taken from my own process of grappling with this first Annual is just how much I love the editing process.  I knew I was into editing when I elected to study it in Postgrad Diploma form, but it’s different when people are kind enough to send you stuff, to ask to be part of something you’re the engine behind. So now I’ve been reading and editing poems, stories, essays, memoirs and pieces that cross-categories. Some have been compact, some have been sprawling. All have been amazing in their own way and I feel a bit weird getting excited about tinkering with someone else’s work. But of course I love editing. It fuses writing and reading, two of my favourite activities, and appeals to my finicky attention to detail, my love of dictionaries and eagerness to research, learn and solve puzzles. I get to connect with people who understand my enthusiasm for word conglomerations and are ready to enter into a humble collaboration, with often subtle but cumulatively powerful results. I don’t have to worry about my issues with starting or finishing a piece of writing. The writing is done for me, more or less. I just need to edit.Editing has now joined writing and reading to vie for my interest and time. For the time being, it seems like editing’s the dominant one, and it’s been a new challenge in and of itself to desist from taking on writing projects and to actually not write. I miss writing, and that’s encouraging, that writing remains a connected but separate passion that I’m irrevocably drawn to. But really, writing, editing and reading all go together. They inform each other. I think all this editing has already made me a better writer, for instance, but we’ll see (for now, I’m just stoked that I’ve already written this much — it’s the most writing I’ve done in months; amazing what you get done on a little roadtrip holiday).

Anyway, of course there’s also publishing, much of which I have yet to experience. Still, so far I love the publishing side of things too, but this is perhaps the most multifaceted, the most complicated and fraught of relationships. Money’s involved more than ever. Legalities and realities. Matters of appearances. Other parties and props get mixed in: businesses and organisations and admin and spreadsheets and emails — lots of emails. The regular reality checks (How many books can I afford to print? How many can I sell? How will I get people to begin to give a shit about this thing that I’ve poured my days into?) are a great counterpoint to the boundless possibilities of tinkering with literature. Again, it’s encouraging to me that I maintain an interest in all of this, but it’s also taught me that it’s probably crazy to go it alone. Publishing isn’t a solo venture. When designers and editorial assistants stepped up, I (again) realised that this was a thing that really can grow outside of one head, page and inbox, that other people can come along, help on the ride and nudge it in interesting directions, make it better, make it more manageable. Like the editing process, publishing is a collaboration.

And, yes, the next collaboration will be between The Grapple Annual and its readers. Finding an audience. Generating discussion. Getting into the hands and heads of every individual reader and hoping to stay there, wriggle in and make something good happen. Sparking thoughts, images, ideas, imaginations and who knows what else. Making and letting this happen, with so much already done, and so much yet to do, is really flabbergastingly thrilling to consider.

Grappling with this Annual has already been more than worth it for this n00b, and I’m so excited for when others can grapple with it in their own way. And then it’s on to the next one, while working on finding a balanced place for these new editing and publishing passions along with writing and reading and everything else; looking for more collaborators; looking for more fellow grapplers. Still, I kind of hope I remain, in some way (even if only in temperament), an eternally enthusiastic n00b about the whole thing.

    This post was written in honour of #TheN00bz.

TiNA 2011 Nostalgia

How long after a festival ends is it reasonable to write about it? Does the passing of time provide perspective, fuzzy memories, a vague sense of nostalgic longing or some kind of triple combo deal thereof? After weeks of backburnering, will I finish writing the things I start? And will I start the things I finish? Do I even know what I’m talking about anymore? All a series of unnecessary introductory questions that I nonetheless intend to at least attempt to answer by the end of this thing.

This is Not Art, affectionately nicknamed TiNA, was held in Newcastle on the 29th of September to the 3rd of October this year, as it is done annually. That’s five reliable days of awesomeness every year. This year I went for just over two of those days.

Here’s some advice to future attendees of TiNA: go for the full five days. Last year I did. Two days is not the same. It’s still amazing and wonderful and fun and exceedingly worthwhile in a way that makes you gush and write blog posts about it weeks (months!) after the fact. But when you consider that at any one time there’s probably half a dozen excellent and worthy things going on at TiNA, you want to get the full five-day fill.

In fact, I think next year I’ll just expand those five days out to a whole week. I’ll take the train there and back, have a leisurely jaunt of reading, scribbling, music-listening, gazing out the window and taking naps along the way. Driving there really takes it out of you, so once you arrive you’re already exhausted. Not good. I think I’ll fork out for better accommodation next year too. And a sturdy raincoat. And gumboots. Ah yes. Regrets. I have a few. But I’m not complaining really. I really am glad that I got to go for a second time, as a more casual visitor than last year, when I was a fresh-eyed Voiceworks EdComm Triple Workshopper Dude. Ah. Memories.

Anyway, it’s been a while now. The post-TiNA flu and blues have passed. The inspiration still lingers. But there’s some unfinished business, and I’m trying to wrap some stuff up before year’s end. I wanted to do both my own TiNA wrap-up and a bit of round-up of responses to TiNA. More on the latter later.

But first, here it is: my TiNA 2011:

 

Friday

4pm: My girlfriend and I had braved the surprisingly jammed traffic, semi-circled that final roundabout, and from that point, it seemed we were finally entering Newcastle.  We’d driven to Sydney the previous day and stayed with her folks. We’d been slack getting moving that morning. But now we were heading in the general direction of the CBD, past mineral industry, machinery, coastal rivers, bridges and, gradually, it all became distinctly Novocastrian. Last year I’d just caught the bus from the airport, so I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going, but eventually I found both my bearings and my way to our tiny, bed-sized hotel room above a pub. We unpack and prepare ourselves for our TiNA experience.

5pm: We wander past abandoned shopfronts, adult and bridal wear stores and assorted creative hubs, including the Octopod, outside of which I grab a program and begin circling events and initiating an obscure coded language for how much I want to see stuff and what order I will see it in.

7.15pm: Having roughly worked out which buildings had been claimed in the name of TiNA this year, I had some reference points. We head for the Crackhouse and run into our buddies Greg and Lesley from Canberra publisher Blemish Books. Huzzah! We head into Catalyst 5, which is meant to be some kind of twisted, immersive, interactive version of a Miss Marple mystery. I remember bad accents, someone slicing into raw meat, awkwardness, confusion and an abrupt ending. The bar had plenty of room to rise from there.

8pm: We go and eat delicious Turkish pizza on Darby Street.

8.30pm: The Going Down Swinging Launch at Customs house. Geoff Lemon orates loquaciously. I see the Voiceworks krew. Zoe Norton Lodge and Laura Jean McKay read stories. Lawrence Leung proves, via hilarious multimedia powerpoint presentation, that Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is a dick. A dude whose name I don’t remember raps and such. All in all, it’s a good bundle of spoken words, and the bar and the roof are rightly raised.

10pm: We wander out into the Newcastle night. My girlfriend and I endeavour to socialise further but we are like old people, sleepy after the drive. We retire to our bed. At that point, we feel that’s all we and the hotel room need. Us. Room. Bed. Sleeeeep.

 

Saturday

12pm: After a late rise, a tasty breakfast and a realisation that we were too late to really get into the Writing Revenge panel, we amble into Space, Land, Language at the Lockup. I didn’t catch any Critical Animals last year, so this was good to see. Basically, it was a panel where three people presented their papers. Emily Stewart (old housemate, editor, poet) spoke about ecopoetics. I couldn’t begin to do it justice, but it’s a super interesting subject, so for an inkling of the ideas contained in it, start here, then read Whispers and Courses and How to Do Words With Things and Wild Politics and go from there? The next woman’s paper was about Bret Easton Ellis and representations of urban space in contemporary US literature. It made me want to go back to Uni to study Literature again, or maybe just read more books. The third paper was a dude talking about atolls and language and their relationship within a certain culture. I learned that atolls are awesome and that different cultures have different elements in their language to express directions. Rather than left-right or east-west, some use words meaning upriver-downriver, or inside-atoll, outside-atoll. Anthropomorphic and external points of reference. Words and language systems for counting. For colour. And what part of the tree is the front? WHOA. My brain begins to expand, my stomach rumbles.

2.30pm: At a bit of a loss after lunch, we wander into Transmedia – The Business Behind the Buzzword. And I dunno. It does seem difficult to make transmedia more than a corporate buzzword, or at least it has that vibe to me. I struggle to think of examples that don’t seem like marketing strategies, side-notes or tacked-on elements to a main work. I’d love to be shown good examples to the contrary. The idea of ARGs is interesting though. Anyway, a few more tasty foodthought pickings here nonetheless.

3.30pm: We head back to our room for a nap. We are essentially octogenarian.

4.30pm: I head out solo for How To: Start a Writing Business. That is, after I wander around, look for the other lost people outside an abandoned shopfront’s door, get given directions, head around a corner into an alley, past some bins, climb some thin metal stairs up the side of a building and emerge into the gorgeous and warm room of polished wooden floorboards and word-filled, papered walls, into the wondrous space that is Staple Manor. I wish I’d come here sooner, more often. So, I didn’t catch it all. But Cameron Pegg, who ran the workshop, affirmed: work for what you believe in and decide when/where you work for free and when/where you stop working for free. He pointed to some good articles, like Walkley Magazine 67, say, page 25? And this: Mediabistro: Adventures in Journalism: World Traveller. It was great to see such a diversity of keen freelancers. Workshops like this are always a big inspirational kick up the arse.

5.30pm: I amble out, run into some people I know, head along to the Festival Club pub, answer my phone, amble around some more, see a street festival, meet people for 10 seconds before one of us disappears, get caught in the rain, run into some other people and before I know it, though I should be embracing the TiNA experience and attending the Big Top Ball because it’s the place to be, I instead head back to our room. We eat dinner, I read some of my book, scribble in my notebook, we watch TV and together we crash into sleep. I guess sometimes, even amidst a festival, that’s just what I feel like doing.

 

Sunday

11am: Wait, it’s already our last day? Eff the rain, let’s go!

11.45am: We quickly, eagerly, preliminarily check out the Zine Fair in the multi-storey car park. Dry, windy, promising.

12pm: WRIRON CHEF! This was great fun. A cooking competition with ad-hoc cooking facilities and the key ingredient…ginger beer! Of course. Two cooking-loving editors versus two not-so confident writers, two hungover yet witty hosts and a sodden but warm crowd at the Royal Exchange. Beyond the laughter and good times, the dishes created were impressive: ginger beer and pear pancakes, ginger beer stirfry and ginger-beer infused corn. I tasted the latter. Iffy. In the end, the writers’ slow-cooked pancakes surprised and delighted the senses; their cuisine reined supreme!  That’s a poetry!

1pm: We headed back to the zine fair in the rain. Did a slow lap, chatted with various folks, got a few zines and a copy of the first issue of Seizure’s shiny magazine: Food. And I purchased us a quesadilla, then got another one for free because they messed up our order. Victorious!

2pm: Was really keen to see the screening of Tom Doig’s film Moron2Moron, wherein he and his buddy cycle from one small town in Mongolia called Moron to a another smaller town in Mongolia, also called Moron. Unfortunately, we were delayed by all the fun of the zine fair, so by the time we arrived at the Royal Exchange, the place was packed and on-screen Tom had already arrived at the latter Moron. I recommend checking out their travel diary though. And hopefully I can see the film some other time. Looks like a good shonky fun time.

2.30pm: Went to check out some of the screening of Pixel Pirate 2: The Directors Cut at the Festival Club. It’s a film made entirely of sampled material from other movies, with a not-so-underlying critique of intellectual property law. Bizarre and impressive.

3pm: At a bit of a loss for what to go to next, we went for the one with the best name: My Robot Has More Artistic Integrity Than I Do. Some lads from Canberra have helped in the founding of a hackerspace, which is kind of like an artist’s space/workshop, but more computer/technology/maker-focused. They discussed a lot of interesting distinctions: art and craft, function and aesthetic, and whether something is art if it’s just the interesting result of an electronics nut farting around with bits and pieces of computer hardware. They also discussed how they’re interested in the possibilities of collaborations, especially between artists with ideas and those with the technological/mechanical skills to realise their ideas. Again, last year I didn’t really see any Electrofringe panels, so this was something different, some interesting stuff. Check it out.

4pm: Before we knew it, it was our last event before we had to drive back to Canberra via Sydney. And it was none other than the Worlde Famouse SPELLING BEE. See below for Geoff Lemon’s better coverage (and spelling). I’ll just say it was crowded with difficult words and good people and that special TiNA vibe that I carried with me all the way home. As I mentioned, I wish I’d got a chance to attend more stuff, but at least I saw a different side of TiNA this year, a different pace, some different crowds, some ‘novelty’ events and more stuff outside my usual writing/editing/publishing interests.  Hopefully next year I’ll get an even better and fuller spectrum, from Thursday to Monday, from silly to serious, from words to robots, from writing to hacking into raw meat while speaking in a bad accent? And hopefully I’ll get a better chance to meet and catch up with more good TiNA folk next year too. Still, it was wonderful and worthwhile. And with such thoughts vibrating within my head and expressed throughout conversations with my girlfriend, we thus began to drive away from Newcastle, and thus…

5pm: My TiNA 2011 ends.

***

So. That was my TiNA 2011. How about everyone else?

Perhaps because I missed a good chunk of TiNA, since it ended I’ve been (somewhat nostalgically, somewhat in anticipation of 2012) working my way through other people’s reminiscences, remembrances, live-blogs, reports, responses, summaries and such: vicarious experience of the rest of the fest. Altogether, I thought, it could form some kind some kind of collaborative post-TiNA round-up. Heck, if somebody else has already done some exhaustive round-up of TiNA 2011 stuff already, just send it this way. But otherwise, I’d like to absorb (and gather for others) all sorts of TiNA-related interweb goodness, be it blog post, podcast, video or something else.

So here’s what I’ve got so far. I’ll keep this list updated. Please send me any links you’ve got!

  • Phill English at Toothsoup wrote a great festival report and his blog is also pretty great and you should read it.

 

Until TiNA 2012, BAM! for now.

Update!

I’m blogging again.

Where to begin? There’s too much to cover (there usually is), and I don’t want my first update in months to be a rambling mess. So when things seem tricky, one must turn to lists. Here be two, in no particular order:

CURRENT TOP TEN

  1. Cube Root of Book by Paul Magee two thirds through and I’m hooked, with its balance of almost-too-intellectual wordplay and sneaky, gobsmacking sincerity. This guy was one of my favourite teachers at Uni; opened up a whole lot of doors and windows on poetry, he did, for me at least.
  2. Darren Hanlon been reading his online tour journal lately and revisiting his albums, EPs and songs. I listen to Old Dream and I tear up and I don’t know why but I love it and him.
  3. East West 101 just started on this and it’s already the best Aussie crime drama I know. Probably my favourite anywhere, after The Wire.  But I dislike most other crime dramas. Anyway, look! An Australian cast that isn’t predominantly white!
  4. The Lost Thing — deserved the Oscar. Shaun Tan is amazing. I gave him a glass of water once.
  5. You Are Here festival an excellent inaugural fringe arts festival for Canberra. Good stuff. Especially the bread. And Tom Doig’s Selling Ice to the Remains of the Eskimos. Full on. Still processing it all, a month later.
  6. Living in Canberra again it’s lovely.
  7. Myth, Propaganda and Disaster is Nazi Germany and Contemporary America: A Drama in 30 Scenes by Stephen Sewell — I love works with long titles. I read this as a script rather than seeing it performed and I was satisfied. Intense and brain-sparking.
  8. National Young Writers Month — it’s coming up in June and I’m the ACT Ambassador. Woo! Get amongst it, under-25ers.
  9. $8 one-kilo banana loaf — bananas are still expensive, but this is big, discounted and delicious
  10. Getting engaged — yup, it’s pretty awesome.


CURRENT BOTTOM TEN

  1. THE COLD IT’S REALLY FRIGGIN COLD.
  2. Money, or lack thereof I could do with some more paid employment, thx.
  3. Jerkface real estate agents I don’t want to buy your overpriced apartment, especially when you tell me it’s not so bad if my fiancée dies, you soulless arse.
  4. Blessed maybe my expectations of Andrew Bovell were too high after being floored by When the Rain Stops Falling and Lantana, or maybe it was the other co-writers, but this just seemed needlessly depressing and meh in comparison.
  5. queues just had enough of them this week, thanks.
  6. The response of most people when I tell them of my Canberra move stop acting like I’ve told you I have cancer. If you actually lived here for a while you’d see beyond stereotypes and how it’s actually kind of great.
  7. A Commercial Farce When a character is meant to be obnoxious, he shouldn’t be so obnoxious that the audience cannot stand him being on stage. Also, your first running gag should draw you in, not be obnoxious. Verdict: obnoxious and not very good.
  8. Coming up with a Bottom Ten  either life is really good or I am too positive. Hmm. OH!
  9. My breadmaker being on the fritz I added yeast! Why don’t you cook good?
  10. Any Royal Wedding hoohaa — seriously, why do people care about this?

Fun! I might do this again sometime. Or expand on any number of these. We’ll see. The blog is my oyster. But I hate oysters. Pop-tart? No. Banana loaf. Mmm. Wait, I’m rambling. Okay, until next time then.

Melbourne Writers Fest 2010: Days 1 + 2

As I said, I’ll be blogging for the Melbourne Writers Festival. Indeed, I’m planning to blog about every day of  MWF festivities in which I partake. With two days down, and many more to go, I haven’t seen heaps, but I’ve made a good start. Things are just getting warmed up.

So first off: Friday, Day One!

I went along to The Morning Fix at Feddish. I got there a little late, and missed Joe Bageant and Jon Bauer, but arrived just in time to see Benjamin Law, then Benjamin Law’s mum, and then Benjamin Law reading this story to a room of mostly old folks. Nothing like cockroach massacre and casual cursing with your morning coffee. Kim Cheng Boey then had to follow that up with his sincere recollections and musings on memory, childhood and the father-son relationship. Estelle Tang summarises it much better than me on the official blog, which you should all be all over already.

Later that day, I went along to the launch of Above Water. 2010 sees the sixth issue of this (free!) little publication by the Uni of Melbourne Arts and Media Department. Although it started half an hour later than scheduled, and then only went for about half an hour, they managed to pack in a lot. There was some nice awarding of awards to some of the up-and-coming literary newbies at Uni of Melbourne, along with a great stack of readings from said lit-n00bs. You should head on over to the University of Melbourne campus, to Union House maybe, and hunt down one of the free copies doubtless just sitting there waiting to be snapped up. With stories of domestic tension, identity, lost marbles, mutilated mermaids and more, the collection looks pretty strong, especially for a bunch of folks only just getting started on this writing caper. I think I’ll give it a review here someday soon.

After that, I had to head on home, but that night there were keynotes, and people saw these keynotes and lo, they did blog about them, and said that they were good.

The next day, Saturday, Day Two: I busied myself with such important activities as not leaving the house, and then later I spent several hours partaking in proofreading and snacks with my Voiceworx krew. So as it was, I only got along to one session before calling it a day. But I chose well, as it was quite a spesh sesh indeed: readings and discussion from two of the Age Book of the Year winners.

In fact, only the previous night, the Age Book of the Year awards had been announced. Jennifer Maiden won the poetry prize for Pirate Rain, Kate Howarth won the non-fiction prize for Ten Hail Marys and Alex Miller’s Lovesong took the fiction prize and the Book of the Year award. Alex Miller and Kate Howarth were in attendance at this session, chaired by Jason Steger, and it was a cracking session indeed.

First, Kate Howarth spoke about her harrowing, but ultimately triumphant memoir. People have asked her, after reading her story, ‘How could you abandon your son?’. She rejected the word ‘abandon’, and tells how she was forced to leave, to come back later, to do what was best for her child in a terrible situation, in a far-too-recent time when women were essentially powerless. She read two excerpts from the end of her book, where she finally leaves her son, and then is later reunited with him years later. The emotion got to her — she’d never read that section in public before — and it was the sort of moment where it seemed almost wrong to say anything more. She may have been in awe of sharing a stage with Alex Miller, but when Jason asked Alex if he’d liked to read, he replied ‘not really, after that reading’.

Alex was compelled to instead give his own response to Kate’s story. But, eventually, he did read from his book Lovesong.  I’d never seen him before or read his books (despite hearing lavish praise), but Alex Miller is a great writer to witness. At times a gently cynical, no-bullshit curmudgeon, other times a remarkably thoughtful and humble man. When he did start reading from Lovesong, he read slowly, calmly and softly. His voice had some special timbre or hidden quality that scratched past my inner ear, into my brain and rustled around comfortably somewhere in my body. I could have listened to him read all day. When he said the phrase ‘a bag of sesame biscuits’ in his reading, it was like a warm crackling aural fire. A strange, rare quality in a speaker that I notice sometimes.

After his reading, the trio discussed a wide variety of subjects. Kate spoke of the joy of being published and thus realising a childhood dream; of her wonderful publishers at UQP; how she taught herself to write rather than attend creative writing classes; of the driving forces of rage and truthtelling that motivated her to write; of her hundreds of drafts and her perfectionism in writing, that she likened to unpicking a bridal gown. And how she’s planning a sequel.

Alex Miller spoke about the power of the informed imagination’s daydream, how it can spark ideas that grow into novels, which seemed to worked for both him and for Tolstoy. He said how having a child changes your life way more than any book. He spoke of how he can’t stop writing or he gets cranky, because writing for him is a kind of therapy. And he said after he’d exhausted all other options,  he had to just learn and write novels. Now he can’t help it.

All in all, it was assuredly a thoroughly satisfying session, except for that one person who didn’t turn their phone off, let it ring, and then proceeded to answer it mid-session. Let me just say: WHAT.

But all in all: a great first two days. Looking forward to the rest of the fest!

* * * * *

My picks for Sunday, which will quite possibly fill my next embloggenations to bursting: another Morning Fix of several of your soon-to-be-beloved writers; The Lifted Brow and friends getting up to all sorts of shenanigans in a shipping container on the riverbank; an In Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson, the ace author of The Years of Rice and Salt and the Mars Trilogy; gettin’ wordy n nerdy at A Wordsmith’s DreamMeanjin, Overland, Going Down Swinging: Birthday Stories; and Dog’s Tales at the Toff and moooooooorrrrrre. See you at the Fest?

(2011 Post-script: I went to a lot of other great stuff at the Fest, but never got around to blogging it fresh. Wups. Sorry. Sam Cooney, however, wrote a bunch of great stuff about the Fest, which you can read via his blog, which is full of other excellent things you should also read if you read this.)

What are the haps?

Hey! Hello! Hi there. Hi. How are you? That’s good. Me? Well, you know, just getting back into blogging, you know how it is. Yeah, I know I know, two-thirds of the way through the Emerging Writer’s Festival it seems my blogging fingers fell off. But I did go to many a thing and have a jolly ol’ time. Maybe some of what I attended and took notes on would still make for an interesting post (many weeks after the event, in contradiction of the internet’s immediacy)? We’ll see. Anyway, since then I have been busy. Moving house. Travelling up to Canberra and Sydney and back again. Oh, and I’ve been enlisted into the Voiceworks EdComm, which is great. We have a blog and we did a night of readings and Boggle and a radio play and a spelling bee, oh and we publish a cracking magazine that you should read and submit to, if yer able.

But anyway! Yes indeed, to everything there is a season. Gone is the long winter of discontented nonblogging. Now is the season for bloggingbloggingblogging, like a glorious summer.

And O! what a time to be a-blogging it is! So many things are the haps! A perpetual cornucopia approaching for me to partake in and report upon! Most importantly, perhaps: the Melbourne Writers Festival! The MWF program has been launched, and in anticipation of the festival’s arrival on August 27, I am spending many an idle moment flipping through the program, planning all the marvellous stuff I might see. Not only that, I plan to be a Genuine Unofficial MWF Blogger, blogging about it a whooooole bunch, much like others such such as him and her and several others. Oh, and don’t forget the Official MWF Blog.

Other than that, to further commence the buzzing warm-up to the fest, check out a nice big blog I did for MWF last year, back when this blog was part of my coursework at the Uni of Melbourne. Speaking of which, as of Thursday, this blog will have been around for a year. Can you believe that? I freakin’ can’t! I will definitely have to celebrate.

But yes, coming soon, I will have a massive post (or three) detailing the myriad things I plan to attend at MWF. All of that and many more meandering missives such as this one are surely on their way.

Ah yes indeed, it is a good time to be blogging. Festivals and blogging go together like custard and fish fingers, or, if you will, bowties and fezes.
(In case you are not cultured, what I am saying is that blogging and festivals go together exceedingly well and they are cool and also Doctor Who is cool and yeah okay so bye and um have a frabjous day!)

EWF update: Disco discourse, Quarter-hour launches, Bootcamps, Bon Scott and more!

The Emerging Writer’s Festival has been zooming along like a runaway locomotive, with plenty of events whooshing past and a weekend cornucopia rapidly approaching. Let’s see if I can make sense of the blur that has been my past five or six days.

Sunday’s Page Parlour was a jolly good time for all.  I browsed the tables thrice and then again, sat in on an interview with the wonderful Mandy Ord, got prodded with Ronnie’s attention-grabbing prodding stick and finally settled my spending at three rad-looking indie publications: Red Leaves, Caught in the Breeze and Flinch, which may all result in reviews one day. I was too tuckered out for the 48 Hour Play Generator that night, but if the reports are anything to go by, I really did miss out.

Meanwhile, there’s been a storm of TwitterFESTing, #ewfchat hashtagging, digital launches, online conversations and more, all as part of the online side of the festival. Check out all the EWFonline happenings here, or plough through the ever-growing hashtag archive on Twitter.

Back in the land of face-to-face, for four nights, four publications got their 15 Minutes of Fame.  Thuy Lin wrote a great summation of the first round on Monday. Jodie at Voiceworks/Virgule did too, but remember: it’s not a competition.

That being said, let me claim a FIRST on Tuesday night. But in an effort to rein in my logorrhoea, I’ve restricted myself to 15 words for each 15 minutes of fame-r.

1. My Pilgrim’s Heart by Stephanie Dale: ‘Journey through marriage and other foreign lands’.  Mullumbimby.  All humanity vibrating in Istanbul. Unlearning expectations.

2.  The Nine Flaws of Affection by Peter Farrar: Laconic. Carveresque. Drought. ANZAC. Comas. Wounds. Violence. Aftermath. First-person. Affection’s flipside. Kill those darlings.

3. Ondine by Ebony McKenna: Fantasy. Girl meets scruffy, black, Scottish ferret/boy at Psychic Summer Camp. Magic and love.

4. Offset journal: an unfamiliar journal, with DVD! Victoria University’s poems, songs, artworks, stories. Multimedia first publishings wonders.

Good stuff! Unfortunately, I didn’t get along to Wednesday or Thursday’s series of quarter-hour launches. Lose. Who else went along? Still, the two I did attend exceeded expectations. Even the publications I suspected might be a bit naff ended up surprising me and they all became books I’d happily snaffle.

Ooh, also on Tuesday night, I got along to You Can’t Stop the Musing, Craig Schuftan’s Disco Lecture. Working as a funny critique and defense of disco, his basic argument (full of wit and disco backing tunes) was, sure, disco is repetitive, stupid and artificial. But we like to dance to repetitive music and disco has mass popular appeal, so people can sneak into it what they want to say to a large group of people. Disco connects us to our bodies and our internal rhythms. Its stupidity challenges the mind/body dualism that forms the core of Western thought. And it may be artificial, but this can be a positive for oppressed sectors of society, such as gay people, who’ve been told their whole lives that their desires are ‘unnatural’; it’s basically challenging biologicial determinism. His lecture really did give me a greater appreciation of Saturday Night Fever, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and disco in general, old and new. Craig says his goal is to increase happiness in the world in this way, so that when we hear these songs on the radio, we derive greater enjoyment from them. Works for me!

On Wednesday night, I went along to the city library to try my hand at the Creative Writing Bootcamp in person, rather than the digital edition/s. Voicework’s Maddie Crofts ably guided a huge crowd of people in a variety of great exercises that I reckon I’ll re-use in the future.

After that, I went off to the Willow Bar for The Last Hurrah, which is somewhat-EWF-related, in that it was night of readings culminating in the launch of A.S Patric’s Music for Broken Instruments, which also received a digital launch at EWFonline. I was delighted to be kidnapped by the poems and stories of the Black Riders.

Thursday saw me attending my first Lunchbox/Soapbox at the Wheeler Centre, where Torpedo‘s Chris Flynn argued that, while past decades have had Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Inspector Rex, K9 and the like, this decade needs its own heroic hound if we’re to have any hope . Pretty much one the most unique speeches I’ve seen. Great stuff.

Then that night, another Creative Writing Bootcamp, this time with Komninos. This one took a while to get started, but it too built up to some great approaches to generating stories and ideas.

Then it was time for Wordstock. This year’s theme was AC/DC. Can’t say I’ve ever been a fan, but I’d be lying if I said that night didn’t make them a little more respect-worthy. Clem Bastow dressing up as Bon Scott, visible package and all; Emilie Zoey Baker’s nostalgic bogan tribute; two ukelele tunes (one about circumcision, the other about reality TV);  Sean M. Whelan poetically applying the Schrödinger’s cat concept to Bon Scott’s life/death; Vachel Spirason again wowing us, with a construction worker’s flamenco/breakdance/aerobic  routine ; neo-feminist responses to Acca-Dacca traditions; awkward karaoke renditions; and Ben Pobje’s concluding ode to riding free and punching babies in the face.

After all of that, Friday’s lack of EWF programming was a chance to get my bearings, gather my resources, take a few breaths, make a few plans and ready myself for the weekend rush.

And now the Town Hall weekend approaches. How hectic is this program? I’m going to have a hard time choosing which panel I want to go to almost every hour. And I’ll have to pop out at some point to check out the zine bus and all the DIY wonders it holds.

Finally, before I forget, Bookseller and Publisher’s blog Fancy Goods has a wrap-up of the festival thus far. Meanwhile, their past editor, Miss LiteraryMinded/Angela Meyer has also done a wrap-up of her own.

Righo then, see you at the festival, or maybe on the other side!

First Words on EWF

I arrived about 10 minutes before The First Word was scheduled to begin. Before entering, I helped two women who looked a bit lost to find their way, assuring them that the event to the left, with its hordes of loud men drinking booze from kegs and eating sausages, was a festival of beer, not writing. The First Word was to our right at the ever-shiny BMW Edge Theatre.

Amongst a few familiar faces and plenty of new ones, I found a good seat and waited for the show to begin. A gentleman named Phillip sat down next to me and introduced himself. I later realised he was Philip Thiel, a man of impressive blogging determination who’s speaking at the Town Hall next weekend. The current subject of his blog, soliciting kisses, was not raised. In fact, before we had much of a chance to chat, it began.

The echoing and amplified voice of Lisa Dempster welcomed us, and soon we were treated to a scene from a play by, I believe, Alison Mann.

A young stripper brings an older woman back to her place. They converse, look at photographs and eventually kiss. But the older woman wants to share all the doubts and uncertainties plaguing her mind.  Neither seems to be looking for the same thing. I felt that, in keeping with night’s theme of Love and Angst, one woman represented love (or lust?), while the other was filled with uncertainty and angst. A good snippet to begin with.

Then there were the speeches by the Co-Director and the Arts Minister (am I the only one who thinks Minister’s speeches could usually stand to be cut in half?), then the 48 Hour Play Generator was launched and the playwrights were introduced and given their theme. No envelopes, just a setting of a scene. Something along the lines of: two people: one standing, one kneeling, looking into an open grave. Nice. Whatever results from that will be seen at the Malthouse.

Toni Jordan then gave a great keynote speech about the love of writing, the love that infuses and inspires her writing, and the role of writers: to record and to bear witness. To be ready so that when someone says ‘can you describe this?’ you will reply with ‘yes’. I wish I could remember the name of the Russian poet she mentioned, who sold millions of books in her home country, pre-Sovietism.

Next was the wonderful Vachel Spirason with a physical performance that had very little to do with writing but everything to do with being hilarious. He put on boots that possessed him to tap dance. He put on a Collingwood Magpies beanie and was transformed into a footy hooligan. And he danced like Michael Jackson right off the stage after putting on one white glove.

After that was a reading by Amy Espeseth from Sufficient Grace.  It featured blood, snow, ticks, dead coyotes and the ‘mangy beard of Jesus’. Great stuff.

Then Craig Schuftan took to the lectern with his laptop and proceeded to give a speech that was genuinely both funny and intelligent, tying together a dizzying blend of pop culture and high art. He talked about the future as imagined in the Bill and Ted movies and Yeasayer’s latest music video. He related the Romantics of the 1800s to both 1980’s rock power ballads and emo. He managed to tie it all together to say, I think, that what we like determines who we are, and it matters. And our feelings matter too, but they’re not the only thing, even though the Glory of Love is pretty important. I’d always been a fan of his similar Culture Club segments on Triple J, but it was great to hear a longer talk from him, even though there was so much to take in. Like many others, I expect, I’ll be very keen to see his even longer Disco Lecture on Tuesday.

Then: Interval. Toilet. Beer. Tweet. Return. Sit.

And we were back with another reading. This time, a time-twisting story about art, read by Mike Bartlett. I believe it was Out of the Picture from his  Salmon and Dusk podcasts.  Another great, well-read piece, that reminded me somehow of the Dirk Gently novels by Douglas Adams.

And finally there was the Two Sides of the Coin Debate: Love vs Angst. With Michael Williams as chairman, Josh Earl, Michaela McGuire and Kate McLennen debated themselves on the topic. Each speaker stood up twice, once for Love, and then again to argue against themselves for Angst. The laughs came fast, whether it was after lines from Michaela’s teenage asthma-inspired angst poetry, Kate’s jaunty rendition of ‘All You Need is Love’  or Josh’s comparison of an infinite numbers of monkeys writing about love or angst.

All three were hilarious, no matter their argument, but in the end, though it sounded like Angst won, Michael Williams declared a ‘draw’ on the clap-o-meter. Love and Angst remained the partners they always were.

And then with final pronouncement from the booming Voice of Lisa, it was over. I felt that, with only two acts after the interval, it needed a finale or a coda to tie it all together. Maybe a short poem or a musical piece? Still, a minor gripe in a great night.

As I left, more drunk men and Collingwood Magpies footy fans were swarming Fed Square and the rest of the city. It all seemed fairly appropriate, both as a counterpoint to all the wonderful talk of angst, love and writing, and an apt reminder of a certain dancing man in a Magpies beanie earlier in the night.

*

With the First Word finished, there’s plenty more EWF stuff I intend to get involved with:

  • Today saw the first event in the online program: a Blogger’s Brunch wrapped up just as I posted this. It’s still open to be commented on, and there’s plenty to read. But then from 12-5PM today is the Page Parlour. I’ll be seeing what’s on offer, feebly attempting to not spend all my money, and lending a hand at The Lifted Brow‘s table. I may or may not go along to the 48 Hour Play Generator tonight too.
  • From Monday to Thursday, 7PM, is 15 Minutes of Fame. I’ll be getting along to as many of these as I can to find out about some new publishings.
  • Tuesday night is ‘You Can’t Stop the Musing‘ a disco lecture with Craig Schuftan. I’d better buy my tickets to this, because after his piece at the First Word, I think it’s gonna be pretty popular and awesome.
  • (8PM Wednesday Night means ‘Black Rider presents The Last Hurrah‘. Not an EWF event, but near-bursting with literary talents!)
  • Thursday day sees a Lunchbox/Soapbox at the Wheeler Centre with Chris Flynn talkin’ ’bout heroic hounds.
  • Then on Thursday night: Wordstock. I’m not a fan of AC/DC, but I’m still hoping to go to this.
  • Then there’s the Stuck in a Lifts, Creative Writing Bootcamps, TwitterFEST and all the other parts of the online program throughtout the week. Hoping to get into as many of these as possible.
  • And finally, the gargantuan cherry on top, the Town Hall Weekend Program, which is far too massive to even think about now. I just hope I find time amongst it all on Saturday to get on the Zine Bus.

I think after all this I’ll be bloated with words, ideas, inspiration, bloggery and good festival vibes for quite a while.