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.

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Mountaineering

I’ve come to terms with the inevitable peaks and troughs of my blog activity. Still, right now feels apt for filling this space with words again, so let’s try for a peak or two, or even just a hillock. Maybe it’ll end up as a mountain range.

Hey, look! I bought a domain! My blog URL is only somewhat ridiculous now, being 10 characters shorter.

In fact, I bought two domains. The other is grapplepublishing.com and it’s ready to launch and loop around the planet like a satellite made of words and pictures and miscellaneous radness. Grapple Publishing is something that’s been in the planning stages for an eon longer than is sensible, so I’m super stoked to say we’re now taking submissions for our pilot project: The Grapple Annual. You should submit something.

Meanwhile, Scissors Paper Pen has been doing a metric buttload (that’s 1.34 times bigger than an imperial buttload) of stuff, so I’ve been rather happily busy with that. Check out our Program for the rest of the year and come along to something if you can.  And look: I designed and edited my first zinethology / antholozine. It’s called Paperclip. Let me know if you want a copy and I will send you one.

Team SPP at our Paperclip/Program Launch: Adelaide with gift pack, Rosie, me grinning like a loon with Paperclips and Lucy with Program (photo taken by Martina using Rosie’s phone)

Other than that, I’ve been making some time (out of the thinnest of air) to write a few things here and there and some people even published some of them. One thing I wrote was about The Skywhale, and then I met her twice and fell in love three times.

Ain’t she a beauty? I took this at the oval behind Ainslie Arts Centre during Bloom Fest!

What else since I last blogged? I took part in a great six-month course on short stories with Andy Kissane, completed a six-week radio training course at 2XX 98.3FM (listen our show, 3pm Saturdays!), continued contently working part-time, went on a jaunt to South East Asia, attended my grandfather’s funeral and married the woman I love to bits and pieces. And then there’s everything else past and everything as yet unwritten, the grand and the mundane and everything in-between.

And so: into the valley, spelunking through, then out into the light and onwards, ascending and climbing up the next slope, the next summit, ever onwards, stretchy metaphors and all.

Things To Do At The Emerging Writers Festival (When You’re In Canberra)

I attended the Emerging Writers Festival in person two years in a row when I lived in Melbourne, in 2009 and 2010.  I volunteered, helped with sitting-behind-zine-fair-table duties and largely just participated enthusiastically. It’s a valuable, wonderful, recommended time for anyone passionate about writing in any of its forms and offshoots.

But for this year’s fest, as in 2011, I’m several hundred kilometres away, in Canberra. This is fine, I love Canberra (in a complicated way). But I would still like to be at the fest. Maybe you’re the same. Maybe you’re even further away, or tantalisingly close, but otherwise engaged.

Not to worry! Because the EWF is awesome, they’ve thought of plenty of opportunities for participation, engagement and development, using this internet thing that everyone’s talking about.

The EWF itself is already up-and-running, May 24 to June 3, but in the middle, kicking off and on and on between May 28 and June 1 there’s EWFDigital, a program specifically made for the online space. Take note: this is rad, and Festival Director Lisa Dempster has put together some really interesting thoughts on literary participation in an online space, so you know they’re taking it seriously, and it’s not just a sidenote. This year, there’s something called Stories in Your Stream, online panel discussions, TwitterFest, online exhibitions, an interactive keynote and probably stacks more.

Watch this space, I guess. [EDIT: The afternoon after I wrote this post, EWFDigital was properly launched. This all feels a bit premature now. All I can say is: go. Get amongst it!]

For now, it’s probably even worthwhile delving 20 pages or so into the EWF Blog archives to check out last year’s EWFDigital programming.

Speaking of which: the EWF Blog. It brings together posts from a variety of bloggers, from the aforementioned festival director to a wide variety of EWF attendees and participants. EWF attendees and participants are awesome. They write summaries and reflections regarding festival events, experiences and even the after-parties. Keep an eye out.

Then there’s EWF’s Twitter profile, and the #ewf12 hashtag that will be flooding people’s feeds. These will lead you to further goodness and good people.

And I’m keenly awaiting the arrival into my earholes of I Heard You Like Rereading Books?. It shall be a wondrous fusion of JoMad and The Rereaders, recorded live in front of an EWF audience, for our later listening pleasure.

And I may just have written one of the upcoming reviews of self-published books for the NSW Writers Centre’s blog, as the Emerging Writers Festival joins them for 366 Days of Writing.

Oh, that’s right, AND I’m participating in the Online Team (AKA Team Awesome) for The Rabbit Hole. We’re each gonna be aiming to write 30,000 words in 3 days next weekend. Meh, no biggies (ie I AM QUIVERING). More on my plans for that soon, hopefully. For now, follow #rabbithole I guess!

And there’s probably more! Who knows what else is in store for a digital attendee of EWF? At the very least, do the festival proud and write like you’re possessed by a writing fever that can only be cured by writing writing writing. Like the hokey pokey, that’s what it’s all about.

I think it’s important to recognise, and embrace, both the limitations and the possibilites of digital participation in a festival, and with literature generally. Really, nothing beats attending a good festival in person, but then there are some things you can only do in an online space. Ideally, experience both, if you can. But if, like me, you’re a writer (or an emerging writer, or whatever writing-inclined label you wanna give yerself) who can’t get anywhere near Melbourne’s CBD over the next few days, why not participate online?

See you at the fest.

The prodigal blogger returns

Good gravy, what say we surpass this stagnant state of non-blogging, eh? A new year, a good quarter done, much to catch up on, much to do. So: let’s.

Digits? Commence list exposition!

  • I’m still enjoying work at the NLA, a good six months in. It seems I’m finally getting the hang of the whole work/life-outside-work balancing act, with the inevitable occasional wobbles and hiccups.
  • I am against the word that is spelled ‘hiccough’.
  • When something is too spicy for me, I get hiccups.
  • I like to insert irrelevant items into lists.
  • I can’t decide whether lists are inane or wonderful. Or maybe both.
  • Scissors Paper Pen continues apace — onward and upward, even! We’ve put on events all around central Canberra: at the Phoenix Pub, Lonsdale Street Roasters, the National Library, and, during the You Are Here Festival, several other places (and all this YAH business will be expanded upon at a latter dot, but for now I sing praises to Rosie Stevens for ably organising so much SPP/YAH-related stuff while I was off gallivanting in places like NYC [again, latter dot] and she did and does a whole stack of good stuff so go read her blog already).  O, and SPP won an Express Media award! As for the future, we at SPP have further plans of great excitement, online and off. Rest yourselves assuredly. For now, we do hope for your involvement in future SPP happenings, dear blog reader, and offer you some of the podcasts we’ve got so far, with a promise of much more SPP goodness a-comin’.
  • Did somebody say podcasts? I have been going certifiably insane for the things in the past few months. JoMad: I Heard You Like Books?Radiolab, The Rereaders, This American Life, Paper Radio and all sorts from the ABC. You have suggestions for more? Fire away!
  • Speaking of electronic wonderment, I got me a Kobo Touch for Christmas! It’s pretty great. Once I got past the novelty factor, the accidental dropping of my keys on the screen (tiny spiderweb crack attack!) and other miscellaneous gadget glitches that keep such devices devoid of some elusive holistic rightness and romantic charm, I have found it most excellent for a variety of reading materials! In fact, it’s really good for travelling, which is handy because…
  • In February/March, my first ladyfriend and I did travel overseas for a fortnight! For me, it was my first time stepping outside the bits on the map marked ‘Australia’, so it was definitely a Big Thing. We went to New York, we went to Montreal, we passed through Schenectady on an Amtrak train, we sat on planes for days, the whole bit. I may just dedicate a future post solely to such travel stories. Oddly enough, I haven’t written anything substantial about it since I returned ashore. However, we did keep a daily travel diary and I did send a dozen postcards while international. But in summary:

It was excellent. USA! NUMBER ONE! YEAHHHHH.

  • And then we returned to the calm clamour of Canberra, amidst the second annual You Are Here Festival. It’d been going for a few days when I arrived, but my festival began when I, mildly jetlagged, popped into that long-abandoned newsagency, redubbed The Newsroom. I saw The Cashews playing to a room full of all sorts and it was golden gorgeous and I was Home. Over the next few days, I witnessed multitudes of poetry, the best debate ever, a wondrous harp + laptop duo, got pub quizzed at, experienced comedy as religious-educational experience and hunted for miniscule artworks around the CBD. Even in my, still limited, experience, it was awesome and I can’t wait for next year. In the meantime, I’ll be extracting some of the goodness from the YAH blog and its associated multimedia webtunnels.
  • Speaking of what has been but remains rad: making and sharing mix CDs and sending postcards, letters and other postal delights! Been doing it since Christmastime and it’s a weirdly great thing and if you are still reading this I will send you a postcard or a letter or something if you give me yr address or hey also look at this PO Box 251 Campbell LPO 2612 get on that like a total hipster before it’s too cool.
  • But seriously what even is a hipster? I think it is an excuse to just dismiss something and it’s a lazy term mostly.
  • Lazy? I rode a friggin’ segway on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
  • And I kinda finally learned how to iron. It took 25 years. No segue.
  • Even though I’d not been blogging for months ’til this outburst, I have been writing. I have words forthcoming in Burley. And you remember that You Are Here thing I mentioned? Well one Julian Fleetwood launched another thing during it called Mall Stories and I have a story in it about this one time I worked at a bookshop, and a voice actor reads it out to you during a self-guided walking tour and everything. I’m planning to actually finally do the tour this coming weekend! You can too! Preferably in the Canberra Centre, but in any case you should download it and go walking around a mall, or anywhere. Just listen. I know it’ll be good. But anyway, beyond those writings, I’ve had a few rejections which are always good for both reflection and a short-back-‘n’-sides on the ol’ ego, plus I have a number of writings pending and hey, I wrote this blog post list and it has like a dozen dot points already, what else do you want from me?
  • Huh?
  • Geez.
  • You’ll see!
  • Okay, I’ll stop the dots.

And there you have it: blog post! I hear there’s more where it came from, just quietly. So commence overlapping of your digits in anticipation and I’ll dedicate mine to punching more characters.

(postscript/edit: it was only after posting this that I thought to check the definition of ‘prodigal’. Apparently it actually means ‘wastefully extravagent’. Did everybody else know this? I clearly did not pay enough attention during Sunday school, but hey, now I know and I guess I am rather prodigal with my words/dots?)

Some stuff I did write elsewhere

I’ve been sick with a post-TiNA cold and (just as I’ve nearly recovered) I’ve been handed an unusually busy work week. So rather than failing to write something new and substantial, on this, my one-day weekend, I instead present an assortment of stuff I already wrote recently. Hopefully a TiNA-based post and other good new things will ensue soon. Until then, enjoy?

First, if you’ll cast your eyes down to my previous post, I’ve rescued and revived something I wrote for National Young Writers Month entitled Why I (Don’t) Write.

I’ve also recently put another piece up on my other blog, Suburban Flotsam and Jetsam. During National Young Writers Month, I wrote a piece each week for SuFaJ, and since I was pretty happy with what resulted, I decided I’d continue with it, not weekly, but whenever I can. Hence, my fifth piece ‘o.n.o’ is up there, along with the inspiration for the impending sixth.

I’ve been writing some stuff for Canberra street press mag BMA. Here’s my piece on Canberra musician Pete Akhurst, and my review of an evening of spoken word, Urban Soul Food.

And finally, if you haven’t already got a copy (or a subscription [why not?]), you should grab the previous issue of Voiceworks. That’d be #85 OTHER, the one with my non-fiction piece about seeking ghosts, psychics and otherworldly experiences in Canberra. The piece is called Ghost Town and I’ve been invited to read something Ghost Town-related at a special Halloween-themed night of readings organised by Voiceworks and the Victorian Writers’ Centre next Friday, the 21st of October, at the good ol’ (actually, still quite new and shiny) Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. See the Facebook event and/or the VWC website for extra details, so you may come along and be enthralled by all.

Rightio then, that’s all for now. Enjoy your weekend. I hope it’s longer than mine. May your nostrils be not runny and your spring days fairly sunny.

Suburban Flotsam and Jetsam

This is just a little post to letcha all know that my new fiction blogging project has kicked off. It’s called Suburban Flotsam and Jetsam, or SuFaJ for short.

Basically, I scan and upload pictures of found ephemera that I pick up on my wanderings around town and I write things inspired by said found ephemera. Ephemera is my favourite word of the day.

You can check out my first story ‘The Girl with Hexadecimal Hair’, and the piece of paper with some words on it that inspired it, here.

In June, I plan to write a piece a week for SuFaJ, as one of my goals for National Young Writers Month. It’s already June 10 though, so I gotta get onto the next one soon! And if you read it and want to give feedback of any sort, or submit your own guest post to SuFaJ, please do! More details on the aforementioned website!

Other than that, I’ve been doing pretty well with my other two goals: writing for a focussed hour every day (in fact, I’ve been getting up most mornings and writing for a good two hours before doing much else! crazy!) and being an awesome NYWM Ambassador!

Anyway, hope you enjoy the story/are going well with NYWM/are having a frabjous day!

NaYoWriMo-a-go-go!

Yep, National Young Writers’ Month is up and happening, online and off.

We have badges (see, I’ve already put mine on).

I have a piece up on the NYWM blog that I like to call ‘Why I (Don’t) Write’.

And we have heaps of other good stuff goin’ on, on the blog, on the forum, on Twitter and on Facebook. Not to mention we ambassadors and our impending travels around our respective states and territories, and the workshops, and who knows what else.

One way to find out: get amongst!

Anyway, I hope to still make time to keep blogging here over the next two months, but I may be overly engaged with NYWM, along with my other online writing project (and one of my NYWM goals), SuFaJ, which I hope to reveal soon.

Acronyms and excitement all around!