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?)

Balance

As I return to blogging with renewed gusto and a shiny new design (though with a few adjustments pending), I wanted to nut out a few things I’ve been mulling over lately regarding balance.

This year, (beyond recently recovering from [thankfully not catastrophic] computer meltdown, getting a cold, travelling around a lot – life happening, basically) I’ve had times where I had no job whatsoever, times where I was working volunteer roles I could throw myself into with varying levels of vigour, and periods where I was either working casually or swamped by working two jobs at once.

But now, I’m settled into one good, fairly steady, part-time job at the National Library of Australia. Which is awesome. It’s my first real, kinda grown-up job. Like, I get my own desk and everything. But thankfully I’m doing a lot of stuff that isn’t just deskwork too. Anyway, both my finances and my schedule have become a whole lot more regular, so that’s good!

So now, I’ve got four days a week where, from roughly 9 to 5, I (mostly) work at this job. But for the times when I am not at work, it’s almost as if the idea of “this time is mine” has been brought into starker relief.

As I’m sure many people know, after a day of work, it’s easy to just get home, blob on the couch, eat dinner in front of the TV, fart about on the internet, collapse into bed, repeat. I used to be a bit scathing of this kind of behavior, but I totally get the impulse. The full 9-5 can drain you, and I’m only just  breaking out of that lazy blob pattern.

So this brings me to what I’m pondering on. It begins with that old chestnut of ‘work/life balance’. I recently read an article by Damon Young  that talked about this, and he clarified the point that really, you’ve got be mindful of this balance, and you’ve got to realise it’s kind of a question of value.  It’s like “This is my time, so what do I want to do with it?”  It’s not like being at Uni, where you could always be studying, preparing more for a test or whatever. It’s not a casual job where you could be called up any day. And it’s not like unemployment, where you need to spend ages seeking and applying and preparing for jobs. Now, I’ve got my practicalities of money situation pretty sorted. I like my job. I’m not overworked. I don’t really take work home with me. So like I said, this time is mine. It’s a kind of freedom, a serious privilege, and it’s a weird, new feeling. After a year or two of post-study job-seeking flux, it feels like that part of my life is sorted and balanced for now.

Then there’s the rest of my life (the parts that aren’t work) to balance. For example, I need a good night’s sleep (I really do). I need quality time with my girlfriend and time for all the domestic practicalities. I want to write and I want to read. Those parts are easy. I know I value them (or value being on top of them, when it comes to the domesticals) but the more I think, the more I realise there’s so much more that I’m trying to balance, prioritise and find the right time for. Some seems almost essential, some desirable, some a luxury, some I’m not sure.  Let’s see what else there is: music, interwebbernauting, hanging with friends, TV, movies, video games, going for a walk, travelling, volunteering, baking a pie,  something else, anything else. I can’t do everything. So what do I want to make part of my daily/regular practice and what do I want to reduce or cut out entirely?

In my spare hours at work, beyond the realisation that a Word document can be well-disguised as important business (rather than a wobbly blog post),  I’ve realised I’m able to browse the interwebs, in the slow times, when there’s no other work waiting for me, and nobody minds.

One series of interlinked info holes I recently burrowed down into during my work hours was Samuel Cooney‘s slighty old (in internet time), but rather good bunch of guest posts on the Southerly Journal blog, including this post, which in turn links to a David Sedaris essay in the New Yorker. Here’s a quote at the core of all this that caught me. Imagine a four-burner stove:

” One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.’ The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two. “

I’d recommend checking out the links I posted for further pontification on those matters. But there’s an interesting thought here. What do I have to sacrifice for such a solitary pursuit as writing, or any work I value and pursue? Can you just turn down the other burners a little bit, rather than turning them off completely? Can you alternate? I tend to alternate in neglecting my friends and family, sometimes both. So there is a definite hermit scribe tendency there already. Still, I want to say this analogy is flawed and that you can balance everything and have it all. But really, I’m not so sure.

Anyway, on this note, I have amazed myself lately by becoming a morning person for the sake of cultivating a writing habit. My routine’s not perfect, but I am rising early, sitting down and writing most mornings, without too much distraction, for a good hour at least, before work, or longer on weekends.

I’m still trying to read more books. That’s what has really suffered lately. I read a good amount and variety of stuff online, from tweets to longform essays. But I know I need to carve out a book reading habit amongst it all too. And that the o-so-hard (and privileged) but necessary choice is: less TV and less farting around online in the evenings. I want those things too, but I value book reading more. So the next step is making my life reflect my values.

And that could get me into even broader questions of life, ethics and deep deep meanings,  but I need to get ready to go to Newcastle today, so I’m going to leave it at that. But I’m pretty sure my time with TiNA will be valuable and that I’ll have plenty to write about upon my return. Imma gonna give this blog the love it’s always deserved.

PS: Just after I finished writing this, someone else’s blog post, in a similar vein, came up in my newsfeed. Nice.

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!

Happy blogbirthday!

Yes, today DuncanWritingEditingPublishing is one year old. They grow up so fast, don’t they?

It seems like only yesterday that I was starting this thing up as a Writing and Editing for Digital Media assignment. Now I’ve graduated, got my diploma and am out in the big scary post-University world. We’ve both changed, blog, but I’m glad you’ve stuck around. Sure, sometimes I disappeared for several weeks without explanation, but I think we can put the past behind us, remember the good times and look to a brighter, better future. Together.

Happy birthday, blog.

But what’s a birthday without presents? Yes, I got you a little something. Two somethings, in fact. Oh, it’s nothing. Hm? Why, yes, I suppose we can share it with everyone. You’re so giving, blog.

First, I got some amusing search terms. Everyone loves a good search term. It’s one of the best bits of the stats page. So my top…7 of the past year:

“one-eyed protagonist”
stay puft marshmallow man (about 15 times, spelt various ways)
“good game hex “fake hair”
craig schuftan and disco and stupid
“peter bakowski” beret
warren ellis pokemon
“benjamin law” circumcised

Fun times. For my second present, here’s me stalking and serenading Boy George’s sister with a saxophone so that I can elope with her in a tiny blue car.

I hope you like your presents. Here’s to another blogtastic year, even better than the last. Hip hip…?