The first 1000 words I wrote yesterday as I burrowed into The Rabbit Hole

Okay so this is it! I’m starting off with a frantic blog post to get things warmed up. I’m already hating what I’m writing and resisting the urge to edit as I go, because editing comes later and posting this will probably come after (light) editing, but who cares because right now it’s about writing.

Sorry. I should explain. It’s just hit six o’clock on Friday June the 1st 2012, which means that as I write right now, I’m putting words toward a count of 30,000 words, along with dozens of others across the country. Again: thirty thousand words. I’m going to spare myself the pain of checking the word count too frequently, but I’m guessing I haven’t done 0.00001% of that. And also, my mathematical capabilities are not so great. Lucky I have words. Words!

Hey, so now the frantic initial rush is beginning to wear off and I’m getting into a groove. So I think now I’ll write out some of my plans, hopes, goals and other scattered thoughts. Apparently I will be writing out a lot of my thoughts as they arise. This is good. This is progress. This is pure. First thought, best thought, Allen Ginsberg said. I think. But then I think Ernest Hemingway said something about the first draft of everything being shit and there’s probably a really smart quote from a woman too, but I don’t know it.

No. I must resist the urge to read over what I’ve just written. At least until I get to the 6.25pm mark. This is because I’m using the Pomodoro technique. I would add a hyperlink there, but I’m sure you can track down details about it if you’ve not heard of it before and I’m not about to waste time with hyperlinking and stuff. That comes later. As does tea and biscuits and stretching and checking and updating my progress on the social networks. Who knows what things are currently blazing past like a waterfall on fire in the middle of a tornado? Not me. Because I am writing. Okay, you get it, I get it: I’m writing. Good.

If in doubt, answer rhetorical questions, no matter how lazy a technique it is. Why am I doing this? Well, Phil English of Toothsoup put me up to it. There are apparently various other incentives and rewards for various word counts. It’s an interesting experience. I get to work on all sorts of writing projects (both shortish and rather longish) that I’ve had sitting in my notebook and on scraps of paper and in my brain, little  ideas that now get a bit of expansion. And I thought it’d be an interesting challenge. Something I’ve never tried before. As I think I already mentioned, I’m a notorious over-editor and a slow writer. This is all about stretching unfamiliar muscles, mostly in the brain (metaphorically – I know the brain does not have muscles. My knowledge of anatomy is close to my knowledge of mathematics, but I know that much) but also in the fingers. I may get back pain as well. I just cracked my neck. It’s just as well my girlfriend is in the next room and the door is closed. She hates when I crack my neck. She wasn’t happy about this challenge either. Funnily enough, my girlfriend likes to spend time with me on the weekends. Ah, the eternal balancing act between competing loves.

That’s about ten minutes. Let’s sneak a look at word count shall we? 500 words, almost exactly! That’s 1000 words in 20 minutes, and 3000 words in an hour! Surely I can’t keep that up. I’ll probably slow down a little and take a little more care once I get to fiction writing. I only really wanted this to be maybe 1000 words max, so I’d better move on. I wonder how everyone else is doing?

So yes, I have some short story ideas, some potential novella ideas, a few blog post ideas beyond this one, a couple of reviews, some poetry, maybe a little non-fiction, maybe 1000 or so words of pure stream-of-consciousness writing (because what better time than now?) and who knows what else will emerge? After two hours of this tonight I’ll have dinner, maybe write a little more into the late hours. Then it’s up bright and early for a full day of writing tomorrow. That’s the true marathon section. I have no real commitments then (well, except for my aforementioned girlfriend – oh my, she just came in as I wrote that [I scrolled the page down to blank and she accused me of not having written anything; “copy, paste, copy, paste,” she mocks] and showed me this amazing craft project she’s been working on for me. Ah! I am not worthy! BUT DO NOT INTERRUPT). And then on Sunday I have work, which knocks off about 7 hours including travel time. So a bit more writing before work, and then after work it’ll be a final dash to the finish line at 8pm Sunday.

I already have a slight headache, but that might be the sugary tea and biscuits I gorged on beforehand. And there’s more where they came from. Woah, and just about time for my first Pomodoro break! The action, it simply does not stop!

I feel a lot of this is babbling, and would probably otherwise be edited out but I don’t think it’s utterly terrible. I wonder if I continue writing like this, whether the raw, unedited stuff gets better? I think I need to find a balance slightly more geared towards quality, while maintaining quantity. I think a real benefit of this (and the Pomodoro technique) are that they just force you to write. Not sit on Facebook. Not umm. Not ahh. Write. And the good stuff will come. Hopefully.

Thank you and my apologies if you’ve read this far.

What else do I have planned? Experiments with listening to music while writing (I’m usually the silent type) and updates on Facebook and Twitter (#rabbithole and #ewf12). What else?

Well, this and many more questions will surely be answered as I go deeper and deeper down the Rabbit Hole.

See you on the other side.

Wait, so then it’s more of a Rabbit Tunnel?

Again, all will be revealed.

Okay. That’s more than 1000 words now. Just gotta do that 30 times.

I think I’ll go and write a novella. brb.

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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.

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.