What Was You Are Here 2013?

It was a festival that happened in Canberra, and a bit on the internet, and a bit in people’s heads, and a bit elsewhere maybe, but mostly in Canberra from the 10th to the 24th of March, 2013. It was so much and so many things. It was several of these things for me and maybe for you too. It was planning and preparation and going over the neon program. It was something you had to experience. It was heading on in to Smiths Alternative Bookshop bursting with so many lovely people that it seemed I couldn’t talk with even one, but I ate a lot of party food, bought a copy of Burley, heard wonderful words and hugged some of those people. It was gRage that night and every weeknight with the ‘in-compere-able’ James Fahy and projections from laptop to screen: Marilyn Manson, Nina Simone, the White Stripes, tUnE-yArDs, Xiu Xiu and more and readings, and popping in late one night to be blown away by Adam Cooke’s band. It was movies like Conan the Barbarian with both director and live commentary. It was one stage, many bands, one song each, a mixtape love letter to and from Canberra. It was when the baby tottered up to the stage in the MC gaps in the middle of all that and “uh, awkward, we left you in the KFC carpark, son” and then it was everyone crowding in close to dance hard to Fun Machine and don’t trust their naked bodies. It was Art, Not Apart full of crepes, performance, music, sun, people, art. It was WORDLAB and a to-do-list love letter limerick, a calming mantra, haikus aplenty, missives mostly written  and oceanic, collaborative, dinosaur, punderful, political cake design. It was wonderful volunteers. It was wandering buzzing distracted. It was Mall Stories, uploaded to my mp3 player, waiting for a post-March empty weekend. It was how I chaired a small panel and it ran smooth, free and well across a multitude of topics, detouring into a plague pit perhaps, but towards a quiet confidence in Canberra, among many other things. It was Hadley making me laugh nervously just by his uttering of ‘Christmas’ and the popcorn bags, beep test, music and more. It was Monique seamlessly crashing the performance at the lovely The Near and How, even though she didn’t have a giant head, and also Monique being poisoned by the honey of a dead beauty queen and also Monique and Josh on a couch and also lovely people like Monique and Josh on a couch sending a message for me because I forgot my phone and my jacket. It was Joe Woodward in Trinculo’s Bathtub and Emma Gibson and The Cell and THE ICE AGE. It was meeting old friends, some from interstate, some from across town, some from down the road who I hadn’t seen in a while. It was saying hello. It was conversations striking up. It was new faces and faces I’d only known from the internet and how they inhabit new dimensions now. It was meeting new friends. It was Prayers in the Streetlight and Der Wolf and how, despite everything, even a whole new second backup space, I hid and flicked on headlights and it went wonderfully several times over and the cleaners came by amidst all the cars and it was an extra audience member standing there. It was watching the responses to the balletic, clownish, confrontational, wonderful work she’d made. It was panic and success, both shivering. It was Hashemoto crammed into a van, Poncho juggling, automobile gallery, mannequin accident, full-spectrum carpark wonderment. It was Yvonne, Gemma and Pete making rad music together and they didn’t even have a name yet but I would buy their CD yesterday. It was Walter Burley Griffin having a lot to answer for and I want to know more. It was DEBATE. It was real. It was good. It was staying for a bit more. It was gliding across quiet Tuesday night streets to the beautiful off-centre centrality of the National Film and Sound Archives, with Pablo on a cherry picker, performance magic, heckling sailors, black and white mashup, Shine Tarts, double saxophone and overall radness. It was [_____________{insert yr experiences here}_______________]. It was a Eulogy for a City, and so many hidden and personal histories and new ways to notice. It was a highlight. It was all the highlights. It was calling from a dirty payphone about aforementioned because I couldn’t leave, not yet. It was dashing back for a second run in the original space and flicking on and off again and maybe the backup to the backup plan was actually the best? It was walking past BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! and hearing the yawps from within, but opting instead for a celebratory dinner of  burger and waffle with Yee, with Fun. vs Fallout Boy on the TV, as the festival continued around us. It was compulsively re-checking Facebook, Twitter, photos, #hashtags, Vimeo, YouTube and email, from work, home and elsewhere. It was Heartbroken Assassin. It was wishing I got my nails done. It was wishing I made it to that other one. It was mistakes made and lessons learned and the things forgotten and the failures and all else imperfect. It was more dining out and takeaway than has ever been usual and the Moon Girl and the waving puppets in the forest and then iPho and then a dance piece I didn’t understand but I found impressive skill and beauty in it by the end. It was being a Literally Too Many DJs passerby. It was Pearl’s Ode and We Are Perpendicular and running out of superlatives and adjectives for my enthusiasm. It was finally seeing Rosie play the cello. It was walking into a darkened old menswear store to join in on a listening party and sinking right into the couch, closing your eyes and disappearing into the music and stories. It was Scissors Paper Pen and editing Papercuts reviews at work and at home and being impressed at how little I had to do — a comma here, a hyphen there mostly — to buff up an already brilliant review or seven and then they filled the front page. It was not wanting to be at work, and my work reflecting that for a fortnight. It was Something Else and that was, as always, something else and so very much more than exhausted puns. It was my last event before Smiths Alternative dropped the Bookshop. It was “Are you there God? ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU THERE ARE YOU” and a Ramones cover and so so good. It was dancing perhaps more than I’ve ever danced before and a kind of perfect circular symmetry with the last time I danced to ‘Hey Ya!’, and an understanding of why Lady Gaga et al are so popular because when the right song plays loud in a dark room with all the bodies and minds unique and unified and even amidst unheard conversations and even with the cops outside you just wanna DANCE. It was only a glimpse of a wonderful zine fair and the ZINES and many more to come? It was Paul Magee vs. Tim Kent vs. Andrew Galan vs. Barcham the ‘Sound’ Guy and what a wonderful celebration of the possibilities of poetry in multiple people’s minds and mouths and bodies it was. It was laying the festival to rest with dedicated remnants and styrofoam cup candles and me dubbed an inflatable-liferaft-fulla-leftovers pallbearer, a processional down the streets, through the bus interchange and through Garema Place ‘as I went down to the river to pray’ and into the old Watch House that I didn’t even really realise was there before this festival and we laid the raft and the bits and the pieces and the memories and the festival down and with the guitar smashed the festival felt over, but we stayed a while longer for a Landlords hip-hop tribute to what was and to Canberra and then the guy in the bunny suit came on and people didn’t know what to do and people began to leave so eventually I did too and I walked home and it was needing a good lie down and a bit of telly maybe, then talking as we go to sleep.  It was true festival hangover, a sugar-rush art-high come-down. It was something you want to keep hold of, think of, write of, talk of, and about, for weeks and months and probably years later. It was the end of many things and the seed of many others. It was all of these things, and more, and moreso for so many others. It was You Are Here 2013. It was awesome. It was.

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‘Freemium’ and Free Verse

Thought I’d share two things I’ve read recently. Both demonstrate how there’s great possibilities for authors, poets and all varieties of writers and creatives to get their work out there, all using the free-flowing intertubes, while still making money.

 

First, via a post in Spike – the Meanjin blog, I’ve learnt that uber-nerd and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow is conducting an experiment for his new book, With a Little Help. He’ll be releasing the book in myriad ways: from free Creative Commons-licensed digital copies, to a premium special-edition book valued at $10,000, and all sorts of stuff in between. Hence, the term ‘freemium’. This is somewhat similar to what Nine Inch Nails did with their music recently, but in a broader and more openly experimental way. This is all to explore what you can do when you give stuff away for free, but also self-publish and sell stuff via print-on-demand, or offer other freelance services. A big ol’ mixture. Check out his Publishers Weekly Column for even more detail. I’ll be reading his regular updates on the process with interest.

 

Cory Doctorow: experimenting with 'Freemium' for his new book

  

Second, PoetrySpeaks is a new website and a new business model, kind of like iTunes for poetry, or Facebook for poets. What’s especially cool about it is that it offers a combination of free and paid material from ‘classic’ or established poets, as well as both curated and user-driven spaces for less well-known poets to get their stuff out there, and even get paid for it. While the site still needs a lot of building up and a broader international diversity, it’s promising to see that the works of both established and emerging artists can stand side by side, giving everyone opportunities to spread their words and ideas and maybe make a little moolah.

 

So whether you write books or poetry, or whatever you create, it’s worth exploring the possibilities of the internet. Sometimes giving stuff away for free online can end up being very rewarding.

 

My Melbourne Writers Festival Experience

After my last post I did get a chance to attend a couple of events at the Melbourne Writers Festival, so here (to make up for a bit of a blogging hiatus), are some recollections and thoughts. Better late than never!

I ended up only attending free events, but I was not disappointed! Though the festival began on Friday the 21st of August, my first event was on the night of Thursday the 27th: The Festival Club. This event, which was on most nights, offered a mixed bag of what the festival had to offer. The main portion of this event when I was there was the SPUNC Reading and Writing Spectacular. SPUNC stands for Small Press Underground Networking Community, for those not in the know, so it was a good showcase of small indie publishers doing great things! Three things stood out that night:

  • Affirm Press’s Rebecca Stafford spoke about their upcoming Long Story Shorts: short story collections that they’re currently planning and accepting submissions for. If you’ve got a collection of short stories in your drawer, computer or mind, then you should send something their way. This is a publisher doing a great mix of things, and I’m interested to see what they come up with.
  • Sleepers Publishing was represented by author Kalinda Ashton, whose new book The Danger Game had previously failed to entice me, but after hearing her give a reading, I think I might have to check it out. Sleepers is becoming more awesome by the day: they put out a weekly video newsletter, the annual Sleepers Almanac and, recently, The Age Book of the Year, Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam, which I can’t wait to read.
  • Finally, I correctly answered a question (“What will Affirm Press’s short story collections be called?” See above!) and MC Angela Meyer rewarded my attentiveness with a copy of My Extraordinary Life and Death, a delightfully hilarious little picture book! Huzzah!

So my night was interesting, informative and I got a freebie!

On Saturday the 29th, I went along with friend and girlfriend to watch that day’s Artist in Residence: the author and illustrator Shaun Tan. If you haven’t seen or read his work, check out The Arrival. It’s a fantastic story about the immigrant experience told without words. And for no price beyond the tram ticket to get there, we could sit in our deckchairs and watch Shaun choose a little doodle from his sketchbook and then turn it into a finely crafted pen-inked drawing of a griffin mother and child, or wax crayon picture of a sinister penguin banker. We could either watch up-close or see his handiwork projected onto a huge video screen. He made it look so simple! He was a friendly guy; he would chat to people and answer questions as he was drawing. He even signed dozens of people’s books purchased from the nearby festival Readings store, including my friends copy of Tales From Outer Suburbia … I really must borrow it someday.

Shaun Tan giving a speech

Shaun Tan giving a speech

(Photo by anna_t, under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa license)

In our brief chat, I was intrigued to hear that he also did some of the preliminary concept drawings for the animated films Wall-E and Horton Hears a Who and is working on an animated short at the moment. This whole experience just cemented that he’s one of my favourite artists. It was so cool to get a chance to watch and engage as a talented artist created his work. Inspiring stuff! I just wish I could have seen some of the other artists and authors in residence.

Later that evening, I got along to another Festival Club. The Age’s Literary Editor, Jason Steger, was there for a chat. Among the interesting tidbits was his revelation that he read War & Peace in just one day, spread across a couch at home. And he gives it two thumbs up!  Other than that, there was more from SPUNC:

  • A representative from Spinifex Press spoke about their new work Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls. It sounds like a comprehensive and important work on a troubling topic. The brief interview gave me the impression that this is a bigger problem than I’d ever suspected.
  • Emmett Stinson, who some of you may have had classes with, spoke about Wet Ink, where he’s the Fiction Editor. They were giving away free copies and I managed to bag one. I’ve had a look over a few issues now and it’s a quality publication. I’d like to subscribe once I get a real job as , say, a Fiction Editor?
  • There were words with the editor of Extempore, a biannual jazz journal, which actually sounds really amazing, even though I know next to nothing about jazz.
  • And Griffith Review, yet another journal that looks intimidating in its greatness. I don’t think I’ll ever have time to read all the snazzy-looking publications out there, thanks to events like this!

All in all, another great day and night at the festival!

My final part in the festival experience was a little bit of The Morning Read on Sunday the 30th, the final day of the festival. This event, chaired by Torpedo’s Chris Flynn, ran almost every morning of the festival and presented three authors reading from their works and fielding questions from the audience. I’d never heard of any of the three, but I was pleasantly surprised:

  • Peter Bakowski was first, and he got past my misguided prejudice against the pretentious beret-wearing poet cliche with his gentle, wise and casually talented words and manner. His reading of Portrait of blood floored me. I want to get one of his books already.
  • Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean author, read some short excerpts. I’ll definitely keep her in mind, with her detailed and colourful tales of daily life in Africa.
  • I didn’t hear Nicholas Rothwell read any of his work, but he did field some questions. He was so softly-spoken, introspective and thoughtful and used such descriptive language, I assumed he was a poet too. But upon internet research: nope! Journalist for The Australian!

Goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover!

Aaaaaand with that, I think that’s enough literary-related blathering for several weeks, at least on this blog. I promise my next post will be short, pithy, well-chunked and related purely to the interwebs.

In summation: There were so many events I wish I could have made it to, but I’m glad I saw what I did. I feel much more familiar with the festival and know exactly what sort of things I want to get in on early, next year. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see everything I want in 2010!

Beyond that, for anyone else who’s interested, the MWF Website has a roundup of all the blogging that’s been done about this year’s festival, as well as a selection of audio/visual recordings from the programme.

So that should have you covered if you missed out! Anyone else manage to see anything? Don’t let me be a lonely litnerd!