Bringing disparate bits together (or: Return of the Blog)

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

That’s how I signed off my previous post here, 9-odd months ago. As far as last lines go, I think it has a certain charm. If I had to end my blog there, I guess I’d be okay with it. Although, I wonder if a blog ever truly ends, or just sits there waiting, not like the finality of a novel’s last lines, but with its own literary quality, a kind of time-stamped acronym-tinged wit, update pending…

But I’m not talking about novels or blogs as such (and although I am fond of that last post, I’m quite eager to actually be back updating and continuing this thing) — no,  I’m talking about that novella, or an equivalent body of works, wordcount-wise. Yeah? How did I go? Did a novella-length work (or works) gestate and emerge, gloriously imperfect but formed and real and true?

Well, no. I got to about 10,000 words that weekend, which is still a pretty jolly good effort if you ask me. Other co-participants did better, some did worse, we all received a few nice little prizes, we interconnected with one another, and some participants had their words published. All in all, not bad at all! For my part, beyond that original blog post, a few good (if unfinished and unevenly formed) pieces emerged from the process, so I think I’ll get more out of it eventually, maybe even a novella! But not yet. Still, I had a good enough time, and in other gains, I think I re-learned some old lessons: sectioning off time for writing and nothing else, even for a 25-minute Pomodoro at a time, is a good way to go; I still don’t write very well to music except for light background noise, although there are some lyric-free, droney, repetitive, unintrusive and/or otherwise special exceptions; and I don’t think I really want to do any more of those frantic wordvomit sessions like Rabbit Hole or NaNoWriMo — I’m more interested in working at my own pace, with my own lone effort of writing and editing (and publishing!), without really focussing on wordcount. Having said that, maybe it could be otherwise.

I remember now (as I look back over old notes, trying to recall and tie so many disparate bits together) how Rjurik Davidson discussed his experiences (post-24-Hour Book Project, orchestrated by the increasingly interesting if:book) of writing as part of a group and bashing out thousands of words in a short time-period. Maybe it’s true, as he suggests, that all these habits and ideas we have about ourselves as writers are a lot more malleable than we realise. Context, digital media, collaborations, (self-)editing, time-constraints — maybe they all can help to bust up myths we tell ourselves about our preferred writing habits, practices, identities even? Sure, sometimes these are matters of necessity, sanity and circumstances. But that’s not always the case. I guess it’s good to be flexible and adaptable, experiment, keep moving and trying new things. Go with what works, but don’t rely on one way of working. Changing ways can be hard, but maybe that’s just the exercise of mental muscles, all that ol’ brain elasticity. It’s also a question of whether you fit writing into your life, or plan your life around your writing. Priorities. And other recurring word and themes. I’m babbling. Basically, it was interesting and worthwhile and it allllll gets me thinkin’.

But that was that, so enough of that.

Still, it has been 9 months. 2013 has begun in earnest. April arrives again, and with it, thoughts of impending winter, hibernation and hunkering down like a hermit to write, despite frozen fingers, with renewed hopes of wriggling out of those old habits, routines, boundaries and categories. It has been a while between posts. There has been a veritable mass-spawning of other happenings in this 9 months, as you’d expect. Life tends to be fecund with happenings. Life is also, for me (lately? or always), fecund with lists, so here’s a pair:

A List of 10 Things, or Groups of Things, That Have Been Some of the Good Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Incheon, London, Halesworth, Okehampton, Paris, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Perth, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Narranderra and Canberra again: we travelled a lot and it was up and down, this way and that and wonderful.
  2. Being part of Scissors Paper Pen as we continue to make lit happen with stellar people: At Arms Length, WORDLABs, Something Elses, Papercuts and more and more to come. Rad.
  3. YOU ARE HERE 2013 WAS EXCELLENT AND I WANT TO GUSH ABOUT IT.
  4. A good friend’s bucks weekend! Weddings, engagements, births, couplings, friends, family. People at their best. People.
  5. Won the first poetry slam I entered. Had things published. Enrolled in a short story course. Wrote.
  6. Went to TiNA and it was pretty darn good.
  7. The King is Dead, Jens Lekman live, Berbarian Sound Studio, Looper, Ngapartji Ngapartji, Corinbank, Darren Hanlon live, The Secret River, Cloud Atlas, Breaking Bad, Life of Pi, board games and poetry and stories and morrrre. So many good things.
  8. Still employed. Still going well.
  9. Started planning a wedding with the woman I love.
  10. Christmas. New Year. Birthdays. Lunar New Year. Small gatherings. Kitchen wins and tasty meals. Plans. I saw Prime Possum in person in the library. I’m healthy and well. I’m ridiculously fortunate, really.

A List of 10 Things, of Groups of Things, that have Been Some of the Bad Things of  the Past 9 Months or So

  1. Speeding tickets, parking tickets. 
  2. Arguments and discomfort.
  3. Getting sick. People I know being sick. (Distant) people dying.
  4. People at, or near, their worst.
  5. Not enough. Rejection. Failure. Loss. Distance.
  6. Kitchen disasters, clumsiness, carelessness.
  7. Leaks from upstairs.
  8. Busyness/privileged whining.
  9. [Insert all the fucked up shit happening in the world here]
  10. And what’s up with my nose? I sneeze too much.

More lists? More lists.

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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.