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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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.

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.