A catch up

Wow. It’s been nearly three months since my last post. Time flies when you’re not blogging. So, how’s things? Nothing much has happened lately. I have a failmate instead of a housemate who won’t pay rent/bills on time, throttles the bandwidth, and pees on the floor. I’ve reviewed Genesis and written a reflective piece on Poh Ling Yeo. My father discovered that I know how to swear and is now disappointed in me…

Anyway, I’ll be doing a ‘Footscray Whitewash’ reading for the Peril launch this Friday. We should catch up. Say 7.30pm at Hares & Hyenas? Maybe wander down to The Lifted Brow launch at The Workers Club afterwards? Don’t worry, it won’t be just the two of us. Christine Priestly who sometimes posts for me will also be there. Her article on microbiologists is in the latest Brow and she’s pretty excited.

So, um, yeah. See you there then?

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Another magazine to add to my pile

The Griffith Review’s annual fiction issue is out today, sporting a cover illustration done by Poh Ling Yeow from Masterchef and Poh’s Kitchen. I currently have an aspirational crush on Poh; she cooks like a good Asian daughter-in-law*. Anyway, the Readings launch is today, so I’ll be heading down to Carlton for my copy.

*Questions: did anyone see the 20/10/10 episode with Andre Ursini? Are Poh and Ursini usually that flirty?

Just watching some docos…

EWF has made me realise that I should be blogging/gallivanting less and writing more, so I’ve been staying away from my blog these last few days.

Unfortunately, decrease blogging does not equal increased non-blog writing; I have wasted a lot of time on ABC iView, watching documentaries on Jane Austen and the Brontes.

According to In Search of the Brontes (2003), Wuthering Heights only took Emily Bronte two months to write. Ergh. It takes me two months to write a two-thousand-word story. Hang on, have I ever written a two-thousand-word story…?

I’ll be back at the usual some time next week, after I’ve caught up on some more docos. In the meantime, the Harvest team will be launching their fifth issue this Friday. Come out and join them/me.

The First Fifteen Minutes

Does anyone recall last year’s 15 Minutes of Fame? Angela Meyer perched on a stool, interviewing timid-looking writers also perched on stools. Free wine tastings. Small room. Guy slumped in the pod on the other side of the glass wall, oblivious to the EWF happenings.

Well, this year’s first 15 Minutes is like last year’s 15 Minutes on steroids. Think imposing  Wheeler Centre stage, bright lights, square armchairs. Think Estelle Tang with seductively husky radio voice, telling post-Catholic neurotic, Joel Magarey, to ‘suck it up’ on stage*.  Think Meyer and Tang having a face-off, with Meyer later admiting that Tang’s 15 Minutes was funnier than hers. You missed out. Yeah, you did.

Tonight’s line up included Miscellaneous Voices, Andee Jones, Lucienne Noontil, as well as Joel Magarey.

Miscellaneous Voices, an anthology of Australian blog writing, is Miscellaneous Press’ first title. Editor Karen Andrews and contributor Carla Del Vecchio represented the anthology; both discussed their blogs and why they loved blogging. In spite of the imperfections, blog posts are often written in the heat of the moment and thus have a ‘raw power or beauty about them’. Andrews tried to distill this in the anthology, choosing pieces that resonated with a coincidentally personal bent.

Reviews for Miscellaneous Voices were mostly positive. There was one reviewer who didn’t see the point of such a book, since they had already read five of their favourite pieces previously online, but Tang was quick to note that Voices would have been a great introduction to twenty-six other bloggers. Geordie Williamson’s review also came up. In response to  ‘some pieces show signs of having been gussied up at the last moment for publication’, Andrews declared that the edits were similar to that of any other book.

Andee Jones, writer of the memoir Kissing Frogs, started her fifteen minutes with a tongue-in-cheek performance, establishing the tone for the rest of the evening. Her memoir details a mature woman’s experience with internet dating. A child of the sixties, she had never been on a date before, believed it to only happen on sitcoms. But she had hoped that one got braver as one got older, so she gave it a try. Jones comes across as sassy and self-reliant and her book seems less cynical than Michaela McGuire or Clementine Ford’s thoughts on internet dating.

Next up was Lucienne Noontil who wrote and illustrated Possum Tales. Storytelling for adults is not quite the same as it is for kids. Noontil deliberately adopted a patronising tone in her reading and was rewarded by silly interjections from Tang. Afterwards, the two spoke about the editing process, how every word has to count in a children’s book and how one has to avoid offending readers. For instance, Rusty the possum leaves home, but Noontil had to word it in such a way so that it didn’t sound like he was getting kicked out of home.

In the last quarter, Joel Magarey spoke about his book Exposure, which details his global odyssey. He had hoped to replicate a state of being he had experienced while living with a tribe in Papua New Guinea; he believed that his Western existence had a surplus of choice, leading to bewilderment and anxiety.

Magarey described the process of writing Exposure as psychotherapy: he had been through the pain during his travels but learning to understand it was like light. What he noted was that comedy equals tragedy plus time and was darkness transposed, something he would talk about further in his other EWF gig, Going to a Dark Place. Yes, 15 minutes is all about the spruiking, people**. Get over it.

15 Minutes of Fame happens around seven at The Wheeler Centre each night until Thursday. That means you’ve only got three more 4 15 Minutes. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Now who’s up for some Madonna?

*She did apologise profusely afterwards.

**More spruiking: Literary Minded’s review of Exposure here, and Killings podcast on Joel here. It’s a spruik-fest.

Update: Damnit, Jodie Kinnersley beat me to it. She’s already posted on 15 Minutes. THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION.

Guest reportage: Eagerly awaiting Etchings 8 – Dusk till dawn

The launch of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn could have been straight out of a how-to manual. It had every element you’d expect:

  1. a sexed-up venue with indoor-outdoor schmoozing space
  2. bar snacks (very important)
  3. bar service (more important)
  4. eager interns (Eliza-Jane Henry Jones and Lana Rosenbaum) taking turns to act as MC
  5. the metaphoric breaking of the champagne by appropriate famous person (poet Anthony O’Sullivan)
  6. a taste of said launch product to activate salivation (A.S. Patric read from his story ‘The Wife’, Georgina Luck, from ‘Clutching the Butterfly Shawl’, Kate Murfett her award-winning poem ‘The Red Queen’, and twenty-year-old writing student from Deakin University, Allyse Near, from ‘Venus in the Twelfth House’)
  7. a plug-in by one or more field professionals (Professor Jennifer Radbourne, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University, celebrated the literary successes of Deakin’s past and present students)
  8. and most importantly, discounted launch product (I managed to score a copy of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn and Etchings 7: Chameleons – which included drink cards – for not much more than the cost of an extra drink. Happy me).

Having said that, for an issue touted to be ‘dark and sinister’, which ‘delves into the obscure, goes undercover, seduces, spirals into obsession, journeys into other galaxies, and is haunted by the otherworldly and mysterious,’ I had been hopeful of a Tarantino tribute, or at the very least, volumes of vampiric verse.

Instead, with its fabulously floral-faced podium and 80s discothèque dance floor, I discovered a serious insufficiency of ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ décor. None of the guests even got into character or played dress-ups.

On the whole, a successful, if staid, evening.

Here’s hoping the issue itself provides what the launch lacked: some deliciously devious darkness.

-CP

My amateur photos (check out Ilura Press on Facebook for a more professional, less fuzzy and with fewer shots of the backs of peoples’ heads impression of the evening):

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Christine Priestly is currently studying for her Master of Arts in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction and knows you can never own too many pairs of stilettos or love enough cats.

All vampired out

Phew, it’s been a long week of vampire-related activities. I’ve been working on a True Blood/Buffy comparison for kicks, as well as a review of Narrelle M. Harris’ The Opposite of Life on Estelle Tang’s request. Estelle Tang is now the online content editor of Kill Your Darlings, which is coincidentally launching its first issue tonight at the Bella Union Bar.

There seems to be a few literary events going down tonight. Etchings is also launching its latest issue, ‘Dusk till Dawn’, at Neverland (South Melbourne), and Willow Tales will be on again at the Willow Bar (Northcote). Christine will be nabbing (and hopefully reviewing) a copy of Etchings for me, but I’m bummed about having to ditch Willow Tales for Kill Your Darlings. I’ve heard some good things about Willow Tales and I keep on missing out. Bleh. I’ll get there one day.

Until then…

Lifted Brow’s Atlas Launch

Atlas liasons at Bella Union Bar:

gaijin geishas and short shorts ninjas

suicide bombers who can’t be farked after a beer

tie skirts and kilts and (hopefully) underwear

Angela Jolie with a basketful of babies

and fur stole translations

on a bright blue sea.

England represent (Laura Smith). (22/1/10)

Norweigan (Angela Meyer) and gaijin geisha (Lisa Dempster) at The Lifted Brow's Atlas launch. (22/1/10)

January 18: What’s happening, Melbourne?

Tickets for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival event ‘Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show On Earth’ (5 March 2010) were supposed go on sale today, except the event has sold out during prelease sales. Sneaky. However, I have managed to nab some tickets during the last buying frenzy. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Richard Dawkins is an evolutionist and a hardcore atheist who has written titles such as The God Delusion, and The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. He rants a lot, but The God Delusion was a helpful resource when I started questioning my agnosticism: it verbalised much of my frustration towards religion. In particular, I remember reading an example of how religion permits all sorts of intolerance:

The Los Angeles Times (10 April 2006) reported that numerous Christian groups on campuses around the United States were suing their universities for enforcing anti-discrimination rules, including prohibitions against harassing or abusing homosexuals. As a typical example, in 2004 James Nixon, a twelve-year-old boy in Ohio, won the right in court to wear a T-shirt to school bearing the words ‘Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder. Some issues are just black and white!’ The school told him not to wear the T-shirt–and the boy’s parents sued the school. The parents might have had a conscionable case if they had based it on the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. But they didn’t: indeed, they couldn’t because free speech is deemed not to include ‘hate speech’. But hate only has to prove it is religious, and it no longer counts as hate. So, instead of freedom of speech, the Nixons’ lawyers appealed to the constitutional right to freedom of religion. Their victorious lawsuit was supported by the Alliance Defense Fund of Arizona, whose business it is to ‘press the legal battle for religious freedom’. (Dawkins 2006, p 23)

Suffice to say, after reading The God Delusion and a couple of other texts, I felt more at ease with my lack of faith. I have yet to read The Greatest Show on Earth but I hope I shall get round to it before Dawkins’ Melbourne appearance.

March is still more than a month away though. What’s on now?

For all you Brow fans, the sixth issue of The Lifted Brow (aka ‘Atlas’) has already hit the shelves, and the Melbourne launch is happening this Friday at Bella Union Bar. Performers include Clue to Kalo, Guy Blackman, Rat vs. Possum, and Absolute Boys. It’s going to be a big night with some cultural action. Check out the Facebook Event page for more details.

Speaking of cultural, Lunar New Year (Tet) falls on Valentine’s Day this year. Melbourne’s Vietnamese diaspora isn’t as centralised as the Chinese one, so there will be a Tet street festival held in various Vietnamese locales each weekend over the next few weeks.This Sunday (24 Jan), I’ll be going to the Victoria Street event for some much needed hawker food.

And finalement, my favourite philosopher of the bedroom variety, Justin Heazlewood, has released the erotically charged ‘Tram Inspector’ on iTunes and now he’s on repeat in my head:

…baby, I’m a tram inspector,
my heart is a lie detector,
bad ticket I will respect you,
fare evade and I will eject you…(loop)

So what’s happening, Melbourne? Racism apparently

According to Spambook, Peril’s Issue Eight will be launching Thursday, 3 December, at the Sidney Myer Asia Centre. I’ll be stuck at an end of year work function, missing out on the likes of Tom Cho, Ladies of Colour Agency, Maxine Clarke, Angela Costi, and Diana Nguyen. I really want to meet Diana after reading her Growing Up Asian in Australia piece, ‘Five Ways to Disappoint Your Vietnamese Mother’, and I enjoy Maxine Clarke’s performances; I’m kinda bummed that I can’t make it. Somebody should go on my behalf and tell me about it (or, even better, record and post stuff up on YouTube).

My one consolation is that I’ll be MC-ing December’s Caffe Sospeso gig on Friday, 4 December. Racism will be the night’s theme, and there will be performances from Maxine Clarke, Lian Low, and Raina Peterson. It will be like totally PC and high brow: I’ll be putting on my best  ‘Sittingvale’ accent and my new ao dai. Come along and laugh and then feel awful about it. Things start happening around sevenish. 

 

Poetry Fridays: Racism with Maxine Clarke, Lian Low, and Raina Peterson

 

You will submit to Small Room

 

Image courtesy of smallroom.com.au

Launching its first issue next week at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Small Room is proof that things do get published outside of Melbourne. (Thank dog!) Content will be from writers I heart like Josephine Rowe, Christopher Currie, and Chris Somerville, and will be presented on a fold-up poster.

Yep, Small Room is resurrecting the poster format that was the trademark of Is Not Magazine, a now defunct Melbourne institution (may it rest in peace). According to Small Room editor Bryan Whalen, the Gold Coast team independently came up with the idea; once they realised it had been done before, they caught up with Is Not’s Penny Modra for an interstate exchange. ‘Turns out the projects are similar, but different,’ Bryan explained. ‘Both poster mags, just different ways of going about distribution, folding, execution.’

Out to prove that big is not always better, Small Room publishes small fiction, poetry, and art: fiction under 1000 words, poetry under 1000 stanzas*, and artwork under 100 dpi. I had submitted one of my shorter pieces, and got promptly rejected, but turned the rejection into an information-gathering exercise. I sent the magazine questions like ‘Hey, why do you not like my work?’ and ‘How can you not see the beautiful genius of my words…?’ No, I didn’t ask anything obnoxious like that, but I did ask what they were looking for and whether there were any other literary journals that they dug. 

Bryan sent me a lengthy reply:

…we’re not really a literary journal. We never want to be a journal. We like being a poster. Art is integral to Small Room, as is literature. Thus, each issue will have a new guest designer who, after receiving the stories, will design the issue with in any medium they choose (as long as it remains poster sized). 

He gave a detailed explanation of the selection process. Three editors go through the submissions pile, then ‘Maybes’ are sent out to a circle of acquaintances for extra feedback. 

I suppose what we’re looking for is what we believe is “quality writing;” however, “quality” is obviously subjective. What makes good writing? I’m not certain. Every argument I could put forth, I could just as easily argue against. Perhaps good writing is rife with paradox. I have no idea…

So, what did SR hope to achieve? 

Small Room would like to expose up-and-coming writers to the masses, while also featuring respected talents. Issue One will be sold in art galleries, bookshops and coffee bistros around Brisbane, Gold Coast and Byron Bay. We’d like to grow into Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and overseas, but this takes time. Small Room will always be a poster, because the format can vary: eventually we’ll play with themes, folds, designs, etc. Also, we’d like to remain relatively inexpensive, so as to get more posters into more hands.

The next submission deadline will be late March 2010—plenty of time to nab a copy of the first issue, read it, and create an appropriate submission, unless you’re lit-journal rich and reading-time poor like me. Ergh.

*Hang on, that’s not small at all. Crazy kids.