Review: Voiceworks Issue 80 – ‘Missionary’

For those of you who haven’t already heard, Bel Monypenny is leaving Voiceworks and Missionary is her last issue as editor. Having only recently rediscovered Voiceworks, I am ill-equipped on comparing Monypenny with past Voiceworks editors, but Literary Minded describes her as ‘steer[ing] a less-showy ship, still understandably finding its path’ and choosing work that is ‘happily not as abrupt as pieces have been under previous editorship’ (24/6/09).

Missionary fits this description. The cover is a sleek black, white, and orange; the words inside are quiet yet articulate, barring the few shouts like ‘In the Name of the Father’ by Chancier Blame and ‘We’re Not That Bad?’ by Liam Wood.

Like its predecessor, Classic, Missionary has a strong selection of non-fiction and regular columns, and I found myself preferring these to the rest of the content. While fiction’s grasp on the theme seems tenuous at times—’Forrest Hump, Full Metal Jack-off, Missionary Impossible’ (Christopher Glenn’s ‘Typewriter: a Story in Four Parts’)—non-fiction seizes upon the religious, the ritualistic, the moral, and the ethical and plays rough like the Spanish Inquisition.

In ‘Videogames: a Virtual (and Violent) Reality’, Giles Fielke discusses how video games preach rule-breaking and the irrelevance of ethics, citing Rapeplay as an example (see Virgule’s excepts here). Liam Wood writes introspectively about being a white, middle-class tourist in Leonora, a (post) colonial frontier in WA. Claire Marshall recounts ritualistic shopping and the guilt that ensues at Arthur Daley’s Clearance House. These and other pieces are competently engaging like much of the fiction and poetry.

But it is Joseph Brennan’s ‘Not Before Dinner’ that eclipses all. Through prose bordering on poetic, Brennan replicates the reverence surrounding a dinner at Berowra Waters Inn, something that later is revealed as being quite ordinary. It’s a beautiful piece that marries fact with techniques borrowed from fiction and poetry, something that is often attempted but not always successful.

Overall, Missionary looks smart and its non-fiction is smart. It could have been smarter with more adventurous fiction/poetry cohabiting its pages, more of ‘In the Name of the Father’ which is full of contradictions like one particular religious text, but that would be bordering on miraculously smart and I am not one for miracles. Is it worth the eight dollars I paid for it? Hell, yeah.‘Missionary’ is available at the usual independent bookstores or you can subscribe to Voiceworks at their website here.

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Review: Voiceworks Issue 79 – ‘Classic’

The last time I subscribed Voiceworks, I was twenty-four and spending most of my salary on clothes from high-end-fashion chain stores. When my subscription and my submission eligibility ran out, I bagged all of my old issues and donated them to a local high school. What was inspiring for other subscribers was depressing for twenty-five-year-old me: these ‘youngsters’ were creating work that I had no hope of emulating.

Two years on, and I’m ready to grapple this journal bitch. Lured to the Wheeler Centre by speak of a guest appearance from Nam Le, I went to the Voiceworks ‘Classic’ launch and picked up my copy of Issue 79.

In her editorial, Bel Monypenny writes about Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson and her failed attempts to mimic their bush poetry style. Issue 79 isn’t about reworking what has come before in style and genre, but more ‘classic moments made new and intriguing by fresh eyes, distinctive voices and unique perceptive detail’: ‘familiar moments—drunken teenage rebellion, questioning the life you’re born into, your first big night out, the death of a loved one.’ However, as I read through ‘Classic’, this theme did not seem present in any of the pieces, which suggests that Issue 79’s writers have managed to avoid what is easy and cliché.

There’s some striking fiction in this issue: Luke Rule’s ‘Pulling Down the Sun’ stands out as an example of literary speculative fiction; dealing with the supposedly banal themes of death, sex, and violence, Claire Marshall’s dark piece, ‘The Edwardians’, also grabbed my attention; and prize winner, Amelia Schmidt has created beautifully fluid, dreamlike work in ‘House-sitting for My Mother’—‘my mother and father disappear in an aeroplane and I pack myself into a suitcase’.

The non-fiction is also particularly strong: Michelle Walter’s ‘Getting Off the Staircase’ is evocative enough to work as either fiction or non-fiction/memoir; Sam Cooney’s column on writer workspace meanders from Roald Dahl to Jonathan Safran Foer, whilst Kate Leaver’s column tackles incest and society’s fascination with sexual violence.

What I enjoyed most, however, were the interviews. I’m not sure if this a recurring section, but Voiceworks talks to a few of its contributors in Issue 79. There’s also a conversation with emerging writer Jessica Au who discusses working on her novel, interning at Sleepers, and her writing process.

And so, despite its youthfulness, and my twenty-seven-year-old bitterness, I took a liking to Voiceworks or at least its current manifestation. ‘Classic’ is available at the usual independent bookstores or you can subscribe to Voiceworks at their website here.

NYWF 2009: Day Three

Angela Meyer and Kirk Marshall were on another panel, alongside Bel Monypenny (Voiceworks), Alexandra Neill (Good News Week), and Madeleine Hinchy (Belle magazine). Called ‘Crimes Against the Industry’, the panel discussed interning: why do it, how to do it, and where to go for it.

While a writing degree might help ‘speed things up and [help you] learn things quickly’ (Bel), internships help graduates get that first foot in the door of the industry, giving opportunities to network, upskill, or, if you’re an exceptional intern, score a paying job at the organisation. (And if the internship sucks, then at least you’ve narrowed your interests.)

Before applying for an internship, you should keep a few things in mind:

  1. Bigger is not better. Working for Sony or Macmillan may seem lucrative but you probably won’t learn as much as working for a smaller-scale operation such as Sleepers or Ilura Press. Bigger places are often departmentalised; smaller places usually have just the one workspace; you’ll probably get to see/do more at a smaller place. Goliathesque companies are also more likely to use and abuse their interns: with so many applicants for the position, they usually see an intern as a disposable asset as opposed to an actual person.
  2. Target your organisation. Do look for a position that you’re interested in. Don’t waste your time learning stuff from people you don’t like, and don’t waste their time either. Also, do your research. Tailor your application to the position and to the person you’re sending it to. Nothing looks more unprofessional than a letter addressing the editor of Voiceworks as ‘Mr Moneypenny’.
  3. Know what you want. Tell your supervisor what you’re interested in. Not only does it show initiative, it also helps the organisation determine what they need to teach you. However, this does not mean throwing a tantrum at the first ‘plebby’ job that comes your way. Being tactful always helps.

For more on interning, check out Estelle Tang’s ‘Hello Intern’ interviews. For laughs, check out The Intern (thank you Angela Slatter).