No, I’m not Estelle Tang, but I will be blogging about MWF 2010

While I was unable to make it to the subscribers’ launch of the MWF 2010 Program on Wednesday, I did make it to the media launch on Thursday at Tjanabi, Federation Square. As is customary with such events, speeches did not start at once, and we were left to make friends for ourselves. After I told Matt from MyStory that I was blogging for MWF 2010, he complimented me on my profile shot. Five seconds later, I came up with, ‘Oh, that’s the other Asian blogger.’ Oops. Sorry Estelle.

Yep, I have been asked to blog about MWF 2010. Others joining me will include Andy Murdoch, Lisa Dempster, Robbie Coleman, Duncan Felton, Sam Cooney, Brad Dunn, and Kathy Charles. We won’t be on the official blog with Angela Meyer, Estelle Tang, and Simon Keck (aka ‘that guy with the pencils in his mouth’), but we’ll be out in force, bringing you the dirt.

For instance, have you been reading your Twitter feeds? JOSS WHEDON is keynoting for MWF 2010, and tickets are selling fast. Will it sell out before the actual program hits the streets? Who knows? And who would have thought Frank Moorhouse could be so adorable? His words at the launch in regards to an older generation of writers and public speaking: ‘We were so nervous, we were often drunk.’ Awwww.

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.

Willylitfest *giggle*

Blue skies and a ‘Let’s Be frankie‘ panel lured me and my bike out to Williamstown on Saturday. I didn’t think I’d make it back home before sunset, so I picked up these cute bike lights along the way:

Skully front light

Skully back light

On my ride, I caught the Westgate Punt, a scenic shortcut across the water. It was temporarily commandeered by someone’s youngster, but I arrived safely at the Scienceworks Museum and continued along the coastal trail.

At the ‘Let’s Be frankie‘ session, frankie senior contributors Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law described the magazine as frank articles plus cupcakes, craft, and rock & roll. Having never read or seen frankie, I started picturing shots of pink teacups, jauntily arranged on astroturf, juxtaposed next to awkward descriptions of bodily functions. Having written about personal experiences such as losing one’s virginity, Benjamin and Marieke discussed the ‘illusion of intimacy’* that they had manufactured. Marieke also used to blog; only 20% of her personal life became blog fodder, though her parents did develop a catchphrase rather like ‘and that’s not going in the blog’.

Right to left: Susan Bird (chair), Benjamin Law, and Marieke Hardy @ 'Let's Be frankie' (1/5/10)

I returned the next day for ‘From the Quill to the Kindle‘, a much more formal discussion between Sophie Cunningham, Chris Flynn, and Dmetri Kakmi about the so-called death of the book and eBook revolution.

left to right: Sophie Cunningham, Chris Flynn, and Dmetri Kakmi @ 'From the Quill to the Kindle' (2/5/10)

Working from a prepared speech, Dmetri described eBook trends that defied initial suppositions. Prime eBook consumers were not sci-fi/fantasy-reading, tech-savy geeks but tended to be thirty-five-to-forty-year-old females with tastes that reflected their hardcopy-buying counterparts.

Chris Flynn brought up environmental concerns. In a 2006 report, it was revealed that recycled paper makes up only 5-10% of books published in the US**. Publishers are aiming to improve this figure, but this means that thirty million trees are cut down each year for US books alone**. Our habit of collecting our favourite books is a selfish one.

Technology, however, is dictating the terms of the alternative. While you may own a physical book, you can never own an eBook, only the right to keeping a copy of it. If you breach your contract with Amazon, the copies get wiped. In other words, you can lend your Kindle to a friend, but you can’t let them borrow a copy of your favourite book. Libraries are screwed in this electronic universe, and writers/publishers can do little to help them, unless they release an open source version of their book.

Meanwhile, Sophie Cunningham examined how eBooks and eReaders may change reading/writing habits. Podcasts have already revived the audio book. Will access to social media on devices such as the iPad affect the way we read? Will collaborative processes, such as commenting/feedback on uploaded drafts, change the writing process? Computers certainly have. In the past, typewriting forced people to recreate drafts from scratch, whilst computers allowed for more sloppier writing via ‘cut and paste’ methods. Sophie hoped that the novel will survive this eReader revolution as a rarified form.

From the Quill to the Kindle‘ managed to outline what seems to be a mammoth topic. There’s a plethora of articles on eBooks available on the interwebs. Try ‘Publish or Perish: Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?‘ (via theliftedbrow), and ‘Amazon Erases Orwell Books from Kindles‘ for starters.

After Willylitfest *giggle*, I went down to Gem Pier with my fellow literary punters  who nearly incited a seagull riot with their chips. I have not seen The Birds, but seagulls are scary in numbers.

*Benjamin and Marieke also mentioned ‘frankie girls’ but never satisfactorarily explained the term. I did a Google search and found this.

**Figures confirmed via ecolibris.net.

willylitfest aka the Williamstown Literary Festival

Every time I see ‘willylitfest.org.au’, I start giggling. It’s an unfortunate abbreviation, though marketers might argue otherwise—it does stick in one’s head. Initially, I wasn’t planning on going to the festival, but there are some panels that sound interesting: talks on Kindles and frankie and a discussion between Steve Grimwade, Chris Beck, and Jeff Sparrow. There’s also a panel on literary blogging if anyone’s interested on starting up or improving their own writerly blog. Online ticket sales end tonight, so get to it.

Why go out when you have the interwebs?

I had planned to go to Footscray today. I’ve been wanting to write about Footscray ever since I saw someone dangle their toddler over the gutter. Unfortunately, it’s already nearing ten and I’m still in front of my computer, playing on the interwebs.

It’s hard to leave home when there are so many links demanding one’s attention. There’s The Lifted Brow’s upload of some of its sixth issue material. Someone had one too many bongs and uploaded a fifth of the content, which is shit but kind of funny at the same time.

Lisa Dempster has been forthcoming with ‘Money: how much I earn’ about how much she actually earns. She’s also followed up with a more reflective ‘Mo money, mo money’. I really hope someone from NYWF throws her onto a panel about mullah. *bangs her head against the desk for failing to submit an NYWF application*

Black Rider Press has released its April 10 issue of The Diamond & The Thief. April 10 features my story ‘Renovations’, which I have been pimping at Read You Bastards and Storytelling. The Diamond & The Thief always showcases a surprising amount of poetry, so I’m too intimidated to review it, but maybe I will bribe some poetically-orientated person to do it for me.

Island has created a beautiful home for its online journal Islet. They have also developed blog-like setup at Conversation.

And Twitter: I have finally succumbed to peer pressure and got myself a Twitter account. Follow me at msthuylinh and I’ll try not to spam you.

Review: Dot Dot Dash – Quicksand

We Melbourne literary types like to think that the world revolves around our four-seasoned city, but it really doesn’t. Look to Sydney’s recent offering to the word gods, Cutwater, and be astounded, inspired, or downright aggravated as per Sam Cooney. Unfold Brisbane’s Small Room. Or go out on a date with Perth’s newest hot young thing, Dot Dot Dash.

A words and art journal disguised in glossy format with doodles, photography, and full-page colour advertising, Dot Dot Dash makes Harvest look like a frumpy old maid. It’s young, it’s slick, it’s something someone from a Three Thousand launch party might carry around in their latest-designer-you-haven’t-heard-of tote bag. I feel distinctly old when I read it. There’s pages that feel like photographed zines: poems typed, cut up and rearranged around a paper moon, Mills & Boon cover ravishment, and a whimsically childish fifty-word collaboration on scrunched up paper (avec doodles).

The editorial introduces the issue’s theme quicksand, that ‘symbol of “liminality”…”in-between”, “being on a threshold”, or “in transition”…’, and is followed by drafts and redrafts of office love poetry, surreal narrative/grammar/banality-defying prose by Jude Bridge, Justin Lowe, Allan Boyd, and non-fiction about the transience of street projecting and war-ravaged Berlin. The featured artwork is often provocative: sleeping babies as dangling bait for fish monsters, Adam and Eve incest, cartoons discussing religion, and a collage of a refugee family with the caption: ‘In with love, out with hate. Make cash, not war.’

For such an elegantly slim-looking magazine, Dot Dot Dash packs in a heap, usually as small bursts of poetry, artwork, or fiction. Most of it is to theme, though occasionally some pieces feel out of place. Amy Bachrach’s ‘Guilty’, a conventional story about the quicksand issues of sexual abuse, seemed an inappropriate choice for a journal that seems to favour more experimental, somewhat playful work. It’s a small criticism, one that might be easily rectified with a few tweaks to the poetry/fiction/non-fiction ratio. (I would have liked to see less poetry and more non-fiction so that conventional pieces such as ‘Guilty’ and ‘At the Third Stroke’ get along better with their neighbours.)

Nevertheless, it’s a commendable first effort from SJ Finch and Co. and Dot Dot Dash excites me in a way literary journals haven’t in a long time. Maybe I’m nursing a need to look cool by reading something hot on the train. Maybe I’m drooling over the possibilities of potential youth markets yet to be exploited. Maybe I’m just delirious from my cold. Whatever the case is, I might just subscribe to this hot little quarterly.

Dot Dot Dash's Issue One - Quicksand (courtesy of dotdotdash.org)

Addition: And for those who like writing exercises, Dot Dot Dash post regularly at Pardon My Ducks.

Contributing to I op therefore I am

For all of those peeps who love secondhand finds, I’ve started contributing to the Melbourne op shop blog I Op Therefore I am. I’ve been mapping out bicycle routes to the neighbourhood’s various op shops; the RSPCA op shops are the closest by far. After picking up some Asian groceries, I bought an old Peter and Wendy book and a hand embroidered tea cosie. The white suitcase I found for my doctor friend was too big to carry on the bike but the lady at the counter was nice enough to put it aside for me. RSPCA op shop volunteers are tops. You can drool over my finds here.

On a more literary note, I’ve finished reading Visible Ink: Lost and Found. Expect a review in the next couple of days. And don’t forget to pen those race-related* poems for open mic at Caffe Sospeso on Friday.

*’Race’ as in racism and not that Queen song.

100th post: too many literary journals?

Literary Journals to be Read

Literary Journals to be Read

A couple of months ago, I took a photo of my metastatic pile of Books to be Read. Today, I thought I’d trump it with my end-stage metastatic pile of Literary Journals to be Read. As per earlier posts, I frequently commit the sin of not completely reading a literary journal: I scan, I dip, I nibble at a story or two, but I only work through a couple of pages before I get distracted by the Big Four (Facebook, Email, Blog, or Sleep).

Apart from the fact that literary journals are like an individual editor’s YouTube Favourites and consequently not the most cohesive bodies of work, the problem is that there are too many literary journals competing for the top of my reading pile. Overland, Meanjin, Island, Going Down Swinging, Harvest, Stop Drop and Roll, Page Seventeen, Verandah, Torpedo, The Lifted Brow, Sketch, the Mooks, Wet Ink…and these are only the hardcopy journals. How do I, a supposed literary journal enthusiast trawl through so many titles? How does an average punter pick out from the plethora of print out there? Are there too many journals competing for a finite audience?

As this blog reached its hundredth post, I contemplated its role in the blogosphere. Is it just another me-too literary blog? Is it a half-arsed attempt to discuss racism in a literary context? Am I just being narcissistic? Self-promoting? Is this blog an advertorial? Or is it a very public writing journal? Maybe it’s a combination of all of these elements?

According to the ‘Tag Atlas’ in the left-hand column, this blog discusses literary journals. It’s time to add reviews to the mix: do a 3000 Books with journals. Complementing the reviews will be the continuation of ‘You will submit‘ posts, as well as a discussion on journal audience, design, distribution, and promotion. Further down the track, I hope to interview successful journals about their thoughts on these issues.

Cheer up Charlie (in a totally non-VC way) to all of those who like the blog in its current format. Whimsical posts, reportage of various literary events, and notes on racism will continue. There’s just going to be some fine-tuning on the literary journal side or at least that’s the Plan.

First journal for the devouring will be Harvest’s Issue Three. I really should read things that I’ve been published in. So, umm, you’ll probably hear from me in another year or two…?

When blogging stops being fun and writing starts feeling like…work?

I’m nearing my 100th post. I started this blog little over a year ago, wanting to create a space where people could find out more about me and my work. At first, the posts were microscopic—two or three sentences stating the when and where of my latest published story. But then the posts began to lengthen and diversify. There was talk of writers festivals, lit journals, other writers, and the local literary scene. The posts cropped up more frequently, and I suffered PWS (Post Withdrawal Syndrome) if I didn’t throw up at least two posts per week. People started reading my blog; people started commenting/linking, and it was all Care Bears and fluffy bunnies. 

But recently, my timetable has had a hostile takeover by Real Work and The House Move, and I’m struggling to find time to write/plan a proper post or belt out a new short story. And it’s been such a long time since I’ve written something new that I’m starting to wonder if I still ‘have it’. 

I blame work. After high school, I studied full-time pharmacy, and then moved straight into full-time work once I graduated. I don’t think I wrote a single thing during those six years. (Okay, I did bash out some YA speculative fiction novellas, but they never moved beyond the first draft.) After eight hours of mind-numbing, dealing with other people’s BS, the last thing you want to do is do more work. Because that’s what writing is: work. And yet, writers rarely ever treat it as such. When people ask about your writing, how many times do you say, ‘Oh, I write for a hobby. I do it in my spare time…’? Dogdamnit. It’s not a hobby. It’s not therapeutic. It’s not even fun (more like ‘demanding, torturous, and sleep-depriving’, like one of those contrary Toorak ladies who demand antibiotics without a prescription for their urinary tract infection). Anyway, after coming to this conclusion after a hectic day at the pharmacy, I am muchly looking forward to getting back to the regular part-time shifts, and working with comma placements, modifiers, and metaphors once more. I’d much rather do unpaid work as a writer than sell veterinarians Viagra for a princely sum thank you very much. 

Neon Pilgrim Launch

Lisa Dempster’s travel memoir, Neon Pilgrim, will be launching at Readings in Carlton today. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lisa’s work, Lisa keeps a blog, Unwakeable, which talks about topics like veganism, indie publishing, and twittering/tweeting. Her posts often stimulate discussion amongst her followers and their comments are worth a read too. 

Neon Pilgrim is Lisa’s third book, and it narrates her attempt to hike the henro michi, a 1200 kilometre Buddhist pilgrimage that visits eighty-eight Japanese temples. Lisa has put up an excerpt from the book on her blog, detailing the start of her journey; the blog has links to a couple of Neon Pilgrim reviews as well.

Anyway, the launch is tonight. Things start happening at 7pm, so drop by at Readings Carlton to check it out.