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.

EWF 2010 Photo blog

I have been carrying a camera around with me for the last ten or so days, but have been unable to post them up until now, so I thought I’d do a pictorial recap of my experience of the EWF 2010 festival. Some of the shots are unsalvageable, so please forgive me if your photos aren’t here.

2010 Page Parlour punters pick up The Lifted Brow No.5 at Federation Square. (23/5/10)

Storytime with Lucienne Noontil (centre) and Rusty the Possum (right). Estelle Tang (left) tries to keep mum about the 'happy ending'. (24/5/10).

Homemade 'I Heart Jeremy Balius' tees that failed to dry in time for The Last Hurrah. Boo. (26/5/10)

A.S. Patric reads from his chapbook, 'Music For Broken Instruments', at The Last Hurrah. (26/5/10)

After the gig, the bf made the observation that many of us Black Riders were not looking up from the page, his hero Eric Dando included. Oops. (26/5/10)

Lunchbox/Soapbox: Chris Flynn knows how to entertain with quirky tales about heroic hounds from film and literature. (27/5/10)

You Want Me To Do What? panellists (left to right): Declan Fay, Katherine Charles, Sean M. Whelan, Natasha Campo, and Kelly Gardiner. (30/5/10)

Kirk Marshall (left) and Jeremy Balius (right) discuss the two modes of literary translation at From Here to There: The Adventures of Kaisu and Kalle. (30/5/10)

The Melbourne crew chillax at the end of the festival with Islet editor Anica at the Horse Bazaar. No underaged bar-children working today! (30/5/10)

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.

Work Vs. Writers’ Festivals

The Emerging Writers’ Festival starts this Friday (21st of May). I’m working this Friday. I am also rostered this Saturday (22nd), Sunday (23rd), Monday (24th), Tuesday (25th), Wednesday (26th), Thursday (27th), Friday (28th), and Saturday (29th). In other words, with the exception of Sunday (30th), I am working every day of the festival. They’re not nine-to-five shifts, but I usually finish around seven, which means I won’t be able to make most of EWF’s weeknightly events. No Write What You Know or Creative Writing Bootcamp for Thuy!

My position is casual/part-time. Usually, I don’t mind working weekends and the extra odd shift, but when all of the full-timers decide to take time off during the week of a festival (for non-festival-related activities), I start to mind a lot.

I managed to wheedle an early night out of one of my bosses so I’ll be able to go to Monday’s 15 Minutes of Fame with Estelle Tang, and I’ll be Page Parlouring on Sunday the 23rd at Fed Square, selling Brows and buying the journal equivalent of several rain forests—

I was going to give a lowdown on the rest of my EWF schedule (plus bitch some more), but my internet browser just crashed, and I lost most of my post, and it’s twenty-one minutes to midnight, and I have to grab some sleep off the shelf. So, how about we rendezvous on Sunday evening? I’ll tell you how my day of Page Parlouring went, and you can tell me what events I should go to, or something like. It’s like totally a date you guys. Like totally.

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…

Epic Bike Fail

Dear Blog,

Sorry for not posting on you earlier. I had hoped to write some reportage on Friday night’s Caffe Sospeso happenings but never got round to it on the weekend. Work, you know, and socialising…that kind of thing.

Caffe Sospeso was fun though. I got to dress up in an ao dai that shed gold glitter on floors, car seats, and restaurants. I listened to poems from Lian Low, Raina Peterson, and Maxine Clarke who discussed issues that I related to, such as being asked ‘where do you come from? No, where do you really come from?’ (To which, one of the guest poets concisely replied, ‘I come from my mother’s c#@$.’)

But back to why I haven’t written on you earlier, Blog. I had hoped to fit you in some time after a Lifted Brow meeting and some catch-up naps, but got waylaid by my epic bike fails for there were several of which I shall enlighten you.

The first epic bike fail happened when I left my bike in Ronnie Scott’s hallway. It did not like being abandoned. It fell over and punched a hole in Ronnie’s wall. Mortification.

The second epic bike fail happened close to the Abbotsford Lentil As Anything. I braked too hard, causing my bike to flip and me to dive into the pavement, face and hands first. There was a nursing home nearby, so a couple of onlookers took me in, and got me semi-washed up, and the nurse inside told me to see a doctor and get some stitches.

The third epic bike fail (which isn’t really bike-related but is still fail) was when a bird shat on me while I wheeled my bike back to Lentil As Anything in my blood-drenched shirt, looking like a freshly-made zombie. It was a subtle sign from the PTB that Monday was a write-off and that I should not attempt anything else that may potentially cause more embarrassment.

I ignored this, and the fourth fail of the day happened a couple of hours later when I decided to public back home from the parentals’ place. It was late on a Monday night. I was in trackies and a blood-stained T-shirt that said ‘Princess’ across my boobs, my hair was unkempt, and I had just got stitches on my chin: I looked like a Burwood bogan. To my misfortune, Estelle Tang happened to be on the same tram, all groomed and sleek-looking, and she recognised me. Oh. My. Dog.

So Blog, I hope you forgive me for being neglectful. I really have been very busy as you can see. I’ll try to post on the latest issues of Peril and The Diamond & the Thief, sometime later in the week.

Until next time,

TL.

PS – speaking of The Diamond & the Thief, Black Rider Press have posted up mp3 readings of stories/poetry from the last issue, including my reading of ‘The Beast’. Yay. Check it out here.

Review: Harvest Issue 3

Last week, I promised that I would start doing a 3000 Books with literary journals. For those of you who haven’t come across her blog, Textual Fantasies’ Estelle Tang endeavours to read 50 books per year: ‘…when I started this blog I was 23 years old. The life expectancy for an Australian female is 83 years. 60 reading years left x 50 books = 3000 books. Why yes, it is very literal. Some might also say it is numerical.’

Knowing me, it is unlikely that I will be able to match Estelle’s reading voracity/velocity, but I will try my darnest to get through my metastatic pile of literary journals. This week’s sacrificial maiden was Harvest Issue 3.

 

Harvest Issue 3 with random sweet potato (19/11/09). Sweet potato courtesy of housemate.

I’m a big fan of Harvest. Not only does it publish meaty literary pieces, it is also beautifully presented, attracting readers outside the usual literary circle. Sarah, my doctor friend, picked up Issue 2 at Readings and gave it to me as a gift. She didn’t recognise any of the contributors; she probably purchased the journal on aesthetic merit alone.

Issue 3 is of similar attractiveness with the front cover designed by Allison Colpoys. Fiction tended towards lyrical, somewhat traditional, not as punchy as I would have liked, though there was masterful use of language in many stories. Jessica Au’s ‘Old Man River’ is almost poetic, her flourishes are something I could never possibly emulate. Paul Dee’s ‘Murder in the Snow’ focuses on the mundane with microscopic detail, and is appropriately accompanied by Stella Kalaw’s  photos of shower taps and rusty oil fin heaters. Borrowing stories from How a Moth Becomes a Boat, Josephine Rowe tapers off sections elegantly with paragraphs like the following from ‘Hole’:

She’s out west now, you heard. Someplace like Yarraville. You kick soft dirt into the hole. See her sitting out there, nights, looking up at the lights along the West Gate. Making different escape plans. Small cat winding round her thin legs.

In regards to poetry, I particularly enjoyed the play of Michelle O. Bama’s ‘Can I Call You Barack?’ and Simon Cox’s ‘Fragments in Defence of The Latter Halves of Half-Truths’*; feature poet Kylie Rose also had some startling imagery: ‘…Mum resumes her pop-dance / over the stuck bubbles, / their ink tails scribbling back to the surf.’ 

Non-fiction had a couple of strong pieces like Greg Foyster’s ‘The New Generation of Readers’ and Lisa Mamone’s ‘In Defence of Wodehouse’, though I was disappointed with finishing on Belle Taylor’s ‘Even Serious Books Have Kissing in Them’, a two-page personal narrative which felt lightweight when read alongside the journal’s lengthier works.

While content was lyrical, entertaining, evocative, thought-provoking, and inspiring, Issue 3’s layout was a bit of a letdown. I got confused with the split in Foyster’s piece: I thought the article ended oddly after reading the first two pages, later realising that it continued on page 49. Admittedly I was tipsy and on a tram at the time of reading, but it would have been nice to have ‘Continued on page 49’ tacked on, in brackets, to the end of page 2’s last paragraph. Marc Martin’s artwork, ‘Bookplates’, might have been more well-placed near Belle Taylor’s personal narrative on book clubs. And Belle Taylor, why is your piece sandwiched between a Harvest advert and the contributor bios? Nobody’s going to read it there.

It’s a small criticism (okay, it’s a big criticism…biggish…) and I’m sure the Harvest team had good reason for making the layout choices that they did. There are only so many ways you can arrange the order of a journal, and sometimes all of your options suck. And bad layout rarely detracts from quality content. So no biggie, Harvest. There’s always next time. Thanks for publishing my poem by the way. It looks very pretty next to Irana Douer’s work. 🙂

Next review will be Lost and Found: Visible Ink 21. Expect it some time next week/month/year. 

*Cox also managed to sneak ‘Fragments’ into the October ’09 issue of The Diamond & the Thief. You can read it online here.

The Humble Reader from EWF

In September, post-Melbourne Writers Festival 2009, I wrote a post about Writers’ Festival Withdrawal (WFW):

There’s a lot of WFW going around at the moment. The Melbourne Writers Festival is over for 2009, and everyone has been posting about their feelings of dejection (as opposed to the usual feelings of rejection), which is crazy since Overload and TINA (This Is Not Art) are coming up. (1 September 2009)

I didn’t understand why people weren’t coping. MWF  was great, but work, social engagements, and an evil real estate lady ensured that I was just a casual punter; I hadn’t experienced total festival emersion, and didn’t know any better.

TINA, however, was in another state. I was on holidays from work, friends, and family; TINA became my work, my social interactions, my drink of choice. I started getting the shakes when I landed back in Melbourne, spent a lot of time checking other writers’ Facebook profiles, but it wasn’t the same. I needed a literary Valium, so I went to the launch of EMF’s The Reader

After drinks and some amazing tempura prawns/beans/calamari and a discussion on the sexual preferences of Bret Easton Ellis, I started reading The Reader on the tram home, finishing the anthology the day after. With its mix of informative articles, artwork, themed poetry and fiction, The Reader puts me much in mind of Julian Fleetwood’s Sex Mook*, which is unsurprising since Death Mook editor Dion Kagan is captaining this EWF ship. The Reader is like a Writing Mook, elegantly bound in black and silver, exploring a diverse range of writing issues. There’s a how-to on re-writing screenwriting by John Pace, a frank article from Lisa Dempster on how much writers should get paid, while Jane Hawtin talks about turning academic writing into commercially viable publications. Scattered amongst the advice is a poem about rejection letters, reviews on writing books/software from Angela Meyer and Cameron White, and an adorable comic about making comics from Christopher Downes.

What I loved most about The Reader was its ability to play without sacrificing content, with self-help on self-promotion juxtaposed against fears of selling out. Each piece had something to offer to the emerging writer, and was written in an engaging way. Some pieces were earnest, like Stephanie Honor Convery’s Black Saturday experiences, or parodic like Clem Bastow’s ‘Free(lance)-Falling’. But what seemed ubiquitous in such a diverse range of pieces was a self-awareness, a sense of ‘not having quite made it but hopefully getting there’; The Reader’s a humble but essential guide for any emerging writer. 

 

The Reader, image courtesy of EWF.

The Reader - available for $20 from all good bookstores (image courtesy of EWF)

*I have yet to read Death Mook.

Spruiking and self-loathing in Melbourne

For the last couple of days I’ve been trying to make a recording of my story, ‘The Beast’, for Jeremy Balieus from Black Rider Press. I hate the sound of my voice. At work, I always get comments like, ‘Oh you sound dreadful. Are you sick?’ Or, ‘You should do phone sex.’ My piece is also lengthy for a spoken word reading; I can’t read the piece without stumbling over something.

On the other hand, I’ve had a win with DUSA Bookshops, convincing them to stock a whole bunch of Brows, so the citizens of Burwood, Warrnambool, and Geelong will no longer have to travel to Melbourne’s inner ‘burbs for a copy.

Speaking of Melbourne’s inner ‘burbs, the shit’s going down over the next couple of days. Geoff Lemon’s leaving us for South America, and tonight’s Wordplay will be his last one for a mesozoic era. If you haven’t been to Wordplay, it’s one of Melbourne’s best poetry, hip-hop, and spoken mic gigs. I went to Wordplay’s MWF gig and it showcased the likes of Nathan Curnow, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Chloe Jackson, and Ben Ezra. The gig lives at the Dan O’Connell Hotel, so head down there around eight for a night of poetry action.

On Friday, Laura Smith’s poetry gig is happening at Caffe Sospeso and will feature Fiona Stuart, Susan Fealy and MC Deborah Vanderwerp. I saw Laura perform a couple of weeks ago at Dreaming Highways and liked her poetry, so I’ll try to swing by on my way home from The Bedroom Philosopher.

Yep, I am going to another Bedroom Philosopher giglet. Like that Spiderbait song, Justin Heazlewood is ‘fucken awesome’. I’ve been listening to his latest album, Brown & Orange; its seventh track has lines like ‘Jesus was an intruder on Big Brother’ and ‘Church attendances doubled, then tripled. People brought in signs like John 3:16 and “Jesus is emo”…’ Heazlewood’s performing nightly for Melbourne Fringe Festival until 10 October 2009. Catch him while you can.

I’m also looking forward to Attract/Repel, which is also a part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Written and directed by Ming-Zhu Hii, Attract/Repel examines race, identity, similarity and difference. Thanks Estelle for telling me about it. 

One more plug and I swear I am done. EWF’s Reader is launching on Monday 12 October. For those of you who haven’t witnessed Dion Kagan’s spruiking, the Reader is a how-to for emerging writers (or at least that’s what I think it is):

The Reader is Steven Amsterdam on writers’ workshops, Clem Bastow on freelancing, Jen Breach on writing comics, Mel Campbell on pitching to editors, Kathy Charles on shameless self-promotion, Stephanie Convery on writing Black Saturday, Olivia Davis on fear and writing practices, Lisa Dempster on how much writers earn, Koraly Dimitriadis talks to Christos Tsiolkas, Caroline Hamilton compares writers’ festivals and music festivals, Stu Hatton on his mentorship with Dorothy Porter, Jane Hawtin discusses publishing academic research for a general audience, Andrew Hutchinson recalls the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Tiggy Johnson on parenthood and writing, Krissy Kneen on not writing about sex, Benjamin Law on failure, Angela Meyer reviews books for writers, Jennifer Mills on the politics of publishing and engaging with readers, Anthony Noack on good grammar, John Pace on re-drafting your screenplay, Ryan Paine on the role of the critic, Ben Pobjie on writing comedy, Robert Reid on the role of the contemporary playwright, Aden Rolfe on the emergentsia, Jenny Sinclair on the landscape of her book research, Chris Summers talks to Lally Katz about theatre writing, Mia Timpano on how to cultivate the ultimate author profile photo, Estelle Tang on Christopher Currie and blogging fiction, Simmone Michelle-Wells pens a letter to her younger self, Cameron White reviews alternatives to Microsoft Word. (Estelle Tang, 7 October 2009)

At sevenish, I’ll be heading down to get my copy at Bertha Brown. You go get your copy too. 

Okay, back to hating the sound of my voice.

NYWF 2009: Goodbye NC

Newcastle. Unreliable taxi services. Drunk youths. Cheap retro. Love it, hate it, can’t stand the sight of it. Home of TINA (This Is Not Art Festival) and, consequently, the National Young Writers’ Festival

Over the last four days, I’ve hugged Lawrence Leung, discovered Chris Somerville and Michaela McGuire’s work, hung out at a Lucky Seven with Angela Meyer, and learnt swing-dancing from Visible Ink’s Anthony Noack. I’ve chatted to distro owners, potential subscribers and contributors, and random punters at the zine fair, and compared Buffy notes with Thomas Benjamin Guerney. Oh yeah, and I started crying during the Artistic Resilience Intensive’s meditation exercise (which wasn’t very resilient of me). I’ve drunk, and danced, and done the meet and greet. It’s been fun, but I’m glad to be home and finally catch up on some sleep.

Thank you Amy Ingram, Daniel Evans, Sarah Howell and Ronnie Scott for a wicked festival, and thank you everyone else for being the cool cats that you are.

Until next year,

TL