TINA 2010 Tales (Part Two)

In a town far, far away, my boyfriend and I are walking down the street, holding hands. Heading in the other direction, an old Asian man sees us and shouts, ‘Hey!’ He glares at our smallish public display of affection with a mixture of disgust and incredulity, and continues to do for the next three hundred metres.

The moral of the story: interracial dating is not the done thing in Asia Newcastle.

Racism aside, Newcastle CBD is a Gothic town. Its streets are a mixture of Georgian, Victorian, and Art Deco. There’s a sense of decay. In every strip of shops, there’s a building that has been abandoned. Some advertise rental reductions, whilst others are unsalvagable husks—windows boarded up, ceilings blackened with soot, walls vandalised.

Naturally, there’s signs of revival. New apartments have popped up along the foreshore. Darby Street is a collection of trendy cafes and kitsch boutiques. But this is only a veneer of gentrification. The town and its inhabitants still seem rough and unpredictable, and I never feel safe. In some ways, it’s a bit like St Kilda…

There once was a lass from St Kilda

Who went by the name of Brunhilda

Of the gentlemen there

She had nary a care

As they tried with small cocks to fulfill her.

And that’s a craicin’ limerick about St Kilda. Okay, so that wasn’t my best segeway, but that was my partner’s best (and possibly only) limerick, which was the result of Thomas Benjamin Guerney’s ‘How to Write a Craicin’ Limerick’ session at TINA 2010.

During the session, Guerney spoke about form. Limericks use the following meter:

– – / – – / – – /

– – / – – / – – /

– – / – – /

– – / – -/

– – / – – / – – /

This meter is to be strictly adhered to, though there are exceptions to the rule (wtf). Limericks also follow A, A, B, B, A rhyming and their content should be witty and bawdy.

He then followed up with a limerick workshop in which we came up with folks from Helsinki being flexible like slinkies and losing their primary/secondary pinkies. It was a fun session, but perhaps it was not as fun as ‘Lit Journal Survivor’, where windows were broken and genital-constricting shorts were worn.

‘Writing About Place’ was a more serious workshop. Run by Voiceworks, it consisted of various writing exercises. For instance, we had to think of the worst place we had ever been to and write an advertisement for it. Another exercise required us to use industrial-sounding modifiers to describe natural settings and vice-versa. The exercises were great but the size of the workshop was intimidating. I don’t know about everyone else but my responses to such prompts tend to be shit, and I’d rather not share them with a score of strangers.

Socialising has been less fun. This year, Newcastle has been invaded by packs of writerly hipsters and the occasional lone wolf. It feels like my pack of two is having a bit of a standoff with the other packs. Or maybe we’re just standoffish. Who knows?

‘The American Gothic Ball’ was less crazy compared to last year’s Great Gatsby, while the Zine Fair was again full of pretty things. I picked up a Lets Learn Lao with Mechelle B zine, which teaches one how to say important things like ‘your undies smell’ (‘salip-jow-men’) and a pair of awesome scarves from her sister.

Hosted by Benjamin Law and Michaela McGuire, this year’s ‘Spelling Bee’ featured ‘Who am I’ dinosaurs, and ‘Televangelist or Dental Product?’ It also challenged contestants with words such as ‘jurisprudent’, and ‘verisimillitude’. I managed to fluke my way through ‘gleet’, but not ‘ukulele’. Anyway, reigning champ Geoff Lemon was deposed by the word ‘beryllium’, and Garth, last year’s runner-up, took home the trophy.

I was wondering whether it was time to go home yet when we decided to try the Royal Exchange reading. Thank dog we did. Guest speakers Rochelle Jackson, Will Kostakis, Mandy Beaumont, and Patrick O’Neil entertained their mellowing crowd with tales of crims, inappropriate jokes, Brisbane’s West End, and supposed human rights abuses. But the best tale of the night and the highlight of my festival was open mic’s Ben Jenkins who spun us a story about fearlessness, cat poo parasites, and ice addicts. While his reading was perhaps overly long, he captivated his audience until the end with his manner of speaking and his factual asides, and won a standing ovation from Mister Geoff Lemon. Thanks Ben Jenkins for putting my faith back into the open mic section.

And that’s it folks. I’ll be attending a couple more events, and hopefully finding some prompt tucker in this dogforsaken place. Bloody public holidays. Grrr.

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

Four More Sleeps

The Melbourne Writers Festival starts this Friday, and I’m getting excited. Despite having lived in Melbourne all of my life, I have never been to the Melbourne Writers Festival, which is really poor form, considering that people like Angela Meyer move to Melbourne to get closer to the literary scene. Yes, I walk around with a paper bag over my head. And no, please don’t steal my paper bag to vomit your disgust into it. 

I wanted to go last year, but had unwittingly double-booked myself. While everyone else was listening to Nam Le, I was falling off ski-lifts in New Zealand. This year, however, I have cleared August of snowboarding, errant pharmacy shifts, weddings, and engagements. Only an invasion of three-legged aliens is going to stop me from making it to MWF 2009.

Workshops are getting booked out, but I’ve managed to score a spot on Wells Tower’s Small Lever, Big Rock: Short Fiction & The Simple Machines of Emotion.

There’s also a couple of Big Ideas talks at the RMIT Capitol Theatre that look interesting: Life, the Universe, and Nothing; The Future of the Book; and Does the End Justify the Means?

At Melbourne Town Hall, on Friday 21 August, Freedom of Speech: Should There Be Limits? With Ian Buruma will debate Geert Wilders and the Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Toff in the Town is hosting some fun stuff. Spoken word artists such as Alicia Sometimes, and Emilie Zoey Baker will be performing a poetic tribute to Michael Jackson’s Thriller on Thursday night. while McSweeney’s (Futuristic) Antipodean Adventure will be happening Saturday night, 29 August. 

More performances are planned for the Festival Club. Wordplay’s scheduled for Sunday 23, with Geoff Lemon, and Nathan Curnow. Angela Meyer will be also doing her thing with SPUNC on Saturday 29.

Will I make it to any of the day events? Not likely, since I have to work (writers’ festivals = $$$$$). But Tom Cho will be discussing his book in Fable, Fantasy and the New Short Story. Brain Castro will be In Conversation on Sunday 23 August. McSweeney’sIsnotmagazine, and Torpedo will be fratenising with each other in Fly Like a Butterfly on Friday 28 August, while Krissy Kneen will talk on erotic writing with Linda Jaivin, and Nikki Gemmell in Put Your Hands All Over My Body. There is too much shit happening; I can’t deal with such excess (and neither can my credit card). Oh <insert alternative to God here>!

Thuy Linh Nguyen’s Ambitious MWF Itinery:
I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours…
Friday 21 August

Saturday 22 August

Sunday 23 August

Thursday 27 August

Saturday 29 August

  • McSweeney’s (Futuristic) Antipodean Adventure @ The Toff

Sunday 30 August

News of the literary world

After enjoying reading Etchings’ sixth issue, I thought I’d head down to Etchings Issue Seven’s launch at Lentil As Anything. For those of you unfamiliar with the publication, Etchings is a high quality art/writing journal that is published by Ilura Press. It publishes themed work from established writers such as Alice Pung, and J M Coetzee, as well as up and coming peeps such as Geoff Lemon, Ryan O’Neill, and Chris Currie. I’ve just got my hands on Issue Seven: Chameleons, and it looks like a riot with Bundit Puangthong’s artwork splashed across its covers; hopefully, the text on the page will be just as colourful.

The launch opened with words from the two guest speakers, Shanaka Fernando and Kevin Rabalais. Being the founder of Lentil As Anything, Fernando was the most qualified to explain the ‘Pay As You Feel’ theme for the night. In what might be an unprecedented move, Ilura Press ran a special offer of ‘Pay As You Feel’ book sales and subscriptions at the launch, upholding the independent press ideal of focusing ‘mostly on literature and believ[ing]…strongly in creating a culture, rather than selling books’ (Lisa Dempster from Vignette Press, 14 July 2009). 

Following Fernando, Kevin Rabalais described small literary journals as ‘the news of the literary world for serious readers and serious writers’, and cited Etchings’ inclusion of an excerpt from J M Coetzee’s Summertime as an example; Summertime has since been longlisted for the Booker Prize.  

A couple of readings followed. I didn’t stay for very long; it was a more mature crowd at Lentil As Anything and I felt a little out of place, attracting the scrutiny of Christopher Lappas (help!) and several nappy-wearing babies, but I wasn’t the only one feeling nervy: Vivienne Christie seemed to be speeding through her piece ‘Things we can’t tell’. A. S. Patrick seemed to enjoy performing the truncated version of ‘Ducks’, whilst Geoff Lemon was a no show, which is a shame since I had enjoyed his ‘Albatross’ reading from a while back.
 

Vivienne Christie performs at the Etchings Issue Seven Launch, an image from 'The Forgotten Ballroom' appearing behind her. (2/8/2009)

Vivienne Christie performs at the Etchings Issue Seven Launch, an image from 'The Forgotten Ballroom' appearing behind her. (2/8/2009)

The submission deadline for Etchings‘ next issue is coming up. Issue Nine’s theme is ‘Love and Something’, so if you’re babysitting some quality love stuff, send it in before mid-August. Two weeks: that’s plenty of warning.