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.
You’re all probably psyching up for Thursday’s Wordstock or pints at tonight’s In the Pub, but in the spirit of all things EWF, Black Rider Press has put together its own emerging writer lineup for its gig, tonight at The Willow Bar.
Officially, it’s A.S. Patric’s eBook launch, but it’s also The Last Hurrah: there will be MC-ing by Lifted Brow editor Ronnie Scott, support acts from Allison Browning, Eric Dando, Kirk Marshall, myself, plus others, and an appearance from Black Rider Press’ founder Jeremy Balius*.
Words will start flowing after eight. Entry is free, but as Allison likes to say ‘your sweetheart donations help us print books’.
Ronnie’s partner is bored, and icecream isn’t fixing it. He probably needs coffee. Our neighbouring stallholders chew on the lids of their cups. Hints of roast beans and hazelnut in the air, enticing even for a non-coffee drinker like me. It’s getting fresh. A giant dog towers over someone’s child. Kirk Marshall and Liberty Brown are in the stall opposite, selling Red Leaves, their bilingual literary journal. Jeremy Balius is a no show. Rhys, the pink-haired poet has just picked up a copy of The Sex Mook. There are five Atlas issues left. A woman walks past with three red hula hoops hooked around her arm. They match her top. I want to pick up Kalinda Ashton’s novel but there are too many unread books at home at the moment. Someone’s bought the last copy of Things We Didn’t See Coming, another book that I want to get (but shouldn’t just yet). Someone else wanders through the Atrium, staring up at aluminium pot sculptures, ignoring the stalls around her. ‘Who would win: Batman or Superman?’ says the guy sitting next to me. ‘Batman would win. He would use kryptonite. He’d kick Superman’s arse. Bruce Wayne’s not stupid.’
Feeling nostalgic? Read last year’s post on Page Parlour.
Free tomorrow night? 15 Minutes of Fame starts at 7pm at the Wheeler Centre. Estelle Tang will be interview Miscellaneous Voices, Andee Jones, Lucienne Noontil, and Joel Magarey. I’ll probably write about it tomorrow night.
Writers are always being told what they should or should not do in regards to approaching editors. Angela Slatter has written some useful posts on submitting (‘A Note On Submission Guidelines‘ and ‘On the Fine Art of Submission‘), whilst Chris Flynn gave a speech about submission dos and don’ts, at EWF 2009’s The Pitch. However, there’s not much advice on being a good editor.
In my first editing class, my tutor likened good editors to good doctors. Like doctors, editors should adopt the adage, ‘Do no harm’. In other words: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ It’s simple enough advice, and yet there are dozens of literati horror stories about stories being butchered, gutted, and rewritten. And then there’s tales of poor/lack of correspondence, borderline unprofessionalism, and downright fails. At the NYWF panel, ‘Sweet Staple High: The New Class’, Kirk Marshall and Angela Meyer discussed the unprofessionalism of Cutwater: the journal had accepted their work, then followed up with a rejection letter a couple of months later. Kirk Marshall then brought up Jeremy Balius, founding editor of Black Rider Press, as an example of a Good Editor, and during the panel’s Q & A debate, I also threw in a good word for Balius.
Kirk had forwarded me the Black Rider Press callout in July, and I emailed Balius, wanting to get a better understanding of the project’s vibe. What followed was a flurry of emails; Balius was courteous and enthusiastic, and his friendliness won him a submission from me, called ‘The Beast’*.
During the editing process, he sent me his edits and I accepted all but a few, explaining my choice. I had liked the rhythm of a particular sentence, and thought one of his other suggestions had introduced some ambiguity. Balius then wrote back, stating why he had made his edits, but graciously accepted my decisions. His faith in my work made me a little less precious about my words and later on, during the lead-up to publication, he kept me updated on The Diamond & The Thief’s happenings.
In other words, Jeremy Balius is win, and as President of the Jeremy Balius Fanclub, I, Thuy Linh Nguyen, motion for the production of ‘I HEART JEREMY BALIUS’ T-shirts.
KIRK: Hey Thuy Linh! It’s become immediately apparent that I owe Jeremy some long-deemed web-facilitated aggrandisement for his capacity as both a mentor and a svengali, so it’s only sensible in this forum of editorial adulation that I weigh in on the degree to which he’s improved my work.
So I first exchanged electronic words of a happy and high-falutin’ stripe with Jeremy when he contributed a creative work that will be showcased towards late December in the forthcoming inaugural issue of Red Leaves / 紅葉, the English-language / Japanese bi-lingual literary journal that I edit. In the context of the 100 creative submissions that my callout generated for this formative anthology, I’m obligated to claim that Jeremy’s satirical contribution of short fiction easily constituted the funniest submission, and that which – besides the material I secured by commission and solicitation – most closely dovetailed with the curatorial ambitions I possessed for the journal to showcase. For me, Red Leaves / 紅葉 is all about embracing literary work which strives to foster an ‘international flavour’ whilst simultaneously capturing what it means to subvert pre-established narrative convention, which is why – when Jeremy approached me to write for Black Rider Press – I was sidewinded by the thrill to furnish him with something equal to the melancholy and eccentric story that I’d originally secured from Jeremy. In the end, I willed myself to stop vacillating over choice (I possess an occasionally untraversable backlog of short fiction from a period of eight years grappling with the form, which means it’s never an effortless task trying to discern what I should send, and where), and I purveyed my micro-fiction ‘Hangin’ with Barack Obama’** Jeremy’s way, for the first issue of Black Rider’s The Diamond & The Thief online minizine.
The thing with ‘Hangin’ With Barack Obama’ which Jeremy swiftly surmised – and that I at first resolved not to recognise due to unnecessary authorial preciousness – but which I soon couldn’t deny, was that the story ended on an excessively egalitarian, uncomplicated and collegiate note: the characters had neither endured conflict nor miscommunication, which meant the story’s causal arc remained as lacking in a foreseeable contour as a frozen snake. What Jeremy offered me was a solution of near genius sophistication, and it was beyond any editorial injunction I personally could have recognised because its simplicity was so lateral: He showed me what would happen if I directly swapped the story’s last two paragraphs around, and the underlying effect on the narrative preceding it was profound. Suddenly, the protagonists in the piece were problematised: the friendship between them seemed manufactured, almost fallacious, because the micro-fiction ended on a sentiment of resentment. This inverted all that had preceded it, and it demanded of readers that they review what they had previously understood of the story, ensuring that the work capitalised on demystifying the idea that all was transparent in the way the two characters interacted. Jeremy convinced me of this by making a comparison to the fractious dynamic between individuals in Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, which was perhaps unfairly advantageous in this circumstance, because it still prevails as one of my favourite novels. Basically, the guy knew how to improve my work without compromising its original meaning nor eroding the significance of my personal authorial inclinations; he enriched what was on the page, without imposing his suggestions, and I’ve rarely enjoyed such a rewarding editorial exchange.
This is why I, too, will wear the ‘I HEART JEREMY BALIUS’ T-shirt with a subtle fanaticism, and I’ll find myself able to sleep like the salmon in warm, shallow spring waters after the winter thaw, knowing that for every loathsome workshopping experience, there’s an editor out there who promises to perfect that most arcane art, the Jeremy Balius method. Mihalo!
*To read ‘The Beast’, check out Issue Two of The Diamond and the Thief online minizine.
**To read ‘Hangin’ with Barack Obama’, check out Issue One of The Diamond and the Thief online minizine.
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:
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
After attempting to write a couple of race parody vignettes, I had been looking forward to the ‘You are So Lacist’ panel, and initially, the session touched on the topic, with talk on how racial parody can reiterate what it seeks to deconstruct (Tom Cho), how ‘whiteness is ignored by non-whites’ (Bhakthi Puvanethiran), and how art is like a rorschach inkblot (Tom Doig). But then the audience hijacked the panel* and flew it towards those twin towers of Indigenous Issues and White Guilt and the room was on fire, people started to shout, and I stopped listening—
The ‘Sweet Staple High: The New Class’ panel defined what an Established Journal was. Meanjin, Heat, Overland, Southerly, Westerly, and Island are examples of Established Journals. They have stuck around for years, have greater resources and circulation numbers, maintain a steady subscription base and a staple of writers. Some might be described as ‘set in their ways’ or failing to ‘diversify their content’.
The newer journals, on the other hand, have less money, smaller circulation, and do not usually have a subscription base. Therefore, they are more fluid/inconsistent, and are more willing to take risks with unknown writers/artists. Christopher Currie (facilitator), Kirk Marshall, Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, Sean Wilson, Angela Meyer, and David Edgley read a sample of newer literary journals and voiced their thoughts:
- A beautifully designed publication.
- Good non-fiction. (Bhakthi)
- But is it more of the same? (David)
- Ridiculously over-designed. (Kirk)
- Fairly consistent but sometimes it makes odd choices i.e. quirky twister game juxtaposed with serious non-fiction.
- Good non-fiction. (Bhakthi)
- Has vision.
- A ‘treasure trove’. (Angela)
- In terms of style, The Brow is much more punchy.
- More able to reach a wider audience as it incorporates other material.
- A curiosity.
- Nifty pocket size. (Kirk)
- Something that I would want other people to see on my shelf (Bhakthi).
- ‘Very specific group and type of writers’. (Angela)
- A lot of stories are pretty similar; it can become a little bland. (Kirk)
- Fiction only.
- Another Me Too McSweeney’s?
- Alienates readers with its design. (Bhakthi)
- From a contributor’s perspective: poor editorial feedback/communication. Cutwater seems to take its contributors for granted. (Kirk and Angela)
Since many of the newer journals are Melbourne-based, the audience expressed some concern. Is there a Melbourne clique, and does it influence the content of Melbourne journals? Angela Meyer denied this. Friendless when she first moved down to Melbourne, she has managed to acquaint herself with many of the region’s publishing industry. And her work has been rejected by editor friends several times**.
Naturally, networking helps. After meeting you, editors might be more inclined to read your published work and solicit submissions, but their priority is to produce a quality journal. Or at least, that’s my theory. Feel free to rip into it.
*Wah, if I rearrange the letters, I get ‘plane’.
**And I can attest to this. Editor of The Lifted Brow and Meyerphile, Ronnie Scott, has rejected her work several times. TLB6 will be the first time her work has been published with The Brow.
Upcoming NYWF shennanigans: ‘Crimes Against the Industry’, ‘Distro How-to’, and ‘The Great Gatsby Ball’.
Here’s some freshly brewed writing for you: Black Rider Press has just launched its first issue of The Diamond and The Thief, a monthly minizine with just a thimbleful of poetry and surreal prose to wake you up on a Friday morning. This issue’s beans come from Graham Nunn, Robert Lort, Marcus Roloff, Kirk Marshall, and Eric Dando.
Here’s a taster from Eric Dando’s story ‘Tiny Little Pirates’:
He has made all these sailing ships out of matchsticks, hung them in the windows. He likes the look on my face. I tell him that I think his little boats are amazing and he glows and swells there for a moment on his brown Celtic linoleum. He is fingering the keys, swinging the little golden lion badge on its chain. ‘They really float.’ He says, ‘I’ve tested them. Down Wanambool, ever get down to Wanambool? Know a beaut little place down there. A beaut little place.’
The next issue shall feature my story about druggies, Toobs, and a grumpy-pants Beast; I’ll post the link as soon as it’s up.