Another magazine to add to my pile

The Griffith Review’s annual fiction issue is out today, sporting a cover illustration done by Poh Ling Yeow from Masterchef and Poh’s Kitchen. I currently have an aspirational crush on Poh; she cooks like a good Asian daughter-in-law*. Anyway, the Readings launch is today, so I’ll be heading down to Carlton for my copy.

*Questions: did anyone see the 20/10/10 episode with Andre Ursini? Are Poh and Ursini usually that flirty?

TINA Tales 2010 (Part One)

Once upon a time (last Thursday), there was a toy sword that was going to be a prop for my American Gothic Ball costume. It was cheap and nasty but I loved it very much. One day, it got confiscated at the airport. The grizzly airport security took one look at it, and they said: ‘This sword is too real looking. This sword is too big looking. This sword is not right.’ So they confiscated it, and checked me for explosives.

The moral of this story: five-foot Asian women who carry around toy ninja swords are potential terrorists.

But back to more important things like the TINA 2010 program. My first TINA 2010 event was not ‘How to make bombs’, because you can learn that from MacGuyver, but ‘Ethical Magazine Making’. Cameron Pegg moderated a roundtable that consisted of Lin Tao (Trespass), Andre Dao (Right Now), Lian Lowe and Hoa Pham (Peril) and Elizabeth Redman and Duncan Felton (Voiceworks).

In regards to advertising, Andre Dao spoke about his wariness of being used. Starbucks had approached his human rights magazine with a large sum of money, wanting to become a sponsor. It probably wanted to improve its corporate social responsibility profile, but the magazine reluctantly rejected the offer due to Starbuck’s suspect practices.

Lin Tao and Cameron Pegg noted that a lot of companies expect advertorial as well as advertising space. Hoa Pham wondered about her magazine’s future. Once grant money runs out, will Peril have to align itself with a university? And how would that influence the magazine’s direction?

The ethics of blind submissions was then raised by Pegg. Voiceworks, Peril, and audience members discussed the pros and cons of each. Yup, the blind submission process seems fair, but sometimes context is needed to ethically accept or reject a piece of work.

Discussion then moved to the payment of contributors. Voiceworks was willing and able, but Right Now didn’t have enough money to pay all of its contributors. Andre Dao posed the question, ‘Do we pay the high court judge or the student?’

While Right Now had taken an egalitarian approach, Peril was still using the Meanjin system of payment. Poets were getting paid less by the magazine and Laura Smith, poet and audience member, took issue with this.

Brief mention was given to environmental ethics. With the improvement in quality and affordability of environmental stock, Pegg declared that there was no reason why magazines couldn’t choose to be environmentally friendly. Concerns about sustainability were one of many reasons why journals were ditching paper for the internet.

In summary, advertising is still The Big Issue, but magazine makers should also be addressing a broad range of ethical concerns.

‘Ethical Magazine Making’ finished with plenty of time to spare for me to get to the ‘Op Shop Tour of Newie’. After handing out ‘Op Shop Hop’ badges and hand-drawn maps, Vanessa Berry took us on the bus out to Islington where we hurriedly ransacked seven op shops. Prices are generally better than Melbourne: I saw many good quality religious prints going for cheap, and thirty-buck retro couches. I picked up some old placemats for $2, and 1950s coloured glassware for $6. 🙂

On the way back, our group chatted with the blue rinse set. One lady suggested that we should go to Gardenvale, land of many chain stores, and a trio appraised our hipster outfits and hats.

Back at the Town Hall, Van Badham, Zora Sanders, Alexandra Neill, and ‘Adam’ were debating whether free-to-air television was for old people or idiots; it seemed that everyone was arguing for the negative side. After the ‘snarky’ arguments were made, the real discussion began. Alexandra Neill brought up the morally superior ethic of watching free-to-air. How can we expect to continue watching good shows if we don’t support them by adding to the ratings? Van Badham talked about the worldwide tweet phenomenon that is ‘Q&A’, which has taken the old lounge room discussion online and abroad. All were of the belief that new media would not kill the TV star.

We grabbed dinner at Lan’s, a Darby Street Vietnamese eatery stuck in the eighties. It shared many of the dishes my mother used to make at her Saigon Restaurant in Melbourne: carmeralised pork, stuffed chicken wing, lemongrass pork/chicken, ginger chicken, and chicken and corn soup. There was a distinct lack of fish sauce, and aromatic herbs, replaced by strange additions of celery and pineapple in my prawn and pork coleslaw. Lan’s is a great example of showing how Melbournian taste has developed over the years in regards to Vietnamese cuisine.

Final event for Day Two of TINA 2010 was ‘Our Well Hung Parliament’, a quiet affair at Renew Newcastle. Many rambled on thoughts, political ephiphanies, and allegiences, myself included, including Randall Stephens who described the immediate effect of K Rudd’s apology on a group of Aboriginal school children.

For Day Three, I’ll be attempting limericks and traipsing down Georgian-frontaged Tyrrell Steet in my Lizzie Bennet gown. I’ll try to blog you and not cheat with Twitter. Brb gf/bf.

Magazine @ MWF 2010

The good chaps from MWF 2010 have refurbished a shipping container on the river terrace near Fed Square for the purpose of showcasing local literary magazines. It’s a great idea, and the refurbishment is reminiscent of TINA ’09’s Masons club, but a shipping container is not the easiest thing to find, so turnouts to these showcases have been small so far.

But small and intimate can be a good thing; The Lifted Brow felt very much like a family event. The editor(s), intern(s), contributors, readers knew or at least had heard of each other, and there was a bit of conversation between those on stage and audience members.

Half of the literary magazines have already had their turn in the shipping container, but Meanjin, Ampersand, harvest, and The Big Issue will be running fifteen-minute bursts of readings, interviews, and entertainment next Saturday and Sunday, so do drop by for a sticky beak in between other MWF events. For more info on dates and times, check out MWF’s Magazine page.

Meanwhile, here’s some snapshots from yesterday morning’s Lifted Brow:

Review: Ampersand Magazine’s Issue Two (aka ‘Janus Faces’)

I picked up this pocket-sized magazine with its ‘Penguin novel gone wrong’ cover not knowing what to expect apart from ‘good’.

It was better than good: I actually enjoyed all of it, even things I usually fail at like visuals and poetry.

The illustrations peppered throughout the magazine range from outsider art to portraits from military hospital archives to tourist pics of the Mexican-American border. There are various time travel advertisements by Simon Greiner that are interspersed with real ads, nicely complementing the text ‘A Time Traveller’s Guide’.There’s also a particularly disturbing series of ‘found photos’ by Erik Kessels, following one woman over several decades. In each photo, she’s holding the same pose, eying her target while staring down the barrel of her gun.

Erik Kessels' 'In Almost Every Picture: Found photographs of Ria Van Dijk, 1936-2008', published in Ampersand's Issue Two (Autumn 2010)

In terms of words, Ampersand Magazine is mix of non-fiction and the nonsensical. Its non-fiction reflects on fascinating subjects such as interstellar messaging, facial surgery in the early twentieth century, the invention of inflatable costumes, and the Rapture. Sometimes, I felt like I was reading a collection of How Things Work for adults. Of particular note, I thought, was Lisa Pryor’s ‘Twin Cities At War’. Tightly written, Pryor’s reflections, comparing and contrasting Australia’s and America’s insularity and the illegal immigrant situation, overturned my ennui towards ‘travel narratives’: it’s a highlight in a selection of very strong non-fiction pieces. Have I mentioned the review by Christos Tsiolkas…?

Nonsensical pieces are printed in portrait rather than landscape format: some playful poetry, a eulogy written in the first person, and a violent Bollywood soap-opera. There’s also an ‘Adventure Story’ by Jazz Andrews that comes across as veering left of normal. Think penises imprinted into tubs of ice cream.

Throughout Ampersand, there are rewards for the observant reader. Briohny Doyle’s footnotes are not to be glossed over: ‘Check out the Left Behind series of post-Rapture Christian bestsellers by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ and ‘Mum was right! Apart from Hobart, Melbourne is the most irrelevant city on Earth!’

The Ampersand index is often poetic:

life,

as affirmed by points of cruelty, 133

as a train wreck 52

as conveyed through a biopic, 29

as degraded by forms of cruelty, 133

as improved by moving to a first world country, 40-1

as scarred forever by seeing a naked man smoking and holding a knife in the supermarket ice-cream section when you are a kid, 105

that grief makes a warren under it, 51

And I had a giggle when I spotted the note under Abhishek Chuadhary’s bio: ‘Ampersand received this unsolicited submission from Chaudhary and was thereafter unable to get in contact. *Ampersand is not officially outsourcing content* – Ed.’

Anyhow, I am now approaching the 500-word mark. This review is getting hairy. I always preferred short and sweet rather than long and unkempt, so it’s time to cut it.

Ampersand is like a compact Lifted Brow. There’s a wonderful miscellaneousness to it. There’s also a willingness to look beyond geographical borders; the writing isn’t limited to purely Australian concerns or the Australian literary scene, which is rare for a local journal. Three cheers to Ampersand. Or three f@$%s for free, whichever you prefer.

Live from Page Parlour…

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.

Review: [untitled] – Issue Two

When I ran out of fresh literary journals to munch on, A.S. Patric was kind enough to give me a review copy of [untitled]’s second issue. [untitled] is a new Melbourne literary journal headed by Blaise van Hecke and Les Zigomanis from Busybird Publishing & Design.

Issue Two and Issue One getting cosy

The cover is stylistically similar to the previous issue’s, again using work from Busybird’s inhouse illustrator, Kev Howlett. The cartoon figure reminds me of Principal Skinner for some reason, and I think this has coloured my expectations of the stories inside. For instance, I couldn’t switch into a serious enough mood to take in Bella Ellwood-Clayton’s earnestly penned relationship-dance, especially after reading the journal’s tongue-in-cheek editorial. And again, Camilla Nurka’s delicate rendering of white man’s guilt and Indigenous Dreaming in ‘The Beach House’ felt more Etchings than [untitled]. I would have preferred more light, humour, and suspense, and a little less shade.

Thankfully, the second half of the issue felt more [untitled] and less [insert random literary magazine here]. The stories did manage to ‘take you away in the reading, …engross you, maybe even make you forget the world around you…’ They had ‘no pretensions’ and were ‘not on a mission to enrich the literary community’; instead, Therese Mobayad’s ‘Blonde Appetit’ made me laugh, van Hecke’s ‘An Unfortunate Series of Redheads’ and Hilaire’s ‘Out of Kilter’ kept me entertained, while Lee D Gordon’s ‘Coffins’ punched in the gut.

So what’s my verdict on [untitled], the Second? A mixed bag of short stories and poetry that might read better out of order. There are some great pieces that don’t belong in this publication, and some great pieces that definitely do. This is something that will undoubtedly be rectified in future issues once the editors and contributors finish nutting out a distinct voice for the journal.

[untitled] is available at selected bookstores (Readings!) and on their website. For those who want sneak peek, Violet Kieu has posted her story ‘Chardonnay’ online.

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.

Guest Review: Christine Priestly on Etchings Dust Till Dawn

Usually I approach journals by letting the pages fall open, meandering to whatever tugs and pulls. After devouring Ilura Press’s Etchings 7: Chameleons this way, I set out to experience Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn in its entirety and in order, like listening to new LP. No skipping to the singles, but absorbing the shape, the flavour, letting the theme emerge—even if I had the urge to skip a track or two.

First I took in the equivalent of the album artwork: the journal’s overall look and feel. I was drawn to its size and shape, the appropriately varied type face, which accentuates without jarring. I was left thinking, I’d like my work to appear in something this sexy.

Next, the small print: who featured, and where are they from, are there any hidden tracks, emergers, nobodies like me, alongside seasoned writers, offering something edgy, raw even, a thing I savoured in Etchings 7? Dusk Till Dawn offered a surprising number of international contributors and a notable scarcity of unknowns.

Then the composition—was there a good balance of fiction, poetry, artwork and essays? Predominantly traditional fiction and poetry, interspersed with artwork and essays. Only a few experimental pieces made the cut, including Christopher Linforth’s essay (really a list): ‘Stalking Woody Allen: Your Guide in 54 Parts’ and Warwick Sprawson’s satirical and bitter insight into the rivalry between emerging writers, ‘_iH_ttocS_’ a piece layered with kooky formatting and typeface (check out p.133 – I nearly missed the bold letters A – R – S – E – H – O – L – E embedded across the page).

As to the theme, there was a refreshing scarcity of vampires and creatures of the night, but the selected pieces didn’t seem altogether cohesive—more like a best-of compilation than an album.

The tracks I would come back to:

  • Ben Goldsworthy’s peculiar narrative confession of unreliability and dishonesty, ‘Movements and Calculations’;
  • A.S. Patric’s ‘The Wife’ whose narrator has no identity and possibly no reality: ‘Was he mad before, or is he mad now? The thing is to go along with whatever the reality is. He has to work out what that is, and then stick to it.’ (p. 154);
  • William McCormick’s darkly haunting artwork, ‘Masks’;
  • Kate Murfett’s tantalising poem, ‘The Red Queen’;
  • Poet Benjamin Dodd’s slightly paranoid, ‘Remnant;’
  • Maria Pavlova’s sensual ‘The Touch’, translated from the Bulgarian, which captures the consuming intensity of love, lust and loss;
  • Anthony Kane Evans’ murder mystery ‘The Problem With Castles’;
  • Scathing rants like the aforementioned ‘_iH_ttocS_’ by Warwick Sprawson: ‘You use words like pellucid and roil and exculpate without the faintest awkwardness that comes from a lexicon source book… Your level of control throttles the life out of words, leaving pages littered with lines like mangled ants.’ (p. 132)
  • The cruel variation in interpretation and intention between a husband and wife, in Ashley Cowger’s ‘Interpretations of Aurora’;
  • Alysse Near’s ‘caustic’ (p. 188) ‘Venus in the Twelve House’;
  • An unfortunate misconception of beliefs and human responses in Georgina Luck’s ‘The Butterfly Shawl’; and
  • An exploration of genocide in Rwanda in Ryan O’Neill’s, ‘The Cockroach’.

Dusk Till Dawn offered variety in length, flavour and colour, a definite must-read, if not quite as can’t-put-down as its predecessor.

Copies of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn and its predecessors are available online from http://www.ilurapress.com, plus check out the ‘Submissions’ page for details on submitting to the upcoming issue, Etchings 10: The Feminine – La Femme.

________________________

Christine Priestly is currently studying for her Master of Arts in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction and knows you can never own too many pairs of stilettos or love enough cats.

Guest reportage: Eagerly awaiting Etchings 8 – Dusk till dawn

The launch of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn could have been straight out of a how-to manual. It had every element you’d expect:

  1. a sexed-up venue with indoor-outdoor schmoozing space
  2. bar snacks (very important)
  3. bar service (more important)
  4. eager interns (Eliza-Jane Henry Jones and Lana Rosenbaum) taking turns to act as MC
  5. the metaphoric breaking of the champagne by appropriate famous person (poet Anthony O’Sullivan)
  6. a taste of said launch product to activate salivation (A.S. Patric read from his story ‘The Wife’, Georgina Luck, from ‘Clutching the Butterfly Shawl’, Kate Murfett her award-winning poem ‘The Red Queen’, and twenty-year-old writing student from Deakin University, Allyse Near, from ‘Venus in the Twelfth House’)
  7. a plug-in by one or more field professionals (Professor Jennifer Radbourne, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University, celebrated the literary successes of Deakin’s past and present students)
  8. and most importantly, discounted launch product (I managed to score a copy of Etchings 8: Dusk Till Dawn and Etchings 7: Chameleons – which included drink cards – for not much more than the cost of an extra drink. Happy me).

Having said that, for an issue touted to be ‘dark and sinister’, which ‘delves into the obscure, goes undercover, seduces, spirals into obsession, journeys into other galaxies, and is haunted by the otherworldly and mysterious,’ I had been hopeful of a Tarantino tribute, or at the very least, volumes of vampiric verse.

Instead, with its fabulously floral-faced podium and 80s discothèque dance floor, I discovered a serious insufficiency of ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ décor. None of the guests even got into character or played dress-ups.

On the whole, a successful, if staid, evening.

Here’s hoping the issue itself provides what the launch lacked: some deliciously devious darkness.

-CP

My amateur photos (check out Ilura Press on Facebook for a more professional, less fuzzy and with fewer shots of the backs of peoples’ heads impression of the evening):

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Christine Priestly is currently studying for her Master of Arts in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She writes fiction and creative non-fiction and knows you can never own too many pairs of stilettos or love enough cats.

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…