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.

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.

NYWF 2010 Wishlist

Dear TINA,

For this year’s NYWF, I would like a spelling bee with words in it like phenolphthalein, scissile, dhoop, and bivouac.

I would also like free wifi at Festival Club. Internet cafes are expensive in Newcastle; some of us bloggers can’t afford to blog every day while we’re at TINA.

An electronic graffiti installation would be neat too. NYWF punters can scrawl words and diagrams onto tablet PCs and have it projected onto a wall. It would be just like Perth’s Street Art project. Or, if electronic graffiti is a no go, at least can we have a tweet screen similar to Eat Drink Blog 2010’s?

Finally, I would like a ‘Money is not a dirty word’ panel with Lisa Dempster, Tom Cho, and Chris Flynn discussing money, an important but often neglected part of independent publishing and early writing careers. Lisa would talk about freelancing and making money via web publishing (as per her articles in The Reader and Unwakeable), Tom would talk about the grant application process, and Chris would talk about his experience running various journals. It’s something I haven’t seen before, and TINA, if you make this happen, you’d make me so happy, and I’ll promise to be the most enthusiastic festival punter ever.

Yours Sincerely,

Thuy Linh

Guest review: Sam Cooney on Cutwater Literary Anthology Issue 1

Them at Cutwater do things different.

Cutwater Literary Journal was published and launched earlier this year, some time around July. Since then it has garnered glowing praise:

It was interesting to note this sense of internationalism in the new journal Cutwater, which made its debut this year; while its stories tended more toward the realist, they also seemed to carry a looser, more playful energy with them that one tends to associate with some of the younger generation of US writers, like Dave Eggers. (Delia Falconer in her introduction to Best Australian Stories 2009)

as well as coming under fire from certain parties (such as during one National Young Writers’ Festival panel). And still it hangs around, in the wider literary consciousness, in spite of everything. Perhaps it is this mixture of positive and negative opinions—so often books that are either overly extolled or emphatically panned quickly disappear. A friend of mine bemoans the fact that most novels have a shorter shelf life than yoghurt (he may or may not be the same person who revealed to me the authors’ trick of visiting bookstores that carry his novels and secretly signing every copy, so that the said bookstores cannot send back unsold copies to the publisher. He said he’d rather have his novels sell for two dollars in a bargain bin than be returned, pages unopened). So why has Cutwater refused to go away?

The first and most obvious answer is that Cutwater is remarkably and wonderfully different. Not so atypical as to be unrecognisable as a lit journal, but enough to be a refreshing slap to the face. I have to reiterate this: Cutwater is good.

I picked up my copy from Collected Works Bookshop in Melbourne. I asked owner/operator/proprietor/poet/& lit legend Kris Hemensley while purchasing Cutwater if he had read one of the few randomly shelved copies of the new journal. He hadn’t, but remarked that everyone who had eventually came back with some sort of compliment. He then went on to say that this was something unusual, considering that Cutwater is from not-Melbourne. I have to agree. Hailing from the coast somewhere above Sydney (some say Newcastle, others Toukley), Cutwater is wholly Australian in its scope. As the editors mention in their foreword, writers from every state and territory except Tasmania are included.

But this is not simply an equal opportunity publication with a focus on geographical spread. No, no. Within the 190-odd pages are some of today’s, and I mean right-now’s best writers. Like who? Names like Swinn, Lemon, Krien, Wright (Tim & Fiona), Caward, Curnow and Sometimes—names that any journal in Australia would and do publish. I imagine the editors of these more established journals would cut off their left hands to have all of these writers in just the one issue.

Like I’ve said already, you would be hard pressed to find any holes in the quality of this issue. So I won’t, either. Instead, a couple of highlights. The decision to print two Clinton Caward stories back-to-back? Brilliant. This guy, who I’d never heard of (my fault entirely, because he has been published elsewhere), this guy can write. I’m talking gritty, gravelly, spit-in-your face fiction. And it works. Caward’s stories are contemporary in both setting and focus (suicide bombings, the freshest and newest racisms) and are obviously the work of an industrious and naturally talented writer. But not only does he have these two first-rate stories that I would call Australian dirty realism, but we are also treated to a four-page interview with Caward. This is where the writer outlines his reasons for and his process of writing, and his answers are simple, rewarding reading:

Once you have a destination you’re writing towards, and you know where you’re going, well, I think in one sense the writing is over from the minute you know. After that it’s just the smoke and mirrors to make the journey or progression appear plausible and seamless. Quite often I don’t know what I want to write about until I’ve written it down. Then, I have this strange experience of recognition where I realise I’ve been thinking about what I’ve written for quite some time without really being aware I’ve been thinking about it, as if I’ve suddenly remembered a recurring dream.

Rebecca Giggs was the other highlight for mine. Her creative non-fiction ramble Actual Air and Fictitious Water: On some continuities of keepsakes, dead fish and the poetry of David Berman, replete with footnotes and wide-ranging references, is the last piece in Cutwater. It is both touching and distant; Giggs’ descriptions of the lake in her favoured park are inspired (often by the resident koi named Einstein), and her ruminations on Berman, lovers, thesis writing and localised nature are witty and winsome, without ever encroaching on pomposity or chutzpah. Because I have no word or space limit, here is an excerpt from Giggs’ piece that may not show her at her most affecting or at her cleverest, but I still found my pen circling it once, twice, and again:

I took my laptop over to the park during the day to work on my thesis. Landscape. That compulsion of all Australian writers, tongued raw like a scald on the roof of my mouth. White’s Voss. Chatwin’s The Songlines. Stowe’s Tourmaline. The poems of Les Murray. Here in Perth we have the International Centre for Landscape and Language, as if words only actually exist on the ground, the possessions of topography.

My hands hovered motionless over the keyboard, the alphabet a hotplate set to burn off my fingerprints. All inspiration melted in the smithy of landscape; another writer lost in the work of the desert and defined by geography. Winton and Drewe held the beaches. When (or if) I became an adult author I anxiously reasoned, this was the work that the critics would dig up to define my “early career-stage preoccupations”. I thought of David Foster Wallace’s daunting thesis Fatalism and the Semantics of Physical Modality. I thought of the first novels of Jonathan Safran Foer and Aleksandar Hemon. And I stared uselessly into the lake.

Now, there is no doubt that Cutwater isn’t perfect, although what is between the pages is damn near close. From reports, the editors in Dan Collins and Sam Tywford-Moore could be taught some lessons in both communication and forward planning. And many people will despise the David Foster Wallace-style introduction—I laboured through it the first time, especially the short story part of it, but enjoyed it more every time I went back. It also must be acknowledged that Cutwater was financed by a Write In Your Face grant from the Australian Council, and was originally supposed to be a Black Inc-style ‘Best Australian Young Writers’ publication. Maybe not trickery, but not the typical methodology, either.

But again, I’m going to grate some people’s nerves by claiming that it is these different approaches, this refusal (conscious or not) to tow the lit journal line that makes Cutwater so much more interesting and layered. Argue with me, please, because I have thought about this a lot and believe it. Cutwater is willing to be the black sheep, and at least for this first issue, it has worked. They don’t treat writers like they are gods on earth, they don’t write the standard polite foreword drivel, they don’t publish on name but on merit. Some of these are shared by other newish journals who some say herald a new internationalism and approach—publications like Torpedo and The Lifted Brow, who are winning plaudits for their different tacks.

Ultimately, Cutwater is simply a superb read. Sam Twyford-Moore and Dan Collins must be congratulated. The two of them have brainstormed, worked their arses off, infuriated and upset some people, but as they say in their introduction, ‘all decisions were our own’. We can only hope they choose to put as much effort into their next project, whether it be issue two or something else. Whatever it is, hopefully it will be cutwater-like (the forward part of a ship, dividing anything that gets in its path) and Cutwater-like (challenging, memorable Australian writing). 

________________________

Sam Cooney is a writer living in Melbourne. He recently completed a BA (Professional & Creative Writing) with a second major in Literature. He writes fiction, non-fiction, articles and reviews, and is the Books & Literature columnist at Voiceworks magazine. You can find him in all the usual places on the internet, or in Berlin next year.

To find out more about Cutwater, visit their website here.

The Jeremy Balius Fanclub

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.

Jeremy Balius Fanclub Vice President and founding editor of Red Leaves / 紅葉, Kirk Marshall, seconds this and has penned a gratisfactory speech to rouse the party faithful. Over to you, Kirk. 

 

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!

 

'I HEART JEREMY BALIUS' designed @ foghorn.com.au

'I HEART JEREMY BALIUS' designed @ foghorn.com.au

*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.

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.

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

NYWF 2009: Day Three

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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’.
  3. 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.

For more on interning, check out Estelle Tang’s ‘Hello Intern’ interviews. For laughs, check out The Intern (thank you Angela Slatter).

NYWF 2009: Day One

Note to self: do not book flights earlier than 9am. I had to wake up at 5am yesterday; it was still dark. Somehow, I hauled my arse to Tullamarine airport in time for the flight (thank you boyfriend), and found myself on a plane full of writers who were also hating their flight schedules.

Things were on the up, however, once I reached Newcastle. Tom Cho sat next to me on the bus into town and we compared our similar/dissimilar upbringings. I discovered that his mother was racist towards her own kind and, consequently, Tom never had to go to Chinese school. Hopefully, he’ll divulge more about inward racism at today’s panel ‘You are So Lacist’.

After finding a couple of clip-on earrings at the Hunter Street Salvos and a black velvet gown for The Great Gatsby Ball, I headed down to the ‘Well It’s Technically Not About You’ panel with Caro Cooper (facilitator), Benjamin Law, Sally Breen, Krissy Kneen, and Michaela McGuire. Though the panellists had all written about ‘real people’, the diversity of the panel allowed for lengthy discussion on the subject.

Benjamin Law often depicts his family in his non-fiction. He believes that intent helps cushion the collateral in such writing; his work is a love letter to his family, and they accept it with such in mind. To avoid alienating them, he also lets them read (and criticise) his drafts. Usually, his family glosses over the big stuff, picking at only minor details.

Krissy Kneen shared a disheartening experience—Krissy had been writing about a recent crush when he became upset over the drafts she posted online at furiousvaginas. She had gained his consent, only to realise that he was not emotionally mature enough to deal with the material. Upset that he was upset, Krissy decided to replace him with a different character in her narrative.

Michaela McGuire’s Apply Within: Stories of Career Sabotage wasn’t about friends or lovers or family, but sketched people she hoped never to hear from again. During the panel, her focus was on defamation. How to write without getting sued? Insinuate, insinuate, insinuate! (And get lots of legal advice.)

Sally Breen’s memoir was about her father, and against her family’s wishes, she had depicted him with ‘warts and all’. Unlike Krissy and Benjamin, her stance was much more ruthless. Writing should push boundaries. You should fear what you write. And don’t gloss over.

The panellists also spoke about the importance of time (the distance it gives), a writer’s own imperfect (or ‘sloppy’ as per Benjamin Law) recollection, and the importance of not using names (use only first names or, even better, change the name completely). They also listd a couple of writers to read: David Sedaris, Helen Garner (The First Stone), and Colette. Overall: an awesome session.

Afterwards, I hung out with the Melbourne/Brisbane crowd (photos coming soon) and sketched nude people for the Midnight meat (no photos, sorry). With an emphasis on absence rather than presence, I found sketching more taxing than writing. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep plus dehydration/alcohol/giant copulating giraffe sculpture—

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Today’s NYWF itinery: ‘You are So Lacist’, ‘Sweet Staple High’, ‘The Burning Brow Luau’, and many more.