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.

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.

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 Diamond and The Thief

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.