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

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March 1: Debut Mondays

There’s something imposing about the Wheeler Centre’s set up for Debut Mondays. Big stage, giant lights and scaffolding, minimalist coffee table crowded with a jug and glasses of water, and rows upon rows of chairs. Most of the rows filled up and the writers were herded up on stage for the slaugh…er…reading.

I had seen Andrew Croome read before, in the bowels of the Empress, but I hadn’t been able to concentrate there with the eating and the drinking; it was much easier to conjure Canberra suburbia  in the hush of the Wheeler Centre. I finally got to listen to a passage from Lisa Dempster’s Neon Pilgrim, and was introduced to LK Holt’s fantastical verse. Tom Cho, on the other hand, is comfortingly familiar like a favourite film with his AIYO!!! An Evil Group of Ninjas is Entering and Destroying a Call Centre!!! He also read Counting Rhyme, which translates well as spoken word, and a section from Look Who’s Morphing.

After the readings, wine was consumed, conversation was made. We relocated to Section 8 after getting kicked out of the Wheeler Centre (boo!) and Lisa had her first drink(s) after a month of sobriety (yay!).

Debut Mondays runs fortnightly at the Wheeler Centre. Check out www.wheelercentre.com for more details.

March 1: What’s happening, Melbourne?

I told somebody I was Tom Cho-ing the other day; they laughed and said Tom would be pleased to find out that he’s now a verb. (Tom Cho-ing – v. 1. going out to see Tom Cho at the Wheeler Centre on 1 March 2010 for Debut Mondays.) Other writers who might also be turned into verbs today will be Lisa Dempster, Andrew Croome, and LK Holt.

Read You Bastards is getting Lifted this Wednesday at the Empress. (Lifted – adj. 1. Lifted Brow-ified and therefore awesome.) Guest readers will be contributors from The Lifted Brow’s Atlas issue, including Nicolas Low, Angela Meyer, and Lorelei Vashti. No Atlases on sale this Wednesday (sold out), but there’ll probably be some back issues available at the door or you can preorder an Atlas reprint at www.theliftedbrow.com. I will also attempt to encourage/bully open mic newbie Christine Priestly into doing another reading.

Sketch is launching their second issue on Thursday night at Chaise Lounge. After hearing them talk about their lack of (wo)manpower at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, I volunteered to help proofread their second issue. I haven’t seen the final proofs yet, but hopefully Sketch 2 will be good. There’s this amazing story by new writer Clare Kitada in it and I’m looking forward to seeing it in print.

Friday will be Domestic Rock ‘n’ Roll night for Sospeso Readings. Derek Motion and Nathan Curnow will be performing, along with a whole lot of open mic peeps. I won’t be able to make it because OHMIDOG I AM SEEING RICHARD DAWKINS, but I really really liked the last Sospeso and I think you should like totally go to this one, like yeah.

Signing off for now, lots of photos soon,

TL.

Review: Verandah 24

It’s weird reading the subsequent issue of something you’ve been published in.Your issue was a darling, perfect child: you loved its aesthetic, the words that were yours, the words that weren’t yours…And then, a year later, you are sitting at your desk, looking down at this upstart publication that has nudged your pet issue off Readings’ shelves, and you’re feeling disgruntled. Verandah 24, eh? What’s with the squarish pages? The pixelated cover?

Okay, so I am a little bit biased. Verandah 23 was my first reading. It’s special. But Verandah 24 is still a decent publication. Opening with a story rife with sexual confusion and teen-angst, it showcases poetry, literary and genre fiction, and art. Like most anthologies, some of the work wasn’t to my taste, but I did like Deb Wain’s ‘Morning Stranger’ and Adam Tucker’s ‘The Boy, His Mother, the Father, and a Dog’. Both stories were suggestive, alluding to backstage events: the disappearance of a girl, the death of a dog. I also enjoyed the lean feel of ‘First Date’ by Jacinta Butterworth, the exaggerated ‘bureaucration’  of ‘In Paper Hallways’ by Rhett Davis, and the Rhys Tate’s compact yet fleshed out ‘Something We Have Lost’. Slotted in between the stories are poems and artwork: my favourite was Erica Hurrell’s photo with its cheeky title and vibrant colours.

Apart from an interview with Tom Cho and a microscopic interview with Ross Hunter (why interview only one prize-winning contributor?) Verandah 24 stays clear of non-fiction. Like the artwork and poetry, the interviews helped break up the fiction monopoly but I would have liked to see an opinion piece or maybe a script thrown into the mix. It’s a bit much to ask, since the journal is entirely made up of unsolicited submissions, but something that future contributors might consider taking advantage of.

Verandah 24 is available at Readings and DUSA bookshops or can be purchased from its website.

Review: Peril Edition Eight

I’ve finally sat down and read ‘Why are people so unkind?’, Peril’s latest issue. For those of you who haven’t heard of the journal, Peril is an Asian Australian online journal on arts and culture run by the likes of Hoa Pham, Lian Low, and Tom Cho. It’s a bit patchy at times with editors choosing pieces that reflect the Asian-Australian experience over more polished prose. With the eighth issue, however, it seems that they’re finally finding a balance between the two. ‘Teh Halia’, a prose piece about an Indian daughter’s regret over cups of her father’s ginger tea, is touching and carefully observed, moving beyond ethnic literature into something more universal.

The non-fiction was particularly strong in this issue with many pieces focusing on gender identity: Owen Leong interviews two Japanese artists who both explore gender in differing ways, while Lian Low speaks to The Ladies of Colour Agency about sexuality, whiteness in political movements, and genderfucking. Benjamin Law’s article on Asian-American conservative Michelle Malkin is perversely entertaining:

…Malkin seems quite attractive. Even as a homosexual myself, I cannot take my eyes off her, partly because Malkin’s pretty, and partly because there’s some gland inside me that reacts to seeing an Asian—any Asian—with a broadcast media platform. It’s this same gland in me that’s triggered off whenever I see Penny Wong on The 7.30 Report, or old footage of John So cutting a ribbon in Melbourne, or watching Poh being interviewed on Masterchef.

There’s also a couple of opinion pieces on Indian-Australian relations from Amrita Dasvarma and Angela Dewan, discussing the ubiquitous exploitation of overseas students, and the pressure to assimilate as a migrant, as well as an interview with Kamal.

It’s hard to choose a favourite from such a strong collection, but Lily Chan’s poem resonated with me the most: ‘in my head i was scout finch / elizabeth bennet / nancy drew / stepped back, startled / from my own reflection’. In a few lines, Chan encapsulates an Asian-Australian girl’s experience: feeling white, being attracted to white boys, experiencing ambivalence to Pauline Hanson and guilt for having it ‘good’ compared to her brother. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

Peril’s next endeavour will be about ‘creatures’, and I’m curious to see how this theme will be interpreted in an Asian-Australian context. For those of you who feel like submitting to Issue Nine, check out the journal’s submission page, here.

Faking ‘Fresh off the boat’

FOB. Fresh off the boat. The worst kind of insult you can give an ABC (Australian Born Chinese) or any other ethnic minority equivalent. For Caffe Sospeso’s Racism poetry readings, I tried on a fobby Vietnamese accent, hoping to parody my own ethnicity; nobody laughed: they were either too polite or my attempts were really bad.

Tom Cho (via), on the other hand, does an awesome Singlish/Chinese Malaysian accent for ‘Aiyo!!! An Evil Group of Ninjas is Enterting and Destroying a Call Centre!!!’

The story itself is a colourful read with its ‘lah’ and ‘alamak’  and extra exclamation marks, and I’ve always wanted to do a Vietnamese equivalent, so I’ve been reading over essays written by Vietnamese Deakin students, trying to get a feel on how Vinglish works. One kid has this penchant for leaving out ‘the’ in some sentences, overcompensating in others. He also avoids using apostrophes or turning nouns into adjectives, preferring to use ‘of’ instead. I don’t blame him, apostrophes are more often abused than used correctly. (DVD’s from JB-HiFi, anyone?) My favourite sentence of his illustrates both of these quirks as well as the incorrect use of tenses: ‘The problem of corruption cannot solve in the short time, but the solution can affect in long time.’

Here’s a more substantial chunk of Vinglish from binhthuan.gov.vn:

A clod morning, from the Nguyen Tat Thanh avenue taking a look on the city center’s direction, one has the impression that huge changes have taken in a short time. To the people who live every day with and for Phan Thiet it is a surprise. The changes of their beloved homeland, to me, a native coming from far it is much more. Chatting with me, most people confirmed that the city had made achievements that were expected to be done in 5, 10 or more years. I remember when the city decided to carry out the Phan Thiet socio-economic development plan for the 1996 – 2010 period, a lot of people were worried and doubtful. Now what seemingly impossible became possible just in the first 6 months of 2002: the liberation of land for the Phan Thiet industrial zone has been successfully done. It was just one among thousand jobs the city finished. It was a proof of the determination and unanimity of the leaders and people of Phan Thiet, more vivid than whatever figures and nice words.

There’s some wonderful phrases here: ‘the liberation of the land’, ‘more vivid than whatever figures and nice words’, and ‘native’. It makes me realise how expressions often fail to translate from one language to another, and how difficult it is to actually create Vinglish. Not only does one have to mimic the grammatical idiosyncrasies, but one also has to think in Vietnamese, using a dictionary to churn out the supposed English equivalent. (Or chuck a whole heap of text into Babel Fish and see what one ends up with.)

Nevertheless, it seems like a fun exercise. I’m going to collect a couple more examples of Vinglish over the next couple of months, and get back to you on that story idea. Meanwhile, you can be a fob too*. Try saying, ‘Hai, mai name y <insert name here>. Sauree, I am unavailable. Plee lea a message after the tone…’ It’s fun.

*This only works if you’re Viet. Otherwise, you’re just being plain racist.

So what’s happening, Melbourne? Racism apparently

According to Spambook, Peril’s Issue Eight will be launching Thursday, 3 December, at the Sidney Myer Asia Centre. I’ll be stuck at an end of year work function, missing out on the likes of Tom Cho, Ladies of Colour Agency, Maxine Clarke, Angela Costi, and Diana Nguyen. I really want to meet Diana after reading her Growing Up Asian in Australia piece, ‘Five Ways to Disappoint Your Vietnamese Mother’, and I enjoy Maxine Clarke’s performances; I’m kinda bummed that I can’t make it. Somebody should go on my behalf and tell me about it (or, even better, record and post stuff up on YouTube).

My one consolation is that I’ll be MC-ing December’s Caffe Sospeso gig on Friday, 4 December. Racism will be the night’s theme, and there will be performances from Maxine Clarke, Lian Low, and Raina Peterson. It will be like totally PC and high brow: I’ll be putting on my best  ‘Sittingvale’ accent and my new ao dai. Come along and laugh and then feel awful about it. Things start happening around sevenish. 

 

Poetry Fridays: Racism with Maxine Clarke, Lian Low, and Raina Peterson

 

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 Two

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:

Stop, Drop, and Roll

  •  A beautifully designed publication.
  • Good non-fiction. (Bhakthi)
  • But is it more of the same? (David)

Harvest

  • 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)

The Lifted Brow

  • Has vision.
  • A ‘treasure trove’. (Angela)
  • In terms of style, The Brow is much more punchy.

Ampersand

  • 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).

Torpedo

  • ‘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?

Cutwater

  • 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.

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Upcoming NYWF shennanigans: ‘Crimes Against the Industry’, ‘Distro How-to’, and ‘The Great Gatsby Ball’.

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.