Four More Sleeps

The Melbourne Writers Festival starts this Friday, and I’m getting excited. Despite having lived in Melbourne all of my life, I have never been to the Melbourne Writers Festival, which is really poor form, considering that people like Angela Meyer move to Melbourne to get closer to the literary scene. Yes, I walk around with a paper bag over my head. And no, please don’t steal my paper bag to vomit your disgust into it. 

I wanted to go last year, but had unwittingly double-booked myself. While everyone else was listening to Nam Le, I was falling off ski-lifts in New Zealand. This year, however, I have cleared August of snowboarding, errant pharmacy shifts, weddings, and engagements. Only an invasion of three-legged aliens is going to stop me from making it to MWF 2009.

Workshops are getting booked out, but I’ve managed to score a spot on Wells Tower’s Small Lever, Big Rock: Short Fiction & The Simple Machines of Emotion.

There’s also a couple of Big Ideas talks at the RMIT Capitol Theatre that look interesting: Life, the Universe, and Nothing; The Future of the Book; and Does the End Justify the Means?

At Melbourne Town Hall, on Friday 21 August, Freedom of Speech: Should There Be Limits? With Ian Buruma will debate Geert Wilders and the Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Toff in the Town is hosting some fun stuff. Spoken word artists such as Alicia Sometimes, and Emilie Zoey Baker will be performing a poetic tribute to Michael Jackson’s Thriller on Thursday night. while McSweeney’s (Futuristic) Antipodean Adventure will be happening Saturday night, 29 August. 

More performances are planned for the Festival Club. Wordplay’s scheduled for Sunday 23, with Geoff Lemon, and Nathan Curnow. Angela Meyer will be also doing her thing with SPUNC on Saturday 29.

Will I make it to any of the day events? Not likely, since I have to work (writers’ festivals = $$$$$). But Tom Cho will be discussing his book in Fable, Fantasy and the New Short Story. Brain Castro will be In Conversation on Sunday 23 August. McSweeney’sIsnotmagazine, and Torpedo will be fratenising with each other in Fly Like a Butterfly on Friday 28 August, while Krissy Kneen will talk on erotic writing with Linda Jaivin, and Nikki Gemmell in Put Your Hands All Over My Body. There is too much shit happening; I can’t deal with such excess (and neither can my credit card). Oh <insert alternative to God here>!

Thuy Linh Nguyen’s Ambitious MWF Itinery:
I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours…
Friday 21 August

Saturday 22 August

Sunday 23 August

Thursday 27 August

Saturday 29 August

  • McSweeney’s (Futuristic) Antipodean Adventure @ The Toff

Sunday 30 August



It looks like we’re having a launch-filled week, starting with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Wednesday (OMG), swiftly followed by Josephine Rowe’s How a Moth Becomes a Boat on Thursday (yay!), The Lifted Brow on Friday (YAY!), and Gendermash, which is also happening on Friday (bummer).

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince hits Australian cinemas this Wednesday. With reviews trickling in from the US, Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a promising 96% on the Tomatometer, which much gladdens the heart. The trailer’s looking on the up too:

Josephine Rowe will be launching the moth boat on Thursday night at Willow Bar. Josephine is one of Melbourne’s favourite young poets; she frequently features at launches, spoken word gigs, and in local literary journals. How a Moth Became a Boat will be her third self-published book. To read up on Josephine Rowe, check out her responsive interview with Literary Minded here. For time and location specifics, visit Facebook.

For those of you who can’t make the Thursday night launch, Josephine Rowe and Tom Doig will be reading on Friday night at The Lifted Brow’s launch, and there will be musicians and raffles and cheap TLBs as well. Doors open at 8pm at The Tote.

Gendermash is also happening on Friday night. Tom Cho will be performing with a whole bunch of other writers, singers, and rappers. Check out Tom Cho’s post for more details.

Ack! So many things to go to!

To blog or not to blog

So you write and you’re published and you’re mingling at book launches and writers’ festivals and libraries and public lectures (can you mingle at those?) and poetry workshops and the cute guy/girl you’ve been chatting up seems genuinely interested in your work. They say that they’ll look it up, but in the meantime, can they grab your email for Facebook or maybe your website address?

‘Yeah, sure.’ You nervously smooth down the front of your top and scribble somethingsomething[at], adding ‘create blog’ to your mental list of things to do.

Later on, while skimming through a Wikipedia article on Basque people, you muse over your concept of blogging. Blog = a series of first draft entries = imperfections = horror + mortification x infinity. But if you’re serious about your writing career, you should be blogging, right? That’s what the pros are doing: Luke Devenish mantains one and labels it as ‘free advertising’; Rachel Hills uses her website as a online CV; Tom Cho posts zombie-telemarketer photos on his…

Okay, okay. You’ll create a blog. You’ll call it Wunder Pony and Friends (or something equally inane), and after five posts you’ll be an internet sensation; everyone will want to buy your book(s). But before you leap onto Blogger, you might want to check out Angela Meyer’s useful post on cultural (i.e. writing) blogs, ‘Embracing the medium: what makes a successful cultural blog’ (12/609), a ‘slightly amended version of the speech…[given] during the Emerging Writers’ Festival panel The Revolution Will Be Downloaded, May 2009′. Just read it (and read the comments as well). You’ll thank me later. 😉

Meanwhile, it’s Charlie the Unicorn time:

Page Parlour

I was needing some Patrick Wolf, so I skipped the three o’ clock sessions at the Emerging Writers’ Festival and headed down to Polyester Records. When I stepped out of the Melbourne Town Hall, there was a wave of Indians sweeping through Swanston Street. I didn’t know what they were protesting about, but later on, I found out that they were marching against recent Melbourne racial violence. (To read up on it, click here.) I took a couple of photos of it on my phone:


Indian protesters march down Swanston Street (31/5/09)


Protesters arrive at Flinders Street Station (31/5/09)


Police surrounded by protesters (31/5/09)

Swanston Street was uncrossable, so I went over to the Page Parlour at the Atrium in Federation Square. Being a zine/independent press fairs newbie, I did multiple mind-skips as I wandered past Visible Ink, The Death Mook, and The Melbourne veg food guide. With my intense staring and gaze-wandering, I probably looked a little deranged.

However, I did get to chat with a couple of the stallholders while I was there. I introduced myself to the people from Harvest, and they answered my questions (more statements of surprise) about their publication. I couldn’t believe that they were able to produce a beautifully designed, colour journal on recycled paper, as well as pay their contributors. How can it be financially sustainable? But they assured me that they get their money back from sales. Plus an arts grant helped them set things up initially.

Josephine Rowe was sitting next to Harvest, with her books and her Travel Scrabble set. She hadn’t opened up her Travel Scrabble yet, which meant she hadn’t had the opportunity to be bored so far at this Page Parlour. She asked me if I had written anything recently. I thought about my procrastination schedule of reading what my bf calls ‘trashy vampire porn’, and told her that I had been busy helping out with editing at The Lifted Brow.

Jenny Blackford was selling her book, The priestess and the slave, so I picked one up for $15. Blackford had tried to write as historically accurate as possible, and I was interested to see how her book had turned out.

Tom Cho was also selling his new book, Look who’s morphing. Having finally finished Look who’s morphing, I confessed to him that I found the sex scenes from ‘Cock Rock’ too confronting. I don’t know why. Being an advocate for American Psycho’s graphic depictions of sex, followed by violence (starving rats eating vaginas?), I shouldn’t mind the sex in ‘Cock Rock’, but I did. It’s something I’ll have to ponder about in a future post.

Speaking of sex, I managed to get a hold of the The Sex Mook. Yay. I haven’t seen one in ages. (To find your very own copy of The Sex Mook, check out its distro post here.) I also had a nice chat with Lisa Dempster from Vignette Press. A panellist from the ‘Truth and honest in writing’ panel session, Dempster spoke about her epiphany on how important it is to tell a good story when writing non-fiction. Travel diaries = fail. Travel stories = ftw.

And then I bought a cool ‘Apocalypse Ahoy’ poster and some Scrabble brooches/pendants, and walked over to Polyester Records and bought two Patrick Wolf CDs, and am now beginning to sound like Patrick Bateman in a department store so I shall wind up.

Emerging Writers’ Festival Reviews:

A feast of writerly food for writers… (TL from Saturday 30/5/09)

…a real community feel of a festival… (TL from Sunday 31/5/09)

Awesome showbags! (TL in the aftermath of the EWF)

Completely missing the boat

In my ‘Look who’s morphing’ post, I mentioned that I was going to Tom Cho’s book launch at Hares and Hyenas. I wasn’t going to write up about it until I had finished the book—I’m about halfway at the moment—but David Messer has recently written up a review in the Sydney Morning Herald, one that yet again stereotypes ethnic writers:

Reading these parts of Look Who’s Morphing, one can’t help but feel that Cho could have written a much better book, although obviously a completely different one, if he had restricted himself to the question of Chinese/Australian identity and presented it in a more conventional tone and structure. (cited by Cho 23 May 2009)

Messer seems to have completely missed the boat. From my reading of his work so far, Cho’s Chinese background is coincidental. It gives texture to his stories, but does not define them in the same way that it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) define Cho as a writer. According to ‘The sound of music’, one out of two stories read out at the launch, identity is a ‘composite of the influences of various entities in our lives – family members, friends, lovers, certain people we watch on TV, characters we read in books, etc, etc’, a theme Messer might have picked up on if he wasn’t so busy measuring up Cho with his ethnic writer yardstick. Grr.

For more on Messer’s review and Tom Cho’s response, read Cho’s post, ‘Review of my book in the Sydney Morning Herald’. If ethnic writer stereotyping is new to you, I’d recommend reading Nam Le’s The Boat, which highlights and attempts to transcend the issue.

Look who’s morphing

A few months ago, Tom Cho blogged about his story ‘Dinner with my grandma’. What piqued my interest was Tom’s use of French dialogue in the story. I wanted to read this story of his, but, like most short stories, it was published in a literary journal and literary journals aren’t the easiest of things to track down (especially back issues). However, Mr Cho assures me that the French-speaking grandma will be making an appearance in his latest and greatest Look who’s morphing. Look who’s morphing is a collection of short stories written by Cho, some of which have been published in numerous literary journals. Its launch will be in May, and I am so going, as long as I don’t muddle up my dates and end up at the launch of some awful pop princess’ biography or whatnot. Uggh. Launch details are below. Please RSVP to Hares and Hyenas if you’re turning up.

Look who’s morphing Launch
When? 5 pm – 6:30 pm, 16 May, 2009
Where? Hares and Hyenas bookshop, 63 Johnston St, Fitzroy
Book blurb?

Look Who’s Morphing is a collection of funny, playful, often outlandish fictions in which, along with his extended family, the central character undergoes a series of transformations, shape-shifting through figures drawn from film and television, music and books, porn flicks and comics. He is Godzilla, a Muppet, and Whitney Houston’s bodyguard; the Fonz, a robot, a Ford Bronco 4×4 – and, as a climax, a fifty-five metre tall guitar-wielding cock rock star, who performs for the people of Tokyo, and an adoring troupe of sexy fans.

Within these fantasies there is a deep intellectual and emotional engagement, a fundamental questioning of the nature of identity, and the way it is constructed in a world filled with the images of popular culture.

Cover for Look whos morphing, courtesy of

Cover for 'Look who's morphing', courtesy of

Withdrawing submissions: fail or ftw?

For the last few days, I’ve been stressing over submission etiquette. What happens when you want to withdraw a journal submission? Is it done? Or is it like abusing apostrophes: something not done in polite (and literate) society? 

I asked Tom Cho about my dilemma. I had recently submitted a poem to Peril, but a friend who had helped me workshop the piece asked if she could publish it in another journal. What was I to do? Could I withdraw my submission?

‘It should be fine,’ was Tom’s answer. ‘Just contact them and say that you are withdrawing the piece – and that you’re doing it ASAP to avoid any inconvenience. I’ve withdrawn pieces from journals and anthologies a few times before and never had a problem. If you’re polite and the piece hasn’t been accepted or isn’t too far in the production process, it should be fine…(If you know you’ve already been accepted by a journal, then it’s not very good to do. But even then I once withdrew a piece!)’

So there you go. Withdrawing submission ASAP is for the win. Withdrawing submission post-acceptance is a fail. For more on failing, visit for all your classic fail moments.

‘Watching home videos’ reading

Verandah 23 Launch. My first reading ever:

'Watching home videos' reading 1

Very intimidating, especially when one is the follow-up act to Josephine Rowe. Thanks to Tom Cho, self-styled Verandah Fan Club President, for giving ‘Watching home videos’ the thumbs up in his launch speech. 

Photos courtesy of S. Yong