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.

Voiceworks Parlour Games

This is a quick post before I head up to Mt Buller.

A week or two ago, the shy, awkward kids from Voiceworks invited strangers into their new home, the Wheeler Centre, for readings and parlour games. No cake or tea, but plenty of publications on sale and youngsters tumbling up the stage to either a) fill up the hall with their confidence or b) flutter with  nerves. In some ways, I am glad that I am no longer ‘under twenty-five’. It seems like such a painful state to be in.

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Pictures in order:

  1. Reading by Holly Voight from ‘Birthmark’
  2. Boggle with Johannes Jakob. I’ve never played Boggle before, and I’m not very good at word/number puzzles in general, but it was a lot of fun and what I’d imagine Bingo would be like. Boggle + Bingo = Bingle?
  3. Reading by Christopher O’Neill from ‘Birthmark’.
  4. EdComm Radio Play. Left to Right: Duncan Felton (special effects), Adolfo Aranjuez, Rafael S. Ward, Rosanna Stevens and Sam Rutter.
  5. Reading by Daniel Hogan from ‘Birthmark’.

Review: Voiceworks Issue 80 – ‘Missionary’

For those of you who haven’t already heard, Bel Monypenny is leaving Voiceworks and Missionary is her last issue as editor. Having only recently rediscovered Voiceworks, I am ill-equipped on comparing Monypenny with past Voiceworks editors, but Literary Minded describes her as ‘steer[ing] a less-showy ship, still understandably finding its path’ and choosing work that is ‘happily not as abrupt as pieces have been under previous editorship’ (24/6/09).

Missionary fits this description. The cover is a sleek black, white, and orange; the words inside are quiet yet articulate, barring the few shouts like ‘In the Name of the Father’ by Chancier Blame and ‘We’re Not That Bad?’ by Liam Wood.

Like its predecessor, Classic, Missionary has a strong selection of non-fiction and regular columns, and I found myself preferring these to the rest of the content. While fiction’s grasp on the theme seems tenuous at times—’Forrest Hump, Full Metal Jack-off, Missionary Impossible’ (Christopher Glenn’s ‘Typewriter: a Story in Four Parts’)—non-fiction seizes upon the religious, the ritualistic, the moral, and the ethical and plays rough like the Spanish Inquisition.

In ‘Videogames: a Virtual (and Violent) Reality’, Giles Fielke discusses how video games preach rule-breaking and the irrelevance of ethics, citing Rapeplay as an example (see Virgule’s excepts here). Liam Wood writes introspectively about being a white, middle-class tourist in Leonora, a (post) colonial frontier in WA. Claire Marshall recounts ritualistic shopping and the guilt that ensues at Arthur Daley’s Clearance House. These and other pieces are competently engaging like much of the fiction and poetry.

But it is Joseph Brennan’s ‘Not Before Dinner’ that eclipses all. Through prose bordering on poetic, Brennan replicates the reverence surrounding a dinner at Berowra Waters Inn, something that later is revealed as being quite ordinary. It’s a beautiful piece that marries fact with techniques borrowed from fiction and poetry, something that is often attempted but not always successful.

Overall, Missionary looks smart and its non-fiction is smart. It could have been smarter with more adventurous fiction/poetry cohabiting its pages, more of ‘In the Name of the Father’ which is full of contradictions like one particular religious text, but that would be bordering on miraculously smart and I am not one for miracles. Is it worth the eight dollars I paid for it? Hell, yeah.‘Missionary’ is available at the usual independent bookstores or you can subscribe to Voiceworks at their website here.

Review: Voiceworks Issue 79 – ‘Classic’

The last time I subscribed Voiceworks, I was twenty-four and spending most of my salary on clothes from high-end-fashion chain stores. When my subscription and my submission eligibility ran out, I bagged all of my old issues and donated them to a local high school. What was inspiring for other subscribers was depressing for twenty-five-year-old me: these ‘youngsters’ were creating work that I had no hope of emulating.

Two years on, and I’m ready to grapple this journal bitch. Lured to the Wheeler Centre by speak of a guest appearance from Nam Le, I went to the Voiceworks ‘Classic’ launch and picked up my copy of Issue 79.

In her editorial, Bel Monypenny writes about Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson and her failed attempts to mimic their bush poetry style. Issue 79 isn’t about reworking what has come before in style and genre, but more ‘classic moments made new and intriguing by fresh eyes, distinctive voices and unique perceptive detail’: ‘familiar moments—drunken teenage rebellion, questioning the life you’re born into, your first big night out, the death of a loved one.’ However, as I read through ‘Classic’, this theme did not seem present in any of the pieces, which suggests that Issue 79’s writers have managed to avoid what is easy and cliché.

There’s some striking fiction in this issue: Luke Rule’s ‘Pulling Down the Sun’ stands out as an example of literary speculative fiction; dealing with the supposedly banal themes of death, sex, and violence, Claire Marshall’s dark piece, ‘The Edwardians’, also grabbed my attention; and prize winner, Amelia Schmidt has created beautifully fluid, dreamlike work in ‘House-sitting for My Mother’—‘my mother and father disappear in an aeroplane and I pack myself into a suitcase’.

The non-fiction is also particularly strong: Michelle Walter’s ‘Getting Off the Staircase’ is evocative enough to work as either fiction or non-fiction/memoir; Sam Cooney’s column on writer workspace meanders from Roald Dahl to Jonathan Safran Foer, whilst Kate Leaver’s column tackles incest and society’s fascination with sexual violence.

What I enjoyed most, however, were the interviews. I’m not sure if this a recurring section, but Voiceworks talks to a few of its contributors in Issue 79. There’s also a conversation with emerging writer Jessica Au who discusses working on her novel, interning at Sleepers, and her writing process.

And so, despite its youthfulness, and my twenty-seven-year-old bitterness, I took a liking to Voiceworks or at least its current manifestation. ‘Classic’ is available at the usual independent bookstores or you can subscribe to Voiceworks at their website here.

Sick as a dog

After Bike Fail, I’ve managed to contract a summer cold, so I’ve been keeping a low profile, which is a shame as there’s an advanced screening of Fantastic Mr Fox at Moonlight Cinemas tonight.

There’s also a Voiceworks launch at the new Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing, and Ideas with an appearance from Nam Le that I might drag myself out of bed for. Nam Le’s this super articulate lawyer-turned-writer who I have an aspirational crush on. If you haven’t read his book The Boat yet, you should.

Okay, now back to bed.

So what’s happening, Melbourne?

What have you got for me, Facebook/Melbourne/Melbook/Facebourne? Ah, I see that there is another Caffe Sospeso poetry reading on Friday, 6 November 2009. This month’s theme? Power Dynamics. Something to do with power tools; I’m sure that there’s a brand of electric appliances out there called ‘Dynamo’. Let’s google, shall we?

Day 5: Screwing Around by DDFic

Screwing Around (photo courtesy of DDFic)

Page Seventeen is launching their seventh issue on Saturday, 7 November 2009, and Visible Ink is launching their twenty-first on Monday, 9 November 2009. Voiceworks is also throwing a party on Thursday, 12 November 2009, celebrating twenty-one years of spectacular writing with The Words We Found anthology launch, which will probably clash with Wordplay Guantanovember (sans the Lemon). 

Aiyo, Facespam. It’s gonna be a couple of crazy weeks.