March 11: What’s happening, Melbourne?

What’s happening? Everything apparently.

Wednesday’s a big day with a book launch, a spoken word night, and a literary magazine event running concurrently. Affirm Press is launching Chris Parkinson’s Peace of Wall: Street Art from East Timor*, Sean M. Whelan’s Babble will have special guests Allison Browning and Anthony O’Sullivan, and RMIT’s Visible Ink is running a fundraiser gig with a mini-market and bands like East Brunswick All Girls Choir, Future Happiness and Owl+Moth.

On Thursday, 13 May, Willow Tales will be catering for the Northsiders and Storytelling, the Southsiders. There will also be the quasi-political intellectual discussion, The Great Firewall of China: Kaiser Kuo on Chinese Internet, Censorship and the West,  happening earlier in the evening at the Wheeler Centre.

rally for same-sex marriage rights is on at the front of the State Library on Saturday. Also, Small Room’s Bryan Whalen has organised a lit journal and art magazine schmooze-fest, A Bridge for Short Attention Spans, at the Brunswick Street Gallery. I’ll be performing alongside folk like Josephine Rowe, Emmett Stinson and Sean M Whelan. It’s gonna be fun in a queasy, butterflies in my stomach kind of way.

Oh, and for those of you who missed out on the Williamstown Literary Festival, you’ll be pleased to know that Duncan Felton is posting about the panels that he went to. His Let’s be frankie post is much more detailed than mine, so it’s worth checking out.

*Correction: Okay, that event was scheduled for Tuesday 11 March. Mega-fail. (Damn, I missed out.)

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Willylitfest *giggle*

Blue skies and a ‘Let’s Be frankie‘ panel lured me and my bike out to Williamstown on Saturday. I didn’t think I’d make it back home before sunset, so I picked up these cute bike lights along the way:

Skully front light

Skully back light

On my ride, I caught the Westgate Punt, a scenic shortcut across the water. It was temporarily commandeered by someone’s youngster, but I arrived safely at the Scienceworks Museum and continued along the coastal trail.

At the ‘Let’s Be frankie‘ session, frankie senior contributors Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law described the magazine as frank articles plus cupcakes, craft, and rock & roll. Having never read or seen frankie, I started picturing shots of pink teacups, jauntily arranged on astroturf, juxtaposed next to awkward descriptions of bodily functions. Having written about personal experiences such as losing one’s virginity, Benjamin and Marieke discussed the ‘illusion of intimacy’* that they had manufactured. Marieke also used to blog; only 20% of her personal life became blog fodder, though her parents did develop a catchphrase rather like ‘and that’s not going in the blog’.

Right to left: Susan Bird (chair), Benjamin Law, and Marieke Hardy @ 'Let's Be frankie' (1/5/10)

I returned the next day for ‘From the Quill to the Kindle‘, a much more formal discussion between Sophie Cunningham, Chris Flynn, and Dmetri Kakmi about the so-called death of the book and eBook revolution.

left to right: Sophie Cunningham, Chris Flynn, and Dmetri Kakmi @ 'From the Quill to the Kindle' (2/5/10)

Working from a prepared speech, Dmetri described eBook trends that defied initial suppositions. Prime eBook consumers were not sci-fi/fantasy-reading, tech-savy geeks but tended to be thirty-five-to-forty-year-old females with tastes that reflected their hardcopy-buying counterparts.

Chris Flynn brought up environmental concerns. In a 2006 report, it was revealed that recycled paper makes up only 5-10% of books published in the US**. Publishers are aiming to improve this figure, but this means that thirty million trees are cut down each year for US books alone**. Our habit of collecting our favourite books is a selfish one.

Technology, however, is dictating the terms of the alternative. While you may own a physical book, you can never own an eBook, only the right to keeping a copy of it. If you breach your contract with Amazon, the copies get wiped. In other words, you can lend your Kindle to a friend, but you can’t let them borrow a copy of your favourite book. Libraries are screwed in this electronic universe, and writers/publishers can do little to help them, unless they release an open source version of their book.

Meanwhile, Sophie Cunningham examined how eBooks and eReaders may change reading/writing habits. Podcasts have already revived the audio book. Will access to social media on devices such as the iPad affect the way we read? Will collaborative processes, such as commenting/feedback on uploaded drafts, change the writing process? Computers certainly have. In the past, typewriting forced people to recreate drafts from scratch, whilst computers allowed for more sloppier writing via ‘cut and paste’ methods. Sophie hoped that the novel will survive this eReader revolution as a rarified form.

From the Quill to the Kindle‘ managed to outline what seems to be a mammoth topic. There’s a plethora of articles on eBooks available on the interwebs. Try ‘Publish or Perish: Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?‘ (via theliftedbrow), and ‘Amazon Erases Orwell Books from Kindles‘ for starters.

After Willylitfest *giggle*, I went down to Gem Pier with my fellow literary punters  who nearly incited a seagull riot with their chips. I have not seen The Birds, but seagulls are scary in numbers.

*Benjamin and Marieke also mentioned ‘frankie girls’ but never satisfactorarily explained the term. I did a Google search and found this.

**Figures confirmed via ecolibris.net.

willylitfest aka the Williamstown Literary Festival

Every time I see ‘willylitfest.org.au’, I start giggling. It’s an unfortunate abbreviation, though marketers might argue otherwise—it does stick in one’s head. Initially, I wasn’t planning on going to the festival, but there are some panels that sound interesting: talks on Kindles and frankie and a discussion between Steve Grimwade, Chris Beck, and Jeff Sparrow. There’s also a panel on literary blogging if anyone’s interested on starting up or improving their own writerly blog. Online ticket sales end tonight, so get to it.