Friday, 28 August 2009

buzz buzz

In my last post I was so muddled I forgot to mention I was going to Liner Notes: Michael Jackson's Thriller at MWF last night. I was never a fan of MJ, ever. Particularly during high school when everyone else was. Everyone. In fact some would say I have awful taste in music, and when Bryden and I collated our CD collections it is true that the only double we had was Frente. Even I recognise the inherent sadness in that.

Anyway, Liner Notes. I've wanted to go to one of these for ages, and so even without the MJ interest, I was keen to go. And, I'm so glad I did, as it was fabulous. Utterly. I will definitely go to another. The line up was first class, and I confess it was the first time I've ever seen Yana Alana perform, but without doubt, she was my fave for the night, so I will keep an eye out for her.

After the long trek home, it was a rather late night, but even after the schoolrush morning, I'm finding it difficult to get stuck into work because I'm still buzzing. So far, I've wasted almost one hour, and I have only two left before jumping back on the train for more MWF. Focus!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

shopping fun-o-metre

Since Sunday's poetry workshop with Emily Ballou, which was fantastic, I've been caught up in parental life. It even took until today before I made my to-do list for the week. Which is tragically long, particularly given I have an appointment in the city tomorrow and then will be at MWF again on Friday. The better part of my two working days, lost. I will have to forego sleep if I am to complete even half of what's on the list. And after the foregone sleep I've already incurred this week, prior to the teeth that literally cut and made the baby bleed appeared, I am somewhat reluctant. Instead I'll accept that I'm behind and will be for the next while. So be it.

I have taken the children shopping twice this week already. Shopping with more than one child at a time is not my idea of fun, and therefore something I rarely do, so yesterday's expedition of two major stops with two kids was particularly impressive. Actually, shopping with even one child doesn't usually register on my fun-o-metre. Today I took just Claudia for a one and a half hour trip to collect as many birthday presents as we could before the second of our annual family birthday season begins next week. I was definitely impressed with her behaviour, although I can't see myself rushing to go again. Is it just me?

What was fun was baking double chocolate chip cookies with Hamish. Except it means I'll probably have to let him eat some too. Next week will be a full-on bake-a-thon, in preparation for my baby's first birthday. Can't believe it's true. But he seems pleased about it (and he hasn't even seen the cake yet).

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Award Winning Australian Fiction Launch

Really enjoyed the launch of Melbourne Books' Award Winning Australian Fiction 2009 yesterday at MWF. Was nice to meet Eleanor Marney again, who I met at the Newstead Short Story Tattoo back in May, and to listen to her read again. Also nice to have a cuppa with a friend afterwards.

This year's volume is bigger than the first, with thirty-nine pieces instead of about twenty-seven. And we got to hear from twelve of them. All the readings were great and demonstrated the diversity of styles, voices etc the book has to offer, although Colin Driscoll, the final reader, stole the show with his bush poem 'Memoirs of a Sheep'.

I still remember receiving the first email from Melbourne Books, when I was asked to submit the prize winning story from our 2008 competition. I loved the idea of such a book, and was chuffed for Hayley Katzen, a new writer (then) whose story 'Not Cricket' had been a standout winner in the 2008 comp. Of course, it was included in AWAF 2008, and Hayley has another in this year.

This book is exciting for so many reasons. As a competition organiser and publisher because, among other things, the fact that it celebrates the short story and provides writers additional exposure, particularly for winners of smaller competitions. For writers, it provides not only a list of competitions they may not already know about, but an opportunity to analyse what makes a prize-winning story. And it's a fine read too.

I started on the way home. I was pretty stoked too, that in Arnold Zable's Foreword, right after saying he wouldn't single out any stories, he singled out (to praise, of course) Jennifer Mills's 'The capital of missing persons', from our competition. She is actually one of just two or three writers with two pieces in the anthology.

The train ride saw me through five of the stories (yeah, I'm slow), and I look forward to sitting down with some more really soon.

Friday, 21 August 2009

award winning launch

After such a slow week, I decided to get in three hours work this morning before I jump on the Belgrave train to the launch of Melbourne Books' Award Winning Australian Fiction at MWF. Jennifer Mills' story 'The capital of missing persons', that won our 2008 Short Story competition, is included in this lovely volume, and Jen even rates a mention on the blurb. Ya gotta love that.

I wonder how our first placed 2009 story might go next year, although of course, you don't know which of the ten shortlisted stories it might be. Yes, our 2009 shortlist has been updated to the website, here, so you can check that out. Big congrats to the ten shortlisted story writers, eleven shortlisted poets, and Vicki Grieves, whose image 'Deep Stillness' will be gracing the cover of Issue 7. (Winners will be announced at the launch, Nov 7, which I'll talk more about later.)

On Sunday I'm off to an all-day poetry workshop with Emily Ballou. Which means that tomorrow, I will be part of the family plant shopping expedition, so we can turn this

into a smorgasbord of tasty treats that the kids are sure to devour in time to be full by dinner. But, hey, it'll all be healthy, so it probably won't matter, so long as they don't eat only strawberries and raspberries. Somehow I'm not so confident.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

heroes and prizes

If I didn’t know better, I’d say my body decided to punish me for overdoing it. But I’m sure that’s not really what happened. I’ve spent the better half of the last two days in bed and am now getting back to things, in slow motion. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, and apologise profusely if I passed it to anyone.

So, it is a somewhat delayed report on my weekend adventures. Which means, you may already have noticed that others, like Angela and Genevieve, have reported on the excellent launch of Nathan Curnow’s The Ghost Poetry Project. Go check ‘em out. I always find a book launch exciting, but this was perhaps a little more special. Not just because of the location. I’ve mentioned that Nathan is one of my heroes and, while it’s true, I enjoy his poetry, it isn’t about that.

It’s about knowing something of what he’s been through to get to where he is. Knowing that every time he goes to a poetry or launch event or haunted site, he’s leaving his young family behind. And given that this book sent him all over the country and he keeps popping up at festivals, it’s fair to say they get to do it without him for reasonable chunks of time.

So, it was a privilege to meet Kerryn, the champion in the background, and to see the smiles on his daughters’ faces as they watched their daddy’s book come to life. Truly inspirational.

That was Friday. Saturday had me all over town again, with the highlight being the Doris Leadbetter Melbourne Poetry Cup. It was a great night with almost forty poets strutting their stuff (one of two disappointments for the night was that not all forty spots were filled…the other was that one could not buy a meal). One of the great things about the night was the range of voices it attracted, including new and not-so-new.

With less than the maximum number of entrants, the final comprised eight poets, with the $2000 first prize going to Jillian Pattinson and the $300 runners up cheque to Matt Bennetts. The two $100 encouragement prizes were awarded to Vicki Thornton (yay, go Vicki) and Eleanor Jackson (who I secretly hoped would win, because I thought she was great).

Thursday, 13 August 2009

low tech

I am not a fan of the scanner and every year I dread having to scan the snail mail stories and those shortlisted in the competition. Even if they were all printed nice and clearly and would transfer into text documents straight up, I think I would still not like it. I dislike it so much that when I started this morning, I quickly had a fight with the scanner and left it until about 8pm. Now, two hours later, I have scanned and 'fixed' only two stories.

Perhaps it's really about technology. Perhaps I am just not a fan of technology. Although this week, that would be fair enough.

In the last week, my coffee machine has died (and been reincarnated thanks to a $6 part), we've had a black-out for half a (working) day, my internet connection has been temperamental, and tomorrow, the power company will be switching us off until mid afternoon.

At least I won't have to befriend the scanner all over again...just yet.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ready for the weekend

With various lurgies loitering in our house, it's too easy to think about the weekend ahead. It's a busy one.

Friday is the launch of Nathan Curnow's The Ghost Poetry Project at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Saturday, heat 2 of the Overload Slam in Frankston, followed by The Doris Leadbetter Melbourne Poetry Cup, to spectate.

Despite that I haven't mentioned anything for a while, I've been busy with page seventeen stuff too. It won't be long before contributors start hearing from us and competition shortlists will be available online.

One thing I can tell you already is that I have booked the launch. It'll be at Burrinja cafe in Upwey, from 1pm on Saturday November 7. This is home of The Word Tree, which will also be on that afternoon, starting at 3pm and featuring the fabulous Sean M Whelan. What an afternoon!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

winding down

It's been an incredible week. I don't remember the last time I got so much done.

The poem I wrote on Thursday morning, which was something that had been in my mind for months, was accepted on the same day. That is a first and I wish it could only be so easy all the time. I was pretty lucky that not only was it something I'd been thinking about, but was for a very themed publication.

The short article was sent off (thankfully before we had a power-out for half of Friday), I completed two edits for my EWF Reader piece and have now finished, and I wrote the short story that I had outlined in the library.

I actually enjoyed writing the story this way, and will have to incoroporate this process into my repertoire. In particular, I found that because I knew almost exactly what was coming later, I was able to put the kind of details in that I usually have to come back to include. Essentially, the outline served as a first draft. I've sent it to one of my writer friends for some harsh feedback, and will hopefully work on it again in another week. Then, I can send it off in time. There is more about this story idea that was new to me than the writing process though.

A few months ago, I met the editor to whom I am going to send it, and he mentioned an upcoming theme. I decided to take on the challenge, as I thought it was something I wouldn't normally do in my writing. I had two okay ideas straight away, although when I tried to write them, they turned out to be not so great. Then, one night in the car, there was a report in the news that struck me as perfect. But that's all I'm going to say (for now).

Friday night I went to the Overload Program Launch & Slam Heat No 1, which was a fabulous night. I don't think I've ever laughed so much at a poetry event, and I'm looking forward to the second heat in Frankston this coming Saturday.

After an intensive few days of writing, I've been spending the weekend at home with family and the sewing machine. To justify starting a new project, I even did a mend that's been waiting months and finished these guys, which I started oh so long ago. The kids knew I was making them for them, and I am sure that sewing is how I teach them patience.

Now to go and sew a button back onto a pair of jeans I haven't worn since it fell off, in summer.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


The other night I made it down to the Narre Warren library, which is a fifty minute round trip and open until 9pm. I'm glad I told you I'd go, because it was the kind of night that tempts one to stay home near the fire in pyjamas. With a good supply of tokay nearby.

I took only the two things I said I would. I started on the first, short one that should have been easier. After forty-five minutes and two very different beginnings, I gave up, drew an asterisk beside the one I thought was probably better and decided to leave it until today, assuming the thoughts would have had time to settle.

Then I started on the story. I was too tired to write an actual story, so I tried something a little different, and wrote a story outline. So not my usual thing, although neither is the way this story came to me. I spent a little over an hour making the outline, seven scenes, and let myself write anything that seemed relevant, even the tiniest detail. I felt it all coming together, the kind of feeling I might have when I'm working on pieces that I know are worth pursuing. I think (hope) I wrote enough that it'll be easy when I write the actual thing.

On the way home I got to test my new night sight when my headlights lit up a wombat in the middle of my lane. In the 100km zone. All turned out well.

Today, the plan was to properly attack the two pieces from Tuesday night. So far, I have written a poem, completely separate, written the piece due tomorrow, using the version I asterisked, completed and returned the second (and final) edit for my EWF Reader piece, and if it wasn't time to think about lunch, I'd make a start on the seven-scene story. I couldn't possibly write while hungry.

Oh, and I changed my mind about no events this weekend – heading to this tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

scheduled time

I've organised with hubby to escape the house this evening to make a solid dent in some of those writing projects awaiting my attention.

As you know, writing at a pre-arranged time isn't my usual thing, but I am confident all will go well. If I can find somewhere sensible to go. One of the drawbacks of living way out in the sticks is that there's nowehere to go to write after about 5pm. The closest library closes at 6pm and other than a restaurant or the pub, everything else will be closed. The decision where to go will be more stressful than what to take with me.

I have a short piece with a Friday deadline. Priority one.

Priority two is to make some serious moves on a short story I started weeks ago but hasn't had another look-in thanks to other commitments. Although ideas have been circling my mind, which is definitely a good sign.

Two things will be plenty. Depending where I go (and what time I make that escape), I will have as long as three hours. Yay.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

idols and ghosts

After somehow managing to finish reading the shortlisted general submissions before bedtime on Friday, I thought I should treat myself to getting out, so went to the last heat of Poetry Idol at Box Hill library on Saturday. It was a fun day and I was talked into competing once I arrived (if you flick through the pics, you'll find me in my (el cheapo) granny glasses that I can now not live without). Despite being the seventeenth reader and some participants thinking this had a certain meaning, I didn't make it to the final.

Aside from just being there and enjoying the afternoon, the prize for me, I guess, was a comment from one man in particular. Several people did say something about my poem to me afterwards (which tends to happen when you write openly about being in labour), but one man approached me during the break, gently tapped my arm and said 'Thank you. I was at the birth of my child, and I will never forget.' From his expression, I could tell he was touched and that my piece was meaningful to him, and for me, that's what it's about.

One of the things I loved about the afternoon was the diversity of people in the room: nationalities, ages, and various levels and experiences with poetry. Everyone mingling and chatting, with people they already knew and people they didn't.

As far as getting out goes, I think that's it until Friday 14th August when I trek into the Old Melbourne Gaol for the launch of Nathan Curnow's The Ghost Poetry Project. Nathan is one of my heroes (which I may explain one day), so this is one launch I've been looking forward to.