Hex signs at midnight

December 27, 2016 at 6:23 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

I may be alone in this sentiment, but for me, 2016 managed to sneak in great gold.

I’ve been hearing laments about the darkness of this past year, especially in regard to the slew of writers and artists we’ve lost. For a child of the 80s, as I am, this has been particularly striking. Don’t get me started on politics this year either. But what’s writing if not stepping stones out of the bleakness and into the gold? So here is my personal round up of a year that has been, to be honest, pretty damn rewarding.

2016 held performances at five literary festivals, three visits to the ABC studios, more writing paycheques than ever before, one gig as a short story competition judge, one interview feature with the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas here in Melbourne, and several emails of interest about my novel from a publisher. There were fourteen stories performed, recorded or published, and one exciting literary award that had me throwing a cocktail frock, notebook and passport into a bag, and jumping on a last minute flight to New York for the ceremony.

And we won first prize.

With the wonderful Lea Redfern, producer extraordinaire

With the wonderful Lea Redfern, producer extraordinaire

The link to the New York Times article

The link to the New York Times article

Winning the Sarah Awards for Audio Fiction remains one of my proudest professional achievements as a writer. Photos of me in the New York Times: one. Congratulatory messages from friends, family, editors, publishers and producers: about fifty. Dirty martinis in celebration: you don’t want to know! ABC producer by my side and in my heart: one lovely Lea. Two amazing friends to put me up, one in New York and one in Philadelphia. One extravagant lunch at the Waldorf Astoria with lobster, caviar and champagne held high. Years spent writing to my Philly penpal: about seventeen. Number of tattoos she’s got in that time: pretty much uncountable. One trip to Amish country, and numerous slices of divine Shoo Fly pie. Distelfinks on walls: two. Ribs cracked upon hugging both my US loves goodbye: at least three. What a joyful, ebullient, unexpected trip!

Manhattan martinis

Manhattan martinis

Amish country, Pennsylvania

Amish country, Pennsylvania

Amish county with Erica

Amish county with Erica

Distelfink hex sign in Philly

Distelfink hex sign in Philly

Flamingos sent my way to honour the story, ‘Almost Flamboyant’: about ten.

My latest addition

My latest addition

Four blood red trumpet lilies tattooed down my arm in long, painful sessions, to join the three already there. Delight at finding a trumpet lily tree outside my new house: immeasurable.

In progress...

In progress…

Completed...for now.

Completed…for now.

Bella donna trumpet lilies

Bella donna trumpet lilies

A move to the west of Melbourne, after 25 years lived north. One reason for this: my beautiful Wolf. Two arches of the iconic West Gate Bridge beckoning me home, seven bookshelves in our new house, and one writing studio. After a tiny kitchenette with only two burners for a decade, a new kitchen with huge stove allowing me to cook Jewish feasts of slow cooked Tzimmes, root vegies in a glaze of cider, cinnamon and golden syrup, til our house smelled divine and our bellies and hearts were full. One wary cat, still hesitant to explore her new home. Hours already spent on the sun deck, welcoming summer: dozens.

Back yard bliss.

Back yard bliss.

2016 saw many trips out of town, from the canola fields of Ninety Mile Beach to the sun bleached bones of rural Moyston. One trip brewing for next year…Iceland, I’m coming back!

Moyston, rural Victoria

Moyston, rural Victoria

The Wolf in Moyston, rural Victoria

The Wolf in Moyston, rural Victoria

One taxidermy workshop, nine meticulous hours of skinning and stitching, and a TV crew to film it. Uncountable headshakes from my man when I suggested our new home contain a tank of flesh eating dermestid beetles. Next year, perhaps?

Scalpel and shiraz at taxidermy class

Scalpel and shiraz at taxidermy class

Here’s to the joy and promise of 2017…may it bring you indulgent nights with friends, steps on welcoming soil, and always, always, words spilling from your fingertips.

To 2017, and all its stories.

To 2017, and all its stories.

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Melbourne calling

June 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Melbourne is a damn fine city.

Not only do we have exquisite coffee down many a stencil art covered alleyway, an abundance of secondhand bookstores and live music venues on every corner, we also have the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.

If you’re a Melbourne writer and you haven’t been there, shame on you.

I regularly borrow books from their extensive library, attend seminars, and even had the pleasure of hearing my work read there as part of last year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival.  It houses the Victorian Writers’ Centre and I can’t recommend becoming a member strongly enough. They send you weekly emails filled with writing opportunities, as well as a wonderful monthly newsletter.  I’d say about 90% of the stories I’ve had published came from information from the VWC. They also have a wealth of books to borrow on the craft of writing, as well as a staggering array of Australian publications such as Meanjin, Overland, Going Down Swinging etc  – absolutely invaluable if you’re thinking of submitting to them.

Recently I sat in the back row of a seminar at the Wheeler Centre, my red notebook open in my lap as I tried to stop my hand shaking from the ambitious double shot coffee I was wading through. The speakers were Zoe Dattner  from Sleepers Publishing and Laurie Steed from SPUNC, and I came out with pages of notes, lashings of inspiration, and a need to run home and spill ink.

Some of the lines in my notebook that ended up circled, underlined, and decorated with ‘come back and think about this!’ stars and asterisks include:

50% of your reading should be outside your comfort zone – write outside that zone too.

I realised I’m guilty of this – I’ll read Gorky and Nabokov til the cows come home, but when my fingers trace over the spine of a Palahniuk or a Bukowski, I’ll make the same face as when I’m offered sardines on toast, and turn away. I do need to read authors whose style I’m not at home with, if only to know why. And I know I need more practice writing male characters too.

A writers’ group that makes you feel uncomfortable is probably a good thing.

Sitting in a workshop, watching people’s eyes scroll down the paper that houses your story and realising you’re holding your breath, is quite an experience. I don’t enjoy it, as such – but god, do I appreciate it.

The goal is to become a better writer, not a published writer.

I recently sat on the floor with a glass of wine and counted the spines on my bookshelf that held my name within; and damn, did it feel good!  There’s nothing in the world like holding a book with your story in it, but those early pieces are not ones I’d write anymore – I can already see the change in my style, and my voice. At the end of the day all I really want is to be able to nod at a story and say, yep, I like this one.

A story has as many words in it as it takes to tell the story.

I love this sentence. The catch with online publishing in particular is that flash fiction has taken hold – internet attention spans are notoriously short, and I’ve realised this can affect the way I write.  I’m not exactly proud of that. So whether you’re crafting a six word story, flash fiction, long short story or a novella, just keep writing, and put your pen down when it’s good and ready.

Steph Tout Photography

I wouldn’t be in the same place without the Victorian Writers’ Centre. I know some people are simply not joiners, and I do understand – but you can read the newsletters, watch online interviews with authors, or sit up the back of a seminar with your collar up and dark sunglasses on.  Although, it has to be said, it’s somewhat difficult to go incognito in a room full of people whose very job it is to notice the details!

Andyway, at the very least you can get to chat about all things inky with likeminded scribes…what’s not to love?

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