Monday, 29 August 2016

Wild at Heart

If you are going to write well, write wildly, write with heart.

Omar Musa urges writers to avoid 'anodyne fence-sitter art'. Inspire the reader, encourage them to imagine and grow with your story.

Letting someone else into the world you create is a wonderful gift to give.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Adventure Calls

I have travelled to a lot of places in my lifetime, but never to India - until now.  The inspirational lightbulb is on and dozens of ideas are buzzing around.

You can keep up-to-date with my writing journey on my special blog Mullum to Mumbai where I will be documenting my travels as well as the process of writing over the next two-three months.

Monday, 25 January 2016

How Full is Your Cupboard?

‘We find what we are looking for in life…if you look for happiness you will see it.’
Alexander McCall Smith – The Full Cupboard of Life

Even when I sit down to write, I'm never quite sure what kind of story will emerge. The characters seem to have a mind of their own. There they are, skating off when I thought they were going to look inside the broken box, or picking up a gilded spider when they should be watching the road for smugglers. That's part of the excitement.

When this happens, I keep writing because something unexpected and wonderful might flow.

Still, there are times when the plot takes a turn for the worse. A character is sick, has an unhappy life experience, is no longer talking to their significant other, seems to be dwelling in the darker spaces. At these times, I wonder whether I have the courage to take the story where it needs to go. Will I be happy with the outcome? Will the character recover, be better for the experience? Will people enjoy reading the end result?

At this point, I remind myself that readers will bring to the story their own life history. A sad or confronting story can be meaningful, satisfying or even uplifting. So with a full cupboard of life, I can carry on even if the wayward characters eschew the broken box, or fail to safeguard the pass. All I have to do is open the cupboard door.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Guest Blog on ebookrevolution

In 2015 I had the pleasure of meeting Emily Craven, author, professional speaker, blogger, podcaster and entrepreneur. She is an inspiration for anyone interested in epublishing and other opportunities in the digital age.

We share a fascination in reading practices now that the digital revolution has taken hold.

Emily has been kind enough to host my blog about (subversive) ways of reading Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang on her ebookrevolution.

If you've read Ned, let me (and Emily) know how you went about it.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Blogging On

Here are some things I learnt from being Blogger in Residence at the ACT Writers Centre:

1. Being an arts journalist and blogger is fun


2. Having a coffee break won't help you meet your deadlines...

3. Writers can be generous with their time and information (and truly inspiring)

4. The ACT Writers Centre has a great program of workshops (don't be shy - they're for people like you)


5. The writing and arts scene in Canberra and surrounds is vibrant and buzzing with activity - be part of it!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Rollercoaster: Q&A with Maxine Beneba-Clarke

You have been successful with both prose and poetrydo they come from the same creative place?
I write across genre a lot. I started out as primarily a poet, before moving onto prose and I also write nonfiction. I think of it as using tools from the same tool-box and the same building materials, to fashion different things. Usually I start with the concept or the idea, or even a feeling or event, and the form comes later. Occasionally a short fiction piece will start out as a poem. The story Harlem Jones from my bookForeign Soil started life as a poem called Angry Brown Men Are Going To Burn London To The Ground. The voice in the poem was powerful and I couldn’t abandon it, so I put it in the mouth of a young Black British teenager and kept working on it. The story Hope in Foreign Soil also started out as a long narrative poem written in Jamaican patois called Some Dream Was Brewing.
How do you come up with your ideas? Is there a particular technique that you have found useful for capturing your ‘voice’?
I write mostly from life, even when writing fiction. I’m interested in the ‘ordinarily extraordinary.’ Foreign Soilhas stories set inside Villawood Detention Centre, in Mississippi and New Orleans, in London’s Tottenham in the middle of the 2011 street riots, in an Australian schoolyard in the mid 1980’s. The geography is very loaded and vivid, and often that creates either incredibly intense or incredibly malleable characters as they need to navigate those environments. In terms of my voice, there are so many different ones in Foreign SoilI’m not sure I can even pin-point what mine is.  Except to say that as a writer, the character guides everything. In order to ‘get it right’, I feel I must hand the story completely over to them. The aim, in a sense, is for my voice, or my crafting, not to be visible.
If there was a single word to describe your writing journey what would that be? And why?
Rollercoaster. I always wanted to write, but I never in a million years dreamt I’d have published poetry, fiction, a memoir and a kid’s picture book by the end of next year—or have my work picked up for publication internationally. You hope—of course you have aspirations as a writer—but to have considered these things would happen to my work even five years ago would have seemed absurd to me.
Your work has won a number of prizes over recent years. Were there any significant mentors or supporters who really assisted you when you were starting out?
There are so many—encouraging teachers at high school and at university. I’ve been inspired by a lot of women of colour who were already blazing trails in front of me—writers like Randa Abdel-Fattah, Anita Heiss, Alice Pung, Melissa Lucashenko. There was Jeff Sparrow, the former editor of Overland, who eigth years ago gave me the password to the Overland blog and let me post my poetry there whenever I wanted which suddenly gave me a broad audience. David Ryding, the current director of the Melbourne City of Literature and a former director of The Emerging Writer’s Festival, asked me back to the festival ever year during his time as director, putting me centre-stage back when I had barely published anything at all. Alan Atwood at The Big Issue, who published my first ever feature article. The three judges for the Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript—Paddy O’Reilly, Francesca Rendle-Short and Sam Twyford-Moore, who are all masters of their crafts and without whom my latest book would still probably not have seen the light of day. Erik Jensen, who read my book and offered me work at The Saturday Paper. Sometimes everything’s in place in terms of your skills, and all you need is for someone to come along and offer you a break. Sometimes it’s hard to progress until someone comes along and does so.
If you could have your time as a writer over again, what would you do differently?
There are two short pieces of work I wish I’d never published (I won’t name them), and if I could have my time over, I wouldn’t do so. They weren’t great writing and I’m still unclear about what purpose they served(!). Apart from that, I wouldn’t trade my journey for the world.
You’ve been asked to conduct a workshop for the ACT Writers Centre. In what ways do you think your workshop will benefit emerging writers?
The workshop will teach, or remind, participants of the key components of short fiction, looking at reading examples. It will give them tips on structure, style, narrative voice, characterisation, research, narrative device, dialogue writing, editing and more. Participants will have the opportunity to ‘troubleshoot’ hurdles in their creative process, and to find out more about the submissions and publications process.
Is there any general advice you can give to emerging writers?
Don’t aim to write ‘like’ somebody else. Only you can write like you. Your job is to make that your biggest asset.
This Blog first appeared on Capital Letters, the blog of the ACT Writers Centre.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Hard Work Pays Off for HARDCOPIERS

The ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY Professional Development Program has paid dividends for emerging writers. Over its two year life, sixty new voices have been nurtured by the combination of professional development and industry connection. Kelli-Anne Moore, ACT Writers Centre Director is delighted. ‘We wanted to give our HARDCOPY participants the tools to give themselves the best chance of having a sustainable career as a writer, and if they choose to embark on their journey to publication, they would do so with their eyes open and aware of the realities of the industry,’ she says.

According to Moore, one of the most important contributions of the HARDCOPY program is the sense of community it has engendered: ‘We love to hear about the connections that the participants have made, with each other, and with the Industry.’ This view is shared the HARDCOPY alumni. ‘HARDCOPY gave me invaluable insights into and access to the Australian publishing industry, the opportunity to connect with other writers in a similar stage of the process (the query game is a lot more bearable with company!) and, critically, the confidence to accept that I was ready to start submitting,’ says Sam Hawke, a 2014 HARDCOPY participant. ‘Since the program concluded I have been picked up by a London agent and am currently preparing for submission to publishers. I’ve also made ongoing wonderful friendships and am looking forward to following the careers of all the HARDCOPY alumni.’

Sam is likely to be busy because the Hardcopiers are a talented group with no time to waste. Leearni Hamilton, one of the 2015 participants says that, ‘Since HARDCOPY I have been working on my YA memoir and making my writing as powerful as I can (writing the tough memories). Recently my memoir was shortlisted for the Templeberg Fellowship in Sri Lanka. While I don't have a publishing deal yet I am very focused on polishing my manuscript with the hope that I can submit to more competitions and agents/publishers in the future.’

Developing an individual voice is something Serina Huang also attributes to the HARDCOPY Program: ‘Since HARDCOPY, I have begun to find my voice. I am becoming more authentic in my writing. I have worked through an issue that was blocking progress with my book manuscript. I am engaging more with readers on my blog. I don’t have a big fat publishing deal (yet), but I have focus. I am reaching within and sharing more, and it feels right. A few months ago I wrote a guest blog post about my Australian-Asian identity. And in the last few weeks I have written about my experience of leaving a physically and emotionally abusive relationship.’

HARDCOPY has inspired a series of related writing projects. In September 2014 four Hardcopiers bonded over a shared love of cultural commentary and joined forces to form the Cringe, an Australian voice on literature, culture and the arts. Launched in October 2014 the site is now celebrating its first anniversary, reflecting on the many articles, short fiction, reviews and profiles to have been featured on its pages, penned by both familiar Australian authors and emerging literary voices. Due to the range of material on offer, the Cringe consistently attracts an audience from around the globe, counting author Jerome Charyn and film director Jeremy Whelehan among its readers. Now edited by co-founders Elise Janes and Ken Ward, the Cringe is constantly evolving to build on its success and continue toward its mission of promoting an Australian voice on culture and arts both locally and around the world.

Three other members of the HARDCOPY alumni, Christine McPaul, George Dunford and Lesley Boland have gone on to establish Softcopy, an online e-journal for emerging writers. Since its launch in May 2015, when Softcopy included contributions from the inaugural HARDCOPY program, it continues to be a success. In its first two days, Softcopy received more than 1000 unique views, proving it is an exciting platform to showcase the work of emerging writers. With fiction and non-fiction submissions open until 30 November 2015, this new offering is an important contribution to the writing landscape. Moore agrees. We love to hear about projects–such as the Cringe blog and the Softcopy anthologyand the support and nurturing that participants are in turn providing other emerging writers,’ she says.

For others, like Jane Abbott, HARDCOPY provided a fillip for an already promising career. Jane wrote her manuscript, Watershed, in 2013. In early 2014 she applied to both the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and the ACT Writers' HARDCOPY Professional Development Program for Australian Writers (Fiction Edition); Watershed received a commendation in the VPLA, and Jane was one of thirty participants selected for HARDCOPY. Her submission to the final round of the program proved successful and participating literary agent, Gaby Naher, expressed an interest in reading Watershed in its entirety. Subsequently, Jane signed with The Naher Agency in Sydney, and has spent the last six months developing the manuscript to the highest possible standard. In September this year Jane was offered a two-book publishing contract with Vintage Penguin/Random House. Watershed is to be published in June/July 2016.

HARDCOPY has also provided the backdrop for careers associated with writing. An example is Shu-ling Chua, from the 2015 round, who has been selected as the Live: Producer for Noted Festival 2016 (Canberra's experimental writing festival). Shu-Ling attributes being accepted for HARDCOPY as the moment she identified as a ‘writer’. ‘The program and HARDCOPY community have done wonders for my confidence,’ she says. ‘I've written my first-ever paid piece, ‘Love Like Mine’, and I write regularly for BMA Magazine. My manuscript is on the back-burner but for me, HARDCOPY is really only just the beginning.’

Arts worker and writer, Nigel Featherstone, along with the ACT Writers Centre, can be justifiably proud of the many offshoots from HARDCOPY, only some of which are included here. Funding from the Australia Council has been an important factor in the success of HARDCOPY, enabling emerging writers to engage with the writing and publishing industries, and to form connections that have led to a range of creative endeavours. ‘Without the Australia Council funding, none of this would have been possible,’ Moore says. 

This blog post is part of my Blogger in Residence with the ACT Writers Centre and first appeared in Capital Letters