Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Asylum Seekers And Bum Jokes.

Yesterday I went to the Melbourne Writers Festival, accompanied by a colleague and twenty five students. I never got to the sessions I would have chosen, but to sessions the kids needed to attend.

Andy Griffiths was the hit of the day - kind of like a children's rockstar. All he has to do is talk about bums, vomit and heads exploding and the kids were eating out of the palm of his hand. The queue for his book signing was way longer than any other.

Morris Gleitzman was also popular. His approach to speaking to kids was quite different, but then so are his books. The kids really enjoyed him too.

I was thoroughly impressed by Deborah Ellis, the Canadian author who writes about children in war and other hotspots. She was in conversation with (I think) Sheelagh Purdon of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I didn't catch her name, and the programs show two different people listed.

Deborah and Sheelagh's approach to this issue was sensitive, balanced and measured. Their advice and responses to students was thoughtful and encouraged students to take the initiative to seek the truth. And, I might say, the questions from auditorium full of students were intelligent and articulate.

It was great to see Margo Lanagan too. I was only able to say 'Hi' briefly, and I saw her signing books. I wish I'd been able to attend one of her sessions.

All in all a successful day for my students, all wannabe writers and avid readers. And if these festivals encourage reading and writing, then we all need to be supporting them.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


And just like that a whole lot of things fall into place.

Last weekend I was on a writers retreat with SuperNOVA writers, my writing group. Somewhere between the red wine, the fun and the fellowship, I edited and rewrote a few stories. A few days ago I posted about this process, about looking back and seeing an improvement in my own writing. Since then, a matter of only four days, there's been a shift in my paradigm.

Theories, ideas, rules, structures and comments about writing short fiction all clicked in my brain. It's like the scales have been taken from my eyes. A new understanding.

Along with some other great stuff that's happening around me, I feel re-inspired. I really can't wait to sit down and get some new words out. I feel like I've just lifted from that plateau of which I wrote, and am climbing onward and upward. Of course, I'm still in the foothills.

Writing! Soon!

But first, I have some home maintenance to do. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Plateaus And Progress.

I rarely recognise my progress as a writer. It often feels as though I'm stuck on a plateau.

When I was living in Japan I visited home about once every eighteen months. On such trips I would comment on how much my nieces had grown. My sister was usually surprised by this, as she'd not noticed it to the same extent I had.  But then she'd been with them daily and not noticed the gradual growth.

Recently I've had to edit a piece I originally wrote a couple of years ago. Sure, it had been through a couple of rewrites since then, but I'd not read it since last year. I was amazed at how many flaws I found in the piece. Since it is slated for publication and had already been accepted (and been through an editor), I had to resist the urge to rewrite entire chunks of the story.

Don't get me wrong, I still think it's a good story. But I was able to recognise exactly how much I've learned in the past six months or so. And how my current writing has improved.

It is worth revisiting your past.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Year’s Best Australian Fantasy And Horror: Recommended Reading List. (2012)

Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene have compiled a list of the year's recommended reading - and I'm thrilled to once again have a story included.

It's an honour to be listed among these writers.

Thanks to Herika Raymer, Terrie Leigh Relf and Tyree Campbell at Cover of Darkness for publishing my story.

Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror: Recommended Reading List: 2012

Joanne Anderton, “High Density”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #53
——— “The Bone Chime Song”, Light Touch Paper Stand Clear
Daniel Baker, “At The Crossroads”, Aurealis #51
Alan Baxter, “Cephalopoda Obsessia”, Bloodstones
——— “Crossroads and Carousels”, The Red Penny Papers
——— “Fear is the Sin”, From Stage Door Shadows
——— and Felicity Dowker, “Burning, Always Burning”, Damnation and Dames,
Eddy Burger, “Domestic Berserker”, Dark Edifice 3
Jenny Blackford, “The Sacrifice”, Aurealis #47
James Bradley, “Beauty’s Sister”, Penguin
Isobelle Carmody, “The Wolf Prince”, Metro Winds
——— “Metro Winds”, Metro Winds
Jay Caselberg, “Blind Pig”, Damnation and Dames
Steve Cameron, “If You Give This Girl a Ride”, Cover of Darkness 11
David Conyers and Brian M. Sammons, “The R’lyeh Singularity”, Cthulhu Unbound 3.
Terry Dowling , “Mariners’ Round”, Postscripts 28/29: Exotic Gothic 4
——— “The Way the Red Clown Hunts You”, Subterranean, Winter 2012
Thoraiya Dyer, “The Second Card Of The Major Arcana”, Apex
——— “Faet’s Fire”, Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear
——— “Surviving Film”, Bloodstones
Jacob Edwards, “Salt & Pepper”, Polluto 9¾: Witchfinders Vs The Evil Red
Marina Finlayson, “The Family Business”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #55
Joanna Galbraith, “The Keeper’s Heart”, The Coloured Lens #3
Michelle Goldsmith, “The Hound of Henry Hortinger”, Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke
Stephanie Gunn, “The Skin of the World”, Bloodstones
——— “Ghosts”, Epilogue
Lisa L. Hannett, Angela Slatter, “The Red Wedding”, Midnight and Moonshine
——— “Warp And Weft”, Midnight and Moonshine
——— “Prohibition Blues”, Damnation and Dames
Richard Harland, “A Mother’s Love”, Bloodstones
Narrelle M. Harris, “Thrall”, Showtime
Robert Hood, “Escena de un Asesinato”, Postscripts 28/29: Exotic Gothic 4
——— “Walking the Dead Beat”, Damnation and Dames
Deborah Kalin, “First They Came . . .”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #55
Pete Kempshall, “Dead Inside”, Bloodstones
——— “Sound and Fury”, Damnation and Dames
Margo Lanagan, “Isles Of The Sun”, Cracklescape
——— “Titty Anne and the Very, Very Hairy Man”, Meanjin, Volume 71, Number 4.
——— “Significant Dust”, Cracklescape
——— “Bajazzle”, Cracklescape
S. G. Larner, “Duck Creek Road”, Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things and other stories
Martin Livings, “Birthday Suit”, Living with the Dead
——— “The Ar-Dub”, Living with the Dead
Tracie McBride, “Drive, She Said”, Lovecraft eZine 14
Andrew J. McKiernan, “They Don’t Know That We Know What They Know”, Midnight Echo 8
——— “The Final Degustation of Doctor Ernest Blenheim”, Midnight Echo 7
Kelly Matsuura, “Hours on the Voodoo Clock”, Free Flash Fiction
Nicole Murphy, “Euryale”, Bloodstones
Jason Nahrung, “The Mornington Ride”, Epilogue
——— “Breaking the Wire”, Aurealis #47
Ian Nichols, “In the Dark”, Apex Magazine 37
Shauna O’Meara, “Blood Lillies”, Midnight Echo 8
Christopher Sequeria, “The Adventure of the Lost Specialist”, Sherlock Holmes: The Crossovers Casebook
Helen Stubbs, “Sayuri’s Revenge”, Tales From the Bell Club
Anna Tambour, “King Wolf”, A Season in Carcosa
Kaaron Warren, “The Pickwick Syndrome”, Stories Of The Smoke
——— “Sky”, Through Splintered Walls
——— “Creek”, Through Splintered Walls
——— “The Lighthouse Keepers’ Club”, Postscripts 28/29: Exotic Gothic 4

And those in the Anthology:

Joanne Anderton, “Tied To The Waste”, Tales Of Talisman
R.J. Astruc, “The Cook of Pearl House, A Malay Sailor by the Name of Maurice”, Dark Edifice 2
Lee Battersby, “Comfort Ghost”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 56
Alan Baxter, “Tiny Lives”, Daily Science Fiction
Jenny Blackford, “A Moveable Feast”, Bloodstones
Eddy Burger, “The Witch's Wardrobe”, Dark Edifice 3
Isobelle Carmody, “The Stone Witch”, Under My Hat
Jay Caselberg, “Beautiful”, The Washington Pastime
Stephen Dedman, “The Fall”, Exotic Gothic 4, Postscripts
Felicity Dowker, “To Wish On A Clockwork Heart”, Bread And Circuses
Terry Dowling, “Nightside Eye”, Cemetary Dance
Tom Dullemond, “Population Management”, Danse Macabre
Thoraiya Dyer, “Sleeping Beauty”, Epilogue
Will Elliot, “Hungry Man”, The One That Got Away
Jason Fischer, “Pigroot Flat”, Midnight Echo 8
Dirk Flinthart, “The Bull In Winter”, Bloodstones
Lisa L. Hannett, “Sweet Subtleties”, Clarkesworld
Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter, “Bella Beaufort Goes To War”, Midnight And Moonshine
Narrelle M. Harris, “Stalemate”, Showtime
Kathleen Jennings, “Kindling”, Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear
Gary Kemble, “Saturday Night at the Milkbar”, Midnight Echo 7
Margo Lanagan, “Crow And Caper, Caper And Crow”, Under My Hat
Martin Livings, “You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet”, Living With The Dead
Penelope Love, “A Small Bad Thing”, Bloodstones
Andrew J. McKiernan, “Torch Song”, From Stage Door Shadows
Karen Maric, “Anvil Of The Sun”, Aurealis
Faith Mudge, “Oracle's Tower”, To Spin A Darker Stair
Nicole Murphy, “The Black Star Killer”, Damnation And Dames
Jason Nahrung, “The Last Boat To Eden”, Surviving The End
Tansy Rayner Roberts, “What Books Survive”, Epilogue
Angela Slatter, “Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”, This Is Horror Webzine
Anna Tambour, “The Dog Who Wished He'd Never Heard Of Lovecraft”, Lovecraft Zine
Kyla Ward, “The Loquacious Cadaver”, The Lion And The Aardvark: Aesop's Modern Fables
Kaaron Warren, “River Of Memory”, Zombies Vs. Robots

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Retreat To Advance.

It's the last day of my writer's retreat. I'm down by the beach at Dromana with SuperNOVA, my writers' group.

Nine of us gathered, all like-minded individuals, and I feel fortunate to be sharing this time with such great writers, all more experienced and knowledgeable than I. Clarion graduates, professionally published writers and editors.

So far I've been very productive. I've completed the editorial changes on my story, That Which We Believe, due to be published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, as well as completed rewrites on two other stories. Both these stories will be sent out into the publishing wilderness this coming week.

But before that happens I have a few hours left to get to work on another story. And so it's back to radio silence as I head off to the dark side of the moon.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Asia Literacy.

Day three of the national Asia Education Foundation conference, and I'm still trying to organise and focus all the information and ideas that've been thrown at me thus far.

We have the federal Education Minister, Bill Shorten, as the keynote this morning, and I must say I'm looking forward to it. Yesterday we had Josh Frydenberg, opposition MP as a speaker. Bearing in mind that we are only four weeks out from a federal election, I was less than enthusiastic about listening to politicians speak. What I found was an intelligent, informed  and bi-partisan approach to the need for our students to engage with Asia in this, the Asian century.

Yesterday morning we also heard Professor Yong Zhau speak regarding the need for global education. He was funny, thoroughly engaging and thought provoking. I've been filled with not only a renewed energy towards my own teaching, but new thoughts regarding many of my own education philosophies. After he was done, I realised I already own one of his books.

But as any teacher knows, any conference or PD session is rated according to the morning teas and lunches they provide. On that basis alone, this conference gets a healthy five stars.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Career Counselling.

My Chinese homestay guest left last week. He was the translator for the four staff members and eleven students from Wujiang Senior Middle School who joined our school program for a week. The program was a huge success, thanks to my school community. I worked closely with Robyn to plan and run the whole thing, and she truly deserves much of the credit. Well done.

But now they've gone, and I've been busy this week catching up on my careers counselling and course advice for students. This is one of my roles within the school, and I  have university qualifications and professional memberships in Careers Development. It's an interesting process, listening to students talk of their plans, goals and dreams. And it's a delicate balance, encouraging these dreams while pointing out the realities.

Of course there are always the few students who have completely unrealistic plans, the really short guy who wants to play NBA, or the  young girl who is failing every subject and refuses to go to university, but wants to be a doctor.

And then there are the 'creative' types. The musicians, the writers, the artists, the actors and the dancers. There is no qualification for these careers. No prospective customer is going to consider buying a painting from you, but ask to see your degree first. When someone buys your first novel from a bookstore, they're not going to do so on the proviso that you're qualified to write.

My advice to students in these instances is to follow their dream, but have some back up in place. (And believe me, this goes a long way to pacifying parents and encourages them to support their child.)  You want to be a writer?  Great! These university courses will develop your skills and knowledge, and in the meantime your work will improve. Have you considered a teaching qualification alongside that? How about a few editing courses to go with the writing, so you can support yourself until your first novel becomes an international bestseller.  And so on.

I always ask them whether they are currently 'doing' their art, and to what extent. So, you want to be an actor? Are you taking any classes? What productions have you been in? How many auditions have you undergone?

Sometimes I find these kids are in love with the idea of being an 'artist' rather than actually doing the art. And I advise them that they are going to up against all kinds of people who really love doing this stuff, have been studying it, and have been perfecting their craft.

No, I never tell them to give up. I do ask them to consider how much they really want to do it. Do your art, but do it well. And try to do it better than anyone else.

Or become a teacher. (insert irony mark here)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Have A Safe Trip.

My Chinese guest left this morning at a ridiculously insane hour, which means I'll have a slight headache from a lack of sleep for the rest of the day.

The exchange program is now off the ground, and there'll be lots of work to do before we take our students over to China. The last week or so has flown by, but the educational benefits for both Chinese and Australian students and teachers has been obvious and immediate.

We had a great week here at Chateau Cameron, and Hunter will be missed. Have a safe trip home.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gotta Wear Shades?

I sold a story this week, which is great news. It's a story I really like, and when I wrote it I was riffing off a story by one of my favourite short story writers, Katherine Mansfield. I was surprised when it was straight out rejected at a number of markets without any comment. I'd never been so confident of selling a story before. Finally, one editor made a short comment and with a quick rewrite, he bought the story. All good, in the end.

But despite selling a story this week, I've been a little pessimistic about my writing future. I don't feel like I'm advancing and improving, although it may simply be that the progress is slow. Being in Australia I don't feel like we have the same opportunities and access  to SF workshops and masterclasses that our American peers have. And I haven't yet cracked that pro-market barrier.

I am, of course, extremely grateful to SuperNOVA, my writers' group. Their comments, insights and critiques have taught me a great deal. And generally they have been very kind with their feedback.

This morning, I noticed a posting on Facebook from someone I know. A young woman in her first year of university. She simply said she was excited for the future and feeling wonderful.

I have no idea whether this is a general feeling towards life, or whether she's received some significant news, but I'm thrilled for her that she's so optimistic.

Now while I have plans and hopes for my writing future, I don't know whether optimistic is the word I would use for me. But it's certainly a wonderful state to be in, and one that I'm hoping to achieve.