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Miles Franklin longlist

I’m excited to announce that Dyschronia has been longlisted for this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award!

It’s bittersweet to be recognised for writing about the climate emergency at this moment. I wrote something for Overland last week which is not directly about the book, but discusses the emotional burden that comes with working in this area. I’m beginning to call it climate fury, rather than climate grief. I am encouraged by how many writers, artists, and makers are collaborating to make the cultural change we need now, even if it’s clear that we have a lot more work to do.

I’m currently on a tour of Barngarla, Wirangu and Nauo country (the Eyre Peninsula) as part of Writers SA’s Writers and Readers in Residence project. I was based in Whyalla for ten days where I spoke with local writers and high schoolers, then visited Streaky Bay and Elliston for a couple of workshops. Here are some photos from the trip so far:

You can follow my adventures on Twitter or via Writers SA.

Last night I arrived in Port Lincoln, so I’m just settling in and getting to know this vibrant town. I’ll be based in the Port Lincoln Public Library until the 31st of May. There are several events organised for the next 10 days, so if you’re in the area, come along for one of the free workshops, make a time for a one-on-one consultation, or just drop in and say hello.

Port Lincoln Public Library information

The Writers and Readers in Residence Project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.


On tour

I am just back from a very quick trip to Melbourne for the Aurealis awards – I came home without a trophy but I had a great time, met some very cool people and remain stoked that Dyschronia is on the SF novel shortlist alongside some excellent books. Congratulations to this year’s winners and to all my fellow shortlistees.

Jennifer Mills at Point Lowly This week I’m heading off on a tour to Barngarla, Wirangu, and Nauo country, also known as the Eyre Peninsula. I’ll be based in Whyalla from 8-18 May, then heading across to Streaky Bay and Elliston where I’m teaching a couple of workshops on the 19th and 20th of May. After that I’m heading to Port Lincoln for another ten days, until 1 June. This is all part of the Writers SA Writers and Readers in Residence Project, connecting regional writers and readers with each other as well as with Adelaide-based institutions.

I’m excited to revisit Whyalla, as it’s almost two years since I was last there – I went snorkelling with the giant cuttlefish and wrote an essay, ‘Swimming with Aliens’, that was shortlisted for the Horne prize and later published in Overland. Aside from hitchhiking across to Perth in my wild youth, I’ve never explored this part of the country, so I’m excited to learn about the people (and other life forms) that inhabit these places, hear some of their stories, and to find out what is happening in this beautiful part of the world.

The project allows me some time to work on my own writing, so I’ll be pursuing a few different projects while I’m over there – some fiction and some non-fiction. As always, I’m particularly interested in the challenges that climate change presents, and how regional communities are working together to face them.

I’ll also be doing a few events, including school and library visits. If you’re a writer, reader, book club member, would like to attend one of the workshops, or are just curious about the project, you can contact Writers SA for more info about the tour and/or stay connected by following me on Twitter.


Aurealis shortlist

This week the Aurealis awards shortlists were announced and I was thrilled to find Dyschronia has been shortlisted for Best Science Fiction novel! These are Australia’s only major SF/F awards, and I am so pleased that the Aurealis judges have included my work on the shortlist along with some other brilliant books.

Speaking of science fiction, I have a new short story in the next issue of Meanjin called Keeping an Eye on Sinclair. It’s one of those stories where you want to apologise for inventing the thing you invented, in case it actually comes to pass – but really it’s about a dysfunctional friendship. Looks like another brilliant issue, with some of my favourite writers in there, so if you don’t already subscribe to the journal now is an excellent time to do so. (Here’s how.)

Also coming up is Adelaide Writers Week, where I’ll be chairing a couple of sessions. One is with Carolin Emcke on her stunning book How We Desire – this will be a great conversation to start your Sunday. The other is on Tuesday with the wonderful Melissa Lucashenko, I can’t recommend her new book Too Much Lip highly enough. Hope to see some of you at Tarndanya.

That’s it for now. I’m deep in the dark, thickety bit of what I hope will be the last draft of this new novel, so this is just a quick update as I wrestle for what remains of my work-life balance. Next month I’m teaching a workshop for Writers SA about writing a novel. I will try to have it figured out by then!


List and anti-list

A last post for the year, and a last essay: ‘Against Realism’ is out in the new Overland, my final issue as fiction editor. It’s a reflection on the role of dystopias and utopias, and something of a defence of the dystopian turn (in the service of making this world better, of course). This essay was written to accompany my last four commissions: wonderful short stories by Claire G Coleman, Elizabeth Tan, Wayne Macauley and Robin M Eames. It is sad to be closing this chapter as fiction ed after six years, as I’ve loved being an integral part of the journal, but I’m also excited to see what new directions Overland will take, and to make room for other voices.

Print copies are out now, and non-subscribers will be able to read the essay online in a few weeks’ time.

collage of publication photosIt’s been a big year.

For me, the most important publication of the year happened eleven months ago with the release of Dyschronia, my fourth book/third novel. I’m really thrilled with the responses this book has generated, particularly critically but also in more personal encounters with readers. It was a hard gestation and it’s been utterly rewarding to see people react to this unconventional novel with enthusiasm. And it’s nice to see the book appearing on a few end-of-year lists.

I published some essays I’m proud of this year, in addition to the one mentioned above: ‘Seeing Landscape,’ a long and personal essay about art, climate change and family, was published in the Autumn edition of Meanjin; an essay about encountering cuttlefish in their breeding waters off Point Lowly, ‘Swimming with Aliens,’ was my other favourite.

Now for the anti-list:

It is customary at this time of year to note what one has achieved over twelve months of writing, and there is value in looking at outcomes, but I’m also wary of all this focus on productivity. There are many less visible parts of my working life that I also see when I look back. I am writing from the midst of a draft of a new book, a queer ghost story which has taken up most of my energy this year. I’m planning to finish it in the first half of 2019. I received a Copyright Agency grant to support the writing, and I spent some of those funds going back to China and reconnecting with Beijing, where parts of the book are set.

Another cool thing I worked on was The Things We Did Next, a project by maker/producer Alex Kelly. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Alex on this exciting theatre project in development and participating in the Adhocracy residency at Vitalstatistix.

In the spirit of collective action, I have also joined a national committee at the MEAA to campaign for freelancers rights and fair pay in 2019, which feels like a very exciting extension of my old #paythewriters work, and a good direction for the union – look out for more news on this in 2019.

I learned a lot this year, and walked a lot, and did my share of caring work. That kind of work always seems to go unmeasured on end of year lists, or get thought of as an ‘interruption’ to writing. But the things we make are only ever the surface of the work we do, and it’s important to acknowledge that ‘other’ work underpins it all: the work of survival, the work of community, the work of social change.

For a lot of this year, I’ve felt pushed for time in ways that I think run counter to the creative process. Part of that is my own focus on the urgency of addressing climate change, part of it is financial pressure, and part of it is circumstantial. I hope to take some time this summer to slow down and observe the world around me: to pay attention to nature, to what sustains me in my work, and to how I might sustain the work of others.