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Digital Residency

For the month of June, I’ll be the first Digital Writer in Residence for Writing Australia. There will be six of us over the next year or so, one from each participating Writers Centre. My first post is up over at the new purpose-built blog:

“What does it mean to be a digital writer in residence?

Personally, I see this month-long opportunity as half experimental/lab residency, and half outreach project. It means I’ll be tweeting from @digitalWIR for the month of June, participating in book/literary discussions, and offering insights and observations about my day of writing and reading. I’ll be blogging here at least twice a week with posts about craft, the digital writer’s life, freelancing for the internet, editing, and more;

It means I’ll be conducting two digital forums for writers, where I’ll be available over Google Hangout and Twitter for discussions with writers around Australia and the world with a focus on building community with regional South Australian writers (watch this space for details);

It means that after blogging for nearly ten years and tweeting for four, I’ll be taking some time to reflect on what living on the internet feels like, and whether it’s changed how I write and what I read and the way I think about storytelling;

It means I’ll be experimenting with digital formats for fiction, including Twitter and Storify, and sharing the results here for free;

And finally, it means I’ll be available and accessible for your questions about my work, this residency, or anything you want to know about the writing life.”

I’m certain it’s going to be a fun month of writing, connecting, and experimentation, and I’m keen to make this as participatory and broad-reaching as I possibly can. So head on over to the Digital Writer in Residence blog and leave a comment, or follow @digitalwir for updates and conversations.


War poets, open letters, and other animals

A quick post ahead of this week’s no-doubt-hectic-as-ever Sydney Writers Festival. If you’re in town, I’ll be at Sombre the Night Is: The Poetry of the Great War reading and talking about the continuing resonance of war poetry, and at The Big Read for the announcement of the Best Young Australian Novelists of 2014, for which I was one of the judges. If you see me around, come and say hello!

Despite once calling for a general open letter ceasefire, I have signed my name to this open letter against the cuts to the Australia Council which are ahead in the next few years if this government has its way in the Senate. It’s a spiteful budget, full of cheap shots against the poor. I’m more concerned about changes to Newstart for the young, and health and education, as well as what looks like the removal of any help for renewable energy, than my own skin, but it’s worth mentioning most artists are poor and precariously employed too. Yesterday’s protests gave me a little hope that there are plenty of decent hardworking people out there who will stand up for fairness in Australian society against these mean-spirited attacks on the most vulnerable.

In writing news, I have a new review coming up at the Sydney Review of Books this week;

A new short story in the fabulous independent journal, The Lifted Brow (it’s about a woman with a phantom body);

Another coming soon in the ace Review of Australian Fiction (it’s about sharks);

And this much-anticipated (by me) writing workshop at the Adelaide Zoo on the 31st of May – a unique opportunity that will get your creativity howling, roaring and swinging from tree to tree. There are still spaces – just book online at the SAWC website, or give them a ring.


the dungeon behind door number four

This week I’ve been tidying up the new book before I send it off to my publisher with its best outfit on. I sound a bit like Mary Poppins describing it like that but the work itself is more grueling than twee – rising early and beginning in the dark seems to help. Of course there is more dungeon time ahead, rereading, editing, packaging and (hopefully) discussing the thing, but I’m pleased I’ll have a little time back as of this weekend. I wish to spend the next month reading books that I am not reading for work – I’ve been sneak-reading Edna O’Brien all week, and it’s both satisfying and daunting to read such masterful short stories at the end of the day. Although my partner scoffs when I say this, I really just want to write short fiction forever and not bother with those messy, unwieldy things called novels ever again.

Yeah, that’s her laughing from the other room.

Meanwhile, other work has been trundling along. Overland’s 60th anniversary year has involved a little project I’m calling “fancy cuts” – four short story commissions, in the service of intertextual fun with the archives – subscribe and see what four brilliant writers come up with for this year. Being an editor is deeply rewarding, in many ways more rewarding than writing. But see above re: lying about giving that up.

Myself and Overland ed Jeff Sparrow shared a stage with erudite Adelaidean Kerryn Goldsworthy at Writers Week, where we chatted about book reviews and reviewing culture. The conversation was recorded and you can listen to the podcast here. I say mean things about The Australian in it.

Or you can do what I might be doing next week, which is give up your day job and listen to all the Adelaide Writers Week podcasts here.

And before I forget, I have a couple of workshops coming up at the SA Writers’ Centre, including a half day talking about literary journals, and a whole day writing about animals at the Adelaide Zoo - book early for that one!


Becoming South Australian

It’s been a busy week here in Adelaide, where my partner and I have moved for six months – a dose of transitional urbanisation before we head to Beijing (for her work) at the end of July. All of the festivals descend on the city at once in February/March, and it’s wonderful to see the bewilderment as racing car enthusiasts, Fringe performers, Writers Week audiences, and the Skywhale cross paths. Most of my week has been swallowed by the wonderful Adelaide Writers’ Week. It’s been a great festival so far, meticulously planned and with lots of interesting discussions. Plus a comics stream for the first time! I managed to meet one of my heroes, Alison Bechdel, who spoke very generously about her process and has made me want to pursue comics seriously again, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while (but have been coy about admitting).

In fact I have a drawing or two in this book Fluid Prejudice which Sam Wallman has put together, a great range of voices writing on the very contested spaces of Australian history. I’m thrilled to bits to be in it, as it’s my first ‘proper’ comics publication, and contains many excellent artists.

The Festival Awards were presented on Saturday, and I was very pleased to be the recipient of the 2014 Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship for South Australian writers. I am officially South Australian! (Does this mean it’s time to become a Beijinger?) It’s been nice to be in company with Barbara, as we share a publisher, and almost a neighbourhood, though many years apart. Her presence is still felt here in Adelaide. There is also an additional affinity, in that I’ve recently taken up woodcut printmaking:

pomegranate print

/pomegranate print/

Mostly I’ve been doing it in my own style, using this DIY press I made from my bottle capper:

bottletop press

/bottletop press/

… and a lot of trial and error. But I’ve found the excellent folks at Tooth and Nail, and I’ll be going to a wood engraving workshop with visiting artist David Frazer on Saturday. In this strange lull between finishing a book and getting it out into the world it feels very good to be cheating on literature by fooling around with the visual arts. Lower stakes, happier process. I’ll try and remember that for the books.

Postscript, 6 March 2014:
I forgot to mention that my essay On Quitting Poetry, published in Meanjin, is now online. It’s been generating some interesting responses!