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One foot in front of the other

I’ve been a bit quiet here as I wade deep into another draft of the new novel. It has felt good to be able to give it the time after a chaotic first half of the year (releasing a book while demolishing and rebuilding parts of your house is slightly disruptive). But most of the things that were shaken up are falling to earth again, and I’m more or less back in my routine, and able to tend to the work at hand – give or take a day here and there glued to the unexpected plot twists of Australian politics.

Unlike Canberra, most of the disruptions have been good… Dyschronia has been so wonderfully well received. Another interesting review popped up recently in Southerly. I particularly liked the writer’s list of novelists working in a similar vein, as it happens to include some of my favourite recent Australian fiction.

I’ve also been spending way too much time obsessing over old maps. A wonderful three weeks on Bruny Island had me revisiting a lot of my thinking about landscape, walking, and changing relationships with ‘nature’ in the Anthropocene. I’m putting some of this together in an essay, which I hope to share in due course, but as with the novel it’s a slow process, patient and iterative; a long walk rather than a sprint, and that suits me.

I have a few events coming up over the next month or so:

Adhocracy banner
Next week I’m taking part in Adhocracy, the art/performance development lab run by Adelaide’s brilliant Vitalstatistix. I’ll be collaborating with film-maker/activist Alex Kelly on her project The Things We Did Next, the talk show of the future. There will be two artist talks and a showing but we’re one of nine extraordinary projects working over the weekend, so come down to Port Adelaide and check out the full program.
Writers SA logo
On the 15th September I’m teaching a writing workshop for Writers SA at Hutt St Library in Adelaide – there are still some places so do book if you are interested in developing your skills in the short story form. All levels are welcome, from beginners to published writers.

After that, I’m in Melbourne on the 25th September to speak at Extinction in/and Australia, a one-day symposium at the University of Melbourne that “brings together researchers and practitioners from around Australia and across a range of disciplines: biosciences, earth sciences, environmental science, urban studies, aquatic studies, Indigenous studies, the humanities and the creative arts. It aims to open up different approaches to extinction, with the hope of producing new dialogues between researchers and practitioners – bringing extinction, for better or worse, into the forefront of our consciousness.” It’s going to be a great day of discussion about the current crisis, and what the future holds. It’s free! Places are limited though, so please register via the website.

A couple of things went online since my last post: I recorded a long podcast interview with The Garrett, which was fun;

My essay ‘Seeing Landscape’ poked its head out from behind the paywall at Meanjin;

And the shortlist for the Overland/VU short story prize went live – congratulations to everyone on it! it was great to be a judge again. The winner and two runners-up will be revealed soon.

To the islands

I’m very happy to share the news that from next week, I’ll be writer in residence in Nuenonne country, at Lunnawannalonna (Bruny Island). I’m spending three weeks at Adventure Bay, where I’ll be working on an essay about hiking and the impacts of tourism. Having visited the island briefly this summer I am very keen to return and spend some more time there in the off season, to get to know the place and some of its stories and people. I’ll be there from the 14th June until the 6th July. A huge thank you to the Bruny Island Foundation for the Arts for this wonderful opportunity.

There are white Bennett’s wallabies at Adventure Bay that I missed seeing last time, so I will attempt to find some when I’m not writing. (Apparently they enjoy opium.) I am also looking forward to using the word ‘isthmus’ as much as possible:

And on the 30th June, I’ll be teaching a writing workshop on the island for interested residents, so keep an eye out for more info if you’re a local!

If you missed out on all the great discussions at the Feminist Writers Festival, you can catch up via youtube.

They have shared some great pics from the event here, too.

Mentors at FWF

The Feminist Writers Festival is coming up next weekend and I’ll be appearing on Sunday 27th at this event:

Mentoring Feminists, Mentoring Writers
Queen Victoria Women’s Centre Victoria Room, 12–2pm

“Mentoring is a critical part of the creative life, but something women and non-binary writers are often excluded from. Without mentoring, writers and artists can miss out on important networks or opportunities; sometimes, it can be hard to even get a foot in the door.

In this session, hear from writers and editors Jennifer Mills, Natalie Kon-Yu and Jacinda Woodhead about the importance of active mentoring in the creative arts.”

It’s going to be a great session. Tickets are selling fast, but you can still get yours here.

Yesterday I dropped into the ABC studios in Adelaide for a wonderful chat with Deb Tribe about my work – you can listen online via their website.

Fins, masks, and podcasts

Jennifer Mills at Point Lowly In June last year, I went snorkelling with the giant Australian cuttlefish in their breeding waters at Point Lowly, near Whyalla. These astonishing animals appear in various forms throughout Dyschronia, and I did plenty of research into them, but I didn’t go to see them in person until I’d finished the novel, perhaps wary that such an encounter would overwhelm the image I held in my mind; the glittering skin of the cuttlefish came to echo the migraine visuals of the books’ protagonist, Sam.

When my partner and I finally made the trip over to Whyalla, it was at a time of crisis for the region, and I decided to write about the cuttlefish in the context of South Australia’s industrial transformation, as we rapidly shift from fossil fuel dependence to renewable energy. The Whyalla steelworks, closed when we visited, has been re-opened with huge investment in solar and storage, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the possibilities for the region.

The essay, Swimming with Aliens, was shortlisted for the Horne prize, and has now found a happy home at Overland – which means you can read it for free on the website (though if you can afford it, a subscription helps the journal keep up its good work).

The week this essay went to print, we had a state election in SA. The result meant that I had to snatch the final version back and make some minor adjustments. I made an effort to retain the note of optimism, even though I wasn’t really feeling it then. I’m less despairing now, having had time to think it over. The energy transformation in SA has largely come from a place of desperation – and in a time of industrial closures, renewable energy is providing a much-needed economic boost to regional towns. With the federal Liberal government pushing its ‘worse than nothing’ NEG and trying to keep coal in business, the political discourse is disappointing, to put it politely. The SA Liberals, who privatised the state’s electricity grid in 1999 (to help pay for the state bank bailout, don’t forget), are back in power, but the economic realities have profoundly changed, so much so that 100% renewable generation looks inevitable. So I’m clinging to my fragile optimism, but I’m also grounded in the stories that I’m telling, and always aware of the power of narrative in working for change.

I am not just underwater this week, but also on the airwaves. Radio National’s Hub on Books has just played the interview I recorded earlier in the year – I am pictured in the ABC studios in Adelaide back in February, with my preferred mode of transportation. You can listen to the podcast here. I am on last, so about 45 minutes in.

Secondly, the podcasts from Adelaide Writers Week are up, so I am catching up on some of the conversations I missed or want to revisit. I highly recommend Teju Cole and Sarah Sentilles, who incorporated the fighter-plane flyovers into their discussion about images of war. You can also catch me with Eva Hornung talking about small towns, trauma, and time (The Last Garden is phenomenal), and discussing the future alongside Cory Doctorow and Maja Lunde.

Third, I’m featured in the recently-revived Meanjin podcast, reading from a recent short story, ‘Miracles’, and chatting about Dyschronia, time, climate change, and writing the mythic.

Miracles‘ is in a new anthology out this week, Meanjin A-Z, which is edited by Jonathan Green and features fiction from the journal from 1980 to now, organised alphabetically by author (I always get a little thrill when I see my name next to David Malouf’s). It’s a fine collection and one I am sure I will read, re-read, and use in writing workshops for many years to come.

All good bookshops, etc.