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Feb 7, 2009


A wealth of literary-minded titbits (yes, that is the proper Australian spelling) to share with you this week:

* Only one week until Writers at the Convent. I don’t have a lot of dough at the moment (read: broke) but I can’t miss the Australian Fiction session at 8pm on the Saturday. It’ll be my Valentines Day treat to myself. Robert Drewe’s Grace is one of my favourite novels, I love Peter Goldsworthy’s collection The List of All Answers, and I’m yet to read Steven Carroll, but the topic is, of course, one that interests me immensely. I also hope to make it to some of the sessions on evolution, and the Middle East. Go check something out if you’re in Melbourne. I haven’t been to the Abbotsford Convent yet, but I hear it’s a stunning place.

* Plans for the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival are in full swing. I was lucky enough to attend in 2006, and it was the most wonderful writers’ festival I’ve been to. International guests in intimate, heated, and important discussions, and so many chances for stimulating conversation and education in a beautiful environment – Ubud, Bali. The 2009 theme will be Suka Duka: Compassion and Solidarity. It runs from the October 7-11. From director Janet DeNeefe’s email:

Suka Duka is an ancient communal wisdom that for centuries has been one of the main pillars of Bali’s traditional institutions and communities. The principle has guided the members of the traditional institutions, such as banjar (neighbourhood organisations) and desa pakraman (customary villages), to act as one single entity in dealing with life’s hardships and blessings. The suffering of one member will be shouldered by all, while the joy of one will be shared by the other.

The theme reflects the Festival’s commitment to turn this literary gathering into an inspiring moment, through which writers and readers from every corner of the world can establish a mutual understanding as well as a common platform to remind the world of the need to think and act as one single, compassionate entity, particularly during this epoch of violent conflicts and social turmoil.

In 2009, the enduring power of the human spirit over suffering and hardship will be explored alongside stories that have changed lives and tales of profound wisdom. Environmental issues and the rise of fundamentalism will be further debated with globalisation, censorship of media and world poverty. The art of storytelling will be celebrated together with discussions on writing about travel, food, poetry and song.

The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will continue its culinary tradition with visiting chefs descending on the kitchens of some of Ubud’s most gracious hotels. They will join forces with our leading literary stars to present the kind of languorous lunches and dinners for which we have become famous.

Invited guests include Nobel Laureates  JM Coetzee and Wole Soyinka, Kate Grenville, Abdourahman Waberi, Mohammed Hanif, Laura Esquivel and Hari Kunzru.

I met one of my favourite Australian writers in Ubud in 2006, Gail Jones (and yes, I used to have short, blonde hair):

* The Lifted Brow 4 is launching in Brisbane, with some of my favourite people:

Next Tuesday, February 10th, Chris Currie, Thomas Benjamin Guerney, Benjamin Law, and Ronnie Scott will get grilled about the Brow by sexual memoirist Krissy Kneen at West End’s own Avid Reader. Free entry! Free wine! 6pm. RSVP to 07 3846 3422.

Then Wednesday, February 11th, Fulton Lights is on The Inconvenience Party, 6am-9, 4ZzZ (102.1 FM in Brisbane). Fulton Lights will play songs live in-studio. You’ll also hear some tracks from Brow 4.

Finally Thursday, February 12th, round out your Carnival of Brows with our launch party at The Zoo. Joel Saunders + Crazy Hearse, Fulton Lights (USA), and Mt. Augustus play.

Read stories by Joe Meno, Anna Krien, Jess Walter, Joanna Howard, and Ben Law, or hear tracks by The Panda Band, The Wrens, Thee More Shallows, Frightened Rabbit, Arms, and No Kids. Also the runners-up from our Fake Bookshelf competiton – Janika Dobbie, Bethan Mure, and Thomas Perry:


And write us letters. Address them to the editors, or contributors via us. Tough questions, suggestions, complaints – all is welcome. We will read everything. We will try to respond, but may not. We’ll want to print some of them (in which case we’ll ask).

A Pod of Poets will feature some fantastic poets, including Josephine Rowe:

A Pod of Poets is a unique partnership between ABC Radio National’s Poetica program and the Australia Council for the Arts that brought eleven Australian poets to the microphone to read and talk about their writing.

The project was inspired by Poetica‘s audience who consistently request podcasts of programs, a difficult request to fulfil because of copyright restrictions.  Each of the forty-minute Pod of Poets episodes is read by the author and features only rights-free music, enabling the podcasts to be created.

The eleven podcasts recorded and produced by Poetica, include established and emerging poets: Robert Adamson, Les Murray, Joanne Burns, John Kinsella, Josephine Rowe, Craig Billingham, LK Holt, Aidan Coleman, Jayne Fenton Keane, Martin Harrison, Sam Wagan Watson, Kathryn Lomer, Esther Ottaway, John Clarke and Jordie Albiston.

The A Pod of Poets website ( includes all podcasts, transcripts, photographs and biographical information about each of the poets.

Poetica (ABC Radio National Saturday 3pm, repeat Thursday 3pm) will play the episodes throughout 2009.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. 

* And for any poets reading, here’s a really special opportunity:


Submissions are now being sought for our CAFÉ POET PROGRAM. The Australian Poetry Centre is seeking poets, in each Australian State or Territory, interested to sit as ‘poet-in-residence’ in a café in their capital city for a period of six months getting free tea or coffee while you write. Please apply by emailing with an expression of interest stating a) all your contact details, b) what you would get out of being the poet in residence, c) a clear personal objective focussing on what you would like to achieve with your poetry in the six months and d) a measurable public objective to benefit others, such as being prepared to give a reading at the end of it, or providing the cafe with a poem to display.

Deadlines for applications are Feb 20th, 2009.

For more details see the Australian Poetry Centre website or call the office on (03) 9527 4063.

* It took me a little while to get to this month’s Australian Literary Review. I didn’t read everything, but there was an amazing feature review by Frank Moorhouse called ‘The Crime of the Curious Citizen’. It touched on some things I’ve been thinking about lately (and brought up with Christos Tsiolkas), regarding a society in danger of having too many (moral and physical) restrictions. To quote Moorhouse: ‘There is nothing wrong with being horrified or sickened and nothing terribly bad happens to us when we are. I think it is more likely that something good will happen: we might be moved.’ This piece is really worth reading if you can get your hands on it.

* While on the topic of newspaper literary supplements, the Washington Post is discontinuing its Book World as a separate supplement. See news story here (via Antony Loewenstein). The notion of print publications becoming thinner due to online versions, economic concerns, or even environmental concerns is all well and good, but I bet the book pages always go before the sports pages. I don’t always read the ALR as mentioned above, or the A2 in The Age and so on, but if I do pick up a newspaper, I love to see some substantial, intellectual and critical engagements with literature and the arts in general. If it all moves online, no one will be getting paid to write extended, thoughtful essays like Frank Moorhouse’s. The top Australian literary journals rely mostly on funding, and can only pay their contributors little, and their audiences aren’t those of major newspapers. There are a lot of great pieces online, but there is a lot of crap as well, we all know that. I suppose we will all just have to find outlets we trust (such as the blogs and online sources in my blogroll that I rely on) when dead-tree media dries up.

* To fill you in on me stuff. It’s been a hard week, with a friend of mine being very, very sick (but he will be okay). I spent time with some lovely people though (I’m lucky), and I got through a book-and-a-half. There is a lot of frustration in me at the moment as I am not only carrying around 90s novel, which I haven’t had enough time to work on, but rounded ideas for two short stories. I need a full day to draft each one, and I can’t see a full day on the horizon.

* Tomorrow I have a meeting with someone who has read Smoke & Dancing. I may, or may not, tell you how that goes…

* There are three launches on this week, if you’re free. The Sleepers Almanac, Wordplay Magazine, and Torpedo. Click them for details.

* Keep reading Furious Horses during ‘Sneaky Celebrity Writers Month’ and try and guess which story is mine! They’re all great reads thus far, check them in your lunch break through the week!

* I rode my bike in 46 degrees today. Ever hear your own skin crackle? Ever felt a blowtorch blast your eyes? I am possibly insane.

Hello lovelies, not long now until Christmas! I get to go for a wonderful break (which will still include reading and blogging, don’t worry) in the land of the Big Banana, Coffs Harbour. Can’t wait to see my sister, my folks, my Nanna, and bestie Tania. Lots of beach time, and possibly a ‘prop’ party for New Years. And no working in retail! What are you guys up to?

Now, for what is becoming my regular Sunday round-up of bits and bobs:

The new Cordite is now online. A wonderful online journal of poetry and poetry review. The current issue is ‘Pastoral’ 

The Lifted Brow are looking for submissions, and an intern. Here’s a bit of their email:


We’re reading submissions for our fifth issue until 1 January. That’s a month away! We only put out two issues a year, and the one after this is another big curated project – so now is the time. We’ve published people who’ve won World Fantasy Awards and people who’ve won Pulitzers. We’ve also published high school students. Surprise us, we’ll like it. Fiction, comics (A5-size please), essays/reportage, interviews, science, poetry, photography, greyscale art, scripts. If in doubt, just send it through – do not sweat the formats, if we can’t open it we’ll tell you. by 1 Jan.


We recently received an intern application from a girl who thinks we’re a newspaper, and after many impassioned discussions, we agreed not to do anything about it because it would have been too hard to lie all the time. But we are seeking a Melbourne-based intern who knows what we do. Interns will do a full-issue cycle, gaining good, fun, dirty experience in editing (at all levels), events management (bands, artists, writers), misc. publishing business, design, and being cooked for (this is an unpaid internship). Applicants should be available to start in January, one weekday per week, until around midyear. Niceness and good writing skills are the main things; might be a good idea if you need uni credit or if your school offers an independent study subject or something. Apply in as much detail as you can: by 1 Jan.

TLB4 is out soon. Check the website!

And something interesting that Crikey’s Jane Nethercote led me to – The School of Life.

*More exciting 2009 news* The absolutely wonderful Matthew Condon will have a new novel, set right after the bombs fell on Hiroshima (I think). Perhaps he will give me an exclusive peek at some stage? And Emily Maguire will also have a new novel. I will soon be posting a review of her Princesses and Pornstars.

I’ve had a part-stressful/part-exciting week with doing pre-Christmas bookseller surveys, and attending lots of Christmas parties. The Allen&Unwin party was massive. I met Ron Barassi, Terry Denton, and all sorts of people! My work Christmas party was followed by the Emerging Writers’ Festival Christmas party, and the launch of Harvest, where I also met the lovely Fiona Wright from Giramondo. She is also researcher and media assistant for The Red Room Company.

And a strange, lovely thing that has happened, which I’ve been reluctant to talk about in case nothing comes of it (but then learning will always come out of it) in that four publishers have asked me to send Smoke & Dancing along to them. As soon as one was interested it was like a little flood. I think it might be frowned upon to do multiple submissions so I’m talking to the one who asked first next week and handing over the ms. I think this publisher is very cool, and very up-and-coming. Small but with large distribution, and great passion. Of the other three, one is large, one if very prestigious (and I think it’d be a long shot with them), and one is also up-and-coming and mainly a nonfiction publisher, who is only just starting to look at doing fiction. If none of them think it’s right for them, I’m sure I’ll be a little sad, but then I’m already writing another so my focus is all positive and go-go-go 🙂

Speaking of which, 90s novel is one week in. 33 handwritten pages written between the magic hour of 6am and 7am. Let’s celebrate with a 90s tune:


Nov 30, 2008


I enjoyed this article on ‘Late Bloomers’ in The New Yorker. Makes me feel less rushed (for a little while).

Hayden Carruth is a poet who passed away recently. Here are two poems I like: ‘Agenda at 74’ and ‘Economics’. Cute, yes?

Christmas is coming up. Books are great presents, especially for children. Literacy is incredibly important for our future leaders, teachers, doctors and whatnot. No one needs to be reminded (well, sometimes). Your local bookstore should have a handy catalogue, or peruse my reviews. Shelfari and other book networking sites are also great for ideas and recommendations. Another great gift idea is to give to a charity on behalf of your friends and family members. Some of my favourites are Amnesty International, Starlight Foundation, World Vision, Oxfam, Kidney Health Australia, Indigenous Literacy Project and Greenpeace. Of course, there are MANY more. Feel free to list some in the comments. Another idea is to support Australian literary culture by subscribing to a literary magazine such as Overland, Meanjin, or Southerly. Again, there are many more. But it’s a gift that will enlighten and stimulate all the way through the year.

On Thursday, December 4, the finals of the Australian poetry slam will be broadcast live from Sydney Opera House on the web and on ABC TV. See the website. And view the ‘online’ component winning entry. It’s really something.

This darling essay ‘On Bibliophilia and Biblioclasm’ is deserving of your lit-minded attention. Although the phrase ‘young people these days’ always distresses me. I have had many great conversations with other ‘young’ people about the deliciousness of browsing bookstores. Most of us already have too much to read yet we’re drawn in, always, by the pleasant smell of aged treasures, the invitation of faded imaginings. I LOVE second-hand bookstores. I am enthralled by them. And I understand Dalrymple’s particular interest in the inscriptions. For me, it’d be the notion of another story existing behind the written one on the pages, a mystery of sorts, and a deeply human, ephemeral one. I have bought a few books with very simple inscriptions – names, dates read, for such and such. They always add to the book for me. I also have books where people have written in the margins, over the pages, circled things. I feel an affinity with these mysterious readers as I am one who does this too. I take note of the words they underline heavily. The (!) or * in the margin. Sometimes I connect with them and the author simultaneously. Often they are completely different to me and I like getting to know a bit about them throughout my own reading. Sometimes I wish I could have a conversation with them. Or get them, the author and myself in a room, have a few brewskies and discuss Humbert Humbert’s journey of self or some such thing. This is what my dreams are made of.

The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008 has just gone up. Oh, how the to-read list grows!

Lisa Dempster, publisher of Vignette Press was kind enough to send me one of their ‘Mini Shots’ – little bite-sized books with funky illustrations on the front. She sent me ‘The Fast Lane’ because it’s set in 1994, just a coupla years short of when I’m setting my next novel ms – and as the story is vividly descriptive of the pop/Uni culture of the era. I definitely enjoyed this lit-morsel, easily swallowed on a lunchbreak. If you want to check out the other Vignette Mini Shots see their site. You can subscribe to have them delivered too.

And finally, tomorrow I am getting up at 6am to start writing said 90s novel. I haven’t quite finished all the research, timelining, character profiles, but I am needing to start nonetheless. It burns.

Above: 90s icon River Phoenix *sigh*. Pic nabbed from here.

Thanks to everyone who has emailed, messaged, posted things etc. I’m incredibly grateful to get your own personalised remembrances of the mid 90s. Feel free to keep on sending. Did anyone know anyone who was in a band in Australia then? Perhaps MySpace can help me with this. Wiki, YouTube, and eBay have all been great tools thus far – the internet is my friend – immersion in those music film clips again, the magazines, the movies. It’s one reason this novel is set ‘just prior’ to net-explosion. There are more big reasons for the choice of 1996 as year of setting, which some of you have figured out, and most of you haven’t and won’t. But that’s okay, because you’ll read the book.

So here’s the plan:

Research/immerse/remember up until the end of November. Make timelines; create workable plotlines with imagination space but defined peaks and valleys; name and shape the secondary characters (I will name one after the eBay seller who had all the Dolly and Girlfriend mags – Joey). Take notes, form scenes, write down every idea.

Then in December – just write.

Going with some advice from a writer I admire and respect I’m going to trial getting up one hour earlier and writing in the morning. In the quiet, when the dream-fabric has just lifted. I’m excited.

~ I’m also putting together a project with my photographer friend Sudeep Lingamneni involving my ‘consumerism/materialism/technology’ short stories, and photographs he is taking inspired by them. The photographs will be their own little narratives and we think as a book, with these cultural themes, the visual aspect will be quite apt. I’ll blog about it soon and show you some of Sudeep’s amazing work. Click the link here for his site.

Sudeep and I are both in Sketch, a newbie lit journal, too. I’ll post the launch invite next week. We also both made it into Story To… zine. Yes, we’ve been sending to the same places, but by being accepted by these same places it seems like we’re destined to work together. And don’t forget to come to the Page Seventeen launch if you’re around Melbourne next weekend.

Nam Le on here tomorrow!