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Feb 1, 2011


How’s your year so far? I’m having a great time with this classics project, though it’s hard to know what to do with all the new books I’m being sent. Here’s a pile:


Of course, I’ll get as many as I can out to guest reviewers, and I’ll fit some in myself. At the moment, though, I’m busy working on the second draft of my novel and also preparing for some seminars in Sydney and Melbourne for the Australian Publishers Association, and for the Perth Writers Festival.

The Perth Writers Festival runs from 5 to 7 March and the program is out now. Check it out here. On the Saturday, I’ll be chairing a Masterclass with Kirsten Tranter and Sophie Gee, who will talk about classics and masters and the legacy of good writing; I’ll also be chairing a session called American Icons, with Andrew O’Hagan (hooray – talking about Marilyn Monroe on stage!) and Hazel Rowley. On Sunday I’m appearing on a panel called The Death of Print – uh-oh – with three fantastic, experienced critics and writers Lev Grossman, Geordie Williamson and James Bradley. In my dreams we go afterwards to a small bar with brown chairs, we drink whiskey and smoke cigars and discuss… well, books. And maybe the Coen Brothers and HBO TV shows. But really, I can’t get drunk because in the afternoon I’m chairing Desert Island Desires with Sophie Gee, Brenda Walker, and the person I’m stoked to finally be on a panel with, Toni Jordan. They will not be discussing their work (well, maybe a little bit), but discussing their favouritest books. Big authors like Armistead Maupin and Annie Proulx will be in Perth, too. I hope we all stay at the Duxton again, I loved the hotel so much I’m writing a series of short stories inspired by it.

* late addition* Also now chairing the whole publishing day on Friday. Lots of great guests: agents, publishers etc.!

The weekend of the 11 to 13 February is going to be a busy one. On Friday I’ll be attending the Wheeler Centre‘s Gala Night of Storytelling: Voices from Elsewhere. Hope to see some of you there. Over the weekend, Writers at the Convent is on, and I’d really like to get along to see Daniel Akst, author of We Have Met the Enemy: Self-control in an Age of Excess, and also UFOlogist Martin Plowman. Other writers in attendance include Kate Holden, Stephanie Dowrick, Michael Leunig, Meg Mundell, Angela Savage, Damon Young and Shaun Micallef. On Saturday, too, I’ll be going on a walking tour of Melbourne courtesy of the Hide & Seek Melbourne book series (released Feb). I’m sure that’ll be something to blog about.

While we’re on Melbourne, the Wheeler Centre have released their new program, and it’s a good’un. I’m particularly interested in The Late Great Patrick White, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, Erotic Fan Fiction GLTBI edition, The Only Gay Book in the Village (both part of Big Gay Week), The Good Life: David Malouf & Raimond Gaita, and Ben Pobjie: In Defence of Offensiveness – but there’s plenty there for everyone, and mostly free! Armistead Maupin and Annie Proulx are dropping into Melbourne, too.

Did you catch me in the Age‘s Melbourne magazine last Friday? It was lovely of them to include me in their piece on Melbourne bloggers. I’ve put some dodgy pics of the article up on the Facebook page, if it’s of interest.

The other fun thing in my week was meeting artist Lily Mae Martin. Her work is really wonderful. See her website, and also her Facebook page. She also has a lovely, very honest, blog. And she has such a cute little baby. I have a major friend-crush on her and can’t wait to catch up with her in Berlin in August.

Oh yes – flights are booked! G and I will be in Europe from early June to late August. Not sure what I’ll do yet about all the books coming in… but of course I’ll be taking you all with me.

IMG_0388I caught three sessions at Writers at the Convent last weekend – run by Reader’s Feast Bookstore, held at the gorgeous Abbotsford Convent. The session ‘We’ll always have Paris’ featured chef Shannon Bennett (Shannon Bennett’s Paris) and Elizabeth Bard (Lunch in Paris) who is a New Yorker living in that magical city. Bennett is a Melbourne-based chef/restaurateur who spends a lot of time in Paris. He says many of the restaurants there are so great because of the produce they use – because Parisian restaurants are ‘built up from the ground’ from the suppliers of the best local ingredients. The ingredients are what matters and both authors talked a lot about farmers’ markets and their despair of supermarkets that carry plastic carrots and asparagus  that’s imported when it’s in season and growing right here in Victoria. Both had been on a search that morning for an elusive white carrot – the ‘original’ carrot, which you can only get from one man in Melbourne (who never returns your calls). It was fascinating to hear about their world and remind myself to buy and eat more food that is organic or locally grown (she says, munching on heavily salted, flavoured rice cakes).Snow_White_Carrots_Seeds

The audience received tips on visiting and eating in Paris. Bard says finding an apartment on Craigslist or Google will get you something better than a hotel, much of the time. It can be cheaper and you’re also amongst the locals (and the local bakeries and cafés). Plus – you’ll have a kitchen, if you do want to source local food and make something delicious yourself. Mentioned were things like visiting small museums and eating off the blackboard in the university area. The French eat very leisurely, taking time over a meal – and Bennett said, if you want to try one of the top, high-rated restaurants (from the Michelin guide) treat it like a visit to the theatre – as an experience. You will be paying for it. I liked the fact both concurred they used their mobile phones less in Paris than in New York and Melbourne. You walk a lot (and all you’re worrying about it ‘where’s lunch?’ said Bennett).

Other recommendations included between the 14th and 16th arrondissements, L’Astrance (with its Aus-trained chef), and an Algerian bakery on the 11th called La Bague de Kenza. Bard also said to go for afternoon tea or other meals other than the mains. She says there are plenty of places to get a good hot chocolate in Paris.

I’ll never forget the best hot chocolate I had – in Berlin at Café Adler, it was real chocolate and it had a shot of rum in it. It was a freezing cold, rainy European winter day, and I’d just walked along the Topography of Terror and been confronted with images of Nazi destruction. So many faces.

Do you remember your favourite hot chocolate? When I’m in Paris again – which may be as soon as next year (!) – I am going to have some hot chocolates there. One food experience about Paris I can recall was a delicious salmon fillet, bread and red wine, eating alone near the Louvre, and Sean Connery walked past the cafe. I shouted ‘Sean Connery!’ and just about gave the waiter a heart attack.

But back the the Convent.

I went along next to Alex Miller’s Q&A – partly as research for our Q&A in Perth, and partly because I just like to hear him talk about his work. The audience loved him, and he’s very funny and provided plenty of interesting stories and insights. I don’t think I’m one bit worried about our session in Perth. He’s very open and easy to talk to.

I met up with my occasional guest blogger Elena (her blog is With Extra Pulp) for an hour between sessions, which was really lovely. We sat under a tree and the sky was dark and we talked about writing, mostly, and asked each other a lot of questions.

The last session I went to consisted purely of readings by debut authors: Claire Halliday, Brendan Gullifer, Vivienne Kelly, Kirsten Tranter, Tom Rachman and Kathy Charles. I didn’t want to miss Rachman while he was out here – I have his book The Imperfectionists and getting to hear him read confirmed my desire to read it. The little things in it – like the character looking at the window and its shape, and crunching a thin wallet in his pocket. The book shall bob on the top of the ‘tower of hope’ – my massive book pile. Other than Rachman – I found Vivienne Kelly’s reading to be very warm. I got right into the mother/grown son exchange she read out – humorous and warm but also sad and touching. A lot of you might like her book Cooee.

I’m happy Reader’s Feast puts on this little festival each year – the sessions were packed out and I’m sure the bookshop did well. I’m looking forward to going again next year (if I haven’t run away to Europe). Au revoir.

On Saturday the 14th I attended a couple of sessions at Writers at the Convent, a mini writers’ festival run by Reader’s Feast Bookstore, at the gorgeous Abbotsford Convent.

Unfortunately, the ‘Australian Fiction’ session with Peter Goldsworthy, Robert Drewe, and Steven Carroll was cancelled, but I skipped the other big sessions and decided to spend my time in the Bishop’s Parlour (a very small room) hearing visiting professors talk about subjects related to Charles Darwin and evolution.

I was going for three, but ran into the lovely Tiggy Johnson, and we stopped in between for a drink at Handsome Steve’s cafe and had a really lengthy, wonderful chat about writing, talking truth in public, children, and other meaningful things.

The first session was ‘Human Evolution: The Mating Mind’ with Dr Geoffrey Miller. Miller had a dry sense of humour and approachable intelligence. He told us about the original ignorance of female selection in Darwin’s work (due to social mores). Female choice valued/s such things as language, music, and altruism. The payoff is babies with better genes and better brains. I’d be hopeless at summing up everything he said, but you can find it all in his book The Mating Mind. He described things like mutational meltdown (two-four new harmful mutations in the genes of each generation); the fitness indicators of genes in animals and human – things that require growth, effort and sometimes creativity (a lion’s mane, a bird’s song, the human face); and the fitness indicators most favoured by humans – kindness, language, intelligence, humour, art, and music.

My favourite part was the way he spoke about ‘big brains’ in humans gone awry – through silly forms of runaway status competitions, and also through skewed notions of status though conspicuous consumption. Many of you know this is a topic much of my fiction is based on, and one close to my heart. Thus, I’m incredibly excited to read Miller’s book which comes out in May – Spent: Sex, Evolution and the Secrets of Consumerism.

Another interesting point was that in studies undertaken by Miller’s colleagues, women were more likely to be attracted to, or choose, creative men during their fertile cycle (still with a small correlative of facial masculinity, body muscularity, symmetry etc.), and outside of their cycle they chose the more financially secure male. What this means is that for good genes, the creativity is a good fitness indicator, and for long term protection of the child, the financial security becomes a factor. No wonder we’re so indecisive! Can’t we just have both?

Miller also relayed the fact that intellegence and oppenness relate to verbal creativity, but when tested for creativity through drawing, oppenness correlated much stronger than intelligence (in other words, writers and smarter than artists, ha! ;-))

A lot of the older crowd in the room were lost on Miller’s final point, being that young people have figured out how to directly, verbally display intelligence, openness, humour, and creativity, effectively shortcutting the social indicators of education, a respectable job, and conspicuous consumption for status … through social networks like Facebook. A point I hope he expands upon in Spent. (Most of the room found this point humorous, when in fact it is a huge subject, and Miller was in no way undermining the intuitiveness of my generation).

See Miller’s website (with some downloadable papers) here.

The afternoon session was ‘Darwin and Literature’, with Professor Michael Ruse (who has written several books, one I later realised I own but haven’t yet read – Darwinism and its Discontents). He did it in a (suitably) linear fashion, beginning with Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandfather), moving on to the Lyellian-influenced Alfred Tennyson (in In Memoriam), then to post-Origin of the Species authors such as HG Wells (The Time Machine‘s future Eloi and Morlock races expressing evolutionary degeneration), Jack London (The Call of the Wild), and George Bernard Shaw.

One of Ruse’s main points was that most of these writers merely engaged with Darwininian ideologies, or skewed notions of evolution, rather than the actual science. Most of them probably hadn’t actually looked closely at the science itself. However, he mentions Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love as being a modern, successful text that engages with the science proper.

Ruse was entertaining to watch and listen to – looking and acting precisely like a visiting professor with his large white moustache; assured, projected voice with the occassional enthusiastic squeak; saying ‘as it were’ often; and ending the slideshow with a Looney Tunes ‘That’s all folks’. He also praised our ‘elegant’ city. Charming fellow!

I enjoyed the contrast of the talks on evolution within the buildings of an old convent. The smell, when I went inside the room, sent me to places of both inspiration and creativity – the old hostel in Venice, where I was a year ago, and the room I worked in at Varuna Writer’s House. The smell of history I associate with writing, the smell of history is the a heavy weight of stories in the air, begging to be told. In one way, to see how far we have evolved…


Feb 14, 2009


I Do it For Love

Let me start out by saying I have a terrible headache, but I blog because I love you. Happy Valentines Day, readers. I hope you didn't get too commercial. I hope you wrote a heartfelt p

Let me start out by saying I have a terrible headache, but I blog because I love you. Happy Valentines Day, readers. I hope you didn’t get too commercial. I hope you wrote a heartfelt poem or song, no matter how shoddy. I spent the day with Charles Darwin, but more on that later in the week when I do a whole post on Writers at the Convent.

This week’s round-up:

* How can we go past the horrific natural disasters that have occurred in Australia. This morning, smoke clouded the whole city. People, homes, pets, everything gone for some people. It’s unfathomable. We’re all sad. We’re all giving (I hope). We’ve all pledged to give blood (if not, do it now you big wuss).

My favourite article of the week was Clive Hamilton’s in Crikey called ‘Victorian Bushfires: Don’t Mention the C-word’. And frankly, I was surprised to find it was ‘controversial’. Someone has to get to the heart of the matter – something on all our minds – something, for some reason, we’re afraid to talk about. Ignorance, and an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude will only make us feel okay for a little while. But global warming is not just something that’s coming. It’s here.

The article began ‘Climate scientists have been predicting more frequent and severe bushfires due to climate change for some years. A 2007 report for the Climate Institute by the Bushfire CRC concluded that we could expect a two to four-fold increase in the number of extreme fire danger days by 2050 under a high global warming scenario, the path we are now on. It identified northern Victoria, the site of the most deadly fires over the weekend, as one of the areas most prone to catastrophic fires.’

Will it only get worse? Smoke in the city today:

* This week I went to two launches. The Sleepers Almanac 5 and Torpedo Volume Four: Brautigan.

Sleepers were selling some really cool $5 T-shirts with a Raymond Chandler quote across the front. There was a strong crowd, reasonably cheap beer, and great readings. Simon Cox’s ‘How to Talk to People at House Parties’ was particularly sweet. I look forward to reading it again within the pages. Other writers it contains that I can’t wait to check out are Ryan O’Neill, Andrew Hutchinson, Ella Holcombe, Jo Case, Daniel Ducrou, Patrick Cullen, and more. Get a copy here. And soon I’ll be telling you a bit more about the novels Sleepers are releasing…

While Torpedo is a younger journal (but ambitious, being a quarterly), and quite different as it’s not funded and open to overseas as well as Australian writers, it has all the elegance of a more established journal. Editor Chris Flynn introduced the issue, and told us all about Californian writer Richard Brautigan, to which it is a tribute. The issue’s cover is innovative and striking. The readings by Luke May and Josephine Rowe were relaxed and engaging. There was a lot of love for Brautigan in the room. Get your copy of Torpedo Four here. I ended up walking away with not only Torpedo Four but with Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America. Hunter Publishers are also beginning to reissue some Brautigan cult classics in Australia.

By the way, I’m not going to take another picture of my reading pile, because you will cry for me.

* The first issue of Bookseller+Publisher is out for the year (9 yearly). Exciting for me as I do so much work on it, and write a lot of it. What might be exciting for you are some of the reviews inside – books that haven’t even hit the bookstore shelves yet. The novel you will hear so much about – Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming – was given five stars by its reviewer Deborah Crabtree. I was lucky enough to review two books for the issue: Eva Hornung’s Dog Boy, and Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing. Two incredibly different books, which I’ll tell you more about a little closer to their release. I can tell you though that they were both fantastic (I’m lucky to get to run my eye over the review baskets first). Besides the reviews, the issue contains news on a publishing survey being undertaken; an article on when self-publishing pays off; some profiles on how people in publishing got to be in their positions; the Junior supplement on children’s and YA books; and interviews with Peter Rodgers (Arabian Plights), Wendy Harmer, and Andy Griffiths.

* I’ll have some more news about the Format Festival in Adelaide soon, when the program is out. I booked my flights this morning. I hope you guys will come and hear me blab about blogging, writing as activism, and style! The blogging session is one I’m running, and it’s actually a round table. That means participation. I will be joined by my favourite film blogger Gerard, aka Mr Celluloid Tongue (who owes me something that you are waiting on – he knows what it is). Between you and me, he worries too much. 😉 Anyway – book your flights so you can be there on the 15th of March, that’s when it’s all happening!

* Here’s a cool link: The PEN Atlas of World Literature. This link leads to the Atlas blog, which tells you all about it – ‘We believe that great writing has the power to change your life and change the world, one book at a time.’

* And another festival coming up is the Castlemaine Festival. 27 March – 5 April. The literature component includes some of my faves: Cate Kennedy, Alex Miller, and Nathan Curnow.

That’s about all I have effort for today lovelies. Plenty of sexy stuff coming up soon on the blog.

This time last year I was in Venice, can you imagine?


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.


Jan 18, 2009


Ah, to write. To do it for the joy alone. I am addicted to creating and recording. I am also addicted to discovery. How does that writer do it? How did they come up with that? How did they capture just how that feels, or what it would feel like, or how it would feel to be someone else?

Smells and sounds. I love seeing how writers describe these, and I love trying to do it myself. I love the challenge, too, of trying to write something that is unique, allowing it to be yours, but learning from what has already been done. It really, really is hard. It really is a challenge. And it is wonderful. I would like to be challenged by this all my life.

Now, the ol’ weekend round-up. A combination of me things and literary links and happenings that I feel like commenting on.

* Did you read Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs as a kid? Well today is May Gibbs’ birthday (she’d be 131!) and if you’re in Sydney you can attend a celebration, honouring the author and her generous legacy – on her death in 1969, she left the copyright of her works to Northcott Disability Services and The Spastic Centre of NSW. The details are: Sunday, 18th January, at ‘Nutcote’, May Gibbs’ family home in Neutral Bay. There’ll be special birthday event with cake-cutting ceremony at 12.30. Address: Nutcote, 5 Wallaringa Avenue, Neutral Bay NSW 2089. Phone: 02 9953 4453. Nutcote is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11.00am to 3.00pm. You might be interested in the author’s biography: May Gibbs: Mother of the Gumnuts, by Maureen Walsh (Sydney University Press).

* I went to the launch of The Lifted Brow 4 on Friday night. Unfortunately I was incredibly tired and in a bit of a blue mood so I didn’t stay for the whole show. Who was the special guest? I enjoyed Fulton Lights from Brooklyn, who had a bit of a Springsteen vibe (with more electro-edge). The rest of the skinny-geek-chic bands I found, honestly, a little boring. But then, I was already tired and moody. I have read a few stories in the issue so far and there have been a couple of goodies. The LB team decided to make this one a bumper issue and include many overseas ‘names’ – the cover boasts the likes of Neil Gaiman, Sarah Manguso and Joe Meno – some amazing writers, but from reading some of the stories one wonders if they did just accept anything from some overseas writers in order to maximise sales with names … but I will read on and see how I go with the rest. Christopher Currie‘s The Maverick is a hilarious and sharp story about a modern wannabe noir hero-cop. The journal is probably worth buying for this alone. The best part of the night though was when I’d been eyeing some immaculate-looking poser-type girls resting against the wall, and then in walks Josephine and Jess. They were such a contrast. They both dress very feminine but have such strong and forceful presence. Their eyes were a little glazed, they had massive smiles and gave massive hugs and were a little sweaty and just beating with life. It made me so happy to see them.

* A launcheroo is coming up for Torpedo 4, at Readings Carlton on 13th Feb. It’s their tribute issue to Richard Brautigan. See more info here. 

* The January 2009 issue of The Short Review is out, the best online review site for short fiction collections.

* And yet another launch coming up is one for the very respected yearly fiction journal Sleepers Almanac No. 5. Here’s the info from their email:

To kick-start the year, the Sleepers Almanac No. 5 is hot off the press and ready to be celebrated. Melburnians, please come along to:
Date: Thursday the 12th of February
Time: From 6pm till 8pm
Place: At the Trades Hall Bar on the corner of Lygon and Victoria Streets, Carlton – now enter via Lygon Street.

This year’s Almanac is an absolute treat, with stories by Eleanor Elliott Thomas, Virginia Peters and Patrick Cullen, amongst many other riches, and including cartoons from the excellent Oslo Davis and the brilliant Andrew Weldon. It’s our fifth and we’ve hit our stride; and as we’ve aged, we’ve also upped the font size!

At the launch, there will be readings, shenanigans, and a chance to meet many of the authors. The Almanac will be available on the night; and in all good bookstores after February 1st for RRP $24.95.

‘Sleepers continues to work a crucial nerve in Australian writing.’ – Nam Le

Sleepers Publishing has also ventured into novels. Their first two releases are due out soon – Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming (remember I loved his story in Overland 192?); and Brendan Gullifer’s Sold. They’ve kindly sent me copies, so I’ll at least get around to one of them in the next few months. Really keen to read Steven Amsterdam’s.

* Today I’m having a drink with the lovely Krissy Kneen, who’s book will be coming out with Text later in the year (remember, she was one of my ‘Best Unpublished Books’? – so many of them are now going to be published!). After that, I’ll be meeting up with Lisa Dempster of Vignette Press, and Cassie Flanagan of the Adelaide Format Festival, which I’m also looking forward to. I’ll keep you posted on the festival, which will be held in March. It’s been a productive weekend overall after meeting Gerard to map out our screenplay, then writing 90s novel at the SLV for about three hours yesterday. Last night was Seinfeld and wine (well deserved, yes?).

* Writers at the Convent is coming up in Melbourne on February 13, 14 and 15 (I was in Venice that time last year!). See the program. Yay, Peter Goldsworthy and Charles Darwin-related things!

* This is a gorgeous article on Janet DeNeefe (via Beattie), who runs the Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival, which I really hope to get to this year. I went in 2006 and it was seriously amazing.

* I didn’t think I had much this week but this has turned out to be huge – sorry! Coming oh-so-soon: An introduction to two of my favourite poets; an interview with Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap; and a combined book/film review of Revolutionary Road with my good friend Mr Celluloid Tongue. And just a week til I see Neil Young in the flesh!