Last week the BWAP students had the opportunity to speak to Kent MacCarter, Managing Editor of Cordite Poetry Review, as part of our guest speaker program. Regrettably, I hadn’t made it to many talks this semester, so was eager to make the most of this one. Fortunately, Kent was an articulate speaker with plenty of wisdom to impart. The discussion he facilitated was intimate and stimulating. I appreciated how forthcoming he was regarding his views on the industry, and his generosity when responding to audience queries. Kent spoke principally about Joyful Strains: Making Australia Home, an ambitious publishing project that addresses our national identity and the immigration experiences of its contributors. Published by Affirm Press, Joyful Strains (co-edited by Kent and Ali Lemer) is a collection of twenty-seven autobiographical essays from writers who – at least at the time of publication – resided in Australia, but hailed from all over the globe. Through personal lenses, these writers have crafted essays that explore the perks, challenges and unspoken reality of living in a multicultural society. As a UK-born Australian, I’ve always been interested in the migrant’s perspective and look forward to reading (and possibly reviewing) the free copy Kent generously provided. Continue reading
This post is a requirement for one of my classes. In it, I briefly reflect on my last semester of study and look ahead to the future (masking my fears with gratuitous Game of Thrones references as I go). I’ve also written a more honest and comprehensive assessment of my future prospects and last few years of study, but haven’t the stones to post it yet.
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Sometimes it feels like I’m in the Game of Thrones universe. A sense of foreboding has gathered all semester. Winter is coming! Not literally, of course – here in the southern hemisphere we’ve closed the door on that detestable season – though my apprehension about the future is certainly comparable to the sun-loving Lannisters’ fear of the cold.
In a few short weeks, I’ll be out there beyond the wall[s of NMIT]. Reactions around me are mixed: some students anticipate the transition, others dread it. I don’t wish to overstate, but the occasion feels momentous. It’s finally time to shake off any lingering man-child tendencies, apply what I’ve learnt over the last four years of study and embrace what could cutely (and reductively) be called the next chapter of my life. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the next few months. What will I do? How will I get by? Will Daenerys and that guy that looks like Ronan Keating act upon their sexual tension? One hopes I’ll secure employment quickly, and not require any government support (what Justin Heazlewood calls ‘the fortnightly arts grant’). Continue reading
Two quick links for those interested in the happenings of Tom Town.
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Article Published on Writer’s Edit.
Writer’s Edit is a Sydney-based online literary magazine that publishes content for writers and book lovers. My article is a reflection on my interning experience with Busybird Publishing. Check it out if you’ve ever wanted an insight into the working practices of an independent publisher. (For more on Busybird Publishing, check out Publications Manager Les Zigomanis’s primer, also on Writer’s Edit.)
Fully Awake Dreamer Interview.
My blogging pal Amanda Kontos recently interviewed me for her blog’s Fully Awake Dreamer interview series. In the interview, I talk at length about my writing practices and projects. There’s also an excerpt from a work in progress.
In the Author Notes of Doctor Sleep, the extremely belated sequel to The Shining, Stephen King writes diplomatically about nostalgia, fan expectation and the legacy of his wildly successful third novel, The Shining (and its iconic Kubrick-helmed adaptation). King knew publishing Doctor Sleep would be a largely thankless job. The Shining holds a special place in many hearts. It’s iconic, a certified classic. Building on the momentum of his preceding novels, it cemented King’s reputation as a master of the genre and was revered by generations of readers.
Judging by his notes, King is acutely aware of what was at stake with this endeavour. He even expresses reservations. Appeasing everyone was inevitably impossible. That’s the case for any book, but it’s especially true for Doctor Sleep, a novel with so much baggage it’d go bankrupt with extra airport charges. Yet King rose to the challenge, breaking his unwritten rule about follow-ups and putting himself in an unenviable position. Why? Apparently it’s because he’s always wondered what became of little Danny Torrance. Hard to fault someone who approaches projects so sincerely.
Despite my forthcoming criticisms, I can say with conviction that I don’t doubt that King had pure intentions with Doctor Sleep. The Shining has a potent universe, so it’s not like there wasn’t room for additional stories. This is no cheap cash-in and King emerges with his integrity intact. That said, Doctor Sleep is weak, half-baked, a disappointing composite of ideas. It shows King isn’t creatively bankrupt – this novel is enjoyable if not particularly nourishing, like a Big Mac – but its screams for an intervening editor are deafening.
As a late-career Stephen King book it’s serviceable, I suppose, but as a sequel to one of the most defining horror novels of all time? Piss poor. There are some cool ideas at play here but, despite King’s aforementioned admission, I don’t believe the necessary care and attention went into this. I can say with surety that this is not King firing on all cylinders. This feels like just another of the four-a-year novels he routinely churns out. Nothing more or less. The Shining, and its fans, deserve better.
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Doctor Sleep opens with remaining Torrances, Danny and Wendy, grappling with everything that occurred at the Overlook Hotel. Danny, now a couple of years older, is still burdened with the ability to shine. Wendy, on the other hand, has all but shut down after the breakdown and subsequent death of her husband, Jack Torrance (immortalised in a manic Jack Nicholson performance). The telepathic chef Dick Hallorann cameos early on to teach Danny his ‘mental lockbox’ trick, which is used to trap negative spirits.
Sam Cooney was my most anticipated guest speaker this semester – partly because I’ve long enjoyed his ‘sweet petite tweets’ and partly because he’s been currently killing it (from my perspective) as the editor and publisher of one of the country’s most respected literary magazines, The Lifted Brow. I don’t want to blow too much smoke up his dress (unless he’s into that), but suffice it to say his CV, entrepreneurial skills and general work ethic impressed me. For someone just a couple of years my senior, he’s accomplished a hell of a lot. He also wears many professional hats. I wouldn’t be surprised if his business cards have stapled-on amendments that enfold two or three times.
Sam began his presentation by telling us about his unconventional career path. Apparently, with the advent of the internet, unconventional is the new conventional (like, hadn’t you heard?). Old career models are becoming obsolete; these days, a professional writer’s career path is invariably defined by its random discursions. It’s unsettling to think that the degree I’m working towards could count for everything or nothing, but that’s the nature of the gig. Unlike more traditional careers, the trajectory of a writer’s path is seldom linear.
Sam’s was no exception. His journey began with a false start university enrolment where he worked towards a business degree. He considered this avenue partly because he’d yet to realise his true calling, but also because his all-boys private school had conditioned him to aspire to traditional work. Fortunately, Sam spent his leisure time indulging hidden literary aspirations and it wasn’t long before he realised writing was what he really wanted to do with his life. Though he didn’t say as much, I suspect Sam’s business classes contributed to his entrepreneurial edge. If this is true, it shows that no life experience is ever truly wasted; writers will always find ways to draw from their pasts. It saddens me, though, that there are high schools out there actively discouraging students from pursuing creative or unconventional career paths. But it’s not particularly surprising, given society’s low opinion of the humanities. Continue reading
No shenanigans today; no last minute room changes, inadvertent Tom O’Connell faux pas, or suicidal Kookaburras, either. Today was just a good, solid, no-nonsense (well, besides the sentient killer trucks … I’ll get to that) guest speaker talk delivered by multiple-hat-wearing (but mostly ghost writer, musician, editor and spec. fiction writer) Andrew Macrae. Even Andrew’s presentation meant business, with its comparatively singular focus and extended question time. Just as well, as previous guest speakers Pepi Ronalds’ and Lauren Williams’ sprawling presentations were harder to recap for a cheap-suit-and-scuffed-shoe-wearin’ amateur journo like me. Going to do my best to keep it concise this time. Here goes!
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It was an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon when the bespectacled, shaven-headed Andrew Macrae spoke to our Writing and Publishing class. Andrew, who has an MA in English and a Ph.D in Creative Writing, opened by sharing his adage: ‘It’s important to have multiple income streams’. Clearly, Andrew lives by example, for he is a self-employed business owner whose income stems from a combination of editing work, non-fiction writing, ghost writing gigs and book royalties. His website, Magic Typewriter, is his base of operations, and a quick visit there reveals that many of his past clients come from government and corporate sectors – sectors with fastidious standards of professionalism. Andrew previously worked in a governmental capacity, and was in the fortuitous position of bringing some past clients with him while embarking on this career change. (By the way, if any of my past Crazy Clark’s Discount Variety Store co-workers want to pay me to edit their shit, I’m available. Very available.) Andrew’s entrepreneurial skills are impressive; it pleases me that someone is making a comfortable (if strenuous) living from their written endeavours.
Andrew’s debut novel Trucksong, published by Twelfth Planet Press in November last year, formed the focal point of his presentation. The novel, which is dystopian speculative fiction, was born from Andrew’s love of the noir, cyber-punk and western genres, and an unlikely fondness for trucks. Andrew kindly took us through the process of writing his novel and the challenges he encountered on the road to publication. Continue reading
Regular readers will know of my recent resolution to increase my productivity. My first step towards accomplishing this was to draft a list of goals, and the second is to actively increase my output. I think recapping the year’s guest speaker presentations is a great excuse to commit pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were).
The guest speaker program is, in my opinion, one of the best components of NMIT’s Writing and Publishing degree. Receiving advice from experienced professionals is a privilege; these people are out there in the wilds of the industry, working hard and accomplishing greatness. I enjoy hearing all about the effort they’ve put in and vicariously enjoying their success. Regrettably, it’s taken four years of study to start committing their wisdom to paper. But, hey, I’m doing it now.
So, without further ado, here’s what I garnered from Pepi Ronalds, our first guest speaker of 2014. Continue reading