Category Archives: Literary Events

These are the blog posts for literary events that I go to, including events from the 2017 ACT Lit-Bloggers of the Year program.

Lost the Plot – Episode 24 – Sydney Writers’ Festival Special

Support Lost the Plot
Become a Lost the Plot Patron
Subscribe, like and comment on SoundCloud
Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes
Follow Tinted Edges on Facebook

Show Notes

Part 1 – Friday Afternoon

Sydney Writers’ Festival
Kendall Kirkwood
The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness
“Release” by Patrick Ness
Terra Nullius” by Claire G. Coleman
Canberra
“The Trauma Cleaner” by Sarah Krasnostein, narrated by Rachael Tidd
21st Biennale of Sydney

Events:
Eileen Myles: To Dig a Hole in Eternity
SWF Gala: Power
Sarah Krasnostein: The Trauma Cleaner
Writing for YA Books and Film
Leigh Sales: On Doubt
Annabel Crabb’s BooKwiz
Recognise
Gay for Page
Power Play: Toxic Masculinity in Storytelling
Eileen Myles: Straight Expectations
Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

Part 2 – Friday Night

Eileen Myles

Image may contain: 2 people, including Kendall Kirkwood, people smiling, close-up and indoor

Eileen and Kendall, Photo by Kendall Kirkwood

SWF Gala: Power

20180504_202454-748837671.jpg

Tayari Jones
BookScan
Judy Blume

Part 3 – Saturday Morning

20180505_172635-171261564.jpg

My skirt!

Sarah Krasnostein: The Trauma Cleaner

20180505_101138-735425424.jpg

On Doubt” by Leigh Sales
Biography of Stella Miles Franklin
Brokeback Mountain

Part 4 – Saturday Middle of the Day

Writing for YA Books and Film

20180505_115245-2117658087.jpg

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews
Chaos Walking” by Patrick Ness

Part 5 – Saturday Afternoon

BookWiz with Annabel Crabb
Tim Minchin
RocKwiz
Richard Fidler
Julia Zemiro

No automatic alt text available.

Photo by Kendall Kirkwood, who took very good care of my book

Ghost Empire” by Richard Fidler
Saga Land” by Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason

Part 6 – Saturday Night

Recognise

Stan Grant
Nakkiah Lui
Marcia Langton
What I meant to say was Racecraft, not Racehunt!
Orlando” by Virginia Woolf
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by J K Rowling
The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams
The Night Bookmobile” by Audrey Niffenegger

Gay for Page

Image may contain: 4 people

Photo by Kendall Kirkwood

Masha Gessen
Christos Tsiolkas (sorry for mispronouncing his name)
Eileen Myles (preferred pronouns are they, them)
Sally Rugg
Carmen Maria Machado
Yrsa Daley-Ward

Book recommendations
The Sailor Dog” by Margaret Wise Brown
Mister Dog: the dog who belonged to himself” by Margaret Wise Brown
Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
Jennie” by Paul Galico
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee
Kama Sutra” by  Vātsyāyana
Enid Blyton
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis
Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans
Sarah Waters
Jeanette Winterson
A Restricted Country” by Joan Nestle
The Motion of Light and Water” by Samuel R. Delaney
The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
Shirley Jackson

Junot Diaz Controversy

Part 7 – Sunday Afternoon

Eileen Myles

Power Play: Toxic Masculinity in Storytelling

20180506_100918-11566786275.jpg

Gabriel Tallent
Ceridwen Dovey

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

20180506_150741-1-355797368.jpg

Sorry for the terrible photo – I was listening so intently, I didn’t bother checking it.

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms” by Anita Heiss

Part 8 – Sunday Night

Books we bought:

An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones
Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia” Edited by Anita Heiss
Eileen Myles

Authors I saw:

Kate Forsyth
Tom Keneally

#MeToo event with Tracey Spicer and Eva Cox

Virginia Woolf’s actual quote:

Think of a book as a very dangerous and exciting game, which it takes two to play at.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Literary Events, Lost the Plot

Sydney Writers’ Festival – Writing for YA Books and Film

My third event for the Sydney Writers’ Festival was Writing for YA Books and Film. I was so overcome with the opportunity to see Patrick Ness, I was willing to ignore warnings about the distance between Carriageworks and Parramatta, and leave the previous event early to try to make it in time.

20180505_115245-1840422524.jpg

This event was part of the #AllDayYA segment of the Sydney Writers’ Festival that was taking place at the Riverside Theatres. After a walking, train and Uber combo I finally made it to the event only a little after it has started. YA authors Patrick Ness and Jesse Andrews were being interviewed by Will Kostakis and when I snuck into the front, it looked like the interview was already in full swing.

Ness and Andrews had fantastic rapport from the very beginning. Andrews was talking about plots and how he thinks they’re overrated, and Ness quipped “The only ones who complain about plots are the ones who can’t do it.” Acknowledging that it was maybe a bit mean, Andrew later on asked Ness whether he wanted him to be mean back. Ness vehemently said no, and that “I am way to sensitive for that”. He said, “I tease with affection, but if someone teases men, all I hear is ‘I have always hated you’.”

A big part of the talk was about adapting books for film. Kostakis asked Ness how writing screenplays affects his writing. Ness said that he always encourages writers to try different mediums. He said that there is a big difference between small budget films and big budget films because so many people’s jobs depend on its success. However he did note that his book “Release” was basically unfilmable. Based on “Mrs Dallaway”, it takes place over the course of one day, from sunrise to sunset, and the story is mostly internal.

Ness talked about the difficulties he had with a particular screenplay where he was writing someone else’s story. The film had been in production for 10 years, the story was terrible, but he managed to rewrite it, keep some elements and turn it into a happy family comedy. The author was apparently so mad, he refused to renew the option unless Patrick Ness was fired. Ness leaned back in his chair and said that the film still hasn’t been made, so who is the real winner?

Kostakis asked how the authors felt about collaboration and not knowing how much of the film was theirs. Ness pointed out how much of a high class problem to have, like “not enough foie gras with your brioche“. Essentially though, he recommended that authors whose books have been adapted simply “take the money, buy a new kitchen and forget the rest”. Even when the film has been made, the book still remains.

Now, I cannot continue writing at this point without saying something about Jesse Andrews. Even though he was not the author I had come to see, he was incredibly funny and had a particular brand of visual humour that I’m now very curious to see how it translates into books. At one point he was flailing around in his chair (I can’t quite recall why), and he said “Please don’t take videos of this, it doesn’t translate well!” He actually reminded me quite a bit of seeing Jasper Fforde. I think comedy in books is quite an underrated skill and I think I will have to find myself a copy of “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” to read now. Kostakis was laughing so much at Jesse through the entire event that he didn’t really get the opportunity to say much at all.

At this point, Ness and Andrews took questions from the audience. One lady, who said she was a teacher, stood up and asked about the M-rating that Ness’ film “A Monster Calls” and talked about the difficulties she had experienced trying to show it to her students. Ness was visibly shocked at this question, and couldn’t believe that the film had an M-rating. He said, “it’s not like there were willies showing”.

Another young woman from the audience asked Ness how he felt about killing off main characters in stories. Ness said he felt great. The young woman said that she had played around with almost killing off main characters to which Ness replied “Almost doesn’t mean shit, honey.” He advised the audience to write what you would want to read yourself. If you’re having the best time murdering people left, right and centre, as long as it’s on the page, go for it.

It was hard not to notice that everyone had been asking Ness the majority of the questions, so Andrews jumped in to answer one as a joke. He asked, “Can I pitch Moby Dick in space?” to which Ness replied that his next book is actually going to be narrated by a whale.

The conversation then turned to whether authors can write about anyone. Ness recollected a time he had pitched an idea where every secondary character was a woman – shopkeepers, police officers – and wondered whether anyone would notice. He recommended not asking permission when it came to increasing diversity in your books. Andrews then interjected by singing, “White guys, we’re a bunch of white guys, talking about…” Andrews did go on to make some interesting points however about the make up of bestselling authors generally, and how that leads to certain kinds of characters being overrepresented and questions about who has access to storytelling.

He came back to the question of whether anyone can write about anyway. He said that there is no recipe for when it’s right. You can’t legislate because there is no clear answer except that you need fewer dudes, fewer white guys and fewer hetero people writing stories. Andrews concluded that one of the problems is that the financial backers are so risk adverse. Clearly black superheroes and women superheroes are successful, but there needs to be more diverse executives to invest.

This was really a brilliant event and I’m so, so glad I made the effort to trek across Sydney to see it. The icing on the cake was getting my book signed. The line was absolutely enormous, and I have to say I was amazed that some people had stacks of up to six books to get signed. When I finally made it to the front of the line, Ness was so delighted to sign a book for someone called Angharad. He asked me whether I had read his trilogy yet (which I haven’t), and he told me that he has a character called Angharad who is – wait for it – a talking horse. Now, I get a lot of books signed with the vague hopes that someone will name a character after me, but I have never had an author tell me that they already had written a book with my name in it.

I didn’t want to take up too much of his time, but I did quickly take the opportunity to let Ness know that I wished someone had been writing books like his when I was a teenager. He leaned in and said he did too – that’s why he writes them.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Literary Events

Sydney Writers’ Festival – Sarah Krasnostein: The Trauma Cleaner

Content warning: trauma, abuse, LGBTIQ issues, death, suicide

My second event for the Sydney Writers’ Festival was Sarah Krasnostein: The Trauma Cleaner. I was really excited for this event because I just recently finished Krasnostein’s book (review pending) which won two categories in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Prize for Non-Fiction.

20180505_101138-735425424.jpg

The event was held in a huge auditorium at Carriageworks and we arrived just as it had started. Krasnostein’s book is a biography on a trans woman called Sandra Pankhurst who is a trauma cleaner. The book flits back and fourth between Sandra’s traumatic childhood and early history to Krasnostein’s own experiences accompanying Sandra on cleaning jobs. Krasnostein was interviewed by Australian novelist Ashley Hay.

Hay asked Krasnostein about Sandra’s clients, and Krasnostein said that she went to see three times the number of clients that made it into the book. Krasnostein reflected on the enormity of the mess in the houses caused by bodies left unfound, suicides, hoarding and animal hoarding. She said, “You need an industrial cleaner for those environments”.

Krasnostein read a passage from the book about her difficulties in establishing when exactly events in Sandra’s life took place. Throughout the book, Sandra struggles to remember exactly when her parents kicked her out of the house as a young boy, or when she began to transition, or when she started working as a sex worker. Hay asked Krasnostein about the gaps in Sandra’s memories, and how she coped with the knowledge that she was never going to get a clear timeline. Krasnostein said initially she was frustrated that nothing would align but eventually she realised that the disjuncts “weren’t screwing up the story, those disjuncts were the story”.

Hay asked her about her own role in the story and Krasnostein explained that sometimes the writer has to become a character, and that putting herself in the story as the railing or the banister was guiding the reader through the story.

Hay then asked about how her background in law, forensics and justice came into play in researching and writing the book. Krasnostein said “context is everything”. Law taught her how to go about fact-finding and the difference between discernment and judgment. She said that her background taught her when to rely on her intuition. Krasnostein wryly said that as much as she wanted to include 20 pages of endnotes, she was discouraged. She said that apparently other people don’t enjoy reading footnotes as much as she does (though I certainly do!).

Hay asked Krasnostein about whether this book might be considered voyeuristic. Krasnostein cheerfully responded by saying “Come for the voyeurism, stay for the lesson”. She said that one thing she learned while writing this book was empathy, and that the clients of Sandra’s she met were no different from us at all. She said that when life threw them that phone call that we’re all just two seconds away from, they didn’t have the support they needed and now they are literally buried under decades of pain.

Hay brought up Marie Kondo’s bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and asked how that might apply to some of Sandra’s clients who were struggling with hoarding. Krasnostein said that in her opinion, it was less about whether a sweater brings you joy, and more about letting go of the past. She talked about the excruciating vulnerability of making connections with other people. Although she doesn’t have the experience of growing up trans in Melbourne in the 1960s and 1970s, she has felt shame and pain and that helped her make a connection with Sandra while writing the book.

Sandra gave Krasnostein a huge lesson about the nature of resilience, and also showed her how hugely important it is to sustain those human connections around us. Krasnostein said that we love imperfectly. You have to get over the stuff that doesn’t matter because that closeness and vulnerability is what will save you.

3 Comments

Filed under Literary Events

Sydney Writers’ Festival – SWF Gala: Power

Content warning: language, queer issues, adult themes

This was my first time attending the Sydney Writers’ Festival and it was an absolutely epic weekend. I had tickets to 7 events over 3 days and I travelled up to Sydney with my friend Kendall with a bag full of books to get signed. I’ll be sharing more about the trip as a whole later this week, but for now I’ll be blogging about each event I went to.

20180504_202454-748837671.jpg

The first event I went to was SWF Gala: Power, the big Friday night event at the Sydney Town Hall. This was also my first time at the Town Hall and it is an imposing venue. The perfect place to really get into the nitty-gritty of what power means.

The panel was hosted by Jamila Rizvi who opened the evening with a meditation on the subject of power from a great Australian poet:

“This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better

Ooh, we’re all someone’s daughter
We’re all someone’s son, oh
Give a look at each other
Down the barrel of a gun

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make the noise and make it clear, oh-o-o-o, woah-o-o-o
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear, oh-o-o-o, woah-o-o-o”

Farno

The audience was pretty warmed up with that introduction, and each of the panelists took a turn talking about their understanding of power.

Aminatou Sow

Sow, who hosts the podcast “Call Your Girlfriend” said that she was just trying to make Oprah proud. She said the first book she read in English was “Feminism is for Everybody”, which was simply about seeking an end to sexism and the successes and failures of feminism. She said it was 140 pages that changed her life and gave her a vocabulary to put into words what she had felt all along and what she didn’t have the models or the words to explain it in her native language, French.

Sow was the queen of one-liners and said, “I do not drink from the koolaid of women’s empowerment”. She said that if activism is fun, you’re probably not doing the work. She said that it’s easy to spot someone who has no skin in the game – they do not read books.

Sow stressed the importance of giving credit to those who have shaped your ideas. She said, don’t just call yourself an activist – DO activism. She told people to “read books and find the language to end oppression”.

Masha Gessen

Gessen is an author of a number of books including “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia” and “The Man Without a Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin“. 

Gessen reflected that at a Sydney Writers’ Festival some years ago, she said something that got her into so much trouble that she was driven out of Russia. Prior to the Australian marriage equality vote, she had made comments about the institution of marriage. A conservative newspaper published a story along the lines of “Homosexual activist reveals true goal of LGBTIQ movement”, the story was published in Russian, and her life was changed.

Gessen said that she was interested in the power of uncertainty. Uncertainty, she explained, was at odds with journalism and writing with certainty: the certainty of certainty that we see in Trump’s America, and even the certainty of experience.

Gessen asked the audience to imagine a post-war world where people value each other for being human and their different ways of learning. At this point, the audience clapped (which the Auslan interpreter also signed). Gessen then asked the audience to imagine a world without borders, architects who can build buildings with no set entrances and that can be taken apart, political parties with no platform.

Gessen ended on a discussion of uncertainty of gender and said that when people ask about preferred pronouns, Gessen says “I have no preferred pronoun. There is no reason to use third person pronouns in my presence”. On androgyny, Gessen said that at the airport, there was a question of who should pat her down: the male security guard, or the female security guard. Gessen simply said, “I don’t care”, and removed embarrassment in a tiny island of uncertainty.

Sally Rugg

Rugg was a campaign director at GetUp! for the marriage equality campaign and began her talk with statement that power was how the country won marriage equality.

Rugg first realised she was gay at the age of 19 when she had a penny drop moment. She said at the time it felt like cancer, something she didn’t want and that she couldn’t control in a world suddenly hostile towards her.

She talked about the first same sex kiss on Australian TV and Lloyd Grosse’s HIV activism, and said that every inch of LGBTIQ progress has been fought for with stories. She said that queer couples would haul their children to parliament so they could look MPs in the eye and beg for their families not to be put to a vote.

Rugg explained the power of stories to make political change, but noted the pressure on marginalised groups to be perfect. She said the story she told about being gay feeling like having cancer, she didn’t tell the other parts of realising her sexuality and the stories of losing her virginity or making out with girls in nightclubs. Rugg said that when marginalised communities are forced to sanitise their stories so that they appear worthy and look like the powerful, then it is not true equality.

She said that the stories must not just be preserved for the audiences we are trying to persuade.

Tanya Plibesek

Now, Plibersek’s talk was good, but Jamila Rizvi’s introduction was amazing. She introduced Plibersek like a character from Game of Thrones: Tanya Plibesek, of the House on the Hill, first of her name. Plibersek is the deputy leader of the Labor Party and an MP in Australia’s Parliament.

Plibersek also opened with a reference to music, however she went with John Lennon’s “Power to the People”. She noted that power is not bestowed by divine right, it lives in the people and it belongs to them. It remains the people’s gift to bestow and withdraw. Her talk was focused on the power and value of democracy.

Plibersek paraphrased Winston Churchill, who said

“…it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

The audience was a bit slow to warm to Plibersek.

Plibersek told the audience that this is the 12th consecutive year of global decline in freedom. There has been a decline in the support of democracy, particularly in among millennials. She said that the best way to support democracy is to broaden the circle of people it applies to.

Plibersek said that the price of democracy around the world is high, and we dishonour the people who fight for it by taking it for granted. She implored people to reject cynicism and jump into the fray. She said that democracy means engagement in civil society and things like memberships in unions and a free and diverse press.

Plibersek warned that Australia’s level of media concentration is one of the highest in the world and it is getting worse with fake news and social media echo chambers. Plibersek says that the is a proponent for free speech. Not the pretend kind, the kind that gives you the right to be a bigot, but the ability to criticise government.

Tayari Jones

Author Tayari Jones spoke next, and she said that she had been apprehensive to speak about power. As a woman of colour, she often felt like her conversations about power involved necessary discussion about being excluded from power and she just didn’t want to have to go through it all again.

She said that she could talk about the impact of police violence on her community, all the way to the fact the microphone doesn’t match her face.

Jones instead decided to tell a story about how she managed to regain some power. She had already had two books published and was writing her third when her publisher decided not to run it. Her publisher had bought some software called BookScan – and I tell you now, the way that Jones said the word BookScan was utterly compelling – and BookScan told the publisher that she hadn’t sold enough books. Her publisher decided not to run the book, and even though she kept working on the book and tried to live by the lessons she taught her students – don’t write what you think will get you published, but try to get published what you want to write – nobody else would publish the book either.

Some time later, Jones was invited to a writers’ festival. She was the only black woman invited, however she didn’t want to go because of how ashamed she was of the impact BookScan had had on her writing career. However, she nevertheless felt obligated to go because of the fear that if she didn’t, they wouldn’t invite other black women.

She got a call from the festival saying they couldn’t find any copies of her books to sell. It turned out that not only had her publishers cancelled her third book, but they had put her first two books out of print. Jones was mortified, and had no idea what to do. Shortly afterwards, she got another call saying that they had found four books for her to sign at the event. It turned out her dad had sent through the two copies and had hit her uncle up for two more.

Jones spoke to her dad and asked, what would she do when she ran out of the four books she had? Her dad said, if you run out, just smile and tell them you’ve sold out.

So Jones went to the event, she signed her four books, and sure enough a fifth person came along. Jones smiled, and told her that she had sold out. However, the woman said that she had heard Jones was out of print. More than that, she had heard that Jones couldn’t get a publisher. Jones said she was so embarrassed.

The woman took her hand, led her across the foyer, and literally put her hand in the hand of a publisher. One that had already rejected her third book. She and the publisher chatted for a bit, and then the publisher turned to her and asked how she knew Judy.

Jones was confused, and said I don’t know a Judy. The publisher said, you know, the woman you came over with, Judy Blume! Jones said it was like her nerdy childhood had come to rescue her in the time of need. However when she turned to where Judy had been, she had disappeared like a magical fairy godmother.

Jones said that her hard work had intersected with Judy Blume and her generosity and power, and finished by concluding that art will always find a way.

Warwick Thornton

Aboriginal filmmaker Warwick Thornton was up next.

He started out by reminiscing about how when he was 6 years old, he lived on the kind of street that all towns have – where the kids are hungry, the mums are working and the dads are full of shit. He said that he had a best friend called David, and by sheer coincidence, he became a camera assistant and David became a boom swinger.

They had adventures together on sets all around Australia. They got older and uglier and they moved from documentaries to features. They worked together on the film The Sapphires, and his friend told him that he had a great idea for a movie.

Now, Thornton said that he hears that a lot, and usually says to them go ahead and write it. He said, 99% of the time he never hears from them about it again. However, this time, when he met David up in Arnham land on a project, David told him he had written the film.

Thornton was torn: he wanted to be a good mate, but what was he going to do if he read it and it was terrible? He’d have to tell him it was bad. He put it off and put it off but then he finally read it: it was terrible, but it was also brilliant because David had something to say.

He had written it from the heart. It didn’t have any structure, but Thornton said that he had been unable to recognise its brilliance when he first read it due to elitist crap. He told David what he thought, and that it needed a lot of work. David told him that he understood: he had just wanted to tell his grandfather’s story.

David had told the truth about his grandfather. Thornton said that history was told by the coloniser, and that it had been told with a lead pencil and an eraser. Thornton said that he had lost his connection and had been too busy focusing on what Hollywood expected. So he hooked David up with a screenwriter called Stephen, and together they made a film called Sweet Country.

Wesley Morris

The last speaker of the day was Wesley Morris, a journalist and critic with the New York Times.

Morris began by saying that he was feeling very literal today. He hadn’t gone to therapy this week, and he hadn’t really prepared a talk, so he wanted to talk about something that had happened to him recently.

He said that he had been dumped about a week ago. It was a plutonic dumping, they weren’t romantically involved, but the person had been in his life since he was about 17 years old.

He actually hadn’t heard from him for about 9 months, and after a few unanswered messages, the friend finally agreed to talk to him about what had happened. Morris got slotted into a 10:00am to 10:40am timeframe, and so he knew it wasn’t going to be a long, in-depth conversation.

He said that he had worked with his friend for about 2 years, and his friend told him that the reason they weren’t speaking anymore is because that he apparently did not help his friend at a moment when he needed help. Morris said that he had no idea his friend needed help. His friend said that Morris had the power to help him and chose not to use it: he could have used whatever clout he had in his position to speak on his friend’s behalf.

Morris was taken aback by this. He said that he had never though of himself as really having any power to help others like that.

Morris said that one factor in this equation was that he is black and his friend is white. He doesn’t carry himself through the world thinking about the power he has, but his friend does think, when moving through a space, about the power he carries. Morris said he doesn’t even know what that looks like because he simply doesn’t believe he has that power.

He said that his friend has the power – he gets himself into nightclubs, and can get people to call him back.

Morris realised that this is a fundamental difference between them. When his friend goes to work, he takes his family and his day-to-day life with him. When Morris goes to work, he takes 400 years of people working so that he has the right to go to work every day. He doesn’t have time to think about the power he has and how he can use it on people. He doesn’t think of himself as having institutional power.

This was a curiously intimate discussion, and Morris clarified he wasn’t looking for a response. He said he wasn’t sure what was going to happen with his friend, but he asked the audience to think about the power they do have and how they use it.

4 Comments

Filed under Literary Events, Uncategorized

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Like many fanciful young girls who spend too much time daydreaming, I loved “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the sequel “Alice Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll when I was a kid. So of course when I saw Muse was going to be running a high tea event themed on the Mad Hatter’s tea party, I knew I must attend. I received an email a few days beforehand asking that we dress up and that we bring some of our favourite editions of “Alice in Wonderland” to share with the other attendees. Nobody every has to tell me twice to dress up! Of course, given my love of bunnies, I had to go as the March Hare.

20180422_144244-1942056601.jpg

When I arrived on 22 April 2018, I was very relieved to see that this wasn’t the kind of party where I was the only one who bothered to dress up (having been to one just the day before), and there was a Tweedle (unclear which), the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, an Alice and someone who hadn’t dressed up specifically as a character but who had the most incredible Disney Alice in Wonderland skirt.

The long table was beautifully decorated with playing cards, tea pots and little signs saying “Eat Me” and “Drink Me”. Everyone received a copy of “Mad Hatters and March Hares“, a collection of short stories inspired by Lewis Caroll’s works, and we were joined by local authors Kaaron Warren (who also has a story in the anthology) and Robert Hood (an Alice enthusiast and extremely knowledgeable about the life and times of Lewis Carroll). In the background, a projector was playing the Disney version of the story.

20180422_150421-406474499.jpg

This was an absolutely lovely way to spend an afternoon. When I had arrived, it had just started drizzling which made it feel extra English. Paul got us all started with a glass of champagne (of which, owing to my over-enthusiasm the previous night, I only took half) then took our tea and coffee orders. Dan brought around the most amazing little cakes and sandwiches on tiered stands, and then the scones with fresh cream and jam came out as well.

Unlike your everyday book event, this one was very participatory. All the guests took turns introducing themselves and sharing some memories about how they first fell in love with the Alice stories. Kaaron told everyone about her story, and her horror writing generally. Robert shared fascinating tidbits about some of the more adult jokes disguised within the children’s books. Then we all got to talk about the editions of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” that we brought along, and I was very pleased to talk about the copy that my mum used to read to me when I was a kid and some of the fancier new editions I have.

20180422_151350-1587577279.jpg

This really was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

1 Comment

Filed under Literary Events, Uncategorized

Festival Muse

2018banner.jpg

This long weekend just past had a lot of things going on in Canberra, but one of the most exciting was the second annual Festival Muse. Muse is several things: bookshop, cafe, restaurant and wine bar but it is especially a venue for fantastic literary events. The schedule was jam-packed over four days and I managed to get along to two very interesting talks.

Turn Me On – Festival Opening

The opening event was at 6pm on Friday 9 March 2018. I had just finished a very long week at work, and so I very pleased to be ushered in with a glass of wine so I could take a seat and watch some intellectual weightlifting.

There were five speakers at this event from a broad range of backgrounds, experiences and beliefs and each gave a short monologue about what kick-started their engines and got them passionate about their chosen fields.

The first speaker was Michael Brissenden, ABC journalist and author, who is one of those rare people who actually grew up in Canberra in the 1960s. The Canberra nightlife wasn’t then what it is now, and people had to make their own fun. He described the house party culture as one of “cheerful desperation” – full of politicians and poetry, drunks and musicians. Brissenden read from his father’s book of ballads about Canberra, “Gough and Johnny Were Lovers“.

Next was Zoya Patel, editor of Feminartsy (a magazine I contribute to) and soon to be published author. While acknowledging the special kind of “affluent, privileged political echo chamber that is Canberra”, Patel nevertheless found plenty of opportunities while growing up to “keep the pilot light of her feminism burning”. Growing up in an Indian-Fijian household, Patel was an early adopter of feminism and began writing from a young age. When she became an editor for Lip Magazine, she witnessed the onslaught and impact of internet trolls against her writers first hand. Patel said that feminism is not about the individual but about the sisterhood and this experience motivated her to lift up her writers’ voices even more.

20180309_182539-331699247.jpg

The third speaker was not a writer, but conductor and musical director Roland Peelman. Peelman acknowledged early that he is a musician, a job of “no great political feat or activitism”. Rather, the is more interested in how music can bring people together with their hearts beating at the same pace. Peelman was born in Belgium, and reflected on the differences in politics between his native home and adopted home. He reflected that in politics, despite what people may think, compromise is not disfunctional and messy can be functional because an untidy government means making room for minorities. Coming back to his music, Peelman said that traditional formulas of economic rationalism do not necessarily apply even though he has encountered plenty of skepticism about how his organisations would remain sustainable. Art isn’t about satisfying shareholders, it has different objectives, and Peelman finished on the note that music is about building community.

The next speaker was neither writer nor musician, but local politician Elizabeth Lee MLA. Lee began by saying that even if her political beliefs are different, she still felt like she has lots in common with the other speakers. She drew parallels with Patel’s experiences and said that in her family, a Korean family with three daughters, her dad was the original feminist. Lee said that he would tell her that as the oldest, she was the needle and her sisters were the thread and where she goes her sisters will follow. After progressing in her legal career in both private practice and as a lecturer, Lee decided to follow her passions of organising people and getting people involved and run for the ACT Legislative Assembly. Lee has also experienced her fair share of sexist and racist online trolling, however has found that her firm responses have been a source of inspiration for young Asian women.

The final speaker for the evening was ACT Marriage Equality campaign director, Jacob White. He opened with a question: why are people into politics? For White, he was born into it. As the middle child with two sisters either side, he was born to be an agitator. He was also inspired by his Nanna and her disability advocacy for her daughter, White’s aunty. Although raised among political attitudes limited to “Paul Keating is an arrogant prick, John Howard is a weirdo and Mark Latham is a psychopath”, from an early age White was writing letters to his local council complaining about lantana in his cubby house. Using that gumption as a springboard, he eventually found himself leading the charge for marriage equality in Canberra.

After such a diverse array of speakers, the formal part of the event closed and Muse opened the restaurant area up with drinks and canapes. It was a great evening with plenty of opportunity for me to pursue one of my favourite hobbies: telling strangers what books they should be reading.

The Burning Issues of Now

Like a little bookend, the second event I went to was on Monday 13 March – the other side of the festival. Three panelists, journalist Gabrielle Chan, writer Siv Parker and reporter, presenter and broadcaster Dan Bouchier settled in for a robust discussion on what is going to be the next “big issue” in Australia now the marriage equality campaign is done and dusted.

Now, I must admit here that I was so captivated by the discussion that I actually didn’t take especially good notes, but on top of the list for Parker’s burning issues was the treatment of Aboriginal women. Parker reflected on her own upbringing as an Aboriginal woman in black-soil country in north-western New South Wales and Bouchier compared his own experiences in Tenant Creek, Northern Territory – “the Red Centre”. Parker explained that during her professional life working around the country, one constant that she has seen among Aboriginal women from all backgrounds is that they feel like they don’t have the opportunities to do what they want to do with their lives.

One of the biggest issues standing in their way is domestic and family violence, which Aboriginal women experience and even die from at far higher rates than other Australian women. Family violence has unavoidable spill-on effects on children’s outcomes as well. The panelists turned then to two issues that have been flooding the media: Aboriginal kids in youth detention and Aboriginal kids in care.

20180312_131022144843399.jpg

Bouchier talked about the reaction to the terrible crime that happened in Tenant Creek recently, and the erroneous conflation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being in out of home care at 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children and the Stolen Generation. Parker explained that where the Stolen Generation was the result of a racist policy designed to make a generation of servants, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in care is an issue tied to trauma and disadvantage.

Bouchier noted the reluctance of governments and media to explore these issues deeply due to a fear of not being politically correct. Chan said that as a journalist following the schedules of politicians, having to get across and report on multiple issues in a day with only limited opportunities to get a question in, it’s very difficult to report on issues in very great detail. The panelists talked about the many, many Royal Commissions that are supposed to investigate these issues in depth, but that even those get manipulated and the recommendations which are handed down can be ignored for decades.

The panelists then turned to last year’s historic Uluru Statement From the Heart, which, despite being a statement achieved from a convention of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from around the country, was dismissed by the Government. However, despite it not turning out to be the magic solution, the panelists were hopeful that this is not the end and that the Uluru Statement feels more like a strong beginning.

Both Turn Me On and The Burning Issues of Now were great, thought-provoking events with engaged, diverse speakers. Even though it’s only been a day, I can’t wait to see what Festival Muse 2019 brings.

If you want another perspective, check out Whispering Gums‘ post.

5 Comments

Filed under Literary Events

ACT Lit Bloggers of the Future: A Portrait of Shōjo

My second event for the ACT Lit Bloggers of the Future Program was to go see A Portrait of Shōjo: The Poetic Ambience of Japanese Girlhood, a National Library of Australia fellowship talk by Dr Masafumi Monden.

I love anime…There is something compelling about characters who are at once paragons of independence and yet still ultra-feminine.

Read more about the event at the ACT Writers Centre blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literary Events