Saturday, August 30, 2014

An Open Day Experience

WARNING: May contain ranting.

I was lucky enough to be asked by one of my teachers to work at the open day for my university last weekend. She wanted me to be a student ambassador for the Professional and Creative Writing major and because I am ridiculously organised and checked out the course rules and mapped out all my units for the entire three years the moment I enrolled I knew I wouldn't have a problem doing that.

So open day came around and I got a cool blue Deakin shirt that all the other student ambassadors were wearing. I stood outside the little stall set up for the PCW major. We were sharing a stall with Children's Literature, which I know a little bit about through my minor study, and Literature, which I only know of through a few friends doing it as a minor study.

I was having a fantastic day. I love my course and I was really happy to have the chance to share my experiences and knowledge with potential students for next year. I'd start each conversation by telling them which units they had to complete and what they entailed. I'd tell them how amazing the lecturer Dr Pont is for the first unit they would have to do. They seemed so amazed by the flexibility they could have in choosing units and the opportunities for networking with other writers and chances they'd have to get published if they kept their ears and contacts open. I was impressed with myself for being able to answer so many of their questions, even the parents who would pipe up and ask me something seemed satisfied by my answers, especially when they'd ask something like 'what's your goal at the end of your course? What career opportunities will you have? What will you be qualified to do?'

Then this one guy was standing in front of our stall, looking at the names of the majors we were representing on big signs on the wall behind us. He stood there for a few minutes and eventually I stepped up to him and asked if there was anything I could help him with. For all I knew, he was a mature aged student, or the father of some kid who was about to finish high school with no clue of what they wanted to do next. At first he said no, he was just waiting for someone. Then he asked me what course I was representing and I held up my little info flyer and pointed to the Professional and Creative Writing heading.

I won't say he laughed. He didn't laugh. But he may as well have.

He made one of those sounds of disbelief that I never know what to call (I don't always want to say scoff, because it has some mean connotations, but it's probably fitting in this case). And he did it with such condescension that I physically had to force myself to keep smiling and appear unfazed.

His body language changed. He started casually hopping from foot to foot as if he was bored, and started throwing and catching the little stress ball in his hand. While he was doing that, he asked said, 'Alright, sell it to me.' Then he said something to the effect of, 'Why should anyone bother with this course?'

I was mad. Who the fuck did this guy think he was, knocking my course right in front of me? But I'd been selling this to people for two hours already and doing a damn good job of it. So I started listing the skills one could acquire and improve if they did the Professional and Creative Writing major. I told him how much better I am at writing, both professionally and creatively, and how I could edit other people's work like no one's business to make it better, and every business, company, corporation, institution etc. put out any sort of publication (text advertisements, information booklets, video campaigns which need scripts, etc.) needs a good writer and/or editor to do that sort of thing for them if they want it to look professional.

Then he cut me off and said something to the effect of, 'Wouldn't it be better if they just taught kids all that stuff in high school? I mean aren't you just creating a bureaucracy?'

He didn't care to listen to my defenses. Every time I started speaking again, he just cut me off and started going on about bureaucracy and speaking to me in such a pretentious way that frankly he was lucky I was working, in a uniform, with my peers and superiors nearby. Under different circumstances, I probably would have referred him to the My Vagenda article I wrote for the Awkward edition of WORDLY, to give him an idea of what I thought of him.

We were interrupted when his wife came over and I realised she was a staff member at my university. She was working at the next table over, representing the journalism, media communications, and public relations side of things. I had thought it was interesting that both of our stalls were together under the Writing and Communications banner, but not only were there two separate tables, we had taken up different colours to distinguish the obviously more creative majors under that banner from the more serious (for lack of a better word) majors.

In that moment, I knew that there was no way this man would ever be convinced that my course was worth undertaking. There are a lot of people I know who ask me what I'm studying, and when I tell them I study writing they immediately turn around and say, 'So, like journalism?' It ticks me off, probably to an irrational extent, that so few people (except those also doing my course) consider what I'm studying to be substantial, to be worth studying if I want to get a job at the end of it. I spent the rest of open day refraining from shooting this jerk dirty looks as he hung around the journalism/communications/public relations table and trying not to let it get under my skin.

Later, when I had some time to myself, I sat there contemplating all the things I could have said to this guy to shut him down and prove that my course isn't as useless as he makes it sound. I knew his argument had holes and then I could make them bigger if I poked them. If it weren't for the sake of maintaining professionalism while I was working, I wouldn't have let him cut me off so easily. I probably would have cut him off at a few points.

Describing him with a few choice words aside, I would have argued that for him to suggest that we just teach kids the things I was telling him about in high school makes him an idealist. While in theory, yeah, great plan, it would be like communism once it's put in to practice: epic fail. In saying that we may as well teach high school students the stuff I learn in my course, he may as well have suggested we teach high school kids everything a university student is capable of studying and cut out the idea of university altogether. But that wouldn't work. Not every kid is an Einstein. And frankly, even the ones that are usually only excel like that in certain areas. The thing is, we do teach all those things to high school students: at a high school level. For me, the point of coming to university was to take what I excelled in during high school and study it at a higher, more in-depth level to make myself even better at it.

I suck at science. My maths is pretty average. But I am in my element when I'm writing (especially creatively) and when I'm editing. However, there are heaps of people who have it the other way around. They might be ace at science or maths or IT, but have terrible professional English skills. The thing is, because we all excel in different areas, we balance each other out. I'm writing a pantomime for a bio-medicine student at the moment! If that isn't a perfect example, then I don't know what is. Does this guy, and everyone who thinks like him, want to live in a world where there is no creative stimuli for them to take in? No great books to read, regardless of whether you prefer commercial or literary? Movies and television shows couldn't exist if someone didn't write a script, and all those pop songs you hear on the radio sure as hell don't write themselves.

I had a great time working at the open day. Not only did I get to tell heaps of potential students about my course: I realised how truly passionate I am about what I'm doing and how much faith I have in what I'm learning and my potential to utilise it. No one can convince me that my talents are useless and no amount of condescension and narrow-mindedness can make me change what I want to do with my life.

What do you want to rant about this week? 
- Bonnee.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Writer's Update: I'm Still Alive

So in my brain, I knew I hadn't blogged in a while. But in my brain, it hadn't been a whole month.

Turns out, having only one day of class does not mean I have all the time in the world for the rest of the week. I've been working usually once or twice a week. This week I worked three times and might be working a fourth on Sunday for the university's open day. I love working in the Deakin Library. I feel very in my element surrounded by all those books...

In the first four weeks back at uni, I managed to marathon the entire Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series with a few of my housemates. I feel so proud to have converted them to the fandom of the awesomeness that Nickelodeon has created. So... that was 20 hours and 20 minutes of cartoon watching and a lot of time spent not studying or doing anything else productive.

We just finished week five of classes, and had our mid-trimester break. Just before the mid-trimester break, I forced myself to get it over and done with and finally finished editing those last five pages of WALLS. My bedroom wall is still covered in the pages, which are now covered in highlighter, red pen, and an assortment of sticky notes. It looks awesome and I am completely used to it. I have to remind myself to explain what's going on in there when people come into my room for the first time. I've gotten a few 'WTF' looks.

My original goal for the mid-trimester break was to type up the edited version of WALLS and start the next round of edits. That didn't happen, because another project with a pressing deadline popped up instead. One of my best friends, a girl I lived with on res last year, is heavily involved with her hometown's local theatre company and wanted to direct a pantomime early next year, during our summer break in January. She asked me to write the script. So before the break we sat down and ironed out some details. And then over five days of my mid-trimester break, I cranked out a 10500 word Alice in Wonderland pantomime script. I'm quite proud of it, if I do say so myself. My friend is pretty happy with it. Fingers crossed the theatre company will give her the 100% thumbs up now that we have a script and the rest of the process of putting on a play can get underway.

I had to read the book Rash by Pete Hautman. Young Adult dystopian set in a future United Safe States of America. It was interesting, a little absurd at a few points. Overall, I enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, we've launched the 'Awkward' edition of WORDLY Magazine. I love being on the editorial team and working with the writers and other editors. This edition, I got super lucky and had two of my pieces accepted. Poem Fuckin' Poetry which I'd originally written for my final poetry folio last semester, and an article we ended up calling My Vagenda, in which I express and defend my love for the c-bomb.

We've been collecting submissions for the final edition of 2014, which does not have a theme. I'm really enjoying working on the team and hope I'll always be able to get involved with something like this.

Meanwhile, I've convinced myself that there is some sort of gap between the end of August and the start of September in which I will find time to write my two essays due in the first week of September. I told myself today I would stop procrastinating and start writing them... so naturally, the logical thing to do is write a blog post.

I'm going to try and get back into the swing of blogging, because I really miss it and I miss reading other people's blogs. So I'll aim for a post every two weeks at least.

What have you been up to for the past month? 
- Bonnee.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Back to Uni

Whoa, so I disappeared off the face of the blogosphere for more than a month... oops.

I'm back at uni now. In fact, I'm in the second week of the new trimester. Yay! I missed uni and res a lot, so I'm not sure how I managed to go the ENTIRE mid-year break without blogging excessively... But that happened.

So here's what you need to know:

1. I only have eight hours of classes per week this year. And I fit all of those classes into one day. In other words, I only have eleven days of class for the entire trimester (trimester=11 weeks). It also means I have a six day weekend as far as classes go. This is good because I now have optimum availability to work at the library as I am available for all of the shifts that aren't on a Monday. Yay! This also means I have a lot of time to study, edit, write, procrastinate, and socialise without getting interrupted by class. This could go one of two ways. Either, I'm going to utilise all this uninterrupted free time and be ultra productive for eleven weeks... or I'm going to melt into a pit of eternal laziness. I'm hoping for the former, but we'll see!

2. My units this semester are Power, Politics, and Texts for Young People (as a part of my Children's Literature minor), Editing and the Author (for the Professional and Creative Writing major), Ethics in Global Society (for the self-coordinated philosophy major) and Philosophy, Art, Film (also for the philosophy major).

3. I had to get an Australian Style Manual and Mackenzie's The Editor's Companion 2nd Edition for EATA. They are amazingly beautiful resources and I am going to keep them forever.

4. I read The Hunger Games again for the kid's lit unit. I maintain the opinions which I stated in this blogpost from early last year, though I would like to insert the word 'impersonal' to the part where I'm talking about the style of writing and the issues I had there. The class about it was pretty interesting and my first assignment is about the book, so I'll probably blog about it again in the coming weeks.

5. I didn't meet my own deadline for the WALLS edits. I was SO CLOSE to finishing it the night before classes started, but it was past midnight and I was really tired and I know I only had five pages left but I stopped and went to bed and haven't touched it since. I am a bad person. I really want to finish it. By the same token, I've enjoyed the task so much that I don't really want it to end, but I am eager to get into the next stage of edits and just generally keep improving the manuscript.

6. Although I still have five pages to go, my room looks pretty cool with all the pages covered in red pen and highlightings and sticky-notes stuck to the walls, if I do say so myself.

7. The next edition of Wordly magazine is coming soon with the edits well under way. We are expecting to launch in two weeks and start our call for submissions for the last edition of the year shortly thereafter.

What writerly things have you all been up to for the past month? 
- Bonnee.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Writer's Update: Subconscious Avoidance and Trigger Warnings

I've returned to res this week so that I can edit to my heart's content and do my first week of readings before  trimester 2 classes start next week. I'm very excited to get back into study-mode and also to see all of my uni friends again (Holmes, Watson, I miss you guys!). I'm also excited about my awesome timetable. I got all of my first preferences for my class allocations, and have ended up with all 8 hours I'm required to be on campus scheduled from 9-5 on Monday. I may not have a lunch break, but I have a six day weekend and optimum availability for work at the library and helping put together the next edition of Wordly magazine. Be jealous of my six day weekend.

But for this next week, I'm aiming to edit 10 pages of my manuscript each day in order to complete this first round of serious edits before classes start again. So far, so good. My pages (along with my hands and the cuffs of the sleeves of my hoodie) are covered in red pen and orange/pink/purple highlighter. On Sunday, I finished the first wall of pages, which just so happens to be the first half (70 pages) of the manuscript.

Not a great photo, but you get the gist.
I had plenty of chances to finish this wall of pages before I went back to my hometown. I had five pages left when I departed res and since I've finally finished those pages and continued to edit ten more on the next wall, I think I've figured out why I kept putting it off. It's most likely just coincidental, but it's not like I didn't know what those five pages that I kept avoiding contained. Yesterday and today, I have edited fifteen pages, and it has been emotionally taxing. I knew one of the sad parts was upon me for edits and I might have been subconsciously avoiding it because I of how dark the story was about to get.

I've passed the worst of the emotional sections for now, but I know there's another part coming up towards the end that is even more intense. I wonder if I'll find myself avoiding those pages when I get to that part.

This all makes me stop and think about the things people read and write. I know I've put my beautiful character Mil and Kovax through some really traumatic shit. But where does a writer draw the line? I tend to go with the philosophy that nothing is off limits, but does that lessen my chances of getting published later? WALLS is something I'm going to want to stick trigger warnings all over because of how messed up some parts are, even though I'd rather let readers go into the book without knowing what to expect. I've considered being more subtle about certain things which are currently heavily implied, but I don't want to beat around the bush with the dark parts of this story. That isn't my style, not in this book anyway.

I had this issue on my mind the whole way through NaNoWriMo last year when I was cranking out that first draft, but I set it aside and told myself I could come back and reassess the situation later. Earlier this year, an old friend of mine who used to get me to edit her fanfiction work (oh those were the days...) got in touch with me again for the first time in a couple of years and we started working together again, only this time I let her read some of my work too. I was giving each chapter of WALLS a quick proofread and then sending it to her for feedback. I had just sent her the third chapter when I decided to mention that later in the story there were some darker issues. With most of my other friends who have read a few chapters, I never bothered to mention it, but I wanted to warn this friend because of some personal stuff involving people around her that I knew had contributed to our lack of communication in recent years. At first, she seemed alright with it as long as I warned her when she was about to read the sad chapters, but when she asked for a bit more detail as to what I meant by 'sad', I told her truthfully some of the darker issues that were going to be covered and she never replied. It could just be another coincidence and she's dropped off the face of the earth again and will email again in a couple of years, but I can't be certain that her sudden silence isn't related to the touchy issues I warned her would be later in the story.

So I guess to end this blog post, I'm wondering what you guys think about story content worthy of a trigger warning.  Have you ever read it? Did the book come with a trigger warning? Have you ever written it? To what extent of detail? 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Writer's Update: Holiday Blues

It's the last week of my uni holidays before o-week starts for the second half of the year, and I'm very excited for classes and work to start again!

My goal for these weeks without classes was to edit the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year, WALLS. I am still in the process of editing, but I've fallen behind due not having stayed on res for the whole of the holidays. I've spent about three weeks in my hometown, while the printed manuscript that I'm editing from is blue tacked to my room at res. But classes don't start again until the 14th, and I'm confident I'll be able to catch up to where I was to be before then.

I still feel like a crazy person every time I go into my room at res and see everything up on my walls. It's even crazier now that there's red pen and highlighters all over the first 70 pages, covering the wall above my bed.

But away from res, I have been working instead on submissions for the next edition of WORDLY magazine, which I'm having a pretty heavy hand in helping produce. After the 'time' edition came out at the end of last semester, we decided that the theme for the next edition should be 'awkward'. So I've been encouraging my writerly friends to share their awkward moments with us for the magazine. The 'time' edition was our best yet and so I'm really excited to be so involved in the 'awkward' edition.

Earlier in the month, I also submitted three pieces to Deakin's annual literary and arts journal, Verandah, which is scheduled to release it's 29th edition in August.

At the moment, I'm just sitting tight and waiting to get the last of my marks for the first half of the year. I'll be very happy if I maintain a distinction average.

What have you been writing lately? 

- Bonnee.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Emerging Writers' Festival (Pt. 2)

I thought I should probably mention the other three events I went to as a part of the Emerging Writers' Festival, though it seems like ages ago now!

On Thursday 29 May, I met with a friend and we went to an event together at The Wheeler Centre. The event was a talk about sex in writing, given by Sam George-Allen of the online magazine, Scum. She spoke a great deal about how pornography, especially online, has a great influence on how people perceive sex. As writers, we are capable of making people perceive things the way we want them to be perceived, and here I'm not just talking about sex. But as writers, we also have the power to destroy misconceptions. Because of the plethora of pornography readily available to us through a few taps on the keyboard and a few clicks of a mouse, a lot of people (especially the young and inexperienced) get a completely wrong idea about sex. Sam spoke to us about writing truthfully, and this can be applied to anything we write about. Not every experience we have, sexual or not, is beautiful and perfect and all that jazz. In writing about sex, we often forget to write about the awkwardness, the fear, the humour, the accidental elbow-to-eyeball contact, bad or unsatisfying experiences instead of just the good stuff. And the interesting thing was, she wasn't talking to us specifically about writing erotica, because sex isn't limited to erotica, just like a good fight-scene isn't limited to an action/adventure genre. She was talking to us about writing a universal human experience that could occur in any genre, in any context. I thought it was a good little talk.

A few days later, I went to an event they called Night of the Living Novella, at which Hologram and Seizure both launched a handful of novellas by new writers. I met up with another friend for this one, and my friend had done a bit more research than I had and already bought a couple of the novellas and read them. Each of the authors read a segment from their novella to the audience and I quickly fell in love with Elisabeth Murray's The Loud Earth, which was one of the books my friend had already read and loved. I bought a copy of her book at the launch and my friend and I both got our copies signed after the readings. I started reading the novella on my way home on the train and didn't want to put it down. Our unnamed protagonist is a recluse, living in the mountains away from the town she grew up in when one night, Hannah shows up on her doorstep, not knowing the stories the townsfolk tell that make this woman an outcast. It was a really good short read and you should all read it!

The last event I went to was a poetry reading and the launch of the twelfth edition of Rabbit poetry journal. Originally, one of my housemates was going to come with me, but she was unwell. Instead, I showed up by myself and first of all bumped into my poetry teacher, who had already been at the venue the hour beforehand for another event and already had a few glasses of red wine in him. So we chatted for a little, and then I wandered around making new friends and met a guy from England who had studied philosophy (which I am also studying as a second major) so we hit it off pretty well. Then I sat back and listened to the Rabbit contributors do their thing and bought a copy of the new edition on my way out the door. I love poetry.

Overall, I'm very glad I made it to a few of the Emerging Writers' Festival events this year and hopefully I'll make it to a few more for the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Have you been to any writerly events lately?
- Bonnee.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Liebster Award

I always initially read this as 'Lobster Award' and have a good ol' chuckle to myself. I generally ignore the nominations, because when it first came my way I had several people nominate me in the space of a few weeks and I got over it pretty quickly, but it hasn't come my way in a while. So shout-out to Nhi Le over at The Literary Bystander, for the nomination.

1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions asked by whoever nominated you.
3. Nominate 9 bloggers with less than 300 followers and leave them a comment saying they've been nominated. 
4. Ask 11 new questions for your chosen nominees.
5. You cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you.

11 Facts about myself: 
1. I got a haircut. My hair is really short now. I love it.
2. I watch the Twilight movies to laugh at the bad acting... especially in Breaking Dawn pt 1 and 2 with the CGI baby.
3. My smartphone crashes if I go on Facebook, because it isn't very smart.
4. I am currently reading Storm of Swords pt.1 and am really mad about a part that the TV show left out between Daenerys and Jorah Mormont.
5. If season 2 of Attack on Titan is as good as the first season, it will overtake DeathNote as my favourite anime.
6. I did not cry when I read The Fault in Our Stars.
7. I drive a manual (though I'm still on my learners permit).
8. I do not like children. At all. I have absolutely no patience for them.
9. I used to do Tae Kwon-Do. Made it to blue-belt.
10. I did not like the piece I had published in the newest edition of the student magazine.
11. I had braces when I was 11.

Questions for me to answer: 
1.  Who is an author you love so much, that you will buy any and every one of their books, regardless if you have any interest in the plot or not?
I don't think I really have an author I'm that obsessed with, but if I had to pick one, probably Haruki Murakami. I fell in love with his work after I studied him in highschool. 

2. Do you think that printed books will ever become obsolete and we will live in an e-book only society one day?
I don't think they will. There's still a pretty high demand for them. Personally, I dislike e-readers of all forms. I much prefer being able to see the book sitting on a shelf in my room, where everyone else can see it too and everyone else can see how love or unloved it is by how tattered the pages are and how bent the spine is. Also, an author can't sign your Kindle screen and that would take a lot of fun out of book launches and cancel out cool events like signings. 

3. Are there books that you think are overrated or you just avoid just to it being over-hyped?
I wish I'd done this for the Twilight Saga. I've done it thus far for 50 Shades of Grey. 

4. Does your opinion of an author affect whether or nor you will read and like their book (e.g. you hear an author is attacking people who leave negative reviews on their books)?
I haven't really been put in a situation where this has happened, but I would probably hold such people and their work in low opinion. 

5. Name 5 books you will pay with your soul to see adapted either as a movie or television series.
I'd be too afraid that they'd do a serious botch-job and ruin everything and over-hype it all. But assuming I didn't have to worry about that stuff, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, after the quake by Haruki Murakami, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, and Thursday's Child by Sonya Hartnett. 

6. Do you prefer standalone or books in a series?
I don't think I have a preference, though there are certain series I think would have worked better if they'd stopped at the first book (e.g. Hunger Games).  

7. Have you ever read the reviews for a book before you've read it, spoilers and all?
Nope, I try to avoid spoilers (though some friends make that impossible with George Martin's books... Holmes, I'm looking at you). 

8. Name a character you hate that everyone else seems to love?
Oh gosh I don't know... Peeta from the Hunger Games? Do people tend to like him? I mean, I'm still undecided, but I'm leaning towards Team Gale. 

9. Name a character you love that everyone else seems to hate? (Aren't I so original with my questions?)
Up until this season of Game of Thrones, I really loved Shae. I forgot to take into consideration that everyone I was talking to had read the books and already knew what she was going to do this season. 

10. What compels you more into a story - the plot or the characters?
I think the characters have to interest me more than the plot does, though I prefer a nice balance of good plot and good characters. 

11. Do you prefer happy or tragic endings? Or even cliffhangers?
I like realistic endings. None of that 'and they all live happily ever after' bullcrap. But that doesn't mean it has to end in tragedy either. Cliffhangers are only okay if it's a part of a series (and not the last book). 

Questions for whoever cares to answer them:
1. What is your least favourite book genre?
2. What is your least favourite colour?
3. Pick one character (from anywhere, book, tv, movie, etc.) for each of these: snog, marry, avoid.
4. Your favourite television programme from your childhood?
5. Was there a character from a kids show you were legitimately afraid of?
6. What fruit do you consume most frequently?
7. Would you rather be able to do a backflip or stand on your head?
8. Can you do a backflip or stand on your head?
9. What style(s) of dance have you had lessons for? (They don't have to have been serious lessons.)
10. Which of your own characters are you most proud of having created?
11. Would you rather live in Westeros and the Free Cities, Middle Earth, or Narnia?

I nominate:
1. JeffO
2. G.M
3. Watson
4. Holmes
5. Shari (I have no idea how many followers you have, but you're being nominated anyway!)
6. Patrick

And I can only be bothered doing six, so yeah, the last three places are open to whoever.

- Bonnee.

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