Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: 'A Game of Thrones' by George R.R. Martin

First on the agenda: a Merry Christmas to all of those out there who celebrate. I hope you all ate as much as I did. One of my friends gifted me a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I will be reading in the New Year and I have just downloaded a NaNoWriMo donor freebie as a Christmas present to myself: the StoryWonk lecture on structure. I will review both book and lecture at some point next year after reading/watching them.

This post will be about a (part of a) gift I was given for my birthday back in September, when a bunch of my writerly friends from uni gave me the A Song of Ice and Fire book-set so far. I finished reading the first book, A Game of Thrones, a couple of nights ago after trying to ignore it throughout November while I was busy writing instead. I'll refer again to the post from Lynda R. Young's blog about reviewing, while I write this one. Warning: Review contains spoilers.

I think the characters in A Game of Thrones are brilliant. With each chapter told from the point of view of either Eddard, Catelyn, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Jon Snow, Tyrion, or Daenerys, these characters become well established very quickly and begin to develop. Daenerys has been my favourite character since I started watching the TV adaption and in this first book she remains so. At the start she is a repressed child being controlled by her brother Viserys and by the end she has become a headstrong (perhaps a little too headstrong for her own good) khaleesi who is prepared to lead an army back to the Seven Kingdoms herself. The character who rose up my list of 'most-loved' since reading the book would have to be Jon Snow, because I love reading about his inner conflicts regarding his place as a bastard in house Stark and who his mother is, and whether he should desert the Night's Watch to join his half brother Robb when he calls the banners to march against the Lannisters or honour the vows he made when he took the Black. Khal Drogo was pretty awesome too and admittedly I was more upset by his death than by Ned's death, though I didn't see either of them coming when I first watched the series. My least favourite character would have to be the combination of Cersei and Joffrey. Viserys would have made this list too, if he had survived the book, but he didn't, so... Joffrey is, of course, a little brat who thinks he can get anything he wants and once he is on the Iron Throne there is little to nothing to stop him. The whole story just becomes more and more twisted with Cersei whispering in his ear, though he does what he wants regardless of her say. They're both pretty sick, though they definitely make the story interesting. Having said that, I'll also say that the reason I don't like them is because they are the worst of the bad guys, not because I don't think they're excellent characters: they are great characters and play a really important role in the story.

My favourite part of the plot would be along Daenerys's story-line, when khal Drogo finally gives Viserys his golden crown, as promised. Those of you who have read the book or seen the show know exactly what I mean by that. In fact, that whole chapter, right from Daenerys eating the horse heart to Viserys getting his crown, was my favourite part. I think George R.R Martin moves things along throughout the book at a nice pace for the most part, though here and there things slowed down and I just wanted to get to the next action scene. However, the slow parts served their purposes too: I talked a few posts ago about narrative intensity and the purpose served by low-intensity parts of a story between high-intensity parts. George Martin slowed down to explain things to us and develop plot where it was necessary. Without those slower parts, the fast-paced high-intensity parts would have been confusing and less appreciated.

The setting for A Game of Thrones changed depending on whose point of view the story was being told from. The prologue set the scene for beyond the Wall, where dark creatures lurk and the men of the Night's Watch have started to venture without returning. As the story starts up, we are swept into the Stark's place in Winterfell, where the plot that becomes the main focus for the first book begins to unfold. In contrast to Winterfell is King's Landing, where it is warmer than the Starks are accustomed to and they do not hold the same power they did in Winterfell (especially not compared to the Lannisters). After Jon Snow goes to the Wall with his uncle Benjin, we start to return slowly to the things that were shown in the prologue: a colder, darker, crueler place than Winterfell, where neither the fact that Jon Snow is a bastard nor the son of a Stark means anything to anyone. Daenerys take us away from Westeros to the Free Cities and the Dothraki Sea, where the people are just as different as the land compared to where the rest of the story is told. Martin provided appropriate and often elaborate descriptions of all of the places the characters visited, showing how different they are to one another and setting them apart from places in other books.

Although Martin's descriptions of people and place are often elaborate, his style of writing is simple and easy to understand without being dull. Of course, there is a lot of jargon about castles and knights and monarchy and all of that, but once you get your head around those sorts of things I found the book was really easy to read. The only thing I got sick of as far as descriptions went was describing exactly what people were wearing every time they appear. I mean, cool if the knight's got some shiny armour on or the Lannisters have lions sewn into their clothes, but I think most readers started to assume those things after the nth time such a paragraph appeared, so I find the whole paragraphs of such descriptions to be a little pointless and repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Rep-- sorry. I just think that there were a few instances where what he said in a paragraph would have been more appropriately said in a couple of sentences, if they had to be said at all. Also, I think I nearly tore some hair out after the number of times I saw the word 'spit' when it should have been 'spat'. Other than those little qualms, I really enjoyed reading it. The style was simple, yet satisfying.

As far as originality goes, I haven't read anything like this before. The only other epic fantasy set in an alternative universe that I've read before is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and this is very different, though still awesome. If the Lord of the Rings movies are an accurate reflection on the books, which I have not read yet, than I would say it is also nothing like LotR, minus of course the presence of Sean Bean in the screen adaptions. I think the different story-lines that are playing alongside each other in book one of the ASOIAF series are all really original and told well. I can't wait to see how they all come together in the end and I'm really enjoying playing the guessing game.

Overall, I loved this book and I can't wait to continue onto A Clash of Kings some time in the new year (once I've finished reading The Watchmen and The Fault in Our Stars).

One last thing... did anyone else who has read this book noticed how Ned sometimes reflects on Lyanna's death and thinks about telling Jon Snow about his mother at the same time? In his reflections, he always remembers Lyanna saying "Promise me, Ned." But what's the promise?! It's never said. I've heard (thanks to a certain friend responsible for me receiving the box-set of books for my birthday) that there is a theory going around that Jon Snow is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and since I noticed that little coincidence myself while reading this first book, I'm starting to understand. I shall leave my fellow readers to think on it.

My next review will be on the TV series Breaking Bad, which I have also recently finished, but I might leave that one for another week or two while I try and figure out how I feel about it.

Have you read A Game of Thrones or seen much of the TV series? Please feel free to share a little review of your own in the comments as I'd love to know what others thought of the first part of the story. A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone out there. 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WALLS First Draft: Complete

Last night, with literally less than a minute to spare before midnight, I typed the last word of the first draft of my novel 'WALLS' and keyed in the last full-stop. Despite having a busy day and hardly having a chance to write until 10pm, I was hellbent on finished the draft before midnight and I did it without feeling like I rushed the ending.

I'm nowhere near happy with the first draft, but I am proud of it and I'm getting ready to go on a very big editing spree to tighten some inconsistencies and fill in a few blank spots in the plot.

39 days. 88,732 words. Two characters I love and a story that belongs to them.

I knew it was possible and I did it.

I have many people to thank for helping me, simply by supporting me through NaNoWriMo 2013 and beyond. I want to give a special thank you to my boyfriend, who put up with me running all my crazy ideas by him while I wondered which ones to choose and which ones to save for another book, and another special thank you to the five people who I became friends with through the creative writing units at university. The community here on the blogosphere also have my gratitude and I thank everyone who visited my blog and put up with me not returning visits to their blogs as often as I should have while I was busy being consumed by my story.

But I think the two people I want to thank most are Kovax and Mildred, for being the best characters I have ever created and putting up with my whimsical writerly ways as I constructed their story.

Who do you have to thank for your writing? 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writer's Update: WALLS

So November is 3 days gone here in Australia, and with it went NaNoWriMo 2013. By the end of November, I had validated my novel WALLS at 60,074 words and was a NaNo winner an extra 10K over the finish line, but my novel is far from finished.

The last 5-10K were difficult to write for a range of reasons. Although I have won NaNo, I don't want to stop writing my novel, but I had reached a part where my reactions to the things I was writing showed how emotionally invested I was - am - in my characters, Mildred and Kovax. The things I was revealing about Kovax's past were making me feel sad, and after a conversation with my boyfriend containing many spoilers, we both agreed that I'm actually a horrible person who secretly enjoys hurting both my characters and myself and just generally fucking with everybody's heads.

Once I'd pushed myself through the sad part and connected it to a scene I'd had the urge to write ahead of myself (screw chronology!), I came to a sudden stand-still. Some would call it the dreaded Writer's Block. I really had to force myself to write the last couple of thousand of words, not because it's making me sad or I'm too emotionally invested... just because the excitement lulled for a bit and I think the last chapter I wrote was just plain old boring in comparison when it shouldn't be, because something very big happened in it.

When I was in my final two years of high-school, I did media studies, in which we did a unit each year on 'Narrative'. One of the things we discussed in class was 'Narrative Intensity'. Most stories, no matter what form they are told in, have periods of low-intensity plot cause and effect development between minor climaxes or narrative triggers which build in intensity until the final climax is reached. The point of having the low-intensity periods between the climaxes and narrative triggers is because the audience is not likely to be able to maintain the emotional energy required for high-intensity shock-upon-shock absolute action-packed stories without the lull periods in between each build-up.

It feels like this is where the low-intensity period should be after what happened in the last few chapters, but I'm worried about two things:
1) Is the reader going to be as bored with the next chapter as I currently am, or will it fulfill the purpose of giving them a moment to gather their wits?
And 2) Consider what happened in this next chapter, should it really be so low-intensity?

Maybe it's just me, because I'm writing it, and I want to go back to being emotionally involved in Mil and Kovax instead of moving along with the story. I suppose it's all just a first draft that isn't even complete yet and I can go back and reassess this situation later. I'm going to stick to the NaNoWriMo mindset of not doubling back to edit until the draft is complete. I'm going to keep pushing myself to write whether I want to or not until WALLS is finished and Kovax and Mildred's story is given an ending (hopefully the one they deserve).  Also sticking to NaNoWriMo daily word-goals, I am aiming to have either 90K or a complete first draft (hopefully the latter) by Christmas.

Right now, Kovax is walking Mildred home after a rather hectic and emotional evening.

Must. Keep. Writing.

Also, I wish the weather in Victoria would be a little more consistent, just this once! We're supposed to be three days into an Australian summer. It's been nice and hot the past two days, but tomorrow and the next day will be freezing in comparison.

How did November end for everybody else? Are you emotionally invested in your characters? Do you get bored during the low-intensity periods of your writing? How is winter going for everyone north of the equator? 

- Bonnee.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Achievement Unlocked: 50K Words

I guess I disappeared from the blogosphere for a little bit there. Sorry about that! My NaNoWriMo manuscript WALLS drew me in and I couldn't stop writing. The good thing about that is that I hit the 50K word count last night... and kept going for a couple of thousand more words. And November isn't even over yet! 

Looking at where I am with this story, I'd say I've got at least another 25K-50K words to go before the whole thing is finished. I'm going to aim to have the first draft complete by Christmas, or at least by the new year. There has been a bit of character establishment and a LOT of character development so far, and Mildred has just made Kovax promise her something, though I won't tell you what the promise was. 

In other news, any Avatar: The Last Airbender fans will be interested to hear that I finally found out what happened to Zuko's mother after reading 'The Search', which is part of the official continuation of the TV series in comic book form. I'll have to double back and read 'The Promise' at some point, but I got too excited about finding out what happened to her and skipped ahead. 

How are everybody else's November goals for their writing and revising etc going? 

- Bonnee. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update: 25k Words!

A friend shared this little writerly cartoon by Grant Snider with me a few months back (though the first line of frames had been omitted). I thought that it might provide a laugh in the midst of NaNoWriMo, inappropriate as some of the suggestions might be.

Last night I made it over the 25,000 word mark on my NaNoWriMo novel WALLS, putting me four days ahead of word-count schedule. I have a busy next few days, which means I won't have as much time to write as I'd like, so I'm glad I'm a little ahead of where I need to be to make up for it. After today's short write-up, I'm sitting at around 25,500 words, I wrote a paragraph which I thought belong before my original first scene (screw chronology!), and little Stark has just rocked up at Mildred's house with a serious case of shivers after the sudden rain flooded the orphanage. She and Lani are taking care of him.

After gushing about how much I love writing WALLS to my boyfriend recently, I've also decided I'm very obsessed with the story and the characters.


Tomorrow I'm making the trek from my hometown back to my university, where Deakin Writers Club is hosting an open mic event for the afternoon to celebrate a successful first year of existence and the quick growth of the monthly editions of Wordly. I'm taking the chance to participate again, reading something that I wrote a few months back which I've gotten some good feedback on. Hopefully all goes well and I don't get rained on too much on my way there.

How's NaNo going? Been to/participated in any readings lately? Tried any of Grant Snider's performance-enhancing drugs for writers? 

- Bonnee.

Friday, November 8, 2013


I was reminded of a valuable lesson today, which I originally learned six years ago.

In my first year of high-school, I lost a little story I had been working on at school that had only been saved to my memory stick. I left the memory stick on my desk, left the room, and when I came back, it was gone. So was the story.

I started saving the things I wrote in at least two places from then on. Once on my memory stick, and the desktop of the computer I was using at the time. When I got my laptop, I made sure to have a copy on the memory stick and the laptop whenever I could. At one point, I even had a copy on a second memory stick.

In the past year or so, especially in the last trimester of university, I got lazy with saving multiple copies and admittedly only kept a copy on my laptop.

Today, I was typing away at my NaNoWriMo W.I.P WALLS, moments away from hitting 15,000 words (my goal for the day was 15,003), when all of a sudden, my laptop switched itself off without warning! I worked out very quickly that it had overheated... it's a pretty old laptop and I'd left it charging for too long, so it wasn't happy with me. My first thought was, oh no, when was the last time I hit Save in the Word Document? After that, an even more worrying thought occurred... what if my laptop didn't turn back on? Last summer, my little sister's laptop (which she got the same time I got this one) switched itself off with a cloud of smoke rising from the keyboard. I had saved my NaNo to a memory stick on I'm not even sure what day, but it was the only time I had saved it elsewhere and I'd written a few thousand words since.

Luckily for me, my laptop did turn back on and I'd only lost about 100 words after subconsciously hitting Save at the end of the last full paragraph I'd written. I vented my distress and relief to a fellow WriMo over Facebook and she told me that's why she usually uses Google Docs/Google Drive as well as backing everything up on another device... it means there's a copy available wherever you've got internet connection, it's backed up on a hard device or two, and Google Docs has auto-save like Blogger does.

I made a Google Drive account last summer because a friend wanted to share some documents with me for proofreading, so after the near-no-WriMo experience today, I might give it a shot and write straight into Google Docs from now on. We will see how I go!

Lesson/reminder for the day: ALWAYS back up your writing!

My NaNoWriMo-ing is going smoothly and I'm sitting at a little over 15,000 words right now. A little more than a day ahead of schedule! At the moment, Mildred and Kovax have just been dismissed from their third after-school detention in a row for the week and it's raining outside.

Where do you back up your writing? How are your NaNo plans going? 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: 'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy

Just last week, I read a post on Lynda R Young's blog about reviewing books and thought I'd refer back to it while I wrote this one.

I finally finished reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy a couple of days ago while I was on the train, travelling between my hometown and the city. I started reading this book for one of my university classes back in August, but didn't hurry to finish it because I was not responding to it for my assignment. Although I didn't have to finish it, I'd read and liked enough of it to want to finish it.

Roy's characters are realistic, complex, and well defined. Estha and Rahel, the fraternal twins whose point of view most of the story is told from, are my favourite characters. I found it easy to relate to Ammu's independent ways, which ultimately got her in to trouble and troubled the lives of everyone around her. I loved the Untouchable, Velutha, just as they did, right down to the last sentence of the book.

I love that the plot was revealed in a non-linear way, that started towards the end and then went back and forth a few times until everything made sense. This was pulled off really well. Each time we moved between times, Roy gave us just enough to keep us curious, but not enough for us to guess exactly what happens until the story is over. I don't think I have a favourite part, but one of the most memorable part was the incident with Estha and the orangedrink/lemondrink man at the theatre. I remember, I was reading that scene on another long train ride and had to stop myself from audibly expressing how disturbed and distressed it made me. Even at the very end of the novel, the last scene wasn't from the end of the narrative, but it left the reader on a happier, more hopeful note to balance all the darkness of the end of the narrative. The plot moved along a little slowly at points, especially wherever we stopped to introduce and explain the background of a newly introduced character. However, I couldn't find any of these slowed-down instances that were actually irrelevant to the story; there were certain things that characters did that you needed to know more about them to understand why. Even in these instances, whatever information we were given was unique and interesting.

Roy's story was set mostly in India and the setting here felt like another character. Roy uses very unique descriptions, sometimes gritty and brutally honest, sometimes magically beautiful. Reading it, it was easy to place myself there and visualise everything that was described, sometimes even a little bit more.

Roy's overall style was unique. Along with the non-linear narrative structure that she uses, she also uses really original phrases and descriptions. I think it would have been hard to find a cliche. Some of the ways she worded things surprised me, shocked me. There were a few moments a cliche would have fitted perfectly, but right when you thought you were about to read it, she turned it on its head and gave you something else. A few of these particular wordings became motifs throughout the story. She also used a lot of imagery - again, very original - some of which also became recurring motifs. The story was really beautifully written, and I think that was a big contributor to my wanting to finish it.

Along with the beautiful style, the content of the story is also very original, at least in my opinion. It's not a happy story and it's authenticity is emphasised by Roy's nitty-gritty honesty in everything she includes in the pages. The God of Small Things is a story about how breaking the laws of love ("... who should be loved and how. And how much.") alters the lives of fraternal twins Estha and Rahel, their mother Ammu, the man they all love, and everybody else around them. Their story is dark and disturbing and things get weird at times, but that's all a part of why I loved it.

I definitely recommend this to read.

In other news, it's Day 5 of NaNoWriMo 2013 here in Australia, and the writing I did today has boosted my word count to just over 9,000 words. I am loving the amount of time I am spending with my characters from WALLS, especially Mildred and Kovax, and how well I'm getting to know them while I watch them change and grow on the page in front of me. At the moment, Mildred is having a deep and meaningful conversation on the couch with her friend Lani, and Kovax is nursing the bruises from his most recent schoolyard scuffle... and to think, it's only Tuesday.

Have you read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy? How are your NaNoWriMo/NaNoRevisMo/NaNoNoNo goals going? 

- Bonnee.

Edit: Much thanks to P V Ariel for reminding me to make note of the fact that The God of Small Things is the winner of the 1997 Booker Prize for fiction and also reached fourth place on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Independent Fiction. Arundhati Roy's debut novel was a huge success for her. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

It's been a busy week and weekend for me! Last Monday (21st), I sat my philosophy exam, which I've achieved 83% for, so I'm happy. Then it was time to celebrate a friend's birthday on Thursday, and then on Friday, Deakin University residents celebrated the final night of res. That was a good night and included having goon poured over us, sharing a shower with three of my housemates (wearing clothes, I promise!), getting muddy in a mud-pit/mud-slide, and consuming many alcoholic beverages. My dad helped me move out and back to my hometown on Saturday, and on Sunday I caught the train back up to Melbourne so that I wouldn't have to travel the whole 3.5 hours on Monday morning to be at the university for job training at 9AM. After job training, I started the trek back to my hometown and made it in time for dinner. I've spent today (Tuesday in Australia) starting to unpack my stuff and tidy my room. Progress has been slow.

I'm home and free of study until late February/early March next year! As I mentioned in my last post, I want to participate in NaNoWriMo 2013. After a lot of consideration, I've decided that due to the fact that my writing style has changed significantly since I started writing WALLS at the start of this year thanks to my university studies, although I haven't finished a draft yet, I am going to re-write it from the start this November. A part of me is mad at myself for making this decision, because it wasn't until I'd decided to do it that I realised the half-written first draft that I'm scrapping was already just under 25,000 words. However, I'd rather the first full draft be all in one style and up to the same standard so that it'll be easier to revise later. Also, I've forgotten most of what I've already written and I want to change a few things, so I'd have to read over it all again anyway.

The good thing about making this decision is that I've already got most of a plan already written, because I certainly haven't had time to plan anything else, and I like being organised.

How are everybody else's NaNoWriMo/NaNoRevisMo plans going? If you're registered on the NaNoWriMo website, be my buddy! 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Writing Spaces: Editorial Practice

Greetings! As of earlier today, I have completed all of the classes, assessments, and the exam of my very first year of university. Now I'm considering participating in NaNoWriMo seeing as I'm free for November, though I'm not committed to it yet because I'm in the middle of writing WALLS and I'm not sure if it has a whole 50k words left to it or if I want to start something else before I've finished it.

Anyway, I thought that seeing as I'd finished university for the year, I should probably get the re-cap of the final Writing Spaces lecture out here. In our final lecture, we were visited by some of this year's editors of Verandah, Deakin's annual student-run literature and art journal. They shared some of their experiences with us and gave us some advice on editing not just our own work, but also editing the work of others.

Editing is an intervention on behalf of the reader, but editors also have a duty of care to the writer. This can sometimes be conflicting, especially within the context of being employed as an editor and having to apply what the publishers want to the situation. Because of this, editors have to be sensitive, tactful, and brave when identifying what the piece is, what is might be and what it could be. Another place editors have to practice extra sensitivity is when they undertake the task cross-cultural editing. This is for various reasons including making critical, aesthetic, and technical decisions, especially when translating from another language. Knowledge of the other culture is vital for cross-cultural editing to work smoothly, because you cannot edit in ignorance. The guest speakers used the example of an Australian children's book written by an indigenous author from the point of view of an Aboriginal child, which editors then tried to make 'white' because they didn't understand and couldn't accept the cultural differences that the piece presented.

There are a few different stages of editing, including structural/content editing, copyediting, and proofreading. The last two are checking for consistency, especially of spelling and punctuation. Editors need to be well-read and have good literary and writing etiquette skills.

The Verandah editors shared a few of their own experiences from their year on the journal's editing team. Being a part of the editing team wasn't just about editing for them, because they also had to take care of the business side of things. The Verandah team had to handle financing, distribution, production, design, and marketing. This is where I should mention that the Verandah editing team consists of a bunch of students in the third year of the same course that I am currently undertaking, which generally doesn't focus on such business skills, presenting them with a new challenging experience. Verandah is run by third year students of the Professional and Creative Writing major every year, so I will most definitely be applying for a position for the 2015 edition.

Of course, there was editing to be done. The team at Verandah followed the Australian Style Manual when editing and had to learn to work with the writers of accepted submissions to negotiate edits and get pieces to fit into the overall style of the journal.

The guest speakers also gave a word of advice for writers. Writers need to be able to separate themselves from their writing in order to edit. I think a good way of doing this is to have some time between completing the draft and starting to edit. There are two reasons for this. 1) A break from the piece will allow you to read with fresh eyes that don't automatically correct mistakes without acknowledging their incorrectness. 2) You won't take criticism from yourself and other people so personally and you'll find it easier to listen to, accept, and consider criticism.

I could go on about editing and my editing processes, but I will save it for a later post.

How do you feel about editing? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Also, who else is doing NaNoWriMo? Tell me about your plans for the month of writing. 

- Bonnee.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Imagine 2013

A group of writers from one of the other Deakin campuses runs an online journal called Imagine. After receiving a good mark for my final assessment for Writing Craft last trimester, I decided I'd polish the piece a little more and submit it. I'm glad I took the opportunity, because it paid off. My story can now be read as a part of the Imagine online journal on the Deakin University website.

I'm pretty excited by this.

I'd also like to give a huge shout-out to my friend Sarah, who had seven of her photographs published in the online journal as well:

I've officially finished all of my classes and assignments for the year and I have just one exam to complete on Monday before I can say I have successfully completed my first year of university. Where did all that time go? Who cares, this year has been amazing.

What has everyone else in the blogosphere been up to? 
- Bonnee.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Writing Spaces: Poetics/Industry Guest Speaker II

As I mentioned in the previous post, none of my lectures have covered poetry per-say, but a couple of weeks ago we looked very briefly at poetics before spending the majority of the lesson looking at An Oresteia, which was one of the texts we could respond to in our final assignment. I didn't like that we spent a whole lecture looking at it seeing as certainly not everyone was going to respond to it.

Poetics refers to the different ways of reading a text and the effect it then has on a reader through the way certain elements of the text come together. Different ways of reading a text, especially something like poetry, are as representationalism, symbolism, and by interpretation not only of the facts and certainties that are communicated, but also of the mysteries and questions that are left unanswered.

As writers, it might be useful for us to ask ourselves how we look at our own writing?

Another question to ask ourselves is a question my lecturer from last trimester asked in our final lesson and a question a guest speaker last week asked us: Why are you here? For me and the people being asked directly, they meant this question with regards to us being in a creative writing course, but the question broadens itself to why do we write, which is something I have asked here before.

Our guest speaker last week went on to talk about how working in the writing industry usually requires a level of flexibility, especially when working in small press. I write because I love writing and I want to communicate messages - truths, ideals, opinions, beliefs - with an audience. Whether I can make a living through doing so or not aside, that is what I want to do. However, to be able to support myself, I'll hopefully gain a role as a professional proofreader, editor, maybe even one day an agent.

How do you look at your own writing? Why do you write? 

- Bonnee.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Writing Spaces: Sexualities

I was recently told off for not keeping my blog up to date with my classes by a classmate who has another lecture on at the same time and usually goes to the other one. I'm a little proud that some classmates are looking at my blog in order to study. Unfortunately, the reason I haven't been keeping up with the lectures here is that they haven't seemed to relate to Writing Spaces. Instead of the lecture on digital media, we had an industry guest speaker, which I shared a couple of posts ago. Then we were supposed to cover poetry in terms of sexualities one week and in terms of rhythm and economy the next week. Instead the lectures were about sexualities without placing it in a writing space, and then the next lecture was about one of the readings. I'm actually really upset that we didn't cover poetry.

I thought I'd share the sexualities lecture regardless of the fact that they didn't end up teaching us about a writing space. Good writing comes from being truthful, open-minded, well-informed, daring, and inventive. One of the many beauties of our art form is that it can be used as a freedom practice; no one can tell us what to write and what not to write. The world is slowly starting to adopt a similar view on love and sexuality. I make the distinction between love and sexuality here because while heterosexuality was already widely accepted by society, there are still couplings within it - between different cultures, between different social classes - that have been frowned upon at least in the past if not today.

The fun that comes with writing about love, though not necessarily in the form of romance genre writing, is that it is something that is often unstable and unpredictable. For example, I'm slowly reading the book The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I wouldn't consider the book a romance by any means, but the portrayal of love, especially when it is forbidden, reoccurs throughout the text.

They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much. 
Feminism also ties in with the literary discussion on sexualities. Not only is it an issue that can be incorporated into stories, but people like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters became leaders of feminism through their writing when it was still considered a man's practice.

On a similar note, I've just gotten ready for a ressie block-party. The theme is gender bender. I'm feeling pretty manly at the moment. So I'll end the post here and join my housemates in partying now. Have a great night!

Have you explored love and sexualities in your writing? Can you think of any books you've read where this has happened? 

- Bonnee.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Gifts of Writing

It's my birthday later this week. People keep asking me what I want for my birthday, but to be honest, I don't want all that much. I'm a writer, so I like writerly things. So what are some things you could buy a writer friend for their birthday? Here are some suggestions, and for all the writers out there, here are some ideas you could give to your loved ones when they ask you what you'd like for your birthday:

1. Vouchers. Namely for bookstores, but I'm sure some writers like vouchers for stationary stores too.

2. Books. Buying your writer friend the book they really want to read but don't have is always a nice gesture and it saves them the trouble of buying it themselves.

3. Books. Again. If there's a book you think your writer friend might really like that they haven't read yet, gift it to them.

4. Notebooks. If your writer friend likes to draft longhand, or carry something around in their backpack/handbag for jotting down ideas, or if they're a visual thinker and like to have something to physically draw mind-maps etc. on, cute and awesome notebooks of all shapes and sizes with fun and colourful covers might be an ideal little gift. Leather-bound/moleskin covers are really cool too.

5. Sticky-notes. Not just ordinary sticky-notes, but cool and quirky sticky-notes. This is especially for if your writer friend is a visual thinker or likes to jot down little ideas and reminders for later and stick them all over their writing space. Exciting sticky-notes with smiley faces and pretty pictures are always great.

6. A proofread. I think I saw someone suggest this as a gift before on another blog, but if your proofreading skills are decent, most writers will agree that it doesn't hurt to have a second pair of eyes go over your work, or at least a part of it.

7. A combination of the above turned into a sort of mini-hamper. Especially if there is a group who want to get a present for someone. Everyone put in a little bit of money to get a few little things that make something big and special.

Earlier this year, I was watching the Game of Thrones television show as the new episodes of season 3 aired. One of the guys I've become good friends with through my course hinted that he was going to get the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series for my birthday, because I NEED to start reading them.

On Monday, I was presented with a large slab of something in colourful wrapping paper. It did not look like a single book, nor was it from just that one friend. It was a collaborated gift from six of my writer friends...

My academic success is over. I have been provided with the ultimate distraction. 
And this was the card they gave me.
People have been saying to me all year that I look like Daenerys Targaryen
or at least Emilia Clarke (the actress). I don't see it, but I'm not complaining! 
I love having other writers as friends. Like, seriously, THANK YOU SO MUCH to the six beautiful people who contributed to that amazing present. You guys are the best. Ooh and the poster of Westeros and the Free Cities that came as a freebie in the box-set is now up on my wall. I'm a very happy birthday girl. I love you guys!

While I'm on the topic of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, I have been DYING for an excuse to share this video with my fellow bloggers and I think this might be the opportune moment. WARNING: anything ASOIAF/GOT related is bound to contain strong violence, course language, and sexual themes, but this is funny so you should watch it anyway.

Have you received any really awesome writerly presents? Have you read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire books? Thoughts on the Game of Thrones Ultimate Birthday Rap Battle? 

- Bonnee.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writing Spaces: Getting Published

Of course the week they decide to do something that wasn't on the programme was the week that I couldn't make it to class on account of a job interview. Oh yeah, I got a job interview for a job in the library next year. I also got the job. Fingers crossed that'll go well. But yeah, the job interview made me miss the lecture, and then the lecture wasn't about what it was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about digital media, but instead we had a guest speaker from the Australian Society of Authors talking about some of the inner workings of the publishing industry.

What I didn't realise was that lecture recordings this trimester, or at least for this particular lecture, was audio only due to copyright issues. Which royally sucks, because half of the lecture was the guest speaker referring to charts and lists and whatnot, which is a little useless when you're only listening to audio. So although I listened to the lecture, a lot was going way over my head, much to my dismay. 

Nevertheless, I am here to share as much as I can of things I have learned. 

The first thing the lecturer stressed that we needed to be aware of as writers is what's going on with reading and books. That is, who is buying and in what mediums? Who is reading and what are they reading? Who is not reading and what is not being read? There are trends and fads in the literary world all the time and it is our job as writers to keep up with them, make them, and break them.

We need to know what different mediums exist: not just books, but also ebooks, magazines, and journals. There is a whole digital and online market on top of the hard-copy books and physical bookstores. Writers need to determine which mediums suit their creations best and which mediums suit them best. This is also where the choice between traditional publishing and self publishing comes in.

Who are the players in the writing and publishing business? Obviously, there's us, the writers. Then you've also got the publishers, the agents, the editors, the booksellers, and everyone else who lies somewhere in between. In Australia, we've also got the Australian Society of Authors, who help negotiate better terms and conditions for us and help deal with government issues around us. I'm going to guess there are probably similar organisations in other countries.

Writers need business skills, or somebody who does to help us. Some of these skills include knowing how to read the book market, understanding your market and yourself, knowing why you're writing and where your writing fits into your market, and where you are getting your income from.

The note about income is a relevant point to linger on. It is hard to make a living just of writing books and you're pretty amazing if you manage it, but the bottom line is that not everybody can do it, especially not right from the word go. From your writing, you'll get income from advances and royalties, and possibly from grants, fellowships, Public Lending Rights, Educational Lending Rights, Digital Lending Rights, copyright agencies, teaching, and public speaking. Depending on how well your writing is received by readers, this may or may not be enough, and it's not uncommon for writers to have other jobs and means of income, whether it still be publishing-industry related or a job from a completely different field.

What else do we need to do? We need to gather info. This can be done by subscribing to journals, reading in the library, researching online for example on the websites of organisations like ASA, and going to writers festivals and conferences. It is important to do our industry research. Find out who is publishing your genre, who is taking unsolicited manuscripts, what their editorial guidelines are, and remember to only send what they've asked you for. Know who your competition is and what makes you different from them and learn how to talk to people. Gather your resources, know how to talk to agents, publishers, editors, maybe even accountants and lawyers. Get serious about your professional development. Know what your rights are. Overall, just make sure you how know to make the most of being a part of the writing and publishing industry.

As for the publishers, they are looking for new material and new voices. It's a risky job for them, even when they're dealing with pre-established authors, but once they've found someone they think has potential they will invest in them; understand them, their writing, their market, and how they perform in public. A publishers job is to form a list that represents what their house stands for, and this is why it is important that writers know what publishers are looking for, because at the end of the day they will make a decision based on commercial value and potential.

I really wish I'd been able to see some of the charts and lists the guest speaker put on on the screens. It sounded like there was some interesting information and statistics there, but I think this post is long enough now, as much as I would have loved to share more with you. Sorry if a lot of this read like dot-points.

Have you got any tips and tricks for getting published, or some insight on how the publishing industry works? 

- Bonnee. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Spaces: Exegesis and Theory

I want to first of all apologise to everyone for the sudden inundation of new posts from me this past week or so. Not only have I recently had a lot to tell you about, but I also fell behind in making the re-caps of the Writing Spaces lectures and I really wanted to catch up on them.

As a part of our next assignment, Writing Spaces students have been asked to hand in a creative piece (both a first draft with workshopping notes and a final draft) and an exegesis. So our lecturer thankfully decided that he should probably explain to us exactly what an exegesis is, especially in relation to writing and what we've been asked to do for our assignment.

Exegeses are self-analytic critiques and reviews of the process of how something, in this case our creative writing piece, was produced, or an explanatory note of discourse. They can be done in the form of a video or in writing. An exegesis comments on and/or seeks to explain one's own creative work. They can often be found in books in the form of a preface, introduction, apology, foreword, afterword, author's note, or footnote.

This is the example video on YouTube that we were shown in the lecture. (Had trouble embedding the video to the post for some reason... sorry!)

An exegesis can be used to explain the writing, the creative processes, and the methods used. It can also be used as a way of providing guidelines for readers by giving them relevant information about the research that was done for the story, relevant information about yourself as the author, creative strategies, and as a chance to discuss issues around the work. This is where an author can explain their motives and reasons for writing, their doubts, successes, and difficulties, and general advice on how it would be best for the reader to approach the work. Basically, an exegesis is written in the hope of providing a better or more informed experience for the reader by focusing on what you as the author think is especially important for the understand of your work (e.g. your creative process, your diagnosis of your own achievements, or your understanding of your own motivation).

A good exegesis contains astute critical thinking, and an understanding of: the context of your creative piece; techniques/strategies; your field and others in your field; decisions you made as you created; and your work overall. It could also contain perceptive research and investigation of the issues that were significant to your piece and into the workings of your own mind, emotions, practices, and methods.

An exegesis is theoretical in the sense that it creates insights that can be used to think about other works as well as the one discussed by its creator. I say creator here because exegesis and theory is not limited to the art of writing. It is theoretical because while it is more than a hypothesis of how something was made, it doesn't go out of its way to state or explain the obvious.

So this is going to be an interesting assignment, seeing as my creative piece is a creative non-fiction recount of writing my W.I.P KATHERINE and is in a way an exegesis itself, and I have to write an exegesis on that... hmm.

Have you ever written an exegesis? 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Melbourne Writers Festival: 'Verandah twenty-eight' launch

So a couple of weekends ago, I went to the Melbourne Writers Festival event for the launch of the Deakin run literary journal Verandah, which was releasing it's 28th annual edition. I got to explore the inner workings of Federation Square to locate the venue. That was interesting. Eventually, I found the place and I made it there on time and had a bit of an adventure and plenty of fun along the way.

I stumbled upon the event 'Words On The Square' in my search. Giant outdoor Scrabble, yay!

The Verandah launch ran for around 40 minutes and it was a nice first experience. I've never been to any sort of launch before. A few of the people who had taken part in assembling this years edition spoke, one of the girls did a live music performance, the artwork that is featured in the journal was being played in a slideshow, and a couple of the lucky people who had something published in the journal had a chance to read their piece. It was a really nice environment! (Except for that guy who quite obviously only came for the free food and ate very loudly and messily for the entire event... he smelled really bad too.)

So after the formal part of the event was over and it was down to socialising and just celebrating, I got myself a copy of the new edition of Verandah and headed over to Flinders Street Station, just across the road, planning to catch the next train back to my hometown (I hadn't been home for a few weeks). It was a Saturday, and as I got to the station, I realised I'd looked at the Friday timetable and had actually just missed my train. As in, I saw it leave as I walked into the station. Oops! Double checking the timetable, the next rain wasn't for more than an hour. So what did I do for the next hour? I wander around Melbourne and take random photos on my phone! Yay!

St. Paul's Cathedral
There were police cars and stuff randomly going past in a hurry when I was taking this one. Also, for some reason, whenever I see St. Paul's Cathedral in the dark, I half expect to see Batman crouching somewhere up there, watching over the CBD. 

Flinders Street Station
I did a lot of loitering around here. I didn't want to stray too far from the station in case I missed the next train too, or in case I got stabbed. 

The Yarra River and Southbank
This photo was taken from the bridge on St. Kilda Road. I kept feeling like I was going to accidentally drop my phone into the water or something stupid, but I wanted you to see all the pretty lights! 

Southbank and the Eureka Tower
More pretty lights! And the tall building up the back is the Eureka Tower. 

Yarra River and the bridge on St. Kilda Road
I stood on that bridge to that the previous two photos. I'm pretty sure I nearly got stabbed going down to the river's edge to take this photo... 

More pretty lights!
Can you guys tell that I love pretty lights? 

Eureka Tower (again)
Aaaaand then I legged it back up to St. Kilda Road and went back to Flinders Street Station, because there was a real stabby sort of vibe down by the water's edge. I'll have to take another adventure in the daytime with more photos to share with you all. 

On a different note: the poem I had published in the Deakin Writers Club magazine last month can now be read on Goodreads. Check it out :)

Been to any launches lately? Ever played giant out-door Scrabble? Had a random adventure around Melbourne (or your own local city) recently? 

- Bonnee.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Writing Spaces: The Novel

The Writing Spaces lecturer usually splits a single topic over two weeks, building on what we learned in the first week during the second week. But the lectures on prose fiction were split a little differently. The first week, which I re-capped in my last post, was about short stories and flash fiction more than anything, and the second week, which I'll cover in this post, was dedicated to a form I think more of you out there reading this will be interested: the novel.

In the lecture, we talked about some of the qualities of a novel. It's a form of long prose fiction which is capable of exploring every type of plot, in many different styles and genres. It has the capacity to cover every imaginable subject matter from all points of view. This writing space appeared with the print revolution and has developed since then into the most diverse and commercially used forms of literature. Today, a novel has the freedom to explore multiple conflicts and complex issues and themes in depth, which is something that cannot be done as successfully within the constrains of shorter prose.

The novel that we studied for this particular part of the unit was The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I haven't finished it yet, but none of my assignments are going to be based on it so that's okay. I'm determined to finish it though, as I firmly believe that it is one of the best books I have ever read. I'm only a quarter of the way through and so I won't say it's because of the plot or the characters, though so far I love them too. What I love most about this book is Roy's ability to surprise me over and over again on every page by the way she phrases things. There are so many moments, moments I wouldn't have even considered, that could have been written in cliches, but the descriptions in this book are so incredibly unique that it makes me want to keep reading and never stop. I can't wait to finish reading it.

Writing a good novel takes a lot of hard work. There's finding and developing a substantial idea for the novel, and then there's putting in the hard yards to writing out that first draft. Then there's looking over your first draft, seeing it riddled with cliches and unnecessary dialogue, among other things, and having to redraft it. And redraft it again. And again. Until you are satisfied that it is good enough to start showing people. I mean people who matter, like agents. Especially agents. If you're lucky enough to get an agent, then there's all of the redrafting and editing they'll make you do, and all the editing and redrafting you'll have to do to please the publisher if you make it that far.

Basically, editing and redrafting is a lot harder and more time consuming when you've got a chapter length novel that's tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of words long, than when you're doing the same thing for a short story. Novels require a long-term commitment. Maybe this is a big part of why some people consider short stories the inferior 'easy' way into publishing. (I am not one of these people. I love a good short story as much as I love novels. This is just food for thought and whatnot, so no hating.)

What are some of the best novels you have ever read and why? 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Writing Spaces: Prose Fiction

My Writing Craft/Writing Spaces folder, under the
Wordly: August Edition, my glasses case, my new
copy of Verandah twenty-eight, and The God of
Small Things
by Arundhati Roy. 
First of all, I huge apology to the people I normally follow for my recent absence! Assignments and whatnot piled up and while I've had plenty of things to blog about recently, I haven't had the time to. Now that I've got some free time to catch up, I'll tell you a few things you'll see in future posts:

  • Melbourne Writers Festival event: the launch of Verandah twenty-eight, the 28th edition of the annual Verandah literary journal published by Deakin University.
  • A review of Verandah twenty-eight
  • Writing Spaces: The Novel (although it falls under the 'Prose Fiction' category, it was given a lecture of its own)
  • Literature and post-colonialism 
  • A review of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
  • Writing Spaces: The Exegesis and Theory
  • The 'ressie writers group' I have officially started
  • How I felt about the first creative assignment I had to hand in for Writing Spaces (including workshopping it a few weeks ago), and how I'm feeling about the second assignment. 
  • The Deakin Writers Club Wordly: Space edition 
Not necessarily in that order, and some of the topics might be combined into one post. But I'm pretty excited to get you guys up-to-date with the events of the past few weeks. But for now, on to Prose Fiction!

The writing space of Prose Fiction includes the novel, novella, short story, and flash fiction, but the first lecture was mostly focused on the shorter forms and not the novel. These shorter types of Prose Fiction can generally afford to be more radical and experimental than the novel.

The short story is an older form of story-telling than the novel, but it has received some heavy criticism, such as being simply a starting-point for writers who then go on to write novels. I disagree with that, as there are short stories that are capable of outshining some novels and some authors who write predominantly in the form of short stories, if not completely. I love writing short stories! Another criticism short stories have received is that of being outshone by the even shorter form of flash fiction. There also seems to be a ratio problem between people who want to write short stories and people who want to read them. It seems more readers are inclined towards novels despite the numerous writers who adopt the shorter forms, though I personally love both forms.

But what makes a short story? Or rather, what does a short story make? A short story makes a deep and thoughtful comment on the culture and our experiences of it. Not only this, but it also makes our experience of the culture strange to us and then re-explains it. At least, this is how the lecturer explained it and I think it's a brilliant answer.

I guess what makes a short story does also need to be considered. While short stories generally follow the same rules as a novel, there is more strictness in some areas and of course, a smaller word count. Short stories begin quickly, in the midst of an experience, and use only a limited number of characters and scenes. Our lecturer advised us to start as close to the end as possible and deal with only one major issue or problem, giving just enough necessary detail and allow for suggestive details too.

This all made me stop and think about the short stories that I've read and how much I love both reading and writing short stories and flash fiction. My personal favourites are Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice from the collection The Boat by Nam Le, and of course Super-Frog Saves Tokyo from the collection after the quake by Haruki Murakami... actually, make that all of the short stories in the Murakami collection, they were especially amazing.

What do you think of short prose fiction? What are your favourite examples of it? Do you prefer to read or write it? 

- Bonnee.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Deakin 'Wordly'

The Deakin Writers Club magazine Wordly is now officially being sponsored by the Deakin University Students Association and we are now a cross-campus magazine, meaning that we are accepting work from not just the Melbourne campus but the other four campuses too. The August edition is the coolest yet, with no theme, more content than usual and a student-designed cover (previous editions were more like newsletters with little to no colour and no cover.) Oh, and they published a poem I wrote. That is pretty cool too.

I'm super excited for the September edition. The new theme is 'space' (any definition and interpretation of the word is acceptable) and I got a little ahead of myself the other night and prepared a piece for submission. I'm surprisingly pleased with what I came up with and shocked at how out-there it is. Fingers crossed that the Wordly production team like it enough to give it a spot in the next edition. I've already asked one of my friends to take a look over it and offer some constructive criticism and hopefully I can convince some other people to help me workshop.

Speaking of workshopping, it was my turn to present a partial draft of my Writing Spaces assignment in a tutorial. Overall, good feedback (from fellow students... the Dreadful One has continued to be severely disagreeble, but due to the lack of guidance we were given for the assignment, I'm going to have to completely re-write my piece if I want to get a good mark from her). Despite all that, I've really loved being in a workshopping environment again.

On that note, I'm considering getting a workshopping group started on res just for the fun of it. The Deakin Writers Club sometimes organises workshops for members across the campus as a whole, but they are not run often and I think it would be a good chance to meet some of the writers I actually live with and build a bit of a community. Of course, I have to get my head around organising my time and assignments first. I've been extremely lazy this trimester and all of my due dates are suddenly around the corner and I've got nothing done... and hardly anything started! So, assignments first, and then I'll see about arranging resident workshops. I'm a little excited to get socialising with some new Aussie writers... and of course the international students are welcome too!

Aussie writers... that reminds me! Melbourne Writers Festival starts today and I'll be attending at least one event tomorrow as a part of my journalism assignment, and hopefully I'll get a chance to attend a few more over the next couple of weeks. Also, my friend EJ has started a new blog, in which she'll probably post about writing and life in general here in Australia, so go and check her out. I'm currently trying to con her into doing a guest post here on my blog, so go and pester her about that too!

This post ended up being a couple of paragraphs longer than I was intending, so I'm going to leave it there and get started on my assignments. Or continue procrastinating elsewhere.

Any news from my writerly friends out there on their latest progress? Who's been workshopping recently? Anyone going to the Melbourne Writers Festival? 

- Bonnee.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Melbourne Writers Festival 2013: 22 August - 01 September

I am excited to be living in Melbourne, as it means that I have greater access to the Melbourne Writers Festival events this year.

In particular, I will be taking advantage of the numerous free events whenever I don't have classes, including the First Nations Australia Writers event, which I hope to use as a part of my news story assignment for my journalism unit. I was able to do something similar last trimester by combining a journalism new story assignment with my attendance of an event held by the Emerging Writers Festival. I attended and reported on the EWF poetry cafe event back in May, at which I had a chance to see Randall Stephens and Maxine Beneba Clarke read some of their works aloud to an audience.

Scrolling through the list of free events MWF is hosting, I noticed that Maxine Beneba Clarke is launching her new collection Nothing Here Needs Fixing, so I might try and make it to that event too. Of course, I've made a huge list of events I'd like to go to that are being hosted by the MWF this year, and I've got my fingers crossed that I'll be able to make it to most of them. I'll surely be taking advantage of the fact that living in Melbourne means I have better access to all sorts of writerly events and festivals.

In other news, I had some of my high-school friends from the year-level below me contact me earlier this week to ask for help and advice on one of their tests in literature, regarding the need to write an imaginative piece which mimics the style of Haruki Murakami in his collection of short stories after the quake. Some of you who were with me last year might recall how in love with Murakami and this collection of short stories I was when we studied it. Apparently, the literature teacher read my piece to them as an example, because I got 100% on this piece. I was really flattered to find this out and even more so that a couple of the current students would contact me for advice. So I'm hoping they all did well and I secretly wish I'd been sitting that test with them, because it was so much fun and I'd literally take any excuse to study Haruki Murakami again. They all think I'm crazy, but I swear it's not a bad thing!

Last of all, I believe the mid-trimester break couldn't have come at a better time. It's not QUITE half-way through the trimester, but I am once again sick and looking forward to the next week of recovering, catching up on Breaking Bad, writing, and getting some assignments done (by which I mean procrastinating...). So I don't get to officially learn anything this week, though I'm sure I'll gain some sort of new knowledge without being in a classroom.

Any Aussies out there going to the Melbourne Writers Festival? Any other festivals on out there that my fellow bloggers are attending? Past success come back to haunt you? Up to date with Breaking Bad? Assignments? Let me know what's going on with YOU! 

- Bonnee.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel

Over the mid-year uni break, I started reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I'd seen the movie in cinemas with a friend, back in the summer, and I'd wanted to read the book ever since. I am still a firm believer that, at least in most cases, the book is better than the movie. Although Ang Lee did a marvelous job directing the motion picture and the visuals were truly spectacular, Yann Martel wrote this story with equal beauty, and without adding unnecessary Hollywood subplots.

Life of Pi follows the journey of a young Indian boy, Piscine Molitor Patel, known to all as Pi, as he searches for new ways to show his faith in God by practicing multiple religions, and as he maintains his faith through a terrifying, life-changing ordeal: the sinking of the cargo ship that was transporting his family from India to Canada, of which he is the sole survivor, stranded in the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with a fully grown male Bengal tiger for 227 days.

When I started reading the book, I thought the beginning was slow and at some points a little boring. However, most of it was necessary in order to understand Pi's faith in God, which was essentially what stopped him from losing hope during the ordeal. Growing up, Pi is the son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry and he knows plenty about the animals his father kept, including the dangers of Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger who had been brought to them as a cub and grown in captivity. When his family's voyage to Canada begins, the animals are loaded onto the Japanese cargo ship under sedatives. One night, while they sail across the Pacific, the cargo ship sudden sinks and Pi is left stranded on a lifeboat with a handful of animals, who all eventually die, except for Richard Parker, the fully grown male Bengal tiger. Despite Pi's fear of drowning, dying of malnutrition, and becoming Richard Parker's next meal, he has a strange determination to survive the ordeal, which is propelled both by his fears and by his faith in God. For 227 days, Pi manages to survive, literally in the same boat as Richard Parker, until they eventually wash ashore.

One of the things I really came to like about this book was that the ending wasn't a complete happily ever after. Pi suffered through an awful experience and somehow came out alive, but alone. In the end, even after 227 days at sea together, Richard Parker abandons him as soon as they find land. But Pi has learned a great many things about himself, about life, about his capacity for faith, and about willpower. Pi was forced to do things he would never have considered doing before the ordeal and had to improvise ways to practice his faith, in order to both stay alive and keep himself from despair. He was lucky in one of the most unlucky and unlikely ways and left with only his own life, which he had to rebuild alone. Yann Martel illustrated an inspiring determination and will to survive, the strength of human instinct, faith, and our ability to learn through experience.

I've now read 5/24 books for my 2013 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. I'm a little behind, but I know I can make up for it once classes are over for the year.

Have you read Life of Pi, or seen the movie? Have you ever been stranded in a lifeboat with a tiger? What else have you been reading?

- Bonnee.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Writing Spaces: Creative Non-Fiction

I walked into my Writing Spaces lecture this morning and made my way towards the group of people I usually sit with, only to have one of the girls jump up to meet me, presenting me with random gifts of a cookbook, a lollipop and a... chocipop? (Lollipop made out of chocolate.) Anyway, it was a great way to start the day, so a huge thank you to Emma.

The past two weeks in Writing Spaces has covered creative non-fiction, and we had a couple of really good lectures. The main reading for this writing 'space' was the Calibre Prize essay 'What're yer lookin' at yer fuckin' dog?' by Kevin Brophy, which recounts Kevin Brophy's experience with some bad neighbours and how he relates himself and his situation to the philosophy of violence he'd read in some essays written by Salvoj Žižek. I really enjoyed reading this piece.

Last week focused predominantly on the question 'what is truth?' Our lecturer last week gave us some ways to define and consider truth in writing, such as how the writer's opinion represents or re-presents the facts and how the writer gives the truth a particular perspective. The writer also has to fragment; this means choosing what parts of the story to tell, what not to tell, and what irrelevant and boring details and conversions to exclude. The author's voice portrays the truth in a particular way, according to how the author him or herself wants to portray it.

Keeping in mind that it's creative non-fiction, sometimes the story being told is a metaphor for something else and we are able to find subtexts that may not have been considered in reality when events were taking place. Perhaps the piece is a metaphor that reveals something about people, society, ourselves, or anything really. The resonance of the piece - the parts that stays with you the longest, the parts you can relate to, the parts that make you recall something - is important, especially in the case of creative non-fiction, for the reader to be able to reflect both on what they've read and what they've experienced personally, in reality.

But when reading creative non-fiction and when writing it, how do we know what the truth is and how are we sure that we know it? I think it's a matter of allowing yourself, especially as the writer, to admit that sometimes memories are not always accurate. Kevin Brophy does this in 'What're yer lookin' at yer fuckin' dog?' when his character openly admits that perhaps he is being unfair by recounting only the worst of the bad neighbours' behaviour. This is acceptable, because the writing 'space' is creative non-fiction, not a journalistic article of the events that occurred. Similarly, when I studied the creative non-fiction novel 'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote in literature last year, it was evident from very early on that Capote portrays the murderer Perry as sort of a good guy, at least to the point where the reader feels sorry for him and forgiving towards him, though not so for his accomplice who is portrayed as a real arsehole.

Today, we took a closer took at the Brophy reading and highlighted some other elements of creative non-fiction that are used: the journalistic/academic stand of creative non-fiction writing; an emphasis on accuracy and facts; an accurate transcription of direct quotations; attention to issues of truth, reality and fictionality; a creative and self-conscious use of language; use of ideas that branched off from the main narrative; the persona of the writer as a character; and the writer's vulnerability. Of course, there are many more elements of creative non-fiction that might not have been used, and the ones that were used don't have to be used to make a creative non-fiction piece. This is to say that every piece will need to follow a different set of rules to come across at its strongest.

Overall, I think we learned a lot more in the past two weeks on creative non-fiction than we did in the first two weeks with script writing. The Kevin Brophy essay is an amazing read, and I've chosen to write in response to it for the first assignment, although I'll still try and read the other texts we have the option to respond to.

Have you read or written any creative non-fiction? What did you think?

- Bonnee.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Nobody Likes Mondays

Last trimester, Monday was my favourite day of the week because both the lecture and my tutorial for Writing Craft were that morning. Writing Craft has been replaced with Writing Spaces this trimester and while both of my classes are still on the Monday, Monday has stopped being my favourite day of the week. Why? I asked myself this too, but the answer is quite simple and I already knew it.

Writing Spaces is supposed to be about learning to write in the different 'spaces' or 'formats'. For example, the unit is covering how to write in script, creative non-fiction, poetry, prose, etc. We've had a different person take the lecture every week. The first guy was okay, but the lesson was boring and irrelevant because it was just introductory 'making sure everybody knows how to use the unit guide' stuff. I think he'd have the potential to be engaging if he'd actually taught us something for the subject. The person who ran the second lecture, last week, and who also runs my tutorial every week... is so boring that it's hard not to zone out, and she doesn't seem to know what she's doing: rather than teaching us about the elements of writing in the spaces that we're trying to learn, she spent both the lecture she hosted and the tutorials only talking about the writing craft elements within the readings. She's frustrating, and I could say much more, but I won't. Oh my she is dreadful.

So thanks to the first week being all about introductory/housekeeping things, and the second week being completely run by the Dreadful One, I didn't learn anything particularly new about script writing. Those were the designated weeks for that 'space'. Basically, dialogue is of utmost importance (the irony of the Dreadful One's every second word being "um"...), directions are important though not AS important, and characters needs to be established and identifiable with certain settings, mannerisms (especially in the way they speak), and their personalities and ways of acting and reacting (which also needs to be communicated mostly through dialogue and some stage-direction). Now I'm sitting here wondering if the Dreadful One even taught us that or if I just assumed she taught us that because it's what I already knew about script-writing. My favourite part was getting to read some of Scott Silver's Untitled Detroit Project, which is based off the life of popular rapper Eminem and was the original script for the movie 8 Mile. I went through a bit of an Eminem phase a few years ago.

When I'm Gone is my all-time favourite Eminem song. I tend to tear up listening to this... 

Stan ft. Dido is my current little Eminem obsession. 

Today, week 3, we moved on to creative non-fiction as a writing space. We had another different lecturer, who was engaging, informative and just generally awesome. Some friends and I were saying how much we enjoyed the lecture afterwards. Unfortunately, I still had the Dreadful One in my tutorial, which was unproductive as far as learning about creative non-fiction as a writing space went. Hopefully we'll learn a little more in next week's classes, or at least the lecture. I'll make a post about that when it's time. 

In other news: I am still unemployed. Seriously, somebody hire me, I'm a poor uni student, have mercy! On a lighter note, I'M A STEP-AUNTIE to an adorable and chubby little boy. My dad and his dad have already decked him up with St Kilda (AFL team) teddy bears and Metallica beanies (alternating with the Winnie the Pooh beanie his mother has supplied) and I swear that if the 7am phone call I got from my dad had been for any other reason than to inform me that the baby had finally arrived, he would have be in big trouble for waking me up so early on a weekend. And last of all, a happy 3rd anniversary for tomorrow (30th) to my boyfriend, Aaron. 

I'm sick, lacking sleep, and feeling that I've raged and rambled more than I'm comfortable with in a blog post, so I'll say goodnight here and be off to bed. 

How has everybody else's writing and education and writing education been coming along? Who's an Eminem fan? Any special little announcements to make? 

- Bonnee. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

'Grammarly' Review

Another apology for my absence from the blogosphere. I'll be catching up on all the blogs I usually follow over the next couple of days. I miss this place, but settling back into university has been intense.

About a month ago, I was offered a one-month premium membership for Grammarly, an online word-processor, in exchange for reviewing the product. I thought it would be a great opportunity to see what alternatives there are to proofreading and relying on Microsoft Word as I usually do.

Grammarly is a great online word-processor that can be used as a second set of eyes when proofreading. After copying and pasting the text or uploading the document into the programme, you can select the type of writing - general, business, academic, technical, creative or casual - and start the review process. The review process picks up on a wide range of spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure issues and suggesting synonyms. As well as pointing out mistakes, it explains why the highlighted text could be incorrect, giving great examples to help the user understand. It then allows you, the author, to choose whether or not to correct it, assuming that there may be an exception to the rule. You can repeat the review process multiple times after making corrections until the document is as close to perfect that the product can make it. You can also use the Grammarly editor to check for plagiarism.

A Grammarly account has a dashboard similar to that of a Blogger or Goodreads account. The dashboard contains some statistical features such as how many documents you've checked, your average score based on how many mistakes are made per document and your score trends over time. The dashboard also categorises the types of mistakes you make - punctuation, verb form, confusing modifiers, pronoun use, etc - and shows how many of each type of mistake have been detected in the texts you've checked over. Perhaps the most useful feature on the dashboard is the 'Personal Writing Handbook', which is created by the programme and updated as it checks your work, detailing the mistakes you make most often and explaining why. It gives you the most relevant writing rules to help you, based on your Grammarly usage.

Grammarly can be used to check a range of documents for you, such as emails, blog posts, creative fiction and resumes. It's a great second set of eyes if you would like to create an account. It is known for catching more mistakes than other word-processors such as Microsoft Word.

Of course, I'll be reverting back to Microsoft Word once my one month premium account runs out, because I'm a poor, unemployed uni student. I can make Microsoft Word accept my Australian-English and Australian writing etiquette too, which is always helpful. I'd like to thank Grammarly for the opportunity they gave me to use and review their product. It's been a fun experience and I've really enjoyed it.

Has anybody else out there used Grammarly?

- Bonnee. 

Follow by Email