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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.

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