Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest Speaking

Well, NaNoWriMo is over and I managed to hit 50K before the month was up and validate everything, so I'm happy. The story I was working on, working title CHERISH, still has a long way to go before I can say the first draft is finished, but I'll keep slowly moving forward with it. I can't say I love it as much as I loved WALLS, but we'll see what happens by the end of it and after a few rounds of editing.

In other news, last week, I was a guest speaker at the school my mother works at. The year 5/6 teacher wanted someone to speak to her class about writing and the writing process, so my mother volunteered me. They were a good bunch of kids and the teacher said I could talk for as long as I want--the longer the better and if I could take up their whole morning before recess then that would be great. I thought I'd speak for maybe an hour at the most and then be on my merry way ... I might have underestimated the enthusiasm of these children.

I had two things which the teacher agreed I should talk about: the process of writing and editing and producing WORDLY Magazine and also the process of writing and editing my own creative pieces, especially my novels. I spent maybe a whole 10 minutes talking about the student magazine and the editing process and when I finished explaining the three stages of editing submissions, I asked if there were any questions, and one of the little tykes popped their hand up and asked, 'What's your favourite part about writing?'

Me: 'Well, that segues nicely into my next topic ... '

Teacher up the back of the room: *rolls eyes at my use of the word 'segue'*.

I ended up spending the following hour and a half talking about the process of novel writing and the art of editing a large piece. I started by taking them back to my first attempt at novel writing, which happened on a girl guides camp on a notepad one weekend in November in early high school. I told them about the project my English teacher gave us in year eight, where seven other girls collaborated with me to write a novel for an assessment piece and I was in charge of editing all the different styles of writing they came out with so the piece flowed and matched up. Then I talked about my first serious and successful attempt at writing a novel, when I wrote EVERGREEN: A FALLEN STAR for a subject my school designed for the year nine students called the Journey Project, and how it was self coordinated and we had to do a big evaluation at the end, and my first draft was over 80K at the end of the year, but how I'd edited it more time than I can count and cut it down to about 65K and let a friend read over it for me and give me some constructive criticism and how I've now put that novel aside because I'm planning to re-write it after I finish my children's literature minor study at University. I told them about writing KATHERINE in year 12, and writing WALLS for NaNoWriMo last year, and how I printed the manuscript off and blue tacked it to the walls of my bedroom on res. I showed them a photo of one of the walls, all covered in pages--their reactions were great. But their best reactions was when I told them how long it was when it was finished--88,732 words of first draft.

Basically, I was trying to tell them that it was okay for them not to get everything right the first time, and that it was normal to have to write and rewrite and edit many times before their work was at a high standard--and that they should work hard and be dedicated to their writing if they wanted to do something with it. I got to tell them about NaNoWriMo and challenging yourself and writing to a deadline, and writing a lot of words to a deadline. I left that website with the teacher for future reference, and I also left them a link to a novella competition for high school students (Somerset National Novella Writing Competition, which was where I tried to submit KATERINE back in 2012) as the year 6 portion of the class would be moving on to high school next year.

They had so many questions for me about the stories I'd written and what it was like to study writing at university. I think that's what took up most of our time was questions and answers. But I'm glad they had questions, because it prompted me to say things to them that I might have forgotten to mention otherwise. They asked me about who and what inspired me to write, and what my favourite book was, what genres I like to write and how much I have to write just for university. One of the kids even asked if I'd come back and read them something I've written--maybe I will.

But it was a really good morning and I think the kids were really engaged with what I was saying. The teacher commented to me afterwards that she hadn't expected them to be so quiet for me and listen so well, so she thought that getting someone to actually come in and talk to them--someone who wasn't too much older than them, still a student, but out there really doing as much as possible with their writing--was going to help encourage them to go for it in the future. My mum told me a few days later that the teacher had ended up telling her that I'd even inspired her to pick up a pen and start writing again, so I feel rather flattered!

So, if you ever get a chance to talk to young minds about writing, don't let the opportunity slip away. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire them to give a serious attempt at writing a try.

What have you all been up to, fellow writers? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writer's update: the importance of writing badly

I thought of the idea for this post earlier this week when a friend of mine who is participating in NaNoWriMo read a scene from mine and told me he didn't like any of the stuff he'd written. This November, I'm actually finding it quite hard myself to like what I've written so far, but a few minutes ago I hit the 25K mark on my word count and I feel like my story is finally starting to take shape. 

The thing with writing is that, unless you're freakishly amazing all the time, you're not always going to be able to write well. Not every word you put on the page is going to be something you'll be proud of. Actually, a LOT of what you write is going to be really, really, really shit. Right now, that's how I feel about 15-20 thousand words of what I've written in the past thirteen days. So why do I keep going? Because if I don't accept the fact that sometimes I will write badly, then I will never have the chance to write well. 

I have several friends who aren't participating in NaNoWriMo because they think the rules are stupid (Holmes, I'm looking at you). And that's okay too, because everyone writes their stories differently. Everyone has their own creative process. For some people, that means word-vomiting into Google Docs as fast as you can, including for NaNoWriMo, and for other people, that means staring at the computer screen for hours on end and only getting out a few carefully thought out and worded paragraphs at a time. Regardless of which approach you take, there are going to be days where you write shit, an days when you realise you're shitting gold. Sometimes it comes out somewhere in between and you know what you've got in front of you has potential. Even some of the worst stuff you write could have potential and that's the thing--being a good writer isn't about always writing flawlessly amazing words every single time and becoming a bestseller overnight. Being a good writer is about being able to identify what parts of your work are good, what parts are bad, and what parts are okay. It's about being able to identify where potential lies and bring that potential to the surface. It's not just about the first draft. It's about the editing process too. It's about redrafting. And sometimes it's about making a hard call and moving on to something else even though you've already put a lot of work into what you've already written. 

Sometimes, it isn't about which approach you take (QUITE-WRITE-A-FIRST-DRAFT-HURRY vs staring-at-the-screen-and-being-pedantic-about-every-word-I-write). Sometimes it's about which approach your story wants to take. At the moment, my NaNoWriMo is my first attempt at novel-length literary fiction. Yes, yes, crucify me and tell me what a snotty bastard I am for temporarily turning my back on genre fiction. The thing is, my attempts at literary fiction in the past have used the process that does not work well with NaNoWriMo and at times I've stopped and wondered if trying to write this particular novel for NaNoWriMo was a bad idea. And maybe it was. Maybe this would have been way easier to sit down and nut out slowly. But I started something and now I'm going to finish it. And even though it's probably going to be one of the worse novel-length pieces I've ever written--what with it's inconsistent voice and inability to STAY literary and not slip into one genre or another--the fact of the matter is that at the end of the this project, I'll have the first draft of another novel, which I already think has potential, even if it's only in the story and not so much the way it's been written. At some point, maybe later in 2015 or 2016 when it's been put aside for a little while and I've worked on something else and I can return to it with fresh eyes, I'll return to this novel and see if the writing can be salvaged or if I need to write it all over again. And I'm okay with writing it all over again. I am a writer. It's okay to press delete. And it's okay to hit the backspace key. And it's okay to abandon a project completely and move on to something else. As long as I maintain that I am a writer and I don't give up on writing. 

Writing badly is also important so that you can get it out of your system. It's more ideal to do this when you're NOT working on a big project that you're trying to take seriously, but beggars can't be choosers. Once the bad writing is out and on the page, what else is to follow but the okay writing and the good writing? And that's why it's important that we allow ourselves to write badly sometimes. And I don't mean to encourage anyone to be lazy in the way they write and then use this as a justification. I'm just saying: it's okay. 

So even though I hate most of what I've written so far and I'm now halfway to the NaNoWriMo word goal, I'm going to keep going, because I think I've gotten the worst of it out of my system and things are starting to perk up a little now. And whatever I wrote awfully at the start is something I can return to later and write all over again. Because that's what I do. I am a writer. 

How badly can you write?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Writer's update: long time, no see

That moment when it's November and you realise you haven't blogged since August ... woops. I'm still alive, I swear! Well then, what the heck have I been doing? Yes, I've been asking myself this question quite a bit as well. And turns out, I've actually been up to a lot more than I realised.

Well first of all, I got a second job. Still at the university library, but a bit different to my job as a Student Rover. Throughout September, I was working 9-5 usually 2 or 3 days a week doing some writing and communications stuff for the head librarian. So that was pretty cool. I now have an access card to the staff only area and for a little while there I had a desk pretty close to all the offices of important library people. Then the head librarian was running out of time to give me stuff to do, so she got the service desk people to train me so that I can do all of that stuff too, so I've had a couple of shifts doing that in October. Now I'm finished with my second year of uni, so work at the library is a little slow. The Student Rover program won't run again until March next year, but in the meantime I'll still get the odd shift on the service desk during the summer teaching period.

But in between all that work in September and early October I was also still going to uni for eight hours on Mondays, meeting with the WORDLY production team on Wednesdays, and working on assignments. Well, actually, I kind of left all my assignments until the week before they were due, so in the space of one week I cranked out 3 essays ... and two of them were philosophy essays, so that made my thinker-box hurt quite a bit and I was filled with regret.

But before my assignments were all due, I was working both in the library and on the final edition of WORDLY for 2014 and I've got to say I am quite proud of what we produced for the Writers Club. We launched the final edition at the end of September and accompanied the launch with an open-mic spoken word event, and the Deakin Writers Club annual general meeting, where the new executive committee for the club and the magazine was elected. So, I am now production manager of WORDLY magazine and president of the Deakin Writers Club for 2015 and pretty excited about it. I have great faith in the rest of the executive team and I think we're going to work really well together to make 2015 an awesome year for all things writerly at Deakin.

So yeah, after all that and writing my assignments, I bummed around res for a couple of weeks while all my housemates suffered through exams (mwahahahahahaha suckers) and watched a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra with various people because it's amazing. I went on a bit of a holiday with two of my best writerly friends, Watson and Holmes, and we did nerdy writerly things for a weekend and a bit. Then I got all of my marks back and I was pretty happy with them. It was a good trimester at uni, overall. Then I went back to my hometown for a little and managed to get my probationary drivers licence, drove back up to uni, and moved all my stuff off res because it was that time of year again. It was very sad saying goodbye to all of my housemates and other ressie friends, especially the ones I've known since my first year on res. It was sad saying goodbye to res in general, because it's been my home for two years now and such an amazing place. I'll miss it dearly, but the lease was over and it was time to move to another dwelling. I haven't moved far from the university, so I'll still be able to get in to go to work pretty easily.

And last of all, it's November! Which mean I've started NaNoWriMo again. This year, I'm taking the idea I used for my fiction piece in trimester 1 and turning it into a full-length novel. I don't think I'm doing a particularly fantastic job of it thus far, but hey, what are first drafts for if not for making an absolute mess of a great idea? But what happened to my project from last year, the one I blue-tacked all to my bedroom wall on res? Well, I had to take it down when I moved out, but I did finish the first round of edits a little while ago now. Last month, I finally started transferring those edits to the document on my computer. After NaNoWriMo this year, I'll be spending most of the summer editing that, along with the work of another friend which he gave to me back in September. I've been intending to write a story sins blog post about WALLS, but I guess that'll have to wait for a little while longer. For now, lets see if being on summer holidays can get me back into the swing of blogging.

Where have your writerly ventures taken you these past few months?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

An Open Day Experience

WARNING: May contain ranting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Writer's Update: I'm Still Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Back to Uni

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

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

So here's what you need to know:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Writer's Update: Subconscious Avoidance and Trigger Warnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Writer's Update: Holiday Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you been writing lately? 

- Bonnee.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Emerging Writers' Festival (Pt. 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Liebster Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Bonnee.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Emerging Writers' Festival (Pt. 1)

I had meant to blog about this a couple of weeks ago, but haven't had time because of assignments, social life, attending events I'll be referring to, and just generally because I've been a lazy blogger. But assignments are all done now and I'm free from study commitments for a few weeks. So, now is the time for me to catch the blogosphere up on the shenanigans I've been getting into, especially, in this post, during Melbourne's Emerging Writers' Festival.

I  made it to six of the twelve free events I was intending to go to, which is a much better achievement than last year, when I only went to one event at all.

I went to two and a half events on Wednesday 28 May. At Thousand Pound Bend in Melbourne's CBD, the festival's hub hosted 'Festival Icebreaker with Our Mates Mary'. I attended initially alone, but made a new friend as soon as I got there. This really cool chick named Margo and I were both having trouble finding the entrance and ended up figuring out it was around the back side of the building, down a rather stabby-looking alleyway... together, we managed to enter the building without getting stabbed. Upon entry, we were given half a quote each, from well known pieces of literature by well known authors. The point of the night was to meet other people while trying to locate the person with the other half of your quote, and then work together to identify the author. I was given the first half of a quote, which read, "I don't want everyone to like me...". I didn't think I had met the person with the other half of my quote until after the event, when I found out what the other half actually was and realised that I HAD in fact spoken to someone wit the other half. The full quote was "I don't want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did", a quote by Henry James, whose work I am unfamiliar with. But this event was awesome, I had a lovely time drinking Shiraz and talking to other writerly people.

On the same night, at the same venue, not long after the first event wrapped up, I stayed for part of the event 'Kill Your Darlings: Highbrow vs Lowbrow', in which the literary magazine Kill Your Darlings had a set of debates. In an entertaining battle between participants, we debated highbrow vs lowbrow music, and highbrow vs lowbrow literature. The next event I was going to started before this event finished, so I missed out on the debate between highbrow and lowbrow television, but those first two rounds were entertaining.

I was not the only person at Thousand Pound Bend who was attending the next event at The Wheeler Centre, a discussion panel dubbed No light, No literature. My new friend Margo and her quote-buddy (she found hers) left the KYD event during the drink break between rounds with a group of others and chattered the whole two blocks to the next event. We were only a couple of minutes late. The event was a 'Tweet free zone' (they said they'd confiscate our phones upon entry, but they just told us to turn them off and not use them when they were letting us in). Basically, there was an panel of three writers behind a black curtain, anonymously being interviewed by the MC. I might have had a couple of glasses of Shiraz too many to fully appreciate what was being said, but the main thing that stuck out to me was that in the publishing industry, it really is about who you know. A willingness to find somewhere to get in wherever you can, even if it isn't where you want to end up, will help you greatly, and it's okay to start off in a humble place. For example, one of the panelists said she broke into the industry by volunteering at events (such as the one we were at) and "fetching water for the guest speakers". However, she advised caution not to let yourself become a doormat for people to walk all over.

After the event, it was just after 11 o'clock at night and Margo and I broke away from the rest of the group as we all headed our separate ways home. I very nearly asked if I could add her on Facebook or if she had a blog or a Twitter account I could follow, but I suppose my awkwardness got the better of me and I just didn't. So shout-out to Margo, if you find this blog post, don't be shy like I was, leave a comment!

Overall, I had a pretty fantastic night. I'll be back with another blog post about the other events I went to later in the week!

Did you go to any of the EWF events? Did you go to any other writerly events?
- Bonnee.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writer's Update: Editing and the God-Complex

There are many writerly things I have to share with the blogosphere that have occurred in the past week, but I'll backtrack to them at a later date. Today, I have a writer's update to share with you.

On Monday, while I was printing off an assignment in the library, I decided to also print of my manuscript for WALLS so that I could begin the editing process. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to physically spread the manuscript out on the walls of my bedrooms so that I would be able to edit thoroughly without having to scroll through a document constantly.

Tonight, I scrounged up as much blue tack as I could and removed all of my posters and decorations from my bedroom walls to make way for the 138 pages that is my 2013 NaNoWriMo child. She took up two walls and two of my wardrobe doors.

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

The first 70 pages on one wall.

Pages 71-127 on this wall.

The final chapter, pages 128-138, on my wardrobe doors.

That quote came to my head as I was putting the pieces of paper up, and I realised, though not for the first time, that writers are gods. We create these settings the way we want them to be, and we create these characters to put into those settings - those worlds of our own - and then we have complete and utter control over them, their actions, their circumstances, everything. We determine whether they live or die, whether they find their happily ever after or spend their lives in misery. We are in control of everything that happens to them, everything that doesn't, and everything that could. 

That makes me feel invincible. 

Having said all that, I feel like a complete and utter psychopath and I want to give a special shout-out to my housemates, especially the three who witnessed some of the blue-tacking, for putting up with the craziness that has barely begun. 

I want to have given this all a thorough edit by the time my classes start again in mid-July. I still need to do a couple more assignments, but once they're out of the way, my JuNoWriMo project will be in full swing. 

Do you feel god-like? Do you have a JuNoWriMo project? 
- Bonnee. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Saturday Summary: Weeks 10 and 11

Yay, the semester is over and classes are all done! The only thing I have left to do now are my final assignments and then I can officially say that I am half-way through my course. That is such a terrifying thought; I have already been at uni for half of the amount of time I need to complete my course. I could have sworn I was only a first year a few months ago and now I'm already half way through my second year! Of course, once I finish my bachelor degree, I want to go on to further studies and go on to do my honours or something like that, but still!

So I decided to do the summery for two the last two weeks together. Here we go.

Fiction Writing: Story, Structure, and Starting Out
Readings: Workshop pieces. Open forms of narrative and The salt of broken tears by Michael Meehan, Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood, Videotape by Don DeLillo, My life with the wave by Octavio Paz, The sprouting month  and The clothes-lining month by Ruth Ozeki, and (Favoured by) babies by T Richards.

Week 10 was spent doing our final rounds of workshopping our classmates' work, then in week 11 we discussed open forms of narrative. Our theory reading talked about how in good literature, the reader ends up wanting to go back and re-read, the final line of the story drives them back to the first line, and the reader is often aware that they are missing a deeper meaning to the text upon the first reading. I can easily relate to this last point. I've lost count of the number of times I've been reading something and thought to myself, There's something in here that I'm not picking up on, and it won't be until I go back and read again that I realise what it was. With every re-reading, a reader comes away with more meaning than they had on previous readings. The meaning will also be different for each individual because of the different ways we understand and interpret what we read, and the reading will be different for the same individual as they re-read at different points in their lives, depending on how their interpretation and understanding changes. We also talked a lot about the creative process, but I would like to make a separate blog post about that.

Poetry: Making it Strange
Readings: Ratbaggery editorial by Duncan Hose (my tutor).

Week 10 focused on ratbag poetry. Ratbag poets are poets who write about other people. They are gossips with an ideal for change. These poems can be callus, rude, direct, naming names and creating caricatures of the people they are talking about. Their purpose, as with all forms of poetry, is to manipulate the reader's feelings, though in this particular case they specifically want you to form a certain opinion about whoever they are talking about.

Week 11 seemed to lean back towards the Australian contemporary poetry, focusing on 'outcrop: contemporary poetry of country'. There were not set readings for the week and I think we spent more time talking about our final assignment and workshopping more than anything else. The two things I jotted down in the good ol' notebook were:
- the only cure for boredom is curiosity, and
- use nouns as verbs.

It has been an interesting and exciting class, though sometimes hard to know if we covered what we were meant to cover. I definitely enjoyed myself.

Literature for Children and Young Adults
Readings: Freedom Writers (Richard LaGravenese, 2007). Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.

I loved the film Freedom Writers, though I could see its flaws even while I was watching and enjoying it. Film is one of the most influential mediums in the world and a vehicle for constructing, negotiating, and resisting dominant ideas. However, while on the surface, a film like Freedom Writers might seem to uphold values such as acceptance of differences (particularly, race in this case), and treating teenagers like adults, some of the passive ideologies that come through aren't so flattering. I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that while F.W is based on true events, it is not a 100% accurate representation of the characters and what happened, so these criticisms are directed at the film, not the true story. F.W. upholds the 'white hero' stereotype, as if the minority races are unable to help themselves and better their own lives. Speaking of the minority races bettering their own lives, there's another negative stigma; all of the minorities represented in the film are lower/working class with pretty messed-up lives and gang involvement, while the white characters are all upper/middle class with lives that don't seem so bad. Of course there are exceptions, like the main adult-teacher character, Erin Gruwell, who's husband gets all shitty at her for not asking him before she gets a second job and isn't very supportive of her trying to help the kids and ends up leaving her (he was more than a little sexist). Also, casting! Gotta LOVE how all of the white characters scored well-known actors, while the minority roles don't get any big-names. So, is Freedom Writers supposed to be about the students, or about the teacher? Because from the sounds it of, it SHOULD be more about the students, but after watching it, it seems much more centered around the teacher, Mrs Gruwell. I mean, it's not that I don't think Erin Gruwell deserves the credit or recognition for what she did in real life, but I think making the white character the star of the show kind of defeats the purpose.

I'll stop myself there before I rant forever, because there is a lot of stuff to pick at, but that's the worst of it. We studied Twilight in week 11 as our module of popular fiction for young adults. Twilight was HUGE, and not just within the young adult audience. I remember when it was about to be a movie, for Christmas that year, I wanted the books for Christmas so that I could read them ahead of all the other movies. It ended up that I had a box set of the books for myself, my little sister got a box set for herself, and my mum got a box set for herself. So, there were three copies of every book in my house. My mum was the most passionate about them, not myself (who read and enjoyed them at the time, but didn't think they were mindblowing or anything), or my little sister, who I don't think actually ended up reading them, although it was me and my sister they should have appealed to most as far as target audiences went. As I started re-reading the first book for class, I wanted to be sick. I'm actually not sure how I liked these books at all when I was thirteen and now I'm kind of ashamed of myself and everyone around me who put so much as a toe on that bandwagon. In short, Bella is a really flat character and ridiculously damsel-in-distress, especially when it comes to guys. The book condones girls pining after men and putting themselves in dangerous situations in attempts to get their attention and/or please them. Edward is actually a real ... I'm not going to use that word here, but to put it nicely, he's a condescending, domineering, jerk-face. Also, he's a stalker. Like wtf he sneaks into her house and watches her sleep, that is not okay! This book enforces outdated ideologies such as that women should be obedient to men, that men are allowed to be dismissive and generally treat girls like shit, and don't get me started on the virginity metaphor. On the outside, Twilight is a typical though poorly written paranormal romance that attempts to reinvent the gothic novel, and while the virginity thing is outdated I won't knock it too hard because that's a matter of personal choice (though Meyer is crafty and deceptive in the way she disguises its presence), but overall it sets a really dangerous example for young adult readers as far as what they should expect from love and relationships goes. And I was officially sick about Bella going on about how physically beautiful the Cullens were by the end of the third chapter. There's the other thing, Bella with no self esteem and poor self-image, then BAM it's all starting to get better once she's got a boyfriend (not to mention when they get married in the last book and she gets to be a vampire too... sparkle sparkle motherfuckers!). Seriously, could Stephanie Meyer give girls a worse role model?

We interrupt this blog post for Twilight movie sins.

I'm going to shut up before the Twihards come to get me.

Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Essay
Readings: Workshop pieces.

Workshopping aside, we went over some last minute pointers to help us with our final assignment. When writing about true stories, we need to be mindful of how we compress and expand characters and events, whether or not our choices are ethical and whether or not they help get across the messages we intend the reader to receive. It is often appropriate to conduct further research and incorporate necessary information in order for the reader to get the best understanding of the situation you are writing about as possible, and who knows, maybe that research will influence the way you end up writing. Don't be afraid to experiment with the story's structure, and turn the structure into meaning. Also, Margaret McKenzie's Australian Handbook for Writers and Editors is a good resource... well, for Australian writers anyway. Use correct punctuation, etc...

The job of the writer is to make connections between things that people would not normally make connections between. Good class, loved my teacher and my class mates.

So! This concludes Saturday Summaries, at least for this semester. I hope my ramblings have imparted something or other that I've learned in the past 11 weeks to the blogosphere's population. Now, off with me to do my assignments.

Do you find more meaning in a text the second time you read it? What kind of a poet would you be? Will you flay me for knocking Twilight or do I have your permission to continue living? Have you ever written a personal essay? 

- Bonnee.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Freedom of Expression: IDAHOT

I went to an awesome event on Tuesday night: a belated celebration of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). Deakin Writers Club and Deakin Pride Queer Society organised and hosted the event together at Hares and Hyenas, Melbourne's (most popular?) queer bookshop. Of course, being on the Deakin Writers Club team, I didn't even need an excuse to go and hang out with my fellow writers, my friends from the Pride Club, and those that belong to both parts. The event wasn't limited to the club member either, which was great. I'm not sure how many from outside of the Writers or Pride club were at the event, but I know there were definitely people from different universities.

It was a fantastic night, with beverages and finger food courtesy of the clubs, some great live music, and readings from whoever wasn't afraid to jump up in front of the mic to express themselves. The theme for the night was freedom of expression and it was great to see how many people got involved, attended the event, and made it a great evening. Even little old me jumped up at one point with a poem about refraining from sticking labels on people or trying to define them by one particular aspect of that whole. Some of the music and readings that were shared were funny, casual, and happy, others were sad, personal, and took a lot of bravery to share. I guess the best part of the night to me was that we had all come together in a place where no one had to feel like an outsider, or like they didn't fit in; a place where everyone could say what they wanted to say and be themselves.

I made a couple of new friends over the course of the night and didn't make it back to my unit until past midnight, but it was worthwhile. In class on Wednesday morning, my Creative Nonfiction teacher and I had a conversation about the event because she had been there too, and she had read some poetry (my goodness, she has an amazing voice!). I thought it was brilliant that she had been invited by the clubs to attend and that she had been so willing to participate. She was very understanding about me being all sleepy in her class.

Have you been to any writerly or pride events recently? Or a combination of the two? 

- Bonnee.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Writer's Update/Saturday Summary: Weeks 8 and 9

Wow, those two weeks went by quickly! Between returning to my hometown the other weekend for Aussie Mothers Day and getting all of my assignments done, I completely forgot to do my week 8 summary. So, here are the summaries for week 8 AND week 9!

Fiction Writing: Story, Structure, and Staring Out
Readings: Voice by Glenda Adams, Dialogue 1 and 2 by Kate Grenville, Girl by Jamaica Kincaid, Loose Ends by Bharati Mukherjee, Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemmingway, A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. Workshop pieces.

In week 8, we focused on the importance of dialogue in our writing. To check if your dialogue is good, ask yourself if it is easy to follow who is speaking. Dialogue can be used to capture the voices of the different characters and it's always a good sign when you can follow a conversation between two or more characters without the use of attributions or dialogue tags, because this usually means your characters have strong, distinct voices. Of course, unless you're writing a script, you will want something other than dialogue on the page. Attributions are good to to assure the reader of who is speaking and break up the conversation at intervals so that they don't get bored of listening to your characters talk. The dialogue tags can also be used to describe the tone or way the character is speaking, like 'yell' or 'whisper' or 'stutter'. However, overusing descriptors in dialogue tags can become distracting to the reader. Another way you can both break up dialogue and attribute it to a character is to add action to the conversation. What are you characters doing, seeing, thinking and feeling during the conversation? What could you include in exposition? For example, the dialogue is not always the best place to convey lots and lots of information or to have a philosophical exploration, so when you're writing about such things, consider in each particular instance whether it would work better as a part of the narrative outside of the dialogue. And of course, don't get bogged down trying to imitate real speech; good dialogue sounds natural without looking like it's trying too hard.

Week 9 followed standard workshopping procedures. Nothing to report.

Poetry: Making it Strange
Readings: On the Beach: A Bicentennial Poem by John Forbes, Newtown Pastoral and Kings Cross Pastoral by Gig Ryan, and To Greece Under the Junta by Martin Johnston. Patti Smith was Right by Pam Brown, Things to Say by Ken Bolton, and The Ash Range, Part Ten: Stirling by Laurie Duggan.

Both weeks focused on postmodern Australian poetry and the poets we studied in each week knew each other, were friends; John Forbes, Gig Ryan and Martin Johnston, and Pam Brown, Ken Bolton and Laurie Duggan. In poetry, these poets write about Australia as a historical necessity, and using the 'I' puts them (and us, in class, as we prepare to write our own poems about Australia) in a tense historical position. We have to ask ourselves how we want to represent our country, and due to the nature of poetry, more importantly, we ask ourselves what usually isn't talked about. Writing poetry can be writing about a community; writing about creating a community. We can write about how communities in Australia were formed and function.

Literature for Children and Young Adults
Readings: Digger J. Jones by Richard J. Frankland, and 4 episodes from the first season of Glee which I don't care to recall.

In week 8 we focused on indigenous histories, particular in Australia. The point of many Australian children's texts about our indigenous peoples is for the readers to develop and awareness and appreciation of their stories. However, there are two different ways of storytelling in this particular case: the traditional storytelling used by whichever indigenous group we choose to zoom in on (usually consists of oral storytelling under certain circumstances in Australia), or contemporary literature, which utilises western storytelling techniques in order to make the text easier to relate to for a non-indigenous audience. Contemporary literature usually has a dual target audience; it is written for both an indigenous audience and a non-indigenous audience. When reading texts from minority cultures, the reader needs to be open to the text, be willing to do some research, be conscious of where they're coming from, and not expect to understand everything.

In week 9, I had to put up with four episodes of Glee and my Gleek of a teacher (and a few Gleeky classmates). I was not impressed. How do people like that stuff?! I did most ofmy homework like a good girl and watched three of the four episodes we were meant to watch for class, but I just couldn't bring myself to waste another hour of my life on that awful excuse for a T.V show... and I really didn't want to listen to them rip off an Aerosmith song, which was probably the deciding factor. But in all seriousness, I understand why it was such a good text to be analysing. Painful though it was to endure, it was really interesting to see how although on the outside it embraces minorities and accepts them on the surface, it still treats them like minorities in the long run, when you look properly. The episodes follow the white, able-bodied, heterosexual characters closest of all and although they gave minorities the spotlight, at the end of the episode, they all went back on their shelves; the background singers and dancers while the non-minority kids were centre stage. Just because the show included all of the token minority characters on the surface, does not mean the show embraced equality and some of the representations of certain minority characters were questionable to say the least. For example, in the episode Ballad, token gay boy Kurt is depicted as predatory, plotting to turn Finn off women, and in Dream On (the episode I didn't watch, but we definitely discussed in class), the fact that token disability (paraplegic, for those fortunate souls who haven't been subject to the show) character Artie is singing about his dream to be able to walk again, depicting disability in a negative way... meanwhile, all of his able-bodied Glee-club members dance around him.

Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Essay
Readings: 'What're yer lookin' at yer fuckin' dog' by Kevin Brophy, Introduction: portrait of an essay as a warm body by C Ozick, and Water by M Stanton, workshop pieces. The Journalist and the Murderer by J Malcolm, Whose Story is it? by R Robertson, and Lies and Silences by M Wheatley, workshop pieces.

The readings were not really talked about in class as we spent most of our time workshopping for our final assessment pieces. I workshopped in week 9 and was happy with the feedback I received. Many of the students are using their first assignment as a starting point and expanding on it for the final assignment, myself included. This is probably the only class ever where we are allowed to do such a thing.

And that sums up the past two weeks worth of classes for me! Sorry for disappearing from the blogosphere for a bit there, but I guess I've been saying that a lot lately ha ha. As I enter the final two weeks of the trimester leading up to all of my final assessment pieces, I seem to be scarily spread-thin for time. Between parties, assignments, work, Deakin Writers events, Wordly Magazine stuff, and the Emerging Writers' Festival, I have a very busy next three weeks and I am so excited to experience them!

Also! Seeing as the Deakin teaching period ends with the month of May, I have no exams, and I'm hoping to somehow have most of my assignments done ahead of schedule, my grand plan for the break (until 11th July, so over a month) is to print off WALLS and blu-tack the pages to the walls of my room so that I can edit the crap out of it without having to go scrolly-scrolling through the document constantly. I think the visual aspect of having everything right there in front of my like that will help me deal with some consistency issues I'm worried about, including characterisation, character development, back-stories, and (my favourite) worldbuilding. I suppose this is going to be my own little JuNoWriMo project, but with editing instead of writing.

What writerly things have you done in the past two weeks? Anyone else going to the Emerging Writers' Festival in Melbourne? Who else has something writerly planned for June? 

- Bonnee.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Quick Reviews: 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian' and 'Digger J. Jones'

Hello my blogger friends! I wanted to write reviews for the books I studied in my children's literature class this week. We're starting to move into the teen and young adult areas of literature now and I really enjoyed the books. I'm going to make these two reviews short today because I have to catch a train back to my hometown soon, so here are my quick reviews for Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Richard J. Frankland's Digger J. Jones. Summaries courtesy of Goodreads.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live. (Goodreads)

Favourite character: The protagonist, Junior/Arnold.

Favourite part of the plot: *spoiler alert* At the very end when Junior and Rowdy start hanging out again.

Setting: The two main settings of the book were the Spokane Indian reservation and the town of Reardan.

Style: Told from Junior/Arnold's point of view in the first person. We get a very honest retelling of his thoughts and feelings throughout the book in a simple language that is easy to understand and for the target audience (teens) to relate to.

Originality: The fact that Junior/Arnold was a very well rounded character was wonderful. A lot of stories only focus on overcoming the setbacks created by one aspect of the self, while this book looked at a character who had to battle against the negatives and stereotypes of many aspects of himself. For instance, while I was expect this book to be about a Native American boy fighting against white supremacy to make something of himself, the book was also about a boy fighting poverty, and a boy living with disability, all within the same character.

Digger J. Jones by Richard J. Frankland

Digger is keeping a diary about the things that matter to him: piffing yonnies at the meatworks, fishing with his cousins, and brawling with the school bully. But it's 1967, and bigger things keep getting in the way. Digger is finding out who he is, what he believes, and what's worth fighting for. (Goodreads)

Favourite character: The protagonist, Digger.

Favourite part of the plot: *spoiler alert* I can't decide between when Digger, Darcy, and Stevie all start reading poetry or every scene between Digger and Tom (but especially the one where Tom calls him 'djaambi,' which means 'brother').

Setting: South Yarra in Melbourne, and Condah where Lake Condah Mission used to be, on Gunditijimara land. It's all in Australia, anyway.

Style: The whole book is written in diary-entry form, including dates at the start of each new section, and occasionally an indication of what time of the day it is. This lets us get a very close look at the inner workings of the main character's life.

Originality: It's nice to see a book about supporting the indigenous people of Australia that actually has a happy ending. I've never read a book that's from the point of  view of an Aboriginal character before (or a half-caste, in this case).

Have you read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or Digger J. Jones? What have you been reading? 

- Bonnee.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Tale of Three Writers/Saturday Summary: Week 7

Greetings, all! It has been decided that my two best writerly friends and I are going to linky link to each other's blogs to tell an interwoven tale of three creative writing university students. So I would like you all to meet Holmes over at Life, the Universe and Everything According to a Writer, and Watson over at Not A Sexy Vampire. Whenever in the past you have heard me talk about my writerly friends, these guys are the people I'm talking about.

Once again, it is closing in on that time where all of my assignments are due in quick succession, but I think I'm ahead of where I need to be, so it isn't so bad. Here is a summary of what I learned in class this week, feel free to skip to your area of interest:

Fiction Writing: Story, Structure, and Starting Out
Readings: Workshop pieces.

This week was again spent mostly workshopping, but I wanted to bring up something I saw in one of the pieces a classmate brought in. It was a brilliant piece, so well written in my opinion, and she's paid attention to small details that helped to really establish what the character was like. By this, I mean, she made intertextual references: for example, she named a book, quoted from Pulp Fiction and referred to a character from another text. The way she wove it into her story, although I didn't know much or anything about most of the references she made, still allowed me (and from the sounds of it the majority of the class) to enjoy reading it. It didn't distract me from what I was reading and instead I got this idea of a character who was intellectual and into pop-culture. But our teacher disagreed and said that more detail about these references had to be made, because a reader shouldn't have to go and look something up from outside of the text. Now, if our teacher had stated this as a suggestion rather than a you must then maybe I wouldn't have such a problem with it. I just think this is one example of the exception to the rule, but our teacher couldn't recognise that although the majority of the rest of the class did. Our teacher has this obsession with concrete details and writing about the mundane, and while I understand the importance, the way she stresses that these are RULES makes writing feel more like a science than an art.

Poetry: Making it Strange
Readings: Mina Loy Others and Feminist Manifesto.

The radical's radical was this week's topic in poetry. We spent a bit of time looking at Mina Loy, who wrote some very gritty stuff. In Others she basically breaks the convention of a love poem and turns writing about sex into something ugly and honest. I don't think the guy she was writing about would have been particularly flattered by some of her representations of him. I really enjoyed that reading, ha ha. Our teacher asked us to consider what part hatred plays in writing poetry. Two things that seem to be a large part of human nature (and should therefore be a part of poetry) are eros (erotic or romantic love) and thanatos (the death drive and the will to destruction). This led into a discussion about writing a manifesto, which, the understanding I got, is when you basically write a big rant about things you think are wrong with the world. Mina Loy wrote one about gender inequality. I'd probably write one about homophobia or racism or something like that.

Literature for Children and Young Adults
Readings: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Why Race, Class, and Gender Still Matter by Margaret Anderson and Patricia Collins.

This week we were focusing on identity, intersectionality, and the ethics of interpretation. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is Sherman Alexie's fictionalised autobiography, which I absolutely loved, controversy and all. This book was used to analyse how race, class, and gender are represented in books and how they intersect both in text and in real life. We also looked a step further, to see how sexuality, ability/disability, and religion are represented and intersect with each other to represent life in books. Basically, we were looking to see whether or not the book broke the characters down into labels and focused on one aspect, or if they too all of the aspects of a character into consideration whilst writing to show the way they work together to create an individual. For example, the main character, Arnold, is a Spokane Indian, but he is also poor, but he is male, but he is straight, but he was born with too much cerebral spinal fluid inside his skull so now he has a stutter and a lisp, but he's still athletic and intelligent. So we were looking at how these different aspects of him were represented and how they came together to create one person. I'm going to review this book later in the week.

Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Essay
Readings: The Boys of Beallsville by J Pilger, The Long Fall Into Steel by B Walker, and Consider the Lobster by DF Wallace.

This week we were talking about issues and stories and it it is important to find the shape of our story. Some people just want to write about relationships, or they just want to write about death, but they can't do that effectively unless they take an angle on the issue and make a story of it. You can write about relationships, or death, or poverty, or war, or happiness, but it needs to be within a context and a story. Something interesting that sometimes happens is that the structure of a story reflect or becomes meaning, and the form becomes content. I've noticed I do this subconsciously, and then someone points it out and I'll be like "Oh, yes, that was totally intentional" *shifty eyes*.

And that sums up what I learned this week. I hope something in there was useful to whoever is reading, and please check out my mates' blogs, because they're both very cool and unique people and writers.

Did you learn anything writerly this week? 
- Bonnee.

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