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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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