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.


  1. Thanks for the summary, especially the fiction writing which I find very useful. I'll try to find the first two book you listed in this section. The dialouges in my fiction are fairly good, but can always be improved. My weakness is not having each character speaks in his/her own voice. In my third and last novel I have an Australian man as a minor character, and after reading your summary I decided to put some Aussie slang in his dialouges to make him distinctive from other dialouges. I'm surprised that you didn't like Glee but understand your reasons. I watched it many times and never observed what you did. Really nice observation you have made about the non-minorities just being added as token, and especially Artie singing negatively about his disability instead of embracing it. I just watched Glee many times but never made any smart observations like you did.
    I added 3K words to my last novel so am happy with that, because I'm finding it harder to find ideas to add more pages. Not going to Melbourne, obviously, but learned two new things about your country this week from the internet - Melbourne and Sydney have some of the most expensive food and drinks in the world (Google for - World's costliest cities: Sydney and Melbourne) and .. Australia has the highest minimum wage in the world, now at $16.88 and today after the Swiss people voted not to raise their minimum wage to $25. I have a feeling that you will have more pages from your novel WALLS than space to put them. But good luck, as always.

    1. Aussie slang is great! Though I'd be interested to see how someone who isn't from Australia incorporates it into their own writing; smooth and realistic, or so it sounds like a caricature. Either way, I'm sure it will greatly help to distinguish the character.

      I didn't like Glee to start off with because I think it's a terrible show with terrible acting and terrible singing... the negative passive ideologies that we discussed in class only made me like it less.

      I am not surprised in the least that Melbourne is on that list. I've never actually been to Sydney myself. Everything here in Melbourne is pretty pricey compared to some of the places our international students come from.

      I fear you might be right about the wall-space to paper ratio... but I will find a way! Thanks for visiting, Giora :D

  2. My wife and kids were into Glee, but I just never really got into it. In fairness to the show, however, from what I heard coming from the other room, I think they ultimately gave a more fair and realistic portrayal of 'token gay boy Kurt'--I could be wrong, though.

    Like you, I like to have printed copies of my work to pore over. I think it's helpful to look at the work in different ways, which helps catch mistakes, errors, etc. Hope your final few weeks of term go well.

    1. Perhaps it was only in the particular episode we analysed (Ballad) that Kurt was portrayed as such.

      I usually work fine on the computer, but I've never worked on something this big and complicated before, so I think the visual element of having a physical print-out plastered to my walls will be very helpful! Thanks for visiting, Jeff! :)

  3. Just please don't go The Great Gatsby on your dialog tags. "Ly" adverbs should be very rare in your prose, practically non-existent in your tags.

    1. This is something I've heard many times before, but they've never bothered me before as a reader (unless there's a string of like 3 of them in a row). I generally try to think of words that aren't adverbs to use, though I've noticed 'quietly' comes up in my dialogue tags a lot. Thanks for visiting, Patrick.

  4. AnonymousMay 19, 2014

    I love the idea of printing out work to edit -- something about it feels less overwhelming, plus it's so much easier on the eyes. Good luck with that, and with the last few weeks of school!

    1. I NEED easier on the eyes... Haha though I would think printing out 85k+ of words to edit would appear more overwhelming that the sight of a tiny scroll-bar. I suppose I'll let you know what my reaction ends up being when it happens. Thanks for visiting, Shari :)


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