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.

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