HOW TO BE A NEW TALENT: EXTENDED MIX

Another upcoming appearance for your diaries: March 2nd, I’ll be appearing on stage with a fantastic lineup of childrens’ authors as part of the Children’s Book Council of Australia– WA’s A Night With Our Stars event. Alongside the likes of James Foldy, Kylie Howarth, Norman Jorgensen, Teena Raffa-Mulligan and Meg Caddy, I’ll be talking about Magrit, writing, and all things froody and writerly. Here’s a poster, even, saying exactly that:

 

mar17-talk

 

I’ve been amused to note that promotion for the event has referred to me as a “new talent” (although at least they say ‘talent’). It’s a risk you take when you hop genres: not every reader will come with you, and not everybody in the new field will know your track history. Still, after 16 years, it raises a smile, particularly as I’ve just been interviewed by a fellow speculative fiction author for a paper she’s writing on the subject of writing time.

So, for those of you who may be meeting me for the first time due to Magrit, or came in late, or just have some sort of vague slightly-less-than-indifferent interest in how I came to this place, here’ the potted history I provided to my academic friend: Continue reading “HOW TO BE A NEW TALENT: EXTENDED MIX”

SEE YOU IN 2017, FOLKS

Well, my darlings, that’s me for the year. I’m outta here, to spend the next 10 days in a drunken stupor relaxing with my family, my hobbies, my air-conditioning, and my platter of Christmas nibblies.

What do I plan in 2017? A return to writing, with a vengeance. 2016 was a lost year in too many ways, and the loss of my writing was amongst the most painful difficulties I went through. No more, I say.

Continue reading “SEE YOU IN 2017, FOLKS”

GOT ME A FESTIVAL

Last weekend was that most wonderful reminder of why I got into this writing gig: the guest appearance at a Writers Festival. In this instance, I was flown across the country and put up in a hotel in my favourite City of them all, the beautiful city of Brisbane. 


It’s never real until the tag arrives.

I’ve always loved Brisbane, especially the South Bank, where the Festival was located. It’s superbly picturesque, and a thousand blessings to the person who had the imagination and foresight to place so many cultural and artistic nodes within such proximity to each other. The Gallery of Modern Art, State Library, Museum, State Theatre, Griffith Music Observatory, performance bowl and others stand shoulder to shoulder along the sculpted lawns, so that every morning I walked an 800 metre corridor of art between the hotel and the Festival. No surprise that I arrived each day in an uplifted, happy mood, ready to work. 


Art. Just standing there, being all arty and stuff,
like it can just be all… arty. (Sigh) I love Brisbane.

Mind you, the fun had started almost from the moment my heels hit dirt. Checking into the hotel was going swimmingly, until the man serving the couple next to me looked at his screen and went “Oh.” See, the screen had changed colour, without him touching it, and it should’na oughta done that. He pressed a key. It did the same thing. The woman serving me said, “Oh.” The man came over. They looked at her screen. Then they looked at his. I smiled at the nice couple. They smiled at me. The hotel staff pressed buttons. They came back to my screen. The man looked at me, then at the couple, then at me.

“Um,” he said. “You’re not married, are you…..?”

See, when you’re talking literary Battersbys in this country, there’s me, and then there’s the stupendously lovely and talented Katherine Battersby. And we’d never met. Until that moment. And then we discovered that we share the signing tactic of offering kids a choice of coloured pen to sign with. And then I managed to sneak a graffiti note into her pencil case that she didn’t notice for a day and a half, and well, frankly, meeting her would have been reason alone to love the Festival, if I hadn’t also caught up, and had such joyous and happy responses to my lurking presence, with a series of old friends, each of whom treated me like some sort of lost prodigal: meeting Trent Jamieson, Angela Slatter and Kim Wilkins again was like an extended gathering of the clan, and getting to see Kate Eltham– someone Luscious and I genuinely hold very close to our hearts– was like catching up with family.


Slatter and Jamieson. Comics at large.


Sweet, pretty and talented. It’s a Battersby thing. 



To have that, and to meet new friends like Katherine and Yassmin Abdel-Magied; and work with delightful and warm-hearted peers like David Burton, Amie Kaufman and Jaclyn Moriarty, was a visceral and wondrous reminder that my community is a lot wider than I think of it, and that my horizon is a lot broader. But the Festival was about more than just hanging out being a writah-dahling (although I can do that like a fiend). It was about work. 

And work I did. 5 presentations, a panel and a Masterclass across 4 days — which is exactly what I love to do at these events: I’m not one for propping up the bar when I could be geeking. And the volunteers, particularly Green Room co-ordinator Kristy, were some of the loveliest people I’ve ever worked with (to give you an idea, one of them– the entirely-too-sweet Olivia– realised one of my signings was going so long it was beginning to impact upon my arrival time at my next presentation, so ran up to the Green Room and filled a box with lunch so I’d get something to eat). 



Getting my work on.


And the kids I worked with were incredible. Kids are usually pretty damn fearless when it comes to art, much more so than adults, but even so, I was blown away by how many had actually read the book, and how many had taken the time to formulate intelligent and critical questions about the text. Every session began with an introduction speech given by a student, and taking the time to chat to them helped me realise just how much some of these kids were prepared to work just to get there. In my very first session, I was chatting to Michaela, my MC, who came from a school called ‘Chinchilla’. (No spoiling it for the others, those who know where that is).


What’s the name of this thing, again?



“Cool school name,” I said. “Where is that?”
“Four hours away,” she replied.
Four hours. To attend a 9.45am session. Turns out, thee kids had boarded a bus at 5am, just to get to Brisbane in time for my session. They were seeing me, and one other 45-minute session, then trooping back on the bus for another 4 hour journey home.


Brisbane. Where even the seagulls are front-rowers…

Yeah. I’d come from Perth and it had only taken me 90 minutes longer. Faced with that, how can you do anything but work yourself into the ground to try and give these kid something worthwhile for their dedication? It seemed to work: by Friday morning, the Festival’s stock of Magrit had sold out, I was the 3rd highest-selling author for the day, and I’d resorted to signing school hats, casts, programmes and water bottles– frankly, anything the kids pushed across the table at me. What else can you do?


NUMBER THREE, BABY!

After spending so much time entertaining kids, I finished the festival with a 3-hour Masterclass on the subject of short fiction, in which I managed to pack about 4 hours of theory-based ranting and half a dozen writing exercises, and a panel on YA Survivalist fiction for which I was eminently under-qualified, but managed to survive through a combination of smart-arsery and monkey-boy dancing– which, incidentally, is pretty much how I intend to survive the actual apocalypse.

Short Fiction Masterclass: Work, you dogs!

And then it was over. Like a cheesy Hollywood movie– think of me as a fat, hairy Renee Zellweger– my last act was to walk alone through a deserted library, nod goodbye to a single, uninterested security guard, and step out into the failing light and pouring rain of an evening thunderstorm. Seriously, even I could hear the rising strings. I did not, however, break out into song, Brisbane did not need that. Nobody needs that.

When it was sunny, South Bank was a riot of outdoor dance
floors, buskers, and music venues. I took this
picture when it was pissing down: ironically, not one person singing.
So, I miss it. I miss Brisbane. I’d forgotten just how much I loved the City– it’s been several long years since my last visit. And it all came back in such a rush of goodwill and graciousness that I’ve been in an extended funk ever since I returned to Perth and to the day-after-day dreariness of my long-soured day job. So, all I can do is recover my pen, get back to work, and try to make my next visit of the permanent variety.
Tally ho. 

Then there was this 😦

AN ASIDE ON THE SUBJECT OF LIONEL SHRIVER

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a Festival invites a famous author to deliver the keynote speech. The author represents the Festival. There words are the distillation of everything the Festival stands for; every prism through which the public, the media, and the other authors will view each other. Even if that author has a personality so large, so iconic and even inconoclastic, that their personality is a large part of their delivery– still, even then– they will take the audience on a journey of discovery that will leave all present examining their own points of view through the filter of the Festival and the artistic aims for which it stands. Picture Lenny Bruce’s “Nigger, Nigger, Spic” routine. Picture Graham Chapman’s carrot-clad non-speech to the graduation class at Cambridge.

Picture me at the back of Lionel Shriver’s Festival keynote speech, watching Yassmin Abdel-Magied leave in tears, seeing Alexei Sayle’s face turn a peculiar shade of thunder, waiting for this speech of derision, and contempt, and utter entitlement to turn, to twist, to get to Bruce’s self-turned finger and single word, “Yid”.

Picture me walking out, between the doffing of the sombrero and the Q&A, not able to be in the same room anymore, feeling diminished by the act of witnessing a speech that was not only the antithesis of the artistic creed of enlightenment and community, but was a sweeping dismissal of any notion of those concepts.

The internet has since lit up with argument and counter-argument. Yassmin was the first, her blog post subsequently picked up by the Guardian and other markets (Don’t read the comments. Never read the comments). Since then it’s gone viral, with both sides throwing mud, shit, sputum and ancestry at each other in the hope that something will stain.

I am not so affected as others. I can get up any day, any place, and write whatever I like, comforted by the fact that I’m white, male, prosperous, politically unhindered, sexually validated, and my fucking voice doesn’t have to fight anybody because it’ already won. So, this:

There’s appropriation, and then there’s exchange. There’s riding in like Vasquez, and then there’s approaching a culture with respect. Shriver not only claimed that it was not necessary to approach another culture with respect, she claimed it was our right as artists to strip-mine anything we set out eyes on, and if we did a bad job, well, too bad so sad, because at least we had a go. It was unapologetically imperialist thinking at its worst.

Lionel Shriver betrayed the BWF, who asked her to speak on a specific topic, by agreeing to do so, then wilfully and gleefully going off-topic from her first word and leaving the organisation looking complicit with her views. 

She betrayed her fellow artists by using a high-profile moment to throw us under the bus by portraying any who didn’t conform to her extreme views as ignorant weaklings.


And most disgustingly of all, she betrayed those that we artists should be standing beside– the weak, the disenfranchised and the voiceless– by openly telling them that their status was deserved and that their only value was as narrative grist for those better placed.

It was a loathsome piece of punching down by someone intelligent enough to be better. We should all be better.
So that was a shitty way to end a blog post.
Have a picture of the curve of the sky to cheer you up. 

OOOOOHHHHHH, BOOGIE BOOGIE BOOGIE….

Tomorrow night, Luscious and I will be up at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, scoffing curry puffs and drinking hot chocolate — and incidentally, reading fresh new works — as part of the KSP’s Spooky Stories Night. It’s a fundraiser for the KSPs residency program, and both Lyn and I have been shortlisted in their ghost story competition. I’ll be reading my entry, The House of Jack’s Girls, and I will say that it’s one of the harder-edged horror stories I’ve written in a little while: if you’ve fond memories of my Aurealis-award winner Pater Familias from a few years back, well, it’s in that sort of territory– the kids will be sent to another room while I’m reading….

Winners of the competition will be announced, there’ a dress-up competition, warm food, marshmallows for toasting over a fire, and if you’ve got a scary story to tell, a chance to scare the bejeebus out of everyone in the best possible setting.

Tickets are cheap as chips, and it’s shaping up to be a fun old night, so come on down. You can find more details here.

MAGRIT GETS SOME BRAG

How’s this for pretty? It’s a brag sheet developed by Walker Books to remind you all that all the cool kids in town like Magrit and you should definitely get yourself a copy so everyone will think you’re cool, too.

I mean, really, you really should.

In other news, I’ve been interviewed by the delightful Meri Fatin for writingWA’s online program Cover to Cover. It’ll be available on their YouTube channel from the 20th April, and here’s me looking all grown up and respectable while I pimp it:

Here’s the official poster:

Tune in from the 20th for half an hour of me talking all things Magrit, children’s writing, and how difficult it is getting through an entire novel without dropping an F-bomb…

LET THE CRIMES BEGIN!

I don’t know what you’ll be doing this weekend, but I will be enjoying myself strangling, poisoning, murderlising and generally getting up to no good with an absolute plethora of like-minded ne’er-do-wells at the annual CrimeScene WA crime writing convention, held at the Rydges Hotel in sunny Perff.

Apart from presentations by myself and Luscious, guest speakers include the likes of Stephen Dedman, Simon Lewis, Tony Cavanaugh, Hadyn Green and this year’s guests of honour, Michael Robotham and Tansy Rayner Roberts, dressed up in her why-does-she-even-bother-when-we-all-know-it’s-Tansy-anyaway-and-love-her-for-who-she-is,-pet alter ego pants, Livia Day.

If you haven’t got yourself a ticket already then you’re a fool of a Took, so get your arse into gear and buy one at the website. If you’re mad keen to hear what I have to say on any given subject, I’ll be up front being famous at the following sessions:

Saturday, 11am-12pm
Supporting Luscious as she presents her panel Women in Crime

Saturday 2.30-3.30pm
All on my todd for a writing workshop, On Writing Settings

Sunday, 9-10am
In company with Stephen Dedman, as we discuss The Writing Process and What You Should be Doing Once You are Published

You can view the full programme here. Get it up ya!

BUSY LEE IS BUSILY

Okay, let’s catch up:

It’s been a mad period for both appearances and writing recently. Having parted company with my previous agent over concerns regards a lack of communication, I’ve spent the last couple of week editing Father Muerte & the Divine in order to send it to an agent who caught me on the hop by requesting to see the full manuscript earlier than expected: a good sign, I hope, but let’s never line-edit and input 200+ pages of a manuscript in such short order again….

Working so hard on that project threw my timing out for September, which meant that I’ve spent this weekend blasting my way through The Daughters of John Anglicus, a 5000 word short story I need to deliver by the end of the month. I’ve always enjoyed writing short stories in compressed time frame: there’s something about an impending deadline that’s good for stoking the crucible of creation, but it’s no damn good for family time: I own Luscious and the kids some serious attention over the coming weekends to repay their indulgence. This week will be taken up with editing and getting it to the market, and then I’ll finally have a chance to draw breath and look at what to do next: with Nanowrimo looming in November I may consider revisiting the 15 000 words I’ve completed on Cirque and pushing that towards the 50K I think it’ll take to visit that YA project.

I’ve also been oot and aboot doing the talking-head-type thing: in August I revisited my old stomping grounds at Curtin University to deliver my annual guest lecture, and Book Week saw me taking to the stage at Churchlands Senior High School to talk about my work, idea generation and the art of entering short story competitions. And when I say ‘take to the stage’ I wasn’t kidding: have a gander at the theatre the school boasts.

No pressure, right? It was a great day, to be honest: I spoke to three groups of incredibly engaged, fun kids, and discovered that one group had been using Luscious’ story The Hanging Tree as part of their studies, so I was able to tickle her sense of history when I got home. 
And I’ve not been the only one: Master 9 has been King of the Kids in the last fortnight, hanging out with famous author types and generally being windswept and interesting. Back on the 9th he was an invited guest at a public talk by his literary hero, Andy Griffiths, after cool frood and AHWA buddy Mark Smith-Briggs organised a personal invitation in the wake of a bad bout of Rumination Syndrome. Master 9 had been one place in line from hearing Griffiths speak at last year’s Perth Writers Festival, only for a couple of kids to cut in and leave him at the head of the queue when the door closed. To make it up to him we bought a copy of Griffiths’ The 39 Story Treehouse, which he devoured in double quick time, then went out and bought for himself The 13 Story Treehouse and The 26 Story Treehouse, reading all three to the point of destruction. Until that point, he’d enjoyed reading (more on this in a moment) but hadn’t been a reader. Those novels changed him. A five minute meeting alone with Griffiths, as well as a signed gift of the new The 52 Story Treehouse just about counts as the gift of the century: it hasn’t left his bedside since, and has been read, as of today, no less than 5 times.
How is that grin?

A signed copy. Boy Geek Heaven!

A boy and his hero. A wonderful moment to witness.
Now, Griffiths’ ever expanding Treehouse may be the series that gave Master 9 his obsessive love of reading, but the book that taught him how to read was Norman Jorgensen and James Foley’s The Last Viking. Indeed, the reason he was at last year’s Writers Festival at all was to meet James as he launched his book In the Lion. So imagine his insane delight when the day after meeting Griffiths, we took him to the State Library for the launch of Jorgensen and Foley’s newest, The Last Viking Returns, and he got to meet Norman in person for the first time, as well as catch up with James again, both of whom treated him like an old friend. Norman and James are just about the nicest guys in the West, and the way they both took time out of their being-famous duties to catch up with him was absolutely heart-warming to see. And was my boy bouncing like a crazy thing? What do you reckon? The paper Viking helmet he coloured and cut out on the night is up on his wall, and the book itself hasn’t left his bedside table since he got home: he averages one session every two days of lying back on his bed, thumbing through it at his leisure. 
Viking Boyz!

Master 9 meets the lovely Norman Jorgensen. 
That is the smile of a very content and happy young man.
His three literary heroes, in 24 hours. Not a bad two days’ work 🙂
And then there’s Crimescene WA, the crime writing convention Luscious and I will be attending in three weeks’ time. I’ll be presenting a workshop on writing settings, and assisting Lyn deliver a presentation on strong women in crime fiction, which has required watching a metric fuckload of Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Girl With Dragon Tattoos in Fiery Ants Nest, and, in the coming weeks, Number One Ladies Detective Agency episodes, as well as trying to plough through the accompanying novels as best we can. Enjoyable, time-consuming, work, but frankly, it beats what I do during the working week. 
So that’s where I’ve been: racing around, desperately trying to keep myself immersed in the writing world that means an increasing amount to me as my work life becomes less and less satisfying, and Real Life ™ presents an unending series of complications. There’s been a family funeral in there, and money worries, and yet more issue with maintaining my crumbling house, but the truth is, it’s the writing life that keeps my psyche above water these days (apart from my relationship with Luscious, who is the only person I can turn to at any moment, sure in the knowledge of pure and instant understanding). Keeping in touch with the writing world is a constant struggle, but it’s the one I want to make.
Who’d have a peaceful life?