I’ll be here all week (and next)

Posts

Last night was the opening night of Not Much To Tell You at The Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts. It was a wonderful start to the season with a really great crowd and a good feeling in the room. I’m looking forward to doing it all again tonight, and then Friday, and then Saturday, and then Wednesday-to-Saturday next week! Tickets are still available from metroarts.com.au, or you can buy at the door tonight.

Here is a picture of my super hi-tech set:

I also had the pleasure of being interviewed by Sally Browne for yesterday’s Courier Mail:

‘Scuse me while I go laminate my copy. #sorrynotsorry

Not Much To Tell You is a part of the program for the most poetic weekend in Brisbane’s calendar – the Queensland Poetry Festival! QPF has its opening night tomorrow at the Judith Wright Centre, to usher in the greatest poetry festival in the southern hemisphere! LET’S HEAR IT FOR POETRY.

I’ll be giving my top picks for QPF on Metro Arts’ Instagram, so keep an eye out for that. Or you could just pick up a QPF program and throw a dart at literally any part of it, and I guarantee it will be good.

Advertisements

Something to tell you

Posts

I’m happy to say that I’ll be presenting a two-week season of Not Much To Tell You at Brisbane’s Metro Arts!

It is wonderful to be presenting the performance at the very home where it was nurtured and developed. I was selected for Metro Arts’ Creative Development program during their July-December block last year, and they were warmly supportive and critically helpful in developing my first solo show. Not Much To Tell You had its first season in Perth earlier this year, co-presented by Fringe World and The Blue Room Theatre. Since then, some people have been asking “Are we ever going to see it in Brisbane?” Yep! This one’s for you, Brisbabes.

This show was developed with financial support from the awesome people who contributed to my Pozible campaign last year. I want to thank you all again: Ashley, Mark Cottman-Fields, Rae White, Amy Fletcher, David Vincent Smith, Kate Zahnleiter, Sam Vaughn, Larry Cox, Alexis Malinkowski, Sandy Torode, Tom Hogan, and many more anonymous supporters.

It was nice of Metro Arts to have me back even though this is what I do when they leave me alone in their performance space:

Not Much To Tell You opens on 27 August and runs through the Queensland Poetry Festival, until 6 September. Tickets go on sale soon – more info at the Metro Arts website.

KP_NMTTY

Blog hop hooray, ho, hey, ho

Posts

Twitter friend and author Chris White has invited me to take part in the #MyWritingProcess blog hop. It’s kind of the blog equivalent of a chain letter, and I get to chat to myself about writing. How it works: you get an invitation from a writer-blogger to answer four questions about your writing process, then pass the torch along by asking other writer-bloggers to answer four questions about themselves. I’m looking forward to peeking into the lives of other writers and hopefully finding out that they, too, make death noises into the keyboard.

I’ve been given the chance to participate by Chris White, whose work spans, among others, two of my favourite genres: magical realism and science fiction. He blogs at chriswhitewrites, and you should definitely check out his tweets because he curates a pretty great Twitter feed. I always learn stuff.

OK. On to my answers to the blog hop questions:

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing my next solo show, the format of which is inspired by the lecture as performance. I’m a big fan of TED Talks and the like; I’ve seen a few comedy and poetry performances that used slides as props to great effect. I’m still in the early stages of the concept, but I’ve found that applying for grants to develop the show has really helped me focus my ideas. Limitations usually help me be more creative, so if I have to create the work by a deadline or fit it to specifications (i.e. touring on a budget, justifying it to funding panels) it is easier to put my head down and write.

2. How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?

Hmm, this is a tough question, mostly because I’m not sure what my genre is. I mostly write for performance, sometimes page poetry, and very infrequently opinion articles. I guess my work differs from that of other writers in my genre(s) because my collection of interests is going to be different to theirs. I admire the scientific process, reason, and logic; I try to employ them when I’m writing a poem. (I use my work to explore social and political issues; it’s my way of trying to figure out the world. It’s important to me that I can justify each choice I make in my poetry.) When I’m trying to put a feeling into words, I pretend I’m a forensic scientist looking for the most accurate words (I wanted to be a scientist or a poet when I grew up, so this is a nice compromise). I’ve definitely stopped performing some poems because new information showed me that their internal logic wasn’t sound. Got to make sure all the ideas add up.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Because I can’t write anything else? Haha. Through a process of elimination, I have found that writing poetry suits: (a) my perfectionist fear of lengthy projects (novels are my Everest); (b) my passion for language and aesthetics; and (c) my love for an audience. I’ve found that performing poetry suspends the audience’s reality for a while and they’ll let me get away with heaps more earnest flights of fancy than if I was telling a joke or a story.

I write opinion when I can, because getting paid for my opinions is pretty much 15-year-old-me’s dream job, and damn, I owe her a lot (she discovered Harry Potter for us).

4. What’s your writing process, and how does it work?

I’ve been writing and dating all my writing/ideas in journals since I was 10. I often write down ideas for conceits, or a few lines, to go back to them later. They usually marinate in my journal for a few months, maybe a couple years. Then I go back to them and smash out the rest. The super-personal stuff takes the longest to marinate. I get out all the self-indulgent, cliched stuff in my journal, then rewrite it with fresh eyes. Edit, edit, edit. When I think I’ve got the shape of the thing, it goes into a Word doc on my computer for more editing.

I started writing for theatre last year, and that process has required more formal organisation. I’ve started using Scrivener. After I’ve thought of a show idea, I spend a few months pumping research and thoughts into a Scriv doc, setting myself inquiry questions. I do a lot of background reading. I think of my solo shows as research projects, and the final work is my thesis … Except, the kind of thesis where I don’t have to show any of my research. And I can be totally subjective. And I can revise it every time I perform. OK so they’re the funnest research projects in the world.

 

That’s it for my blog post! Thanks for sitting through me nerding out about my own writing, haha. Next week, please check out the ruminations of these fine writer-bloggers …

1. Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson

kwpoet.blogspot.com.au

Kate Wilson lives in Bunbury, Western Australia, where she writes and performs poetry that’s designed to entertain and inspire. Kate started writing poetry at the age of 7 while sitting on her garage roof. At the end of her Speech and Drama studies in 2008, Kate entered and won her first poetry slam, and has kept writing and performing ever since. Kate has appeared at dozens of events and festivals in WA, sharing her words and teaching poetry, voice and performance workshops.

 

2. Zenobia Frost

zenobiafrost.wordpress.com

Zenobia FrostZenobia Frost is a Brisbane-based writer and editor whose debut poetry collection, The Voyage, was released in 2009. Her work has been published in The Guardian Australia, Southerly, The Lifted Brow, Overland, Going Down Swinging, Voiceworks and QWeekend Magazine. She is fond of graveyards, incisive verse, theatre and tea.

Finding Eygpt in the weirdest places

Posts

Ever lose track of where you are? You’re walking along, face in the breeze, and the matter of which city you’re in becomes momentarily academic? This happens to me kind of frequently. It’s a bit worrying, actually – when I can’t remember if I’m in Perth (where I spent most of my life), or in Brisbane, the place I’ve made my home. They both feel like home to me now. Sometimes I think I’m going to turn a corner and see my friend Alexis peering through the window of a vintage clothing shop, or run into Daryl going for a coffee. But they live 4336km away (I looked it up) (this is a factually accurate blog).

One time, I actually did see a Perth amigo on George Street, while I was on the phone at a bus stop. She was strolling with a colleague, in Brisbane for the day on business. But I didn’t know that. So, at the bus stop, next to a Pie Face, while my bus squealed into the stop next to me, I had a very delicate meltdown. “Oi!!” I shrieked at her, pinwheeling my arms, while yelling down the phone, “HOLD ON, DAD,” and instructing the bus driver to “WAIT JUST A MINUTE! HOLY SHIT”. Internally, my mind was all jigsawed: “WHERE ARE WE? EAST OR WEST? I WAS SO SURE THIS WAS BRISBANE: THERE’S SO MANY BATS!!”

In case you’re wondering, yes, it probably was my proudest moment.

Brisbane must really be ‘Australia’s New World City’, because I come geographically unstuck here quite a bit. (Side note about the ‘New World City’ thing – are we talking Pocahontas New World? Is Brisbane claiming Queensland as some kind of wild frontier? I guess it pretty much is, I mean, Bob Katter, right? Or is this a freshly minted World City? Hasn’t Brisbane been in the World for a while? I guess if we’re continuing with the Queensland satire, then the answer is ‘no’. Nya ha ha.) Brisbane City reminds me of a lot of other cities (I guess metropolitan life’ll do that to you).

I wrote a poem about this kind of feeling, and the lovely editorial staff at The Suburban Review published it: ‘There’s Cairo In This City’ appears in Volume II of their gorgeous zine. My copy came yesterday!

Zine mail is the best kind of mail (after Harry Potter merch).

Zine mail is the best kind of mail (after Harry Potter merch).

I’ve also recorded myself reading it out, because yolo. It’s up on my SoundCloud (I had to put something on there eventually).

I had a great experience working with the editors at The Suburban Review – and they pay for print submissions! – so I can recommend submitting to them if you’re a writer/artist/photographer. Between figuring out which city you’re in, of course (is it just me??).

Newsletter time!

Posts

Last year I started a monthly newsletter about storytelling and performance poetry things in Brisbane. I decided to start it in answer to people who often come up to me at gigs and ask what I do, and how they can find out about more events.

(Click here to read the latest newsletter.)

The January edition is out, and it includes a charming photo of my latest crop of Yarn storytelling workshoppers. (They were a pretty charming group.)

I’ll be pretty flat-out over the next few weeks as I fly to Perth for Not Much To Tell You‘s first fringe festival appearance/interstate premiere. But I’ll be tweeting and instagramming the whole way, and I’ll try to update this ol’ blog as often as possible.

Please subscribe to my newsletter if you’d like to keep getting updates on how to get involved with storytelling and performance poetry in Brisbane. People are always saying “I love events like this but I don’t know how to find them” WELL HERE YA GO. 🙂

It’s JAMuary – as in JAM-PACKED WITH STORYTELLING GOODNESS. (I’m sorry.)

 

Some take up knitting … I took up feminism

Posts

This year, I took up feminism. You gotta have a hobby, right? I almost took up knitting, but it seemed too complicated.

I never did an Honours year at the end of my Bachelor’s degree, and I’ve often regretted it. The rigour of immersing yourself in and thoroughly researching a single topic appeals to me. I like the idea of becoming an expert in something. Anything. Like the year I got into twentieth-century dystopic fiction and found a way to turn any conversation into a song of praise for Margaret Atwood. That passion reached its fever pitch when I was retweeted by Atwood herself. But after reading my fourth Atwood novel in a row, I needed a break. I needed to think about something else for a while. I love diving headfirst into a subject, but eventually you have to surface (usually with a stack of library books and mild insomnia).

Deadset ledge.

Margaret Atwood. Deadset ledge.

My enthusiasm for Atwood and dystopic novels has not lessened (the third book in the MaddAddam trilogy is next on my reading list, squee!), but my focus did shift. I stopped making lists of academic essays to read on the topic of “environmentalism and dystopia”. I now only rave about Oryx and Crake if someone else brings up the topic first. (Usually.) I think of my head as being like a stirred-up fishbowl, and these passions and interests eventually settle into the sediment, like a silty silvery lining on my brain. But the achievement-oriented part of me wanted to do something productive with all this research and analysis; an equivalent of the Honours project I’d never attempted. I wanted to produce a longform work. I decided to write a stage show.

I had a vague idea of the themes I wanted to tackle in this show. One of those themes was the way women talk about their own experiences. This interest came out of many revealing conversations with women who privately shared their stories with me, who had suffered trauma and yet stayed silent about it. Their stories had a common thread: They had stayed silent for so long because they didn’t know how to talk about it. They’d had no framework within which to articulate their experience, even to themselves. It made me wonder how many women were not sharing their stories; how many were still silent; and why we have trouble talking about surviving abuse.

This line of inquiry led me to the subject in which I have immersed myself this year: Feminism. Learning feminism became my Research Project of ’13. I had always resonated with the women’s rights movement and supported the movement to close the gender gap. As a woman myself, I couldn’t help but appreciate the rights afforded to me by first- and second-wave feminism. But my knowledge of the movement was pretty patchy. I’d always considered myself a feminist, but now I was concerned that I’d been using that word without really understanding it. And so, the great Research Project began.

For months, I’ve been nerding hard on all things gender politics, and it has been a wild ride. The countless books and articles and blog posts, read and re-read and hashed out with friends. I’ve attended feminist panels and performed at a poetry night about gender. I wrote a blog post about women in comedy that briefly went viral. I even joined a feminist radio show, wandering in as an intrigued guest and staying on as an intrigued co-host. For an hour every Sunday I talk about sexism, which means for many hours each week I have to think about sexism, in preparation for Sunday. It isn’t easy. Sexism is not a fun topic. I’ve had weeks where I just couldn’t read another article about spousal abuse or rape culture. There has been many a daytime weep. I can’t be the repository for all knowledge on the topic of oppressive patriarchal structures and be a happy person. For my own wellbeing, I’ve had to limit my research reading in this area.

As uncomfortable as it’s been, all of this inquiry has fed into my creative practice, helping me process the complex issues I wanted to address in my stage show. Another silty layer of knowledge has been stirred into my brainbowl. And now that the sediment is settling, I feel less flurried about feminism. I absolutely still feel strongly that there is much to do before we reach gender equality; now that I’ve clearly seen the prevalence of casual and structural sexism in our culture, I don’t think I can un-see it. But I’m reaching that point in my Research Project arc when the book titles on my bedroom floor start to change – less Is There Anything Good About Men? (spoiler alert: there is!) and more Holiday in Cambodia. I’ll be taking refuge in travel memoirs and short story collections for a while, recovering from this intense period of learning.

Now is the “synthesising phase”, as they say in education. Now I take all of the higher-order processing I’ve been doing around feminism and spit out something productive. Or at least, that’s the idea. My project is culminating in this stage show, which is nearing completion. All of my research and personal journey from the past year won’t necessarily be explicitly included in the show, but it has informed the shape it’s taking. I think my writing is richer for it. I’ve added as much nutritional sediment as I can to my internal environment – now it’s time to chuck a fish in and see if it lives.

Not Much To Tell You. (Photo by Erica Wheadon.)

Not Much To Tell You. (Photo by Erica Wheadon.)

If you’re in Brisbane and you’d like to see what I’ve come up with, I’ll be mounting an experimental version of my stage show at Metro Arts’ Friday Night: November (1 November 2013). Would love to see you there!

An open letter to teenaged writers (and the people who teach them)

Posts, Selected Posts

“How do we avoid all the teen angst?”

I heard this question from a high school teacher last week, while sitting on a panel at the National Young Writers’ Festival. The panel was entitled ‘What Makes A Story’ and it had an audience of mostly teenaged writers. The teacher was asking us how they could keep their students from handing in creative writing filled with angsty teenage emotion.

What was meant to be a discussion about “how to write well” had turned into “how to write like you’re not a teenager”. I had to call shenanigans on this.

The thing is, I don’t buy into this idea of “teen angst”. I don’t think angst is arbitrated by your age.

From 'Perks of Being A Wallflower'. Credit: Summit

From ‘Perks of Being A Wallflower’ / Summit

“Teen angst” is a term generally used to dismiss the fears and anxieties of people aged thirteen to twenty. It suggests that their emotional reactions are overblown and ridiculous, less valid than the feelings of people outside this age bracket. Among writers, “teen angst” refers to writing produced by teenagers that is characteristically overly descriptive, unsubtle and rife with cliché. In other words, poor writing.

For older writers, “teen angst” is shorthand for the unsophisticated prose we wrote at school. It is a way of laughing into our sleeves at the earnest poetry we wrote when we were fifteen and totally in love. I don’t use the word “totally” to mock the stereotypical syntax of teenagers. I mean totally in love. When I was seventeen and I heard the warm voice of a young man who would torture my dreams for years, every part of me fell into love. There was nothing else left.

Was I angsty? Yes. Did I write pages of embarrassing poetry about it? You bet I did. But should I have stopped myself from writing this “teen angst”, stopped exploring my feelings and experiences, and instead written as if I were some imagined other person?

What would have been the point?

If I tried to ignore the bent of my feelings and write as if I were someone else, to please someone else, I would inevitably write something mundane and stupid. In fact, I often write mundane and stupid things even when I am being most true to myself. But at least then I have spent time with the subjects that most occupy my thoughts; I may have exorcised some demons. If you’re going to write something mundane and stupid, it might as well be on the subject of something you care about.

Credit: Rubin Starset / Flickr

Credit: Rubin Starset / Flickr

I understand that high school English teachers are sick of reading extended metaphors comparing love to a roller-coaster. I couldn’t be more sympathetic. And since they mainly read writing submitted by teenagers, they can be excused for thinking this lack of sophistication comes down to age. But listen, I attend poetry open mic’s. It is not just teenagers. When you’ve heard fifty-year-old men read out long, meandering poems about their heart being “torn apart” (“in the dark”, “from the start”), you tend to stop thinking angst ends with youth.

I’m not claiming that the teens are not a turbulent time, or that fourteen-year-olds are not more prone to emotional highs and lows than most other age groups. I’m saying, let’s stop shaming them for this. They are reacting to a legitimately difficult period of life. When I look back on my teens and my “crazy emotions”, I now notice that those years coincided with a crazy amount of new responsibilities and pressures, coupled with being trapped in environments I wasn’t allowed to leave (school, home). As soon as I graduated high school and had the freedom to choose where I spent most of my time, and with whom, it’s amazing how quickly I perked up. To paraphrase Steven Winterburn: before you diagnose your student with “teen angst”, first make sure that they’re not just actually having a really hard time. And please, let’s stop rolling our eyes at teenagers for being melancholy. People in younger age groups are more likely to experience depression and anxiety disorders. It really is life-or-death for them.

Anway, if your teenaged students are submitting poor writing, it is probably because they are inexperienced writers. It’s not because they are writing about teenage experiences, or because their youth renders them senseless. Writers who’ve had many decades to work on their craft are more likely to write better. But someone who picks up a pen to write their first poem or story about heartbreak at fifty-three is just as likely to write something terrible as a fifteen-year-old. Prodigies aside, we all need to work at writing, no matter our age.

So, teenaged writers, it’s not about how old you are. It’s about how much you’ve read, how much you’ve informed yourself, how many hours you’ve put into writing. Older people have had more time to learn their craft, but that doesn’t mean they’ve used it. You have as many hours in the day as everyone else. If you want to be a great writer, work at it. And don’t let anyone tell you that your feelings are just “teen angst”. Your feelings aren’t clichéd; your experiences aren’t clichéd. Your metaphors, however, might be.

 

The panel was a part of NYWF’s Younger Young Writers Program, organised by teacher/tour-de-force Geoff Orton.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time, YouthBeyondBlue has information and advice for getting through it.

Snaps from the Kaleidoscope Tightrope

Posts

I’ve just come from a bloody awesome night of poetry, music and spoken word, and like a total nerd I decided to immediately blog about it. I was lucky enough to be one of the artists performing at the thing – called the Kaleidoscope Tightrope (which is fiendishly hard to spell) – but I also took a few snaps during the rest of the show. Here they are.

Props to Scott Sneddon aka Darkwing Dubs aka Scotty aka What actually is your name now? for organising such a fun and varied night of performance. Highlights included Matt Hsu jamming on his trumpet from atop a table, Lucy Fox and Laura Trenery showing us their mad tatts, and James Halloran singing a vaudeville opera.

Thanks to Metro Arts for the venue and Brisbane Festival for being awesome. If you haven’t been to any Brisbane Festival events yet, it’s on until the 28th September. Get involved! Metro Arts will be hosting another poetry night next Wednesday, as part of their Basement Late Night series, curated by another differently excellent local poet. Seriously there is so much to do in this city. I can’t keep up.

Sleep time. Good night.

PS. I’ve only just started using a DSLR (embarrassingly, seeing I work at a camera shop), and this was my first foray into low-light shooting. So, if any photographers out there have any tips/comments on how I went, my comment section is open!

Twelve glorious hours

Posts, Selected Posts

So, last Wednesday was epic. It kicked off with a seven-hour film shoot, and ended with a glorious night of storytelling.

The film shoot was with Brisbane filmmaker Ezz Wheadon, who I’d met only a couple of weeks earlier at Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business morning tea. All Ezz and I knew was that we were both passionate about working on a creative film project. But on the shoot, we discovered we had more in common – GEEKDOM. Ezz’s surname corroborates her geek credentials. We talked Whedonverse and Wil Wheaton and all things in-between. This lady is cool. (Oh and her daughter is, too.)

Here's one of the stills Ms Wheadon took on the shoot. I heart you, Roost Coffee!

Here’s one of the stills Ms Wheadon took on the shoot. I heart you, Roost Coffee!

The film shoot was a grand adventure indeed; we traipsed through beautiful Kelvin Grove sharehouses and funky cafes and the alleyways of West End. (Ezz did a nice write-up of our adventure, you can see what Ezz said about it here.) As I set up for one of the shots, I had delicious flashbacks to my halcyon days as a film intern in Denver, Colorado, many years ago. (I was a nineteen-year-old backpacker and a family friend’s film company took me in; I worked as an unpaid intern at the company and babysat the director’s small daughter, and in return they let me live in their attic for a month. It was pretty awesome … Except for the ghost. But that’s another story.) On location, it was my job to rearrange ferns, adjust furniture, hold up reflectors and get releases signed. I loved it. It should have been boring, but it wasn’t. The company I was interning for was a not-for-profit, dedicated to representing marginalised voices in the Denver community. They were motivated by passion. It was an inspiration.

I felt that same inspiration yesterday, working with Ezz. I find it intrinsically satisfying to work on a project that is motivated by passion. Even the moments that might seem dull if you were working at a job you didn’t like – those times when the lights won’t change, or you have to do the washing up – are a pleasure. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

That’s how I felt last Wednesday night, at Yarn: Man vs Wild. It was the latest in the series of storytelling nights held by Yarn: Stories Spun In Brisbane. We were in a new venue this time – Black Bear Lodge, in the Valley. And what a night it was! The place was wall-to-wall with storytelling enthusiasts. There was even a Greens candidate telling a story in amongst the wilderness-themed decorations, even though she admitted to not being the outdoorsy type (“Worst Green ever – I haven’t even been to Tasmania”). I have to say, I love the audiences at storytelling nights. I’ve always found them to be warm and generous, supporting those poor bastards up on the stage with the shaky hands. Yarn brings this kind of a crowd in, and as an event it is going from strength to strength.

After a day and night like this, I felt a buoyancy that I couldn’t properly express. So I wrote a tweet:

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.32.51 PM

“Home, exhausted, after a 12 hour day – every minute of which was spent on work I’m wildly, madly passionate about. This is. Just.”

Yep. That’s all I can say.

… But I’ll say one more thing! You can see the first video in the poetry series I filmed with Ezz Wheadon, as it is now live on my YouTube channel! More to come. Stay tuned.