The fourth annual Avon Valley Readers and Writers Festival is upon us, on the weekend of 9-11th September. This year the Festival will stretch across the Wheatbelt towns of York, Northam and Toodyay. This promises to be the biggest and best AVRWF yet with dozens of notable authors in attendance. The full program is online here.
I’ll be presenting a session on writing short fiction on Sunday 11th from 3pm at Toodyay Public Library. This session will cover some mechanics of story construction, tips on entering short fiction competitions, and I’ll be reading ‘Frank’ from the newly-minted Award Winning Australian Writing 2016, which was launched just last week in Melbourne. Here’s a link to my session on facebook.
I’m really looking forward to the festival and in particular meeting WA authors like Sam Carmody, Brooke Davis and Michelle Michau-Crawford, whose books I have read and very much enjoyed recently. I’m also looking forward to the dinner and author forum on Saturday night at the Riverside Hotel, where I’ll be appearing alongside Ron Elliot, Fleur McDonald, Tabetha Beggs and Kelli McCluskey.
In April 2014, I spent two glorious weeks living and working in Mattie Furphy House at the Fellowship of Australian Writers (Western Australia). During this time, I spent many hours revising my literary crime novel Thirsty Work, a draft of which had previously been written, in part, while undertaking a similar residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in 2013. My two other main roles were mentoring FAWWA members and conducting a three hour workshop on novel writing. I found Mattie Furphy House to be an inspirational place in which to work, not only the house itself but the tranquil location in which it is set, Allen Park.
My workshop on Saturday 19th April, Writing Your Novel: How To Stick It Out and Get It Done, provided me with an opportunity to teach beginning and emerging writers numerous technical concepts relating to novel writing, as well as providing an idea of the overall journey that writing a novel entails an author to undertake. Twelve participants attended the workshop and they proved to be a very enthusiastic group. I went half an hour over the scheduled time in order to complete my presentation, and almost all of the participants stayed to the end and provided positive feedback upon its completion. I’m hoping that FAWWA will get me back later in the year to run my second workshop, Breaking into Publishing.
One of my roles as FAWWA Writer-in-Residence was to offer mentoring to a FAWWA member. Danka Scholtz von Lorentz was chosen for this purpose, and prior to the beginning of the residency I was given the opportunity to read twenty pages of Danka’s work in progress. Subsequently, I met Danka at Mattie Furphy House and I spent more than two hours working with her on her manuscript. I have encouraged Danka to keep in contact with me so that I can further monitor her progress in the months ahead.
At the beginning of my residency, I set myself a target of forty hours revision on Thirsty Work, which I am pleased to say I was able to exceed. This meant that I would be spending around three hours per day working on the novel. Thirsty Work had already been revised to some extent prior to this, but those forty hours enabled me to significantly tighten and polish the novel as a whole, reducing the overall length from 75,000 to 66,000 words in the process. This residency came at a critical time for me in that I am preparing to submit Thirsty Work to publishers, and I am pleased to report that I consider my revision work on the novel to have been a success.
Over the course of my two weeks at Mattie Furphy House, I was acutely aware of the privilege that had been bestowed on me by FAWWA to work in such a beautiful, even awe-inspiring environment. The house is not only an excellent work space for writers itself, but it is a beautiful house and historical artefact in its own right. Early in my residency, I realised that there was a walk trail directly behind Mattie Furphy House leading up to a lookout which offers spectacular views of the nearby ocean. Each day I walked this route to Swanbourne Beach and on a couple of occasions I treated myself to breakfast at the Naked Fig Café. I also found the local Kirkwood Deli particularly useful and I found their macchiato not only to be excellent but extremely cheap as well. I took the opportunity to travel to nearby Fremantle frequently, something I rarely get to do from my hometown of York. I sat editing in Allen Park many times and it is certainly true that the peaceful ambience of the place is extremely beneficial for writers. Not only has my time at FAWWA provided a valuable workspace for me, it has also been an amazing life experience that I will cherish for a long time.
AVON Valley author Guy Salvidge is launching two new books at Northam Library on Saturday, September 28.
It is set partly in the Avon Valley of the future.
“It took me two years to write this one between the school holidays,” Mr Salvidge said.
“My influences are various science fiction and crime authors including Philip K Dick and Raymond Chandler.”
His other book is The Tobacco-stained Sky, a collection of post-apocalyptic noir, future crime fiction short stories from various authors in Japan, India and the United States.
It has been published by a small American publisher.
Earlier this year, Mr Salvidge was a writer in residence at the KSP writer’s centre in Greenmount. In that time, he started writing a new novel called Dan, A Cautionary Tale.
“I have a view to get it published next year,” Mr Salvidge said.
Mr Salvidge will also be appearing at the Avon Valley writer’s festival this weekend proving various workshops.
Some more great news: my Twilight-Zone themed story “A Void” has been selected by competition judge Angela Meyer as one of six stories shortlisted for the 2013 Carmel Bird Award. “A Void” is my third story set in the universe of Andrez Bergen’s Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, following on from “The Dying Rain” (published in The Tobacco-Stained Sky) and “Blue Swirls (published in Tincture Journal #1). The prize for being shortlisted is inclusion in the upcoming short fiction anthology The Great Unknown, edited by Angela Meyer and published by Spineless Wonders. So I’m very pleased!
It’s pretty self explanatory, but it’s only open to Australian residents.
[Guy Salvidge talks about his sequel to Yellowcake Springs, Yellowcake Summer, with David Reiter.]
DR: Yellowcake Summer is the sequel to your first IP title,Yellowcake Springs. Did you plan to write a sequel from the outset, or did it occur to you after you’d written the first book?
GS: I originally intended Yellowcake Springs to be a standalone title, but I found that after completing it the main characters were still kicking around in my head, wanting another chance. In particular, I had a clear idea of how I wanted Jeremy to develop from the ‘second string’ character that he is in the first novel to one of the major players in Yellowcake Summer.Furthermore, as the ‘Belt region of the Yellowcake universe is based on my own home in the Avon Valley, I found myself inspired by some specific settings, such as those that became Ley Farm and The Rusty Swan.
DR: Did the writing of the first book make it easier to get into the second? Did you learn anything from the reviews of Yellowcake Springs?
GS: Yellowcake Springs was certainly a breakthrough novel for me and it gave me confidence to start working on the sequel soon after publication. A number of people expressed their empathy for Rion’s plight in particular, so I made sure to keep him as the ‘moral centre’ of the sequel. Reviews of Yellowcake Springs were almost uniformly positive so I decided to stick to pretty much the same formula for Yellowcake Summer. The books can probably be seen as two halves of one longer, and now completed, story.
DR: The dystopian novel has been a popular sub-genre for some time. How much of this has to do with our fascination with doomsday stories and our uncertainty about the future?
GS: Dystopias are very much in vogue these days and it isn’t hard to see why. Fears about climate change, terrorism, food and water security and humanitarian crises are played out in dystopian stories of various kinds. It’s our way as writers and readers of expressing our discontent with the present course our civilisation seems to be taking. Growing up, I was fascinated with nuclear war and after-the-bomb scenarios, but it wasn’t until I watched An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 that I realised that climate change would be to my generation what nuclear war had been to that of my parents.
DR: Both novels are set in Western Australia. What strategies did you adopt to make their themes more universal?
GS: In my twenties I was leery of writing about Australian settings. My first published novel, The Kingdom of Four Rivers, was set hundreds of years into the future in a jungle-infested China, for example. On reflection, however, I realised that a certain verisimilitude would always be missing in constructing such settings, so I decided to set Yellowcake Springs in a world I personally knew. It was around this time that I also began to read a lot of Southern US fiction, which is almost always imbued with a strong sense of place and stubborn regionality. I realised then that I ought to be proud of my own regionality myself. Insofar as the themes in these or any novels can be said to be universal, I felt that the plight of my characters would be reasonably relatable to a non-Australian audience.
DR: Your ‘day job’ is teaching. Are your colleagues and students aware of your other life, and, if so, how do they respond to Guy Salvidge, the author?
GS: They certainly are! Some of my students like to remind me about how much they can find out about me on Google, which seems to be as accurate a measure of fame as any these days. As I teach English for a living, I find that the fact that I actively write stories gives me a certain credibility with students too. Some of my colleagues are quite enthusiastic about my work and a number of them have supported me over the years in various ways. But, for staff and students alike, my primary role as author is in disabusing them of the notion that I am (or very soon will be) a millionaire. I’m not in a position to retire from teaching just yet!