I’ve been busy this week, not only in chipping away at the draft of City of Rubber Stamps, but also with some other writerly events. Firstly, my review of David Whish-Wilson’s excellent Perth crime novel Old Scores is up at Westerly’s Editor’s Desk. My wife and I had the pleasure of attending the novel’s launch at the suitably noirish Buffalo Club in Fremantle on Wednesday night. There I caught up not only with David but with a cadre of Perth crime fiction aficionados and writers like Ron Elliot, Bruce Russell, Michelle Michau-Crawford and Ian Reid. Old Scores is a rip-roaring trip through eighties Perth and highly recommended. You can read more about it and even a sample chapter over at the Fremantle Press website.
Tonight I’m off to my second launch for the week, this one at the Centre for Stories in Northbridge. It’s launch day for Writing the Dream from Serenity Press, which is a book of non-fiction pieces on writing and publishing by 25 mostly WA authors, including the likes of Juliet Marillier, Natasha Lester and Louise Allan. If you are keen on meeting the authors and picking up a signed copy, then you’ll need to head up to the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Greenmount on Sunday 27th November for the second launch date. I’d love to attend this myself, but as I’ll be on my honeymoon in Tasmania it’d be a long way to travel. Writing the Dream is an outstanding and highly practical ‘how to’ guide to writing and publishing as well as being a source of inspiration for aspiring writers. It’s available now from any number of online outlets such as Amazon and Booktopia.
I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the Avon Valley Readers and Writers Festival since its inception in 2012, and I’m pleased to report that the 2016 iteration was the best yet. For the first time, the AVRWF stretched across York, Northam and Toodyay, with each Wheatbelt town spending a day in the spotlight. The festival kicked off for me on Friday night at Barclay Books in York with Portland Jones reading from her recently-released novel Seeing the Elephant, accompanied by William Yeoman on guitar. Portland read beautifully and I was sure to pick up a signed copy of her book before the night was through. I also met Rashida Murphy, whose novel The Historian’s Daughter was also recently released to widespread acclaim.
On Saturday, I missed out on seeing Ian Reid’s session on writing historical fiction due to my kids playing in a hockey grand final in Beverley (they lost but were proud to have made it that far), but I scurried back to Northam in time for Ron Elliot’s workshop on scriptwriting. Ron won’t remember this, but he’s actually taught me scriptwriting before, way back in 2000 at Curtin University. After lunch, I attended sessions by the very witty Brigid Lowry (who reminds me more than a little of another Kiwi import in Juliet Marillier, not least because of her accent) and Sara Foster. Saturday ended with a bang at the Riverside Hotel, literally a two minute walk from my front door, for the customary dinner and author panel. The panel was facilitated by Kelli McCluskey and included Tabetha Beggs, Ron Elliot, Corina Martin, myself and one other person whose name temporarily escapes me. Everyone got a chance to say their piece, including members of the audience (many of them esteemed festival guests) and a good time was had.
On Sunday the show decamped to blustery Toodyay where I first attended a session by Tabetha Beggs (Chairperson of KSP) and Belinda Hermawan (President of FAWWA) on why WA authors and readers should band together in the face of government funding cuts and other threats. Next up was a fascinating session by Sam Carmody and Brooke Davis on their writing friendship and journeys to publication and acclaim. After lunch we heard from Michelle Michau-Crawford, winner of the Elizabeth Jolley Award and author of the excellent Leaving Elvis and Other Stories regarding a sense of place in fiction. Finally it was time for my own session on writing short fiction and entering relevant competitions, which seemed to pass by without calamity.
Then it was 4pm and everyone was saying goodbye. It was a privilege to have been a part of this year’s Avon Valley Readers and Writers Festival, which almost literally brought a bevy of talented WA authors to my doorstep. Thanks very much to Angi McCluskey for coordinating the whole shebang and to the rest of the hardworking library employees for allowing the whole thing to happen. I can only hope that next year’s AVRWF will be even bigger and better than the 2016 edition.
Last weekend (12-14th April) I had the pleasure of participating in the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre ‘Festival of the Asian-Australian Voice’. The event kicked off on Friday evening with an Open Mic event at Darlington Hall, just around the corner from KSP. My job was to collect one of our special guests, YA writer and comedian Oliver Phommavanh, (whose titles include Thai-riffic! and a whole swag of others) from KSP and bring him the short distance to Darlington Hall. How hard could it be, right? A few wrong turns later we arrived safely, and then we were treated to readings not only from Oliver but a host of other talented Open Mic-ers, not least among them the WA poet Jackson, whose performance was amazing. The event was hosted by up-and-comer Jake Dennis, who sings astonishingly well in addition to his numerous other talents. One of the other readers was the second of our special guests for this festival, Lily Chan. Lily is the author of the memoir Toyo and she’s a talented author in her own right. We also had readings from Maj Monologue winner Nadine Browne and a host of others. I’m not an Open Mic-er myself but I was really enthused by the talent on display. ‘Twas a good night.
Saturday saw me hosting Oliver at KSP as he presented his workshop ‘Humour: It’s Not That Ha Ha Hard.’ Under normal circumstances I have an aversion to ACTUAL WRITING EXERCISES which involve me ACTUALLY WRITING WHEN TOLD TO but Oliver effortlessly cut through all that. He’s a teacher himself and an old hand on the workshop circuit, and I guess he’s used to mollycoddling recalcitrants like me. Flicking over the notes I made in my journal now, I find to my surprise that I took no less than five whole pages of words of wisdom! Oliver was chock full of acronyms: MAP (Material, Audience and Performer); THREES (Target, Hostility, Realism, Exaggeration, Emotion, Surprise!) and the three Ps (Profession, Personal and Private). The guy knows his stuff. More than that, he can actually teach. I’m sure we all left Oliver’s workshop more knowledgeable about how to write comedy than when we started. I know I did.
Then it was time to get ready for the main event, the literary dinner at the Cadaceus Club at Gloucester Park. Before that I had the pleasure of meeting the delightful Benjamin Law, author of The Family Law and Gaysia. At the dinner itself, my wife Georgie and I were lucky enough to be seated with KSP’s Chairperson Renee Hammond, Oliver and Benjamin. That was where the action was, let me assure you. Oliver, Benjamin and I spoke for what must have been hours on topics such as Amazon’s recent acquisition of Goodreads and a whole host of other Secret Writers’ Business. I was delighted to buy a signed copy for The Family Law from Benjamin, and he was delighted for me to buy one too for it meant he could afford to buy himself a drink (he’d misplaced his wallet somewhere). After his commanding performance in his half-hour keynote address, people were queuing up to buy books from Benjamin, presumably allaying any concerns he may have had about his ongoing beverage needs. I don’t use that word ‘commanding’ lightly here. Benjamin spoke passionately and articulately (hard to do at the same time) about what it was like to grow up Asian-Australian on Pauline Hanson’s stronghold Sunshine Coast. I was sad, finally, to have to leave.
All in all, it was a great weekend. I met a whole swag of talented writers, something that I find just keeps happening when you hang out at KSP. I didn’t make it to the Sunday events (I was starting my Emerging Writer-in-Residency gig at KSP the next day) but I heard that went well too. There was a livestream of the event so I had a look at keynote speaker Yan Zhang explaining the subject of her PhD. Thanks not only to the writers mentioned above, but also to KSP’s Management Committee ably led by Co-ordinator Shannon Coyle. I can’t wait to see what we’re planning for next year.