Monthly Archives: July 2017

Julie Koh: #Robinpedia

Standard

Julie Koh has been described as ‘the brightest new star in Australia’s literary galaxy’ by Louise Swinn. Oh God, I can already tell that this is one of those entries that will have me feeling so inadequate by the time I finish the research that I end up crying in the shower whilst drinking… again. Deep breath. She studied Politics and Law at the University of Sydney but quit corporate law to peruse writing.

Spineless Wonders published her first story collection, Capital Misfits, in 2015. This same collection was also picked up by Math Paper Press in 2016 and published with illustrations by Matt Huynh. Portable Curiosities was also published in 2016, through UQP.

Portable Curiosities, Julie Koh’s first full length collection, was met with critical praise. It was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, the Queensland Literary Awards, the Steel Rudd Award, New South Wales Premiere Literary Awards, the UTS Glenda Adams Award, to list just a few…. These are happy tears of congratulations I’m crying, not envy.

Julie Koh’s fiction can be hard to pin down, so is at times classified as Weird Fiction as it it quite literary but with speculative elements. This has surprised her as she felt that her writing was quite normal. It is set around real issues and sure there’s the odd god or ghost, but hey that’s just life. People in Julie Koh’s family on her mother’s side are quite spiritual and can see ghosts.

 

On her down time she is also one of the founding members of Kanganoulipo, a super secret writing sect tasked with shaking up the landscape of Australian literature. Former Robinpedia entrant, Jane Rawson, is also part of this top secret collective. So keep your eyes, including the third one, peeled. 

Find Julie Koh’s website here.

Tweet with Julie Koh here.

Like Julie Koh on Facebook here.

If there is any information that you have that you believe would enhance this entry, please leave it in the comment section. 

Read more about Robinpedia here

Read about my experience of being a dyslexic writer here.

Read about my opinion on author branding here.

Buy my shit here.


Advertisements

Dianne Blacklock: #Robinpedia

Standard

In a Robinpedia first, I’m adding the mother of an already existing Robinpediaed entity. Please set your hands to applause for Australian author Dianne Blacklock. 

Dianne Blacklock is a Sydney writer and has published 9 books through Pan Macmillan. She writes about people and relationships. She also hosts “A Conversation With…” authors series on her blog. Authors such as Liane Moriarty and the Robinpediaed Lisa Heidke have been interviewed in this series.

If you’re a slush pile swimmer in need of inspiration look no further than Dianne Blacklock. At 39 her unsolicited manuscript was fished out of the bog of eternal slush at Pan Macmillan. A year later she had a book contract. It can happen. You can break out of the slush. It’s too late for me, but just keep swimming. SAVE YOURSELVES!

I was lucky enough to have Dianne Blacklock as a special guest star at Emily Maguire’s Year of the Novel through the New South Wales Writers’ Centre. She is incredibly generous with sharing her words of wisdom with aspiring writers. Dianne Blacklock emphasised that whatever approach you wanted to take to writing you would find experts who vehemently disagreed with it…. BUT you would also find experts that agreed with you, so just do what works for you. If it works, it’s right.
Apparently when not writing Dianne Blacklock has a love of cleaning and inventing chores. And she’s got enough to go around. You get a chore, you get a chore, everybody gets a chore…. So…. like…. don’t visit when she’s not writing?
Find Dianne Blacklock’s website here.

Face Dianne Blacklock here.

Tweet with Dianne Blacklock here.

Read Dianne Blacklock’s blog here.

If you have any info that you believe would enhance this entry, please leave it in the comment section.

Read more about Robinpedia here

Read about my thoughts on being a dyslexic writer here.

Read about my thoughts on author branding here.

Buy my shit here.


Confessions of a Mad Mooer: A Quick Update on Writing 

Standard

Those of you who also follow me on Twitter already know that I haven’t been feeling my best. I’m definitely not at my lowest but changing medications to try to get on top of my migraines and RLS has left me feeling subpar.
I know that I’m not that bad because when I get time to sit down and write it still comes readily. Even if I feel like total shit, the moment I open the Scrivener file my fingers start typing. When I am at my lowest I simply can’t access the things needed for writing. I’m just too empty. 
On Friday I was quite teary. My medication had been increased the day before but it takes a couple of weeks before the increase works. And I thought that I was too upset and jittery to write. I looked at the clock and I only had thirty minutes until I had to pick my daughter up from school. This made me more upset. I’d gone a whole day without writing AND I’d had time to do it. It wasn’t because of being too busy with the kids, I just hadn’t. I felt hopeless and like a failure.
And then it hit me, my POV character hits a point where she is utterly shattered and feels like she’s an utter failure. I could write that scene. I use Scrivener so I can write out of order and easily slip it into place. And so I did just that. I opened up my Scrivener file for my WIP and just typed and cried. I did this for 25 minutes. At the end I had 950 words. That’s fast for me. Normally for novel writing it’s around 500 words in that time.
So good news, I’m still no where near my worst and feel much lighter. And maybe that idea might help somebody else? Maybe you’ve been holding off writing because you feel utterly shit? Try writing a scene where the POV character feels the same. They’ll be feeling broken for a different reason than you, but hopefully you can still use the shared feeling to get to the heart of the scene.
Good luck and happy writing.

Read about my thoughts on being a dyslexic writer here.
Read about my thoughts on author branding here.
Buy my shit here.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 

Alison Green: #Robinpedia

Standard

Alison Green was named one of Westpac and Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence in 2016. She is the CEO and co-founder of Pantera Press. She is on the Board of Directors for New South Wales Writers’ Centre, and sits on the Australian Publishers Association Trade Committee and the Australian Publishers Association’s Independent Publishers Committee. On top of that she has the most impressive balayage in the entire Australian publishing industry. Yes, that includes writers and cover designers.

Pantera Press are often thought of as the caring publishers because they take their unsolicited manuscripts seriously. In fact each submission is read by five commissioning editors on their iPads to ensure it has the best chance of reaching an editor to champion it. This approach has led to rumours that every editor, no matter how short the hair, has balayage. They are so engrossed in their reading that they often don’t move for hours. This has resulted in hairdressers just keeping on processing their hair, so as to not waste a seat, until they leave ultimately with balayage, the most time consuming process.

Cementing the caring company ethos Alison Green’s Pantera Press not only donates to The Footpath Library, Mission Australia, Misfit Aid, and Let’s Read, but also encourage their readers to get involved where possible. Links and information can be found on their website.

However, it’s not all fun, philanthropy and great hair under the leadership of Alison Green. She can wield her power with an iron fist… wrapped around a table tennis bat. In fact, team meetings often end in a rousing game of table tennis, or as I like to think of them, challenge matches. There can be only one.

Table tennis is life!

After scouring the Pantera Press Facebook page I have uncovered an important fact. Once you sign with Pantera Press Alison Green gives you a bottle of Moet
Additional note, Alison Green is also employer of James Read who wrote How to Lose a Publisher in 10 Days. I literally laughed out loud at part 5…. And no more drinking and over sharing at writer functions…. although I do have a book out about time literally spent in a psychiatric hospital…. pen name? In all seriousness, don’t kill James’ love fern. Because otherwise he has to explain the death to Alison whilst playing table tennis and getting balayage. 

Find Alison Green on Twitter here.

Submit to the will of the Panterian Empire here.

Read the Pantera Press blog here.

Check out Pantera on Facebook here.
If you have additional information that you believe could improve this entry, please leave it in the comment section.

Typical day in the office at Pantera Press.

Read more about Robinpedia here

New South Wales Writers’ Centre Speculative Fiction Festival 2017

Standard

Content warning: I’m dyslexic, deal with it.

Every second year New South Wales Writers’ Centre hosts a Speculative Fiction Festival to much whooping and wooting from Spec Fic fans. This was its third run and it has sold out every single time.
For those wondering what Spec Fic is our glorious convenor, Cat Sparks, described is as ‘the literature of what the fuck.’ Which sums it up pretty nicely. In a nutshell Spec Fic is an umbrella term that covers Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi. Wikipedia says-

Speculative fiction is an umbrella genreencompassing narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements.[1] This includes the genres science fiction, fantasy,horror and supernatural fiction, as well as their combinations.[2] The broader usage of the term is attributed to Robert Heinlein, who referenced it in 1947 in an editorial essay, although there are prior mentions of speculative fiction or its variant “speculative literature”.

As you can see it covers quite a bit. All that we fear about the future of technology, politics, and human nature, is crystallised and taken to its extreme in Speculative Fiction.

But you don’t care about dry definitions, you want to know who said what. So I’ll give a quick summary of the panels I saw.

The first panel was New Gods and Monsters. The chair was Robert Hood, and the panelists were MARIA LEWISAlan BaxterJames Bradley and….. dramatic pause….. suspense building….. so much suspense…….. Margo Lanagan. In the warm up Robert Hood says that the origins of superheroes lies in mythology. Maria Lewis adds that the split nature of heroes with one identity by day and another by night lies with the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Margo Lanagan mentions Saints as having super powers and everybody giggles. James Bradley mentions that Sherlock Holmes is a great precursor to superheroes with his almost super human intelligence. And the modern day superhero is essentially Houdini in a circus costume….. Pretty sure he means more like the contortionist than a clown.

James Bradley then takes the excitement down a notch and mentions that comics have a lot to do with the economics of the time. That they are a business and want to make money. Maria Lewis tries to lighten the mood and says it’s also about need. The world is pretty scary right now and we need heroes to step up. 

Robert Hood mentions that in the 80s Stan Lee made the heroes much more relatable to people by being diverse and having real human flaws. James Bradley agrees that MARVEL became more fun and people loved it. Maria Lewis mentions how not only the content was diverse but the writing approach became so. Comic book authors writing movies, authors writing comics. People were becoming format fluid writers. James Bradley says that the diversification is good but to be wary because it is economically motivated. Major corporations own these comics and they’re doing it because it sells and they can get more money from it. So be happy because diversity and representation matters… but hold off on praising these corporations too much because they’re doing it for money not the goodness of their own hearts. 
Onto Urban Fantasy Noir chaired by Marlee Jane Ward with Alan Baxter, Angela Slatter and Maria Lewis. Alan Baxter says he likes Urban Fantasy because he loves genre mashing. He loves mongrel dogs and mongrel genres. He takes themes from big fat epics and puts them into the real world. Maria Lewis says it just makes sense to combine ancient beings with modern days settings because everybody knows a Xerxes. Sure, who hasn’t felt so angry that they’ve ordered the water to be whipped for disobedience?

Angela Slatter says that Urban Fantasy is about tears. Fractures in your life being echoed by tears in the veil between reality and beyond. It is about that point where everything is ripped so it lends itself to crime and the supernatural as the logical two extensions.

Alan Baxter drops that Urban Fantasy is dead. Maria Lewis says not only is Urban Fantasy dead, whatever supernatural creature you are writing about is the wrong one. If you’re writing about werewolves you’ll be told by publishers that it’s Vampire Season. If you’re writing about fairies it’ll be Troll Season. And if you’re writing about mermen, you’ll need to self publish. Maria Lewis will be self publishing From the Deep in September. 

Next I saw Myth, Legend and Fairy Tale chaired by Thoraiya Dyer with Cathy CraigieRebecca-Anne Do Rozario, Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix. Cathy Craigie opens by talking about oral story traditions and how they’re organic and moving like their own growing being. They can change depending on the storyteller and the place. Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario says that with the European folk tales they veer from oral to written to oral and back again. Snaking back and fourth as they develop.

Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario says she loves research and does research for its own sake. Margo Lanagan says she can get lost in research. Cathy Craigie says research allows her to expand on stories…. Garth Nix says he doesn’t so much actively research as passively. He just naturally reads widely to be inspired and learns ew things. He rarely comes up with an idea and has to go research it. He doesn’t go looking for stuff, stuff comes and finds him.

Thoraiya Dyer asks the panelists if when recasting old tales should authors stick to the now accepted happy endings if they want commercial success. Margo Lanagan says if they wanted commercial success they shouldn’t become writers so just give it the ending it needs. 
And then we had lunch. I got a couple of books signed.

Weird Fiction chaired by Kaaron Warren with Julie KohJane Rawson, and Rose Michael is what I attended next. Full disclosure, I spent much of this session watching Julie Koh’s hand movements. They were hypnotic. At one stage she ran her fingers over the arm of her white leather chair so softly and so serenely that I could almost feel it raise tingling goosebumps up my neck and into my hair line.

Julie Koh opened up the dialogue by stating that she always felt that she was normal but people kept saying that she was not. And being placed in Weird Fiction has simply reinforced this message. She considered herself literary. Rose Michael says that she too believed that she was a straight literary writer and only found out that she was not when her first rejection indicated that the publisher wasn’t taking on literary fiction with speculative elements. Now she has embraced the weird and uses speculative elements to resolve impasses in her literary manuscripts. It has given her another bag of tricks to use.

Jane Rawson just wanted to write stuff people loved and people seemed to love literary. But she can’t help but write Weird Fiction because life is weird. Julie Koh casually mentions that people in her family have the third eye and can see ghosts and gods. No big D. So it’s not really weird it’s just stuff some people can’t see. Mebe the literary people are the weird ones because they can only see part of the world?

Rose Michael says – Reality is a conspiracy theory that we’ve all signed up for.

Jane Rawson says that there is a definite market for Weird Fiction in Australia but there might not be so many publishers that will commission it. Julie Koh admits she’s weirded out by how narrow the definition is of what Australians read because they really read much wider.

As for advice on craft, Kaaron Warren recommends a little nap in the afternoon to awaken the ideas. Jane Rawson says fall out of bed in the morning and start writing while your brain is still floating between awake and asleep. I knew napping was important.

Also, Jane Rawson and Julie Koh are part of a collective known as Kanganoulipo that are shaking up Australian literature. I’m quietly confident that they meet in an underground lair and have a secret handshake. So keep your eyes open for their work.

For the Kaffeeklatsches I saw Margo Lanagan. 

She is also a fan of writing in the morning, but that’s because she likes to write before her inner critic wakes up and judges her. 

Deadlines don’t work for her. They don’t motivate her to work better and quicker. It comes when it comes.

She doesn’t write and edit beginning to end, more so in chunks.

Margo Lanagan recommends that you get your words to the point that even if they’re read in a monotone they still have power.
The final session of the day was The Road to Publication chaired by Rose Michael with Alison GreenLex HirstJoel Naoum, Garth Nix and Angela Slatter. The main takeaways for me were that Garth Nix believes that hybrid authors are the way of the future. Alison Green says the writing is a craft but publishing is a business. Lex Hirst says that she loves Dystopian Fiction because they are the perfect balance of escapism and instruction manual. Angela Slatter urges everyone to write to the publishers guidelines and not write a cover letter explaining why you haven’t. Penguin is currently running a Literary Prize that has a $20k advance for the winner. Competition closes October 20.
And that was the formal part over. It was followed by wine and chatting. I shall now leave you with some quotes from the day that I have imgflipped onto pictures. Enjoy.

Read up about being a dyslexic writer here.

Let Me Tell You How To Live

Standard

I like giving people advice. It’s ironic, because I am in no way, shape or form qualified to give guidance to anyone, and can barely run my own life. Which leaves me with a dilemma, I want to tell people what to do but have nobody to tell what to do. Well, dear readers, I have come up with a nifty solution, if the advice wanting won’t come to Robin, then Robin will go to the advice wanting. I have just given my following list on twitter a quick trawl for questions and shall give my unwanted and unwarranted advice. Please feel free to give me money and accolades for this unwanted service.

Rachel, may I call you Rachel? This is a tricky one, and I’m glad you came to me for advice because I would not want you to make the wrong decision here. On the surface it seems like you’ve got a lot of great options. You can either drink champagne as your friends sleep OR imbibe 1/3 of a bottle of champagne. It is a tricky one. My gut feeling is that you should probably drink, alone, in the dark,  whilst your friends sleep… maybe drunk dial a couple of exes, send a family member an email with all the times they let you down as a child, BUT leave a gulp full so that you can later pour that onto one of your friend’s crotchal area and then literally cry with laughter because people will think they wet their pants. That being said  imbibing also looks like a good option, so it’s really a line call. Good luck, and do let me know how it all panned out.

Great question Kirsty, thanks for coming here to ask specifically me about this. In short, no it is not a coincidence. But why keep it in short if I can go longer? Whilst you were away your seat became haunted. I know that’s scary, but that’s the reality you’re living with now, so deal with it. The ghost is willing to share with you but not for long stretches of time. As such they are shooting pain into your sacroiliac joint any time you sit in its chair for longer than twenty minutes. I’d suggest that you make sure you stand up every twenty minutes to ensure the ghost knows you aren’t trying to steal its chair. I would also recommend seeing a physio for the damage it has already inflicted upon you. Furthermore, exercise your pelvic floor. But whatever you do, do not take a smudge stick to your chair. It will only enrage the ghost and your life will LITERALLY turn into the movie Poltergeist. Hope that helps, please let me know how things work out for you.

Tania, firstly, thank you for coming to me with this question. It’s a deeply personal issue and takes a lot of courage to go public with this. I commend you for your bravery.  Secondly, I think of cats playing tiny, cat-sized pianos. I don’t think of cats inside pianos or cat organs being used to string regular pianos. Yup, definitely cats playing pianos. I think there’s something in that for all of us. Thanks so much for your question, and please let me know if my words helped.

If you would like advice, or have a friend you’d like me to advise, please don’t hesitate to tweet your question to me at @RobinElizabee.

Buy my shit here.