Krampus Crackers

The Christmas project I’m curating and editing for Brisbane indie publisher Tiny Owl Workshop has launched!

We’re looking for Christmas-themed flash fiction inspired by the Krampus myth. Twelve stories, accompanied by six illustrations by artists including Terry Whidborne and Simon Cottee, will be made into sets of ‘Krampus Crackers’, to be distributed in various hot locations around Brisbane this Christmas.

Check out the full submission guidelines here. 

Tiny Owl is constantly coming up with new and creative ways to publish great fiction, and I’m so excited to be involved with this project. Looking forward to seeing what you talented little elves send through.

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Check Out

Things I’ve been up to:

  • Writing a four-part serial story for Steez magazine. Steez is a US-based snow, skate & culture quarterly, and they’re basically too cool for me. But they’re featuring my story ‘Rocky’–about a stolen parrot–over the next four fantastic issues. Check out Part I in Issue 31 here.
  • Reading at June’s ‘Whispers’ literary salon run by the Queensland Writers Centre. If you’ve never been to a Whispers event, GOOOOO. Such a great opportunity to meet and hear from local established and emerging writers. Our theme for June was ‘The Best Thing’ and I read a story about a guy who can talk to birds, which is now seeking a good home. (Side note: all my stories lately are about birds, help).
  • Cooking up an exciting Christmas project with Tiny Owl Workshop. Will be posting more about it in July when submissions open, so keep an eye out. And for God’s sake, become a Tiny Owl Workshop fan if you aren’t already–they’re taking indie publishing to the NEXT LEVEL. They were the masterminds behind the recent napkin stories collections and the Pillow Fight project I was lucky enough to be a part of last year.
  • Trying very very hard to seriously plan a trip with the Book Bus. I won’t even try to explain why this is so important to me. Just check it out for yourself (hint: animals and cool kids).
  • Feeling very glad I didn’t let not loving ‘The Luminaries’ (winner of the 2013 Man Booker prize) deter me from Eleanor Catton altogether. I went out and bought her first novel ‘The Rehearsal’ and wow, that girl can write. Please check it out also.
  • Reading subs for Aurealis magazine. If you’re a fan of quality fantasy, horror & sci-fi, check that out too.

Got enough cool lit stuff to check out now? Tired of me saying ‘check it out?’ Good. I’ll check out.

Love Kahli xo

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SPUN.

If you live in Brisbane and you like stories, you need to know about Yarn.

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NO SILLY, not that kind of yarn. Cats love this Yarn better, seriously. I’m talking about Yarn: stories spun in Brisbane, the bi-monthly storytelling event series held in bars and cafes around our beautiful city. Inspired by the New York-based The Moth series, Yarn features six tellers who get up and tell a true story, live and without notes, to a captive and normally really attractive audience.

This month, I was lucky enough to be one of those six tellers and I enjoyed the whole experience so much I just knew I had to blog about it. This month’s theme was Gods and Monsters and I told a little tale about gargoyles and a man I once met who liked to talk to them. Also featured on the night were stories about evil teachers, monsters who look like gods, gods who look like monsters, rats & emo babes, a cute bat (I think all bats are cute), biblical rains, oh and Hungarian Elvis. The whole thing reminded me that good stories aren’t always make-believe and written on paper, and that there are a lot of people out there who will max out the State Library cafe to hear ordinary people…well, spin a yarn, I guess.

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Look, there I am, Yarnin’ it up. The whole ‘talking in public’ thing was also a little bit nerve-wracking, as 612 ABC Radio Brisbane host Steve Austin decided to highlight when he interviewed Yarn co-producer Ryan Sim, Yarn teller Harlan Ambrose and myself, on the morning of the event. He was totally trying to psych us out–you can have a listen to the segment here.

If you want to stay up to date with Yarn, please follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

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Dogs also love Yarn. WHO DOESN’T LOVE YARN??

Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize Shortlist

Another bit of cool news–my manuscript for young adults, The Button Makers, has been shortlisted for the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize 2013.

This is something I’ve been working on since 2009, so if you’ve talked to me about writing in any capacity over the last four years, you’ve probably heard me mutter a little about it. It’s the only manuscript I’ve ever completed and that initially scared me–what was I meant to do with this thing I had now made? I had an obligation to somehow send it stumbling off into the world, right?

Awesome competitions like the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize give people like me an answer to that daunting question. They give young writers a chance and, if we happen to make it this far, that lovely feeling of validation that people who know what they’re talking about have read your work and liked it. The prize itself, of course, is even more awesome–a potential worldwide publishing contract and full editorial support from the Hot Key team.

Regardless of who takes out the prize, I’m super grateful for the opportunity. It feels like every week I’m discovering new platforms giving emerging writers a shot, and that makes me really excited for the future of publishing.

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Cheeeeeeeers, xo

Top 10 Literary Ladieeees

No Elizabeth Bennetts or Hermione Grangers here. This list isn’t of the best or most admirable female characters I’ve come across in literature. They’re just my favourites; the ones I seriously enjoyed reading about. Some of them are dazzling, some awful, some lovely, some seriously sick–much like, umm, real women in the real world.

This is inspired by me finally getting around to watching Norwegian Wood (2010) and remembering how much I adored Midori Kobayashi (as played by Kiko Mizuhara, pictured below, in the film).

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THE LIST:

1. Miranda Grey – The Collector by John Fowles
2. Midori Kobayashi – Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
3. The Lisbon sisters – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
4. Plum Coyle – Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett
5. Fuka-Eri – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
6. Astrid (and Ingrid) Magnussen – White Oleander by Janet Fitch
7. Julia Wicker – The Magicians series by Lev Grossman
8. Camilla Macaulay – The Secret History by Donna Tartt
9. Cassandra Mortmain – I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
10. Esther Greenwood – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

EDIT: Adding a bonus one, because I just finished reading her story:

11. Taylor Markham – Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I want to take them all out for beers and be enchanted and scared and disgusted and moved and a better person for having seen inside each of their minds.

SLQ Young Writers Award

Cool news – My short story Lingerie has won this year’s State Library of QLD Young Writers Award.

I have to thank the State Library for running the competition. They believe young people should be rewarded for writing stories! What an awesome thing. The runner-up and highly commended stories are fantastic, and I think we’ve all received the encouragement we need now to just keep doing it. You never know when you send a story off into the world how it’s going to be received – if it’s going to get a hug, a pat on the head, or a punch in the face. Mine have received all of the above. This time, I also got a framed certificate, a bit of money, and the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of great writers/people and drink champagne and talk about high school. It’s been wonderful.

I would love to discuss the story with anyone who chooses to read it. I have lots to say about it and what it addresses. If I had to highlight the point of it through one line, it would be this one:

‘It’s okay,’ she tells you. ‘We’ve all been there.’

Similarly, I really love the chorus of Lorde’s new single Team – “We’re on each other’s team”. Yeah, we should be.

Love Kahli

Hey Brisbane,

You’re pretty wonderful.

This isn’t really related to books or writing, but I’ll give myself a free pass in order to briefly pay homage to my home city. I’ve been back for two weeks now and perhaps it’s just fickle ‘absence-makes-the-heart-etc.’ sentimentality, but Brisbane is far more beautiful and promising than I remember. It’s like reuniting with an old friend from high school and discovering she’s grown taller, bolder, more beautiful, and has picked up bits and pieces of passion and intellect from her various world travels that make her intriguing but still familiar. Something like that.

Of course, the fact that I’ve been in holiday mode and essentially a tourist in my own city has helped. Regardless, here’s a quick list of things I’ve very much appreciated experiencing in Brisbane and its surrounds since my return:

– Portside Wharf and the river in general
– The view from Mount Glorious Restaurant and Cafe
– Superman Escape at WarnerBros Movieworld (still the best thrill ride I’ve ever been on)
– The entire menu at Verve on/below Edward St, especially the ciders and risotto
– The warm surf and real sand of Caloundra’s beaches
– Diggers Pies at Albany Creek
– The Australian Dinosaurs and Collectomania (featuring an amazing full hobbit hole miniature) exhibits at the Queensland Museum
– Not the fact that the stunning Regent Theatre picture palace in Queen St is gone, but that at least I can still enjoy a long black in the foyer
– The State Library book shop
– The quality merchandising of so many stores at Westfield Chermside (I know this is a strange one, but the displays are so pretty to look at)
– Bunyaville Conservation Park
– Gorgeous ‘Queenslander’ houses, gum trees, a pretty great rail system, kookaburras on wires, alfresco breakfasts, hot car seats, the beautiful 50c coin… and so on and so forth.

It will surely dull, but for now, Brisbane ILY. It’s good to be home.

Because It’s The Season…

I just finished watching this panel-style interview by The Hollywood Reporter with screenwriters Judd Apatow, Mark Boal, David Magee, Chris Terrio, Michael Haneke, and John Krasinski. Most of these writers are either nominated for Academy Awards themselves or wrote the screenplays for award-nominated films. All of them have some terrific insight to give into the writing process, researching, ethical boundaries when adapting real-life people or events for the screen, and creative influences.

It’s a bit of an awkward interview, given the diversity of the writers and their subject matter, and the abrupt attitude of the moderator, but I found it interesting all the same. I have very minimal formal screenwriting training, but it’s something I’ve been considering lately, seeing as I’m one of those dime-a-dozen people who loves writing and film.

Something I found super interesting was that when the writers are asked, towards the end of the interview, what profession they’d like to have outside of the arts, most of them agreed they’d love to have a rhythmic practical job–like washing dishes, building things, captaining a small ferry–that had a tangible process and result.  I completely agree with this.  I walk past builders working on half-constructed houses almost every morning and feel a weird pang of envy sometimes.  In essence, it’s all creative, really.  Just in very different ways.

As a footnote, Judd Apatow is so great and knows how to completely slice through pretensions, and I’ve decided I love David Magee–he wrote the screenplays for Life of Pi (incredible) and Finding Neverland and has a very jolly face.

If you’re interested in writing, film, creativity, listening to articulate people talk about their passions, or just want to sound really knowledgeable and informed around your friends when the Oscars finally air etc., dedicate 58 minutes of your life to this!

And just in case you were wondering, my favourites for Best Picture so far are Life of Pi and Django Unchained, but I’ve loved all of the nominated films I’ve seen (except for Amour, which I love-hated because it was so stunningly sad and true).

The Real Oz

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m writing something at the moment that deals with Australian mythology and folklore. But what, you may ask, exactly is that?

Last week, we celebrated Australia Day–a national holiday much contested for its choice of date (sometimes referred to as ‘Invasion Day’, etc.). Debates aside, it’s become a day for the lucky majority in our country to celebrate being Australian. Now, I’ll be honest. Growing up, I never felt a vast amount of pride about being Australian. It wasn’t that I was ashamed, or disliked being Australian…it’s just that I didn’t connect with what I understood our national identity to be. Beaches, beers, barbecues, and the bush. Thongs and stubbies, akubra hats and flannelette shirts. Kangaroos and Vegemite, surfboards and football. It was a motley and abrasive collection of attributes that I didn’t really feel was me, or my idea of my country.

Despite growing up in Australia, I was actually born in Canada, and moved over here, to beautiful British Columbia, as soon as I graduated from university. I thought that maybe I could identify with being Canadian more than being Australian. But what I’ve realised, after two years of living in Vancouver, is that it isn’t so much your country that shapes your identity, as it’s your identity that shapes your idea of your country.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I’ve realised now that I do adore Australia, my sunburnt land. But it’s not quite for the reasons a lot of people celebrate on Australia Day (though drinking Little Creatures beer, eating pavlova, and dancing to Crowded House and Jimmy Barnes in a little Australian pub in Vancouver on January 26 was certainly heaps of fun). As I wrote about the other day, I’m a lover of folklore and legend, of mystical beauty, of the magic in nature, and of the fantastic. And even though Australia isn’t commonly seen as a place where these things are abundant, if you’re looking for, it, you’ll find it.

So, we come to the main point of this post (I’m a wandering writer; I apologise). Researching for the project I’m currently working on has made me realise that, although there is information available, there are few extensive archives dedicated to the myth, lore and legend of Australia. So I’ve decided to create a Tumblr of my findings, which you can explore here:

Beneath The Ghostly Gums

I will, of course, be paying tribute to the wonderful Dreamtime stories of Australia’s Indigenous people, as well as the many other fantastic aspects of our country, of which there are, surprisingly, many. I hope it will provide inspiration for some, including myself.

My Friend, Fantasy

With the recent release of the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, and the impending airing of the third season of HBO’s acclaimed Game of Thrones, I feel as if there’s been a renewed interest in the fantasy genre among my social circles as of late. This makes me happy, as I think fantasy sometimes gets a bad wrap among literary minded people.

While studying literature and writing at university, it was a constant source of frustration for me, and some of my peers, that fantasy was only ever begrudgingly touched on, and normally only in very specific discussions about genre or popular fiction. Whether or not any kinds of fantasy stories deserve a place in the ranks of ‘high’ literature is a debate I don’t want to start, nor do I feel I’m qualified to. What I will argue is that fantasy is definitely important.

Fantasy stems from mythology, legend and folklore, all of which gave birth to the the idea of creative storytelling as a whole. The concept of ‘story’ has evolved a lot since its beginnings, but I can’t shake the loyalty I feel to mythology and folklore. Even when I don’t intend to, I find elements of fantasy creeping into my writing. Mythology, particularly that of fantastical creatures, was the first kind of story I fell in love with as a fairy-fascinated child. And what you love as a child often sticks.

Tales Before TolkienI’m in charge of book buying at my work and I’ve recently made sure to have multiple copies of this book, Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy, in stock. It’s a collection of what its editor, Douglas A. Anderson, calls kunstmärchen, a German word meaning ‘literary fairy tales’. These are fairy tales “composed by a single author rather than stories merely recorded from oral traditions.” From The Elves by Ludwig Tiek to The Woman of the Wood by A. Merrit, Tales Before Tolkien collects the stories that sparked the imagination of Tolkien and countless other fantasy writers after him. It’s a great anthology and seems to give more weight to fairy tales and fantasies than the oft-produced collections marketed mainly for children (not that these are less valuable! It’s just nice to see fairy tales being presented from all angles).

It’s been difficult for me, since graduating, to reconcile the seemingly clashing love I have for reading and writing both ‘literary’ and ‘fantasy’ fiction. I’ve been trying for a while to fuse the two together, and have only just managed in the last few months to stick to a novel idea that’s actually gained momentum and may see completion in the near future. Funnily enough, living away from Australia for the last two years has made me appreciate the myth and majesty of my homeland, and I’ve decided to set the story in its native bushland. So we’ll see what comes of it.

I’ve had numerous personal influences in my quest to find, and create, this fusion of fantasy and literature, with one of my favourites being Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series. It’s both wickedly intelligent and a bundle of fun. I had the pleasure of hearing Grossman talk on a panel in 2011, and his love for fantasy, and eagerness to play around with it as much as possible, is evident in person and on paper. I very fervently recommend it.

I’ll continue to chase my unicorn, and will definitely be updating if I have any success. For now, I’ll eagerly anticipate March 31st’s GoTs premiere, and leave you with two interesting observations on the topic of fantasy fiction and mythology from two great men who should know what they’re talking about.

“From the wildness of my heart I cannot exclude the question whether railway-engineers, if they had been brought up on more fantasy, might not have done better with all their abundant means than they commonly do.”

On Fairy-Stories, J. R. R Tolkien himself. (To me, this quote speaks to the idea of fantasy as a stimulus for creativity in general, be it artistic or technical. Keep in mind it was said during the 1930s).

“[Fantasy and sci-fi readers are] the best audience in the world to write for. They’re open-minded and intelligent. They want to think as well as feel, understand as well as dream. Above all, they want to be led into places that no one has ever visited before. It’s a privilege to tell stories to these readers, and an honor when they applaud the tales you tell.”

How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card (another great book I always try to have in stock at work).