Story City

I’ve just wrapped up my recent project, working as a writer for Story City– an interactive choose-your-own adventure story app.

Story City was started by the wonderful Emily Craven as a way of celebrating the cities we live and play in through digital locative storytelling. The stories you’ll find on the app are like old school Give Yourself Goosebumps/Choose Your Own Adventure branching narratives. However, instead of simply flipping to a numbered page to make your next move, you physically walk to various locations in metropolitan and suburban areas of Brisbane to unlock the next scene. We incorporated artworks, architecture, landmarks and landscapes into our stories to create an immersive and reader-driven story experience.

I chose to set my story, ‘The Curse of the Bramble Spirit’, in my home suburb of Sandgate. As Sandgate is a coastal suburb with a lot of rich history and heritage architecture, it felt only natural for me to write a ghost story, focusing on a mysterious ghost ship sailing around Bramble Bay.

This project was a huge challenge, but so rewarding. One of my writing weaknesses has always been structuring and planning, but you simply can’t write a branching narrative without a lot of forethought. So I learnt the value in sketching and re-sketching dozens of story maps. The other great thing about working on Story City was collaborating with other creatives. As well as two fellow writers, I also got to work with local artist Clare Neal and musician/sound designer Schae to make these stories multi-sensory.

If you’re looking for something fun to do, or a way to see Brisbane and its suburbs through different eyes, download the Story City app and start adventuring! All the stories are family-friendly, but they’re definitely not just for kids. And if you make it to Sandgate and catch sight of the Bramble Spirit, let me know how your journey goes!

clare

(Art by Clare Neal)

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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.

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.