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

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.

Fiction in The Entroper

I recently found out about The Entroper from one of my writing calls & contests sources. Still in its genesis, The Entroper is a new online literary journal looking to publish ‘fresh’ and ‘surreal’ works of fiction, poetry, art and photography. I know there are a lot of quality online literary journals and zines out there, so it can be hard to choose what ones might be the best fit for your work, and vice versa, when you’re looking to submit. The thing that intrigued me about The Entroper was its interest in ‘works that play in the in-betweens’. The concept of ‘the in-betweens’ is something I’ve always been fascinated by, and eager to explore, so I’m looking forward to seeing what works The Entroper will showcase in the future.

For now, I’m pleased that they’re featuring my short prose piece ‘Broken Teeth‘, a brief contemplation of dreams, on the website now. I’m among good company over there; go check it out!

‘Job’s Evil Dreams’ – photographic reproduction of a William Blake engraving

Thoughts I’ve Had This Week on Books and Related Things

1.

Sometimes I wonder if the importance I place on literature and its role in society is unmerited, or at least exaggerated. I love books and I love the art of writing, yet when I think about the people and organisations in this world doing truly incredible things–exploring outer space, fighting poverty, curing disease–the bundles of paper and ink I hold in such high regard seem somewhat less dazzling.

However, something I’ve become aware of in the last year is the wickedness of comparison. I’ve done my fair share of “contrasting and comparing” in my academic essay-writing life, and I think it’s time to leave it there. “Comparison is the death of joy,” said someone once (I think it really was Mark Twain, but I’ve learned to never trust quotes on the Internet). Regardless, it’s true. It’s not my role to decide what’s great and important; it’s my role to do the best with what I’ve been given, even if the skill of forging a splendid sentence doesn’t seem that spectacular sometimes.

As is the way life works, just as I was having these doubts, I came across this piece by writer Alberto Manguel in Canadian Magazine Geist, titled Power to the Reader. It’s a well-crafted reflective essay on the power of literature and is definitely worth a read.

In at least one sense, however, all literature is civic action—because it is memory. All literature preserves something that otherwise would die away with the flesh and bones of the writer. Reading is reclaiming the right to this human immortality, because the memory of writing is all-encompassing and limitless.

2.

I came across another quote in my reading this week that made me nod. I was loaned this book, Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast, by someone who lives in the Canadian Gulf Islands, and immediately understood why she would find it such a fun read. It follows the events in and around a fictional bed and breakfast on “one of the islands that populate the Strait of Georgia”, and stars a number of eccentric characters and dozens of literary references. After finding an old shopping list in a used book, one of the establishment’s book-loving owners narrates;

It pleases me so much to find odds and sods that have been left behind in books. This is evidence that books–even bad books–are organic: not just static and moribund repositories for calcifying ruminations. They grow and change as they pass from hand to hand. Here is a sign that readers, as well as writers, share the human need to leave some sign or symbol that we have passed this way. Nothing is more telling of this urge than marginalia: that cramped and often lunatic scribbling that some contentious soul has squeezed up against the sanctioned text.

I loved this musing because, although I don’t have a particularly harsh aversion towards e-readers and e-books, I will always feel a personal loyalty to the physical book, and this is one of the reasons. Just the other night, I found a 2004 receipt for a bag of sugar in my secondhand copy of The Unicorn, by Iris Murdoch. Not an exactly inspiring find, but a little piece of history nonetheless. Sugar was much cheaper eight years ago, would you believe it?

On a sidenote, when I was looking up further information on Bachelor Brothers, I found this cute Fodor’s article on literary-minded hotels, B&Bs and inns.

3.

Contradictory to this loyalty I feel to the physical book, I do have to give a brief congratulations to the humble audiobook. In all my seventeen years of reading, I hadn’t listened to an audiobook until two months ago. I’d been reading a lot of contemporary literary fiction, and had recently committed myself to a Classics book club, so I decided I wanted to find a good hefty fantasy to read on the side for a bit of a breather. A friend had been recommending Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind to me for a long time, so I got myself a copy of the audiobook to put on my phone. Since the beginning of September, it has been keeping me company on my 20-minute walk each morning and afternoon along West 18th Avenue to and from my bus stop.

I didn’t realise how much listening to a story makes you feel more absorbed than reading one until this morning. I was in the middle of a particularly exciting scene in The Name of the Wind, but it’s Saturday and I don’t have to walk to to the bus stop. So I decided to pick up the physical copy of the book I have and take off my reading from there. It immediately felt like I had gone from being within the story, to being above it; from being inside, to looking inside.

I wouldn’t recommend going the audiobook route with just any kind of story, but a first-person narrated adventure like The Name of the Wind lends itself perfectly to such a format. And as fantasy goes, it’s pretty impressive, as big names in the genre such as George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin and Orson Scott Card can testify.

Until my next round of things-I-feel-the-Internet-might-want-to-hear-about,

Kahli

Fiction in Issue #8 of splinterswerve

A new issue of Canadian ezine splinterswerve has launched, featuring a piece of flash fiction I wrote.

splinterswerve describes itself as an e-zine of the arts and encourages work that “gets under the skin of its audience and its creators”. Its name and manifesto are inspired by the Emily Dickinson lines:

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly—and true—
But let a Splinter swerve

The zine has an edgy experimental feel, which isn’t often what I choose to write or read. Composing my flash fiction piece, Oh, Ephemerality, therefore involved playing around with the unfamiliar, in terms of both style and content, and I’m very pleased that the splinterswerve team chose to feature it. It may not be entirely indicative of what I want to do as a writer, but it can be fun to wander down strange paths every now and then and see if we end up liking them.

Check out the issue–there’s a pretty cool collection of creative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography and sound up there, and it’s always great to support independent collectives.