as this sudden jump in the dateline suggests,
things got so busy I didn't get time to maintain
an update here. The first week of Clarion South
is over now, I have departed as tutor and that
role has been taken over by eminent WA horror
writer Lee Battersby.
thoroughly enjoyed the week I spent with the Clarionites,
despite the tight schedules and late nights, and
hopefully left them well acclimatised with a few
things to think about during the weeks ahead.
excellent "progressive" dinner hosted
by the Clarionites, which featured good food
and great company
reading (of several nasty sequential shorts
dealing with the end of the world) at Avid Reader
in Westend. This was attended by as many of
the Clarionites as could afford to take time
away from their busy writing schedules, as well
as a few (very few) of the general public. (I
was unable to resist buying The Undead and
Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless,
edited by Richard Greens and K. Silem Mohammad
while I was there -- a book that takes a philosophical
approach to zombie films.) The reading was followed
by indian food at a nearby restaurant and some
very distracting Bollywood MTV clips.
food at a local Asian restaurant, through the
generosity of the Clarion South organisers,
disguised as a "wrap-up" and general
natter session on Friday night.
excellent Saturday night in the Common Room,
playing endless games of "Mafia" --
a mindgame of psychological deceit and mayhem,
hosted largely by Dan Braum -- and eating pizza.
an expression of appreciation, the Clarionites
presented me with an excellent gift: a "Shaun
of the Dead" action figure (see picture below).
Superb, guys, and much appreciated!
had a great time and would like to thank all the
Clarionites for their enthusiasm and good work,
as well as the organisers: Kate, Robert, Heather
and Robert. These latter four stalwarts did a
sterling job of organisation and looked after
me extremely well.
yeah, I should also thank the Australian cricket
team for their typically stunning performances...
I'm back home, oppressed by writing deadlines
and an imminent return to work. I look forward
to seeing everyone again at the Aurealis Award
ceremonies at the end of the month. Hopefully
they will still retain some vestige of their essential
Critiquing Theme: In general, avoid passive
resolutions. Let your protagonist DO SOMETHING,
not just serve as a conduit for information.
woke early and wrote four pages of notes towards
some possible "teaching" from me, should
the opportunity arise. What are the needs of specfic
as a genre? What should we as writers be concentrating
on? What issues trip up beginning writers most
frequently? That sort of thing. As it happened
there was no time for it, not as a discrete entity.
an email telling me a novel manuscript had been
rejected by a big OS publisher, albeit with positive
remarks attached. Bugger.
stories critted today. Confidence levels were
higher and the discussion provoked was wide-ranging,
insightful and raised so many of the issues I
was planning to rave on about in the abstract,
it was best to address them on the spot and in
context. An excellent morning. I felt invigorated.
Even those whose stories were fairly thoroughly
shredded seemed well able to handle it without
undue distress. The critting is incisive, but
still polite. There is clearly some trepidation
in some as to what the future might hold for them.
individual sessions followed. Each student asked
about markets and other industry-related matters,
often showing great interest in my personal (and
particular) career development and "business
plan" (yikes!). OK, I can talk about that.
long day. And tonight there are three stories
to read and evaluate. I watched the 20/20 cricket
match between Australia and Britain on-and-off
while eating and getting around to reading.
back home, Cat is struggling to keep the boys
-- Smersh, Pazuzu and Nemo -- in line. Lots of
feline antics going on. Sounds like they're getting
away with murder!
January 2006 (Part 2)
started the day with a dramatic gesture. It was
about 6:30 am and I stuck some toast in the toaster.
It burnt. (The toaster was set on 4.5 on a scale
of 7. Who would have expected the bread to burn
so thoroughly?) The smoke alarms went off. Screaming
sirens reverberated throughout the building. I
evaculated, feeling very embarrassed. Uni security
came. The fire brigade came. The alarms were turned
off. I went back inside. The room smelt of burnt
toast. Still does, very subtly, hours later. Everyone
was very kind about my impromptu wake-up call.
However, none-too-subtle references to it kept
creeping into the crit-room banter...
morning the first crit session happened: three
stories, producing tentative but insightful comments.
I felt for Laura Goodin, whose story was first
up. The comments and criticisms were balanced
and on the whole reflected a strong interest in
her story, but as first in the spotlight Laura
clearly felt a bit insecure. No need. Everyone
here can write; it's just a matter of exploring
the skills and possibilities for improvement.
was time for some lecturing by me, but I was weary
and it didn't feel like the time. Maybe later.
the afternoon I had 3 individual sessions. By
the evening I was exhausted. I cooked some rice
and mince (eaten with salad) without setting off
any more alarms. Tried to write some of my own
story. Failed. Watched "South Park"
and "Drawn Together" instead.
could anyone do this for six weeks? They are all
arrived in Brisbane on Saturday 6 January, mid-afternoon
and was whisked off to Gecko Central by Jason
Nahrung and his partner Mil, the latter of whom
has an abundance of cute reptilian house-buddies
that she is prone to talk to and cuddle at all
hours of the day and who make subtle clicking,
purring noises that flitter out of the darkness
as you sleep; I was introduced to many of them
and summarily advised to work on a daikaiju story
involving an overgrown representative of the species
in order to celebrate their beauty and splendour.
night we watched Dario Argento's 2001 return-to-giallo
thriller, Sleepless -- which was stylish
and intriguing, if not entirely successful, containing
some great examples of the director's gruesome
mayhem. Jason and Mil were, as always, utterly
generous with their house and their time and,
after a good night's sleep, I was delivered to
the Nathan campus of Griffith University the next
day at about 2:30 and placed in the care of the
Clarion South heavies, Robert Dobson, Kate Eltham,
Heather Gammage and Robert Hoge. Once I'd unloaded
my luggage into the huge tutor's apartment, Heather
took me shopping for food. The trip was uneventful,
except for the fact that we were briefly kidnapped
by aliens -- or at least I assumed so due to the
classic "lost time" event that occurred.
(No, I won't explain. Ask Heather if you want
to know what it all means.)
afternoon there was an information session; then,
at about 6:30, a meet-and-greet BBQ, where I was
introduced to the 17 sacrificial victims ....
um, sorry, students. They seem like a splendid
bunch, even those among them who are friends and
acquaintances. Hopefully their time here will
be fruitful and not too feral.
spare time over the past 48 hours I've managed
to start and half-finish a story (currently titled
"Abandoned") that is supposed to be
submitted, oh, about now. I even received a query
email about it from the editor while I was sitting
writing last night. Hopefully I can complete it
soon, though the Clarion schedule seems rather
full-on. Once things get underway this morning,
I doubt there'll be time to breath.
the year approaches its end, I'm acutely aware
that my stint as a tutor at Clarion
South has just accelerated over the
horizon and is speeding toward me at full tilt.
I feel a little like potential roadkill.
the 5th of January I fly to Brisbane, with my
trusty iBook, a non-digital notepad, assorted
books and a pile of manuscripts from the poor,
unsuspecting students, keen to undertake my role
as the first of this year's brutal overseers.
I've been honing my skills of sarcasm, exploring
the intricacies of harsh inhuman cruelty and developing
a slew of gut-wrenching put-downs, practicing
them all on Pazuzu the cat. Or I would have been,
except that he just bites me on the finger and
gnaws on my knuckles whenever I attempt it. Then
he goes all cute, purrs and licks at the wounds
he's inflicted. I hope the students don't catch
on to this technique.
the record, this year's victims are:
familiar names there. A couple of Americans, I
notice, and Aussies from every State. A personable
and eager bunch, no doubt. Their true colours
will be revealed once the "Lord of the Flies"
re-enactment stage sets in. Still, that'll be
Week 5 or 6, depending on their SQ (Sanity Quotient).
I'll be safely back home. Right now I have to
go read examples of their work. And deal with
a story of my own -- one that is so far resisting
all attempts to become a masterpiece.
clock is ticking, guys. Have a great New Year.
See you soon.
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