Saturday, 31 May 2014


What is important, if you want to write...
  • Commercial – as an example, think 'big tv profile + cook book'
  • Fiction – of 100% importance is the writer's voice AND being able to tell a really good story.
  • Nonfiction – you need to have authority, and be able to write in an engaging way.
You have to be worth the investment…and what helps publishers make that decision includes:

Have you already published?
Can an editor see a potential relationship, based on 1-2 books over the next 5 years?
Have you proved you are reliable, have drive and really, really, really want it.

The audience breathed, ‘Yes, yes, YES!’

Then we heard about slush piles….and we heard the apology ‘if your work is currently in a slush pile’.

And then some Q & A around how to tell people they are not very good…

We got to compare ourselves to the wishlists of editors, who are looking for writers that are – new, young, unique, contemporary,  who can produce words that are clean, on count and on time … and that are creatively brilliant.

I was reminded of Martin Amis’s observation that a writer only has something like 4 score and ten years in them, their best work is most probably in their 20s and some people hang on much longer than the life in their words.

I happily squandered some of my bottled energy, and hugged Linda McBride-Yuke (editor) hello and goodbye, before catching the tram down to Federation Square for the Screenwriting Masterclass.


-       the site worker with his potted plants on a trolley, who gave precise directions;
-       the Dutchman (with an German mother), English man and the aussie bloke behind the bar slash cafĂ© who toasted my smoked salmon and creamed cheese bagel, stirred the sugar first before topping up my grande latte, and sent me on my way with a cluster of tender sighs and encouragement nods;
-       the young Malay guy who ate leftover mum food from a huge lunchbox and told me about his dream to make experimental documentaries;
-       the guy who did an art school degree and discovered he was the only one who hadn’t made a single friend of a future collaborator so hates to see any old college mates who have gone from strength to strength;
-       and the panel member who’s best advice on how to approach screenwriting projects – rise & masturbate, get it out of the way because there will be so many other things to distract you in your day.

From the look of the participants, it’s an older demographic with an interest in turning words into cutting edge products using new technologies, and having that determination to stick to a project, for the years it takes to get interest, funding, and a pool of talent to make something wonderful.

 - Write a lot – find the joy in it -

Don’t be afraid to be creative. In fact, don’t be afraid.

Be a resource for others and you never know what will come your way.

Engage people with humour – serious projects can be fun to make.

And be open to finding new ways to work.

Like for instance…dum, dum-dum dahhhhm WEB SERIES.

These are taking off in a big way. And think BIG - always try and make the production values as good as you can afford)

And I heard one of the best synopsis for a series ever :

‘it’s about reaching your 30s and finding life has shit on your face’.  - Kate McLennan.

Then it was off to the bar, and lining up with a writer mate, a bloke beside me on a bar stool asked – ‘what do you do’.

I looked at him for a page longer than a person normally does at a complete stranger at your elbow on a bar stool. 
(I waited all my life – well not all, because I am not dead yet and I am pretty confident I have at last half a dozen books in me - and I wouldn't bother if I hadn't spent the years to sharpen and ease - and I’ve about had it to here – actually further – with people telling me how to write because I am black and they have a romanticized view of what that entails, and if what everyone of good advice says is true, the only thing that matters is that I write my stories in my voice – not because some one encouraged me, or let me, or tried to stop me – but because writing is what I really, really, really want to do.)
‘I write, mate.’

And I continue to fiddle with my blog…


Friday, 30 May 2014

Marvelous & mysterious

Now follows a quick blog on yesterday’s awesomeness that was Day Two of the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne.

Digital Writers’ Masterclass took up most of my day – and I heard about a heap of stuff I had never …well, to be honest, I’d never been interested in what to me were the bits of tinsel hanging off the sides of my social media juggernaut – ie Twitter and blogging.

By tinsel, I mean auto bots and other ‘stuff’. Because I generate my own content – slave over it, obsess over the layout, cringe and moan over the typos, when I find them a day later….all that, that takes up more than enough of my time. But I am glad that others are interested in the infrastructure.

For example, I look forward to the day someone comes up with a better way of collating tweets and linking multiple platforms that don’t force me to pledge life long allegiance to someone who is building their own social media empire.

Grateful for Nathan Farrugia’s tips on how to make my blog look better – hence the couple of happy hours I just spent dumping so much STUFF. Looks tighter and so much easier to find and answer the 2 things people want to know:

Who are you? About

What do you write? Fiction and Commentator

At a later time…I’ll talk a bit about the marvelous revelations that I received from the conference talks on physical and computer games – no really, I did. 
I don’t play either - unless you include poker - but once it’s explained to you that fundamentally they are about stories – they seem altogether relevant. For instance,
  • Games include fear, excitement, mastery
  • How to send people out into a game without shepherding them
  • Letting players know they have agency – moral choices
  • Games are about consequences
  • Write games sober, for people who are drunk
  • The whole world is potentially part of the game

But what came up more than once yesterday, and several times during my last session of the day The Art of the Short Story was that thing.

I am beginning to learn it has a few names, this thing. People have attempted to describe it. Others will suggest how to capture it, make it come to you, that feeling, that place, that part of your mind where the stories live.

When you ask a writer ‘where do your stories come from?’ you may get a look. 

It says ‘I cant explain it to you, they just come’. A writer of thousands words will struggle to find a few to describe how and why that happens.

I now understand why writers through the ages have tried all sorts of techniques to find that place. If it doesnt just come to you, you need to chase it.
Or maybe you never experience it and that's perfectly fine that you write another way to me - but if you have encountered that thing, trust me, you want to feel it again. That's where the words, the feelings and the answers are buried, and will surprise and amaze you when those stories come out of your head.
Chasing it by using drugs and alcohol seem to have been very popular over the ages. Personally, neither of those work for me, unless you include buckets of tea and coffee, and chocolate by the pallet. And when I am in that place I could be drinking water and eating leaf litter – I just don’t notice, beyond the nutrients.

The only people I have encountered who have no problem explaining where it comes from – the stories that are clear and mysterious at the same time - are from yarning with some black writers I know. We don’t question some elements of the ‘inspiration’. More on this at another time.

And posting now, so I will only be a little late for the first session of today. Have a good one!


Can't Be Tamed: A Manifesto  by MOLLY LAMBERT  Here are some rules about how to be a girl in a boys' club. This works for any world you're in or want to be in. Pretty much everything in the world is still a boys' club. 


Thursday, 29 May 2014


Ugh – Twitter!...What is IT good for?..Absolutely Nothing!!

But then again, maybe it has some real benefits.

This blog post is an addendum to an earlier post - Back Yourself - from my recap of the Day One sessions at this year's Emerging Writers Festival.  

Everyone at the Emerging Writers Festival wants to get published..right?

That was my hope this time last year…and then this happened… and I’ll just slide in real fast and say publishing, or self promotion to get published is a great return on spending the time to learn how to make Twitter work for YOU..but it’s a bare minimum for me, and I’ll elaborate further down.

I’ve been blogging for over a year – and some time last year the world clocked over 100 million blogs.

That was okay by me because when you first start, you are not really sure what you are doing and you hope no one finds out.

But via social media, tiny sparks of electricity bounce around the universe, and sometimes they find each other…

The first time I was published :

" I saw Siv Parker speak at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne this year, and have been following her on Twitter (@SivParker) and her blog ever since. She’s such an accomplished composer in those two literary forms that I was shocked to learn that this is her first published piece. Parker heroically agreed to contribute a story at the last minute when another writer disappeared on me, so I’m extra grateful to her for being here. And her story, ‘Nightwalkers’, is simply wonderful: dark, urban, and utterly chilling. Let’s call it boardinghouse gothic.
The sinister world of The Haven is ripe territory—this story is an unforgettable character study, written in a haunting noir worthy of Nick Cave at his best (indeed, I found myself humming ‘Red Right Hand’ while I was reading it). "  Jennifer Mills December 2013

Please have to pay to read Nightwalkers, but if you were interested to see what it was about – I blogged the first three tastes of Sweetness over a couple of months, and collated them here

The second time I was published…

I approach Twitter like it’s a combination of a radio show & what feels the most natural way to tell a story for me...a group of people sitting around a fire yarning.

Social media is about engaging people. Everyone loves stories, or we wouldn’t be obsessed with trying to get better about writing them, even if it is only a few words, or on Twitter, in grabs less than 140 characters at a time.

So I started telling stories on Twitter. 

Now, there was no point to me of writing a story then chopping it up into bits and then transmitting them – that made no sense to me.... why not blog, quite frankly?

But spontaneous ad libbed stories – where my words are flying past in other people’s Twitter feeds – that’s an interesting challenge, and more like real life (or as someone said last night, it is like reality tv).
Under those conditions, you really have to engage people. 

No one is reading your tweets out of pity or a sense of duty.

Not when there are troll fights, and celebrities, and cat pics to choose from.

It enriches your craft. You have to make every word count. You have to get the timing right – you can't, for example, send tweets out seconds apart because people will miss grabs…you also can't take too long between tweets either, or people will lose interest.

If you are yarning around a fire there is a tempo, a narrative arc, a host of techniques you use….like say, for example with a performance piece of poetry, where you introduce yourself, and draw people into your story, and then keep them there.

Oh, yeah Twitter is more than cat pics.

I am not the only one who thought of telling stories using a micro blogging platform – but I am the only one I know. And that’s what I liked about it the most. It was new and there were no rules for me, because I made them up as I went along.

Long story short – I created #tweetyarns, and was invited to contribute one to an anthology.

I asked that I also be given space to include a short story, because I actually want to write books, and was in danger of being locked inside a tweet box for ever – and happily, joyfully for me, they agreed, and myself and 19 other writers, storytellers and poets, all of whom are Indigenous are included in an anthology of assorted works being launched at the Festival on Saturday.

I am the kind of writer who is never happy with my own work. Not really. I have a few confidants whom I'll dot point–

  • those I am related to (that’s how we all start, right?);
  • one other that has been writing for a very long time and in his case you can tell because he can express the magnificence and the malevolence of this world in barely a few words – and as one of the anonymous panel members suggested and I whole heartedly agree, if you are thinking about being a writer, get out a bit, see some new places, go overseas if you can, because it may have escaped your attention that not every part of Australia is like Melbourne.

No, it’s not. Some places are down right oppressive. You’d have to be Aboriginal to really get that.
And I mean other Aboriginal experiences outside of Victoria – where I was genuinely stunned at how natural and easily dignitaries on the Festival's Opening Night acknowledged country like it’s no big deal. 
Other places wonder – 'acknowledgements of Aboriginal people past and present, oh please, why are we bothering?'
Consider what it is like being Aboriginal in other states and Territories – where they have Interventions for instance, or other places where peaceful protests or any kind of street gathering are not allowed (did you see fifty Aboriginal people escorted from the sidelines of the recent Royal Couple’s tour of a Brisbane street… escorted away by twice as many police officers in one of those blink and you might have missed it moments on the news broadcasts. All very orderly, people were simply whisked away, out of sight. Gone.
  • and lastly, another confidant with a good eye, who actually has read very little of my work, but we-just-connected.
Not only do I want to be good at what I write – and two years afer winning a Queensland Literary Award I can say I am finally ready to complete my first novel, because without a year and more of social media, I was not writing from a point of freedom.

I have been silenced for longer than some people at the festival have been alive. 

Could not talk about this (secret), or that (shame), and very specifically, ordered, threatened, lost income and forced into poverty because I could not talk about that (crime against humanity).

And for some – and I can’t say I was one of them – but for some, you spend long enough under that regime – remember some places, some contexts are worse than others – and you will start silencing yourself, and you will fear when others speak out.

I continue to meet people who say I am the first Aboriginal person they have ever spoken to. In their life. The first. And you know why some, maybe most of them speak to me?

The cat pics. Being a normal, accessible person humanizes me. Because you could not treat Aboriginal people (any identifiable group of people) the way we have been treated – and still are, recent survey said you can expect to be spat on at least once a year in Victoria – this long history of racism and oppression could not have been sustained, if Aboriginal people were thought of as ‘human’.

It happens that I love cats. And writing. And yeah, I love Twitter. 

See you round at the Festival. And of course, you are welcome to follow me.

Back Yourself


First important lesson of today’s literary pursuits – study a map of the city because a taxi driver will happily take you on a merry tour around the Melbourne CBD before reaching your destination, mere blocks from where you started.

If you are able to commit a map of the dozen or so streets of the CBD to memory, you will be a most useful passenger, because I can now confirm Little Lonsdale Street, Little Collins Street and a rather large Melbourne Town Hall were a complete mystery to three out of three taxi drivers.

The next time they ask me where I am from, I will respond ‘maximum security’ and see if that makes a difference to 'country mouse'.

 Session notes :

The type of session where an Indigenous writer could think confidently about extending their horizons to mainstream publishing – the panel all claimed to be looking for new stories, new perspectives, exciting works and had useful tips on pathways for literary careers. Exactly what you want to hear when you think of your dog eared manuscript, collection of exercise books, and scraps of paper at home.


I expected this session to be packed and rushed to be the first in line. I was pleasantly surprised that we all fit within one of the smaller rooms.

An hour and a half flew by with a series of useful, practical tips to be published; enthralling snippets of performance; and a sprinkling of personal anecdotes all well received by the eager and for a few of us – let’s be honest - ADORING group of aspiring poets.
Poets say the things people do not know how to say
Treat every reading like a first date
Poet is a poor person’s profession 
And keep at it long enough, with enough devotion to your craft and you will arrive at your destination….
what is there inside that I have buried?
And then it was down to 1000 Pound Bend for the Festival icebreaker and a launch. The venue is a vast cavern with a few chairs scattered here and there, and where people happily sit on the concrete floor with their wine and beer.

I'd stumbled down a cobble stoned lane having been afflicted with a sudden attack of night blindness, and couldn’t even see the floor. I had a new handbag and wasn’t sure which part of me I wanted to come into contact with this part of Melbourne. Oh, to be 22 again and listening to poetry, and drinking wine with a boy in interesting shoes and coloured hair. But I’m not, I’m a grandmother who doesn’t get out much, so I decided for my first real night out in Melbourne, to walk back up to Swanston Street and try to work out how to catch a tram.

In a most mysterious process – as the 7-11 man told me – the government is stupid – one buys a ticket which is empty, then puts sufficient credit on it, to gain entry to the newish looking trams that rolled past every ten minutes.

A young guy had a organ – set to piano - set up on the footpath and was playing long pieces which were especially soothing to my feet and my old soul. So I took a seat, and marveled that my eyesight had been restored when I could clearly make out the shape of the dead rat flattened into a rosette of rose pink gutz at my feet. Deceased for some time, was my guess.

It was going on 10pm as I made my way back to the Wheeler Centre and on showing my Golden Ticket to the clipboarded volunteers was ushered in with warm smiles and ‘Oh, you’re royalty, please go in’.

A night of mixed fortunes.


I was expecting to be sitting in the dark, but a curtain had been fixed between the panel and the audience – fresh and boisterous from having sat on a concrete floor is my guess – with some well well placed lights, that moved through a sequence of bright and muted colours.

The session was a resounding success from my side of the curtain. More good advice to encourage a writer to pursue that dream after taking a clear eyed look at their treasure that might one day be published in both the old fashioned way between two covers, and also by exploring the new technologies that are catching on, and most assureably in the US.

For indigenous writers – again, there’s much reason to encourage writers to explore mainstream publishers, with declarations from all panelists of the importance and yearning for writers of diversity. Especially if they can tell a story, to get the publishing world over the current hump of a preoccupation of writers to talk endlessly about themselves.

But when it came to new technologies, the audience let it be known who was a Twitter convert, and who thought it was a boring, pointless, and possibly detrimental forum for self promotion and vacuousness.

The Panel was fairly non committal – and speaking from my own experience – with so many publishers, editors and media in general on Twitter, the panel would be aware that Twitter has a lot to offer IF YOU CAN MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU.

It’s not something that happens by accident – or as someone commented to me recently, how fortuitous it was that my writing fits so well within 140 chars.

Well, it does now.

Mastering Twitter takes a commitment similar and no less than for example Derrick Brown's advice on crafting poems or the publishing panels’ tips on how to research the industry to find the house that best suits your writing, to give your manuscript the best possible chance.

The most invigorating portion of the night was discussions about the culture of writers – how supportive it is, or as one suggested 'no one is making much money so there is no point being critical of any work – why not just be nice?'
And the size of literary circles, and if you are Indigenous  – there is the increasingly powerful allure of publishing overseas.

I’ll explore this further in another post at a later time...
[update: and that time is now...Ugh – Twitter!...What is IT good for?..Absolutely Nothing!!] ...
but the nature of the literary landscape if you are Indigenous - if you are any kind of writer has been obvious to me for some time – if you want to write, you must back yourself.

Because your capacity to believe in yourself will be challenged over and over again.

Then I hopped aboard my first Melbourne tram – and managed to find my way back to that most mysterious major Melbourne landmark, invisible to three out of three taxi drivers, the Melbourne Town Hall, with my hotel within cooee distance just around the corner.
And the words of the recently departed Maya Angelou will continue to inspire and invigorate me. 
Maya Angelou - And Still I Rise   
Acclaimed African-American author, poet and human rights activist Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86 at her home in North Carolina.

And before I sign off I'll mention....I am a writer and samples of my work can be found by clicking and reading from the top here

You should:

And be aware:

My attendance at the Festival is made possible by RegonalArtsNSW and my huge appreciation for their fast turn grant around and commitment to developing the regional arts profile and capacity that the Northern Rivers is fast becoming famous for. And most exciting of all are the initiatives for Indigenous storytellers, writers, screen writers, and filmmakers.

The Regional Arts Fund is an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional, remote  and very remote / isolated Australia.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Arrival #ewf14

I flew into turbulence but when the pilot crackled 'bumpy', he actually meant ‘the air will shake the plane violently up, down, and side to side and those with a window seat may care to watch the wings bounce’ but even then the message would have been lost on the man with ear plugs, who still attempted to stagger and flail his way to the bathroom.

The air hostess was trying to indicate, as she clung to the back of a chair with one arm and hooked a knee around an arm rest that it was unsafe for him to roam.  He bobbed his head at her - lord only knows what he thought she was mouthing at him. She did the only thing she could and yanked on the cord and his brown eyes appeared from above his glasses as he registered the musical intermission.
'Sit down will you!' 
He saw she meant business and turned as if to make his way, an elbow in the head for every person he passed, back to his seat halfway back up the plane.

'Noooo, sit there'
she said with one arm flung and flapping in the bumpity-bump as he looked at the empty aisle seat with the female passenger sitting beside it,  her arm braced against the window, the other around her tiny baby lashed to her chest. At last the tightly tethered child had stopped crying.

I gripped the seat in front of me with both hands and watched the single strand of curly black hair caught in the bulkhead, swing crazily until the pilot finally announced it would all be over soon as we commenced our descent into Melbourne, and I thanked god I’d had wisdom enough to take a pic earlier to include on my blog.

My new journal by pure chance, as how could my sister have known, was embossed on the cloth cover with the words 'another day, cloudy memory'.

First impressions of yet another airport I’d be breezing through, were the men positioned at the exits and edging towards us at the baggage carousel. They stood out amongst us, who’d just traveled from Byron Bay to Melbourne, Us, a line in yoga pants, long hair, skinny bare shoulders and sandals and me in it-goes-with-everything black - and them, these extraordinarily well dressed gentlemen in accents and soft tones, murmuring ‘taxi?’ at us with the ease and confidence of Nimbin street drug dealers.

I was already committed to catching the Skybus – and not taking the lonnnnng way round to my hotel, yeah, call me cynical – so I rolled past with my enormous suitcase of Melbourne woolies, murmuring ‘no thankyou’ from the corner of my mouth, just as I do in Nimbin.

I only knew them passing by, and yet I was already lying for them, keeping their illicit taxi driving service under wraps.

Several bus rides later of me giving every indication my arms were painted on – could you help, sorry I know it’s enormous, oh, wow, one hand, thankyouu – and I was at my hotel and admiring the fish swimming around in the vast aquarium behind the reception.

Barney, Cultural Diversity Officer, City of Melbourne
Along the way I’d spotted a National Reconciliation Week exhibition through an open doorway into a room straight off the paving, at the Melbourne Town Hall. I’d stopped to chat and tweet and with one eye on my suitcase I’d clarified ‘oh, no, I’m not homeless, I’m here for the Emerging Writers Festival, next door’.
Long, long ago in the Creation, the all-powerful Bunjil took the form of the eagle and created the Kulin people - their languages, their laws and their lands.
Bunjil's nest will be built from sticks, that people are invited to inscribe with a message of reconciliation. Short films and talks will also be held, between 10-3pm, until Tuesday 3 June.

The simple arrangements of sticks and leaves was a quiet moment in a new city, and the crisp white cloth was another sign that it was the anniversary of our mother's funeral. 

My hotel room is grand and a Queen Room easily converts to a Traveling Writer suite  – all but one purple top in an otherwise entire wardrobe of black, hangs from two coat hangers; with my trusty extension cord I’ve set up my laptop, after adjusting all the furniture, to exactly where it should be; my assortment of journals are in ‘their places’; and the instant noodles are pyramided next to the electric kettle. 

Opening Night of the Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival 2014

It had started to rain – warm and black onto the narrow one-way street as I emerged from the hotel just as a taxi pulled up outside.

I lunged and wrenched the door open with my black wrap around my head ensuring maximum ‘wet shawl hair’ and asked ‘are you for Parker to Federation Square?’ to which he quickly agreed that yes, yes he was. I hadn't rung and he didn't care.

Being one of those people who doesn’t quite trust their VIP status really exists until I am actually in my seat, I raced down to the front like the doubter that I am even though there was clearly no one there.  Well, there was one man. Quite tall, a nice smile and in a moment of absolute madness, I sat behind him. Why with a sea of empty seating to choose from, did I think that was going to work? Am I really the self saboteur that a fellow writer suggested two years ago when I declined overtures from an editor on the grounds they mistook my social realism for mere political satire?

Am I so desperate for acknowledgement that someone young enough to be my son smiling at me had me flapping my wings into dust against his fine head of hair?

'Nice face' Derrick Brown - inside joke for Opening Nighters.
By shouldering to my right – into the personal space of the talented young lady beside me who won one of the two short story awards – I managed to take a blurry pic of keynote speaker, international guest, and poet in a Texan bolo tie, Derrick Brown.

I just had to. By then I’d been worked up into wild clapping and clasped hands by great speeches from people excited about writing, and a performance by a last minute stand in that simply blew my hair back. She made poetry \m/ rock \m/ and boom and finish in a spray of fine droplets over the sign language interpreter - both interpreters were brilliantly evocative - from two water bottles in a closing interpretative dance.

The rapturous audience fell quiet and shiny eyed as Maxine Beneba Clarke let us into her world since winning last year’s Victorian Premier's Unpublished Manuscript award – an exciting world, where editors say, wow love you work, have a book contract, in fact have three and let’s tour Malaysia. We had a reading from Miles Alison, this year’s winner, who commenced by saying ‘there’s a word here I don’t know how to pronounce, but I know for a fact that you don’t know either’ We tittered, thinking as one 'come on bring it, come at me, what is the word….oh, yeah, we don’t know THAT word from an ancient Indigenous Inuit language'.

The Lord Mayor capped off a night of great speeches - and easily the most heartfelt and dignified acknowledgments of country that I've heard in any place, one after another from each dignitary - by making most of us sad we hadn’t had such a cool, literature loving high school teacher who filled the room to it’s vaulted industrial metal ceiling with his appreciation of literature that adds to the ‘intellectual, cultural and spiritual’ life of Melbourne. And reminded us that at 5k the Lord Mayor's Literature Prize was something to earnestly consider.

More than an opening night to a writers festival - it was an awakening. 
It reminded me of why writing is the only thing do. 
The rest of the time I am just passing through.

You should:

And read Writer, Sam Twyford Moore  Director of of the Festival, recently in TheGuardian : Take it from me, there is no shame in being on the dole

And be aware:

My attendance at the Festival is made possible by RegonalArtsNSW and my huge appreciation for their fast turn grant around and commitment to developing the regional arts profile and capacity that the Northern Rivers is fast becoming famous for. And most exciting of all are the initiatives for Indigenous storytellers, writers, screen writers, and filmmakers.

The Regional Arts Fund is an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional, remote  and very remote / isolated Australia.