Thursday, 29 May 2014

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.

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