Friday, 24 October 2014

#MWF14 Blog to book Update 4

Hello blog – I have missed you!

I have so much to tell you, and always so little time! Here are some thoughts big and small, and an update on what I have been up to lately:


Indigenous Australia is, to use a cliche (sorry!), on the cusp of change. Policing a silence won't arrest change, and talking about it won't jinx Aboriginal people either.

Debate falls apart when we succumb to the temptation to explain emerging trends with a sweeping reference to outside pressure. This response will serve, until it becomes impossible to describe what is 'inside' and what is 'outside'. 


I was a part of a Masterclass recently in Indigenous filmmaking. Barely any of the participants used Twitter. None appeared particularly averse to the micro blogging platform, they just didn't see the need for it. I happily tweeted for a day, then quietly put my phone away. Quite frankly, I would have missed out on too much if I had spent any more time staring at my palm.

Between them, the people who generously gave up so much of their time - and their practical, insightful, inspirational advice - have produced some of the most enduring screen works on offer in recent times. 
Their influence is enormous - if you have an interest in Indigenous filmmaking, you would know all their tv shows and movies. They choose to tell stories via the one-way screen. 
They chose that route because they have the skills – they love filmmaking, and they are very good at it – but also because if you wanted to tell a story these days – the type of story that changed your world - that is where you would do it.

Not all of us are going to get to do that. ‘We’ are sure trying though.

But my point is this: the emerging Indigenous social media presence has been a game changer and Twitter in particular is the pinnacle of that - but only a tiny percentage of the Indigenous population is 'active' on Twitter, especially when you compare this platform to Facebook.

If you were curious about Aboriginal Australia, you have a few places you can go, and the most convenient route is straight to the tiny screen that spends most of it’s time in your hand.

But just as a film only really works if the characters are true to themselves and the story catches your attention, the demand for Indigenous representation rises and falls on how real a deal the observer thinks they are getting.

Keeping it real

When it comes to my writing, I’m often asked 'are my stories ‘real’? Not only that, they’d prefer it if they were.

It has happened far too often to me for it to be idle curiosity. The most revered screen works are those that people readily agree is ‘honest, brave, heartbreaking’ and the like. 

It makes me wonder – and I am not looking for simplistic, ‘opt out of an awkward conversation’ answers – but yes, it makes me wonder out of all the words produced and appearances on film, when does the question arise over what is ‘real’ about Aboriginal people? 

An example of change is already emerging in who engages in that discourse, on the grounds they don’t think it applies to them and there are other priorities they’d much rather talk about.

There are words that can trigger an abrupt end to a conversation. ‘Authentic' and 'Aboriginal’ would be two of them, when put together. But it’s inevitable that the dominant narratives are going to evolve. No amount of resistance will hold back the tide. 

There is a phenomenon in the arts, and elsewhere ('the collective unconscious') which has been cited during court cases when one innovator sues another for copying an idea that both parties - independent of the other - designed and built, or dreamt and wrote in their sheds over years spent working in the light of a single light bulb under the scorn of their family. It happens. 

Family history stories humanise Aboriginal people. They are stories that will never end, and that's as it should be. 

What about if a person wanted to write science fiction, or horror, and created characters who just happened to be Aboriginal, without one eye on whether they would be received sympathetically?

Aboriginal people are people too. When seen beneath the surface of negative stereotypes as a person, rather than a victim or someone better than average (??), or special or 'other', they don't stop being Aboriginal. An opposing view would have to come up with a better argument than judging Aboriginal identity on some grade of victimhood. 

Aboriginal identity is not determined by disadvantage. There's a growing discomfort from being locked into following a script, weighed down and caught within the victim paradigm. Divisive narratives will be in full swing before we get around to intergenerational conflict. That is surely coming - urban Indigenous youth is the fastest growing demographic in the country.

I imagine those in the future looking back on my time and realising that the dominant narrative was about the colour of a person's skin, in all it's shades. And looking back further still, to a speech that is only available in black and white footage, and wondering why so little attention was given to the person inside.

These are some of the things on my mind, when I am not crafting stories just like any other (aspiring) novelist or screenwriter.

And now time for me to get back to finishing off some editing. So far my greatest hindrance has been my love of the ‘Oxford comma’. After discussion with Ed. we agreed all the Oxford commas would be removed because it’s too ambitious for a first time book type person, even if it’s a better match for the cadence of my voice.

If you’re not sure what an Oxford comma is:

Standard comma: 
You know Bob, Sue and Greg? They came to my house.
Oxford comma: 
You know Bob, Sue, and Greg? They came to my house.
Christopher Walken comma: 
You know Bob, Sue, and Greg? They came, to my house.

That joke, kills me, every time.

If the commas were ‘real’ I would have formed them into a ball – something like Roald Dahl’s Chocolate Wrapper Ball that still sits on his desk. They say it looks like a canon ball and will fill the palm of your hand.

My Oxford Comma Ball would be about the same size though perhaps not as weighty.

If I had added the foil from every chocolate bar I have eaten in my life to a ball, it would be the size of a basketball and you’d have to leave it in the corner because if it rolled off the table it would break a toe.

On Dusk, the blog book - available soon!
When: November 2014
How: print & ebook from Amazon

The usual pattern of a writing project...
  • Yay, I am going to write something right now!
  • Thinking, thinking, thinking. Find a nice spot on the verandah and drink tea and listen to the birds. Find a nice spot on the lounge and jot notes in between prime time tv. Wake in the middle of the night to make more notes.
  • Write.
  • Rewrite.
  • Check deadline.
  • Reread my piece, wondering who wrote it.
  • Decide they are a terrible writer.
  • Remember the wise words of a mentor - ‘back myself’.
  • Read my piece out loud to the birds.
  • Submit some time between the deadline and the red zone of ‘they will never ask me again’.
  • Turn my face from the piece for hours, then re read it again.
  • See it published and see where improvements could be made if only I had one more chance.
  • Accept another writing commission. Yay. 
This time has been a little different...

It is rather a lot more words than usually leaves my control. Out of the 135 posts that appeared on my blog over the past two years - now stripped from my blog and carefully scrutinized - 45 posts have made it into the blog book.

What did I notice?

My writing transformed. I had to describe myself every few months and emphasis my independence. The only thing that wasn’t clear was 'why the constant reminders?', 'who was I independent of?' and 'why?'

For the blog book to make sense, I’ve included some mortar to pull the 45 blog posts together as well as bridge a few other gaps.

Want to know more? Upcoming appearances…..

6.00 – 6.30pm 8 November
Sydney Emerging Writers Festival
Reading: ‘Honey’ with illustrations from Sam Wallman.
Unwind to some illustrated readings from up-and-coming writers in our Indigenous mentorship program. Held in the Writers’ Centre garden with visual accompaniment provided by some of Sydney’s best comic illustrators. 
For more of Sam Wallman’s work please take a look at his website.
And in case you missed it, read the Serco story that created a buzz recently with illustrations by Sam Wallman.

Sam Wallman has been nominated for a Walkley! 
Category: 'All Media Multimedia Storytelling'
Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism - 2014 Finalists

Conference presentation: Live story telling
‘Your stories never end’
Tuesday the 9th of December 2014

Stay tuned for blog updates and a new series of Tweetyarns (twitter fiction).

It’s happening. In between a lot of editing and layouts, I have also done the fun things like deciding on book covers and the wording for my dedications and acknowledgements.

OnDusk blog book - previous updates
The blog-to-book journey so far…

Joint Winner! 2014 Melbourne Writers Festival 
Blurb Blog-to-Book Challenge starts here

Update post 1 here
Update post 2 here
Update post 3 here

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