Monthly Archives: November 2013

Writers ask writers: tools of the trade

MWF Ang_portraitThis month on Writers Ask Writers, we’re talking tools of the writer’s trade, and I’m delighted to welcome our special guest, Melbourne crime writer Angela Savage. I’ve just read the first in Angela’s Jane Keeney PI series (Behind the Night Bazaar), set in Chiang Mai, and can’t wait to read the rest (The Half-Child and The Dying Beach).

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I don’t really think myself as having ‘tools of trade’, although I have a studio full of ‘stuff’ that probably qualifies. Here’s a random selection:

DSCN4018Reference books: shelves and shelves of them, accumulated over three decades of work as a book editor—many, perhaps most, of them pre-dating the internet.

Stationery: I couldn’t get by without my post-it notes, markers in every colour, and more pens and pencils than the average person would use in a lifetime. My late Burmese cat, Daisy, once famously ate all the post-it notes off the side of a manuscript, which is why her successor is not allowed on the desk!
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DSCN4004Notebooks: ordinary A4 or foolscap lined lecture books, plus travel journals in all shapes and sizes.

Talismans: because I am open to the idea of good luck (not bad).
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Manila folders: possibly half the world’s supply, and yes, I know what’s in most of them, although on occasion I’ve been surprised.

100_5941Tea: I drink copious volumes every day, at least partially as part of the creative process (time out).

Heavy-duty airconditioner: because I live in Perth!
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Technology: I love my MacBook Pro—I’ve been using Macs since Macs began—and I work with Microsoft Word and the Macquarie Online dictionary.

That list only scratches the surface, and it excludes all the pinup boards, archive boxes and research books specific to each of my books. It also excludes these:

DSCN4026because I’ve given them up. Honest.

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Here are the links to posts by the other writers, who all have interesting things to say about their tools of trade.

Angela Savage: ‘I love Chinese-made notebooks with nonsensical English phrases on the cover like “Health is the things that makes you feel that now is the best time of the year”…’—Read more here

Annabel Smith: ‘I make notes with a pencil and am especially fond of the ones made out of recycled Chinese newspapers—they are beautifully smooth—and sustainable—what more could a gal want?’—Read more here

Natasha Lester: ‘[Scrivener] is a note-taker, a word-processor, a scene organiser, a research collector, an organiser, a motivator; in short, it’s a miracle.’—Read more here

Sara Foster: ‘I like perforated notebooks so I can tear out pages and collate them properly. I save the pretty notebooks for diaries instead.’—Read more here

Emma Chapman: ‘I made myself a crucial “inspiration board” to remind myself that this process isn’t always easy, but that the most important thing is to keep going.’—Read more here

Dawn Barker: ‘If I write in the morning, a strong flat white. If I write in the evening once the children have fallen asleep, a big glass of wine.’—Read more here

What are your idiosyncrasies when it comes to tools of trade?

PWFC author collage

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Reasons to love a novel: community

I’ve just finished reading an e-book that has reminded me of another of those things a novel can do so well: create a community within the pages (or screen views) of a book. By that I mean the combination of place, characters and social world that a community is—but also a sense of community, of something shared among people who occupy the same space, whether the source of that something lies in the past, the present or even the future. When you, as a reader, become immersed in how those characters fit together in that place, the way their world works, the values that determine who belongs and who doesn’t, you almost start to feel you belong yourself, or at least know whose sofa you’d be sleeping on if you did.

The book I’ve just read is Marlish Glorie’s second novel, Sea Dog Hotel (2013), and the community, located in the fictional West Australian wheatbelt town of Nyacoppin, is centred around the eponymous hotel. Enter two outsiders: Ruth, a woman whose brain is ‘permanently broken’, and her longsuffering daughter, Grace. They arrive in Nyacoppin as new owners of the Sea Dog Hotel, the latest destination in a long series of disappointing ‘new starts’ in Ruth’s relentless search for the place where happiness lives.

Nyacoppin’s residents all seem to be broken, one way or another, and the town itself is built on marginal land, ‘a place where farms shouldn’t be, but were.’ But Marlish Glorie constructs, from these unprepossessing elements, a compelling fictional world—a community—where there are secrets, jealousies, nurturing, swindling, tragedy, bullshit, respect, love. And at the heart of it is the Sea Dog Hotel.

In this exchange, Ruth and Grace meet the woman who is the Sea Dog’s manager, cook, bartender, and (shifty) accountant:

18627596The woman viewed Ruth with amusement. ‘My name’s Faith and I know every single person in Nyacoppin. All eighty. You ain’t any one of them. We never get tourists. So, you two have either lost your way, or you’re the new owners.’

‘New owners,’ declared Ruth, clapping her hands together and then leaning against the bar. ‘What a beautiful town you have here.’

Faith looked at Ruth suspiciously, trying to calculate if she was being sarcastic or polite. Either way, she didn’t like a newcomer telling her what Nyacoppin was like. It was best to shoot her down before she got too uppity. ‘This town is a shithole. But it’s our shithole.’

Ruth was mystified, convinced she had said the right thing. Grace suppressed a smile; someone else didn’t give a damn about her mother’s new start.

Marlish Glorie’s compassionate, often humorous novel is more than a story of a collection of colourful, quirky characters in a colourless, quirky town: it is a story of brokenness and redemption.

I have also recently read P.A. O’Reilly’s The Fine Colour of Rust (2012), a novel set in a different kind of rural town. Gunapan is the kind of place where the nearest hospital is more than half an hour away, the primary school is being threatened with closure, and the council is doing deals with developers that benefit wealthy out-of-towners and not the struggling majority of the population.

O’Reilly’s first-person narrator, Loretta Boskovic, is a deserted single mother with two kids, two goats, a swag of women friends, a fairy godfather in the form of old Norm, the junkyard man, and a crush on the newly arrived mechanic. She is also head of the Save Our School committee and the Sod Off Development committee—an all-round annoyance to the upper strata of Gunapan’s community and those who belong to its corrupt council.

I love this paragraph for its comedy and for what it tells us—in the space of 170 words—about Loretta, her inner life, her community and the contours of her world:

12914567Melissa’s a mature eleven-year-old, but I am convinced that if I leave her alone in the house for more than twenty minutes a spectacular disaster will happen and she’ll die and I’ll be tortured by guilt for the rest of my life. I’ve pictured the LP gas tanks exploding, the blue gum tree in the yard toppling on to the house, a brown snake slithering out of a kitchen cupboard. Of course, any of those things could happen while I’m at home too, but I would have no guilt factor. The guilt factor means I may never have sex again, because attractive men looking for a good time rarely drop in spontaneously at my house. On the other hand, it has saved me from many of Helen’s girls’ nights, involving outings to pubs that the same attractive men looking for a good time never visit. I was also lucky enough to miss Helen’s ladies-only party where an enthusiastic twenty-year-old tried to sell dildoes and crotchless panties to astonished Gunapan farm wives.

Sea Dog Hotel and The Fine Colour of Rust welcomed me in to their communities, and I felt a punch of loss when it was time to leave.

Marlish Glorie’s first novel was The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street (Fremantle Press, 2009).

P.A. O’Reilly has published (as Paddy O’Reilly) The Factory (Thompson Walker, 2005) and The End of the World (UQP, 2008).

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3, 3 and 3: Amy Wiseman, dancer

Welcome to a new feature on looking up/looking down, through which I’ll be introducing some fascinating, creative people and inviting them to talk about things they love.

Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements
will never do any harm to the world.
—Voltaire

Amy Wiseman

Amy Wiseman. Photo by Darren Smith

This month, 3, 3 and 3 welcomes dancer Amy Wiseman, co-founder (with Carly Armstrong and Jessica Lewis) of Unkempt Dance collective. Unkempt’s Tea for Three was performed to a sold-out season at the Adelaide Fringe 2011 and nominated for Best Dance Award; won the People’s Choice Award at Canberra’s Short + Sweet Dance Festival 2011; and was developed into a full-length work, Teahouse, for Fringe World in Perth 2012. Unkempt has secured a Seed Residency to begin a new work this month, and will finish 2013 with a second development of The Square Piece with choreographer Rhiannon Newton.

Amy has also danced with Australian electro-pop band Empire of the Sun since 2009, touring throughout Australia, Europe, America, Mexico and South-East Asia. She is a member of the STRUT dance board and a regular contributor to dancewest magazine in Perth (acting editor in 2013).

Over to Amy…

3 things I love about what I do

1. I love that it rarely feels like work. I get to do what I love: move, explore, research, exercise, plan, laugh, write and play.

2. The versatility. I love that I am always learning more and more skills and building a diverse career. The modern-day dance artist has to wear so many hats to ensure their work is made, then funded, then seen: performer, choreographer, writer, editor, teacher, project manager, producer, arts facilitator, even a techie on occasion.

3. I love that I am never bored. There is always a different project coming up, a workshop providing a new approach to moving, a new concept to begin making movement with or writing about, or a collaboration with others that makes you think in a different way. These changes and shifts happen every day, week and month…if it wasn’t so delightful, it would be exhausting!

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Sometimes your day involves getting into a big cement tub for the sake of art! Unkempt Dance in Teahouse. Photo by Darren Smith

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. Canada. I have always felt a strange connection to this vast stretch of land. Perhaps it’s curiosity about a place so different in geography to Australia, yet with the same reputation for natural beauty. Perhaps it’s my fascination with snow and admiration for survival in freezing climes. Or perhaps it’s just my love of maple syrup and secret hope to meet a moose.

2.Tasmania. I have visited very briefly, but this is one place I would like to explore—hire a car and do it properly. Tasmania’s wild and unspoilt natural landscapes are among  the richest in Australia. I plan to immerse myself.

3. New York. Always New York. I’ve been fortunate to have visited many times, but my love of this hustling bustling city is never satiated. There’s something captivating about Manhattan’s compact living—how over time it has shifted and morphed in style, according to prosperity and culture. When I’m there, I sometimes imagine being an old building, witnessing the streets gradually changing over hundreds of years—history on a grand scale but also at a personal level. New York is a place where you really do marvel at the human species.

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There’s something about windows. And fire escapes. Soho, New York, May 2013

3 favourite choreographers

I found this really difficult. I’ve been lucky to have had a taste of many artists’ work in Australia and overseas, but usually it’s only one show or piece and I don’t get the opportunity to compare or get an overall sense of the choreographer’s career. It’s different from, say, a favourite author: if you like one novel you can pick up a stack and indulge yourself. But you really need to see a dance performance live for the full impact, and that’s not always possible, especially from Perth. So instead I am going to list three works that have blown me away, and whose choreographers/collaborators I want to pursue.

1. Hofesh Shechter Company’s Uprising (Juli Dans Festival, Amsterdam, July 2008)
‘The work is choreographed with such verve that its effect is almost ecstatic…it is an arrestingly powerful piece’—Judith Mackrell, The Guardian, October 2007

2. Lawn by Splinter Group, a trio of contemporary dancers Gavin Webber, Grayson Millwood and Vincent Crowley (Perth International Arts Festival, Perth, February 2006)
‘A perfectly crafted horror fantasy [where] everything works; the timing, the rhythm and the images’—Berlin Zeitung

3. Körper by Sacha Waltz and Guests (Melbourne International Arts Festival, Melbourne, October 2009)
Körper contains amazing, distilled moments that resonate, despite the noise that surrounds them’—Bron Batten, Australian Stage, October 2009

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Fountain meets sky. I’m a fan of clouds, and often take sky photos while on my travels. Versailles, France, July 2012

To keep up with shows and events, please ‘like’ Unkempt Dance on Facebook

Coming up…

In Short Image by Darren Smith_136FCD10-347C-11E3-A05A005056A302E6Unkempt Dance in association with STRUT presents:
In Short (part of the Eyes Wide open dance platform)
A curious collection by emerging dance artists
8–10 November 2013, 6pm
Studio 3, Top Level, King Street Arts Centre, Perth
Bookings here

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