Author Archives: amandacurtin

About amandacurtin

Author of novels ELEMENTAL and THE SINKINGS and short fiction collection INHERITED. looking up/looking down is an occasional blog about writing, reading and watching the world...

And another new release: Hounds of Love

A new post from Ric about a film so tense that I had to remind myself to breathe…

Ric Curtin

hounds-of-love-cinema-australia-1.jpgHounds of Love, now playing in cinemas across Australia, was written and directed by Ben Young and is his first feature film. After premiering at the Venice Film Festival, the film has propelled Ben’s career onto the world stage, and he is already directing big-budget American movie Extinction.

The film has had great reviews all over the world, including 4 out of 5 stars from Australia’s leading film critic, David Stratton. This is not a film for everyone but, as one critic said, ‘brave audiences will be rewarded’.

My role on the film was the sound design and mix. As the subject matter is very confronting, the film was a great sound challenge. Much of the action is implied rather than on the screen., and the film relies on the soundtrack to tell the story.

For the house backgrounds, I used all natural sounds—cars, birds, etc.—so that…

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Until it’s gone…

I was in early adolescence when Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister in 1972. I’m afraid to say that I was not a politically minded adolescent. I had other things on my mind—important things like problem hair, who was coming to the Perth Entertainment Centre, and how I was going to get out of dissecting a frog in Biology.

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Spare a thought for my long-suffering grandfather, whom I made drive around Perth following the Radio 6PM van so I could win this T-shirt

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And yes, I’m a bit of a hoarder…

But recently I came across this quote by Whitlam:

A healthy artistic climate does not depend solely on the work of a handful of supremely gifted individuals. It demands the cultivation of talent and ability at all levels. It demands that everyday work, run-of-the-mill work, esoteric and unpopular work should be given a chance; not so much in the hope that genius may one day spring from it, but because, for those who make the arts their life and work, even modest accomplishment is an end in itself and a value worth encouraging. The pursuit of excellence is a proper goal, but it is not the race itself…

I look at our current politicians, and those of recent times, and can find no trace of this civilised and civilising attitude towards the arts and their place in our cultural life.

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Four New Releases…part 2

Here’s another instalment from that quiet guy I know, who has been a bit busy lately…

Ric Curtin

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I am glad to report that both recently completed TV series, Railroad Australia on Discovery and Outback Pilots on 7 mate, are rating well. Fingers crossed for a new series of both.

WHITELEY_A4 Poster.jpgThe feature documentary Whiteley has been playing to great reviews. Margaret Pomeranz gave the film her first ever 5-star review on Foxtel Arts.

Whiteley was directed by James Bogle and edited by Lawrie Silvestrin.  The documentary does not have a narrator; instead the story is told through archival footage and re-enactments. We recorded actors reading contemporary newspaper articles and then played the voices coming out of radios, matching the quality to archival sound—something of a challenge.

See the trailer.

Ash Gibson Greig composed the music for the documentary, weaving his music around the music of the time. The soundtrack was complicated, so Ash moved his music suite into my studio for the days of the final…

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PRECIOUS THINGS: AMANDA CURTIN

Perth writer Lee Battersby has published three novels (including MAGRIT, recently shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award for Children’s Fiction), two collections of stories, and more than 80 individual stories in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres—a publication record I find as enviable as it is impressive! He also has a fabulous blog series called ‘Precious things’, and I was delighted when he invited me to contribute. Take a look at other contributions while you’re there…

Lee Battersby

Amanda Curtin has always been one of those authors I’ve found slightly intimidating, as well as an aspirational benchmark. It seems like she’s been on the stage at every Perth Writers Festival I’ve ever attended, always speaking with an encyclopaedic understanding of the industry; her name is always attached to every study I see produced about the state of WA writing; she appears to be associated with every literary market in WA I can’t get within kilometres of getting published by…. men stand aside as she walks by, women swoon, horses stamp their hooves nervously……

Having finally met her this year, she is, of course, utterly lovely. She still dresses up as a bat and fights crime at night, but gently, with a soft-spoken voice and an interest in how the criminal is getting on. She’s also published two novels, Elemental and The Sinkings, and a short story collection, Inherited

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Four New Releases…part 1

This is from a talented guy I know, who doesn’t post very often… 🙂

Ric Curtin

In the next two weeks I have a feature film, a feature documentary and two TV series being released.

Bad Girl is a feature film that was shot in Perth. After being edited in Sydney by Simon Njoo, the rest of the post production was done in Perth, with Sandbox creating the visual effects and grading the pictures and Curtin Productions doing the sound.

One of the big challenges on the film was the music. We were fortunate to have Warren Ellis, of Bad Seeds fame, as composer. Rather than compose to the picture cut, he created themes that the director, Fin Edquist, and I would then manipulate, remixing the stems and editing the music around to fit the picture. It was a fun challenge, and in meeting it I relied heavily on my many years of experience as a music engineer.

I was the dialogue editor as well…

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Resources for students studying The Sinkings

This post is for students studying The Sinkings as part of the ECU unit ENG3170 Diverse Voices in Literature.

Active websites with information on intersex

Accord Alliance

AIS DSD Support Group

Intersex Initiative (US)

Intersex Society of North America (in 2008 changed direction to become Accord Alliance, but the ISNA website remains live)

OII Intersex Network (Australia)

OII Intersex Network

The UK Intersex Association

The reading list below is by no means exhaustive; obviously, there would be many more publications now than were available during my research in 2003–05. However, these are the principal sources that informed the development of The Sinkings and may provide useful perspectives on intersex, cultural labelling and gender fluidity.

Books

Colapinto, J., As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (Perennial, 2001). The Colapinto article (first published in Rolling Stone in 1997) that preceded this book is available here.

Domurat Dreger, A., Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (Harvard University Press, 2000).

—— Intersex in the Age of Ethics (University Publishing Group, 1999).

Fausto-Sterling, A., Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (Basic Books, 2000).

Frank, A. W., The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics (University of Chicago Press, 1995).

Goffman, E., Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (Penguin, 1963).

Haynes, F. & T. McKenna, Unseen Genders: Beyond the Binaries (Peter Lang, 2001).

Kessler, S., Lessons from the Intersexed (Rutgers University Press, 2002).

Articles, chapters

Chase, C., ‘Affronting reason’, in D. Atkins (ed.), Looking Queer: Body Image and Identity in Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Communities (Harrington Park Press, 1998).

Epstein, J., ‘Either/or—neither/both: Sexual ambiguity and the ideology of gender’, Genders, 7 (Spring 1990).

Fausto-Sterling, A., ‘The five sexes, revisited’, Sciences, 40 (4), July/August 2000.

Preves, S. E., ‘Sexing the intersexed: an analysis of sociocultural responses to intersexuality’, Signs, 27 (2, Winter 2002).

Turner, S. S., ‘Intersex identities: locating new intersections of sex and gender’, Gender & Society, 13 (4), 1999.

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2, 2 and 2: Nicole Sinclair talks about Bloodlines

2nd Nicole's photo 2016

Nicole Sinclair and I have been connected in a variety of ways over some years. I first came into contact with her work—anonymously, of course—when I chose one of her stories as winner of the Down South Writers Competition. (Not long after that, she won the Katharine Susannah Prichard Short Fiction Award—the first writing award I ever won.) Later I discovered what a skilful and generous interviewer she is when she took that role in a conversation session with me at the Margaret River Writers Festival. And in 2015 we appeared together in an issue of Review of Australian Fiction. I’m delighted that we are now friends as well as writing colleagues.

Nicole’s short fiction and non-fiction has also appeared in Westerlyindigo Journal and Award Winning Australian Writing, and forms part of the artworks along Busselton Jetty. Bloodlines (Margaret River Press, 2017), which was shortlisted for the 2014 TAG Hungerford Award, is her first novel.

You can meet Nicole and hear more about Bloodlines at the Bookcaffe Book Club, at the State Library of WA, on 8 June (5.30–7.00pm). Bookings and more information here.

Here is the back-cover blurb:

Thirty-one-year-old Beth, who grew up in Western Australia’s wheatbelt, is running from her past when she heads to an island in Papua New Guinea. Interwoven with Beth’s narrative about the joys and brutalities of island life is the story of her parents’ passionate, tender love for each other. But Clem and Rose’s union is beset with tragedy, forever marking the lives of those around them.

Shifting between the perspectives of five memorable characters, this ambitious, big-hearted novel heralds an exciting voice in Australian literature. Above all, Bloodlines asks us to consider what it means to make a home, and what we might owe to those who dwell in it.

And now, over to Nicole…

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2 things that inspired the novel

Shearing sheds

Shearing sheds have been a part of Sinclair family culture for generations and my father was a shearer for over fifty years. As kids, we loved climbing through packs overflowing with soft wool, chasing lambs in the pens and sweeping the boards. We worked in sheds when we were older, earning money while at university or to go travelling, and we had greater appreciation for the back-breaking work Dad did to provide for us. Shearing sheds are such a rich source of story: old junk is often stored in them, watching a roustabout throw a fleece can be captivating, and the pranks and talk at smoko and cut-out are always interesting! Many people believe that shearing sheds are places full of crude talk and drink, and I wanted to present an alternative to this stereotype. I also hoped to represent the very act of sheep shearing as something skilled and graceful. Beth’s parents (Clem and Rose) both work in shearing sheds and, through them, I was able to pay homage to this very formative part of my life. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the challenge of depicting their tender love affair (without being sentimental and soppy) against the gritty grime and stink of shearing sheds.

Mothering

I could not have perceived how greatly my life would change through the course of writing Bloodlines. I began writing this novel as a single woman, and within a short period of time, I fell in love and had a baby. Within two years, we had another daughter. Motherhood greatly affected how I wrote and what I wrote about.

An impending baby makes a great deadline! For the first time in my life, I was disciplined with my practice. When the baby was born, and I was strapped for time and sleep-deprived, mothering made me work-savvy. I wrote willy-nilly on scraps of paper, receipts discarded on the kitchen bench bore jottings for a character, a plot point would be recorded on a serviette at a cafe on a much-needed escape from the house. The very structure of the narrative—the prose fragments or small chapters—reflects these small snatches of time afforded me. I was determined to write whenever I could (the house often in disarray) and gave up many of my idealistic, perfectionist attitudes towards creative practice. My work, like my mothering, had to be ‘good enough’.

I used my creative musings to explore the wondrous, often frustrating experience of new motherhood, and the narrative became the richer for it. Rose remains one of my favourite characters, perhaps because in her, I see so much of myself as a vulnerable new mother. Fellow-writer Robyn Mundy read an early draft and commented, ‘…I nodded several times at the moments from your own life: Rose’s challenges with baby Beth’s crying and sleep deprivation (could you have written that wonderful layer into Rose without your experiences?).’

Most likely not.

2 places connected to the novel

Bloodlines is told from five different perspectives, with shifting times and places. The two key settings of this novel are based on places of great significance in my own life. In many ways, the narrative is a tribute to both the physical landscape and the people to whom I felt a close connection in each place.

The first is Toodyay, a small town (or at least it was when I grew up there!) on the edge of the West Australian wheatbelt. The rolling hills, meandering river and small town characterise my fictional town of Hope Valley, which is drawn from my childhood memories of growing up on a farm near Toodyay. I think the wheatbelt is often overlooked or dismissed (it’s not the coast, the desert, the forested south, the city), and yet I find the wheatbelt landscape very evocative. Through Clem’s daughter, Beth, I explore some of the complexities of belonging and connection to a particular place; how we might long for it, yet also spurn it, hate it.

In 2007 and 2008, I worked as a volunteer in a Catholic school on an island in Papua New Guinea. The experience was intriguing for many different reasons, and I knew I ‘had’ to write about it. Few Australians know much about PNG except the violence and corruption emanating from Port Moresby or, more recently, the debacle of the off-shore detention centre on Manus Island, but it offers the would-be writer (and reader) an extraordinary backdrop: environmental biodiversity, hundreds of distinct cultural groups, locals who love drama, rumour and sharing stories. From the outset, I wanted to evoke the dense-jungled mountain interior and palm-fringed island where I lived and worked, and I wanted to pay tribute to the generous, friendly, hard-working people I lived and worked with—which brought me face to face with the challenges of writing about another culture, one (at times) so vastly different to my own. Bloodlines is my investigation of the outsider in PNG as they grapple with cultural difference and the legacy of colonialism.

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These two quite disparate settings—the wheatbelt and PNG—allowed me to look at the ‘push–pull’ of places and tease out some of the inherent issues such as belonging and un-belonging, home and dislocation.

2 favourites lines about connection in the novel

In many ways, Bloodlines is about connection: connection to the past, connection to place, connection to others. Two of my favourite quotes about connection are as follows:

Clem and Beth’s connection (pp. 311–312)

He takes the bleating baby, slips down the hallway and out the back door. He grabs his raincoat and covers her with it, feels the tar-black night wrapping around them.

‘Here, my girl,’ he says, jimmying a swollen shearer’s finger into her mouth.

Under the stars he walks up and down the back lawn, round and round the weeping willow, past his vegie patch where the corn quivers in the pre-dawn breeze, past a whimpering Dog, past nappies forgotten on the line. He walks past the tractor with the flat tyre he’s been meaning to fix, past Rose’s Cortina and the ute, til he’s facing east and can see the first pink softening of morning. He holds his little girl, inhales the sheep and sweat of his raincoat mingling with the sweet, soapy smell of her, until the little body stops shuddering at last and her mouth gives up the suck.

Val’s connection with Beth (pp. 380–381)

(Val is Clem’s cousin and Beth goes to work with her in PNG.)

Val knows Beth will be leaving soon—whether it’s now or next year—and something in her feels like breaking. She’s spent over thirty years up here trying to avoid most white people and now Beth, on the island five minutes, is so far under Val’s skin it hurts. She’s got used to having her around, likes knowing she’s in the far house in their compound: two white meris bookending the others, keeping them safe. She’s going to miss their gin and tonic musings and those hot Sundays after church when she loads the ute with Beth, Lena and Grace, Delilah and Ruth, and they all escape to a waterhole down the highway.

signing with oona

Bloodlines is in bookstores now.
You can find out more at Margaret River Press.
Read Lisa Hill’s excellent review here.

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