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Well it’s happened, the launch of my first collection! And what an amazing experience it was!!

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Hosted by The Coffee Pot, which did a great job of catering to everyone’s needs, Rachael Mead did an absolutely fantastic launch for me. I really was quite touched by a number of things Rachael said, and she set the scene beautifully for me to then get up and read six poems from the collection, which from what feedback tells me, I did well! And the crowd liked the fact I gave a bit of context before reading each one, just to explain a little of how and why they came about, so that went down well.

Was I nervous? Yes, but also strangely calm, I think because it was my work and I knew it well, it was familiar, cosy, almost like a safety blanket in case I fell, literally (but I was a good girl and only had one glass of wine before reading, made up for it after though!).

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And surprisingly I sold 30 copies, although I say I it was actually Andreas who was in charge of sales and did it so well. Photos were snapped courtesy of Andrew, Rachael’s partner, so there will be more moments to share and keep and look back on and think, wow, what an incredible night!

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Wednesday saw a collaboration between wonderful local poets Mike Hopkins and Heather Taylor Johnson at the Halifax Café, reading a few poems written on their recent jaunt to the UK where they cycled, yes cycled, around the Yorkshire Dales.

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Introduced by Ian Gibbins, responsible for Friendly Street Poets communications, Mike was first up beginning with a poem ‘From Wensleydale’ (after Jen Hadfield), which was inspired by the place names they came across during their trip. A clever poem with a strong sense of the great outdoors followed by another called ‘Hills’ and ‘Walls, the latter closing with the gorgeous image of ‘the land’s flanks stitched with drystone ribs.’ Mike also read a piece called ‘Burning the Bartle’ about the annual tradition in a village they stayed in where an effigy of Bartle is burned – ‘Bartle the sheep stealer, Bartle the pig thief, Bartle the giant’ – and finished his travel poems with ‘The Fox and Hounds’, describing a typical British pub with its eclectic name and clientele. Mike is an entertaining poet, telling it how it is, wonderfully conveyed through the poems ‘I could yet turn into’ where he describes a recent eye test, ‘Taking off Tony Abbott’s clothes’ a hilarious commentary of just that, and finished with a piece about the kind of poems to avoid reading aloud, which left very little!

Heather opened with a poem called ‘Feet’, one of two poems written while away, which painted an almost surreal picture and yet was literally grounded. Using a theme of perceptions, Heather then read ‘How to identify an author at a reading’, a stunningly simple description, followed by poems about pregnancy with the fantastic line of ‘a belly that is feral with what it’s done’ and a three part poem that examined being pregnant from the outside, inside and bottom up, beautifully poignant. Heather has a lullaby voice, woos us into her world where ‘The kitchen floor’ gives us visceral images of home and heat and in ‘The cake is done, I am done’ a relationship is cooling. In ‘The sick room’ we watch as ‘he offers to feed you spoonfuls of himself’ and then takes us on a journey with poems about traveling through South America. Heather finished her set by advertising her ‘Fractured Self‘ anthology, a collection of poems that will focus on the different facets of human nature when impacted by illness, a brilliant concept and one I plan to contribute to.

getting around a bit! Check these out:

I am one buoyant, if not slightly nervous, poet!  But pressure can be good; it shows just what you can do.

happy by the sea

So I thought I’d go along this year to see what it’s all about. Below are some highlights. Know now, this is long!

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Opening night

Mayor Gillian Aldridge opened the festival at the Mawson Lakes Centre, where they were thrilled to have secured former Prime Minister Julia Gillard to talk about her recently published biography My Story published by Random House. Amazingly Julia wrote this in 6 weeks, explaining that she wanted to write it as soon as possible to use the immediacy of memory. There are a few messages Julia wanted to convey in this book – a positive impression of politics for young people, how and why she did what she did, a story of resilience. Once again Julia was in top form – she really is a fantastic speaker and indeed role model for many girls aspiring to be a political figure.

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The launch of the anthology You’re Not Alone by young writers of True North also formed part of the evening, with participants asked onto stage to provide some context to the project, which essentially reaches out to anyone lost or lonely, or who are simply looking for a good story. It was a moving tribute.

Writers’ Forum

This was an all-day event of talks, debates and tips for writers across all genres, competency and experience.

Keynote address: William McInnes

Now I confess I was not familiar with this actor-turned writer, but was thoroughly entertained by what he had to say and how he did it!

William McInnes is one of Australia’s most popular authors, having written 8 books in 10 years, including memoir and his most recent novel, Holidays, published by Hachette AustraliaWilliam talked about the contrast between acting where you’re pretending to be someone else and writing, which is personal and all you. Above all, he said, the most important thing is that what you write means something to you, if not to anyone else, a point echoed throughout the day.

Panel: Writing as Therapy

This was an interesting discussion. The panel comprised, from left to right, William McInnes, Jane Turner Goldsmith and David Chapple from the SA Writers Centre, who between them explored the pros and cons of writing as a cathartic process.

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Writing is putting yourself out there, often the most intimate parts, to be read, judged, critiqued, loved or simply ignored, which begs the question why do we put ourselves through it…

Writing is a means of expression, a tool to help manage, understand and heal us from traumatic events and experiences.  It was interesting to hear that writing for therapy is only beneficial if there’s a strong narrative and resolution, giving an example where two groups were asked to write about something that has affected them, the first as a series of thoughts and the second as narrative, i.e. having a beginning, middle and end. The second group found this to be a satisfying exercise due to the structure imposed, whereas the first group felt they were just left swimming in a pool of emotion, proving this can be a dangerous exercise if not managed properly.

Writing can be subconscious, use characters or third person to reduce the anxiety associated with sharing, with writing fiction being a safe, protective environment to project the self. Even the most successful author can remain fragile about what they produce. I thought the closing remark poignant – people are designed to struggle, recover and move on; it’s what makes us human.

Panel: Once it’s out there…

This was essentially a hints and tips session from authors with books under their belt – from left to right Kristin Weidenbach, Carla Caruso, Jared Thomas and Mandy Macky from Dymocks. They explained how the world of publishing and marketing has changed, with publishers no longer able to finance extensive book tours.

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Here’s a little of what they said:

  • Arrange your own launch as a means to celebrate and thank
  • Cultivate a relationship with a local bookstore
  • Seek speaking opportunities rather than just book signings
  • Write articles for free
  • Visit country/remote locations and touch base with the local paper
  • Find a quirky angle in the media to advertise yourself
  • Be reliable and easy to communicate with
  • Know your genre and audience
  • Network, make connections, attend literary events and festivals
  • Literary agents are useful for negotiating internationally

The panel concluded by saying publishers look for authors who can market themselves as unfortunately, they no longer have the budget to do so.

Panel of Publishers: What goes on behind closed doors?

From left to right Michael Bollen of Wakefield Press, Sophie Hamley from Hachette Australia,  Leonie Tyle from Tyle & Bateson Publishing and Dyan Blacklock a publishing consultant gave us an insight into a typical day, where reading new work is a small proportion and quite often done in their own time.

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Liaising with account manages, sending books off to the printers, exploring cover designs, organising contracts, book signings, advising on book tours and launches, attending events, these were just some of the tasks cited that fill their day where, like many of us, there are never enough hours!

Usefully they shared some do’s and don’t when you think you’re ready to submit your work:

  • Revise, revise, revise your manuscript
  • Consider getting it edited professionally
  • Be familiar with submission guidelines and process
  • Do simultaneous submissions but be sure to let publishers know
  • Know your market
  • Apply for literary grants
  • Enter competitions, join writing groups, attend events
  • Explore the self-publishing option
  • Assess how much you want print against the rise of e-books
  • Beware of assessment agencies
  • Write something worth reading, fresh and original

On this last point they strongly advised against writing what you think people want to read and a concept of ‘rear view publishing’ i.e. don’t write what’s already out there. And again another beautiful closing – a good book will always find it’s home.

The University of Canberra is hosting a Festival of Poetry from 1-11 September with fantastic international poets in residence, Philip Gross and Katharine Coles, along with a positively star-studded cast including the likes of Mark Tredinnick, Lisa Jacobson and Peter Rose.

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The International Poetry Studies Institute carries out poetry-related research and publishes its findings across the world, along with journal issues and a chapbook series. Their aim is to “develop new communities of poetry and to make new links between poets wherever they are”, and this event will do just that.

Through a series of master classes, interviews, book launches and readings, including announcing winners of the 2015 University of Canberra VC’s International Poetry Prize, the program is jam-packed with opportunities to network, learn and appreciate poetry as the significant literary art form it is.

And if it weren’t for other poetry commitments around that time I would definitely go along, and then could have also ticked Canberra off being the only Australian city I have yet to explore! Alas, timing is everything.

Having just come across a poem by Geraldine Mitchell in the current issue of The Rialto, I explored her work – her poems are exquisite and hauntingly beautiful, leave your mind singing…

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Warning Shots

 
When you live on the edge
of an ocean, you cannot pretend
you did not see it coming.
 
The leaves are still, birds
chatter, the sea is a sheet
of steel. But out west
 
where last night the sun
left a sky illumined
like stained glass
 
dirt heaps up,
someone else’s dustpan
emptied on your doorstep
 
and a magpie
rattling gunfire
at first light.
 
First published in Cyphers and subsequently in Of Birds and Bones

 

Flotilla

‘Heaven Scent’ Magnolia
 
They tack in, full rig, under cover of darkness,
dock before dawn in cement-paved ports
 
at wharves of picket fence. The voyage
has been long through winter’s bald estates,
 
gusting grit and dust have shred their sails
to votive rags, bound now to every leafless branch.
 
Waxen petals blood-tinged white
glow like manna at first light.
 

First…

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