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jan-feb 2012

Adaptation, with: arnold zable amanda brotchie

therese radic damon young joe penhall

margot mcgovern pd martin laura jean mckay THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012


benefits for members AT

WRITERS VICTORIA The victorian writer magazine

Manuscript Assessment Service

The Victorian Writer is printed on recycled stock and published 10 times yearly. If you’d like to pitch an article idea to the magazine email

For many writers, manuscript assessment is an important first step before seeking a publisher. It brings a fresh eye to your manuscript and provides you with an objective analysis that enables you to further develop your work. Writers Victoria offers manuscript assessments, publisher submission appraisals and, as a follow up to both of these for selected writers, post assessment consultations.

mentoring Mentorships offer writers the opportunity to work with an experienced industry professional on a one-to-one basis over an extended period of time. The next round of mentorships will be opened in March 2012.

omg it's a gaol! old melbourne gaol Writers Victoria is soon to launch a new program to provide writers with spaces in which to work. In partnership with the National Trust (Victoria), we will soon be offering two cells in the Old Melbourne Gaol – Writers in Cells. Secure, central, close to public transport and brimming with atmosphere, these cells will be perfect for writers working in the areas of crime, true crime, historical fiction or those writers who are in need of greater focus! Keep an eye on our website in 2012 for further details. We hope this will be the first of many new opportunities to open up writers’ spaces in partnership with the National Trust. See fellowships to find out more

Writers Victoria gratefully acknowledges support of the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria – Department of Premier and Cabinet, and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts and funding advisory body.

Membership Rates in 2012 ONE YEAR Full






Household (Concession)


Regional Victoria


Household $60 (Regional Vic)





Organisation $120 (not-for-profit) TWO YEAR Full




Organisation (not-for-profit)


As always, check our website regularly for the latest news:

Grace Marion Wilson Trust Supporting Emerging Writers



14 Image courtesy the artist, Rhonda Goodall-Kirk. Title: And My Father Sold Me. 2011 Oil on Canvas: 130cm X 100cm

Exhibition details Rhonda Goodall-Kirk: Take Refuge in Human Lineaments Dates: 13–26 April 2012 Opening: Fri 13 April 2012 6–8pm Venue: Brunswick Street Gallery, 322 Brunswick Street Fitzroy Hours: 10am – 10pm Tues–Sun

arnold zable

Capturing a Feral Vitality.

16 Better Dead of Alive? Choosing the Right Author.


5 From the Director


what’s happening Around the State.

8 VWC program The Big Bash.

11 month of reading


therese radic

pd martin




Allee Richards Interviews the Crime Author About her Move to "e".


amanda brotchie

Lessons From a Successful Journey Lowdown.



Joe Penhall

The Road to Adaptation.

24 & 25 comps & calendar

damon young


Arnold zable

13 MONTH OF writing margot mcgovern


from persia and beyond


26 & 27 members BACK STORY BOOKENDS REVIEW ADVERTISING IN THE VICTORIAN WRITER For advertising queries contact or see victorian-writer/advertising THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012



THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

Dear Members,


Good grief, is it the new year already?

Someone really should have warned me. One minute a chap's scrambling to get things finished through the December madness (Season of shops and manic senselessness – apologies to Keats), then suddenly it's over and the sun’s beating down on a year with a newer, bigger number. Didn’t manage to make any resolutions, let alone keep them. Are we in the future yet?

I love looking back at images from my youth that tried to articulate our future. One school had us in shiny, sleek, seamless costumes with nary a blemish and an obsession with levitation. This is perhaps the Jetson’s school of the future. Everything was going to be easier; a range of machines would do all the dirty work, everyone would be well-off, we'd all get along and the planets would make fabulous holiday destinations.

most part, run on air. The amount of data flashing around our ears via various invisible frequencies of light is staggering. It’s just as well we can’t see them, or we’d be blind to anything else. Future computers were always hulking, threatening beasts with lots of flashing lights and spinning spools. Most of us now have incredibly sophisticated computers slipped into our pockets. The Apollo spacecraft’s onboard computers had 140 kilobytes of memory, less than most contemporary kitchen appliances, and weighed 32kg.

Then there were the various dystopias of Orwell, Huxley, Brunner, Hoban and others. Things would go wrong on a massive scale and life would be a misery. Totalitarian regimes would cruelly keep us under their thumbs, science would order things to the point of sterility or an environmental meltdown would drag us back towards the Stone Age, or beyond. Bits of all of these futures swirl and eddy around us, but perhaps the biggest miss in these fictional futures is how visible they were. The ideal, hi-tech futures were all about surfaces and textures; we'd wear our future with selfcontented coolness. Other futures had bad news shouted at us through highly intrusive posters and electronic media or an environment that attacked us before we’d even made it through our front door (or airlock). The most pervasive elements of our real future seem to be invisible. Means of communication are now incredibly complex and, for the

So, a few hits, but many misses. My pick for a future? I’m an optimistic pessimist. Things are going to get worse, a lot worse. A global temperature rise of two to three degrees doesn’t sound a lot, but think back to the last time your body temperature rose that much. Wasn’t much fun, was it? While all the focus lately has been on climate change, world population has continued to grow and grow at an increased rate. This can’t go on. The science on population fluctuations is well established. The maths to describe how populations behave, whether bacteria in a Petri dish or people on an island, is well proven and stark. Rising populations reach a critical peak followed by a precipitous crash. There is no evidence pointing to our good selves being any different. Doesn’t sound terribly optimistic? My optimism is about what happens later. We may learn from these disasters. From an age in which there is a constant flood of information, a trickle of knowledge, and barely a drop of wisdom, we may progress to a simpler, purer life that treads softly on this wondrous rock of ours. Creativity and a flair for adaptation will be very much in demand. Roderick Poole, Director <> THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012



A N e w na m e : w e d i d i t ! Well, we did it! For those of you who missed it, Friday 9 December marked the launch of our new name and our program for the year to come. Writers Victoria director Roderick Poole says, “Friday evening’s launch attracted a terrific crowd and included many of the esteemed course tutors from 2012 program. Lively speeches, a great band and many references to writers’ journeys, both literal and figurative, made for a memorable evening. A big thank you to everyone who attended and all who helped make it such an exciting event. Suggestions are welcome for what to do with the apostrophe left over from our old name.” We’ll see about that ..., and

2012 prime m i n is t e r 's l i t e r a ry awa r ds Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Arts Minister Simon Crean have launched the 2012 Prime Minister's Literary Awards and a new $100, 000 poetry prize. In 2012 there are six awards: adult fiction, poetry, nonfiction, young adult fiction, children's fiction and Australian history. The winner of each award will receive $80,000 tax-free and the shortlisted entries in each category receive $5000. au/pmliteraryawards Closing date: 1 February

Please email

note our new website,

NONfictionow 2012: call for panels NonfictioNow is one of the most significant gatherings of writers, teachers and readers of non-fiction from around the world. Three days of panels, screenings and events will centre on the practice, thinking, communication and writing of nonfiction in all its forms to be hosted by RMIT University in November 2012. The Bedell NonfictioNow Conference seeks panels that showcase the diversity of the genre. Panels can explore any aspect of non-fiction ranging from the celebration, discussion or tribute to the work of a particular essayist, or a discussion of an aspect of memoir, ethics, the lyric essay, literary journalism, travel writing, food writing or regional writing. See Panel submissions will close on 15 April.

byRon bay writers’ festival announces new director Jonathan Parsons has been named the 2012 Byron Bay Writers’ Festival Director. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the [Festival],” says Jonathan, “and am looking forward to building on the rich history of one of Australia’s best festivals of books, writers and writing.” Jonathan has over 20 years experience working in the arts and cultural scenes, both within Australia and internationally.


THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

a n n o u n c i n g the novella project In recent years, publishing costs and market pressures have contributed to the demise of the novella in print. However, thanks to advances in digital publishing and the rise of social media and e-readers, some industry experts are predicting that this may be the beginning of a “golden age” for novellas. Griffith REVIEW is pleased to announce a competition open to all residents and citizens of Australia and New Zealand, calling for submissions for The Novella Project, a new publishing initiative supported by the Copyright Agency Ltd. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges and the winning selections will be featured in late 2012 in Griffith REVIEW’s fourth annual New Fiction Edition. In addition to publication, winners will receive a share of the prize pool of $30,000 plus a share of royalties from digital sales of each novella sold separately as an eSingle. Submissions deadline is


April. See

Vichealth’s arts about us funding round open Funding is now available to develop arts activities that stimulate dialogue and thinking about how we all respond to cultural diversity and Victoria’s Indigenous heritage, and/or to raise awareness of the harms of race-based discrimination and the benefits of cultural diversity. More information about the Arts About Us program can be found at www. The program comprises two funding streams - Participation projects with grants of up to $30,000 per annum for three years and Presenting/producing projects with grants of up to $50,000 per annum for three years. Application information and the online application form can be found at


c i t y o f l i t s i s t e r : r e y k jav i k Reykjavík was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in August 2011 and is thus the newest member of the Cities of Literature Network. This is not the only news on the literary front in Reykjavík, as the city also joined ICORN this autumn, the International Cities of Refuge Network, and welcomed the first writer that the city shelters in November, the Palestinian poet Mazen Maarouf. He will reside in Reykjavík for at least two years, and has already been welcomed by the local community and taken part in his first literary event at Yoko Ono‘s Imagine Peace Tower on the island Videy, just off the Reykjavík shore. The City of Literature was launched in September at the Reykjavík International Literary Festival, a festival that has brought many great writers to Iceland. Among the foreign guests this year was Herta Müller, Alberto Blanco, Nawal El Saadawi and Horacio Castellanos Moya and, as always, many local writers also took part. The festival is known for the intimate atmosphere created between readers and writers, which is partly due to the fact that it is held in an old and charming theatre by the Reykjavík City Lake, as well as at the Nordic House nearby. These venues are usually packed with people.

Another big event was the first Reykjavík Book Fair, co-hosted by the Publishers’ Association. This was a weekend full of literary events organised by the City of Literature, while the publishers showcased their newest publications in all genres. As I am writing this, the so-called “Christmas Book-Flood”, is in full swing, and the Fair marked the beginning of that period. This term probably sounds strange, but since most books in Iceland are published in autumn and books are popular Christmas presents, literature is in the spotlight at this time and there are readings and other events all over town.

A new board for Reykjavík City of Literature will meet for the first time in January 2012. Its chairman is one of Iceland’s most prominent writers, Sjón. His work includes the novels The Blue Fox, which won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2005, and From the Mouth of the Whale, published in English in 2008. You can read more about his work, as well of those of other Icelandic writers, on Among projects the City of Literature will focus on in 2012 are reading incentives, literary markings in physical and electronic form and to work towards opening a centre for literature together with key literary partners. Last but not least, international cooperation will be one of our focal points. We look forward to working with Melbourne and other Cities of Literature, and hope to encourage interaction between writers from our cities in the future. Learn more at - With warm greetings from snowy Reykjavík, Kristín Viðarsdóttir Project Manager, Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature,

words in daylesford - by Belinda Raposo On the Daylesford Words In Winter Festival It was the window out of which I’d imagined I might take pause between moments of creative brilliance; outside, unending grass and expanse of gum trees. This was the room I had envisaged writing reams of prose inspired by the morning melodies of magpies, the waxing trill of cockatoos and the waning refrain of galahs. Winter would come, when those gums strip back their skins, revealing unwritten poetry. Upon rising, thick early morning words covering my mind, I would gaze out that timber framed window, layers of thick enamel paint peeling away and revealing their stories beneath. Pinning all hopes of inspiration on the view from this little window, the long Daylesford winter would bear gifts in the form of the Words In Winter 2011. During this local festival of writing, the theme for the year being Milestones, townsfolk dust off their quills, twaiku in town halls, while country bards keep the oral tradition alive in bush poetry recitals. I twaiku’d, blogged winter inspired haiku, and sat bundled up in that chilly room, pondering the words scratched into the window pane; JS Bradley, 24.6.82. Did JS Bradley come here searching for inspiration too? Did JS Bradley find it? Perhaps JS Bradley went mad, never finishing that first draft and etching one last attempt at literary immortality into the glass plate. Escaping to a regional town brings with it certain crises of identity and belonging. Some of us find ourselves here, craving a sense of community, a home beyond the gum trees, but isolation can be more real than expected. Seeking out that little retreat which might become my creative cocoon brought me to Daylesford. My winter words have thawed as outside the trees have turned new leaves. I step out from my hibernation to look in through the window. THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012



SUMMER SCHOOL Info on all Summer School courses and bookings at:

cartoon writing Mary Napier, Program Manager

The BIG BASH Thanks to all of you who attended our December launch. There were almost 150 of you – our biggest turnout yet! Here's a taster of the celebrations.

with Andrew Marlton Learn about this effective medium for social commentary, inciting political awareness or creating an engaging story with a difference. First Dog on the Moon (Andrew Marlton) is senior editorial cartoonist at Crikey. When: Wednesday 18 January, 10am – 4pm Cost: $180, Members: $125/$115 Rating: Early and emerging

SPECIAL EVENTS funding your art with Arts Vic and CAL In conjunction with Arts Victoria and Copyright Agency Limited, Writers Victoria presents an info session on the opportunities available to writers through various funding programs. When: Monday 6 February, 6.30–8pm Cost: FREE Rating: All

meet the residents Cafe/bar The Moat has opened its doors and we invite you to relax with fellow writers, our neighbours in the Wheeler Centre and industry folk for informal drinks and conversation.

Venue details Unless otherwise stated, events are held at Writers Victoria @ the Wheeler Centre, alongside the State Library. We’re at Level 3, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. Booking details Book and pay via our website or phone Writers Victoria on 03 9094 7855. Booking policy As places are limited, and to allow confirmation of Writers Victoria events, booking deadlines are imposed for all events. We strongly advise bookings at a minimum one week prior to event start. Cancellation policy Refunds will only be given where a cancellation is made three working days prior to an event or start of a course. Writers Victoria reserves the right to cancel any event due to lack of bookings up until two days prior. Workshop/seminar rating 1 = introductory 2 = intermediate 3 = advanced A = all levels of experience Disabled access Writers Victoria attempts to provide disabled access where possible. Please phone prior to your visit if you have any special needs. 8

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

When: Thursdays, 5pm 16 Feb, 19 Apr, 21 June, 16 Aug & 18 Oct Cost: FREE Rating: All This is a licensed event.

TUESDAY TUTORIALS Series Starts 28 February Special guests include Steven Amsterdam, David Astle, Steven Carroll, Leslie Cannold, Arnold Zable and more. Full details at When: Tuesdays 6.30–8.30pm 28 February Telling Non-Fiction Stories with David Astle 27 March Fiction: The Right Voice and the Right Details with Steven Amsterdam Cost: $40, Members $30/$25 per session. Rating: Early and emerging

Australia council meetings Staff from the AusCo Literature Board will be available for 30-minute individual meetings on: Thursday 15 March, 10am – 4pm and Friday 16 March, 10am – 12pm Book an appointment at bookings@ or on 9094 7855. Before making an appointment we strongly advise you see

WEEKEND WRITING writing comedy with Rachel Berger When: Saturdays, 10am – 4pm 11 Feb, 17 Mar, 14 Apr, 12 May & 16 June Cost: $690, Members $625/$580 Book by 25 January for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging

action poetry: write in the middle of life with Ouyang Yu When: Saturdays, 10am – 4pm 18 Feb, 24 Mar, 21 Apr, 19 May & 23 June Cost: $690, Members $625/$580 Book before 1 Feb for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging no nonsense spec-fic with Jack Dann When: Saturdays, 10am – 4pm 25 Feb, 31 Mar, 28 Apr, 19 May & 30 June Cost: $690, Members $625/$580 Book by 8 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging

WEEKDAY WRITERS CHILDREN‘S BOOKS with Sofie Laguna Develop picture and chapter books and create appealing characters and plot lines. Sofie Laguna is an award-winning author, actor and playwright. When: Thursdays, 12 – 4pm 8 March, 5 April, 3 May & 7 June Cost: $360, $310/$275 Book before 22 Feb for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging

CREATIVE NON-FIC with Kate Holden Refine skills in researching, writing, editing and marketing a non-fiction project. Kate Holden is author of In My Skin and The Romantic: Italian Nights and Days. When: Thursdays, 12 – 4pm 15 March, 12 April, 10 May & 14 June Cost: $360, $310/$275 Book by 29 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging


COMPACT COURSES writer's research with Romy Ash Develop research skills required for credible writing. Apply techniques to both fiction and non-fiction, with attention to researching character and setting. Romy Ash is a Melbourne-based writer. Her first novel, Floundering, was shortlisted for the 2011 The Australian/Vogel Literary Award and is published by Text in 2012. When: Weds 6.30–8.30pm, 8–29 Feb Cost: Members $220, $180/$165 Book by 25 January for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging

intro to editing with Ian See Learn basic tools to improve your own or others’ writing and brush up on your grammar and proofreading marks. Ian See is an editor at Scribe where he has worked since 2009. He is a graduate of RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing program and has been involved with Sleepers, Overland and Meanjin. When: Weds 6.30–8.30pm, 7–28 March Cost: $220, $180/$165 Book by 22 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging

YOUR WRITING YOUR YEAR yEAR OF the popular noveL intensive with Adrian Hyland Tailored to writers with previous publication who may be currently working on a manuscript or are about to commence their next novel, each session will help participants to troubleshoot critical points of story development, explore techniques and find resolutions to develop their ms. Adrian Hyland’s first book, Diamond Dove, won the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. Gunshot Road, his second novel, was published in 2010. Enrolment by application only, upon paying a $200 online deposit. Applicants complete an online submission, including a one-page CV and writing sample (max 1000 words). When: Saturdays, 10am – 4pm 3 March, 5 May, 30 June, 8 Sept & 10 Nov Cost: $690, Members $625/$580 Submissions close 1 February. All applicants will be notified 15 February Note: Successful applicants who finalise payment by 20 Feb receive 10% discount. Rating: Emerging and established

yEAR of non-fiCtion intensive

yEAR of memoir

with Leslie Cannold Gain the tools for successful non-fiction writing. Bring your idea, proposal or partly finished manuscript, and uncover what’s standing in the way of its completion. Dr Leslie Cannold is author of the awardwinning Abortion Myth and What, No Baby? She is an award-winning columnist, oft-noted as one of our leading thinkers. Enrolment is by application only, upon paying a $200 online booking deposit. Applicants complete an online submission which will include a one-page CV and sample of writing (max. 1000 words). When: Sundays, 10am – 4pm 4 March, 6 May, 8 July, 9 Sept & 11 Nov Cost: $690, Members $625/$580 Submissions close 1 February. All applicants will be notified 15 February. Note: Successful applicants who finalise payment by 20 Feb receive 10% discount. Rating: Emerging and established

with Dmetri Kakmi Dmetri Kakmi’s practical guide to writing memoir leads emerging and novice writers through the writing process from inception to publication, addressing technical issues. Dmetri Kakmi is an experienced editor, writer and broadcaster. His acclaimed memoir, Mother Land, was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2008. When: Saturdays, 10am – 4pm 17 Mar, 12 May, 14 July, 15 Sep & 17 Nov Cost: $720, Members $650/$610 Book by 29 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging.

YEAR of the essay with Damon Young Participants will savour some exemplary essays, pick apart their virtues and vices, and hone their own skills. They will also learn about the nuts and bolts of pitching essays to newspapers and magazines. Damon Young is an Australian philosopher and writer, and the author of Distraction, recently published in the UK and US. When: Sundays, 10am – 4pm 19 February, 22 April, 24 June, 19 August, 21 October Cost: $690, Members $625/$580 Book by 1 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging.

yEAR of children and ya with Archimede Fusillo Be introduced to the world of writing for young people and develop your idea into a manuscript over the course of the year. Archimede Fusillo is the award-winning author of YA novels and children’s books. When: Sundays, 10am – 4pm 4 March, 6 May, 8 July, 9 September & 11 November Cost: $690, Members $625/$580 Book by 15 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging.

YEAR of novel extensive with PD Martin Be guided through the major stages of novel writing and learn about the publishing industry. Phillipa Martin is the author of five crime fiction novels published in 13 countries. She’s also published an eBook novella, Coming Home. When: Sundays, 10am – 4pm 18 March, 15 April, 20 May, 17 June, 15 July, 12 August, 16 Sept & 14 Oct Cost: $1070, Members $960/$890 Book by 29 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging

YEAR of non-fiction extensive with Maria Tumarkin Participants will explore the many thrilling possibilities of true stories vividly and distinctively told. We will think hard about the most important challenges of narrative non-fiction – questions of ethics, voice, structure and narrative momentum. We will also look at the relationship between storytelling and research, and between writers and their subject matter. Learn what it takes to make autobiographical writing resonant and relevant, and research-based writing fresh and compelling. Melbourne-based writer, Maria Tumarkin, is the author of Traumascapes, Courage and Otherland. See When: Sundays, 10am – 4pm 18 March, 15 April, 20 May, 17 June, 15 July, 12 August, 16 September & 14 October Cost: $1070, Members $960/$890 Book by 29 February for a 10% discount. Rating: Early and emerging

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012



THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

month of reading * damon young Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad | Atwood is brave. Not because she has dared to retell the myth of Odysseus – all myths are retelling. She is brave because she makes Penelope an ambivalent, ambiguous psyche – makes her real, in other words. Atwood’s prose is adaptable: from conversational storytelling, to choral chants, to scholarly declamation. What marks this novel is her combination of exquisitely expressed sympathy and lightly worn scholarship. She has researched Odysseus, Penelope and their genealogy; she has read over the Odyssey, Iliad and Graves’ mythic smorgasbord. She takes this putty, and thumbs it with feeling: for skeptical, canny Penelope; for her braggart, restless husband; for the ill-fated serving girls Odysseus strings up. These girls are Atwood’s chorus: “twelve accusations, toes skimming the ground, hands tied behind our backs, tongues sticking out, eyes bulging, songs choked in our throats.” Emily Dickinson, Poems | Dickinson is a trapeze artist. She balances between minute attention to sensual detail, and otherworldly speculation. And she does so with unprecedented economy. Take her paean to imagination: To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee / One closer, and a bee. / And revery. / The revery alone will do, / If bees are few. Her floral poems and metaphors give Dickinson’s poems a palpable texture, but she is always gesturing at Immortality, death and her god. Alfred Habegger, All My Wars are Laid Away in Books: A Life of Emily Dickinson | The caricature of Dickinson is this: a frail recluse, shimmering awkwardly in white. She was hermetic, yes, but she also carried on a gregarious social life in letters, poems and poesies, sent to friends and strangers alike. Habegger takes the sometimes-murky details of Dickinson’s recorded life, and illuminates it with stories of her family and friends, and the atmosphere of New England. He also reveals the stoic strength of the poet: her bold, uncompromising creation of a private artistic life. Seamus Heaney, Human Chain | Heaney is known for his evocations of his Ireland countryside, but he is also a touching poet of human relationships: hence the title. His poem “Conway Stewart“, about his boyhood fountain pen, is a subtly moving record of the tools that commemorate our partings. “Medium,” 14-carat nib,

Guttery, snottery,

Three gold bands in the clip-on screw-top,

Letting it rest then at an angle

In the mottled barrel a spatulate, thin

To ingest,

Pump-action lever

Giving us time

The shopkeeper

To look together and away


From our parting, due that evening,

The nib uncapped,

To my longhand

Treating it to its first deep snorkel


In a newly opened ink-bottle,

To them, next day.

W. Somerset Maugham, “The Art of Fiction“, in Ten Novels and Their Authors | This essay is a wonderful way to cap off a Maugham story: a word from the master on what fiction is for. He is particularly against didactic storytelling, which he sees as a clumsy departure from the pleasure of fiction, and all its necessary bias and partiality. He also highlights the reader’s duty: “Unless a reader is able to give something of himself, he cannot get from a novel the best it has to give. And if he isn’t able to do that, he had better not read it at all. There is no obligation to read a work of fiction.” Damon Young is an Australian philosopher, writer and commentator. He is the author of Distraction. Damon‘s wide-ranging opinion and features have been published in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Herald-Sun, New York‘s Daily News, BBC and ABC. He comments regularly on radio, is a monthly guest on Sunday Mornings with Alan Brough on ABC Melbourne 774. Damon is also the editor of Martial Arts and Philosophy: Beating and Nothingness.

PEN report BY arnold zable President Melbourne PEN

2011 has been one of PEN Melbourne’s most active and productive years. Our ongoing work covers a wide spectrum and includes our advocacy on behalf of persecuted writers; our Asia and Pacific Writers Network website which facilitates an exchange of information between writers throughout the region; our support of Indigenous writers, and writers from many backgrounds whose voices may not be so readily heard; and our promotion of linguistics rights. Our quarterly newsletter and website keep members up to date with PEN events and provide a forum for members to publish their work, and to receive information about writing events and our campaigns.

PEN’s advocacy on behalf of persecuted writers, editors and publishers remains our core activity. Throughout the year International PEN’s offices in London research new cases of writers who have been imprisoned, threatened, harassed, exiled or even murdered for the peaceful pursuit of their craft. PEN centres worldwide respond by pressuring governments, publicising individual cases, and doing all they can to have imprisoned writers released. PEN Melbourne’s annual card writing session was held in November 2011. The cards are a simple and poignant way of letting imprisoned writers worldwide know they are not alone. Our members sent over 150 cards to imprisoned writers in Vietnam, China, Turkey, Iran, Uzbekhistan, Syria,
the Basque Country, Kazakhstan and Bahrain.

As the Czech writer Eva Kanturkova said in 1982: “an innocent person in prison suffers feelings of isolation, loneliness, and loss. The knowledge that you defended me against unjust accusations against me brought me joy and strengthened my will to come to terms with the harsh conditions of my imprisonment.“ 
 All writers, journalists, essayists, editors and lovers of the written word are welcome to join us.

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

Will Self, “Diary“, London Review of Books, 20 October 2011 | Self is a walker. He has trekked for days, hoofing it from London to Oxford, and Dubai to the “baking Empty Quarter”. He is also a great observer of his fellow beings, and of the changing English landscape: the City’s loud tangle, the pathos of “manky” modernism, the expensive rustic of manor acres with sportingly dead pheasants. In this typically engaging essay, Self takes his son Luther with him, and takes a “biopsy” of greater London. As opposed to hermetic driving, the hike orients him in his own city, and reconnects him with its citizens. “I’m not saying that a radial walk would necessarily have a positive influence on our policy makers,” he writes, “but I can’t help feeling that if they want to enact joined-up government, they should understand how it all fits together.”




THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

month of writing * margot McGovern

John Donne famously stated that ”No man is an island,” but earlier this year I tried to be. I’m writing what I’ve termed a ”campus clique crime novel” as part of a creative writing PhD at Flinders University. Being a postgrad, I have what every writer dreams of: the time and resources to write. Better yet, I have an outstanding supervisor, Dr Ruth Starke, who helps me improve my writing. However, living the dream comes at a price and whenever I’m not writing, thesis guilt sets in. For the last draft of my manuscript I approached my writing like I would a full-time job, forcing myself to spend eight – ten hours a day on my laptop and setting myself a minimum daily word count. I refused to be distracted by invitations to coffee with friends, Facebook or other writing projects. During business hours, nothing outside my novel existed. By halfway through the draft, I loathed my manuscript. I counted the hours until the weekend and considered dropping my PhD in favour of a ”real” job – so long as it didn’t involve writing. I managed to finish the draft on time, but the result left a lot to be desired – there were gaping plot holes, the ending was rushed and unrealistic and my protagonist was hardly over-burdened with personality. This last month I changed tack. I dropped the business hours and the daily word count. I still tried to start out writing everyday, but if I really wasn’t getting anywhere I didn’t push it. I also decided I wasn’t going to feel guilty about spending an entire afternoon revising a small piece of dialogue

or a few descriptive paragraphs, if that’s what it took to get it right. By isolating myself I was limiting my sources of inspiration and motivation, and making the writing process a whole lot harder than it needed to be. So I made time to get caffeinated and talk shop with other writers. I Tumbled and Tweeted and plotted short stories. Then I brushed the dust off my sketchbook and doodled. I went to the movies, saw plays and read a truckload of books. I rediscovered natural light. Sound an awful lot like procrastination? Admittedly some of it was, but for me it’s also part of the job. Seeing what other writers and artists were up to made me want to get back to my desk and produce something. If I wasn’t such a stress-head it would have been very easy to focus all my energy on being writerly rather than actually writing. Fortunately, having a supervisor and the aforementioned thesis guilt meant I didn’t get too far behind. My word output for this last month was definitely lower than when I was giving myself daily targets, but the quality of what I wrote was much higher, and that’s the most important thing. Having a lot of friends in the corporate world, I often feel ashamed to admit that I spent the afternoon skimming my favourite blogs or considering how to develop a character while pottering in my garden. However, while having a life meant less time with my laptop, it also meant that I made the most of the time I did have and it helped me produce much richer work.

Margot McGovern is a freelance writer and editor, currently completing a creative writing PhD at Flinders University. Her work has appeared in Australian Book Review, Kill Your Darlings and Voiceworks. Check out her website at


a monthly word from WRITERS VICTORIA friends

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond is hitting the State Library soon. You should feast your eyes on it! In March the State Library of Victoria will present a major exhibition of Persian manuscripts. Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond will be the largest exhibition of illustrated Persian manuscripts in Australia’s history. The exhibition will feature more than 60 rare Persian, Mughal Indian and Ottoman Turkish illustrated manuscripts from the 13th to 18th century, as well as editions of European literature, travel books and maps. These visually stunning works come from one of the richest periods in the history of the book and give a fascinating insight into the great artistic and literary culture of Persia and its timeless stories. Writers will love it because the exhibition showcases classic Persian tales and reveals the extent to which Persian language and culture spread into neighbouring empires. There are also parallels in the work of European writers dating back to Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dante. Love and Devotion will show the many representations of human and divine love within the great narratives and poetry of Persian literature. Classic love stories by writers such as Nizami and Jami, as well as Firdausi’s Shahnama, or Book of Kings, Persia’s great literary epic, will be exhibited. Visitors will see works from the great Sufi poets such as Rumi and Hafiz, as well as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and 1001 Nights, which have been enormously popular in the West as well as the East. Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford partnered with SLV to create this exhibition. They form the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. Be sure to check it out as well as a full program of events and activities that will support the exhibition, including lectures, musical performances, community days and a conference. A lavishly illustrated publication based on the exhibition will also be available. See for details.

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creating a literary work, publishing it and then – years later – passing it into the hands of another writer to re-work, re-envisage, adapt. Imagine doing this, when – though it’s years after publication – the work has never really left you. “In a way, with all my books, they never go away,” says novelist Arnold Zable. “I revisit them constantly. I haven’t read any one of my books in full again since they came out, but you speak at writers’ festivals, you talk at libraries – you’re giving readings, so you’re revisiting in that way … Café Scheherazade has never really gone away.” Whether despite this fact or because of it, when the opportunity arose for renowned Australian playwright Therese Radic to write a stage adaptation of the novel, Zable was enthusiastic, bearing the trust and open-mindedness of a parent sending their child off to travel the word for the first time. Radic successfully took up the adaptation challenge and after two sell-out seasons of Café Scheherazade, there are plans for tours to Sydney and regional Victoria. Drafting and re-drafting occurred over a period of about six years, so Zable is not oblivious to the magnitude of the task. “Look at the constraints. I mean, this is a novel 70,000 words long and this is a play 90 minutes long. You’re looking at a huge shift there alone. A lot of it has to be about economy of words.” He cites essential contributions to the successful final product not only from Radic, but also from director Bagryana Popov, lighting designer Richard Vabre, and musicians Ernie Gruner and Justin Marshall, musical director Elissa Goodrich, the actors, producer Helen Ricards and 45downstair’s Mary Lou Jelbart, among others. The lengthy, collaborative process was a harmonious one, Zable says. Given the large number of cast and crew involved in bringing the story of his novel to the stage, did he ever worry that it wouldn’t be? 14

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“My major concern was that it captured the spirit of the café and the spirit of the book, rather than literally capturing all the stories. To me, despite the heaviness of some of the stories of the journeys that those characters went on, the book is a celebration of survival.” Café Scheherazade details, through the eyes of journalist Martin Davis, the stories of men, told in a café in St Kilda, about the journeys that led them from their home towns on the other side of the world, to an inner city suburb of Melbourne. Recounting stories is part of the important process of remembering, and sharing, where they’ve come from. “I think that when you tell these sorts of stories – and there are many like them in Australia from many different cultures – it’s important to be culturally specific, to honour that culture.” As such, getting the music right was also of primary concern. On top of their lines, cast were required to learn Yiddish songs, to be performed during the play with Klezmer musicians. “Music was something I was very passionate about since the very beginning and music is a forte of Therese’s so she was very much in harmony with that.” Zable’s role during the extensive redrafting of the script version of Café Scheherazade was mostly that of consultant, answering questions, for example, about Yiddish pronunciation, when called upon. Otherwise, he says his engagement was fairly “hands-off”. “I thought that’s the way it should be; I would answer queries but Therese would have the right to interpret [the book] the way she wanted to. There’s another reason he took a hands-off approach: trust had been established. “It was amazing to know someone cared enough about a book of mine. I mean, you think about it, Therese cared enough to spend so much time, so much energy, so much love with something I wrote myself. It’s actually very moving. Whenever I hear Christos Tsiolkas speak about The Slap and the production crew, I feel the same sentiment coming through from

him. They cared enough to put so much into this.” Indeed, the task was gargantuan: six years of work, 15 or 16 redrafts, a change of cast, a script revision to reduce the length of the play … “It’s a very difficult book to adapt,” says Zable. “I think it’s a daunting task to adapt a novel where there are lot of stories within stories. It’s almost written in a Yiddish syntax, a very Yiddish style of storytelling, where people go off on tangents. “The characters are quite exuberant; in fact, a couple of the characters have what Primo Levi called ‘feral vitality’ and I was always pushing that – in the production stage I pushed that very strongly … When we first met the cast I was given the chance to say those sort of things and to say, well, this is how I feel this character would express himself, this is the spirit of the book.” He’s grateful for that opportunity, and emphasises that trust cuts both ways. Were Radic a different sort of writer, he mightn’t have had the opportunity to contribute at all in redrafting or rehearsals. There were deviations in the play from the original book version and Zable admits there were, along the way, some things he “let go of”. However, in the journey of Café Scheherazade from page to stage, he was never simply napping in the backseat during a casual Sunday drive, waiting to be woken on arrival. “I can see situations in which I would’ve said no. I think this needs to be made very clear; there would’ve been certain situations where I would’ve said, that’s going away from the spirit of the book.” However, Zable believes Therese did justice to the café and its stories: “She was very, very keen to capture the spirit of the book – and she did.” He adds, “Therese knows theatre, she’s written many plays in the past, and I’m on a learning curve when it comes to theatre.” “I work very hard at rhythms, in people’s speech rhythms, and their monologues are more like soliloquies. Whereas, I guess, Therese brings the text more into the demotic – the theatre is more demotic, it uses the speech of the every day, it’s more colloquial. That’s where the text is transformed, it’s more popular expression.” “There are things that are said that weren’t said in the book, or are said in a much more prosaic way, and it took me a while to really get that and to see that this is really valid.” He admits there were elements of the adaptation that “took a while to adjust to” – an unavoidable part of the process. “I think it’s inevitable that there were moments when I felt uncomfortable by a certain interpretation. “There are certain stories that went that you regret to see go. Some of those things went because of Therese and some of them went because of the director. She felt she had to sharpen it a bit further through bringing more economies to allow space for movement and music and other elements that come in. So there are all the other things you have to let go of.” He is appreciative of the fact that he was allowed – at certain key points of the production phase – to address the cast and crew. “I remember just being very emphatic about what I thought was the spirit of the play and how I felt there was a certain exuberance, almost like a chaotic madness, because this is the way it was at the café. At a certain point it would become a crazy place with people shouting their stories and contradicting each other. So I had a chance to get all of that across. It’s very important to have that ... to have that chance was gratifying. And I still feel that I am part of the evolution of this [play] as we take it forward.”

“It was beautifully done. From the hard work Therese put in to the other key people involved, particularly the director, Bagryana Popov, with her deep instinct for theatre. I think when you’re looking at the production side of things the direction was the most important factor.” On opening night of the play’s first season, sat amongst the audience at a packed-out 45downstairs, Zable was exuberant. “It worked,” he says, “and to see the café alive on stage was very exciting. I felt enormously grateful to everyone from the writer to the director, the fabulous actors, the lighting designer, the production crew, 45downstairs – for the energy, the commitment. I felt this great gratitude that they put in so much work and energy, for the work they put in to try to understand the characters of the café and what it meant.” Zable knows that such harmony might not have characterised the collaboration surrounding the adaptation of one of his novels. He cites the example of his friend, writer Raymond Gaita, who had a bumpier road on the path to the adaptation of his book into film. “I spoke to him about the adaptation of Romulus my Father to the screen and he had a very strong sense of what he would like to see done and not done,” says Zable. “He knocked back proposals – even a script that had been written, as I understand it – and he held off until he felt he had really found the right person to translate this onto the screen. And it takes a lot of guts to do that because, here you are, with a chance to have [your book] on screen and all that that means – it means a lot of things … So I can see that there would be limits to what you felt comfortable with.” Limits aside, if invited to embark on the adaptation ride again, for another of his novels, he’d happily consider alighting. “I’d be very open to it. It’s an exciting process. It’s very exciting to see what can happen.”

The word “pressure” comes to mind as Therese Radic recounts some of the six-year process of adapting Arnold Zable’s novel Café Scheherazade to a play of the same title.

Better dead or alive? Choosing the right author Living authors usually make for a tougher job when it comes to literary reworkings; Therese Radic found a happy exception, however, when she adapted Arnold Zable’s novel to the stage. She spoke with Anna Kelsey-Sugg.

It’s not so much the enormity of adapting the text – turning 70,000 words into a 90-minute play is no mean feat – but the two unusual circumstances surrounding the project. Rather than adapting an old classic whose author is long gone, Radic chose a novel whose author – Arnold Zable – was present during the process (and indeed invited to contribute). Also present were the two people upon whom the story’s protagonists are based – Masha and Avron, owners of the real Café Scheherazade. “I was very concerned about the fact that there was Arnold who might hate what I did or Masha and Avron, who came to many of the performances,” says Radic. “I was dealing with live people, not just stories, that needed to come into the present. The show needed to come off the page; instead of being in the past; they had to become ’right now’ and connect to an audience.” “It could’ve been a real disaster, but it wasn’t. When you’re writing a play that’s totally your own work you don’t have anybody to quarrel with, do you? There’s no danger of disapproving of yourself. Nobody’s going to come to you and say, “don’t do that, I don’t like it”. You can do what you. Arnold was handing over completely to me, that’s the difference. He tried very hard not to dictate anything. My relationship to

Image taken from the Cafe Scheherazade return season play flyer. Keep an eye out for information on the play's forthcoming season and tour details.


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the play was, well, after a while it felt like my creation. All the time in the back of my mind I had to think, ‘no, no it’s not yours, it’s actually Arnold’s’. There are constraints, but the collaborative way in which the theatre usually works was working very well in this case.” There was the question of, what if things turned bad and the “live people” didn’t like the script? “If you do a contemporary work there’s always the problem of copyright and there’s always the problem of whether the person who owns the copyright, Arnold, will change their mind midstream,” Radic says. “So most people, when they go for adaptations, will look for something that’s out of copyright and then the owner of that copyright will be dead – this wasn’t the case, so it made me nervous about it. It could just fall in a heap any minute.” The pressure, she says, contributed to the project taking so long. As it turned out, she needn’t have worried. “Arnold was absolutely the gentleman; he never once objected to anything I did and didn’t express any doubts. He was just very supportive. I didn’t believe that that was possible.” Avron and Masha – who both attended the show more than once – were delighted with the result. Come the show’s season, Radic says she “could breathe a great sigh of relief”. “Masha used to come to it and burst into tears every night; it just reminded her of her own past.” Part of the appeal of adapting the novel was that despite a long history of writing for theatre, Radic hadn’t ever adapted a novel to stage. “The reason I originally said yes to Arnold was because I was surprised at the idea; I hadn’t done it before and I thought, well, other people do this so what about me? He kind of put the idea in front of me. I hadn’t found something that I felt like that about.” Not long after the novel Café Scheherazade was published Radic and Zable crossed paths one night at a gallery and hit it off. They knew each other’s work – Radic has written numerous plays for the Melbourne Theatre Company and Playbox (now the Malthouse Theatre) – and the idea of turning the novel into a play was raised. “We got so enthusiastic about it together and we said, ‘Yes, yes, we must do this’. Then years passed. It was one of those moments that you don’t think anything much will come of. Then after a couple of years we met again and he said, ‘Do you still want to do it?’ and I said yes, so we sat down and discussed it, and I began to reread the novel.” At this point the novel was pulling her towards the theatre more and more. “It struck me that it was very much a book not just about a migratory period straight after the second world war, where we had a lot of Jewish intake, but a story that was relative to now; the idea of the refugee, the person who is misplaced. What do they do with their past? How do they cope with it? How do they remember it? How do they make something of it? All of those questions were very much in the air when I was rereading it and it showed me that this was a story that needed to be told. It needed to be told by Arnold in a novel first, but out of that there was more. Because there’s so much drama in it – it just spoke to me.” Radic believes there is a level of drama that can be achieved in theatre that can’t be reached in book. “The novel is something that you read in private, on your own, at your own pace, in your own time. It’s not something that involves other people. Whereas the theatre involves an audience, it is listening together, thinking of the ramifications of what’s happening on the stage. You have a very refined amount of time – in this case, the company was saying an hour and a half and no more. I had to cut what I had of the novel to fit all those parameters. The novel is poetic and it runs across an enormous number of subjects and lives.

You can’t put that on the stage otherwise you’ve just got a reading of the book. So I was looking at a present day audience with a present day dialogue that would talk to them directly in that very compressed way that only the stage or sometimes film does.” While Radic stayed faithful to Zable’s story, there were changes she made to the text in order to emphasise dramatic tension for the audience. “A lot of material had to be left out. It’s a great shame having to leave out great stuff. But even just reading the book aloud would take a great many hours to do. I had to look through it to find out where these things lay and when I had what I thought was a continuous narrative, I had to choose where I was going to put an emphasis. “The major one was to create climax. When you’re trying to write a play you’re looking to produce a certain kind of dramatic architecture; an exposition, a development, conflict, change, resolution. And the exposition is there throughout.” Pressure there may have been, but Radic says there was also lot of support and excitement for the project. “There wasn’t indifference anywhere, there was enthusiasm all the way through. I think it was that enthusiasm that kept me working at it. I’ve never worked on anything where there was that kind of cooperation or that kind of support. It doesn’t mean there wasn’t conflict or problems – my director and I were locking horns at certain stages, but we worked on it and worked out a way to do it together. Directors and playwrights always have these problems.” Despite the very successful end result, and the excellent working relationship with Zable, Radic is quick to respond when asked what advice she’d offer a writer embarking upon an adaptation: “Find a dead author, and find something that’s out of copyright. That way there’s no one to interfere with.” Radic knows that – while successful collaborations are at the heart of all good theatre – Zable’s hands-off approach during the transformation of his novel to a play wouldn’t be the way of all writers. Indeed, she thinks the attitude is exceptional. “You’re not going get lucky and get Arnold. I think Arnold is rare. Other writers I’ve spoken to who’ve done this sort of thing were all of the same opinion that I was very lucky.” She also recommends securing a venue before beginning an adaptation project. “Find a venue that wants to do your work before you even start to think about it and have a director that is willing to cooperate with you. Don’t go into it alone and don’t go into it without an outcome promised at the other end. Geoffrey Blainey once told me, you can’t afford to give away whole slices of your life. You just don’t know when it’s going to end up in the bottom draw.”

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Seeking in-put from her readers who determined the narrative path of her novel, PD Martin transformed the final of her “Sophie Anderson” crime fiction series into an interactive ebook. From week-to-week readers voted for their preferred plot twists and then – six days later – got to read the results. Allee Richards interviewed PD to ask about the unusual collaboration, and why the decision – in the final hour – to move the series into the electronic sphere.

Inspiration for the collaborative medium My inspiration was a combination of things. My last book had just gone off to the printers and I had about two months before the publicity started. I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself – usually I would spend that time working on the next Sophie book, but I was planning to move away from the series and hadn’t decided what story to write next. I used to get a lot of emails asking when I would write the back story of the series’ main character Sophie. I knew it was never going to be a full novel and at the same time I was being advised to “get moving” with the web, to engage my readers and get new readers by involving them. It made sense to write the story about Sophie’s brother’s murder, and to do it online.

Handing the reigns over to the readers All the voting [as to what should happen in the novel] was through multiple choice, so I had some control. When you’re writing a book you’re making decisions all the time anyway. All the questions I posed to the readers were questions I would’ve asked myself. Usually I would decide based on what was most believable and interesting. There were some days when I’d be watching the votes, hitting refresh and thinking “no, don’t choose that”. I was lucky that no major plot flaws or problems evolved toward the end of the novel. But in normal circumstances I don’t do a lot of planning anyway, I very much like to see the story unfold on its own in a more organic way. I was just slightly bending the rules of my usual practice. If you were a planner you couldn’t write this way.


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Managing rapid, weekly deadlines It worked really well for me because of the deadline. I was committed to a time frame and there was no saying, “sorry, no chapter this week”. I used to work as a corporate writer and still do freelance corporate writing, so I’m used to working to deadlines. I am not a procrastinator. If I have three hours to write, I write. And when you’re writing certain non-fiction things, like professional writing, perhaps it isn’t as creative as fiction where you’re making everything up, but you’re still sitting at the table, crafting words and sentences together, communicating and telling a story of some description.

Establishing a “brand” online I made sure I had a website as soon as my first book got published. I wanted a website and wanted it to look good. Originally, Coming Home was available on my website as a free pdf. I was hoping it would pay off by bringing in new readers: a reward for my loyal readers and an incentive for new readers. In the end I captured more younger readers than older. Perhaps because of the technology. Several months after I’d finished Coming Home, I started thinking more about self-publishing and charging for [the ebook] – just to see how it went. The difficulty I had with Coming Home was trying to publicise it on its own – the other Sophie books had not yet been published as ebooks through my publishers in different territories, and the price was set higher than the $2.99, which seems to be the magic price point for self-published ebooks. So I was really publicising Coming Home as one title, even though it’s part of a series. I think writers need enough work online (and preferably at the lower price rate) so that readers can finish one book then start the next one. Even if they read one book and like it, if there’s nothing else there for six or twelve months, they will move on. They’re not going to go back every week and check if an author has another book out. Self-publishing ebooks is really good for people who write quickly or who are writing shorter books. The people who make money out of it are the people who write quickly, who are quite prolific and are able to get good quality stuff up online every three months or so. Once they have that list of eight titles from 99 cents to $2.99 they create more momentum. There are still some positives of publishing a singular book online. I’ve just finished one book that I’m trying to shop around to publishers. But so far I’m finding that the spy thriller market isn’t very good so I am thinking about putting it up as an ebook. There would be some advantages, but it is one book from a series that is not yet written. In terms of significantly building a brand and seeing financial reward, I think you need to be getting a few books up there and working hard at getting a library.

The ebook price problem The first five books in the Sophie series have been published as both print and ebooks. The first five ebooks range from $13.50 – $20.50 in Australia and are $6.50 in the US, but Coming Home is only $2.99 in Australia – or anywhere – because it is self-published. I think people in Australia have gotten used to the price of books. But I think it’s harder for them to get their head around buying an electronic file for that price. I know a lot of the publishers are starting to have a more dramatic difference between ebooks and paper books, but it can still be a problem for Australian authors. If I was to self-publish, I’d price them $2.99 for everybody no matter where they are located, but through the traditional publishing process you don’t have control over the pricing.

Publishing advice When people ask me if they should self-publish because they can’t find a publisher I say, have a manuscript assessment done, get a professional edit done. The first book – or two or three – are part of a learning process. It’s about refining your craft. Do you really want those pieces of work available if you’re going to improve to the point where you’re not happy with them?

Self-publishing vs publisher There are great advantages of going through the traditional publishing process. My biggest problem with self-publishing is if people haven’t been published before, they don’t really understand the value and need of a professional editor. I don’t think it’s until you go through that process that you understand how much work it is. There are three rounds of edits back and forth from the publisher. Sometimes they’re really small things, but important nonetheless. In one of my books the proof reader picked up that the year I mentioned my character was born was inconsistent with the year he attended school. While a lot of readers wouldn’t notice that, it would annoy the ones that did. That’s one small example, but some of the things can be much bigger, like the overall flow of the sentences, major character flaws or plot problems. But there is the matter of needing some luck in publishing. You need to have a good quality book that gets to the right person at the right time and it becomes tricky. There are genuinely good books that aren’t getting published, so in those cases selfpublishing makes sense. I read a book recently that obviously hadn’t been edited. I had to re-read many sentences just to try to try to make sense of them. I turned to see who the publisher was and saw that it was self-published. I guess being in the industry, with the knowledge of the process of publishers, I want a well-written book and often that does equate to being with a publisher – though not always.

These days you wouldn’t often see books coming from publishers that aren’t well written. But perhaps if someone bought a book for only 99 cents online they wouldn’t care very much. They’ll just go onto the next thing. It would be nice to have Writing a book, you experience a stamp on ebooks like, “Edited by a member of the highs and lows of thinking it’s Australian Society of Editors” – but I don’t think that’s the most amazing thing ever, going to happen. then you think it’s terrible and PD Martin – Phillipa Deanne Martin – is the author wonder what you’re doing. of five novels featuring Aussie FBI profiler Sophie I think a danger is when people are Anderson. The books in the series are Body Count, on the high of having just finished The Murderers’ Club, Fan Mail, The Killing Hands and they might put it up online and the Kiss of Death. Her books are published in 13 countries. quality just won’t be there.

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012


Interested in writing or adapting for television? AFI-award winner Amanda Brotchie offers some hints gleaned from her career to help you sharpen your creative faculties.

Differences between writing something to be read and watched? For most creative writing, the reader participates in the construction of the world and characters, and the work is likely to be brought to life in different ways in the minds of different readers. A screenplay cannot afford to have similar flexibility and ambiguity. A screenplay is essentially a document that provides a blueprint for a work which is likely to cost an enormous amount of money to realise. It has to pass through the hands, and be understood by, a great many people, each with different interests: investors, producers, distributors, networks, as well as the director, actors and heads of department, each of whom will contribute via their particular field of expertise to creating the world and characters of the film. Their input will be based on what they understand from reading the screenplay. A successful screenplay will essentially be interpreted in a similar way by the many different people who read it. And it is up to the screenwriter to ensure that it reads as close to their vision as possible. When we are watching a film, we are receiving information simultaneously through different senses and via different means, such as music and other non-verbal sound, dialogue, tone, composition of image, juxtaposition of images, and recurring visual and aural motifs. Much of this layered, complex information is created first in the mind of the author, and then on the screen, via the screenplay. The more precisely the screenwriter can represent the universe, characters and story of their screenplay, the more likely it will be that the final film will correspond closely to the original vision. Precision does not necessarily mean more detail. Too much detail will bog down the work and will still not necessarily result in an unambiguous read. The key to successful screenwriting, like great film-making, is doing more with less. Screenplays tend to be streamlined, with each scene earning its place by performing at least two, and typically more functions, 20

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb december 2012 2011

such as advancing the plot, exposition of character, exposition of premise, as well as functions given by the genre, such as terrify the audience (horror) or make them laugh (comedy). A scene which serves only one of purpose is either drop-able, or the writer must find a way of adding value to it. What is the process of "pitching" a script? There’s no one process of pitching a script in Australia. Each produced film or television show has found its own way. In the case of Lowdown, Adam Zwar and I wrote a pilot, and invited some actors to do a read-through, to which we also invited producer Nicole Minchin. The read-through was enough to convince Nicole, and she came on board. We then gave the pilot script to the ABC with a synopsis and one-liner. The ABC was interested, but non-committal. We wrote a “bible” – a 20page document with series synopsis, premise, episode outlines, character breakdowns, notes on visual style, tone, target audience and the creative team. We took the bible and pilot script to Film Victoria, who invested in the pilot. We went back to the ABC with the filmed pilot, and they commissioned the series; it is easier for a relatively new team to convince a network with footage than with words on a page. The essential element to a pitch is to keep the premise as simple as possible. You need to be able to sum up what the project is about in one line. So the first step is to come up with a sizzling oneliner that encapsulates the premise, the world and the essential problem that will drive the plot forward. For Lowdown, our oneliner was: Each week, gun reporter Alex Burchill interviews a celebrity for the “Lowdown“ column in an ailing Sunday Tabloid, and each week, that celebrity somehow ruins his life.

What kind of journey does a


script go through between the writing being completed to the filming being completed? Nothing sharpens the senses like the commissioning of your work. Suddenly the flaws are thrown into relief. Much of the work in finessing the world, the story and characters is done once at this stage. It’s useful to remember that once the show or film is in pre-production it is broken down and dissected by the director, continuity, and other heads of department for all the information that each department needs in order to realise it. It is during this process that the odd careless word here or there could result in an entire environment, or look, or bit of action, which you did not intend. What is your advice to aspiring script editors or writers trying to break into the field? The most obvious difference between an experienced screenwriter and an inexperienced one is the ability to realistically assess the quality of their own writing. The experienced writer is likely to continue to develop and sharpen their screenplay, where the inexperienced writer is unlikely to notice the weaknesses. The more you write and the more your work is produced, the keener your critical faculties, the smaller the chasm between what you think your script reads like, and what it actually reads like. The most exhilarating, sobering and character-building experience a writer can have is to have their script produced. Anyone who has had their work published will attest to the fact that nothing hones the skills like seeing your own work in print. But for screenwriters, the equivalent experience is much rarer: seeing your screenplay produced. Until this finally happens, in order to train the eye and the brain, it is essential to read as many screenplays as you can. It’s the only way a new screenwriter can hope to gauge the quality and clarity of their own work.

AFI award-winning director Amanda Brotchie is the co-creator, co-writer and director of the multiaward-winning ABC comedy series, Lowdown. In 2009, Amanda formed High Wire Films with producer Nicole Minchin and writer-performer Adam Zwar. Amanda holds a Graduate Diploma in Film & Television from the Victorian College of the Arts (First Class Honors) and a doctorate in linguistics from the University of Melbourne.

Joe Penhall adapted Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road into the screenplay for the 2009 film. He explains why he enjoys creating new work from existing texts.

What is it about adapting work for film that appeals to you? Are there particular creative satisfactions attached to re-envisaging works that have inspired or attracted you? I like working on stories I couldn’t have come up with myself. Genre things are ideal. The Road was an apocalypse film and now I’m doing a western with Sam Mendes. I try to remain faithful to the other writer’s voice. More than anything I just like making films and don’t really distinguish between another writer’s original idea and my own, once it’s made. Also, if you want to make film, it’s becoming essential to adapt. Producers and financiers are far more likely to fund something that’s already succeeded as a book.

What specific hurdles does adapting for film present and what advice would you offer writers embarking on an adaptation journey that might help to overcome them? If the book has a flaw it’ll show up in the screenplay. If a character or plotline isn’t working, it’ll never work unless you rethink it. Also, just learn to forget about people comparing the book to the film. It’s like comparing gardening to cooking: “Well, I liked that carrot better when it was in the ground”. Sooner or later you have to forget about the book. Would you ever adapt one of your own plays for the screen? I adapted Some Voices, my first play, and the film starred Daniel Craig. It was a good little film. But it did feel like an adaptation of a play. It’s very hard to adapt plays as films. It’s like making a concert into a narrative film. The main draw of a live play is that it’s live. Plays have completely different rules. From your experience, how do the collaborative processes differ from the worlds of theatre to film, when it comes to producing a piece of work?

It’s easy. In theatre the writer is the boss. Everyone is there to serve the play. In film the director is the boss; the writer is finished with as soon as he hands over the script. I tend to make films with directors who are willing to collaborate a little more. But it’s hard to achieve. I’ve been very lucky. Would you agree that people are more willing to take creative risks in theatre than in film? Are audiences or art-makers in theatre more open to innovation? No, I think theatre is incredibly safe, staid and parochial at the moment. Don’t confuse “arty and pretentious” with creative risk-taking. There are far more intriguing, risky, satisfying films coming out. Look at Snowtown. That said, when theatre gets it right, it’s mesmerising and unforgettable. 

Joe Penhall (centre) is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter from London. He wrote the multi-award winning play Blue/Orange (2000) and screenplays for The Road (2009) and Enduring Love (2004). Image Nicolas Genin. THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012



Service for writers victoria members Did you know the Writers Victoria library maintains an up-to-date record of opportunities and competitions for Australian writers? Housed in three separate folders and freely available to Writers Victoria members, it’s the perfect resource for keeping track of what’s coming up so you can plan your time accordingly. With opportunities ranging from short stories, fiction and poetry through to non-fiction, essays and playwriting, it’s all in there. So pop in and have a rifle through; you never know where it might lead you! The Australian Society of Authors publishes competition guidelines. Many of the competitions listed in these pages, for one reason or another, fall short of these guidelines. Members should secure full information regarding a competition and satisfy themselves that they are happy to enter. For the ASA Guidelines for Literary Competitions, send SSAE to PO Box 1566, Strawberry Hills NSW 2012. Phone 02 9318 0877. Reference to any specific competition or opportunity advertised within The Victorian Writer does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favouring by Writers Victoria.


Voiceworks is looking for a new poetry editor to begin in 2012. The right person will join its volunteer editorial committee, who play a key role in all parts of the magazine’s production. They will help drive the direction of the magazine, read submissions, provide feedback to contributors, edit pieces where appropriate, contribute to our blog Virgule, and a whole lot more besides. Send any queries to editor@expressmedia.

EDITORIAL PROGRAM Closing date: 9 January The APA and Literature Board announce the seventh biennial Residential Editorial Program (REP). The REP will take place from 7–12 May 2012 at Varuna, the Writers’ House, in Katoomba, NSW. It is an intensive, five-day program offering midcareer editors an exceptional opportunity to develop their literary editing skills with highly respected industry practitioners and join an alumni of over 70 editors who have participated to date.


SIBA Buddhist Centre, Far East Gippsland. See for details and costs or contact Heather at

THE DOWN UNDER ESSAY CONTEST Closing date: 31 January

The US based quarterly magazine, Creative Nonfiction, in association with the Australian arts company, Tashmadada, seeks new essays for a special Australia issue. They're looking for a variety of perspectives – from locals, expats, tourists, or anyone else - and will consider essays of all forms and focuses as long as Australia’s landscape, people, and/ or culture are prominently featured; the stories are true; and submissions are previously unpublished. Essays must be 4000 words maximum. submittocnf.htm#Australia

TWELFTH PLANET PRESS NOVEL SUBMISSIONS PERIOD Closing date: 31 January Twelfth Planet Press novels will push boundaries to question, inspire, engage and challenge. Specifically looking to acquire material outside that which is typically considered by mainstream


THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

publishers. Work may be science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime.


Queensland Poetry Festival invites expressions of interest and proposals from poets, performers, and artists interested in being part of the 16th annual three-day festival spoken in one strange word. QPF 2012 will run from 24–26 August at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Phone 07 3842 9990 or visit

AMPERSAND Closing date: 27 February

Introducing Ampersand: a new collection of short novels by debut fiction writers presented by Hardie Grant Egmont. To kick this collection off, the editors of Ampersand are looking for fabulous manuscripts about the secret lives of teenagers. Each manuscript is free to stand alone and successful submissions will give each debut novelist the launch they need to build their profiles in a competitive YA market. http://www. the-ampersand-project

INTERNATIONAL SHORT STORY COLLECTION, THE WORLD TO COME Closing date: 29 February Patrick West and Om Dwivedi seek previously unpublished short stories for an international collection about ”the world to come”, whatever it might be, wherever it might be and whoever will be there, or not, to call our present past. 3000 to 5000 words. Email contributions as a Word document attachment to and patrick. Full details at http://


New small publisher Rough Draft now accepting manuscripts for consideration for publication in 2012.


The Ballarat Independent is looking for contributors to its online news forum. It's interested in hearing from Ballarat writers who may be interested in submitting a one-off article or becoming an ongoing columnist. Contact editors@ if you are interested.



Are you a children’s book author? Australian Self Publishing Group are calling for any author who would like their book to premiere at the Bologna Children’s book fair in March 2012. Bologna is the main children’s book fair and is where all the publishers, agents, and distributors of children’s books go to get new titles. Australian Self Publishing Group makes appointments with industry professionals and shows them Australian authors' books personally. Register your interest by contacting William at


The Young Achievers Program at Big Brothers Big Sisters is seeking female volunteers to mentor young authors. There are two girls in years 11 and 12 who are high achievers and want to become writers. The program offers each young person a mentor of the same gender who works in the career that the student wishes to work in. The mentor and young person catch up every 2 weeks. Contact Viv Ray


Open Channel’s Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media commences on 19 March. The program is designed for writers, directors, producers and creative teams with a specific film or TV series project in development. It offers a chance to build upon creative, technical and business skills as well as industry knowledge and networks. For further information visit or contact Daniel Schultheis, Vocational Education and Training Manager on (03) 86109300.


If so, the Malthouse Theatre's Michele Bauer would like to hear from you. She's conducting research for ClimArte, looking into creating a database of art projects (across all forms, and nationally) that have dealt with climate change and environmental issues, from 1996 through 2013. Information required is: project title, location, date, presenter and artist, and a web link, if applicable. Email Michele on


Calling all Varuna Alumni of the past 21 years to contribute to the Australia Council funded Writer-a-Day ”app” for iPhones, Android, iPad and Web. For each day of 2012 a different writer will read from their work with a link to their bio.

COMPETITIONS DOIRE PRESS ANNUAL POETRY & CHAPBOOK COMPETITION Closing date: 9 January Winners will each receive 75 copies of their own professionally edited and printed chapbook, published by Doire Press. Chapbooks will be perfect-bound, contain up to 40 pages, feature colour front and back covers, as well as their own ISBN and barcode. Fiction entries: one short story (4000 words max). Poetry: 4-6 poems (10 pages max). For details visit competition.html


Works submitted for the award may cover any area of topical interest to Australian legal professionals. All finalists will receive a publishing contract with LexisNexis, and the winner will also receive $30,000. www.

VISION AUSTRALIA'S DICKINSON LITERARY AWARD Closing date: 13 January There are seven different categories for Australian writers who are blind or have low vision and a $500 Vision Australia Equipment Solutions voucher for the winner in each category. For category details and entry forms aspx?page=2028

NORMA K HEMMING AWARD 2012 Closing date: 16 January The Australian Science Fiction Foundation instituted this important award at Aussiecon 4, the 68th World SF Convention in Melbourne in September 2010, to commemorate Norma Kathleen Hemming (19281960), a pioneer Australian feminist author active in the 1950s. The Award will be presented at Continuum 8 (51st Australian National Science Fiction Convention) in Melbourne, Victoria, over the Queen’s Birthday weekend 8-11 June. It will be given to mark excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in speculative fiction. http://home.vicnet.

PARENTING EXPRESS / MY CHILD SHORT STORY COMPETITION Closing date: 18 January For parents and carers. With over $2000 in prizes to be won, and publication both in print and online, the competition is looking for unpublished, creative nonfiction (no poetry) with a theme relating to pregnancy, birth or the first five years of raising a child. Stories must be 900 words. The competition opens on 10 November 2011 and closes at midnight on 18 January 2012. All entries must be submitted via email to submissions@ For terms and conditions, see

ADELAIDE PLAINS POETS INC POETRY COMPETITION Closing date: 27 January There are three sections - open, high school and primary school. The fee for the open section is $5 per poem, there is no fee for the student sections. Cash prizes available. Entry form and guidelines

FISH SHORT MEMOIR (LIFE WRITING) CONTEST Closing date: 30 January With David Shields as the judge. First prize is €2,000, and the ten best short memoirs will be published in the 2012 Fish Anthology.

BRUNSWICK POETS & WRITERS WORKSHOP 38TH ANNIVERSARY COMPETITION Closing date: 31 January Any theme! Any style! Poems up to 100 lines. Short stories up to 3000 words. Name, address and title/s of work/s, on cover page. Multiple submissions OK. Send SSAE to Brunswick Poets & Writers Workshop, 7 Mountfield St Brunswick VIC 3056 or email

WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR WRITING Closing date: 31 January Co-sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation, this award’s purpose is to “encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation.” Two prizes of $5,000 are awarded for fiction and non-fiction. http://library.stanford. edu/saroyan

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jen-feb 2012



COMPETITIONS CONTD. 2012 ANNUAL AUSTRALIA-WIDE EYRE WRITERS AWARDS Closing date: 31 January Eyre Writers Awards include Pep Manthorpe Memorial Prize - For Prose Writing, Fact or Fiction, Essay or Memoir; Tom Black Memorial Prize - Rhyming Poetry, not exceeding 50 Lines; Short Story Award - Open Theme, not exceeding 1500 words; Non-Rhyming Poetry Award - Open Theme, not exceeding 50 lines.

SUMMER WRITING COMPETITION Closing date: 31 January Young writers are invited to enter their short story or poem into the Friends of Williamstown and Newport Libraries' Summer Writing Competition. Sharpen your pencils and get your fingers tapping on a keyboard to ensure your original story or poem makes it onto paper. Categories from Prep to Year 12 with the chance to win a cash prize, a book voucher or a book in each division. Pick up an entry form from any Hobsons Bay Library or email libraryevents@

BLACK DOG INSTITUTE WRITING COMPETITION Closing date: 31 January Essays up to 1500 around the theme “Walking the Tightrope – Caring for Someone with Depression or Bipolar Disorder.” First place $2000, second place $1000 and third place $500. For details and entry form visit

2012 PRIME MINISTER'S LITERARY AWARDS Closing date: 1 February This year sees the introduction of a new award for poetry and the incorporation of the Prize for Australian History to further acknowledge the valuable contribution all genres of literature and history make to our cultural identity. Entries are invited for the categories of adult fiction, non-fiction, Australian history, poetry, young adult fiction and children's fiction. The winner of each award will receive $80,000 tax-free and shortlisted entries will receive $5000.


THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

THE 2012 GRIFFIN THEATRE AWARD Closing date: 14 February Just when you thought the year was winding down, Griffin Theatre is gearing up for a spectacular 2012. Griffin is looking for plays to go on stage at the Stables theatre. Send in plays which you consider a good fit for the Griffin stage both in terms of scale and story so that the theatre can programme the winning play.

THE 2012 [UNTITLED] SHORT STORY COMPETITION Closing date: 15 February

First prize $300, second prize $150, third prize $75, and two highly commended, with all five place-getters to be published in issue five. Check guidelines and download your entry form from www.

AUSTRALIA'S NUMBER ONE UTE LEGEND Closing date: 15 February The search is on for a short story that epitomises all the best qualities of being Australian to the core, and that necessarily means that the subject of the story will own or drive a Ute. $1000 cash prize will be awarded to the person who submits the best story, as detailed in the conditions outlined at on the website:

MEMOIRS, INK Closing date: 15 Feb and 15 Aug

Memoirs Ink is a US organisation dedicated to encouraging, promoting and supporting the genre of memoir, to preserving and publishing stories of the past, so those precious human memories are not lost to us all. They are inviting stories, essays and memoirs based on personal experience written in the firstperson, but the type, genre and style is up to you. Word limit: February deadline up to 1500 words; August deadline up to 3000 words.

VOICELESS WRITING PRIZE Closing date: 16 March The Voiceless Writing Prize sponsored by Australian Ethical Investment is one of the most lucrative short story and non-fiction competitions in Australia, awarding a total prize pool of over $20,000. Open to Australian citizens 18 and over, the Prize invites fiction and non-fiction pieces of 5-10,000 words, published or unpublished. Entries must focus on animals produced for food or found in the Australian environment.

FISH POETRY PRIZE 2012 Closing date: 30 March

The ten best poems will be published in the 2012 Fish Anthology. First Prize – €1,000. Second Prize – a week at Anam Cara Writers & Artists Retreat in West Cork's Beara Peninsula. Word limit 200.


Celapene Press invites entries for the Charlotte Duncan Award for a short story for young readers aged 9-12 years. This award has been established in the memory of Charlotte Duncan to raise funds for the neo-natal unit at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital. 1st prize - $75, 2nd prize - $50, 3rd prize - $25. Winning and commended entries will be published on the Celapene Press website. Cost: $9.90 per story. For entry form and guidelines see www. or send SSAE to 2 Bonview Crt, Knoxfield, VIC, 3180.

THE NOVELLA PROJECT Closing date: 26 April

Griffith REVIEW is pleased to announce a competition open to all residents and citizens of Australia and New Zealand, calling for submissions for The Novella Project, a new publishing initiative supported by the Copyright Agency Ltd. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges and the winning selections will be featured in late 2012 in Griffith REVIEW’s fourth annual New Fiction Edition. In addition to publication, winners will receive a share of the prize pool of $30,000 plus a share of royalties from digital sales of each novella sold separately as an eSingle. See

BRITISH AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY LITERARY PRIZE Closing date: 30 April The prize is open to all Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia. It will be awarded to an original, unpublished essay not exceeding 800 words, on the theme of the positive heritage of British culture in Australia. For details see british-australian-community-literary-award


jan-feb 2012 jan



Aboriginal creation story belonging to the Gunai people of Gippsland. The story follows the thirst of a small frog whose greed has him drinking all of the world’s water, leaving all the animals and plants thirsty and withering. Museum Theatre, Melbourne Museum. http://ilbijerri.


MIDSUMMA FESTIVAL Melbourne's annual Queer Celebration is a federation of arts and cultural events spread over 70 different venues throughout Melbourne. The Festival is presented over three weeks from mid-January to February and, having been held annually since 1988, is a significant attraction on the Melbourne festival calendar.



18 feb


by French-American musicians, Moriaty. 5.30pm at Readings St Kilda: 112 Acland St, St Kilda, Victoria. Free, but bookings required: phone (03) 9525 3852.


Much loved Melbourne writer Carrie Tiffany is back with another wonderful novel – Mateship with Birds. 6pm at Bella Union Bar, Trades Hall, Cnr Victoria & Lygon Streets, Carlton South. Free, no need to book




Writers at the Convent festival is held at The Abbotsford Convent. A program will be available from Reader's Feast and through The Age on 21 January. Patrons, authors, publishers, and booksellers converge in the natural beauty of the vibrant convent community. The Abbotsford Convent is an intimate setting where readers and writers can interact.





lovers of Australian fiction. Arnold Zable’s books include Jewels and Ashes, Café Scheherazade, The Fig Tree, Scraps of Heaven and Sea of Many Returns. Join in for a glass of wine and an opportunity to hear about Arnold’s work and inspiration as he chats with journalist and novelist Michael McGirr. 6.30pm at Readings Carlton: 309 Lygon St, Carlton, Victoria. Free. Bookings essential: (03) 9347 6633.


Mondays La Mama Poetica every 2nd month. La Mama, 205 Faraday St, Carlton, 8pm. $7/5. Passionate Tongues Poetry 1st and 3rd Mon. Noise Bar, Brunswick. 8.30pm. Tel 9328 8080. Phoenix Park Writers (East Malvern) meet weekly on a Monday and Saturday afternoon. Tel 9530 4397. Reservoir wRiters and Reciters Fortnightly, 1–3.30pm. Reservoir Library. Contact 0403 708 759 or Scribes Writing Group. 9.30am – 12pm (school terms). Sth Barwon Community Centre, 33 Mount Pleasant Rd, Belmont. Vivienne Worthington, Tel 5241 9491. Words and Music poetry and readings. 98.1FM. 10.30–11am. Tuesdays Melbourne Writers Meet-up Group. Inspired, emerging and established writers welcome. 6pm in city. Social not critique group. @MelbCityWriters or Book Chat. Share opinions and great reads with book lovers. Find new authors and new friends. Free, no need to book. 11am – 12noon@ Doveton Library. Docklands Writers. Enthusiastic and supportive writing group meets fortnightly on Tuesdays at The Hub, Docklands. For information contact Chalk and Cheese. Arts news, interviews and readings. 3WBC, 94.1FM, 4–5pm. Mordialloc Writers’ Group. Workshops fortnightly, 8pm. Mordialloc Neighbourhood House. mairi@, Tel 9587 8757. The Spinning Room poetry and spoken word. 8.30pm. ET’s (Edwards Tavern), cnr High & Clifton Sts, Prahran. 9510 9896. Williamstown Writers. First Tuesday of the month. 8pm. Hobsons Bay U3A Cottage, 83 Bayview Street, Williamstown. $2. williwriters@ Wordweavers Writers’ Group. Fortnightly 9.45am – 12pm. Waverley Community Learning Ctr, 5 Fleet St, Mt Waverley. 9807 6011. Wednesdays Aural Text RRR. 102.7FM, 12–2pm. Coast Lines Poetry Group. 1st Wed, 10.30am. Brighton Library, Wilson St. Cecilia Morris 0412 021 154. Roarhouse music and poetry. One Wed per month, 7–10pm. Esplanade - Basement Bar, St Kilda. Free. To perform: Wednesday’s Child Writers’ Group. Last Wednesday of the month. Bartiste Lounge, Ross Smith Lane, Frankston. 6.30pm.

Thursdays Australian Society of Technical Communicators (VIC) meeting, 1st Thurs. VTR Consulting, Roseneath Pl., South Melbourne. 6.30–8.30pm. Brunswick Poets’ & Writers’ Workshop ©. 1st Thurs, Feb–Nov. 7pm. Community Rm, Campbell Turnbull Library, rear 220 Melville Rd, Brunswick Wst. 9384 1277. Caulfield Writers Group. Alternate Thurs, 7.30pm. Godfrey St Community Hse, 9 Godfrey St, Bentleigh. The Courthouse Readings. 3rd Thurs. 728 Main Rd, Eltham. 8pm. $5. 9439 9732. Darebin Writers’ Group. 1st Thurs. 7.30pm. SPAN Community Hse, 298 Victoria Rd, Thornbury. 9480 1364, Published ... or not 3CR, 855AM, 11.30 – 12noon. Roarhouse music & poetry. One Thurs a month, 7–10pm. 303 Bar, Northcote. Spoken Word poetry. 9–9.30am, 3CR 855AM. Baw Baw Writers' Network. 3rd Thurs, Jan–Nov, 6pm. Drouin Public Library. Write Now. Discussion and talkback 88.3FM, 7–8pm. Fridays Andrew Thompson on 3WBC 94.1FM, 12.30–1pm. Short stories, poems, music. Melbourne Poets Union meeting, last Fri. Various locations, 7.30pm. $7/$5. Mornington Community Writers Group. 10am and 7.30pm. Mornington Community Hse, Albert St. Tel 5975 4772. Society of Women Writers VIC meeting, last Fri of month. Meeting room, 4th floor, Wheeler Centre. 10.30am. $5. Saturdays ABC Radio National’s Poetica, 3.05pm. poetry@fedsquare. 3rd Sat, 2–4pm. In the Atrium. Feb–Nov. Poetry Sessions. 2pm. Dan O’Connell Hotel, 225 Canning St, Carlton. Tel 9387 2086 or 0412 224 655. Stopping All Stations spoken word 3rd Sat. 2–5pm, Station Street Cafe, 26 Station St, Nunawading. $5. 0408 741 316. www.stoppingallstationsexcepte Wordsmiths Poetry Group. 2nd Sat, 2–5pm (exc Jan). $25 yr/ $3 session. 8 Woodhouse Rd, Doncaster. 9890 5885, Word Tree. 1st Sat, 3pm. Burrinja Cafe, 351 Glenfern Rd, Upwey. Tel 9754 1789. Sundays FAW Peninsula Branch, 1.45 for 2pm, 2nd Sunday, Community House, Albert Street, Mornington. Poems on Main. Book club run by Jordie Albiston. 2nd Sun, 3–4.30pm. Eltham Bookshop. 9439 8700. Readings by the Bay. Last Sun, Feb–Dec, 2–5pm. Mordialloc Neighbourhood Hse. mairi@ozemail., 9587 8757. Westword. 2nd & 4th Sun, 5–7.30pm. Dancing Dog Café, 42A Albert St, Footscray. $2.50. 0425 704 394,

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012



MILESTONES MERYL BROWN TOBIN won 3rd Prize for poetry in The Society of Women Writers Victoria Christmas Competitions, was Highly Commended for poetry in Waterline Writing Competition 2011, and had poems published in Writer’s Friend and The Write Angle. EMANUEL CACHIA’s story “Time and Time Again“ won the Melton Short Story Competition in 2011 and was Highly Commended in The Henry Lawson Society of NSW Competition. FRED CURTIS’s poem, “Adenocarcinoma Triolet“, has been published in Black Ink's The Best Australian Poems 2011. FIONA DRURY won Best Film Idea Prize in Scarlet Stiletto Awards for her story “The Detail“. JUDE FITCHER’s first book, Slow Tracks, was launched in October.

MEMBER DISCOUNTS 5% discount • Deans Art 188 Gertrude St, Fitzroy; 369 Lonsdale St, Melbourne; 341 Clarendon St, Sth Melbourne 10% discount • Ballarat Books 15 Armstrong St, Ballarat (only on general books) • Brunswick Street Bookstore 305 Brunswick St, Fitzroy • Ben’s Books 437 Centre Rd, Bentleigh • Collected Works Bookshop Lvl 1, 37 Swanston St, Melbourne (5% for credit) • Continental Bookshop 439 Bourke Rd, Glen Iris • Create a Kid’s Book Assessment/ Workshops ph 9578 5689 • Dymocks Booksellers 1–3 Mitchell St, Bendigo (7% on full-price books); Plaza 5, Market Square Shopping Centre, Geelong; 26

Eastland, 171 Maroondah Hwy, Ringwood (5% for credit/eftpos) • Hares & Hyenas Bookshop 63 Johnston St, Fitzroy • New International Bookshop 54 Victoria St, Carlton • Paperback Bookshop 60 Bourke St, Melbourne • Soundbooks 439 Bourke Rd, Glen Iris (cash and eftpos only) • Syber’s Books 38 Chapel St, Windsor; 668 Glenhuntly Rd, Caulfield 15% discount • Angleton’s Office Supplies 187 Smith St, Fitzroy (except copy paper, cartridges) Special offers • Punt Hill Apartment Hotels and Serviced Apartments ph 1300 731 299. Government rates and the option of best available rate.

THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

CAROL HEPBURN received a Special Mention for her children’s book story “The Naughty Flyaway Scarf“ in the Kids Book Review (KBR unpublished picture book awards 2011). HARIKLIA HERISTANIDIS’s ebook, won in the eBook category of The Lord Mayor's Creative Writing Awards 2011. LEE KOFMAN had two poems published in the latest Poetrix, and her memoirin-progress has been shortlisted for the Harper Collins/Varuna awards 2012. STEVE MCGRATH won 3rd prize in The Age Short Story competition for The Yellow Chair. This follows on from winning the 2007 Age Short Story competition for A Parachute Landing in Siberia. PHILLIP MCMILLAN’s book Yes. Chef has been shortlisted in the 2012 Finch Memoir Prize. MEG MUNDELL’s short story “Narcosis“ was Commended in the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, and published in the 50th anniversary edition of Australian Book Review; her short story “Small Change“ was Highly Commended in the Eureka Street/Readers Feast Human Rights and Social Justice Writing Award, and published in Eureka Street; and she was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts “New Work“ grant to complete her outback trucking memoir, Braking Distance. JULIE MUNDY has had her first book published by Woodslane Press: Melbourne's Best Bush, Bay and City Walks and has been contracted for a further two walks guidebooks. She also had an article published in The Victorian Writer in November. NELSON OLIVER won the Eastern Regional Libraries National Poetry Prize for “On Testicular Failure“. HELENA PASTOR has been awarded a 2012 Bundanon Trust Artist Residency, and will be staying at Bundanon during February. MARY RAWSON’s novel All of Us has been published by Sid Harta Publishers in Melbourne. This novel explores bisexual relationships and identities. BARRY SMITH’s first book of a trilogy of historical novels, For Freedom’s Cause was launched in Melbourne in December.

CLASSIFIEDS THE PANDEMIC PLAN, A FICTION NOVEL BY TL OAKMAN A story of fear, survival and courage. How a country responds when a mutant influenza virus reeks havoc on society. Around the world people are dying. How would you survive? Available at bookstores, and from the distributor ABG, ALL OF US, BY MARY RAWSON This story, All of Us, follows Jenny and Witi and their friends and lovers from Kaikoura, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia. Bisexual relationships and identities are explored within Jenny and Witi’s group of friends. When tragedy strikes, all in this group are impacted and all must renegotiate their relationships. The book can be ordered from Hares and Hyenas bookshop. EDITING DONE Editing done: fiction and non-fiction -- life stories a specialty. My approach is consultative, thorough and sensitive. Handwritten mss considered. Tel. 03 5974 4586, Mo. 0411 726 739, email: COMPETITION BLOG New, and importantly, free competition blog listing English language writing competitions from Australia and beyond. All genres. Established by two Australian authors to encourage writers to get their work out there! Several new postings each week. Please feel free to subscribe or submit your competitions for inclusion. SUMMER CREATIVE JOURNALING WORKSHOP Join Lisa D’Onofrio and Simmone Howell for a one-day workshop in Daylesford. Whether you are blocked or on the brink of a new project, Creative Journaling is a nonthreatening exploratory workshop to inspire and invigorate your writing. Sunday February 12. Contact: or 0401 097 599. INTERESTED IN CO-AUTHORSHIP?

Email your member milestones, classifieds or letters to the editor to au by the 10th of the month before a magazine issue.

Are you having trouble getting a story down on paper? I am trying to write a story concerning a family violence situation. I am going nowhere fast. Is there someone out there interested in a co-authorship arrangement. Contact Barry Revill at



And the Story Goes

by Laura jean mckay

Women sat outside playing with a litter of puppies. It was the image that started a short story called ‘Massage 8000’. The women worked in a brothel over the road from my apartment in Phnom Penh. The sign next to them said ‘Massage 8000’, the starting amount for services – about two Australian dollars.

about someone in an insurmountable situation. I entered it in the Alan Marshal Short Story Award.

I received the call telling me that I’d won, that the words I’d written were ‘charged’, and I screeched down the phone. Then The Big Issue wanted to publish it in their fiction edition and it was all over the Other writers in Cambodia warned me not streets. An award like the Alan Marshal is a wonderful boost for a short story writer, to go there, that it would be dangerous to talk if there was a pimp. I’d never been encouraging me to write more. After a couple of feverish months I now have the inside a Cambodian brothel and so I makings of a short story collection. peered down through the concrete bars of my balcony, gulping tea. Day after day, men crossed the concrete slab to see the Researching garment factories the other day, I read that, despite the conditions, women. I started writing in my head. piece work (and sex work) is a lot better paid than many jobs in Cambodia. I After mulling over the image for a year, I finally wrote ‘Massage 8000’. I was back in think of the fabulous, talented writers I Australia, surrounded by gum trees at the know in Cambodia, where there are few awards and the only support comes from Laughing Waters residency in Eltham. It was cold and I was writing about the hot. dedicated writers’ centres that endure against all odds, and wonder how they My studio echoed while I wrote sabout survive. I don’t know how I can come to a thin-walled room in Phnom Penh big terms with this. So I write about it. enough for a bed. About women who made a few dollars profit every day. Laura Jean McKay is a Melbourne writer published in Best Australian Stories, The When it was finished, the story was Big Issue and Sleepers Almanac. An rejected by literary journals and I Asialink residency to Cambodia led to wondered if it was too explicit, too her work on a short story collection and othering to write in the voice of a Masters at the University of Melbourne. Cambodian woman. I felt that the story has something important to say, though,


My Year with Sian Prior by Andrew herington

Are we there yet? A New Library? With many of our books now residing with new families, what will the new Writers Victoria Library have to offer? Over the next few issues we will explore our focus – increased support for members and writers through the Library. My goal is to assess each volume to ensure its presence will assist researchers and then massage the collection to be more supportive for learning and improving writing skills. The collection will house books by members, past and present, as well as a focussed collection of journals, Professional Writing and Editing books and plays. We are creating a new category of Indigenous Writing as well as a new section which will reflect our multicultural society through bilingual publications. Prizewinning literature will be in two groups as before: Man Booker and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. The Reference section will be just that: Reference. I will be assessing each volume to ensure it is current and useful. Your suggestions will be valuable so, if you have some ideas, please let me know. While I have many years of professional experience behind me, it is you who will be using the Library and I seek to make it the best for you. – Marilyn Newby

My motive for enrolling was murky. My ambition to write ”serious stuff” was going nowhere. When I let friends read my draft articles they commented on the grammar and spelling but not the content. Submitted pieces elicited automated noreply emails and then ... silence.

genealogy, commentary, gory tales, madness, magic, flights of fancy and the distortion of time and space in ways Einstein never conceived. Anything goes.

I needed to study and on the Writers Victoria website I found just the right course: A Year of Non-fiction with Sian Prior. I missed the significance of choosing a genre defined by a negative. Everything but fiction.

To write non-fiction you have to study characterisation, voice, ”showing not telling”, dialogue, emotion and the power of strong verbs ... but it always helps to go back to grammar and the ancient art of rhetoric. The challenge is how to communicate a story and make a point without the reader putting the book down – or worse, switching off their iPad.

analogies and the many little irritations that cause eyes to disengage from the task of reading. We took criticism stoically – like cattle at an Indonesian abattoir.

Our teacher, Sian Prior, quietly guided us down this path to places none of us expected to go. Naturally shy, she encouraged and applauded in class. Yet, in the safety of her office, her sharp pencil attacked errant commas and conflicting tenses, ringed redundancies and delivered pithy marginalia on confused argument and expression.

My fellow students have been more successful as their projects have crystallised and been refined from our exchanges. Chapters have coalesced into manuscripts, new directions found that demand re-writes. Now the search commences for a ”good editor” a ”sympathetic mentor” and best of all an ”enthusiastic publisher”.

Each month we gathered to discuss our work. We first noted all the things we liked and then got to the point – raising our vigorous objections to strained metaphors, unbelievable claims, over-wrought

Andrew Herington is trying to establish himself as a blogger and "Melbourne freelance writer" by attending Writers Victoria courses after a long career in government policy writing.

In my youth the non-fiction shelves at the Malvern library groaned with references, text books, histories, biographies and a never ending series of ”Teach yourself” manuals. But today, non-fiction is not like that. Facts are no longer in short supply. To write creative non-fiction you throw away the rule book on the boundaries between fact and fiction. The author enters the book as narrator and enlists a cast of characters to engage and hold the reader. The projects of my fellow students built on imagined history, impressionistic memories, personal anecdotes,

We pondered death and explored the essentials of life – cooking and travel.

After my year, I am left with 10,000 words but nothing like a book. A less bureaucratic style and a lot further down the path, but no closer to an end.



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The Victorian Writer is published nine times a year with a readership of more than 4000, distributed to 3000 Writers Victoria members and more than 300 literary and arts organisations throughout Australia, to Victorian public library services, and community and regional arts officers. While information is printed in good faith, Writers Victoria can take no responsibility for its accuracy or integrity. Inclusion of advertising material does not imply endorsement by Writers Victoria. Views expressed in articles are not necessarily those of the Committee of Management or Writers Victoria staff. Printed by Geon Impact Printing: (03) 9387 7477.


THE VICTORIAN WRITER // jan-feb 2012

The Victorian Writer magazine - Jan-Feb 2012  
The Victorian Writer magazine - Jan-Feb 2012  

The member magazine of Writers Victoria, out ten times yearly.