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2015: a portrait in numbers


Fiction submissions: 46

Fiction acceptances: 3

Non-fiction submissions: 2

Non fiction acceptances: 2

Subscriptions purchased: 8 (whoops)

Animals: 2 cats + 1 adopted dog – 1 lost cat = 2 furry friends remaining

Walls painted: 4 (felt like more)

Bikes gained: 1

Bikes stolen: 1

Roller derby games played: 15 (ish)

Interstate trips: 2

Hours spent in Melbourne Airport: 9

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a creative and productive 2016.

I will not stay silent

Many, many moons ago I ran a  different blog. It started off being some place to write but gradually morphed into a feminist and critique blog. Ultimately I couldn’t keep up with posting (the beast required daily feeding by the end) so I locked it. (Don’t worry, the site is archived with the National Library of Australia, so future generations can ponder why early 21st century writers were so damned sarcastic all the time.) I started this site a few years later and promised myself that I would only post about books, literature and writing – to keep myself out of more dangerous territory. So today I’m breaking my own rule.

Recently, Clementine Ford made the news after she reported a man who had abused her online to his employer. His employer conducted an investigation and decided to terminate that man’s employment.

For some reason, despite the employer having its own reasons for terminating that man’s employment – Clementine has been abused, vilified and blamed. I say “for some reason” but I think we know the reason. The bullies of the internet protect their own. Accountability is a tree falling in a forest on another planet, light years away. According to the charmers recommending that a human being go into the bathroom and kill themselves, or be gangraped, the only person to be blamed for abuse is, paradoxically, the abused. Sound familiar? This isn’t just Clem anymore. This is a pattern. This is all of us.

Today women in media, and from other walks of life, are refusing to remain silent. This by journalist Tracey Spicer :

Every day, around the world, women and girls are harassed, bullied and abused on social media. It’s time say, ENOUGH! We stand with Clementine Ford, and every other woman who has been threatened with rape and murder for simply expressing an opinion. These men need to be held to account. Social media platforms should provide more protection. And legislators, in all jurisdictions, must work together to stop violence against women.

This campaign was initiated by concerned women in media. Clementine Ford did not initiate, arrange or participate in this campaign. But take a look at the @ mentions in her Twitter feed. That’s not an aberration. It’s not okay and I will not be silent.

Messed it up but rest assured no-one ever thinks they’re cured


There’s a line in a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, “just a minute while I reinvent myself”. I don’t know what Anthony Kiedis is singing about there but the line stops me every time. The past six months have been a period of reinvention and part of that has been learning a whole lot of new things. Some things I’ve learnt this year include:

  1. Riding a bike isn’t actually like riding a bike. I just got the gear changes right before my fancy new toy was stolen.
  2. Proofreading is hugely important. Don’t be an idiot, proofread your stuff.
  3. Risk taking helps you grow. And I’ve only just realised there’s no rules on what you do in life. I know I’m hugely privileged in that I’m able to take this risk, try on a new career for size, invest in a new way of living. Part of me still doesn’t quite believe that I’m allowed to do this.
  4. The jasmine scent in my garden seems to have a direct line to my heart. It tells me everything’s going to be okay, it tells me to take my time.
  5. Writing requires time spent alone, with nothing but the sound of birds and distant traffic around you. And it requires time spent in company, out of your element, doing new things and finding new sensations. Writers are travelers in the land of experience. But it’s not just writing. It’s about being fully human, not just going to work and coming home and the churn of routine.
  6. The power of belief. Faith that there is a point to all of this, that it will work out. It’s hard sometimes but sunny days and quiet times make all the difference.

Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward

welcome-to-orphancorpI twist my hand at a weird angle to get to the itch on my wrist below the shackle. I mean, they call them ‘the Consequences of movement violations’, but shackles is what they are. When I forget to refer to them as such I get ‘the Consequences of speech violations’, which is pretty much just a gag. No one cares what I call that because everything sounds the same with a mouthful of rubber, doesn’t it?

This novella, one of this year’s Viva La Novella winners, had me hooked from that dark, wry, oddly funny first paragraph. Mirii is 17, she only has a week left of her stay in Orphancorp. When she turns 18 she’ll be turfed out into the wide world. But some part of her can’t believe it’s really going to happen. And perhaps it won’t, any infraction, from a touch to a comment out of place, could lead to Consequences and if you accrue enough Consequences they could lead to Prisoncorp. According to Mirii: “Orphancorps[…]buy unaccompanied minors from the state and can’t keep ’em past eighteen. That is unless they mess up, then it’s right to Prisoncorp. Once you’re in there it’s pretty much the end of it.”

The children in Orphancorp are put to work, caring for infants, building or repairing electrical equipment, kitchen duties. Anything they can be used for. Sex is common among teenagers, pregnancy is common, as is home made abortion and drug use. In a world that is so cold, so harsh, any touch – any kindness is a luxury.

The novella is gripping from the convincing tone of the narrator, to the bleak reality Ward has created. It’s whip smart, edgy and well paced. Perhaps my only hesitation is that I wanted to know more of the world outside the Orphancorp that has sunk to this. But even so this story is a triumph of dystopian inventiveness.

Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward: four stars.

Read it for: a dystopian nightmare with urban sass.

We are the meaning

By Frances Gunn

By Frances Gunn

I long to sit and just be quiet with you; to have time to drink tea and make plans and dream together again. The time we had was filled with a hundred things that left no time for time. And I was sad and chronically tired and sometimes you would stroke my hair softly as I fell asleep at 8pm.

There’ll be time for us, you said:

We’ll do it in the time Russian heiresses spend stretched out on yachts reading Foucault.

We’ll do it in the time umbrella manufacturers spending watching the weather channel.

While Japanese school girls compose mobile phone novels on bullet trains; while lawyers read the fine print; while housewives paint their toenails.

You promised me there’d be time.

The End of Seeing, Christy Collins

This novella is breaking my heart.

Five thoughts while travelling

stuckatairport1. I saw the sun rise from the plane. It didn’t look so much like it was rising, more like the horizon was bleeding. A heavy pinprick of blood welling out of the earth, violently lit up from within.

2. The energy that goes into these reheatable meals, single serving mints. What if we could harness it for community instead of to carve out our little corner of isolation. Each of us drinking from our own tiny water fountain rather than share.

3. There is a stand with an electrical plug sign, nothing but powerpoints. No chairs. Pure power is its own comfort. Travelers plug in their devices and walk away. Behind one of the stands is a payphone. “What’s a payphone, Grandma?” A phone call for 40 cents. A text message for 20 cents. If I could read the past messages sent from that screen. “Flight’s delayed. Phone’s dead. This is a payphone. FML.”

4. There is not a comfortable chair in the entirety of Melbourne’s domestic airport. In the same way bus stops are designed to be unappealing for homeless people to sleep in, travelers aren’t to get too comfortable. There’s something wrong when we can’t spare a quiet armchair, or a beanbag for our exhausted fellow humans. All courtesy but no care. If I ruled the world there would be a couch on every street corner. Please, fellow human, stretch out. Here, take my coat. Be well.

5. Never underestimate the curative power of a good cup of tea.

N by John A Scott


I do not move. I stand, and everything is taken from me. Someone else decides the distance between us. Whether an of us shall see each other again. Emptiness is everywhere. I inhabit no room, no town, no state. You who read these words, am I not fully absent from your space? What am I – what is my story – but the brief rattle of consonants at your lips? Murmurings. Hissings. My very name a faint hiss expiring. I am no longer a being. I am a passing thought struggling in my difficulty to remain alive a little longer. Turn the page. Begin another story. For I have worn down. Exhausted by the telling.

N isn’t a novel, so much as a tapestry. A huge, multi-layered tale woven fastidiously in a variety of different shades. Each character tells their own story, in their own tone, and each thread comes together to paint a picture of an Australia that might have been. That still may be our future. Starting with a boatload of refugee children, a political quandary sitting in Fremantle port, an artist watches the faces of the children. Making some sketches he is horrified to realise he can’t capture their identity, their humanity is absent from their eyes rendered in charcoal. He cannot capture the shade of the rust, he cannot lay specifics to this human tragedy that ends with the ship being towed back out to sea to sink with all on board. An MP, Normal Cole, dies leaving a hung parliament. In the political vacuum, mid World War II, a state of emergency is declared. The Governor General grants right wing MP Mahony the right to form an Emergency Cabinet, all parliamentary process suspended. The Japanese invade, unleashing human rights abuses, and a complicit Australian government watches on led by an increasingly insane PM. The individual loves, desires and needs of each character aren’t laid out against this backdrop, they are the backdrop. A national conversation about freedom of expression, art and that from which we avert our gaze. The personal is political and the political is as personal as it can get. N is a stunning work, intricate, deeply political and beautifully, heart-breakingly written. It was a long, slow read, but all the more enjoyable for it. This is a book that will inform the way you see the world. A novel for activists and poets. As I read the final chapters, this petition on the Federal Government’s approach to art surfaced. The world is telling us what Scott has created isn’t fiction. It is a cautionary tale fully versed in our current reality. And we’d do well to heed it.

N, John A Scott: five stars.

Read it: just read it.

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