Tag Archives: short story journal

Bendigo Writers Festival 2018: Let’s Get Curious 10–12 August

Bendigo Writers Festival 2018

It was by accident that I attended the Bendigo Writers Festival last weekend, thanks to someone who was part of the program but couldn’t attend. I was asked to help out and I was happy to because it meant that I would finally commit to going. Each year I have considered going but other events or projects have gotten in the way.

On arriving in the city centre, I remembered how pretty Bendigo is with its stately buildings and gardens. I instantly knew that I was going to enjoy myself.

I’ve been to many writers’ festivals around the country and I consider the ones held in regional areas much better than the big cities. I think this is because the cities are so spoiled for choice when it comes to bookish events and the regional areas appreciate the opportunity much more. This festival was no exception.

Now in its seventh year, it felt like the festival is well established as an annual event to the region and I could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air despite the chilly winter weather on a Friday afternoon when I arrived.

My first panel was about DIY publishing and the room was full of enthusiastic writers. Everyone was engaged and I loved the conversations I had with my sister panelists, Mira Schlosberg and Amy Doak.

After the panel, I was free to enjoy the festival until Sunday when I was to be part of the Share Fair at Trades Hall. It was hard to choose what to see with each timeslot having four or five different events from author talks, to discussion panels and live performances. I decided to see things that were not my usual choices:

  1. Nurturing Yiddish with Bente Kahan and Arnold Zable.
    I cannot speak Yiddish but I found this an interesting discussion from the point of view of a language that needs to be preserved.
  2. Opening Gala (Let’s Get Curious) with Benjamin Law, Ann Cleeves, Gareth Evans, Carly Findlay and Jenny Graves.
    An almost full house at Ulumbarra Theatre (the old Bendigo Gaol) with a lively discussion about curiosity. Benjamin Law is a great presenter and handled being heckled for his shoes-with-no-socks fashion very well.
  3. Secrets, Lies and Dark Deeds with Michael Robotham and Cecile Shanahan.
    I’m not a big reader of thrillers but I found Michael very personable and funny and who doesn’t love a good story story about getting the first book deal the way he did? I’m adding his books to my TBR (to be read) pile.
  4. Death, Decay, Disaster with Sarah Kasnostein and Gemma Raynor.
    I can’t remember where I had heard about The Trauma Cleaner but I was curious to know more. And there is so much more to this story. I’m looking forward to reading this book, also now on my TBR pile.
  5. Not Such a Bad Place to Grow Up with Paddy O’Reily, Jay Carmichael, Sofie Laguna and Ellen van Neerven.
    I attended this because of my own love of the bush and because I had noticed that many books are being set in urban landscapes. The Choke was already on my wish list but after this panel, I also got Jay and Ellen’s books. I was particularly impressed with Ellen and have put her book at the top of my pile.
  6. Surviving Words with Bente Kahan. I attended this because again I was curious to see how she was going to present the various artists that she promised. This was a mix of English and Yiddish and I found it very moving and even a little tear inducing, even though I can’t really explain why.

I realise that my descriptions of each event are brief but I could do a full review for each. It’s enough to show that there was great variety and big names attending and that is only a portion of the 100 or so events.

Going to writing festivals is good practice for many reasons. Not only is it fun to immerse yourself in books but it gives you a sense of what is happening in the industry, you learn something from each event in terms of writing practice or the journey of a story. All of this will add to your skills as a writer and as a businessperson because writing is a business. It isn’t enough to just sit and write despite the fact that is what we’d love to do. Yes, you do need to focus and write the book but once that is done you will need to work out how that story gets in front of readers. This is the same whether you are published traditionally or do it yourself. More than anything, attending writing events will give you inspiration because it’s hard not to be buoyed by bookish conversations.

Do yourself a favour and get along to something. We really are rich with events around Australia. The Melbourne Writers Festival starts 24th August and Write Around the Murray (another great regional event) is 7–9 September. If you feel that the expense is beyond you, think about volunteering for a festival. That way you will meet people behind the scenes and get free entry to events.

Have fun!

Blaise the book chick

Have Rituals, Get Shit Done

I have a small space set aside to write

I have rituals to get shit done because I need them. I have a monkey brain. There are so many wonderful things that I want to pursue every second of every day that this monkey brain won’t let me focus. It’s chattering away in my head constantly. I’ll start something then move onto another before I’ve finished. It can be very frustrating.

As much as I’ve tried to focus and be as disciplined as I can, at my age I figure it’s hard to change my habits. This doesn’t mean I can’t but sometimes I need to use reverse psychology on myself. I do this through ritual.

Most of our daily life is about ritual, we just don’t realise it. When we wake in the morning, many of us will need a tea or coffee. We usually go about our morning the same way every day. Call it habit if you will but I bet if you changed the order of things that you’d feel a bit strange and your day may not go as smoothly (or normally) as usual.
When we catch up with friends we often do that over a cup of tea or coffee. If you have friends who don’t drink either, it can feel awkward to be catching up while they may drink water. Is it ritual, social expectation, habit? It doesn’t really matter, my point is that humans seem to form habits to move through their day with as much ease as possible.

I remember when I was a child watching my mum make coffee. When she made this coffee, I knew that she was setting herself up for writing because the rest of the time she drank tea. This coffee was special because it required her to grind the beans first in this little French coffee grinder, then brew the coffee and warm the milk. Then everything would go into a small bowl with sugar. I called it a coffee soup. It smelled very good. Then she would set out her writing materials (all hand writing back in the 70s) with her coffee soup in front of her and sit for a long time scribbling in her book. I often wondered what she was writing about (short stories at that time) and I loved looking at her beautiful cursive writing. Makes me want to sit down at my desk just thinking about it.

I was introduced to the idea of ritual at a young age but it’s not until lately that I’ve realised the importance of it. But how does it help get shit done? For me it’s about setting an intention: if I do this, this will happen.

If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated space for writing, set about creating rituals around using it. This is especially helpful if there are other people in the house so that they know you are not to be disturbed, just like I knew that Mama was busy when she had her coffee soup. If you don’t have an office or desk to call your own, try to find a place where you can go for dedicated writing. It might be a coffee shop, the library or a coworking space. Even a little corner of the kitchen table can work.

Set your intentions around this. Make sure that the you are comfortable (not too cold or hot) and that there aren’t too many distractions. If you find social media a distraction, turn it off. Switch your phone onto silent. Do whatever you need to set an intention.

Here is my ritual

  1. I set an intention to write for 30 minutes.
  2. I physically set myself up to do this so that nothing can stop me doing it.
  3. I make a cup of tea, make sure I am comfortable, close the door.
  4. Tell everyone that I am busy for the next 30 minutes.
  5. Be very specific about what I am working on (is it a blog, a chapter or an outline for something?) and stick to that.
  6. Stay focused for at least 30 minutes.

You’d be surprised by how quickly 30 minutes goes and how much you can write in that time. For instance, I have now been working on this blog post for 35 minutes and thanks to being focused it’s done. It’s not an award-winning piece of writing but it makes the point that I want to make. Think about the habits you have around your writing (or any work for that matter) and see what negative actions you make that might hinder it. There are ways to work better to get shit done!

Blaise the book chick