Launch Presentation: Luke Carman

In the aftermath of our launch at Better Read Than Dead (June 18th), we had a few chats amongst ourselves and with others who were there at the event. We're so thrilled to have seen you all there. 11535845_1028422143848521_4449342192722680746_n

If you were a contributor--thank you for your dedication, talent, and email diligence. If you were a friend or family member--thanks for supporting emerging artists, and for giving the warmest reception. If you were neither of these things, but came anyway--you're an unknown delight, and so appreciated.

We'd again like to thank Luke Carman for his generosity in mentioning EVERY ONE of the 30 pieces in the anthology. It was a rigorous presentation, and those words dedicated to each piece can be of great use to an emerging writer. We don't often get the chance for critical analysis of our work (outside the uni classroom, that is).

So, with Luke's permission, here is a transcript of his presentation for the launch. We hope you all enjoy it, and get useful feedback from it. And if you haven't done so already, read Luke's other work here, here, or here.

Cheers.

 

Emily, Emma, Hanna, Harriet, Lily, Louise, and Tom

Editors of the 2015 UTS Writers' Anthology, Strange Objects Covered With Fur.

--------------------------------- First of all, let me say how honoured I am to be the auxiliary launcher of this year’s UTS Writer’s Anthology – which is, without doubt, Australia’s most anticipated and most prestigious annual compilation of up-and-coming writers and editors. One of the first times a story of mine made it to print was for a little western Sydney anthology called Westside – it no longer exists – but it was a pretty good read in its day, and the editor, Western Sydney novelist Mohammed Ahmad, would throw a huge launch at Bankstown Town Hall and invite all the contributors to come up and get awards and have their names read out and feel great about themselves and so on. I went to the launch the year my story was published in Westside, and (like they did for all the contributors) they called my name and I walked up in front of everybody and everybody applauded politely and Ivor Indyk, chief editor of Giramondo, shook my hand and gave me a certificate. Along with the hand shake, he handed me a copy of J. S. Harry’s Not Finding Wittgenstein. Everyone with a story in Westside that year got a copy of something from the Giramondo office, and I happened to get a collection of Harry’s Peter Henry Lepus Poems. On the train ride home, still buzzing with the excitement of the evening, I started reading the book and for the life of me, I could not figure out what the hell I was reading. For starters, the book had two names - which is no biggie, but I found it a little disorientating: was it called Peter Henry Lepus Poems, or was it Not Finding Wittgenstein? When I opened it up, the situation only got worse – the introduction was called ‘Biographical Notes on Peter Henry Lepus’, and beneath it was, unsurprisingly maybe, was the biography of a rabbit called Peter Henry Lepus who was born in Britain, of Creole ancestry, and was rumoured to have met with Wittgenstein (according to tales passed down through rap songs in the red light district of Baton Rouge). This bio note went on for some time, and then the poems began with ‘Lapin on the Loose’ 1 ‘Under Drought’. On the ride home from Bankstown I read that first poem and understood not one word of it. All I knew was that this book was a very strange thing indeed. I didn’t know anything about its publisher, Giramondo, back then, but I realised something immediately – if they were willing to publish shit that strange, then they were the publishers for me. From that moment on, I knew exactly who I was going to write for – for the rest of my godforsaken life. About a month ago, J.S. Harry died, and her long time publisher (now my publisher too), Ivor Indyk, wrote about her passing in the Sydney Review of Books. He described Harry as our first ecological poet, writing:

“Her details, which are so finely observed, lead to other details, relationships, conflicts, stories, parables, meditations on language and history, in a movement outwards from nature to everything which impinges on it, including the imagination and its contents. It is this movement, this expansiveness, which I think of in describing her achievement as ecological. Typically, though not always (she has lions and pelicans and camels too), Harry’s starting point for the process of navigation and expansion is the vulnerable or fugitive creature – deer, cockroach, lizard, spider, ant, mosquito – or the transient effect of clouds or light or misty rain. It’s not easy to capture these delicate effects with precision and economy, but this is her great skill.”

I mention the case of J. S. Harry and her writerly chops, because reading Strange Objects Covered in Fur, I was astounded to find a similarly expansive and attentive ecological evocation achieved in each of the collections contributions. There was also, from the very first pages, the same feeling of an unrestrained strangeness – which, in these troubling times, Australian fiction has never needed more. Strange Objects Covered in Fur begins with the story of a stray – not the titular dog of Mark Rossiter’s story, but rather, his protagonist: a rootless traveller, who – hungry and thirsting – takes the reader on a nomadic navigation through a progressively more menacing landscape, all the while haunted by the presence of some eerily allegorical hound.

Rossiter’s contribution is an entry into the anthology that blends beautifully into Mitch Fuller’s Own Bit of Dirt, a story which starts with an uneasy history, punctuated by the terse, ironic vernacular of the tablelands folk, who live – despite their watercolour hangings of proud merinos and family portraits – on a land which has begun to withhold its water, and on which the ghostly presence of the Anaiwan people live on in deep-rooted memory.

In Harriet McInerney’s The Buzzing, insects – butterflies, bees and wasps – become the allegorical embodiment of the gaps that live in language, between the ordinary and the extraordinary. In isolation, these insects are the manifestation of the poetic moment, in their swarms they become transcendent, literally lifting a house into the heavens at the story’s end.

From the theme of in-between-ness in language to S. J. Cottier’s story of a woman caught in between identities – the classic Australian literary figure who is home neither in their adolescent origins nor in adulthood’s escape – and who finds, as her partner does (as so many Australian literary characters have found), a more graceful, less painfully human world under the hermetic embrace of the sea.

Tom Lodewyke’s cicada flecked poem about a boy who transforms into a yabby shares a similar sensibility – its hero lies down in the shadow, the current slipping away underneath, his drift as easy – he says – as sleeping. But like Cottier’s story before it, there is still a danger present in the world underwater. Lodewyke’s poem also contains one of the most Australian lines of all time: ‘Beside them, the creek muttered like an old man, the bastards, the bastards,’ The water, it is clear, is no innocent, or indifferent, place for people to inhabit.

The landscape speaks in Dominic Carew’s story too, whispering in the wind and giving warnings in its shadows. At the end of Aunty’s Place, the evil and menace of the land works itself through a twisted body, turning the indignity of living flesh into the vehicle of murder in the mud and the darkness.

Grace Barnes’ story is a decidedly English tale with an Australian twist – the outsider come from the motherland burdened by big words and middle-class privilege, the omnipresence of shame and the pettiness of resentment that surrounds the movement between country and city, land and culture.

Dale Alexander’s In the Deep End is a script in which more is said by the presence of water in the domestic lives of a woman and her lover than by the characters themselves – in images reminiscent of Auden’s As I walked out One Evening, the lovers lie entwined in the rippled sheets of a bed so vast and luminously blue that they appear to be asleep in an ocean.

By contrast, but continuing a theme, Benjamin Freeman’s story There is A Tide, reads like the inversion of Judith Butler’s poem, The Surfer, in which an immaculate, bronzed surfer rides the grey wolf’s head of the waves. In Freeman’s version of events, we are presented with life from the surfer’s point of view, and find his doomed, immaculate flesh more like the stuff of sausage meat.

In Emma Rose Smith’s story water is wielded by some mysterious male agent who scrubs away the treacly secretions that congeal around a woman’s still body, scrubbing it clean as part of an enigmatic and contractual ritual into which the author and reader are embroiled as the air of the scene becomes thick with steam and foam until bare, clean flesh is revealed, if only temporarily.

Sam McAlpine’s Taxidermy is also a story invested in the theme of temporality, about the ownership, the possession, of memory – it takes us on a brief tour through a museum, and a couple on the brink of separation wonder at the fragmentation of the past, and ponder the impossibility of history.

Shamin Fernando’s scholarly voice articulates an attention to the transcendental nature of the minute and the quotidian – giving voice to stationery and praising the humble paperclip for its anticipatory wisdom and its generosity in the face of inevitability.

For the narrator of Nathan Bilton’s story, The Ties That Bind, time and change are the subduers of guilt and shame – the twin birthright of a boy who is born sullied by the crimes of his umbilical cord. It is a story of scratched surfaces, where what is not said is loudest.

Ella Skilbeck-Porter’s poem Temporary Whim is also interested in surfaces, but here it is the skin that counts, as a palimpsestic interface between the self and the world. The poem ends with a circuitous mapping around the body, and from there sets us on a nomadic path back to its beginning.

This circular movement repeats in Pirate’s Play, a script in which the fantasies of youth both conceal and drive the morbidity of the real in a landscape that shifts allusively between bush and coast.

In Zoe Rochford’s Growing Down there are also children playing at being pirates, and they laugh at the presence of insects and the shifting copper light of the sunset brings their idyll to an end. Here too, the menace of death threads its way through a story about the impossibility of permanence, where an island – which seemed so full only moments earlier – grows empty and deathly still as it recedes into the distance.

From the play of children to the sea-swept setting of Rosie Croft’s Harbour, a story set against the backdrop of newly colonised New South Wales, where ghosts clutch wildflowers at the foot of the bed and love blossoms between a navy man and a fisherwoman.

Where Harbour gives us the origins of colonial Australia, Blue Lucine’s story is about the decay of its heritage. In Boxing with Bob at Millers Point, a documentarian and her subject turned ‘mate’ wonder at the meaning of the deliberate decomposition around them.

While Lucine’s protagonist shows us the wanton defacement of history from the inside, Kelly Emmerton’s heroine is committed to the deliberate destruction of her own in Phoenix, burning her family house to the ground – photos of grandma and all. The home burns into the desert sands and our heroine day-dreams of the sea, as if somehow communing with the characters in the preceding story, before the journey ends in the promise of new maps, new identities.

Emmerton’s story ends at dawn, and that is where Louise Jaques story begins – a thrumming prose poem that could well be the morning star awaiting travellers from previous stories. Jaques’ Star is a strange oasis beside Emmerton’s desert, one filled with an overpowering sensorial rhythm that drifts fuzzily into sleepytime lullaby.

Emma Froggatt’s story begins in an entirely different register, with the gentle afternoon light pouring through linen curtains. In Spring is a story in which careful attention to the changing seasons frames the traumatic fragility of a body bombarded by the strangeness of words, numbers, science, disease and therapy – and it ends with the hope of blooming wisteria.

The fragility of life is inverted by Joshua Cram’s Seeing Stone, where the intimacies of social relations become the walls of a wasps nest under siege, and there seems nothing solid upon which certainty or faith can be founded.

By contrast, William Patterson’s Yeah begins with mourners standing before a headstone – the solid symbol of inevitability. Before this marker a dialogue on crimes and violence leads to concessions of sickness and uncertainty amidst the plucking of short-clipped grass.

Death and violence continue in Marty Murphy’s Who Punched Who at My Father’s Wake, a sardonic story that celebrates the shamefully shambolic character of a disordered but faithful family.

From a farce at a funeral wake to the inversion of death in Tanya Greenway’s Unfamiliar Sky, a story that begins with the memory of drowning – the awakening to a new, strange sky above an island haunted by the living world, one where the land itself grows angry and tumultuous when the dead misbehave.

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat’s She Imagines They Hold Hands in Silence is a poem that explores the limits of language between lovers – questions that are not asked and answers that cannot be written, the weight of the unspoken, equations of language and emotion that ultimately, cannot provide the right words.

In Katherine Pinczuk’s Weeding by Moonlight the quotidian trials of the day-to-day grow wild and threatening in the disorientation of loss and sickness. The torments of grief are overcome, at least temporarily, by the fiery red promise of roses planted in earth prepared beneath a pitying moon.

James Worner gives us a day-to-day that is a little less ordinary in yet another of the anthology’s island set stories. It too, is a story of uncertainty: the journey of a day that feels heavy and clammy as mangroves at low tide, by a boy who lives with the guilt of misreading the river that is tied to his father’s life.

Emma Rayward’s You Cannot Comb a Hairy Ball, is the story of an invidious war of cannibalistic colonisation in which the weapons of choice are cross-contamination and infection. In the end, the battle seems to be won by a woman who, having been devoured, inserts herself into her devourer’s bits ‘like the cold that enters when you’re unprepared for snow’.

The anthology’s final story, Little Curly, by Alison Gibbs, also starts as a story of foreign bodies – with packs of stray dogs infecting the bowels of Moscow’s underground. Of the stray dogs Gibbs writes: ‘They were a mongrel lot, of all shapes and sizes, but there was some strange uniformity to them.’ I can’t help but read this as a description of the anthology itself – an ecology of strays, uniformed by their animal oddities, diverse in their capacities for opening our cultural language to new imaginative landscapes.

If the contributions to this anthology are the strays in Gibbs’ story, then, in this moment at least, I can’t help but think of myself as the titular Little Curly, who, having pulled away the membranes around her pup, and bitten through the cord, is vigorously licking this anthology’s bulbous head. May Strange Objects Covered in Fur reach the same cosmological heights as the stray, but heroic, little Laika.

Five Minutes with Emma Rose Smith

emma1 Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

I had read a surreal short story by Julio Cortázar in which citizens summoned to a huge government house disappear. We skip around in perspectives, between many characters, but what's never described is beyond the door of the interview room. This is a kinder interpretation of what might have awaited the citizens in that story.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

Dense and florid writing. Anything magical that surprises and convinces me. The sharp honesty of Helen Garner and Joan Didion. Toni Morrison, Annie Proulx, Marianne Moore, and Roberto Bolaño. Also the artwork by Remedios Varo.

Who do you show your writing to first?

To nobody. Then I work up the gall to show it to a notebook.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A turtle. To swim and also walk. And to stick my head in when I want to just sing to myself and hear the shell echo.

What is the strangest object you own?

A jar of human hair.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

Always and forever, Catch-22. Also the news. And feminist theory, starting with Valerie Solanas. Ha!

What do you do when you aren't writing?

I bash out cocktails at a bar in Glebe, transcribe kids' poems at The Red Room Company, rewrite fiction drafts, get anxious, make zines, host literary events, and try to firm my buttocks.

Send us your favourite picture of an animal?

This is my ex-turtle Gina, who was indifferent to my morning singing. She now lives with a friend. I haven't gotten a birthday card.

emma2

Five Minutes with Shamin Fernando

  Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

How something seemingly small and mundane can have a significance beyond its everyday purpose. I wanted to think about the idea of impermanence and vicissitude.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

Fictocriticism, New Journalism, Joan Didion.

Who do you show your writing to first?

Lecturer.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

In the sunroom at the front of the house, late late at night.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

The Norton Anthology of Poetry.

What’s the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

The best: “Write to find out what you know.”

I don’t ignore any of it.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A seal.

What is the strangest object you own?

A lizard's foot key-ring.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

Thirty minutes.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

Top three CDs: Baroque Favourites, John Coltrane's Rhapsody, Brian Eno's Music for Airports

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

Guilty pleasure – Who Weekly, Normal Pleasure – Lorrie Moore

What literary tattoo would you get?

A Clockwork Orange

What do you do when you aren't writing? 

Freelance writing for an architecture magazine, telephone interviewing for a market research company, long walks, short naps, cafes, exercise, social media, tv.

Five Minutes with Blue Lucine

blue_lucine

Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

I wanted to share my first experiences in Millers Point, communicate the complex nature of the government's decision to sell off the public housing but also tell a story that would involve people. Combining facts with storytelling is one of my favourite challenges.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work? 

At the moment I'm a big fan of Paul Auster. I'm more inspired by film directors, and imagine my writing as a film first, then I go through and write out the sentences as scenes. I find I'm a visual person, so each piece of furniture in the room, each thing I want the reader to see, I value and spend time describing. I want the reader to see what I see.

Who do you show your writing to first?

I always show my writing to a different person each time, usually someone who wouldn't normally be into reading the style I'm writing in at the time.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

I just write at home, but I move all around the house. I don't like to write in the same spot for too long.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

Closest book is Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

'Kill your darlings' is always good to remember. There's always that one line that you desperately want to keep in, but in the end must go. I still ignore the advice to write everyday no matter what... I'm lazy with that one.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

If I were an animal I'd be a squirrel in New York's Central Park.

What is the strangest object you own?

That's a tough one. I went to clown school in Spain a while ago so I've got a whole heap of strange costumes in my wardrobe...

How long did it take you to write your bio?

My bio probably took a day.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

I don't write listening to music.

What literary tattoo would you get?

I already have one... it's about Albert Camus. On my bicep, inspired by his book The Rebel.

What do you do when you aren't writing?

When I'm not writing I'm making films.

Send us your favourite picture of an animal?

My dog Motley writing her life's work.

motley at the computer

Five Minutes with Louise Jaques

louise2 Tell us about your piece(s)? (How did the piece come about? What were you doing/smelling/thinking/eating/touching at the time of writing?)

My pieces are often related to food, and taste. I don't think I was eating anything while I wrote it, but I was almost definitely thinking about food. I always am.

What existing book do you wish you’d written?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

The best advice I have ever received is to trust your obsessions. The best piece of advice that I still ignore is to avoid piles of abstraction, especially for abstraction's sake. I am so guilty of being too cryptic in my writing, and it has been a long, not-quite complete learning curve to understand this.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A millionaire's puppy dog.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

Embarrassingly, self-indulgently long.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

Classical music is absolutely conducive to good writing. I would start with Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata,' followed by Mozart's 'Piano Concerto No. 21', and Mendelssohn's 'Song Without Words (cello version).'

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

I can't go past a good Tudor England bodice-ripping, heaving-bosom intrigue for a guilty pleasure. For normal pleasure I just love Doctor Who.

What book do you pretend to have read?

Ulysses by James Joyce. However, I'm of the opinion that no-one has ever read that book, so it's definitely not just me that's lying.

What literary tattoo would you get?

A colourful picture of Roald Dahl's BFG.

What do you do when you aren't writing? 

I'm a public relations consultant by day and I moonlight as a book reviewer.

Send us your favourite picture of an animal?

The picture is my beautiful dog who I lived with in Spain, called Bidoo. Now there's one very strange object covered with fur.

louise

Five Minutes with Dale Alexander

Dale Alexander Photo Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

My screenplay is quite experimental. I am interested in portraying the internal landscape of a person who is ultimately suffering from depression. Not the type of depression we all necessarily experience, but depression as a mental illness. I wanted to communicate a sense of light in the darkness.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

When I write screenplays, I am influenced by the work of Sofia Coppola, Miranda July and Michel Gondry. Their work is inspiring because it abandons traditional Hollywood formula to capture the essence of something greater.

Who do you show your writing to first?

Whoever is interested in reading it. Usually my mum and my sister.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

In my head and in my bed.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

Good Girls Don't Make History by Jan Stradling

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

Write economically and 'get rid of the scaffolding'. I'm honestly not confident enough as a writer to completely ignore any advice (although I will absolutely exercise my rebellious streak by using adverbs constantly).

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

I would be my miniature dachshund, Max. He spends his days being waited on by human servants and sun baking until the next meal.

What is the strangest object you own?

Probably a bag filled with crystals from an old chandelier. They are useless but just too pretty to throw away.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

About ten minutes. I then panicked and had to send it to my mum and my sister for reassurance.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

I don't feel guilty about anything I read. I feel like I can learn from everything. I do think Bill Bryson is pretty funny though.

What literary tattoo would you get?

When I was 18, I was in San Francisco with my cousins and wanted to mark that moment in my life by having, "to thine own self be true" tattooed between my fingers. I will be forever grateful that my cousins convinced me it was a bad idea.

Send us a picture of your favourite animal?

Dale Alexander Dog

Five Minutes with Nathan Bilton

  Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

I think adolescence is fascinating and impossible to understand. I was trying to convey this one kid’s experience of growing up.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

Richard Yates.

Who do you show your writing to first?

No one in particular – anyone kind enough to read it.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

Spare room at home.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

Read more. Read more.

What is the strangest object you own?

Nothing that I find strange.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

Minutes.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

Anything by Ryan Adams.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

It’s a pleasure to read the short stories of Alice Munro.

What book do you pretend to have read to sound smart?

Proust or some other tome.

What literary tattoo would you get?

No tattoos.

What do you do when you aren't writing? 

I spend time with my wife, friends and family, work in advertising, walk dogs, ride bikes, run, go to plays, watch AFL and drink wine. That’s about it.

Send us your favourite picture of an animal?

Nathan Bilton animal photo (3)

Fives Minutes with James Worner

worner_j Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

Hmm, not sure the final story communicates what I started writing about. But that’s not a bad thing. I like where it ended up.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

Major influences are the gang in the writing groups. (Hello Monet/EWG. You guys are great.) It surprises me how much we learn from one another, for example how to write dialogue, writing ‘colour/texture’, how to rein in a piece that’s a bit out of control. I am very influenced by them.

Who do you show your writing to first?

Partner. Then the writing groups. (See above.) Smart and generous readers all.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

Recently cleaned up desk at home. Amazing what a difference a spritz can make.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

Always a shifting pile with Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals currently on top.

What’s the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

I’ve never really got the ‘write what you know’ aphorism. One of the things I love most about creative writing is an imagining of what I don’t know.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

As above, am reading Only the Animals. None of them.

What is the strangest object you own?

Have a couple of ancient clay pipes picked from the rubble of an Irish pub renovation.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

Not as long as the last time.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

Saturday’s Spectrum. I’m a puzzler.

What book do you pretend to have read to sound smart?

Nah, gave up on trying to sound smart years ago. Plus I think it’s over rated.

What literary tattoo would you get?

Am a bit concerned it would be a sentence that doesn’t end. Could get messy.

What do you do when you aren't writing?

Am turning into an increasingly cranky bureaucrat in the education sector. Love what I do but it’s becoming more difficult. Support public education!

Five Minutes with Sam McAlpine

  Who do you show your writing to first?

I'd never show a first draft to anyone until I've at least read it over a few times and had a while to sit with it. I do have a couple of friends who write as well so if I'm after technical advice I usually send my work their way. Other friends who are more into reading can be helpful too, especially in sniffing out plot holes or wooden-sounding dialogue. I'm lucky in that the friends I do have who are willing to read my work are honest above all else. If something isn't working, I can trust them to tell me and not to mince words, just like I can trust them to point out the parts that are good.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

At home at my desk mostly. If I'm going to sit down and try and write something I try to make it as much like a ritual as possible. Sometimes I'll take my laptop on an excursion to the library to try and get work done there. But I get distracted easily, which is why I could never write in loud public places like cafes. I find places like that better for  note taking or daydreaming. You'll find good dialogue every now and then by eavesdropping in cafes and restaurants. I always carry paper and a pen with me just for this reason.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

Wolf by Jim Harrison, which I'm enjoying and would probably recommend. It's about this guy living in the woods. He wants to see a wolf, but spends most of his time getting lost and reminiscing about the failures of his life. It's quite funny.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

Probably the best piece of advice I ever got is to never apologise for your characters. I'm not even sure what this means, but I feel like if you try and stick to it you'll probably never be accused of sentimentality. Another good bit of advice I was given is to always finish everything you start, even if it means admitting defeat. Most people who try to write start things but never finish. If you can write something start to end, and then go back later and rewrite it and make it slightly better, then you're already on the right track, even if it never turns out the way you want it.

The best best bit of advice I still ignore is to write your first drafts quickly and then put them aside. I've found I just can't do this, and I end up going back and fiddling with sentences and paragraphs over and over again before I'm happy and move on. It takes me forever to write anything.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

I feel like lions don't do too much of anything, just lie around in the sun all day. Maybe a lion in a zoo? That, or some kind of bird. A seagull.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

Twenty seconds. It's the only thing I've ever written in one sitting.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

I get distracted too easily to be able to listen to music while I write, but I do take breaks often and when I do I usually listen to music. It depends what I'm writing, but I still like a lot of Bob Dylan. If I'm writing something moody I'll listen to Tom Waits. I love blues music too - Robert Johnson, Junior Kimbrough, Skip James. I actually think listening to pop music is good for writing too. Most pop songs are catchy and have hooks and I feel like good writing should have that kind of cadence as well.

Five Minutes with Rosie Croft

Rosie Croft 1 Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

When I started writing it I was living in the Eastern Suburbs and every day my run would finish at a tiny beach off Rose Bay promenade. One day I was stretching and watching the water when a woman popped into my head — she lived in a hut by the shore in convict days, she was a bit of a loner, she was running away from something and she really loved the harbour. I wrote the story to find out what happened to her. It’s more sad than I thought it would be when I started.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

We live in a tiny apartment and there’s not really any room for a desk, so I tend to get most of my writing done on my bed or at the kitchen table. My cat’s favourite place is right between me and my laptop, so I’m normally trying to work around him as well.

What book is closest to you right now— don’t lie!

A Donna Hay recipe book. I’m making dinner soon.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about your writing? And what’s the best advice you still ignore?

I like Anne Lamott’s advice on perfectionism, from Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life: ‘Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.’

Advice I still ignore? In Year 2 my teacher suggested I try and stick to one tense a bit more and I still find myself switching from past to present in the middle of sentences for no reason at all.

What you like to read?

I’ve read a lot of great books recently. I loved Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, it has such a great twist! For pure comfort reading though, probably Harry Potter or Persuasion (again).

Picture of an animal?

This is my cat making it had for me to get any work done.

Rosie Croft 2

Five Minutes with Nicole Lam

  What is the strangest object you own?

Every now and then, depending on my temptation, a jar full of yellow Skittles. Or perhaps even more strangely, another jar (or a zip locked bag) of all the other unwanted Skittle flavours.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

My dancing will never be fully realised until I am reincarnated as a male Bird of Paradise. But who can resist living life as a sea otter, with friendship hand holding and a stone buddy for life.

What book do you pretend to have read to sound smart?

David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest - that novel is so gigantic, if I want to take it on my daily commute, I have to carry it in my hands. Does that make me look smart too?

What book is closest to you right now?

Matt Zoller Seitz's The Wes Anderson Collection. It is the most beautiful and satisfying book to peruse (talking about those double page spreads of perfectly symmetrical film shots!) The interview between Seitz and Anderson takes us into the mind of this quirky director-producer-writer. I want to adopt Wes' creative intelligence.

What do you do when you aren't writing?

I'm currently trying to build my film database, both in viewing and reading (screenplays). The eighty seven or so year long list of Academy Award nominees is the first starting point.

Favourite picture of an animal?

Sea-otters

(Source: http://goodmorningblog.com/2013/04/18/sea-otters-hold-hands-cutest-facts-ever/)

Five Minutes with Benjamin Freeman

  benjamin_freeman

Tell us about your piece?

It’s a piece about a young man from Sydney who can’t see the Southern Cross. He has cancer which somewhat complicates the scenario, too. 

This work couldn’t have been made without...

The Pixies' song ‘Where is my mind?’ I sat down one morning at the computer and put it on. The story kind of just happened after that. I don’t think I listened to anything else for about two weeks. I tried to sneak the lyric, “I was swimming in the Caribbean” into the story but everyone who read the story kept demanding it was taken out.

What styles/genres/writers have significantly influenced your work?

When I was 18 I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac. A lot of people give this book a hard time but it changed my life in the most beautiful and cliché of ways.

What existing book do you wish you’d written?

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, partly because it’s one of the greatest books of all time but mainly because it’s the sexiest title I’ve ever seen.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

“It doesn’t really make sense.” I’ve heard that a lot. It’s good advice to ignore.

The aspiring author in Donald Barthelme’s classic story, ‘Florence Green Is 81’, believes that the aim of literature is ‘the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart’. What’s your take on this idea?

It’s difficult to argue with but I’d like to think it’s possible to write a story that makes someone unbearably happy. Maybe something about fairy bread and soft fabrics. Something that makes you feel like you just listened to a Prince song.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A stingray. They’re so dangerous, hairless and charismatic. They’re like the Bruce Willis of the animal kingdom.

Tell us about some strange objects you own, or have seen. Do you have a talisman? What does it mean to you?

I used to have a ceramic panther called Pete. One night I got drunk, did a headstand and broke him. Maybe this meant something significant, maybe it didn’t. Even if it didn’t I’m sorry I killed him but I’m glad I was there for his final moments.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

About twenty seconds. Then I spent about twenty minutes wondering whether it was appropriate.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

The Pixies ‘Where is my Mind?’ Sometimes I listen to the Placebo cover, too. If it's a flighty piece, anything by Michelle Branch.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

I print out Peter Doherty’s song lyrics and read them over and over. I don’t know whether I feel guilty about it but I certainly feel a little uneasy admitting this on the internet. He is probably the poet of our generation.

What book do you pretend to have read?

Anything by Tolstoy or Dickens.

What literary tattoo would you get?

A few years ago I got the words "and Juliet is the sun" tattooed on me. The Juliet I was dating turned out to be more sociopath than eternal source of light and warmth but the sentiment was cute. I think there are several life lessons in that story.

What do you do when you aren't writing?  

I spend the majority of my time pretending I can surf.

Five Minutes with Zoe Rochford

  Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

I wanted my piece to speak about childhood, and how a tragedy can force children to grow up (or down, as they case may be) far more quickly than necessary.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

The thing I admire most in other writer's work are accurate observations about humanity. I love Donna Tartt's book The Secret History - every time I reread it I find another gem of observation that makes me sit back and think, my god, that is so true about people. I've tried to capture some of that in my piece.

Who do you show your writing to first?

My Dad - he's a writer himself, and he's the greatest editor and proof-reader on Earth.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

Mostly in my room at night when I should be asleep.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

A Real Property textbook. I wish this was a lie.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

The best advice that I've ever gotten about writing came from my dad, who told me to write things I like writing. It's the simplest thing in the world, but if you don't like what you're doing, it's never going to be any good.

The advice I continually ignore is to make my sentences shorter. I'M TRYING DAD. I AM TRYING.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A cat. They just live the life.

What is the strangest object you own?

The skeleton of a shark's jaw, teeth included.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

About five minutes on the train.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' album Stadium Arcadium on repeat when I'm writing.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

Everything. I will read anything. If I run out of book I re-read the 'Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants' series. I love Young Adult fiction at the moment. I'm into Jonathan Franzen recently. I take any book of anyone's shelf.

What book do you pretend to have read to sound smart?

'Oh, I just re-reading War and Peace for the thirteenth time. I'm still getting so much out of it.' (Honestly though, if I'm around people who don't think Harry Potter is a classic, I'll just bail).

What literary tattoo would you get?

The first sentence of my first published book on the inside of my wrist. (Kidding).

What do you do when you aren't writing? 

My other passion is show jumping (the one where you ride horses over jumps), which I love because it involves being outside and talking to people and other things that writing does not involve. I'm also studying law (hence the Real Property textbook).

Send us your favourite picture of an animal? 

The photo is my very old Tonkinese cat Wolfy, who is really, really, really good at sitting on me.

zoe rochford animal photo

 

Five Minutes with Mark Rossiter

mark_rossiter_crop_400x400 Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

Something to do with travel, experience and life. There really were three boys who went to Greece. I really did dream of a dog, in that campsite. My satchel, wallet, camera and films were stolen. In fact, every single word is true.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

I can’t honestly say. I like a wide variety of styles and genres.

Who do you show your writing to first?

Helen.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

At home at my desk. With the laptop, pretty much anywhere.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

I am currently reading The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. I love it.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

Show don’t tell. Show don’t tell. I mean, it’s all telling, in the end.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

I’d be a bird, high up in the Andes or soaring over the Southern Ocean.

What is the strangest object you own?

Probably myself. Do we own ourselves?

How long did it take you to write your bio?

Not nearly as long as it took to finish this.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

Mostly silence, but… Tangerine Dream's Ricochet (live, 1975). Radiohead from Kid A onwards.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

I’ve read the Daily Mail online a couple of times. I certainly felt guilty afterwards, positively sordid. Normal pleasure? I have a hunger for the post-apocalyptic, the transgressive, the curious, the languageful.

What book do you pretend to have read to sound smart?

I pretty much have read the books I talk about, but I admit I did engage in a little speedy-reading with more than a few of the trickier passages in James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s worth it, because the good bits are really good, especially towards the end.

What literary tattoo would you get?

Honestly this one had me stumped. Maybe “So it goes” or “That kills me.”

What do you do when you aren't writing?

I walk my dog twice a day. Toby. I love him. I also appraise manuscripts, freelance edit, teach.

Send us your favourite picture of an animal?

Toby

Mark Rossiter photo Toby Rossiter 2014

Five Minutes with Marty Murphy

marty_murphy Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

George Saunders

Where do you get most of your writing done?

I write at my desk, a grey workstation in an open plan office, wearing earplugs.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

Popular film and Television Comedy by Steve Neale and Frank Krutnik: 36cm from my left elbow.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A powerful owl, or a boobok. As long as I get to kill possums. They eat roses.

What is the strangest object you own?

My Grandfather's chook pen gate (former gate to Queanbeyan Cemetery).

What literary tattoo would you get?

The opening line of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.

Five Minutes with Katherine Pinczuk

katherine pinczuk Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

'Weeding By Moonlight' is about the possibility of capturing beauty in the everyday, even in times of monumental sadness and loss.

Who do you show your writing to first?

The dog usually gets to hear it first, and then a few close friends are tied up in a chair and forced to listen as well.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

In the bath, outside under the willow tree, in a bustling cafe on La Rive Gauche... nah just kidding. My head. I get most of my writing done in my head.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. And twenty centimetres away from it is a little pocket dictionary – navy blue and very frayed around the edges.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

I don’t know if this is the best advise I’ve ever gotten but I do find it a win/win inspirational quote: "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing" – Benjamin Franklin.

And: "If I waited till I felt like writing I’d never write at all" – Anne Tyler. Yep. Still struggling with this one. Need bum-glue. Oh, there’s a marketable idea?

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

I’d like to reincarnate as an animal that Homo sapiens don’t eat, torture, shoot for trophies or dress up in silly clothes.

What is the strangest object you own?

A Chinese funerary urn that belonged to my grandmother. It has one handle missing. I used to throw my chewing gum inside it when I was a kid. All solidified now, as is the memory.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

I’m still writing it.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

Right now I like 'Tusk' by Fleetwood Mac. Great for getting the old brain-cogs oiled and moving. 'Try' by PINK, for strength. And 'REIKI Whale Dreaming' is great to relax, calm the mind and realise how insignificant my place in the world is.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

The racing guide – a very guilty pleasure. For normal pleasure? Wind In The Willows was my favourite book growing up and I still return to it now and then for a comfort read. Gobbling up words is more slimming than chocolate banana splits with ice cream (and cream) sprinkled with nuts. Although that’s quite nice too.

What book do you pretend to have read to sound smart?

How’s this for pretension: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, in French. (I don’t speak French.)

What literary tattoo would you get?

That’s easy a panther tatt as it’s the topic of my book in progrrrresssssss.....

Send us your favourite picture of an animal?

MY DOG ANTON TAKES A SELFIE!!!!

Katherine pinczuk dog selfie (Anton)

Five Minutes with Joshua Cram

josh cram 1 Tell us about your piece(s)?

Um. They’re all about disappointment. I think it’s fair to say I was disappointed with someone.

This work couldn’t have been made without...

My poetry tutor, Berndt, telling me I needed to have a breakthrough. And my subsequent freak out because I didn’t know what that meant, and if I needed to have a breakthrough by the next assessment.

What styles/genres/writers have significantly influenced your work?

Sylvia Plath, Mervyn Peake, and Margo Lanagan have been the biggest influences on my work to date — so, a little confessional, a lot Gothic, with a dash of punctured myths.

What existing book do you wish you’d written?

Little, Big by John Crowley. For the last few years, I’ve been a little awestruck by it. It’s just been reissued; you should read it. Or Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

Diana Athill says that you should read everything aloud and CUT. She would know what she’s talking about. I ignore everything prescriptive — too many young writers I know are afraid of so many things because of stupid rules. Plot is an art; theme is satisfying; conflict is only one type of story. Also, adverbs and split infinitives are not the enemy.

The aspiring author in Donald Barthelme’s classic story, ‘Florence Green Is 81’, believes that the aim of literature is ‘the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart’. What’s your take on this idea?

I’m not sure that idea means much to me. It’s one aim, surely.

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

Snow leopard. Or some other type of cat.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

A few minutes.

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

'Where Did I Leave That Fire' by Neko Case.

'If It’s Alive, It Will' by Angel Olsen.

'Anti-Pioneer' by Feist.

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

Young Adult novels. Some will stay with me forever. Others I won’t touch with a long stick, which is hard because I work in a bookshop. Some I read because they win awards; and those are enjoyable guilty pleasures, though I’ll never reread them.

What book do you pretend to have read?

War and Peace. I read it when I was far too young to understand it. I still say that I’ve read it though, because it's 1300 pages and no.

What literary tattoo would you get?

Obviously, I would get Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban printed in microscopic writing all down my back. But also, no. Not a fan of tattoos. Maybe one of the woodcut illustrations in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

What do you do when you aren't writing? 

I sleep and I eat.

Send us your favourite picture of an animal

josh cram 2

Five Minutes with Emma Froggatt

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Did you have something specific you wanted to communicate with this piece?

Yes. I wanted to create awareness about bone marrow transplants and how it is a simple process to sign up, and that it can save a life. (Visit www.abmdr.org.au to sign up).

More than communicating anything specific, I wanted to tell a true story that was real and gritty, and somehow find the points where hope collided with that story.

Is there a style/genre/or writer who has significantly influenced your work?

Yes. My work is inspired specifically by literary journalism (Joan Didion, A Year of Magical Thinking) and a wider array of memoirists, creative non-fiction writers and feature writers.

Some of them include Maggie Mackellar (When it Rains), Helen Garner (The Spare Room) and Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), and so many many more.

I love this type of writing because it engages with reality and communicates it in ways we don't necessarily see at first glance. We can wrestle with real issues in a literary way.

Who do you show your writing to first?

For my spontaneous prose, my friends Rachel and Laura (and whoever else follows me on tumblr). For this piece, first my Mum, who has a spectacular way with words and walked with my sister through every step of her leukemia. And second, a new friend Freya Latona who my lecturer put in contact with. I talked with her over Skype and we bonded over our stories. Thank you Freya for being my second reader. We are now friends on Instagram.

Where do you get most of your writing done?

For this piece, at my desk in North Sydney late at night. Now, in bed late, on my phone, late at night. Also anywhere. I have a lot of writing in the notes section of my phone.

What book is closest to you right now – don't lie!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

What the best advice you have ever gotten about writing? And what's the best advice that you still ignore?

"Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - E.L. Doctorow, Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews, Second Series

If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A puppy dog? A tiger? Who would I be in life of pi?

What is the strangest object you own? Is it covered with fur?

I had a little toy character that I named Lucy and put on the left side of my car to help my know left from right. We called her Lefty Lucy.

How long did it take you to write your bio?

About three. I sent the options to my friend Imogen and my brother in law Grant. This was option 1. (I think we went with option 3). But perhaps option 1 was better.

Emma Froggatt is a full time lover, part time hacktivist and believes nike is taking over the world. After leaving UTS' writing program in 2009 amid a quarter life crisis, she's thrilled to have returned, completed an MA in journalism and have her work published in the writers anthology. 

Top three songs on your writing playlist?

Wow, who has a writing playlist! I had a playlist named "spring '09" which I listened to sometimes when writing this piece. On that playlist is Re: 'Stacks' (Bon Iver), and 'Milk and Honey' (As Tall As Lions).

What do you read as a guilty pleasure? What about just for normal pleasure?

I don't really have guilty pleasure reads, if I don't want to read, I don't read. I pretend to have read the classics though, or at least infer I know what they're all about, when I would have only read about them.

Same with current releases, I'll just read the reviews, or get my mum to tell me about the books she's read. (She's a big reader).

What literary tattoo would you get?

None, bad idea. I don't want a tat and if I did, I feel a lit tat would be a bit naff. (Sorry to writers who have them).

What do you do when you aren't writing? (We'd like to show the diversity of careers and life experiences that writers lead outside of their writing).

I'm currently working at Australian War Stories, a publishing project under AAP. The project focuses on writing books about soldiers' experiences in WWI and WWII from their old service records, unit diaries, newspapers, and so on.

Strange Interviews Covered With Fur

 

In the lead up to the launch of Strange Objects Covered With Fur we'd love for you to meet our 2015 authors and editors! Watch this space over the next few weeks.

The Anthology will be first launched at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, on this Friday 22nd May 2015. This is a free event and no booking is required. The launch is by Evie Wyld, whose novel All The Birds, Singing won the 2014 Miles Franklin Award.

A second launch will follow at Better Read Than Dead bookstore on Thursday 18th June 2015. This launch will be by Luke Carman, author of the critically acclaimed An Elegant Young Man, and Associate Director of SWEATSHOP: Western Sydney Literacy Movement.

Five Minutes with Hannah Story

hannahstory 1. Where do you get most of your writing done?


On buses and trains, sometimes while sitting outside in Martin Place or my own backyard. Wherever there’s a view.

2. Internet on or off while you’re writing?


On. If you’re not researching while you’re writing, then you’re doing it wrong. I like to have social media on at the same time all those micro-interactions are starting to inflect my prose.

3. Which book/poem do you wish you’d written?

The Virgin Suicides. I don’t think anything will ever top that book.

4. Which book are you constantly lending your friends? 

I’ve started to lend out Alice Munro, but before that it was Bukowski, Marguerite Duras’ The Lover and Daniel Handler’s Adverbs.

5. Which fictional character do you think you're most romantically compatible with?

Any man in an Alice Munro story. The way she writes about relationships is too real.

6. Best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Less is more.

7. If you could only read and re-read one book for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

Adverbs – Daniel Handler. Or Monkey Grip – Helen Garner.

8. Which book do you only pretend to like to look cool/well-read?

I pretend to have read more than 400 pages of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

9. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a couple of pieces about relationship dissolution in the age of Facebook, Tinder, Tumblr, etc. One for an exhibition, it’ll be raw and probably “too real”, and the other as a collaboration, telling the story of that unraveling through social media (non-)interactions.

And a pic of your writing space please...

hannah