Infectious Hope – for better and verse

Maybe hanging around with the Words Out Loud crowd, when that was a thing, has rubbed off on me, because here comes a poem!

The curtain has been raised on the cover for Infectious Hope, a 47-poet anthology curated by Canberra-based Silvia Cantón Rondoni that aims to inspire and comfort amid the storm that is Covid-19.

Says the publisher:

Infectious Hope is a call out for positivism and resilience during lockdown and isolation. Editor and poet Silvia Cantón Rondoni has curated a poetry anthology that includes a spectacular range of diverse poets from around the globe, and focuses on their insights and strength during the pandemic.

A poetic vaccination of the soul, and a reminder that we are in this together and are stronger than we know.This anthology contains the creativity of 47 poets, including luminaries Fiona Wright, Joe R. Landsdale, Isobelle Carmody, Roz Kaveney, and Linda D. Addison, as well as an introduction by Lee Murray.

The book is due out on 1 November 2021, with preorders now available.

So that’s that, then

Here’s a photo I prepared earlier, when I thought I was leaving my employment at the Herald and Weekly Times in October, 2019. Not so back then.

But now, here we are, my last shift behind me, at least for the foreseeable.

This would have marked my 32nd year in newspaper journalism. How the industry has changed since I first walked through the door of the Maryborough Chronicle as a fourth-year cadet journalist, my first job after leaving uni.

Am I leaving it or did it leave me?

There’s more that could be said, but … nah. Tonight, I’m out of words, in print or otherwise. A big dip of the hat, though, to those erstwhile colleagues who made the journey what it was. Good journos, good photographers, good artists. Good people. Great people. Colleagues and friends.

Unlike some of them – many of them – I’ve been able to leave on my own terms.

Anyway, looks like I’m out of the newspaper game. I know, never say never … I’m looking forward to having my nights and my weekends back, but man, I’m gonna miss the team.

2021 Calendar of Australian Literary Events

calendarThe 2021 calendar of Australian literary events is showing plenty of signs of life as the community dusts itself off from the devastation and chaos of 2020. Here’s hoping the new year runs more smoothly, with plenty of chances to gather in person to celebrate writing, reading and spoken word. Updates, notifications and corrections to the calendar are appreciated.

Oz Is Burning ebook now available

The ebook version of Oz Is Burning is now available, with a print version to follow.

The anthology, from B Cubed Press, is centred on Australia’s horror bushfire period of 2019-20, and supports wildlife charity WIRES.

The book features stories and poems ranging from the darker side to the optimistic, and some leaven the volume with touches of humour, too. No prizes for guessing where my ‘Wollemi Dreaming’ falls in that spectrum.

Here’s the full table of contents:

And Gaia Screams by Ann Poore
Across the Ditch by Clare Rhoden
Burn, Burn! by Almas Alexander
Red Sky at Morning by Sue Bursztynski
Fires of the Heart by E.E. King
Pay Back by Alex Isle
By the Grace of God by Harold Gross
Should Fire Remember the Fuel by Kyla Lee Ward
Welcoming the End by Aura Redwood
Beef by Zena Shapter
The Last Wish by Lauren E. Mitchell
Wollemi Dreaming by Jason Nahrung
Firestorm Sounds by Suzanne Newnham
Red Sky, Blue Dream by Jack Dann
Infestation by Paula Boer
Writing on the Wall by Gillian Polack
Dire Insurance by Jared Kavanaugh
Divorce by Donna J.W. Munro
Inconvenient Visitor by Lucy Sussex
Burning Hearts by Eleanor Whitworth
Harvest by Narrelle M. Harris
A Town Called Hope by Silvia Brown

A prize for Watermarks, the thesis

It is an absolute thrill to be able to share the news that my PhD thesis, (short title) “Watermarks”, has been awarded the Aurealis Awards Convenors’ Award for Excellence.

The award, to quote the Aurealis website:

is awarded at the discretion of the convenors for a particular achievement in speculative fiction or related areas in that year that cannot otherwise by judged for the Aurealis Awards.

This award can be given to a work of non-fiction, artwork, film, television, electronic or multimedia work, or one that brings credit or attention to the speculative fiction genres.

To be more accurate, I guess, it was the exegesis that received the award, as the creative component was not included; the judges considered the non-fiction element of the thesis only.

The thesis, minus the creative component, is available to read at Academica.edu. In short, again borrowing from the AA website, the thesis

examines the benefits of the application of science fiction approaches and tropes to climate fiction with the aim of breaking down barriers to understanding climate change and adopting mitigation measures. In particular, it looks at mosaic fiction, and examines three Australian texts – Things We Didn’t See Coming (Amsterdam), Clade (Bradley) and Nightsiders (Isle) – as case studies that draw on the mosaic form and SF to create affective and effective climate fiction

Unfortunately, I had already made plans for the night of the awards (25 July 2020) when the date was announced, and it never occurred to me to send in an acceptance speech on the off-chance. My apologies, and gratitude, again to the hardworking crew who make these awards happen. And heartfelt thanks to my supervisors at The University of Queensland for their brilliant support, my wife for putting up with a PhD student in the house, and all those others who helped ferry me along the journey. The award is a lovely postscript to a challenging and rewarding endeavour.

I’ve been to so many Aurealis Awards nights because they are such a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Australian speculative fiction, and just catch up; I’m especially bummed to have not been (tele)present at the one ceremony where I actually won something!

Do check out the full list of finalists to get an idea of what’s happening in the field; it’s a great reading list.

Manuscript and editing services available

The new financial year seems an auspicious time to hang out my shingle in the editing arena.

Helping writers with their manuscripts is something I enjoy and have skills in, and with newspaper journalism going down the gurgler, now is a good time to diversify.

The awarding of my doctorate in creative writing (UQ, 2019) has encouraged the expansion of my freelance editing work.

This builds on a 30-year career in newspaper journalism, much as a sub-editor with skills in grammar, punctuation, spelling and clarity of expression, and a decade of providing editing and manuscript services to professional bodies, publishers and fiction writers. My own experience as a published writer further informs my practice.

You can find out more here.

Wollemi Dreaming – a new story

Wollemi pines. Picture: NPWS via AAP

Yes, for the first time since finishing the PhD, I’ve written — and sold — a short story. Whew.

‘Wollemi Dreaming’ was written in response to a call-out for an anthology called Oz Is Burning, by US publisher B-Cubed Press, with a brief of a fire-related apocalypse/post-apocalypse setting.

The theme of this anthology struck a spark, and it landed in tinder: images of the Black Summer bushfires still burning at the time this story was written and the incredible efforts of specialist firefighters in protecting the unique Wollemi pine stand in New South Wales; climate change; and crimes against our First Nations peoples. It’s not so hard to imagine the hubris of the wealthy privileged preying on the desperate to destroy part of our natural world that others risked their lives to save. But this story lets nature defend itself.

Here’s the full table of contents, which includes a couple of pals — huzzah!

And Gaia Screams by Ann Poore
Across the Ditch by Clare Rhoden
Burn, Burn! by Almas Alexander
Red Sky at Morning by Sue Bursztynski
Fires of the Heart by E.E. King
Pay Back by Alex Isle
By the Grace of God by Harold Gross
Should Fire Remember the Fuel by Kyla Lee Ward
Welcoming the End by Aura Redwood
Beef by Zena Shapter
The Last Wish by Lauren E. Mitchell
Wollemi Dreaming by Jason Nahrung
Firestorm Sounds by Suzanne Newnham
Red Sky, Blue Dream by Jack Dann
Infestation by Paula Boer
Writing on the Wall by Gillian Polack
Dire Insurance by Jared Kavanaugh
Divorce by Donna J.W. Munro
Inconvenient Visitor by Lucy Sussex
Burning Hearts by Eleanor Whitworth
Harvest by Narrelle M. Harris
A Town Called Hope by Silvia Brown

Cover to come, and the anthology to be available this year, with a portion of the profit to go to a bushfire charity: [update: WIRES]. Bravo, B-Cubed. I look forward to seeing the finished article!

Festivals going online

calendarThe calendar of Australian literary events is piling up with cancellations and postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but numerous writing organisations are heading online to keep the words flowing and the connections intact.

I’ve listed festivals offering online programming at the top of the calendar as well as in chronological order, and I’m curating a page at Ballarat Writers listing activities available online, such as joining in spoken word and poetry gigs, tuning in to award ceremonies, and listening to readings.

Please share recommendations here.

Swancon cancels

swancon convention logo 2020
I’ve just heard that the national science fiction convention, being hosted by the annual Swancon convention in Perth April 25-27, has cancelled for this year.

It’s a preemptive strike against the coronavirus outbreak and, while it’s the first literary event to be cancelled due to that threat, it possibly won’t be the last. I’ll do my best to keep abreast of it for the 2020 literary event calendar, but feel free to let me know of any you hear of (or any events I’ve not got listed!).

Swancon is offering to carry the tickets for this year on to next year, or a refund. See the website for more.