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.

From the page to a coffee table – They Are Us is open

Neale Thompson, who made the exquisite coffee table in the background drawing on my piece 'Ghosts of Us'

Neale Thompson, who made the coffee table in the background drawing on my piece ‘Ghosts of Us’. Picture: Kirstyn McDermott

The They Are Us collaborative ekphrastic art exhibition filled the room for its official opening on February 27, and it was quite the night.

It was very rewarding indeed to see, after a year of development, how the artists from Soldiers Hill Artist Collective had used the short stories and poems of our team of writers working under the Words Out Loud banner as inspiration for such as wide range of art on the theme of They Are Us.

And I was especially chuffed to see the exquisite coffee table (with terrarium, a so delicate world balanced on the surface) made by Neale Thompson in response to my melancholy (shock!) ‘Ghosts of Us’. It even has wildlife carved into its pattern as a special treat.

Part of the audience at the launch of They Are Us

The combined works comfortably fill the generous space at the Lounge Gallery, Billy’s Bar, at the Mercure at 613 Main Rd, Ballarat, and the launch crowd comfortably filled the room! Lovely to see some red dots on the walls by the end of the evening, too!

City of Ballarat’s deputy mayor, Cr Belinda Coates, again showed her appreciation of not just the exhibition and the project’s collaborative nature, but the role of art itself at a defining time in history.

Reuben Morgan (of the BallaRat Pack), who composed a gorgeous piece for the previous WOL-SHAC collaboration Weathering the Future in 2018, has again written a bespoke theme piece. He was unfortunately unable to perform it on the night, but a recording of the work (about seven minutes in three movements) played during the launch shows a piece well worth a closer listen when it becomes available as he reflects on the refugee experience.

We’re particularly grateful to Radmac Office Choice in Ballarat for the generous donation of foam core board on which to display the written works and to Robert Young Signs for their contribution.

The exhibition runs from February 24 to April 5.

They Are Us – an exhibition of words made art

They Are Us exhibition logoIt’s only two weeks until the official opening of the They Are Us ekphrastic art exhibition, and it’s getting exciting!

The exhibition has been a year in the making, combining the talents of 20 Central Highlands writers and the Soldiers Hill Artist Collective.

It’s a follow-on to the Weathering the Future exhibition of 2018. I curated that one as part of the City of Ballarat’s community arts program but this time around SHAC has been in the driving seat and I’ve had only to wrangle the writing side of the event (and that’s no chore at all; these writers rock!).

The idea this time was for the writers to go first, producing flash fiction and poetry on SHAC’s chosen theme of “They Are Us”, and then the artists were randomly given the written work to use as inspiration.

They’ve responded with a range of media, including photography, painting, linocut, woodwork and weaving.

I can’t wait to see what they’ve done!

Kirstyn and I hit 99.9 Voice FM last night with SHAC’s Neale Thompson to talk to The Arts Program about the exhibition, so got to hear how Neale went about the process of translating my 100-odd word story into a coffee table. Terrific stuff! It’ll be great to see it in the flesh (or the red gum, more specifically).

We’ve been fortunate to have the support of the Mercure Ballarat as a gallery space — they’re generous and throw a great launch party, and Radmac Office Choice in Ballarat has supplied foam core board for the mounting of the written work, which has relieved some of the burden on the purse strings.

The exhibition runs February 24 to April 5 with the launch on February 27 at 6.30pm. We’re chuffed to have Reuben Morgan again performing an original piece of music inspired by the theme – his performance at Weathering the Future was amazing – and City of Ballarat councillor Belinda Coates doing the honours. It should be a huge night. All welcome!
 

Kirstyn McDermott, Jason Nahrung and Neale Thompson spruiking They Are Us at Voice FM’s The Arts Program.


 

2020 Calendar of Australian Literary Events

calendarWhile there are still plenty of events on offer this year, next year’s calendar is already getting busy, and so the calendar of Australian literary events for 2020 is now online! Of particular interest is the shift of the Bendigo Writers Festival to May from August (dates to come). As always, updates, notifications and corrections are appreciated.

Walking and wordage: finale

The September challenges have ended (the official ones, anyway) and it was a case of success and not so much on the two fronts.

The good news was the successful completion of Steptember, with all team members notching up their average 10,000 steps a day – and then some! – for the 28 days as well as, thanks to a last-day act of generosity, achieving our $500 fundraising total in support of those with cerebral palsy.

The added benefit of the exercise (all the exercise!) was making me aware of how sedentary I can be when I’m not clomping to the station for work, so the plan (failed already) is to try to do at least 6000 steps a day regardless of what else is on. So I’ll keep the step counter on the phone to nudge me along.

On the other hand (foot?), the wordage for Writers Victoria’s #30kin30days never really took off, in line with expectations, but I still managed to end up with 5000-odd words on the page for Project Whimsy.

It’s formative stuff, trying to write into the time and the characters, and I’ve kept all of the prompts and exercises supplied by Writers Victoria to work through – hopefully this month.

Usually when the words aren’t flowing it means the project isn’t ready: characters aren’t realised, setting’s not solid, story isn’t geared up. A little research and more plotting and character work are called for before the fun stuff can start.

My aim would be to have a draft by the end of the year, but I’m trying to not put too much pressure on it. I also don’t have a word limit, so it can be as long as it needs to be to tell the story. Let’s see how it all goes!

 

Flowers in the footpath

Flowers in the footpath – I think there’s a message in there.

Walking and wordage: week 3

Steps achieved!

We’re entering into the home straight of the walk and words September-athons, and it’s a mixed result.

Yesterday, I notched up my steps for Steptember, as you can see by the blue circle on the screenshot. Totally worth the wet walk on the 21st to keep the count up!

The money raised is a little disappointing, though, but I’m grateful for those who were able to find the spare cash to chip in. I know there’s not a lot of coin to spare at the moment. I’m guilty of having bookmarked a couple of such campaigns to only return to find them over.

You’ll see from the screenshot that the other team members are also well situated to land their 280k of steps 🙂

If you’d like to donate to help support people with cerebral palsy, you can do so here

The wordage for Writers Victoria’s #30kin30days has, as expected, limped along.

I managed to spend the V/Line journey this week tinkering with the Whimsy Project, but it’s a mess, defying — oddly, for me — geographical setting, with characters I can’t quite get a handle on. Too soon for such an intimate character study? Maybe.

Clearly it’s not going to be the quick, short exercise I’d hoped for, but I’ll back up next month with a new writing goal being run by a friend to stop myself getting too distracted. Once I’ve got some clear air again. I think it needs a good chunk of immersion to try to get these characters talking.

Meanwhile, the D&D party have got themselves into a right old pickle. Backs literally to a wall. Much more fun scripting the campaign than bashing my head against the Whimsy’s narrative brick wall, I can assure you!

 

A damp stroll to keep the step count up on the 21st. If only all paths were so clearly lit, eh?