Walking and wordage: week 1

Cygnets on Lake Wendouree

First week check-in for the September-athons, and it’s going … OK.

Steptember is encouraging me to get out and about, with mixed results as the weather and the V/Line intrudes.

Last Thursday was a beauty – I ended up accidentally walking around Lake Wendouree. I’d intended to just walk up to a marker and back again to stretch my legs on a glorious spring morning, but ended up doing the full circuit. Maybe it was the first of the cygnets and ducklings I saw wobbling around that spurred me to wobble on, too.

All up, so far, about 84,000 steps logged for Steptember, and the three others in the team have also been taking it in their stride 🙂

If you’d like to donate, you can do so here

The wordage for Writers Victoria’s #30kin30days has, as expected, not come close to the nominal 1000 words a day goal, although I am stacking up the daily writing prompts, which have been excellent, to work through as the month unrolls. Location, character and plot have featured so far, ideal for someone like me in the throes of working out a new story.

I’ve kicked around some scenes, mapped out a plot skeleton, started working out who the characters are, so some wheels are in motion.

I haven’t been counting words written for my D&D campaign (cleverly blogged by one of the players, which has been a valuable creative outlet this year as I work out the story and world and challenges for my players to encounter.

I’m hoping the walk to and from the station plus the commute will keep both mileage and wordage ticking over, even if not quite at optimum.

 

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Walking and wordage for spring challenges

In September, I’ve got two -thons happening: one charitable, one creative.

The first is Steptember (thanks, Ellen, for inviting me to the team), raising money to help people with cerebral palsy.

It kicks off on 3 September, with a goal of taking 10,000 steps a day till the end of the month. The daily average is 3000, we’re told. A trial run yesterday revealed some disparity in our pedometers, but what the hey. It gets me out of the chair and maybe does someone else some good, too.

If you’d like to donate, you can do so here

The other distance effort for the month is Writers Victoria’s #30kin30days program, which, as the name applies, set a goal of 1000 words a day for 30 days.

I’ve written bugger all this year, just a few bits of flash fiction since the PhD was signed, sealed and delivered, so I thought this might be a good way to jar the creative synapses out of their stupor.

I’ve chosen a project that’s been hanging around for a very long indeed, and while I’m not expecting to roll 1k a day, I will be very happy to have a solid outline and some scenes drafted by the end of the month.

The program started on 1 September, with a prompt to work out WHEN the story is set. Excellent, I had that in my head, but the prompt called for a room description to conjure the era, and that led to a short scene (250 words on the V/Line; hello again, my office between offices!).

You can join in or follow along on Twitter.

2 September’s prompt was to make a list of 10 locations and then go to town fleshing out one of them. Well, I have a road map for my story, so I’m going to see how I go at selecting key locations and working up their significant details, including smells and time of year (thanks, prompt!), over the next couple of days.

 

Reading the Lifeline at Words in Winter

If all the world’s a stage, then we’re breaking down the big show into bite-sized acts. Five-minute acts, in fact, each one themed on a decade in a lifetime.

I’m joining four fellow Ballaratians to present Reading the Lifeline: an exquisite corpse as part of the Daylesford Words in Winter festival under the auspices of Words Out Loud.

Each of the five writers has been assigned two decades in a lifetime, round robin style, but there’s a catch – the last line of each piece must be the first line of the piece that follows, including that of the very last reading.

With Rebecca Fletcher, Kirstyn McDermott, Megan Riedl and Zoe Werner, I’ll be peeling back the layers of human life, a decade at a time, while celebrating the connections between us all.

Reading the Lifeline is on Saturday 17 August at 6pm at the Daylesford Hotel, 2 Burke Square. $5 entry. There will be chapbooks available so you can revisit the exquisite corpse ‘in the flesh’. All welcome.

Graduation – the latest milestone

Picture by Kirstyn McDermottHere I am in my bonnet and gown, marking graduation from The University of Queensland with a doctorate in creative writing.

Thirty years ago, I was lining up about this time of year in Rockhampton to mark graduation from what is now the University of Central Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts. And in 2008 came a Masters in creative writing from QUT – no ceremony for that one.

My mum died in 1992 and we farewelled Dad at a service on July 18, but their spirits were very much with me at UQ on July 19. Farming folk with limited educations, they were determined I would have the opportunities they had not.

My doctoral thesis was entitled “Watermarks: Science Fiction, Mitigation and the Mosaic Novel Structure in Australian Climate Fiction” and this is the dedication from it:

In a letter published in 1981, my mother, Loma Nahrung, wrote, “I love the wet season—which should be around January through to March, but of late they have not been so predictable … the climate seems to be changing” (White and Nahrung 139). I often wonder what this farmer would have thought of our current state of affairs. This thesis is dedicated to my mother and father, Frank, neither of whom were able to celebrate this achievement, but without whose support, encouragement and sacrifice I would not have made it this far.

So here I am, without them, but they are very much with me.

The gathering of the clans for Dad’s service, and having three friends graduate alongside me with family members in the audience, and then the coming together of family and friends to celebrate afterwards — I am further reminded I am not alone in this journey. (I love you all.)

Where to from here, I wonder. Wherever, we go together, and that’s what matters.

Mum, Dad and me at graduation in 1989.

A new story at AntipodeanSF

Created with GIMP

*** UPDATE: Ion is selling copies of issue 250 via Lulu ($20 + P&H) ***

Congratulations of Ion ‘Nuke’ Newcombe, who has just released issue 250 of AntipodeanSF.

Back in 2002, Ion published my story ‘Prime Cuts‘ in his online anthology — my first fiction publication outside the Vision writers’ newsletter. I was stoked!

Ion has been consistently giving new chums and old hands a chance to be chuffed for 21 years, and added a few more bells and whistles along the way, including oodles of audio.

It’s a fabulous achievement, and one I was happy to salute by contributing ‘Dissonance‘, an experimental climate fiction story, to the 250th issue. It’s a bumper celebration, with more than 50 pieces of short fiction and many illustrations, including established names like Cat Sparks, Simon Brown and Lee Battersby.

Well done, Nuke. Bless AntipodeanSF and all who sail with it.

A doctor in the house

Four years ago I headed up to Brisbane to start a creative writing doctorate at The University of Queensland, and now the journey is complete.

What a strange and wonderful process it has been. I’ll probably write more on that presently, but for now, it’s time to sit back and reflect on what was a lengthy and challenging endeavour, enriched and enabled by the support of friends, family and colleagues, and of course my supervisors and the staff at UQ. Thank you all!

Those spare beds for the initial three months I was required to be on campus? Invaluable. A wife prepared to hold the fort while I was away? Beloved.

watermarks in cosmos 57: art by joe whyte, story by jason nahrungThe final thesis title was “Watermarks: Science Fiction, Mitigation and the Mosaic Novel Structure in Australian Climate Fiction”. It grew from my short story “Watermarks”, bought by then Cosmos fiction editor Cat Sparks, who has recently been awarded a PhD in climate fiction studies too.

Graduation is in July and I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends from my cohort who have also ticked off their research higher degrees this year.

So what’s with the Canadian chocolate bar? Well, last year, we had our first holiday in a long time, to celebrate significant birthdays with dear Canadian friends. I submitted my thesis on the day before we flew out. It was Halloween while we were away, so I brought back this tasty morsel with the intention of signifying the conclusion of my doctorate by munching it! Coffin Crisp, your time is up!

Stranded Assets finds a home

Colloquy journal 35/36 December 2018I guess the headline is a little contradictory, but anyway, I’m pleased as punch that ‘Stranded Assets’ has found a berth in Colloquy journal — a nice dip of the hat to 2018.

The short story was written as part of my PhD in creative writing, but is somewhat smaller than the version included in the thesis* due to word count constraints. It is a look into the future after the coal miners intent on tearing up Central Queensland, planet be damned, have come unstuck, and how the mess they make might be salvaged.

Editors Zachary Kendal and Aisling Smith describe it thus:

Nahrung’s futuristic ‘Stranded Assets’ strongly evokes its Queensland setting and subtly engages with issues confronting contemporary Australia. The story also engages with broader issues, such as the role of technology and the pressures of parenthood.

There are some amazing papers in the journal … Lovecraft, Angela Carter, Blake’s 7, and some Gothic horror! Just the stuff for some yuletide reading!

*The thesis was submitted in October, so I’m awaiting examiners’ reports in the new year.