Saturday, December 2, 2017

Paige Turner - December

Holden Caulfield, is mild and banal next to Maria del Carmen Huerta, the narrator of Liveforever, a book that is both murky and luminous, and has been cited as a Colombian version of The Catcher in the Rye. Liveforever tracks a counterculture of 1970s Colombia with an intensity fuelled by rumba, dancing and salsa. The Catcher in the Rye’s Caulfield pales into wishy-washy adolescence up next to Maria, popping as she salsas across sweltering Cali. I’ve a sneaky copy of Catcher, on my little secondhand bookshop, On Her Selection and I’ll be posting my copy of Liveforever to someone I thought about a lot as I read it.*

The Story Island Project is launching a book that showcases the stories collected from, and created by, communities across Hobart's northern suburbs, reimagining the life of the Brooker Highway. The book features writing and illustrations from young people as well as a contribution from Tasmanian author Danielle Wood. Stories of the Brooker Highway celebrates the northern suburbs as a place rich in stories, and a community filled with strong, creative voices. The book will be launched at 1pm, 7 December at Glenorchy LINC. All welcome.


Steph Parkyn’s linocut that was inspired by (in an ekphratic process) Gina Mercer’s poem, Handfeeding the Crocodile is perched boldly, and yellowly on my wall, a suitable backdrop to my current reading of Into the World, her first novel and one which covers subject matter that had me entranced from the outset. It is the fictionalised account of Marie-Louise Giradin who, disguised as a man joined the French explorers whose names are intertwined in our Tasmanian history, D’entrecastreaux, Kermandec, and Laballadiere amongst them, as they sailed on the vessels Recherche and Esperance in a bid to find their missing country man, La Perouse.
Into the World, which is a ripper read will be launching in Launceston at Petrarchs Bookshop on Friday 1st Dec at 6pm  and in Hobart at Fullers Bookshop on Friday 8th Dec at 5.30 pm. I’m fortunate to be in conversation with Steph for that event, North West – you don’t miss out, Steph will be delivering an author talk at Devonport LINC on Wed 13th December 2.30pm.
Island, hot off of the back of their fabulous 150th celebrations, will launch issue 151 on Sunday 3 December  at midday. They are riffing off the fabulous photo of esteemed Tasmanian author, Heather Rose who features both inside the mag, and on the cover, replete with a magnificent red apple, at Willie Smith’s Organic Cider Apple Shed down the Huon. For more details check out the Island magazine Facebook page.

 State Cinema Bookstore is holding their VIP shopper evening on December 7th in store between 5-9pm. 20% off compadres – and to join you simply have to be subscribed to their e-newsletter and/or be part of their loyalty program. You can even subscribe on the night.
The following paragraph is redundant, click on the link below to reveal the winners -
This column will go to print before the Tasmanian Premier’s Lit Prizes are announced late inNovember. I’m reluctant to share my picks but of each prize I’d recommend sinking your peepers into many of the books on the list, especially Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love, The White Room Poems by Anne Kellas andPete Hay’s masterful collection, Physick.These alongside James Boyce’s LosingStreak. I’m tantalised and looking forward to the announcements.

The Tamar Valley Writers Festival is happening again next year and the dates are locked in for 14-16 of September. This is a lovely festival, similar vibe to the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival actually – and one that I will definitely be heading to again. The festival is also hosting Fiona McIntosh at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, in conjunction with Penguin Books and Petrarchs Bookshop. This will take place on Monday 4 December from 5.45pm until 7pm. Tickets are available from Petrarchs, ph: 63318088. Fiona McIntosh is a wonderfully diverse writer whose recent fiction work has spanned continents and tells the story of the lavender farm in Northern Tasmanian and its French antecedents.

Kristyn Harman, author of the award winning Aboriginal Convicts returns with Cleansing the Colony, Transporting Convicts from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land,  a story about a little known cohort of 110 [people who were transported from New Zealand to serve as convict labourers in Van Diemen’s Land.
The stories of these people reflect the way the British sought to purge the colony of, as they saw it, a burgeoning criminal underclass. This is happening at 5.30pm on Thursday 7 of December at Fullers.


Finally, I wish you all a smooth Christmas and a joyous entry to the new year. I wish all those working in bookshops kia kaha, strong heart – for these trying times.
Peace xx.

If you have any book related news, drop me a line – racheledwards488@gmail.com

*It has been such a deep pleasure to hand this book over in person.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Paige Turner - November

I have recently had the good fortune to experience the wonders of reading and writing in our broader region. I travelled to Bali for the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators’ gathering at Ganesha University, which dovetailed perfectly into the Ubud Writers Festival. These two events, experienced in true tropical grandeur were replete with conversations and readings and the most delightful international cross pollination. I hope to bring some of the crumpled frangipani and deep thinking back to our island – and I will definitely be bringing Indonesians who rumble censorship and Iranians who purr Persian poetry with the most dramatic flair. Watch this space.



Down home we have a varied platter of reading and writing events coming up in November, including the launch of The People’s Library at Salamanca Arts Centre. It is a participatory artwork by Tasmanian artists Justy Phillips and Margaret Woodward, presented in partnership with SAC. The People’s Library will commission, publish and digest a unique living library of new and original book-length works by Tasmanian writers. Part performance library, part contemporary artwork, up to one hundred books in any genre will be published, culminating in a month-long event in September 2018, in which visitors will be invited to use the library – digesting its holdings of one hundred books into a single ‘digest’. The People’s Digest will then be performed by memory for a public audience. They are seeking unpublished works of fiction, memoir, science fiction, biography, non-fiction, history, crime, thriller, poetry, plays and experimental other and if you would like to find out more please click here.

The Society for Children's Writers and Editors is hosting their end of year lunch on November 26th at the Hope and Anchor in Hobart. New Zealand's Maria Gill, author of over fifty books will be speaking. Maria's latest book is Abel Tasman, Mapping the Southern Lands. For more information, please contact Anne Morgan.Loud Mouth Theatre Company will stage their final play this November, in the form of Jessica Davis' contemporary adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde. More information here.
Forty South Publishing has been running the Tasmanian Writers' Prize since 2010 and entries are now open to residents of Australia and New Zealand for the 2018 competition. The prize is for short stories up to 3,000 words having an island, or island-resonant, theme.   The winner will receive a cash prize of $500 and publication in Tasmania 40°South. A selection of the best entries will be published in Forty South Short Story Anthology 2018. Entries close on February 18 next year. Entry forms and terms can be downloaded here.  

I recently finished working with a ripper group of people living with memory loss, the Monday mob from Dementia Australia. The only common factor in this group of diverse people is that they live with younger onset dementia. We published a beautiful book called Badgers and Porcupines, working with young writer Lily Stojevscki. Lily translated some of their stories for the page and the book, which tells of love and loss and rock concerts and ducks and tennis and family is available from Dementia Australia. I mention this because another book being launched in November touches on memory loss, in this case in the form of Alzheimer’s (one of many forms of dementia). Written by Clodagh and Roy Jones and designed by the wonderful Julie Hawkins, Roy and Clodagh, Living with Dementia, will be launched at Fullers on November 2. The book provides an insight into what it’s like to live with memory loss, when many people in this situation are not able to articulate their feelings.
Also at Fullers Bookshop in November, on the 9th is the launch of Christine Milne’s book An Activist Life and, on November 11, Gareth Evans will be in conversation with Lisa Singh about his book Incorrigible Optimist. More information can be found here.
At the Hobart Bookshop in Salamanca on November 9 is the launch of LF McDermott’s book Perseverance and November 15 will see the launch of Ray Glickman’s book Frenzship. Here's the link for details.

Poet Ivy Alvarez is visiting the state in November and will be reading at the Republic, on November 5 at 3pm. Ivy is one of my favourite contemporary poets, she challenges and soothes and reads so beautifully. Seek her out. 

The National Book Council, Tasmania is hosting Nic Haygarth discussing his new book On the Ossie on Novmber 15 at the Launceston LINC. By all means join them for lunch at 12.45, the talk will begin at 1.15.

Island’s 151st issue will feature the winners of the Utas/Island comp, with an essay from Erin Hortle, art from Dexter Rosengrave and a short story from Gabrielle Lis, I am excited by all these fellas’ works and look forward to getting my hands on the issue. It will also include the winner of the Gwen Harwood poetry prize and a major feature on Tasmania's future as considered by Tasmanian women (people can join the conversation using the hashtag #tasfutures). 
I’m off to prison. Yep. Actually I will be working with the LINC program and 26Ten as a writer in residence at Risdon, working specifically with lower literacy inmates. Tasmania has a paltry 50% functional literacy and I believe that the ability to read and write can make a positive difference to individuals and communities. I am looking so very forward (wrangling language) to this project! https://26ten.tas.gov.au
The People’s Choice Awards for the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Awards are up and running – have your say, get amongst it, up there Cazaly. All the winners of this year’s awards will be announced on November 27.

On November 9 my old principal, Mr Rodwell (I'm allowed to call him Grant these days) is launching his new book Moral Panics and School Education Programs, David Bartlett will do the honours at this event which begins at 4.30 on November 9 at the Law Building, Utas, room 132. 

Drop me a line – racheledwards488@gmail.com

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Paige Turner October

In 2016 singer and songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, which ruffled a few proverbials but was a fine reminder of the encompassing reach of the term ‘literature’. This is a word that unfortunately evokes an elitism which I’d love you to help me smash open, so we can to re-imbue this word with its truly inclusive essence.
To that end, in this loquacious column I’m making mention of the Song Writing Spring School. It sounds just wonderful and runs between October 9-13 - filled with ideas to trigger creativity, workshops, themed group discussions and host to a bonfire night. Seasoned and skilful songwriters from around the country are there to guide you, it looks creatively rich.
And in perfect juxtaposition, Music Tasmania is hosting a one-day course as an introduction and guide to music journalism. This is not until November, though I’d counsel getting in quickly. More details here.

Seasonal Poets is back and this spring are featuring
Uncle Jim Everett, Anne Kellas and Jane Williams. At lovely old Hadleys, 6pm on October 23rd. There is an entry fee of some sort, and an opportunity to hear three of Tasmania’s most significant poets.

Twitch, the youth arm of the Tasmanian Writers Centre is calling for expressions of interest for Young Writers in the Huon Valley, specifically seeking eight writers aged between 16-30 to engage in writing residencies down the Huon between 31st-30th November. Great gig for young writers! Get on it! EoIs close on October 13.
The Hobart Bookshop is hosting some delights in October. On the 7th, at 11am, Les Winspear is launching Lian Tanner’s latest book. I loved her Keepers trilogy, which is compelling children’s fiction, and this event will celebrate the first in the Rogues trilogy, Accidental Heroes.  They are also hosting Sir Guy Green as he launches Transported: Tales of Misfortune & Roguery by Brian Harrison-Lever on Thursday, 5 October at 5.30pm and on October 25th, 5.30pm, Pete Hay will launch Ross Brownscombe's In Search of Space: Journeys in Wild Places.
On October 14th, Stella Kinsella is hosting the launch of Wild Orphans, a book for young readers about orphaned kids raising orphaned animals. You can find more information about that event here.
These are all free events and open to the public.

The Tamar Valley Writers Festival has a new website, check it out for information about the next festival, and pre fezzie events. On December 4 they are hosting Fiona McIntosh discussing her latest novel. This is at Launceston’s Grand Chancellor and tickets are available through PetrarchsBookshop. Check out the new website here.
The Tasmanian Poetry Festival is back with aplomb, with poets such as Pete Hay, Mala Anthony, Izzy Roberts-Orr and Samuel Wagan Watchorn on the program. The Launceston Poetry Cup returns for the 33rd time! Heaps of other delights on the weekend long program, 6-8 of October.

Launceston is also host to a National Book Council Tasmania event with h
istorian Peter Cox discussing his book Lefroy, Tasmania’s Forgotten Gold Town. This is a free event that will take place at the Launceston LINC on October 18, at 12.45 for lunch, or 1.15 for the talk.

 And don’t forget Undisciplined, a 2-day extravaganza, thought frenzy, symposium, minglefest, networking, idea inspiring event that is happening in Hobart 19-21 October. Thinkers and creatives from all around, near and far, sharing insights (of course) and ideally some effulgence to our delightful surrounds. This is the work of Creative Island and Pippa Dickson.

Fullers’ event calendar is as busy as ever, hosting among others foreign correspondent Peter Greste discussing his book The First Casualty on the 17th and the launch of poet Graeme Hetherington’s collection A Post-Colonial Boy on the 13th. I’m also excited to check out Eat Wild Tasmania, by Rees Campbell and John Gibson with Sally Wise, which is launching there on October 19. This book is about bringing Tasmanian bush foods into the kitchen. It has information about what to grow, where to grow it and what to do when its grown. I hope your interest is piqued as much as mine.
These are all free events, but make sure you rsvp.


Tansy Rayner Roberts is a busy woman. She’s a prolific writer and she is running more of her wonderful school holiday workshops, and soon, her first workshop for adults.
The school hols one, Creative Writing Magic, witches and wizards, is for 7-11 year olds and will establish a space where they can create wicked characters and write and illustrate them. At $38 per workshop or $70 for two kids/2 workshops it is reasonable priced holiday activity that will hopefully have some inspirational writing legs for the rest of the holiday.


Do you have something you’d like to contribute? Letters - racheledwards48*@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Happy 150th Island Magazine

Sesquicentenary roll your tongues around that fine word for a moment Sesquicentenary.


It is Island magazine’s sesquicentenarial edition this season, it’s 150th. A significant issue to mark a magazine that began its life as The Tasmanian Review in June 1979. It includes the work of Andrew Sant, one of the magazine’s first editors as well as work from Cassandra Pybus who was editor in the early 1990s, her tenure not without controversy and one that still has tendrils in our literary community today.
Island has seen the first published works of many of the country’s most respected writers, indeed many who have graced the contents have been recognised internationally.
It has been an early publication outlet for figures in our broader literary community, including Amanda Lohrey, James Boyce and Richard Flanagan. Recent publications have seen work from Susie Greenhill, winner of the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers and Robbie Arnott, who has recently signed a contract for a novel with Text.
The first issue states that the two criteria which determine the selection of material are “excellence and variety” and these factors remain the same after nearly forty years of publishing. Issue one includes an essay about ‘Creativity and the Australian Media’ by Michael Denholm, one of the founders, whose work today on Tasmanian literary history will become an important resource for us all in future.
In contrast to the purely black and white first edition, and though the magazine has existed in many forms, for decades under the wise design eye of Lynda Warner, the magazine now sits comfortably alongside stylish design magazines, and it wears its arts on its sleeve.
150 features the endlessly fascinating and arcane work of Tricky Walsh and I’m so glad that we, the reader can experience her Tiefenzeit in a form different than on the gallery walls. There is fiction from Amanda Lohrey, who has been involved with the publication to varying degrees from day one. As also from day one, there are topical essays, 150 featuring work from Behrouz Boochani, ‘Chanting of Crickets, Ceremonies of Cruelty’. Berhrouz is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist and he is detained on Manus Island.
My favourite edition is issue 63. Mainly because of the perfect incongruity of the cover image, It is a photo of Michael Mansell, Tasmanian Aboriginal Activist, meeting the Queen. Inside Henry Reynolds interviews Mansell, alongside an essay by Richard Flanagan ‘The Stars and the Mountain’ and poetry from Tony Birch ‘Ladies’ Lounge’.
The other edition I adore is 125, featuring the painting ‘The Collector’ by Geoff Dyer of David Walsh, standing bloody and indignant, flanked by slabs of meat from one of the works in his collection. This edition was produced under the astute eye of Sarah Kanowski, who suffered the indignity, new in her tenure, to have lost funding from Arts Tasmania, though a keen and aware rallying from literary community around Australia afforded the magazine continued life. It was beautiful to see that support rising loudly, from day one.
A recent initiative of the magazine has been a wise partnership with Chatter Matters, opening, acknowledging and working with our state of illiteracy, to celebrate reading and writing in all its forms. Island is a beautiful, relevant and crucial publication and while I’ll toast the
sesquicentenary, I’d also like to toast the tercentenary:quinquennial and the quatercentenary. Oh such lovely words.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Paige Turner September

Let’s pay some homage to our most trusted reading friends, those who are able to suggest the perfect book for our own unique reading requirements, those who intimately understand what we like to read and even more importantly, why you like to read. And let’s be honest, there are not many of those kind of friends around. There are other ways in to good books of course, a mention on the cover by a trusted writer, a review from someone who reviews with integrity – but recently there have been a spate of endorsements on covers by writers I have a lot of time for, but they are endorsing vapid crap. I wonder if they get paid for an endorsement and whether or not they do I call on them to have more integrity.

September in Tasmania is full of excellent ways to celebrate the written word. To begin with, it is the sesquicentennial of Island magazine (this means they are publishing their 150th edition this month). In a state with such low literacy, that there has been such a sustained celebration of the written word is to be celebrated loudly.


Cassandra Pybus, a former editor of Island, who is also featured in the latest edition of the magazine, and indeed who edited it for a rather controversial time has recently been included in the Griffith Review Novella Project V, which also includes Krissy Kneen, Chris Somerville and Frank Moorhouse.

Kickstart Arts are running their diverse Creative Exchange and one particular event that has made me curious is the Celtic History Studies with Kristen Erskine. The first session is on September 24th and more information can be found here.

There are a wonderful array of book launches and events happening around the state, Fullers, as ever has a rich events program and I’m looking forward to being in conversation with Jock Serong about his new book On the Java Range on September 8. They will also be hosting Cazaly, the Legend by Robert Allen on September 21st and that’s surelytime for us all to break out the song voce magna. 

On Saturday, September 2, Fullers will host the first of the Chatter Matters Children’s Reading Series, with speech pathologist, ‘courage facilitator’ and 2017 Tasmanian Australian of the year, Rosie Martin. Storytelling sessions with the aim of helping kids develop language and communication skills. For more information about the above events click here.

The Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival is running between 14-17 of September and features some interesting looking panels and workshops. Guests include Omar Sakr, one of the most exciting poets on the ground in Australia, and writer and feminist Clementine Ford,– eloquent, considered and smart. Alongside the program of speakers, the festival is also offering a series of workshops including one with Maria Tumarkin, whose collection of essays, Courage, I adore.


The festival has some gems on the menu, though it is very safe programming, especially when you look at the diversity at recent mainland festivals. The Writers Centre did not receive any funding during Arts Tasmania’s latest round. I hope this challenge offers the centre an opportunity for introspection and to revivify and diversify. I would love to see the Centre as a hub that truly celebrates literature and literacy across the board, and to advocate for the burgeoning and exciting literary communities in Tasmania. I must state I was a peer assessor though had no part in the final funding decision and the above information is in the public domain. 

Hobart Bookshop is also hosting some good looking events in September, including the launch of Margaret Lea Wallace’s Bruny Island Bounty on Thursday 21st at 5.30. This will be launched by Pete Hay and is a book that will take you on a journey around the island to experience dynamic land, sea and skyscapes, and abundant wildlife with every species of bird endemic to Tasmania. 

Hobart Bookshop is hosting the double launch of Jane William’s new poetry collection Parts of the Main, along with Ian Kennedy William’s short story collection Leaving the Comfort Zone, on September 7. http://www.hobartbookshop.com.au/upcoming/

On September 2, 3pm at the Moonah Arts Centre, a new book called Badgers and Porcupines is being launched. This is a collection of stories and art from people living with younger onset dementia - and it is gorgeous. I may be biased as I've been working as a Writer in Residence with Alzheimer's Tasmania. This is an event open to the public, there will be readings, wine and cheese and the official launch done by the Honorable Elise Archer, speaker in the House of Assembly. 

 

Up North at Haus Creative there is a Q&A for Jo Green's S^ORD on September 9th at 2pm. For further information check out Haus Creative on Facebook.

Christine Matheson Green is launching her book Theatre Of War. With 10 restaurants and 2 cooking schools behind her, Christine shares the trials and despair of being a female boss in a man’s world. She fed celebrities and crime lords, and it was a risky, busy life. Check out justthesizzle.com

Forty South, as well as being the biggest publisher in Tasmania also publish Tasmania 40° South magazine and are generous to the literary community, running and auspicing various writers awards. They have recently announced the winner and finalists for the Tasmanian Writers' Prize 2017. The anthology will be launched by James Dryburgh at the Writers and Readers Festival at 4pm on Saturday 16th September at Hadleys. This is a free event and open to the public.

And, on September 1 the beautiful Wild IslandGallery will host the launch of the book pictured here, Magic Land, featuring images remastered, and many unseen for a long while, of one of the maestros of Tasmanian wilderness photographer, Peter Dombrovskis.

The wonderful 'All That We Are' crew are hosting a workshop for parents, teachers, and anyone interested in giving children a voice in their world, to a range of simple strategies for creating artwork, supporting storytelling and straightforward ways of publishing the work of children. I love this for a lot of reasons - that it is about getting children publishing, that it celebrates reading and writing, and that it is a direct engagement with the community and getting people skilled up. More information can be found here.




Got some news for me? Drop me a line Racheledwards488@gmail.com

A version of this column also appeared in September Warp




Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Balfour Correspondent by James Dryburgh - review

In many places across our island there are towns and camps and dwellings that have sunk back into the earth, there are hut depressions and extant chimneys and, in some places arches that stand amongst newer saplings of eucalypts. There are middens and daffodils, patches of naked ladies and arum lilies, and there are gravestones that have been swallowed by bush and eroded by waves.

Balfour is one of those places, now almost folded completely back into the damp bush from whence it rose, another lost, another vanished mining town in the northwest of the state. It is also one that we can celebrate again, or at least get a sense of what it was like, with the publication of this beautiful new book, The Balfour Correspondent by James Dryburgh.

Dryburgh, who is best known for his informed and well written, often political essays ‘found’ Sylvia McArthur in her letters to The Weekly Courier, which she wrote early last century. She wrote six letters, and then she died a few days after her 15th birthday, most likely of typhoid. She was buried in Balfour, where her grave still stands amongst the encroaching bush today.
Even in her scant correspondence we can read her vivacious, genuinely friendly and curious spirit. The structure of the book is primarily a correspondence between then and now, with Dryburgh writing back through the ages, addressing Sylvia and her long lost town. Sylvia was 14 when she moved with her family to Balfour, her first letter describes the lengthy and convoluted journey her family made to get to Balfour, which is described as “new, wet, rude and remote,” by Dryburgh.

Sylvia, like many people of her day (early in the 1900s) read the children’s pages, or the ‘Young Folks’ pages of Launceston’s Weekly Courier, and indeed she wrote in to the paper becoming known as the eponymous Balfour correspondent, just as other children around the nascent state did. She recounted in a lovely unassuming manner her daily life in the town, her trip down the mine her father worked in, her naughty little brother and even, delightfully, what books she was reading.

The book design is also gorgeous. A slim red hardcover, with a painting of a young girl by Barbie Kjar on the cover, which revealed itself to be eerily reminiscent of Sylvia herself, but only after completion of the painting, and a photo of the girl herself was unearthed. The hardcover adds a fine heft to the beauty of this publication, as do the inclusion of maps from the time, and some lovely line drawings by Rachel Tribout. The book even contains photographs of Sylvia that she has written about her in correspondence.

Despite the fact that it is made clear from the outset that Sylvia died young, I was still crying by the end. There is something delicate and simple about the premise of the book, and it is a reminder of our impermanence. Dryburgh handles her life with sensitivity and I recalled the line from Blake “to see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower,” in so far as the simple correspondence between a man in 2017, and a girl who died in 1912 has afforded us a greater insight into the human condition.

This is a book that is published by the Bob Brown Foundation, and all profits are returned to the foundation. As Bob writes in his introduction “His (Dryburgh’s) empathy for the beauty and tragedy of Sylvia’s life is her redemption”. It is true, it is her redemption, and our gain. I challenge anyone to not be moved by this exquisite tome.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A short piece on publishing in Tasmania

A long time ago I picked up a copy of Christopher Koch’s award winning novel The Doubleman from my parent’s shelves. It was the first time I had read about Tasmania in a book for adults, and it shifted everything for me. The place became imbued with more magic, more story and more depth, it allowed me to better understand the community I had grown up in. It didn’t stop me fleeing the island at the age of 18 though, for what I thought would be juicier territories. They were juicy, though I’m glad, that when I crawled home with a broken heart, for what I thought would be a mere pit stop, I stayed.
Christopher Koch is heir to a long line of writers hailing from Tasmania. In fact, the longest in Australia. Henry Savery, a fascinating character transported to Van Diemen’s Land for forgery, wrote the first novel in the federation. Quintus Servinton is a rather stodgy, thinly veiled autobiographic work. The first novel written by a woman in Australia, Mary Grimstone’s Woman’s Love also was penned here. There are 40 000 years of stories that precede them; stories of our first inhabitants, written in stone, in country, in memory and in voice.
Tasmanian writing was not prolific in the early twentieth century, and as the state headed towards an economic downturn and only 50% literacy, a shocking figure that is true still today, many voices became disenfranchised and lost.
Publishers seemed to disappear too, but with the inception of Island magazine in 1979 (formerly The Tasmanian Review), the importance of local story, local content and local publishing became valued again. Island mainly published local work for local readers. Over the next three decades the purview of the magazine changed, but the value of publishing local work meant that a new generation of Tasmanian writers, many of whom are now recognized internationally (think Amanda Lohrey, Richard Flanagan, Peter Conrad, Carmel Bird, James Boyce, Pete Hay) had an outlet for their words and stories.
The arrival of Mona changed so much; including the way we see ourselves. Creatives, who have always existed on this island were all of a sudden in an international spotlight, and for many Tasmanian writers, came the realization that their work sat comfortably alongside its national and international partners.
‘Slush’ is the unfortunate term for unsolicited submissions sent to a publishing house. About five years ago I was wading through slush for Island on a flight home to Hobart on an autumn afternoon. It was a luminous afternoon, one where I could see the late afternoon light illuminating the Hazards. I was nonplussed; some stories were good, some mediocre, many bad. I read a story from a chap in London who had been emailing me for some time. It was so good I grasped the stranger next to me and gushed and blathered about this exceptional story. It was written by Tadgh Muller, of South London, formerly of Tasmania, son of Mrs Muller, who my mother taught with at a local school. That information came later. We began a correspondence and before we knew it, Transportation Press and a collaboration between Tasmanian writers and London writers was beginning, our first publication, Island and Cities, launched to a crowd of hundreds in Tasmania and a new publishing house, with a clear bias towards Tasmanian writing, with international collaborations was born.
Transportation Press published the next international collaboration, The Third Script, with exemplary short stories from Tasmania, alongside work from the UK, and writers from the cradle of civilization, from a literary culture thousands of years old, Iran. We are now placing ourselves firmly in an international space with our first competition, Smoke, a microfiction competition and are planning our third anthology, working with writers from Iran, Tasmania and the world’s biggest market for English language books, India. It’s an incredibly exhilarating space, a slow burn and an opportunity for Tasmanian writing to be shared around the world. It also gives Tasmanian writers the opportunity for creative partnerships around the world. Entries for Smoke close on April 30.
The ability to tell your story is crucial to an awareness of self and of community. To read stories is to foster empathy and understanding, to be entertained, transformed and transported. In a state that is finally, deservingly in the international spotlight, yet also a state with a two tiered economy and the shocking figure of 50% functional literacy, to have our stories told and the written word celebrated for all its glorious power is crucial. Transportationpress.net



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Seven Stories and Australia Day





These two books capture a profound diversity in contemporary Australian short story writing.
Seven Stories is a collection of new short stories from seven Tasmanian writers, published by the elusive Dewhurst Jennings Institute. The stories in Australia Day, by Melanie Cheng speak of a middle Australia told through slow burn suburban tales, an examination of some quiet lives in contemporary Melbourne. The Seven Stories, by contrast are set around the world, the seven writers similar only by dint of being Tasmanian.
The stories included in Seven Stories vary distinctly in voice and style and they roam widely. Some are experimental, some blunt, some beautiful. This is writing from a vastly different island than the one Peter Conrad fled with such critical alacrity in 1968 and this collection celebrates a strong and active writing community. This is modern Tasmania, there are no hackneyed representations of the deepest wilderness, no fetishisation of the wild gothic island. These have long been traits in work coming from Tasmania, with the landscape as a character itself. Next to the realism of Cheng’s dusty suburbs, Seven Stories is effulgent. It also contains some of the most exhilarating voices in contemporary literature in Australia. Without exception these stories transcend the fads and fashions of Australian literature, which, from an island perspective can seem like a banal Sydney-Melbourne banter. Seven Stories houses the genius brigade of writing in Tasmania.
Cheng, on the other hand, offers up the unrelenting burbs. She cracks open the characters of people living undramatic lives. She teases out the ramifications and ripples emanating from all sizes of decisions. It is Cheng’s attention to detail that carry these stories, along with the occasional fine turn of phrase, robust dialogue and reasonably developed characters. While Seven Stories has a lushness, this collection is all suburban aridity.

Australia Day contains some marvelous dexterity with language and a deft use of description – the unease felt about “wads of dollars pressed deep into waiting palms,” or “Celtic skin-papery stiff destined to sprout cancers like tiny horns,” or the expression, “the computer expires with a melodious sigh,” are perfect. The very human manifestation of grief in the story Things That Grow is delicately drawn. It’s about a recently bereaved widow who discovers herself pregnant and it is a visceral description of the experience of loss. The character has withdrawn from the world, from her family, she is carrying the feeling that death often brings to the living; one of purposelessness.

Cheng’s realism and straightforward prose also reveal the ugliness and crassness of Australian behaviour, and so much of what the expression ‘Australia Day’ increasingly, and ironically, connotes- a racism. Racism shoots through these stories casually and sharply. In the eponymous story, Australia Day, like a dog snarling in the background, racism hovers throughout. The new boyfriend, who is Chinese, taken to the family farm in the conservative rural hinterland. It is a not a subtle account, and the small minded values couched in a rough humour and gruff fa├žades are a familiar presence in many Australian towns.

Muse, which was included in Earthly Delights, Griffith Review’s Novella Project IV, is the best story in the collection. It is a gentle depiction of aging, and loss, the latter a recurring theme. These characters are wonderfully human, and the story beautifully carved, it is also a gentle depiction of a sweet sexual reawakening of an old man. It is also considerably longer than the others, and has more satisfying character development.
The subject matter and styles included in Seven Stories vary wildly. The Shy Birds by Emma L Waters exhibits an acute suspenseful realism in which she takes the reader alongside a couple walking on an East Coast beach. They meet an old fellow who offers to show them a nest, a beautiful nest. Is he genuinely friendly, or malevolent? The tension ebbs and flows with a perfect foreshadowing from the sound of gunshots (unrelated), and the nervous “pip-pipping” of the black and white birds.

Susie Greenhill was awarded the 2016 Richell Prize for her manuscript, The Clinking. She is back with her delicate prose, this time in a story that speaks of love and loss in a European war zone. If that seems like too big a theme for a short story, Greenhill’s increasingly deft hands handle these big subjects confidently and with beautiful use of language, especially when describing the sea and water ways. The Chaos of Life Beyond Death in the Outback by Adam Ouston is a rambunctious and exhilarating story of a man hitchhiking in the Outback, picked up by a zombie film making crew, who he eventually murders. Both Tasmanian stories, with nary a mention of horizontal scrub.

Also included is Michael Blake’s ‘Donny and Bucket on the Treeless Plain’ which completes the anthology. It is about two teenage boys making the break from their home town Ceduna, making a run for it. It is a liminal story, one that does not cover a journey, but a decision. Completing the seven are Ruairi Murphy, Robbie Arnott, who won the Scribe Non Fiction Prize 2014 and Ben Walter, an increasingly recognised writer of poetry and prose, as well as the editor of this collection, and the brains behind the Dewhurst Jennings Institute. The institute consisted of occasional gatherings of writers to share ideas. Invitations were by postcard only.
Different parts of the short story spectrum are represented by these two collections. Cheng’s Australia Day, with its clear, sometimes crystalline prose offers up the mundane and the middlebrow, which is not always a bad thing. The stories are tightly constructed with the company of some well drawn characters, but they are all in the same key.
Seven Stories, was called by Richard Flanagan at the recent Tasmanian launch “a significant book in Tasmanian letters”. This understates the importance of these writers in the national short story conversation. At least three of these writers have novels with major Australian publishers. This is a pivotal moment in Tasmanian letters.




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Open Letter to the Tasmanian Premier; Reconciling takayna

The Honourable Will Hodgman
Hon Will Hodgman,
Premier of Tasmania and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs,
Parliament House,
Hobart 7000.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       9 August 2017
  
Dear Premier,

We the undersigned are Tasmanian writers, historians and publishers, with works drawing on Tasmania’s past, present and sense of place.

As non-Aboriginal people, we unconditionally support steps to progress reconciliation with Aboriginal Tasmania. While some of us have direct ancestral links to figures and families involved in the colonisation of Tasmania, we all feel the heavy weight of this history, how it was told and its ongoing impact on a proud and independent people.

Tasmania’s Aboriginal people, the Palawa, have lived here since time began. Their culture, community and connection to Country lives on despite the dispossession and injustice inflicted.

Injustice continues to this day, making the task of reconciliation multi-layered and urgent. Reconciliation is more than atonement for the past. Reconciliation requires action, equality, respect, celebration and support for Aboriginal people and their heritage, today.

Reconciliation requires leadership.

Reconciliation requires good faith.

Premier, the takayna/Tarkine is Aboriginal land. It displays some of the most powerful and precious sites of Aboriginal heritage significance and is an Aboriginal cultural landscape, a direct link to Palawa ancestors. This tangible link to one of the planet’s most ancient cultures merits a formalised level of official recognition and Aboriginal involvement, far beyond that which currently applies. Land justice is central to reconciliation.

Your intention to expand 4WD access across the takayna Aboriginal cultural landscape is entirely inconsistent with a good faith attempt to progress reconciliation.

It will be impossible for you to move beyond statements of intent, whilst the Government you lead continues to impose one culture over another, remains deaf to the wishes of the Aboriginal community and pushes for increased vehicle access across a sacred land.

In the interests of reconciliation, unity, equality and respect, we urge you to withdraw your plan to expand 4WD access on the takayna coast. In its place, take steps to properly protect this landscape through collaboration, cooperation and land justice.

By doing so, you will create a platform of trust and credibility upon which to build the reconciliation all Tasmanians want you to achieve.

Yours sincerely,

Pete Hay
Rachel Edwards
James Boyce
Lyndall Ryan
Heather Rose
Don Knowler
Henry Reynolds
Bob Brown AM
Bert Spinks
Clive Tilsley
Hamish Maxwell-Stewart
Alison Alexander
Nick Brodie
Kristyn Harman
Jesse Shipway
Danielle Wood
Susie Greenhill
Geoff Law AM
James Dryburgh
Katherine Scholes
Stephenie Cahalan
Amanda Lohrey
Andrew Lohrey
Lindsay Tuffin
Rachel Leary
Chris Champion
Lucinda Sharp
Jamie Kirkpatrick AM
John Biggs
Rees Campbell
Ralph Wessman
Adam Ouston
Rohan Wilson
Scott Millwood
Tim Thorne
Gina Mercer
Sarah Day
Rachael Treasure

Paige Turner - December

Holden Caulfield, is mild and banal next to Maria del Carmen Huerta, the narrator of Liveforever , a book that is both murky and luminous...