Blog posts

Currents: What I’m working on, by Helen McDonald

In recent weeks I have been aware of a light tap-tapping on my shoulder, sporadic but consistent, that I’ve been trying to ignore. Waving it away like a bothersome fly, I finally began to tune in after receiving my fifth, albeit encouraging, rejection from a literary journal. 

I hasten to add that I have been fortunate enough to have had a number of my poems published, in Australia and overseas, so I know that the tap on my shoulder is not a gentle suggestion to pack away my pens and give it all up. My thinking has changed from the years when a ‘no’ from a publication would send me into a spiral of rejection with thoughts of ‘I’ll never be good enough!’ My mantra now, thanks to experience and the unwavering support of Elwood Writers, is: ‘this poem hasn’t found a home yet’. I’ve come to realise that it can all come down to a suitable ‘fit’ – whether the publisher or journal editor can find a place for this particular poem. It might not complement other work chosen for the collection, or indeed may not be what the editor has in mind. Of course we won’t always hit the jackpot. I’m jostling for recognition in a field of highly talented and creative poets. The way I write won’t appeal to everyone, and – this is an important point – one editor might love the piece, while another won’t be moved at all. In many cases it comes down to an individual’s choice.

I think the message I’m now receiving from the universe, is maybe it’s time to step back and reflect on exactly what I have been saying for all these years. I write because I have to and there’s always more to say.  It’s my way of making sense of where I fit into the whole chaotic turbulence that is life. Affirmation is incredibly important to all artists, but so too is trusting in oneself. 

So I’m taking time now to gather my poems into a collection that will say: this is me – my work, my thoughts. This is how I navigate this world. And I hope to learn something about myself along the way.

Retreat

Barry published this short post yesterday on his blog. It’s about the writing retreat he attended recently in the Blue Mountains. A house in the mountains, a roaring log fire, and a ghost story. Sounds idyllic.

Barry Lee Thompson

At the beginning of September I joined a group of writing friends for a week-long retreat at a rented house in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. The five of us originally met on a writing residency at Varuna in 2016, and have stayed in touch since then.

The Sunday before leaving Melbourne, I sent off a grant application I’d been working on, and I had no other outstanding deadlines looming. I had a clean slate and a clear head, and decided I’d start a brand new short story in my week away. I wanted it to be an unsettling tale, with elements of the unexplained. A ghost story, perhaps, or a chiller – something supernatural in keeping with the mood and atmosphere of a quiet old house in the mountains. At the centre of the story would be a character who’d gone away to a rented house for…

View original post 554 more words

Something about Augusts

The online corridors of Elwood Writers have been unusually quiet over these past few weeks. In fact, we didn’t post any blog activity at all in August. Interestingly, the last time EW had a month of zero blogging was August 2020 – there must be something about Augusts. That’s something to ponder over our afternoon coffee and cookie.

Anyway, a lack of blogs doesn’t necessarily mean nothing’s been happening. Far from it. For example, Helen has been overseas, and Barry has just returned from a writing retreat in the Blue Mountains. We’ll look forward to hearing more about these and other adventures in the next meeting of the group, on Tuesday.

In the meantime, here are two recent blog posts from Margaret and Jennifer’s individual websites: Jennifer has written a review of Cow, a film directed by Andrea Arnold, while Margaret has posted her review of the classic novel Treasure Island.

Happy reading!

EW

Now available: American Writers Review 2022

The brand new American Writers Review is out!

This edition of AWR, The End or the Beginning?, features stories from two members of Elwood Writers. Jennifer’s ‘The First Day’ and Barry’s ‘Half Life’ are included among contributions from writers and artists all over the world.

There are a couple of ways to buy the book: either contact San Fedele Press directly by clicking here, or go via Amazon by clicking here.

American Writers Review 2022 | The End or the Beginning? | San Fedele Press (USA)

For more information on American Writers Review and the work of San Fedele Press, visit them at their website, here.

Congratulations to San Fedele Press and to all the contributors to this edition of AWR!

EW

Australian Short Story Festival 2021

Barry took part in two panel discussions at last year’s Australian Short Story Festival from Adelaide. COVID restrictions meant that participants and attendees from interstate and overseas could not be there in person, and sessions had a Zoom component.

Masculinity with Wayne Marshall, Barry Lee Thompson and Dominic Carew was on Saturday 6 November 2021.

Writing The Family with Barry Lee Thompson and Katherine Tamiko Arguile was on Sunday 7 November 2021.

Video recordings of both sessions are below:

Masculinity with Wayne Marshall, Barry Lee Thompson and Dominic Carew | Saturday 6 November 2021
Writing The Family with Barry Lee Thompson and Katherine Tamiko Arguile | Sunday 7 November 2021

For the full selection of ASSF 2021 videos, visit the YouTube link here. The ASSF website says these videos will be available till July, so they may be taken down by the end of this week.

Happy watching!

EW

The End or the Beginning? | American Writers Review 2022

We received a preview of the cover of the forthcoming edition of American Writers Review this morning, and are excited to see that both Jennifer and Barry have stories included in this year’s anthology.

American Writers Review 2022 | San Fedele Press

For some years now, San Fedele Press has consistently come up with terrific journals featuring talent from all over the world, with compelling art and writing that addresses important contemporary themes. This year’s anthology is looking like no exception. We can’t wait to read it.

More details soon. In the meantime, for information on San Fedele Press and their publications, drop by their website via the link here.

Happy reading and writing, as always!

EW

Currents: What I’m working on, by Jennifer Bryce

A couple of months ago I finished the manuscript of my second novel, working title Edith Ascending. Finished? I think we all know that a piece of writing is never ‘finished’. Even after my first novel was published and stacked on shelves within its beautiful cover, there were bits I wanted to rewrite – things I could have left out, things I could have added. But with Edith, I’d reached a stage where I needed to do something more than re-reading and tweaking. Fortunately this stage of my writing coincided with a program of Virtual Literary Speed Dating organised by the Australian Society of Authors (ASA).

Writers are aware that it is extremely hard to get commercially published in Australia if you are not well-known. But I wanted to give it a go. Get a literary agent? There are not many agents in Australia and most of them, it seems, don’t have room to take on new clients. The alternative is to trundle your manuscript around to publishers, hoping that one of them won’t assign your work to the slush pile.

If you are brave, Virtual Literary Speed Dating is another pathway to a publisher’s door. The ASA sets up a three-minute time-slot (on Zoom) where you can ‘sell’ your book to a publisher you’ve selected from a list of about 12 provided by ASA (some of these may not be suitable, for example if they mainly publish YA or children’s picture books). You have to be a member of ASA to participate.

I’d never before done any kind of speed dating, but the similarity with the more usual kind of dating is clear. Is this my kind of match? Do we like each other? Could we get along together?

I found the ASA very supportive. I attended a preliminary online workshop where there was advice about preparing for the three-minute presentation, including a suggested template for structuring your pitch. Spend 1½ minutes outlining what you want to pitch: genre, word count, brief synopsis and a selection of three or four similar books – I tried to select titles from the list of the publisher I was pitching to. Then 30 seconds on why you wrote the book: I was inspired by a particular composer, etc. And finally, 45 seconds about yourself (the most difficult): previous publications, writing courses you’ve taken, other publicity such as radio interviews.

I don’t know how many times I recorded myself practising my pitch, timing the presentation to within a microsecond! I discovered that you can look at the camera on your laptop whilst reading from notes stuck to the side of the screen – better than glancing down the screen to read a document and thus not looking straight at the camera. My colleagues from Elwood Writers were a huge support, both in suggestions for my synopsis and bio, and also in keeping the presentation enthusiastic.

It was all worthwhile. I think I was fortunate that the publisher’s representative who heard my pitch is interested in music and asked to read the whole manuscript, which is the best outcome I could hope for. This doesn’t mean that they will take on the publication, but it’s a step in that direction – a very pleasing result.

Currents

One of the longer pieces I’m currently working on takes a fresh look at the dynamics of ease/unease in online spaces such as those described in ‘Twitch’.

from “The story behind ‘Twitch'” at barryleethompson.com

In Barry’s recent blog about the background to his short story ‘Twitch’, he talks briefly about a story he’s currently writing that shares similar themes. It’d be interesting to hear more about this new story sometime. Come to think of it, it’d be great to hear a little about what other members of Elwood Writers are working on at the moment. But only those who want to share. Writers don’t always like or feel comfortable discussing current work, for a variety of entirely understandable reasons. Oh, hang on just a moment, there’s a call coming in … why, it’s Jennifer Bryce – what a nice surprise! What’s that, Jennifer, you’d love to tell us about a project you’re working on? Well, we’d love to hear about it, so please go right ahead, in your own time. Absolutely no rush.

And now that a forthcoming blog post has been successfully solicited, let’s continue with the current project of spending this wintry Melbourne Saturday afternoon in the warmest way possible, all cosied-up with a good book. The Evenings by Gerard Reve, if anyone’s interested. But first let’s pop the kettle on and open up the cookie tin.

Have a peaceful weekend, everyone.

EW

Chamber Poets lives again

Helen has been busy recently, happily reconnecting with a cultural and literary community that disappeared two years ago, “leaving many poets and writers of a much-loved spoken word event quite bereft”. Chamber Poets attracts poets from Melbourne and regional Victoria, and will be held every second Saturday of the month from 1pm–4.30pm in the Woodend RSL (Returned & Services League) in the Macedon ranges. For more information about Chamber Poets, visit the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChamberPoets

The July event this Saturday 9th will feature three poets: Angela Costi, Grant Caldwell and Claire Gaskin, who are launching An Embroidery of Old Maps and New; blue balloon (Collective Effort Press); and Eurydice Speaks and Ismene’s Survivable Resistance respectively. 

All are welcome to come along and listen to some of Australia’s leading poets and to share their own poems, perhaps written in isolation, that just now might be ready to go out into the world.


Here Helen shares with us her delight at being at the return of the Chamber Poets held in June:

“It’s been a long road for all writers since you-know-what sent us all scurrying indoors, doomed to an artistic life played out on Zoom with its intermittent freezes, loss of audio and anxiety-making meetings, seminars and classes. Needs must.

So many books/collections were written and launched into this weird cybersphere. But happily, writers are emerging from their imposed cocoons, and book launches are at last taking place with live, wildly enthusiastic audiences. So it was that after a hiatus of two years, the Victorian regional Chamber Poets returned triumphantly on June 11th to Woodend, with the largest audience in the group’s history. There were three book launches, plus an open mic section and entertainment by the funky and humorous Black Forest Smoke band, and much-lauded local choir The Woodend Warblers. 

Chamber Poets founder Myron Lysenko’s and Alice Wanderer’s haiku poetry collections – a ghost gum leans over and Lips Licked Clean – were launched along with Kevin Brophy’s latest poetry collection, In This Part of the World.

Inspired by the beautiful readings from each poet, some 20 people hungry for spoken word took to the open mic with their diverse and eclectic styles of poetry.”

Creatrix 57 Haiku

Helen has recently been exploring the haiku/senryu/haibun poetry forms. She is delighted to have two haiku included in the latest WA Poets Inc online journal, Creatrix 57 Haiku. Read Helen’s poems at the following link:

https://wapoets.com/creatrix-57-haiku/

If you ever happen to find yourself in the Macedon Ranges of country Victoria, you might catch a glimpse of Helen on a gingko walk with other haiku poets – seeking inspiration in nature to write more of this beautiful short-form poetry.