Stories on the Wireless.

It’s all about mothers on Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. as Cover To Cover on Vision Australia Radio features writing from the Elwood Writers for a special Mother’s Day edition of the program. What better way is there to spend an autumn evening? So turn on and tune in, then settle back and lose yourself in an hour of storytelling. We’re especially thrilled that for this program some of us will be reading our own pieces on the air.

There’s a handy frequency-finder drop-down menu here, and the program can be live streamed here. Don’t forget that VAR now broadcasts in Perth too. Details here.

For Melbourne listeners, the Vision Australia digital radio service is on your digital radio under ‘VAR Digital’. Or you can listen in at 1179AM.

The program will be repeated on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Or, you can listen to the podcast as soon as it’s available on the Vision Australia Radio home page, here. If you’re listening in Adelaide, Cover To Cover airs once-weekly at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays.

We hope you can join us.

Thank you for listening.

Elwood Writers

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WRITING IN UBUD

The search for a distinctive and productive way to use some of my Overland VU Short Story Prize money, other than just for paying the rent and bills, has brought me to Ubud in Bali for a few weeks. While I’m here, I’ll be working on my short-fiction collection. I’ve visited Ubud several times for its writers festival, and wanted to experience its mood at a different time of year. There’s a tradition of artistic activity, and a number of creative workers are based here, so it’s not unusual to arrive looking for escape and a workspace. Importantly, it’s an inexpensive destination, and so I’m able to visit for a significant period of time.

I’m staying in a room overlooking the rice fields of Jalan Bisma. The main streets of Ubud are a short walk away. My stay includes breakfast and unlimited Indonesian tea and coffee, and there’s a swimming pool in the grounds. I spent the first few days shaping a daily routine, and shaking off a faint anxiety around doing visitor activities. But the pressure’s off. A huge relief. No tours required. No need to try different venues for food or coffee. I’ve had dinner in the same Padang restaurant for the last five nights, followed by consistently good espresso-based coffee from a nearby bakery. There’s no need to visit the sights; I did it on a previous visit. The guidebook’s in the bin. It’s liberating to explore without an agenda. Gradually, the commercial spruikers of Jalan Raya Ubud are realising they’re barking up the wrong tree with me. Or at least the chants of “taxi” and “transport” are sounding fainter in my ears. My main requirement is that my keyboard clacks and my pencil scratches for a few hours each day.

Writing Process: Barry

I visit my writing several times throughout the day. Sessions vary from five minute bursts to extended periods of a few hours. This way, I can put in a minimum of a couple of hours a day, and often more like four to five. This is a framework. I have a home workspace – a place for my computer, books and tools – but can work anywhere.

Writing isn’t just a physical process of working with words on a page. It’s the creative and percolative activity that goes on in the spaces. In other words, the work also happens while reading, daydreaming, riding the bike, poking around, or what-have-you.

I’m never without a paper notebook. I keep the old ones stored in a filing cabinet. Captured moments. Conversations, song lyrics, glances, peripheral observations. The unorthodox, discordant, and mundane. Here, an obsessive mind might be a fortunate trait.

Short fiction suits my temperament and way of working. A new story can begin from a blank page, or a paragraph or phrase within an existing piece of writing. I rarely delete. An opportunity arises, such as a competition or a callout for submissions, and I circle round until I land on a fragment of material that captures my interest, and then begin to shape it into a new piece. Experimentation is thrilling, and I love the idea of development through failure. It’s a playful process, and instinct plays a part. Sentences are the building blocks of a story, and proficiency in them gives a reader confidence that they’re in capable hands, so allowing greater experimentation within the work.

Reading aloud, and listening to playbacks, I imagine works as radio pieces. Listening enables an objective sentence by sentence edit, and a chance to gauge the texture, mood, rhythms and poetry of the prose.

Writing can help to make life navigable. Anxieties, uncertainties and ambiguities can be contained and explored on the page through the endless possibilities of fictional forms.

Barry’s Adelaide reflections

coffee-adelaideThe festival experience in Adelaide becomes richer with each visit. This year, I felt an initial restlessness during the events. I wanted to be away from the authors talking about their work, and to get in front of my own writing. To put my hands inside my manuscript and pull the guts out of it. To lay it all out, examine it closely, and put it back together again. This reaction, far from a complaint, is rather desirable. I’m travelling to Ubud next week to work on my manuscript, and I can be confident the trip will be one of industry and production.

A highlight of Writers’ Week: The Crow on Wednesday morning at the west stage. Max Porter, author of Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, converses with Jonathan Bate about the life and work of Ted Hughes. In the soothing dapples of soft early sunlight we listen, rapt, to the disembodied voice of Hughes reading his work aloud in Adelaide forty years ago. Eerie and beautiful, this presence of the poet. Afterwards, I decide that I want this to be the taste that stays with me, and so leave the garden setting for the final time this year.

A similarly affecting experience on Thursday at the Art Gallery. A series of photographic images by William Yang chronicles his friend Allan’s demise from AIDS between 1988 and 1990. Each image is accompanied by Yang’s handwritten narrative. An unexpected punch arrives with the final photograph, of Allan in 1980. His vibrant and healthful face stares out. Ten years later, he’d be dead. Grateful to be alone, I search the image for a long time, looking for some communication between it and the fate of its subject.

The poignancy of Yang’s work is sharpened by the shade of an incident a few days’ earlier in the dorm at the youth hostel. Vivid anti-gay sentiments were a valuable reminder that we can’t be complacent; that, despite whatever ultimately happens with marriage equality in Australia, fear translates into hate in some minds. The hostel interaction is, however, a timely gift, prompting me to consider my short-story collection in a stark and vigorous light. Now on to Indonesia. There’s work to do.

Winner VU Short Story Prize: Their cruel routines

Barry’s short story ‘Their cruel routines’ is the winner of the 2015 Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize. It’s published in Overland Issue 221 Summer 2015. You can also read it here:

https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-221/short-story-prize-barry-lee-thompson/