Reflections of a NaNoWriMo newbie


November is NaNoWriMo time. That’s National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated. The annual event challenges established, emerging and aspiring writers to put down 50,000 words over 30 days. The idea is to have a first draft of a novel completed by the end of the month with a daily target of 1667 words.

Every year I have an excuse not to do NaNoWriMo. This year is no different but I decided to give it a go anyway. Yesterday was day 4 and so far I’m on target (just) with 6,670 words on the page.

So far I have some sketchy, vaguely painted characters, some skeletal scenes, a bit of dialogue and no apparent plot. I have killed off a few characters, including an unborn child and a couple of chickens, and there is a lot of driving around in cars and some impressive weather.

Still, that’s 6,670 more words of fiction than I have written all year. I’m hoping a plot will emerge at some point and that my characters grow and become more complex portraits.

I have fallen down a few rabbit holes by Googling topics as riveting and diverse as: different types of air conditioning systems, Australian race horse names, bushfire warnings, the smell of amniotic fluid, and Elgar’s cello concertos.

So far I have successfully resisted all urges to edit or re-read what I have written.

Knowing there is a cohort of people around the world all doing the challenge at the same time is kind of comforting and I have been dipping in and out of the #NaNoWriMo Twitter conversation for fortification. Though judging from the hashtag, I am one of the few people not writing fanfic, romance, or scifi.

And I’m keeping in mind all of the writing advice I’ve ever been given: you can edit a bad draft but not a blank page, a first draft is always crap, just get the words down on the page, write every day, trust yourself, etc etc. I have paraphrased the advice here because I don’t have time to Google the actual quotes. I need to get back to writing NaNoWriMo!


Zine scene defies death by digital


My piece in the Sunday Age

My piece in the Sunday Age

Zines are low-cost, low-fi, handcrafted and independent print publications. I recently wrote a piece for The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, about how zines are bucking the trend of death by digital. In this piece, I focused on the Melbourne zine scene. I looked at why people are attracted to making and buying zines, and why institutions such as libraries are collecting these ephemeral publications.

Read the whole article here.

Happy 200th birthday Sir Redmond Barry. Time for some street art?

Ned Kelly street art in a Melbourne laneway

Ned Kelly street art in a Melbourne laneway

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir Redmond Barry. Barry is best known as the Victorian Supreme Court judge who presided over the trial of Ned Kelly. Unlike Kelly who has been romanticised through paintings, movies and even street art, Barry’s colourful story has faded with the passing of time. Barry was an avid book collector and patron of reading, the arts and education. Barry had a significant role shaping many of the cultural and social institutions that make Melbourne the city it is today. He was a founder of the Melbourne Mechanics Institute (now the Athanaeum), the Melbourne Public Library (now the State Library of Victoria) and its Art Gallery, the Supreme Court Library, and was a founder and the first Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. His ideas and energy turned “a weak struggling settlement … [into]…a bright and brilliant colony” (Edmund Finn).

In his days as a Barrister, Barry represented indigenous people on a probono basis. He believed in the rehabilitation of criminals. These were surprisingly liberal attitudes for the times. He also challenged some of the moral codes of the day by having a long-term mistress and by having an open affair with a married women on-board his voyage to Australia from London.

The Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) and the Supreme Court of Victoria are currently showing a joint exhibition to celebrate Barry’s bicentennial. It’s an interesting insight into Barry and his role in shaping Melbourne. Perhaps one day we’ll see some street art depicting him too.

On Jupiter, stargazing and our place in the universe

People have looked to the stars throughout millenia. We have used the stars to navigate, to contemplate, and to try to make sense of the universe and our place in it. We have searched for ways to explain the cosmos through the lenses of religion, science and science fiction. The stars hold a collective fascination and wonder that reaches beyond our generations, continents and spiritual and rational beliefs. Last night, our moon occulted Jupiter. The sight of the planet glowing brightly near our moon was beautiful. The haze from bushfires around Melbourne added an eerie orange glow. The heavy smell of smoke from the bushfires juxtaposed with this rare glimpse of a distant planet. The universe dwarfs our existence. It’s nice to be reminded of that occasionally. It caused me to reflect and appreciate the fragile earth that hosts our brief visit here.

An amazing shot of our moon, Jupiter and its moons last night 18/2/13