Thursday, 20 August 2015

Melbourne Writers Festival - Artist Transport

I'm excited. Yes, it's sunny and mild enough not to need a heavy jacket, very good reasons to be happy, but more importantly it's on. #MWF15 officially kicked off this morning.

Last year I was a front-of-house volunteer, collecting tickets at the door, politely asking people to move up so that we could fill all the seats in a room, checking writers were comfortable in Green Rooms and steering them to the signing table.

Of course one of the (many) perks was then getting to sit in and listen to the conversations, readings and panel discussions.

This year I decided to put my hand up for Artist Transport instead, and I cannot believe the people I'm going to picking up and taking to the airport. It's a little bit amazing, exciting, intimidating and just bizarre to think that I will be the one who welcomes guests from pretty much every continent. Poets, performance artists and politicians...I will be their first contact with #MWF15.

Okay, now I'm making myself nervous. But mostly, I can't wait!

I do feel as though I shouldn't announce the details of my upcoming passengers. I'm not sure why but it doesn't seem right to broadcast, or brag, so for now I'll just say that my first trip is tonight, to an event, so, if you check the program, you might be able to work out who is going to be in Car #1 with me at the wheel.

Deep breath.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

What I Loved: Get in trouble by Kelly Link

This collection is outrageous. I never thought that I'd be hooked by stories with superheroes, Summer People, Sleepers or Ghost Boyfriends, but I've just finished it and I'm telling you, readers, to get your hands on it.

In hindsight there are a few hints that this is going to be a trip before you even start reading:

  1. The title: what reader isn't at least a little bit mischievous; who wouldn't want to know what kind of trouble we're talking about and who gets in it
  2. Michael Chabon calls Kelly Link "the most darkly playful voice in American fiction"
  3. Neil Gaiman says "she is unique and should be declared a national treasure"
  4. Her author photo: she looks like she's just holding in a great story under that smile, but only just; her eyes lock in with the confidence that she can hold your attention and that tattoo, well I'm just intrigued at how stating the obvious seems like something with more possibilities and stories behind it
  5. Acknowledgements: I love reading these - it's where a writer really has the free space to be themselves and speak as an individual. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays...are all spaces for writers to explore, expose, polish and propose, but here, this page or two, is where stripped down personality can really show. And in this case you get a peek into the community behind these stories. Link thanks people for borrowed ghost stories and discussions about evil pants and television shows, and I've never seen an Arts Centre thanked for providing "a desk, some elk, a bear, and conversation" before, but here it is.
If I'd done much research before reading 'Get in trouble' I probably wouldn't have touched it. On Goodreads, as well as the obvious Short Stories and Fiction groups, it's been added to Fantasy, Magical Realism, Science Fiction and Horror and I guess I'm one of those "people who don't read fantasy fiction but have #insertyourownexample"* that the panel at the Bendigo Writers Festival "Fantastic" session talked about.

Those tags could easily have been more than enough reason for me to leave this book in the library when I have so many other stories to read, but boy am I glad I didn't.


I do have one question about the book: On the cover, what does the key with 1584 mean? Maybe I can ask her at the Five Minute Story Slam (MWF)


Saturday, 1 August 2015

I love you Melbourne, but

I love you Melbourne, I really do. We've been back together for almost 18 months and we're still holding on to the magic. I love that here, in the depths of winter, we'll still get sunshine. We can still swim outside and run the Tan and I still love coming home with bags full of shopping from a market.

Last night K and I went to the MCG. We caught a busy football-passengers train and looked out as we crossed the Yarra and there you were, reflected and lit up with your pretty lights decorating Melbourne park and the bridges, little invitations and look-at-mes for miles and millions of people.

At Richmond the exodus was calm - it was early enough to walk with purpose but not aggression - and the announcer politely advised everyone to check their myki balance now as there would be long queues for topping up after the game.  Thursday's violent winds had stilled. We'd followed a blue sky day with a brilliant full moon and as we walked up the hill towards the mighty MCG light towers, K relaxed into Friday-night finished-work mode. Maybe it was even a bit of a Hawthorn back-to-back-premierships mode - I barrack for Collingwood so my last memory of sitting outside and really enjoying a game was against Melbourne in Round 10, and I'm not confident about the rematch today - but the crowd and the hunt for a seat and getting to the loo all felt more like the build-up than a series of obstacles and frustrations.

Once I'd let go of the misplaced apostrophe on the Tigers' banner and the siren went, of course it was game on.

The Tiges, gutted over last week's 4-pointer to Freo, came out to win. The Hawks have been giving textbook demonstrations of how to win a blowout lately, so their goalless first quarter wasn't too much to worry about, and by half-time the 2 point margin pointed to a potential 3rd quarter steamrolling.

Of course it didn't pan out that way at all and the Richmond supporters were as on fire as their players. Hawthorn supporters went from keeping a lid on it, to disbelief, to yelling out, "This is rubbish; stop just blazing away; WHO'S ON HIM?"

For someone who doesn't barrack for either side it was a great night. More than 66,000 people having a shout, a Four'N Twenty and a pint in the Bull Ring and a man to snuggle in to.

But then we left the 'G and that's when, Melbourne, you really let me down.

We were part of the brown and yellow evacuation moments before the siren, weaving around slow walkers to get to Richmond station before the full onslaught and get on our train and get home. We could hear the announcer way down Brunton Avenue, calling out the platform numbers for the different train lines, and we got to the top of the ramp for our train and saw: "Next train: 21 mins".
Really? Really Melbourne and ptv? In 21 minutes there'll be another 5,000 people down here and it's already crowded.

We can take a couple of different lines and have  a longer walk at the end, so we ran up and down more ramps to find that the earliest was 18 minutes, and as the crowds started coming down the road and through the gates, swelling up the ramps and on to the platforms, I thought of London. I thought of the tube and peak hour services every 4 minutes; I remembered standing in the cold wind on Vauxhall bus station, waiting for the 77 or the 87 to come swinging around the corner from the bridge, cursing if I waited the worst-case-scenario of 10 minutes. On Platform 6 at Richmond I remembered the horror of the packed rail trains at Clapham Junction, but the trains kept coming and gave you hope that if you didn't make this one the next was only a few minutes away and you'd get on that.

Here it's fierce. You have to get into brace position and charge because if you miss this it's another 20 minutes and it's already 10.45pm and there wasn't any cloud so it is pretty bloody cold and don't start Tiges, don't start winding up other supporters when we have these narrow platforms that we all have to wait on and you could have stayed back a little while longer and sung your song and cheered your team and let us get on our trains and get out of here ahead of you.

When we did get home we turned on the television to see the English batsmen spearing cricket balls all around the sunny Edgebaston field. We saw Michael Clarke drop a catch and topless Poms waving the 4-runs signal with their non-beer-holding hand far too often and it was really Saturday already. It started raining but when I woke up and looked at the London grey clouds I was pretty happy, because here, in Melbourne, I have a shower that doesn't run out of hot water between shampooing and conditioning; I have ramen stalls and coffee competition; I have local libraries that don't charge to reserve a book and there's The Wheeler Centre, the State Library space to write in and MWF in just a couple of weeks. I have nephews and nieces and a gorgeous man and soon, soon I'll have a new pup and although today is grey it's already August, it's still light after 5pm or even later. Tonight I'll listen to The Prosecco Hour on PBS 106.7 while I cook a roast chicken and we'll look at the MIFF program for something to get to and in the morning we'll walk/run around the Tan. But we have to drive to get there. In London I didn't need a car for 5 years, so I love you Melbourne, but you could make it a little bit easier for everyone to love all of you.