July 2015

Waler Mason, Gabrielle Lord and Marjorie Lewis-Jones

Digital launch in bricks and mortar bookstore

Spineless Wonders will host a double launch event on Saturday, July 25, at Berkelouw Books Leichhardt from 5.30 pm.

The double launch event will feature the official release of the digital Michael McGirr Selects series as well as the release of Carmel Bird’s latest collection of short stories, My Hearts Are Your Hearts.

Carmel Bird’s collection of twenty new short stories and an essay on their origins will be launched by Gabrielle Lord (pictured second from left), widely considered Australia’s ‘First Lady of Crime’.

The innovative series of digital long stories selected by award-winning writer, Michael McGirr will be launched by Australian blogger, travel writer and creative writing teacher, Walter Mason (pictured left).

A unique aspect of this event is that it includes the launch of both a print book and digital books in a physical, or bricks-and-mortar, bookshop.

Walter Mason, himself a former bookseller, is pleased to be part of this unusual launch. ‘I am so thrilled to see the different traditions in book-selling and publishing coming together,’ he said. ‘I am delighted to help launch something truly unique and again the Australian writing scene proves itself a source of the greatest innovation and resilience.’

Like traditional book launches, this event at Berkelouw Books, Leichhardt, will include readings, book signings, refreshments and an opportunity for readers and writers to mingle. 

The event will also include the presentation of the 2014 Carmel Bird Award, an annual award hosted by Spineless Wonders for an outstanding work of short fiction.

In 2014, the Carmel Bird Award was held for short stories up to 10,000 words. Stories by the twelve finalists, chosen by award judge, Michael McGirr, have been published as a series of digital long stories. The digital series is available as individual long stories from the Spineless Wonders website along with interviews with each author.

A number of authors from the Michael McGirr Selects series, some coming from as far afield as northern New South Wales and the Blue Mountains, will be present at the Sydney launch event. The winner, Marjorie Lewis-Jones (pictured right), will be in Iceland but appearing by pre-recorded video.

Carmel Bird’s My Hearts Are Your Hearts is the first release under Spineless Wonders’ Fiction Plus series. Fiction Plus presents short Australian fiction accompanied by reflective essay by the author and is designed to be enjoyed by readers and writers.

Bird’s classic book on writing, Dear Writer Revisited, was also published by Spineless Wonders (2013).

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Wayside Chapel logo and Out of Place cover

Out of place and by the wayside

What is it to be out of place, out of step, and perhaps out of line?

Spineless Wonders’ fifth annual anthology of microliterature teases out this theme with stories about everything from foreign cities to dating Jesus and dancing alone across a living room.

When the editors first came to decide on a theme they had ideas of travel in mind –what is more fruitful to storytelling than the heightened sensations of a changed location? However, upon further deliberation, a larger theme emerged: that of displacement, from the physical to the psychological, and from the untranslatable cityscape to the solo waltz.

With this theme in mind an interesting connection was made with Sydney’s Wayside Chapel. Publisher Bronwyn Mehan reached out and visitors to the Wayside Chapel were asked if they were interested in writing something on the theme.

Editor Linda Godfrey was very impressed with the responses. She says, ‘They were all so open and honest about their struggle to get where they are now; one story is about migration, others about the fight back from addiction and depression. This is a chance to see into real people’s lives and struggles. You can’t get any more authentic than these stories and it really is a gift that these people shared with us.’

The inclusion of the stories from the Wayside Chapel adds to the cacophony of voices and perspectives in the collection. As the editors say of the anthology in the foreword, ‘these stories capture delightful and unsettling moments of estrangement, when the new becomes familiar and the ordinary becomes sublime.’

The Out of Place launch will be held at 4 pm on Saturday, July 18, at our favourite Knox St Bar. There will be readings from authors and the airing of videos and soundscapes from the stories in the anthology.

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Investigate the crime scene for the 2015 Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award

As judge of this year’s crime-themed Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award, Zane Lovitt (above right) is keen to discover a selection of outstanding stories to include alongside award-winning authors such as Angela Savage, Peter Corris, Leigh Redhead, Andrew Nette, David Whish-Wilson and Tony Birch.

Zane is looking for stories that experiment with the form, stories that move beyond the cliché of plot-driven whodunnits and the potboilers of the crime genre’s mean streets.

He is not only searching for short crime fiction with a uniquely Australian flavour, but also for new writing that comes at the world of crime aslant, placing the crime in the background and the characters, the place and the atmosphere up front — short stories where, as Australian crime writer P.M. Newton says, ‘The crime becomes almost incidental, or hasn’t even happened yet, but is building towards it, or happened in the past and someone is paying for it now.’

For some crime-writing tips check out this discussion with Zane and Emily St John Mandel at the 2013 Adelaide Festival.

Both Emily and Zane write stories that are strong in plot, have a strong sense of time and place and that explore the cultural landscape. For instance, Zane’s linked stories take place over a ten year period and are all set against the backdrop of contemporary Melbourne.

What both writers are interested in exploring through crime fiction is the human condition. Zane, who is a lawyer by trade, says he uses the crime genre ‘to convey what drove me to writer in the first place’. The crime stories of Mandel and Lovitt explore people’s morals. ‘What is good? What is bad? And how often, there’s no answer to that question.’

First prize in the 2015 Carmel Bird Award will be $500 and all stories (up to 5,000 words) will be considered for publication in the Spineless Wonders short story anthology. Closing date is August 31.

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Small Wonders cover

‘Quote’ unquote

The Seine. Have a river if you can’t have a harbour. The names call themselves into existence. An echo. / I’m fed on names: Poissonerie, Boulanger, Herboristerie. Sometimes I could digest through my eyes. / The skeleton of Gaudi’s cathedral. Wind blows through its bones. Where is its skin? Outer covering? Coat of comfort? / Tudor housing. The childhood boxes of cardboard imagined to be mansions. / A hotel room is not a home.

‘Travelling (east–west)’ by Moya Costello, Small Wonder: an anthology of prose poems & microfiction

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July Little Fictions: Bicycles, Needleheads and the Archbishop of Canterbury

July Little Fictions was an entertaining and eclectic line-up of shorts. It was not only entertaining, but we also all learned something new.

Alex Williams read Carol Jenkins’ story, ‘The Illustrated History of the Bicycle’, about the origins of the domestic bicycle, called the wild Cyclops. We heard about its representation in cave art, about the bicycle’s role as a food source and two theories about its domestication. Proof of its existence is a sketch by Paden Hunter, one of the few wild Cyclops still left roaming the planet, though Carol’s piece raises the interesting question: is the bicycle capable of independent movement?

Lauren Neill read the moving story of multiple personalities, ‘Looking after Cecily’, by Jane Skelton. Here’s a line or two from the reading: ‘Us good ones could organise ourselves into shifts, but the trouble is, you can’t trust the littlies. Old Needlehead could trick them, or they could doze off and Cecily might wake up again, and take herself down to the water. Old Needlehead put the idea into her head and she’s taken with it.’

Patrick Lenton’s story, ‘Faith’, published in his single author collection, A Man Made Entirely of Bats, also made an appearance. ‘In “Faith”, the cream of the world’s leaders of religions sit around, shoot the breeze and welcome a new member.’

‘Faith’ is a very funny, irreverent story written by a very funny man, and read by our resident comic, Alex Williams. Here’s a taste: ‘His whisky remained untouched and his eyes stared past the undulating bodies of beautiful teenage dancers. Perhaps he was struggling to withstand the lures of the flesh and was thinking about God and Jesus and stuff. Or perhaps it was all the chloroform he’d recently been forced to inhale.’

The sketch (above right) of a scene from ‘Faith’  is by Daniel Lethlean Higson.

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Microlit Month halfway wrap …

We’re halfway through the social media literary frenzy that is Microlit Month!

For the past few weeks, Spineless Wonders has celebrated Microlit Month with daily audio versions of micro-literature from Spineless Wonders anthologies published on SoundCloud and shared through Facebook and Twitter. So far we’ve had a fantastic reception from our online community and encourage you to share the works to all your online – and real world – social networks.

Community radio has also lent their support by broadcasting various tracks from the Microlit Month playlist, including pieces from the Spineless Wonders anthologies Small Wonder, Stoned Crows and Other Australian Icons, Writing to the Edge and Flashing the Square.

But this month isn’t only a celebration of micro-literature; it’s also about Spineless Wonders authors and what makes them tick.

Each day, Spineless Wonders has posted titbits of information about the featured author, including author Q&As on writing process and inspiration. As Spineless Wonders’ Bronwyn Mehan said on Triple R’s literary arts program, ‘Multi-Storied’, ‘we don’t only want people to hear these individual stories, we want to tell a little bit about them and the people who wrote them … this is really an opportunity to showcase our authors’.

The author interviews have received the ‘thumbs up’ from Twitter:

Cassie Hamer ‏@BookBirdyBlog Jul 8
@SpinelessWonder @RuthWyer I love this interview. Thanks, Ruth, for letting us into your writing world. So much I can relate to …

Microlit Month was launched with the brilliant audio adaptation of ‘To And From Your House’ by Angela Meyer. Listeners were enthralled by the honeyed tones of Mileta Rien reading this beautiful piece about a couple, a suburb, and reverently removing clothes.

The first week was capped off with Marisa McTeigue’s narration of ‘Lights’ by Sue McCreery; a story of all that is left unsaid when you are married and stuck in traffic. Mark Smith’s fantastic ‘The Meteorologist’s Daughter’ was another highlight track, featured on community radio and delighting listeners with a story of weather charted on the skin.

Microlit Month continues in the coming weeks with many more great micro-literature tracks up on Facebook and Twitter, including stories of lucid dreaming with Lauren Aimee Curtis, a Country Women’s Association stoush with Jude Bridge, and an ode to Gertrude Stein with Stevi-Lee Alver.

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you follow Spineless Wonders on Twitter (@SpinelessWonder) and like us on Facebook. You can also sign up to SoundCloud now if you’d like to comment directly into the audio pieces and listen at your own pace.

Spineless Wonders would like to thank all the authors who’ve been featured so far. We’ve had such fun sharing your fantastic microfiction and prose poetry across social media and, in doing so, allowing followers to step inside this rich world you inhabit.

What the authors have said …

‘Microlit Month has helped draw attention to short-form writing by showcasing some of the best exponents of flash and micro-fiction in Australia. This has been a great initiative by Spineless Wonders and, again, demonstrates their support for new, emerging and established writers.’ – Mark Smith

‘Microlit Month is like a having a packet of a sharp mints. You take one in your mouth, bite on it, or roll it round slowly. Once it’s gone the flavour lingers. Soon – but not too soon – you’ll take another one. You want to make them last.’ – Sue McCreery  

Grab your ear-buds for some minty fresh microlit!

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Stories elevated to another level

Little Fictions curator Linda Godfrey and Sydney author Jon Steiner recently hit the airways via an interview on 2SER’s Final Draft.

You can listen to the whole interview with Final Draft’s presenter, Andrew Pople, here. Meanwhile, here are some snippets:

AP: Most Final Draft listeners are familiar with the solitary pleasures of sinking into a book. What happens though, when these stories are taken to the stage?

JS: Well, I’ve been moved to tears at some of the Little Fictions’ readings. When you have a professional actor read the story it kind of elevates the story to another level. There’s the interpretation you have in your head as you read in your solitary garret and then there’s the experience of actually having the story read to you by someone who is really bringing it to life.

AP: What was the inspiration for bringing these stories to the stage?

LG: We wanted a wider audience for the short stories published by Spineless Wonders. And we think it’s important to provide a venue for people to go and listen along with others. This is a very convivial atmosphere. Knox St Bar is a place where you can eat, you can drink, you can meet up with your friends. Then you get to sit around for a very cosy evening and listen to some literature.

AP: How does the audience respond? What do you get from the audience when a story really lands?

LG: When a story is being read, there is absolute silence. You could hear a pin drop. They are galvanised. And, afterwards, when the actor as finished, they’ll burst into applause then turn to each other and talk about it immediately.

AP: What about the use of actors at Little Fictions? What does having a professional and ‘outside’ voice bring to a reading?

LG: Actors bring a certain level of emotion.

JS: It is very evocative.

LG: Plus actors bring a different interpretation to a story. It’s not the reader’s interpretation, it’s not the writer’s. It’s a third voice that is bringing the story to life.

JS: Plus actors are really great at bringing the right accents to the reading. Making the characters really real.

LG: And it ups the drama because learn to pause. And pacing is very important to storytelling.

Hear the full interview.

Photos of writer Jon Steiner, actor Alex Williams, curator Linda Godfrey and a Little Fictions fan by Julie Koh.

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Feeling dislocated?

For a copy of our latest anthology, Out of Place, tell us in 20 words or less about when you experienced being ‘out of place’ – in space, time, feeling, psyche or memory.

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Dates for your diary

July 18 - Out of Place launch with guest editor Kirsten Tranter direct from Berkeley,USA, and including screening of videos featuring scores by emerging composers, at Knox St Bar, Chippendale, 4pm.
July 21 - Little Fictions @ Bondi Feast.
July 25 - My Hearts Are Your Hearts launch by Gabrielle Lord plus Michael McGirr Selects series launch by Carmel Bird at Berkelouw Books, Leichhardt, 7 pm.
July 30 - ‘Why the Owl Gazes at the Moon’ by Claire Aman on Spineless Wonders online Bookclub, Facebook, 8-9pm.
August 1 - Jen Craig in conversation with Geoff Orton @ Writers Bloc, 12 noon, 107 Projects, Redfern.
August 8 - Panthers and the Museum of Fire launch by Julian Day at Knox St Bar, Chippendale,  4 pm.
August 9My Hearts Are Your Hearts launch by Cate Kennedy at the Bendigo Writers Festival, 10 am.
August 12 - My Hearts Are Your Hearts launch by Angela Meyer at Readings, St Kilda.
Aug 13 - My Hearts Are Your Hearts by Carmel Bird on Spineless Wonders online Bookclub, Facebook, 8-9pm.
Aug 27  - ‘The Lake Story’ by Ron Eliot, on Spineless Wonders online Bookclub, Facebook, 8- 9pm.

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