August 2015

Little Fictions gets four gigs @ Sydney Fringe

Caitlin Cooper-Trent can’t stop thinking about Little Fictions at the Knox Street Bar. She wants more.

Luckily for Caitlin, during September — as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival throughout the city from September 1 to 30 — four special Little Fictions events will be held. Curators Linda Godfrey and Amber Dalrymple have assembled a veritable Arabian Nights of contemporary Australian short fiction to take place over four consecutive Mondays — beginning on September 7.

To each of four events during Sydney Fringe — ‘Comedy Knox’, ‘Sydney Stories’, ‘The Great Unknown’ and ‘Crime Scenes’ — cult Sydney personality Adam Norris will bring his irreverent charm as host. The smell of fried batter and Parmesan will waft through the bar as actors use their whole bodies and minds to conjure worlds for us in this dark room.

On September 7, ‘Comedy Knox’ will pair the dark comedy of a failed writer who impersonates a more successful one for sex with a rogue Ross from Friends who lives out all of our Patrick Bateman fantasies. A bland boyfriend tells lies to hide his ‘custard’ personality and the tightening of screws becomes a matter of life and death.

On September 14, the ‘Sydney Stories’ Little Fictions will read Sydney back to us.

‘The Great Unknown’ is scheduled for September 21 and on September 28 Little Fictions will present the final instalment of the Sydney Fringe events, ‘Crime Scenes’.

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Out of Place: in sound, on screen

Writer and artist Richard Holt has been a driving force in getting the expansive microliteratures from the pages of Out of Place to the screen as the Out of Place video works.

He views the two forms as symbiotic, saying that when he began writing as he was ‘intrigued by the converging challenges of blank pages and blank canvas’.

Richard says ‘The stories in Out of Place resonate with that energy: the conceit that ideas, characters, plot and voice are all taking form on the page as the reader discovers the text. The videos I’ve created of selected stories are similarly dynamic with audio and graphic elements that are neither entirely illustrative nor interpretive, but rather evolve organically alongside the text itself.’

Emerging composers from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music also contributed to this collaborative project, producing a series of beautiful soundscapes to accompany specific stories from the collection.

All the students involved were taking part in the course ‘Electroacoustic Composition’, taught by Dr Daniel Blinkhorn who is an award-winning composer, sound and digital media artist.

The soundscapes and videos all engage the potential of the Out of Place stories to develop into multi-sensory explorations of theme and place.

The Out of Place video works were aired for the first time at the Out of Place book launch at Knox St Bar. Spineless Wonders is looking to show them in various arts festivals and public screenings, so watch this space!

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Carmel Bird, Gabrielle Lord and Walter Mason

‘Master’ praised for beauty and tenderness at launch of traditional and digital stories

Gabrielle Lord, launching Carmel Bird’s My Hearts Are Your Hearts at Berkelouw Books on July 25, said Bird wrote tales that spoke of ‘great beauty and tenderness [alongside] stories that ache with loss’.

This intrigued Rebecca Parker, who reported on the double launch of My Hearts Are Your Hearts and the Michael McGirr Selects series of digital long stories.

Parker says, ‘Through reading out her favorite parts of My Hearts Are Your Hearts, Gabrielle reminded us that to read these stories is to know one is in the presence of a master writer.’

Walter Mason outlined the history of the Carmel Bird Award, saying writers selected for the award have had their short stories published in print anthologies such as Escape, The Great Unknown and the forthcoming Crime Scenes. Every second year the award is specifically for longer stories. The first of these was the Amanda Lohrey Selects series.

The 2014 award was open to all, had no dominant theme and was judged by Michael McGirr. McGirr’s chosen winner was Marjorie Lewis-Jones, a Sydney writer and editor, who received the Carmel Bird award for her story, We’re All Travellers Here.

Lewis-Jones’ tale was glowingly described by McGirr as ‘a terrific achievement, which makes great use of cultural history to frame its portrait.’

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Cover of The Waterfowl Are Drunk

‘Quote’ unquote

I wish now I’d had a kettle there, just so she could have gone out to the burble of boiling water and the smell of Lipton and biscuits. But she glowed all the same. Little pom-poms dangled from her ankle socks; those pink woolen socks slid off her dead feet like silk and I folded them into each other. They felt like tissues or feathers in my hand. Perhaps death was weightless. Only Lottie would have pom-poms on her ankles, only Lottie could paint a hospital room bright pink.

The Waterfowl Are Drunk! by Kate Liston Mills

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Lenton’s up for laughs

Patrick Lenton is best known to Spineless Wonders’ followers as the talented author of the hilarious and bizarre collection, A Man Made Entirely of Bats, a book of tales about hugely popular as well as obscure (yes, he made those ones up) superheroes.

Those of you who have visited his blog, Spontaneity Review, will know that Patrick is also a playwright, prose writer and irrepressible blogger. His plays have names like Sexy Tales of Paleontology and 100 Years of Lizards. His theatre company is called the Sexy Tales Comedy Collective.  And he edited an anthology of comedy writing called The Sturgeon General.

Patrick will be in conversation with Melbourne comedy writer Luke Ryan in August at Readings, St Kilda. In the lead up to this event, Sluglines asked Patrick about his approach to the challenging art of writing comedy.

‘While writing A Man Made Entirely of Bats, my goal was to make people laugh while reading each story. Whether or not I was successful with this is something I’m going to ignore. Comedic intent in literature is a weird animal, because it is rare and misunderstood. Often what is passed off as “funny” in literature is actually “amusing”, a situation or circumstance created by the author that is a funny thing, but not actually “funny”. In order to actually create a laugh-out-loud situation in a short story, there has to be the same kind of dedication to beats, to comedic timing and other comedy writing methods that you might find in sketch or television or film.

‘While studying writing recently at the legendary Second City in Chicago, an improvisational comedy enterprise, I realised that breaking the structure of a sketch and a short story are very, very similar, until they’re not and become wildly different. Second City sketches are highly structured, and are broken down into five beats. Of course there’s innumerable variations of how those beats are expressed,  so it’s hardly as if there’s a danger of them becoming too “samey”.

‘As someone who’d never applied much structure to my short stories, it was fun to break them down according to sketch rules. It was an interesting challenge to change my short story structures to resemble more of a sketch – could I, for example, continue to escalate the story without a conflict, which writers claim are integral to fiction? Could all my characters work together instead of in opposition? Could I create characters with depth around comedic archetypes? Whether or not I was successful, I think there’s immeasurable gain in looking to other forms for inspiration in literature.’

Patrick will join Luke Ryan (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo) for a lively discussion about Lenton’s short-story collection, A Man Made Entirely of Bats, as well as writing, comedy and living in Melbourne. Tickets are free, but booking is encouraged.

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Julian Day and Jen Craig

Day launches Panthers, prowling into its own great life, greeted by rave reviews

Panthers and the Museum of Fire very much looks at the psycho-geography of the surrounds of Sydney and it reminds me of the City of Sydney commissioned work ‘City of Forking Paths’ created by the artist Janet Cardiff, which takes you on an interactive journey through Sydney streets using an iPod.

This journey is through The Rocks and, like in Panthers and the Museum of Fire, the artist speaks to you of her experiences. And in both works, you are perpetually wondering whether it is the author’s actual lived experience, or is it completely fictional? Are the events happening now or in the past? And your understanding of what is real and what is fiction perpetually shifts.

Jen Craig, a friend of mine for over a decade, lives in a classic terrace in the inner west of Sydney. These terrace houses are narrow, somewhat linear but also completely non-linear. You can imagine the design coming from the opiate-fuelled mind of a Victorian architect – the rooms often have very little relationship to reality.

But if you live in a terrace with more than one person, you have to engage in this constant, negotiated choreography of your intentions, your desires, your memories, what you want to do. It all gets very tangled. Your journey through that house becomes this perpetual dance. And, so too, with this book.

The journey through the streets reminded me of wandering through Jen’s home – that the characters here, the kind of breaking apart of various connections, is maybe a way of understanding the narrative. Like in her first book, Since the Accident, there is in this book the breaking apart of familial structures which unravel and re-tangle over time.

I urge you to buy the book. If you type the title, ‘Panthers and the Museum of Fire’ into Google the first couple of pages are filled with rave reviews about it. So it is going to go on to have its own great life which I’m really excited about.

This is an edited extract from Julian Day’s launch of Panthers and the Museum of Fire, Knox St Bar, August 8, 2015.

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‘It’s all about you’ at Little Fictions

Everybody loves a story, a tale. It’s one of those things that immediately let us suspend belief and be immersed in their world, with their characters, and wondering where it is all going to go.

This is what Little Fictions is all about. At Little Fictions the actors read to you. The writers have done their work, they have contemplated the blank page for you, done the forty-seven drafts and stomped up and down the hallway in frustration. All you have to do is turn up, maybe buy a glass of wine and have a story read to you. So comforting, so pleasant. It’s all about you.

Earlier this month, our talented team read the audience into a state of insight into the human condition. Our MC, Adam Norris, read Mark Roberts’ ‘Cities that are not Dublin’, in which the author is reading Joyce’s Ulysses: ‘Tomorrow night I am travelling to Melbourne by train and plan to sit up all night and read.’

The author crosses off the stations of the Sydney to Melbourne journey, with the chapters of Ulysses. On the journey back, he moves into more mind-altering states, preparing for the lights of Sydney. It was beautifully read by Adam and the room showed their appreciation. Then he stepped straight back into his MCing role and talked about himself in the third person. ‘Ah, that Adam! What a performer.’

Tim McGarry had the audience mesmerised with his reading of ‘Forest’, a short piece by Emily Clements in which the narrator had a sensual and risky encounter, where ‘the wolves hang their black skins between the stars’. Emily is quoted as saying that she believes that the evolution of every writer at some point involves sunglasses and a motorbike.

‘A well-dressed capuchin monkey disappeared from a children’s party in Melbourne. The events leading up to the disappearance, and the last view of this agile creature, were caught on camera. His alarming grin, his great dark eyes, his tail, his bottom. The story became a bit of a legend among the families of the children present, and naturally it moved far and wide out into cyberspace. It was Charlotte Rose’s fifth birthday party ...’

The best stories start simple and let the intrigue and twists of modern life build. Alex Williams read this as a light and happy tale, until he hit us between the eyes with the twist at the end where the true cost of keeping wild animals captive and using children as pawns in relationship games became apparent. Scary-sad ending that left people contemplative.

The ultimate reading was by Lauren Neill, famous now for her ‘Cake Mistake’ reading, where she impersonates the voices of the CWA ladies as they fight American cultural imperialism. This time she read Patrick Lenton’s tale of ‘The Man Made Entirely of Bats’, from his collection of the same name, in which people of the city reflect on what the Man of Bats really means to them. One even followed him home to the Bat Cave. Very funny reading, full of voices, bringing an already comic story to life. Enlivened the room, had people laughing out loud and carried them home with a smile on their face.

Little Fictions has quickly become part of the Sydney literary landscape. We have been invited to be part of festivals around town. The next round of Little Fictions is going to be a feast, each Monday night in September, as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. Come along and enjoy the shows. Come earlier to eat, drink, and catch up with friends. We would love for you to have our stories read to you.

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Permission to enter a lying competition

Christine Goodman wins our July competition with her entry, ‘Out of place out of time out of body as I disappear into the etheric realms of a panic attack.’ Christine receives a free copy of the Out of Place anthology. Thanks to all those who entered.

This month’s competition:

Permission to Lie by Julie Chevalier was the first book to be published by Spineless Wonders and it’s well worth having these fabulous stories on your shelf. To win a copy, tell us (in 20 words or less) ...

If you had permission to lie, what lie would you tell about:

• your writing and/or the trashy television that distracts you from it?

• the book you know you should have read but haven’t?

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Dates for your diary

August 20 - Patrick Lenton in conversation with Luke Ryan at Readings, St Kilda, 6.30pm.
August 27 - Spineless Wonders online Bookclub: ‘The Lake Story’ by Ron Elliott, 8pm.
September 3Spineless Wonders online Bookclub: ‘Bulldozer’ by Ariella van Luyn, 8pm.
September 7 -  ‘Comedy Knox’, Little Fictions @ Sydney Fringe, Knox St Bar, 7pm.
September 14 - ‘Sydney Stories’,  Little Fictions @ Sydney Fringe, Knox St Bar, 7pm
September 17Spineless Wonders online Bookclub: ‘Flatrock 1979′ by Lukas Jackson, 8pm.
September 21 - ‘The Great Unknown’, Little Fictions @ Sydney Fringe, Knox St Bar, 7pm.
September 28 - ‘Crime Scenes’, Little Fictions @ Sydney Fringe, Knox St Bar, 7pm.

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