On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

Charlie stood under the porch light at the back of the house and squinted down the barrel of his beer. He swirled the bottle in tiny circles, watching the liquid spiral and foam, then tipped his head back and drank it off. Tossed the bottle out into the night. It glanced off a water tank with a clang and thudded down somewhere in the neighbour’s yard. There were muffled voices, a light in a window. Farther away the clamant barking of a dog.

My stomach churned when I was given a card at Tullamarine; it said that there was no guarantee I would be allowed back into Australia. Shit, my re-entry permit had expired. I closed my eyes and jumped on the plane, because nothing could stop me from going to Gifu. I was to receive the Award of Excellence at the twenty-second Gifu Literature Festival. 

We were escorted to the wards by a warmly confident nurse, Glenda. She showed us to the rooms with rows of beds. We would be stopping by every patient to play two or three of our songs, none of which they’d know and probably wouldn’t care to, anyway. Simon and I were naively optimistic and completely unprepared. Not renowned for our covers, we hadn’t even recorded the b-sides that we’d become so well known for, at that time.

Audio is on a roll. Podcasting has liberated audio storytellers from the tyranny of the live radio schedule, creating vast new audiences that transcend national boundaries. Exemplars of the audio storytelling form such as This American Life and Radiolab attract huge global audiences, while free sites like Soundcloud allow even amateurs to easily share and distribute their audio work. But while technology has made audio more accessible than ever before, it is audio’s qualities as a medium that deliver its impact.

“I spent so much of life wanting to write about music,” says Clem Bastow. At just thirty-one, she has already experienced a 12-year music writing career and arrived at a point where she is “in recovery” from music writing, as she recently put in in an article in The Saturday Paper.

On the whole we love to eat. Copious numbers of television shows, newspaper and magazine articles testify to our obsession with food. A vast perfume and fragrance industry suggests forcefully that we love to smell.

“I wanted to listen to a podcast like this, but it didn’t exist. So, I grabbed a couple of mates and said let’s do this.” Sam Twyford-Moore started culture review podcast The Rereaders in 2011 to address what he saw as a lack of extended conversation about local culture and young Australian writers. 

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, has been a UNESCO City of Literature since August 2011. Not only is Reykjavik a literary city with deep roots in the art of the word, dating back to the country‘s settlement in the ninth century, but it’s also a cultural city in general, with a year-round calendar of festivals and events in all the arts. Reykjavik is known internationally for its vibrant music scene and design has also been on the rise as a new and exciting part of the creative industries. 

In January this year I conducted writing workshops with Cambodian writers in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The project, a joint venture between PEN Melbourne and PEN Cambodia was initiated in January 2013, with a three-day workshop held in Phnom Penh. Eighty participants attended.

He woke in the middle of the night to the sound of his name. “Caleb, Caleb.” A gentle whisper as though someone was bent over his ear. It nudged him from his dreams but, when he opened his eyes, the room was empty.