Spin Off Festival 2019

We all know Adelaide flies under the radar: we are often defined by the Malls Balls or our filtered water. Although we aren’t considered to be the artistic hub of Australia, little old Adelaide is home to one of the most vibrant art scenes in our country. The proof is in the festival pudding. The most recent example: Spin Off Festival 2019.

For those who are not familiar with this festival, Spin Off states that it brings ‘the cream of the Splendour in the Grass line up to Adelaide, curating a concentrated super dose of sideshow revelry’. It was a concentrated super dose of talent, but not for a second did this festival feel like a sideshow.

We were blessed with a divine day. In the midst of what has been a cool Adelaide winter, the sun showed its face, the air was still, and it was blue skies as far as the eye could see. The space was decked out with food trucks that bordered grassed areas, and a KFC tent was providing free food on the hour. Transmission – who run Adelaide’s regular indie music nights – set up a dance floor that was buzzing well into the evening. Our showground was filled with so many beautiful, energised, and groovy people.

The day kicked off with Kian, our young hip-hop, indie singer who melts hearts left, right and centre. The Australian rapper Kwame, known for his performance energy, was unmatchable on stage. Around lunch time, Ruby Fields brought waves of crazed fans through the gate to see her rock out with her appealing angsty vibe. Mallrat followed – wearing the most fabulous red, frilly two piece– and drew us in with her sweet nature and infectious liveliness. The flow didn’t stop! The surf and garage rock duo Hockey Dad impressed, backed with artistic on-screen visuals, Wolf Alice gave us the music for a solid, high energy dance session, and Ocean Alley, as the modern reggae fusion group they are, did not disappoint their devoted fans. Ball Park Music were next and have established themselves as irreplaceable in the Australian music scene, always pleasing with their honest, upbeat tunes. Catfish and the Bottlemen were the penultimate act and, from what I heard, were a huge influence on the large attendance at this year’s festival. Boy, are these guys loved, and their music is what I like to call ‘boogie friendly’ – it’s awfully hard not to get into it. And then there was Childish Gambino. The big one. What talent. What spectacle. His dramatic display was captivating, and I have very rarely been a part of a crowd so enthralled by a performer. Gambino will be spoken about for generations, and Adelaide was stoked to have him here.

The thing about any festival, is there is a strong sense of community. For however long a festival lasts – a single day or an entire weekend – festival goers get to know the space and all its nooks and crannies: a festival and its set up grows to feel like home in a mere few hours. People bond over a shared experience, and sweaty bodies getting down for a groove creates a unique intimacy. But in our city, I can’t help thinking that these festivals are even more close-knit. You could stand in a single spot in our showgrounds filled with thousands of humans, and bump into half of the people in your life. In the mosh, all you have to do is look both ways and you are guaranteed to lock eyes with a familiar face. It’s nice to think of this city, and the young people who go to these events, as an interlocked community.

Adelaide not only showed up for Spin Off, but we gave the national and international artists before us a bloody good time. Good on us!

 


Words by Michelle Wakim

Photograph by Stazi Markovich

 

Flights of Fancy and a Writer’s Imagination

Possibilities

A notice pops up in my inbox, something unexpected: a call for applications for a month’s writer’s residency in Granada, Spain, the city I first visited twelve years ago. Suddenly, I am transported there. I can fully imagine myself being the resident writer, speaking my intermediate-level Spanish, participating in local literary events, adding some more to the writing about Spain that I have already done.

I am so fully taken by such a possibility that during the night I start to feel anxious. I worry about leaving home to travel across the world and all that I would have to organise to make that possible, as well as all the things I would miss about home. It plays out in my mind like a movie, drives me crazy, my imagination giddy with anticipation. I toss and turn as my mind wanders in and out of potential scenarios: the long flight alone; the writer’s room near the university; whether I’d be able to make a cup of tea (should I take my thermos?); the weather; the clothes I would  wear; the people I’d meet; the activities, seminars, readings, or various social events. Would my Spanish would hold up? Would Marina, my flamenco dance teacher, be able to recommend a class I could attend?

 

Anxious and willing

Anxiety is both a physical and mental experience. Once I remember to breathe, my thoughts become clearer. All that seemed confusing or impossible during the night seems lighter and more manageable to me in the morning. I remind myself that people travel all over the world all the time, for work, for pleasure – a month here, two weeks there, ten days elsewhere. It’s no big deal. The distance, the time, the different culture.

I have useful conversations about this possible adventure being realized. What an opportunity, if it were to come off, if it all fell into place. I meet with a fellow writer at a local café and we speak in Spanish about the trip. A good thing for me to be practising if I am going to have discussions or readings or give lectures in Granada. In the meantime, I hope for peace, equanimity and courage.

 

Commitments

I have made a commitment. I have written and organised my application. Three people have written letters of recommendation. I send it all in five attachments to Carmen, the contact person in Granada, and I wait for a response. Did she receive it? It’s there in the outbox saying it has been sent, but how can I know for sure? It’s the last month of winter here, but perhaps over there she’s on holiday, escaping the August heat wave?

If I were to be chosen, I would travel across the globe to the south of Spain and spend November in Granada. This is when I could do with more of the subjunctive in English: if I were to be chosen I would take my work about Spain and share it with Spanish writers, readers and audiences. I would risk the exposure this would entail and the possible criticism for it being inappropriate or for misunderstanding their culture. I would risk being misunderstood myself. Or perhaps they’d appreciate it.

I have made a commitment for this experience to throw further light on my work. I have made a commitment to be immersed in the Spanish language, to participate in the cultural life of Granada, as much as opportunity will allow. I have made a commitment to write, to read, to research and to communicate my interests as clearly as possible.

I have made a commitment to sleep on my own in a foreign city, to face the night demons if necessary, to rely on my inner reserves of strength and to remain open. I have made a commitment to uncertainty.

Chances are this trip will not happen.

I am only one amongst many applicants from around the world. I already know I will be disappointed if I don’t go, even knowing I’ll be nervous if I do. I am preparing myself practically and psychologically for the journey. Now that the application has been sent, I feel a sense of space. Along with all the others it will be considered. What will be, will be. I will stay focused. I feel surprisingly neutral.

I turn to face the wind.

I push myself into it, pleased with the effort.

 

What if . . .

I begin to wonder again, what if they don’t approve of what I have written about their country, their culture, their iconic poet? What if they are offended by this work from an outsider to their culture? Sensitive topics, sensitive themes. I’ll have to risk what little reputation amongst friends, colleagues and readers I might have, lay it on the line. Yet in the end this application might be nothing more than a process. Time will tell.

I need not have worried about my application disappearing into digital space. I guessed rightly that the staff had been on holidays all of August, and as it turned out, early September too; and anyway, as Carmen explained to me on the phone when I eventually rang, in her casual, friendly, no-nonsense Spanish way, also the weather had been a pain because it had been too hot. Too hot to do anything.

 

Yesterday’s surprise

Yesterday’s surprise was that I look as old as I am. If in doubt, just see my latest passport photo. See how my face has lost its roundness, see all the new lines and folds in the skin, like a crumpled piece of waxed paper, moist enough, but too thin to resist gravity. Line up all the old passport photos: 23, 43, 63 . . . see how I’ve progressed through the decades from a black-haired, young woman to one of late middle age, happy to have made it this far, but astonished at the changes nonetheless. We like to say that photos are deceiving and perhaps they are, the camera can manipulate, but so can our eyes – our failing eyes – when we look into the mirror in a favourable, softening light, instead of the stark white light that lays the truth bare, reminding us of the ultimate journey we all have to take. I celebrate being here now. I celebrate all that makes life a curious wonder, including my changing self.

 

Equanimity

Today I have reached the peak on the mountain of equanimity. On the mountain that overlooks our river-city of Hobart, I sit, listen and look around, just one small being; here temporarily, in this ancient, natural world, breathing in the scent of solid earth, grounding myself. My vivid imagination is both a gift and a burden, the weight of some possible scenario carried like a back-pack full of provisions “just in case”. The waiting game is a strange place to be. Things come in their own time. There are people waiting all over the world to take the next step: waiting for permission, for rain, for answers, for love or compassion. Waiting and hoping. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that ultimately there is nothing to chase after, that we can go back to ourselves and enjoy our breathing. So for now I am here on this solid mountain listening. Listening to the birds and the breeze, absorbing the peace. Equanimity. We come. We go. I am one being in a magnificent universe. Here now, beyond thinking, beyond anticipating. Que sera, sera.

 

Soy escritora (I am a writer)

I am, at this point in my life, able to live everyday freely and as I chose. In our culture people like to say they are busy, that they are active because it tells themselves and others they somehow live a worthy life. What do you do? is one of the first questions we ask people when we are getting to know them. I no longer join the flow of people in the mornings on their way to paid work. For the past 18 years I have been finding my way in the world of books and literature, writing, reading and publishing my work, participating in the literary life of my community. This is how I spend most of my time. Every now and then I still have to remind myself of what this means. One of my first daily activities is to write sitting up in bed, looking out my window at my neighbourhood valley and, with my fine-point pencil, discover the words that are ready to fall onto the smooth, inviting paper of my notebook. Call it a task and it already sounds more acceptable to our culture’s work ethic. Call it work. But I have always wanted my life, this one life, to be more than just a list of tasks that get ticked off every day. I want spontaneity, uncertainty, freedom. The purpose of being a writer is to be a writer which means writing, reading and thinking from morning until night. But also, of course, attending to those “dear tasks of continuance” so affectionately described by Denise Levertov, that keep body and mind together and sometimes spark some unexpected flash of inspiration. The question in Spanish is: to what are you dedicated?  To answer this in English is to uncover another side to the question what do you do? In my life I am dedicated to writing and literature, learning Spanish, learning the art of flamenco dance, creating gardens, maintaining my home, responding to injustice, having good relationships with friends and family, looking after myself. I am no longer the frustrated writer with little time to herself. I am the poet with space and time, my work is out in the world finding places to be. I feel most purposeful when I’m writing a poem or a piece of prose. Who am I still trying to convince? Perhaps my internal critic who tugs at my confidence as I wait to have my application considered by an international panel of judges.

 

Life is what happens . . .

The silence of a sun-lit morning is like a prayer. My eyes drink in its astonishing beauty. These last few weeks I’ve been thinking about death, about life ending or transforming as Thich Nhat Hanh says and how each day of our lives is precious. We have had a significant death in the family, our dear, elderly father-friend. A man with a loving smile and of gentle persuasion. To be the eternal writer-witness, not only of other people, events and things but also of yourself, gives me a serious gaze. I feel the need to smile and laugh more. Every thought, every act, every word carries a signature says the wise monk. Anne means grace. Can I live up to my name?

 

The significance of zero

Today is the day the selection panel will announce their decision. It is still night time in Granada but already it feels like the answer is “no”. I’ve been ahead of myself these last few months, anticipating a time to come that for all intents and purposes is not going to happen for me. On this side of the world we are always ahead of agreed time. And for these last few months I have been, in my mind, three-quarters convinced that I would soon be in the opposite time zone, leaving the brighter, longer spring days here for the shorter late-autumn days there. Now I feel sure I am not going to be making that journey. All should be confirmed by tonight. And all my practical preparation to date will be for naught – the books, the plans, the ideas for workshops and projects. Perhaps not for naught entirely. Zero is a significant number. A chance to begin again.

 

El compromiso

How to tempt fate? Name it, decide on an alternative course of action, pretend you are taking initiative,(water the garden so it will rain), make other plans, reach a conclusion, a compromise – only to have fate shout back at you. “But wait!” Wait another week as it extends the question mark over your life for a few more days. Let me just trick and tire you out, it says, deflate your new resolve, stretch it out, beyond the limit. We’re on Spanish time here. In Spanish compromiso means promise not compromise. Beware of false friends. Suddenly I feel tired of it all: of being ahead of myself. The waves of adrenalin have worn me out. I’m ready to go but will I be going? I’m over it. Over it.

 

The Art of Living

This morning, in this part of the world in our little city beneath the mountain it is blessedly quiet. I have slept and woken again. The Earth has turned. Again, I have arrived at D-day, the extended D-day. I’m sure I know the decision already and it’s time to leave this strange land of waiting. Time to let go. For the past three months I have been encapsulated in a bubble of possibility. Time to burst the bubble. Time to become un-encapsulated. This year has been a year of waiting for all sorts of things: replies from publishers, application results, calls from the hospital. The art of waiting involves effort and patience. As does the art of writing. Lorca once proclaimed, “true poetry, true effort, renunciation.” A writer recognises these sentiments. I have learnt that the art of waiting takes me to the present moment, wherein is found the art of living. I smile at the cloud in my tea.

 

Re-viewing

I am not going to Granada in November. As I had strongly suspected by the end, I was not one of the two writers selected out of, what turned out to be, seventy international applicants. Time to relinquish all that build-up. Time to close the file. Time to wind down, to sleep more peacefully. Time to return to my life in this small city with its own concerns. Time to reflect on the power of the imagination and how it can draw you into its intricately, detailed and convincing world, a world that is as big or as small as you want it to be, but a make-believe world nonetheless.

 

November 2018.


Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Words by Anne Collins

anne-collins-photo.jpgAnne Collins’ last book of poems The Language of Water (2014) tells the story of a modern day odyssey. Her two earlier poetry collections are titled Seasoned with Honey (with three other poets, 2008) and The Season of Chance (2005). Her landscape memoir titled My Friends This Landscape (2011) is a collection of prose and poetry. A forthcoming collection of poetry How to Belong will be published in 2019. Her manuscript (prose and poetry) with the Spanish themes is currently under consideration.

 

Super Indie: Indie Fiction at Supanova

Indie fiction was the rising star at Adelaide’s Supanova convention in 2018. Indie fiction being a title self- published by the author rather than a house publisher. As part of Artist Alley’s Indie Press Zone, indie authors and publishers have become more prevalent at Supanova in recent years, and are now a part of the core experience. This prevalence has increased as the tools to self-publish have become more accessible. At the 2018 event I attended panels by local indie authors and had a chance to speak with some of them. Below are just some of the interesting discoveries I made about both indie fiction and the convention.

Kylie Leane, author of Chronicles of the Children series, is one of the longest exhibiting local indie authors at Supanova. She began selling her books at Supanova in 2013 and has seen the community and enthusiasm around indie fiction grow since then. She was only one of two indie authors in 2013 and only had half a booth in a very small Artist Alley. This began to grow slowly over the years, becoming four authors by her third year and now roughly 15-20 authors (fiction and comics included) as of 2018. Leane has also said she likes the enthusiasm the Supanova committee has for indie fiction. This support has been to the aligning of their interests and passion for the craft.

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Indie publishing appeals to some writers because of the opportunity for representing diversity Katie Fraser, author of Realm of the Lilies series, said indie fiction has given an outlet for people to tell their stories without gatekeepers, be it an agent or a head editor of a publishing company. This was a recurring criticism of traditional publishers, mentioned also in panels by authors like Maria Lewis, writer of The Witch Who Courted Death, who has been published both independently and traditionally. Even these authors have said self-publishing allows diverse voices to emerge, especially for stories traditional publishing may see as difficult to market even though they might be good. These diverse voices can be ones related to gender, disability, and minority voices to name a few.

This idea of gatekeeping makes indie fiction more appealing to some writers. Matt J. Pike, author the Apocalypse series, compared indie fiction to the Adelaide Fringe and traditional publishing to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The Adelaide Fringe offers a wide range of different performances where performers can experiment with their craft, compared to the Adelaide Festival, which has a more traditional arts and arts representation. Pike was encouraged to turn to indie publishing because of the long waits on hearing from agents and publishers. This frustration was also felt by Fraser, it would take months to hear from an agent and then even more time for a publisher to respond to a submission. This is what drove her to go indie with her first book, Through the Fig Tree, in 2016. However, aforementioned authors have said there is some hurdles that you will face by going indie. One of these is that you will be doing a lot of the hard work like advertising and hiring artists yourself. The authors have mentioned too that it is best to know or hire a great structural and line editor to help with your project.

KE Fraser Panel.jpg

Many indie authors mentioned the local indie community is a major benefit to them. Fraser said the indie community is amazing and they often catch up with each other, be it at Supanova or at dinners. Pike said that there is amazing support from within the community for each other.

When asked what advice they would give anyone interested in going indie, the aforementioned indie authors gave a similar response: “Just do it.” Both Fraser and Leane stressed the importance of knowing someone who is a good editor. Both were lucky to know good editors, but Fraser says you can also find good editors through Twitter as well. She also says to write what you know and that there’s no right or wrong in the indie world. The world of indie fiction offers a chance for all voices to be heard, regardless of genre or idea.

The genuine enthusiasm Supanova has for local indie fiction is undeniable looking at the schedule for 2018. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least three panels dedicated to indie authors. These were spread over comics and fiction, all headlined by local indie authors. This is a vast improvement compared to a few years ago, where an occasional indie author would join one of Supanova’s literary panels. It shows Supanova is eager to promote local indie fiction at their events and to give these authors more publicity.

Going indie allows you to get your stories out there, even if they’ve been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers. If your work is experimental then it can become a good place for you to showcase it to a niche audience. Indie publishing is a growing field, and certainly something to consider when delving into the publishing world.


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Beneath the Mother Tree

Beneath the Mother Tree
D.M Cameron
Midnight Sun 2018


 

The island is unsettled and Ayla’s Grappa thinks the mythological Irish figure of Far Dorocha is to blame. Mosquito specialist Marise has moved her only son Riley to the secluded island after the death of her husband and his stepfather. Their arrival sends ripples through the place’s normally serene ecosystem, and adds pressure to their already fraught relationship. Ayla, lost in her own way, and Riley form a connection, which is in turn strange and familiar. D.M Cameron’s debut novel, through Midnight Sun, is a dark narrative of love, belief, and twisted family ties.

For the most part this is a narrative about strangers in a small town. Marise and Riley are interlopers to a close-knit community, and Marise in particular struggles to acclimatise to their new life. She is drawn there by a house on the edge of a marsh heavily populated by mosquitos. For Riley, this is the first chance at a ‘normal’ life – his mother is a restricting and at times abusive woman and he was not allowed to go to school or foster relationships with outsiders. When hit with the double blow of Ayla and Riley’s deepening relationship and the local council’s decision to spray Marise’s precious marsh in order to control the insect population, she is forced to use some truly dark techniques to get what she wants.

Irish mythology plays a heavy part in the events of the novel. Grappa, in an almost childish way, believes in the spirits and creatures in the stories he tells Ayla. Ayla too, see-saws on the truth of her grandfather’s stories. When the bad things begin happening on the island – animals behaving strangely, the death of beloved pets through a deadly virus cultivated by Marise in her research – Grappa is convinced the evil Far Dorocha is at work through the scientist. Indeed, Cameron creates an almost magic-realist landscape for her characters – there are many scenes where Marise dreams she is transformed into a cloud of mosquitos, only to wake and find the pet of the islander she’s been having is dead; the titular Mother Tree seems to cast a protective shelter around Ayla.

Along with the Irish mythology, Cameron tries to include some Indigenous history and culture. For me, this was of the book’s biggest problem. Cameron’s fictional island, like most of Australia, contains a deeply colonial history and the site of a mass murder of Indigenous peoples is a reoccurring image and theme. However, this examination of Australia’s colonial violence feels heavy-handed and uneven as the novel only has two Indigenous characters – a teenage girl who studies on the mainland and has no narrative weight, and a wise-woman who also carries no real narrative importance. Given the importance placed on the Aboriginal mythology, it would have been beneficial to have an Indigenous voice to weigh in on the events of the novel. Instead, the weight of this piece of the island’s violent history is mostly carried by Ayla – a white character. Ayla spends much of the novel coming to terms with the massacre but given the lack of Indigenous voice I wasn’t sure what Cameron was trying to achieve with its inclusion.

The character of Marise was one of the novel’s short-comings for me. As the novel’s primary antagonist, she is a ruthless and possessive woman, who will do anything to get what she wants. However, her portrayal at times felt a little too cartoon villain-like. There was a lack of clarity in her machinations that made it hard to understand or empathise with her. Often the menace of an antagonist comes from their internal logic, twisted though it may be, and Marise’s internal logic was a little too murky.

However, Beneath the Mother Tree is also home to some moments of genuine sweetness. The sweetly awkward budding relationship between Ayla and Riley was a treat to read. The same could be said of the relationship between Grappa and his granddaughter. Ayla has a deep love of the Irish folklore and it shapes her entire character. Cameron also managed to capture the insidious, insular nature of small towns with some skill.

 

2.5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

 

AVCon 2018

AVCon is a three-day festival that runs during July and signals the end to both the school and uni break. In 2017 it attracted over 20,000 visitors and this year I suspect that record was broken. It is a place where avid lovers of video games, cosplay, pop-culture, and anime come together to share that passion. Run entirely by volunteers, AVCon is an example of a small community coming together in real life as opposed to the forums many visitors undoubtedly frequent to discuss the latest in games, cosplay, and anime.

Walking through AVCon, where-ever you might be, it’s not unusual to hear someone gasp over a cosplayer, artwork, or piece of merchandise they’ve been coveting all year. Adelaide has a lot of amazing talent and, for me, that is where AVCon shines. Not only do we have a strong community surrounding anime and videogames, but we have a range of talented artists with varying art styles who converge to sell their wares and display their skill.

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CDW Stall at AVCon 2018, photography by Cameron Lowe

Each year the convention begins with the opening ceremony on the Friday evening—generally characterised by weekend and gold-pass holders gathering in the foyer of the Convention Centre for up to a couple of hours before the doors open. This year was the first year I attended the opening ceremony. We were introduced to the organisers, volunteers, special guests, and the spirit of AVCon with a skit which blurred the lines of dream and reality. The special guests for 2018 included Major Sam, Spike Spencer, Vera Chimera, Neil Kaplan, Beke, and Knitemaya who were all involved in panels across the weekend. The ceremony was followed by a screening of Ready Player One in conjunction with Hybrid World Adelaide.

With Saturday morning came a rush of people flocking in to enjoy the weekend. In the gaming hall there was a mixture of free-play and indie games, as well as some of the weekend’s gaming tournaments (which were also held on the Sunday). In the Exhibitors Hall there was a selection of stalls selling official merchandise as well as stalls promoting Marion and City Libraries, HIDIVE streaming service, and CDW Studios. Beyond the hall was the chaos of Artist Alley. Downstairs you could find panels, special guests, and anime screenings from both HIDIVE and Madman.

With the evening came the ever-popular quiz night with forty-nine tables competing for the prize and privilege of first place. Unfortunately, this year the quiz wasn’t as enjoyable as it has been in previous years with challenging questions and barely anything accessible to your non-gamer. Unfortunately, the winning team disappeared before they could claim their prize and their prize was passed on. I can only hope that next year’s questions will be better and more specific to avoid confusion and that next year’s winners will remain present.

The cosplay competition on Sunday was a wonderful display of talent from local and interstate cosplayers who cosplayed a range of people from games, anime, and pop-culture. Some had spent months on their costumes and others just a few sleepless days. One thing was consistent however, the attention to detail each cosplayer had for their costume, all doing a fantastic job of portraying their chosen character and their personalities. One highlight of the competition was seeing a Xenomorph come onto stage and break out into dance.

My highlight was, predictably, Artist Alley. I’ve always loved the scattering of stalls, the friendly faces, and familiar fan-art portraying characters I knew and didn’t, as well as those I’d long since forgotten. Artist Alley isn’t just fan art; Decay Comics, indie author Matt J. Pike (whose self-published book series Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is set in Adelaide), and Anthony Christou (a full time visual artist) stood out from the crowd by providing their own unique work. Artist Alley had a wide variety of products on offer ranging from prints and badges all the way to socks and scarves printed with original designs.

I’ve always found that AVCon is what you make of it. It is a wonderful place to engage with the gaming, cosplay, Lolita, and anime communities here in Adelaide. It’s also a place to meet new people and form life-long friendships. It offers a sense of belonging for people of all ages and celebrates the talents of video game enthusiasts. Overall I’ve always found it a friendly environment and would recommend getting a friend or two and heading in next year if you can afford it.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

AVCon and Artist Alley: In conversation with Avery Andruszkiewicz and Ella Guildea

Ahead of AVCon cosplayers and vendors are preparing like mad for the three days a year when avid fans of anime, video-games, and general pop-culture converge on the Adelaide Convention Centre. AVCon is fast approaching (20-22nd July) and, as per tradition, it marks the end to both Uni and school break.

If you haven’t attended the convention before, it is, quite simply, a place where people of similar interests come together to celebrate anime, video-games, and the exciting work of a number of talented cosplayers and vendors.

Some of these vendors are local artists and can be found in Artist Alley and have provided both encouragement and inspiration to a number of artists and other creatives for many years. It’s not unusual to see people clutching their own sketch books or settled in a corner drawing throughout the weekend—I know that’s been me a few times!

In order to prepare for this year’s AVCon I sat down with Ella Guildea and Avery Andruszkiewicz, both of whom have attended a number of AVCons. Guildea even met her partner, Connor Madden, at the 2011 event, and he tables with her along with Sophie Ladd.

If you’re an AVCon aficionado you might recognise Avery Andruszkiewicz’s name already. Their design was selected to be on the AVCon shirts and merchandise for 2018. When speaking to Andruszkiewicz, I asked how they felt about their design being chosen and whether they’d expected it:

“Not really, but I definitely had all my fingers crossed for it. I was rather proud of my design this year, so I was really hoping to place, but winning the whole thing was a surprise! The other entries are always so amazing, I’m glad my design was picked.”

 

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AVCon Announcement of Avery Andruszkiewicz’s design.

 

Both Andruszkiewicz and Guildea have previously been involved with Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz just for the 2017 event while Guildea will be tabling for the third year running with The Bees Knees (together with Ladd and Madden).

Andruszkiewicz says working in Artist Alley is: “a really great opportunity to meet and support other artists. But of course, the chance to get your work out there, and having people actually want to buy what you create is an amazing feeling.”

Guildea’s involvement with Artist Alley began when a friend asked her to table with them in around 2014. While that didn’t end up happening, in 2015 Guildea and Madden bought a badge maker, although “the final push for me to invest in a table at Artist Alley was really heavily inspired by artists Jac and Emerson from the table, Gutgeist! (http://gutgeist.tumblr.com). They travel every year from Melbourne to table at AVCon and were super helpful with guiding me on how to run my first table! I’m really grateful for the support they gave me.”

Much like the event itself, Artist Alley provides participants with a strong sense of community. Some artists get together ahead of the convention to work together cutting out stickers and pressing badges, essentially keeping one another motivated ahead of the event.

When I asked about the community of Artist Alley, Andruszkiewicz said that while they are still fairly new to it, it’s been quite welcoming. “Group orders to save money on shipping/get bulk buy discounts is not uncommon, as well as groups getting together to cut out stickers and press badges and such before a con. Working in a group can be great for motivation!”

One of Guildea’s highlights of the con experience “is the compassion and empathy vendors have for each other. On one of the days last year someone brought Krispy Kremes around to all of the tables, I’m not throwing hints or anything!”

 

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Ella Guildea, 2018.

 

This sense of community is evident in the level of support that artists offer to first timers. Andruszkiewicz and Guildea both offered some advice for anyone looking at getting involved in the 2019 event.

 

 

Advice from Andruszkiewicz:

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Avery Andruszkiewicz 2018.

 

“I always say just go for it, but definitely take the time to prepare. Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to ask artists for advice. A fellow artist by the name Hawberries (Twitter: @hawberries_) has put together a fantastic guide to art stalls, which was honestly my lifesaver for my first time, and I still reference it now.
Don’t table alone, it’s absolutely soul crushing. Either find a friend to split a table with (you save money on the table that way too, and that makes it easier to break even), or if you have enough stock for your own table (I’ll be blunt, you won’t for your first-time tabling), make sure you have a table buddy so you’re not there on your own.
Don’t go in with the mindset of making a profit, go because you want to and because you love what you do. Unfortunately, a lot of artists tend to come up at a loss at their first con, which can be disheartening, but even more so if you go with the exclusive intention of making money. Go, make friends, make connections, and as you gain experience, a following, and improve your art, the profits will come.

And to be harsh for a moment, prepare yourself for disappointment. There’s only a set amount of tables at any one convention, and the harsh truth of that is that artists get declined as a result. If you get declined, don’t let that overshadow your passion for art. Gather your resources again, work hard, and try again next time! Don’t let disappointment overshadow your love of the craft.”

 

Advice from Guildea:

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Ella Guildea, 2018.

 

“There’s a lot of Facebook groups which can be a really great influence for first timers – Aussie Con Artists is probably my favourite. However, the best way I’ve found to find the community is by networking at the conventions that you attend! Talk to your neighbours! Talk to that person who has the art style that you’ve totally fallen in love with!

Tough it out, keep it up and find what inspires you. Your first con might not be phenomenal, but if you’re passionate about vending, please keep it up!

Our first convention involved less than two weeks’ worth of prep, had 15 items in total, and featured the previously mentioned corkboard-ruler-blu-tack scenario. We now prep for significantly more than 2 weeks, stock over 125 different items, and have a nice easel to put our display board on so it doesn’t come crashing down every 20 minutes.

You’ll constantly grow and learn from your mistakes, and a lot of reflection as to how you can improve. You’re not going to become some sort of professional by the time of your first convention. Just throw yourself into it and learn!”


 

You can follow Avery Andruszkiewicz on Twitter @matte_bat_ or check out their Redbubble store https://www.redbubble.com/people/matte-bat/portfolio.

To contact Ella Guildea and The Bees Knees about commission work, see where they’re headed next, and keep updated about upcoming item releases, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thekneesofthebees

If you can’t make it to the convention check out their Tictail here: https://tictail.com/thekneesofthebees

Both artists are tabling this year at AVCon and are always up for a chat so don’t be afraid to stop by and say hello. When you do, don’t forget to mention this article!


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Establishing a Popular Presence in the Poetry (and Writing) Community on Instagram

By Leeza von Alpen (aka leezajaydepoetry)

So, you’re interested in making an impact on the Instagram writing community, and in gaining more readers.

Here’s what you need to know.

I had the pleasure of interviewing some much admired, and highly praised, instapoets; I asked them what techniques they themselves have used, and recommend, to writers seeking to establish a platform on Instagram, and connect with other creative minds.

After interviewing each of these successful instapoets, I collated their valuable insights (and mine) into six helpful points of advice.

Here’s what we suggest that you can do:

  1. Engage with other writers

There are various ways that you can genuinely connect with other Instagram writers.

Firstly, I’d advise that you avoid being stingy with your follows; if a writing account follows you, and you like them, follow them back. But, if you follow merely to gain a follower—beware! Amaramalikpoetry explains that this is a short-term method; ‘…this will help you grow,’ she confirms, ‘But many will unfollow or not follow back.’

Secondly, if you admire someone’s post, comment on it. In fact, comment on as many posts as you can; like posts, and really connect with people. In the words of amaramalikpoetry, ‘Always engage with your readers. Never forget them, or take them for granted.’

And, please, for the love of the English language, reply to your comments when someone praises your work. People have taken the time to read your writing; you should take the time to thank them. Also, the more you genuinely engage with other writers, the more likely they will be to return the favour later when you post something.

Thirdly, consider doing shout-outs for shout-outs. This simply means that you take a screenshot of another writers’ account, upload it to your Story for your followers to see, and provide a link to the other writer’s account for followers to access. Sometimes, writers will return the favour with this too.

perrypoetry says that ‘Engagement with other accounts is the best way to gain followers. You need to engage with your following and your followers as much as possible. The Instagram algorithm will start to put your posts at the top of your followers’ feed the more you engage with them.’

mingdliu agrees with connecting with other accounts entirely; ‘I also love interacting with other writers and readers; they are the ones supporting you and we all want to relate to one another. Being personable definitely helps!’

So, amaramalikpoetry recommends opting for a long-term method, which is ‘… to engage! Read others’ work, give genuine feedback, and follow them. It may take longer, but it’ll be worth it to grow a loyal and engaged readership.’

Patrick Hart (aka workinprogress13, aka author of War Paint) also emphasises that this kind of authentic connection significantly matters; ‘I suppose I took every opportunity to communicate with other artists and respond to each and every comment.’ For Patrick, this ‘…definitely went a long way.’

  1. Use popular hashtags and tag reposting accounts

Did you just cringe?

You just cringed, didn’t you?

Well, don’t! Using popular hashtags is an invaluable way to gain attention on Instagram.

perrypoetry explains he ‘… find[s] that using hashtags is a great way to gain followers. One trick is to use hashtag rotation, so you are rotating your hashtags with every post to allow for more discovery.’

Some popular hashtags that I would personally suggest including in the body of your caption, or the first comment(s) underneath your post, are:

#poem #poetry #igpoetry #poetryofig #writersofinstagram #igpoets #spilledink #poetryisnotdead #poetscorner #omypoetry #poetrycommunity

(see below for an example from lillysparkswords)

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You can also be more specific to the theme of your written piece; for example, if it’s a passionate love poem, use hashtags like #love, #soulmate, and #inlove for an increased chance of being discovered. Patrick (workinprogress13) recommends using up to 30 hashtags per post.

Secondly, tag reposting accounts! There are plenty of good Instagram poetry-based pages that happily promote the work of writers if you tag them in your upload. Some of my personal favourites that myself, and other instapoets, use are: @omypoetry, @veinheartisans, @bymepoetry, @poets, @poetsdaily, @poem_wars, @silverleafpoetry, @word.bender, @tribeofpoets, @wordswithqueens, and @artlixirfresh. (Keep in mind that some require you to use their hashtag and follow them as well.)

P.S.

Remember to ‘…post when the world is awake!’, as Patrick says. Consider what times your favourite poets post by turning on post notifications for their account, and keep up with them.

  1. Have an (attractive) aesthetic

Never underestimate the power, and allure, of having a visually pleasing Instagram account. Instagram is, of course, about pictures; and if your images are pleasing to the eye, then your likelihood of gripping a potential follower’s attention increases significantly.

The Instagram algorithm is changing so frequently that it’s difficult now a day to establish a presence without following the status quo. Remember that IG is a picture-first platform, so if you’re looking to really establish a presence, keep the words legible, but the art that it’s on top of eye-popping and cohesive at the same time, without appearing “messy”.’ 

~ Patrick Hart (workinprogress13)


Indeed, 
perrypoetry favours the enthralling, and popular, accounts of @s.l._gray and @wilderpoetry not just for their creativity, but also for their stunning account visuals.

So what does this mean for writers? Well, I’m glad you asked.

It means getting creative and presenting your writings (i.e. your text) over, or alongside, attractive photography, illustrations, or even a simple blank, or black, background. Remember to draw attention to your words, however, and avoid falling into the trap of making the image in your upload more emphasised than your writing.

Also, remember to be consistent (unless, of course, your consistency is that you have none). You need to give your followers something to expect; a style that they can look forward to seeing.

It’s also important to establish an identity,’ says perrypoetry. ‘If you look at my account, you will see it’s very cohesive, and I stick to the same theme.’ (see the examples from perry’s account, and mine, below)

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In3

In4.png

In5

There are also apps that you can use to conveniently overlay text and apply filters to your photographs to insert your poetry that isn’t as convoluted as Photoshop. Textagram is one, but I favour CTDesign, and there are plenty of others as well.

  1. Write for you

We cannot emphasise this enough. ‘The one thing I’ve learned,’ highlights mingdliu, ‘is to remain true to your art and to yourself.’

Here are our top pieces of advice for what this means:

I have so many poets that I respect. If I began to list them off, I would barely scratch the surface, but the general theme throughout them mirrors my own-honest art! If you’re looking for some to check out, try the following handles: @Poetry, @poetryandprosebyk, @vintage.blue, @b.dani_west, @eleeborwriter, @nataliaxvela, @leah_jean_, @therosycrucifixion, @leahjstone, @dortomysoul, @vintage_cass_marie, @areadingwriter @mermaid.musings, @k.j.dunk, @leezajaydepoetry [aw shucks, Patrick!]

I guarantee I left a lot out, but the above write genuinely and viscerally, which matters more than glory.

The most important technique/strategy that I implemented was keeping my writing personal. I didn’t begin writing to gain an audience… I kept my writing as honest and revealing as possible in hopes that the community would rally around that.’

~ Patrick Hart (workinprogress13)

Write from your heart. Read others but don’t copy them, especially don’t plagiarise. Post only what you love and want to post because then you will improve if you receive negative feedback instead of feeling demotivated. Post only what you WANT to. Gaining followers means posting consistently, but you can’t force your creativity… My best and most popular pieces have come straight from the heart.

Oh, I have many favourites! @zeestkijusujoo, @alura_inspires, @lamiart, @avleenmusing, @duren_writing_stories, @breath_words, @heavensanar, @writerhashtag, and you [@leezajaydepoetry] [double shucks!] of course… Writers that write original and heartfelt pieces…who don’t copy other writers, who have their own unique voice, and speak about important issues in today’s society are my favourite writers.’

Amara Malik (amaramalikpoetry)

I adore @perrypoetry’s page and @atticus’s page. Their words are so relatable and magical… The only advice I can really give is to not be afraid to put your heart into words; there are so many people out there feeling the same way as you do. Your words can change someone’s day just by writing what’s on your mind and in your heart.’

~ Lilly Sparks (lillysparkswords)

  1. Promote Yourself

Promote, promote, promote yourself. Post on your Story regularly, and maintain your presence once you establish it. Comment frequently on posts so that people will see your name.

Moreover, I’d suggest reminding people to turn on post-notifications for your account so that they can stay up to date with your latest work.

Post your writing often, with those popular hashtags and those tagged reposting pages. Be consistent.

Also, if you are promoting yourself, I’d suggest you do it professionally and in a friendly manner. Spell-check everything (I cannot tell you how often myself and others cringe because we see a poem that is beautiful in nature but flawed in spelling). Have a professional, clean, interesting profile.

  1. Some other miscellaneous pieces of advice…

You might also like to promote other pages (selflessly, might I add; don’t necessarily expect anything in return; just spread some love!) by engaging in weekly mass posts like #followfriday. For this, you simply promote other writers’ pages. Often, they’ll do it back for you.

Also, you might choose to use other instapoets’ artwork and tag them; this promotes their artwork, and, often, your poetry through the Instagram artist’s tag. (Just remember to always ask permission first. Never use someone’s artwork without their permission. That’s, like, illegal. And rude.)

Also also, perrypoetry suggests expanding your potential readership by ‘…starting a Pinterest page… [because] it just gives your work more visibility and sometimes your work can go viral. I’ve had poems I’ve posted get up to 18k repins, which gives me a lot of visibility.’

Lastly, consider having writing-related words in your username (i.e. lillysparkswords, amaramalikpoetry, etc.); this is a clear indication to scrolling eyes that you might be a page that they are looking for.

__

That’s all for now, fellow writers! Hopefully, these tips will help you on your way to making a genuine impression on the Instagram poetry community.

For now, here are some final words from perrypoetry and mingdliu:

My words of advice are to be patient and stay true to your writing. It takes a long time to get to 1k followers, but every 1k after that gets easier. Growing an account is a lot of work.

You’ll grow if you are putting the effort in.’

~ perrypoetry.

Interacting and being real to your readers and yourself is key. If you have a passion for art, don’t be afraid to take that leap and share it.

It can truly change your life, trust me.’

~ mingdliu

___

A word of sincere thanks to the helpful poets who kindly contributed towards this article. You can find links to their Instagram accounts (and Patrick Hart’s poetry book) through the links below:

Amaramalikpoetry

https://www.instagram.com/amaramalikpoetry/

(Amara also runs an adorable online stationery store: check it out at https://creativecutiee.com)

Lillysparkspoetry

https://www.instagram.com/lillysparkswords/

mingdliu

https://www.instagram.com/mingdliu/?hl=en

perrypoetry

https://www.instagram.com/perrypoetry/?hl=en

workinprogress13

https://www.instagram.com/workinprogress13/

You can purchase a copy of Patrick’s poetry book, War Paint, from Amazon.com.

(it’s also available on bookdepository.com! Cue squeals of utter delight!)

And, here is my account, if you’re interested:


leezajaydepoetry

https://www.instagram.com/LeezaJaydePoetry/


Words by Leeza von Alpen

Leeza HeadshotLeeza is an Australian poet and writer, as well as an English, History and Women’s Studies teacher. She enjoys reading paperbacks with milkless tea, star gazing, puns, and Studio Ghibli movies. You can find her poetry on Instagram under leezajaydepoetry, and writing-related tweets on Twitter under @leezajayde.