Right Here, Right Now

Incredibly talented and immensely creative, Josh Belperio is someone I’m privilaged to have seen perform. Despite this show being raw and a little unpolished that only serves to highlight his creativity and ability to improvise on stage.

Having attended Belperio’s show 30,000 Notes last year, I was keen to find out more about this introspective individual. Having produced such an emotive show, I was keen to see one of his more comical shows with Scarred for Life. Instead, shortly before the launch of Fringe, I discovered that Belperio was taking a different route again, turning away from his previous two introspective shows to produce something a little more off-beat. Something to showcase his anger at everything that has occurred across our recent and quite devastating summer. This made me even more intrigued to know what Belperio has been up to and just what kind of show he would produce.

Going to Holden Street Theatres in the evening just after the sun has set is quite a special experience, one I aim to have at least once throughout the Fringe season. With a number of shows on simultaneously, there’s always a vibe of quite anticipation waiting.

We were led into a room much smaller than I’d expected where we found Belperio waiting beside a keyboard with the calm enthusiasm of an experienced performer. Since the previous year where he was presenting his notes and those left behind by his beloved Nonna, Belperio’s character had undergone a transformation. The clean-cut man of yesteryear replaced by someone clear in his rebellion.

Belperio started the show discussing the recent bush-fire crisis in song, moving on to his criticism of PM Scott Morrison (which is available to watch online here), and discussing the link between the bush-fire crisis and how LGBTQIA+ rights have been challenged by the religious discrimination bill.

The show itself was engrossing, breath-taking, even awe-inspiring. Belperio had homed in on his anger in the last few months, distilling it into something resembling cabaret but also a little more. Raw and, in places, improvised, this performance was both authentic and compelling .

While certainly presenting a relevant show, Belperio opens the discussion with his audience about the current political climate and the issues with media scapegoating the LGBTQIA+ community as a way to avoid climate action. It should be a time for us to come together to work on a solution; however, Morrison seems set on creating further division at a time when time is running out.

Drawing in new information to the discussion daily, Belperio’s improvisation for this show is impressive. Part cabaret, part honest discussion, this is a show you need to see to fully grasp. I would highly recommend seeing Belperio perform. He is such a talented person and I look forward to watching his career progress.

5 / 5 stars


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Right Here, Right Now is playing at Holden Street Theatres until February 28

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here

Graduated, Now What? The Post-University Blues…

When I remember thinking three to four years was so far from my immediate future. It seems that before I knew it, graduation had come and gone.

When I hear the word “graduate” or “graduation,” I associate it with success, excitement, a period of transition, and most importantly, an overwhelming sense of fulfilment. I feel as though there is this belief that graduating from university should evoke feelings of pride and success. Unfortunately, my experience, and I’m not alone here in saying this, hasn’t been anything like that and I’ve got a terrible case of the post-university blues.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly proud of all I’ve achieved during my time. I’m graduating with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 6.00 and I’ve been a scholarship recipient despite coming from a disadvantaged background. But do I feel excited? Am I overwhelmed by the fulfilment and success with this qualification to my name? The simple answer is no.

Did I set myself up to feel let down? Potentially. Perhaps it was my own overly naive view that if you put in more than the effort required. I completed work experience with a local newspaper, even though it was not a prerequisite and that as soon as you complete your undergraduate degree, that piece of paper is your one-way ticket to full-time employment straight out of university. I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel increased pressure to secure full-time employment prior to attending my graduation ceremony.  For the fear of being viewed a “failure,” or “unsuccessful.”  (Side note: That’s EXACTLY how I feel.)

Since the completion of my degree, I have applied for over one-hundred jobs. I’ve been asked to attend an interview for only one of these applications, and that was a fill-in position for maternity leave. I’ve lost count on the number of hours I’ve spent polishing my cover letters and pouring over my answers to Key Selection Criteria making sure they address exactly what is asked. It was an obsession. Every morning I’d sit down with my cup of coffee and engage autopilot. Apply, polish and pour. Apply, polish and pour. I’ve never been one to fear rejection in the past, but after enduring this vicious cycle repetitively, my soul was scathed. A sense of dread would fill my lungs the more I would click “submit application”.

Eventually, this fear transpired to feelings of self-loathing and a resentment for tertiary education. An investment of both time and money had equated to this. A blank space. One I was trying, ever so desperately to fill.

But I am not alone. The 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) results outline that one in five university graduates were unhappily working part-time in 2017.

In this day and age, graduates are experiencing a much slower transition rate to full-time employment since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) took its toll on the economy in 2008. The overall rate of undergraduates working full-time has remained on a steady decline. In 2008, the full-time employment rate for undergraduates was 85.6 % compared to 71.8 % in 2017.

Was it my course of choice? The 2017 findings from the GOS demonstrate that graduates with a degree in communications scored within the bottom five, with 60.3% of graduates securing full-time employment. This leaves 39.7 % working part-time or unemployed. Graduates in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and rehabilitation experienced the highest full-time employment rate of 95.9, 95.2, 86.8 and 85.7% respectively. This could correlate with the fact that with these degrees, graduates meet professional registration requirements and experience a higher employment rate as a result.

On the contrary, coursework postgraduates experience a much higher employment rate in comparison with their undergraduate counterparts. 86.1% of postgraduates reported being in full-time employment in 2017. This is a one percent increase from 85.1 % in 2016.

So, with that in mind, whilst I am feeling incredibly disheartened in the lack of employment prospects for my study area, there is a glimmer of hope shining brightly on the horizon. I can happily say that I have been accepted and am undertaking the Master of Teaching (Secondary) course to utilise the skills I have learnt in my undergraduate degree as a writing and media major to teach English and media to secondary students. These statistics alone are a promising indicator that I will gain full-time employment and encourages me to think that I’ve made a step in the right direction for my future.


Words by Dakota Powell

Dakota Powell is a postgraduate Master of Teaching (Secondary) student with an undergraduate arts degree majoring in writing and in minor media studies. When she is not working hard to achieve her dream of becoming an English/Media Teacher, she is often found savouring the very last sip of her vanilla latte or completely immersed in a game of AFL Football, and tragically dons the red white and black wherever she goes. To keep up to date, you can follow her @kotastrophes (Instagram) and @kota_powell (Twitter).

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

SANSA, DANY, ​AND THE FEMINIST AGENDA

(Image: HBO)

Spoilers for S8, Ep.1 ‘Winterfell’ are coming.

You have been warned.

Game of Thrones has long been praised for its portrayal of complex, multi-faceted female characters, who are every bit as honourable or conniving as the men they scheme and fight alongside. The show, however, has not been without its critics, nor has it been spared from criticism, including of a sex scene that was seen to normalise rape during its fourth season.

When the long-awaited first episode of the eighth season aired on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, for those in the northern hemisphere), reactions to what unfolded filtered onto the internet in a near-endless stream of memes, GIFS and play-by-play social media posts. Many of these centered around the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen (and her impressive slew of titles) and Sansa Stark. In line with the Game of Thrones tradition, it did not go well. In fact, Sansa’s side-eye had never been fiercer, and Dany’s inherent self-righteousness remained strong as ever.

She [Sansa] doesn’t need to be my friend,’ Dany says to Jon. ‘But I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…’ and then Dany trails off ominously. But Sansa’s frosty reception was an issue for more than just the Mother of Dragons. Many people online are dissatisfied that the two characters, who have both survived and overcome the challenges that have faced them, particularly as women, were instantly pitted against one another.

This Sansa/Daenerys shit is so unimaginative and dull and so clearly the idea of men,’ said @annehelen on Twitter.

STOP PITTING WOMEN AGAINST EACH OTHER.’ @juliekosin agreed.

This discussion falls into the larger context of the long-standing tradition of television and movie screenplays, where two women on screen together are often engaged in conflict, or are at the very least failing the Bechdel test. With this in mind, having two well-developed female characters with their own motivations and flaws at odds with one another might be interpreted as a step back from the strides forward Game of Thrones has made.

But I have to disagree.

Though their meeting crackled with all the tension that Dany’s uncompromising will and Sansa’s hard-earned abrasiveness had to offer, I think this is a good thing. In order to stay true to their character development, having the two in conflict with one another is in line with what we know of them.

Dany, after all, was set to invade Sansa’s home, and all of the Seven Kingdoms. We witness her smirk as her dragons frighten the silent Northerners who regard her suspiciously. We are reminded in the same episode of Dany’s inflexibility with Sam’s realisation that she has killed his father and brother for being unwilling to bend the knee.

Sansa, for her part, has long since learned to keep her guard up. Winterfell, and her family, have only just become a part of her life again after so many years of being alone. And, as Sir Davos reminds us, ‘If you want their [the Northerners] loyalty, you have to earn it.’

In light of this, Game of Thrones has done a service to both Sansa and Dany’s characters by putting them in conflict with one another, rather than forcing them into an instant camaraderie just because they are both women.

There is also the further context of Dany’s positive relationship with Missandei, and Sansa’s with Arya, which is reinforced during the course of the episode.

Where were you before?’ Jon asks Arya after they’re reunited. ‘I could have used your help with Sansa.’

But far from siding with her favourite brother, Arya reinforces Sansa’s position of defending their family. To me, this serves as a reminder that Sansa and Dany’s actions are not born out of girl on girl hate, nor from some misguided sense of jealousy, but rather from an incompatibility of experience.

After all, two women in power need not like or even respect each other, but it becomes a problem when such a pairing is seen as the norm. In this case, I do not think that Sansa’s distrust of Dany is a continuation of an outdated mentality that sees women on screen deferring to the more complicated storylines of men. Rather, I think it is a continuation of Game of Thrones’ commitment to Sansa and Dany’s characters, whose motivations and actions are both real and flawed.


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Header image: HBO

Rachael is a fantasy writer, an arts student, and a professional procrastinator. She spends most of her time watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaching her cat to play fetch and thinking about writing. You can find her on instagram at @rachaelstaple

Review: The Cry (2018)

The Cry, a psychological thriller TV series originally broadcast in the UK last year, hit our television screens in early-February. It is also available on ABC iView.

It tells the story of Joanna (Jenna Coleman) and Alistair (Ewen Leslie), young parents whose baby son disappears while they travelled from Scotland to Melbourne to reunite with Alistair’s fourteen-year-old daughter. Subsequently, Joanna and Alistair are subject to both police and media scrutiny, putting pressure on their relationship.

Prior to the disappearance, Joanna is overwhelmed by motherhood, suffering from post-natal depression. She is the primary carer of their son. As Alistair fails to give her proper support, she spirals into a deep chasm of grief following the child’s disappearance. Alistair manages to better control his grief.

Throughout the show, we learn that Alistair is manipulative and controlling, driving his and Joanna’s relationship from the very beginning. After the disappearance, he instructs Joanna on what to say and do during press conferences and interviews. He controls their public image.

Coleman gives a perfect performance as Joanna. I can’t fault her at all. She plays the part of a mother extremely well. In essence, her performance is real and genuine, despite her not having any children.

Leslie also gives a convincing performance as Alistair. As with Coleman, his performance came across as genuine and real. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Coleman win an award or two for their performances.

The Cry is captivating, emotional, and full of twists and turns. I found it incredibly addictive. It’s the perfect example of what a psychological thriller should be.

I’d recommend this show to people who enjoy psychological thrillers.


Words by Callum J Jones.

Self-Publishing Your Poetry (or Other Writing-Related) Book

Let’s be realistic here: the publishing market is tough.

This can make the dream of holding your very own published book (that you’ve spent countless hours toiling over) in your hands a little…disheartening but, hold on. Have you ever considered self-publishing before?

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Listen Leeza, that seems pretty hard, and I’m not sure what to do. I mean, where would I even start?’

Well, the very same thought occurred to me, so I interviewed some successful and experienced authors who have self-published their own books. These authors are all poets, but the same strategies can apply for writers seeking to self-publish other books too.

So, here’s what you need to know about self-publishing:

(The following answers are by published instapoets, who can be found under their respective usernames. They are fantastic, and I would one hundred percent recommend perusing through their pages.)

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Michaelapoetry

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michaelapoetry’s ‘when he leaves you’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Honestly, I ended up self-publishing because I was too impatient to wait for a publisher. I submitted my proposal to one publisher, but they get so many submissions that their response time is longer than three months. While I was waiting for a response, I ended up writing the entire book. It got to the point where I just wanted it to be in people’s hands, and I knew going with the traditional publishing method as my first route could take months, if not over a year.

Also, fun fact! A lot of self-published poets that I have a lot of respect for went on to be picked up by publishers – Rupi Kaur, K.Y. Robinson, Amanda Lovelace, Dawn Lanuza, Courtney Peppernell, Alison Malee (the list goes on!).

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

Amazon’s Createspace – it’s seriously so easy to use. Once you figure out formatting specifications, all you really need to do is upload your cover and interior files. Createspace also has a ton of forums that are just a Google away – you can answer most of your questions with those which is so helpful!

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

A bunch of fun random things I learned:

  • Make sure you’re using an embedded font. At first, for the italics in my book, I was using a font that didn’t have an italic setting – so I just used the “italic” function in InDesign. InDesign was manipulating the font, which means it wasn’t embedded (technically it didn’t exist). When I printed my first proof, the font didn’t print fully in some places. I switched it all to a real font and we were good to go!

  • Single page book layout.> InDesign defaults to the double page layout (think two pages side by side), which is actually helpful for setup to see how your pages will look – but when you upload to Createspace, you need to have a single page PDF.

  • Just look at other books. If you want your self-published book to look legitimate, look at a ton of different poetry books – how they format their dedication, acknowledgements, headers, page numbers, which pages they leave blank, etc. It’s cool to be original here, but some conventions are standard and add a level of professionalism to your self-published book.

  • Canadians get free ISBNs! This was awesome to learn – you can also get a free ISBN from Createspace, but the legality of who owns what part of your book gets a little foggy with it (honestly, I was never able to figure out if I’d be able to re-publish my book under my own ISBN or under a publisher if I used a Createspace ISBN). If you’re Canadian, you can very easily apply for a free ISBN account here.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I got a professional designer to design my cover. I think that if you want readers to feel that you’ve really put yourself into this book and it’s actually worth buying, you should definitely get a professional to help you out. I know personally I’ve passed on books that used a generic stock image or something that could be found on Google as cover art – not bashing those authors, I just think it’s important to show readers you care enough to invest your own money into the cover that will end up on their shelf.

Marketing? Please explain?

I like to think of marketing as community building, especially on Instagram. As “instapoets”, we’re so lucky to have the Instagram community on our side! My main advice here is, if you don’t care about what anyone is writing or doing, no one will care about what you’re writing or doing. You often see accounts with large followings complain about the Instagram algorithm – but these are the same accounts that follow 100 people, sparsely respond to comments, and barely ever read, like, or comment on other people’s content. Instagram totally gives back what you put into it – I’ve built such an amazing community of writers and readers that I genuinely love connecting with, and to be totally transparent, I’ve been able to grow my Instagram following and engagement because of it.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

I just wrote my own copyright at the front of my book, haha. I did not consult a lawyer. In terms of finances, between the cover and paying for proofs to be shipped to Canada (proofs cost about $3, but shipping is like $25 to Canada), I spent less than $400. I had savings to dip into and am happy to say I made all of that money back through book sales since then!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

Don’t be afraid to do a few $5 boosts on Instagram posts or run some $6 ads (I’ve done both of these things) – it can be a really inexpensive way to remind people of your brand and your book. If you make $3 per book and a $5 ad will help you sell 5 books, you’ve already made $10. Definitely play around with small amounts and make sure you’re calculating ROI [Return on Investment]. There can also be value in just finding a larger audience for your work vs. getting concrete sales. Really think about what’s important to you before starting ads. Also, there are A TON of resources online about Facebook and Instagram ads – get to Googling!

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Maiapoetry

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maiapoetry’s ‘the fall, the rise’ poetry collection

Why did >you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Well, I always thought of self-publishing first. I did submit to a couple of publishing houses, but I didn’t want to wait—haha! I wanted to get my work out there, something that I had been working on for so long. I decided to self-publish because, after all of the hard work, I knew it was something I would be proud of. It was something I could say I did for myself. I believe the benefit is the joy you get from knowing you did it all yourself, literally. Of course, I had an artist for my cover, but reaching out to him initially, going over designs, ordering copies of my book to edit, hiring an editor, finalizing the finishing touches, it’s a lot! And it feels good to say I did it all with the help of my artist and editor. That is definitely a priceless feeling.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Create Space to self-publish. 

Any tips of the trade?

Edit, Edit, Edit! Haha, you don’t want to miss anything. Always look at one part of the book at a time. For instance, read through the actual work of the book, but then with fresh eyes go back and check the headers, page numbers, etc. Also, have a friend read it and edit it, or an actual editor. Just proofread until you can’t anymore! But don’t stress yourself out, make it a fun journey.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

My artist designed it for me. He is amazing. I told him what I wanted and boom – there it was coming to life. Now you can always do it yourself if you have the means, but seriously, there is some amazing talent on Instagram—reach out! That’s exactly how I found mine and I am glad that I did.

Marketing? Please explain?

For marketing and promotion, I did some promotion shoots with a photographer prior to the release of the book. I now use those to market my book on my Instagram. Also, reaching out to poetry pages that post other people’s work is beneficial. Just reach out and ask if they do anything for new authors, such as posting work for you, and some definitely will help you out. There are other pages that cost to promote on their Instagram; it all depends what YOU want to do.

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

I have a certain budget I set out this sort of thing. I had an artist and editor I paid for, so it might be more than others who self-published. Once again, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The decision is yours!

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thetaleofmymind

selfpublishart3
thetaleofmymind’s ‘The Tale of My Mind’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I have had a life long interest in writing, and the idea of publishing my own book one day has been a dream of mine since I was a child… I never imagined that it would be something I could achieve myself. In the past nine months or so, I began writing a lot of poetry and realised that I was putting together enough quality content to consider amalgamating it into a collection of sorts. I did extensive research into publishers as I pieced together my manuscript and contacted several, who turned down my approach. I quickly came to realise that as a new author, the best solution moving forwards in the modern age was to self-publish, with so many cost effective solutions available. My plan was to gain enough traction through an Instagram campaign, my book and other techniques that I would have a worthy and proven case in the future, if I were to re-approach publishers.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I made the decision to use Lulu. My main reason for this was cost. Many of the printing agencies I researched required buying an inventory of stock, which was a route I considered. My original plan was to put together a Kickstarter campaign and raise enough money through pre-orders to guarantee sales and lock down a quantity. However, this would have also meant handling every stock item, order and postage myself and would also have placed liability on me for quality and damages, etc. The beauty of Lulu was that I could simply create my ‘Print Ready’ manuscript and artwork online, order a proof copy and then let them handle everything else. Each book is printed to order and shipped directly by Lulu, so the only involvement I have is collecting a small royalty! It’s worked seamlessly up to now.

Any tips of the trade?

My biggest tip would be realising the importance of others. Writing my book was the easy part. Gaining a following, creating the artwork, putting the manuscript together and perhaps most importantly editing are all steps of the process that I owe to family, friends and other incredible authors out there. Without this help, I would never have got my book to market.

Make sure you have a solid plan for what you want to achieve, and stick to it as best you can. This will ensure continuity throughout the journey and make sure that the writing process is as smooth as possible.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I was very fortunate in this aspect. I decided that my creative talent stopped at writing and that I needed to enlist the help of an artist. I started my search on Instagram and discovered the incredibly talented Rishikant Patra (@doodleophile). I immediately fell in love with his hand drawn, space-esque drawing style and asked for his help. A 17-year-old artist based in India, he immediately jumped at the opportunity and within about 3 weeks he had created artwork better than I could ever have imagined. The results were phenomenal and I would say without question that I owe the initial attraction of my book to him.

Marketing? Please explain?

This is probably the area I have struggled with the most. When I first started writing the book, I created a project-dedicated Instagram account. In the modern world of marketing Instagram is a fantastic tool (particularly with creative projects) and I grew to over 2000 followers in less than 3 months; a figure I was very happy with and continues to grow. Being social media active gave me a great pedestal to demonstrate my potential in a physical, ongoing manner and when the time came to release my book, I had a ready-made platform from which to plug. Unfortunately, my day job is sucking up a lot of time so I haven’t had the opportunity to market the book elsewhere as much as I would have liked, but it is selling steadily and I am gradually putting together a long-term marketing strategy to expand my reach.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

Copyright was something I managed to put together fairly easily, after a little online research. Making sure my content was protected was a top priority and, fingers crossed, I have everything in place that I need! Financially speaking, Lulu has made this process a walk in the park. My main outlay has been promoted posts on Instagram, but I would certainly say that at this point, my project is profitable!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

As previously mentioned, Instagram has been my main port of call for advertising. Using the media platform to hint at book content, showing the creation process through Stories and using promoted posts to expand the reach allowed me to gauge the general reaction towards my project and writing style in real time, which helped me sculpt the book as much as it advertised it! A great way to kill two birds with one stone. The next step is to begin contacting local papers, magazines, and journals to help expand my promotional reach.

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cristinafilomenapoetry

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cristinafilomenapoetry’s ‘Lost’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I had no other choice to be honest. This is my first book, I’m a recent graduate working a part time job (and at the time I published I was unemployed) and publishers cost a lot of money. I wanted to get my work out there but I just didn’t have the means to bring it to an actual publisher, so I did some research on different self-publishing platforms and picked the one that made the most sense to me!The biggest benefit of doing it myself as stated above was the fact that it didn’t cost me much at all to get it out there, and I was able to publish EXACTLY what I wanted to publish in the way I wanted to publish it! It was an amazing learning experience doing it all myself too because I was able to experience not only writing but also editing, designing, AND publishing, so I ended up gaining a ton of knowledge on the process of the work that goes into publishing a book that I would have never gained if I had gone through a professional publisher.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Ingram Spark, and at the time I thought it was the right choice, but for first timers out there I would recommend a more user-friendly publisher. Ingram Spark is amazing for publishers that are a bit more seasoned and know how the business works, but platforms like CreateSpace and Blurb are amazing for first timers because they’re 100% free and easy to use!

Any tips of the trade?

I’m still a beginner in the field myself, but the one thing I would suggest is start building your following AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. If you’re thinking of writing a book but haven’t started, get that Instagram account going! Start posting examples of your work so by the time you’re ready to make some money off of your writing you have a ton of people that will want to support you in it!

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I didn’t design my own cover art! I used a design group called Yonderworldly Premades which (until recently) offered pre-made book covers that you could purchase and have altered to fit the aesthetic and vision of your novel. They were great to work with and I’m very happy I got a professional to do the cover because it’s one of the first things a potential buyer sees. If you have a good looking cover, you’re more likely to make that sale, because unlike the saying, people do judge books by their covers. It says a lot about how serious you take yourself as an author and how your present yourself as a seller.

Marketing? Please explain?

I’ve done all of it myself, and I’ve learned A LOT, but I still have a long way to go! The thing I would recommend for sure is using Instagram to market your book every chance you get. It’s one of the most popular and accessible social media platforms and allows your readers the chance to put a face to your name. It’s also important to brand yourself as a writer and a social presence. What kind of writer are you? What do you want to ultimately achieve by sharing your writing with the world? What kind of aesthetic will people think of when they see your writing? These are all super important questions to think about as you move forward with your marketing. And if you have the means and don’t want to bother with marketing yourself, there are a ton of different options for hiring a social media marketer to take care of it for you!


Interview by Leeza von Alpen (aka leezajaydepoetry)

Main image accompanying article by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

A big THANK YOU to all of the Instapoets who participated in this interview. You can find their profiles, and links to their self-published works, below:

Michaelapoetry

Check out her healing words:

https://www.instagram.com/michaelapoetry/

Buy her book:

http://michaelaangemeer.com/shop

maiapoetry

Check out her raw words:

https://www.instagram.com/maiapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.maiapoetry.com

thetaleofmymind

Check out his deep words:

https://www.instagram.com/thetaleofmymind/

Buy his book:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/daniel-fella/the-tale-of-my-mind-as-told-by-dan-fella/paperback/product-23646924.html

cristinafilomenapoetry

Check out her powerful words:

https://www.instagram.com/cristinafilomenapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.cristinafilomenapoetry.com/the-book

 

National Young Writers Festival 2018

 

The National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF) has been a go-to for young writers across Australia for over twenty years. Held in Newcastle, NSW, over four days, NYWF is part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival. This year it was held between September 27-30 and it was my first visit to both the festival and Newcastle. My time there has left my mind teeming with new ideas and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young writer in Australia.

There was something for essentially every writer possible at NYWF. There were panels and workshops on fiction, journalism, and gaming to name just a few. I attended a variety of different topics, from community journalism to getting work as a writer.

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I found there were two particularly memorable panels. The first was ‘Write Off the Page’, where four panellists gathered and discussed games and digital poetry. The panellists included: Andrew Gleeson, Karen Lowry, Chad Toprak, and Cecile Richard. Lowry spoke of her digital poetry and electronic literature, which includes a detective game with poetry (check it out here). Toprak mentioned a game (Cart-Load-of-Fun) he made for the trams in Melbourne to try and bring games into a public sphere. One of his successes of this game was convincing a sceptical stranger and making them smile. Read more about Toprak here. Twine, a game engine, was mentioned and recommended for writers wanting to explore game development.

Another memorable panel was ‘Narrative Prosthesis’, which was panelled by Robin M. Eames and Alistair Baldwin. I went into this panel at random and discovered it was about disability in the arts. Being someone with a disability, I found this panel extremely empowering. It made me feel equal to other issues discussed over the weekend and raised some interesting points about disability in the arts. One fact I discovered is how it’s cheaper to hire a non-disabled person to play a disabled role on television than someone with that disability. I was surprised to hear this and it’s got me asking two questions: why does this happen and how can they get away with it? I wish to explore this further in future.

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As I travelled to NYWF with Empire Times (which I currently edit), I attended and participated in the ‘Student Media Symposium’. Held by the editors from Farrago (Melbourne University student magazine), the Symposium was mainly a discussion about student media, which included topics like what is expected of student media and how we address student politics. We also discussed issues in student media, coming back to common contemporary issues, such as budget, diversity and university politics.

Beyond the panels, discussions and workshops were plenty of other free events to attend across both NYWF and TiNA. Countless readings were on across Newcastle on a variety of different topics. One reading I sat in was called The Best Book I (N)ever Read. It was fascinating to listen to the stories on what other people thought about what are often referred to as the ‘best’ books and why they didn’t read them. Other readings included By the Sea (held at Newcastle Beach), Why I Write, and Late-Night Readings.

Zine Collection

 

Another event that took place was the NYWF Zine Fair. Held on the Sunday at Newcastle Library, the Zine Fair was where attendees could pick up zines from writers from Newcastle and across Australia. It’s here that I picked up copies of The Line (a free Newcastle zine) and a graphic novel called Ghost Beach by Ben Mitchell.

NewsXpress, a newspaper for TiNA, was also present throughout the festival. NewsXpress ran over the four days in different locations of the festival and was created by editor Danni McGrath through screen printing. The newspaper printed a new issue every day of the festival, typically discussing news and what’s happening around Newcastle. I watched McGrath create a copy of the Sunday issue when I picked my copy up (also on Sunday), fascinated by how it was done. It has now left me with the intention to try it out at smaller conventions here in Adelaide in future.

Overall, the 2018 NYWF overall was a lot of fun and full of useful information for every kind of writer. I enjoyed my visit and the addition of panels about gaming and podcasts make it the most contemporary and advanced literary festival I have attended yet. All the panels and workshops were free and the Zine Fair is a fantastic place to pick up a literary souvenir and support local writers and zine-makers. If I have the opportunity, I would love to go back next year, and if you do too, I highly recommend you visit it too.


 

Words and photography by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron 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.

Our Giddy Aunts: Queer Readings of Mentors in Children’s Fantasy Fiction

With the recent revelation that Dumbledore, our favourite gay wizard, won’t be all that gay in the next Fantastic Beasts movie, I think it’s fair to say that the tide has finally turned; J. K. Rowling’s table-scrap representation is no longer enough. Readers are no longer satisfied with post publication declarations that an unaddressed, unimportant character might have been Jewish or something. This is not effective or accurate representation.

The thing we should keep in mind, however, is that J. K. Rowling wasn’t brave or unique in codifying Dumbledore’s queerness. She was just tapping into an unconscious trope that has been in children’s fantasy fiction since the very beginning.

Explicit queerness in children’s fiction is relatively new. The conscious and unconscious link of homosexuality and sex is an old and tough link to break, and is even tougher to get past a gatekeeping adult public. Children are not in charge of what gets published; adults are. It is these gatekeepers that are as capable as being whipped into a panic – like the one that saw the demise of the Safe Schools program – that decide whether or not queer characters see any representation in children’s fiction. Forgetting, of course, that children’s fiction is all about characters just like the bullied queer kids of real life. Children’s fiction is all about the ‘other’.

Children’s fantasy is filled with ‘others’, like Ged from Earthsea, Morrigan Crow from the Nevermoor series, or the inescapable example Harry Potter. Then there are those who might be completely of the ‘normal’, but find themselves feeling like ‘others’ because they’re in an entirely new world, such as the queer icon Dorothy in Oz, the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Alice of Alice in Wonderland.

It’s not uncommon for children to feel this way about themselves – approximately 1 in 4 children reported being bullied at school in 2009. This is particularly key for children who may be struggling with sexuality or gender, feeling different for a reason poorly explored in the fiction around them.

Even without bullying, growing up is difficult, and the process of changing from child into adult is a metamorphosis that overwhelms even the best of us. It is here that books become a key in figuring ourselves out through sympathy and empathy, relating our feelings of ‘otherness’ with those on the page.

These ‘others’ find themselves in places and situations that are impossible to the uninitiated. They require guidance and teaching to understand their otherness. In real life we have our parents to fulfil these roles. But it’s usually the case in fiction that these characters that give guidance don’t have the familial attachment of ‘parent’. They are the tertiary adults, who fulfil the role of parent without the prejudice and judgement that entails.

Perhaps it’s just that writers have bad relationships with their parents, but rarely – if ever – does the most important guidance required to see these characters through to the end of the narrative come from parents. It might be because the characters are orphans, or the parents are absent – both of these tropes are mainstays of the genre. Fiction for children lends itself well to wise older characters, because children’s fiction is filled with outsiders needing guidance, yet it seems that when parents are present, children don’t go on adventures.

Who does this leave? Teachers. Old women. Grandparents. Distant relatives. In many cultures, they all fall under the same word. It may have fallen out of fashion now, but that categorisation applies in English too – in short, we’re talking about aunts and uncles, informal or otherwise.

What better word is there for the adults that assume the role of parent in the absence of parent? There are honorary aunts and uncles abound in the real world. Why not in imagined worlds?

The word ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ does not denote responsibility per se, but it does open the possibility of care. An aunt or an uncle is usually a temporary presence, but with opinions and power the same as any parent. In real life, as in fiction, an orphaned child might find themselves with an aunt or uncle.

The concept of gay aunts and uncles is not a particular new or interesting idea. It is a prevailing theory as to why homosexuality hasn’t been bred out of any population. In fiction, their presence mirrors the real world. If queer people exist to support the lives of children, then more than a few of the children supported in fiction get a little help from their queer aunts and uncles.

Children’s fiction is – for obvious reasons – devoid of sex. The only evidence that anyone has sex in the sanitised world of children’s fiction is the children themselves. This is not to say that the world of children’s fiction is devoid of sexuality – adults may be partnered, children may (and often do) have love interests, and male/female pairings are often implied by proximity.

If there’s any more egregious display of enforced sexuality, it’s in old fashioned children’s fiction. It creates love interests by convenience and proximity by pairing the nearest boy (of similar age) to the nearest girl. It’s not just something applied to the children in children’s fiction, either, but adult framed love isn’t integral to children’s fiction. Indeed, love interests aren’t key to children’s fiction at all. Alice, for example, had no need for love interests.

However, in a world where characters have enforced romantic inclinations, what happens where there is an absence of romance? What happens when a character that could easily have a heterosexual partnering – and has a convenient and proximate heterosexual partner – has none? Why are perfectly loveable characters single?

This happens frequently in children’s fiction because it’s not necessary to explore adult feelings. But adults reading children’s fiction can’t help but wonder about the inner lives of characters. Who does Dumbledore love?

The absence of relationships is as questionable as the presence of them, because for a long time, representation of any queer characters – happy ones, anyway – was illegal.

The absence of relationships isn’t the only evidence, of possible queerness. The circumstantial evidence is as varied as it is flimsy, but it’s no less flimsy than a knowing glance between two Valkyries in 2017’s Thor Ragnarok. Queer people have been forced to see representation where there’s questionable evidence and word of God for decades. Who would have known that Mrs. Danvers was apparently a lesbian without this handy Wikipedia article?

Fiction is filled with flamboyant bachelor uncles, and interesting albeit reserved bachelorette aunts. Flamboyance and extravagance are stereotypes now, but in previous years they could be seen as cultural markers. Dumbledore was extravagant and weird. What is flamboyant if not a bird that catches fire? Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci and Howl, though both textually heterosexual, were both flamboyant and extravagant in an era when the term metrosexual was uninvented. In the Nevermoor series from Jessica Townsend, we have the extravagant flouter of rules, Jupiter North. These are, of course, male stereotypes. The female stereotypes are little murkier.

The maiden aunt trope is one based in reality, and one that is replicated in many children’s narratives. When healthcare for women started becoming a Thing, so was Incredibly Deadly War, leaving many women widowed or without husband. How many of these women were happy to do without we will never know, but their presence has endured in fiction, even outside of the realm of children’s fiction. The Austen novels are nothing without their maiden aunts.

Of course, many of these women – in real life at least – lead unpartnered lives as wholesome heterosexuals. But there are innumerable queer women who would have found this arrangement invigorating, either because they preferred the same sex or preferred no partnership whatsoever. The maiden aunt could be seen as a miserable character, or they could just as easily be fulfilled and happy without a man.

Outsiders in their own worlds, they provide an anchor for ‘others’. These flamboyant uncles or interesting aunts provide a glimpse into the future for characters that are otherwise incapable of imagining a future as an ‘other’.

In real life, the adults we see as children are the adults we believe we can become. The most normal of which are usually our parents, and possibly our grandparents. If our families are large, we might see a deviation from the parental norm through our extended relatives – our aunts and uncle, our cousins and niblings, adults that don’t need to exist in a nuclear family unit to be happy and healthy adults.

When J. K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay in 2007, there was a short silence and then burst of applause at Carnegie Hall. Applause for representation? Or an acknowledgement of something that has always been there?


Words by Mark Tripodi

Mark is a writer and comedian. He is a host on Radio Adelaide’s Pride and Prejudice and The Range. He also hosts The Piecast.

Ethical Media Consumption: Is it Just a Question of Conscience?

 

It is likely that you have come into contact with media content involving some of the following people: Rolf Harris, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, Johnny Depp, or Harvey Weinstein. Even if you haven’t, you probably recognise their names. You might even realise why they’re in that list; all of them have been embroiled in sexual harassment or abuse accusations. Some of them have even been convicted of it. Since the tidal wave of voices speaking out against Harvey Weinstein and his subsequent disavowal from sections of Hollywood, there has been groundswell of kickbacks and new allegations from all sections of the media industry. It’s clear that the Hollywood machine is finally beginning to take a public stance against sexual harassment and abuse within the industry. There have been some questions about whether this is only due to the weight of the public eye, but it is an important step nonetheless.

Yet in the wake of these reveals of sexual harassment claims, where does that leave us? Can we still watch, buy, and engage with art and media featuring people who have been accused – or found guilty – of sexual harassment or abuse? Is it even morally right to do so? Criminal justice research indicates that the certainty of punishment following a criminal offence is what matters most when deterring crime. Following this train of logic, by allowing actors, comedians, or artists to be cast, headlined, or promoted after allegations come to light perpetuates a culture of no ramifications. This encourages the continued silence of victims because no consequences have been laid at the feet of the perpetrators. Allowing perpetrators of sexual harassment to appear in new works diminishes – even approves – of their crimes. If this is so, what can do we do about it? On a question of feasibility – forget about moral reasoning for a moment – it is easier to blacklist a solo producer of content. Louis CK and Rolf Harris, the nature of their crimes aside, can easily be avoided and their work shunned. But for actors and producers, more questions pop up.

A movie or a television show is ultimately a collaborative process – and one where not everyone involved has a say about who they must work with. Blacklisting works involving actors or producers who’ve been accused of assault consequently means sidelining the other actors on same project. Often, they happen to be emerging actors whose careers need the support of audiences the most and who can’t afford to turn projects down. This is where we enter a moral quandary as audiences. Do we support the emerging actor, and by association also support the Weinstiens, Allens, Depps and Spaceys of Hollywood? Or do we shun the perpetrators of harassment and abuse and sideline the emerging actor at the same time? The answers hinge on a question; does patronising productions associated with these aggressors condone their past actions and if it does, what do we do?

When responding to this question, we need to accept that as consumers of media we have the power to discourage a culture that creates safe spaces for abusers to hide, thrive, and be publicly lauded. To do this, hard decisions must made about the media we consume. Encouraging a culture where abuse allegations are taken seriously means hitting Hollywood in its pockets; boycotting movies and being loud about the reason that we’re not seeing the new Woody Allen production is because of his alleged – and murkily horrificchild-abusing past. Tweet that the reason we’re not seeing the new Fantastic Beasts movie is because they cast Johnny Depp, an actor who managed to avoid a court case about his alleged emotional and physical abuse towards his now ex-wife Amber Heard in 2016. In order to support an industry that doesn’t excuse sexual abusers, it appears that we need to blacklist these actors and producers. No matter how it plays out, we must be resigned to the inadvertent negative fallout against actors who had no choice in being cast alongside alleged perpetrators, and hope that this does not amount to more than the positive change that shunning these perpetrators will do.

Action begets action. Movement begets movement. Change starts with individuals making collective choices – and through the power of the people, Hollywood will have to change or die. Fortunately, there are good people out there using the power of their own fame and personal pull to input changes. Just see Brett Ratner being pulled from the Wonder Woman sequel through a collective decision from director Patty Jenkins and her team behind the Wonder Women movie. These are positive steps forward for the industry and for cultural attitudes towards abuse. But if positive change is monetarily motivated, what happens when our decision to watch or not watch a film has no monetary consideration?

If the DVD is already bought and in private possession, the question becomes one of ethics not logistics; can we still watch and enjoy their past works knowing that they’ve abused their positions of wealth and power? Should we watch it and boo whenever they come on screen, throwing popcorn and muting their lines? Should we not watch what they’ve starred in, shunning old favourite movies even at the expense of not re-watching the five other amazing actors who haven’t been accused or found guilty of abuse? There’s a line of reasoning here that asks if the DVD is already owned, does watching it hurt anyone? Well… no. No one profits, no one gets paid, and yet… it feels that continuing to watch the work of abusers and sexual harassers also supports them and their art.

If this is so, don’t watch it. This is a hard thing to do. There are movies I adore and have watched so many times that I know the lines off by heart. Yet watching them now, knowing what I do about the one actor in that otherwise faultless cast, the movie itself has been soured. It’s desecrated. Watching it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and maybe that’s a good thing. The other option is sitting there with that knowledge whilst I watch them, doing something akin to going, ‘Gee’ I know Rolf Harris was a paedophile who abused kids, but ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Jack’ is a banger you can’t not listen to’. Hopefully that thought sits uncomfortably with you because it does with me.

Perhaps the key to ethically consuming art and media lies in deciding how much we want to support a culture within our arts industry where perpetrators of gendered abuse, violence, and harassment have no safe harbour. Once the revelations about an actor’s abuse or sexual misconduct becomes known, it appears that the only ethical thing to do is boycott their work and be collectively loud about why. To do otherwise is tantamount to approval of their actions. But when it comes to their old work, the ethically correct thing to do cannot be dictated by an online article, but worked out according to the demands of the individual moral compass. But at no time should we forget their history or what they’ve done. To do so diminishes the violence of their crimes.

Can art, no matter how good, truly mitigate the actions of a person who takes advantage of their power and privilege to abuse or harm? Perhaps it shouldn’t, even if we can separate the art from their artist. No statement involving, ‘they sexually abused someone’ should have a ‘but their work is amazing’ with a ‘and I support them’. Perhaps we can appreciate their art alone but, to do this ethically, it should be done with the understanding that they must not be lauded for it, given safe spaces, or let their past be forgotten until their victim says so. They might be a great actor or a fantastic artist, but there are better ones out there – both morally and artistically.

The takeaway from this is that collective movement starts from individual choices, and our individual choices about the media we consume has an effect, for good or for ill. It’s down to us, to you and to me, to decide what type of effect we want to have on the media industry.


Words by Taeghan Buggy

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Taeghan Buggy is a writer, a poet, and a performer. Her work tends towards emotional gut punches and dangerous words. Taeghan’s immersion within ‘Arts Culture’ includes the New Wave Audio Theatre project, Flinders’ Speakeasy Creative Readings, and Adelaide’s open-mic poetry scene.