On Dusk, The book


Melbourne Writers Festival 2014 Blurb Books Blog-to-Book Challenge...
Coming soon - Publication ... OnDusk: Blog-to-Book
Will be available for purchase in print and ebook from Amazon.

Release date:  coming soon

Next appearances:

Reading - 10 am Friday 28 August 
Melbourne Writers Festival 2015
MWF Festival Club at ACMI
Federation Square, Melbourne

Presentation - 29 August 2015
Annual National Workshop
Wheeler Centre, Melbourne




Most recent outings...

9 December 2014
Live Storytelling

Inspiring and empowering innovators 
to help solve humanity's biggest challenges.

Friday, 7 November 2014

#MWF14 B2B Update 5 Mock Up!

Book cover design by De Greer-Yindimincarlie

Winner ::  Fashion Professional Category (textile design) 2013 Deadly Awards  
Nominee ::    Visual Artist of the Year Award 2013 Deadly Awards  &  Visual Artist of the Year Award 2011 Deadly Awards

Photographer Paul Tuthill

Website Paul Tuthill Photography Abbottsford NSW


Friday, 24 October 2014

#MWF14 Blog to book Update 4

Hello blog – I have missed you!

I have so much to tell you, and always so little time! Here are some thoughts big and small, and an update on what I have been up to lately:

Indigenous Australia is, to use a cliche (sorry!), on the cusp of change. Policing a silence won't arrest change, and talking about it won't jinx Aboriginal people either.

Debate falls apart when we succumb to the temptation to explain emerging trends with a sweeping reference to outside pressure. This response will serve, until it becomes impossible to describe what is 'inside' and what is 'outside'. 


I was a part of a Masterclass recently in Indigenous filmmaking. Barely any of the participants used Twitter. None appeared particularly averse to the micro blogging platform, they just didn't see the need for it. I happily tweeted for a day, then quietly put my phone away. Quite frankly, I would have missed out on too much if I had spent any more time staring at my palm.

Between them, the people who generously gave up so much of their time - and their practical, insightful, inspirational advice - have produced some of the most enduring screen works on offer in recent times. 

Their influence is enormous - if you have an interest in Indigenous filmmaking, you would know all their tv shows and movies. They choose to tell stories via the one-way screen. 
They chose that route because they have the skills – they love filmmaking, and they are very good at it – but also because if you wanted to tell a story these days – the type of story that changedyour world - that is where you would do it.

Not all of us are going to get to do that. ‘We’ are sure trying though.

But my point is this: the emerging Indigenous social media presence has been a game changer and Twitter in particular is the pinnacle of that - but only a tiny percentage of the Indigenous population is 'active' on Twitter, especially when you compare this platform to Facebook.

If you were curious about Aboriginal Australia, you have a few places you can go, and the most convenient route is straight to the tiny screen that spends most of it’s time in your hand.

But just as a film only really works if the characters are true to themselves and the story catches your attention, the demand for Indigenous representation rises and falls on how real a deal the observer thinks they are getting.

Keeping it real

When it comes to my writing, I’m often asked 'are my stories ‘real’? Not only that, they’d prefer it if they were.

It has happened far too often to me for it to be idle curiosity. The most revered screen works are those that people readily agree is ‘honest, brave, heartbreaking’ and the like. 

It makes me wonder – and I am not looking for simplistic, ‘opt out of an awkward conversation’ answers – but yes, it makes me wonder out of all the words produced and appearances on film, when does the question arise over what is ‘real’ about Aboriginal people? 

An example of change is already emerging in who engages in that discourse, on the grounds they don’t think it applies to them and there are other priorities they’d much rather talk about.

There are words that can trigger an abrupt end to a conversation. ‘Authentic' and 'Aboriginal’ would be two of them, when put together. But it’s inevitable that the dominant narratives are going to evolve. No amount of resistance will hold back the tide. 

There is a phenomenon in the arts, and elsewhere ('the collective unconscious') which has been cited during court cases when one innovator sues another for copying an idea that both parties - independent of the other - designed and built, or dreamt and wrote in their sheds over years spent working in the light of a single light bulb under the scorn of their family. It happens. 

Family history stories humanise Aboriginal people. They are stories that will never end, and that's as it should be. 

What about if a person wanted to write science fiction, or horror, and created characters who just happened to be Aboriginal, without one eye on whether they would be received sympathetically?

Aboriginal people are people too. When seen beneath the surface of negative stereotypes as a person, rather than a victim or someone better than average (??), or special or 'other', they don't stop being Aboriginal. An opposing view would have to come up with a better argument than judging Aboriginal identity on some grade of victimhood. 

Aboriginal identity is not determined by disadvantage. There's a growing discomfort from being locked into following a script, weighed down and caught within the victim paradigm. Divisive narratives will be in full swing before we get around to intergenerational conflict. That is surely coming - urban Indigenous youth is the fastest growing demographic in the country.

I imagine those in the future looking back on my time and realising that the dominant narrative was about the colour of a person's skin, in all it's shades. And looking back further still, to a speech that is only available in black and white footage, and wondering why so little attention was given to the person inside.

These are some of the things on my mind, when I am not crafting stories just like any other (aspiring) novelist or screenwriter.

And now time for me to get back to finishing off some editing. So far my greatest hindrance has been my love of the ‘Oxford comma’. After discussion with Ed. we agreed all the Oxford commas would be removed because it’s too ambitious for a first time book type person, even if it’s a better match for the cadence of my voice.

If you’re not sure what an Oxford comma is:

Standard comma: 
You know Bob, Sue and Greg? They came to my house.
Oxford comma: 
You know Bob, Sue, and Greg? They came to my house.
Christopher Walken comma: 
You know Bob, Sue, and Greg? They came, to my house.

That joke, kills me, every time.

If the commas were ‘real’ I would have formed them into a ball – something like Roald Dahl’s Chocolate Wrapper Ball that still sits on his desk. They say it looks like a canon ball and will fill the palm of your hand.

My Oxford Comma Ball would be about the same size though perhaps not as weighty.

If I had added the foil from every chocolate bar I have eaten in my life to a ball, it would be the size of a basketball and you’d have to leave it in the corner because if it rolled off the table it would break a toe.

On Dusk, the blog book - available soon!
When: Pending 2015
How: print & ebook from Amazon

The usual pattern of a writing project...
  • Yay, I am going to write something right now!
  • Thinking, thinking, thinking. Find a nice spot on the verandah and drink tea and listen to the birds. Find a nice spot on the lounge and jot notes in between prime time tv. Wake in the middle of the night to make more notes.
  • Write.
  • Rewrite.
  • Check deadline.
  • Reread my piece, wondering who wrote it.
  • Decide they are a terrible writer.
  • Remember the wise words of a mentor - ‘back myself’.
  • Read my piece out loud to the birds.
  • Submit some time between the deadline and the red zone of ‘they will never ask me again’.
  • Turn my face from the piece for hours, then re read it again.
  • See it published and see where improvements could be made if only I had one more chance.
  • Accept another writing commission. Yay. 
This time has been a little different...

It is rather a lot more words than usually leaves my control. Out of the 135 posts that appeared on my blog over the past two years - now stripped from my blog and carefully scrutinized - 45 posts have made it into the blog book.

What did I notice?

My writing transformed. I had to describe myself every few months and emphasis my independence. The only thing that wasn’t clear was 'why the constant reminders?', 'who was I independent of?' and 'why?'

For the blog book to make sense, I’ve included some mortar to pull the 45 blog posts together as well as bridge a few other gaps.

Want to know more? Upcoming appearances…..

6.00 – 6.30pm 8 November
Sydney Emerging Writers Festival
Reading: ‘Honey’ with illustrations from Sam Wallman.
Unwind to some illustrated readings from up-and-coming writers in our Indigenous mentorship program. Held in the Writers’ Centre garden with visual accompaniment provided by some of Sydney’s best comic illustrators. 
For more of Sam Wallman’s work please take a look at his website.
And in case you missed it, read the Serco story that created a buzz recently with illustrations by Sam Wallman.

Sam Wallman has been nominated for a Walkley! 
Category: 'All Media Multimedia Storytelling'
Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism - 2014 Finalists

Sunday, 7 September 2014

I’m at the editing stage of transforming my blog to a book. What got me here? 

Melbourne Writers Festival 2014 Blurb Books Blog-to-Book Challenge...
Coming soon - Publication ... OnDusk: Blog-to-Book, with accompanying narrative and archived 2013 and 2014 blog posts.
Will be available for purchase in print and ebook from Amazon.

Two things. One was the urge to write and then draw a line under an account of what seemed to have been pent up for decades.

The other was cue cards. And now I’ve pulled myself together into chunks of neatly formatted text. That is what collating two years of writing about all things that occurred to me feels like -  it's me on the page.

- bring bring –   
 Hey, I need an editor for my blog-to-book.  
 You absolutely do. Make it the best you can.   
Exactly! … 
 … O….kay, I can give you some names…  
 I already know one.  
 They need to work for no money.  
 *Audible sigh*  
 If you promise to give me enough time …  
  It needs to be proof read… then edited. Then proofed again.  
 Yep, yep, yep! You’ll be great.  
Last weekend was spent in a whirlwind trip to Melbourne - four flights, eight hours in a hotel room, and eight hours in avid conversation - and after a crash course in all that is involved in preparing to publish in soft cover and ebook form, I was still not prepared for the the surprise of how the finished product will look. Awestruck. 

The sample was of similar proportions to what I expect mine to be in a matter of weeks, but so much better. It looked and felt completely book-like. 

After producing over a hundred thousand words on line, imagining two years of work in another format took a fair amount of preparation. It couldn't be dragged across in one piece. Some of it is not worthy - sorry Blog, but it's true - and in moments of mental slumps I wondered if any of it was.

But back to the cue cards. 

And the enthusiastic feedback of my small but widely read focus group, and the additional 20,000 odd words that will glue it together.  This was followed by the magic of book building, when I printed off a copy, collated it into manageable chunks, and applied a rainbow of coloured tags. 

Looking at the neat stack of bound parts on my desk, I can finally declare real progress.

Life happens when you are doing other things. 

It’s a large house, with high ceilings and wooden floors. Interlocking rooms with wide door ways. There’s freedom to move, and run around in circles, and disappear and then come running back from deep passages. It’s a light filled, happy space. There are young children laughing, having fun, as they explore and chase one another. They love the sound of the doors slamming, and how the old door handles jangle. I could stay in here forever. When outside leans down and looks in one of the open sash windows, I sense it’s nest of spider eyes and snaggle tooth fangs, looking for fresh, sweet humans to drain dry.

Thanks to the Melbourne Writers Festival Blurb Book Blog-to-Book Challenge, I will be the first Indigenous blogger to have a personal blog published. And I will be making it count.

Stay tuned ... or feel free to come find me on Twitter.


Thursday, 28 August 2014

#mwf14 Blog-to-book Update 2

In times of desperation, I’ve found myself in situations that on reflection seem too far fetched to have happened to the soon to be self-published blogger you see before you.
Scared, and running down the footpath with someone else’s house key in my mouth, desperate to get out of clear sight, I wondered what had possessed me to wear high heeled boots. The key in my mouth for safe keeping was an obvious measure to take, just as calling for a police escort had been the only solution several hours earlier that day.  

I could hear others were being questioned while I'd stood safely surrounded. 
"Are they in a relationship?" 

“N-oo…..they--re no-t….”

Beside me, all thumbs, the tallest police man flipped open his pad while he checked his two-way.  "Do you know if there are any weapons here?" 

"No. Not inside. Um, actually, maybe. In the bathroom. Or…the ceiling." 

Everything stopped. We all looked up in silence. I shuffled a little closer under the overhang of his chin. Within seconds we were on the move. A foursome of police on full alert is unlike any other escort. Double stepping for each of theirs and following the expanse of shoulders that were blocking my view, all save for glimpses of startled faces, I completed my fastest checkout ever.
After studying over a hundred thousand words on my blog, I can see it was only revealing a thin slice of life, though it has taken up much of mine for two years.

Now two years into my social media experiment - and the unfiltered platform it provides for an alternative view not dominated by self-seeking soldiers of fortune, I’ll be sure to fill in some more of the gaps in my Blurb blog-to-book.

  • I’ve often wondered who’s job it is to clear up the obvious distortions around the Northern Territory Intervention.
  • And is there a fail safe remedy for the mange infection of racism.
  • Is there likely to be maturity in the Indigenous community around feminism or will violence experienced by the other sisters (Indigenous women) continue to be too awkward a conversation?
  • And how is Indigenous prosperity possible, when the only popular candidates for leadership would be unable to realistically find their way through the complex issues, and that they're likely to achieve the most approval when they have never been tested.
  • And why is it easier to join them in ignorance rather than challenge oppressive regimes? 
  • And how about the shameful abusers, fooled into being fit to burst over gossip? 
  • And pointing out that there has been lessons learned from those who prefer race hate speech and smears - and not in a good way.
There is much more I’d like to talk about.

·       How I approach twitter fiction.
·       Self promotion and marketing on a shoestring.
·       How it is, that when you say you have done everything to find an audience, you most likely missed a few strategies. 

And now you will understand why my Blurb blog to book word count plays out like an accordion.

They say a writer will spend 70% of their time on the business that makes it possible that the remaining 30% of their time can be spent writing.

My blog is the café that never closes. It is the repository of my ambitions, deeply disguised. It’s my laboratory and where you’ll find me.

Reflecting on two years of blogging, Twitter and writing commissions, I can see the more I wrote, the more opportunities came my way.

In order to write, puts me in need of other work, that pays for me to live, 
so that I can write.

Self promotion, tinkering with my blog, pulling tweetyarns out of thin air and working out how to maximise returns on social media are the life support for my writing. The more I pushed myself into pitching and submissions, the bigger the deadlines. And the writing just gets harder every time. 

And it will always come back to the writing.
How’s the writing going?   
Oh, fine. (It bleeds.)
I wrote so much in the past year, out of necessity I taught myself how to use a mouse with my left hand, as a spare for when I need it.

I never seem to have enough time to write. But I can’t stop chasing words. 
Words are the bait and the catch.

I’m 90% committed to the blog material I’ve pulled out for my blog book. 

My blog book formula involves breaking my blog down – into trends, traffic and themes – and then organizing these into a narrative, and cue cards have been the easiest means of achieving order. The blog book challenge has gotten me rethinking my approach to blogging, and I'm excited about what the blog will contain in the future (for Volume 2 down the track, perhaps).

Nine days into the 11 day #mwf14 Blurb challenge of transforming my blog in to a book – in between logistics for Melbourne and locking in a script pitch - I took a break and came across an old interview with Clive James. Purely by chance, my eye caught his account on writing.

"… I hit the chair running about 10 years ago, and ever since I have rarely had a moment even to lean back in it. I sit hunched forward, racing always against time. So the air of casual ease that the room conveys is entirely an illusion."
 More from Clive James in his own words [2009] here 

I think endless tight deadlines is my lot, but I’m satisfied that to-date, I’ve had ideas that are more pressing to write about than merely those presented by being on the run with a key in my mouth.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

#mwf14 Blog-to-book Update 1.
After blogging on every thing that caught my fancy over the past two years - from arts and culture, to social media, politics, and back in time to a shared history and the stories that keep my family alive - a secret wish has come true.

Looking back now at my occasional brain snaps that were never posted, I know now how the final three Survivors feel when they walk down memory lane to read the spikes named for fallen cast members. I'm glad they never made it. (And if you are not a fan of the best mind game show on tv, please note, the players face elimination, not extermination.)

#MWF14 Blurb blog-to-book challenge

Day 1 – Receive the news. Ask Garry to repeat it, just in case I had misheard that I am a Joint Winner of the Melbourne Writers Festival ~ Blurb Blog-to-book challenge.

Day 2 – Tell everyone and bask in their congratulations as we all get our head around what it actually means. Make up a list of people I can count on for honest feedback and ask them ‘what do you want to see in my blog book?’ Pull out all the posts that were popular. Work on an 'Introduction'.

Day 3 – Remember Germaine Greer’s keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival 2012, and wonder were I sit on the 'vanity self publishing' scale. Decide to be even more ruthless in culling dodgy blog posts. Decide on a book size, and imagine how it feels in the hands. Study the price lists, decide I've missed my calling as a romance writer, and snuff out the idea of an author’s photo on the back cover.

Day 4 – Take some me time to take screen shot pictures of myself from the Melbourne Writers Festival website. Tally a collection of blog posts and realize I have 30,000 words more than I need. Play around with a structure for the book - chronological or by subject matter? Write some connectors and watch the word count blow out again.

Day 5 – Reread my blog post selection for the fifth day in a row and ask myself repeatedly, ‘but what is the book about?’ Choices are stripped back, tight and snappy, or a swampy ramble.  Have a test run at the 'Blurb make your own blog book'. Perk up, till I realize I’m going to need a bigger book. Pull out half a dozen books from my shelves and compare layouts, fonts and chapter headings and decide the less frippery the better.

Day 6 – Wonder why I have a blog in the first place. Talk it over with my mentor. Watch Q&A and note that half of the Melbourne Writers Festival panel have a book. Wonder again, ‘what am I trying to say?’ Doggedly continue writing the all encompassing narrative, deep into the night. Fall asleep under a brick sized edition of Hitch-22, in the hope my humble blog will be magically transformed over night.

Day 7 – Wake up thinking about Huckleberry Finn, not the character but the book version I once owned, with large print and black ink sketches. Think how happy I would be on a raft. Wonder how many pages I would need for my blog book to support me in a flood. Realise if I match the expense in making the book, with what went in to producing the blog, I could have had a large colour photo of myself front and back, and impregnated the pages with more gold leaf than the Book of Kells.

I wonder if it is possible to take it too far, when you sit down to kill your darlings.

I knew why I wanted to start blogging two years ago, but somewhere about half way, my reasons changed.

I’ve always been the kid playing in the corner by myself, the one who roamed to find a better place.

Once you start putting work out there, and people actually read you – not pretend to read you, or murmur they’ve been busy but they will get to it on the weekend – but actually read and respond to your work, something happens.

You want to do better. You want people to get you. You tell yourself it’s the spontaneous feedback that you can trust. If they tell you they laughed, or cried you learn about yourself, because you write of darkness and decay and they tell you it’s funny. You write what makes you laugh and they cry. In a deceitful world, they become the only ones you can trust.

A blog about nothing, or something or everything, is still just words on the internet amongst millions of other words. A person could be lost in there. Quite happily for me, of course, floating in the nothingness with my darlings. It saves me from thinking about how many years I could have been writing, but never got the chance. 

For many writers, who spend most of our time alone, dreaming of how we can touch down from time to time, our darlings are all we have. They may have been the combination of words and time and emotions that once felt so right together, but now they don’t fit in.

Parts of the writer don’t fit in to the world they created.

It’s not advisable to edit your own work but self publishers with limited means don’t have many other options. I can ask a favour and have my apostrophes checked for accuracy, but when it comes to content, I need to trust my instincts.

Going by page hits, I’m relieved to see that my fiction has always received the highest volume of traffic. With my eye on completing my first manuscript, I take that as a positive sign.

Positive? I am fiercely relieved!

Of the remainder, less so but still popular, comment on writing, social media, racial discrimination, and my travels across Aboriginal communities are neck and neck for page hits.

Writers write about writing about writing about writing.

Social media changes constantly and comparing two years ago to today, makes the subtle increments now appear quite obvious.
Aboriginal people are 2.7% of the population and it would be an even smaller representation on Twitter and in the blogosphere.

That’s a few people who need to cast a mighty, big shadow.

There used to be a heap of hoops and hurdles to circumvent in order to talk in public. Now anything goes. 

We had beauty once.

Some will tell you it’s a failing to chase a media presence, until they concede they want to do exactly that, themselves.
And I wouldn’t be the first to notice the difference between ethical journalism and the other kind. Or that Aboriginal youth are still forced into roles and servitude by the determination of the repressed to project a confected state of Aboriginal life.

If there was a Treaty movement, there would be a Treaty movement.

If you didn’t know what to look for, there’s much that would go under the radar, beyond the more frequent public promotions of accounts of ‘my life living with racism’ and social justice issues.

And just like that a person is dragged back into the Twitter world.

The blog to book project is an opportunity to put in to practice everything that I told myself I needed to read – on writing, editing and publishing - over two years on Twitter. And I’ve been so well schooled in killing my darlings, I feel a blood lust coming on.

What will be left? I trust it will be similar to the sheep found recently wandering the countryside in Tasmania, having evaded the shearing shed for six years. A good trim will clear the vision and have it be far more sprightly on it’s feet.

Stay tuned...more to come.

And feedback is always welcome - in fact if you ever had the urge, now is the time!


Hold the front page!


I interrupt this blog-trip back in time, spanning two years since I began my foray into social media,  to announce some exciting news....

... my blog is being published!

Do you dream of taking your blog beyond the cloud and committing it to paper? Melbourne Writers Festival in partnership with Blurb is pleased to announce the Blurb Blog-to-Book Challenge, and invites bloggers from all over Australia to submit. 
Three lucky bloggers will have the opportunity to create and publish a book based on their own blog ... during the eleven days of the Festival from 21 to 31 August.
Successful authors will attend the Meet the Blurb Blog-to-Book Authors event. 
Blurb blog to book challenge here
Melbourne Writers Festival 21-31 August 2014 here

I am so pleased to announce I'm one of the three lucky winners! 

Now I’m busily deciding what’s in and what’s best left out of my first volume of an OnDusk blog-to-book.

As per my reflection a few days ago...I spotted an opportunity on Monday, submitted a book proposal, and now the fruit is mine.
Two years ago, I thought the greatest reward from social media was a foot in the door to publishing. Turned out, I was doing it wrong. Anyone who is serious about writing knows publishing is not low hanging fruit. 
It takes research and a carefully thought out plan to be published - where you find them, and not the other way around. That, and there was one thing else. 
From days spent writing and juggling commissions, and planning more, and scheming even larger projects, I'm suddenly immersed in the need to commit to a book layout, and fonts and page settings, and the big one: the cover. A front cover is a big enough undertaking, and then it occurred to me...the book has a back cover as well. Double joy! 

I am a black writer, I am attached and outside, I am free...

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