Platform 16 – Digital Edition

I should leave this post for tomorrow, but I’m excited, so you get it now. Apologies for those who follow via email and have had their in-boxes spammed. One day I will be a consistent blogger … but today is not that day.

I’ve mentioned Platform before: our somewhat anti-literary, literary magazine, commissioned by the amazing Bruno Lettieri, sponsored by Victoria University, devoted to an ethos of established, community and emerging writers gracing the pages of the same magazine. This issue is a special one. Created by an editorial team of Professional Writing and Editing TAFE and Higher Education Communications students, designed by Beata Cranswick’s Advanced Diploma Students, featuring the well-known Baby Guerrilla art that graces the main entrance of VU’s Footscray Park campus, it is our first-ever themed issue: education!

We tackle education in and out of the classroom. We write about the teachers that inspired us, the teachers that frightened us and the teachers that said nothing at all. We write about, I think, the importance of education in how it shapes us to become the writers we are now, its challenges and pressures, the memories it leaves behind. At a time when universities are suffering tremendous financial cuts, to a point where getting funding for a publication like Platform isn’t as simple as it should be, I think this issue is a much-needed reminder of why education matters.

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Words matter, but what about the packaging?

Excuse me for a moment, blog, while I hold conversation with the students who come after me.

Sherryl Clark asked me to write this after I expressed sadness at the lack of interest this year in Desktop Publishing and Publishing Studio classes. I am sad. This conversation happened at the launch of Platform 16, my first project credit as managing editor, a project that could not have happened without studying Publishing Studio the previous year. This post is something of a fusion of last year’s Rotunda speech, my Information Session speeches, my Litfest talk and the presentation I gave to this year’s Editing 2 students. It seems to be something I say a lot, but it also seems to be something in need of saying.

This might sound a little strange, given that I’m a novelist and short fiction writer by inclination. I’ve just finished the third draft of my novel, a project I’ve been working on for months, and by hook or crook will I see this thing published. Yes, I got a lot out of Advanced Fiction and Short Story. I’m learning a lot from Michelle in Advanced Non Fiction. My writing has improved no end by throwing myself into as many writing classes as I could squeeze into my schedule, and I don’t regret that for an instant: I know I wouldn’t have the ability to completely redraft a novel three times (and counting) without having studied Advanced Fic with Tracey. The novel I am writing today wouldn’t exist in its current shape without Myths and Symbols or Scriptwriting.

The classes I got the most from, though? The classes that have made me as a professional-to-be?

Desktop Publishing, Publishing Studio, Editing 2.

I know. They’re not about words.

They’re about liberation.

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Platform 16 launch / Silence, please!

Hi, blog. Long time, no see. Yes, I’ve been busy and crazy. That’s pretty much status normal.

For anyone who is local (Melbourne, Australia): on Thursday night at the Helen Garner Rotunda we will be launching Platform 16, our education-themed bumper edition of local Australian writing featuring community, emerging and established writers. (What’s Platform? Check out issue 15 here!) For no more than the cost of entry, you get to enjoy Helen Garner in conversation with the fabulous Bruno Lettieri, the best literary crowd in Melbourne and pick up a free copy of a magazine that features (in no particular order) the works of Sherryl Clark, Myron Lysenko, Raimond Gaita, John Marsden and Kristin Henry among many talented community, academic, established and emerging writers the world should know. (And a piece or two by yours truly.) The editorial team have worked long and hard on this project, and we’re very excited to celebrate its emergence into the world.

Interested? Download the flyer and drop Bruno Lettieri an email. I assure you, a great night will be had – it’s Rotunda’s big 60 and we mean to party!

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Rotunda in the West and other adventures in story

I wrote a piece about last Saturday’s Highlands Rotunda near Yea, which has been posted on Facebook: Rotunda went to the lush highlands.

(PDF format here!)

To place this piece in context, I need to explain two things.

The first: Bruno Lettieri. His passion is developing the capacity for story, and by extension the growth, development and community found in story, in others. Not literature, necessarily – I wouldn’t say he’s about literature at all. He’s not about technical polish. He’s about artistic and creative expression, most often in words. He’s about the power in that expression to transform lives. Bruno is, I think, about the most important human force extant: story.

He, with the support and sponsorship of Victoria University’s Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing (TAFE) department, is the commissioning and founding editor of Platform magazine and the organiser, promoter and spokesperson of Rotunda in the West. I’ve spoken about Platform‘s unique ethos before – the combination of community, emerging and established writers gracing the page of a free magazine that goes out to schools, libraries, community centres and many other western suburbs locations. Any local writer must know him as a vibrant bundle of enthusiasm driven by the need to help, nurture, sponsor and encourage the people he finds.

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Launch: Platform, edition 15

It’s nice, I think, that I get to begin the new year by celebrating an accomplishment in the old. (It’s also far more interesting than talking about my pain or my depression or the challenges of the holiday season.)

Last year for my Publishing Studio class, I was part of a team of students that produced the student anthology and edition 15 of a literary (or anti-literary) magazine, Platform.

Today, I get to bring to you the digital fruit of our labours, downloadable in PDF format: Platform 15.

This issue features the poetry, fiction and non fiction talents of many of my classmates (and an amazing teacher of mine) and my first submitted-for-publication creative non fiction piece/personal essay on writing, ‘Writing the right reasons’.

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Body love, the chronic pain version

Right now I’m living the reality of what happens when you spend four months doing all the things and achieving the near-impossible – when you spend days, weeks, months running on little sleep, when your ‘downtime’ consists of yet another round of proofreading or playing with InDesign, and when four hours of class is actually a break because it gets you away from all the homework/assignments/writing/endless publication production jobs. (They are endless. Trust me.) As my GP pointed out, being Student of the Year comes with a whole heap of unpleasantness: being awesome is bloody hard work.

(Life lesson: self, when you’re going to class as a break, your life is a bit out of balance. You might be loving most of it, but it is still out of balance.)

Sooner or later, you crash. It’s a hard enough job for an able-bodied person who doesn’t have any mental health challenges, and I’m neither. My conditions don’t often stop me from doing a lot of things (they make things harder to achieve, yes, but they don’t stop me, and this is not a good thing). What they mean is that I fall faster, crash harder, take longer to pick myself up, take longer to heal enough to get back into the swing of things. I don’t bounce back. I collapse. I ended up in a lot of pain for a long time and a significant worsening of my depression … and I hated and hate every last second of it, because I want to be doing everything. I’m not okay with sitting back and healing. I just feel useless and miserable, depressed and desperate, at war with a body that shouldn’t be like this (‘should’ is the most toxic word of innocent-seeming toxic words).

The crash is hard enough, but its spouse, depression, makes just healing a misery – or a challenge.

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Launch Week: Up Close and Personal

Yesterday I went to the Professional Writing and Editing end-of-year break-up. Chat with fellow students and teachers, writers’ games (demonstrating the awesome talent in the room), awards, and the launch of the 2013 student anthology, Up Close and Personal.

On the one hand, I am thoroughly relieved to reach the end of the year (although it’s still not quite over for me – still got a project or two to wrestle with) because trying to balance full-time classwork and my projects was becoming difficult, especially when the lure of actually making things was taking hold. When I need to choose my computer time carefully, creative pursuits win over assignments (even though I’m pretty good at analysis and generally enjoy doing it). While I do enjoy learning and the academic environment, I enjoy creating things more, which makes sense: I am a creative. Now I know I have skills, now I have confidence in those skills, I am ready to get out of the classroom.

On the other hand, I am saying farewell to an environment where I am respected, appreciated, seen, and that doesn’t come without its sorrow; it’s too new a sensation to come without grief and anxiety attached for its loss.

Hold on while I venture into a tangent. It’ll make sense at the end, I promise.

My psychologist has given me homework: to stop and acknowledge my accomplishments. I’m not good at doing that. I feel tremendously guilty when I do, for how dare I put myself on a pedestal above anyone else? And at the same time, how dare I congratulate myself for doing something that’s just expected of me and anybody else anyway? I mean, sure, I’m dragging myself out of the pit that is anxiety and depression and family, and I’m becoming ever-more functional, but isn’t this just what I should have been? Therefore, isn’t it arrogance to give my accomplishments any weight at all?

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The occupation of struggle

Today, I got a phone call. My course coordinator passed my name on to someone in another department who is looking for an employee to do everything I’ve spent the last six months doing, pretty much. It’s a six-month contract, two and a half days a week, at school – it couldn’t get more perfect, to be honest. This job would allow me to work part-time, to set myself up as a freelance writer part-time, to take up a unit or two in a Bachelor of Communications part-time, to take on the challenge of a large publication, to get real longer-term project experience under my belt. It’d even allow me to renew the lease on my apartment, and it would mean I don’t have to spend the next three months scrambling to find work (and applying for retail positions out of the fear I won’t find anything). Just to have someone ring up and basically cold-call me about a job is incredible.

(I’ve been finished with school for three days. I’m still working on three projects; I’m preparing for an upcoming week of book launches – my own books! I haven’t even begun to do more than think about work yet.)

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Showing the bones

This has been a difficult post to write, and I don’t usually struggle with words – at least not the written ones.

I’m a writer, for all it’s a statement of the obvious. I’ve been writing for twelve years in one form or another. It’s not an optional extra, an enjoyable past-time; it’s something a whole lot closer to a compulsion, driven and obsessive. If I’m not writing, I’m doing something related to the act of making someone’s words accessible to others, but it’s not even a mere career. It is, in all truth, the mechanism through which I can take the damaged parts of my brain and soul and use them to my advantage – it’s not that through writing I become whole and functional, but rather that my damage is as much a strength for a writer as it is a limitation. Writing is the thing that allows me to become myself, find purpose, feel comfort in the knowledge that this is my stage and there is something I and only I can bring to it.

I’m not special in this; I’m just like everybody else. We’re all damaged. We’re all in search of the one thing that allows us to take that damage and make it transcendent.

People who are not me call my writing ‘dark’ or ‘edgy’. They talk around it, in workshops, saying that I write unusual things, different, strange, shocking. Confronting.

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Platform and other worthwhile objects

The last few weeks I have been rushed-off-my-face busy. This is likely to continue.

I spent a fortnight learning how to make handmade hard-cover books in Editing 2, and surprised myself, the teachers and the class by inventing a way to improve the process through section sewing rather than webbing the page sections together. Being a hand-crafty sort—before I injured my hands, I sewed dolls clothes, cross stitch, felt animals and other crafty things all the time—this immediately became one of those new hobby-obsessions, in part because I had half the supplies already and, well, who needs an excuse to go out and buy more craft materials, right? (As someone who writes things down and is never without a notebook or my laptop, I also find the idea of writing in a book I’ve made—an object infused with my own energy—rather appealing.) Be warned, everyone: you’re all getting handmade books for Christmas.

As soon as I have time, I mean to take photos and put together a how-to guide. The heavy cardboard covers are covered with fabric, which makes them very durable (no dog-eared corners or bent covers, which is always nice for the anxious types, myself included) for toting around in one’s backpack. I’ve made one with striped coloured fabric for every-day use, and I enjoy writing in it.

My intention, when I’ve finished this semester and have published my novella, is to offer a give-away for a copy of my book and a handmade journal. So if you want free stuff (come on, who doesn’t want free stuff?) come back in November. I may even custom-make the journal for the winner in their preferred colours.

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