Sunday, October 16, 2016

NYWF (Thu + Fri)

NYWF was deliriously wonderful.

Despite having more responsibility, I felt more relaxed this year. I was nervous about my events but I knew what to expect of the festival. I knew from last year that it would be INTENSE so I scheduled plenty of 'me time', ate regularly and importantly, gave up on trying to see everything.

(Second year and a veteran...)

Thursday 29 September

Wandered down to the Ocean Baths to clear my mind and draw strength for the days ahead. The horizon flickered with lightning. It is good to be reminded of one's insignificance. Finished with Allowed on Timeline: A Slide Night (Liz Flux and Hera Lindsay Bird: hilarious) and Late Night Readings: The Minotaur Under My Bed. Omar Sakr's poetry and voice are out. of. this. world.

Omar's essay on sexuality, family and homelessness in Kill Your Darlings is incredible.

Friday 30 September

Met Chloe and Marlee (fellow panellists) for breakfast. I talk about Mum as she is the audience I most worry about (her reading my blog, her reaction to my writing, potentially hurting her). A few people mention afterwards that they are glad we spoke about our mothers. I am relieved.
It's like we carry a Babushka doll of places with us - where we've been, where we're going.
- Alice Robinson (Writerly Landscapes) -
Photo: Louise Jaques
Photo: Louise Jaques
There are three attendees at my programming workshop but they all want to be there. We finish early so I make it to a panel of writers from the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.
If I do my job as a story-teller, it'll break stereotypes rather than reinforce them.
- Omar Sakr (Go West: Finding Voice) -
As someone who grew up in Werribee, this panel is important to me. I am from 'the west' yet do not lay claim to being a 'west writer', as much as I want to. I am a 'Canberra writer', for now. (Shout-out to the brilliant Footscray Community Arts Centre and ACT Writers Centre xo)

My friends and I struggle to find a place for dinner so end up squeezing into Speech Night to see our favourite writers (Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Omar Musa and Hera again!) read.

I have followed Giselle's writing since last year's festival. She is an awesome person who writes honestly about feminism, pop culture, sex, race, relationships and mental health. Trailblazer.

Instant noodles for dinner, then Late Night Readings: Oh! The Places You'll Go. 

It's the second time I've heard Madeleine Laing read (previously at Noted) and she is just as effortlessly cool. Self-aware yet unpretentious. Love. Madeleine strikes a chord because she, like Jean Hannah Edelstein, reminds me that it is ok (read: not selfish) to write about oneself...

(to be continued)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

exactly where i want to be

I am so. excited. for the next few days.

It feels like only yesterday that I was heading to National Young Writers' Festival for the first time. I was so proud of driving to Newcastle and back. My first long-distance solo road-trip.

My first writers' festival. I had no idea what to expect, nor did I know a single person going.

It didn't matter.

I fell in with a lovely group on my first afternoon. I scribbled notes at the first panel but by the last day, I learnt to let the festival wash over me. Strangers became familiar faces, then friends.

I did eventually bump into a few people I knew from Canberra, a lovely surprise. This year, there are fair few of us, a contingent-of-sorts, heading up. I have road-trip buddies both ways.

I am nervous about my panels and first workshop but really, it isn't the end of the world. The wonderful thing is, the audience want you to succeed. They want to hear what you have to say.

With that in mind, I have packed several dresses (weather won't be as summer-y sadly), Polaroid camera, books and magazines (which I won't have time to read), a handful of pens, stack of CDs, business cards and... a heart full of curious gratitude to write, write, write.
An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterwards.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald -
(no pressure...)

Also, here is my fancy artist page. And an excellent NYWF guide by Alex Neill.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

my NYWF debut + more (!) readings

In two weeks, (new-old) friends and I will be at National Young Writers' Festival (NYWF).

I went for the first time last year and wrote about it here and for the ACT Writers Centre. As we clapped and cheered the organisers at the festival's close, I decided: I. want. to. be. part. of. this.

And I am! (I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet...)

I am making my debut as a NYWF artist in not one, but four (!), events. To top this off, I was mentioned in the same sentence as several high-profile writers in the program announcement.

Will spending the next weeks preparing, eep! 

Do come and say hi at the events below or around the festival xo 

(FULL program here)

Friday 30 September

11am - 12pm Anarchist Audience (with Marlee Jane Ward and Chloe Papas)

Writing a piece is only half the battle - once your work makes its way out into the world, there's no controlling what happens next. And sometimes, the reaction might not be quite what you expected. Prepare to get rowdy as these authors discuss unexpected audience reactions.

4 -6pm Programming Workshop

Whether you're dreaming of a reading, scheming the next big literary shindig or wanting to start a live-stream podcast of your book club meetings, organising an arts event is hard. Navigating venues, money, promotion and people can quickly turn the best into a screaming wreck. Bring your fledgling arts event idea to Shu-Ling Chua and set it soaring to a cafe/pub/public library near you.

Sunday 2 October

11am - 12pm Me, Myself and I: Writing for Yourself Roundtable (with Nina Carter)

When you tell people you're a writer, everyone assumes that you're out to make the bestseller lists, become the next Voice of a Generation, and/or write the next Game of Thrones. But sometimes writing is less about external validation, and more about internal validation. Because at the end of the day, isn't your voice the only one that really matters?

2.30 - 3.30pm Fringe Dwellers (with Jakob Boyd, Chiara Grassia and Harry Maguire)

Living in a small nation that is geographically huge can leave young artists in regional areas isolated and lacking the creative networks of our metropolitan cousins. Some of Australia's parochial movers and shakers get together to discuss how they have started something where there was relatively nothing and the reality of small city living and the arts.


Meanwhile, I will be doing two (!) readings in Canberra next week. 

TUE: reading a piece by a friend Yen-Rong Wong at the launch of Homer, a new website designed to discuss masculinities and promote alternative role models for men.

SAT: reading an excerpt of my essay on casual racism and sexism at Tracks, a one-day program to facilitate, develop, inform, and showcase young writers and publishers in the Canberra region.

This song trickled into my life when I plugged the radio in for the first time in my new home. 

(home is the moment i unpack the stereo.)

Monday, September 5, 2016


I broke down in tears, twice, while writing my latest piece.

The essay meant confronting many things I would rather forget: childhood memories of racism and more recent memories of unwanted sexual advances. Words are my way of fighting back.

Even before I started, I knew it would be challenging, intellectually and emotionally. My friends were trusting me with their stories. I wanted to do justice to not only our experiences but to the writers who inspire me: Alice Pung, Benjamin Law, Lian Low, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Michele Lee, Julie Koh, Omar Musa, Ellen Van Neerven, Angela Serrano...

Now, to find a home for it (and inevitable edits).

I hope the next piece I write is more light-hearted. Even the fairy tales I wrote aged seven are somewhat macabre... formulaic but precociously, paragraphs! They appear translated in Seizure.

Also: a love song to lighten things, somewhat.


The Pretty Goldfish

Once upon a time there lived a little goldfish and her name was Sarah. She was the princess of the ocean.

Everyday she would go outside and play with the another princess fishes. Then one day all her friends said that she was the prettiest fish in the whole ocean.

There was one fish which didn’t like to look nice. It was so smelly that everyone kept away from it. The fish which like ugly like it like that because it didn’t like people very much. And it was very mean.

Sarah wasn’t very happy with that fish. Till one day, Sarah told one of the bravest fish she could find in the whole ocean. She told it to tell the fish that didn’t like people very much that if it didn’t stop being bad some soldiers will kill it. So the bravest fish did it and the fish that didn’t like people very much change it’s mind.

And Sarah became the most beautiful fish in the whole ocean.

The End


The Fairy Rabbit

Once upon a time there lived a rabbit. It was a female rabbit.

She wasn’t just an ordinary rabbit. She was a fairy rabbit. She had a fairy tiara, wand, fairy tutu and a pair of fairy shoes. She also had a pair of wings so she could fly and also had magic. Her name was Sally. She was a good fairy rabbit and she was the youngest fairy.

Everyday she played with her friend in the thick forest where she lived. One of her best friend was elf bear. One day when she was playing with elf bear, a monster came. Sally used her magic to kill it and it worked.

Elf bear was very happy. He told everyone in the whole forest. So Sally became the most powerful fairy rabbit in forest.

The End


The Horse That Turn In To A Unicorn

Long, long ago there lived a horse. It was a female horse. Her name was Susan.

Everyday Susan galloped with her friends. One night a fairy godmother came and change her into a unicorn.

The next day Susan told all her friends about what happen to her. That night Susan and all her friends went to the place where Susan met the fairy godmother.

When they got there they saw the fairy godmother. Susan spoke up first while the others gasped in wonder. She said, “Can you please turn my friends into unicorn each?”

The fairy godmother who likes manners thought Susan had good manners so she decided to turn Susan’s friends into a unicorn each. As she did her spell the fairy godmother said, “May Susan friends turn into a unicorn each.”

Suddenly, there was a FLASH! Susan’s friends had become a unicorn each.

The fairy godmother thought that Susan and her friends didn’t want to be seen by other people who will kill them. So she asked Susan and her friends if they wanted to go to Unicorn Land. Susan and her friends said, “Yes.”

After Susan and her friends said, “Yes”, the fairy godmother put a spell for Susan and her friends to go to Unicorn Land. When they got there, lot of unicorns asked, “What is your name?” Others even asked, “Who are you?”

The unicorns said who they were and they came from. They became bestest of friends and they lived happyily ever after.

The End

Monday, August 29, 2016

fly, my darlings

I say this every year. without. fail.

Where [insert expletive] has the year gone? Seriously. It's been another BIG one.

Photo credit: Ginger Yeh
Last week I read at An evening of awesome with Canberra's award-winning authors. Thank you ACT Writers Centre and Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres for the opportunity. It made my night to meet other local writers I hadn't yet come across who made me shiver and laugh. What talent!

I read 'Not what I wished for', which was recently published in Seizure. It was my first fiction since school and given my memoir inclinations, heavily autobiographical. I worried whether the audience would be able to follow my 'experimental meta fairytale that travels across English and Mandarin' but they laughed at all the right points. (I hadn't thought it was such a funny piece..).

After a few shaky pauses, I found myself thoroughly enjoying myself and focused on an audience member at the back of the room who smiled from beginning to end. IT WAS FUN.

I highly recommend checking out the Translation Edition in full. Elizabeth Bryer (editor) and Alice Grundy (editor-in-chief) are just brilliant. Thanks also to Ginger for her translation.

(I will post the original fairytales I wrote aged seven separately. Soon.)


The next day, I had my first radio interview with Zoya Patel and Rosanna Stevens, both of whom I really, really look up to and have helped me so much as a young, emerging Canberra writer.

Rosie is founder of Scissors Paper Pen, which gave me my first  break, through Papercuts. Zoya is founder of Feminartsy and published 'Biting my tongue', the piece I am most proud of to date.

I can't imagine Canberra without either of them or the excellent organisations they have founded. I certainly would not be the writer I am today without them. Thank you and I owe you big time x

Thanks also to the super-lovely Alex Sloan. So warm and generous.

Without this blog, I'd probably still be writing in my diary. Keeping all 'em words to myself.

As it turns out, my darling word babies are out in the big, wide world... 

fly, my darlings, fly.


Both of these opportunities came about because a friend put my name forward. Nurture your community, whether it be writing or humanity in general. Kindness makes the world go round.
Putting your energy out into the world in support of others is not, as some wrongly imagine, enervating. You don't use up your creative potential when you help someone else grow. You are simply ploughing the fertiliser you will one day be using. Supporting writers inspires you and gives you hope for your own future and possibilities. And, ultimately, it builds your social cache and makes you a person of interest. Taking some time out of your writing schedule to devote to the talents and dreams of others is one of the very best forms of creative self-care.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

hello August!

FIVE homes. FOUR departments. THREE (and a half) years. TWO exes. ONE city.

A friend described me as 'nomadic'. More romantic than 'restless'...
I don't want to own anything until I know I've found the place where me and things belong together. I'm not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it's like... It's like Tiffany's.
- Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote -
I am a chameleon. A sociable wallflower. An impulsive over-thinker (and recovering perfectionist). An imperfect feminist. A dreamer and a realist, still making sense of the world.


I spent last Saturday afternoon bed-shopping at IKEA.

IKEA Canberra opened at the end of last year but this was my first visit. (It feels odd to have outlived Soju Girl and to remember pre-IKEA days. Gosh, I'm really a local now...)

Still packing. My favourite thing about this home: in-built shelves.

Assuming all goes to plan, I will have the keys to my new home on Thursday. Hooray!

Having lived in the inner-south since arriving in Canberra, it feels like a betrayal to cross the lake. (The '2013 War of Indiependence' still cracks me up.) But it looks like I'll be commuting to the Parliamentary Triangle for work, across from the department I started at. Full circle.

(Can't escape the south...)

Speaking of which, my Writers' Other Job piece on working in the public service was published last week by The Writers Bloc. I was described as 'the ever-brilliant'  highlight of my day.
Processes for board appointments, Cabinet and Budget seem tedious to an outsider but keep the grand machine of Government accountable and carefully ticking. There is a way of doing things, a rhythm and order to the Budget cycle, MYEFO (Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, pronounced my-ee-foe) and MoG (Machinery of Government, rhymes with slog) changes. My Melbourne friends expect tales of political drama when the role of the APS is to hold steady in the eye of the storm.
Well, the first highlight... because later that day, I was invited to read at An evening of awesome with award-winning Canberra authors on Wednesday 24 August at Gorman Arts Centre.

My first ever reading, squee! I'm over the moon but also really, really nervous. Many thanks to ACT Writers Centre for the invitation and to my friend Duncan for putting my name forward.

August, you're looking alright xo