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

Monday, July 25, 2016

oh, july

Second hateful July in a row... thankfully close to over!

The next few weeks will be busy. I spent this weekend packing to move to my fifth (!) home in Canberra and tying loose ends. I am so, so close to submitting my 'Writers' Other Jobs' piece...


I always uncover long-lost clippings, and memories, when packing. This time, I discovered: 

– a ridiculous number of notebooks. Friends keep gifting me notebooks, not realising I tend to write electronically. Writing is not at all romantic... ah well, plenty of empty pages to fill!

– 'The career advice I wish I had at 25', published in The Australian last year and given to me as a farewell gift by a supervisor. In case the link fails in future:
  1. A career is a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. Success comes from repetition.
  3. Get your priorities right.
  4. Always act like you are 35.
  5. Management is about people, not things.
  6. Genuinely listen to others.
  7. Never work for horrible b*stards.
  8. Recognise that staff are people with finite emotional capacity.
  9. Don't just network with people your own age.
  10. Take the time to understand what your business does.
  11. Work in an office where you have friends.
  12. Never sacrifice personal ethics for a work reason.
  13. Recognise that failure is learning.

– the speech I wrote below for the Canberra launch of Voiceworks issue #104 a month ago.

BIG belated thank you to everyone who came to support xo


Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the Ngunnawal Peoples. I extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here tonight.

Thank you all so much for braving the cold and coming out tonight to celebrate the launch of Voiceworks issue 104, ‘Cake’. Tonight we have three talented writers who will be sharing work they’ve had published in Voiceworks but before that, I’d like to tell you a bit about this magazine, Express Media and why both are so important to young writers and artists around Australia.

One year ago, I was 24 and just beginning to test the idea of being a writer. I’d been writing privately for years in my diary and then a private blog. I didn’t study writing so I didn’t know a writing community existed. I didn’t know Voiceworks existed until a friend I’d met through Scissors Paper Pen sent me a Facebook invite to submit to this magazine. So I did, twice. Both times my work was not published but here I am now, part of the editorial committee (EdComm).

What I love about Voiceworks is that is every submission, even if it isn’t published, receives detailed feedback. Everyone on EdComm, like our writers and artists, are aged under 25. We all know what’s like to be just starting out, uncertain, intimidated, doubtful. This is why Voiceworks and Express Media are so important; we know what it’s like to be a young artist and we’re totally in your corner.

Voiceworks is based in Melbourne but it really is a national publication, open to all. You just have to be under 25 when you submit. I’m now going to read a snippet of Lucy Adam’s editorial because I think it perfectly captures what Voiceworks is about:

In a culture that tells young writers what they do doesn’t matter and isn’t valued, Voiceworks provides a safe space – a rebel base, a radiation free zone, a rogue space station. You don’t need a bankable name to be published here or to be welcomed into our community. We hear your voice, and it does matter. When the world has abandoned us and deemed us expendable, we get scrappy, we get resourceful, we build a shanty town out of blasted tin and tell each other stories.

Before I wrap up, I want to mention a few other really cool Express Media things. There’s:
  • the John Marsden and Hachette Australia Prize for Young Writers aged 18 and under (entries close next Friday 1 July);
  • the Scribe Non-fiction Prize for Young Writers aged 30 and under (entries close in two weeks Sunday 10 July); and
  • Tracks, a pop-up masterclass program for young writers which will be coming to Canberra on 24 September.

Finally, we’re still taking visual art and comic submissions for our next issue ‘Nerve’.  Submissions close 19 July.

I highly, highly recommend buying a copy of issue 104, subscribing to Voiceworks and donating to Express Media. Express Media was one of 62 arts organisations defunded last month in the most recent round of Australia Council grants last month so your support is very important to us.

One year ago I was attending the launch of Voiceworks issue 100 at the NLA. I never would have guessed I’d be launching issue 104 a year later. So, believe in yourself, make friends tonight and grab a drink from the bar before we have Zhi Yi Cham, Hugo Branley and Hannah Church share their beautiful poetry with us.