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.

Monday, July 18, 2016

five years...

Blogging was supposed to be fun.

It was fun but somehow, along the way to becoming a 'professional writer', I forgot this.

The lack of time and growing pressure to write 'good posts' (just in case an editor stumbles upon this blog, hello!) pushed blogging further and further down my list of things to do.

Thank you to everyone who went out of their way to comment or email me about my last post. It meant a lot to me and reminded me why I started blogging in the first place.

I love the immediacy of posting and commenting, the community. I've met some wonderful women through writing and reading blogs (see a list of my favourites on the right).

I am so, so grateful to everyone who has given me a 'break' as a writer... from Eat This Poem to Scissors Paper Pen and the ACT Writers Centre to BMA, Noted, Feminartsy and Voiceworks.

I've worked with excellent editors who have challenged me and help me grow. 

And now... I'm in a position to give back. 

'Inspire / mentor someone.' I wrote it down a year ago on my list of goals. ('Exercise' = fail...) 

I LOVE it when readers contact me but I especially love helping other writers.

Do, do tell a writer if you like their work. It means the world to us.

Emerging Writers' Festival was a week of having my ego stroked and it was lovely. My editor, who is also a genuinely cool guy, even introduced me as 'a talented writer from Canberra'!!!

Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked.

The list of people I have to thank continues to grow but in all honesty, starting this blog was my first 'break'. hello pollyanna (and its previous incarnation, lagom lycklig) is a space to share my musings on life. I've certainly come a long, long way from my first post five years ago.

Pretty good innings, don't you think? Thanks for sticking with me xo

Friday, July 8, 2016

calm after the storm

My darling readers

I had grand plans of sharing what I learnt at Emerging Writers' Festival. It will take a while to work my notes into something cohesive so for now, here is advice to hold close forever and ever.
For the rest of eternity, your story will never come again.
- Courtney Sina Meredith -
The more I write, the less time I have for blogging. While I'm not quite ready to step away from hello pollyanna, I'm re-assessing my writing goals and where to concentrate my time and effort.

Should I return to my manuscript, for example, or continue pitching and building my portfolio? Would I be better off focusing on writing prizes and fellowships? Should I keep blogging?

Neither in the 'big leagues' nor a 'beginning writer', I haven't felt I've been producing work I know I'm capable of. It's not enough to be published. I want my work to be worth sharing.

My first fiction piece since primary school (!) will be published shortly. So used to writing about myself and knowing how a story 'ends', it was challenging but I had an excellent editor who encouraged me to see what came out of the writing, rather than worrying about its message.

I'm also re-working a 'Writers' Other Jobs' piece for The Writers Bloc, following feedback from friends. I had the deadline extended to the end of July as I really want to get it right.

Finally, a couple of excellent blogs recently discovered: book-plate (literary criticism and recipes) and Extraordinary Routines (an interview project on the daily routines of creatives).

SL xo

Thursday, June 16, 2016

my EWF debut

It's 8.40pm. I'm exhausted and my shoulders ache...

The early nights and mornings worked well for a week but late nights have crept back in. First one, then another... the beginning of a cycle I am determined to break.

I'm catching the first flight tomorrow (6.25am!) to Melbourne for Emerging Writers' Festival which I'm so, so excited about. Please do say hi if you happen to be at any these events too.

FRI - Masterclass: A Room of One's Own

SAT and SUN - National Writers' Conference

MON - Masterclass: Emerging Programmers (speaking on my first ever panel, eep!)

TUE - Masterclass: Criticism

WED - Songs and Stories of Home and Late Night Lit: Midwinter Nocturne

(straight back to work on Thursday)

I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, testing new ideas and absorbing tips, tricks and industry secrets like a sponge.

Most importantly, Mum will be celebrating and supporting the arts with me on Wednesday which I'm really excited about. It's not often that we go to events like this together. I love you Mum xo

Now to decide what to wear...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

new habits

Sooo... a week back in Canberra and I'm still waking up at 5 or 6 in morning.

I've always thought about waking earlier to write but old habits die hard. Until now...

I like the quiet time, before the rest of the world wakes. The last couple of nights, I slept at 10.30 and 8.30. Jet-lag: a blessing in disguise... I hope this resetting of my body clock lasts.


Words published last week:

1. Review of Catherine Deveny's Use Your Words

Anyone can be a writer, if they really, truly want to be: ‘the ‘talent’ is to know it’s not talent that matters, but commitment, effort, application, persistence and working hard.’ Complementing Deveny’s practical tips are several inspirational stories, which lend Use Your Words an unmistakeable self-help tone. A lot of Deveny’s lessons can be applied to life and achieving goals more generally, which makes sense. Writing doesn’t happen in isolation from the rest of one’s life.

You can read the rest here.

2. What We've Been Reading: May for Voiceworks

Every once in a while you come across a writer you wish you’d known about earlier. Elizabeth Caplice is one such writer. ‘Photos – Bodies that Matter – Images’ caught my attention in February with its unshakeable grace and resolve so this month, I’ve been reading more of her work here.
‘Our terminal bodies are not supposed to be sexy, but frail and breaking to pieces this close to death. My terminal body wants and needs more than that though. I want it to be outside that framework that seems to hover around the word terminal.’
Diagnosed with stage IV rectal cancer in June 2014, Caplice’s willingness to let us into her vulnerability is what makes her writing – ‘about cancer, craft, bipolar, and how these things intersect with other stuff’ – so powerful. To describe such writing as ‘honest’ doesn’t quite go far enough to capture its incredible depth; it’s unflinchingly visceral, with a touch of poetry and brutal icky-ness.
Admittedly, I know very little about cancer or illness and would ideally keep it this way. To remain ignorant however seems selfish. As this recent conversation between Ginger Gorman and Caplice shows, cancer is neither brave nor inspirational. But it can be eye-opening.
You can read the rest here.

Ellen Cregan (VIC) and Nina Carter (QLD) share gems from their respective states.

If you're under 25 and Australian, we'd LOVE to see your fiction, nonfiction, poetry, artwork and/or comics. Submissions for issue #105 'Nerve' close 19 June (writing) and 17 July (art) here.

Oh, and we launch issue #104 'Cake' in Melbourne at Emerging Writers' Festival Wed 22 June, Brisbane Thu 23 June and Canberra Sat 25 June. Hope to see you there xo

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Berlin (day 21 -25)

Berlin made sense in a way London never quite did.

It was easier to navigate, cheaper and invited curiosity. That sense of wonder I felt in New York re-emerged in Berlin, a city that didn't quite awake up until midday. Even the € felt familiar...

(from previous trips, not imaginary)

I'd heard a lot about Berlin from friends. That it was artistic, full of history, really cool... 

and that I'd love it.


Day 21 (Friday)

I like to explore a city on my own terms so tourist attractions get 'ticked off' early.

I personally know someone who passed through Checkpoint Charlie so it was strange to see how tourist-y it'd become... to the point of comical. I'd read about this but seeing it was another thing.

Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)

Checkpoint Charlie
It's the little details that make a city.

The words below caught my eye within moments of arriving in Berlin. They spoke so much to me, of the city, of who I was, am and wish to be, that I captured it with my last Polaroid shot.

Day 22 (Saturday)

While in Stockholm, I happened to read a Daily Life article presenting Neukölln as 'the coolest suburb in the world'. Naturally, I was intrigued and made a mental note to check its veracity.

I caught the train to Neukölln station but instinct told me I should have gotten off two stops earlier at Rathaus Neukölln. I hopped back on the train and emerged on a section of Karl-Marx-Straße selling Persian rugs, wigs, old mobile phones and elegant Muslim wedding gowns.

Where were the hipsters promised?

I followed Karl-Marx-Straße north towards yet an earlier station, Hermannplatz. Fortunately, I'd googled 'vintage stores in Berlin' a few days earlier so I knew to turn onto Weserstraße. Success.

The whole time I'd been walking parallel to the very stores and cafés I sought. I couldn't help feeling amused. Weserstraße lay just two blocks from Karl-Marx-Straße.

(I later learnt that Neukölln suburb is located within a borough of the same name.)

It was cool though the highlight was dinner in the warm summer air.

Also, I bought the type of sunnies I'd often laughed at on others. Mine are less reflective at least.

Day 23 (Sunday)

While I didn't feel ready to engage with the city's dark past, the Berlin Wall Memorial, stretching 1.4 kilometres along the former border strip, was certainly worth a visit .

Imagine being desperate enough to crawl into a dark, damp tunnel that could collapse on you, burying you alive. Or being pregnant and jumping from your home bordering the wall into a fireman’s net. How desperate would you need to be to risk your life and that of your unborn child? To leap to possible death – death from hitting the pavement or being shot, arrested.

You'd never guess from the blue skies.

Day 24 (Monday)

Spent final day exploring my local neighbourhood (Prenzlauer Berg) and neighbouring Mitte.

There was so much I hadn't seen yet no angst.

I think I'll see Berlin again. She'll wait, regardless.

Day 25 (Tuesday)

Spent the morning finalising packing, then went to see the dilapidated East Side Gallery (essentially the most 'celebrated' wall of grafitti you'll come across). I didn't stay long.

Crossed River Spree into Kreuzberg, another area I didn't have time to see, and back.

And with that, my second dalliance with Europe came to a close.

Until next time xo