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On Writing 52 Tuesdays

52 Tuesdays is a locally produced feature-film by Adelaide-based collective Closer Productions. It explores the relationship between a mother and daughter over a year, a year in which the mother decides to transition to become a man. 52 Tuesdays was filmed once a week, every Tuesday, for a year – with the scripts for each week constantly evolving, metered out to the performers week by week. Screenwriter Matthew Cormack speaks about the process of writing such a unique film:52Tuesdays_still_cast_promo_-Tilda with moustache biscuit-_TildaCobham-Hervey_CreditbyNatRogers.JPG

The genesis of this project was a simple pitch I wrote at the bottom of a page of many other ideas. It was something like: “Every Tuesday, every week for a year, a man and a woman meet. Shot over a year, every weekon Tuesday, with two actors, it is an exploration of how time and circumstance affects our relationships.” Like a lot of initial script ideas this is different from the final product. However, it’s wonderful to look back to this as it does remind me that the reason I was drawn to making a film this way, as a writer, was how time and circumstance might affect storytelling. I was interested in how chance and disruption might change the experience of telling a story and simultaneously the experience of being told a story.

What initially seemed like an arbitrary set of filmmaking rules became an interesting production model, a meditation on time and compartmentalisation, and eventually became integral to the story itself.

It seemed to me how we made the film, confining our narrative and shoot time to fifty-two consecutive Tuesdays, could inform the very ideas of what the characters were grappling with, especially around the pursuit of authenticity and the promise of change. Is it possible to live an authentic life? As creators, is it possible to create an “authentic” fiction?

I will say little about the actual process of making the film as it’s there to see on screen now. What I will say about it is that from the very start there was an overall story document that was worked and reworked throughout the year, and there was always the plan to script before we shot – in the end, for production logistics, the week’s script always had to be “ready” at least a few Tuesdays ahead of time. So while there was never a lack of intention, vision, and careful planning, due to the nature of the production, there was also never a lack of wonderful disruptions, accidents, and circumstance that significantly affected what I was writing. That was exciting. Ultimately, however, as a writer, it was not about relinquishing control to some kind of chance and circumstance but about the opportunity to embrace the chaos of the unknown in a way that would hopefully show me (and consequently an audience) something about the challenge of constructing a life, a story, an identity, a gender, a sexuality, only with the materials we’re given in our short, limited lives.

52 Tuesdays is screening at the Palace Nova Cinemas now.

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John Griffin Obituary

By Mike Ladd

Born: July 5, 1935, Boleroo Centre

Died: September 9, 2012, Adelaide.

Poet, playwright and short story writer John Griffin grew up at Hammond in the mid-north of South Australia, the son of a farmer and shop owner. The family farm was often in the grip of drought – John used to joke that Goyder’s line ran “right through the middle of our dining room.” The landscape of the Wilochra plain and the realities of its starve-acre farms are a strong feature of John’s writing. At Hammond primary school he was taught by the Jindiworobak poet Flexmore Hudson, a lucky event which helped begin his lifelong love of poetry and story-telling. The family sold the farm in 1950 and moved to Adelaide where John was already attending Sacred Heart College. John went on to teachers’ college and began a thirty-six year career as a high school teacher. Later he taught at Adelaide College for the Arts in the professional writing course.

John published two books of poetry in the 1970s: A Waltz on Stones (Makar,1974) and Menzies at Evening (Angus and Robertson, 1977). He was also an accomplished radio playwright, penning many plays for the ABC. One of his most successful was One Tango With Juan Peron, starring Robyn Nevin in the lead role. It was about a housewife who had such a vivid fantasy life she actually believed she had an intimate relationship with the famous Argentine president. John Griffin’s stories and radio-plays were often about ordinary people who had a secret somewhere, or a strange fantasy, revealing unexpected depths.

John was one of the driving forces in the early days of South Australia’s long-running Friendly Street poetry reading, and for a brief time was poetry editor of The Advertiser. Along with Peter Goldsworthy, Peter McFarlane, Barry Westburg and me, John was a member of the Hot Seat Writing Group which met at the Left Bank Cafe, long-since demolished. The members of the group helped to edit each other’s work, and despite forthright commentary, stayed good friends.

John’s last book Backyard, was published by Wakefield Press in 1997. Dedicated to his Italian father in law, it’s a collection of humble, illuminating memoirs and poems about a lifetime of gardening. John himself was a humble man. He was the last person to self-promote, though he could be quietly assertive. He leaves behind a significant contribution to South Australian literature.

In his final years John suffered from Lewy Body Dementia and was admitted to Tappeiner Court Nursing Home. He died there just two months after the death of his wife Tina. John is survived by his daughter Emma, and two sons, John and Andrew.

If I don’t finish that story, I will not be able to pay the mortgage…

By Mark Dapin

I started my writing day at six o’clock this morning, when I printed out and proofed the first chapter of my upcoming military history book. I’m already weeks behind schedule with the book, which has to be in the shops in November. I must complete another chapter before the end of the day, otherwise I simply will not make the deadline. Unfortunately, tomorrow is my deadline for a 2600-word magazine feature story about a Scandinavian author, whom I visited a couple of weeks ago at his home in southern Sweden. If I don’t finish that story, I will not be able to pay the mortgage (perhaps not this month, but in a few months’ time). dapintall

I was supposed to fly to Melbourne tomorrow to interview a philosopher for a newspaper but, thankfully, the job was cancelled when the paper decided it couldn’t afford the flight (it needs its budget to pay the salaries of all the executives who are running the company into the ground). I would’ve had to complete that 1800-word story in 48 hours, which would’ve meant staying up most of tomorrow night. I’m also working on the second draft of my latest novel. It isn’t urgent – I’ve been paid the advance and I don’t need to deliver for months – but it’s the work I love the most and I can’t wait to see it finished, so it’d be fantastic to get an hour or so done today. But if I don’t write at least 2000 fresh words of the military history book this afternoon, I won’t be able to get the first 50,000 words off to publisher on Monday, one moth late.

So what’s my plan? Well, I’m going to finish this blog post, inviting you all to join me at my masterclass on April 5-6, in which I’ll explain to you how I manage to keep sane and keep writing, and then I’m going to the gym…

 

Mark Dapin’s CV is one of the most diverse in Australia. Mark was nominated for the Miles Franklin Award for his novel Spirit House and won the Ned Kelly Award for his novel King of the Cross. He has done time as the editor-in-chief of men’s magazines, a bestselling travel writer and beloved newspaper columnist in the Adelaide Advertiser and Good Weekend.

Mark will be holding a two day workshop at SAWC 5 and 6 April, 2014.

Connecting the unconnected – ideas, creativity and storytelling at Adelaide Writers’ Week

by Rose Hartley

As I fumble my way through the second draft of my novel, writers’ guides call out to me from every corner of my bookcase, claiming to be able to help me craft a story that someone might want to read. The latest one I’ve picked up is Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story, which uses brain science to try to explain why stories are so necessary to humans, and why we crave to know what happens next.

Of all the Adelaide Writers’ Week sessions, Telling Stories seemed the most likely to open up the craft of storytelling and explore how to develop an idea into a powerful story. Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers) and Fiona McFarlane (The Night Guest) did their best to pick their own brains and lay out how they work as storytellers.

Rachel Kushner unravelled the stories within her stories, that is, the way her characters use story in order craft their own identities in front of others. She explained it as similar to being attracted to someone: making yourself hostage to a person in order to hear their self-created story. Even if the story is a lie, you’ll suspend your disbelief if the person is a good storyteller. And that’s what her characters do.

“There’s an essential truth to the way that people lie about themselves,” Rachel said – and sometimes it’s so strong that we dupe ourselves. “For instance, when I’m saying something that I believe is earnest, I experience myself being earnest.”

The moderator asked, “So are our lives shaped by our perceptions?”

Fiona McFarlane’s response was a simple yes, and she used her protagonist as an example. Ruth’s brain, mixed up by the beginnings of dementia, “is telling her a new story, and she must figure out which world is the most likely,” since her sensory perceptions are lying to her. Fiona went on to talk about the “anxious gap” between perception and reality, and how as a writer that gap enabled her to create the character of Frida, who co-opts and manipulates Ruth’s story.

It’s all very well to hone in on the details of how characters experience story, but what about the writer who’s creating a whole, novel-length story with a beginning, a middle and an end? Rachel touched on this when she began talking about her novel’s themes.

“I enjoy putting two things into play that don’t necessarily relate to each other, and seeing how things turn out, without forcing them into some kind of logical continuity,” she said. Sometimes, of course, the unconscious mind connects them naturally. And this, to me, seems the definition of creativity: connecting two things that were previously unconnected.

“My unconscious is smarter and more interesting than I am”

Rachel described herself as an intuitive writer, saying she doesn’t always think about what she’s doing. “My unconscious is smarter and more interesting than I am,” she explained.

It reminded me of something that Isabel Allende wrote in Paula: that she doesn’t write a word of a new novel until she has the first sentence, and then she just writes, almost without thinking, tapping into something that’s lurking in her subconscious, just waiting to put itself onto the page. It’s a good reminder to put the writers’ guides away and just get on with the thing.

Rose Hartley is a writer and copywriter whose first novel is currently shortlisted for the Varuna Publisher Introduction Program. She blogs at rosehartley.com.au and her short fiction will feature in the upcoming Right Now anthology, to be launched on May 29 as part of the Emerging Writers Festival.

Don’t Give Up Your Day Job

By Paul Greenway

travelwriting

I always open my Travel Writing Workshop with this first rule of travel writing (although I ignored it myself).  While it is possible to make money writing travel articles for magazines and websites, it is unlikely – but certainly not impossible – that you’ll earn a decent living. But you can at least subsidise your travel costs (or maybe even get some free trips) while indulging in your love of writing.

Before you start, however, you’ll need to be honest with yourself and determine your motivation. Are you just writing for yourself, family and friends? Do you really want to be published and read by the public? Or are you more driven by the desire to make money? Your answers will determine the level of commitment you will require to become and remain a travel writer.

An increasingly popular alternative is to create a travel blog through a specific website, such as http://www.travelpod.com. This allows you to write what you want when you want with no editorial interference. In this way, your thoughts and experiences can be read quickly across the globe, but, of course, your chances of making any money are extremely remote.

To earn an income, you’ll almost certainly need to publish articles through recognised travel magazines, newspapers and websites.  But the good news is that writers are always still needed to write these articles, as well as guidebooks, for the incredibly escalating travel industry. There are pitfalls and potholes to avoid, of course, about pitching editors, retaining copyright, negotiating fees, sending photos, and so on … and so on.

But perhaps you may want to also think a little outside the box, as I have: eg publish your own guidebook for a place or readership not currently covered; write a movie script or novel based in an exotic country; or get out your still- or video-camera and create something different.

C’mon along and learn about all of this – and so much more – at the Travel Writing Workshop at the SA Writers’ Centre on Saturday, January 18 2014.

Paul Greenway wrote and co-wrote 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, as well as numerous travel articles for magazines, newspapers and websites across Australia and Asia. More recently, he wrote Tuttle Travel Pack: Bali & Lombok, and is currently writing and providing photos for Journey Through Bali, both published by Periplus (Singapore). In late 2013, his first novel, Bali & Oates, set almost entirely in Bali and the first of a trilogy set in SE Asia, was published. Paul can be contacted through his website: www.paulgreenway.net

Top Five Tweeting Tips for Writers

By Michelle “Prakky” Prak

That’s right – it’s time to embrace the digital age and often Twitter is a neglected resource for writers. Prakky shares her top five tips on how to best utilise Twitter if you are a writer. twitterrr

1.       Follow and interact with other writers. Twitter works best as a place to have real conversations and to build support networks.

2.       Use your Twitter bio wisely. Make sure to tell the world you’re a writer, mention titles of your work or where to access it, and include your website address if you have one.

3.       Find and participate in relevant hashtags such as #writers #writing #poetry – and look out for relevant conference or event hashtags that emerge occasionally.

4.       Follow other writers’ Twitter accounts for encouragement and insights. You may find yourself chatting with @neilhimself or @MargaretAtwood  or @AmyTanWriter  or @BretEastonEllis or more!

5.       Consider Twitter as another space for story-sharing. While each tweet must be confined to 140 characters, don’t let this stop you from sharing multiple consecutive tweets to get your point across or to share a piece of work. You can include links to longer pieces of writing on your own website. Or you might enjoy the discipline of the character limit, finding it inspires creative approaches to communicating.

How have you used Twitter to help with your writing, promoting your work or making connections in the industry? We’d love to hear your tips – share below!

Michelle Prak, aka ‘Prakky’, is one of South Australia’s leading social media consultants. Prakky works with businesses and government departments to deliver social media programs. She can be heard regularly on ABC Radio 891 and is a caretaker of the Adelaide social media network, SocAdl.

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