CURRICULUM WORSTAE #9: BEAN DOWN SO GODDAMN LONG

Robots

‘Err, umm, God bless?’ I muttered as I handed over my resume to the angry looking woman behind the counter. She immediately and visibly brightened.
‘And God bless you too!’
It had been rumoured for a long time that Gloria Jeans was owned by the Hillsong Church and was staffed entirely by brainwashed evangelists. I’d been wandering the streets forweeks by that point, desperate for any sort of casual wage so I could pay the rent. I felt that passing myself off as a believer was a small price to pay
She took a cursory look at my one page CV and winked at me. ‘We’ll give you a call.’

A week later I stood behind the counter at Gloria Jeans for a trial shift. The place smelt like coffee in pain. They taught me various ways to torture the beans – the crushing device, the milk burner, the thing where you put the ingredients and steam goes in it? In seemingly no time at all, I knew all the basics of how to utterly mutilate a cup of coffee.
‘Here you go, have a cup of the coffee you made!’ said my excited sixteen-year-old manager.
‘Please no’ I whispered. She looked at me like a puppy meeting a sassy tropical bird.
‘I’m lactose intolerant’ I told her.

My Bible-fearing, milk-hating web of lies collapsed by the third day, when my carefully contrived persona was shattered when one of the ‘baristas’ handed me a boiling hot metal thing that you packed full of beans and then shot boiling water through. The boiling hot coffee thing. He handed it to me, potentially to clean the beans out, but not being able to read his mind or identify the contraption, simply grabbed it in my hand.
‘JESUS CRAPPING ON A DOG’ I screamed, as the super heated metal burnt my hand skin.
‘God fucking mother shit’ I continued, running it under water. All the teen management looked at me scandalised. The customers, people who willingly put our boiling bean-swill in their mouths, couldn’t care less, obviously being either incredibly tough or devoid of feelings and taste. Later that day someone asked which church I attended. My breezy answer of ‘the one around the corner, you know, Saint MUrmbls’ didn’t seem to cut it. I was caught by a manager sitting at a REAL coffee shop on my break, desperately inhaling un-poisoned caffeine into my face.

When I was let go at the end of the week, in an exit-interview held by two High School dropouts, who were concerned that in the end, I might find somewhere else which would make me happier to work (re: literally anywhere else), I took my trial shift money and realised that sometimes, no matter how desperate you are, you have to draw the line. Look what I’d become – a creature of lies and malice, literally burned in the course of trying to make a buck. It was time to take a stand, and never again would I blasphemy like that – from now on, I would never impugn the holy name of coffee. Because if there’s one thing I believe in, in this crazy, mixed up world, it’s coffee.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #8: KNIFE FIGHT

Mosquitoes

Hey, think you’re pretty tough working at the LAVA FACTORY or in the SWORD FIGHTING PIT, I bet you do. Oh, you save kittens from fires, do you? Oh, you climb tall mountains to study goats, that’s pretty dangerous, I suppose. If you’re, like, I dunno, a giant wuss?

Me? No, I don’t working in the danger-field anymore, I got out of that racket, you can bet on it, whoo-boy. Yeah, I worked at Boyles Hotel in Sutherland. Yeah – that Boyles. The Boyles on the ass of the Shire. They say bikies used to frequent the joint in the eighties, and start fights and do other things that bikies do. Like sing ‘Leader of the Pack’ and turn into werewolves. Yeah – bikie stuff. And you know, all the bikies who didn’t die from their violent lifestyle – they’re still there. Yeah, you can see them in the corner, on dialysis and shit. And let me tell you, they sure get mad if you don’t mix their Toohey’s Old and Toohey’s New in exactly the correct amounts. Real mad. Mad enough to cough a whole bunch and nearly die right in front of you.

And yeah – the bottleshop attached to Boyles was legit dangerous. Lots of undercover cops hoping to catch us selling to teenagers. And let me tell you – they were right to suspect us. Not because we made it a habit, but because I was so shit at maths, I would regularly fuck up calculating their age from their license. And once, and I swear I’m not even fucking with you at all, some guy came and threw a knife directly at my head. A knife! And then my supervisor, who now represents Australia in some form of martial arts, vaulted over the bar and chased him down and like, kicked him in the face. Apparently this guy was a serial repeat offender in the ‘throwing knives at us’ game.

Why did I leave? I guess you could say I got burnt out – staring danger in the face and not flinching takes it out of you. Or I guess I decided that maybe serving beers to the worst people in the world had lost its glamour. Or I guess, more truthfully, the managers were giant homophobes and took all my shifts away because “they don’t want to work with a fag” yeah, I guess that was probably it. And then one evening, I’m coming home on the train and one of the supervisors is high as a kite and he comes and tells me, ‘yeah, man, nobody would work with you because you were gay’ and for some reason the only thing I can think to say in response is ‘I’l show them gay’ and shake my fist a whole bunch, while this guy just chews and chews on his tongue. 

URGH, WRITING: I only tell the truth – the dangers of non-fiction

Elf-You-Sit-on-a-Throne-of-Lies

 

As a fiction writer, having any sort of commitment to the truth is the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, in my stories, generally I have no regard for the inherent truth of anything – from gravity to medicine to the eternal building blocks of the universe. I am quite happy to disregard all of them. It’s kind of my thing.

As a creative non-fiction writer, I have managed to almost entirely circumvent the issue of ‘truth’ by only writing stories about myself. This probably comes from a place of utter vanity, but I prefer to think that because it is my experiences, I can therefore use myself as a protagonist and focus on my ‘voice’ as the medium for both the comedy and any meaning that manages to seep in accidentally. But even that method, as self-centred and safe as it was, ran into an issue when my story included comments made by a dear friend’s parents. I was not only publishing the story on this site, but I was also reading it at Story Club, to a room which I knew included some mutual friends. The story in question is called Animal Cruelty. At first I felt that the story, even involving someone else’s parents and house and experiences was still MY story – it happened to me, it was through the (unreliable) narration of my memory, why did I have to ask permission to use it?

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt uncomfortable with the idea of someone I care about turning on the internet with their morning cup of coffee, whistling jauntily and then reading a snarky blog post about his own family and then spilling his coffee or something.  That would be devastating. Or having it get back to him through other friends. It didn’t seem polite. So, in the end I ran it past him and everything seemed dandy. Certainly I felt more confident about presenting it, and felt like maybe I was sharing a story. He might be nursing a giant grudge in secret, but on the outside, he seems fine, and I suppose that’s all we can hope for in the end.

As some of you might remember, I am trying to get a project off the ground where I travel around the world and visit all the delightful weirdos I used to play on the internet with when I was a teenager. I pitched it for last year’s SOYA, which I was a finalist in, most due to the sterling effort of everyone I know getting involved and expressing enthusiasm for the project. Anyway, I’m still working hard at getting this project off the ground, writing grant applications and the like (and I will be going for SOYA again this year, be warned, I will once again be doing my best puppy dog eyes so everyone can help me get this novel to happen). One of the few actual steps forward I have made is getting a series of flash fictions published by Seizure as part of their Alt-Txt initiative. Each of these flash fictions is a quick profile on some of the people I hope to be featuring in my book. They should be coming out in fits and bursts soon.

Anyway – after I finished my first draft of these, I realised that while I was focusing on MY interaction with these people, the things I knew about them, how I saw them, how we i-met, how we e-interacted, I discovered that some of the stories I’d touched on were definitely not mine to tell. In three noticeable pieces, they were not simply just stories I had no claim to – they were deeply personal experiences of horror and pain.

A quick disclaimer – 90% of these stories are just silly and funny, but it was the leftover 10% that I started to have issues with.

Srsly silly, I'm also doing 'art' to match each story. This is one.

Srsly silly, I’m also doing ‘art’ to match each story. This is one.

It became quickly apparent that I couldn’t post these stories on the internet – the place where these people live – without first consulting the subjects of them, and letting them read it. It was honestly a terrifying experience. Even though I was completely prepared to let them have veto on the stories for any reason whatseover, not even just if they objected to what I was saying about them,  even if they just thought I was shit at sentence structure, it still highlighted the fact that I was taking liberties with someone else’s life. Taking their experiences, their entire being and then having the hide to transform it into something to read and digest. Why on earth would I be qualified to do that?

Luckily, while I was having a genuine freakout about this, I asked all the wonderful writers I know on Facebook how they dealt with this feeling of responsibility. I was quickly reassured that the only thing I could do was run it past the subjects of the piece – and that some people actually make a habit of not doing that. I also realised that a lot of people I know routinely write about incredibly tricky interactions – troublesome family interactions, ex-partners, current significant others.

It was the first time I’ve felt in a position of responsibility as a writer. As a producer or creative director of projects, sure, I’ve had huge degrees of responsibility to other people. But as a writer, writing about the things I write, the only person I had to worry about displeasing is myself, and I shed any dignity or embarrassment years ago. One of my fiction pieces, which was fairly widely circulated, including in newspapers, was about a family at a funeral. It just so happened that it was re-published shortly after my grandfathers funeral. Even though the dead person in this story was a grandma, my grandfather’s side of the family decided the story was about them, and also decided it wasn’t a flattering depiction and therefore decided to get offended. I think non-writers constantly look for themselves in the writing of people they know. And I think as writers we all know that inspiration rarely works in a A+B= C scenario. It’s quite likely there was some of that family somewhere in my fictional depiction. However – considering it was originally published a year before my grandfather’s death, I felt quite safe in ignoring this particularly brand of self-entitled butt-hurt, unless they suspected I could foretell the future and was using that ability for literary gain.

The majority of the subjects of the Alt-Txt project (People I’ve Never Met from Places That Don’t Exist) were completely fine with the stories I’d written about them. In some cases, the sensitive topic I was bringing up allowed us to have a bit of an air-clearing chat, mostly about the ‘follies of youth’. I realised that through writing about these experiences, some which I’ve held to my chest for over a decade as something unresolved, has allowed me to tick them off in a sense, to put a full-stop at the end of that particular life experience. One particular subject, whose profile included an immensely difficult time of their life, decided that I should know the details about what actually happened to them, and not just what I vaguely remembered or had perhaps heard from other sources. What became immediately obvious is that their story was not adequately being told my me, was not being given justice. They didn’t mind that I was attempting – they just wanted my attempt to have all the information that it needed to work.

My responsibility to their story quickly told me that a flash fiction was not the place to attempt to tell the entirety of it. This was something that will have to wait for the novel, I think. There was also the issue of how someone is represented by something as transient as a mico-non-fiction. Does something that happened TO them have to be included in something so small? Is it an essential part of them? All I can do is provide a snap-shot, a preview of a person in this project. Thematically for this work – internet pieces about the internet – it fits. And does shying away from something more difficult to tell mean that I am simply being a coward, that I am whitewashing their life? I’ve endeavoured to make a compromise, and will be sending the final draft later today to see what they think.

I think as a writer, I have to be aware of the increased responsibility I have in telling a story that isn’t mine, and that all I can endeavour to do is write it as well as I can, and be as transparent as possible with the people it directly affects. I think that’s what is expected of me. I think there is still danger present, but perhaps with increased risk comes an increased reward, and I might be telling stories that deserve to be told. Maybe. I miss writing about SASSY HAWKS.

A LIST OF THINGS I LIKE

A LIST OF THINGS I LIKE

* PEGADORS
* NOT HAVING INSOMNIA
* STYLISH CLOTHES
* SWORDS
* COMIC BOOKS
* BOOKS
* NAKED BODIES
* TELLING LIES
* TELLING STORIES
* SHOES
* PEOPLE WHO TRY
* ROBOTS
* HISTORY
* DINOSAUR
* SPEAKING ELVISH
* PLANNING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
* BEING REALLY ORGANISED
* INTERESTING PEOPLE
* WHISKEY
* WINE
* REALLY GOOD BEERS THE KIND OF BEER YOU DRINK AND SAY WOW THAT IS A REALLY GOOD BEER
* DOGS
* LAUGHING
* SAD MUSIC
* HAPPY MUSIC
* MUSIC THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS SUNG BY A BANJO SPIRIT WHO LIVES IN THE FOREST
* BANJOS
* FORESTS
* THE PAST
* POTENTIALLY THE FUTURE
* WRITING
* WRITERS
* FRIENDS
* SPRING
* AUTUMN
* SKYRIM
* GOOD HAIRCUTS
* SOCIAL MEDIA
* THINKING ABOUT MARKETING BOOKS
* TINA FEY
* BRIDGET LUTHERBORROW
* VARIOUS CATS
* PIZZA
* AMY POEHLER
* THE TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED MOVIE (1984)
* MARTINIS
* KURT VONNEGUT
* COLD DAYS
* GREEN
* WATCHING MOVIES I’VE ALREADY SEEN
* FUNNY THINGS
* WRITING LISTS

Urgh, Writing: ‘to write the same way that you… are!’

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I saw this the other day on Shabby Dollhouse and it was one of those perfect moments. I started writing creative non-fiction memoir stuff on this blog kind of by accident, but it wasn’t until Ben Jenkins asked me to read a story at Story Club years ago, that I realised how much that type of writing suited me. Apart from the fact it is ABOUT me, it’s also the kind of writing which best expresses how the interior of my brain works – all seemingly random connections and memories of weird things.

Lately, inspired by the kind of stuff I’ve been seeing on Shabby Dollhouse and other great internet lit journals, I’ve been trying my hand at non-fiction microfictions/ flash fictions or whatever they’re called. The beauty about these Curriculum Worstae pieces is that they’re meant to live in Facebook statuses. Not only are they actually fun to write, but I’m getting to the point where I start to think in terms of that medium, structuring a story in miniature. And it’s also great because a lot of stupid things that have happened to me aren’t really deserving of anything more than 200 words, they can’t be contextualised into a larger concept, a larger narrative except for maybe ‘things that happened’.

A lot of people I’ve been reading lately who are experimenting with creat. non.fic are not only engaging with theme and tone, but also structure and presentation. It’s really, really interesting how the kind of experimentation often reserved for poems has made its way into presentation of prose. A lot of this takes the form of a literal interpretation of Ginsberg’s above quote, trying not just to imitate ‘speech’ or ‘stream of consciousness’ like we’re used to, but more common and contemporary forms of communication like txt speech, etc. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to embrace misspellings or leaving mistypes or grammatical errors in the text – but it would also be disingenuous of me to try, because it’s literally the opposite of how my brain works. When I speak, I am subconsciously spelling each word – when I ask for a person’s name, I need to know how it is spelled, because that’s the only way I’ll ever remember it. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the stuff OTHER people are writing. I get it, I’ve been on a chatty room.

Anyway, one of the few things I’ve learnt for certain about writing is that you learn the same lessons over and over again, so quotes from people like Ginsberg on writing the way that you are will mean so much to you and be relevant again and again, in different ways, and will follow your writing as you develop and unlock new meanings and it’s great.

*SIDE NOTE: I’m a big fan of the beats, and there are SOOOOOO many correlations between the alt-lit ‘movement’ and the Beats, and they are seriously getting almost EXACTLY the same criticisms, from the more established movements, from other artists accusing it of being nothing more than a ‘clique’. Lit movements are cliques, but the reason it’s a movement and not a club is that the message behind the content is transferable and will last longer than the spotlight on the personality of authors, which even then I’m not against. Authors are interesting people, I’m interested in them. Oh my god, I am so tired, I haven’t slept all night, this is an incoherent rant, is it not?

Urgh, Writing: Time is on my side

I thought I’d spend a bit of time writing about writing, because honestly it’s what I think about maybe 90% of the time, and it’s that thing which I’m supposed to do,  so this is my next thing where I do that, and it’s called Urgh, Writing.

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So last year I started doing full time work for the first time in my life, and the big question everyone asked me was ‘how is it going to affect your writing?’ And I didn’t go into it naively, I knew that going from casual to full time would be a big change. But there were a few reasons why I felt like I needed to do it:

1. I was so sad and uninspired by my casual job, that I wasn’t really writing anyway. My ‘extra time’ was basically spent in a whirlwind of guilt and job applications.

2. Due to REASONS which probably deserve a whole other post, I basically didn’t spend any time writing, and instead spent all my time doing things AROUND my writing. To make a really broad statement less broad, I was still really theatre oriented at that time, and basically did production and marketing and grant writing and artist liaison and sales instead of writing. I love my theatre company, and I love making super stupid plays, but it honestly took up my entire life and also, my entire ability to have money. But more importantly for my state of mind, I wasn’t writing.

3. After a few different ‘trial runs’ at various things, I’d decided that living off my writing in theatre was an absolute impossibility (some people do it, but even then it’s still supplemented somewhere in the industry) and I didn’t have the right temperament for freelance writing. Therefore I needed to get a job in an industry I liked, and it needed to be an interesting job. That’s how I got started in my ‘crack the publishing industry’ quest, which I succeeded at, because I’m now in a job I absolutely love with a fiery passion.

SO! All these things, and I’m now in a full time job. Am I getting writing done? Short answer yes. Long answer, yes, but I’m very frustrated. Take this weekend for example: on Saturday, I was sleep deprived so didn’t even really attempt to write. Today, Sunday, was not a conducive day for getting work done in our house. It was also raining, so I couldn’t go and hang in the park. I had to look after our new puppy, so I couldn’t go and sit in a cafe. So, I had to somehow push through. I did! But then that made me angry that my output is about 1000 words a week. That is not much. Because I have plans and schemes, I have books I want to write and grand projects I want to complete. I will write about these soon, but at the moment I feel hamstrung by time. Actually, scratch that – I’m not counting my regular columns, like The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge or Drunk Watching Downton Abbey. I get stuff written, I just have to calm the shit down a bit. Enjoy what I’m doing. Maybe focus on making what I write better than how much I do. I have to say, my strength as a writer is probably my determination, rather than any particular skill at the craft…

There are some people that are inspiring me at the moment.

Joel Naoum, the publisher at Momentum who works harder than anyone I know has managed to complete a novel. That basically kills any idea of not being able to write with a full time job.

Annabel Smith, who has managed to commit to a 500 word a day strategy, and managed to get 8130 words in the last month.

Oliver Mol, who has just had his first book ‘Lion Attack!’ signed to Scribe, told me that the excellent series of mini-fictions he writes on Facebook are written every morning on his phone. He is the one who has inspired me to write the Curriculum Worstae series I’m doing on Facebook.

SO. Do I commit to a similar strategy? I have a microfiction project that I’m working on called ‘Places I’ve Seen But Am Rapidly Forgetting’. Should I write one every morning? Or am I doing OK and shouldn’t add more pressure to myself, which might cause me to freak the fuck out?

 

Curriculum Worstae #1 – The Biggest Loser

Oh hey, so The Spontaneity Review has a Facebook page, and it’s a good place to go, because I don’t write super regularly here, but I am writing a little series called Curriculum Worstae for my Facebook followers. You too could be one of them.

Here’s an example of everything you’re missing out on.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #1 – The Biggest Loser

I’m going to put up some of the little anecdotes from my time working in stupid jobs that probably won’t make it into my book because they don’t fit into the narrative flow or whatever.

When I worked at the airport in Duty Free, I was taking Roaccutane to make my skin beautiful, but the side effects were awful and I was the opposite of beautiful, I was adried out weeping sore in an ill-fitting suit and a stained yellow tie with a barcode motif printed on it. All my mucous membranes were paper-thin and parched, prone to cracking open and bleeding at the slightest change in temperature. This was also an adequate analogy for my emotions, which were also affected by the skin drugs. The subsequent depression is actually why I ended up quitting Roaccutane, but that’s another story for another day.

One day at the airport I was standing behind my little desk, and I was sad. I was the saddest boy that chemicals could make me. I was a one-legged puppy sad, a dying grandmother sad, a suddenly realising you don’t remember your childhood dreams sad, and all for no valid reason beyond harsh pharmaceuticals. A customer came up to me and was standard mean, like regular retail workplace mean, and I realised I couldn’t handle this day any longer. I went to my evil boss and told her I was unwell, and coughed fakely, because depression isn’t taken seriously, even though it is actually more debilitating than a head cold but whatever. She listened with barely concealed contempt and told me to go back to work.

At my desk again I felt a crushing sense of hopelessness, like I didn’t have the strength to get through anything ever again. At that moment, that Shannon Gnoll song ‘Lift’ came on, which was popular because of the television show ‘The Biggest Loser’ which is about inspiring fat people to get less fat. While I was listening to that song, the American hosts of The Biggest Loser, Bob and Jillian walked through immigration and directly towards me. It seemed like time slowed down and that I was actually living the opening credits to The Biggest Loser. I stared at them, and laughed maniacally, and they looked at me, at first kind of scared, but then Jillian recognised the song playing and they laughed a bit too. Bob winked at me as they passed. When he winked, I suddenly felt flushed with confidence. It was that confidence that lead me back into my evil boss’s office.

‘I have to go home’ I stated, confident, Bob’s wink echoing through my skull like a ping-pong ball of self-esteem.

She shook her head in exasperation.

I then took my nose in my hand, and tweaked it gently, feeling fragile things inside tear. Blood streamed down my face in a hot torrent, and I repeated myself.

‘I really think I have to go home, the doctor’s warned me of this… I thought I had longer.’ She looked horrified, and told me to go home. And I did. Thanks, The Biggest Loser.

‘I don’t plan to ruin everything’

I like to think that my brain is slippery and streamlined, like it’s full of an expensive brand of lube and that’s why my thoughts rush around it so quickly and I tend to blurt things out with basically no ability to censor. I like to think that, but really I’m just prone to saying things. This is obviously a theme I’ve explored before in this blog, but I’ve recently landed a dream job at Momentum Books and someone asked me how I went in the interview. Then they paused, and asked me how I’ve ever gotten any job ever. This is a really good question, and bears looking at. Obviously I didn’t go too badly in my Momentum interview, although I do remember saying the sentence ‘Well, I don’t PLAN to ruin everything.’ Well played, Patrick.

 Generally I can come across as a mildly employable person. I don’t have a hook for a hand, or a neck tattoo of an eagle carrying an erect penis. Sometimes the stupid comes out slowly and subtly, like carbon monoxide poisoning. Other times it’s direct and in your face, like someone throwing a lump of carbon directly in your face. Much like the time I decided I wanted to work at a sex shop in Caringbah, because 90% of all shops in Caringbah are sex shops, and when I walked in, I handed my resume across the encounter and said ‘Hello, I was wondering if you have any positions.’ I then cackled like a witch, took my resume back, apologised and left.

             Liquorland in Miranda seemed an obviously good place for me to work as a casual employee. It was near my home, provided flexible hours for a university student and was literally a land of liquor. So when I went in for my interview, I really didn’t expect to have to clarify more than those points to the interviewer. Maybe I thought we’d talk some real talk about availabilities on weekends, and maybe if my nose was doing that spontaneous bleeding thing, I’d have to clarify it was due to harsh skin medications and not excessive cocaine. These were the things I was prepared for.

‘You can have a good life at Liquorland’ stated the portly manager, hitching his shorts to the left of his vaguely visible testicles. ‘I earn enough to support my wife and three dough-like children’ he continued, flipping open his wallet to show me a picture of his dough-spawn.

‘What we want to know, as a company, is where do you see yourself in five years?’ The first answer that sprang into my head was ‘the moon’, so actually I was doing quite well when I told him ‘Not working here.’

            By the time I’d left university and was looking for real jobs, I had learned how to mildly lie. I’d managed to fuzz my lack of credentials enough to get into a second interview at an architecture magazine, for the role of an editorial assistant. The office was stupidly chic, and it smelled like black coffee and expensive floorboards. I don’t remember much of the interview, but they were kind enough to give me some feedback after I was rejected. My two major mistakes were this:

  1. Apparently I paid more attention to the office dog than I should have. Which was clearly a trap. A TRAP I WOULD GLADLY FALL FOR AGAIN.

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Who’s a deadly boy?

2.  When asked who my favourite architects were, I swiftly thought on my feet and told them ‘I really appreciate buildings in general’.

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‘I feel like my love for general structures will make me more efficient as an editorial assistant, unlike say, some kind of pyramid fanatic or whatever. I literally have no idea what this magazine is about.’

But really, the most awful word salad of my life happened earlier this year when I was shortlisted for a writing residency in Singapore. The fellowship would have paid me a bunch of money to live fully supported in Singapore for six months and work on a full length play. Pretty awesome. A large part of the residency involved teaching writing to students, the planning of which took up the majority of my thirty page application. So when I was shortlisted and told I would be interviewed via Skype, the majority of my preparation was going over my teaching schedule – outcomes and workshops and strategies etc.

            When the Skype window opened, it became rapidly clear that I was talking to a room of about fifteen people. However the only person I could see was a disapproving English professor type, slouched back with his fingers steepled, looking vaguely appalled at everything. After some light chit-chat where they said they liked my project, one of the disembodied voices claimed we should get down to business. I nervously shuffled my notes, mentally pronouncing words like ‘projected outcomes’ and ‘Stanislavski’.

            ‘Why do you think art is important?’

I froze, and then laughed a little. ‘Umm, well you know, art is exactly that.’

‘What?’

‘Important?’

It became very clear, very quickly, that not a single question was going to reference my application, and instead were questions stolen from a panel called ‘Making Poetry Relevant to Teens in 1982’.

‘What do you want the students to take away from your classes?’

‘Actual pieces of writing which they can use to further their practices.’

But the voices insisted. ‘But more symbolically, what do you want them to leave with’

‘Umm, self esteem?’

Finally the professor type, who had been silent and judgemental the entire interview spoke up.

‘And why do you want to come to Singapore, Patrick?’

‘It is where the residency is’ I answered dully, no longer having any real clue what they wanted from me.

‘Yes, quite. But why Singapore in particular? What do you know about Singapore?’

‘Well’ I said, desperately trying not to think about their zero-tolerance policy on chewing gum ‘the last time I really boned up on Singapore was during War World Two’.

He raised his eyebrows, which I took as a cue to continue digging my own grave.

‘Obviously I don’t mean I was alive DURING world war two, ha ha ha.’

One of the disembodied voices laughed, but it wasn’t a laugh with me.

‘I mean, you know, I read a lot about the Japanese occupation during World War Two. That was interesting. Interesting and horrible.’

The professor rubbed his head wearily

‘Indeed, and you’d know then that today is the anniversary of the date the Japanese left Singapore.’

‘Yes, I did know that’ I lied. ‘That is why I brought it up.’

There were no more questions after that. I didn’t get it. Oh and also once I went for an interview at Groupon and the building set on fire, but that wasn’t my fault. Officially.

NYWF 2013: The most wonderful time of the year.

I love NYWF. And so does Shalane.

I love NYWF. And so does Shalane.

 

Hello jerks and jerkettes,

Just a quick note to say that if you are coming to TINA or the National Young Writers Festival this long weekend, there are plenty of times where you can come and see me do some sort of thing. Really, I’ve kind of over-committed, it’s a bit dumb. Let’s break this down:

Thursday 3rd October:

Launch Launchpad

Relaunching The Sturgeon General along with a whole bunch of quality publications, I will be saying a thing and then introducing Jack Vening and his talented mouth-words to speak at ye.

Friday 4th October:

Sick As

I will be reading a story about being sick with some other writers, I hear on good authority someone is writing about sperm. I am writing about spiders.

First Time for Everything

I am super excited about this one, I’m reading a story with some absolutely hilarious people. They are:  Ben Jenkins, Tom Ballard, Jessica Alice, Seaton Kay-Smith, Alexandra Neill, Dan Ilic, Patrick Kelly, and Nick Sun. God damn this is going to be good.

Saturday 5th October

Too Close For Comfort

A panel where I am talking about collaborating on artistic projects with someone who I collaborate in the bedroom with, if you know what I mean. Actually our desks are in the bedroom too, so that is where all the collaboration tends to happen. Collaboration. Cahoots. We should use cahoots more often.

Sunday 6th October

Funnies Workshop

In this workshop, me and Sexy Tales Comedy regular Daniel East try to teach some tips about how to write comedy. It may or may not involve us laughing at our own jokes and high-fiving each other. Most of the slots for this are already booked up, but you can email them by following the link.

Late Night Reading: Good Neighbours

I loved the Late Night Readings at the last two NYWF’s, so it’s great to be involved again. I will read out some sort of thing.

Please come and say hi to me, I am sometimes awkward and standoffish, but that’s because I am probably just scared of you looming over me, and you just need to bend down and let me sniff your fingers and then I’ll be your friend.

“I don’t work here, I’m just very reflective”

In a tradition dating back to Captain Cook cancelling a few of the big ships and forcing the convicts to emigrate to Astralia on a flotilla of kayaks, Sydney is undergoing track work. Everybody understands that to maintain such a high standard of regular ineptitude, sometimes the public transport system has to utterly shit itself, perhaps as a way to provide a juxtaposition between the crap services we usually have against literally not having any transport at all.

And today, grey, rainy and horrible, seems to be the standard kind of weather they seek for this magnitude of public work. Because the only thing better than snuggling inside with a fireplace and a glass of wine to ward off the winter chill, is to spend three hours crawling through the back streets of a suburb you’ve never heard of in a bus which smells of cabbage and ammonia, populated by thousands of babies. And also teenagers using YOLO unironically, and even worse, incorrectly. ‘Bro, sometimes you have to YOLO really hard’.
It’s like the Transport Minister actually calls up Thor and asks him when he next plans to have another giant crying skywank, and then plans track work for that day.

But this isn’t just about me having a a giant blog cry. On my awful exodus today, I think I had the pleasure of observing the nicest person in the world. Young Kiwi gentleman with a skateboard who had the misfortune of just leaving a construction job, so wearing a large reflective yellow vest. As soon as he got to the station, he was mobbed by angry commuters asking how to get to whatever godforsaken corner of Sydney they felt the need to travel to today. Instead of shrugging his shoulders and saying ‘I don’t even work here’ like I would have, if I hadn’t been safely insulated by several layers of headphones and books to discourage interaction, this gentleman calmly and patiently answered their questions to the best of his ability. Even the lady, who even after working out that he didn’t work for Cityrail, and only had a passing knowledge of Australian geography, due to being from not-Australia or as we call it now, New Zealand, still angrily asked him if every station on her route had a lift service. He was still nice to her.

But the coup d’état or whatever of niceness that came from this guy, was when an older Indian lady with very broken English, asked him how to get somewhere. He tried to explain that she needed to change from a train to a bus, and where that bus station was located. It was clear after a few minutes that she didn’t quite get it, and was quite agitated. Then he switched to Hindi – but alas, she didn’t speak Hindi either. He laughed, saying he knew a little (insert smaller Indian language here) she replied that she knew even less of that. But then he said – ‘don’t worry, I’ll take you to the bus stop.’ Which, from previous overhearing, meant that he was going to get off the train at a different station, walk this stranger all the way to a bus stop, then walk back, get on the train again, and travel back home. What a goddamn hero. I hope by some miracle this dude reads this, just to know that his extreme niceness was observed.