NYWF 2015: The happiest time of the year is here agaaaaaaaaaain

It’s that time of the year again, when the decrepit old cow that is the city of Newcastle is covered in a fresh infestation of young writers: The National Young Writers Festival.

This year is probably my tenth year of attending the festival in some form – I’m writing up a kind of review, a kind of nostalgia trip for my Cliffwalk event on Saturday morning, where I go through the memories that remain from ten years of writerly festival fun. I goddamn love this festival, and I’m so excited to go again. It’s insane to me that I’ve been going for so long. Here’s my oldest photo of me at the festival.

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Look at all that hair. Look at the youthful optimism in my eyes. And now look at me.

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This year I’m doing a bunch of cool things, the details of which will follow. We’re bringing the dogs up again, considering Ernest was the goddamn star of last year’s festival. I’ll be launching (AGAIN) A Man Made Entirely of Bats, which has always been a dream of mine – having a goddamn book at my favourite writers festival. Pretty spiffy.

I also can’t stop thinking about the fact that my friend Kat Muscat won’t be there. NYWF has always been our time – considering she lived in Melbourne and me in Sydney, it was the one time a year we were guaranteed to spend time together. It seems unfeasible that I won’t catch her walking down Hunter Street, or catch her eye across the room. This year’s festival has been dedicated to her, which is so suitable, considering she represented so much about what NYWF is.

Anyway.

Here’s the things I’m doing!

subbed in: XXL | Foghorn Brewhouse | Thursday, 2 Oct, 7:30pm

Reading some cool INTERNET LIT with some COOL FOLKS. This is gonna be a party.

Walking Tour: Clifftop Tales | Starting from Staple Manor, 48 Watt Street | Saturday 3 Oct, 9.30am

I am basically recollecting all over the goddamn place. Ps, I have never lived in Newcastle.

Short Stories | United Services Club (aka GUN CLUB) | Sunday, 4 Oct, 4.30pm

This was gonna be a panel with Jack Vening, Abigail Uhlman and me, but Abigail dropped out, so now it’s a conversation/ continuation of the greatest romance ever told. Me and Vening are going to talk about short stories and make too much eye contact.

Late night readings Breakups and Breakdowns | Royal Exchange | Sunday, 4 Oct, 10.30pm

I’m gonna read a story!

Hope to see you there!

Clitfingers

I read this story at The National Young Writers Festival this year, during the Late Night Reading event. It was such a super cool event. Clitfingers can also be found in my book A Man Made Entirely of Bats which is coming out in March 2015 through Spineless Wonders.

‘Seen her? Yeah, I seen her. That is to say, I saw her. Dame was six foot sexy, with legs all the way from her hips to the floor. Yeah, legs like a newborn deer, like Pinocchio on stilts, ya dig? What was she wearing? Little red number that clung to her like a thirty-year-old nerd to his parent’s basement. And shoes – stilettos you could trim cheese with. What? You know, trim some cheese to put on the little round salt plates? Crackers? I call them salt plates. Was she wearing gloves? Yeah, she was wearing gloves, black satin gloves from her fingers to her elbows, real classy. Why you asking? She owe you some money?’

No, she didn’t owe me money – more like the entire State of New York. But this latest clue means I’m getting closer, tracking her down, zeroing in. And when I find her, it will be time for her to pay the piper. And by the piper, I mean the First Bank of New York. She’ll also have to account for all the hours and gastric pain she’s personally cost me.

That last witness I talked to worked the 4 am shift at the local casino, meaning I that was trekking through the streets as the sun rose sluggishly over the city. I know how you feel, pal, I said to the sun, on the account of how tired I also felt. The sun didn’t answer – but does it ever?

By the time I got back to my shitty motel room, my mind was buzzing with everything I knew, buzzing like a swarm of bees who had been evicted from their box thing, the box where they made their honey, like bees that had been evicted from their honey box. Yeah, buzzing like that.

There was no point even pretending to sleep, and I felt that my relationship with the bedbugs had grown a little one-sided, so instead I sat at the desk looking at photos of her and chewing on coffee beans.

A few days later, I’ve left New York entirely. I’m standing in a bank somewhere in North Carolina, confused and whispering sweet nothings to my ulcer. ‘You be cool, ulcer,’ I murmur. ‘Just, calm down and I’ll buy you something nice.’

The bank manager, who looks like he would have had a pretty cool solo song about domestic duties in Mary Poppins is mopping his forehead with a big bunch of tissues. ‘It was her. It was Clitfingers. She’s the only one who could have cracked our safe so easily.’

I grimace, as I have to concede his point – the crime does entirely match her MO. But why here? Why this stupid little town in the middle of nowhere, NC? Frampton barely had enough people to warrant a bank, let alone the kind of trappings that Clitfingers was accustomed to. No penthouses, diamond shops, high society laundromats or fat pig livers delivered directly to your home. There wasn’t even any frozen yoghurt, only politely affluent suburbia complete with high schools and movie cinemas a decade out of date.

‘Don’t worry, sir,’ I mutter to the bank manager, straightening my tie. ‘The FBI has their best man on the case.’ I was talking about me.

Three weeks later and Clitfingers has disappeared off the face of the earth. I’m drunk in the kind of shitty bar that families bring their children to. There’s way too much light everywhere. People are giving me sidelong glances, even though I’m just sitting here, nursing my coconut rum. I’m thinking Clitfingers might have lured me to North Carolina on purpose. I’m thinking that my quest to bring her to justice was doomed to fail. I’m thinking that I don’t like the smirk on the bartender’s face every time I order another coconut rum.

‘Howdy,’ asks some open-faced, friendly guy who has taken a seat at the bar next to me. He is clean-shaven, and has wholesome wrinkles around his eyes – the kind you get when you smile at children or pick hay from a field. He is perusing the menu. ‘Jimmabel, darling, I’d like a … hmmm, I’ll have a small beer thanks. How’s your mama? Good, excellent.’

I rolled my eyes as he conspicuously enjoyed his tiny beer. I loudly swilled my rum.

‘Say, Jimmabel, you know who I saw the other day? Tina Fairchild, you know, old man Fairchild’s daughter. Didn’t you go to school with her?’

He looks across at me because I have just dropped my glass. Clitfinger’s real name is Tina Fairchild.

Later on, everyone is gathered around me, listening to the biggest gossip this town has ever had.

‘So you’re saying little Tina is a world renowned thief now?’ asks a local farmer called Teddison.

I’m sure that hearing about a former resident who’d become a notorious bank robber was making for a better story than whatever usually passed for news around here.

‘There more than that,’ I interrupted, tapping my glass lightly. ‘You see, we were once partners at the FBI together.’

‘The FBI has partners?’ questioned Jimmabel.

‘Yeah, like Mulder and Scully,’ I explained impatiently. ‘Anyway, we were the best, solving crimes left right and centre. But more than that – we fell in love. And love has a way of making things go twisty, twisty twirly. Anyway, long story short, there was an explosion that blew all the skin from her fingertips, making them one thousand times more sensitive, and now she uses her sensitive fingertips to break into safes. They’re so sensitive they can feel the minuscule clicking that the safe makes.’

The bar fell into a shocked silence, and I realised I’d done that thing where I’d told the story way too fast to make it seem plausible.

‘Umm, well yeah, anyway, that’s why she got the name Clitfingers, because her fingers are as sensitive as a clitoris.’

‘It sounds like you’re chasing her … because you’re in love, boy,’ said Teddison.

‘No, I’m chasing her because she betrayed me,’ I grumbled darkly. ‘It’s revenge.’

‘All love is revenge,‘ said Teddison sadly.

Later that evening, I stood atop the roof of the local school, my gun pointed at Clitfingers, aka Tina Fairchild’s, aka my wife who I hadn’t seen in over five years.

‘Tina, you bitch! You bitch, I hate you!’ I screamed into the wind. It was raining fitfully and only a nearby streetlight provided enough illumination to see her. Her face was shadowed and a long trench coat billowed around her. I’d practiced this speech so many times, developed the perfect pithy one liners, but now, here in the moment, all I could do was swear incoherently at her, screaming into the night sky. I wanted to tell her how unfair it was, that yeah, I might have cheated on her, one time, but that didn’t give her the right to ruin me, to get me fired from the FBI, to leave me without even saying goodbye. I didn’t care about the fact that she was an international jewel thief. All I cared about was the shame.

‘Tina, we’re going to talk about our relationship now,’ I said, motioning with the gun.

She sighed and languorously removed her gloves. Pink light glowed from her sensitive clitoris fingers as she levitated into the air and flew away with a sonic pop.

I didn’t know clitorises could do that.

BATS

 

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: NYWF 2014

The National Young Writers Festival 2014 starts on Thursday, and I am ultra excited. This year will be very different as we will be bringing our dog Ernest, soooo that’s going to be amazing, but also I don’t know how well he will go at attending panels.

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Ernest is named after my favourite play The Importance of Being Ernest and also Ernest Hemingway, who Bridget loves with a fiery passion.

 

I’ve been to NYWF for many, many years now, and it has never failed to be a magical time. There is also some kind of weird curse, where I generally have a weird illness that I’m suffering from, such as the time I had shingles on my leg and had to stick it out of my sleeping bag for the cool air to caress. I am hoping that this year’s curse is fulfilled by my weird stress acid stomach ulcer thing, which means I’ll probably not be drinking coffee?

 

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This photo is from SEVEN YEARS AGO at NYWF.

 

Anyway, the program looks absolutely BANANAS this year, and I’m so excited. Bridget has already been a giant dork and drafted up an itinerary and already I’m sad about some of the things I’ll have to miss because I don’t have a time-turner. Also, if you want to see me do things, I’m involved in the following events:

IS JURASSIC PARK A THING THAT SHOULD REALLY HAPPEN?

Bridget and I are the affirmative for this debate, and we really have something very odd prepared, so I think you should come.

MY FAVOURITE IS PROBLEMATIC

I will be continuing my NYWF tradition of talking about the TV show ‘Friends’, in this case, how I love it, but how it has some godawful aspects.

WHY ROMANCE IS HERE TO STAY

Putting on my Momentum hat and facilitating this panel about the romance genre, with two wonderful panelists.

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.