My Fellowship at KSP

 

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A room for writing.

It feels like only yesterday, but it’s actually just over a week since I finished my Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre. What’s a Fellowship? I hear you ask. Actually, I didn’t hear you, but I do hear voices in my head – no, I have an adequate sufficiency of matches, so be quiet. Anyway, I applied for a writing retreat to focus on (finishing….) my novel Evil Corp. Twelve-and-a-half days to do nothing but writing in a purpose built hut.

The writing huts are modeled after Katharine Susannah Pritchard’s own writing retreat and are very much focussed on having a room to write in. Your desk faces out onto the garden – I had a view of a gum tree with a beehive in its trunk – you have amenities for snacks and drinks, a chair for quiet contemplation, and a bed for… well, you know what beds can be used for.

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I had a whiteboard… which I didn’t end up using. And a giant pencil… which I also didn’t use.

The hut was quiet and felt ideally suited to writing. Or painting. Or reading. Or slowly going mad and deciding to live like a hermit. All good options.

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Yes, I brought a guitar.

The best feature was definitely the lack of adjoining accommodation for young children, who slowly steal your hopes and dreams as they consume more of your life than you’d ever imagine, such that you wake up at 40 wondering why you haven’t published a novel yet.

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Welcome Pack: Welcome letter, KSP sticker, KSP Fellow card, CHOCOLATE!

With the welcome letter in hand, my computer set up, I was ready to right write!

Getting my author on

Reading Anne's story at KSP Open day 2018
Not sure if I made this picture blurry by drinking too much caffeine, or if it was the wrong lighting for the camera to focus.

For my stay at KSP I had set a few hard and soft goals. Hard goals were things like: relax and enjoy being able to pursue my hobby uninterrupted for a fortnight; not wake up at 5am because my kids weren’t going to be there; refrain from buying a beret and neck-scarf; write more than 1,000 words per day. Soft goals were things like: wake up before noon; eat properly; get some exercise; try not to feel guilty about leaving my wife alone with our kids; write 20,000 words during my stay. Try to guess which goals I achieved.

I didn’t want to place too much pressure on myself to, say, “finish my novel” or “write 5,000 words a day”, because that would have sucked the fun out of the Fellowship. Having previously won NaNoWriMo, I knew I could write 2,000 words a day for a sustained period, but I was surprised at how having more time to write didn’t necessarily increase output. I’m going to claim that it was higher quality than NaNoWriMo writing though. A low bar I’m willing to jump over. But I did manage to write 20,000 words, do some plotting, create a few characters, outline several chapters for the future, review a couple of books, and come up with two plots for other projects, so it felt productive.

On the first weekend of my Fellowship the KSP Writers’ Centre held their open day. It was a fun event and well attended despite the threats of rain. As the above photo shows, I was asked to do a reading for the event on behalf of one of my writing groups. I read Werespoon by my fellow Fantasy Sci-Fi Horror group author Anne Forbes. Gillian Clarke read on behalf of my other author group, the Thursday Night group.

Another thing that made me feel authorly was mingling with other authors.

Surrounded by other authors

Me Kaaron Warren and Rachel Mead
Rachael Mead, Kaaron Warren, me being told to smile more.

Writing is generally regarded as a lonely occupation. Well, unless you take your laptop to a coffee shop so you can tell anyone who has the misfortune of coming too close that you’re an author and that sitting in a coffee shop telling people about your WIP counts as writing. The KSP cabins were decidedly setup for writing. On your own. Uninterrupted. I brought a guitar. But I still managed to hang out with other authors.

Kaaron Warren and Rachael Mead were also at KSP doing a Residency and Fellowship respectively. Kaaron has been publishing stories since before I’d figured out Coco-Pops didn’t need extra sugar. She was shortlisted for an Australian Shadow Award while she was in residence, and just last week released Tide Of Stone. One evening we were discussing awards (she is a judge for the World Fantasy Awards this year) and she casually mentioned being beaten by luminaries Stephen King and KJ Parker… I’m not sure that counts as losing.

Rachael has a PhD in creative writing and, like Kaaron, an impressive list of awards to her name. She has published multiple poetry collections, including one that came out earlier this year, and regularly contributes arts reviews to magazines. She also writes short stories and was working on what appears to have become a collection themed around paramedics during her time at KSP.

Which made me the bumbling rookie trying not to sound like an amateur around the two pros.

It was invaluable to chat with them over dinner, or at drink-o-clock, or at procrastination time. For example, Rachael helped me with a chapter I was headed in the wrong direction with. But it was also good just to be able to have a chat and socialise, including catching up with an old friend who is a mutual friend of Kaaron’s. If that wasn’t enough wordsmiths to hang out with, we also had a lovely dinner out with some other KSP Fellows. See the blurry photo below that proves kids aren’t necessarily good with technology.

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Dinner with some other KSP Fellows.

Summary

It was great to have the opportunity to feel like a writer and make some progress on (one of) my works in progress. I met some lovely people, got some writing done, and didn’t get woken up by a toddler wanting to find the teddy that is lying right next to them in bed even once. I very much appreciate the board and staff at the KSP Writers’ Centre for awarding me the Fellowship.

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How can someone from Australia, get into an American University such as Harvard?

Widener Library, Harvard University
Widener Library, Harvard University

Australians have a proud history as the descendants of convicts. As such, there is no place we can’t break into if we so desire.

The first thing is the loooonnngg plane ride from Australia to the US. Due to US Customs, it is advisable not to bring your B&E equipment with you but rather acquire it from those new-world criminals in the USA.

The second thing is staking out the campus. Surveillance is the key to any decent break-in. You will need good notes from your observations to use in the next step.

The third thing is to have a plan for your break-in. Know your target, ingress point, egress point, contingencies, and make sure you have a cover identity setup just in case things go south.

The final point is to make sure your risk:reward ratio is balanced enough to make the operation worth it. There is nothing worse than putting the time and front money in place for low returns, especially if the penalties are high.

Of course, you could just send in an application to Harvard like every other Aussie student who applies to US universities. Maybe the ex-Harvard Student Association in Australia could be of help.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

 

What is the name of a kangaroo’s child?

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Kangaroo names really depends upon the mother kangaroo. Mother kangaroos (does or jills) are known to choose names for their joeys based upon:

  • traditional family names
  • popular movie character names
  • favourite fictional characters – typically from movies, but also books

Some of the less common ways jills will choose joey names are:

  • Pick up on joey’s cues (leads to a lot of joeys being called Kick and Jump)
  • Go to the bookshop and pick a random name from a random book (although kangaroos aren’t generally allowed in bookstores due to their habit of browsing and not buying anything)
  • Ask the joey (given kangaroos can’t talk I’m not sure this helps)
  • Name associations (for kangaroos who like word games)
  • Get your other joeys to decide (hard if this is the jills’ first joey)
  • Pull the name out of a hat (although kangaroos don’t wear hats)
  • Meaningful moments (which leads to names like Hop Away From Hunter, and Juicy Leaves).

Some rules jills generally abide by in naming:

  • no names of former girlfriends or boyfriends
  • no names used for pets (not that kangaroos have a lot of pets)
  • no names already used by friends or colleagues (they are often in mobs, so best not to double up on names).

Hope this helps.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Yep. Someone used Quora instead of Google for this. They are probably registered to vote too. Just think about that.

KSP Writer’s Fellowship

The Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre have announced their Writers-in-Residence and Fellows for 2018. I’ve been awarded a Fellowship to work on a satirical novel titled Evil Corp.

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This will be a wonderful opportunity to have time and space to write. Here’s the blurb for the story:

Evil-Corp

Here at Evil Corp we have been successfully carving a path toward world domination for 15 years. With our dedicated staff we want to have you serve our every whim.

Your family deserves the security and friendly authoritarian rule that you could expect from an organisation like Evil Corp, but with the personal touches that only a caring and understanding community minded team can offer.

Have you bowed down to Evil Corp?

Update: The list of residencies and dates with author profiles are now available. I’m afraid it appears I’m the only one who didn’t take their profile seriously.

Top 10 Posts of 2017

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Everyone seems to be doing these Top 10 Posts listicles on their blogs, and I’m nothing if not a joiner.

Actually, that isn’t true. I’m not a joiner at all. But I do want to do a listicle. I’m not exactly sure why I want to do a listicle, but it is probably to do with procrastinating from doing something hard.

If we go by the blog stats, this was a pretty good year. 2016 technically had more visitors and views than 2017 (just), but it was buoyed by one post going viral in December. Every month for 2017 has outperformed 2016 in every metric (except of course the viral December post). I wrote 114 posts in 2017, 66 book reviews, had +25k visitors, and +30k views. Not huge numbers, but I’m pleased that the page is continuing to grow, especially in the areas of likes and comments. A big thank-you goes out to my followers and regular readers, new and old.

So let’s see what the most popular posts were.

1) The Actual 10 Most Deadly Animals In Australia

Recognise this one from last year? Originally written for one of those comedy list sites, I’m glad so many have enjoyed this post.

2) Do People In Australia Ride Kangaroos?

One of my trademark snarky Quora answers. Its popularity both last year and this year shows that I need to write more articles about Australian animals.

3) Shark Attack

This is one of my older posts discussing the overblown coverage of shark attacks. I actually prefer the post I wrote a few years after this one, but probably need to revisit this topic with more recent stats. Which people can ignore in favour of the older post that pops up first in their search…

4) Book vs Movie: A Clockwork Orange – What’s the Difference?

Finally a post written in 2017 on the list. This is part of my long running series that piggybacks on the CineFix videos. I do enjoy sharing the videos and discussing book adaptations.

5) Book vs Movie: The Bourne Identity – What’s the Difference?

And we’re back to posts from other years… This is one of my favourite book adaptation posts. When I first read The Bourne Identity I couldn’t get over how dissimilar the book and movie were. I didn’t understand why anyone would bother to pay the author money to proceed to not use their source material. Essentially, this book and movie are partly the inspiration for my discussions on book adaptations.

6) Why Being Smart Sucks

Whilst perennially popular, I didn’t write this one, just added some colour commentary. Wish I could claim more credit on this piece.

6) Book vs Movie: The Warriors – What’s the Difference?

Another book adaptation post. These were popular this year.

7) Book vs Movie: 2001 A Space Odyssey – What’s the Difference?

Seriously, I must have hit a search engine algorithm or had people scrolling back through previous instalments or something.

8) 20 Proven Benefits of Being An Avid Reader

This article was a repost of a listicle, but unlike the original list, I’ve actually included links to references. Not that you’d know it, since they have deleted the original.

9) Fast and Furious Series

After watching Vin Diesel leap a souped up V8 over a decidedly murky shark filled estuary, I felt the need to write this post. I wrote another more recently summarising the series thus far. This will probably become a regular series given people keep going to watch these films.

10) Is Sport King In Australia?

When I pitched this article the response was deafening silence. I decided to write it as a blog post instead. It then became my most down-voted item on Reddit. Apparently we don’t talk about sports negatively. Especially not if you back it up with facts. I’m glad people here have once again enjoyed it.

Here’s to 12,018: I hope everyone has a good year!

Things they don’t tell you about air travel

Flying is a modern luxury marvel we take for granted. There was a time when popping overseas for a weekend holiday was a ridiculous proposition. Around that same time I was trudging forty kilometres to school through two metres of snow.

Whenever I’m on a plane it is about the only time I’m sorry that I live remotely to the most isolated capital city in the world. People complain about the long haul flights to various destinations, well I had to catch a long haul just to get to the long haul connection. It gives you a lot of time to think about the realities of air travel.

1) If things get really bad, the pilots have ejector seats.
They may be called ‘captains’, but they have no intention of going down with the ship.

2) You are not Ralph Fiennes or Tiger Woods.
And let’s face it, flight attendants have standards even if you were.

3) First class is a myth. They wouldn’t be seen on the same plane as ordinary people.
Rich people are afraid they might catch poor.

4) If you see gremlins on the wing, you have been lucky and received the non-watered down alcohol.
Keep drinking, you might see Elvis and Hendrix.

5) Yes, the seats are deliberately designed for people smaller than you.
Airplane designers were assured that no-one over 175cm and 80 kilos would ever go anywhere.

6) The bookings system takes into account claustrophobia in the seating assignments.
They immediately assign the claustrophobics to seats between the largest people on the flight.

7) People with a fear of flying are catered for.
Their in flight movies are ‘Airplane’ and ‘Alive’, plus they are spared from all the turbulence warnings. Comes as a real surprise.

News: Short Story Shortlisted

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I don’t often post news here. Nothing worse than being seen as someone blowing their own trumpet – and is that now officially called a Steve Bannon?

This morning I received an email congratulating me on being shortlisted for a short story award.

Dear Tyson

The KSP Foundation is delighted to advise that your story ‘Flicker’ has been short listed in the Open category of this year’s Ghost Story competition. 

The winners will be announced on Saturday 26th August 2017 at the KSP Writers’ Centre. We would also like to invite you to read your story on the night, to share with our audience. 

With our best wishes and warmest congratulations,

Kind regards,

NB: I’ve edited the email. Unless you wanted the details and directions to the event.

A little background, at the writers’ group I’ve joined we have a monthly challenge. We take a random excerpt from an award-winning novel in the KSP (Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre) library and use it as inspiration for a short story. Knowing that the Ghost Story Competition was coming up, several of us used the monthly challenge as the basis for entries.

I haven’t heard from my writers’ group friends as to whether they were shortlisted as well. But I do know that the judges had huge piles of entries to read, so it will be interesting to see how many there were in total. I’m betting the judges appreciated the word limit.