Week 9: 26 Aug-1 Sept

The poem that magically appeared on the residency whiteboard this week resembled a communal effort! I had started it off with two lines instead of one, and chose the Ditty Approach: a silly rhyme with a little alliteration. People got into it and responded with two lines each, following the sentiment.

Perhaps the coffee-soaked environment at The Bean Barn encourages frivolity. Or maybe it just means at the core we’re all big kids who like to play. No doubt about it, this residency is bringing up the big questions…

Despite the little lumps in it, I’m proud of our communal effort. Don’t forget – every two lines of the following ditty were written by a different person:

Poor old Pete was in a pickle,
his plans had gone astray.
He picked a pair of pears but hadn’t
planned on them being prickly!
Or being so sweet and sickly
or the skin being so tickly!
Old Pete didn’t mind a tickle,
just not in a prickly way.

Thanks to those who contributed! Can’t wait to see what is created from next week’s two-line scenario.

$1,000AUD for 40 lines

I don’t know about you but the prospect of being given $1,000 for just 40 lines of poetry makes my mind race. It races off to trawl my mental archives of poem titles and line counts, past those already published to those freshly minted (are they ready, are they really ready?). You know the ones – they still zing with newness and flash possibility. Then there’s always one last revision before releasing it on its way.

But back to this $1,000. If I told you there’s a poetry competition open right now that is offering a first prize of $1,000, would you race off and count your lines? You ought to.

The competition is the Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize, administered by my good friends, Ballarat Writers Inc (we are in cahoots, I’ll admit). I happen to know how many entries have come in so far, and let me just say your chance of scoring the prize is high… for now at least. You have until 15 October 2012 to get online and submit, submit, submit!

Nathan Curnow is judging the competition this year, so your poem/s will be in the presence of greatness. But there can be only one winner. May it be you (or me, definitely preferable).

Download the entry guidelines and entry form here.


An Oscar Wilde quote:

‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.’

Week 8: 19-25 August

You may recall I started a ‘communal poem’ on the whiteboard at the Bean Barn in a bid to get the visiting coffee fiends engaged in a round of poetry badminton of sorts. Then I waited. And saw.

Interesting result. Rather more on the scary end of the Interesting Spectrum than I’d have hoped, however. The communal poem concept of many people adding one line each to create a single poem didn’t eventuate. Instead it was apparently commandeered by one individual who rather liked rhyming. It was by no means a disaster (in spite of accessional bumps in the rhythm); it was just not particularly communal!

If I can find where I wrote the lines, I’ll update the post…

A festive Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Yes I know I’m two days late posting this, but the thought really was there. It was a great end to the 2012 Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival last Sunday. Sarah bought her father a full weekend ticket to the festival, and also accompanied him – isn’t that a delight?

Six lucky punters received feedback direct from publishers and editors in the final session of the festival. Selection of the six first pages was anonymous, though the little squeals of delight from the audience when the text was read out was a bit of a give-away. And in case you are wondering – no, my first page didn’t get an airing.

The panelists, Maryann Ballantyne (black dog books), Alison Arnold (Text), Catherine McCredie (formerly of Penguin) and Karen Tayleur (Five Mile) all spoke of what they liked – and didn’t – about the six works, and gave frank and fearless advice about how to improve them. It was a fascinating insight into what might make it to the first base of publishing.

Today’s round of volunteers deserve applause too – thanks to Sarah (different one) and Mary. You join a long list of heroes (see Saturday’s post) without whom the 2012 BWIF wouldn’t have happened.

Might take me a while to recover adequately enough to contemplate the 2013 festival…

Because it is inspirational

Just last week, in the midst of a deadline-driven, timeline-shortened, mega-squeezed period of work, I was wondering WHY ON EARTH do I do this? That is, why do I volunteer for a community organisation that doesn’t pay me for my time; gives me complex puzzles to solve; and even occasionally difficult people to work with, all on top of my ‘real job’ and in my ‘spare time’?

Have remembered the reason. Today was the first day of the Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival, and it was inspirational. Not just for the organisational feat of it, but also for the energy it created. The joy in being involved with the development and production of something that so many others clearly value and appreciate – that is why I do it.

The energy in the room was palpable. Panelists of authors, illustrators, publishers and editors shared their experiences in the CYA industry and I found myself wishing for a time-slip (thanks Kate Constable) so that we could stay in that zone a while longer. I was also struck by the contradiction that writers and illustrators are nowhere near the highest income earners, but just look at what they GIVE to our society.

Fascinating too, to hear what people working in the industry think of the world-wide surge in ‘digital publishing’; who is embracing it and how; and how to come to terms with it as a writer. I can give no simple answers here, except to say that the book is NOT dead. From what I saw and heard today, our options as readers and writers are just broader. Personal preferences will always have a say in what sells, just like learning styles and personality types. Me, give me a hard copy book any day – the tactile element adds to the experience of reading in a way I don’t imagine eBooks will be able to compete. At least for the moment. There’s a definite appeal in being able to load up a digital reader with dozens of documents rather than lugging them around. But the smell and feel of a new book? Can’t beat it.

It wasn’t just the panelists who shone today. Without the small army of Ballarat Writers Inc committee members and volunteers, the festival would not have been possible. My heroes were Danielle, Jill, Melissa, Nadine, Elliot, Frank and panel chairs Julie, Betty, Jackie, Maryanne and Alice for leading and shaping the day.

There’s one more day to go, and another round of fabulous authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, chairs and volunteers on the program tomorrow. I’ll sleep well tonight, but even better tomorrow.


Weeks 5-7: 29 July-18 August

Poet on holiday. The words ‘poet’ and ‘holiday’ in the same sentence might be seen as a dubious proposition. A poet often doesn’t have two cents to rub together, let alone the capacity to save them up to any great effect. Harsh? I accept the likelihood that poetry will  never afford me holidays – that is what my ‘other’ job is for. I am a realist. (At least when not day-dreaming or writing poetry.)

the start of a communal poem. where will it go?

Anyhow. Before putting down the pen and swanning off to warmer climes, I set a new challenge to the coffee worshippers who frequent The Bean Barn: write a communal poem. I left a single line on the whiteboard in the cafe to start it off (without any idea of where it might go): ‘Your brittle edges…’ Then I invited the good folks of Ballarat to add one line each. That’s the only rule – one line. I thought it’d be interesting to see what came of those edges in three weeks’ time.

A quote for you, by Robert Graves:

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.”

Writing festival this weekend!


Festival on this weekend 1-2 September 2012

Around the edges of my days I volunteer for a community organisation called Ballarat Writers Inc. We’re a collection of writers of different flavours who are keen to support the development of writers and writing in the region – and we all do it for nix. Or at least for the enjoyment of Making Things Happen. And we do. In a big way for a small group.

A committee of eight organises an annual program of events for local writers and members including writing workshops, readings, two competitions each offering a $1,000 first prize, and other sundry Good Times. A major event of our year is the Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival, which is coming up THIS weekend, 1-2 September. It’s the only children’s and young adult (CYA) in the state and we are mighty proud of it. This year we’ll bring over two dozen authors, illustrators, publishers and editors to town to share current trends in the CYA industry. It’ll be a blast. If you are wondering about digital developments and their impact on the scene, you won’t want to miss any of this weekend’s panel sessions. You’ll get answers. You’ll also have the chance to hear publishers’  views on your work by submitting the first page of your CYA work at the festival. You’ll have to be there to hear it though… So who will be there? To name just a few: Nicolas Brasch, Anna Ciddor, Leanne Hall, Sue Lawson, Ebony McKenna, Vincenzo Pignatelli, Jeanette Rowe… the list goes on. Do yourself a favour and find out more.

Week 4: 22-28 July

How’s this: you wouldn’t think when it’s so easy to ‘just google it’ that I would mistake Roald Dahl for an Australian. Clearly this is an example of that phenomenon where, if you like them enough, well, they must be Australian. Just like the Queen is.

I never said I was an expert on poetry. But I might become an expert on googling instead. This residency is bringing about learning in such unexpected places, mmm?

This week’s ill-fated poetry quiz was indeed a stanza out of Roald Dahl’s ‘The Three Little Pigs’ from the ‘Revolting Rhymes’ series. The winner of the covetted coffee is Adele, and she also goes into the Draw from the residency. Special mention goes to Alex and not just because his dad, David from Tutmut, pulled me up over Dahl’s citizenship. Maybe it was Dahl’s notorious, um…personality traits that convinced me he was Australian.

At any rate, I suspect I bamboozled the coffee fiends with that minor transgression of borders. And yes, I promise to just google it next time. If only to keep David from Tumut off my case…


Stranger things

Deciding to do this residency was partly inspired by a friend-in-words, Sarah, who had the smarts to ask her boss if she could take four consecutive Fridays off work so she could dedicate some time to her latest writing project. The plan resulted in Sarah finishing great slabs of her novel-in-progress, and getting a significant way down her writer’s pathway. Obviously not all workplaces are going to support such an idea. But the fact that she put it out there shows some pizzazz, yes? And I must add, Sarah’s stick-ability to the plan is impressive – I suspect I could be all too easily distracted by the antics of our chickens out in the back yard. However, I wouldn’t be the first to write chicken-inspired poetry…

At any rate, here I am in a poetry residency supported by the fine folks at Australian Poetry and The Bean Barn. From June to October I have a constant poetry seat. And yes, it is by a window (and all the coffee I can drink). So the reality may seem odd: setting aside Saturday afternoons purely to write/read/talk poetry has not yet resulted in any writing on the actual day. Talking, sure. Conveniently, several friends have discovered that they can find me here at this time, and I’m not about to send them away. So does this mean the residency is failing?

Nope. The writing has been happening BETWEEN Saturdays. It looks like the idea of having a dedicated time and space has created more time and space (something like dark matter?) Who’d have thought? It’s the experience of having a puzzle to solve and several days later the solution simply materialises, without you having consciously worked on it. Or so you thought. Plant an idea and watch it grow. Sprong.

Week 3: 15-21 July

Yes, yes, I know. It is half way through August and I’m only now posting July. Let’s just say I was distracted a while.

So. For Week 3 I couldn’t resist another Banjo Patterson treat, so chose my favourite part of ‘The Man From Ironbark’ to chop up. Reassembled offerings were fewer this week from the coffee-worshippers at The Bean Barn. Perhaps the task was trickier, or not as exciting as last week’s segment ‘The Triantiwontigongolope’ (let’s face it, who wouldn’t prefer to head back to pre-adult when things were so much less complicated?). Maybe the particularly bleak Ballarat winter made it simply too cold to venture out. If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the full poem read by someone who really knows how to deliver their lines, then put it at the top of your must-do list. Preferably they’ll also be dressed the part, and have a full beard, crazy eyes and have a flair for wild gesticulation…

Congratulations to Catherine for her speedy and correct entry. Get thee to the BB for your free coffee and good luck in the prize draw! Thanks to other hopefuls Hayley, Matt and Georgie for your submissions, but you’ll have to be quicker than that to win.

ab patterson