Varuna Short Story Competition and Masterclass

I’m a short story writer at heart. If I had my way, I’d spend the rest of my life writing them, rather than wrestling with words at novel length. Although conventional wisdom has it that no one reads short stories, that collections and anthologies are a hard sell, I love fiction in the short form. So it’s gratifying to see short stories being embraced and nurtured at Varuna: The Writers House. Listen up, short story writers:

Varuna is proud to partner Scribe Publications in two new programs aimed at presenting, exploring and extending the range of short story writing in Australia.

The programs are open to writers resident in Australia. Writers are invited to apply for one or both programs:

  • The Varuna/NAS National Short Story Competition
  • The Varuna/Scribe Masterclass: Exploring the Short Story, with Cate Kennedy and Robin Hemley

The Varuna/NAS National Short Story Competition seeks short stories for possible inclusion in Scribe’s short story anthology. The anthology, to be published in 2011, is the second in Scribe’s New Australian Stories series. New Australian Stories 2.0 will showcase a rich diversity of short stories by contemporary Australian writers.

The Varuna/Scribe Masterclass is an intensive six-day residential program to help writers extend their knowledge of this perennially novel and vital medium. Activities include discussions, readings and practical work, with participants editing one of their short stories and starting a new one. The masterclass will be led by two respected short story writers. Robin Hemley, writing professor with the University of Iowa’s renowned writing program, has written stories and essays that have appeared in many anthologies and literary journals. Cate Kennedy is an award-winning short story writer, with an acclaimed short story collection, Dark Roots.

Submissions close 31 July 2010. Click here for full details.

Varuna: The Writers House


Drive-By Target

The wickedly talented Angela Slatter is conducting a series of short, drive-by interviews with spec fic authors on her website.  Sean Williams and Karen Miller have already been left twitching in her wake, and today she has me in her sights.

Cakes, donuts and danishes are all mentioned. Hungry?

Australian Horror

AHWA Nightmare Ball

The Australian Horror Writers Association is hosting a Nightmare Ball at AussieCon4 (WorldCon). It’s a masquerade event, with the dress code being described as “formal / nightmare”. Do you think a Zombie Bride costume will suffice?

Date: 3rd September 2010

Time: 9.00 pm to 12.00 pm

Place: The Banquet Hall (Room 201) at the Melbourne Convention Centre in conjunction with Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention.

The event is open at all — you don’t have to be a member of either the AHWA or AussieCon to attend.

Midnight Echo #4

The AHWA has also just announced the publication of Midnight Echo #4. This issue was edited by Lee Battersby and has a juicy line up of stories, poetry, artwork and interviews. It’s available in hardcopy or PDF — the latter for the bargain price of just $3.50. Midnight Echo is the flagship publication of the AHWA and has come an incredibly long way in the short time since Ian Mond and myself co-edited the very first issue back in October 2008. Anyone interested in Australian horror and dark fantasy should not overlook this magazine. But there’s no need to take my word for it. Here try a taste of LL Hannett’s gorgeously horrific “Tiny Drops” from the current issue:

Some parents use razor blades. Others try sewing scissors, or reinforced darning needles, or pieces of heirloom-stained glass. Truth is, finely honed knives are most effective when it comes to slicing the delicate flesh inside a child’s mouth. A swift stroke along the inner cheek and the job can be done by a responsible parent in less than a minute.

Theresa hasn’t been responsible since the triplets’ first birthday.

How can you not keep reading a short story that begins like that? Midnight Echo #4 (as well as all back issues) can be purchased from the AHWA online store.

Writers on Writing

Australian writer of “rollicking adventure fantasy”, Rowena Cory Daniells, has written a lengthy and entertaining overview of the fantasy genre for the Australia Literature Review, with an emphasis on Australian authors. She includes several thought-provoking quotes from notables in the field, of which my favourite is from Ursula Le Guin on the function of fantasy in contemporary society:

Fantasy is a literature particularly useful for embodying and examining the real difference between good and evil. In an America where our reality may seem degraded to posturing patriotism and self-righteous brutality, imaginative literature continues to question what heroism is, to examine the roots of power, and to offer moral alternatives. Imagination is the instrument of ethics. There are many metaphors beside battle, many choices besides war, and most ways of doing good do not, in fact, involve killing anybody. Fantasy is good at thinking about those other ways.

“Imagination is the instrument of ethics.” That is simply awesome. I think I need to get it tattooed somewhere.

Meanwhile, David Barnett of The Guardian has penned a column concerning the “ongoing endless war between ‘literary’ fiction and ‘genre’ fiction”, sparked off by the Neil Gaiman’s introduction to Stories — the anthology Gaiman co-edited with Al Sarrantonio. Worth a read for its musings on story, plot and character, as well as its reminder that “literary” fiction is indeed a genre in itself. If you have the time, make yourself a cup of tea and peruse the lengthy comments section. There’s a fascinating discussion going on there.

And just the other day, in his acceptance speech for the Carnegie Medal (awarded to The Graveyard Book), Neil Gaiman himself spoke about the role of libraries — those made from bricks and mortar — in the digital age:

We’re now in an age of ‘too much information’. Libraries and librarians are more important than ever. . .  Children want stories. They want information. They want knowledge about the strange world they’re in. Saying that the internet can be that is like setting a child free in a jungle and expecting them safely to find things to eat.

Yes indeed, there has been many fine words of wisdom from the interwebs the month. Mmm, crunchy.

Awards, Awards, Awards

Because I am not going to allow that last piece of self-indulgence to sit at the top this blog for any longer than necessary, here is the first of my Closing Tabs posts.

Earlier this month, the nominees for the 2010 British Fantasy Awards were announced and I was extremely pleased to see that Rob Shearman has received no less than three well-deserved nods. “Roadkill” and “George Clooney’s Moustache” have been nominated in the Best Novella and Best Short Story categories respectively, and the book in which you can find them both, Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, is also in the running for Best Collection. (It’s also worth noting that “Roadkill” was first published by Twelfth Planet Press, an Australian small press which is producing some truly stunning and significant books.) Love Songs is a brilliant collection, witty and poignant and dark and uplifting all at the same time. I cannot recommend it more highly.

In news closer to home, the somewhat-still-prestigious Miles Franklin Award was won by crime writer Peter Temple for his novel Truth. I haven’t read any of Temple’s work, but it’s great to see genre fiction being recognised in what has been very much the province of capital-L-literary fiction. Could this open the way to more speculative fiction?

Lastly, this year’s Ditmar Award nominations (for works published in the 2009 calendar year) are now open and you can nominate your favourite works on the online nomination form. To help refresh your memory, Tehani Wessely of FableCroft has created a work-in-progress spreadsheet of eligible works over all categories. Feel free to contact her to fill an gaps you might spot.

And that’s half a dozen tabs closed right there!

Wherein the author makes a minor confession

I have a small, silly confession to make: blogging makes me anxious.

I’ll read or see something online and think, “That’s interesting or inspiring or infuriating — I really should write a post about that.” So I leave the tab open in my browser and think about what I want to say and try put aside the time to say it in, and then a few days or a few weeks pass, and the tab starts to look old sitting up there among all the other newer, shiner open tabs, and so I close it. Reluctantly. Anxiously. Feeling as thought I’ve let something slip (again) that I really should have noted at least in passing.

All of which has made me realise that I place way, way too much importance on blogging. I don’t have to write an essay each time I post. I don’t even have to write a complete paragraph. I can just say, “Hey, look at this!” In fact, sometimes that’s all that needs to be said.

Hence, my new half-year resolution. I will post more frequently, if more briefly, about things I find interesting and/or worthy of announcement. I will spend the next week closing my currently open tabs and blogging about any that are still relevant. In future, I will try not to feel that I need to make a song and dance about anything in order to blog it. Maybe this will reduce my blogging anxiety. Maybe not. But at least I won’t have a million damn tabs open across the top of my browser all the time!

Book Trailer for Madigan Mine

Kirstyn McDermott with Madigan MineMy advance copies of Madigan Mine arrived on Monday! It’s still difficult to get my head around the concept that I will have a novel sitting on the shelves of bookshops in a week or so, a novel that people who don’t know me from Eve will be able to pick up and read. Gulp. Of course, actually holding the thing in my hot little hands helped with that a great deal.

Then this morning there was a fresh new link to a Madigan Mine book trailer sitting in my inbox. The trailer was put together by Paul Murphy at Book Tease, who has done an excellent job of capturing the feel of the novel without giving too much of the story away. So, the whole my-novel-in-bookshops thing? It’s feeling very, very real right about now!