Today is a day I have been eagerly anticipating for a long time. I finally get to share the project I’ve been working on for months, Women in Literary Arts Australia. I’m proud to have been working with Kate Callingham and Lisa Dempster on this, two women I respect and admire so much. We saw a need for something that supported the women in our industry to gain professional development, better networks and ways to work together more effectively. We committed to taking the first steps to creating an organisation which might meet these aims. Our hope is that these small beginnings will grow into a strong presence in the sector which makes a significant impact for women. I’m looking forward to our next steps, which will be to form a committee of women from all aspects of the sector to come together and set the agenda for the organisation.
The latest tale from storyteller Stuart Bowden delivers a melancholic and bittersweet hour of entertainment.
Before us were our parents, and our collective human race. Before the lime green bulbous creation on stage before us were also her parents, her collective race, but they’re all dead now she tells us. This is the true story of her death, her extinction.
The latest of Stuart Bowden’s creations is this forest-dwelling creature living alone under a rock. In a mix of storytelling, dance and music, the tale of this creature, the last of her kind, on her last night alive, unfolds. Her loneliness is a melancholic offering to us. Her lamenting songs and soliloquies explore the loss of her family and friends and the emptiness of having her once adored perfect form now languishing with no-one who understands its beauty left to admire it.
While Bowden’s work is often discussed in terms like lo-fi, the truth is Before Us is deceptively simple. The lo-fi costume and lighting are an understated companion to the tightly woven, precisely executed story. The live looping Casio keyboard, banjo ukulele and sung soundtracks create an emotion-charged backing to the storytelling and dancing.
Where some use dance and physical theatre as an overblown dramatic technique, it is the darting precision of movement in the creature’s walk and the whole-body expression in her dancing that have the audience investing in her truth. There is no over-exaggerated, embarrassed stereotype of interpretive dance, but instead a measured expression of the emotion she is experiencing.
Taking the audience’s discomfort with the intimate performance and sometimes surreal material, Bowden commits entirely to his beautifully drawn character and her final hours. He uses suspense and repetition to deliberately provoke and disquiet the audience, keeping them as awkward and unsettled as she is laying her unfamiliar form bare before us. Her vulnerability makes for compelling viewing.
Bowden’s great talent is in taking the audience along with him, coaxing their participation in this surreal journey. Despite the usual resistance of being pulled further on stage and into the action that most audiences are comfortable with, when Bowden draws them into the tale they follow willingly. It is this talent that takes the surreal material from the unusual to the sublime.
In a tale that makes the audience confront death, loneliness, isolation and failed connection the humour here is a tender, wistful, perfectly bittersweet kind.
This review first appeared on Arts Hub as part of their MICF 2015 coverage.
Stella time! Today saw the announcement of the Stella Prize longlist for 2015. Of these I’ve read Laurinda, Foreign Soil and This House of Grief. I have The Strays and Heat and Light sitting in my to-read pile already, but that leaves so many more to enjoy before the announcement of the winner in April.
As an aside, how beautiful is this collection of covers?
It’s February! This is exciting, because it means I’m relieved of my summer childcare duties and back to the writing desk. Lots of ideas have been percolating over my break, and I’m very eager to get back in the swing of things. Obviously there isn’t much work to update you on, but I can report that my reading challenge for this year is well on track. In fact, I’m two books ahead of schedule. Lets see if I can keep that up once my writing hours increase.
I have spent what little time to work I had over the summer on planning and preparing to work. Setting goals, creating project management plans, plotting timelines. It’s hard to hold back from just diving into the writing itself, but I know myself well enough to know that a good plan to keep everything on track is vital, otherwise I’ll find myself neglecting certain projects or aspects of what needs to be done.
So here I am, staring at a freelance writing life. But what does that actually look like? Well, for me, it means having approximately six hours per day, five days per week to dedicate to research, pitching to magazines, journals and newspapers, managing paperwork, dealing with corporate clients, dealing with editors, corporate editing and writing, writing features/articles/reviews/opinion pieces and working on the Big Project.
I haven’t had chunks of time like this to write in for a very long time, so I have used my project management skills to try to create order where there could very easily be none in the messy landscape of freelance writing. I thought I would share how I go about managing both the projects themselves and my time, as I think it’s something lots of us writers have to learn the hard way. It has taken a lot of years of frantic working up until deadline, or underestimating the time involved in a job, before I have gotten to a comfortable system to keep myself on track. Hopefully breaking down how I go about it will help other people struggling with workloads and competing timelines. Look out for another post about this soon.
Maxine Beneba Clarke has launched a brilliant initiative gaining some attention at the moment. Her hashtag #writingwhilefemale is a fascinating view into the experiences of women writers.
The Wheeler Centre published an interview with Maxine today where she talks about why she started the hashtag, which you should read.
Make sure you check out the hashtag on twitter as more people add their experiences, or even better, contribute your own.
My last act as Creative Producer at Express Media is to go to National Young Writers’ Festival. I’ll be appearing at three panels, all of which seem to be perfectly created to explore my favourite topics. If you haven’t been to NYWF, this is the year to make the trip to Newcastle and find out what has kept people like me coming back for 10+ years.