The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2016: Helen Stubbs

Helen StubbsHelen Stubbs is an excitable fiction and feature writer living on the Gold Coast, Australia. She loves expanding the vibrancy of local arts and culture through writing and creating community arts projects (like Writers Activation and Contact 2016) and partnerships that operate inclusively and aim for a neutral or positive effect on the environment. Helen’s stories have been published in The Never Never Land, Next and other anthologies and magazines. Sometimes she wins awards and climbs things she shouldn’t. Chat with her on Twitter: @superleni or check out her blog.

 I wish I lived closer to the Gold Coast so I could get to Writers Activation, the writing space you curate. How did this project come about, and what has it been like to run?

You should come and hang out with us, Rivqa! Writers Activation is pretty amazing. We’re celebrating our first birthday at the moment. Our party was on 30th July, 2016 with pizza, trivia and fancy dress.

When Council started the Found project (which WAct is part of) they didn’t really know what they were offering… it was $2000 and an opportunity to create city-shaping projects (which sounds cool, right!). Then I was asked what I would do with a space. As a writer, I don’t need much space… I could stay in my tiny office for days.

I went into it asking a lot of questions – what does the local writing community want and need? How would they use a space? It turns out people want somewhere to write and to talk about their projects, or the book they want to write.

People seemed to want a writing centre. Council began to broker relationships between vacant shop owners and creatives, like me. Australia Fair offered me a really nice space with a street shopfront and a few small rooms. Lots of people came on board; old friends and new, bringing in furniture and chipping in to clean and move things in.

It’s been an interesting project because it’s grown naturally, to be what people needed. Meeting more local writers has definitely been a highlight, for me.

Although we started out with a three-month lease, we ended up being there for about ten months, until the shop was leased commercially. Then Australia Fair invited us to move next door. They’ve provided us with free space and electricity for a year.

Over the year we’ve hosted workshops, open mic nights, and stacks of meetings. We’ve collaborated with the city art gallery on competitions. We’ve promoted launches and performance events all over the Coast. Some people come in regularly to write. Some read the locally written books we have on our shelves.

The main challenge has been not letting it take over my life. Our opening hours aren’t all that regular, and at least one person is cranky about that.

WAct has started some people writing fiction and/or improved their skills, and it’s nurtured friendship groups, built networks and provided a productive space for people to write.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2016: Gillian Polack

Gillian PolackGillian Polack has published five novels, two anthologies, two significant works of non-fiction, many far less significant works of non-fiction, and a historical cookbook. One of the novels (Ms Cellophane/Life through Cellophane) was a Ditmar Finalist, as was one of the anthologies (Baggage). She was awarded the Best Achievement Ditmar in 2010.

Her PhDs are in Medieval History and in Creative Writing. She still claims she needs a third. Until recently, her research was focussed on how writers think of history and how they use it in their fiction, but she is now working on how writers build cultural constructs into narratives. She has received two writing fellowships at Varuna, arts grants, and is in demand at SF conventions because she carries chocolate most of the time. She currently lives in Canberra, Australia, which explains everything. She can be found online on her website, LiveJournal, Twitter, Facebook, or her History Girls blog.

As well as writing, you teach writing workshops on a regular basis. What do you enjoy about teaching?
I enjoy classroom dynamics and working with interesting people. There is a special moment when a student has a breakthrough and a wonderful intensity about a class where everyone is absorbed in learning. Teaching is tiring, but it gives back enormously.

I love students and I love learning from them. Their questions and needs keep me thinking about why we write and how we write and what tools we need to write. Some of my best insights as a writer and as someone who studies writing comes from working with people ask thoughtful questions in class. It’s almost impossible for me to become self-satisfied with my writing when I teach. As I help my students grow and learn, I help my writing. It’s wonderful.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2016: S. G. Larner

Stacey LarnerS. G. Larner is a denizen of sunny Brisbane, Australia, where she wrangles three children, studies a Master of Information Science, works in an academic library, and complains about the heat. She tends to explore the dark underbelly of the world in her short fiction and poetry, in genres ranging from literary to science fiction and dark fantasy. Her artwork ranges from realism to fantastical. Recently she’s started exploring combining her poetry with original musical compositions.

Her work has been published by Apex, Aurealis, the Australian Poetry Journal, Fablecroft, SQ Mag, Tincture Journal, and Tiny Owl Workshop, among others. In her non-existent spare time she’s training to become a ninja, and runs a school library. She occasionally tweets as @StaceySarasvati and can be found at Forego Reality.

You’re currently working on a Master of Information Science, majoring in Library and Information Practice – how has that affected your writing, beyond taking away time for it? Do you feel like you’re seeing things from another angle?

In the beginning, studying was a means to an end for me, a way to get my family out of the low-income mire; I had always intended to keep writing through my degree. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I’d enjoy studying again and how much the content would interest me. I definitely think it’s affected a lot of the ways I approach my writing and vice versa: I think I have an advantage over a lot of the other students because my writing activities have naturally led to a lot of the professional practice that we’re encouraged to do as librarians. But librarians have a real sense of end-user needs, which I think writers, because we are so protective of our “creative imperative”, sometimes lose sight of. I started writing a blog post of things writers could learn from librarians but I never finished it because busy. Librarians are hardcore!

I still find myself torn between my identity as a writer and my forming identity as a librarian (or information professional). And the lack of publications this year is very painful!

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2016: Jodi Cleghorn

Jodi CleghornJodi Cleghorn (@jodicleghorn) is a writer, poet, editor, small press owner and workshop facilitator with a penchant for the dark vein of humanity. Her stories (published here and overseas) traverse a variety of genres, formats and lengths, and she’s a passionate advocate of collaborative writing. Elyora/River of Bones, her debut novella, was shortlisted for an Aurealis. No Need to Reply, a flash-fiction chapbook will be followed up this month by the companion publication, The Heart is an Echo Chamber, penned by eight friends.

Your post-it note and cut-and-paste poetry are a consistent delight across my social media. What’s their role in your overall writing process – are they warm-ups, or important in their own right?

In short: both. They have been frivolous and serious, stop-gap play and scheduled work, disposable creativity and important self-expression. The cut-and-paste poetry gave my depression a voice in 2014, when I was coming to the realisation I was chronically ill. It morphed into poem squares and gave me the ability to keep creating/writing when my intellectual capacity for my own original work didn’t exist.

I’m a jack-of-all-words, so I am happy to be an author of science fiction sometimes, poetry builder from the texts of Winterson and Calvino other times. As long as I don’t use one to procrastinate from the other, they have the capacity to be a refueling loop.

Poem squares are important in their own right now. I sold my first one recently and plan to put more up for sale as well as open for commissions.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2016: Laura E. Goodin

A picture of author Laura E Goodin

American-born writer Laura E. Goodin has been writing professionally for over 30 years. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Review of Australian Fiction, Adbusters, Wet Ink, The Lifted Brow and Daily Science Fiction, among others, and in several anthologies. Her plays and libretti have been performed on three continents, and her poetry has been performed internationally, both as spoken word and as texts for new musical compositions. She attended the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.

For those of us who weren’t able to catch The Cabinet of Oddities, can you tell us a bit about it (and whether we can expect a reprise anytime soon)?
My husband, composer Houston Dunleavy, and I collaborate frequently on pieces. A while back he wrote a piece for one of the low flutes (find out more about these fabulous instruments here!) as incidental music to one of my flash pieces (“The Monster Tarantella”). We realised that it would be intensely fun to get other writers and composers to work together to produce a collection of these sorts of pieces. And when we found out that the Australian Flute Festival was occurring at exactly the same time a few hundred metres away from Conflux last year – well. How much more reason did we need? In the end, all the writers, composers, and players had a fantastic time creating and performing the concert at Conflux, and the audience members were thrilled with hearing brand-new works – both text and music – and with seeing and hearing the wondrous suite of flutes. It really was a joyous experience – but over way too soon, with only one performance. That’s why I’m thrilled to announce there will be two more performances as part of the Melbourne Fringe on September 23 and 24 – keep an eye on their site, as the program launches August 9!

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