I have written a couple of blogs about spoken word. My first spoken word event was for a local festival in the town I live in a little over a year ago – Poetry and Prose at the Pub. I decided to do it to challenge myself – it was an introverts nightmare. Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, I read up on tips for delivery and practiced for hours, the dog listening patiently in the background. I delivered my piece, script in shaking hand, to a local audience of about thirty people, and to my releif it went down well.
My second spoken word outing was at the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival in Tasmania, last year. This time I delivered my piece freestyle, having learnt it off by heart. My best tip for remembering a script is to record yourself reading your work and play it back over and over, and practicing delivery until you nail it. At Noir at the Bar in Cygnet there were about seventy people in the audience.
The Artistic Director of Terror Australis tracked me down a couple of weeks ago and asked me to record my spoken word piece Feet of Clay for a Facebook live event she’d started hosting called BookLove Tuesdays. Feet of Clay combines my dual interests of poetry and crime fiction and tells a story of ambition, love and jealousy in the pottery world. It’s a bit creepy, but I hope you enjoy it.
I would love to write an entire novel using this rhythmic style one day – although I think it would be hard to keep this type of cadence up for an entire manuscript – a challenge for another time perhaps!
What are some of the things you have done to challenge yourself or your writing?
What would you call a large group of crime writers?…a band of bards; a gang of thieves; a law suit; a table of trouble; an anthology? I’m not sure, but they were certainly learned owls at the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival.
I boarded the Terror jet on Thursday and headed south for some serious sleuthing. Tasmania is the perfect spot for a dark crime and Cygnet put on a feast, there were bodies everywhere…mwahahaha.
Tiny Hobart, the artsy capital of the isolated island state off Australia’s south coast, has murderous intent lapping at its doors, and who knows what those creative types might get up to? Hobart is sandwiched between the wilderness to the west and the southern ocean – nothing much between it and Antarctica except whales and spooky stories.
I am fortunate to have friends who live in Battery Point, Hobart who let me set up base at theirs, which by the way has fabulous views over Sandy Bay AND Mount Wellington, so if you’re looking for a great Airbnb with fabulous hosts, check out Katrina and Susan’s Hobart Loft.
By coincidence, on my first night in Hobart, Katrina was taking part in an old-fashioned murder mystery radio play, Battery at Battery Point, performed at the Battery Point Community Hall. It was a hoot and a terrific event to kick of my crime weekend, not to mention the mouth watering Thai beef salad and delicious Tasmanian wine my friends provided.
On Friday we all piled into the car and headed to Cygnet (Port of Swans), a tiny town in the Huon Valley south of Hobart with less than 2000 inhabitants. It’s a magnate for creative types and has an oversupply of gourmet food for its size. Cygnet punches above its weight and was a perfect location for Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival, Australia’s newest crime writing festival.
My first stop was a MasterClass with Angela Savage, award winning author and director of Writers Victoria. She wore a themed black dress with white swans printed on it – for swanning around at festivals she said. If you ever get an opportunity, pop along to one of Angela’s sessions because she’s an excellent presenter who delivers engaging and thoughtful sessions with practical advice and useful exercises to develop your own writing.
I also attended a MasterClass with historical crime writer Meg Keneally, coauthor of the Monsarrat series with her father, and author of Fled. Meg provided some great advice on research, use of language for historical fiction, character development and choosing your weapon, or poison to bump someone off. The criminal mood of the session was enhanced by an impressive thunderstorm which probably left Meg horse after trying to make sure we could hear her over the noise.
Cygnet folk like to dress up and Friday night was Noir at the Bar 1920’s style. Local gourmet providore’s provided delicious offerings with local beverages for accompaniment, and it was a cracking night. I presented a spoken word piece to the crowd and was pretty chuffed to be able to deliver Feet of Clay freestyle for only the second time I’ve performed it.
Saturday and Sunday were two days packed with the queens and (some) princes of crime led by international guest and author of the Inspector Singh Investigates series, the hilarious and fascinating Singapore based Shamini Flint; Canadian-Australian and vintage dress aficionado, author Tara Moss; and actress Marta Dusseldorp (aka Janet King Crown Prosecutor from the ABC drama). They were accompanied by a plethora of impressive Australian crime writers. The author panellists hosted two days of intriguing discussion on a range of topics, shadowed by the PEN empty chair to symbolise writers who could not be present because they are imprisoned, detained, disappeared, threatened or killed.
Below are some snippets from the panels to give you a flavour of the discussions:
You can fix rubbish and you can delete rubbish, but you can’t do anything with a blank page.
Sherlock Holmes – a supercomputer hooked up to a dot matrix printer…lacking the interface
Recorrections’ of gender stereotypes can be as damning as the tropes they ostensibly challenge, e.g. damsel in distress becomes gun-toting fighter
Fictional crime is often a vehicle to discuss contemporary societal issues, it’s not about the actual crime in the way true crime is
I’ve never had a thought that didn’t end up in a book
Jack Heath asks his Facebook friends for advice on how to poison people but still ensure the body is perfectly safe to eat
So little diversity in crime writers they can be counted on one hand
I don’t believe in writing carefully. I do believe in writing thoughtfully – show your work to a range of readers as part of the writing process
The Bechdel Test — the measure of women’s representation in fiction
Why is it so hard to get men to view films/TV and/or read books with female protagonists? Jack Heath was inspired to write because genres for young male readers were all cars, sport and farting.
Some of the other highlights for me included:
Mantra Dusseldorp reading from LJM Owen’s The Great Divide – gave whole new meaning to bringing story to life – gave me chills.
A discussion about whether Sherlock and Miss Marple would get along
The homage to the Golden Age dames of crime…Dorothy Sayers, Dame Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Patricia Wentworth, Helen de Guerry Simpson, Baroness Emma Orczy, Ethel Lina White,Josephine Tey, Agatha Christie.
All the panels with Shamini Flint because she’s very funny
The final session Whiskey and Words – First Dog on the Moon launching Angela Meyer’s novel Superior Spectre over a whiskey tasting
LJM Owen was the powerhouse behind the festivals birth and she and the team of organisers and volunteers did a fantastic job. The event was professionally organised and had great content. Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festivalis mooted to be a biennial event – I highly recommend you keep your calendar free and go along in 2021.
If you’re not into horse racing, bypass Melbourne and head straight down to Hobart over the Halloween – Melbourne cup weekend. Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival (TAF2019) is a new biennial literary festival to be held at Cygnet in the beautiful Huon Valley 31 October – 5 November. I’ve been looking forward to it for months.
The festival celebrates the work of female crime writers with the theme “Murder She Wrote,” inspired by a visit to Tasmania by Agatha Christie. Christie was on a ten month tour of the British empire taking in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in 1922. The correspondence of her travels was published in The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery. She was so enamoured by Tasmania apparently she said she’d like to live there one day. I’m with Agatha – Tasmania is one of my favourite places also.
“From Australia we went to Tasmania, driving from Launceston to Hobart. Incredibly beautiful Hobart, with its deep blue sea and harbour, and its flowers, trees and shrubs. I planned to come back and live there one day. From Hobart we went to New Zealand.”
– Agatha Christie
I heard someone comment at a writing event I attended a while ago that crime writers are the most fun, and looking at the TAF2019 program, I can see why. The festival kicks off on Thursday and Friday with two days of writing workshops and masterclasses, as well as pitch to the publisher sessions. I’ve booked in for two masterclasses on Friday – one run by Angela Savage and the other by Meg Keneally. I’ll also be performing a spoken word piece at Friday night’s Noir at the Bar – a night of speakeasy jazz, spoken word and cocktails hosted by Naomi Edwards with a 1920’s theme.
Saturday and Sunday hosts a cracker line up of panellists celebrating and exploring crime fiction. I’m looking forward to hearing what some of these folk have to say – Tara Moss, Angela Meyer, Jack Heath, Tansy Rayer Roberts, Meg Keneally, Margaret Keneally, Shamini Flint, Angela Savage,Lindy Cameron, Joanna Baker, Marta Dusseldorp, David Owen, Debi Marshall, Livia Day, Sulari Gentill, L.J.M Owen, and more.
The weekend will be broken up by a Murder Mystery immersive whodunit dinner party on Saturday night set on an archaeological site in 1920’s Cairo. The theme is Curse of the Sphinx in a nod to Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. Guests will inhabit a character and try to solve a murder over dinner before coffee is done. Apart from the writers panels and the dinner I’ll also be imbibing a literary whisky with First Dog on the Moon and Angela Meyer on Sunday afternoon while they chat about Angela’s 2018 debut novel, A Superior Spectre.
For those who haven’t had their fill on the weekend, its bookended by two days of food and wine inspired, mouth watering culinary events on Monday and Tuesday. As part of Trail of Writers Tears, you can eat and drink your way around the region, learn bookbinding, making Chinese dumplings, Italian food, or go and visit Fat Pig Farm for lunch.
For more information check out the TAF2019 website and listen to an interview with Festival Director, Dr L.J.M Owen with David Milne here. See you on the other side Bwa ha ha ha…
Images: ‘Prospero’s Island’ (2015-16) by Valerie Sparks. Commissioned by TMAG for Tempest