Thursday, 30 April 2009

Poetry 1 comes online

The Poetry 1 class, under Rob's excellent guidance, have been writing a few group poems, and here's one they wrote in the beginning of April. 

(Sorry about the double spacing -- the original wasn't spaced like this, and I don't have hours to pull the individual codes out of every line, which seems to be the only way to fix it!)


A is for Alphabet

Announcing an archive

arriving ahead

an articulate attempt

at asking and answering

an awesome amount

about anything:


Art and artifice

abstract arguments

agreeable antics accepted

at any age

as anonymous authors

anxiously anticipate

automatic applause.


B is for Birthday

Birthdays come and go,

born a baby one day,

with child-like anticipation,

birthdays bring surprises,


an excuse for celebration

with long lost friends and family.

A flag to mark the milestones.


You’ve not been forgotten.


C is for Congratulations       

Congratulations on your achievement.

On your engagement, wedding

even your divorce,

because I’ll always be there with you.


D is for Diversity

Domineering, demonstrating, dominating

Dear diary, dear me

How do I decide what to do?

Do I dare to care? Do I dare to dream?

Do I decide independently?

Or do I seek deliverance?

Diabolical as the devil

I draw a diagram

Dedicated to destruction and depression

My destiny is to destroy

Destroy this ‘D’ poem.


E is for Elope

She thought she was happy with him

and he loved her more than anyone could.


It was just that

no one approved of their love.


They were going to elope

become two souls as one.


And that day she left him

standing at the altar.


He was left devastated

and uncertain.


She was not in love with him



F is for fantasy

Fantasise what’s inside

fear no boundary

face reality

focus closely

forbid rejection

fly up high.

Fantasise what’s inside.


G is for Genius

Accomplishments I have many

Brain power times a million

Creativity is my middle name

Expertise in every field

Flair I do it all in style

Imagination beyond belief

Inventiveness I am original

Mature beyond my age

Reach, I won’t stop until it’s done

Talent you can’t bury

Wisdom of all ages


Genius is I.



H is for high

so high you couldn’t say

two poles held by a single rung

to ensure that they won’t sway.


Upside down or right side up

it makes sense either way

helping us ascend to a better place

a ladder to the sky.



I cry

I smile

I laugh

I pant

I sing when I’m alone

I talk

I yell

I whisper

I whistle

I speak when no one’s home

I run

I point

I stare

I walk

I sleep when I am tired

I forget

I eat

I drink

I love

I flip when I am wired.


J is for Joker       

The joker jiggles jolly bells

he makes the children laugh

balloons and horns, he squeaks

so loud,

above the big giraffe.



 KooKoo klutzy kimbas

kestle in kirth’s koreen

keesing and kasing into kove

the keenest kapoke of kanoodle.



L is for lonesome

looking for hope

lying alone every night

living alone.


L is for life

leaving, returning

learning to find ourselves

longing for meaning.


L is for love

laughter overload

lying beside the one you love

lonesome no more.



Machines are making money

Money makes man mad

No majesty in drudgery

A magnet for the had.


N is for North      

You are in the Northern hemisphere

I am in the South

how far we are

how many mountains, forests

oceans are between us

but we have the same moon

to look at

and think of each other.



O is the shape of a ring, there is no end.


O is the halo that hovers above

pretending to be on your head.


O is the shape of the sun and planet Earth

the universe moves in circles.


It is hard to fathom the end of a circle.

Can a mind comprehend eternity?



P is for podium

a place to stand and speak

high above the crowd

(and rounded at the front)

just don’t forget

your words are not that great

because if you don’t watch out

you’ll fall off.



Q is for questions

which can never be answered

questing for the truth

in a queue too long to see

the end of

where secrets lie in quiet rooms

in the dark, to quicken pulse

Fears to be quelled

if truth is desired to quench

thirst of desire.

The need to know

calm quivering lip, still

heart, rest quill

remove the quilt of unknowing

from your quaking self

enter untreaded speeches

and seek, query all things,

Until all is yours

Do not



R is for Red 

Rich red soil in outback Australia.

Red sunset decorates the evening sky.


Red massive rock, Uluru.

Dust from the desert carried on the hot winds

lays like a carpet, covers the roads.


Bottle brush, Waratah, wild flowers vibrant in bloom.

Red, the colour of country, the colour of love.


S is for Sammy Snake

Sammy Snake sat snugly

beneath the sizzling summer sun.

Somehow, silly Sammy left his sun hat

somewhere on Sunday.

So while Sammy slept so soundly

snoring somewhat softly

poor Sammy became sunburnt

and slid home, sulking sadly.



T is for triangle

Any triangle has three corners

Sun, moon and star

Ocean, mountain and river

Or you, I and something

We are close on one side

Or far on another.



United we stand, united we make a front

you are either with us or

against us.

Detach yourself from this, break

the umbilical cord.

Recognise Utopia.


V for Voice 

Shout out loud

What you believe

Voice your opinion

Verse your opposition

Visualise the future

Validate your views

Shout out loud!



W is for the watcher

Who waits beneath my window

Wishing for more

Wanting more


Willing to wade through

To get to the waves

Wishing for more

Wanting more


Wandering beside my shadow

Weak to my every whim

Wishing for more

Wanting more


Will you ever walk up

And welcome me with your warm embrace?

Wishing for more

Wanting more.


X is for Xperiment 

Xtra Xtra! Read all about it!

Xtraordinary circumstances

Xponential discovery:


“Xpanding woman Xplodes unXpectedly”


Xilirating read

Xciting stuff

Xtra Xtra! Read all about it!


Y is for Yesterday

Yesterday, I loved you

and wanted you to know.


Today, I said ‘I love you’

and there was silence after.


Tomorrow, I’ll know better

than to give my heart again.



Unappreciated and misunderstood

Z stands alone

Z means completion, the final lightning strike

direct and sharp

the sound of sleep

completes our day.

Tommy, Tarryn, Stephanie, Rhys, Melissa, Meady, Judith, John B, Elyse, Christine, Austin, Antonia, Antonette, Huda, Melita, Sarah C, Tomas V

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

PWE online student musings

Well, I think I'm in the right place - I'll know I'm blagging instead of blogging when Tracey asks why I haven't done the blog, and being virtually confused is a better excuse than the dog ate my homework.  

Anyway, I'm Nikki, the Fiction Elements Online creator of dirty skateboarders, whinging trailer trash and Charlize Theron stalkers.   I'm what VU politely refers to as a mature-age student (how nice).   I have finally given in to the need to do something connected to my writing, even though it may not lead to the unimaginable riches and worldwide fame my ex-husband hoped for (I appreciate his belief in my talent tho'). I have not been in a classroom since the invention of the internet, mobile technology and when handing in your assignments actually required a hand.

I am loving the experience! I also do two actual classes as well as the one virtual class and find both are distinctly different but equally enjoyable. I realised that in order for this to work for me I had to submit to the process. This means that when I am asked to think, or write or discuss or read, then that's what I have to do.

I must say there is enough to complete online that sometimes I am tempted to take a day off work but I intend to finish the diploma without losing my job so my weekends now are all about keeping on top of my homework.

I like the opportunity to post my work without the face-to-face scrutiny of others regarding my work. There is such insecurity inherent in creating, in any artform, that I appreciate I can avoid any reactions that may be so-so or ho-hum and which would distract me from writing my words (although I must confess to reading my pieces out loud to my mum - nothing like a sympathetic audience!). 

This, however, is a double-edged sword. The thing that I do miss very much is the feedback about my work - and before I offend my teacher, Tracey, I mean the phatic communion that sometimes follows the sharing of a piece of writing: the smiles, nods and grimaces that immediately shows you others have the got the point you tried to make. I hadn't counted on missing that part of the classroom experience.

The other big upside for me studying online is the obvious - writing in my pyjamas (sorry about the mental picture folks). It's wonderful that I can pour the act of writing into the gaps and spaces in my day that used to be filled with TV, chatter and inconsequential stuff.

So it's a big YES from me for online fiction elements and I'm really looking forward to reading everyone else's posts. 

Please note that I have tried to post the classic middle-aged authoress photo with the hand on the chin to look studious and writerly and hide all the other chins. Honestly - check out lady authors, everyone does it except Jackie Collins! (long live plastic surgery)


Event news

Susanna has just passed this on:

Hi all PWE students – this event sounds like a lot of fun. Next Wednesday, lunch-time. We’ll try to make provision in your subjects for you to attend this, if you have classes on Wednesday.

If you are an Industry Overview student, you might be interested in using this event as one of your pieces to report on.

See you there!


VU is a proud sponsor of the 6th annual Williamstown Literary Festival. VU Library and Student Life (St Albans) are proud to bring you the first-ever Read Write Debate Fete featuring a fantastic array of reading, writing and debating from students and invited guests. Distinguished Visiting Professor Rodney Hall, a two-time winner of the Miles Franklin Award and prolific international author, will be joining us as our opening speaker and Scott McAteer, stand-up comedian, writer, blogger and VU Alumnus, will take on the role of debate adjudicator. Christine Croyden, playwright, novelist and VU teacher, will wrap up our day’s activities. Expect to be enlightened, entertained and energised!

Our programme includes:
· Readings of original works by students and invited guests
· The Debate: Don't biog, blog! In today's technology driven and socially networked world, writing a biography is a thing of the past. Blogging your life stories is the way of the future.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 6, 2009
TIME: 11.00am -2.00pm (the debate will start at high noon)
WHERE: VU St Albans Campus Library and Learning Commons - Level 2, Building 7, McKechnie St, St Albans
RSVP: By Monday, May 4, 2009
CONTACT: Ali Chizari, Marketing and Events Assistant
PHONE: 9919 2721
Coffee and cake provided!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Readings at Rotunda

John King hooks the audience in with the beginning of his novel.

How fantastic are our Rotunda nights! Excuse me if I have a little bragging session, but I'm really excited about all that's going on in PWE at the moment. And this session didn't let us down. This session was entertaining and informative -- as you'll see if you read Kathy's report below. Sherryl looked like she was born for the interviewer's chair, and John Clarke was just sensational, and we followed this up with some pretty sensational PWE student readings, which John was generous enough to hang around for and to listen to.

Megan Green gets gritty in her crime novel.

I'm not joking when I say it was generous of John to stick around. I can't tell you how many readings I've been to where the guest readers get up and do their bit and then go off. If there's an open-mic session afterwards, you'll never find them there. They're long gone. And these are people not nearly as well known as John -- perhaps with fame comes grace. No, I know that's not true. It's obviously just something he has.

Christine Kowal shares some poems with the audience.

Many people find it hard to get up and read in front of an audience. Last year, we had Debra Byrne come in and do a performance workshop with the Poetry and Writing for Young Adults students, and for anyone else who wanted to join. I know, as the Poetry teacher, that it was one of the highlights of the year for most of us. Debra's workshop was lots of fun and informative, and I know it helped me deal with my own nerves -- yes, I admit it, even those of us who stand up in front of a class week after week get nervous sometimes. I know some of our readers were nervous, but they covered it well. They all looked like seasoned pros -- no-one rushed, and they all read well. They all read as if they were proud to "own" their work, and so they should be.

Lucia Nardo reads from her Ada Cambridge shortlisted entry.

One of the great benefits of Rotunda, is not just that we're engaging with the wider community, but that it does give our students a chance to strut their stuff. Last year we had performances by the Comedy 1 and Poetry 1 students -- on separate nights. I'm not sure I would've been grateful of the large audience when I was a student, but a few years on I can tell you it would've been good for me. And that's why I was so pleased with our five readers -- their readings was a late addition to the program, but you wouldn't have thought so. They looked very well prepared and did themselves proud. Thanks, guys, for having the guts to put your work out there. And, I can tell you from looking around, which I know you were too busy to do, that it was all very well received.

Hugh Deacon has everyone in stitches with his story.


Hey, guys, just wanted to share with everyone my experiences being apart of the Ada Cambridge Shortlisting group. When Tracey asked for students to put their hands up to volunteer, I have to say I was immediately excited about the opportunity. As mentioned, it is something respectable for the CV, but it also gave me an opportunity to experience the many different varieties of writers who must believe themselves to be accomplished enough to win such a prestigous award.

Thirty-nine stories later (if I remember correctly) I had created my list of 'potential winners' and when collaborating with the guys, exchanging opinions and their individual lists, we found many conflicting ratings on the stories. It's something I really enjoyed because it showed that everyone takes in what they read differently. What may seem a piece of trash to one person may be a complete gem to somebody else. Pretty cool I reckon!

Going through the stories submitted was one heck of a ride. There were the stories that at times (no offence) seemed painful. 'What the heck was that about?' was a question I asked myself at times. Yet at other times, 'This story's my favourite so far' was another statement I made. The variety on display during the shortlisting process was just phenomenal. At some stages, someone's preferred trash was another's treasure and it's not because some stories were necessarily bad, just purely a different preference of style. It engaged the reader differently, affected them differently or simply hit their emotions deeper. I understand exactly the need for several judges for a shortlisting process and why there's three judges and not just one.

Overall, experiencing such a competition teaches you to respect different styles of writing. You also gather a greater understanding of what Tracey goes through on a regular basis too. I grew a newfound appreciation for writing because of this experience. And if given another opportunity I'd do it again to. Adventures like this are why writing makes me a better person and re-establishes the power and influence of writing, regardless of whether it seems good or bad. One person's opinion is never a fact. I love that. In the end, the power's with the writer and not the reader, but the story's only what the reader makes it.

Cheers to all,

Monday, 27 April 2009

John Clarke comes to Rotunda

John Clarke in coversation with our own Sherryl Clark

John Clarke was just as you imagine him to be.  Down-to-earth and straightforward.  Answering the question on everybody's lips of Why don't you ever dress up and pretend to be the person you are impersonating, he replied that he's not so good as an actor, and much better at just being himself, so rather than try and reconstruct the politicians, he deconstructs them.  (Follow that?)

Like most of us, he hates pitching to the hierarchy to get his ideas across.  Maybe we all need an agent at some time?  His conversation about his early difficult home and school life gave an interesting insight: "It's nice to be getting paid for what I got kicked out of school for".  Perhaps careers advisers might note that?  

As a mature-aged student, it was enjoyable to take my husband whose only contribution to this blog post is "the audience were in awe of him.  Everybody was silent and totally attentive".  When asked if he'd have a blog, John replied "Never", which made some of us squirm a little, but then he added "I just don't have time".  He did however, have time to chat while signing books, and to stay and listen to the five readings at the end of the night.  

One of the messages I came away with was to be true to your own style, and to write for the audience.  Try to remember what it's like to be the audience looking back at you.

Kathy Mexted

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Chris Baty comes to VU

Don't forget that Chris Baty, the man behind NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy and author of No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days, is in Australia and coming in to speak to a combined Story Structure and Novel 2 class on Tuesday morning. All PWE students are welcome. We'll be in Room 10.220A and B at 9.45 am. We expect his talk (and your questions) to go for about an hour.


Saturday, 25 April 2009

My Writing Process

Before I was hit by the idea for the novel I’m currently writing (a.k.a. ‘The Big One’) my writing process was very different to what it is now. I used to have an idea and just sit down to write it cold, no planning at all. Is it any wonder I hit so many brick walls? However, when Long Road Home (LRH) entered my conscious mind I knew without a doubt that everything I was used to would have to change. The backstory to Doyle’s character is pivotal to the plot of LRH and I was never going to be able to write the story without some serious planning.

Character planning comes first with me, mostly because when I have an idea for a story, it originates as just characters in my head acting out a role-play of scenes when I’m bored or have nothing else to think about. Yeah, it can take a few days for me to realise that I’m actually telling myself a story. So with the characters already existing in my mind, beginning my planning with them makes sense. Once I have them pretty well fleshed out, I go on to setting, which I don’t plan in nearly as much detail. I get things such as location, population and basic history down, and have a mental map of the main areas of town. Only after that do I sit down and plan out my chapters. With LRH I put in a lot of work doing this because I understood how crucial it would be to the success of the story. I had to have a complete timeline worked out so I could plant foreshadowing and make the characters develop at the right pace. Of course, the plan I have now is very different to the plan I originally came up with but I’m glad about that. I’m confident in the story I now have, much more so than the original version.

I would love to say that I write every day, but I don’t. I really try to get something down most days and really feel guilty when that doesn’t happen. Still, at least on those days I don’t write, I’m thinking about something to do with the story, whether it be plot, character, setting or voice. Ironing out those little details may not be as enjoyable as actually writing, but it’s just as important. Sometimes I can’t quite get all the creases out though, and that’s where Jess and JJ (and to a lesser extent, my brother) come in. Jess and JJ have been my sounding boards from the very beginning and they understand the intricacies of LRH as well as I do, so when I have a creative problem, they’re the ones I run to. While they know the story as well as I do, they’re also removed from it and that helps get over whatever problem I’m facing. My brother is a little different. He’s like a maths/science genius and sometimes I wonder if he’s got a calculator in his head. But he offers a very practical side to things, which I sometimes miss when I’m caught up in that surge of creative energy.

How much can I write in one sitting? It depends. I find Doyle chapters easier to write than Andie ones, and sometimes, even with Doyle, I feel like banging my head against a brick wall because the words won’t come out right. When I get on a roll though, I’m like a runaway train; I’ll only stop when I have nowhere else to go. That surge of adrenaline is a great feeling, and I love when I can stop writing, take a deep breath and look back over what I’ve done with a feeling of pride.

I think it’s definitely true to say that I love nothing more than writing. Seeing the product of my labours is great too, but it’s not nearly as exciting as actually sitting in front of a screen, hearing the tapping of the keys and watching the words appear as my fingers try to keep up with my mind. Some days I ask myself if there’s any better feeling in the world, and I guess there must be something that at least matches what I feel when I write; it’s just a matter of finding it. Until then though, I am content to tap away and dream of publication.


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Fiction Elements Online comes online on the blog

Hi, students (and others!),

I'm teaching our Fiction Elements Online class this semester and have asked all the students to blog about how they're finding the experience of being an online student, but I thought I should lead off and say something about how I'm finding the experience of teaching online. I've also suggested they may all like to post a picture, because some of our students aren't on campus -- for example, we have offshore students, and sometimes others from remote corners of Australia.

This is my second year of teaching this subject, and I must say I'm really enjoying the online class. It's great to have a mix of both on-campus and off-campus students, and to see everyone's different perspectives.

I love logging in and seeing who has been active on the Discussion Board -- who has said what, and who's responding to whose post, the new directions a particular discussion is taking. Generally, I try to follow up everyone's response to a particular activity, whether it's a writing exercise or a story analysis or a general discussion about an aspect of fiction. When a discussion does take off with the students responding to each other, I'll read all the posts but won't necessarily respond. I will, however, if I feel I have something to add or a question to ask, or if I'm just busting to say something.

It's funny, because I don't get to have that personal contact I have in a face-to-face classroom where I see people each week, but sometimes people will write things that they might not say face to face, and so I still feel like I'm getting to know everyone quite well.

What I'm looking forward to at the moment is our first chat session. I know last year this was a lot of fun -- it's just coordinating it, and trying to get a time to suit everyone that's a problem, but it's well worth the effort as it gives us the chance to all be together at the same time.

Tracey Rolfe

Monday, 20 April 2009

Seed reminder

I bumped into Maria Matina, the managing editor of Seed, the other day, and she asked me to remind all PWE students to please send stuff in. They're particularly interested in nonfiction, as this seems to be what they get the least of, she said. (But send in other stuff as well!) See their guidelines a few posts lower down.


Friday, 17 April 2009

My writing Process

My Writing Process

I don't have a set time when I write because I usually write when there is something I want to get out of my system and that can be at any time of day. If there is something on my mind that I can't stop thinking about then I find a way to relate those same emotions to my novel and go! This is a good way to both make me feel better and to hopefully give my writing some kind of added emotion to a scene.

If there is nothing on my mind that I need to get out then I usually think of something that has happened in the past and think about how I felt at the time. This will usually help me as well.
It all depends on how I'm feeling at the time.

I always know what I'm going to write before I write it, but leave myself open to change because if something just doesn't feel right then I need to leave it until I figure out what does. If I force something then I just won't work.

And when I'm finished I reward myself with a bit of chocolate.

This is my writing process


Wednesday, 15 April 2009




The twilight poetry bus tour on a double decker bus turned out to be quite an adventure. The two stops at Williamstown and one stop  at the base  of the Westgate bridge memorial, which lists the names of those that died when it fell during  construction, saw the participants brave the dark and cold to hear wonderful poetry from two gifted poets.  Kristin Henry and Paul Mitchell kept us warm with their words. Both were eloquent and expressive and despite the cool conditions they both managed to light a fire within each of us to continue to write.  We all got to share in some food wine and a few laughs by torchlight. The double decker bus was a bumpy but enjoyable ride. 

Interestingly, the night fell on my wife’s 40th birthday which made it quite special for both of us.  Thanks, Bruno, for organising quite a memorable event that we all thoroughly enjoyed. I’m sure I speak for everyone who came along with us.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Fancy yourself as a reader?

The Williamstown Literary Festival run a People's Choice Awards every year -- it's a great chance to showcase your work, put it up before an audience and let them judge you. Several of our students have won it in the past.

Details from the flyer are:

Two sessions will be held - the Prose Awards at 2.30 p.m. on Saturday 2 May and the Poetry Awards (poems should have a link to a nautical theme – the sea, ships, sailors, the bay) at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday 3 May.

Join a fabulous line-up of writers as they share the magic of their written words. Poets, novelists, short-story writers, song writers - anyone who loves to write - are invited to read. Others are invited to listen as the writers take us on their own personal journeys - thought-provoking, engaging, insightful, amusing - and then nominate the reader whose work they have most enjoyed. The People's Choice Awards will be given to the reader who gets the most votes at each session.

Please note: There is a limit of 4 minutes per reading, and readers are booked on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, so potential readers are urged to book their spot via the website . . .

Follow the link above to the website if you want to book yourself a spot. The word is that the prose section is almost full, so if you want to enter that you'd better get in quickly, but there's still plenty of room for poetry. So, if you've got something suitable, why not give it a go? Best part is that you can take your own cheer squad!