EWF, yoga, writing and keeping active

It’s May. I’m not sure exactly how that happened… but I am excited that this month is here, mostly because it means the Emerging Writers’ Festival is just around the corner. And this year I’ll be involved in some sessions at the festival, which makes it doubly exciting.

This year, the second weekend of the festival will be held at the beautiful Abbortsford Convent, which is one of my favourite places to wander around on a weekend anyway. That weekend, The Writers’ Retreat, is focused on wellbeing for writers, and the program includes events on parenting and writing, health and writing, balancing writing with life, and nature writing. You can view the full list of events here.

I’ll be involved in two events on the weekend.

Workshop: Yoga and Writing
11am-12.30pm, 1 June 2013
The Salon, Abbortsford Convent
Tickets $15, $12 concession

I’ll be running a workshop on yoga and writing on the Saturday morning. I can’t even begin to articulate how excited I am about running this. For me, yoga is an absolutely vital part of my writing practice. I use it in all sorts of ways, from a remedy for the physical ills that come with sitting hunched over a desk, to supporting and enhancing (I hope) the intellectual and emotional wrangling necessary to get words on a page.

The workshop will be an opportunity for me to share some of the ways that I use a yoga practice to help my writing, but I also want it to be a pretty open format. I’ll be running the class through some of the yoga postures and other practices, but questions and discussion will be most welcome.

I always hope in my yoga teaching to help people develop sovereignty with their own bodies (and minds, for that matter), so that they can begin to use on their own the tools yoga offers for whatever it is that they need. This workshop is no exception. So come along and ask me as many questions as you like!

Seriously. I love it when people ask me questions about yoga.

Symposium: Keeping Active in the Arts
2.30-4pm, 2 June 2013
Rosina Auditorium, Abbortsford Convent
Admission is free

I’ll also be involved in a symposium-style event on the Sunday called ‘Keeping Active in the Arts’. In this session we’ll be talking about the benefits of staying active, and how to actually do that.

Having recently gone back to a job that keeps me at a desk three days a week (as opposed to teaching yoga full-time, like I was in Sydney), I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks mulling over exactly these questions. I’m really looking forward to discussing some of the ideas I’ve had, and getting some new ones from others.

But honestly, the whole weekend sounds like it’s going to be wonderful, so even if you can’t make it to my events, do come along. Here are some pictures I took on a recent visit to Abbortsford Convent — it’s worth coming just hang out in the place.

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EWF blog post ~ Make it a strong one: coffee and the brain

I’m a bit behind the eight ball with posting this here — my latest post on the Emerging Writers’ Festival blog was published more than a week ago. But here it is!

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I’m afraid I’m going to pick on coffee. I’m sorry. I know, I know, coffee is a writer’s friend. It’s my friend too, often, but I have an ongoing debate with myself about coffee. Most of the time I love it, but often it does strange things to my head, and occasionally I’m repulsed by it. That I could have such complex feelings about a drink fascinates me.

I probably spend far too much time thinking more generally about what I eat and drink. Which I suppose isn’t surprising, given that I currently get paid to write about food a few days a week, and am working on a larger writing project about food and eating. But really I blame my fast metabolism for the amount of time I spend mulling over what I put in my mouth — and indeed it’s probably why I do the work I do. For much of my life, I’ve been the type of person who finishes a big breakfast and is immediately thinking about what I’ll have for morning tea when I’m hungry again in two hours.

Many people don’t believe me when I tell them I eat a lot. I watch them eye my slender frame and raise a skeptical eyebrow. They think I’m joking about second (and sometimes third) breakfast. But hunger for me comes quickly and frequently, and can bring with it dizzy spells along with the kind of raging anger I wrote about in my post on running.

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You can read the rest of the post here.

EWF blog post ~ You’re getting sleeeepy (or not): sleep, sleeplessness and the brain

I’ve got another essay up on the Emerging Writers’ Festival Blog. This one’s about sleep, sleeplessness and the brain.

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It’s 3.37am. My bedroom is dark, the edges of all the things in it are fuzzy. I’ve been woken by the whirring of a forklift driving around inside a chicken wholesaler warehouse two doors down from my place in a semi-industrial part of Melbourne’s Brunswick. It beeps as it reverses. Every now and then, someone throws solid objects into a skip that sits outside the business’ front door. I lay awake for hours, fuming, despairing, turning from side to side. I get up a few times to look, unsuccessfully, for the earplugs I know I own.

It’s not a particularly warm night, but at about 4.15am, my body temperature soars, and I have to throw off all the covers, lie in a starfish shape in the middle of the bed, and consciously slow my breath down. I’m overheating because I’m angry. I’m seriously considering going outside in my pyjamas to yell at the forklift driver about noise rules in mixed-zone areas, but then I start to worry about what, exactly, a business is doing moving stock around at that time of day. What is it? Is it part of their legitimate business? Do I live a few doors down from a ‘business man’ rather than a business man? Might I be risking my safety if I complain? And the paranoid spiral continues until the noise finally stops at 6.30am.

Eventually, some time around 7am, I drag myself out of bed and stumble through the day not entirely sure whether I’m awake or asleep. My limbs are heavy and I can feel my body’s exhaustion like the very beginning of pins and needles. I manage, somehow, to call the council and make enough sense that they understand I’m making a noise complaint.

Every now and then I have a bout of sleeplessness, although I’d not go as far as calling myself an insomniac. Most often my sleeplessness is related to noisy neighbours — jackhammers at 7am on a Sunday, idiotic first-home-away-from-homers exploding aerosol cans in a barrel fire under my window late at night in their tiny inner-city back courtyard. Not sleeping fills me with dread; a long-lasting anxiety that, ironically but unsurprisingly, makes it more difficult for me to sleep. I worry about being as useless as I was the day after the all-night forklift.

After that night, I set out to find out what the relationship between my writing work and my sleep (or lack thereof) might be, and ideally to figure out how to encourage a good night’s shut eye.

Read more here.

Emerging Writers’ Festival—Town Hall Conference Sunday

A little bit late, but I thought I should complete my posts on the Emerging Writers’ Festival. On Sunday I went along to just two sessions at the Town Hall Writers’ Conference—I’m not surely brain could’ve coped with anymore. Some very vague and incomplete notes are below.

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In a session on Digital Writing, John Weldon came out with this gem: “Having an online presence is a bit like having a gym membership. Most people get one, but then never go. To get something out of it, you have to actually go.”

In the afternoon, I went along to a session on Life Writing, in part because I write personal essays and creative non-fiction, and in part because I’m currently writing an essay about the complexities of narrating the self. Comedian and writer, Luke Ryan, and author and program director of Creative Writing at RMIT, Francesca Rendle-Short, discussed the difficulties of writing about yourself. A couple of interesting notes:

“In any family, you always have as many mothers as the are children.” (Rendle-Short)

Luke, whose writing frequently relates to his two run-ins with cancer, says writing the narrative of his illness allows him to control how people speak to him about it. Because his writing is funny, he hopes that people will stop being terrified of talking about he disease.

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I came away from the afternoon, and indeed the weekend, with far too much to think about. It’s been awfully difficult to concentrate this week — but it’s kind of nice to know that there are new ideas and connections forming in my mind. Hopefully my vagueness hasn’t worried my yoga students too much.

Emerging Writers’ Festival— the Haunted edition

Sometimes being in Melbourne makes me feel haunted, like I might run into a younger version of myself at any moment. Being here for a festival, something that is so intellectually expansive, only serves to heighten that feeling—like somehow the fact that there are new possibilities opening up in my mind might make a meeting like that possible. It’s not exactly unpleasant, but it is unsettling.

Because I feel like it’ll be some time before any of this stuff settles enough for me to make sense of it, I’m going to continue with the barely-edited-selection-of-notes format. Here’s some impressions of yesterday’s Emerging Writers’ Festival Town Hall Conference panels.

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A selection of tips from Seven Enviable Lines
Emily Maguire: Writing full-time will not necessarily make you a better writer, & it may make you a worse one. You may begin to lose touch with the world—”I don’t believe you need to write what you know, but I do believe you need to know about what you write.”
Christy Dena: “Let others breathe on your baby.”
Ali Alizadeh: Writing is an extension of reading. Writing is always a dialogue with other writing.
Anita Sethi: Sit down, & the inspiration will come. Writing is very hard work. The inspiration is a spark, but the perspiration is so important.
Lawrence Leung: Listen to feedback, but don’t let it rule your life. If you want to write, no one can stop you except you.

A selection of notes from other panels throughout the day

In Writing on Tough Topics, Sydney Smith suggests that exposing oneself by writing about something tough is also a way of making amazing discoveries. I’m reminded of this TEDtalk on vulnerability.

In a session on Structure, Ali Cobby Eckerman says the structure of her writing is often imposed by her Indigenous cultural background. I wonder how much of the way I put stories together comes from cultural structures I’m hardly aware of.

In a session on Cross Platform writing, I am completely fascinated by the gesticular communication of Deaf writer, Asphyxia. So expressive—perhaps more so than any spoken communication can ever be. This is itself cross-platform communication, if you think of the human voice and body as media through which we tell stories.

Emerging Writers’ Festival launch

I’m in Melbourne this weekend (well, I’ve made it a long weekend) with my housemate (my Wifey) for the Emerging Writers’ Festival. We got up early yesterday morning and flew down, both on very little sleep (excitement had kept us both up the night before maybe?), and spent the afternoon doing some writing work in a cafe recommended to us by the lovely Ms LiteraryMinded (Ange).

In the evening we ventured into the city (along with Ange) in search of a cheap and cheerful dinner, which we had along with perhaps a wee bit too much wine. As a result, we turned up at the EWF launch rather giggly. Rather then go into great and lengthy detail about the night, I thought I might just post a selection of my notes from the evening. There are plenty of gaps in these notes, and they were made in the fog of red wine and the excitement that comes with being at a festival. Here they are.

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Arrived giggly and a little tipsy.
Familiar faces (including a little swoon at nearly literally bumping into songwriter Paul Kelly)
Tessa Waters, MC: “…wipe the creative placenta from your eyes, & just, you know, emerge.”
Tessa dancing. Us laughing. Bottom shaking. Laughing. Tears of laughter. Not that funny but can’t stop laughing. Aware that other people aren’t laughing as much as Wifey, Ange and I. Still laughing. Tassels shaking. Laughing. “Too much champagne already,” says Tessa once she’s finished her dance. Yep. I hear you.

Ruby J Murray
“Everyone of you will know what it feels like when you learn a new word, and you experience the world through this new thing.”
“We only have one word for their thousand beginnings, which is ‘acorn’, and only one word for their thousand ends, which is ‘oak’.”
Talk of loss of Indigenous languages. We miss out on a way to describe this place. “I will do what all writers should do, which is listen.”
“But in the end it’s all up to us to listen.”
Think about the ground beneath our feet, and what it means to the Indigenous leaders for us to be here.

Lisa Dempster introduces the festival.

Wishing suddenly that I could go to the launch of the Emerging Writer at the National Gallery (there’s an essay of mine in this beautiful book).
Aware suddenly that lots of garlic and onion at dinner was probably not a good idea if I want to actually talk to anyone after the official stuff is over.

Monash University Undergraduate Prize for Writing announced.
Monash winner—Michelle Li
Overall winner—Tully Hansen

International guest—Anita Sethi
“Each story itself is a journey” from the mind of the writer, through the pen or computer, to the reader.
The world is teeming with stories.
“History and fiction blur, and the imagination fills in the gap.”

Fiona McGregor, a call to arms:
Suspend the adjectives—get rid of the emerging, or at least think about what it means.
Maybe get rid of the adjective and return to the noun—writer, writing.
“We still have this urge for this gathering in the flesh.”
“Festivals are about the performance aspect.”
“Writing still necessitates retreat.”
Thinking space needed.
George Orwell—Why I Write
The four things: the best writers manage to keep all four in the air.
Ego, aesthetic, history, political purpose.
“As solitary as this work is, it has to be plugged in to the here & now.”
Writing is a job. If you want to survive, you have to set alarm and get up. You have to deal with days where you do nothing—worse, where you do harm.
“What are you doing it for? Because you’re mad.”
But then some days it works—”and when you share it, it chimes.”
Cherish the lonely space, the space of discomfort.
A reminder that solitude is scary, but wonderful. Cherish it.

Tessa Waters, introducing Omar Musa, talks about hip hop and dancing. On krumping: imagine yourself a very short person in a very big boat and you’re just rowing.

Omar Musa
Performed:
My Generation
Fireflies

The Emerging Writer: An Insider’s Guide to Your Writing Journey

At the beginning of June, an essay of mine will be published in the Emerging Writers’ Festival’s yearly publication, which this year is called The Emerging Writer: An Insider’s Guide to Your Writing Journey. Here’s the blurb from the Emerging Writers’ Festival’s website:

Every writer has to find their own way to emerge – there is no set route, no absolute path and no road that must be followed. But there is a lot we can learn from those who have travelled before us: how to get there more directly, how to bypass the road blocks, traverse the peaks and valleys, or which is the most scenic route.

The Emerging Writer is an insider’s guide full of valuable advice from fellow travellers – a resource you can keep within arm’s length, for when you need to consult that map again to help you find your way. Inside you will find information on: how to create publication opportunities, understanding your value and getting paid, why you shouldn’t write what you know, managing your digital domain… and much more! Whether you’re taking your first step, planning the next stage of your trip, or just want inspiration to keep travelling on your writing journey, this book is for you.

I’m being published alongside a wonderful list of writers, and am really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

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Sort-of related: the Emerging Writers’ Festival program came out yesterday. You should check it out here. I’m heading down to Melbourne at the end of May to attend, and I can’t wait.