I’m sitting in
a cafe on Newcastle’s Hunter St., listening to a symphony of bakehouse clatter and the bubble of excited voices as they discuss performances, panels, and workshops. It’s absolutely hammering it outside, but I’m dry and warm and filled with delicious satay chicken pie, and more than a few cups of coffee.
The train ride here was fairly uneventful; two and a bit hours of gorgeous landscapes scored by a group of Indian pensioners singing the songs of their country. Not quite as romantic as it sounds, and I tended towards bumping up the volume on my music whenever they reached a particularly boisterous chorus. But harmless, certainly.
When I first arrived in Newcastle, I wandered the suburbs near the hostel that Sam Twyford-Moore had kindly agreed to put me up in. I should take the time out now to give my sincere, heartfelt thanks to Sam, who has been the perfect host through Sydney’s writing community. Ever since first inviting me to the writing centre at which he works, he has ensured I felt at home and introduced me to the vibrant group of writers and creators here that are producing amazing stuff. Thanks Sam.
We checked in at the hostel and Alex–a lovely girl who is working on an absolutely fascinating account of trying to reconcile a sword her grandfather found in WW2 with its owner–gave Sam, Jacqui, Jess, and I a lift out to the heart of Newcastle where TiNA was/is being held. Picked up a guide, grabbed a coffee and then went off to meet up with Amber and part of the Voiceworks crew (Brad, Beth(?), Christie(?)). Was really good to finally meet Amber, given we’ve known each other through deviantART for well over four years now. Meeting people I knew from the Internet was a constant theme throughout the day, as I caught up with various Twitter peeps (JoJo, madiecrofts, jodiekinnersley, booktuner, etc.) and found them all to be kind and inviting and lovely (and sometimes incredibly enthusiastic). The Voiceworks peeps were running a great workshop about editing your own work, and asked us to produce a story or poem or something by censoring out words in a newspaper article. Mine ended up transforming an article about the effect of India’s burgeoning skilled worker set resulting in a greater number of luxury items being bought for households, into a small fiction about dicks:
“India plays with Margaret on the concrete floor. Daniela is happily unaware of India’s massive bulge, the largest in the world. India’s rising, he earns five times what his father does, but it feels like less, because everything costs more. Toys scatter the floor. India’s asking which of them they own. ’40-inch like mine, 10 neighbours would come to your house to watch it.’ He will limit himself to two children.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a news story about capitalism could very easily be converted into soft erotica. Thankfully I didn’t have to read it out. The editorial went on to discuss the main mistakes made in self-editing, how to distance yourself from your work, and all sorts of other useful stuff. Unfortunately I had to leave a bit early to catch a panel by Sam on the Sydney writing scene. That one was really interesting, with a varied panel discussing where they have come from and how the interpret the Sydney creative scene which (it was said) has really begun to bloom in the last five years. The discussion ranged widely, from the Sydney vs. Melbourne rivalry (being from Perth, I was an enthusiastic neutral), to writing from place, to philanthropy, to the concept of embracing all of Australian writing in one big happy community. I was a little bit absent from much of the discussion about writing from place, given that the majority of my fiction doesn’t occur in a specific geography. The issue of place seems to be rather prominent in Australian fiction, and I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s due to the Miles Franklin and that idea of the ‘unique Australian voice’. In any case, it was very well moderated by Sam, and a lot of the questions were answered at length and with a lot of consideration given to the nuance inherent in the dynamics of creative communities.
After that, we went back to the TiNA headquarters for drinks, and pretty much stayed there until the Big Top party. I was initially bamboozled at the bar by my insistence on ordering pints rather than schooners, but I got the hang of it eventually. All went really well and I had a blast meeting people like Ronnie (Scott, who produces The Lifted Brow and shares my enthusiasm for China Mieville), Nicci who I chatted to extensively about books and music (she runs The Booktuner, which is a great mashup initiative of matching album soundtracks to books–in my experience she’s spot on every single time), Pip Smith (who runs Penguin Plays Rough), and a whole bunch of other people (Ben, Connor, Luke, Rebecca, Maddie, Rosie, Brad, Amber, Jodie, etc. etc. etc.) who ate, drank, and were very, very merry.
I ended up leaving a bit early, exhausted as I was by two weeks of consistently interruptive dorm-mates at the hostel. The room that Sam had booked me into had a double bed, and I luxuriated in the feeling of crashing drunkenly into a bed that was actually big enough for me, falling blissfully asleep. Until, that is, I woke up at four in the morning to discover that my window had been open, and it had absolutely hosed it down during the night. Needless to say, when we left the next morning, I was careful to inform the manager of absolutely nothing, pocketing my $20 key deposit without so much as a chipper warning that she may want to look at the curtains. I am a terrible person.
Jacqui and I got out into the depressing weather that had rolled in overnight and traipsed down to catch the bus into town. We then proceeded to wander around a bit before finding a bakery for breakfast. Can’t recommend the Newcastle Bakehouse enough; perfectly cooked bacon, soft eggs, rough-cut mushrooms, and fresh-baked bread. I was in heaven.
The zine fair was up next, and while it took us far longer than is really acceptable to find it (in a multi-storey carpark up the steepest bloody hill in Newcastle), the trek was worth it. Awesome books and zines lined every stall. I may or may not have burned through pretty much all the cash in my wallet buying zines from the dotdotdash folk and grabbing the very lovely Penguin Plays Rough collection. After tagging in for Voiceworks and helping sell a couple of issues, and having a coffee and an excellent chat with ex-dotdotdasher Steph, I came down here.
And now I’m about to go and see a discussion on story in video games, before catching the long train back to Sydney. It’s been a really fantastic festival, both for the panels (although they have all been great) but more to see the enthusiasm and up-for-it, inclusive attitude that everyone involved possessed. I never felt like I was on the outside looking in to a clique, which was something I was afraid might happen. But from the first cup of coffee to the last
pint schooner of beer, it was a blast. So a final thank you to all those I spoke with, and to the organisers of TiNA for a great event.
List of TiNA Twitterfolk (feel free to comment with more):
@samtwyfordmoore @jacquident @maddie_crofts @jojojakob @velvetbrownfox @RosannaBeatrice @rebeccagiggs @WritesFiona @JodieKinnersley @theliftedbrow @booktuner