If you haven’t already – go and have a look at the overall info for Novel November, my FAQ blog and the original announcement about my Fellowship. I’m going to assume anyone reading these blogs has read all of that already so that I don’t have to keep repeating background details.
I spent the weekend out at Pichi Richi Park (between Port Augusta and Quorn) attending an artist retreat organised by Country Arts SA and Performing Lines as part of the recently announced Local Giants initiative. Twelve artists, including me, spent 2.5 days with three mentors and staff from both Country Arts SA and Performing Lines exploring and unpacking individual project ideas each artist pitched in their application. I pitched Novel November and the longer-term 2040 ambition I have from this residency.
It was so, so lovely to spend this time immersed with other regional artists sharing hopes, doubts, ideas and questions. It was also probably the first time I’ve really talked about my big ambitions for this project directly and openly with people outside of my direct community (other than the mentor chats through my Fellowship activity) so felt like a bit of a litmus test for “does this idea actually make sense and have potential?”
Readers, I think it does.
My challenge now, especially as I come to the end of this residency period supported by my Fellowship, is to make decisions about next steps to grow momentum and continue building the overall vision in a way that has integrity and a structure that can sustain me and others stepping in and out around other commitments. No small task but I am excited by what we might build and develop over the next few years. My brain right now is very much thinking about initial resources to support that, including meaningful local partnerships. More to come.
This week I’m back to writing each day at Part of Things with an open invitation for people to join me in person or online. You don’t have to be working on ideas/stories set in the lands of the river, you’re welcome to just hang out and work on unrelated projects. You can also still follow along everything I’m writing in the g-doc.
I haven’t created as much space as I wanted to for the deeper reflection on practice during my Fellowship so far. I’m okay with this overall, as the mentor chats have been really rich and opportunities like the Pichi Richi artist retreat have functioned in this way too, but I do still want to carve out a little more time over this coming week for that space to reflect, dream and learn. I will report back next Wednesday with how I go.
This weekend I’m also going to work on a small grant to support Sam and I to work together in Jan/Feb on developing up the bones of an idea for a graphic novel out of the lands of the river so far. It’s always a challenge to be in the middle of the creative side of the work and having to think about the next steps from a forward planning perspective, but it’s just the reality of this kind of work. Funding cycles are long (planning six to twelve months in advance minimum) and it also takes time to build other kinds of stakeholder and collaborator relationships, so I’m always balancing both in my head as I go. The here and now, and the where to next. Some people hate these two sides but I actually enjoy both. I enjoy strategic planning and grant writing and documenting as well as being in the room writing, dreaming, creating and collaborating. I’m probably very lucky to find pleasure in both.
Novel November Progress
Across the last few weeks I’ve attempted to explore at least one character on all of the five primary worlds of the lands of the river (which we still need to name overall?) and in doing so, continue to develop the wider world logic and other ideas as I go. This week I focused on characters on Uttie and Lican specifically, partly because Sam has done such beautiful illustrations of Tael and Vespur over the past weeks and I wanted to explore the places that had received a little less love.
I shared the Tael illustration in last week’s blog, but here is Sam’s vision of Vespur:
You can see dotted around the market a number of flower-fairies based on mice:
Though I also love these variations on flower-fairies too:
Sam did these imaginings of flower-fairies before I suggested the version based on mice and I love both for different reasons. I think I am starting to lean towards Sam’s original concepts (directly above) over the mice-fairy concept just because it enables more exploration for anyone who wants to create things in this world. Perhaps we might turn the mice-fairies into another project entirely, who knows?
People have asked “what happens if people write stories or create ideas that don’t match?” and honestly I think that’s fine. We’ve created some core things as a foundation but if people want to take those concepts and develop it in ways that are inconsistent that’s okay from my point of view. I’m working to be consistent within whatever I directly write and create myself, but it doesn’t bother me if we end up with a multiverse approach of things that don’t quite align or contradict each other. The real world is messy too and versions of the truth tell very different stories. I’m more interested in the process of people creating and building things with shared connection than I am in a super rigid world/structure that is internally consistent. Those of us who decide to continue collaborating and building bigger outcomes from this starting place will of course have to make decisions about what we do or don’t include, but that would be true anyway because any process of adapting between forms requires that (books to films for example). It might be naive of me, but I think the canon of this world will work itself out over time as we explore, iterate, test, share, develop. Either way, I’m interested in the process and in making space for people to believe in, and explore, their own ideas and instincts.
#novelnovember #myriverland #riverlandSA #riverlandstories #riverlandvoices #riverlandideas #bepartofthings #creativeriverland #speculativeaussiefiction
Alysha Herrmann’s Novel November Residency in 2021 is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, through the National Regional Arts Fellowship Program, with additional support from Writers SA through Alysha’s role as Writers SA Riverland Coordinator.