Category Archives: Writing

Novel November FAQ

This year I’m taking the first steps to develop my 2040 vision of a speculative fiction Riverland.

Thanks to a National Regional Arts Fellowship I will undertake a month-long self-directed writing residency this November in Barmera. Across the month I’ll be learning, writing, ideating, exploring, reflecting and documenting as I ask myself and my community: What would a version of the Riverland full of dragons and magic look like (and how can that help us better care for and build the real Riverland)?

My long-term vision is that the fantasy world version of the Riverland created through Novel November will become a framework for future stories, theatre projects, visual art exhibitions, cosplay, LARP and other things here in my community over the coming years.

You can find a full list of ways to be involved in workshops, write-ins and celebrations for Novel November here: https://partofthings.org/portfolio/novel-november-2021/

The rest of this post covers some anticipated Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Speculative Fiction?

The Oxford Dictionary definition of speculative fiction is: a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements.

It’s basically an umbrella category for a whole bunch of genres that tell stories outside of the “real world”. Speculative fiction includes:

  • science fiction
  • fantasy
  • horror
  • paranormal
  • superhero fiction
  • alternate history
  • utopian fiction
  • dystopian fiction
  • supernatural fiction
  • ghost stories

Through Novel November, I am most interested in exploring fantasy, but there may be other elements of speculative fiction that develop.

Did you say 2040 vision? Isn’t that a long way away?

Yup. It is and a lot will change in twenty years, including me and the Riverland, and what we want and need. Everything could (and will) go in many different directions but my big ambitious 2040 vision is something like a Sleep No More crossed with Sovereign Hill crossed with Evermore Park kind of experience in the Riverland. We may get nowhere near that but I hope to have a lot of fun with my collaborators exploring a whole bunch of outcomes within our fictional magical Riverland over the next few years at least.

So what kind of outcomes are you imagining in the short-term then?

The month-long residency will determine some of what that looks like, but what I am currently imagining is that by the end of the residency in November I will have some core characters and a handful of written pieces (most likely short stories and poetry, but perhaps other bits) created by me and workshop participants. Next year I’d then like to bring 3-5 of those characters to life through some costume design workshops and take them out and about to local Riverland events, and perhaps a photography outcome from that too. I’d also like to do an exhibition at Part of Things of concept art responding to writing from Novel November 2021. I’m already in conversation with my illustrator friend Samuel Wannan about making that happen. In 2023, I’d love to aim for creating a short live performance experience set in the world and featuring one of the characters/stories. Alongside this, I want to keep working with Riverland writers to keep growing the collection of stories and bring them to life with other collaborators – I’m thinking there could be some outcomes here similar to the We Love Dragons merch collaboration. I’d love to develop a Games Jam using the settings and concept of the world we create in a year or so (check out Wretched & Alone for some idea of what a Games Jam can be) and I can see lots of other potential ways to bring our world to life with different collaborators and formats in the coming years.

Who owns the content created during Novel November?

I’ll be asking all participants in Novel November to sign a Workshop Participation Deed, which outlines expectations for any shared content developed during Novel November. Individual creators will retain copyright to individual pieces of work and we will negotiate share/licensing agreements where appropriate. We are trying to build an overall world/concept that many people can create in without fear, but it is also important that the work of individual creators is respected and cared for. My big 2040 vision does have an economic element to it as I want to build a structure that could create employment for Riverland artists, young people and other small businesses.

How do I get involved or follow what you’re doing?

If you live in the Riverland, sign up and attend any of the free workshops I’m facilitating for Novel November. Details here.

I will be posting a work-in-progress blog every Wednesday in November and live-writing throughout the month, so people from anywhere can follow along that way.

I’ll also be sharing updates on my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Do I need to be creative to get involved with Novel November?

Absolutely not! The workshops will all be writing focused but everyone is welcome, you can just sit in and listen. There are so many skills I don’t have to be able to bring the 2040 vision to life, so the more the merrier. Bring ideas, listen, share, connect and contribute in whatever way suits you.

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Got a question I haven’t covered? Flick me an email with your question and I will add my answer to this post.

Alysha Herrmann’s Novel November Residency is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund.

Dear Future Resident

As part of the Barmera Centenary celebrations this year (2021), I wrote a letter to a future resident of Barmera. I submitted the letter to the time capsule buried this afternoon (which was originally going to be be buried for 100 years but has now been changed to 50 years at community request) and I am publishing a copy of the letter here on my personal blog.

Image and text below.

31st March 2021

Dear future resident,

I will be long-dead by the time you read this, my children too, but perhaps grand-children or great-grandchildren of mine will be sharing this place with you. I am thinking of you today, future Barmera resident, whoever you are. Thinking of the future you will live in and the choices I am making to try and build that future for you.

I’ve been reading predictions and guesses by futurists for a project that I am currently working on and they imagine a future of sea-level rise, food scarcity, innovation and technological advancements. In worst case scenarios of sea-level rise, Barmera will one-day be swallowed by an inland sea, though that should still be a distant threat even in your future 100 years from now.

Perhaps you live in a future with such advanced prosthetic limbs that people remove healthy arms and legs to install superior ones? Body upgrades are one of the futures I’ve been reading about. It’s hard to imagine now, but perhaps it’s real in your world. Perhaps it’s made the world more equal and fair for people born with disabilities – if we can remake our bodies, surely we can remake our perspectives too? Surely in your world we can finally understand and celebrate and make space for peoples from all backgrounds and skills and personalities. Surely racism, homophobia, ableism and all the other biases we use to hurt each other can be reimagined and erased.

100 years feels like forever but I know it’s not. Your world probably does look and feel very different to mine in some ways, but there are shadows and memories your world will still carry from mine, things that perhaps will not have changed as much as I might hope. I know that. I do. But I hope all the same that you have inherited the best possible future we could give you.

Perhaps Barmera has disappeared or shrunk by the time you read this, but I hope some of the joy I’ve had here is still there for you. I hope the Bonney Theatre is still standing and that people still gather there to tell stories. The Bonney Theatre is the place I first performed to a paying audience, in a show called Random Girls with Riverland Youth Theatre and Vitalstatistix in 2005. That show, that experience, changed my life. It saved me and gave me a future I didn’t know I was allowed to want. I hope that you have the opportunity to sit quietly in the dark within its walls and be transported, changed and inspired.

I hope you can still stand on the edge of the lake and watch the sun set over the water as your chest fills with joy the way it does for me. I hope you fight for what you believe in. I hope you love fiercely and fully. I hope your future is bright and bold and possible. I hope that we didn’t let you down.

With all my love

Alysha Herrmann

Chief Storyteller & Co-founder

Part of Things

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The One Sure Thing

This piece was originally published by ABC Open 10th January 2012.

ABC Open was archived in 2019.

 

I have an amazing life. This thought has struck me often over the years.

 

But no more so than as I was sitting on the steps of the idyllic Riversdale property in regional NSW spinning yarns with seventeen other emerging playwrights invited to attend Australian Theatre for Young People’s (ATYP) Fresh Ink National Studio Program.

Fresh Ink is one of ATYP’s babies, a program to identify, nurture and spotlight the next generation of Australian Writers. National Studio brought eighteen emerging writers all aged 26 or under (including lil ol’ me) together for a week of Masterclasses, group mentoring, one-on- one mentoring and dreaming time to craft eighteen 7-minute monologues.

The premise of the week is thus:

18 emerging writers brought together with 3 experienced writers as mentors and guides to support the newbies to craft a monologue appropriate for performance by a 17 year old using the theme of Death and Dying. 8 of the monologues to be chosen by ATYP for performance in February 2012 and to be published by Currency Press to boot!

So I started the week with the 3 hour drive to Adelaide, followed by a 6am flight to Sydney and an exciting car ride to ATYP’s home in Sydney where I was greeted by an array of colorful and exotic birds. My fellow writers and companions for the week. I’m exhausted already.

After the brief, expected introductions:

Where are you from? What do you do? Oh, I love that dress. Do you know such and such?

We pile onto an overly large coach for an almost 3 hour trek to Bundanon (near Nowra for those who know NSW) and the beautiful Riversdale property, our sanctuary for the week. Like most Australians I’m quick to doubt myself and undersell my skills. A few hours into our week long stay the doubts start to creep in…..

Perhaps there was another Alysha and they’d sent the invitation to me by mistake?

Perhaps they’d been a shortage of applications and they’d had to fill numbers?

Perhaps this was all a dream and I’d wake up at home with a headache and a stiff neck?

And so the sneaky nasty little thoughts started to cripple what I was writing….

We’re aiming for a reading of our works on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday evening I have 43 documents open on my laptop. All of them covered with words I hate. I hate everything I’ve written since Monday. I’m not good enough. All these amazing and talented people. Nothing I write can possibly compete. Mine would never be chosen anyway. I’ve already decided. And so everything I write I hate. Because I’ve already judged it and discarded it before I’ve let the words hit the page.

Thursday morning. My monologue will be the first to be read tonight. I’ve got nothing. I meet with Peta Murray, my mentor, after lunch. She pins me with a steely gaze. Looks straight through all my bull shit and says “If I told you that what ever you write would win and would be beautiful and no one would judge it, what story would you tell? Go and write that story and then come back and talk to me”.

I go back to my room. Kneel by the bed with my laptop balanced precariously on the lumpy mattress.

I type. I type. I type.

My knees ache. I realize my face is wet. From tears. As it all comes gushing out of me. The pent up fear. The story I’ve stolen from myself.

Thursday night. One of my fellow actors reads my work so I can hear it. It’s not finished. I fidget. Uncomfortable. Hear all the jarring notes of a rushed piece of music. I look away from all the listening faces. Hide inside myself.

Friday. I type. I type. I type.

Saturday. We send our drafts to ATYP. To be chosen. To be discovered.

Wait anxiously. A week. A day over a week.

Now this. One new email. ATYP.

My monologue, titled ‘Ben Thomas, I love you’ has been chosen as part of Australian Theatre for Young People’s Showcase ‘The One Sure Thing’ opening Friday 3rd of February 2012 in Sydney to coincide with the publication of the monologues from ‘The One Sure Thing’ and last year’s showcase ‘Tell It Like It Isn’t’.

It’s ok to be afraid. It’s even ok to let the fear cripple you sometimes. But don’t stay there. Tell the story only you can tell, or no one else will.

More information: National Studio and ‘The One Sure Thing’

Another Elusive Maybe

AEM promo image 1

“Amidst all the rabble about the true meaning of Fringe, I can tell you that this is it. Real art that pushes the boundaries – art that is completely different to anything you’ve experienced before.” Jen St Jack, Great Scott

 

Every show performed in a different lounge room. A one woman theatre experiment asking “How can we feel so alone surrounded by people who love us?”

 

“The sound of a baby crying

The sound of a kettle boiling

The sound of a dog howling

The sound of a closing door”

 

 

Another Elusive Maybe was a performance experiment presented as part of the Adelaide Fringe 2016. Each ‘show’ was presented in a different (real life) lounge-room for a maximum of 8 people per show. The performance incorporated poetry & soundscape (via silent disco headsets), live text message conversations (with each individual audience member) and expressing breast milk.

 

What does motherhood, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding and mummy worries have to say about how we all connect in a world overloaded with sorrow?

 

“Nine people – performer and audience – sit in a suburban lounge room. We are ostensibly together, hearing the same words and seeing and doing the same things. We are intimate, and yet, we are isolated.” – Jenn St Jack, Great Scott

 

“There are so many simple, yet sophisticated layers to this wonderfully human work providing deep food for thought about the issues Herrmann set out to explore and experiment on. You feel comforted by what you hear, because the delivery takes the sting out of the real struggle those words are dealing with, as much as you love the genuine warmth and joy there too. Equally, because of this, you feel at ease anonymously having a frank and honest discussion about some deep things. You are in a comforting place known to most, a lounge room.” – David O’Brien, The Barefoot Review

 

Anonymous audience feedback (via text message)

“A BIG WoW!!! Thankyou!!! Really made me think….and feel! x”

“Wow. I’m literally blown away by how you guys create art. Like what makes you think this is the way I want to perform this story!! Yes well job well done!!! I hope you feel proud to try and make your way through this fucked up beautiful world!!”

“I really enjoyed it and I think I talked to my partner about it longer than it went for. I read the whole leaflet afterwards. Even yesterday. And that’s the thing with art and with what you did, you don’t know how long it lasts or when it takes hold. (….) I like that you talked about what we (I) think about. (…) Thanks again, so much for the inspiration. You at least made a difference here.”

“How do you this with kids? It must nearly break you surely. I feel like crying right now. From inspiration and appreciation, sadness for what I’m not doing. (….) Thank you for sharing. I loved and appreciated it. Hugely.”

“Impressed with your ability to maintain mulit threads of convo. I keep forgetting to listen while typing/reading. Which in itself is interesting..”

“This (your performance) is the strangest combination of intimate yet distant, personal yet remote, familiar yet unusual. Fascinating.”

“Very tightly structured, rich, densely packed with poetic fantasy and reality.”

 

audience feedback image

 

Another Elusive Maybe

By Alysha Herrmann & Ryan Morrison

Public season, Adelaide Fringe 2016

16 & 23rd February, 8th March

Various lounge rooms.

Another Elusive Maybe Program Zine PDF

Listen to the headset audio from AEM: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2q9aa1fwf80rmvo/Another%20Elusive%20Maybe%20%28Final%20Draft%29.mp3?dl=0

 

Interview with The Upside News, which sheds light on the impetus and ideas behind Another Elusive Maybe: https://theupsidenews.com/2016/02/11/interview-another-elusive-maybe-the-fringe-show-in-your-lounge-room/

Great Scott Review by Jen St Jack: http://greatscott.media/2016/03/09/another-elusive-maybe/

The Barefoot Review by David O’Brien:http://www.thebarefootreview.com.au/menu/theatre/119-2014-adelaide-reviews/1292-another-elusive-maybe.html

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A gathering of sticks and stones #poetry #thedirtythirtychallenge #fire

 

A gathering of sticks and stones:

 

I see the strain in your hunched shoulders little love

Your crouched knees show me everything

Eye to eye we curl into each other

My fingers reach towards you

Flickering and clean

But you –

   Retreat.

 

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Dirty Thirty Day 23 Prompt:

Write a poem from the perspective of a natural element ie. water, fire, earth etc., or a force of nature, for instance, a hurricane, earthquake, tornado etc.
The clincher: the poem gets shorter with each line.

 

The Dirty Thirty Challenge is one poem a day for the thirty days of April. Dirty Thirty prompts are from ‘The Dirty Thirty Challenge’ facebook group (admins). Poems published here are my own unless otherwise specified.

Light #poetry #lovestory #marriage #home

Light:

It spreads.
Inching it’s way across my smile. Across the lines around my mouth and the old tightness in my jaw. Curling into the moment of skin where my ears touch my face. Tickling its way up into my hair, ghost fingers of joy. Undeniable.
It spreads.
Whenever I look at you. Whenever you look at me.
It spreads.
In time. In space. In this.
It spreads.

 

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Prompt – ‘freewrite friday”

Conjoin #oldflame #poetry #thedirtythirtychallenge

 

Conjoin:

 

Dear Him.

 

How many years now?

 

How many years have we folded into the secrets that time is made of?

 

My secrets.

Yours.

A bibliography of dreams untouched by truth. We seeded something though, you and I. In dark corners and deep dreams. In silliness and fire skin. In spiky grass and houses made of dust. In teenage legs and adult eyes. In too many truths and not enough sighs.

 

In windows that were too dirty to see through. I always stood looking out. Hands on hips. Words on lips.

 

And saw/

 

I made you into a troubadour. A perfect warrior poet. All muscles and skin and letting me – only me – in.

 

And

 

We seeded something, you and I. A poppy seed dream. An unlined seam. A sparkle in a stream. My feet cracked the banks and I looked down to see/

 

 

/I was losing me.

 

I don’t remember the last time.

 

The last time that I loved you.

 

But I remember the first.

 

Its skeletal remains a wind chime in my memory

Bones that scream and sing in the wind

Tones that make beauty taste like maybe

Love taste like I didn’t know how perfect I could be

Yesterday taste like salad without dressing

Today taste like tomorrow taught me how to roar

 

I stopped loving you. Because I started loving me.

 

Because that little seed of spinach made me taste a different song. A song that leads me on. And on. And on. And on.

 

It’s a song that tastes like grateful. A song with your son’s eyes. A song with my laugh.

 

How many years now?

 

How many more?

 

To find the peace I came for?

 

From Her.

 

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Another Dirty Thirty poetry prompt:

Day Twenty One

Write a love letter to an old flame.
The catch? To make sure it doesn’t sink to a sea of sappiness, try to use 1 or more of the following word/phrases in the poem:
poppy seed, bibliography, troubadour, skeletal, spinach, conjoin

Adopted #thedirtythirty #poetrychallenge #poetry

 

Adopted

 

He is –

 

 

Murky breaths and midnight toenails

Perfect Tai Chi in between the walls

Headlight free and Sunday solid

He bends I told you so’s into spoons

 

 

                         – made in his mother’s image.

 

 

Silent in a father’s absence.

Light feet on cold floors

Old dreams starting new wars

Nothing in a name –

 

 

He’d like to ask. He doesn’t.

 

 

– but shame. Woven into brickwork clusters.

Filling in cardboard carpets and red flags.

A dented screen, a captured queen.

A ticking secret on the other end of an Instagram like.

 

 

He swallows.

He bends.

He –

 

 

                   – is.

 

 

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Prompt: Free write Friday.

And then #thedirtythirty #poetrychallenge #micropoetry

Day 14 Dirty Thirty Prompt was to write a tiny poem.

 

Your challenge is to experiment with brevity so much that it nearly destroys you.

 

Micro poetry is my favourite form. #tinytwitterpoem (s) being my medium of choice.

Today’s poem:

 

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Still falling.

 

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