Tag Archives: grief

Novel November: what does work look like?

Reminder:

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 those blogs has read all of that already so that I don’t have to keep repeating background details.

You can also see the world details starting to develop here and all of the writing I’ve done so far here, with other updates on my FB & Insta.

Fellowship Process

As mentioned in last week’s blog I spent Thurs & Fri in Adelaide attending Reset, with two fabulous emerging artists, Kirste Jade and Jess Weidenhofer, who have both been part of Novel November (and have worked with me on other projects in the past). Lots and lots of food for thought and you can scroll through and have a look at my reflections during the two days over on my Twitter account, and see a wider cross-section of insight via #ResetArts.

Attending conferences and gatherings like this has always been an important part of my practice/creative career for a bunch of reasons, most of which I’m terrible at articulating but if you’re twisting my arm to pull out some key reasons:

  • a sense of connection to the wider industry (I talked about regional isolation in my first blog of this series).
  • I’m really aware of my lack of formal training and the professional development and informal learning from these kinds of gatherings is really valuable to me.
  • the general opportunity to be exposed to new ideas, new professional crushes, new networks and new projects. I always go away with a handful of people/projects/organisations that I want to find out more about.
  • I feel a sense of responsibility to be an active participant and contributor to the sector/industry/community, and that means showing up, listening, reflecting and adjusting what/how I’m doing things where relevant. For example there were some really thoughtful and direct calls to action at Reset about divesting from mining companies (ie. don’t take money from resource corporations because it’s implicit support and “artwashing” the damage these corporations are doing to our communities and planet). I’ve always had mixed feelings on this because all of the money we accept is “dirty” and has strings attached, but the conversations at Reset have asked me to revisit the absolutionism in some of my earlier mixed feelings. Context does matter and there is nuance and I don’t want my work to directly or indirectly contribute to the success of companies and individuals who put profit over community. I’m always learning. Always.
  • as I’ve moved further into my career and developed professional networks and friendships, gatherings like Reset have also become mini reunions, which links back to the first dot point, but also has a value in itself. Relationships matter and the relationships I have sustain me and inspire me. All of my work starts with and is founded on relationships (*side note, if you haven’t already read it, please go and read Jade Lillie’s The Relationship is the Project. A fab book that resonates with so much of my perspectives.)

Attending Reset was good timing for Novel November, because as mentioned elsewhere, this residency project is a starting place to explore and start building the foundations for a much bigger long-term project, so thinking about sustainability, about workplace practices, about collaboration and advocacy and community building is very much on my mind. It was valuable to have some outside provocation to keep stirring and stretching my own thinking. It was also personally meaningful to me to have Kirste and Jess there with me. Both acknowledged that some of the content was difficult for them to connect to and understand and I remember that the first conferences I went to often felt like gibberish, but I know how each opportunity kept opening up new learning and new opportunities for me and I hope it will be the same for them. I’m still unpacking all of the conversations and ideas presented at Reset – I’m a slow thinker – but you can find out more about it here.

*

If you’ve been following along in the g-doc, you’ll know I haven’t popped in any new writing since last week’s blog, which is why I’ve named this week’s blog: what does work look like?

I hear a lot of writers berating themselves for low word-counts and not producing enough content. I don’t do this (though I used to!) because I know that I produce a lot of work in lots of different ways across the many threads of my practice/work life anyway, but also because I know that “work” and “writing” doesn’t always look like sitting at a computer typing words into a document. Sometimes writing looks like taking a walk to process ideas and wrestle with a plot point, sometimes writing looks like planning out a practical schedule to give you more writing time and breathing space, sometimes writing looks like professional development and networking, sometimes writing looks like day-dreaming, sometimes writing looks like scrawling scraps of ideas onto serviettes while out to lunch with friends, sometimes writing looks like admin and the business side of making it all work, sometimes writing looks like research, sometimes writing looks like being out in the world and living your life, sometimes writing looks like rest.

This past week has included all of those things and more.

This coming weekend there are no community workshops because I’m lucky enough to be heading to Pichi Richi very early tomorrow morning to be part of an Artist Retreat with Country Arts SA and Performing Lines until Sunday afternoon. I’ll be working on my bigger picture ideas for Novel November during this retreat and connecting with other wonderful South Australian regional artists.

Next week I’ll be back to writing in the g-doc each day before wrapping up the Novel November residency with a little sharing celebration on Sunday 28th November.

Novel November Progress

Content note: grief, death, death of a young person, suicide.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, a young person I know died recently and that informed some of my writing in the world of Novel November last week. Sam responded with this illustration to some of that writing:

Grief tastes like salt:

Too small in worlds too big

Mouths open with no words 

The children hide in Tael

Beneath the surface of the sand

The children hid in Tael

Beneath the watchful eye of home

The children die/d in Tael

Beneath the echo of a lie

Sam has also created this beautiful rendering of Tael and folk headed to the library:

Sam’s illustrations are beautiful and I’m going to share more of them on Insta & FB across next week so stay tuned for that and my next update on Wednesday 24th Nov.

xx

A.


#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.

Novel November: bringing myself in

Reminder:

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 those blogs has read all of that already so that I don’t have to keep repeating background details and boring the life out of you.

You can also see the world details starting to develop here and all of the writing I’ve done so far here, with other updates on my FB & Insta.

Fellowship Process

Surprising no-one (including me) I’ve contributed more time to the Fellowship and Novel November over the first week than I intended to. This is because some things just took me longer, I’ve added some extra things in and because I’m enjoying it! Having said that, I am still doing some work for both Writers SA and headspace Berri, and an independent projection outcome due this month so I do need to pace myself. The Fellowship is my primary focus, but it’s not my only commitment. Rest and downtime are important parts of doing good work too.

This week I’m only writing Mon, Tues and today and then heading to a conference in Adelaide Thurs/Fri. Sat & Sun are Novel November community workshop days with a poetry focus on Saturday and a scriptwriting focus on Sunday. Over the weekend just gone we had a short story focus on Saturday and on Sunday looked at graphic storytelling (comics/graphic novels/narrative zines) and branching narratives (twine games, choose your own adventure stories). There were seven participants on Saturday, including me, and four on Sunday.

Reflecting on the workshops:

Saturday I think I tried to make the short story workshop too general and didn’t bring enough of Novel November and the ongoing work of the project into the workshop. This is because I was trying to make the workshop content relevant to a broad range of ages and for people who wanted to apply it to their own outside projects. My intentions were good, but ultimately these workshops *are* for and part of Novel November so I think it’s important that the examples, exercises and content draws from and builds on wherever Novel November is up to. I’m still really happy with how the workshop went and the many conversations it started.

I also wrote this silly but fun little drabble during the workshop:

No-one ever thinks sheep are dangerous, making them perfect for smuggling. Which is how I found myself tied to the belly of a sheep in the middle of a cycle-night, ready to board the living-ship Fugenavis. Jared was ahead on another and I knew he’d be freaking out, but I just had to hope and pray he wouldn’t scream. We were boarded onto Fugenavis without any trouble but I’d lost all feeling in my legs by then. Unfortunately we hadn’t thought through how we’d get loose. Which is how I ended up a ghost on Fugenavis. Sheep are dangerous things.

Drabbles are a short story format where the story has to be exactly 100 words.

I tried to take this reflection into Sunday’s workshop with examples and exercises that directly related to Novel November content. The examples were good but my energy was not. I was exhausted and flaky and really struggling to bring the energy and care needed to facilitate the workshop (to my own standards). My mind kept wandering and I tried to fit waaaaay too much into the one day, meaning that we kept rushing over things to get to the next thing I’d planned. The best outcomes of Sunday’s workshop weren’t in the content, but were in the conversations between, when we spoke about other interests and projects people were working on. By about 2pm I’d just fizzled out completely and we collectively decided to abandon the rest of the workshop content I’d planned and just write together. Even that wasn’t working for me so I used the time for some planning for this week instead.

That’s not to say the workshop was a complete waste. I showed everyone the basics of writing a logline and we had a go with a little collectively made up story about a character on Uttie who has to deal with a setimret infestation.

Bee-folk illustrated by Sam Wannan for Novel November, with one of the loglines created during the workshop. The logline says: When a bee farmer finds out that his farm is infested with setimrets that constantly regrow his crops, he needs to call upon other forces to get rid of them before he comes a beasts next meal.

We also talked through the basics of what a pitch packet for a graphic novel contains and looked at a whole bunch of interactive narrative examples together, including these:

Cat Petting Simulator: https://neongrey.itch.io/pet-that-cat

Queer lovers at the end of the world: https://w.itch.io/end-of-the-world

Hana Feels: http://hanafeels.com/index.html

My point being: things don’t always go to plan and sometimes we’re just not in the right head space for a particular activity, but we can still find value in the connections and the sharing of small breadcrumbs to help people find their way.

Novel November Progress

I’ve started putting up world materials here: https://thelandsoftheriver.world/

This is for anyone who would like to write their own stories, poems, songs, scripts and ideas set in the lands of the river in between. I’m still adding materials, and some of the materials will be edited/change as we continue making discoveries but this is the starting place I’ve been writing from/in so far.

*

Each Monday during Novel November I am sending illustrator Sam Wannan a package of written material developed through the residency so far. Sam is then responding with illustrations to whatever grabs him within that material (and reading along in the live g-doc). Last week Sam sent through a whole bunch of concepts for many of the peoples we imagined during the world-building weekend and this absolutely glorious illustration of the ship Fugenavis:

This interpretation of Fugenavis was inspired by this little piece of writing I did on the very first writing day (Monday 1st November 2021):

A ship called Love

Coats flapping in a breeze that has no wind,

magic river running to a trickle, and questions. 

Questions seep into the rock –  

Like blood.

Like life.

Life joy. 

They gather the misfits, the pirates and the pretty 

and the curious, voiceless dreams 

that sit crouched between their knees.

They build a ship, the first in this world.

Large, unwieldy and ugly,

she waddles and wails amongst the stars.

They call her “love” but her name is Fugenavis.

The ship that became a world. 

The ship that became a home.

The ship that became a legend.

The ship that saved them all.

I have loved seeing Sam’s illustrations coming into my emails and really glad we were able to find the resources to make this happen. The illustrations feel like a lovely little gift to me, which helps with motivation and connection to the worlds/project, and they’re also something visual that I can share with everyone else on social media to help communicate more about the project as it unfolds. Honestly, I just want to win the lotto so I can pay Sam forever to illustrate everything I write!

If you’ve dropped in or been regularly following my writing progress in the g-doc, you’ll have noticed that I am hopping around a lot in all the ways: characters, location, form, genre. This is deliberate and something I will keep doing right across November. The purpose of this residency isn’t to have fully resolved material, it’s to end the month with 2-3 stories & ideas that can be further developed and built on in 2022. So I’m deliberately iterating and exploring and beginning from different places and in different ways. If there are characters or stories or ideas currently in the doc that you feel more invested in though, please let me know! Knowing that will help me determine which stories I should develop further or return to during November.

*

Content note for this final section: grief, death, death of a young person, suicide

If you follow me on social media or you read Monday’s Novel November writing in the g-doc, you’ll know that a young person I worked with when I lived in Adelaide died over the weekend. The death of anyone you know is always devastating, and the death of a young person especially so. I’ve felt so, so sad this week since finding out. I thought about taking a writing break from the residency on Monday and just giving myself some space this week but instead I found myself in the g-doc anyway, writing from that place and those feelings of grief and loss and hurt and worry for those left behind. The writing I did, the stories and the characters and the circumstances, was all completely fictional and grounded in the context of the lands of the river in between but it reminded me of why I love fantasy (and science fiction) as genres.

I spent so much of my own adolescence escaping into fantasy novels, and fantasy is still my preferred genre as an adult, though I read more widely across genres now. The thing about fantasy, or at least the fantasy I love, is that fantasy might happen on imaginary worlds with imaginary creatures and heightened action, but the stories, always, are ultimately about what it means to be human. What it means to struggle and question. What it means to love and to lose. What it means to grieve and betray and be betrayed. What it means to belong and to not belong. What it means to forgive and accept and make space. What it means to heal and to hope. What it means to hurt in every fibre of your skin. What it means to journey through all the unknowns of what makes a life. What it means to hold on and what it means to let go.

I love fantasy because it allows us a little space (through the fantastical settings and creatures) to really look and see. See who we are, see who we have been and see who we could choose to be.

I want Novel November to be something fun and enriching and welcoming for me and my community, but that doesn’t mean it’s fluff or without substance. The stories we tell in this world are about exploring the Riverland. Who we are, who we have been and who we might become. Those stories are fictional and metaphorical and subtle, but they are there if you look.

We are always in the stories we tell.


#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.

A question mark in the shape of a stain #nationalpoetrymonth

Mind chatter 01042016

Image: Some mind chatter scribbles from my journal 01042016

 

April is ‘Poetry Month’ in American and Canada and quite a few people jump on the bandwagon here in Oz too. So I figured why not?

Returning to some work, creating some new things. Will share a poem a day here during April. This one started life in April 2013, I’ve used some of the ideas but given it a new skeleton and rewritten almost entirely this evening while sitting on the couch watching ‘Brother Bear’ with my smallest human.

A question mark in the shape of a stain

Shouldn’t be a question. Couldn’t be an answer.

A statement pile. To shift through. Lift through.

You are set adrift,

too.

Empty ache. Hungry sorrow. Eyelid twitch

of a sleeping dog.

Who are we kidding?

Anyway.

He is red and smells like wet soap and socks

I forgot what you asked,

I was trying to answer.

Trying

to.

Sheets of gyprock. Unfilled walls. Unspilled halls.

His silence –

Soaks into the carpet.

With me.

With my sinking knees.

Chandeliers on the end of my ears.

His pipe on the end of my nose.

Where does lost love go?

I am left.

Right.

Left.

Right.

Left.

Homecoming. #writeme30

 

So…I’m a little late getting this week’s #writeme30 post together…

 

Saturday just past (the 19th April), I brought a new human into the world. Our daughter Amaya was born beautiful and healthy a week before her due date. We are both fine, but very tired so taking it easy over the next little while.

 

Mummy with Amaya

Hence, the lateness with this post…. 🙂

This week’s #writeme30 post is inspired by a photo supplied by Mr Matt Shilling, a friend from Youth Parliament*. Matt and I met in 2010 when we were placed in the same team as participants. Matt and I have very different political and religious views and this difference (underpinned by respect) is something I really value. If I wanted to just hear people agree with me all the time, I could just talk to the mirror!

Matt didn’t give any particular insight into this photo, just that he thought of me and my request for a photo when he was taking it.

The Photo:

Matt Shilling Photo copy                               Photo supplied by Matt Shilling.

The Response – Homecoming**:

Just until this song ends. We’ll sit right here. You and I. With our hands and eyes entwined. All you have to do is lean in.

His eyes flick to the side. Around the corner of her head. Listing. Reaching for the next question. The moment beyond this discomfort. He deliberately doesn’t respond to what she’s actually asking. Instead responding only to the literal. The actual. The direct. The intention behind her eyes is discarded in favour of his safety.

This has been their pattern. Their dance. Together. Apart. Together. Apart.

Lean into me. Into this. Into love. Into home.

 

**

It hit him coming round the curve in the old mail road, his hands soft on the wheel. Sharp and deep. Unexpected. The forgotten ache of home. Too long. Too long between drinks. Lucan pulled the car into the gravel shoulder. Left the ignition running and stepped out into the gentling darkness. Sucking in the smell of it. The smell of home. Of long lost things. Buried things. Growing things. Past things. Half remembered things. It hurt to be home. It was good to be home.

The house was dark. The key under the mat where it had always been and he let himself into the back door. The familiar kitchen opening under his feet. Nothing had changed. Except that everything had. The floor was cold. The air still and empty. The walls waiting. Every surface pregnant with loss.

Every surface trailed beneath his fingers felt too close, too real, too cold. Too close to knowing. And finally, that last empty room, with its large empty bed.

Sunlight smacked him into life the following morning. The edges of the old couch digging into his ribs and hips. His eyes stiff with the night before. The night’s darkness left behind for the day’s. Lucan didn’t bother with a suit. This wasn’t a town that needed suits. He pulled on jeans and a button shirt. Didn’t notice the soft wrinkles left behind by lack of care. He pulled a comb through his hair. Made himself ready in every other way he could.

The office was cool and smelt of cleaning products. Too similar to a hospital for Lucan’s liking. The woman behind the desk smiled at him with that soft I’m sorry kind of smile. He didn’t smile back. The smile held too long. Became awkward.

“Is there anything else?”

She blinked, startled.

“No. Just. You just need to sign here,” she said, sliding a sheaf of papers across the cheap wooden desk. He flicked through them all, slowly. Knowing it made her nervous. Not caring. Finally, pulling a pen from the cup on the desk and signing beside each marked x.

“Done.”

“Done.” She agreed, “I’m sorry for your loss.” The awkwardly held smile again.

“I know.” And he left the way he’d come. Back out into the fresh clean air.

 

 

*Youth Parliament is a fantastic youth leadership/development program for under 25’s building public speaking and debating skills alongside an understanding of the parliamentary process. Youth Parliament programs run in most states. I spent three years with the SA program, the first year as a participant and then two years as part of the organizing taskforce. It wasn’t something I thought would really be my thing and I only really went the first year because I had the opportunity to go for free, but discovered that I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, More info about the SA program here.

 

**I’m keen to spend more time experimenting with prose fiction. This post is obviously the beginning of an idea rather than a fully realised narrative.

 

Read the other #writeme30 posts here. Or subscribe to get them delivered straight to your inbox.