Sunday, October 4, 2009

Byron Bay Writers Festival 09

It's been 4 months since I last updated the blog. Oh my, I have been a bad blogger. My personal blog is also in a state of neglect. Instead I have been updating and delegating over at the Romance Writers of Australia blog, in my new role of Social Media Manager. And contributing weekly to the We Love YA blog, which is a bunch of down under Teen Writers.

So what's been happening at NVWG?

We did our usual trip to the Byron Bay Writers Festival, and had a fantastic time as usual though we were less enamoured of the new venue.

Sue and I attended the Nuts & Bolts seminar about the publishing industry which included publishers and agents as guest speakers, representatives of the Australian Writers Guild, Copyright Agency, Australian Society of Authors, Varuna, Australian Writers Marketplace online...the list just went on and on. By the end of the day, our heads were exploding with information and we were feeling very inspired. An excellent start to the Festival.

That evening, we went to the opening night party of the Festival. With wall to wall people, my bat wings were not appropriate attire, and the free-flowing of alcohol and little food before Geoffrey Robertson's opening address meant that many of us were nodding off during his speech. I remember he said something about the Cold War and I realised that he was only up to the fifites and my head and stomach were in big trouble.

But the Festival did get better from there.

Sam Cutler, former tour manager with the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead was hilarious, and I could have listened to his accent forever. He said "It's really good to have a hectic mad life until you're fifty or sixty...and then write!" and "There's certain things that decency commands that you don't put in your book. Even though I've lived a debauched life, I believe in decorum."

Don Walker said that his publisher suggested he give punctuation a try. (Hehe...maybe he was emulating e e cummings) while Carl Cleves talked about writing songs as being a distillation process. I could have walked away from the 'I'm with the Band' panel and easily bought all three books but I was on a strict budget for the trip.

Actually, I only bought one book for this Festival (which in 7 years of festival-going is unheard of but that was just the situation this time). So knowing I could only purchase one book, I had to select very carefully, and there were so many temptations, so much I wanted to read. I bought 'The True History of Butterfish' by Nick Earls, and had it signed. Haven't read it yet - book-reading has gone along the way of blog updating but it's towards the top of the To Be Read mountain.

Another highlight for me was Mandy Nolan taking over from Bettina Arndt for the Women and Sex talk, and she opened the panel with a reading from a Judith Krantz novel. The audience was roaring with laughter. Linda Jaivin described some of the more unusual gifts she'd been sent including 'knitted sperm' and chastity belts.

Another favourite panel was Humour on the Page - a session in which I managed to write absolutely nothing down because I was too busy laughing myself silly. Tom Gleeson and Densie Scott were the definite stand-outs of the panel, and Denise's observations of the lady knitting in the audience (I wonder if she was knitting sperm?) were hysterical, along with her story of the 'smoking vagina'. If you missed this session, you well and truly missed out.

In between the days at the Festival, we banqueted at the Curry House. (we have dibs on that top room now). We managed to squeeze 16 people into the top room, and instead of a Lazy Susan in the middle, there was a Lazy Diane. I'd spin around and hand the platters to the other side. Members of the Bellingen Writers Group joined us for the feast.

On the Saturday evening, we went to the Beach Hotel and Roby's publisher shouted us drinks. And then Sunday morning came around way too fast and too soon, it was time to go home.

Apparently the latest trip to Byron Bay has rejuvenated writing mojo in many (just not my blogging mojo) -- and as writers, that's what's it all about.

More NVWG news coming soon.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

And the winner is...

It's been a busy couple of months for the Nambucca Valley Writers Group.

The group took over the publication of the Bowraville Arts Council newsletter under the helm of Editor in Chief, the extremely talented Jennifer Gordon. The newsletter is now in A5 book format and is called BAC CHAT with the first edition (Winter 2009) out now.

An afternoon of radio plays was held Sunday 21 June at the Bowraville Theatre with plays contributed by members of our group. Alas, I was hampered by the rain yet again, so did not manage to see the plays myself or take photos. Our featured playwrights were Carrolline Rhodes, Noel Robertson, Robbie Baer and Karly Blackmore-Mowle. It was a full house, with great support from the writers group, and Prez Caz said she was proud to be a member of our group. Word is that Bowraville is still talking about it, and the afternoon was recorded so some of the plays may feature on community radio.

Our AGM was postponed from May to June due to the floods.

Yesterday, we began the day with a workshop on Dreams and Writing, conducted by one of our newer members Jennifer Albertson.

"A dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is...the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public and the critic."

C.G. Jung (CW, 8, Para 509)

In the workshop Jennifer read us a dream and each of us expanded on it in writing, using random prompts drawn from a hat. Excellent workshop.

Then it was on to the Prize Presentation for the hotly contested Performance Writing competition. Who would take home the coveted Foundation President Trophy this year?

3rd prize was won by our treasured Treasurer, Sue McKinley with a screenplay, Bruno.

Then oh my God, they called out my name for second prize so I had to give camera duties to someone else.

2nd Prize - Diane Curran for Member's Only

1st Prize went to Noel Robertson (the second time he has taken home the coveted trophy) for Boy's Bench.

Here I capture him, moments after the announcement:

And here he is again with Anne Holgate presenting his goodies.

Woohoo, congratulations everybody!

Next year's competition returns to the genre of poetry.

But to my surprise, that wasn't the last of the awards. Turns out some of them had been discussing me behind my back while I was stranded by the last lot of floods.

And decided to give me a gift for being 'the world's greatest secretary' and for my fabulous work online.

Mmm, chocolates. And these ones are truly decadent.

Later, we held the AGM with the following results.

President Carrolline Rhodes
President of Vice Roby Aiken
Secretary Diane Curran
Treasurer Sue McKinley

Well, no surprises there. The old guard take up their positions again.

But we have added several new members to the committee (and I am so pleased with their enthusiasm).

Editor of BAC Chat Jennifer Gordon

& 3 general committee members

Nancy Corbett
Gill Chapman
& newest of the new members Christine Norman

Welcome abroad girls, we're going to have a lot of fun.

As part of the AGM, we also voted for a couple of motions.

Firstly membership is now capped at those who have paid up by the AGM (28 members & 3 Associate members) and entry to membership will not be re-opened until the number of ordinary members falls below 25.

We now have two levels of membership: Ordinary Members & Associate Members (for those who live too far away to attend meetings.) **Waving at Marilyn**

Huge meeting, and we look forward to another huge year.

Next month is our in-group trash and treasure.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Welleez Book Launch

What do you need to launch a kid's book called The Welleez?

You need a pair of welleez, preferably in a bright colour, that will stand out amongst the crowd.

You need a friend selling books located close to the door where no-one can escape:

It's a children's book, so you need lots of your target audience:

and some more:

and more:

You need the parents of your target audience to buy your book:

You need finger food, champagne, orange juice, apple juice and lots of fairy bread:

You need a very talented young man to read an excerpt from The Welleez:

You need a Nambucca Valley Writers Group president to officially launch your book when your planned special guest can't be there. (Carrolline Rhodes read Nancy Corbett's launch speech in her unavoidable absence.)

You need a fabulous chair for your reader to sit in:

You need a granddaughter to sit on your lap while you read from your book:

You need a good pen to autograph books:

You need people to line up for your autograph once they've purchased your book:

You need your star reader to have a quick rehearsal while Dad listens before show time:

You need a supportive writers group to cheer you on and toast your launch:

The Welleez by L Arthur was launched at Bellingen Library on Sunday 17 May (despite the date in the photos)

The book was officially launched by president of the Nambucca Valley Writers Group, Carrolline Rhodes, and excerpts were read by Reece Rhodes and the author Elizabeth Arthur.

Coming soon: A member spotlight featuring Elizabeth.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

AGM postponed

Due to the flooding of the Mid North Coast, the AGM of the Nambucca Valley Writers Group has been postponed from May 23 to June 27. Membership fees will now be due at the June meeting

An ordinary meeting will still be held on Saturday May 23 at 1. 30pm for those members who are able to attend. (Lunch preceding at the RSL at 12 noon).

The meeting on June 27 will start at 10 am with the workshop 'Writing and Dreams' given by Jennifer Albertson, followed by lunch, the AGM and the awarding of prizes for the 2009 Nambucca Valley Writers Group Writing Competition.

Please note that all future meetings commence at 1.30pm, unless a workshop is to be held earlier.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Member Spotlight: Maggie Veness

Our first Member Spotlight features Maggie Veness, who joined NVWG just over two years ago. Maggie has taken to writing like a natural and has discovered a true talent for short fiction and erotica. Though it has only taken two years to amass these amazing credits, Maggie has worked very hard at learning the craft, honing the craft, editing and submitting.

I submitted a few questions of my own to Maggie for this Spotlight feature.

What brought you to the Nambucca Valley Writers Group?

You'd have to call this fate. It began with a decision to attend one of Carrolline Rhodes' 'Writing your Life Story' workshops held in Coffs Harbour a little over 2 years ago. Although I had absolutely no interest in writing my life story, I was unable to find any course for for beginner writers. On the final day of the course Carrolline invited myself and others to consider joining the NVWG. I joined the group in early 2007.

Why do you keep coming back?

That's easy. Besides camaraderie, members generoulsy provide each-other with inspiration, encouragement, support, wisdom, and so much more. I feel like I finally fit somewhere, which I assure you is a very new experience for me.

You have found your writing voice in the short short story. Tell us about your writer's journey that led you to this discovery.

Perhaps I was naturally drawn to writing short fiction due to my desire for the excitement and stimulation that comes with constant change. I suspect my short attention span plus a strong Gemini influence are also factors here. I recall an early writing exercise which showed how almost any piece of writing could be improved simply by cutting superfluous words from the work. That made a huge impression on me. Very short/flash fiction is like cordial before you add water. Strong and bitey. I've come to enjoy the challenge of writing a satisfyingly complete story within the constraints of say, a 500 word limit.

Tell us about your first writing success.

My first writing success came around a year after I began to write, when I won second prize in a competition. It was an incredible buzz. I'd been working so hard at learning the craft. With my fourth (and youngest child) leaving home only last year at age 20, plus having been encouraged by my loving husband to quit work (YAY) I now have the luxury of time to devote to my first ever hobby. And ok, I'm addicted. There. I've said it.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

If you're passionate about writing and want your work to improve, you must practise. Every day is best. Ask around within the group 'til you find a more experienced writer who has time to mentor/critique some of your work. Draft and draft each piece 'til you think you might go mad, then begin entering every competition you can find. You'll be pushing yourself to polish each entry to the limit of your current ability, and even though that hoped-for prize might be still a while off, I guarantee your work will continue to improve. This is your reward.

What's next in your writer's journey?

I intend to continue to learn the craft and will keep working hard to improve. For now, considering the occasional competition success I've been enjoying, plus the satisfaction of now seeing my work published in Australia, NZ, the US, Canada, and the UK, I only pray that what's next for me is more of the same. So, can I see my name on a short-story collection? When you've fallen in love with words, anything seems possible.


**click on the links for the emags, and you can read some of Maggie's stories.


**Neat White Scar - Canadian emag 'The Maynard' - Dec '08 issue

**Letter Under Her Door - Canadian emag 'InMyBed'

**Foursome Parachute - emag The Australian Reader

The Right Notes - Litro (UK Print Mag) - Issue 83

Frozen Tits with Hot Butts - Skive Magazine - Dec '08 issue (buy or download)

On Durham Street - Slice (US Literary Print Mag)

He-She on the Train - Bravado (NZ Literary Print Mag)

The Thing about Waiting - The Erotic Woman E-mag


Complimentary with Surveillance - 1st place, FAW Jennifer Burbidge Short Story Award

Pilgrimage -Commended, FAW Jennifer Burbidge Short Story Award

Cocky and the Virgin Space - Highly Commended, Sminks Books Humorous Story comp

One Grape
- 1st place, Positive Words end of year Comp

Chattles - Shortlisted, Positive Words end of year Comp

Alcohol with Slugs - 2nd place, FAW Nth Shore Comp

Just Read the Signs - Commended, FAW Nth Shore Comp

Runs for the Phone - Highly Commended, 2008 Scribblers Writing Competition

Blow the Snowbird - short-listed,2008 E J Brady short story comp

The Jump - Highly Commended,R Carson Gold Writing Competition

Chooser - 2nd prize,Victorian Eastern Writers Group

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Expect the Unexpected - says Maggie

Jennifer and Maggie

What can you expect when such an eclectic, creative, exceptional, and bloody gorgeous group of women gather?

You can expect to learn a lot, and you learn to expect the unexpected.

Maggie Veness

Photos and words on the retreat from Nancy Corbett

Inspiring, delicious, brilliant, fun, enthusiastic, harmonious, exciting,
rewarding, surprising, satisfying, female.

Nancy Corbett

Some words on the Retreat from our members

Elizabeth Arthur (pictured left)

A smorgasbord of beauty, delicious food, words, discussions, imaginings, truths, laughter, sharing, writing, reading...

Lyn Thiry

Delighted at the professionalism by all the presenters of workshops.
I learnt a lot by listening to everyone reading out their work. It helped me to get the rhythms in my mind. For someone like me all the little hints, about poetry, character and erotica have been absorbed.
The cooks deserve a great big clap. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I had a great time.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Writing Retreat - the Exotica Feast

Before I share stories from the recent 2009 Smoky Cape Writers' Retreat, Lisa has agreed to share her fabulous recipes with the group, and decided that the best medium is through our blog.

Our feasts are always a highly anticipated part of the retreat, and Lisa's culinary skills never fail to impress (below, left)

Baba Ghanoush

2-3 medium sized eggplants
1½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Parsley, finely chopped
Tomato, finely diced

Grill the whole eggplant over a gas flame, turning with tongs until the skin is evenly toasted. Soak in cold water for about 10 min to cool. When cool, completely peel the eggplants and drain for 15-20 min. Place into a food processor with tahini, lemon, garlic and salt and process again until well combined and creamy. Place the mixture in a serving bowl and make a well in the centre just deep enough for the oil to be poured in. Sprinkle paprika, parsley and tomato on top.


500g dried chickpeas
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Place chickpeas in a large saucepan. Add enough hot water to cover by at least 10cm (they will absorb the water and increase in size). Add bicarbonate soda and leave to soak overnight. After soaking, rinse chickpeas, return to saucepan and cover with hot water. Bring to the boil and cook for approximately 1 – 2 hours (or until their skins peel off). When chickpeas are soft and the skins are loose, drain and allow them to cool.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until soft and creamy. Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend again until the mixture is well combined and smooth.

Place the mixture into a serving bowl and make a well in the centre, deep enough for the oil to be poured in. Sprinkle paprika and chopped parsley on top.
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons flour
Oil for frying

Place dried chickpeas in a bowl, covering with cold water. Allow to soak overnight. Drain chickpeas, and place in pan with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer on low for about an hour. Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour.
Mash chickpeas, ensuring to mix ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste. Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten. Bake, or fry, until golden brown.

Feta and Ricotta Dip

500g Feta cheese
500g ricotta cheese
6 tbl softened butter
1 x clove garlic, crushed
1 tbl dill, chopped
2 tbl parsley, chopped;
2-3 cups walnuts, chopped

Process feta until finely crumbled. Add herbs and garlic and process. Add ricotta and butter. Blend until smooth. Add walnuts.


2 bunches fresh parsley, finely shredded
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons
2 tbsp fine burghul
3-4 medium tomatoes, diced
4 green shallots, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Squeeze lemon over burghul and leave to soften for 30 minutes. You may need to add a little water Combine parsley, mint, tomato, shallot and softened burghul. Season with salt and pepper and mix in olive oil. The best way to mix is to use your hands.


4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp salt
3 tsp sweet paprika
4 tsp sumac
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice

Handful of cherry tomatoes
Handful of yellow tomatoes
Handful of finely sliced radish
Handful of lettuce leaves or other greens
2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced
½ red capsicum, sliced
½ yellow capsicum, sliced
½ red cabbage
½ cup of mint
½ cup flat leaf parsley chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
1 toasted Lebanese bread

Crush the crushed garlic and mix the salt, paprika, sumac, olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. To a large mixing bowl add the vegetables and fresh herbs. Add the bread, torn into small, rough pieces. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.

Kibbeh bil sanieh

800 grams lamb mince
4 large brown onions finely chopped
1 tsp baharat (seven spice mix)
½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp finely ground black pepper
3 tbsp roasted pine nuts
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

1½ cup fine cracked wheat (burghul)
800 grams fat free beef mince
2 tsp salt
3 tsp cracked pepper
1 tsp baharat spice mix
2 large brown onions, grated
1 tbsp olive oil

FILLING: (inner layer)
Place oil and mince into a large frying pan over a low heat. Break it up constantly until it is well separated and loose and the moisture is starting to evaporate. Add the spices, seasoning and chopped onion and keep stirring. In a small pan melt the butter, add the pine nuts and roast lightly. When the pine nuts are starting to brown in the butter, add to the meat mixture. Keep mixing until the onion becomes soft. Set aside in the fridge to cool.

KIBBEH: (outer layers)
Soak the burghul in a large mixing bowl with 1 cup of water for at least 5 mins or overnight if possible. Drain well. Add salt, pepper, baharat, grated onion, and mince and mix well by hand till it forms into a paste. You may need a little water to keep the mixture soft. Set aside in the fridge to cool.

To assemble the dish, use a flattish tray with 2cm sides. Grease the tray well. Dampen hands and layer the tray with the kibbeh by forming small balls in your hand then flattening them evenly in the tray. Add the cool filling evenly across the kibbeh, pressing it down a little to keep the layers tight.

Sandwich with the top layer of kibbeh the same way. Flatten evenly and cut into slices or servings before baking. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and bake for 25 minutes in a pre-heated moderate oven. Serve with yoghurt and salad.

Tomato Rice with Lentils and Beans

3cups rice
1 tbs salt
2 tins of brown lentils, drained and washed
2 large onions, sliced finely
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon turmeric
400ml vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup warm water
2 cans tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
500g green beans, cut into small pieces, about ¼ inch in length
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 dried limes

Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil; add the rice and salt. Boil for 10 minutes, until only about half-cooked – just like al dente pasta. Drain in a colander; rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside to drain really well.

In another big saucepan, sauté the onions in 4 tablespoons of the butter until golden brown. It’s important to let them go really very dark, for the taste. Stir in the turmeric. Add the green beans, vegetable stock, tomato paste (diluted in the warm water), tomatoes, salt, pepper, soy sauce, cinnamon, dried limes, and lemon juice. Cover and simmer until the beans are tender (about 25-30 minutes).

Now you’ve got the parboiled rice, and the bean stew. It’s time to put them together. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan, pour in 1/3 of the rice, then 1/3 of the meat mixture. Alternate layers of rice and meat until the ingredients have all been used up. Cover the saucepan with a lid wrapped in a cloth, to catch the steam, and steam over a medium heat for about 30 minutes. Don’t lift the lid at all until at least 30 minutes – you should be able to smell when the rice is cooked. This dish, when inverted onto a serving platter, will be quite red; it is very decorative as well as delicious.

Thankyou, Lisa. And perhaps Roby will share her recipes from Monday evening.

Now, what are you waiting for? Get cooking!