At MONA FOMA in January I found Neil Gaiman with a little help from festival curator Brian Ritchie – it gave me the opportunity to hand Mr Gaiman a copy of my book The Long Weekend in Alice Springs. Now Hobart is a small town, and all my friends were at that amazing festival (you should come – MONA FOMA is a freak of a good time): and I had a bit of intel that Neil Gaiman had been sighted coming out the jumping castle, and down at the cafe reading it … so it was nice to hear he’d had a look.
A week or two later – he tweets this ->
Personally, it’s been a pretty average year for me,
But artistically – It’s been an awesome year
… I’m not sure if that means I’ve come out on top or not … who knows.
I won some awards for The Long Weekend in Alice Springs … now I can refer to myself as a “multi-award-winning-graphic-novelist” … isn’t that rad.
- ComicOz Award for Best Australian Original Comic Book for 2013
- But even more important to me was this one – 2014 Chief Minister’s NT Read Non Fiction Book Award. It’s rad to have won this award in the NT, where the story of The Long Weekend belongs. In fact – there was tonnes of Central Australian stories up in Darwin nominated at the book awards – which is awesome for the Centralian region.
I had 2 exhibitions which is pretty alright I reckon!
- Sleuth: The Delegation – at Sawtooth ARI in Launceston in April
- The Long Weekend in Alice Springs at the Top Gallery at the Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart.
I managed to get 2 different Sleuth pieces into literary magazines this year which is exciting, as well as some other stuff.
- Sleuth: OMG – published in Island #137 in June
- Sleuth: The Transcontinental Distress was published in Meanjin in September.
- Oi Oi Oi! First 9 pages of The Long Weekend was reprinted in this.
- Fluid Prejudice – some other pages from The Long Weekend was contained in this wonderful Aussie History Comics anthology
I’ve also been working on a series of 20 kids books in the3 Yankunytjatjara language from South Australia – these will be released in early 2015 (if all goes according to plan).
ALSO – I continued organising and publishing the Down There comics series through San Kessto Publications – Tom OHern and Tricky Walsh both had releases of really awesome Tasmanian comics through that series – one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been involved in!
Something I’ve not done for a while.
- Wrote for the Meanjin website in January
- Wrote for the Island Website in May – review of Fluid Prejudice
- Wrote for Island Magazine in June – Island #137 – on the making of The Long Weekend in Alice Springs.
Managed to be at a number of Festivals during the year for writing, comics and music … here’s a list!
- MONA FOMA, Hobart – played manic guitar as part of the Hobart Improv Collective
- NT Writers Festival – Word Storm – Darwin: spoke on panels, presented my graphic novel, hung out and stuff (won an award)
- Emerging Writers Festival, Melbourne – spoke on a panel
- Her Majesty’s Favourite Really Great Graphical Festival – I was the Festivale Directeur Flamboyante of the first Comics/Illustrators/Zines festival in Tasmania in June.
- Helsinki Comics Festival, Finland – international comics festival that I had a table at – and met lots of fine folks.
Concert-wise it’s been a quiet year by my normal standards with only about 7 or so performances … but I did manage to fit in a few gigs here and there, played in Helsinki twice as well which is rad.
Recordings – I did have two recordings released through two channels.
- “Feels” was commissioned and played on Ears Have Ears show on FBi radio in Sydney in September, it can be listened on their Soundcloud site for free.
- “The Waterhole” was a track that was released on the Hobart Experimental Noise compilation Convergence, curated by Matt Warren and Julian Teakle, which can be bought/downloaded from Rough Skies Records.
So all up – It’s been a pretty good year!!
2015 is already shaping up quite well –
- 2 more exhibitions lining up – One in Hobart! One in Canberra!
- A longer comic piece being finished for August or thereabouts
- Some more festivals
- Knuckling down on some more graphic novels
- Some weeklong workshops
- Chris Downes and I performing The Shipwright and the Banshee in Melbourne
- Her Majesty’s 2nd Favourite Really Great Graphical Festival, in June
- More Down There comics – I have soooooo many Taswegians lined up making comics it’s just not funny … not funny at all!!!
- Who knows what else!!!
Tasmania, it’s apology time.
It’s been almost a year and a half since I launched the Long Weekend in Alice Springs into the world at the inaugural Tasmanian Writers Festival in Hobart in March 2013. It’s been quite a year for this little self-published wonder and I thought I’d do a little write-up of its successes and failures … though, thankfully, I don’t know of many failures … or how a book fails … but anyhow.
I’m writing this the day after I opened the second exhibition of original art from the graphic novel here in Wintery HOBART. I probably won’t pull out the original art again, my mind has moved on. But it seems appropriate that I reflect on it all. It occurred to me that whilst I was making this book I was living here in Hobart, but mentally and emotionally I was grappling with a project that forced me to not be present, to not be here in Tasmania. I was in Central Australia. Head still in the dust, barrelling down dirt highways in landcruisers.
I was quite distracted by this work of art.
Then, years later, once I finished the book I had to flog it like crazy; I’d put too much work in: it cannot go unnoticed NOW! And so the book had numerous launches in different spots in 2013, which has helped sales along – Hobart, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. The Alice Springs launch was by far the biggest, and funnest, and it was accompanied by the first exhibition at the gallery in Alice Springs – Watch This Space – a well-loved institution. It was launched by lots of interesting, wonderful sods – Dr Anne Noonan (who I used to work with in Central Oz), Pat Grant (comic-maker extraordinaire), Bernard Caleo (Svengali of Melbourne comics and great enthusiast of this book), Penny McDonald (NT Film), Lindsay Arnold (Tassie comic-legend), Jennifer Mills (good mate and wonderful author). To share this book with these people made it extra special.
Because of these launches, and because of the promotion that was part of the successful crowd-funding campaign, the book pretty much sold out of its first print-run of 500 within about two and a half months … which took me completely by surprise, so I got it reprinted again in Hobart (again by Monotone Art printers, who are very nice to work with), this time printing 1000 copies just in time for the book to be reviewed by the Weekend Australian Newspaper in their Review magazine. This helped in getting the book into bookstores across Australia, which seemed to be a better place to sell this book than in comic-stores, though it landed in a few of them too. To date I have offloaded a total of about 1250 copies Australia-wide, which I’m chuffed and proud of … given I self-distributed and posted and emailed and whatnot. I had thought that initial 500 would last me a few years, and they would be sitting under my bed.
Whilst I can honestly say that I have no idea how anyone printing a book in Australia can make any money at all – I am very proud to have printed it locally and going to the effort of keeping everything as local as possible. It certainly isn’t a money-spinner, but that was never the point anyhow.
The most exciting aspect about sending a graphic novel into the world has been the responses to it. I had thought that the only people who’d read this would be comic-obssessed people … and I didn’t know if they would get into it, because of the content … nothing against comic-obssessed people at all, I’m certain they would be able to understand such a book, but the book is a little serious and full-on and I wasn’t certain of how it would fit into the genre-focused world of comics … I wasn’t quite sure who my audience was, because I made this book for me … and not really for anyone else. It turns out – there’s lots of MEs out there. Who knew?
What I found was, most people who read the book – WEREN’T comic-readers … most of the discussions about the book that I encountered were NOT even about the comic-form, they went immediately to the content. This surprised me most, because many readers didn’t even seem to really be aware of the medium at all when they read it. Some of my favourite responses have been from Central Australia, where the people who live this content daily can grasp it with their mind and hearts. As is probably true of any peripheral area, the political discussions on the Eastern seaboard about Central Australia have always lacked any real understanding of the problems faced by those who live there. For this reason, to be acknowledged in the Territory was the best: it meant a lot to both Craig and I when the book was awarded the Non Fiction Book Award at the NT Read awards in Darwin in May of 2014.
I am glad that I decided to put on this exhibition in Hobart though, though the content of the book has absolutely nothing to do with Tasmania – but the book was made, designed and printed in Tassie. I couldn’t have done the work in Central Australia. To live in the desert is to live by the seat of your pants, every day surreal things happen, you get swept along by an unusual force. I didn’t even notice until I left. I needed to move away, the distance to clear my mind and digest all the things I had to sift through to be able to work this comic into existence. So I came to Hobart. It was crucial. But the local Tassie community was also crucial with their support and feedback and enthusiasm. Now I have a month-long exhibition which I can show to the Hobartian mob. I can say to them “This is what I did before I truly lived here emotionally and mentally. Isn’t that nice. It’ll be up for a month,”
“BUT this is a line in the sand – after this – you and me – we can start dating properly – we can live together in this creative community of Taswegia”
“Sorry I was so distracted before, I hope you understand”
“I’d like to be more present now”