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I write, am i a writer or an artist?

Guest Blogger: Matt Blackwood

I write. For some people this makes me a writer. I also write in forms beyond the book or eBook. For others this makes me an artist.

For thirty years Janos worked at a cement factory and came home with 900 a week after tax and nose bleeds. Now as he stared at Australian Standards glass, Janos dreamt of fences made from sausages.

I try not to focus on titles and other people’s perceptions because for me it’s all about the work. It’s work that I take seriously and strive to be better at. I read to learn, I experience to feel and I absorb as much as I can to imbue sincerity in everything I create. My journey into Locative Literature began from having difficulty in finding traditional publishers for my longer forms of writing. These ‘Nos’ forced me into thinking about alternative forms of writing and publishing. This led to the concept of stories being experienced in the places where these stores are set via affordable formats. I then began exploring the possibilities and challenges that these different publishing forms presented, as well as developing the unique approaches to writing that is required and the practical considerations that exist when presenting work in public spaces.

Betty exhaled and braced herself for the walk up Elizabeth. For six hours a day, five days a week Betty palmed, fisted and elbowed the tension from Sprite-white bodies. Frustration from bosses lived in the shoulders. Missed opportunities lived in the feet.

I have written ever since my mother forced me to write a diary. I was nine and she was a single parent and we sold our Australian dream to fund skipping from continent to continent on two round-the-world tickets. The graphite labour was presumably to help me remember the sights and sounds of a dozen cultures, and although the entries began as a single line of “It was very good,” within a year I managed to observe and articulate what I experienced to write several pages every day.

A stench of zombies. A smear of lawyers. Kano wondered what the collective noun was for a collective of nouns. With silver fingers he wrote ‘nuance’ in his sketchbook.

I still write everyday as I have things on my mind. Some of these stories will continue to be presented in non-traditional forms such as Post-it notes or embossed labelling tape, and others are designed to be experienced as black text on a white page. The important thing for me is to have something sincere to say in the appropriate publishing form. And in case you’re wondering, ‘No’ is still one of the most dangerous words you can utter in my direction. It always will be.

To explore more possibilities of Locative Literature, join Matt when he comes to Adelaide in October 2014 as Access2Arts’ Artist in Residence. He will be presenting a series of workshops exploring Locative Literature. For more information on how to be a part of them, check out the EVENTS page for more details.

Matt Blackwood  writes short stories, slightly longer short stories, and stories so long they think they’re too cool to hang around with the shorties. His fiction and non-fiction has been published and won awards and he has received several grants and commissions for his Locative Literature projects. Matt has been an invited guest at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, the Emerging Writers’ Festival, the Castlemaine State Festival, National Young Writers’ Festival and if book: Australia.

Kylie’s Pendulum Swings

Guest Blogger: Kylie Harrison

Writer and poet Kylie Harrison credits supportive teachers and encouragement from her sister, Erin, for keeping her writing in the face of barriers like bullying and peoples reactions to her issues with mental health.

My project to write Pendulum began many years ago. I went to Flinders University and the Arts Tafe studying Creative Writing. I was unable to get a degree or a diploma as at that stage as I was constantly getting mentally unwell. I managed to gain the skills I needed to become a writer and was encouraged by lecturers to join in writing competitions, gaining distinctions for some of my poetry including ‘The sea of Melancholy’ sonnet which is now a part of Pendulum.

They weren’t the only teachers in my life who had praised my writing. Most of my teachers in high school supported me and since I spent some time in hospital as a teenager, it was my hospital school teacher that realised my passion for writing and believed in my ability. My home group teacher and drama and English teachers also gave me motivation. Back then I wanted to be a journalist.

When I was at Hamilton Secondary College adult campus attempting to finish Year 12, I had a teacher that loved my speech on youth suicide and encouraged me to become a public speaker in high schools. Years on that is one of the things I am doing, as part of my job as a peer worker with Life Without Barriers. Many teachers inspire the best from their students and I have found some in my writing journey. Three of my teachers along the way have said the same thing ‘Kylie sets very high standards for herself and always achieves them.’ This was written in my school reports from my teachers in Year 4, Year 7, Year 11 and Year 12.

For a long time it was a struggle being mentally unwell as a young person and this totally delayed my schooling. I was always getting sick and not able to finish anything. It was a frustrating situation. But I came to realise I could get the skills without getting the grades. Now that I am getting my book published, I keep remembering my sister’s advice. I was upset because I was unemployed and often getting sick. I related this to my sister as a young adult. But she said ‘you are not unemployed Kylie, you are a writer and you just haven’t been paid yet.’

My sister Erin knows what it is like to be a struggling artist as she is a ceramist and an artist. She painted the beautiful picture on Pendulum’s front cover and promotional material. I think you will agree that she has done a fantastic job and sets the tone I wanted for my poetry book. She spent hours on it and liaising with me was able to capture the vision I had for Pendulum. We have always talked about writing cards together with her paintings and my poetry.

A painted image of a waterfall cascading into a pool of ble water. A rainbow archs out of the mist surrounding the point where the waterfall hits the pool of water. On the right bank of the pool a woman in a white dress stands in a bed of flowers.

Image by Erin Harrald.

Growing up I was always writing poetry for friends and family for events like birthdays and special occasions. I would often write poetry for Mother’s and Father’s Day and began writing poetry since I was about 8 years old. I soon found out how much this meant to the special people in my life. It was about this time when I began sharing my poetry in the possum pages in the Sunday mail. It was a huge thrill to see my poetry in print. As I had a scientific mind back then, before I lost my memory, I was always writing poetry about space. I come from a family who have always been optimistic about my writing. I tried my hardest at everything I did and never disappointed myself, until life became sometimes a bit much trying to cope with the crippling mood swings and psychosis, which for a while felt like a full time job.

The teachers tried to help me to get through school. I loved the work but often got bullied. I realise now that the kids didn’t know what was happening when I was dancing on the tables in English class in a manic state or why my mum had to come to the class to pick me up to go to my psychiatrist.

People have always said that I have lived an interesting life. It’s good that I have lots to talk and write about. Since I come from the country I love to write in the country. There was many a writing session when writing Pendulum that I went and stayed at the Riverland with my sister. It was such a relaxing atmosphere and proved to be the most inspiring place for my writing.

Will I eventually be paid more to write? Only time will tell, but I am excited to be heading in the right direction. Art is such an interesting thing as some will like it and some possibly won’t like it. But I write because I want to and if people like it, that is just an added bonus. Writing is a big part of my life and I don’t mind sharing part of my world with the world. Why should you read Pendulum? Well……I always try to focus on what I can do and not what I can’t, and reading Pendulum is something you can do.

Kylie received funding from Arts SA‘s Richard Llewellyn Art and Disability program in the development of her book of poems. Pendulum is been published by Ginninderra Press and is available to be purchased at the launch. To find out more about the launch, check out details on the EVENTS page.

Kylie Harrison can describe herself as a Community Peer Worker, writer, film maker, performer and comedian, now can add the title ‘published poet’ to her well-feathered cap.