The Centrelink fear spiral..

I wake to an automated text message from Max Employment saying that I have an appointment at 10am tomorrow. This is the first I have heard of this! Immediately I am anxious. I haven’t had to deal with either Max Employment or Centrelink for over two months and it’s been a luxurious and anxiety free time.

The government (thanks Abbot, you bastard!) has implemented a new system whereby they pretend to help you out by forcing you to do volunteer work. It’s just another reminder that my life isn’t under my control, that I’m being given ‘hand outs’ and I’m obliged to work for free for Christians and not for profit companies that need some indentured labour. Not only am I not being given enough to live on or pay my cars registration, I am obliged to volunteer my time wherever Max Employment want to place me in exchange for this slap-in-the-face service that is called government “support.”

Max Employment has’t been able to handle the new influx of work and bullshit they have to deal with so I haven’t been placed anywhere yet. I knew they would call one day though, so I have been relishing this reprieve. The time of bliss has come to an end, but I have not been idle. As you know I am volunteering 7 hours a week with the M16 Art Space, with the Belconnen Arts Centre and soon with the ANU Press for 4-7 hours a week. On top of that I write for Verity La and edit for Grapple Publishing. And honestly I am not always on top of all that I have signed up for, let alone my own projects. I am desperate for Max Employment to recognise the volunteering I do and either exempt me from their punishment or make me do less of whatever they have designed. I need time to look for jobs, write and honor my other commitments. If Max Employment had even a snifter of actual ability to help people into jobs and understanding about the life of artists, they would see that I’m already doing valid volunteering and they don’t need to force me into more. Besides I have registered myself with a real recruitment agency, I don’t need their “help.”

So my Sunday which I planned to be languid and mostly involve editing and reading the Shadow Over Innsmouth has turned into an anxious hell of jittery job searching and trying to fight off images of being forced to volunteer at the Tuggeranong vinnes. Oh it’s a fine life, the artists life…

In my anxiety today I had another look at online or distance education courses in editing. I think I may have found some actual options. I also came across this useful lecture from the USQ – University of Southern Queensland  on what an editor is and a bit about the industry. It was a less depressing message than I expected.

Taking a trip to “The Canberra Dream”: Melbourne

I heard it once said that the Canberra dream is to move to Melbourne. Most people I have encountered my own age, wether born here or not have had at some point the dream to move to Melbourne. For a lot of them that took them to Melbourne and for others there were reasons to stay and the dream was replaced by another. My enduring dream for well over five years has been to move.

The day after looking into cheap flights and yelling at my laptop, “I don’t know if I need to pay extra to have a carry on allowance of 35 kls.” the excitement kicked in. The stress of planning subsided and the full reality of visiting the place I have lusted heavily over for years slid in.

My best friend and I have planned the trip for late September. It comes on the back of my serious rumblings about moving. Cat is also finished with Canberra, so this trip is a chance to show her how amazing Melbourne is, in hopes she might want to move with me. We have always known that we would both move one day, but we thought up until this year, that it would be to different places. I was always set on Melbourne and she on warm coast lines. But with no specific location calling her it seems that Melbourne has become an option for her. Since that moment I have felt much more serious about moving, as it seems somewhat possible that I might not be parted from my soul mate in the process. Cat has been amazing to even consider moving to Melbourne when she has never visited it before. I want her to go wherever will make her happiest, and if that means she doesn’t end up moving with me, well I won’t be quite whole again, but I will support her and find a way to live with her physical absence.

But we have planned a trip! I shall be cementing my good feelings about the place and having a look at certain suburbs. I anticipate that this little trip will cause unbearable longing within me that I will carry back to Canberra. I figure I will have to turn this longing into brute enthusiasm and energetic  goal making or I will become increasingly frustrated. Frustration may be a little inevitable though. Hopefully for Cat, Melbourne delights her and looms before her as a tangible option for her future.

I will keep you updated.

Inspiration and a backlash against Realism

I read a great little article by Writers Edit on staying inspired as a writer. I agree with the author on many of her points. Though I am finding that reading ‘Art Objects’ by Jeanette Winterson is changing my perspective on books reflecting real life. I’m not as convinced by the argument that all writing (fiction) is based on life or should be. Jeanette makes the point that this kind of Realism come from the Victorian era and reflects a backlash against the Romantics who embraced innovation, imagination and art for arts sake. Realism was focused creating fiction that reflected “real life” and had a certain didactic quality that was very socially “responsible” in its message. Jeanette makes the argument that books do not have to be (and shouldn’t) just be a version of everyday life; that novels are in fact not a version of certain facts, but a whole new reality to be entered and understood. In a way she is concerned with what is at the heart of a novel, that it goes beyond just mimicry of life.

A great break down of her book can be found here.

The unintentional self sabotage

Not being a naturally well organised person I have to put in place a lot of alarms and reminders for myself. For the second time I have mis-remembered the deadline for an ANU library job application and missed my opportunity to get my resume in. It wasn’t like I had the exact qualifications for the job (I don’t have a Cert III in Information and Cultural Services) but there’s no harm in submitting. I am going to have to work on being even more organised than I already strive to be. Not being in sync with a culture of hard deadlines but trying to be otherwise is hard work….

“It’s a bit like trying to overcome a phobia of peach flavored dental gel”

I’ve been getting email alerts from Seek about administration and editing jobs. It’s a bit like trying to overcome a phobia of peach flavored dental gel; frightening and distasteful. But my aversion to the Seek website has subsided. It’s been a handy resource that’s introduced me to more than one suitable job that I would not have seen otherwise.

kitsy-babcock~s800x800I’ve been particularly interested in library jobs at the ANU and in writing the selection criteria I have come across something unknown to be previously. I found that the library jobs were often asking for a Cert III in Information and Cultural Services. I had no idea what that was and feared it might be boring. But I looked it up and found it wasn’t. I’m rather interested in it now and think my chances of getting a library assistant jobs will be greatly increased if I do the Cert III. As always, if I find I hate it, as disappointing as that might be, I will have learned something invaluable about my interests and abilities.

I’ll be looking into it as soon as possible. I’m excited by what this could develop into.

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Getting “The Break”

Metal_movable_typeRecently I was waking up and checking my emails while still feeling blurry when I saw a job going at the ANU Press for a Digital Editor. The role of Digital Editor job is something I aspire to but not something I feel fully qualified for. I don’t have loads of experience with editing nor a lot of formal education concerning it outside my writing degree. But one of the best ways to get both experience and education can be through internships. This gave me the idea to email them about volunteer opportunities.

I decided to be push myself to be a little braver and give them plenty of information about myself, my education and my goals as well as my CV straight away. I figure I am more likely to get a look in if I’m upfront about who I am, what I want and why. Perhaps because of this I got an email the next day from the ANU Press inviting me to have coffee and talk about opportunities happening at the Press.

I read this email while I was out with my best friend Cat, and was pretty close to screaming into the cold wind with victory. If I am offered a volunteer position and introduced to the real workings of publishing (not just fetching coffees and filing) then this really could be my break! This could be a fantastic learning experience that could help get me a position in a publishing house. This is the break I have been trying to get for well over 6 months. After a lot of getting no where and unanswered emails I am finally getting some traction!

Speaking of getting some where, tomorrow I start at the M16 Art Space. I’m nervous but also excited to be getting into writing for them. It looks like they want me to help them out with social media, their blog as well as write reviews of exhibitions. It will be interesting to see what the structure will be like and start orientating myself.

I don’t believe its as easy or unproblematic as pimping ourselves out for free for long enough to get that “perfect” writing job, but I do believe in gratitude to the people who are willing to give artists proper internships, jobs and experience in the industry. It’s been beyond hard getting out of Uni and finding that there were no jobs for a creative writer who wanted to just write fiction and that being a writer and selling short stories isn’t an art that can solely support me, but after much despair and depression I am finding a niche for myself. I’m finding where my skills can fit and how I can get a realistic income out of what I learned at Uni.

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The good without the tantrums

It’s been a while since I have written anything; I felt my frustrated tantrums were better left off the internet. That’s not to say that good things haven’t happened. After months of applying for positions and internships I have finally gotten a bit of a break.

First off, after close to 6 months of stalling the Belconnen Arts Centre has taken me on as a volunteer. The next great thing that has happened is that the M16 Art Space has taken me on as a (contract) volunteer who will write for them for about 4-6 months. This is a major achievement! I was not expecting to be taken on by them as a writer! They are keen for me to do reviews, help out with social media and their blog. Yup, this is big. This is great for experience and for getting contacts, plus everyone at M16 I have met so far is warm and supportive.

My work with Duncan on Grapple Publishings second annual has been more and more rewarding the further I get into it. Just this Sunday he and I sat at Gus’s cafe for three hours and worked out the short list. We have selected about thirty pieces for the short list wrangled from the initial 140 submissions. It’s taken a few meeting and many weeks of reading to get down to 30. The process often gives me a rewarding feeling of having worked hard and done well.

I’ve also been steadily digging myself out of pretty nasty hole created by depression and anxiety. There is no truth to the romantic myth that depression makes artists more creative. Certainly people have made important artwork from times of darkness but when you’re in the middle of depression you’re not productive. So coming out of a difficult patch I have been much more capable of getting on with writing. I’m getting back into fiction again too.

The next awesome thing is that I am now a manuscript assessor for the ACT Writers Centre. They put a call out for more assessors, so I decided to put some faith in my abilities and apply. I’m really grateful to the ACT Writers Centre for taking me on and giving me more experience with editing.

I’m currently hunting down information about publishing internships and entry level jobs. I’m finding more resources than I thought. I somehow thought there would be very little, but some helpful people in the UK in particular have written about their experiences and offered advice. I found a striking quote from an article, Throw the book at publishing internships. It’s not a chipper article but it was a well timed reminder that I need to be on the look out for well structured internships that aren’t going to exploit me. This article is spot on when it says:

“Ability to do a job adequately should always be based on skills and competencies and never on how long someone has slaved or hawked themselves for free.”

Right on!

There is plenty in my (writers) life that is working out and I have a long over due sense that I am not far from meaningful and skilled work in the field of writing.

Essential Reading for Developing Writers

An old piece of mine from the Capital Letters blog.


— Rachael Nielsen

I don’t have a yacht and I don’t come from money.

The opposite is the assumption when I casually mention that I’ve studied at Oxford. That’s Oxford University in England, yes. (Note: you must mention something like this casually otherwise you sound pretentious). I tend to mention this summer of study and writing fiction when I’m trying to impress boys or if it is of some value to the conversation. As I’m not in a pub nor will this article circulate throughout a dating website, I’m not trying to impress you, it is the latter this time. The Forest for the Trees was required reading before I flew the twenty-six hours to England. It is one of the best books on the process and life of writing, and thus goes on my list for developing writers. This book, as well as the others I will mention, is…

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The well regarded and the brave: a winter recommended reading list


Words by Rachael Nielson

I buy most of my books online and read reviews before purchasing. I’m eyeing off Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and The Prince Lestat by Anne Rice. For those of you who, like me, enjoy a recommendation before buying a book, I have put together a currated list of well regarded contemporary and classic books for a variety of reading moods this season.

A Challenge  

You want to use your intellect during weekends in the blue mountains in amongst bush walking and antiquing. Going on a mini break doesn’t mean you’re not up for an emotional and ideological awakening.

candycoverCandy by Luke Davies
Luke Davies has mastered breezy prose and spot on slang. He builds a sense of place which is tangible and often lacking from contemporary literature. Candy gives the…

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