Sam van Zweden




The Other Side

It’s over, and I’ve taken my week to fall in a heap. Yes, I am unreasonably hopeful that the one week is all it takes. Let’s not talk about other possibilities at this point.

In the last week, I handed in my manuscript and ‘contextual essay’ (for all intents and purposes, an exegesis). I partied reasonably hard that night. The following day I worked, and came home and vomited myself silly – I was knocked down for the remainder of the week with gastro. It was quite an unhappy week. Last night I panicked, because I felt myself falling into a very familiar hole. That place I find myself when a big milestone is passed, and I have to ask myself, “What now?”

Today, however, I came across two articles that really spoke to me, and which have helped me pull myself a little bit out of that hole.

Karen Andrews at Miscellaneous Mum posted her talk from the weekend’s Offset Arts Festival. In it, she talks about her very personal reasons for blogging, and how blogging acted as a distraction during recovery from a breakdown. Karen goes on to talk about how her continued blogging journey has been backed by passion – she kept going, and that’s how she discovered her voice. Karen’s successes (many and varied) have come because she has kept going – she loves what she’s doing, and that’s the motivator.

Another article about reading and writing in relation to emotional healing was posted at The Wheeler Centre website. In an interview with the beautiful Melinda Harvey, she talks about the relationship between reading and healing. For Melinda, at a certain point literature is useless to that process – I’m really struck by the bravery of refuting that idea of literature as a lifeline in times of crisis. At another point, however, reading and writing becomes instrumental in making sense of things – a sentiment I can certainly relate to, having just handed in 10,000 words of a memoir about my mother’s mental illness. Likewise, Melinda talks about how much of a mind-bending change it was for her to think of herself writing a memoir. It’s an uncomfortable kind of negotiation, thinking of yourself as a memoirist when it’s something you’d never considered previously.

Both Karen and Melinda’s words really touched me today, when I’m finding myself at a bit of a cross-roads. I don’t exactly know where life takes me to from here. But I am standing on the other side of a very big milestone, and for today at least, I have pulled myself out of a dark spot thanks to these ladies.

Coming home and The End Point

That’s it. Semester over! This semester was big. Really big. Fourteen novels for just two of my subjects and that’s only the stuff with covers. At least two reams of paper, lots of ink, hours and hours of reading off my screen because I couldn’t afford to print any more. Twelve weeks of sacrificing the reading I actually wanted to do, to make room for things that were mostly worth reading, but not always what I wanted to do.

But that’s over now! It’s holidays! It’s lovely weather! The real reading can begin. I can cross billions of things off my “to-do” list, and work through the huge stacks of books that I’ve been buying but not had space or time to read. I can make sense of my writing desk, make some narratives happen, rather than torturous essays comparing texts which should never, ever be compared (Camus’ The Outsider and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea being the most recent hideousness).

So here I am, back at home in the blogosphere. I can blog whenever I like, I can dedicate that section of my brain to planning posts as I live. I can work my way through my poor, neglected Google Reader feed! Oh poor Google Reader…

Today I read a piece that really got my attention, which was re-tweeted by Angela Meyer. The article, “Where Did The Web Go?“, talks about a lot of things that got my attention.

First point of interest: A quote from Stephen Mitchelmore: “Finding a way to talk about the reading experience is, I’ve realised, the greatest pleasure of writing; where it ends is of no importance.” I love this quote. Stephen’s talking about how it doesn’t matter if your online literary efforts never really take off, because that’s not the point. The point is to find a way to talk about your “reading experience”. Reading is a strange thing in a similar way to writing – it’s a necessarily lonely activity, but there’s a definite pleasure in finding ways to share that loneliness. For me, LGWABP is a major way that I do that. I’m not sure that I always (…ever) provide insightful contributions, but I enjoy doing what I do. Stephen’s right – it is “the greatest pleasure”.

Second point of interest: “Choose what you want your site to be, and then do it” – I like this. Sometimes I feel like my blog misses the mark because I’m not sure what I’m doing with it. Successful blogs have something that is specifically theirs, whether that’s a layout, a tone, a bunch of memes, whatever. They own it.

Other than these two superficial things that caught my eye, the article itself is actually a great contribution to the discussion of the role of online media, in particular online literary criticism. Check it out.

Passive/Aggressive Cheek and A/I Excitement!

This is a messy post – I’m just putting that out there now, so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Mess. Which proceeds thus…

I’m back at uni. We started back on Monday, and it’s been really good…Until today. I have a terrible tutor for a course that has the potential to be fantastic, and this upsets me. In an earlier draft of this post, I ranted about what was flawed about this tutor’s teaching style, but I re-thought that, as it probably has no place here. I’ll simply carry on with my passive/aggressive cheek toward said tutor for the remainder of the semester… Good luck to her.

I was going to post another “Comment July Challenge” post today, with highlights from the last week. But having done a lot of thinking in the last few days, I’ve realised I’m over-committed and things are suffering for it. So in an effort to de-frag my life, I’m culling those commitments which I don’t absolutely need. Unfortunately, the Comment July Challenge is one of them – I’ll still be commenting on as many blogs as is possible, contributing to discussions where I can, but without the pressure to do five per day. It’s an admirable project, and I wish Megan and the others involved the absolute best with it.

And now for the “A/I Excitement!” part of my title – tomorrow I’ll be posting the interview I was referring to the other day. The admirably haired and wonderfully talented Sage Francis (yes, that Sage Francis!) was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so that will be up tomorrow – get excited with me!

Comment July Challenge – Week 2 Highlights, and Used Book Woes

I’ve been a little slack this week. One day I only did three comments. Another day I did none at all… But that means there have still been 27 comments besides. Here’s a list of some of my favourites – articles, not comments.

“Book Launch: After America by John Birmingham, Ariel Books Paddington” on With Extra Pulp gives the usual personal twist to a literary event – a great read.

“My ideal writing desk” by Shari Green shares some of Shari’s ideas about the perfect place to write – I want the driftwood desk!

Steph Bowe’s “The Road to Publication”: talks about publication as part of a journey instead of an end-point.

Jenna Sten’s “Erotic Fan Fiction at the Wheeler Centre” on Virgule covers an event I went to this week but was too lazy to blog about – Jenna did it better than I would have anyway!

Ella’s “PHUN” on Cellophane Teeth celebrates some fantastic film trailers. My favourite is the dancing from Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

In other news, I’ve spent today book-shopping. I now have all my schoolbooks for next semester, apart from two. One of them is on order to be picked up Friday, the other… The other is just about impossible. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison is not available in Kill City Books, that used-book-shop on Flinders St with the yellow signage, General & Academic Books on Swanston, Tim’s Book Shop in Kew, Borders, Dymocks, Readers Feast, or Angus & Robertson.

Semester 2, 2010 school books

After returning home and having a Facebook status-whinge, I had a chat with the ever helpful Keith Redgen from Bluebird Books and Records, who is supplying me with the book I need, as well as a copy of a very hard-to-find book for a friend. If ever you get stuck, Keith’s got it 90% of the time.

It’s been a long day… I think I need to curl up with a good book!


I’m beat. Bushed. Buggered. Sooooo tired. I feel like I woke up on Saturday, and haven’t stopped since.

Up until this point, I’ve avoided blogging about my latest achievement simply because I was terrified it wouldn’t stick – that I’d get there and the collective psyche would vote me out. However, on Saturday afternoon the first episode of Yartz featuring my pretty porcelain face was filmed.

Yartz is an awesome community TV show on Channel 31, (airs at 10pm Mondays and a repeat I think on Thursday night – also on youtube) which basically acts as a very independent cultural commentator, picking out all the cool things in the world and letting you know all about them…At times fanatical, at other times utterly scathing – which is where I come in.

I have been appointed book-fan extraordinaire, working with the Yartz crew and contributing to the bookish side of things. A more lovely bunch of people you could not find, so a big thankyou to one Misha Adair for his expert casting skills, and to the rest of those I’ve had anything to do with thus far for being so ready to have me on board.

Not having television myself I won’t be able to tell you when I’m on, I’m not sure if it’s this week or next, BUT as soon as it hits youtube you can expect to hear about it.

In other beginnings, today was the first day of my life at RMIT completing their Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing). AMPED! First days are always less productive, and it did enough to get me excited about the course overall. It’s still a very new course, only in its second year, and it’s a very small group. There’s 42 of us in first year.

Today I had Cinema Studies, which consisted of Lumiere shorts and The Wizard of Oz… While it’s a 9.30 class, I get to be all cozy in a Hoyts cinema and watch films, so it’s bearable. Enjoyable, even. The news of needing to purchase a $110 textbook was a little less than welcome, but I’ve since found a filmmaker-friend who is willing to lend me a copy – thank god for commonly used textbooks!

I have to admit, this viewing of The Wizard of Oz was the first time I’d noticed the Wizard calling Scarecrow a “blundering bale of bovine fodder”… That’s the kind of insult I wish I’d penned!

The afternoon saw an “orientation” type talk in the space where Telling Stories would usually take place – and my goodness, the second year students have got me excited! The thing that always discouraged me about Swinburne was the lack of community feeling and a total lack of enthusiasm for writing. It was seen as an easy elective and not something to be pursued outside of what was forced upon us. That didn’t stop me, of course, but I was always chasing the extracurricular opportunities by myself.

Now, writing’s such an alone activity that I feel that this community feeling I’ve been wanting is absolutely crucial to being able to do it. The second year students in my course are so excited about the writing opportunities they have and create, especially those they do outside of school and share. They’re really pulling together as an artists’ collective and making it all work for themselves. Good on them, and I can’t wait to join the ranks!

So, a few new beginnings and much, much, MUCH excitement.

…just a bit proud of myself at the moment.


On Friday morning I received the best news I have received in quite some time…

I got into the university I applied for!

No more Swinburne, with its grossly under-funded arts faculty and disgusting treatment of an education institution as merely a business… Onto RMIT, where money is kept flowing into the arts in the same way as any other “more profitable” degree, where my love of writing and sharing and learning will be welcomed and given a big warm hug.

No more creative writing classes full of psych or engineering students who “needed an easy HD”… Writing can be hard work, and the people I will be learning with next year will understand this.

I’m almost positive that my current image of the splendour RMIT has to offer is not quite what the reality will be, but I am also positive that the coursework is what I want from a university, and the attitude of the institution is what I would actually expect from a place of learning.

For those of you interested, here’s a link.

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