Tuesday, January 30, 2007


So..... well..... I'd love to say: Here I am, a good night's sleep under my belt, a restful day spent kicking around the house, and I'm ready to rumble.

Unfortunately, I get to say: a night of rumbling sleep below the belt, I think I saw the inside of my house, and ready or not, here's my post...


Was hot! Not 40+ degress-what-the-fuck-is-going-on? hot like Perth, but at only a few degrees lower in temperature and with an average humidity of approximately 427%, I spent two weeks gaining an understanding of what it must feel like to live in Colleen McCullough's armpit. However, delightful visual images aside, we're here to talk about what went on, so for part the first, let's discuss....


Let's be straight about one thing: I never again want to tutor at a long-term workshop where I'm placed in an unequal power relationship with Luscious. We knew it would be hard. We're not stupid. And we probably spent longer talking about our week together than we did living it. But Lyn is my wife, my love, and my equal, and we long ago made the decision that we were exactly equal in every way-- as people, as managers of our relationship, and as writers. Being forced into a situation where that equality was misaligned, as a matter of policy, left a stain.

Now that's said, let's be equally straight about this: if they ask me back again to tutor in two years time, I'll be on the plane so fast I'll leave contrails.

The stories were, for the most part, exciting. The students were, for the most part, a passionate, dedicated, egoless bunch who threw themselves into all aspects of the writing environment with a zeal I responded to in a very visceral way. The social aspects of a 24-hour-a-day writing environment went off: Lyn and I hosted a wine and cheese evening in the tutor's apartment on Wednesday night; I was invited to dinner on another; spent an obscene amount of time in cafes and students' apartments gabbling on about writing; watched several episodes of Firefly at the behest of Jess Irwin (No, before you ask, I still don't think it's very good. I will watch the rest of the series before I review. But no, it's still overrated); watched a group of pals eating the dodgiest Lebanese food in existence after my well-attended reading on Thursday; made several pals I'll keep with me for quite a while (Lee's Boys: details to come); and then there was Mafia..... Oh, Mafia.

I'm not going to explain it here. It's a card game. Sorta. And an RPG. Sorta. And a party game. Sorta with chips. And it's hilarious, and will make you paranoid for days, and after a dozen games in 2 weeks I can still tell you exactly how I could have won every game, if only they'd have let me...... I need 12 volunteers, one evening, and a drink or two. Then I'll have converted you.

It was an absolute priviledge to be allowed to spill my ideas out in front of such true believers. In my honest opinion, there are several students who will go on to create substantial bodies of work in the years to come. The atmosphere in the crit room was passionate, open, and honest, and some of the critiquing was of a standard that would humble anything I've received in the past, even by some professional who do it for a living. Previous students have talked about Clarion as a crucible, and they're right: it will be impossible for any of the attendees to emerge without having become better writers. Some will be very good indeed.

The week took about a day and a half, by my reckoning. At the end of it, the students presented me with the most wonderfully hilarious and delightful gift (more below), as well as posing as unicorns with me for our group photo. I left them to the tender mercies of Kelly Link, exhausted, invigorated, and desperately sad to leave. Thankfully, that wasn't my last act: Kelly and Gavin Grant, her editor-publisher-partner, invited me back on so many occasions that I spent roughly half the next week on campus and completely failed to meet up with any of my intended lunch dates. But it meant that I was able to read mopre stories, this time as friend rather than tutor (and with some of those guys, that was a fine treat indeed), play more Mafia, take in a movie, and generally hang out and talk writing more than I'd have hoped for.

I want to do it again.


It seems I have been adopted :)

For reasons beyond my ken, but possibly because I am a big, eager doof who was obviously having way too much fun just being there, several of the students dubbed themselves Lee's Boys, and proceeded to hang out and entertain me just for the damn fun of it.

So, to Ben, Dan, Jason, Jasoni, Jess, Laura, Alessio, Chrisses G&L, Peter and Michael, I have only this to say:

Look into my cold, dead, lizard eyes. I am not Mafia.

Song of the moment: Dead Are Dancing Toni Childs
Reading: Meet Me In The Moon Room Ray Vukcevich

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