Jenny Valentish

Books – plural

I love books. Ever since I lay in bed as a little girl and listened as my mother read ‘Robert the Rose Horse’ to me….books have been my magical land of possibility. At the age of five, I was inspired by Robert the rose-horse. Even though he had some serious allergy to roses, he kept persisting, until eventually a major sneezing attack finally cured him and he could smell roses without fear from then on. He also took out a group of bank robbers with his final almighty snot-burst so HERO.

As a teenager I fell in love with Heathcliff and danced on the moors in my imagination (wearing Kate Bush’s red dress of course!). I also fell in love with Atticus Finch although he was way too old for me. And then I discovered the titillating sexcesses of Judith Krantz and the like and sat in the costume cupboard in the drama department at school reading steamy passages from ‘Princess Daisy’ aloud to my horrified girlfriends. That eighties stuff leaves Fifty Shades for dead!

I always wanted to be a writer. I always wrote. So now that I have three published books I can finally say I am a real writer and loving it. It’s sometimes lonely and my body will probably kill me for being so sedentary (writing in bed in my pyjamas)…..but I am thrilled to announce that I have been offered a two-book deal for the follow on books to HEXENHAUS. This is new level of excitement.  Just saying ‘two-book deal’ makes me feel like a grown-up writer with real promise! Shame the advances aren’t like they were back in the eighties! I may not be able to buy a swanky Manhattan penthouse but I will be able to register the car!

Hexenhaus tells the story of three witch-girls (well they are ‘accused’ of witchcraft…) My next will feature three very strong girls who become through circumstance – warrior-women. In their fight against racism, war, colonialism and sexism, they find an inner strength that we all have but rarely need to call upon. The third book is in the works. It will introduce three young wordy-women.  All books will come under the trilogy umbrella of ‘The Systir Saga’. I do love writing for a young adult audience but I’m also moving into adult fiction…..stay tuned for more news there.

I am currently (yes in bed in the p.js) busily writing a screenplay, a novel of thought-provoking women’s fiction, entering short stories in competitions, about to start a second draft of my second memoir and I’ve just been diagnosed with some horrid auto-immune disease that is causing my hands to hurt like they’ve been dipped in boiling oil (lupus if you must know). So I am busy. And in pain. And extremely excited about the future. And scared.

Writing is my salvation. It makes all the bad bits better. When I write,  my characters become my family and sometimes I dream about things I have written and wake thinking they are real. I have even written scenes that soon after come to pass. Weird. But wonderful. Spooky fiction working its way into reality, crossing that invisible, diaphanous divide.

I’m also currently reading Jenny Valentish’s ‘Woman of Substances’ and loving it.

My teenage daughter just finished Fleur Ferris’s ‘Risk’ in a single-nail-biting sitting.

Books. What a wonderful world. Reading. Writing. Staying in bed.

Oh…and very uncomfortable hands.

That’s my check-in for Wednesday.

Nik x

 

 

 

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THE RHYTHM AND PATTERN OF WORDS

At the end of the first panel of the very first ever Rock & Roll Writers Festival in Australia (Brisbane), the very wonderful author, Nicole Hayes, told us, from the audience, that she learned the pattern and rhythm of words as a young girl, by listening to the lyrics of Don Walker‘s songs. This pretty much summed up why we had all gathered, on this humid, sticky-frickin’ hot weekend at the Brightside in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. The audience and the speakers were all there to celebrate the primal, healing, exciting and passionate rhythm and pattern that we find in words; in novels, music memoirs, song lyrics and the critics’ examination of them. Words have power and my golly god we had some fun talking, lots and lots of talking; having blistering, hilarious and emotional conversations about the words that swirl in and about rock & roll – from the songs to the memoirs to the reviews and commentaries.

The inaugural Rock and Roll Writers Festival was in one word – a triumph (‘a’ doesn’t count as a word does it?) It was a glorious celebration and jollification of diversity in music and the literature which surrounds it. The two day festival buzzed and crackled with a vibrant and sexy energy, in true rock & roll form!

In the sultry hub of Fortitude Valley (a character in itself), tucked away in the the very chill, very funked-up Brightside Hotel, a collection of ragamuffin writers, musicians, performers and commentators joined together to create a weekend long party to revel in what we love most – the rhythm and pattern of words.

After a pointed but warm welcome to country by Bob Weatherall (yes Australia – we can do better!) the festival opened with My Back Pages, led by Sean Sennett, which produced some fascinating banter between rock-writing veteran, Chris Salewicz, the absolute legend, Ritchie Yorke and musician Don Walker, who would later teach me about the Oxford comma. (I have clearly grown up because as a young groupie I’d be snorting cocaine and undressing rock-stars….now I’m having conversations with them about punctuation!)

The day was warm, the sky was blue but man oh man there were a lot of cool cats roaming the venue.

The highlight of Day One for me was the Freakin’ and Peakin’ panel which examined the cliche of drugs and alcohol in rock n roll. Do they help or hinder the creative process? Well jeeez…that was always gonna open a can of worms but who would have thought those worms would be so outrageously entertaining!?? Geoff Corbett led the discussion (some reviewer called him wizened…I would opt for wise in a super cool guru Yoda sort of way). On the panel we had spunky Jake Stone, who is now kick-boxing away his demons; the irrepressibly  hilarious wookie, BC Michaels ( BTW BC, I watched the punching bong clip last night and …well…I’m equal parts disturbed and impressed); Andrew McMillen who wrote a great book on the subject and looked eerily like my son (I actually did a double-take) and Jenny Valentish (I’m her greatest fan said in a really stalky, creepy voice). This panel took a delicate subject and rattled the crap out of it. It was everything a rock & roll panel should be. Awesome.

We all got a bit rowdy out the back in caravan/green room world, but please forgive us Joe and Leanne as we were all just…. well…extremely excited to be there. There were birthdays to sing about (the lovely Kate Hennessey and the above mentioned Chris), cake to eat, complimentary booze to drink and the occasional cigar to smoke. The vibe was electric and when the didgeridoo came out….well…there was no holding us back. It was there… backstage…..in the beer-soaked sunny afternoon of Day One, that some of the more unspeakable/not-for-public-consumption stories got told. But what happens at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival stays at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival. I traded some gems with Mandy Nolan, Don Walker, doco man, Justin, Jenny, Jake, BC and Geoff. Some of the greatest conversations I had were with the amazing volunteers.

We partied late into the night at the Black Bear Lodge where we were entertained by three of our amazingly talented panelists – Deborah Conway, Jess Ribeiro and Jackie Marshall. Just wow. Their performances were so powerful they made me wanna cry with joyous abandon. The champagne flowed. Kate Hennessey sampled some birthday Kraken. Sally Breen and I fell a bit in love. And then I also fell a bit in love with Jess R. And then Tammy Lee Rock and …..so on and so forth. By the end of Saturday night pretty much everyone loved everyone else and that, my friends, is a good thing!

My panel on Sunday explored the pleasure and pain that comes with the lust and sex that is wrapped up with music. Led by the one and only Bec Mac, we careened like mad people through our conversation, taking the mickey out of each other, sharing…well oversharing like nobody’s business, reading soft porn to the audience…stuff like that. My boobs seemed to try to steal the show…they do that….and Jackie Marshall owned the stage in the world’s sexiest MuMu, delivering the very strong and important message that ”everyone deserves a root!” Along with Nicole Hayes and Ben McLeay (aka Thomas Violence) we titillated the crowd with our bawdy silliness/deeply astute observations on human sexuality.

In History Never Repeats – Leanne Kelly deftly led a great conversation with Clinton Walker (who told me he thinks I’m a bit weird), Andrew Stafford (one of my new favourite people) and Chris Salewicz (who after a few Monkey’s Shoulders later in the afternoon, began to remind me of a young Robert de Niro). This panel looked at how music reacts to social change and upheaval. It was Sunday. I was sober. This sounded like the most intelligent and eloquent panel but that was probably because I was so focused and attentive and…sober. I also loved listening to Noel Mengel, Bernard Zuel, Kate Hennessy and Dave Faulkner and many others.

I am so grateful to have been invited to this special, unique and exciting festival and I’m sure it will go from strength to strength. I have made some wonderful new friends and laughed more than I have for a long time. My face hurts.

Being a writer is mostly a lonely business but the first weekend in April, 2016….made it all worth while.

LONG LIVE THE ROCK & ROLL WRITERS FESTIVAL. LEANNE AND JOE – I SALUTE YOU!!

Words and Music by….

So I am back, having had an extended break from blogging. I went on a Vipassana meditation retreat for eleven days. During that time I could not speak, make eye contact, read or write. All I could do was sleep, eat (pretty much only once a day) and meditate, cross-legged,  for over ten hours a day. Needless to say, this all messed with my head. This was probably a good thing as my head needed messing with. But it threw my writing out of whack a bit…. all that thinking about nothing…well not nothing….there was stillness, silence and a few loose thoughts but anyways….

NOW….I am off on a long-week-end of adventure and mayhem…I mean work and important writy business. Tomorrow I go to Newcastle, a place that is literally up the road but a city I have never ever been to or if I have I don’t remember it…at all. A new place. How exciting. I have had a short story shortlisted on the longest shortlist I have ever seen. My story THUNDERSTRUCK will be included in the Newcastle Short Story Anthology being launched tomorrow night after the winners are announced. Every finalist gets a spot in the anthology so I look forward to reading all of the 32 awesome stories. My piece is a graphic and pretty confronting piece about domestic violence. I don’t want to give a spoiler, but it doesn’t end well.

Then early, oh so early, on Saturday morning I fly to Brisbane for some real excitement. THE ROCK & ROLL WRITERS FESTIVAL IS HERE. Yes…it is a happening thing and it’s happening this weekend (April 2 and 3).

I will catch up with my imaginary friend Jenny Valentish (Cherry Bomb and millions of other great essays and bits and bobs) in the actual flesh after months of being virtual colleagues. I have friends and family coming along and hope to meet a whole lot more.

The program looks amazing. Panels of exciting people (and me) will regale audiences with lascivious tales of rock & roll madness, play some tunes, sign some books and CDs and boobs or whatever needs to be signed….etc. I will indubitably overshare and make a fool of myself but that’s okay because it’s what I do best and this is an over 18 festival so fuck it…I’ll say whatever pops into my head. Hell, it’s a rock festival…On Saturday night I’ll chuck the tele out the window of the hotel and sing on the rooftop in my skin-coloured spanx!

No. I won’t….. I don’t think I will .

The other panelists I can’t wait to listen to include writers like Nicole Hayes; my daughter is about to read her young adult book One True Thing; Andrew Stafford, author of Pig City, a book with an actual cult following and Noel Mengel whose novel RPM pipped mine at the post at the QLD Premier’s Literary Awards back in 2010.

Musicians coming along to share words of wisdom on the marriage/sordid affair between literature and music include Don Walker (Cold Chisel ohmygawd), Dave Faulkner (Hoodoo Gurus Like Wow – Wipeout!) and some great spunky funkies like Jess Ribeiro, Jake Stone and BC Michaels.

I’m an old washed up groupie….I now just go to my kids awful eisteddfods and talent shows at school, so it will be a nice change to be back around a bunch of interesting people who can actually play music and whatnot instead of squealing recorders! I pulled out my rock chick tie and thought about dressing up in the old school uniform…but we’re all politically correct apparently these days, so the rock n roll school girl groupie thing…. well we’ll leave her back in the eighties where she belongs….. unless we don’t.

It will be a whole decadent ….I mean informative and stimulating interactive play of words, lyrics, poetry, performance and a feast for the senses; a weekend of discussion, laughter, nostalgia and bristling energy.

If you are anywhere near Brisbane this week-end you would be pretty damn silly not to grab a ticket and get your groove on down to Fortitude Valley! The venue is THE BRIGHTSIDE. It has beer and stuff.

If you come along I will sign your boobs or whatevs. That’s a promise.

You can read the full program, see all the speakers and link to BUY YOUR TICKET here…

http://www.rockandrollwritersfestival.com/

 

The above picture… may or may not be a groupie about to read A Catcher in the Rye! 

Rock n Roll Writing

In April 2016 I’m off to sit on a panel at the inaugural Rock and Roll Writers Festival in Brisbane. What a shazam of an idea, hey? Bringing rock and writing into the same conversation.

Today I’m looking back at the rocking books that made an impact. First up there’s mine, One Way or Another (see the link above)….my little groupie romp through the eighties with bad hair, fluorescent make-up and shoulder pads….oh and a few boys from the band as notches on the bed post. Being published made a huge impact on me so I had to start there.

Some rock memoirs are just self-indulgent dribble. The plots tend to run the predictable track of wannabe muso….slugging it out in seedy dives…..makes it big….drugs and groupies and more drugs and groupies…..disease, addiction, shady managers ripping them off….sobriety, spiritual enlightenment….and then it’s all about the music again.

While often predictable, some stories do manage to dig out more emotion and shine the torch a little brighter on more unusual aspects of the tired old journey. Some even sparkle.

FICTION FAVES

HIGH FIDELITY by Nick Hornby

Best quote

“In Bruce Springsteen songs, you can either stay and rot, or you can escape and burn … but nobody ever writes about how it is possible to escape and rot … That’s what happened to me; that’s what happens to most people,” says loser record store owner, Rob.

CHERRY BOMB by Jenny Valentish

Best quote

“There will be more photographs of me in existence than the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and any visiting dignitaries put together….” says Nina Dall, the narcissistic founder of girl band The Dolls.

NON FICTION FAVES

ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACK, NO DOGS by John Lydon

Best quote

“A lot of people feel the Sex Pistols were just negative,” he says. “I agree, and what the fuck is wrong with that? Sometimes the absolute most positive thing you can be in a boring society is completely negative.”

CRAZY FROM THE HEAT by David Lee Roth

”What I represent is attitude, point of view. What I represent is some sort of spiritual neighborhood. If you hate me then you hate your most favorite parts about yourself. Ozzy is the Prince of Darkness and I’m the Patron Saint of Larceny. Who would you rather be?” says the king of crazy. Neither thanks, Dave.

So looking forward to the festival, the festival, the festival. Buy a ticket, go along and I’ll see you there.

http://www.rockandrollwritersfestival.com/