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Two Fringe Activities from the Bendigo Writers Festival


Bendarts founder, Hugh Waller, invited writers and artists to work collaboratively on a project and then exhibit at the Colab exhibition, which opened the week before the Bendigo Arts Festival, at the Bendigo library in Hargreaves Street. Either the writer or the visual artist produced a work, then invited a response from his or her Colab partner.

As most artists and writers are very interested in what prompts a creative act, this collaboration invited a kind of meta-creativity, that is, the process of the creation was observed, even examined, before the work had begun. Many creative people prefer to work intuitively, so the very fact that two had to work together, called the creative process into question. This is why I think the Colab idea so clever. . . Full marks Hugh!

Now, only able  to speak with authority about my own experience, I will recount my collaboration with visual artist, Karleng Lim.

It has only been a few months since I moved from Brisbane to the Victorian goldfields. Karleng, who didn’t know my work, but did know I was a published author, asked me to collaborate with her. (I was, however, her second choice. The first writer she asked was involved in studying for exams). I’d heard good things about Karleng’s work yet hadn’t seen any of it, but was happy to accept. I filled in the entry forms, sent them off to Hugh, then, caught up in the many dramas of renovating a very old house, completely forgot about Colab.

Karleng phoned me about two weeks before  our deadline.  We sat in front of the heater at my place, trying to figure out what we would do. Karleng said she was interested in the photographic portrayal of time, so “Time” became our theme.

That blustery winters night I was thinking about time, with the words “Time’s ruin and the seven deadly sins” going round and round in my brain, when an old sepia photograph on the mantelpiece caught my eye. Five young soldiers, including my grandfather, taken just before they were sent to Gallipoli, are in this picture. With a jolt I realised that the original postcard from which my photograph had been enlarged of the soldiers posed before the Sphinx in Egypt, had been taken 101 years ago! Here was the subject of my poem.

I went to bed, but slept fitfully. Two hours later, I woke up and sat in front of my computer, wrote for about an hour, then tried to go back to sleep. I probably dreamed about that photograph, for, several hours still later, I’d given up all attempts at sleeping, writing down the rest of my ideas instead. They formed a shambling, two foolscap-pages but had the bones of something decent in them.

Next day and for several days after that, I tweaked my poem until I was happy with it, then sent Ruins and Resurrections off to Hugh, who kindly produced it on pristine white laminate for the exhibition. (How’d you do that, Hugh?)

Anyway, I didn’t see Karleng’s response until the Colab exhibition, on Friday, August 5, because I became very sick with the ’flu. But what a surprise! Though Karleng told me she had researched Australia’s involvement in WW1, her response was entirely her own, as it should have been. It was, as I did expect, a very professional job and I liked it a lot. Thank you Karleng. As a writer, I am always interested in how people respond to the written word, because reading is such an intensely creative and personal act.

Treated right royally at the Colab opening in beautiful Bendigo library, we writers and artists were offered delicious food and drink by gracious librarians. Networking with artists and writers and meeting the Mayor of Bendigo, were a few of its other delights—not to mention having some of our own special friends there who had travelled at least 37 ks to support us. It was a great night. I am looking forward to Colab Number 6.


Who could resist a name like “The Doomsday Tuna”? Well, I couldn’t, even though I had been to a couple of blogging lectures in the past which didn’t much enlighten me. But the title of Stef Cola’s excellent presentation was Creating a Digital Presence Through Blogging, which seemed to offer a lot more than just learning how to write a blog.

Stef gave all her students a handout. This asked us about our motives. We needed to understand why we wanted to start a blog, and then set goals. The handout was interactive: we were supposed to answer a lot of questions about ourselves, but since no one else would see what we wrote, we were in no imminent danger of anyone else’s scorn or disbelief.

It contained inspirational quotations, like this one, from Harvey Mackay: A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. When you think about it, plans and deadlines are kind of key to creating a digital presence. . . The best thing I found about this session was the consideration of the blogger’s Ideal Reader. An Ideal Reader? This is the person who becomes the blogger’s biggest fan. Trying to describe such a person is rather difficult at first, I think, because you have only a blurred idea of such a presence. But familiarity with the blogging genre may bring this identity into sharper focus. At least, I hope this will be the case.

Useful tools, such as tracking the number of visitors to your website, a free image editing suite, free high-resolution photographs to put into your blog, and a grammar checker, were also included in the handout.

Stef’s audience was so engaged by her presentation that we ran over time. Having heard about heavy fines for parking misdemeanours, I excused myself, and hurried out of the Bendigo library to my car. Only to discover that it wasn’t where I thought I had left it.

I must have looked confused, because a young woman wearing a bright orange vest, asked me if she could be of any help.

“I can’t find my car,” I said.

“Do you remember where you left it?”

“On a corner opposite the library, near a roundabout,” I said. “But not that roundabout.” Suddenly it dawned on me that I must have come out of the library via a different door than the one by which I had entered. I think the same thought occurred to her.

“Come on,” she said, “we’ll find it,” striding off in a different direction.

I hurried to keep up with her as we rounded a corner and saw my car.

“Are the parking cops very strict here?” I asked breathlessly, “Because I think I’m about 5 or 10 minutes over time.”

“Well, I’m one,” she said, indicating the bright orange, and amused at my embarrassment. “They wear boring grey in Melbourne, we don’t mind being seen. No, I think you’ll be all right.”

She gave me a sweet smile and wished me a pleasant day.

If the parking police are so nice, I thought, there can’t be too much wrong with Bendigo!

Putting another dollar-sixty in the parking machine, I hurried back to the library to catch the last few minutes of Stef’s workshop.

A Writers Festival that not only has authors we love and admire come and talk about their latest work, but inspires local communities to write their own words, offering a platform for their work, is doing us all a wonderful service. Bendigo did all of this and more. I thought Stef’s workshop excellent. It inspired me to commit to writing regularly in order to create that elusive digital presence I’m seeking. And I guess you will be the ultimate judge of its success.

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  1. Lilian Harrington

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog Missy – it is as if you are on the cusp of a new beginning – to be both challenged by and enjoyed
    I am sure it will help you as a writer and a literary person down there and I have every hope that we will find something on the bookshelves in the not too distant future
    it sounds lovely –
    stay well

      • I think this moment was supposed to be added to the Brisbane Friends blog.
        Is this right?

  2. Thank you Cheryl! Our brain-storming session was deeply engaging- great fun! I so enjoy our conversations. Look forward to catching up with you soon. Cheers 🙂

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