Brisbane Writers Festival 2021

The Brisbane Writers Festival is back — and done for the year (it’s staying in May, now, and next year is the 60th anniversary). It was lovely to see people again, and sketch in the cafe, and listen to talks on history and life, poetry and family.

Of course, sketching in the SLQ cafe mostly means sketching ibises

I (with Flyaway, although I got in a tangential reference to Travelogues!) was on the “Magic and Myth” panel with Krissy Kneen (The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen) + Tabitha Bird (The Emporium of the Imagination) + Melissa Ashley (The Bee and the Orange Tree).

The Three Burials of Lotty KneenFlyawayThe Emporium of the ImaginationThe Bee and the Orange Tree

Krissy ran a great discussion on three very different books (a novel of murder trials and fairy tale salons in 1699 Paris; a tale of a magical store that arrives by night in a Queensland town and heals sorrow; an Australian Gothic story of secrets and things in the trees; and Krissy’s memoir of searching through Australia, Slovenia, and Egypt for the true history of her grandmother). But there were many common elements too — secrets and generations, loss and what we cling to instead, and stories told and believed in different ways.

I usually have difficulty remembering what happened on a panel, but many people said lovely things about it afterwards, and there were some excellent questions.

I do remember one question on how you judge the parameters of magic/myth when writing it into a ‘real-world’ story. We all had different answers, of course — the fairytales in Melissa’s novel were specifically contained and retold within a historical, non-fantastic setting; Tabitha followed a theme and let the elements grow; I talked about (a) developing an ear for certain types of stories, so you can hear when you strike a false note, and (b) letting the magical elements sit in the setting/story until they start to change each other — and following the consequences.

There was another question, too, on the purpose/use of myth and fairytale. Melissa was specifically dealing with the way fairytales were used to communicate and argue around the restrictions of a society and royal censorship. Tabitha was using them as a way to allow the processing of grief and loss, and the preservation of what is mourned. I spoke about their usefulness as a template, because I find it more organic to use a fairy tale as a structural key than to think about acts and arcs — that’s a matter of familiarity and ease. But I also got onto another favourite topic, about how there are points in time where people sort of agree on how certain stories are to be told (you see it when artists agree what the basic cat should look like, which makes medieval cat drawings look implausible, until you meet cats who look just like them). I find that having a sheaf of alternative templates (fairy tales, for me) lets me shake those ideas loose, and look at them in a different light. So, for example, people are starting to tell post-lockdown stories, and those are starting to converge. But you could pick any number of fairy tales and retell the story through that: “Rapunzel” is an obvious one, but “Little Red Riding Hood” would work just as well (the year that was eaten by a wolf), or even Cinderella — I had just broken new shoes in at the start of 2020, and now I’m having all sorts of problems wearing them again.

I did make it to a few other panels! A few standouts were the First and Last Word bookends, Ellen van Neerven‘s talks, “The World’s Biggest Survival Story” (Melissa LucashenkoBruce PascoeLisa Fuller and Thomas Mayor). And then of course so many wonderful conversations in the green room and the cafe, at signing tables and over drinks.

A particularly memorable panel I went to was “Out of the Wreckage”, in which Kelly Higgins-Devine interviewed Margaret Cook’s A River with a City Problem: A History of Brisbane Floods and Jamie Simmonds’ Rising from the Flood: Moving the Town of Grantham. I still have very vivid memories of the 2011 floods (as well as being cut off, I’d started at the Department of Transport and Main Roads just days before they happened, and since something like 95% of the state’s transport networks were affected by that year’s rains, it was a crash course in the department’s responsibilities!), and was tangentially involved with some of the Grantham relocation. It was a vivid and compelling discussion (and surprisingly entertaining), so I am looking forward to reading these two.

CoNZealand Program

Worldcon is on(line) next week! Here’s my schedule (and I must say I’m looking forward to the novelty of being able to look directly at my fellow panelists). All times are NZ times.

The Art of Kathleen Jennings 
Format: Portfolio

  • 29 Jul 2020, Wednesday 18:00 – 18:50 NZST

Narrative Imagery 
Format: Panel

  • 30 Jul 2020, Thursday 15:00 – 15:50 NZST
  • Mary Robinette Kowal, Alyssa Winans, Kathleen Jennings

The Regency Today: On the Continuing Popularity of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer 
Format: Panel

  • 31 Jul 2020, Friday 15:00 – 15:50 NZST
  • Mary Robinette Kowal, Kathleen Jennings, Carrie Vaughn, Barbara Howe, Jane Routley, Devin Madson

Fairy Tale Law 
Format: Panel

  • 31 Jul 2020, Friday 18:00 – 18:50 NZST
  • AJ Lancaster, Sascha Stronach, Kathleen Jennings

AFTS Conference – reflections

This weekend past was the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference, on the theme of “Magic Mirrors”.

It was a lovely online weekend, meeting new friends and old. The AFTS is a small group (with a small and heroic committee!), but the conference attendees were a mix of afficionados, academics, oral storytellers, writers, illustrators, romance reviewers, programmers, publishers, illustrators, a magician — even an archaeologist!

Keynote

Much of the conference was a little bit of a blur for me, as I was preparing for, giving, and then recovering from the keynote presentation. You can get to be as comfortable as you like with off-the-cuff speaking (I’m still all nerves), but art-centric presentations require so much front-end preparation getting the slides in order.

There were, of course, more slides than minutes — I was concentrating on my process around addressing the imagery of fairy tales, as that could be applied to drawing, writing, reading, and academia: finding an aesthetic, the process of “reading” imagery, identifying and recombining elements, and then dealing with that in an Australian context (with examples from Flyaway).

Usually I’d have more of a small-group workshop focus in something like this, but I spaced it out with short individual exercises (agnostic as to medium), and it seemed to work. At least, after the break some people came back having done drawings!

There will be a recording up later in the year for AFTS members.

(I’ve already posted on the speaker’s gift by Spike Deane).

A few other highlights (I wish this were more complete — I had a crushing screen headache most of the weekend, but you can see the program on the AFTS website here or a PDF here).

  • I was also on an artist panel with Spike Deane and Monika Diak, which could have been infinitely longer as far as we were concerned (clearly attributable to excellent moderation) and probably would have progressed to a cafe indefinitely had we been at a physical conference. We have such different processes — Spike with her glass, and Monika with her work in Hungary, and both of them with a fine art background, but all loving the shared language of fairy tales. They each gave separate presentations on their work — light and luminous.
  • Renée Dahlia and Philippa Borland gave an entertaining and appealing (and informative!) presentation on a diverse range of romance takes on fairy-tale patterns — lots of new books to read.
  • Kate Forsyth, in the wake of Snow White and Rose Red, and other tales of kind young women (illustrated by Lorena Carrington), gave a lovely talk on the traditions and dichotomy of kind and unkind girls in fairy tales.
  • Leonora Carrington received the 2020 AFTS Award.
  • Kathryn Gossow and Patsy Poppenbeek, the editors of the forthcoming AFTS Anthology South of the Sun, gave a breakdown of the process of putting together the anthology and underlying considerations — I always enjoy this sort of consideration of a book, going through briefly touching on each story and the patterns between them.

It was my first fully online conference this year (so far!), and the AFTS conference committee (and overall wrangler of the society, Jo Henwood) did a wonderful job bringing the weekend — and some wonderful — people together, and it was an honour to be invited.

(Apologies to all the people and for all the details left out!).

A Magic Mirror — by Spike Deane

This weekend, I gave the keynote presentation for the Australian Fairy Tale Society‘s 2020 conference: Magic Mirrors.

And by post I received a beautiful presenter gift, made by Canberra fairy-tale glass artist Spike Deane (I’m a fan of her work, and already have a lovely glass key). But this was something new — it’s a little gold compact…

Photos from Spike Deane, with permission

But when opened, and mirrored in itself, in blue glass are the words Once Upon a Time

Photos from Spike Deane, with permission

Spike writes of her process:

I had thoughts of using a mirror compact and doing something to it. Ideas came and went. I bought a lovely vintage powder compact, which sunk 60% of the budget. I settled on the idea of replacing the powder section with an engraved piece of coloured glass, with the text engraved in a way that to read it you are required to look in the mirror.

Happy with that concept I then mulled over how to create some ‘flash glass’. Flash glass is sheet glass with a very thin layer of colour on one side. When you sandblast or engrave away the coloured side you can create imagery or pattern. I could buy some, but $$$… make some, but $$$ and then guess what fell into my lap?

A large piece of blue blown glass was being offered FREE at the Canberra Glassworks, so long, as that person smashed the object. I jumped at the chance and claimed my prize. I clobbered it with a hammer (safely and satisfyingly).

I then cut a small circle out of one of the shards (harder than you would think). I ground the edges and engraved some lettering on one side and flourishes on the other.

From Spike Deane’s blog: https://www.spikedeane.com/post/magicmirrors

It’s a beautiful object, light and solid and perfectly weighted in the hollow of a palm.

You can find more of Spike’s work online here:

Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference

Bookings are now open for the 2020 virtual conference of the Australian Fairy Tale Society — Magic Mirrors: The Seen and Unseen (at which I am the keynote!).

The new format means they can have 6 sessions over the 3 days of the June Long Weekend: 9.30-11.30am AEST and 2-4pm AEST on Saturday 6, Sunday 7, and Monday 8 June. The rate is $30.

Signup information is here: AustralianFairyTaleSocietyConference2020

AFTS2020MagicMirrors

Howl’s Moving Contracts

Electronic-Howl-low-res

Last year I went to the Diana Wynne Jones: Bristol 2019 conference in, obviously, Bristol, and had a wonderful time. Fannish academic conventions(? academic-ish fan conventions?) are wonderful fun, and we made new friends whose tastes we already approved of, and after the convention was over several of us tramped all over, and danced the witchy dance at Clifton Suspension Bridge, and rode a carousel, and tried to find the 21st-century equivalent of Janine’s boutique (some of these references are to Deep Secret which had a formative effect on my career).

Also, although I was between degrees, I gave a paper on:

“Contracts and Calcifer, or “In Which A Contract Is Concluded Before Witnesses”: the Transactional Structure of Howl’s Moving Castle.”

No regrets were had.

And the conference ebook is now available, for £10 : The Proceedings of the Diana Wynne Jones Conference, Bristol 2019.

Table of Contents

  • Diana Wynne Jones Conference E-book – Introduction
  • 1. Everything I learned about running a convention I learned from Deep Secret
  • The Pleasures and Challenges (Expected and Unexpected) of Teaching Diana Wynne Jones in the College Classroom 
  • 2. Teaching Fire and Hemlock and Charmed Life
  • 3. “Not One Hobbit Have I Seen!”: Generic Conventions and Teaching Diana Wynne Jones’ Work
  • 4. Teaching Howl’s Moving Castle
  • 5. Diana Wynne Jones’ Stories for Young Readers: “How Do Young Readers Like Them?”
  • Families and How to Survive Them
  • 6. The Tough Guide to Growing Up: Diana Wynne Jones’ Lessons on Coming of Age
  • 7. Family in the Works of Diana Wynne Jones
  • 8. Step-parents in The Ogre Downstairs and Howl’s Moving Castle
  • 9. Diana Wynne Jones and Cats
  • Wiles and Wisdom
  • 10. Mini, Millie, Magid: Unconventional Women in the Works of Diana Wynne Jones
  • 11. “Drowning in Bleach”: Guilt and Shame in Diana Wynne Jones
  • Under the Influence
  • 12. What Did They Teach Her in Those Schools? Or “Damn It! I’m Turning into C.S. Lewis”: Diana Wynne Jones and C.S. Lewis
  • 13. Where She Got It From: Diana Wynne Jones, Other Towns, and Piers Plowman
  • 14. Invisible and Visible Influence: Diana Wynne Jones, E. Nesbit, and Children Who Are Not Seen
  • 15. Keynote: Living a Charmed Life
  • Concealment and Revelation
  • 16. “Do We Know Each Other?”: Hidden Identities, Referential Characters, and Narrative Possibilities in Diana Wynne Jones’ Hexwood
  • 17. Concealment and Revelation: Reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Magic through Western Esoteric Traditions
  • 18. Buried Alive: The Arthur/Merlin Motif in the Novels of Diana Wynne Jones
  • Built Environments
  • 19. Contracts and Calcifer, or “In Which A Contract Is Concluded Before Witnesses”: the Transactional Structure of Howl’s Moving Castle
  • 20. Jones and Quantum Foam
  • 21. Making Sense of Settings: How Sensory Description Builds Dalemark
  • 22. Diana Wynne Jones’ Contemporary Medievalism
  • Into the Woods
  • 23. Ideologies of Power in Hexwood
  • 24. Fractured Humanity/Fragments of Humanity in Hexwood
  • 25. Time in Diana Wynne Jones
  • 26. There’s Nothing Magic About Words: Translating Diana Wynne Jones into Hebrew
  • Wizarding Worlds
  • 27. “So Would You Mind Telling Me Where I Am? It’s a Stately Home of Some Kind, Isn’t It?” (Charmed Life)
  • 28. Walled Gardens, Lonely Attics and Public Schools: the Romance, the Canon and Constructions of Englishness in the Chrestomanci Series
  • 29. It Takes a Wizard: Exploring the Role of Wizards within their Communities in Howl’s Moving Castle, Frogkisser! and The Evil Wizard Smallbone
  • 30. The Wizard of a Thousand Faces: Pinning Down the Trickster Wizard in The Howl Trilogy
  • Power and the Corporations
  • 31. A Remedy, or, the Meaning of the Goon’s Small Head
  • 32. “Want Television!”: the “Drama of Screens” in Archer’s Goon (BBC, 1992)
  • 33. “We Need to Make the Place Pay Somehow”: Magical Universities and Money in Year of the Griffin
  • Nationality and Borders
  • 34. Deconstructing Dalemark: an Alternate History of Northern Europe
  • 35. Bounds, Homes and Riding away: An Exploration of Border Representation and National Identity within the Novels of Diana Wynne Jones
  • 36. In Short, the Map is Useless: Cartography and Maps in Diana Wynne Jones’ Books and Stories
  • 37. Diana: My Sister’s Imagination
  • Primary Bibliography: Works by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Contributors
  • Kickstarter supporters
  • Index of Chapters Discussing Jones’ Books
  • Poems, by Diana Wynne Jones.

AFTS Conference — keynote speaker

 

In exciting news, I’ve been invited to be the keynote speaker at the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference in Sydney on 8 June 2020.

The topic is “Magic Mirrors”, and I’ll be speaking mostly from the perspective of a fairy tale artist, although the writing side will definitely get in there. But then, it’s all stories, isn’t it?

If the conference sounds like your sort of thing (it skews a bit towards storytelling/storytellers, especially as it follows on from the weekend’s biennial International Storytelling Conference), the call for entries is here:

Call for Presentations – 2020 Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference 

 

World Fantasy Art Show 2019

The art show at World Fantasy in LA is up! It is only up thanks to Aimee and Alex who helped me choose, my big sister who helped me mat it up, and Alex who helped me hang it all because I was practically non-functional by then.

If you are at World Fantasy in LA, then today (Saturday), I am on a fairy tale panel at 1, then giving a Sketchbook Tour (what does this mean? let’s find out together!) at 2:30. Then the art reception from 8. Be there! Buy art!

KJennings-WFC2019ArtShow-leftKJennings-WFC2019ArtShow-centreKJennings-WFC2019ArtShow-right

World Fantasy Judges!

The 2019 World Fantasy Awards Judges have been announced, so if I seem to be quieter either online generally or about my reading, specifically, this is why!

The judges are:

  • Nancy Holder (USA)
  • Kathleen Jennings (Australia)
  • Stephen Graham Jones  (USA)
  • Garry Kilworth (United Kingdom)
  • Tod McCoy (USA)

Details on submitting works for consideration are here: https://locusmag.com/2018/12/2019-world-fantasy-awards-judges-announced/

The judges will be reading and considering eligible materials until June 1, 2019. All forms of fantasy are eligible, e.g. epic, dark, contemporary, literary.

Qualifications: All books must have been published in 2018; magazines must have a 2018 cover date; only living persons are eligible.

The award categories are:  Life Achievement; Best Novel; Best Novella (10,001 to 40,000 words); Best Short Story; Best Anthology; Best Collection; Best Artist; Special Award: Professional; Special Award: Non-Professional.

 

World Fantasy Convention 2018!

I’ve received support from Arts Queensland to help me attend the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore (and some subsequent events and meetings in New York) in November this year. It will cover flights and in-country travel, and I hope to see some of you there!

Formally I’m meant to say “Kathleen Jennings has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through the Visual Arts and Crafts strategy, an initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments“, but although they try to hide it behind Government-ese, these folks do a really good job helping artists through difficult financial climates. I had a support from them a few years ago which definitely helped me take things to a new level and have a good time doing it.

(Thanks to Angela, Caitlene, Gavin, Kelly and Kim for your help with this application!)