Ehh *crunch, crunch* what’s up, doc?

deskSo… that ‘big announcement’ I’ve been banging on about!

On 15 March I start a Doctor of Creative Arts through the University of Western Sydney. I’ll be working on fiction, more than likely a novel, alongside a great deal of reading and research (which will inform the fiction). I’ll give you a brief outline of the topic in a minute (as it stands now) and let’s see if crowdsourcing a reading list works!

The DCA at UWS puts in me in a department with amazing publishers, scholars and authors such as Ivor Indyk, Gail Jones, Alexis Wright and more. I’ll be supervised by Hazel Smith, and will use her book The Writing Experiment for some prompts early on in the doctorate. I’m not sure how much I’ll blog about the work itself – that may interfere with the process, but I’ll share insights from what I’m reading, and will continue to read and review other books for you on here, and am already attending more festivals and conferences this year, so stay tuned for more commentary.

As I received a scholarship, this means I will unfortunately be leaving my wonderful job as acting editor at Bookseller+Publisher magazine. My last day is 12 March. This has been the best job I’ve ever had, and I’ll miss my colleagues very much – particularly the immediate editorial team: the incredibly lovely, hardworking and supportive Matthia Dempsey; my friend in Friday giggles, the warm and genuine Katie Horner (who is leaving, too, to have a bub); someone I really look up to, the clever, stylish, great-taste-in-music watch nerd Tim Coronel; and the super-hardworking, fun, gorgeous designer-extraordinaire Silvana Paolini. (And I’ll miss my desk, pictured above!) Not only have I had the chance to work with great people, I have learnt the ropes of writing copy, proofreading and eventually editing a print publication. The team have always shown me so much support and allowed me room for growth. I have made incredible contacts and met great people in all areas of the publishing industry. And I will continue my relationship with B+P as an freelance writer/reviewer. After all, B+P was the very first place I was published in print – a review circa 2006. (I began LiteraryMinded in May 2007.)

So would you like to help me with my massive reading/viewing list? I will still have to narrow down the focus, of course, but any books, films, essays and articles on and around these subjects (fiction and nonfiction) I’ll be willing to have a look at:

  • Misfits and outsiders (more specifically, of and within consumer society. Someone who springs to mind is Lester Burnham in American Beauty). Or, if you’re familiar with Camus, characters that could be describe as having had an ‘absurd awakening’.
  • The treatment, pathologisation or institutionalisation of misfits/outsiders (in real life and in fictional texts). The rise of such things in consumer society. The history of these things. Individual experiences of these things. Yes, I’ll be reading a lot of Foucault, in case anyone was going to suggest that. Janet Frame’s works are a good example of ‘experiences’ of this.
  • Texts about or engaging with issues of and around consumerism, capitalism, materialism (specifically post-WWII and Western society).
  • Related themes of: commodification, alienation, disconnectedness, obsolescence, surface culture.
  • Speculative texts, particularly ones that explore the impact of current political and economic models of society on individuals and societies in the very near-future or in an alternate society (think Orwell or Kafka).
  • Australian literature and films that deal with all of the above.

For those of you who’ve read my published short stories like ‘Birds’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Obsolescence’ – you will see how these themes have already begun informing my work. I want to get into it deeply – I’m so excited to have a chance to. I want to write something which is in a way about my generation, from its time but not necessarily of its time – original, all-encompassing, meaningful. Yes, I do aim high, otherwise, what is the point?

This will actually be my third novel manuscript (and actually, I’m open to it becoming short stories, a film script, a play, whatever form it needs to be, though I’d prefer to write a novel). The other two are semi-retired but may yet resurface if the ‘key’ presents itself down the track – but it’s the new thing for now. Thanks in advance for your help!

15 thoughts on “Ehh *crunch, crunch* what’s up, doc?

  1. Congratulations, Angela! I’m so happy for you!

    Re: books. Have you read ‘Displaced Person’ by Lee Harding? I read it when I was a kid so I won’t comment on the quality of the writing (although the internet tells me it won the 1978 Alan Marshall Award) but it’s about a boy whose world starts to become grey and slippery and intangible, as though it’s forgotten he exists. I only read it once but it still haunts me. It’s very short – perhaps you might find it useful?


  2. This is great news! I wish you the best of luck and if I may admit, I’m damn jealous!

    Your themes and focus sounds really interesting, and are not unlike some of themes and stuff I’m interested in.

    You might be interested in this book I have on my to-read pile, Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture.

    Also, there’s an MP3 floating around the web of China Mieville’s talk, Marxism and Monsters.

    The kinds of fiction I’m thinking of you’d probably already know like Steinbeck.

    I’ll probably borrow a bit from your list 😉

  3. Thanks so much guys.

    Steph – I haven’t read that. Adding it to the list. Cheers!

    Ben – Adding those to the list. 🙂

    Got some more via Facebook and email overnight. Excellent.

  4. Have you read “Hemingway’s Chair” by Michael Palin? Don’t know if it’s exactly what you’re after but it’s what sprung to my mind for some reason.

  5. sounds really interesting! three’s a few that spring to mind, most of which i should assume you have already read; ie. Kafka, Fight Club, Cuckoo’s Nest, Clockwork Orange… and so on. The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin is another.

    there are some plays that could fit this category that spring to mind as well which you might not be as familiar with:

    Chamber Music by Arthur Kopit – set in a women’s mental institution

    The Quare Fellow by Brendan Behan – set in a prison

    Happy Days by Samuel Beckett

    Orestes 2.0 by Charles Mee
    (which is running in Sydney for another week if you have the airfare lying around) Pretty sure you can get that off his website.

    i’m scared to mention that i’m developing a live work loosely based around the German film “The Experiment” which you should definitely watch/ i’d be happy to send over the script when it’s finished, if you like!

  6. Good luck with the study!

    As for your reading list, Hilary Mantel’s Vacant Possession deals with misfits and outsiders and those who live in society’s peripheries. I recently read somewhere that this is a common theme in her work so there may be other works of hers that would be useful for you.

  7. i thought of a couple more plays:

    Camino Real by Tennessee Williams. Expressionism set in a “walled community”

    Kiss of The Spider Woman by Manuel Puig, novel, play, film or musical!!

  8. Hi Ang, congrats on getting into the program and the scholarship! Does this mean you’re going to depart Melbourne or will you communicate via email etc. and head up to UWS from time to time?

    I think you’ll have read my suggestions – I’m interested in similar themes but moreso focusing on mental health. So naturally the two that stand out are: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and Girl Interrupted by Susannah Kaysen. Elizabeth Wurtzel’s work also interests me. And re: outsiders, one of my recent faves is Lee Fiora in Curtis Sittenfeld’s ‘Prep’. Do you have any other suggestions for me re: the mental health themes? Also a dumb question as I am considering a doctorate too – do you need to have a Masters or can you skip that if you have sufficient publications? I think doing a PhD is such a great way to work through a novel while getting the support you need.

  9. Hi Annie,

    thanks so much! I’m remaining based in Melbourne with very regular trips to Sydney for seminars and meetings with my supervisor.

    I have written before on The Bell Jar, Girl, Interrupted and Prozac Nation! I haven’t read ‘Prep’, and actually since writing this blog post, my thesis has narrowed itself down a little. I’m actually not going to talk about it publicly much, as a doctorate, obviously has to contribute something original and I don’t want to throw my ideas about too much. Also, in terms of the fiction, talking about it too much inhibits the process, I think. But feel free to email me or send me a Facebook message if you ever want to swap ideas.

    To apply for a PhD/DCA you need to have Honours (with the majority of institutions) and first-class honours helps. Or you can segue from a Masters to a Doctorate. You might want to ask around at some Universities as to whther a significant publication record will act like the Honours year. I’m sure for some it might. 🙂

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