Friday, August 27, 2010

Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary Writing Competition

Yesterday I attended the Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary lunch. It's quite an achievement for a club to last this long with meetings every week except for a brief summer break. The club has helped many writers hone their skills, me among them, and I wish them well for another twenty five years.

As well as delicious food and a book launch, on the menu were the presentation of the judges' reports and readings of some of the prize winning entries from the Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary Writing Competition. I was delighted to find the names of so many people I know on the winners list. I'm proud to be among them. Congratulations to all the winners but especially Joanne Mills, the multi talented Pamela Blackburn, Marlene Fulcher and Pat Fletcher.

Poetry Section:

Judge: Shane Macauley

First prize: Kevin Gillam (WA)

Second prize: Joanne Mills (WA)

Third prize: Pamela Blackburn (WA)

Commended: Lorraine White for two poems (NSW), Janeen Samuel (Vic) and Marlene Fulcher (WA)

Short Story Section:

Judge: Maureen Helen

First prize: Pamela Blackburn (WA)

Second prize: Pat Fletcher (WA)

Third prize: Helen Venn (WA)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Aussiecon 4 Appearances

If you've ever wanted to know who the Egoboo group is, you can now see most of us in action at Aussiecon4, and even pop in to a Kaffeeklatsch or two and meet some of our members!


Opening Ceremony

Spoiler alert: Reviewing plot-driven fiction without giving the story away
One of the biggest challenges to reviewers and critics is discussing works whose narratives depend on surprising plots or shocking twists without spoiling those plots and twists for the reader. How do we manage to navigate our way around this problem without compromising the rest of the review? Is it even a spoiler to mention there are spoilers?
Ian Mond, Helen Venn, Jenny Blackford, Crisetta MacLeod
Room 216


Magic mean streets: The city as a fantasy location
While some fantasy novels explore vast terrains of forests, mountains and oceans, others  choose to remain within the confines of the city. What is the appeal of the fantasy city, how does it contribute to the tone and plot of the fantasy novel, and how much detail do writers need to develop to make their fantasy cities work? A look at the best - and possibly worst - of fantasy  city design.
Ellen Kushner, Trudi Canavan, Carol Ryles, Jennifer Fallon
Room 210

Motherhood in science fiction and fantasy
How is the theme of motherhood presented in science fiction and fantasy? A look at the best  and worst examples, and an exploration of why this theme can resonate so strongly with writers and readers alike.
Helen Merrick, Marianne de Pierres, Helen Venn, Tansy Rayner Roberts
Room 213

Ditmar Awards


Foundlings and orphans
The orphaned baby who grows up to become a master wizard. The lonely farmboy who becomes a powerful Jedi. The last son of the planet Krypton, who assumes the mantle of the world's greatest hero. Foundlings and orphans form a common and powerful theme in popular culture and fiction around the world, but why? What is the origin of this storytelling theme, and why does it appeal to writers and audiences so much?
Faye Ringel, Sarah Parker, Delia Sherman, Gillian Polack, Mary Victoria, Mur Lafferty
Room 211

Very short stories: Writing and reading flash fiction
Flash fiction - a short story lasting only a few hundred words - is perhaps the most misunderstood of prose fiction forms, and potentially one of the hardest to write. What are the challenges of writing flash fiction, and what sorts of stories is it best equipped to tell? Is it possible to write a work of flash fiction that could rival lengthier classics in the field? Can you write quality fiction shorter than this panel description? (Which is 88 words long, by the way, including this sentence.)
Martin Livings, Sarah Parker, Jeff Harris, Amanda Pillar
Room 217


Kafeeklatsch: Satima Flavell
Rm 201

Kaffeeklatsch: Sarah Parker
Rm 201

Love hurts: YA Paranormal romance
Why is Paranormal Romance so popular with teens?
Amanda Pillar, Satima Flavell, Crisetta MacLeod, Tehani Wesley (chair)
Saturday 1700 Room 210



Kids Programm: Zombie make-up session
I have facepaint. Kids beware! Adults beware! KNEE HIGH ZOMBIES COMING AT YA!
Sarah Parker, John Parker, Chuck McKenzie  
Rm 209

Kids Programme: Surviving the zombie apocalypse
So now we have a lot of zombies, what do we do now?
Sarah Parker, John Parker, Chuck McKenzie 
Rm 209

Fantasy before fantasy, science fiction before science fiction
The Odyssey. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Frankenstein. Gulliver's Travels. Journey to the West. A look at classic works of world literature that, while not written as science fiction and fantasy, have been co-opted in the 20th and 21st centuries by speculative fiction readers and used as inspiration by the writers.
Rani Graff, Carol Ryles, Helen Lowe, Ben Chandler
Sunday 1300 Room 204

Reading: Carol Ryles
Rm 215

Writing your first novel
Suggestions, tips, advice, ideas, opportunities to help all those who would like to write.
Juliet Marillier, Richard Harland, Leanne Hall, Carol Ryles (chair)
Room 204

Hugo Awards Ceremony


Closing Ceremony

We hope to see every one there! If you see us, please feel free to come over and say hello!

Collated by Sarah P

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adjectives, commas and confusion

A friend suggested that a post on comma usage might be a good idea. ‘Easy,’ I thought. ‘I’ll knock one up sometime when I can’t think of anything to blog about.’ So, leaving things until the last minute as usual, I sat down an hour or so ago to throw together a quick Dummies Guide to Commas.

HA! Did I say it would be easy? Silly me.

I started by thinking about the many different uses we have for the humble comma. Its main function, of course is clarity. Commas can remove ambiguity, as in the classic sentence: “The man was not killed, mercifully”. Take away the comma and its meaning might be interpreted quite differently!

Commas are also used to separate items in a list, as in “I need to buy oats, nuts, yogurt and cheese”. This is more complex than it looks. Do we use the Harvard (aka the Oxford) comma or not? Another blog post, that!

Commas are essential to the organisation of complex sentences, and this purpose alone could take up several posts. And they are, of course, placed between adjectives when more than one is used to modify a noun.

This last use of commas got me to thinking about the correct placement of adjectives before a noun, so I thought I could take a swipe at two problems with one blog post by talking about the order of adjectives and when to put commas between them. And that will, I’m sure, be enough discussion on both commas and adjectives to confuse everyone, including me.

The role of adjectives, so the Aussie Style Manual* tells us, is to “describe, define or evaluate an adjacent noun”. However, the Style Manual has put them in the wrong order, as we shall see.

If you are using two or three adjectives, you will, if you have native proficiency in the language, automatically place the evaluative one first, then the descriptive, and finally, the definitive. So we would say “An impressive old oak door”. Try putting those adjectives in any other order, and you will notice at once that the sentence takes on a certain strangeness, as if Santa Claus were suddenly to turn up wearing blue instead of red. It just isn’t right.

Evaluative adjectives are words such as lovely, ugly, charming and fascinating. They imply a value judgement on the part of the writer or speaker. Descriptive adjectives, such as large, hot, old, red and square show how the noun varies from others of its class, while definitive adjectives narrow the field still further by telling us something fixed and possibly unchangeable about an object; for instance, its origin (e.g. “Hungarian athlete”) basic material (“wooden door”) or purpose (“sailing ship”).

Now for the comma part. Sure, you put commas between the adjectives (but not between an adjective and its noun) but only when the adjectives are of the same kind. So you might describe a plant as having “small, hairy, prickly, dark green leaves”. (Note, however, that a string of definitive adjectives does not need commas. More on this below.)

A string of adjectives of different types doesn’t need commas, either. “John does enjoy a fine old tawny port” doesn’t need any commas at all, because the three adjectives are all of different classes: fine is evaluative, old is descriptive and tawny in this case refers to an intrinsic quality of the beverage, so it is definitive. (In other cases, such as “tawny hair” we are describing a quality that may or may not be permanent and so falls into the “descriptive” variety.)

Despite the above recommendation, there is actually a movement towards reduced comma use, so you are quite likely to see “small red apples” or “big fat ladies”. When only two adjectives are involved the meaning is usually quite clear, so you can get away without using commas. Sometimes you can even do it with three adjectives. Personal judgement comes into play, and personal judgement is more frequently acceptable in comma usage than in any other form of punctuation.

But back to word order, which is actually even more complex than the above paragraphs suggest. What if we have several adjectives of the same kind? How do we decide what order to put them in? Once again, if you have native proficiency in English, you will put them in a certain order automatically.

But what is that order? Well, it goes like this:

For example, a beautiful, enchanting dress.

For example, a cheap, big, hot, fresh, round, brown bun.

Material or intrinsic quality
For example, a Hungarian wooden sailing ship. Note the lack of commas, despite the adjectives all being definitive. Generally, definitive elements in a sentence do not need to be separated by commas. A good rule of thumb is to try placing the word “and” between the words. If it doesn’t make sense with “and”, you don’t need commas. So while you might write “a beautiful and enchanting dress”, you certainly would not write “a Hungarian and wooden and sailing ship”, would you?

And that’s probably enough on commas and adjectives for one post. I’ll blog on other aspects of commas usage another time. In fact, I could probably go on for years, but panic not – I won’t!

*Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, Sixth edition, ©Commonwealth of Australia, 2002. This is the manual upon which most major publishers, government bodies, educational institutions, NGOs and businesses in Australia base their style sheets. Some small presses, for some reason, use the Chicago Manual of Style. I have no idea why.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Of Words

Words are sneaky little things. Just think about it. They simply won't behave. They start out meaning one thing then they switch to the opposite. Think about 'wicked' which still holds its traditional meaning of something bad but which is also used to mean something excellent. Sometimes they move from the vulgar to the acceptable - or, for that matter, from the acceptable to the vulgar. Words with completely different meanings but with a similar sound can be confused: for example look at 'drivel' that is often substituted with 'dribble'. Instead of clarifying a subject such words can become a tool of confusion. If they are too long they contract sometimes into an unrecognisable form e.g. 'I am not' can become 'I ain't or 'I aren't' instead of 'I amn't'. These might not be grammatically correct but they are often heard. Slippery little things words - and sometimes not so little.

For all that, they remain the best means we have of communicating. We talk together and from that ideas develop - all because we use words. They give us pleasure in the form of poetry, songs and fiction - and we play with them too. Subsets of people invent their own variations on language to distinguish themselves. The recent use of 'fully sick' by young people comes to mind. We create new words - sometimes because we need to name a new invention and sometimes because we just want to. We use colloquialisms for many reasons but mainly because we can't be bothered with formal language. We feel the words flow better with a more casual structure but while many of us allow ourselves these usages we do keep words under control in some areas because, while subsets of language - whether they are local usages, jargon, dialects or slang - are perfectly clear to those in that group, they may be unintelligible to outsiders. We need to have a standard language, one which is understandable to us all. It wasn't always this way. Until recently contracts, for example, were couched in jargon that was almost impossible for the average person to understand. Fortunately we've moved away from that to a less formal ( and less confused ) language so instead of confusing most of us, it is in a form that we can all comprehend.

Put it all together and maybe it's a good thing that words are as flexible as they are. We certainly ask a lot of them so it's no wonder that sometimes they try to escape. We may like the idea of a language that is static and unchanging, but would it really be a good thing? As long as we keep that common framework of words and grammar so we can communicate and understand each other, perhaps it's not always a bad thing to let the words out to play sometimes. What do you think?

Friday, August 6, 2010

KSP Speculative Fiction Awards

The winners of the 2010 KSP Speculative Fiction awards will be announced on Sunday, 15th of August 3-5pm at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, 11 Old York Rd, Greenmount. It promises to be a fun two hours with the awards presentation, readings from the winning entries and judge's report. Special guest, best-selling author Juliet Marillier will also be reading from her latest book and talking about her career as a writer. Afternoon tea will be available for a gold coin donation. So if you're in Perth at the time, you are very welcome to come along and join in.

Open to writers Australia-wide, the KSP SF awards have been held annually since 1998.