Here’s an exciting announcement: I have now signed with the literary agency MacKenzie Wolf, which is based in New York.
My agent, Rachel Crawford, came to encounter my work by reading it in a recent issue of Review of Australian Fiction. My thanks to this journal—especially Matthew Lamb, the editor—for publishing my work and so helping to bring about this encounter. Little magazines can lead to other opportunities, as I well know. (After all, back in 2002, a piece that I wrote called “Chinese Whispers” was accepted for publication by the Australian literary magazine HEAT. HEAT’s editor was Ivor Indyk—publisher of Giramondo, which came to publish my book Look Who’s Morphing in Australia and New Zealand.)
Of course, publication in little magazines is not merely a stepping stone to opportunities for full-length publication. I appreciate little magazines (along with other kinds of “little” or minor literatures) for plenty of other reasons. In a similar vein, the writing of short stories is sometimes viewed as being merely a stepping stone to the writing of novels. It’s absurd to belittle “littler” forms of fiction in this way, whereby shorter is seen as lesser.
But I digress. I digress because I do have digressive tendencies.
Digressiveness is a trait of both my fiction and my fiction-writing process that I have been cultivating over the course of writing my novel-in-progress. I have been straying off the map, away from certain pre-mapped, pre-wrapped trajectories. By giving freer rein to the digressive tendencies in my fiction, I’ve been working, more than ever, with seemingly disconnected disciplinary areas, genres, textual references. As a result, this novel that I am writing, with its many deviations and derivations, is quite the mash-up of influences. (This novel might also be considered to be a bit of a mush-up because I’m interested in playing with certain mushy—that is, sentimental—effects.)
It is affirming to have an agent who is into this mash-up/mush-up that I am writing, and—to get a little mushy for a moment—I am humbled by the faith she has placed in my current novel-in-progress and my future career.
Now to a second exciting announcement—another one that deepens my appreciation of little magazines. Canadian literary journal PRISM international has nominated an excerpt from my novel-in-progress for this year’s Pushcart Prize competition.
The Pushcart Prize is an annual US literary competition that honours work that has been published in small presses. The piece I wrote that has been nominated appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the journal, under the title “Are You There, God? It is I, Robot”. Thanks to PRISM international—especially Christopher Evans, the prose editor—for the nomination and support. Congratulations, also, to my fellow nominees Elizabeth Horneber, Tyler Keevil, Rebecca Rustin, Adèle Barclay and ryan fitzpatrick.
It means a lot to me that the piece that has been nominated is from my novel-in-progress. But this nomination means even more to me because I’m a relative newcomer to this part of the world. At a more local level, I’m still in the earlier stages of building audiences, finding peers, and searching for other kinds of supporters and collaborators. I’ve also been working hard and “doing double duty” to not only accumulate a local track record but to continue contributing to the arts in Australia. A lot of my Australian credentials are not especially legible to Canadians—for example, Australian literary journals are barely known in Canada. In this sense, I have sometimes felt as if my artistic CV has undergone a truncation of sorts by becoming much less comprehensible (this has reminded me of another period in my life in which I wrestled with a truncation of sorts of my artistic CV—when I changed my name after accumulating around 14 years of publications under my previous name). At present, I’m visiting Australia, and it has been at once morale-boosting and a bit sad to re-experience something approaching the level of local recognition and appreciation for my work that I worked so hard to attain over 20+ years.
That said, experiencing loss is the lot of virtually any immigrant, and I have come to Canada under more privileged circumstances than thousands of other immigrants to Canada. One of the reasons why I came to Canada was to expand my career. The fact that I have been harbouring this ambition at all speaks volumes about my level of privilege as an immigrant. What’s more, having once lived in Australia on stolen land, here I am in another country where the land doesn’t belong to me—yet another settler who is conceiving of their relocation in additive terms.
In the bigger picture, then, I’m a settler twice over, and I am doing my “double duty” as a beneficiary of two colonial projects in particular. Ultimately, my artistic CV is not quite truncating and in fact my prospects are slowly growing, as the announcements in this blog post suggest.
As the year comes to a close, I have been thinking ahead about how to further prioritise finishing my novel. Certain shorter term goals must give way to the longer term and primary goal of writing this novel. The level of administration that I now do as an artist has increased considerably over the last couple of years, but I have a new studio space now at AKIN Collective and I love writing there. I have begun to hatch some plans so that I might better manage those other commitments and distractions that take my attention elsewhere.
In 2017, I will be devoting more attention to those digressions that matter.