Thursday, November 20, 2014

Memoir Club: Fiona McGregor in conversation with Guy Davidson

 Strange Museums
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
6.00 - 9.00 PM

The Randwick Literary Institute,
60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

The dictum goes: "Go to the bars of a place to understand its living. Go to the museums to understand its dead.”

Next Tuesday’s Memoir Club presents acclaimed and iconoclastic writer and performance artist Fiona McGregor, whose memoir Strange Museums takes us to both the bars and the museums of Poland, where she travelled as part of the performance duo senVoodoo in 2006

“Fiona McGregor is an Australian artist and author with the sharp eye of a crowmagpie. She took an unusual tour of Poland in 2006, to destinations determined by her life with senVoodoo... whose work evolved from 90s club culture in Sydney. They were invited to perform at a number of festivals. This takes her far off the tourist track to towns hardly worthy of a postcard, where the people are alive and hungry for art.”—Anna Hedigan, ABC RN’s The Book Show, 2009.

Font, senVoodoo (AñA Wojak & Fiona McGregor)
senVoodoo: AñA Wojak & Fiona McGregor 
(Photo: Waded, from RealTime Arts)

As critic Keith Gallasch writes in RealTime Arts magazine: “Strange Museums is no mere travel book where the lone adventurer loses herself in a foreign land at our leisure, for our pleasure in the exotic; perhaps disturbing our usual sense of self, possibly revealing the transformation or emotional growth of the writer, maybe not, Strange Museums is more driven than that: a quest to understand an unfamiliar, often evasive and sometimes hostile culture and an attempt to place the encounter in the context of being woman, lesbian, queer, Australian and artist."

Come join this extraordinary journey with Fiona McGregor, in conversation with Guy Davidson about the crafting of her challenge to traditional definitions of adventure.

Fiona McGregor is a Sydney author and performance artist. She writes novels, essays, articles and critiques, and is a regular reviewer of performance for RealTime. Since 1993, she has published 5 books. The latest, Indelible Ink, was published by Scribe in 2010 and won the Age Book of the Year in 2011. 

Fiona has been working solo as a performance artist since 2007, creating work in galleries, at festivals, as interventions, and in nature. Her more recent works include Vertigo, which culminated in a major show at Artspace in November 2011 and You Have the Body, a meditation on unlawful detention. For more info, see:

Guy Davidson is Discipline Leader of English and Writing, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Wollongong. He has published widely on gender and sexuality in literature. His book Queer Commodities: Contemporary US Fiction, Consumer Capitalism, and Gay and Lesbian Subcultures was published in 2012.

When: last Tuesday of every month. The Memoir Club goes into recess over the summer, and will recommence in March 2015.

Time: 6.00 - 9.00 PM (come for a cuppa and help us set up at 5.30 PM - please remember to bring your own cup!)

Where: The Randwick Literary Institute, 60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031. Tel: 02-9398 5203 (for directions and venue info). Street parking available. Clovelly bus 339 on the doorstep. For how to get there, see:

What: A communal space to meet other writers and readers and converse about all things to do with reading and writing memoir. We are interested in all kinds of life stories and in different ways of telling them. The genre of life writing and the possibilities of expanding and reworking the genre is exciting to us. Therefore we have a somewhat open and inclusive approach to what makes a memoir, and we hope you do too! Here is a space to connect with others and share ideas, questions and just hang out. Each meeting will start off with a talk, conversation or discussion about a particular topic or book, sometimes with a guest speaker or facilitator, then we move to an informal gathering and catch up.

Donation: $10 at the door for hall hire, refreshments and speakers.

Food: $15 for a plate of delicious vegetarian finger food (different each meeting). Ring or text to book a plate: 0450 907 422.

Future Speakers: the program is currently being developed and will be announced at the beginning of 2015. We'll keep you posted!

Look forward to seeing you there! Please do pass information on to anyone who might be interested in this community gathering.

mem·oir /ˈmemˌwär/
Noun. A historical account or biography written from personal knowledge. An autobiography or a written account of one's memory of certain events or people.

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."
                                                                                                          —John Steinbeck

“What is one supposed to say in response to prejudice against one’s own, in a foreign place, in the house of such gracious hosts? Nothing unless you feel there is a sympathetic opening. And the alacrity alone with which this old chestnut has plopped onto the table is a warning in itself. My queer radar advises me: keep quiet. Protect yourself. The writer takes advantage, as writers do. Listen up, she whispers. Bear witness."
                                                                                                          —Fiona McGregor

“You can close your eyes to reality, but not to memories."
                                                                                                         —Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Monday, November 10, 2014

Memoir Club Lunchtime Panel at the Randwick Literary Institute's Annual Arts Festival 2014

When: Sunday, 16 November 2014, 1.00 - 3.00 PM

The Randwick Literary Institute,
60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

Beth Spencer, Beth Yahp and Jessica Kirkness in conversation about the challenges and pleasures of writing their recent memoirs

The Memoir Club is honoured to be part of the Randwick Literary Institute's Annual Arts Festival in 2014 with this special event. 

Do come and join in the conversation as these three writers discuss the challenges and pleasures of writing their "work of memory", read from their memoirs and present practical advice for other writers who are engaged in the same process to get started or keep going, including a writing exercise or two.  There will also be an "open reading" section for members and guests who may like to share their work on the day (if you'd like to participate, do contact, as there are limited spots).

Beth Spencer’s verse memoir, Vagabondage, has just been released by the University of Western Australia Press; Beth Yahp’s travel-memoir, Eat First, Talk Later is due to be published by Random House in 2015; and Jessica Kirkness has just completed her Masters of Research, which included a creative nonfiction work of memoir, titled A Symphony.

[Vagabondage cover] 

Beth Spencer: 'Vagabondage traces my journey from when I decided to sell my house and garden in Creswick, a small town in country Victoria, through to buying a van and going on the road, and wanders back and forth through parts of my childhood as the physical journey very rapidly also became an interior one.'

Beth Yahp: 'The narrator of my memoir, who is both me and not-me, drags her septuagenarian parents on a road trip around their former homeland, Malaysia, attempting to retrace their honeymoon trip of 45 years ago. Around them, corruption, censorship of the media and all forms of expression, detentions without trial and deaths in custody continue, and street protests are violently put down by riot police. Only the family mantra, “Eat first, talk later”, keeps the family (and perhaps the country) from falling apart.'
Jessica Kirkness: 'My memoir, A Symphony, is an invitation into the particular world of deafness belonging to my grandparents. It weaves together a number of stories—of my Grandfather's boyhood illness and subsequent deafness, of my Grandmother's elocution lessons where she learned to speak with chalk-dust and mirrors. It explores both the intimacies and distances in my relationship with my grandparents as we negotiate "the hearing line"—the invisible boundary between the the deaf and the hearing.'

Beth Spencer is an Australian author of poetry, fiction, essays and much in between. Her first book of fiction, How to Conceive of a Girl, was runner up for the Steele Rudd award. It was originally published by Vintage/ Random House Australia, and is now available as a Kindle ebook. Her book of poetry — Things in a Glass Box —  was published as a part of the SCARP/Five Islands New Poets series, and selections were broadcast as a feature on Radio National’s Poetica. She’s also published essays, academic articles, and newspaper columns; won the Age short story award; and written and produced work for ABC Radio National.

Beth Yahp currently lectures in the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Sydney, as well as teaches intensive Memoir/ Fiction/ Travel Writing masterclasses for writers who want to focus on a specific writing project. She is one of the organisers and founding members of The Memoir Club, Sydney, and her travel-memoir Eat First, Talk Later is forthcoming in 2015 (Random House Australia).

Jessica Kirkness is a young writer who lives and works in Sydney. She has just completed her Masters of Research at Macquarie University, and is hoping to begin her PhD next year. Her thesis, which is part creative, part theoretical, looks at the intersection of disability and deafness with nonfiction literature, and is informed by her experiences growing up with deaf grandparents. Jessica's memoir titled ‘A Symphony’ discusses her grandparents experiences of being deaf, and attempts to narrate their unique ways of engaging sensorially with the world. In her writing, Jessica discusses her grandparents’ love of music and explores the surprising and counter-intuitive ways her familial relationships are informed by music.