Twenty nights of queer literature

Left to right: Dennis Altman, Sophie Cunningham, Moira Finucane, Neal Drinnan, Kim Westwood, Christos Tsiolkas and two of Moira Finucane's performers.

Melbourne’s queer bookshop Hares & Hyenas recently celebrated its 20th birthday with what must be a record in queer literature events: 20 nights of readings featuring close to 100 authors. The events took place in January and February as part of Melbourne’s Midsumma festival, which celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities. Bookshop owners Crusader Hillis and partner Rowland Thomson admit they are exhausted in running this mini-writers’ festival.

While author events have always been a big part of the bookshop, this is the first time that the City of Yarra has provided funding for the shop’s performance space, which allowed Hillis and Thomas to put on a much larger and more diverse program. This year’s line-up included authors Christos Tsiolkas, Dennis Altman, Jesse Blackadder, Noel Tovey, Jack Charles, Jean Taylor, Joan Nestle, Benjamin Law, Sophie Cunningham, Neal Drinnan, Steve Dow, Kelly Gardiner, Peter Rose, Kim Westwood, Urszula Dawkins and Kerry Greenwood.

Benjamin Law

Christos Tsiolkas, who entertained fans with a reading from his work-in-progress, has a long history with the bookstore. ‘The first thing that comes to mind [about Hares & Hyenas] is a sense of loyalty,’ Tsiolkas told Bookseller+Publisher. ‘It was one of the first places to support me as a writer. It gave me a space and a voice to write. What I love about Crusader and Rowland is that they are about the writing and they’re not about the celebrity.’

Another fan of the bookstore is Queensland author Benjamin Law. ‘When I come to Hares & Hyenas in Melbourne it’s like I’m returning to my spiritual home.’

Reading on the same night as Tsiolkas was Australian academic and gay rights activist Dennis Altman, whose 1972 book Homosexual: Oppression & Liberation (Angus & Robertson) was the first significant study on homosexual oppression to be published in Australia. It was recently republished by UQP to coincide with its 40th anniversary.

Jesse Blackadder

Altman believes queer bookshops have an important role to play in the community. ‘I think that this is a space in which a lot of people are able to come and find out about themselves and their histories,’ he told Bookseller+Publisher, adding that unlike the bar scene or bigger events, which can scare some people off, ‘bookshops by their nature are semi-public and semi-private and what you see in a bookshop like this is that people wander in, they take a while to browse around and they actually learn about themselves.’

Altman observed that while most of the American queer bookshops have collapsed, Australian shops have survived ‘because they do events like this’. The other major Australian queer bookshop is The Bookshop Darlinghurst in Sydney.

Visit Hares & Hyenas online here.

ABA Conference on Twitter

Follow: #ABAconf11

The Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) 87th conference and trade exhibition will run on 24 and 25 July 2011 at the Hilton on the Park in East Melbourne.

If last year’s conference is anything to go by, then expect a lively Twitter debate full of comments, quotes and opinions on the book industry from those inside. Delegates tweeting about the conference, can use the official hashtag: #ABAconf11. And those who are not able to attend will be able to follow #ABAconf11 on Twitter to catch a glimpse of conference debate.

The official program is available on the ABA website and is, of course, printed as part of the August issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

Key speakers include:

  • Jon Page @PnPBookseller, president of the ABA and general manager of Pages & Pages Booksellers in Mosman, NSW, will appear in various sessions throughout the conference and is already tweeting up a storm.
  • Becky Anderson, president of the American Booksellers Association and owner of Anderson’s Bookshop @AndersonsBkshp in Naperville, IL, USA, is a keynote speaker also appearing at sessions throughout the conference.
  • The ABA’s official Twitter account is @OZBooksellers.

Twitter accounts to watch on Sunday 24 July:

  • At the ABA Initiatives session at 12pm, Jon Page @PnPBookseller will talk about IndieBound and Fiona Stager @avidreader4101 (Avid Reader in Brisbane) will launch Bookshop Day.
  • Don’t miss our own Tim Coronel @Tim_Coronel during lunch, who will wish Bookseller+Publisher @BplusPmag a happy 90th birthday.
  • Presenters at the Community Engagement in the Digital Age session at 1.45pm on Sunday include Becky Anderson, Kate Eltham @kate_eltham (of @qldwriters), Pip Lincolne @meetmeatmikes (Meet Me at Mikes in Fitzroy, VIC), and Suzy Wilson @RiverbendBooks (Riverbend Books in Brisbane).
  • Author Andy Griffiths @AndyGBooks will give an update of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation at 2.45pm.
  • First Tuesday Book Club panellist Marieke Hardy @mariekehardy will MC the Celebrating Bookselling Dinner at 7pm with guest speaker Kate Grenville.

Who to follow on Monday 25 July:

Andy Griffiths visits Warburton, WA with the ILP

Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP) and bestselling children’s author Andy Griffiths writes about his field trip to Warburton, WA in November 2010.

The Indigenous Literacy Project is committed to providing books and resources to help foster literacy in remote Indigenous communities, and those remote communities don’t come much remoter than Warburton.  Located in Western Australia, 1050 kilometres South West of Alice Springs—and 1500 kilometres North East of Perth—Warburton is home to around 700 members of the Ngaanyatjarra people.

Last week I had the great pleasure of travelling to Warburton with three other members of the ILP team to help launch Book Buzz—the ILP early reading program—at the Warburton Playgroup.

It took five hours to travel from Alice Springs to Uluru on bitumen, and then another seven hours by dirt road from Uluru to Warburton. Trip leaders Deb Dank and Maddy Bower were expecting the road to be a lot worse and had packed not one but two spare tyres in anticipation. As it turned out the road was better than it had been when they’d last visited in June and, fortunately, neither spare was needed. As an added bonus—at least for us wimpy white-skinned Southerners—the weather for this time of the year was unusually mild, hovering around a relatively balmy 25 to 29 degrees. (Deb, however, was wishing she’d brought a coat!)

Travelling through the unusually green desert was continually amazing. We saw camels, kangaroos, goannas, thorny devils, pink galahs, falcons and seemingly endless rivers of fast-moving ants flowing in all directions across the fine red sand, but the highlight for me—apart from the bizarre sight of a tree festooned with old tyres—was the silence. Like a sort of effortless meditation, all we had to do was to get out of the car, listen and there it was. Or perhaps more accurately, there it wasn’t. (At the Uluru visitors centre I’d been struck by the following piece of Anangu advice about not climbing the rock: ‘That’s a really important sacred thing that you are climbing. You shouldn’t climb. It’s not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything. Listening and understanding everything.’ I don’t know about understanding everything, well, not yet anyway, but I’m starting to get the hang of listening.) Continue reading

Women of Letters comes to Brisbane

Women of Letters, an afternoon of letter reading and writing, came to Brisbane on Thursday 7 October and UQP’s Kirsty Burow was there. Here, she pens a letter of her own:

Dear Women of Letters,

I must say I was altogether surprised. The idea of five women writing letters to their most treasured possesions seemed to suggest that you might be lighthearted, funny, and perhaps silly. And certainly you were. I nearly snorted my wine when Melinda Buttle explained her father’s Donald-Trump-of-Samford antics as he fought with a gravel-stealing neighbour, salvaging friendship only through a mutual agreement to boycott the farmer who wouldn’t display a price for his strawberries.

I almost dropped my phone – my note-taking device – three times when, lost in the moment, I went to clap out of solidarity during Rowena Grant-Frost’s ode to her modem. Her thanks for its reliable lack of judgement when it came to her music tastes or for wearing particular clothes, or for wearing no particular clothes, sent my hands aflutter. My own modem sits in my kitchen and I am appreciative of its company and encouragement. With modem on hand I will always be able to google a substitute for preserved lemons. So, Rowena: me too, me too.  Continue reading