On The Road: Down Under

There is no more suitable activity associated with the place at which I sit than writing, even, one hastens to add, if it is taking place in the blogosphere: I sit at one of the Hot Desks of the Wheeler Centre, desk spaces at which writers and literary organization can can apply to sit and work. There is so much amazingness here at the Wheeler Centre, located in the heart of Melbourne, housing in it seven organizations devoted to various aspects of the written word, the Hot Desk Fellowships being just one.

My Australian journey began with the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2012 dinner, which certainly got things off to an interesting start. The event was a window into the world of Victoria, Australia’s lit scene, with an amazing spread, wineglasses that perpetually topped-up, and a cast of characters worthy of many books – in a good way, I should add. While other Australian states have seen cuts that have erased similar awards, Victoria continues on with theirs, though it was pretty clear that the eponymous politician handing out the awards was not a favourite of many in the room, or the arts world in general – including, perhaps most notably, non-fiction and overall award winner Bill Gammage, who insisted that the multiple awards would still not put him into the Premier’s electorate (more on the awards, and winners, at the Wheeler Centre website). Good times were had, as the event’s host, Casey Bennetto, sang his way through the ceremony on a mission, it seemed, to see just how many words can be rhymed with “literary,” “literature,” “fiction,” and “prose.”

My days, thanks to the Wheeler Centre’s publicity department, have been a tour of the city’s media landscape. The Chinese Service of ABC, the national broadcaster, recorded an interview with me yesterday, and I surprised myself by barely needing to stop tape to gather up the remnants of my rusty Mandarin. I was also on ABC’s Connect Asia program, for the second time; they took the title for earliest international broadcaster to cover Red Rock back in October (you can find that interview here) and tell me that the segment should go up on tomorrow’s (Friday, Oct 19) show. I also sat down with a journalist from the TV news show Newsline who will add an interview with Down: Indie Rock in the PRC director Andrew Field for a segment on yaogun (this will be the second time that Andrew and I have bumped heads, so to speak, the first being at the NXNE music and film conference). A pre-interview for the radio show Books and Arts Daily prepared both me and the show’s producer for next Wenesday’s (Oct 24) appearance in the Canberra studios (tune in at 10am Australia Eastern Daylight Time!). I also appeared outside of the national broadcaster, on two great local community radio stations: on RRR’s Detour program I had a great chat with Jacinta Parsons – which happened to be overheard by a reporter from local newspaper, The Age, who chose, instead of following the assignment of investigating the Gangnam Style phenomenon, to look across the Asian musical landscape, and in so choosing, came to contact yours truly for an interview. Last night, I was Dave Beynon’s guest on his PBS FM Asian music program, Enter the Dragon; a more natural place for a guest slot I couldn’t imagine, and Dave focused his usual Asia-wide gaze upon China for a whole episode.

Needless to say, I’m nearly – nearly – talked out. But not yet. Because in a short while, I’ll take to the Wheeler Centre’s stage for my first Australian gig. And I’ll be off to Sydney tomorrow for this event. And Canberra next week, for a talk at Australia National University and at Asia Bookroom. And then, of course, the Singapore Writers Festival.