I was honoured to be asked to participate in the inaugural QUT ALUMNI AUTHORS SHOWCASE to be held Saturday 20 August 2016 at my Alma Mater QUT. The only concern for me – would my book, Le Chateau, arrive on time? Just in case, I did a scramble to produce glossy flyers and business cards to promote Le Chateau's launch and my social media presence.
photo: 1 Launch invite + business card (H2 - Plan B)
There are many QUT graduates who have gone on to become writers, and across every field imaginable it seems: academia, business, law, journalism, children's, sci-fi, poetry, literary fiction, comedy, commercial fiction, to name a few.
Thankfully, my books arrived two days ahead of schedule and the QUT event would be the first time the books were seen 'in the wild' – anywhere. I was able to arrive a real 'author' with actual books. I drove the gauntlet of the precinct like I was in a maze because it was largely closed down in preparation for the filming of 'Thor' in Brisbane.
I met many of our fellow authors including David Bobis, Cass Moriarty and the keynote speaker, Dr Benjamin Law. We discussed the Rio Olympics, Climate Change and CSIRO cuts, Meatless Mondays, among other things. Sated after a fabulous breakfast provided for participants by the organisers, the Alumni Office, we gathered with our boxes of books at the newly renovated level 4 of the Gardens Point Library.
Keynote Address: Mr Benjamin Law 'The Family Law – From page to Screen'
Benjamin enthralled the audience with a multimedia live-streamed presentation. The skilful QUT technical staff fixed some initial glitches so many were disappointed we didn't see the interpretive dance version Benjamin offered as fall back. It would have made a great encore. Maybe for the Authors Showcase 2017?
Benjamin talked about writing The Family Law, which has been reprinted in Australia over four times and translated into many languages, including French, internationally.
"You have to be psychopathic really, to write about your family." His "First you were a book, now let's turn you into a TV show!" had the crowd laughing. "There's a Polish saying, 'When a writer is born the family dies.' How do you claim authorship of your family? It's a pretty egotistical thing to do. TV is so public, there's ads. Thankfully it took four years to develop." He had ample time to discuss it with his family. "When they saw the script they laughed."
Benjamin said being an “outsider” helped him write the book and quoted Junot Diaz, "If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all."
I found this interesting as both Le Chateau and the manuscript I'm at second draft stage on now concern outsiders. Charlotte is an Australian in France and the WIP concerns the 1967 Referendum and the fight for Aboriginal equality. The White Australia Policy was a "Monster Creation" policy par excellence.
Now The Family Law is out in the world he's pleased it's connected with so many people, including non-Asian Australians coming up to him and saying, “My family is just like yours.” He's glad he could broaden the depictions of families on the Australian screen, closer to the real makeup of the country.
On Social Media: (H2)
"Writers are after stories: they don't want to be a brand."
"You reach a threshold of Twitter followers and you'll get people abusing you but I don't get nearly as much abuse or horror as any female who has anything to say on social media."
Benjamin quoted US comedian, Aziz Ansari: "There's a huge reticence to show diversity on screen because the audience won't relate because the characters aren't them. But his point is we can relate to anthropomorphic robots and talking fish, and monsters graduating from university – why should it be so difficult to see ourselves in anyone really?"
Benjamin generously shared his experiences turning his book of essays into a narrative TV show the first series of which was screened recently on SBS. He explained his respect for the producer gave him great confidence to leap into the project. He outlined the different world of TV writing: how strange it is to go from writing solo and alone to operating as part of a dynamic team in a 'writing room'. There was a transition but once made he found it very enjoyable and like a really engaging dinner party. They're finishing writing the second series now.