Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Accidental Novel

I wrote a book this year. I just finished the first draft.

I have spent all year saying that this is the first year in ages that I won't have actually been working on a book and yet somehow I managed to accidentally write one when I wasn't even trying. How can this happen?

Now I know that there will be people who are furious with me. How can I accidentally write a book when so many people are struggling to write a book and creeping forward with it. I know that I will not be universally loved for falling into this book so easily. The truth is I was avoiding the book I knew I had to finish whilst promoting the books that I had finished. I have been extremely busy all year, running from event to event and bemoaning the fact that I have not had the clear time and headspace to go back to that hard book I was writing and give myself time to think about it, restructure it and finish it.

Not thinking about the hard book I wanted to be rewriting actually gave me something important. It gave me time to think.

Usually on plane trips I spend the time reading books I need to read for work or trying to write the novel I am in the middle of. In 2015 I have had a lot of plane trips. I have been flying back and forth doing launches and attending festivals and because I have had no headspace for writing that other hard book, I gave myself a treat. I bought lots of science magazines, because I love science and I read them cover to cover. Basically what I was doing was giving myself the space to think about ideas that interested me.

Because I was inspired by these new and exciting ideas I found myself reaching for my notebook and writing things. Wasted writing time is how I thought of it, because instead of working on that hard novel I was working on what looked like a series of incomplete short stories about sciencey stuff. I berated myself for not even finishing the stories but because I had no deadline, I let them sit like that, a bunch of ideas started but going nowhere.

Then the book tour was over and I got terribly depressed, not just down, really depressed. I kept thinking that life might not be as important as I had thought. I had no long term plan, no book I was in the middle of except that hard book that I wanted to continue to avoid. I had all these ideas for projects but no energy to finish or even start them. I wrote down a list of all the projects I wasn't writing and I included everything, even the unfinished sciencey stories I had been writing all year. A collection of stories about the future. Well these were the only things that seemed to have traction, so to avoid my ever-increasing depression and thoughts about jumping off bridges, I just dusted those half stories off and put them together and then patterns started to form. These weren't unrelated. These seemed to be chapters in something that was a lot more whole than I had imagined.

Now, a month and a half later, I have put time into connecting the dots. I have taken a week off work to focus on this and have been getting up early to work. Yes. This is a book. Not a traditionally structured novel, but a series of long stories that are about the future and a woman who works in narrative and sexuality in a world where we can build cyborgs and inhabit other people's memories. She is a little bit like me, only in a future time.

In what seems to be record time I have finished a draft of this book, but it is because I have been working on the idea all year when I didn't know it. This is the surprise child of research that my head was doing, whilst fooling me into thinking I wasn't doing any creative work at all.

I suppose if I had to take anything from this process the message would be for me to just relax and to trust. My subconscious will just keep working for me even if most of my brain feels tired and uninspired.

I still have to go back and redraft that hard book, but maybe  I just needed this project to clear my head, something fun, about stuff that I read for pleasure. Something that excites me. I am excited about redrafting this. I have momentum. This surprise child is off and she is running.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Having Read Poetry Naked

If you have presented at a launch / festival panel / event and you have not done a wee, vomit or poo on stage you can consider it a success.

I know it is a low bar to set, but it is my bottom line. Don't urinate vomit or dedicate on stage and you are ahead. Except when you are reading nude at a poetry festival. Then, probably if you break one of the golden rules you can call it art and end up with extra kudos.

On Saturday night I read live, nude, at the Queensland Poetry Festival. Even when the bar was set so low that it was almost on the floor, it seemed like a mountain to climb over.

I was worried that as the 'feature nude reader' I would be the only poet to get up and read naked. I was worried that I would be judged for my considerable flesh. I was worried that the tone of the event would be exploitative.

It turns out that I was worried for nothing.

These things happened:

1. One of my oldest and dearest friends came along to the launch of my poetry collection Eating My Grandmother earlier in the day. She came with her daughter, my godchild, who is no longer a child but a wonderful young woman. We went for a meal afterwards and I told them about my fears about the nude reading later that night. They immediately said they would stay and join me, taking off their clothes even if all the other audience members were clothed.

2. We sprayed my pubes blue and covered them in glitter which made the disabled toilet look like a queer dance party had just taken place in there.

3. My other dear close friends Trent and Diana turned up and we added more vagazzle to the disabled toilet.

4. I had a couple of calming glasses of wine in quick succession.

5. I met the MC who turned out to be a strangely sweet punk/hippie/tatooed/bearded enigma.

6. The festival director David Stavinger hung tea towels on the backs of the chairs and it suddenly looked like the stage was set for a very polite swinger's party. This was strangely calming.

7. David opened the doors but did not let anyone in who was not prepared to nude-up. This was perhaps the key to an incredibly successful nude event. No tourists meant we were all in it together an no one could feel distanced from the action.

8. I was surrounded by the beautiful faces of my closest friends. Elissa, Summer (Godchild) Trent, Diana, Angela and Lucinda all sat close by. I felt the love, and the comforting hand of the wonderful Trent on my shoulder at regular calming intervals.

9. The MC suggested we all disrobe and we all did, together. No turning back. You could almost hear the throb of a collective heartbeat as everyone dealt with their own fears and insecurities all at once.

10. Diana read first. This was incredibly brave. The floor was thrown open to an open mic section and Diana got up and read beautifully. It broke the ice. This was the moment when I knew it was going to be ok. Not just ok, but more than ok. It was going to be beautiful.

11. A young woman got up and read a poem in public for the first time ever. She was nervous but I got the impression that it was not the nudity that was making her nervous. Reading your own poetry in public is being more naked than nakedness itself. It was a great poem. She read it beautifully. I was so touched to be one of the first people to hear her read her own work. The nudity was just a bonus.

12. I read a poem specifically written to be read in public whilst in the nude surrounded by nude people. Our nudity made sense of the poem. Our flesh made the poem a better thing than words on the page.

13. I read from my erotic novel The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine, which was fun but I don't know if anyone was aroused by the sexy reading because I was respectfully avoiding looking into everyones genital area. I realised for the 20th time that I am going to need to print things out in 16 point font from now on. Reading from my book naked taught me that yes, I am getting old. It is clear in my body but it is even more clear in my relationship to the size of my font.

14. People have all different sized fonts (yes, I might have peeked at the genital area of a few of the men, whilst respectfully trying to avoid a direct crotch ogle). Also I didn't look directly but got the distinct impression that women still generally have pubic hair which is also strangely comforting.

15. It is strange how much love you feel for people who you have stood naked with whilst sharing the intimacy of poetry.

16. It is impossible not to heckle your dearest friend just a little because heckling is kind of like polite flirting and it seems I can even politely flirt with Trent when he is in the nude. (Note: David Stavinger also partook in a little polite flirting with Trent so I was not alone in my heckling).

17. You don't hug the other nude poets but you grin at them a lot when you are naked and hug these strangers hard when you have been naked with them.

18. It is terribly daunting to be about to read poetry naked but it is incredibly great to have read poetry naked.

19. We were all asked to take our tea towels with us when we left. I suppose there might be a marked for them in some vending machines in Japan.

20. Reading poetry aloud is like being naked.

In closing I would like to share a poem that I wrote to be read naked with a naked audience:

Reading Poetry Naked to Naked People
Krissy Kneen

We are with and out of artifice
Carefully directing our gaze
architecture, escape, the movement of my naked lips
We avoid the slip of eye
towards breast-swell
with it’s pricked nipple
and the tired old fade of aerole
dimpled belly
mossed over
by creeping excess
a body pawed and poured
into soft skin
like the thickening on top of overheated milk
All this
beyond your gaze
you nervously avoid
the ripe tangle of steely lace
my cunt
the startling question of an armpit.
You may not bring yourself to it
but I am happy to raise it
What if she bleeds?
on this one day
a curl of white
hiding it’s mousey tail between those blooded lips.
And here beside you,
other lips kiss their folded secrets
penises shrink back to their un
natural size
between trembling thighs.
The gaze shifts
from viewed to viewer.
The caterpiller crawl
of delicate sack
A whiff of secret flesh, with sweat revealed by the
dumb shriek of perfume
and the fecal reek just audible
above the drone of  naked poem.
All your collective muscles braced to minimise
ballooning flesh
to hone a cut to unused muscles,
trim thighs
nip and tuck that arse.
A bodily effort
to appear
casual stance
Your body
in the nakedness of poetry.

at home
you will unpack this
reach for images
captured by the flash of a passing glance
hands around genitals
fingers unsealing
damp wieldy space
slicked  now with
desire and spit
you slowly
rub the words of the poem
from memory
and onto your
naked tongue.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Naked Truth

On the 29th August I will be reading, naked, at the QPF. I have to admit I am a little nervous about this. I have a really fraught relationship to my body. On one hand I believe that our narrow cultural views on beauty are really problematic. I truly believe that all bodies are beautiful. All bodies are sexual. All bodies have their own charm. But when it comes to my own body I am still that teenaged girl who stopped eating and dropped from a size 16 to a size 8 over one very lean Christmas holiday period. I remained thin for several years and yet I never thought I was thin. Looking in the mirror I still saw the old me, even when I was transformed. Our brains do that to us. They deceive us. The weight piled back on slowly and now I am back to the same insecure fat girl that I once was.

Last year I participated in the midwinter nude swim in Tasmania. It was incredibly liberating. I felt powerful taking off my clothes in a room full of similarly naked bodies. Everyone was different. There were old women and young girls, paunchy men and skinny men. The man undressing beside me took off his false leg to hop into the water. I stood there naked and proud. This is me, unadorned and there will be no judgements made.

In the adrenaline rush after the rather freezing plunge I vowed to buy a bikini because exposing my body is the single most transgressive act I could perform. I am fat. Very fat. My thighs rub, my breasts sag. I am all cellulite. I am double chinned. I want to love all my generous flesh and yet whenever I am down, insecure, having trouble writing, the first thing I attack is my own body. My head-voice talks to me about my own ugliness. I really struggle to look at myself in the mirror. I went into Myers and David jones and looked at the bikinis several times but I never even took one into the change rooms to try it on.  Clothed and in the city I had lost my nerve.

I loved the rush of running naked with so many varied bodies. I wish I could comfortably stand naked in a crowd under normal circumstances, but unfortunately I have been brainwashed by every movie I have ever seen, every add that has shouted at me from a billboard or out of the pages of a magazine. The media tells me I am a freak. No one like me deserves to be photographed is what the magazine models tell me.  I struggle to maintain my confidence in my own beauty. I would prefer invisibility to walking around in my own flesh.

I agreed to read poetry naked as a kind of protest. I really want to be proud of my body. I really want to be able to show my thick flesh to the world and stand up and say, this is beautiful. I am beautiful. But as the days creep towards the 29th I find I am nervous, frightened, full of insecurities. I wish I had started exercising, dieting, dropping the kilos months and months ago.

I didn't. I have spent the year promoting two books and dieting fell by the wayside. The people who come to see me will see me as I am, unfit but healthy, pasty-white, gone to seed, fleshful.

I am sure that on the night the adrenaline will kick in yet again. I am sure I will emerge from that room feeling powerful, feeling like I have achieved something life-changing by standing up naked in front of a crowd. Reading my work without artifice. Me and the words. Here we are. Take us as we come.

Still, I am looking forward to the 30th August when I feel happy to have been naked without the terror of a naked reading looming in my near future. Till then I will spend the month struggling with my self-esteem, worrying about my looks, trying to come to terms with who I am.  I suspect this is a struggle that most of us have every day when we face the mirror naked, put on clothes and walk out into the world. I am going to read poetry naked because I know you struggle to feel beautiful too. I think you are all beautiful. When I stand up unhidden I am standing up for every woman who reached for a diet book or refused desert. I am standing up for all those young women who starve themselves and the others who feel terrible whenever they see a photograph of themselves posted on Facebook. I am standing naked because even if I can't convince myself to really believe it, I am beautiful. We are beautiful and sexy too. All of us. You and me.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Festival time

Hi everyone.

I am about to hit the ground running with events and workshops and I thought I should let you all know where I will be and when in case you want to come along and join me.

Saturday August 1st : Beetween the Sheets full day workshop 9.30-3.30 at the Beerwah Library, 25 Peachester St, Beerwah

Tuesday August 4th 6.30pm : Mary Ryan's New Farm book club where I all be talking about Eating My Grandmother, my newly released poetry book.

Thursday August 6th 1.30-3.30: Writing Your Novel in a Year half day workshop Byron Bay Writers Festival

Friday 7th August 12.00 - 12.45 : In Conversation with David Vann at Byron Bay Writers Festival

Friday 7th August 4.15-5.00  Poetry Inspiration or Perspiration at Byron Bay Writers Festival

Saturday 8th August 4.00-5.00 Dangerously Poetic prize awards and reading from Eating My Grandmother at Byron Bay Writers Festival, Lone Goat Gallery at Byron Bay Library, Lawson Street

Saturday 8th August 7.30-10pm Byron Theatre Jonson Street: Liner Notes: Fleetwood Mac's Rumours at Byron Bay Writer's Festival.

Sunday 9th August 12.15-1pm: Grief and Creativity Byron Bay Writer's Festival

Sunday 9th August 2.15 - 3pm: Romance, Escapism or Relationship Hotline at Byron Bay Writers Festival

Sunday 23rd August 10am: Morning Read at Melbourne Writers Festival

Sunday 23rd August 1-2pm: Classified - Lit VS Genre at Melbourne Writers Festival

Sunday 23rd August 4-5pm: Dubious Consent at Melbourne Writers Festival

Monday 24th August 6pm: In conversation with S. J. Watson @ Avid Reader Bookshop

Saturday 29th August 3pm: LAUNCH Eating My Grandmother at the Judith Wright Centre Brisbane for Qld Poetry Festival

Saturday 29th August 8pm: Reading naked from Holly White at the Judith Wright Centre for Qld Poetry Festival  (NUDE UP! SERIOUSLY NAKED POETS)

Sunday 30th August 12 midday: Short Form Bookclub at Judith Wright Centre for Qld Poetry Festival

Tuesday September 1st 7pm: Avid Reader Australian Bookclub will be discussing Eating My Grandmother with me

Saturday September 5th 1pm: Sexy Times at Brisbane Writers Festival

Saturday September 5th 8pm: Letter to my Older Self - Brisbane Writers Festival

Sunday September 6th 10am: Home Grown Heroes - Brisbane Writers Festival

Sunday September 6th 2.45: Re(a)d Box Reading - Brisbane Writers Festival

Wednesday October 7th 7pm: Avid Reader's Open Bookclub will discuss Eating My Grandmother with me.

Thursday October 8th 9.30am: Avid Reader's Daylight Bookclub will discuss Eating My Grandmother.

...after which I will be having a little lie down.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Do books live in particular places?

I am trying to slowly refocus on my manuscript. It is a rough sketchy first draft of a thing. I finished it last year. It was hard to write and particularly unpleasant even as manuscripts go (and they are so often unpleasant). I wrote it down in Tasmania, in a poet's shack on the water in a place called Southport. The southernmost pub in Australia is in Southport.

I have printed this draft out and had it spiral bound. I intend to read it right through and see where I am with it. Only problem is I am finding it difficult to focus on the book. I keep wanting to go back to Tasmania. I keep wanting to walk out of my door and onto the frosty sand.

I long for Tasmania like you might long for a family member who is away. After a few weeks of feeling this longing, I am beginning to think that my absent family member is the manuscript alone. Perhaps this book didn't travel back to Queensland with me. Perhaps this book is still living in Tasmania. What if I can only settle into it if I go back to that shack in Southport?

These are irrational thoughts, but maybe there is something to it. Maybe something of a place you are working in infuses itself in the work itself. Maybe certain books can only be written in certain places.  I would be interested to hear if other writers feel the same way about this.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Women's Erotica

On radio last night I was asked if there was a stigma about writing erotic fiction.  I gave an answer but I am very uncomfortable about it and need to think this through.

My answer was yes. I said that there is a term that is used; women's erotica which marginalises erotic writers as something that is just for women. I went on to say that it used to be a boys club of erotic writers and that it was only the intellectuals who were often male who wrote it and published it and distributed it in small print runs in an underground way.

My discomfort comes from the idea that erotic writing for and by women is somehow less than that kabal of male writers who used to be the kings of the form. This idea must be snuffed out. Firstly the idea that eros is a lesser form is insane. Erotic writing is such a powerful form - so powerful that it is often banned.  Erotic writing is also a form that can and should be enjoyed by any gender.  Just because you don't have a vagina does not mean you can't read work that describes vaginas. In fact doesn't it make vagina-centric work all the more titillating if you don't have one? You get to glimpse an area of life that you have little working knowledge of. Female arousal is something that many people have only a passing knowledge of. Even many females do not understand or even experience it. Why should 'women's erotica' be a term that lessens a work?

I don't use the term because it is often used to single out more escapist works and books that focus on romantic eros.  I am not really that interested in romance. I like my sex separated from romantic entanglements for the most part. I like my sex pure.

Still I am both uncomfortable with the term 'women's erotica' and also uncomfortable with my discomfort about the term.  Women's erotica should be a term that refers to some powerful, transgressive, challenging and smart writing. At this moment in our history it is used to differentiate erotic writing that tickles rather than punches.  I prefer a full force punch of sexual pleasure that challenges the status quo. I wish that was a form that we called women's erotica but alas it is not.   Please feel free to continue this conversation with me. I would love your thoughts.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Upcoming events

Taking a deep breath before plunging in to the promotion of The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine. Right around Australia I will be hanging around, banging on about erotic literature and the power of sex. Please join me along the way.

Thursday 30th April Avid Reader Bookshop - In Conversation with John Birmingham at the launch of Holly White

Monday 4th May Better Read than Dead - In Conversation with Benjamin Law at the Sydney launch of Holly White!product/prd15/3793180691/book-launch%3A-krissy-kneen-with-benjamin-law

Thursday 7th May Riverbend Bookshop - A conversation with Ashley Hay about the importance of erotic fiction

Thursday 14th May Readings Carlton - In conversation with Christos Tsiolkas at the Melbourne Launch of Holly White

Thursday 21st May  Sydney Writers Festival Quickies and Corsets with Lee Koffman, Marie-Morgan Le Moel and chair Jane Caro,com_events/Itemid,124/agid,4520/task,view_detail/

Friday 22nd May Sydney Writers Festival Secrets from the Bookshop with Evie Wyld and Brook Davis.,com_events/Itemid,124/agid,4508/task,view_detail/

Saturday 23rd May Sydney Writers Festival Writers on Writers: Musings in the City with Amit Chaudhuri and Patti Miller,com_events/Itemid,124/agid,4508/task,view_detail/