So as I may have mentioned, I am have been doing some interviews/blogging for this really awesome thing called the Wollongong Writers Festival. It’s been a pleasure to see hands on what some creative-types are doing in Wollongong and I’ve had the opportunity of interviewing some people doing some cool stuff. See below for one of those interviews of one such cool person. Full disclosure: I have been following Patrick since I saw him at the very first Wollongong Writers Festival last year – and when I say “follow” I very much mean in the I-enjoy-reading-his-blog-and-articles sense of the word, not in the creepy-lady-in-a-trench-coat kind of follow, although he may have had his doubts by the end of the interview. Still, he was very gracious in the face of a slightly over-enthused interviewer and answered some of WWF’s burning questions – Hayley
Originally appeared on the Wollongong Writers Festival site on September 19, 2014.
They say that there is more than one way to skin a cat. If you asked Patrick Lenton to skin one, he might write a particularly cutting and funny blog post, or he may release an e-book so engaging and persuasive that the cat would cheerfully and willingly skin itself. We’re not suggesting that Patrick is likely to do this of course. What we’re saying, and with all gory cat-skinning references aside, is that Patrick Lenton has a way with words, particularly digital ones. He brings his experiences with a range of digital mediums as well as practical experience with publishing (gasp!) that should make the panel he will be facilitating on digital writing and publishing at the Wollongong Writers Festival a sure fire hit with both feline and human audiences.
First off, tell me a little bit about you! It seems like you are sitting high at the moment, with a book about to come out as well as a string of other projects: you regularly post on your blog the Spontaneity Review and your column, The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, is a regular at Going Down Swinging. Not to mention you’re a playwright and work in digital marketing for Momentum books. It sounds like a busy schedule. How does all that stuff actually fit together in real life? Any advice for the rest of us mere mortals?
The good thing about me is that I like to be busy – if I don’t have a couple of things boiling at the same time, I feel restless and unfocused and sad and I do a lot of sitting at windows and sighing, which is probably annoying for everyone else on the train. But there’s no easy answer in the ‘how to fit a billion hours of work into a normal day’ question – it’s basically all about discipline and planning. Picking projects and being realistic about your methods to complete it – make sure you have time put aside, goals to reach along the way. I have an insane list-system with check boxes and colour coding and dates and I love it. It really helps – your brain can’t be expected to retain all your organisation. Or maybe my brain isn’t meant to. Since beginning full-time work I’ve had to entirely restructure my writing habits, and for a recent project that I completed, I woke up an hour earlier every morning and wrote 500 words.
How different is it writing for theatre than writing for a blog, or for publication? Do you enjoy one more than the other?
On the one hand, I just enjoy writing. I’m not one of those writers who seem to dislike the actual practice of putting words on the page. That seems very not nice. But yes, writing over different mediums can be incredibly different, and I think I enjoy them in lots of different ways. I love the collaborative nature of theatre, the fact that my script is just the first stage in a process of development. I love the self-contained nature of a short story. And I just enjoy being really silly on my blog.
Speaking of blogging, I’ve seen some posts on The Spontaneity Review Facebook page recently about your childhood. Where did you grow up exactly? How much do you think where you grow up affects your writing? Do you feel like writing was an inevitability or something you feel into?
My family moved around quite a bit, but the places I’ve spent the most time are between Australia and Qatar in the Middle East. I think writing always comes from the total sum of your experience – but that said, Qatar was a particularly weird place, and I like writing about the weird, so that could definitely have affected it. I always had an interest in writing and have written since I could first form words, but I suppose the decision to actually ‘be’ a writer wasn’t made until high school, at that weird moment when suddenly you have to decide what you’re going to do at uni, which has the implication of being the thing you do for the rest of your life.
Well, you’ve certainly made a go of it, haven’t you? Can you tell me more about your upcoming collection of stories ‘A Man Made Entirely of Bats’ ? I’ve read that it’s based around “super heroes and the super strange”.
A Man Made of Bats is a collection of short-short stories and micro-lit, that all revolves around the theme of super-heroes and strange things. It’s like 95% comedy, with some themes and stuff hidden behind punchlines. I wrote the majority of the book while listening to The Flaming Lips album ‘Soft Bulletin’ which is kind of about superman. It will be out in early 2015 through Spineless Wonders. I am kind of aiming for a mixture of Angela Meyer’s ‘Captives’, Etgar Keret and Tom Cho.
*Hayley nods while making a frantic mental note to Google who all of those people are*
You work in digital marketing, and you are the editor for comedy anthology the Sturgeon General, which is only available digitally. What are your thoughts on independent publishing? What excites you about digital media?
Digital provides so many opportunities – it is just an immensely exciting world for writers and readers alike. As print publishing gets more and more hidebound, traditional and unwilling to experiment, digital is where the experimental, new, and exciting is moving. Small publishers like Spineless Wonders are using this space to promote work that just has no place in print at the moment – A Man Made Entirely of Bats is a great example. Short story collections, literature and comedy are all things that just don’t sell. Momentum is a great example of a publisher understanding the digital space, and interacting and communicating directly with online readers and understanding their needs.
With the role that digital mediums have in today’s writing and reading landscape, I feel like it’s pretty obvious why WWF wanted you and the very talented Adam Carr, Oliver Mol and Emmie Rae on board. But what do you think the value of a festival like WWF is? Why did you agree to be involved both this year and last year?
There aren’t a huge amount of perks to being a writer – perks such as ‘a valid way of earning a living’ for example. But one of the best perks is community – hanging out with other writers is the best. If you’re ever stuck for conversation you can just throw a book in the air, and suddenly four hours later you’re drunk and you are volubly recommending yet another title. Also, the ways in which we learn as writers are multiple and mysterious. I am constantly being inspired and interested by things other people are doing, which I then steal and incorporate into my own stuff. I’m mostly joking. Writers festivals like WWF are invaluable for this. Also, I feel like I should support anything cool that UOW does, due to it being my alma mater. I never organised a writers festival when I studied creative writing. I just drank a lot.
With the decidedly verbose title: I Want To Read Your Livejournal On A Plane: Talking About Opportunities In Digital Writing And Publishing, your panel will run on Saturday 11th October from 11:30am to 12:30 pm. As mentioned, the panel will feature Adam Carr, Oliver Mol and Emmie Rae, what can you tell me about them and your reasons behind organising the panel?
This is going to be SUCH a great panel, and I couldn’t be happier with the people who will be joining in on the conversation. Adam Carr was such an easy choice, considering he is currently working on creating a physical space for writers to experiment digitally, which is a great and slightly paradoxical notion. Oliver Mol is the winner of the Scribe Nonfiction Prize, and his book Lion Attack! is being published next year. Oliver writes over multiple digital formats, including amazing status lit on Facebook – status lit which he then used as the basis for his manuscript. Emmie Rae is a wonderful internet poet, who has been published through a lot of international alt-lit publications, and is also starting a digital small press in Australia called ‘Thin Walls’. I feel like so many facets of digital writing will be represented, and even some conflicting views (!) so I’m so interested in what comes out of it.
From creating interactive digital workshops (Adam Carr), writing intimate and immediate internet poetry (Emmie Rae) and using Facebook for good and not evil (Oliver Mol), Patrick has assembled some people that are doing some really, really cool stuff with digital media. See more from Emmie Rae here, read Oliver Mol and Adam Carr’s guest posts for Wollongong Writers Festival here and here.
If you’re as excited as I am for I Want To Read Your Livejournal On A Plane make sure to come along to the North Wollongong Hotel on Saturday 11th October at 11:30am. Just remember to leave your cat at home, okay?
By Hayley Scrivenor