Viva La Novella Readings at The Wilde


Winners of the Viva La Novella Prize will be reading from their books at the Wilde. Join us for a drink and a listen to the next generation of unique Australian literary voices.


Marlee Jane Ward reading from Welcome to Orphancorp

Jane Rawson reading from Formaldehyde

Christy Collins reading from The End of Seeing

Jane Jervis-Read reading from Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall

Julie Proudfoot reading from The Neighbour

Nicole Smith reading from Sideshow

Rose Mulready reading from The Bonobo’s Dream

Entry $2 for a chance to be in the door prize: a full set of Viva La Novella books, which includes:

The Bonobo’s Dream by Rose Mulready, Populate & Perish by George Haddad, Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward, Formaldehyde by Jane Rawson, The End of Seeing by Christy Collins, The Neighbour by Julie Proudfoot, Sideshow by Nicole Smith, The Other Shore by Hoa Pham, Blood and Bones by Daniel Davis Wood, Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall by Jane Jervis-Read

Thursday 15th December

The Wilde

153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

(the number 86 Tram with get you almost to the door)

6.30 for a 7 o’clock start


The Tyrone Guthrie Residency

Late last year I travelled to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre located at Annaghmakerrig, a place in Ireland that is hard to spell but easier to pronounce, which is a residential workplace for artists to find peace and quiet to concentrate on their work with the stimulation of living alongside artists from other disciplines.

Tyrone Guthrie’s former house accommodates 10 artists and a further five artists stay in the self-catering farmyard cottages out the back. Providing excellent resources is what the Tyrone Guthrie Centre does very well. There are nine studios for visual artists, a music room, a print room and a dance studio. Artists stay anywhere from six weeks to one week, shorter residencies being used mostly by the Irish artists to get specific aspects of their practice realized, while the international artists stay for longer, partly to have enough time to get over the jetlag before beginning work.

So overwhelmed with the great opportunity I had been offered and also the incredible distance I had come (Australia is really very far away from the rest of the world) I spent the time initially being ineffectual and unable to find the breadboard.

Everyone told me to relax in pretty accents and I took their advice and let myself sleep in gratuitously and write badly for a while. I went on walks. I tried to circumnavigate the lake but some cows made me nervous and I walked back the way I had come. I checked to see if the lake was still there on a daily basis and marvelled at the changing canvas that is Annaghmekerrig. I hung around the dining room after dinner and drank heavy Australian wine and listened to poets and painters and playwrights. This approach worked because by the third week the architecture was in place and the story was writing itself. I lived like a wastrel and stayed up late and slept in late and wrote in the afternoon and in the early hours of the morning.

At 7 o’clock everyone staying at the house meets for dinner. The artists staying in the cottages come to dinner once a week. Dinner is a punctuation point after long and distracted workdays. I was usually at the house after dinner because making contact with international artists in the fields of painting, printmaking, music composition, playwriting, poetry and other novelists was a great way to end the day. And some days I could really do with the company. The visual artists tended to go to bed early and rise early, bang out a quick warm up sketch and get to work, stopping for lunch at the traditional time. The writers tended to go to bed late and turn up to lunch and call it breakfast. The composers were somewhere in between. Names were hard to keep track of and mishearing was rife. Maybe it was my accent but one guy thought my name was Collette. In four weeks, the turnover was brisk, stimulating, but fast. Fortunately people left notes on the fridge with contact details so at least you could be sure of the correct pronunciation of their name after they had gone.

My back seized up in the last week even though the bed was perhaps the most comfortable mattress I have ever encountered. I dreamt a lot when I was at Annaghmekerrig, nightmares even. I was told that everyone sleeps badly while staying at the great house. I think it’s something about the intensity of the immersion you have in your new work with the time and space you are afforded. Or else the place is haunted.

I never did work out how to light my fire. The Irish all seem to have magic fire making abilities. I’m sure I saw an Irishwoman light a fire with a single match. Another just seemed to wave her hands and the fire was ablaze. Apparently they call all do this because, “it’s such a comfort to have a fire,” and I agree but in Australia we spend all our time putting them out. In the end I had to use a blow heater.

During this residency I began my next book, Songs from the Singing Ship. As other writers have noted, you set a goal to achieve. My aim was to write 30, 000 words but I came back with 14, 000 words, but I did establish the bones of the thing as well. This seems to be the rule of thumb for residencies, you’ll achieve half of what you thought you would achieve. I strongly identified with Lucy Nelson’s experience of the same thing when she went to Sri Lanka; you get half as much done as you thought you would.

This residency was perfectly timed and the ideal place to begin a complicated new book. This is a great residency to begin projects. The key is the opportunity you have to immerse yourself in your new world. The distractions are few and the aspect gorgeous. There is enough social contact without it becoming overwhelming and staying in the cottage was perfect for my particular creative process. If I’d stayed at the house I would have just lurked around the kitchen and put on weight looking for the distraction of the next meal and a conversation. In the cottage I could keep reasonably disciplined and control my diet somewhat although I still came back to the southern hemisphere a touch heavier, actually, much heavier.

I got some great advice about websites, agents, various approaches to writing, promotion and the scene in Ireland and England. I made some great contacts for the future and some real connections with other writers and artists and their work.

I want to encourage fellow writers to look into this residency. In my opinion this residency is best for beginning new works or editing late drafts. This was a most creative and useful time. I was able to let go of the old book and properly embrace the new one. Ireland is a gorgeous place, and it was amazing to connect with other writers working in a great literary tradition.

The website is here:

Nicole Smith is the author of Sideshow, which won the 2014 Viva La Novella Prize and is published by Xoum Publishing. Sideshow is currently longlisted for the Dobbie Award.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Excerpt from Sideshow

Belo Horizonte    


It’s a gorgeous day to touch the sky.

The gig is in an enormous field where they fly kites across the road from the lucky people’s houses. You can tell they are the lucky people because of the broken glass lining the edge of their fences.

In Brazil we put the contents of a small flower shop in our wigs so we can toss pretty relics for grandmothers to turn over in their hands after we have gone.

The show is muscular and it’s a sensual crowd and we speak to a thousand strangers with our bodies. Our imprint is left, written on the wind.

When we descend, they are upon us. It is as if we can heal the sick. The little boys crowd around us especially close. One boy is learning English. He can say, ‘My name is…’ He places a hand on his chest and says, ‘My name is Sabastiao Fernando.’ I write lots of love to Sabastiao Fernando and he introduces each kid holding out a scrap of paper in an unwashed hand. Sabastiao Fernando points to a tall boy in short shorts.

‘My name is Miguel Campos Santos.’ I draw a picture for Miguel Campos Santos. Sabastiao Fernando points to another little fellow.

‘My name is Jose Eduardo Taveres Melo Silva.’

I get Sabastiao to spell out his name. Jose has no paper so I use his arm. The letters appearing along his delicate limb transfixes Jose Eduardo Taveres Melo Silva. I draw a love heart to dot the i. The kids walk back with us to the dressing room. Men pat us on the back and women say, ‘Obrigada, muito obrigada.’  We pause the procession to pose for pictures with pretty families who put their arms around us. And everyone’s looking at me. Everyone loves me. This piece of me, this projection of me, this smallest part of me projected like a shadow puppet on the back wall of people’s souls. This drug, this addiction, this distraction from my stillborn life, this is what I do. The kites dance in the empyrean and I can smell popcorn.

I don’t want to take the costume off. I want to be a deity forever. I want to bask in the love of a thousand faces. I spin around like a small girl. My skirt spirals in the vortex. Beloved. I catch myself in the mirror and suddenly I’m Miss Havisham in a long velour dress and a fright wig. I see the old lady in the maiden’s dress caught in a single moment, calcifying in the best of times until it becomes the worst of times meanwhile missing all of the other times; the unsurprising of times, the fair-to-middling of times, and the times when nothing much seems to be happening at all. Everything you love discards you in the end. Even gorgeous days slip away through the horizon. All I can be sure of is that I am running out of time.

I take off the wig and I’m just left a woman with flat hair and a smudged face.

strange fruit galway


I never did work out how to light my fire. The Irish all seem to have magic fire making abilities. I’m sure I saw an Irishwoman light a fire with a single match. Another just seemed to wave her hands and the fire was ablaze. Apparently they call all do this because, “it’s such a comfort to have a fire,” and I agree but in Australia we spend all our time putting them out. It was sad but in the end I had to use a blow heater.

Sideshow reviewed

on November 2, 2014
A beautifully written, hilarious and heartwarming odyssey, this book follows the adventures of an aerial artist and her ‘family’ of reprobate colleagues as they traverse the world, flying not always with the greatest of ease. Smith’s writing is succinct, but nevertheless suffused with lush imagery and description that nails it all perfectly on the head. Her lost girl is a naive cynic, trying to find herself, but finding herself diverted by the dramas created by the circus of dysfunctional friends (and possible enemies) she travels with. I turned every page with a sense of delicious anticipation, and turned the last page wanting this book to go on for so much longer. I can’t wait for what comes next from this unique, new literary voice.