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The Sleepers Almanac No. 8

by Edited by Zoe Dattner & Louise Swinn


Another wonderful collection of some of the best new fiction being written today. Packed with goodies for fans of short stories and avid readers alike.

Featuring new stories from Anica Boulanger-Mashberg, Jonathan Griffiths, Rhett Davis, Madeleine Griffeth, Helen Addison-Smith, and plenty of others you may never have heard of, alongside writers you may be more familiar with: Melanie Joosten, Eric Yoshiaki Dando, SJ Finn, Laurie Steed; as well as funny pics by the inimitable Andrew Weldon.

The Almanac celebrates the short story, and includes stories up to 10,000 words long. If you have a major crush on the short story, then this is for you.

“There’s a lot in here for a very little, making this one of the best-value anthologies around.” Readings Monthly

The Sleepers Almanac No. 8 launch speech – from March 7, 2013
by Sam Twyford-Moore

It’s incredibly exciting to be standing in front of you to launch The Sleepers Almanac No. 8 tonight. Longtime fan, first time launcher. It’s actually been a pleasure trying to figure out how to launch such a diverse collection of writing, sourced from across Australia. I will say that there seems to be a concentration of stories of domestic realism in this year’s Almanac, which is heartening, as fiction of this kind seems to have a hard time finding a home in the country.

Still, I’m a fan of the stories that come between. Some of the best pieces in this new collection are just plain bizarre – literally shape-shifters – changing on you in the middle of a paragraph or phrase.

Belinda Rule’s remarkable experimentation with form and style, ‘Statement of Claims on Behalf of my Father’, is 25% list, 17% heartbreak, 2% Ryan O’Neill, 30% part formatted table, 11% disassociation and 100% sharp, incisive observation.

Do the maths. I didn’t.

Eva Lomski’s ‘How to Talk To A Fire Extinguisher’, written in the instructive second, seemingly merges Lorrie Moore’s brilliant early talent for playing with form with later Lorrie Moore’s morbid thematic obsession with illness. If you’ve ever wondered what young Lorrie Moore would do with old Lorrie Moore here’s your answer – let’s just say it probably has something to do with a basement and a hacksaw.

Ben Birchall’s ‘Six-Week Performance Appraisal’ of his newborn son Walter Birchall simultaneously balances the kind of irony that puts a reader at a distance with the intimate detail that draws them in. It’s weird. And I love the weirdness of it.

Considering this, I wanted this launch to reflect these unique approaches – so I’m going to present you a list of Dos and Don’ts for being at launches. Think of me as the Ita Buttrose or June Dally Watkins of anthology contributor etiquette.

Although, this is probably as much a letter to my younger self as it is a list of do’s and don’ts.

Do read the other stories in the anthology which are by the writers who are not you – don’t just read your own. And maybe wait until you get home before you read your own story, because people will probably realise that you’ve got the book open to the page that happens to have your story on it, reading your opening paragraph and going, Fuck yeah, you know what, I did do an amazing job with that.

You will be caught out.

Do not read from the book itself. It’s very nice to be published in a book, but if you’re at the launch and you’re reading from the book, chances are people already know you’re in the book, you don’t need to wave it in front of their faces. These things are printed in font sizes for people reading in their heads, not writers reading aloud. Print your writing in like 17 point font and bring your specs. Definitely don’t read the book if your story is printed on red paper with a white font and you’ve got a red shaded lamp over your head. Learn from my lessons.

Don’t push yourself too far. If you’re going through some anxiety problems about reading your work, to the point that you’re actually seeing a psychologist about an upcoming reading, it’s probably okay not to go to the launch.

If you’re doing a reading at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and Andrew O’Keefe from hit television filler ‘Deal or No Deal’ happens to be in the audience because his wife has some poetry in the same collection, always go out drinking with Andrew O’Keefe from hit television filler ‘Deal Or No Deal’ after the reading. You will always regret not going drinking with Andrew O’Keefe from hit television filler show ‘Deal or No Deal’.

Same goes with Frank Moorhouse. Frank’s even better because he might write about it in The Monthly.

Do not show up to launch drinks of a student anthology who accepted your writing but then rejected it for the totally legitimate reason that you they couldn’t get in contact with you with their edits. Do not then go and get incredibly drunk, and end up kissing two of the editors – one in the bathroom and one on the street. That’s just incredibly rude to the four other editors.

Here’s an important one: do admire Sleepers for what has now been close to ten years. Do get inspired when you see the first Sleepers Almanac in 2005. Do inspect it front to back when a creative writing teacher passes it around in class. Do watch as other class mates submit to Sleepers and are published the next year. Do be jealous, jealousy is good fuel for the fire. Do let it make you feel like you too could create something like it. Do let it teach you that you don’t have to wait for someone to tell you that you can do something, that there is no such thing as permission in the arts, that you can do it yourself and you can support other people along the way.

Do or don’t – your choice – go so far as to publish what essentially amounts to a Sleepers Almanac knock-off – the long forgotten, 200-copies-in-your-parents’-garage literary anthology Cutwater, which is kind of like to Sleepers what Transmorphers is to Transformers. Or what Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus is to Jaws. Having said that, definitely do go so far as to publish an utterly disgusting story about a Playboy writer in a massage parlour written by a young writer named Louise Swinn.

More generally, keep the passion. Be excited about being published in an anthology or Almanac, whether it’s your first publication or your millionth. Share your enthusiasm with your friends.
Remember it’s not incestuous if it’s small publishing – it’s like being in a really small family in an isolated town – you’ve got no other choice.

Do read the fantastic Sleepers Almanac No. 8, be amazed by the quality of the writing, and steal all the writers inside for a literary festival you’re directing. Give no credit to Louise Swinn or Zoe Dattner for discovering them first.

Oh Madeleine Griffeth? No, I knew nothing about her carefully crafted, perfectly sensitive story ‘Lungfish’ – I swear – no, I discovered her before anyone knew who she was, she was sitting at a train station and I went up to her and told her she was a writer.

Oh yeah, Laurie Steed? No, I didn’t realise he had contributed to multiple issues of Sleepers. I discovered him in a shopping centre in Perth while I was out prospecting.

Melanie Joosten? More like old mate.

Sleepers, too, are now officially old mates. It’s terrific to see them still going strong at Almanac number 8 and I look forward to the future, to their ongoing support of writers unknown, emerging and established.

One last do for you, too – DO buy a copy.