Thu 20

Watch Me Write

Writing Tomorrow I’m writing a short story in public. If you’re in Melbourne, you can stop by and watch me do it. This is the plan: I turn up at Federation Square Atrium 11am Saturday with a laptop and no ideas. I plug the laptop into a projector, to broadcast on the big screen hanging above my head. Then I spend the next three hours drinking coffee, staring into space, and attempting to write something.

I’ve wanted to do this for ages; in fact, in my first ever bookstore event (Union Square Barnes & Noble, NYC, 1999) I talked about how there should be bookstore writings, not readings. Because while I’m interested in what my favorite authors have to say, I’m really interested in how they work. I would love to see how they put a story together.

So this year I suggested it to the Melbourne Writers Festival, and they liked the idea enough to turn it into a 7-day spectacular: one writer embarrassing herself in public between 11am and 2pm per day. Saturday 22nd is my day, but you can also catch Eric Dando (today), Cyril Wong (Sunday 23rd), Reif Larsen (Thursday 27th), Evie Wyld (Friday 28th), Shaun Tan (Saturday 29th), and Jessa Crispin (Sunday 30th).

Clearly, this has the kind of potential for catastrophic public breakdown that I crave, so it should go well.

P.S. If you want to drop by at 11am and suggest some story ideas, that would be really handy.


This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Machine Man subscriber Katie Ellert (#207)

Location: Calgary AB Canada
Quote: "Where's Lola? WHERE'S LOLA?!?!"
Posted: 5419 days ago

I wish I could be there :( Come to Calgary.

Machine Man subscriber Joel Pearson (#2145)

Location: Canberra, Australia
Posted: 5419 days ago

It's a pity I didn't know sooner, I could have made up some excuse for going to Melbourne, like visiting relatives or something.

Alas, I hope it goes well for you Max, sounds exciting.

Machine Man subscriber fredzfrog (#2368)

Location: Moe
Quote: "Fredzfrog"
Posted: 5419 days ago

ninjas! write about ninjas! at a tea party! with elvis!

i'm.. not invited, am I? :p

Machine Man subscriber Lance Mertz (#3541)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "It wasn't me, I wasn't there and did nothing."
Posted: 5419 days ago

You need to plug in a web cam and broadcast your angst... so we can all share it.

Machine Man subscriber Felix (#4236)

Location: NZ
Quote: "I'm naked underneath my clothes"
Posted: 5419 days ago

"one writer embarrassing herself in public" -- Ah I remember an earlier blog you wrote about gender of pronouns in English, very interesting to see you carry this on. It is interesting how much "herself" stands out. I believe in German they have started using alternatives: instead the masculine (Freund) or feminine (Freundin) form of the word for friend, the gender-neutral FreundIn is used, although I guess this may only be for written use.

On topic- great idea, would be very interesting indeed to watch- especially seeing more than one writer, to see differences in method.

Machine Man subscriber Bob (#4095)

Location: Kansas
Quote: "Freeze!!! This is the Government!!"
Posted: 5419 days ago

Wow... wish I could be there. I would come serenade you to try to give you some inspiration! As long as we can all read what you wrote later (video would be better :)) then all is well!

Keep it up Max!

Erin (#1481)

Location: Seattle
Quote: "Living is easy with eyes closed"
Posted: 5419 days ago

I am your muse. Write about me.

Katy (#2345)

Location: Los Angeles
Posted: 5419 days ago

You make me wish I lived in Australia. Also, laugh.

Machine Man subscriber coolpillows (#3749)

Location: new york general sort of vicinity
Quote: ""It's not working" -- Joseph Clark"
Posted: 5419 days ago

I can't be there...even if I tried. By the time I hopped a flight from NYC, you'd be done. BUT, I'm reminded of the Monty Python routine, "Novel Writing from Derbyshire." I used to know it by heart, but it was a classically hilarious and surreal bit with a 'play-by-play' announcer and color commentary as Thomas Hardy sits down in front a large "bank holiday crowd" and proceeds to write a novel. We only witness the first they announce breathlessly, "A sat...A Saturday! A Saturday was approaching...!!" and it just runs silly from there.

Clear your head...deep meditation...breathing...silence...and...WRITE!

Chas (#537)

Location: Free Country USA
Quote: "./configure, make, make install."
Posted: 5419 days ago

I wish I could be there, but I'm some thousands of miles away...

Any chance of a video, or giving us some kind of after-the-fact timeline? Something like showing what was written after 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.

Sparrow (#626)

Location: Melbourne
Posted: 5419 days ago

Hey Max,

If you're looking for ideas, then could I be bold enough to suggest this? It's a non-commercial project I'm working on, spawned from a videogame magazine I independently published. Please see the links below for more information. The second story, written by IGN Australia's Entertainment Editor, will be going live at the end of this weekend.

"Project begin:
L1V3S (thirteen lives) will be a collection of thirteen original short stories. Each story will focus on one character–one life–that is somehow connected to the world of video games.

Each story will be written by a different author and, across the project, a variety of writing styles and genres will be encouraged. As each story is finished, it will be uploaded to the web site as a post and as a downloadable rich text document file (for use in eBook readers). When all thirteen stories are finished, voice talent will be sourced and the stories will be recorded as audio (mp3 format). These recordings will then be turned into an audio book and burnt onto DVDs or uploaded as a series of podcasts.

The first two stories in the project will be ‘L1V3S: GameGirl_19' and ‘L1V3S: Tony Klausen’, both of which were commissioned for issues of JumpButton magazine."

The idea of coming and watching you work--in public no less!--sounds unmissable. Unfortunately, I have 2-year-old triplets. Two of them are autistic. If I can wrangle it, I'll be there. And, if I am, then one of those coffees is on me...


(Apologies if this *and* my email hit you at the same time!)

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Canada
Posted: 5418 days ago

Max, this is too awesome for words, and I'd totally come watch if there wasn't the entire planet in the way.

Thanks for trying new things! Following you as a author really is a special experience.

Rowdy Geirsson (#3814)

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Quote: ""
Posted: 5418 days ago

This idea is hilarious.

Post a picture of the staring-into-space work method once the event is over!

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 5418 days ago

Thanks all! I'll probably write a blog about the experience to let you know precisely how humiliating it was.

@coolpillows: Ha, I hadn't heard that before, but found it here:

That's just wonderful.

Machine Man subscriber coolpillows (#3749)

Location: new york general sort of vicinity
Quote: ""It's not working" -- Joseph Clark"
Posted: 5418 days ago

Thanks Max...good to hear that bit again. It took place in Derbyshire, not Dorchester, but I swear in my teens I knew in by heart. I'm sure you'll do great w/out the play-by-play.

MYOB (#3892)

Posted: 5418 days ago

set up a camera so those of us nowhere near melbourne can see

Abgrund (#3357)

Location: Atlantis
Quote: ""Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority." - Ayn Rand"
Posted: 5418 days ago

To hell with motorcycle racing, base jumping, bomb defusing and throwing paper clips at airline security dweebs. Is that testosterone I smell, wafting across the Pacific?

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 5418 days ago

Harlan Ellison has done this several times as I recall, though usually in the windows of places like coffee shops and bars I think, and without the totally evil computer and projector shenanigans of course.

I wish you lots of luck and a good idea or two to get started with. Um, how about a short sequel/prequal to Machine Man :-) You could post whatever you come up with on this blog so we can all be amazed!

Machine Man subscriber Trevor (#4081)

Posted: 5418 days ago

I second Lance and MYOB. I love this idea! Should definitely be live-broadcast, or if not possible, taped and posted on YouTube or as a podcast or whatever. Good luck!

Sparrow (#626)

Location: Melbourne
Posted: 5416 days ago

Was great to see you write on Saturday; your thought process, personal annotation, and the like.

Thanks, too, for signing my copy of Syrup.

David OS (#3946)

Location: Liverpool
Posted: 5408 days ago

You can't leave us non-Australians hanging like this - it's like nationalism or something!

Even if there are no videos, please tell everybody how it went. Will you be trying it again? Would you change the format? Do we get to see what you wrote?

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