The writing year in review

In 2017, I became increasingly unwell and was eventually diagnosed with an untreatable chronic illness. This was not one of my new year’s resolutions.

I’d created this space to post comedy snippets, but things don’t seem as funny when your body is a prison. I know, it’s not a great punchline. Still, looking back at this year, I managed to write some things, things that were published various places. Here are the highlights:

Griffith Review
Today Is Already Yesterday: Growing up with the digital revolution

The Australian
The Choice: Auschwitz survivor deals with Mengele and freedom

Sydney Review of Books
The Crime of Crime: Genocide, A World History

The Cusp
I Tracked Every Dollar I spent for 8 Year. Here’s What I Learned.
The Introvert’s Guide to Networking
I Tried 10 Productivity Hacks. Here’s What Worked. 
Your Guide to Surviving a Long Distance Relationship
How to Give to Charity Without Spending Money
 

Newtown Review of Books
Adult Fantasy by Briohny Doyle
Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh
The Year of the Orphan by Daniel Findlay
The Promise of Things by Ruth Quibell

How to Write 3 Memoirs by the Age of 35, Lee Kofman’s The Writing Life 
Picasso’s Accountant, Swamp Writing
Local StoriesCiao Magazine

Shortlistings
Full of Donkey: Travels in Armenia, shortlisted for the 2017 Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award
How to Be Australian, shortlisted for the Lane Cove Literary Awards, memoir

Events
Blind Dating with Books, Noted Festival
Talking Writing: Casing the Joint, NSW Writers’ Centre
Millennials Strike Back, Newtown Festival Writers’ Tent
Raw Comedy Semifinals, Comedy Store
How Not to Be Australian, Story Club

Story Club comedy performance, 'How Not to Be Australian' by Ashley Kalagian BluntI suppose I should have some hope that I might be able to accomplish more in 2018 than merely lying on the couch binge-watching all 19 seasons of SVU, even if being funny seems as impossible as being healthy does.

2017’s Hottest Fashion Trends

Ashley Kalagian Blunt hottest fashion trends

  1. Habanero sauce, rubbed everywhere
  2. Skirt made from rings of fire
  3. Miniature Hadron Collider vest, set to 9.9 trillion °F
  4. Actual fireplace strapped to your waist
  5. Paper mâché volcano hat
  6. Suit made of quasars (they’re very hot)
  7. Full-body skin suit of 2017’s Sexiest Man Alive
  8. Gloves that are actually Carolina Reaper peppers
  9. Dwarf star fascinator
  10. The Hope Diamond, after you stole it
  11. Flame-shooting bra
  12. Suit of toast fresh out of the toaster

 

Scene from a holiday

Winnipeg in winter, under a blanket of snowArriving in Australia to discover four weeks annual leave was standard – plus you might get some extra leave at Christmas, just because – was like getting a hug from a rainbow unicorn. It was not quite Western Europe’s six-week leave extravaganzas, but I wasn’t going to complain.

Except that four weeks of leave in Australia is nowhere near enough. At least not if your family lives in the middle of the Canadian prairies, because you are morally obligated to use at least three of those weeks to visit said family. And getting yourself there involves the modern travel equivalent of paying thousands of dollars to churn your own arm through a meat grinder.

First you must twitch and writhe all the way across the world’s largest ocean and, for the first time in your life, use one of those airsickness bags for its intended purpose (sneakily, so the stranger beside you doesn’t notice). This brings you to LAX, also known as Satan’s Playpen, where, guess what? You’ve missed your connection and your luggage is on its way to Houston. Goodbye, luggage! Enjoy your new life!

You spend six hours facedown on the carpet at Gate 91 until you fly to Minneapolis, where the airport is a mall (excuse me, ‘shopping centre’) next to an even larger mall (excuse me, ‘corporate hate crime’).

It is -27 degrees Celsius in Minneapolis, and you are finally on another plane. But then it stops abruptly just seconds after reversing out of the gate. The plane sits on the tarmac for 20 minutes, and you wonder if they are de-icing the wings with that blue chemical spray that has the same hue as toilet bowl cleaner, because that is an extra thing fun that has to happen in winter climates otherwise you might die.

But no, there is another problem.

‘It seems one of the straps used around the plane’s front tire has gotten stuck because of the cold weather, and wouldn’t you know the ground crew just can’t get it unstuck there, folks,’ the pilot says. ‘They think that if everybody in the first, well, let’s say six rows or so, if everybody could just head to the back of the plane, that might shift the weight and take some of the pressure off that tire.’

It is this sort of technical solution that gives you so much confidence in the aviation industry. Several rows of disgruntled passengers trudge past. The entire plane seems to hold its breath.

‘Well, the ground crew says that worked, so you can return to your seat, folks, and after we get the wings de-iced, we can be on our way.’

You’re so glad you’ve used a year’s worth of leave for this.

 

5017

Picture this: It’s the year 5017. Your coffin is dug up from the mausoleum you built specifically for the purpose of sheltering your earthly remains.
Museum of Old and New Art, HobartIt’s carted to another planet and put on display in a post-modern museum/aquarium where octopus perform tricks with hula hoops, not because they’re forced to, but because they’re really into it – by that time I imagine whatever the dominant species is, they’ve figured out how to communicate with octopi – the point is, how would you feel about your coffin with your remains being on display?

I think it’d be pretty awesome as long as the octopus tricks were tasteful and not, you know, lewd.

 

Do not tell people about your Prize Award

We are pleased to inform you of the release of the
SPANISH SWEEPSTAKE LOTTERY INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION PROGRAM
Your email address drew the lucky numbers 01-5-11-12-21-34
that consequently won the lottery in the 3rd category.

The business I am introducing you to is palpably based on sheer trust
and with a sense of purpose for all modalities
has been mapped out because it falls within my area of Jurisdiction
and it is 100% Hitch free.

I HAVE A LEGAL AND CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL FOR YOU.
I am willing to send you a free rug simulation.
I know this may sound so strange for you and also extremely risky for me
to offer such proposal to a total stranger via email

but unfortunately this happens to be my last resort to get it done.
Right now I am the most happiest woman on earth.
Every camper should have this laser strong enough to light a fire.
It’s a UltraBeam Tactical Laser..!

-All the words on this page are an ad-
I will be waiting to read from you.
Thank You and Be Blessed.
To your success!

Yours faithfully,
Mrs. Janet Hessian, Network Online Coordinator.

Spoons

The problem with spoon theory
is that I never know how many spoons I’ll have

any given day.

If I knew I had ten spoons,
I could use them accordingly.
But today I might have seven spoons

and tomorrow only three, with no idea why.
As though someone sneaks into my cutlery drawer
at night to steal my spoons,

but then other times replaces some
just to fuck with me.
Let’s be honest –

there was never enough spoons,
even before I had to think of my energy
as a finite supply of kitchen utensils.

My opinions on dog names will eventually result in divorce

Unless they’re the children of celebrities, human babies are generally stuck with boring people names. But dogs can be called any sort of amazing name at all. It’s insultingly uncreative to give a dog a human name. Like a french bulldog I met, who was named, of all things, Gerald. Gerald could have been named Clams or Seven or Sir Snotsalot or anything other than Gerald.

My husband disagrees. I told him my dream was to have a sausage dog named Saucy. ‘It works on so many levels!’

‘What levels?’ he said.

What levels? Obviously the sauce/sausage connection. Also the fact that saucy sounds like ‘saussie’, an Australianised shortening of sausage. And then imagine if the dog had a saucy attitude. Just imagine.

 

How to be Australian according to your passport

Your passport contains the distilled essence of Australia. Study its images carefully during the interminable minutes in line at Immigration. Each image is a puzzle piece. Fit them together, and you will know what it is to be Australian.

Australian passport
Australian passport images, in order of appearance

  • Parliament, featuring the largest free-standing stainless steel structure in the southern hemisphere
  • A kookaburra who really wants you to know about travel insurance
  • A Tasmanian devil suffering lockjaw
  • Surf lifesaving chicks about to launch floaty things into the water
  • A camel caravan
  • A thorny devil
  • A depressed wombat
  • A water tank, windmill-thing and what might be a station house
  • People sitting on car bonnets observing a horserace
  • An even more depressed platypus
  • A man being cruel to a herd of cattle
  • An open-mouthed saltie
  • Cricket
  • A smarmy koala
  • A noble dingo who definitely hasn’t eaten any babies this week
  • Two scuba divers checking out coral
  • Beachgoers
  • A page translated into French, Australia’s unofficial second language
  • A pointy-nosed chipmunk?
  • A highway leading to distant hills, with trees
  • A love-struck emu
  • An RV hitched to a ute, maybe Uluru in the background?
  • A bearded dragon who’s ready to party
  • A kangaroo whose grandfather was a horse
  • Two ladies in togs holding a rope in knee-deep water staring down a big wave
  • A lone surfer
  • A patriotic eagle, the eternal symbol of Australian freedom
  • Just a regular echidna
  • A rural town hotel that definitely has a pub
  • A semi-truck (the designers must have been getting desperate at this point)
  • A sulphur-crested cockatoo who just came out of the dryer
  • Maybe a bilby?
  • Girls playing rugby in skirts because females play sport too
  • Another lizard-type thing – wait, is that a goanna?
  • Sailboats on a harbour
  • A man in an overcoat and fedora staring off towards some power lines or possibly a fence with a definite serial killer vibe
  • Also a lot of plants. Give me a break, I’m not a botanist.