Pip Smith,   

Hello Slightly More Northern Southerly Readers,

Though I am usually Sydney-based, this month I’m coming to you, mildly diseased and wind-ruffled, all the way from Melbourne.

Here, Autumn is like a pick ‘n mix bag of summer and winter days, and you don’t know what you’re going to get until you’re five ks from home in a summer dress staring up at a wall of black cloud. Nowhere else in Australia have I had to buy gloves with penguins on them out of climate-inflicted necessity. For that, Melbourne, I thank you.

My journey to Melbourne, though, was not meant to be an elaborate means of buying surprise penguin gloves. I arrived on April 2nd, ready for a three-month stint in Australia’s only UNESCO-approved City of Literature for a kind of lifestyle sabbatical. My stay here happened to coincide with a blogging stint for Southerly, so I thought I’d force the two into a marriage of convenience and provide Southerly’s readers with a round up of Melbourne’s literary events while I’m here.

Soon after I arrived, I stuck my head in a bookstore and asked the lady behind the counter if there were any readings on around town. She looked at me blankly and wrote Open University on the back of a business card. I left suddenly aware that perhaps bookstore sales attendants aren’t the human-shaped Internet search engines I’d always secretly believed they were. I now feel slightly older, but more worldly, and for that, Bookstore Lady, I thank you.

During the days that followed I tried to write some short stories, failed, sulked, and finally went for a walk for inspiration only to find a city void of life: construction sites frozen, bulldozers poised mid-dig, cafes shut up, bill posters advertising gigs from weeks ago flapping in the drizzle. It was a Friday. Since when is everything shut on a Friday? Well done, Pip, I thought, you have brought disease upon Melbourne, and with it, the end of its cultural hey day. But it wasn’t just a Friday, it was Good Friday, and all of Melbourne was off doing secret Good Friday things, like eating chocolate, or reading books, or polishing their miniature trams.

After the first eight days all I could confidently report back to you about was the ineffectiveness of Paracetamol in making a person less mildly diseased, but now! Finally! I have braved the almost illegal world of Cold and Flu tablets and – turbo-charged on pseudoephedrine – have cobbled together a kind of reading nights calendar for the month of April.

So far, I have seen one (1!) event! But fear not, Reader, I have a hearty six (6!) more readings to attend, and feel I have a good range lined up full of live story-telling, slam poetry, bookish poetry, short fiction, and witty correspondence! Also, I urge you to let me know if you think I’ve missed anything really bloody obvious, and will endeavour to catch that as well.

So, over the next few weeks I will attend and review:

11/4 – Rocket Clock Slam @ Bella Union

13/4 – Six Poets, Six Vagabonds @ The Alderman

16/4 – Debut Mondays @ The Wheeler Centre

19/4 – Slammadingdong @ Bella Union

20/4 – Slow Canoe Readings @ the Schoolhouse Studios

26/4 – Willow Tales @ Willow Bar, Northcote

29/4 – Women of Letters @ Thornbury Theatre


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