Tag Archives: Twitter

A note (on connections and why we need them)

Marion May Campbell is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and poets. Erudite, engaged, her prose enchants and enfolds. There is a dark warmth there, the abject jumping to caress. There is also lightness, and breath. A friend told me about her 2008 book Fragments from a Paper Witch, specifically the section titled ‘Spectacular Motherhood’ a few weeks ago.

I was sure I’d find it in the library catalog, but it wasn’t there. Request. One week later it arrived, thanks to document delivery, from the University of Adelaide. On the first page Gail Jones, in her forward, quoted Susan Sontag writing that “a poet’s prose is the autobiography of ardour”. I was already in love. A flick through confirmed it.


Am / am not; am amniotically buoyed between am / am not. Am shutter, am threshold, am revolving door, just pulsing muscle, in-out: I sing my continence through my leakage. I think of my baby, this other within, and I strain the membrane of thought.

Fragments from a Paper Witch, p 28

Writing that is a mirror, but also not. A voice that mine echoes, even though I have never heard it before.

I knew, immediately, that I a copy of Paper Witch needed to live on my shelf. Internet searches yielded nothing. Rare book seller’s websites, Salt Publishing (its printed home), the big guys, I even tried eBay. Nothing. Twitter! And there she was (@Beigesang). But the last time she’d been active was 2009. I sent a forlorn tweet.

Then I remembered this: my Post Grad diploma at Melbourne Uni, hearing Marion speak at a symposium, and knowing that my tutor, Antonia Pont (who wasn’t a doctor yet) knew her.

So I sent this:

From: Karina Quinn

Subject: Fragments from a Paper Witch

Date: 6 September 2012 11:05:41 AEST

To: Antonia Pont

Hey Antonia,

I’ve just fallen deeply for Marion May Campbell’s Fragments From a Paper Witch and can’t bear to give it back to the library. I’ve done a fair bit of online searching but haven’t been able to uncover a single copy.

So I turned to Twitter and discovered Marion has an account, and have sent her a message. She’s sent 4 tweets in her whole life though, and these were in 2009 so I suspect she may not receive my message.

I’m writing this in the hope that you have some contact with her, and that you could forward this email on for me? My other hope is that she has a secret stack of Fragments on a shelf somewhere and that I can pay her a premium for the joy (indeed the jouissance) of having a single copy on my own shelf.



Antonia forwarded my email with a brief introduction, and shortly after I received this:

From: Marion May Campbell

Subject: RE: FW: Fragments from a Paper Witch

Date: 6 September 2012 12:44 PM AEST

To: Karina Quinn

Dear Karina,

You are very welcome to have one of the copies I have left. As I said to Antonia, an appreciative reader is to be cherished. Yes, I’m afraid I am not a twitterer…

What’s your address and surname and I’ll put it in the post for you.

Very best wishes,


The very next day a parcel arrived on my doorstep. A beautiful hard cover edition of Paper Witch. On opening it, this:

Paper Witch is in my hands because I don’t sit at my desk all day, myopic, immersed, to the exclusion of all else (except when I do). Paper Witch is in my hands because I go to symposiums, and make connections with other writers and academics, and take good advice. But mostly, Paper Witch is in my hands because of Marion’s generous spirit, because a writer will always be happy to have been read.

I am reading Paper Witch now with great care, with love. This book with its hand written note feels portentous. There is something about this project, whatever it is, that seems destined. The words literally pour from me. It can’t not be written. And a note like this seems to say keep going, keep going. I feel so very blessed today to be living a writer’s life, amongst other writers. To feel a sense of community, belonging even. I have not-written for most of my life. To be, finally, here, is nothing less than miraculous.

It stops with me

I just read “Her Rights at Work” by Anne Summers and began sobbing before I was half way through. I remember seeing the signs that said “ditch the bitch” and “Juliar” but I had no idea that the levels of harassment and vilification had become quite so bad. Thank you, Anne, for making this public.

If you think that Gillard isn’t harassed on the basis of her sex, here’s an excerpt from Anne’s speech that may change your mind:

For instance, the Facebook page Julia Gillard – Worst PM in Australian History had 15,686 “Likes” and 43, 265 people were “talking about” it on 22 August this year. By August 28 – in just six days – this had grown to 18,051 likes with 45,760 talking about it.

(Fortunately this is way short on the 132,000 people who “like” Julia Gillard on her official Facebook page).

Facebook has given us new ways to intimidate, bully, harass and defame on a remarkable and previously unimaginable scale. There was another very famous Facebook page that has since been taken down.

It was part of the Alf Stewart meme – a series of extremely crude FaceBook pages that have taken over the persona of a character in the soapie Home and Away and used him to promote some pretty disgusting notions. You will not be surprised to hear that most of these denigrate women and some of them actually glorify rape.

The one to which I am referring shows Alf saying: “Julz you fucking slut” on top of a photo of Gillard which has superimposed over it the words: “Smash my box Alf”. Under that is another photo of Alf, and the words: “If I wanted a greasy red box I’d go to KFC ya slut”.

This little graphic had been “liked” 43,253 times by the time it had been taken down. Perhaps just as alarming was the fact that it had been “shared” by 2,099 people. If each of those people who shared it with their friends had 100 Facebook friends, this image has potentially been distributed to over 200,000 people. (That’s more than one-third of the population of Newcastle).


What can we do? Blog about this speech and link to it. Share the link on Facebook. Tweet it with #itstopswithme, #whywestillneedfeminism and #destroythejoint. I am an Australian woman and I will not stand in silence while sexism rages around me. The next time someone makes an offensive and sexist comment, say firmly that you don’t agree. The next time you hear a racist or homophobic joke, even if it’s just someone saying “that’s so gay”, don’t retreat into silence.


In conversation: William Powers (and a lightening fast breastfeed)

Monkey arrived with tomato sauce smeared over his chin. He grabbed my hand as I stepped off the escalator and asked me what I’d been doing at the writers festival. Writing, I said. “But how were you writing Mama?” Sparrow is simultaneously desperate for sleep and needing a feed. The four of us sit in Beer Deluxe while Monkey eats a biscuit and then spills pale and frothy orange juice over the table. Sparrow sucks and murmurs, eyes rolling back in his head. I watch the clock. Could I feed, and hear about Monkey’s morning, and drink a coffee, and get to the toilet, and then make it here in half an hour? I could.

Bill Powers (@hamletsbb) is tall, and wide through the shoulders, and friendly. I have a father, but not a dad. This makes me susceptible to wishing nice men were my dad, and despite Bill being not a lot older than me, this is how I feel. His essay, Hamlet’s Blackberry, came from the observation that he was critiquing media, but leaving out the devices themselves. He saw people reviewing new gadgets and all the fabulous things they could do, but not discussing their impact. “The more I got connected digitally the more I felt my focus narrow down. People of all ages were saying that the more connected they were, the more they felt the rhythm of their life was changing in some fundamental way, that their attention had become scattered.”

I have felt this too. About ten weeks ago I had a poem accepted for publication in a Melbourne Poet’s Union anthology called In Their Cups. I got the news in an email. It was such a feelgood moment that I’ve been checking my email in hyperdrive ever since. I’m the rat that got some cheese when I pressed a button. There’s no more cheese, but I can’t stop pressing. And it’s not just email I check. There’s all my ongoing Words with Friends games to keep up with. And Twitter, I should check that (hang on I’ll just tweet about irony). And Facebook – I should let my friends know I’m at the MWF and having a great time. I arrive back in my body, in ACMI’s Studio 1, to hear Matthew Ricketson asking this:

How do you live happily in a digital world, but also deal with the burden?

“It’s the conundrum of connectedness. In history there have been moments like this one, for example the invention of the printing press, where everything changes, and people have a sense of drowning in information. Life in the crowd. Connective technologies draw us closer to everybody else in the world. We’ve been so trained by the screen and our attention is divided so thinly. What I had to do was open up a gap between my digital life and myself.” William’s glass of water is almost empty, but I haven’t seen him drink. He seems like someone I’d like to know. I’ll just look him up he’s sure to be on Twitter. Follow. Great. Check email: spam, a new follow from MWF retweeting my tweet, someone on freecycle with an offer of one hundred red bricks.

Stories about digital life are bubbling in me. A loved one who was staying in our bungalow and couldn’t sleep. She was convinced that her iPad would be able to help her, but was too far away from the house to pick up our wireless connection. So she walked into our freezing and pitch black backyard at two o’clock in the morning to search the app store. Or Monkey crying every time I take my phone back. “But I really really LOVE that phone”. He’s been playing since he was one, and long ago mastered the swipe and pinch. Or being in the doctor’s surgery last week and noticing that seventy five percent of the people in the waiting room were interfacing with smart phones, and wondering if we were all, already, cyborgs (Donna Haraway eat your heart out).

Then he played this ad. It gave me shivers and made me cry (not the first time that’s happened at this festival). Then this quote from a keynote address at a university: “Turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around you.”

At Bill’s house they call it the vanishing family. They all arrive in the lounge room at night, and then disappear to their various screens within ten minutes to “check something”. So they have the internet Sabbath. They turn off the household modem on Friday night, and turn it back on on Monday morning. I can feel myself filled with dread and defensive bargaining, reminiscent of when I was contemplating giving up smoking. The first few weekends they were totally lost. They wandered aimlessly around the house, went to their screens, and sagged when they discovered they could not disappear. “As time went by it got easier, but there were also incredible benefits. Eye contact came back. Minds slowed down on the weekends. Being right here right now. Present. Connected. Really alive. Showing up for your life. Some of that carried over when we went back to our digital lives.”

The session finishes. I check my email. Again. I text to say I’ll meet you under the big screen. I walk fast to hold Sparrow while he waves and grins, to eat a sandwich brought from home, to sit with my back in the sun and be fed poffertjes by Monkey, who pronounces the Dutch word perfectly, then kisses me on the cheek. “That’s a purple kiss Mama, because that’s your favourite colour and I missed you. Can I play on your phone now?”