Occasionally we will ask emerging writers and their collectives to share with us, what it is they do. From critique circles to small-presses, writing sessions to literary booze-ups, we profile all of the wonderful opportunities for writers to find support networks and platforms for their work. This week it’s Scissors Paper Pen from Canberra.


A Survey of Ways in which Scissors Paper Pen is like The Skywhale.

by Duncan Felton, Scissors Paper Pen co-coordinator

I’ll be honest from the start and declare that I’ve long had a yearning to write about The Skywhale. The urge has been in me since soon after I heard of her existence, but this is my first excuse to do so for a public forum. Perhaps part of me thinks this effort will somehow carry me closer to her, or call her closer to me. Part of me just really freaking loves The Skywhale and I want to take on her inspirational awesomeness by association.

You see, I was overseas when this wondrous mammaried maiden was given to the world, to the meme generators, the media debaters, the haters and the celebrators, and I am yet to meet her in person. This unsatisfied desire for a face-to-inflatable-face experience is probably a good portion of the explanation for my obsession. She assures us on Twitter that she’ll be gracing the skies of Canberra soon (after all, she is one of many gifts for our Centenary), so I should probably just be patient. In the meantime though, perhaps the remaining reason for the appeal is that, like good art probably should, The Skywhale lends herself to a lot of resonances, interpretations and interconnections. She pushes buttons and she strikes chords. With this in mind, I thought I’d see how far I can stretch The Skywhale as a point of comparison for an ostensibly unlikely candidate: the Canberran literary collective that I co-coordinate, Scissors Paper Pen (SPP). So here we go.

The Skywhale is a wondrous, multi-breasted, mammalian behemoth who floats through the sky, spreading peace, love, maternal joy and either vapourous remnants of natural gas or milk to all who bear witness to her. Scissors Paper Pen, meanwhile, is a Canberra-based literary collective supporting writers, readers, thinkers, makers, doers and speakers in and around the territory via various venues. Fairly different entities, but hey, we both call Canberra our home, so there’s that to begin with. Furthermore, both The Skywhale and SPP are rejections of all those old clichés, stereotypes and easy summations of Canberra that I won’t even bother recounting. You already know them. But rather than complaining about them, we both just get down to doing what we do, more living proofs of the miscellaneous melange that is the Canberra region.

In SPP’s case, we strive to be living proof by initiating an increasing variety of literary endeavours, just because we’re mad for it. Since starting in late 2011, we’ve run events that are a mixture of music, storytelling, discussion, debate, art and a bit of something else in a coffee shop, a pub, a bookshop, a food co-op, gallery venues and the National Library of Australia. We’ve collaborated with Amnesty International, Women of Letters, You Are Here Festival, the National Young Writers Festival and a long list of local and interstate writers, musicians and artists. We’ve now settled into our bi-monthly routine of curating an evening of storytelling, music and a bit of something else called Something Else.

That’s not all. We’re about to release our first publication called Paperclip. It’s an anthological zine, containing myriad short works by peeps under 30. We publish all sorts of reviews, interviews and other writings on our blog. We run a variety of talks and workshops. We have a weekly radio show and we regularly fling soundcasts online. We’re about to start a bi-monthly book club and, most relevant to Writers Bloc, we’re ready to re-launch our monthly writers meetup called WordSmiths, starting Saturday September 14th. If any of that sounds interesting to you, get in touch and get involved! We’re very welcoming, so whether you want to write something for our blog, take part in an event we’re organising, or you’ve an idea for something else, we’d love to hear from you. Like the Skywhale, we try to nourish our community creatively, imaginatively, and otherwise.

Both Skywhale and SPP are pretty much utterly non-sensible from an economic perspective. While we both started up thanks to government funding (in our case from one of Express Media’s now sadly-defunct Write in Your Face grants), we now run more-or-less on our own steam (or gasmilk/milkgas) and a lot of love. SPP otherwise mostly subsists on a variety of pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth donations, so at least our artists get paid something. There might be some kind of vague economic rationale for SPP (and The Skywhale), but that’s not really the point. We just want to stick around and help make lit happen, as we say.

Canberra can be a transient community. Even The Skywhale isn’t always here. She goes gadding about the country, but always ensures she visits again before too long. Likewise, SPP isn’t insular and we welcome both ex-pats and newbies to the realms of both Canberra and writing. So if you’re in town or heading our way, we’ll endeavour to find you a place at one of our events or someone else’s, or on our blog or radio show. Our first focus is on younger and emerging writers (under 30s generally), but we’ve also been happy to work with both more established and older writers. Even if we can’t help you ourselves, we’d be happy to get you connected with someone in the Canberra community, whether it be a publisher, a poetry slam, a society, centre, or hackerspace. We’re not as light in the air as The Skywhale, but we think we punch above our weight (in a kindly fashion), just like Canberra does.

And just like The Skywhale, SPP has 10 nipples. In our case they are spread across five co-coordinators: me, Rosie, Adelaide, Lucy and James (who in true Canberra style moved to Melbourne, but comes back sometimes). SPP is our collective effort and we all do this in our spare time (and sometimes even during work hours). But really, Scissors Paper Pen is much more than us five. Scissors Paper Pen is a bundle of rad reviewers, writers, readers, musicians, venue owners and especially lovely readers, contributors and audience members. We don’t have what The Skywhale offers, but we do draw a bit of a crowd, and we do this because we want you to be a part of it.

Okay, I think we’ve stretched the comparisons on far enough. After all, for now there is only one Skywhale and we can’t really compare. Scissors Paper Pen is making lit happen, while The Skywhale is making tits happens. Still, we like to think both are an impetus to get involved in your creative community (in Canberra or elsewhere), to pursue what fires your imagination and inspires you to create, and to help make something awesome happen where you are, even if it’s not as awesome as The Skywhale. It might just come close.

Scissors Paper Pen is on Facebook, Twitter and Gmail (writetoscissorspaperpen at gmail dot com).Their website is scissorspaperpen.wordpress.com

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