Spirit of Punk review

Spirit of Punk

by Madeleine Hall

Spirit of Punk was a reading event with a difference. Held on Thursday night at 1000 £ Bend, its visitors were encouraged to read aloud any genre or style of writing they pleased. Some came prepared, others used the notepads provided to scribble some thoughts before sharing. Nothing was off limits. In fact, there was only one rule—each piece should be ‘no longer than a Ramones song’.

Channelling the spirit of punk, which is all about just having a go, the event provided a space where improvisation and spontaneity in writing were encouraged. It was a place where emphasis wasn’t always placed on the end result and where people felt free to share their unpolished work. The absence of judgement gave writers the freedom to share their best works in development. Indeed, one of the most memorable pieces shared was written only moments before being performed.

Writers stood up to the mic, one by one, to share their work in many different forms: fiction, poetry, non-fiction and performance poetry. There were stories full of heartache alongside those full of laughter and although the theme of the night wasn’t strictly punk itself, there were a few punk memories shared as well. Nicolas Brasch, creator and host, intends to make Spirit of Punk a regular event, which is just as well because there will be no shortage of people wanting to do it all again.

Find out about upcoming events at spiritofpunk.com.au.

Spirit of Punk was presented in partnership with Swinburne University.

Published in The Gazette


Nicolas Brasch
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Unlocking Creativity

Unlocking Creativity: Teaching Students How to Write Stories by Peter d’Arcy Clynes

Teaching creative writing is a contentious issue. Many writers themselves will argue that creativity can’t be taught, that writing courses are exercises in futility, or worse, exercises in sustained pretension. Many people worry that a writer’s skill is innate and that having something to say is essentially useless if you weren’t simply born lucky. Nic Brasch, lecturer of Professional and Creative Writing at Swinburne University, brings a no-nonsense approach to the practice of teaching creative writing. Unlocking Creativity, presented in partnership with Swinburne University, was a crashcourse guide to breaking down storytelling into its mechanical functions, and neatly conveying these functions to writers from pre-primary to undergraduate backgrounds. The focus of the workshop was on demystifying storytelling. Brasch’s style is totally pragmatic, with an emphasis on exploring the real techniques which drive readers to engage with stories. His style as a teacher has everything to do with engagement, participation and practice. The workshop was a real joy for me. I really disagree with the idea that writing is a skill you either ‘do or don’t’ have. For too long, the western canon has been defined by wealthy white men, preaching from their ivory towers. Being able to break down the skill of storytelling into a set of real, actionable practices, means breaking down the barriers of participation in English literature. When we talk practically about ways to write, we make practical headway on bringing new and diverse stories into the forefront of our social consciousness. Brasch’s workshop was a great example of how we can open up writing to people from all walks of life.

– Emerging Writers Gazette, 17 June 2016

Nicolas Brasch
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Why TAFE courses are important

The 2015 TAFE year started last week. Thousands of students embarked on an education that has the potential to change their lives. That’s not hyperbole – I’ve seen it, regularly. While much of the focus of higher education is on universities, I wish to argue the case that TAFE courses have a far greater impact on the lives of many Australians – young and older; and all discussions about the future of higher education should have TAFEs front and centre of the debate.

When most people think of TAFEs they think of apprenticeships and trade training. My experiences are in a very different area, and it is an area that has been at the forefront of cuts in recent years.

Last year Holmesglen Institute of TAFE announced it was ending its Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) course, one of the longest-running vocational courses of its kind in Victoria. The year before Box Hill Institute of TAFE made the same decision. The year before it was Chisholm Institute.

‘So what?’ you ask. ‘Who needs such courses? They’re just an indulgence.’

Well they’re not. For one thing, vocational-education PWE courses provide many disenfranchised and marginalised people with a voice. Many of those who enrol in PWE courses at this level, both young and mature, do not have the funds, the confidence or the educational background to go straight to university. To take even this step has been huge. For some, they are the first in their family to have even walked through the front gate of a tertiary institution. For others, their previous institution involved nightly lockdown and laundry duties. Some don’t have a permanent home; many scrape together the fare to get to class. Dyslexia, ADD and Asperger’s are not uncommon conditions among the students. A great many have mental health issues – and that’s probably what draws them to a PWE course; after all, many of the most creative and artistic people in history had similar issues.

Once in class they are shown how to tell their stories. They are guided through the process of reaching into their mind, foraging through their experiences and imagination, and translating them to the page – whether in the form of a short story, novel, script or poem. They are taught about sentence construction and introduced to professional writers, editors and publishers. Most importantly of all, they slowly gain the confidence to reveal themselves and to realise that their story (and their life) is worthwhile. Indeed, it is precious. TAFE PWE courses give them a voice – a very powerful voice, particularly when they go on to get published, as many of them do. Maybe it’s the power of their voices that others are frightened of.

When they graduate, many take the next step and enrol in degree courses, something they would never have dreamt of a couple of years beforehand. Some find work in communications departments of major companies or within government. Some become editors – for traditional and online publications. Some have the confidence to self-publish and self-promote, becoming authorpreneurs. All are far more adept than they were at communicating their thoughts. The experience empowers them and changes their lives.

As if that’s not enough to argue for the future of such courses, in addition they provide the community and business with well-trained communication professionals. All who graduate have to have achieved competency in a range of writing and editing subjects. Companies that bemoan the quality their employees’ grammar should hire those with TAFE PWE credentials. Pedants who write to newspaper editors with corrections to that day’s copy should recommend that today’s journalists be required to complete a PWE course. Parents who complain about errant apostrophes and unstructured sentences in school newsletters should email a link to a PWE course to the volunteer responsible. If things are bad now, how bad will they be if the few remaining PWE courses at this level in Victoria follow in the footsteps of those recently deceased?

These courses matter – they matter a great deal. Like the lives and voices of those who enrol, they are precious.



Nicolas Brasch

Horses in Australia: An illustrated history – launch

ELTHAMbookshop and NewSouth Books

warmly invite you to

the launch of


Horses in Australia celebrates the horse in Australia past and present. From Cobb & Co to Black Caviar, from the Walers of World War I to The Man from Snowy River, it showcases our best historical and contemporary images.  From the resilient workhorses of colonial Australia and the determined stockhorses rounding up cattle, to the thoroughbreds that capture the countrys imagination at every Melbourne Cup, horses have contributed to many of the great human feats in our history.  Here, alongside 180 stunning images, Nicolas Brasch shows why we love horses and how they have been captured so strikingly by our photographers and artists.


Nicolas will be joined by photojournalist, Bruce Postle, to show and discuss some of the incredible images from the book

Bruce Postle is one of Australia’s greatest and most highly decorated photographers. His images have appeared on the front pages of major newspapers (including The Age) for 50 years. In October 2014 he was inducted into the Melbourne Press Club Hall of Fame.

Date: Tuesday, November 25th

Venue: Banyule Theatre,10 Buckingham Drive,  Rosanna

Time: 6.30pm(sharp) until 8.15pm

Entry: $60.00 includes a signed copy of the book or a $50.00 gift voucher, an audio visual presentation by Nicolas and Bruce, a glass of wine and refreshments

Prepaid bookings are essential: Tel 03 94398700 elthambookshop@bigpond.com

ELTHAMbookshop and NewSouth Books

warmly invite you to

the launch of

Nicolas Brasch
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Melbourne Writers Festival 2014

Reflections of MWF

I was lucky enough to have five gigs at the 2014 Melbourne Writers Festival and each of them proved memorable –all for good reasons.

The first two sessions were held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat – a marvellous venue, rich in history, that includes a display of the Southern Cross flag raised at the Eureka Rebellion.

First up was an ‘in-conversation’ session with Jackie French, the Australian Children’s Writing Laureate for 2014/15. Titled Australian Stories, the session touched on ways to make Australian stories engaging; how Jackie conducts research (she doesn’t have to – she has an enormous capacity to remember what she has read and learnt); and many topics raised by the inquisitive audience.

Next was the Unlock Your Writing with Research Workshop which I delivered to a full house. Some of the points that I tried to impress on the participants were:

  • Take time to do your research. Take time to make decisions about which information to use. Your research informs the finished product.
  • The most important thing to note while you are researching is what I call the ‘wow’ factor. If something makes you go ‘wow’ – for whatever reason –m the chances are it will make others go ‘wow’.
  • Make sure to note all the sources you use. You will inevitably have to check something and in my experience it is usually something that you did not make enough notes re its source.
  • Keep all your research materials until after publication.

I then used my research work on my latest book, Horses in Australia: An Illustrated History as a case study – with plenty of examples of the ‘wow’ factor. Feedback was great!

The following morning it was off to Federation Square for two more sessions. The scene that I was met with on my arrival at Fed Square was the absolute highlight of the week: hundreds of mingling schoolchildren clutching books, rather than electronic devices.

My first session of the day involved chairing a session with Jackie French and the YA novelist, Kirsty Murray. It was titled Tales From Another Time and focussed on historical fiction and how these two great exponents of this genre are able to transport readers to the far gone times to give them a greater understanding of our past, history, myths and legends. I was particularly keen on exploring the relevance of historical fiction to today’s world; and Jackie and Kirsty make historical stories and characters that resonate with today’s readers. Again, input from the audience was a key to the success of the session.

The afternoon session was again just Jackie French and me. By this time (our third session), Jackie and I were developing a rapport. This session was titled Anzac Lives and was one of several sessions at the MWF dealing with WWI and writing about war.

My final session took place a couple of days later and was another of the sessions dealing with writing about war, Titled Words About War, the session was chaired by graphic novelist, Bernard Caleo, and involved Carole Wilkinson and me discussing how we have tackled writing about war for young audiences. We covered enormous ground and answered some penetrating questions from the audience.

The whole experience was enormously enjoyable and certainly makes one feel a part of a community. I think my favourite comment of the week came from Jackie French as we were engaged in book signings. Jackie, the Australian Children Laureate had a few keen fans line up for her autograph; I had far less of course; while nearby a queue that stretched about 200 metres ended at the table occupied by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton.

‘Doing a book signing near Andy Griffiths is the best way to bring one back down to earth,’ exclaimed Jackie.


Nicolas Brasch
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