Posts Tagged "Kev Howlett"


Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

joffabobbleSeveral months ago, we were sitting on the veranda (of the Busybird Studio ~ Gallery) having lunch and talking about football, when the topic of Joffa came up.

If you follow the AFL, even loosely, you’ll know that Joffa is a member of the Collingwood Cheer Squad, and when it looks as if Collingwood’s won the game, he’ll put on a gold jacket to celebrate the victory. During Collingwood games, cameras will often cut to Joffa for a reaction, particularly if Collingwood isn’t doing too well.

The public perception of Joffa – at least from those who don’t know him – is he’s an inarticulate, loud-mouthed bogan. Actually, Joffa suffers on two fronts: one, the personal stereotyping people impose on him simply by virtue of appearance and, two, because of the stereotyping applied to Collingwood supporters in general.

This was a matter that came up during lunch, and Kev and Blaise – the co-owners of Busybird, as well as supporters of the Hawthorn Football Club – were also curious about his public image. I’d met Joffa in 2001, and had sporadic contact with him pre-game for a couple of years, and then enough to exchange a ‘hello’ and a bit of a chat during games if I bumped into him, and I explained (to Kev and Blaise) that the Joffa who’s portrayed in the media doesn’t reconcile with the real person, and media play up the hoon angle because it makes for better copy.

Kev remarked that he’d recently read an article about Joffa, which talked about his early life where he’d been homeless, and that he now did a lot of charitable work, so it sounded like he had an interesting life. Blaise commented it was surprising nobody had done a book with him, a biography, and then suggested that was something we could maybe approach him about.

It was only a few days later that Joffa came into the studio to talk about the possibility of the book. His concerns were the ability to tell his story in a medium as big as an autobiography, admitting he could be repetitive, and that grammar and punctuation weren’t amongst his best assets, and, more importantly, that he would appear egotistical.

The nature of the book that Busybird wanted to pursue with Joffa was about more than football and the Collingwood Football Club, although obviously they would appear in it by virtue of Joffa’s association with both. But everybody has a story to tell, and Joffa’s life is about more than football, involving a number of elements (abusive upbringing, homelessness, a daughter who has epilepsy) that would appeal to any readers interested in a completely human story.

One of the agreements of the book was that 10% of proceeds would go to the Epilepsy Foundation. At Busybird, several of our books have altruistic outcomes, with a portion of proceeds being donated to various causes, so it was helpful that Joffa felt that a book about him could contribute to helping those with epilepsy (outside of the other charitable work he does himself, that is).

As an aside, we met with the Epilepsy Foundation about the book, who spoke glowingly about Joffa’s involvement with them, his capacity to engage with people, and his fundraising, working tirelessly and uncomplainingly, and often refusing reimbursement for expenses. It’s a far cry from the public image of Joffa, or from the way many would want to portray him.

In any case, a diffident Joffa left that first meeting about whether he could carry out the task. We’re not sure what happened in the ensuing days, but an excited Joffa contacted us not long afterward, eager to tackle the undertaking. Since, he’s steadily delivered chapters, ranging from being about his life to being about football. Our interns have been sorting through the material before it goes to editing, and have been moved by some of the events of Joffa’s life.

The book will be launched in May 2015, but we would like everybody to know that we have a crowd-funding campaign up at Pozible: Joffa Pozible Campaign. The work and expense that goes into a book is not something to be underestimated, and pledges come with great rewards. We also have a Joffa page up on our website now, too: Joffa Book Page.

Keep a look out for ‘Joffa’.


Postscript: You can now subscribe to the Busybird blog, which means you can have our blogs emailed directly to you. Just enter your email address in the light-blue ‘Sign up for the Busybird Blog’ subscription box in the sidebar and his Subscribe!

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Being a Busybird – Chocolate Biscuits Included

Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in Busybird | 2 comments

chocchipFor several weeks now I have been interning at Busybird Publishing, a small publishing house run by husband and wife super duo, Blaise van Hecke and Kev Howlett.

This place has a big heart and lots of chocolate biscuits. The experience here so far has just been fantastic. I’ve been able to address a lot of my weaknesses since starting here at the beginning of August. These include improving my limited editing, proofreading and copyediting skills, under the nurturing guidance of Blaise. I’ve also been doing some really fun, hands-on duties: reading submissions for their genre fiction anthology, [untitled], reading chapters from manuscripts, meeting authors and other interns, and giving general feedback on projects.

Another area I’ve been able to explore is illustration. Kev is also Busybird’s in-house illustrator. He took me under his wing and gave me helpful advice on things like storyboarding (something I’ve been looking at in class at school), and explaining his process of turning his wonderful hand drawn sketches into vibrant, eye-catching illustrations for Busybird’s children’s books.

One of the more important things that has stuck out for me is Busybird’s community spirit in the creative industry. As well as book publishing, Busybird run open mic nights once a month, welcoming emerging and established writers, musicians, poetry enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys the pleasure of hearing spoken word. The building the business runs from has a gallery element, with exhibitions running for roughly a month at a time for different artists. Then you have your writers retreats, workshops in writing and Photoshop (to name a couple), competitions, self-publishing opportunities for authors, manuscript assessments and more! *Leans against a wall and takes a breath*

In fact, I’m learning so much here, I’m already bugging Blaise and Les – Busybird’s Publications Manager – if I can stay on a bit longer when my course is finished. Les might think that’s because of the chocolate biscuits he constantly brings in, but I honestly feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what I can learn about this industry. The biscuits don’t hurt either.

I think it might be time for another coffee and a choc-chip biscuit. I better get back to editing too, I suppose.

Melissa Cleeman
Editorial Intern.

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Ten Excuses

Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

tenEverybody has a reason for why they don’t pursue what they want to do.

With writers, it seems these reasons are even readier. Talk to many writers, ask them how they’re going, and they’ll tell you why they haven’t progressed. It’s not their fault, though. Something’s come up. But they’ll get to it. When there’s time. Or at a certain date (New Year being the common starting line). Or when they’re feeling better.

Well, here are my mini-diatribes addressing ten popular excuses (in no particular order) people don’t write – because that’s what they are: excuses, not reasons.


1. Waiting for an ideal time in your life
When is this exactly? When the kids grow up, move out? When things settle down? When the planets align?

There will never be an ideal time in your life. There’ll always be something. That’s what life does to you. It throws things in your way. You can just get over one lot, when a new lot’s dropped on your head.

Instead of waiting for the ideal time in your life, learn to operate in the parameters that exist now. It may be the best you’re going to get, and even if it’s not, at least you learn to work in adversity.


2. Can’t today, I’ll start tomorrow
Tomorrow always seems ideal. Tomorrow’s fresh and new and – as of this moment – unsullied. But there are lots of clichés about tomorrow – e.g. ‘There is no tomorrow’, ‘Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today’ – and that sort of stuff.

Well, they’re right. Recognise this excuse as the ultimate procrastination. In all likelihood – unless you’re on Death Row awaiting sentencing tomorrow – you’re likely to find that tomorrow will be very much like today. Deal with it. Take your opportunity now.


3. Don’t have a sizable block of time to write in, just dribs and drabs
I am sure people exist who have virtually no time – single parents for instance. But truly examine what you do with your time through the course of the day. I knew a single mother who bemoaned her absolute vacuum of time, and yet she always somehow had time to watch The Voice, or a variety of other reality TV shows which had about as much cultural merit as odourless, noiseless flatulence.

Look at what you do through the course of a day. There will be indulgences. They might be tiny, mightn’t amount to much, but if that’s all you’ve got, then that’s what you’ve got to work with.

Otherwise, look at getting up a bit earlier each day, five days a week. Yes, it’s horrible, but if this is what you want to do, then this is what you need to do.

Ultimately, writing for fifteen minutes a day is better than no time at all, and those minutes will add up.


4. Waiting for inspiration
There’s a name for these people: pretenders.

No doubt, we all experience inspiration – an idea for a story, or for a painting, or whatever the case might be. But inspiration doesn’t do the work for you. That’s up to you. You need to sit down and then do what’s required – write that story, paint that painting, take those photographs. In short, you must realise your inspiration and interpret it onto the page.

Even if you have writer’s block, even if your brain seems bereft of anywhere to go, just sit down and FORCE yourself through the act of creating. It might be crap. You might have to toss it all. But just the act of trying might cause you to stumble upon an idea, get your creative juices flowing, and train you in the habit of trying.


5. Book’s getting/gotten boring
So many writers love writing the flashy scenes, the ones that appeal most. This is why so many writers start so many things, yet never finish them – when a story’s new, it’s exciting. But something happens. It gets boring. So they think it mustn’t be working. But wait! Here’s another new idea which is exciting, so that must be the way to go – start that instead.

The ideas that are most vivid in our mind are easiest to write, but they’re usually only a small part of a greater story. There will be seeming flat spots, though – seeming, because sometimes those flat spots provide even greater opportunities for drama or characterisation or whatever our story needs.

Work through it. If your story’s gotten tedious and you have another great idea you’d love to work on, tough. Stick with what you’re on. Finish it. Nobody’s interested in an incomplete story. Get through that tough spot. If you don’t, all you’re learning is how to give up.


6. Too tired
Oh boohoo. Really: boohoo. Unless you’re actually asleep, or in a coma, then you have the choice to write. You might think your brain’s too exhausted, that you won’t be able to be creative, but just sit down and try it. Force yourself to get words out on the page. Even if your face wants to plonk down on the keyboard, just do it.

Once your brain’s going, you’ll be amazed how little your tiredness affects you. But it won’t get going if you just surrender to the impossibility of being creative when you’re tired.


7. Not in the right headspace
Well, what exactly do we have to wait for? Nirvana? The right headspace is an illusion. The ideas are there, inside, in your head. On the surface of it, you might be preoccupied, angry, distracted, any of a number of different emotional states, but your imagination is all that matters, and that’s in there, just waiting for you to mine it.

If you have to go through anger, frustration, distraction, sadness, amour, or whatever to get to it, then so be it. Accept that. Once you do, once you compel yourself, you’ll be amazed how often you can find your way back to the right headspace.


8. No good physical space to write in
Perhaps you’d like some rustic cottage in the woods, with a typewriter by the window, a fire crackling in the fireplace, and a glass of wine. Would this be ideal?

Certainly, you might have kids running around screaming, playing, you might have noisy neighbours, you might have a noisy partner, but you have to learn to make do. One published author said she made the family understand that when her study door was closed, that was her time and she was not to be disturbed. That might not always be an option. But you may just have to accept what you have.

If that means your best place to write is with the laptop on your lap (hence its name: lap-top), on the couch with your feet up on the coffee table, so be it. That’s your physical space. You might like something more ideal, something luxurious, but until that comes along deal with what you have.


9. Too many distractions
By now, you would be able to guess that there’s not going to be any sympathy for this as an excuse. Tell people to stop bothering you. Stuff some earplugs in your ears. Pick up your laptop and go sit in the toilet, or go to the library, or save your work on a USB and book a library computer to use. There are always alternatives.


10. Low self-esteem
This is common to many creative people. Many of us think our work just isn’t good enough. It’s shit, so why bother? Let’s give up. Forget about it. Well, if that’s the attitude, why try at all? Why even nurture the aspiration?

All we can do are all the right things – get feedback, get edited, revise, revise, revise, submit. It mightn’t be good enough. But nobody was born brilliant, and even your favourite authors were edited. Put your work out there. It’s the only way to continue to improve. And if you want to write, accept you’ll be rejected, that there’ll be criticisms, that there’ll be doubts.

Your story’s not going to write itself. The story on your computer isn’t going to submit itself. A journal or publisher isn’t going to ring you and ask for your work. If you truly want to do this (writing, that is), then do it, regardless of how you feel about your work. It’s the only way to get to where you want to go.


This might seem an unsympathetic blog. It is. Life’s intolerant, and the writing life unforgiving. So many people search for a secret formula to writing, like it will unlock some wellspring and all the work will do itself, or doing the work will be so orgasmic that it won’t seem like work at all. There. The End. Perfect. Well, it doesn’t happen that way – and hasn’t happened that way for anybody. Anybody who thinks it does happen that way is an idiot.

Writing is excruciatingly hard work – to sit there, pour yourself on the page, to bare yourself to the world, to pursue the perfect word, the perfect phrase, the perfect evolution from one idea to the next, and for this wondrous jumble of words, sentences, and paragraphs to not only make sense, but to be entertaining, to be worth reading, to be airtight, so people aren’t coming along trying to knock it down, like it was a house of cards inviting one good, swift kick.

You want to write, sit down and do it. That’s it. That’s the magic formula. Any time there’s a reason to not to do it, dismiss it, or find a way to work around it, or bulldoze through it. Idealizing perfect conditions is just going to lead to procrastination. It’ll lead to you always finding an excuse as to why you can’t do it, or why you should stop.

But it always come back to doing it, and doing it daily. Writing’s a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes, and the stronger it becomes the easier you’ll find it to work through tiredness, distractions, writer’s block, et al, and as you do that, you’ll find those excuses become irrelevancies in your life, and all that’s left is you and the story you want to tell.


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Hear Ye, Hear Ye…

Posted by on Apr 12, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

file000234693144You’ve been waiting for it.

I’ve been waiting for it.

Heck, maybe the whole universe has been waiting for it. Let’s not undersell this.

page seventeen is open for submissions as of today. As of right now.

Now, for the one heckler in the back that just yelled ‘so what?’ I’m going to take a deep breath and quickly summarise.

As of April 15, all our submission windows are open to determine the content in Issue 11:

  • General submissions: short stories up to 5000 words, poems up to 100 lines and pitches for non-fiction pieces. (More info and submit here)
  • Prose competitions: short stories up to 3000 words, poems up to 100 lines. (More info and submit here)
  • Cover competition: photos and digital art in the running to be used as the next issue’s front cover art. (More info and submit here)

We’ll be taking all submissions from now until June 30. That’s just over ten weeks for you to submit your work and potentially be included in page seventeen’s eleventh issue. Which, incidentally, will also be released as an ebook – meaning more readers than ever will see your name in the contents.

And, it’s also my pleasure to announce the judges for this year’s competitions!

The short story judge is Emilie Collyer, two-time Scarlet Stiletto Award winner with short stories appearing in many of Melbourne’s top literary journals. (

The poetry judge is Ashley Capes, long-time friend and poetry editor of P17 and prominent Victorian poet. (

The cover comp judge is Kev Howlett, resident Busybird illustrator and artist.

Now, as the trumpets die down and the cheap paper steamers stuck across the archways peel away from their masking tape, some of you might be looking for hints about what we’re after in the submissions. What content will grab our attention the most? What themes will get the most attention?

Sorry. I can’t quite make it that easy for you. Our issues aren’t themed and have tackled a wide variety of content in the past.

What I can say, is that we love new ideas and fresh voices. Challenge yourself. Take a risk or two. We’ve always encouraged emerging writers to consider submitting to page seventeen, and we have a proud tradition of being the first publication for many emerging authors and poets. We want writing that bleeds passion and enthusiasm – whether the content is happy, grim or just delightfully off-beat.

To everyone submitting: good luck. Say hi at our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed, or send any queries through to

And with that, the wait is over. The production of Issue 11 has officially begun.

Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeen

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Dreams, Goals, Life …

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Busybird | 0 comments

keveverestbusybirdThis is Kev Howlett. He’s one of the co-founders/owners of Busybird Publishing, Busybird’s resident artist and photographer, is responsible for the weekly ‘Busy the Bird’ funnies that go up on Facebook (and are archived here on our website), cuts our videos (like the Open Mic Night highlights) and does an assortment of other things.

He also had the goal to climb up to Mount Everest Base Camp before he was fifty – something he just accomplished, with several years to spare. What’s more, he integrated the trek into a fundraiser for CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease), a condition his eldest son has, and took photographs of his expedition, which will comprise a full-colour coffee-table book due out in November, entitled Walk With Me, (a portion of proceeds which’ll go to CMTA Australia, to raise awareness and contribute to finding a cure for CMT).

That’s not a bad CV.

And it’s one that makes you think about pursuing and achieving the goals in your life.

What is your goal?

Be honest, you do have a goal. We all do. Maybe it was born in our youth, when the world was impossibly large and filled with boundless opportunities, and we had nothing but uncontainable enthusiasm. Or maybe, just maybe, as the everyday grind (work, household, kids, et al) shackles the innocence of our dreams, our hopefulness, that belief that all things can be possible, it’s become a symbol of rediscovery, reinventing ourselves into who we ideally want to be (or at least recapturing it, however fleetingly). Or maybe it’s just something we’ve always wanted to do.

Somewhere, inside of us, we have something we want to do that goes beyond everyday desires. It might be something outrageous, something most might scoff at. It might be grand and worldly. It might just be the sort of life we want. The point is it’s our Everest – and can come to represent something seemingly unconquerable. Or perhaps that’s just the way it grows as time goes by.

It’s easy – far too easy – for this goal to become unattended, if not neglected. For it to become buried. It can even become identified with a lament, Oh, I remember I wanted to do such and such. But now it’s no longer a goal. It’s not a dream. It’s just something that once existed, like flares on pants, or disco. The reality is there’s no time. Or it’s too hard. Or you’re too old. Or … well, there’s any number of other reasons which prohibit us from fulfilling our goal.

We get stuck in who we are, what we are, the circumstances of our lives.

But we have choices. We always have choices. And it’s important – vitally important – that we try to be true to that part of ourselves, even if everything else in our day-to-day lives is demanding (sometimes kicking and screaming) that our attention be focused elsewhere, and even (or perhaps especially) if our everyday lives shape our conscious, practical, adult minds into stodgy, doubting, pessimistic know-it-alls: Don’t be silly. You can’t do that.

But you can.

This doesn’t mean shove the kids in the closet, dump your partner, ditch all responsibilities and ties and go off on a wild adventure. But if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, if you’ve had a lifelong goal, or even if it’s something new, there’s someway to be true to it, to be true to yourself, and to find a way to do it.

The number one regret of dying people is that they didn’t take enough chances, didn’t pursue what they wanted.

Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to realise there are things you’ve left undone.

That there’s things you should’ve done.

And want to do.

Do them.


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