Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Learning new tricks ...

I did something different recently. I wrote a short story for a competition based on a photograph. The photograph is one that was over all the newspapers earlier this year and which, for copyright reasons, I am unable to reproduce here. It was of a little boy on a beach. A little refugee boy in a red T-shirt, navy shorts and grey trainers who was washed up on a beach in Turkey. His name was Aylan Kurdi. You'll remember the picture. And the security guard, a tall man in black boots, who carried the little body to higher ground. 

The competition had a theme. It was "tidal". So, anything to do with water, the sea, beaches, etc. I knew this photograph would fit with the theme, but I had no idea where to start with the story.  What did I know about the refugee crisis, how did I feel about it? 

I used a character who was a bit like me, not strongly committed to any particular viewpoint, and I forced her to meet someone who was committed, who challenged her opinions. And made her reassess her life.  When I submitted the story I thought it still needed work, but my writing friends told me I'd succeeded in making it thought-provoking, if nothing else. 
 Anyway, I've been told that my story has reached the longlist - 17 entries were picked out of 245.  So it must have some merit. And I will keep you posted on its progress.

But I thought it worth mentioning here. It's something I might try again another day. As a writer I have sometimes been told that it's my job to bring topical issues to the notice of readers, but it's not something I've done before.  I usually steer clear of controversy. But now I feel just a little bit more confident. 


Friday, 16 September 2016

Going Down Swinging II

Once more, with feeling. This time the lovely people at Going Down Swinging have included me in their latest anthology, issue 37.   I am, as always, honoured and delighted to be a part of this stunning literary journal, and to be featured alongside poet and writing friend Rebecca Jessen, and Linda Brucesmith. 


Regretfully, I have been away from this page for too long, which doesn't mean I haven't been writing!  I did have a wonderful three weeks in Africa, but I have also written two short stories, which I have submitted to comps, finished my thesis on the house's role in Australian Gothic Literature and handed it in - a lengthy process in itself - got some more words down on my current work in progress, read a number of novels, and taken a thousand photographs.  I would like to say that I will be blogging here soon, but I don't want to make a promise I can't keep. Until then, a piccie from my travels ...


Monday, 20 June 2016

Going Down Swinging

A piece of my writing entitled "Love Letter" has been published online in the Australian literary journal Going Down Swinging. You can go here to read it. I am immensely grateful to the online editor for showcasing my work. 

Google Images

Friday, 6 May 2016

Dying in the First Person : Nike Sulway

I am honoured and thrilled to have been asked to read at the lovely Nike Sulway's book launch tonight (6 May). The launch is at Avid Reader, West End, Brisbane, and you can get all the details here. I will be reading from my manuscript Sargasso, which was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards last year, in the Unpublished Manuscript / Emerging Author category.  Part of being short-listed grants me the privilege of a mentor, who has gone over the manuscript with a fine toothcomb as they say. I am just grateful she has gone over it.  Anyway, I am working on the revisions, and the end is in sight.  Hooray.  

I have yet to read Nike's book, Dying in the First Person, but I am sooo looking forward to it.  You can be sure I will post a review.  Watch this space. 

And because I love the cover of the book so much, here's a preview.  Isn't it beautiful? 

And some words from the blurb (giving me goosebumps):

In gorgeous and incisive prose, Sulway conjures a haunting, moving story of the complex relationships and allegiances of family life, of silence and memory, and the power of words and the imagination to transform everything.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Margaret River Press Interview

Late last year I was honoured and privileged to be interviewed by Laurie Steed of Margaret River Press in Western Australia.  The interview is now up on their website.  You can go here to read it.  I've never won their short story competition, but have been shortlisted - three times now.  Next month they will publish a new anthology, Shibboleth & other stories, which includes my short story "Teacher".  

Margaret River Press provides a wonderful opportunity for emerging writers to be recognised and published in their anthologies and, as always, I am immensely grateful to them.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Like I Can Love by Kim Lock

I don't often use this blog for book reviews, but every so often a book comes along that deserves some space and time.  This is one of those books.

Like I Can Love by Kim Lock is being released on March 22. I am honoured and privileged to know Kim, who lives in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, and it's a pleasure to introduce you to her novel. Kim and I, along with some other gorgeous people, were at the QWC / Hachette Manuscript Development Program in 2013.  And while I am still struggling to get publishers interested in my manuscript, she has had a dream run. Not only has Like I Can Love been snapped up here, but it's being translated and will be sold in Germany.  Kim has tackled the subject of domestic violence, but she's done it with a great deal of tact, professionalism and some beautiful writing. How would you feel if you discovered your best friend was being not so much physically abused by her husband, as manipulated and belittled? What would you do, what would you say? Would you indeed do anything? The blurb on the back of Like I Can Love says it is both heartbreaking and terrifying, and I urge you to read it. It's a topic that deserves our full attention. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Tincture Journal

I am delighted to introduce you to Tincture Journal , a quarterly issue of fiction,
poetry and creative non-fiction edited by Daniel Young.  My lovely young writing friend, Bec
Jessen told me all about them a couple of months ago, and now I am in the latest issue, together with one of her wonderful pieces of prose poetry.  Whoo Hoo.

The piece I wrote is a bit of memoir about both my daughter and my experience with breast cancer. Read to Me was placed second in the Launceston, Tasmania, Literary Awards in 2014, and I had been struggling to find publication for it, but now thanks to Tincture it is available to read online for a small price (a year's subscription is $AU25).  It is very gratifying to see this piece finally being published, and my thanks go to the wonderful team at Tincture. Who are very professional and, um, young. (I find it scary when young people are so brilliant.) 

There is much to like about Issue Thirteen. For a start it has a beautiful cover, and those of you who read my blogs know that in my world covers count for a lot.  There is some wonderful content. I can particularly recommend Bec's piece, field officer no. 302, and Summertime by Grace Heyer. 

I never write a blog without eye-candy but I have been dithering about images. In the end I have chosen something indicative of:

Tincture: to be tinged or imbued with a slight amount of. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Starry Night

I've recently returned from Europe. Yes, I know, I am lucky. I have a wonderful person by my side who spoils me. That aside, we spent some time in Amsterdam, where neither of us had been before. And again, said person indulged me and we had a long narrow apartment in a tall, narrow and gabled building on the Amstel -- which in plain English is one of major canals.

The point of all this is that we spent a morning at the Van Gogh Museum. (Note to travellers:  book your tickets online, get there before 9am.)  The point of all this is that the museum was fascinating -- I loved it. I loved the paintings, the insight into Van Gogh's life, and I felt a deep sadness that this man had died without knowing how loved and revered he would become. 

When I finally reached home after our travels, I found a piece of writing I did some years ago in which a little girl examines Van Gogh's Starry Night, and in case you're not sure this is Starry Night -- it's my favourite Van Gogh painting.

Image: Google.com
Then little by little, using that para of description as a starting point, and the little girl who I turned into a young woman, a story started forming inside my head. I wish I knew how this worked! 

I drafted and redrafted, and redrafted still further, and then I sent it to a friend to critique, still with the opening para being the description of the painting. At that stage I didn't know what the relevance of the description was, all I knew was that I liked it. But it took my friend one reading to work out what the themes were - belief, resurrection, love - and why the description would work better further along in the story. (Sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees.) 

I think I've finished the story now. I am certainly very happy with it. In fact, I am rather in love with it. I think this has got to do with the fact that I've been there, inside the story. The pub where my protagonist goes to have gluhwein is one where I've been; the cobbled street she walks along is familiar to me.

So, if you're looking for inspiration for a short story, sit yourself down in front of a painting (famous or otherwise) and describe what you see, how it makes you feel. Who knows, maybe you'll get lucky.