Gold

June 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm (Uncategorized)

‘The title jumped into my line of vision, and I swallowed without thinking.

‘To be Fed to Red Birds’…those six plump, delicious words.’

Today I wrote in Sunshine Library. Beside me was The Wolf, pen moving in his notebook. In front of me was the Melbourne city skyline on the horizon, and in front of me was a coffee.

It was a stellar day.

I’ve also been working on my novel in Melbourne’s majestic State Library. In between pen strokes I often stop, look up, and lose myself in the stunning dome of the Reading Room.

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State Library, Melbourne

When winter sky turns black and my front door loses its appeal, I curl up on my studio floor here at home and turn pages in my Iceland notebook, beckoning my novel out.

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My studio floor

I put my pen down long enough to celebrate my birthday, an occasion I always adore. There were dirty martinis with bookmarks, calls from Rotterdam and New York, and a snake skeleton so beautiful I may have actually gasped.

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At the Moat, under the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas

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Birthday bones

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Enjoying my birthday (NB: photo may not be current)

In between novel drafts, I’ve also been submitting short stories. I’m delighted to say that three of them have been accepted: I have work upcoming in both River Teeth and Stereo Stories, and one already published by the lovely Mookychick over in the U.K. This little tale, written around a Solstice theme and centering around a certain lupine love, is actually my 100th accepted story.

It’s been seven years coming, but it feels damn fine.

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‘Gold’ by Rijn Collins (link here)

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Medusa knows best

May 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

My friends are particularly adept at selecting stellar gifts for me. These range from a taxidermy workshop to Culture Club concert tickets, a bat skeleton to a tattoo design. An artist friend drew me an astounding Medusa for my thirtieth birthday; she decorates my left arm with her mesmerising stare and defiant pose, reminding me whenever I need it most how to straighten my own spine.

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Icelandic fortune cards found at a Reykjavik flea market: ‘Let go of it.’

This present, however, was not on my birthday but as a random I-love-you-and-I-thought-this-would-make-you-happy gift.

The Wolf bought me a DNA test.

I’ve always known my heritage to be Celtic. My grandfather was from Belfast, and passed on to me both an adoration of books, and an Irish passport, in addition to my Australian one. I overdosed on the Pogues and Van Morrison by working in an Irish pub for almost a decade, and studied Gaelic for years (although it’s so challenging that all I can do now is order a Guinness, and tell someone to fuck off – a heady combination).

But while I’m deeply grateful to be able to travel so easily through Europe, it’s not Ireland or the UK that I’m drawn to.

I head for the fjords, every time.

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Ólafsfjörður, northern Iceland

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Siglufjörður, northern Iceland

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Akureyri, northern Iceland

I’m so smitten by the snowy lands; always have been. Last month I returned from my beloved Iceland, with my Wolf and best friend Lisa in tow. We drove from one side of the country to the other on ice slicked roads in gale force winds, Lisa and I sharing capfuls of duty free vodka to stem the nerves. I showed them the tiny fishing village up near the Arctic Circle where I did my first writing residency, and where my novel ends (or will, when I finish it, all muses considered). I walked around Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður in my army boots and red riding hood, tracing where my protagonist eats, drinks and dreams, and then headed to Reykjavik to consider her stomping ground down south.

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The street in Reykjavik where Elva lives, the protagonist in my novel

It was my fifth time in Reykjavik. The city – and country – spellbinds me. The bright primary colours of the buildings, the veneration of literature and language, the crunch of boots on snow, the glorious northern light, the stench of sulphur water when you turn on the shower….wait, that last one was kind of hard to cope with, actually. But the magic worked again, as I suspect it always will in that otherworldly land. I’ve returned to Melbourne even more full of a desire to head there again and again, and importantly, to pour out more of my novel as often as I can.

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Downtown Reykjavik

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Blues gig poster, Reykjavik

My muse works well in sub-zero temperatures, as writing residencies in Iceland and Finland have shown me. She’s standing over me with a bowl full of Skyr and a snow boot tapping impatiently, reminding me to WRITE WRITE WRITE.

My DNA test results came back. When I saw the circles drawn on a map of Europe, showing me my ancestry origins, the 36% Irish surprised no-one. There were tiny traces of the Iberian Peninsula, Central Asia and Jewish heritage, which fascinated me. But damn, the intake of breath when I saw the second biggest area of ancestry, a circle drawn around the northern countries I adore.

Nordic: 35%.

The Wolf was right: happiness guaranteed.

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Siglufjörður snow in day

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Shaking out the lava stones

April 30, 2017 at 9:58 pm (Uncategorized)

I landed back in Melbourne late last night, after a nightmare flight from Berlin where the smell of smoke sent a wave of visible fright around the passengers, and sent flight attendants running – literally – through the cabin. All I could do was clutch The Wolf’s hand, down a Valium (or three) and mentally go over all the memories from this astounding trip.

Italy held…Easter palm fronds tucked into backpacks at Termini train station in Rome, lashings of tiramisu, balconies covered with ivy, skulking alley cats, graffiti covered buildings, clifftop villages reached by winding stone steps, lemon groves and limoncello, pastel coloured villages spilling down to the sea, saying ‘Ciao’ for goodbye,  tiny cups of espresso, and – ahem – very attentive men.

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Temple of the Vestal Virgins, Rome

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Praiano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

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Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Iceland held…the home of my novel’s protagonist, Elva, in downtown Reykjavik, snow so horizontal it almost blinded, Viking ships, thick delicious skyr, army boots slipping on ice, notebooks filled with ink, buttery Icelandic fish stew, breathtaking fjords, hair raising mountain roads, avalanche barriers, more snow, primary coloured buildings, saying ‘Bless’ for goodbye,  staggeringly expensive meals, and such glorious nostalgia from my previous trips that I knew just where to step.

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Sólfar sculpture in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Ring Road from Reykjavik to Siglufjörður, Iceland

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Siglufjörður, far nothern Iceland

Berlin held…ten previous trips of nostalgia, sauerkraut in beer gardens, an abundance of bears, huge Milchkaffees, more wrought iron balconies, saying Tschüss’ for goodbye, my favourite café on Kastanienalle, boots on cobblestones, museums about the Stasi and the Berlin Wall, tiny bottles of Jägermeister, thick salty pretzels, Nick Cave and Christiane F. pilgrimages, and lashings of laughter with My Wolf.

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Beautiful Prenzlauer-Berg, Berlin

 

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Chodowieckistraße, East Berlin

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My beloved U-Bahn system, Berlin

When the jet lag abates, the stories start…I promise.

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Fljúga

March 29, 2017 at 9:27 pm (Uncategorized)

My March post is getting pushed to the end of the month, as my suitcase gets pulled out of the wardrobe.

Last week I had the supreme pleasure of reclining in my best friend’s lounge room, champagne in hand, Billie Holiday on the turntable. We discussed goddess temples in Rome, plague beaks in Berlin, and my ever present focus on glorious Iceland, setting of both my novel and my daydreams.

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Our lazy Sunday, sorted

We’re hitting the road again in one week.

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I need to dig out my army boots and leopard print ear muffs, not used since my last writing residency in the forests of Finland. I have a pair of thermal hot pants I bought as a joke, yet was profoundly grateful for on my first writing residency, in far northern Iceland. I’m gradually accruing my winter wardrobe, for I know I’ll be heading back to this part of the world, again, and again, and again.

This trip to the snow will be bookended by time in Italy, where I’ve never been, and Berlin, for the tenth time. My Jewell and I will add to our treasure trove of mementos picked up at the Place du Jeu de Balle flea market in Brussels, the Flohmarkt in Berlin, and the Feira da Ladra in Lisbon, all attached to her wall with great reverence and joy.

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Lisa’s wall of jewels

 

My own collection involves Czech marionettes, Icelandic doves, and Amish flamingos…stories, each and every one of them.

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My memories

I spend eleven months of the year working like a maniac, just for those few weeks I can pull my suitcase over cobblestones, drink bad airport coffee, and stand with my notebook open, beckoning stories to jump in.

And it’s always, always worth it.

I’ll bring you back more stories, I promise.

 

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If your life is burning well

February 28, 2017 at 9:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

They say that on a list of fears, public speaking would rate highly for most people.

Here’s the thing: I love it.

Seeing audience seats fill is a beautiful sight. The butterflies generally kick in at this point, watching just off stage. But they’re the joyous, I-can’t-believe-I-get-paid-for-doing-something-I-adore flutters of excitement that make me reach happily for the microphone.

No, my list of fears is markedly different from most. It includes, just so you know, an absolute horror of people who walk on stilts, and a case of trypophobia that renders me mute in the face of crumpets.

But that’s another story entirely.

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Performing ‘The Old Man with Birds for Hands’ with Michael Madden on cello

I hit the road again last weekend as part of the wonderful Stereo Stories. I perform regularly with this talented and dedicated troupe of writers, singers and musicians, and love every moment. We tell the tales of why a song resonates for us; whether it reminds us of our first lover or our last birthday, the people who’ve bruised us or the places that have nestled under our skin. On stage we have a full band performing the songs as we read, or sometimes a lone singer/guitarist. This combination elicits heartfelt responses from the audience, with many appreciating the songs with a fresh perspective, or even hearing them for the first time.

And when they approach me after a performance, I often ask them ‘What songs would you write about?’

My own writing pieces on the Stereo Stories website cross genres, ages and moods. I’ve written about wanting to see Babes in Toyland in concert in my feminist punk obsessed 20’s, yet being held prisoner by my agoraphobia. I wrote about sitting in a karaoke bar near my artists’ residency in a tiny rural village 200 km from Helsinki, listening to a poignant Finnish version of Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down.’

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The Pitkospuupolku through the forest, Joutsa, Finland

There’s a tale of mine about narrowly escaping sexual assault my first night living alone while listening to Ike and Tina Turner, and another about dragging my suitcase along a U-Bahn platform blissfully humming my time honoured return-to-Berlin song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

I once ended up in Jackson, Mississippi only to realise I was there purely for the Johnny Cash song. And I had the unique experience of watching a character of mine come to life in an ABC recording studio, in the shape of a surly taxidermy flamingo singing a gravelly Tom Waits songs.

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Berlin Wall

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My latest addition to my flamingo collection

My most personal story on the website, however, is a tribute to both Leonard Cohen and the man who’s changed the course of my life with his gentle yet wolfish ways: my partner and fellow writer, Chris. It was at times daunting in its intimacy, but what are songs if not conveyors of human emotion and experience? Listening to ‘Undertow’ by Leonard Cohen in our first flush of love is a gorgeous memory, even more so now that Cohen has left us.

For all my Stereo Stories, click here.

On this latest road trip for Stereo Stories, Chris and I hit the road with the Rolling Stones on the stereo, bad petrol station coffee, and excited thigh squeezes. Australia is made for jaunts like this with its wide open roads and sun bleached landscape. We passed kangaroo and koala road signs as we drove 250 km north, before hitting Wangaratta and our motel.

Rehearsals gave way to quick pizza and beer refreshment before the stage lights lifted. And it was, as always with Stereo Stories, a joyful experience. The Wangaratta crowd was warm and welcoming, the band and readers hit their stride beautifully, and then there were long and lovely chats back at our motel well into the night, discussing life, love and everything in between, with glasses of shiraz and shared slots on the stereo.

Stereo Stories (Tony Proudfoot Photography)

And there you have it. Be it Williamstown Literary Festival, Newstead Short Story Tattoo, the Emerging Writers Festival, Brimbank Readers and Writers Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Write Around the Murray Festival or any future adventure, it’s always a joy to climb on stage and reach for the microphone.

So in closing, let me ask you…what songs would you write about?

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Snowbound

January 27, 2017 at 6:31 pm (Uncategorized)

I am knee deep in snow.

I know, I know. Again, right?

I wish I could tell you it was literal. I wish I could say I was lifting my red riding hood over my plaits, pulling on my thermal gloves with the leopard print cuffs, and heading down past the fish factory to Samkaup supermarket for some skyr and harðfiskur.

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But while my writing residency in a tiny Icelandic fishing village up near the Arctic Circle may be over, the inspiration I found there is making ink pour from my pen, straight into my notebook.

I’m working constantly on my novel, set in both Reykjavik and the village where I stayed, Ólafsfjörður. Elva is a half-Australian, half-Icelandic amateur taxidermist who works in a cabinet of curiosities, skinning small creatures, slipping on the ice, and hiding her growing obsession with a famous Icelandic book in the secret room of her attic apartment.

If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book, people.

So I have to finish writing it.

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In ten weeks, I’m pulling out the red riding hood, packing up my pens, and heading north again. I’m going to research the colourful nature of Icelandic slang, the smell of the fish factory, and the exquisite sound of ice crunching under my army boots. Just like my protagonist, however, this is usually heard moments before those boots slide out from under me and I hit the ground. Thirteen years of dance classes and I’ve never quite found the grace necessary to remain upright in the snow.

I’m relishing writing about the differences between Australia and Iceland. Elva has one foot in each place, and ever since my first visit to Reykjavik almost ten years ago, when I watched the sun rise over this sculpture, so have I.

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Elva sits under her skylight waiting for the northern lights. As I write, I’m barefoot in the summer sun, nursing a beer in my back yard. Elva’s ritual before leaving the house involves a thick woollen scarf wound around her mouth; mine is a thick coat of coconut oil over my 30+ sunblock. I eat kangaroo steaks with a blue cheese salad; she tries to get the hang of harðfiskur með smjöri, thin slices of dried fish smothered with butter. She has just about the same luck with that as I did, however…which is to say, none at all.

Both lands are polar opposites, in geography and climate. I grew up with bushfire sirens that made you shudder when they rent the air. With my father a firefighter, I remember as a child watching the ash land on my school desk, rendering me mute with fear. Icelanders have avalanche sirens that make each and every villager look up, warily eyeing the towering peaks surrounding their homes.

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It’s not an easy position to be in when the land of your birth, and the land of your heart, are on opposite sides of the world.

But damn, is it glorious to write about them both, and lose yourself in your own novel.

Ten weeks and counting!

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Hex signs at midnight

December 27, 2016 at 6:23 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

I may be alone in this sentiment, but for me, 2016 managed to sneak in great gold.

I’ve been hearing laments about the darkness of this past year, especially in regard to the slew of writers and artists we’ve lost. For a child of the 80s, as I am, this has been particularly striking. Don’t get me started on politics this year either. But what’s writing if not stepping stones out of the bleakness and into the gold? So here is my personal round up of a year that has been, to be honest, pretty damn rewarding.

2016 held performances at five literary festivals, three visits to the ABC studios, more writing paycheques than ever before, one gig as a short story competition judge, one interview feature with the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas here in Melbourne, and several emails of interest about my novel from a publisher. There were fourteen stories performed, recorded or published, and one exciting literary award that had me throwing a cocktail frock, notebook and passport into a bag, and jumping on a last minute flight to New York for the ceremony.

And we won first prize.

With the wonderful Lea Redfern, producer extraordinaire

With the wonderful Lea Redfern, producer extraordinaire

The link to the New York Times article

The link to the New York Times article

Winning the Sarah Awards for Audio Fiction remains one of my proudest professional achievements as a writer. Photos of me in the New York Times: one. Congratulatory messages from friends, family, editors, publishers and producers: about fifty. Dirty martinis in celebration: you don’t want to know! ABC producer by my side and in my heart: one lovely Lea. Two amazing friends to put me up, one in New York and one in Philadelphia. One extravagant lunch at the Waldorf Astoria with lobster, caviar and champagne held high. Years spent writing to my Philly penpal: about seventeen. Number of tattoos she’s got in that time: pretty much uncountable. One trip to Amish country, and numerous slices of divine Shoo Fly pie. Distelfinks on walls: two. Ribs cracked upon hugging both my US loves goodbye: at least three. What a joyful, ebullient, unexpected trip!

Manhattan martinis

Manhattan martinis

Amish country, Pennsylvania

Amish country, Pennsylvania

Amish county with Erica

Amish county with Erica

Distelfink hex sign in Philly

Distelfink hex sign in Philly

Flamingos sent my way to honour the story, ‘Almost Flamboyant’: about ten.

My latest addition

My latest addition

Four blood red trumpet lilies tattooed down my arm in long, painful sessions, to join the three already there. Delight at finding a trumpet lily tree outside my new house: immeasurable.

In progress...

In progress…

Completed...for now.

Completed…for now.

Bella donna trumpet lilies

Bella donna trumpet lilies

A move to the west of Melbourne, after 25 years lived north. One reason for this: my beautiful Wolf. Two arches of the iconic West Gate Bridge beckoning me home, seven bookshelves in our new house, and one writing studio. After a tiny kitchenette with only two burners for a decade, a new kitchen with huge stove allowing me to cook Jewish feasts of slow cooked Tzimmes, root vegies in a glaze of cider, cinnamon and golden syrup, til our house smelled divine and our bellies and hearts were full. One wary cat, still hesitant to explore her new home. Hours already spent on the sun deck, welcoming summer: dozens.

Back yard bliss.

Back yard bliss.

2016 saw many trips out of town, from the canola fields of Ninety Mile Beach to the sun bleached bones of rural Moyston. One trip brewing for next year…Iceland, I’m coming back!

Moyston, rural Victoria

Moyston, rural Victoria

The Wolf in Moyston, rural Victoria

The Wolf in Moyston, rural Victoria

One taxidermy workshop, nine meticulous hours of skinning and stitching, and a TV crew to film it. Uncountable headshakes from my man when I suggested our new home contain a tank of flesh eating dermestid beetles. Next year, perhaps?

Scalpel and shiraz at taxidermy class

Scalpel and shiraz at taxidermy class

Here’s to the joy and promise of 2017…may it bring you indulgent nights with friends, steps on welcoming soil, and always, always, words spilling from your fingertips.

To 2017, and all its stories.

To 2017, and all its stories.

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Like all good westerns

November 28, 2016 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Let me get this straight: I didn’t much like it at first.

I’d asked a friend who worked out west what the area was like and she’d told me ‘Well, it’s a bit stabby.’

A bit stabby. Oh, good. Northcote, my home of 25 years, had been that way when I first moved in, but was now resplendent with cocktail bars, vintage clothing stores, and tattoo parlours. It was known as being home to more musicians and lesbians than any other area of Melbourne, a fact which pleased me greatly.

The west, in comparison, was gritty and industrial, houses dwarfed by enormous petrochemical vats and factories, right at the base of the gigantic West Gate Bridge.

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There was only one thing that could get me to make weekly visits out there.

His name was Chris.

Most of the men and women I’d dated were from my inner northern enclave of dirty martinis and bluegrass beer gardens. Chris lived in Sunshine, a suburb out west that I didn’t find quite as lovely as its name. Each Wednesday I took the train out there and waited at the station for him to pick me up. More often than not I would have a slew of essays to correct in my bag, a bottle of red wine, and a spring in my step that meant I would be seeing my lovely British wolf. And then a flash of blue, a door swung open, and a cheeky ‘’Ello darlin’!’ as I climbed into the car, and my new adventure.

I’d never dated a writer before. On our first meeting we spoke of the blissful solitude of snowy lands, with my novel set in Iceland, and his in Sweden. It wasn’t long before we were trading drafts, delighting in each other’s ink and talking long into the night about point of view, tense and setting. He shared my love of research, and we happily traded stories of pagan solstices, the sinister beaks medieval doctors wore when tending to plague patients, and ancient cartographer symbols.

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I’m not sure when it happened. Week after week I would listen to the blues as I watched Melbourne’s city streets give way to the west, on my way out to Chris. Sometimes I’d meet him at his studio, which he shared with laughing and lovely dressmakers from the Ivory Coast. I got to know the African shops near by, and the best place to buy fresh Vietnamese rolls. And then one day I found myself leaning forward in my train seat, eagerly waiting for the first glimpse of the West Gate Bridge. When it came into view I felt a surge of familiarity and joy; an actual rush of pleasure. The bridge, and the red-ringed stack of the Newport Power Station below it meant I would soon see Chris.

These symbols of the west used to feel so alien to me after 25 years on the other side of the city. Somehow, at some point, they had become beacons of comfort, landmarks of an area that was no longer ugly and industrial, but edgy and exciting. Slowly, they’d come to feel like home.

And now they are.

View of the West Gate Bridge from the end of our street

View of the West Gate Bridge from the end of our street

I thought I’d feel the melancholy swirl in packing up my Northcote flat after ten years of living there, but it was mercifully absent. Once the bookshelves were empty, I knew I’d already moved. I did stand on Northcote hill with my favourite view of Melbourne to smile goodbye, but I didn’t linger.

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We’ve been living in our new house out west for two weeks. There are still a few boxes in the garage, but my antique writing desk is set up, my taxidermy laid out, and my cat has finally come out from under the bed. After ten years with a tiny kitchenette, I’m loving cooking for my man and his son in our huge kitchen: tonight it’s a three hour slow cooked Jewish feast. I work on my deadlines while the boys fight with foam swords. We walk to the Stony Creek Backwash, an old bluestone quarry right under the bridge that’s now a wetlands sanctuary. And though it still surprises me, the industry and sheer scale of things out west brings me comfort and joy.

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Reading nook one.

Reading nook one.

Reading nook two.

Reading nook two.

Chris just told me that from our lounge room window, we can see the Australian flag on the top of the West Gate Bridge. I had to stand on a chair to see it (his six foot frame greatly exceeds mine), but I’m going to take it as a sign anyway.

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With my heart the shape of a begging bowl

September 30, 2016 at 1:50 pm (Uncategorized)

“I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.”
― Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

These are the words you really don’t want to hear five minutes before your long distance train pulls out of central Melbourne: ‘We apologise, but due to defective brakes this service will be replaced by buses.’

All the way up north, interstate to New South Wales. In the teeming rain. With only one bar of your i-pod allowing you to share the journey with Howlin’ Wolf. And with a sold out gig awaiting you at a literary festival just over the border.

Thank god I shared the journey with Lisa, my partner in crime on many an adventure, from New Orleans to St Petersburg, New York to Lisbon. We had books and notebooks, liquorice to snack on, and potent ginger beer smuggled on board in an iconic orange Penguin Publishing flask I won in a writing competition, that would also serve us well on the train ride home later that weekend.

We were all set.

When the replacement bus spat us out into New South Wales four hours later, the rain was monumental. Our hotel was twenty minutes’ walk away, my leopard print umbrella quickly turned inside out, and my suede boots were so sodden I left marks on the carpet when we eventually trudged into the hotel we’d been told was a faux Tudor/medieval slice of magic that simply could not be missed.

Truer words had never been said.

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I don’t know about you, but when I travel I expect there to be suits of armour in the lobby, and jousting sticks on the walls of the dining room.

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And then we were ready for a walking tour of the gorgeous Art Deco architecture of Albury, and the Murray River.

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We were in Albury for the Write Around the Murray festival, where I was performing as part of Stereo Stories. In a room full of literary names, I told my tale of visiting Jackson, Mississippi in honour of Johnny Cash, with a full band on stage singing the iconic song.

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My second performance was based on the Tom Waits song that inspired ‘Almost Flamboyant’, the story of mine that had me flown to New York to pick up first prize in the Sarah Awards earlier this year. With the wonderful Jack Gramski growling the Waits song ‘Everything you can think of is true’, I told the tale of recording ‘Almost Flamboyant’ in the ABC studios, imagining flamingo feathers fluttering all over the console.

I was back in the ABC studios recently, recording three more of my stories for Radio National. To my utter delight, I was told that instead of entering their annual Pocketdocs competition, would I like to be one of the judges instead? And then this smile happened…

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Two more publishing jewels to tell you about: This lovely volume of travel stories has just been published, with my words nestled within. ‘Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet’ (Vol II) is a gorgeous collection of tales from Norway to Samoa, Mexico to Morocco, with my love letter to Brussels on p132. You can get your copy from this link, and take a spin around the world from the comfort of your armchair.

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And lastly, this is my most personal Stereo Story, written for a man with the sweetest mouth, most impressive vocabulary and kindest heart I’ve ever known, who has totally won mine in return. Don’t tease me! Just read it, if you will, and you’ll see that two writers together is a gift I never expected in my wildest dreams.

Link to my latest story, 'Undertow', on the Stereo Story website

Link to my latest story, ‘Undertow’, on the Stereo Story website

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The Honeysuckles

August 30, 2016 at 11:59 am (Uncategorized) ()

I sat with Lisa, an open atlas, and a glass of wine.

We were planning our trip to the US at the time, which has since swirled by in a glorious haze of blues music, swamplands, jambalaya and voodoo tombs. We gazed at the map of the Deep South and discussed the possibility of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A few more sips of wine and the realisation dawned: we could identify no real reason to visit, other than the evocative name. It’s the same impetus for setting my stories in Cunnamulla or Manangatang, for living in Street of the Candlesticks in Brussels, and last week, booking a holiday house in a tiny beachside town called The Honeysuckles.

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The nautical theme knew no limits

The nautical theme knew no limits

Blessed with the luxury of two weeks off my teaching job, I headed for the waves. Yes, there were Elvis tunes on the radio, country opp shops to delve into, and a bottle of cinnamon whiskey in the car boot, but the pen was never far from my hand.

Canola fields in Seaspray, on the 90 Mile Beach

Canola fields in Seaspray, on the 90 Mile Beach

I’m applying for another writing residency, again in Iceland, where I plan to edit my (hopefully finished) novel, set in the snow up near the Arctic Circle. To my delight I’ve received some publisher interest, and am so enthused to keep pouring out ink. I’m booked into the ABC studios next week to record three more of my stories, working with the brilliant producer Lea Redfern, who shared the Sarah Awards first place prize with me in New York in April. And in early September I perform at my first interstate literary festival, heading over the border into New South Wales for the Write Around the Murray festival.

Our Sarah Awards feature

Our Sarah Awards feature

Tickets to our Stereo Stories show

Tickets to our Stereo Stories show

This year has been monumental for my ink, and I’m still smiling. I’m also, it has to be said, the proud owner of a growing collection of flamingos, despite my lifelong hatred of the colour pink.

My latest addition

My latest addition

My time in the Honeysuckles with my close friends and beautiful man was so regenerative. An open fire, crashing waves, rib cracking laughter, and dozens of ornamental fish…all well worth the drive.

I’m starting to think we should reconsider Tuscaloosa, after all.

Seaspray swamplands

Seaspray swamplands

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