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.


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.


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



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.



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…



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.


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


1 Comment

  1. leithomalley said,

    Let the good times roll 🙂

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