Fire Stories

May 28, 2015 at 11:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world – Freya Stark

Amen to that.

A recent writing competition asked for ‘A letter to the trip that changed my life.’ Let me tell you, I had so much joy in pulling out my old photo albums and diaries. My background in linguistics and my ever present need to trawl for stories often leads me to new lands – working three jobs and living in an unheated flat all seems worth it when I can tumble off a plane and onto snow, or cobblestones.

But I always come home.

Click here for a video of me explaining my love of Melbourne

Click here for a video of me explaining my love of Melbourne

There’s something about being Australian that just leads to battered passports, I think. We’re so far from the rest of the world, and I’m forever stirring that isolation into my stories. I love writing about characters who are missing some link in the chain of intimate connection, whether the isolation is literal or psychological. A month in a remote Icelandic fishing village up near the Arctic Circle taught me my utter comfort in solitude is only growing with my years, and I’m not unhappy about this.

At all.

I won the ‘Letter to the trip that changed my life’ competition, for Penguin Publishing and Women of Letters. I wrote about being a teenage exchange student in Brussels, and how that whole incredible year opened my eyes to the wild and wonderful adventures available in this beautiful world of ours. And it made me realise just how much my travels are woven through my stories.

So here are a few snippets of recent news that combine my pen, and my passport:

– The Vignette Review has just accepted a story of mine, ‘Honey Island,’ set in lush Louisiana. It’s for the inaugural issue too, which I’m so happy to be part of.

– I’m back in the ABC studios tomorrow to record a story that combines my love of Iceland with my adoration of Big Mama Thornton – bliss all round, then.

– I’m booked in to perform at the Williamstown Literary Festival next month as part of Stereo Stories, who’ve published several tales of mine set in Berlin, Mississippi and Melbourne.

I had a fabulous time in the Australian countryside recently with the Stereo Stories crew, performing at the Newstead Short Story Tattoo as part of Fire Stories. We had a fat little moon, flowing wine, blankets to rug up in, and flickering bonfires as we climbed on stage…one of the best ways to tell stories I can possibly think of.





Big love to my man, Tony Proudfoot, for both the stellar photography and the perfect road trip music.

Oh, and so as not to jinx it, I’ll tell you at the very end that I’m one of surely thousands that have just applied for a Travel Writing Scholarship with Lonely Planet and Word Nomads.

I’ll just leave that snippet here, and quietly head back to my notebook.

Don’t mind me, people. As you were.

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Bird spit not included

April 25, 2015 at 11:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

‘What if the cockroaches weren’t the only ones bringing her snow?’

I paused, my pen raised.

‘Keep talking…’

‘Well, the cockroaches close her mouth while she sleeps so the bird can’t spit in it, right? But are there really enough of them to quench her when she catches fire, considering how small they are? I mean, how much snow could a cockroach feasibly carry?’

I nodded, frowning. He made a good point.

‘Are you suggesting the ten other birds, the ones that flew off towards Reykjavik, carry snow in their mouths and drop it on her bed too?’

Michael nodded, fingers busy sketching. Then again, Michael’s fingers are always busy sketching.

Adrian gave a short exclamation, and held his phone aloft.

‘Found it!’ he told us, triumph – and whiskey – making him beam. ‘There’s a giant in Norse mythology called Hraesvelgr, who turns into an eagle. In Old Norse his name means ‘Corpse Swallower.’

Michael and I leaned forward and murmured approvingly.

Photo: Hedegehog 83

‘They say,’ Adrian continued, scrolling through his phone, ‘that he sits at the end of the world and causes the wind to blow across the lands whenever he beats his wings. Could you use that?’

I sat back, and scribbled Hraesvelgr in my notebook.

‘Hell yeah…does it mention what colour he is? Because I need one with red feathers.’

And reaching for another slice of pizza, we all went back to our research, heads bowed and mouths full of anchovies.

viking book covers

It’s not every Friday evening that we dip into Viking Sagas over whiskey, but truth be told, it’s not uncommon. When I’m snagged on a story line and can’t shake myself free, my artistic coven are always to the rescue, usually amidst sketchbooks, cameras and much laughter.

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am knee deep in my ink, splashing around in glee. I’m making major structural changes to my novel, and am more enthused about it than I know how to say. Tonight I’ve submitted a story to a Penguin Publishing competition, put the finishing touches to another, and made the final edits to one I’m going to be brave enough to send to – deep breath – The New York Times.

I’m delighted this week to have had a story accepted for publication by THIS magazine – details soon – and to be performing at the Newstead Short Story Tattoo this coming Saturday. I’ll be part of the wonderful crew of Stereo Stories, telling tales of songs and the reasons we love them, live on stage with musical accompaniment.


If you’re in or around Melbourne, take a peek at the website and grab a ticket to Fire Stories…an open bonfire, guitars, storytellers and an audience.

The perfect way to beckon in winter.

(Bird spit not included)

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