Taxidermy and Fairy Tales

June 3, 2023 at 6:06 pm (writing) (, , , , , , )

‘Fed to Red Birds,’ my debut novel, is finally out in the world!

It was published on March 8 by Simon & Schuster…and what a wild and wonderful ride it’s been. I’ve been taking notes for this blog but the whirlwind of the launch, promotion and festivals has taken over.  And I’m not complaining, at all. 

‘A striking novel about a bewitched young mind’ – Good Reading magazine

‘Fed to Red Birds’ was launched on International Women’s Day. I’d spent the prior evening at a Bikini Kill gig, one of my favourite feminist punk bands of my youth, which seemed the perfect way to welcome my book into the world. I woke to a stunning bouquet of flowers from my fabulous team at Simon and Schuster, and a few days later hosted a sold-out launch at Littlefoot, a lovely local bar here in Footscray, Melbourne.

I wore a black velvet dress and a necklace of seven gold snakes, drank dirty martinis and revelled in the support and love of my friends and family. I’ve visited bookstores all over Melbourne to sign copies and a few days ago headed to Sydney to do the same.

‘[L]ost in this book, I have only put it down for long enough to write this column, and am already missing Iceland and Elva terribly … I feel I am typing this with frost-bitten fingers while being watched by trolls.’- The Canberra Times

True to form, I’ve already outed myself at festivals as a weirdo with a house full of snake skins and bat bones. At Sorrento Writers Festival, host Irma Gold was asking about writing routines and described Agatha Christie eating apples in the bath while inspecting crime scene photos. I said ‘Oh, my writing routine is much more boring.’ Then I proceeded to describe how I worked on ‘Fed to Red Birds’ with bare feet, legs crossed, and my baby snake in my bra, soothed by my heartbeat. It was only when audience members flinched that I realised, ah, perhaps not mundane after all. Good to know.

‘Intensely evocative…beautiful descriptions of Iceland, the country, and the also the quirks and curiosities of cultural life in Reykjavik – Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rights

Words used so far to describe my book: macabre, spellbinding, moody, magical, beguiling, creepy, enchanting and, a favourite, ‘a little bit dark, and a big bit beautiful.’

In June, I’ll be on several panels at the wonderful Williamstown Literary Festival here in Melbourne: ‘Taxidermy and Fairy Tales’ and ‘Witchcraft in the 21st Century.’ Lastly is a performance with Stereo Stories, about an Icelandic goth band, Kaelan Mikla, who were the soundtrack to writing ‘Fed to Red Birds’, so much that I thanked them in the acknowledgements.

‘Collins is a writer of great humility and intelligence. FTRB reads like a story she has been longing to tell, the culmination of long-lasting, deep-rooted interests. But it is the ease of her storytelling that is truly marvellous – fiercely honed by years as a practitioner of short stories.’ – Kill Your Darlings literary journal

I plan to update this blog more often with festival appearances, reviews and news, now that publication day has finally passed. In the meantime, ‘Fed to Red Birds’ is available at major bookstores across Australia, and/or can be ordered in through your local library.

Treat her kindly…she’s just a baby, after all.

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May 25, 2021 at 8:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Something wonderful has happened.

My name is on a book cover.

My debut collection of short memoir, VOICE, is now available for pre-order. Somekind Press is a crowdfunded publishing house, and their ROAR series is ‘dedicated to some of Australia’s newest and most exciting writing talent.’ Such amazing company to be in!

From Somekind’s website:

An adventure, a home, a new skin to slide into and claim as my own…” In writer Rijn Collins’ VOICE, a moving, honest and, at times, darkly humorous three-part memoir, we meet a young Rijn on a personal journey of discovery; a poignant search to find and accept herself. Rijn’s hunt takes her to faraway lands – from Melbourne to Belgium and Iceland (and back again), from drinking cherry beers on medieval cobblestone streets to gazing at the Northern Lights knee-deep in snow in places where “roads are rerouted to avoid underground elf homes.” Punk to paganism, snow and solitude to cheery Irish pubs, Rijn knocks on the doors to belonging, identity and love through the power of language and words and her innate desire to understand both herself and others. Drawing on Rijn’s linguistic background in Flemish, Irish and Icelandic, VOICE is both a curious tour of foreign places and words as well as a triumphant journey to the heart and light.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I love the niche, and there is plenty of that here. Tiny bird bones and feminist punk, pagan altars and snakes curled asleep in my bra, snowy sagas and Goth cafes, the languages I adore and a winter solstice wedding, a taxidermy snow goose and a potential Riverdance audition.

If that sounds up your alley – you beautiful weirdo – please click through on the photos and place your pre-order. You have ten days to do so to help it reach publication, so I would love your support, as well as the opportunity to support a fabulous new micro-publisher on the Australian, Japanese and American literary scene. Here we go ❤️

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My stack of spines

May 30, 2019 at 8:44 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I’ve been writing, as usual, but I’ve also been reading.

Lord, have I been reading.

I’ve always been a bookworm but it seems to have kicked into high gear recently. There’s a stack of spines on my dresser, but also in my kitchen, and the studio too. I almost hold my breath when walking past The Sun bookshop in Yarraville, or Brown and Bunting in Northcote, lest my feet automatically turn and walk in, my fingers opening and closing in readiness. As conundrums go, it’s really not a bad one, hey?

Here are some of the books that I’ve slid from a stack recently, and devoured.

Saga Land’ by Richard Fidler and Kári Gíslason

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how much I love Iceland. Even my pharmacist, hairdresser and vet know how much I love Iceland. My novel is set there – currently getting stuck into manuscript revisions and edits, thanks for asking! I studied the language at university, and I’ve been there many times, including an incredible month-long writing residency in a tiny fishing village up near the Arctic Circle. Unforgettable.

novel edits

Editing advice from my Icelandic fortune cards: ‘Let go of it.’

‘Saga Land’ is deeply engaging. It offers twin strands of the authors’ personal history and travels across that wild, white land, woven in with tales of the sagas and their richly detailed insight into Icelandic culture and history. Definitely worth a read.

‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier

I was a latecomer to this classic. In all honesty, my tastes run more to contemporary titles: I still resent English Literature classes and their force feeding of Austen and the Brontës. Du Maurier is one of my partner’s favourite writers, so when I found this gorgeous version of ‘Rebecca’ in Ampersand, Sydney’s revered second-hand bookstore, I couldn’t resist (their brunch of black sticky rice, coconut cream and caramelised bananas with crushed hazelnuts also got a huge thumbs up). I started reading this book at the airport flying home to Melbourne and could not put it down for a week. I kept sending my man texts along the lines of ‘I can’t believe Max de Winter did (spoiler)!’ or ‘Oh my god, Mandelay (spoiler)!’ This glorious Gothic suspense novel makes me want to visit Cornwall, and scan more bookshelves for du Maurier’s name.

Rebecca at Ampersand

Delights at Ampersand Books, Sydney

‘Angry Women in Rock’ edited by Andrea Juno

This book is an old favourite of mine. I bought it in the 90’s when I joined several online communities dedicated to writing and putting out feminist punk zines. These interviews are just so invigorating: Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), Lynn Breedlove (Tribe 8), Joan Jett and my absolute favourite, the incomparable Val Agnew from 7 Year Bitch (one of THE best bands of the 90’s). I love the fiery opinions, the delicate artwork, the Goddess tattoos, and the reverence of metal and punk music. I often pull this off the shelves for a dose of feminist fire.

Juno book

Interview with the extraordinary Valerie Agnew from 7 Year Bitch

‘The Natural Way of Things’ by Charlotte Wood

What the HELL just happened? This was my bellow to my bestie as I came to the end of just the first chapter (!) of this staggering, controversial and unforgettable book. I took it as a holiday read for a quick New Year’s jaunt to Tasmania, but I did not get much rest. The cover should have warned me, with its praise from other authors along the lines of ‘A haunting parable of contemporary misogyny…sly and devastating’ (The Economist) and ‘You can’t shake off this novel; it gets under your skin, fills your lungs, breaks your heart’ (Christos Tsiolkas). Ten young women are abducted and held in a makeshift prison in the middle of the stark Australian outback, the heat and desert a jailor in itself. The women come to realise that all they have in common is involvement in ten different sexual scandals with prominent men; kept away from society, they are all being punished and can either turn to, or against, each other. I will say the ending had me wanting to pull my hair out, but in all honesty, I hope a reader reacts with the same vehemence to one of my books one day.


Charlotte Woods’ astonishing ‘The Natural Way of Things’

There are many, many more books to detail! I would love to add:

  • ‘The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Culture of Longing’ by Rachel Poliquin (the first draft of my novel may have come to an end, but my love of taxidermy research that arose from it will never cease)
  • ‘The Tricking of Freya’ by Christina Sunley (more Icelandic stories)
  • ‘Beautiful Revolutionary’ by Laura Elizabeth Woollett (gorgeous writing about the startling People’s Temple cult)
  • ‘A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists’ by Jane Rawson (odd and engaging fiction that defies definition: part speculative, part cli-fi prose set around my area of Melbourne’s industrial west).


book store sign

Sign found in a bookstore in Kallista, the Dandenongs

Rebecca on Sydney windowsill

Windowsill bliss

And on my To Be Read list?

  • Lucia Berlin’s ‘A Manual for Cleaning Women.’
  • Daisy Johnson’s ‘Everything Under.’
  • Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s ‘Butterflies in November.’
  • Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Jamaica Inn.’

And I am always ready to hear your recommendations, or your thoughts on any of the above books. My stacks of spines are tall, you know, but they could always get taller.

book stack


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Tales from the Bowery

August 31, 2018 at 3:10 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

‘His favourite sound was the click clack of typewriters […] He knew exactly how much words cost and what consequences they can have: how they can start but also stop the opened organ of the heart.’

‘The Lonely City’ by Olivia Laing

The above book has kept me spellbound this month. An elegant, erudite look at intimacy (or lack thereof) through the prism of artists in New York City, Laing’s reverences for the words she selects is exquisite. This is such a moving, beautiful book to read.

The first time I saw the skyline of New York was through the window of a Greyhound bus, fat full moon hanging low over the skyscrapers. All the breath was sucked out of me. I had flown from Australia to meet a pen pal I’d been writing to from an online feminist punk collective, Erica, and we explored the area I knew would forever more be my NY stomping ground, the Lower East Side.


The Bowery, New York City, 2006

Four years later I returned, again with Erica, and smitten by the Bowery, I booked us into a hostel opposite CBGB’s that was so foul I’ve just spent a very entertaining fifteen minutes reading online reviews of its horrors. From the drunk men passed out on the floor of the lobby that we literally had to step over, to the blood stains on the sheets and walls that only reached head height, it remains the worst place I’ve ever stayed at. Even the reception cat had a broken leg and coughed up a furball of warning at my feet when I checked in. I do have a dollop of fondness for it, however, as it became the topic of my first magazine publication, a clipping I still have in a drawer somewhere.

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New York City, 2009

New York

New York City, 2012

That trip I had a backpack stuffed with diaries, linguistic textbooks and my university degree. I was moving to Brussels, having left my boyfriend, my 18-year-old cat and my whole life behind in Melbourne. It was in Brussels, living in a medieval house in the Street of the Candlesticks with blood red floorboards and my makeshift altar in the corner, that I had my first taste of the loneliness that Olivia Laing writes so hauntingly about.


In Rue des Chandeliers, Brussels, 2006 – click here for story


In Rue des Chandeliers, Brussels – click here for ABC audio story

I’d lived in Brussels as a teenage exchange student for a year, and fallen in love with both the city itself, and the glorious bliss of solitude and independence. When I moved there again at 33, it was to put down roots and carve out a life of Flemish freedom. Or so I thought. The news that the man I left behind had moved on with a new partner, three months after I left, broke me apart. I drank whiskey for breakfast, I lost weight; I stopped speaking. I had no-one to speak to anyway, to be honest. I practised my broken French and Flemish on the alley cats. But the words did come out of my fingers too, and I wrote my way above ground again.

‘Art was a place where one could move freely between integration and disintegration, doing the work of mending, the work of grief, preparing oneself for the dangerous, lovely business of intimacy.’

‘The Lonely City’ by Olivia Laing

Being alone in a new city has immense challenges, but for me, the rewards are undeniably rich. Many of my travels have been solo adventures, loner that I am, including uprooting my life and moving overseas twice. I love to dine alone, with a book and a wine and a full heart. Some of my happiest memories have been me, in a new city – Helsinki, Albuquerque, Hong Kong, Reykjavik – walking the streets with the knowledge that no-one in the world knew where I was at the point in time. But I know the flipside also, and finding it within the cover of Laing’s book reminds me in beautiful, painful ways.

The protagonist in my novel knows this also. Iceland is a precarious place to find your feet, and she falls between the cracks in the language, the culture and society. But lord, how I love finding the words to describe it.


Ólafsfjörður, northern Iceland – click here for ABC audio story

My love of my hometown, Melbourne, has also been on display this month. I was delighted to be one of the writers selected for the Melbourne Writers Festival this year, with my story for the Reading Victoria project being recorded and played on an audio loop in the Star Observation Wheel. I took my Wolf on the wheel, and the joy of hearing my own voice tell of my love for my city, while we soared above it, was one I won’t forget. Being part of the celebration of Melbourne’s 10th anniversary of our UNESCO City of Literature designation is also a joy.


On the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel with the Wolf 

I keep thinking of New York. My last trip, in 2016, was for the ridiculously exciting reason that one of my audio stories, ‘Almost Flamboyant’, had been selected as a finalist in the inaugural Sarah Awards for International Audio Fiction. I was so stunned when we won that I pinched my producer, hard, and then gave a bemused speech where I named all my taxidermy. Waking up to our photo in the New York Times the next morning is a jewel I keep taking out and polishing, and admiring the light that shines from it. New York sure looked good that trip.

New York Times

Picture from the New York Times


Celebratory dirty martinis, New York City


To hear our winning story of a taxidermy flamingo possessed by the spirit of Tom Waits, click here 

So that’s August for you! Next month I’m heading interstate to perform at the Write Around the Murray literary festival in Albury, New South Wales…more travel, more words, and always, always, more stories to report.

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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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The Sarah Awards

March 26, 2016 at 11:51 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

There are some characters that are difficult to pour into a notebook, and then leave there.

I’ve been spending time with Elva, the protagonist in my novel. She’s a half Australian, half Icelandic taxidermist living in Reykjavik, hiding the darkness of her obsession between the lavish pelts and flesh eating beetles of her profession. Sometimes when I’m writing, I can hear her boots crunching on snow, and smell the sulphur of the underground hot springs.

My time in Iceland is never far from my mind.

Then there’s the foul tempered barmaid with a Welsh flower tattooed on her chest in ‘Early Dog Violet‘ and the kleptomaniac southern son in ‘Elvis Would So.’ I still smile at the Australian backpacker mistaken for a member of Lithuanian Big Brother in ‘I Like Your Deer’s Moustache, and Other Lithuanian Tales’, the sinister shadow puppeteer in ‘The Old Man With Birds For Hands’, the cherry beer swilling voyeur of ‘Street of the Candlesticks’ and the woman counting her rib bones on Rachmaninov’s old bed in Russia in ‘True, False and Floating.’

But I have a special place in my heart for my surly, splenetic taxidermy flamingo with a smoker’s cough, a foul mouth, and the inclination to sing Tom Waits songs on a Melbourne tram.

The resultant story in its ABC podcast, ‘Almost Flamboyant,’ will never be far from my heart now, as it’s just won a Sarah Award in New York. This competition from Sarah Lawrence College celebrating ‘the best in audio fiction’ is being advertised with the byline ‘Movies have Oscars, TV has Emmys…now audio fiction has The Sarahs.’ This definitely made all manner of exclamations fly out of my mouth, believe me.

I was on a packed peak hour tram to work when my producer, the amazing Lea Redfern, rang me to gasp that our story had been announced one of three finalists, with the first, second and third places being announced on Friday April 1st at the award ceremony in New York. Ahem. And did I, perhaps, feel like going with her to pick up our prize, with assistance from the organisers?

To my utter amazement, my flights are booked, my dress is laid out, and I’ve given Lea the address of my favourite café on the Lower East Side to meet her on Friday, just before the award ceremony. It’s being held in the Greene Space, in the New York Public Radio’s headquarters, organised by Ann Heppermann, a producer from This American Life.

The first thing I’ll do when I see Lea is reach over and give her a firm, ebullient, and utterly amazed ‘I-Can’t-Believe-We’re-Really-Here’ pinch.

So wish us luck! And as always…I’ll bring you back stories, people.

I promise.


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November 30, 2015 at 9:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I woke this morning and for a moment, thought I was back in the forest.

There was no music coming from the ground floor studios though, and no purring Finnish kitties curled up on my bed. I would not be mashing up boiled eggs to fold over the top of delicious rye karjalanpiirakoita for breakfast, or pouring black coffee into the soup mug I’d bought my first day at a flea market, covered in the blueberries that were my first Finnish word on my 2011 visit; mustikka.

Melbourne is beautiful on the last day of spring, but my head is still in the forest.

I spent the whole of October at a writing residency in Joutsa, a rural town in the midst of Finland’s Lake District. I arrived after a week of ruby port and decadent pastéis de nata pastries in Portugal with my beloved Lisa. As soon as I hit Helsinki the temperature dropped, the prices doubled, and the hood of my red riding coat was up for the first time since my previous residency in Iceland, this time last year.

Back to the wild northern lands I love, with my whole heart.

Haihatus residency, Finland

Haihatus residency, Finland

Haihatus residency, Finland

Haihatus residency, Finland

No snow for me this time; Finland was in her full autumnal glory, and she’d never been more bewitching. The colours of the forest, people! The colours of the forest. I wandered every evening at dusk, and found myself in tears of awe on more than one occasion. The light was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and the trees looked as though they’d been dipped in gold. For a woman whose feet are utterly at home in stilettos on city footpaths, my writing residencies in remote rural places steal my heart in ways I’m still processing.

Joutsa forest, Finland

Joutsa forest, Finland

Joutsa forest, Finland

Joutsa forest, Finland

The residency was huge, with buildings scattered around the grounds that were a delight to explore; a gallery space here, a lookout on stilts there. On my third night the call went out – to the sculpture garden, quick! I grabbed my red riding hood and raced after the other artists. I didn’t even know we had a sculpture garden (oh, you Finns) but found myself standing with head back, mouth open, as the northern lights danced above our heads. Indescribable. How lucky am I that I saw them last year in Iceland, and now here? Pen in hand, heart in throat, it was a gold star moment of the most wondrous kind.

Sculpture garden, Haihatus, Finland

Sculpture garden, Haihatus, Finland

Cheerful Lobster in the sculpture garden

Cheerful Lobster in the sculpture garden

Protective wolf outside my bedroom forest

Protective wolf outside my bedroom forest

My favourite place was the Pitkospuupolku, a narrow wooden path through the forest that the Joutsa guidebook had described with the line ‘In the Joutsa forest you can walk all alone, feeling like it almost kindly swallows you.’ Bliss of the best kind, breathing in the silence and solitude, watching sunshine sparkle on the water as I wrote, snacking on smoked salmon and rye bread, washed down with cloudberry cider on a full heart.

The Pitkospuupolku through the forest, Joutsa, Finland

The Pitkospuupolku through the forest, Joutsa, Finland

My favourite image of my trip

My favourite image of my trip

And I wrote, Damn, did I write. The joys of a residency, where writing is not an indulgence, or anti-social, but understood, and welcomed! In a studio filled with turpentine and taxidermy, I spilled ink until my fingers ached. Then stretched, scratched one of the house kittes, Purhonen, Korhonen and Räisanen, and wrote some more.

My studio

My studio

My studio in the gorgeous afternoon light

My studio in the gorgeous afternoon light

Korhonen and my taxidermy muse

Korhonen and my taxidermy muse

I took a mid-month jaunt into Helsinki with Amy and Joao, artists from the U.S. and Brazil. I knew Amy was kindred when we turned up for a walk to the local Joutsa pub wearing matching animal print ear muffs, and I wasn’t wrong. I took them to my favourite Helsinki restaurant, Zetor, the setting for a previous ABC story of mine called ‘Every Good Day Deserves Gingham.’ We ate reindeer and lingonberries around Soviet era hot rod tractors, sang to AC/DC in punk bars, and revelled in the exuberant joy that comes with sharing a city you love.

Animal print and cocktails...Amy, let's go to HUUTula!

Animal print and cocktails…Amy, let’s go to HUUTula!

With Joao at Zetor, my favourite rockabilly bar in Helsinki

With Joao at Zetor, my favourite rockabilly bar in Helsinki

And then my suitcase came out again.

The rest doesn’t need to be told: the last reindeer steak, the last walk through the forest, the last time I turned the lights off in my studio. I know I’ll be back, to both Finland and Haihatus, the residency…at least, I have to keep telling myself that, or I never would have left.

A hammock in my final Helsinki apartment..yes, yes, a hammock.

A hammock in my final Helsinki apartment..yes, yes, a hammock.

Loving and leaving Haihatus residency, Joutsa, Finland

Loving and leaving Haihatus residency, Joutsa, Finland

Kiitos, Finland, and all I met there…thank you, for a month full of gold stars, and golden light.

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Solstice stories

June 28, 2015 at 6:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

It may be the ever present influence of my time in Iceland, but I’ve never enjoyed winter more. I’ve been striding all over Melbourne in my Red Riding Hood coat and leopard print gloves, watching my breath cloud in front of me. There’s been mulled wine and cloves, open fires, purring kitties and bubble baths, and my birthday.

Yes, I was born on the cusp of the Winter Solstice…no wonder I keep getting drawn to snowy northern lands.

And there have been stories, as always.

I performed with the Stereo Stories crew at the Williamstown Literary Festival recently, and had just about the most fun on stage since my award winning dance troupe’s performance of Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’ in 1984. I love that burst of adrenalin when I stand in front of the microphone, so I’m happy to be doing it all again next week at the Newport Folk Festival.

Tony Proudfoot Photography

Tony Proudfoot Photography

I’m delighted to have a story of mine, ‘Honey Island,’ included in the inaugural issue of The Vignette Review. This makes me particularly happy because it also holds one from the wonderful Lisa Jewell, a beautiful writer whose work I’ve always admired. We met almost a decade ago in an artists’ collective, and have since jumped on planes and gathered stories together in places as far afield as Russia, Sydney and New Orleans. And without realising it, we both submitted a vignette set in lush Louisiana…some places definitely cast a spell.

The Vignette Review

And my final snippet of inky news is one I’m pretty excited about. I’ve been working with a lovely ABC producer in Sydney, Lea Redfern, to develop one of my stories for broadcast on Australia’s Radio National. It’s my tenth story for the ABC, but for this one we were joined by the wonderful Hollywood actor Jacek Koman, of ‘Moulin Rouge’ and Vulgargrad fame. To be sitting in the studio going over our lines together, and listening to him bring my surly taxidermy flamingo alive, was an experience like no other in my writing career so far.

It’ll go live to air tomorrow morning at 11:35am, but has just been put online, so you can have a sneaky little listen by clicking on the feathers below:

Almost Flamboyant RN

If you’re in the mood for a cantankerous bird, a walk through Melbourne’s laneways, and some Tom Waits, sit on down and have a listen.

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December 31, 2014 at 3:18 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Margir eru marlíðendr.

Many kinds of people sail across the sea. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can I borrow your rat comb?

May 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

‘So you make the first incision just above the rat’s womb – did I mention this one’s a female?’

The man next to me sucked in his breath as he listened.

‘After we’ve skinned it, we’ll remove the organs for analysis. The fur’s come off in places because we froze her, but no problem, folks: she’ll be a fine looking wrap once we’ve finished with her.’

The enormous screen in front of us showed a close up of the scalpel, digging into the rat’s belly. The man next to me audibly groaned. I’d lost my friends as soon as we walked in, but nothing could tear me away. By the time the Senior Museum Advisor popped her little rat tail from its sheath – ‘just like peeling off a sock!’ – I was leaning forward, my wine glass clutched to my chest and my eyes huge.

I’m fascinated by taxidermy. Did I mention that?

Julia Deville

Julia Deville


And so, it seems, is just about a third of Melbourne. On a freezing night, the queue stretched out in front of the museum surprised me. They’d better not get in between me and a snake, I scowled. I’m quite a scowler too, but you probably already know that. After a few swigs of spiced Czech liqueur to warm us up we were in the door, and heading straight for the seminar.

Yes, true words: a taxidermy information night at the Melbourne Museum, one of many reasons I love this quirky and unpredictable city. And it was packed. There was music and wine too: had they thrown in a cowboy or Bessie Smith blues number, it would have been a night custom made for me.

There were trestle tables with plump birds, an ebony bat and even a coiled snake, all ready for stroking. For the less faint at heart, you could watch an actual procedure right in front of you, with, I have to say, the coolest rock and roll taxidermists I’ve ever seen, right down to peacock tattoos and rockabilly fringes. I was mesmerised…the wine glass barely left my chest all night.

My interest in taxidermy is relatively new, typically obsessive, and utterly reasonable – the main character in my novel is responsible for acquiring and maintaining it in the Cabinet of Curiosities where she works. I do tend to throw myself into the research stage of stories (you don’t want to know what I got up to in Kaartinkaupunki in Finland, for example) so it didn’t take long for me to start delving into the art of skinning and stuffing creatures.

This in no way clashes with my love of animals; in fact, it enhances it. After twenty years of vegetarianism and sharing my life with an assortment of fangs and fur, I see it as a way to honour the animals. The days of showing off the spoils of the hunt are long gone, and most taxidermy these days comes in the form of beloved pets. The rat being prepared in the seminar was part of a previously undiscovered species in Sulawesi, and the museum scientists were keen to learn more.

Julia Deville

Julia Deville

And lord, were they proud of their work. When he’d finished with the rat, the scientist put his tools down and held her up for the camera, beaming. He placed her back on the tray and then picked up a small brush and slowly, tenderly, began to stroke the sawdust from her fur.

‘Grooming is the key to a smart looking rat’, he told us proudly.

Good to know, I nodded, reaching for my pen.

Good to know.

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