Count to ninety, and leap

June 30, 2018 at 10:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Ninety seconds is not a lot of time.

In ninety seconds I could read some flash fiction, mix a martini or translate one of my Icelandic fortune cards. But is it enough time to sit in front of a waiting publisher or literary agent to pitch my novel?

I’m possibly making it more dramatic than it was (which is my job, after all). To be specific we had three minutes in front of each person, half of which was recommended to talk about our publishing achievements and pitch our project, with the other ninety seconds left free for any questions they had. With a roomful of other writers waiting in queues behind me, and a loud timer ringing constantly, there was no room for timidity. I had a straight spine, a handful of business cards, a blood red dress that stood out in a sea of Melbourne black, and a sold out performance at the Williamstown Literary Festival to head straight to afterwards.

i no longer...

My business card

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Rehearsals for the Williamstown Literary Festival – photo by Eric Algra

A big day, then.

And a rather spectacular one. I apparently managed to make a novel about a taxidermist with an obsessive compulsive disorder in the snow and solitude of Iceland sound ‘odd and beautiful’, and walked out of there with three invitations to send in my manuscript when it’s finished. The advice I received was invaluable, as was the professionalism and expertise of those who donated their time; if you ever get the chance to attend a ‘literary speed dating’ event, jump at it. I am even more enthused to KEEP WRITING, stick to my schedule, and focus on the story that has had me enthralled for some time now.

My participation in the Hard Copy manuscript development program from the ACT Writers Centre has also been astonishingly inspiring. Designed to nurture ‘the next wave of exciting Australian novelists’, the first round involved three 9am-5pm sessions of lectures and workshops from the National Library in Canberra. As a member of their inaugural digital program, I accessed these from my writing studio via live streaming, with a constant supply of coffee, a loving partner bringing me snacks, a curious cat intruding into microphone range, and some very stiff neck muscles.

Point of view, present or past tense, interior struggle versus exterior atmosphere, titles and word count, with chats in the side bar and moving camera angles. My pen flew, and my fingers on the keyboard also. So many of us put value on talismans that helped our ink flow; my ring holding a chunk of Icelandic lava, my fortune telling cards bought from the Kolaportið flea market in Reykjavik, and my framed chart of the skeletal system of a small finch above my antique writing desk, to guide my protagonist’s hands through the taxidermy that opens my first chapter. Knowing this is a peculiarity of many writers felt like a blessing.


‘Let Go Of It’

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Bird bones in my writing studio

Sharing the digital program with five other inspired and inspiring women from all around Australia was a dream come true, and we’re already talking about flying in to meet each other for a group whiskey weekend.

Hard Copy studio

My writing studio

As the Luddite of the group, I fared remarkably well. Given that the following is the opening paragraph of my recent article in the Victorian Writer magazine, I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief that my participation in the Hard Copy Digital stream was so seamless.

The first time I used the Internet, I was reluctant. So I could just type in any subject, and articles or photos would magically appear? A technophobe at heart, I hid my intimidation behind scorn. ‘Who would want that?’ I remember asking. ‘It won’t last.’

Round Two of Hard Copy begins in September, a week before I’m booked to appear at the Write Around the Murray literary festival in Albury, NSW. Last night I performed with Stereo Stories at the Glen Eira Story Telling festival, and two weeks before that there was the sold out show at the Williamstown Literary Festival. In between I recorded my love story to the West Gate Bridge at RRR studios for All The Best Radio, a piece that was first published in the Readings Victoria project to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Melbourne’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. Also due soon is my contribution, ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel’ to the wonderful Memoria podcast, airing on July 16.


At the RRR studios for All The Best Radio

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Stereo Stories at the Willi Lit Festival – photo by Eric Algra

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Just a woman and her giraffe dress – Williamstown Literary Festival

As if I needed more reason to spill ink, last week saw my birthday and the winter solstice, and a lovely, loving group of friends in a haunted house with open fire, Nancy Sinatra singalong and full heart.


Walhalla, Victoria



Walhalla Cemetery, Victora


Walhalla, Victoria

Let’s see what inky wonders July brings, hey?



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Melbourne calling

June 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Melbourne is a damn fine city.

Not only do we have exquisite coffee down many a stencil art covered alleyway, an abundance of secondhand bookstores and live music venues on every corner, we also have the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.

If you’re a Melbourne writer and you haven’t been there, shame on you.

I regularly borrow books from their extensive library, attend seminars, and even had the pleasure of hearing my work read there as part of last year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival.  It houses the Victorian Writers’ Centre and I can’t recommend becoming a member strongly enough. They send you weekly emails filled with writing opportunities, as well as a wonderful monthly newsletter.  I’d say about 90% of the stories I’ve had published came from information from the VWC. They also have a wealth of books to borrow on the craft of writing, as well as a staggering array of Australian publications such as Meanjin, Overland, Going Down Swinging etc  – absolutely invaluable if you’re thinking of submitting to them.

Recently I sat in the back row of a seminar at the Wheeler Centre, my red notebook open in my lap as I tried to stop my hand shaking from the ambitious double shot coffee I was wading through. The speakers were Zoe Dattner  from Sleepers Publishing and Laurie Steed from SPUNC, and I came out with pages of notes, lashings of inspiration, and a need to run home and spill ink.

Some of the lines in my notebook that ended up circled, underlined, and decorated with ‘come back and think about this!’ stars and asterisks include:

50% of your reading should be outside your comfort zone – write outside that zone too.

I realised I’m guilty of this – I’ll read Gorky and Nabokov til the cows come home, but when my fingers trace over the spine of a Palahniuk or a Bukowski, I’ll make the same face as when I’m offered sardines on toast, and turn away. I do need to read authors whose style I’m not at home with, if only to know why. And I know I need more practice writing male characters too.

A writers’ group that makes you feel uncomfortable is probably a good thing.

Sitting in a workshop, watching people’s eyes scroll down the paper that houses your story and realising you’re holding your breath, is quite an experience. I don’t enjoy it, as such – but god, do I appreciate it.

The goal is to become a better writer, not a published writer.

I recently sat on the floor with a glass of wine and counted the spines on my bookshelf that held my name within; and damn, did it feel good!  There’s nothing in the world like holding a book with your story in it, but those early pieces are not ones I’d write anymore – I can already see the change in my style, and my voice. At the end of the day all I really want is to be able to nod at a story and say, yep, I like this one.

A story has as many words in it as it takes to tell the story.

I love this sentence. The catch with online publishing in particular is that flash fiction has taken hold – internet attention spans are notoriously short, and I’ve realised this can affect the way I write.  I’m not exactly proud of that. So whether you’re crafting a six word story, flash fiction, long short story or a novella, just keep writing, and put your pen down when it’s good and ready.

Steph Tout Photography

I wouldn’t be in the same place without the Victorian Writers’ Centre. I know some people are simply not joiners, and I do understand – but you can read the newsletters, watch online interviews with authors, or sit up the back of a seminar with your collar up and dark sunglasses on.  Although, it has to be said, it’s somewhat difficult to go incognito in a room full of people whose very job it is to notice the details!

Andyway, at the very least you can get to chat about all things inky with likeminded scribes…what’s not to love?

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