The Year That Was 2014

As one year comes to a close and another one takes its first tentative steps, I can’t help but thinking back over one of the best years of my life. In 2014, I turned 40 and I made it a big deal. I had a dance party in my wonderful office, The Silvermine, with lots of friends to help me celebrate.

Turning 40!

Turning 40!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2014, I was lucky enough to start the year with three writers’ retreats, two of them at Varuna-the Writers’ House in the magical Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

My writing flourished and new friendships were forged. In 2014, I attended writers’ festivals in Adelaide and Sydney and I worked hard to establish MidnightSun as a publishing company to be reckoned with. Because of the groundwork done throughout the year, 2015 is looking very promising indeed with three books in the pipeline and a promotional tour to China, Italy and the UK.

One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2014, I travelled to Sweden to do research for my new novel constellation The Song of Glass. As I was in the area, I did a quick tour of Europe too and visited my oldest friend Josefine in Belgium, and we nipped over to The Netherlands and France in quick succession.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Swedish summer house

Swedish summer house

In 2014, I attended the 13th International Conference on the Short Story in English, which was held in Vienna, and I found myself surrounded by thought-provoking, cool, fun and simply wonderful writers. I kept walking around thinking ‘these are my people’.

Lunch in Vienna

Lunch in Vienna

The week in Vienna was nothing short of life-changing and it has already formed how 2015 will shape up as I’ll reconnect with Lucy and Cat in Italy in May. In 2014, my novel constellation The Hum of Concrete was chosen as the book of the year at Burnside Library and I met scores of friendly readers at several events.

Burnside Library Reading

Burnside Library Reading

In 2014, Allan and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in Hobart, thanks to our generous friends. We saw the exhibitions at MONA and enjoyed three indulgent child-free days.

20 years ago...

20 years ago…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...20 years later.

…20 years later.

In 2014, I was so lucky to meet amazing new people and to be able to deepen my friendships with some old friends. I was fortunate enough to have my three boys hugging me when I was down and the love of my life encouraging me when I was struggling.

My boys

My boys

2014 was both one of the most challenging and most inspiring years of my life and it has carved out a special place in my heart. I know that many friends suffered terrible losses in 2014 and for you I wish a 2015 full of hope, reflections of love and new beginnings. I send you warm hugs. Looking forward to seeing you all in 2015.

Love and loss

Love and loss

Oh, and as of right now, it looks like I might have turned 41 during the writing of this. Can’t wait to celebrate another year of travel, love, friendships, writing, photography, publishing, family, visits to the beach, laughter, reading, long night-time walks and – perhaps most importantly – chocolate…

Chocolate

Chocolate

One Book One Burnside promotion

Every year the good people at Burnside Library choose to highlight one particular book for an extended period of time. To my astonishment and delight The Hum of Concrete was chosen as their featured book in 2014. For a book that was released in March 2012, The Hum of Concrete has had a very long and prosperous life. I was thrilled to receive the good news in the beginning of the year and for months we worked towards the highlights in August, September and October.

Burnside Library Reading

Burnside Library Reading

Burnside Library Reading II

I was invited to teach a workshop on Character Development, which quickly booked out, and I judged a short story competition.

Winners of the short story  competition

Winners of the short story competition

We had an intimate Readers Session where I read two chapters from the book and finished off with a well-attended Q&A Session with ABC Radio presenter Sonya Feldhoff.

Q&A at the Burnside Library

Q&A at the Burnside Library

DSC_1268 DSC_1272

Q&A at the Burnside Library

Q&A at the Burnside Library

It has been an honour and pleasure to be involved with the library. Through Sharon Downing’s enthusiastic efforts, I have met many new readers and I have had plenty of fun along the way. Though we were sadly forced to cancel the ABBA launch party, the rest of the engagements have all been successful. I have met so many lovely readers, many of whom have asked me to come along to speak at their book groups, which will be my pleasure.

Talking to readers

Talking to readers

 

One Book One Burnside is a great program and I am looking forward to seeing who the lucky writer for next year will be. I will certainly attend.

So thank you so much to the Burnside Library for choosing my book. Thanks to Mag Merrilees and Nima Tahsili Fahadan for the lovely photos. Thanks to all of you who attended any of the sessions or submitted your story to the competition and most of all, thanks to my partner for looking after the children so I can pursue my dreams.

Busy signing books

Busy signing books

Being chosen has been a great step in my career and it is with eternal gratitude that I now move on to other things. Look out Arteles Writers’ Residency in June 2015!

Vienna in my Heart

As I sit and watch the fog roll in over the Adelaide Hills, my thoughts travel back to the short story conference that I recently attended in Vienna. For one week in July 2014 I was surrounded by intelligent, funny, thoughtful and brilliant short story writers from all over the world who had come together in Vienna to celebrate the form, to listen to each other read and learn from scholars in the field at The 13th International Conference on the Short Story in English. I had arrived with no particular expectations. It was the tail end of a one month long trip to Europe, most of which had been spent in Sweden researching my new ‘novel constellation’ and visiting family and friends. Put simply: I was blown away! I think this conference might have changed my life forever.

Cameron in Vienna

Cameron in Vienna

The conference was the most welcoming, friendly, thought-provoking and hilarious conference I have ever attended. I kept thinking: ‘These are my people!’

Lunch buddies

Lunch buddies

No matter which sessions I chose, who I had lunch with, which events I attended, brilliance was everywhere. Vienna itself was the perfect setting for this conference. Everything was within walking distance, the weather was gorgeous (too hot for some, but I’m South Australian after all) and the local food and cultural antics were plentiful.

My conference experience was off to a great start with a fantastic bike ride around the city, where wonderful Rebekah Clarkson and I were taken to see the sights by night.

Rebekah and I go riding

Rebekah and I go riding

The day before the actual conference program began, I attended two workshops, one with Andy Kissane and another with Robert Olen Butler, which were both informative. Andy talked about ‘free indirect speech’ where you use the character’s way of saying something even if it is in third person. This resonated with me as I tend to get close to my characters this way, without tagging for speech for example. There is a suppleness with this style as the narrator can glide in and out of the character. Robert talked about writing coming out of being in ‘the zone’, a kind of writing trance. He emphasised the importance of characters questioning themselves and yearning for something (a sense of place or identity), which also struck a chord with me.

My reading

My reading

My own reading was at the first session of the first day, which was great because I could stop being nervous after that but at the same time, as I got to know more people I wish it had been later in the week so my friends could have been there to listen. I was lucky enough to still have an appreciative audience, including lovely radio producer Jeremy Osborne and heart-warming couple Sandra Jensen and David Crean, who I became close friends with over the course of the week.

Sandra and Adnan

Sandra and Adnan

I attended sessions on how to read short stories, on short story cycles and on new braids of publishing but there were many more parallel sessions I would have liked to attend. However, one of the best things about this particular conference is that it takes writers very seriously. Alongside academic papers there are readings and I chose to attend quite a few of those sessions, which were all amazing.

Paul photo bombing

Paul Mitchell photo bombing

Over long, lazy lunches in shady outdoor cafes with firm waitresses we got to know each other and I bonded with fellow Aussies Cameron Reynes and Paul Mitchell, as well as with a bunch of fabulous writers from the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA, too many to name here but you know who you are.

The evening activities took on a slightly different flavour. They began with a bi-lingual reading in English and German, where we were encouraged to close our eyes and simple be immersed in the language we didn’t understand.

Cate Kennedy

Cate reading

 

One night we decided to find somewhere to dance. Armed with a group including funny buddies Paul McVeigh, director of London Short Story Festival, and Cate Kennedy, Australia’s short story writer extraordinaire, we headed into the night.

Paul McVeigh in full flight

Paul McVeigh in full flight

Cate Kennedy

Cate Kennedy

 

 

Somehow, Paul and Cate snuck off to the dance venue but lovely Adnan Mahmutovic, newfound soul mate Lucy Durneen and I found ourselves instead contemplating a ride in one of Vienna’s many horse drawn carts.

Horses in Vienna

Horses in Vienna

The last night with its conference dinner was an experience not to be missed, including live music and a wild ride in a car bursting to the seams with excited writers up to the lookout to contemplate Vienna by night.

Live music

Live music

 

 

And so the days and the nights passed, in endless moments of clarity and hours too short to contemplate. I befriended so many people that I know I will meet again, that I will work with, laugh and cry with; writers whose work I adore and admire.

There are so many other moments I could recount from this conference – what about the dumplings, Cafe Central, the impromptu readings, the silliness, the yearning, the computer program that turned Paul McVeigh into a chipmunk and made me cry so hard I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to stop. Perhaps I haven’t stopped laughing yet.

Lucy with the best red dress ever

Lucy with the best red dress ever

If we, as short story writers, can surround ourselves with this positive force field, even if it is only for a week every two years, we can grow stronger in the knowledge that we are not alone. In fact, there are many of us and we can help each other thrive. Shanghai 2016 seems far away but I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

My people

My people

Vienna

 

Vienna

 

Vienna

 

Vienna

 

Vienna

 

Cate, Vanessa, Paul and Rhoda

 

Rebekah and I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vianna mural

 

Spectacular cake shop

Spectacular cake shop

Most Underrated Book Award

Last week I went to Melbourne to attend the Independent Publishing Conference, which is organised by the Small Press Network. Thank you so much to all those involved for organising this important event! I went last year too, so I knew that it would be intense and rewarding, that I would gain insight into the publishing industry and meet plenty of interesting people. However, nothing could have prepared me for the absolutely awesome time I ended up having!

Charlotte and Alex

Charlotte and Alex

Due to Jetstar cancelling my flight I missed the academic day altogether and arrived on Thursday night ready to hang out with Charlotte Harper, from digital first publishing house Editia, and Alex Adsett, who has her own literary agency. Doctoral candidate Lois Shedd was there too and we all had such a fabulous time talking about publishing and writing, eating Asian dishes that were cheap, so cheap, and yummy. Where are those kinds of $4 dishes in Adelaide?!

On Friday 15 Nov 2013, the conference had sessions running parallel and I had to choose what to listen to, including vertical marketing, reviewing, libraries, children’s books, crowd funding and business models. The key note speaker Michael Webster was excellent, guiding us through how books are sold in Australia (through chain stores, Discount & Department Stores, also known as DDSs, or independent bookshops), how many books are sold (22 million), which publishing companies are selling the most books (Penguin and Harper Collins) and why we should remain optimistic (we don’t buy quite as many books as during the golden years 2009-2010 but we still have a very healthy independent bookshop sector).

MUBA flier

MUBA flier

As the day tumbled closer to evening, my stomach started churning a little. As soon as the conference was over, I was to meet the other shortlisted writers in the green room and we would work out in which order to speak at the presentation for the Most Underrated Book Award. I was prepared. I had written a speech. But I was still nervous. Mary Masters, general manager at the Small Press Network which had organised the awards, put us all at ease with her infectious laughter. I was delighted to meet two of the other shortlisted writers, Ginger Briggs who wrote  Staunch (Affirm Press) and Merlinda Bobis, whose book Fish-Hair Woman (Spinifex) had been nominated. Unfortunately, the third writer Annabel Smith, who wrote Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, couldn’t make it so she had recorded a video of herself reading from the book. She also writes really interesting blog posts here.

Shortlisted for MUBA 2013

Shortlisted for MUBA 2013

Ginger was first up and she spoke eloquently about those in our society who are underrated, boys who have lost their way, who are pitied until they are 18, then suddenly seen as monsters who should be thrown in jail and forgotten about. Quite a hard act to follow but I was up next and I had no choice but to deliver my speech.

Talking rubbish

Talking rubbish

It was rubbish. Literally. Because the speech had to be about something underrated and rubbish is underrated. You can read it here.

Fortunately, people laughed in the right places and some people said afterwards that they had never heard about this way of using garbage. I was just happy it was all over so I could sit back and watch Annabel’s video and Merlinda’s fascinating one-woman performance of her book. In the end, Martin Shaw from Readings bookshop presented Merlinda Bobis and her publisher with the award and we could all head downstairs to The Moat for scrumptious dinner and way too much wine.Congratulations to Merlinda and Spinifex as well as Ginger and Annabel for making the shortlist!

Dinner at The Moat

Dinner at The Moat

Meeting up with S.A. Jones from Killings and Caroline Wood from Margaret River Press was great. Read S.A. Jones’ take on the event for Killings blog here. My dear friend Eleanor had brought her dad Gordon along to attend the awards and we all had a fantastic time in a way that I think of as typically Australian, involving lots of self-deprecation, exquisite food and flowing rivers of alcohol. I was buzzing. Sure, I hadn’t won the award but I had won so much more than that. I had won respect for MidnightSun and for myself as a writer. And most importantly, I had won friends. Fellow writers and publishers that I know I’ll keep in touch with, who I can ask when I need advice, who are enthusiastic and funny and just a little bit crazy. Just like me.

An exciting new initiative: Interviews

Because I tend to blog once every six months or so and not necessarily saying anything profound when I do, I thought I might get other writers to say interesting things instead. Therefore I have asked Annabel Smith, fellow nominee of the Most Underrated Book Award, to answer a few questions. The interview can be found here and I hope that it will soon be joined by other interviews with writers I know and admire. Enjoy!

Australian Women Writers Challenge

I have decided to take the plunge this year and sign up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s a fabulous initiative which began in 2012 when Elizabeth Lhuede found it impossible to find books by women writers at her local library. Lhuede created the challenge and it has grown ever since. Last year, I stood at the sidelines and admired the great idea, the fabulous reviewers and the fact that books from all genres were reviewed by their readers. Now it is time for me to participate. Anyone can do it. You just have to fill in a form on their website.

All I have signed up for is reading four books by Australian women writers and reviewing three of them. In a year, really, that shouldn’t be too difficult. I haven’t got a clear plan for what I want to read, but I have already read Charlotte Wood’s Animal People. A few of my friends, including Heather Taylor Johnson (Pursuing Love and Death) and Hannah Kent (Burial Rites) will have books published later in the year and I am really looking forward to reading them. So now I better be off to read :) I’ll be back when I have a review for you.

Finding my way back to writing

A short story has sneaked into my life and decided to stay. Thanks to my lovely group of fabulous and dedicated writer friends, I have managed to write my way through a whole new shiny short story about nothing in general and life’s quirky moments in particular. Deadlines really help me write. When I know that someone is eager to read what I am creating, I am more likely to put aside all the other thousands of little publishing things that I should be doing and dedicate my time to my pen and writing book. Yes, I am one of the antiquated writers who actually prefer to write longhand. It seems to fit better with my precise and concise style. I am a looking-out-of-the-window-far-too-often kind of writer. My eyes get sore if I gaze at the screen all day so I see writing as a relief from the pressure to write quickly and efficiently, the way I might for a web post like this one.

Fiction takes time to germinate. I suck on every word to work out if it has just the right flavour for that particular sentence. It feels good to be back. I can finally reply ‘yes’ when readers ask me whether I am writing something new. One short story is just one short story, I realise this, but my novel The Hum of Concrete is made up of connected short stories and I know that it isn’t all that easy to find the balance when your words are limited. With conventional novels there is more room to move, to expand ideas, to fall for the temptation to describe minute details.

I am looking forward to hearing the verdict from my fellow work-shoppers and reading the story again, this time with my more critical editing eyes on every word.

 

Really, another post? So soon…

So after a good six months of working on the MidnightSun Publishing website rather this personal one, I’m back here to write about the perils of not writing. What is happening in my life, is that I can now legitimately call myself a published writer but because I am also a publisher The Hum of Concrete coverand have published three books in the last six months (my own novel The Hum of Concrete, Zanesh Catkin‘s Pangamonium as well as Zanesh’s The Ludic Mode of Pangamonium as an ebook) I no longer have any time to write.

All my time is spent doing publicity and marketing, which does involve writing but usually nothing longer than a few well thought-out sentences in an email. I miss writing. But, rather than plunging headlong into a new novel, and perhaps tomorrow feeling like I’d overdone it, like when you have eaten a few too many slices of cake, I thought I’d test the waters here. Pretending that I’m writing a letter to a good friend but, hopefully, leaving the worst self pity out of it. I really love being a publisher. It has opened so many doors for me and I suddenly feel like I’m getting a lot more respect from strangers. ‘Oh, so you run a publishing company. That’s interesting…’

Not that it really matters what others think but I never thought I’d own, let alone, run my own business and now I do, which is both exhilarating and slightly overwhelming. Ultimately, it all comes back to words. It’s words that I love and I still work with words every day but now I feel a bit like the laptop rules my world. Because as a recently published writer, and a new publisher, I felt compelled to join Twitter as well as Facebook and keep up with all the writing and publishing news. It has been fun, I have learned a lot, I have met many inspiring people, I have had the opportunity to travel, I have organised readings in book shops and the whisper around town is that MidnightSun throws the best launch parties ever. We play 80s music and let our hair down…

It sounds a like I’m done with publishing, like this is the final letter to a lover you have enjoyed and always will remember fondly, but that isn’t the case at all. I intend to keep publishing. But I also intend to keep writing, because writing is my home. Publishing has kept me away for a while but I know it’s time for me to return.

Because without writing, there is no publishing.

 

Word Matters

Welcome to my writing space! This is where I will write about the progress of my own writing, wonderful books that I have read, interesting articles that I come across, amazing photography, the joys and perils of motherhood, the state of publishing in Australia and the world, as well as other random topics that might appear in my reasonably narrow field of vision. Hope you enjoy it!