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Posts from the ‘Creativity’ Category

Distraction and self doubt

July 20th, 2015


Only 12 days until Long Bay is released, which brings a certain familiar mixture of dread and excitement to my chest. The dread that something which has existed primarily in my head for so long will become publicly available, and the excitement that people might actually want to read it. This is all topped with a thick icing of self doubt, where I question the quality of everything I have ever written, and wonder what on earth possessed me to publish another novel.short hair

As a pleasant distraction from all of this angst – I was featured on the lovely Wordmothers blog to talk about my writing. It’s a great place to read about women in the writing and publishing industry and gain insight into how they work.

What else have I done? As an extension of my nervous anticipation, I cut off all my hair, thus ensuring that my appearance will never match my author photo.

Now, if only I could have placed all of my self doubt and nervousness in the strands of my hair, most of it would be swept away and neatly disposed of by now.

I’d love to know how you deal with self doubt. Have you found a way to distract yourself or even banish it for good?

The launch of Long Bay is on September 4th, at Sydney’s Gleebooks, all are welcome and to RSVP please click here.


The Secret River on the ABC

June 16th, 2015


I was excited when I saw trailers for this adaptation of Kate Grenville’s book on the ABC. I loved The Secret River, it changed the way I thought about Australia’s history. And her book Searching for the Secret River, which Grenville wrote about the process of researching and writing her novel, changed the way I thought about family histories and combining writing and research.


Will and Sal in the adaptation. Photo: ABC

The Secret River tells the story of one of Grenville’s ancestors, William Thornhill, who is a convict from London transported to Sydney for stealing timber. His wife, Sal, follows with their two children, determined that she will keep the family together. After a few years in Sydney William Thornhill buys his freedom and claims for his family a patch of land on the Hawkesbury River, a place which is still wild and largely unsettled. Apart, that is, from the Aboriginal inhabitants, who Thornhill and his family are both ignorant of and terrified by. This is a book about settlement and how Europeans essentially stole land which was not theirs to take and slaughtered those who stood in their way. Read more

Running and writing

May 19th, 2015


I ran in my second half-marathon on Sunday: 21 kilometres through the eerie quiet streets of Sydney with the only other sound the rhythmic breathing of others, feet hitting bitumen and the occasional shout of a spectator. Roads normally only for cars like the Cahill Expressway were closed to traffic and filled with other runners, all of us puffing towards the distant finish line. When I wasn’t focused on putting one foot in front of the other I gazed around in pained wonder. Who were all of these other people?

SMHX2665-20x30People crazy enough to get up at 5 in the morning on an overcast Sunday and slog through the streets of the city with thousands of others. Crazy enough to spend months logging long and shin-splinting training runs, to have eaten a plate of carbs and drunk a litre of water before going to bed by 9pm Saturday night. To have laid out their shoes and socks and shorts and sportsbras and singlets and special energy gels the night before, as carefully as a bride lays out her dress on the eve of her wedding. They are everywhere. It is strange to count myself among them. Read more

The cover

May 12th, 2015


The cover image is taken from the actual 1909 photographic prison record of the woman – Rebecca Sinclair – who I have based the story upon.

I am so glad that her piercing gaze is included in this novel, because it is part of what drew me to her story in the first place. It is a gaze unsmiling but unwavering – she is not going to look away from what she has done. She is facing the prison photographer having been found guilty of manslaughter after a mother-of-three died in her house from a botched abortion. When this photograph was taken Rebecca was 23, married, the mother of a young daughter, and pregnant with her second child. She was sentenced to three years hard labour and served out the bulk of her sentence at Long Bay Women’s Reformatory.

Long Bay will be in bookstores and available as an e-book from August 1.


Letter from Ubud

October 27th, 2014


The 2014 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali was a real thrill for a new author like me, so thrilling I found it difficult to sleep. For once I could have slept in, so naturally my mind (and the roosters) kept me awake. Here is an excerpt from a letter home I wrote early one morning:

photo 1It’s 5.45 in the morning and around me the mist is thick and the sky is pink, there are roosters crowing on all sides and faraway gongs ring from a temple. At the edges of the garden thatched lanterns glow and there are birds in the palm trees beginning to wake. There is one rooster just behind this villa who sounds as though he is the grandpa rooster with a very sore throat, but he still tries his best to crow with the rest of them.

Yesterday were my two panels – “Wide Awake Language” and “The Perfect Mother”. My first one I had to chair and I was up late the night before preparing. But the authors Eimar McBride and Sjon were wonderful, and the poet Bunyamin Fasya even stood up and did a spontaneous performance which gave me goosebumps. The second panel was in the afternoon chaired by Tory Loudon from the Australia Council and with the authors Sarah Darmody and Jill Dawson I talked about motherhood and writing. We all had such varying perspectives, and we discussed how we’d love to hear more fathers asked how they juggle fatherhood and writing. Afterwards I learned that the copies of What Was Left that I brought for the bookstore had sold, which means that I have room in my suitcase to bring some presents back. Read more

The small miracle of travel

August 8th, 2014


I have been away from my desk, visiting dear friends in the United States and taking the children to see their grandma and grandpa in Virginia. I was raised the child of a diplomat, with a suitcase in one hand and a passport in the other. (Figuratively, not literally – I was not trusted to hold my own passport until I left home!) To be en route somewhere else is one of my favourite places to be. What thrills me is to see this excitement in my children as well, they love adventure at five and seven years of age as much as I do at 37. This isn’t to say there weren’t moments of complete exhaustion and tears, and times when they missed the dog and their own beds.

Most of the time, though, they were:securedownload

Jumping off a diving board. Seeing a skunk. Watching their first fireworks on the fourth of July. Sitting in the cockpit of an commercial airplane (pilot and copilot) just after landing.Kissing their 91-year-old great-grandmother on her soft, loose cheek and holding her veiny, swollen hand. Read more

Blog tour: How I Write

May 13th, 2014


The multi-talented author Bianca Nogrady invited me to participate in this blog tour. Topic: how I write. Bianca is a science journalist who has already written two immensely readable nonfiction books (The Sixth Wave and The End) and is now working on not one but two novels of adult science fiction. I don’t know when the woman sleeps.

I’ve read sections of her novel Biohunter and love how she brings her science and medical knowledge to writing about a post-climate change world (one that is refreshingly non-apocalyptic).  You can read her post here.

Now (deep breath) here are my answers: Read more

Seven things I have learned

April 1st, 2014


I might be newly published but I have been working at the craft of writing for a while now, at least ten years. Around ten years ago I went on the canoe trip in this photograph – it was in the Shoalhaven and we had to get the canoe from the drop-off point to the launching point at the river far, far below. We could have hurtled it down the cliff and ended up with a broken canoe, but instead we lowered it slowly, cautiously, with ropes. Trees helped break the fall. Sometimes I still feel like I’m hurtling myself down cliffs and I have to remember to use the ropes, to pick my way cautiously. I have learned so much from other writers when they talk or write about their process so here is a small (and in no way exhaustive) list of things I have learned: IMG_0192

  1. Recognise what you are obsessed about and use those obsessions. Don’t be afraid to write about them too much. There is a reason that you are always returning to those themes: there is a reason for your preoccupation. If you are really passionate about them – who cares what other people say? Write about them.
  2. Not everyone will like your work. You don’t like every writer who has ever been published. Don’t be devastated by rejection, there are editors and publishers out there who might love what you are writing. Keep writing, keep reading, keep sending out work. Read more

Release day & events

August 29th, 2013


IMG_0604Well, officially release day is September 1st, but there have already been reports of What Was Left spottings in Gleebooks in Glebe and Readings in Carlton. I’m so thrilled that there are copies on the shelves but by far the most rewarding thing is having people read the book and tell me what they thought of it. Read more

When you’ve had enough talk about writing…

May 27th, 2013


I’ve had a busy cluster of days, attending sessions at the Sydney Writers Festival and listening to writers speak, going to a seminar for my PhD and catching up with friends and having interesting conversations. I feel like, now, I could just be alone with my thoughts and my laptop in a room for a week to digest it all, and to catch up on the writing which I feel I have been neglecting.


This is not what my laptop looks like

It’s a dilemma – because writing is such an isolated practice I go to these events to meet other writers and hear other writers and then while I’m sitting there I think to myself – ‘What the fuck am I doing here? I should be writing!’ Read more