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Posts from the ‘Creativity’ Category

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


March 28th, 2013


As a child I used to wish that I sleepwalked – how strange and thrilling for your body to do something your mind is  unaware of. I recall my sister telling me that I spoke in my sleep sometimes, but I wondered what it meant to not just talk but stand up and go someplace. What would my unconscious self choose to do? Where would I go?

I no longer really want to sleepwalk, now that I am older I am aware of the danger present everywhere. What if I fell down the stairs? Or decided to climb over the balcony railing? What if I walked to the grocery store in my pyjamas and forgot to put on my glasses first? I’d probably be hit by a car trying to cross the road.IMG_0060

But there is one place where, I realise, I have been occasionally guilty of sleepwalking. As Zadie Smith puts it – ‘sleepwalking through a sentence’. A writing mentor passed on to me a piece that Zadie Smith wrote for the Guardian in 2007 called “Fail better”. Within it she writes about cliche and admits to using a typical one – to rummage through a purse:

To rummage through a purse is to sleepwalk through a sentence – small enough betrayal of self, but a betrayal all the same. To speak personally, the very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life. But it is easy to admit that a sentence makes you wince; less easy to confront the fact that for many writers there will be paragraphs, whole characters, whole books through which one sleepwalks and for which “inauthentic” is truly the correct term. Read more

On generosity

March 18th, 2013


My children, aged three and five, have been fighting quite a bit these past few weeks. The younger one – a boy – has become acutely aware of wanting everything that his sister has and his older sister has become adept at making her little brother jealous. Some of this has to do, I’m sure, with her having started kindergarten this year and the sense the little brother has of being left out of this experience. IMG_1975

His sister wears a school uniform now, takes three different lunch boxes to school, and has a reader she brings home every night along with an entire vocabulary of new playground terminology. Sometimes I see her gloating about these new experiences to him in order to infuriate him, but I’d rather focus on (and reward) the moments of generosity that she shows. Read more

A week away

March 12th, 2013


I spent this past week at Varuna, The Writer’s House in the Blue Mountains (about an hour and a half outside of Sydney) on a Varuna Fellowship and I’m still coming down from it. I won’t rabbit on about how wonderful it was to have a week solely dedicated to writing, with no domestic chores or distractions. Or about how all of that silence inspired me to push my boundaries, or how I sat down to dinner every night with four other writers to talk about books and words and read our own work. Or about how the walks and trail-runs through the National Park and surrounding bush gave me time to contemplate and turn over new ideas.

Or maybe I will!

Here’s a picture of my desk, I was in Eleanor Dark’s garden studio, and this is her original desk. It faces the garden for a view of rose bushes, surrounding paperbarks, magpies and raucous

And here is a poem that I wrote, with a disclaimer. I write dodgy poetry, but I found myself at the foot of a waterfall thinking about the contrasts between the rushing water and the stones.

This slippery trickle

swift rush


And I wonder if


is everything.

I forget, waterfall:

it takes still, steady stones

to direct you.

Now, back to the laundry and lunch boxes and lunacy. Truly it’s wonderful to be back, but I’m hoping to retain some of that stillness in my head.