HARDCOPY Writing Program 2017


2017_hardcopytag-279x300HARDCOPY 2017 is now open for applications. The main reason I have a book publishing deal is because of HARDCOPY 2015 and I simply can’t recommend this program enough.

Don’t think too hard about it – just put your application in! Apply here.

Established in 2014, HARDCOPY is a national professional development program that helps build the capacities, aptitudes and resources emerging Australian writers need to reach their potential.

By creating an environment that is educative, vigorous and nurturing, HARDCOPY:

  • helps writers develop their manuscripts;
  • increases industry knowledge;
  • facilitates relationships between writers and publishing professionals; and
  • breaks down the barriers of location and geography.

In 2017 the program will focus on nonfiction project. The program alternates each year, so last year the focus was on fiction. In 2015, the year I participated, the focus was nonfiction.

HARDCOPY does not specifically aim to have its participants achieve publication as a direct and immediate result of the program. Rather, HARDCOPY focuses on (1) manuscript/project development, (2) education about how the Australian publishing industry works, and (3) building connections and relationships within the industry/writing community. Any publication outcomes that may occur because of the program are considered an added bonus.  And yep – I scored the bonus! As did several of my colleagues.

HARDCOPY aims to develop writers who will have longevity as Australian writers.

HARDCOPY is underpinned by the principle of pragmatic optimism: being aware of the challenges, but also being positive about the future.

HARDCOPY is a special initiative of the ACT Writers Centre and funded by the Australia Council for the Arts.

I’ve written about Read the rest of this entry

Stella Prize 2017 Longlist


the-stella-prize-homeWow – this might be the strongest Stella Prize field I’ve ever seen. Congratulations to all.

This year’s longlisted titles are:

  • Victoria: The Queen (Julia Baird, HarperCollins)
  • Between a Wolf and a Dog (Georgia Blain, Scribe)
  • The Hate Race (Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hachette)
  • Poum and Alexandre (Catherine de Saint Phalle, Transit Lounge)
  • Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru (Madeline Gleeson, NewSouth)
  • Avalanche (Julia Leigh, Hamish Hamilton)
  • An Isolated Incident (Emily Maguire, Picador)
  • The High Places (Fiona McFarlane, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Wasted: A Story of Alcohol, Grief and a Death in Brisbane (Elspeth Muir, Text)
  • The Museum of Modern Love (Heather Rose, A&U)
  • Dying: A Memoir (Cory Taylor, Text)
  • The Media and the Massacre (Sonya Voumard, Transit Lounge).

The shortlist will be announced on 8 March and the winner at a ceremony in Melbourne on 18 April.

As a writer of non-fiction, I can’t help but be pleased to see the shortlist comprises seven works of nonfiction (and four novels and one short-story collection). Great mix of large and small publishers too – including two from Text – huzzah!

This year’s prize is judged by author and academic Brenda Walker; author and literary critic Delia Falconer; bookseller Diana Johnston; editor and chair of First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Sandra Phillips; and author and screenwriter Benjamin Law.

The Stella Prize is presented for the best work of fiction or nonfiction by an Australian women published in the previous calendar year. The prize is named after Miles Franklin, whose first name was Stella, and was inspired by the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Elizabeth Macarthur died today


Not actually today, obviously.

Elizabeth Macarthur the woman died almost 167 years ago, on 9 February 1850. She was eighty-three years old.

But today I wrote the paragraph in which Elizabeth dies, the final paragraph of the book really, and I felt strangely sad.

It’s been my job to make her come to life on the page and I’ve been working to do so for more years than I care to admit. Yet there she was, having a stroke and quietly dying at Watson’s Bay in the company of Emmeline, her youngest daughter and Dr Anderson, a long-time family friend. It was sad and I hope I can make my readers feel that same soft pang.

The other part of my sadness, though, was less easy to articulate.

For months I’ve been looking forward to reaching this point: to be able to write “and then she died. The End.” Which is not what I actually wrote, of course, but you see my point. It is The End. The end of the research (almost), the end of the first draft, the end of laying down the facts of Elizabeth’s long and interesting life.  Did you know Read the rest of this entry

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance – Book Review


hillbilly-elegyJ.D. Vance is a young American white man who grew up poor. Hillbilly Elegy, his memoir and exploration of the US’s white working class, is probably going to be one of my best books of 2017. Yep, I’m calling it early.

Looking for work and better prospects, JD’s hillbilly grandparents moved from the mountains of Kentucky about three hours north to Ohio, where they lived in a town with a name that would be too ridiculous to use in a novel: Middletown.

In Middletown JD’s mother was born, raised, educated and then effectively lost within a cycle of drugs, men and abuse. JD was raised in the maelstrom of that cycle, saved only from repeating his mother’s mistakes by an older sister who protected him as well as she could and the tough love of his grandparents.  And I mean tough.  JD was once foolish enough to ask his gun-toting grandmother (called Mamaw) what it felt like to be punched in the face.  She socked him one.  Turned out it didn’t feel as bad as he thought it might.

Vance lovingly describes his family and his communities (he spent time in both Kentucky and Ohio) but Read the rest of this entry

Best Reads 2016


seuss-reading-in-bedHmmm. It turns out that in 2016 I only read about one book per week. 52 books; 41 of them written by women; 31 of them fiction.

Which didn’t seem like enough until I remembered that I (usually) only read in bed, at night, and that sometimes exhaustion wins out over literary merit…

Or, as seems to be the case this year, exhaustion won out over any sort of merit at all! I’m afraid my literary diet for 2016 was chock full of sweet nothings, lots of easy reading and lighter-than-air commercial fiction, with only the occasional Big Book thrown in (perhaps to stop me floating away completely).

My reading themes for 2016?

Size matters. Some of the Big Books I read this year were truly excellent:

  • Samuel Pepys by Clare Tomalin was the masterful and awe-inspiring work of a biographer at the top of her game.
  • The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore explains much about Putin (who is clearly just a Tsar by another name)
  • Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler was worth reading AND provided a useful example of how to fill a book with images sourced for free.
  • Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird is another incredibly well written biography.

Other works of non-fiction were fascinating too: Read the rest of this entry

Australia’s First Piano – belated update

The keys of the First Fleet piano. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-26/australias-first-piano-unveiled-at-wa-university/7449222

The keys of the First Fleet piano.

Surgeon George Worgan, thirty-three, improbably managed to bring a piano with him on the First Fleet.  In 1790 he gallantly began to tutor Elizabeth Macarthur, telling her she’d ‘done wonders in being able to play off God save the King and Foots Minuet’ and that she was ‘reading the Notes with great facility.’

Worgan went so far as to make Elizabeth a gift of the pianoforte upon his departure in 1791.

In early 1810 Elizabeth bought a pianoforte for £85 at an auction sale, presumably because the original piano no longer served. That old piano was then lost to history … or so I thought.

When I was in Sydney talking to the people at Sydney Living Museums they kindly alerted me to the following new publication: The First Fleet Piano: A Musician’s View by Prof Geoffrey Lancaster.

It’s an enormous beast of a book, stretching over two huge volumes. I think that’s it sitting on the piano, in the photo below.

When I returned home and searched the book up, I discovered that Elizabeth’s piano was not lost at all.  In fact it is alive and well and living in Read the rest of this entry