Working at Elizabeth Farm

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Working as a guide at a historic home sounds, for many people, like a dream job. But is it?

Last year I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Jacky Dalton, who works at Sydney Living Museums.

I subsequently asked her about how she came to be in her job and this is what she told me.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

My first connection with Elizabeth Farm was a ghost tour almost 16 years ago, and I immediately felt a connection with the property even though Read the rest of this entry

A cold day in… Elsinore

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We all know Hamlet never set foot in Kronberg Castle at Elsinore (Helsingør, Denmark) because, um newsflash – Shakespeare was not producing documentaries. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to go there.

And given how bloody cold it was (yes they’re icicles on the downpipes) I’m not at all surprised Hamlet was wondering whether or not life was worth living. Apologies to those of you who have already seen these on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I go on work trips to interesting places.  No, my working life is neither glamorous or exciting.

Death by Dim Sim

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death-by-dim-simStopped by Readings Books in Carlton today to pick up a copy of my friend’s newly released memoir: Death by Dim Sim.  So exciting to see it on the shelf.

You should buy a copy too. Here’s the blurb from the back cover.

Sarah Vincent once tipped the scales at 122 kilos. She worked at the back of a hospital making calls and answering emails, but at three o’clock every afternoon she would answer a very special call – the call of the dim sim. Running the gauntlet of smokers in the hospital car park one day for her daily dim sim fix, Sarah had an epiphany: just like those nicotine addicts, Sarah was an addict and was slowly killing herself with food.

She knew that if she didn’t act soon it would be too late, and her husband – who had only narrowly survived cancer – and their two young children would be minus a wife and mother. She also knew she had been going on crash diets since the age of thirteen and nothing had ever worked.

But then Sarah met the nutritionist who would introduce her to the low-carb, high-fat eating approach known as Banting, which leaves you feeling full and reduces your cravings. In Death by Dim Sim she details with hilarious honesty how she managed to lose 40 kilos using this method, her childhood battle with her weight and her lifelong struggle with anxiety. And because she wants you to lose weight too, she shares the recipes, tips and meal plans that helped save her life. She is now slimmer and fitter than she’s ever been and she never wants to see a dim sim again.

Melbourne writer Sarah Vincent was one of my fellow-students from the 2015 HARDCOPY program, and I can’t begin to tell you how keen the publishers and agents were to sign her up.

I’m very keen to tuck in to this one (terrible pun totally intended).

HARDCOPY Writing Program 2017

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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

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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

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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

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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