2, 2 and 2: Julia Lawrinson talks about Before You Forget

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Julia Lawrinson has long been one of my favourite writers. She’s also one of the smartest and most articulate people I know,  someone I admire and respect enormously, so it is a thrill, and a privilege, to have this opportunity to feature her new novel, Before You Forget.

Julia has an impressive publication record: 13 novels for children and young adults since 2001. Her books include Obsession, 2001 (winner, Western Australian Premier’s Literary Awards), Bye Beautiful, 2006 (Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council Awards, shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Book Awards, shortlisted for Western Australian Premier’s Literary Awards), The Push, 2008 (shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Book Awards) and Chess Nuts, 2010 (Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council Awards). She appears regularly at schools and writers events, including the Melbourne and Perth Writers Festivals, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (Singapore), the Celebrate Reading Conference at the Literature Centre, Voices on the Coast (Queensland) and Kindling Words East (Vermont, USA), as well as in regional Western Australia (Albany, Geraldton, Bunbury, Newman and Port Hedland) for Children’s Book Week and for the Literature Centre’s Youth Literature days.

What Julia has written in response to the 2, 2 and 2 questions below gives a deeply moving context for this new work—in terms of its subject matter and her motivation for writing it. I would always be looking forward to having another Julia Lawrinson on my bookshelves, but this one feels special even before I read it.

Here is the blurb for Before You Forget (Penguin Random House):

Year Twelve is not off to a good start for Amelia. Art is her world, but her art teacher hates everything she does; her best friend has stopped talking to her; her mother and father may as well be living in separate houses; and her father is slowly forgetting everything. Even Amelia.

At times funny, at times heartbreaking, this is an ultimately uplifting story about the delicate fabric of family and friendship, and the painful realisation that not everything can remain the same forever.

And now, here’s Julia…

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2 things that inspired the book

1 My daughter’s struggle with her father’s younger onset Alzheimer’s disease
My daughter was 12 when her father started displaying the alarming symptoms of younger onset Alzheimer’s disease, and 15 when he was finally diagnosed. The most noticeable thing about younger onset is not so much memory loss, at first, but personality change. Her dad began stockpiling food, bringing strange men home and giving them money, getting up in the middle of the night and bellowing at us, driving erratically, and becoming furious over the smallest things. Worse, he was unaware of what was happening, unable to acknowledge or discuss it. The change in personhood was disconcerting, disorienting and difficult for me, and worse for my daughter. It was hard to understand, to deal with, to explain to others. So, the need for the novel.

2 The transformative power of art in everyday life
I’m not sure where I picked up the idea that any difficulty in life is endurable if only you can transform it into art, but I became convinced of this from an early age. In Before You Forget, Amelia is an art student who struggles to find visual form for what is happening to her father, and to their relationship. But she also experiences that sense of losing yourself in the act of creation, which is the pleasure of any art form, whether it is writing, music, painting, acting. Making something from what has been destroyed, or has disappeared.

2 places connected with the book

1 Fremantle
I spent a lot of time wandering around Fremantle when I was writing Before You Forget. It was a terrible time in my life, but walking soothed, and I tried to get as close to the water as I could. I was sprayed by water in winter as I walked into the wind at South Mole; picked my way around seaweed on Bathers Beach, listening to the hush of waves; watched dogs large and small gambolling on South Beach, fetching sticks and balls, racing each other on the sand. I like to think that the rhythm of those walks can be felt in the writing. Certainly, Fremantle features large in the novel.

2 Ground Zero
Amelia is obsessed with watching and re-watching 9/11 footage: the unanticipated horror of it is her personal disaster writ large, as well as an exemplar of the randomness of fate. She wants to understand how people survived it, how they found a way to think about what had happened. How life, however changed, continues after catastrophes of all kinds.

When I took my daughter to New York, we spent sobering days at the memorial and the museum. In the museum, the Virgil quotation ‘No day shall erase you from the memory of time’ (repurposed from its original context) stretches out among a sea of blue tiles. Many of the exhibitions are dedicated to remembering those who perished by recording the ordinariness of their extinguished lives: when they were born, things their families and friends most recall, their favourite subject at school. It struck me as a worthy aim of any memorial: to provide a continuing existence for the spirits who are lost, to honour the past for the comfort of the living. A testament to the centrality of memory.

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2 favourite characters

1 Hecta the Jack Russell
Hecta in the novel is very much based on our Hecta in real life. As Simon’s condition deteriorates, fictional Hecta behaves much as actual Hecta did: becoming naughtier and naughtier. He escapes out of carelessly open front doors, climbs onto tables, steals carers’ sandwiches out of their handbags, and eats the same, still covered in cling wrap. Anyone who has had an untrainable Jack Russell (is there any other kind?!) will recognise Hecta’s antics!

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Hecta, by Annie Lawrinson

2 Ms M the art teacher
Ms M is a formidable art teacher who expects her charges to do their best work, and is not afraid of sharing her disapprobation if they do not. Ms M is reliable in a way Amelia’s parents suddenly are not, and the art room becomes her haven. Although I am entirely unskilled in the visual arts, the teacher and the space were analogous to my supportive English teachers, and, of course, the library with its written treasures.

Before You Forget (Penguin Random House) will be available
in bookshops and online
on 30 January
You can contact Julia via her website

 

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

I did not officially sign up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2016, as I knew that my commitments for the year would sink any well-intentioned plans to write reviews! However, in a year when most of my reading was directed towards research, I did manage to read some wonderful books by Australian women writers, and some of them were featured in my 2, 2 and 2 series for writers with new books.

So here’s my list for 2016 (with links to 2, 2 and 2 interviews where relevant):

All That Is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster (link here)
Wildlight by Robyn Mundy (link here)
The Secret Son by Jenny Ackland (link here)
The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky
A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester (link here)
The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
Still Life with Teapot: On Zen, Writing and Creativity by Brigid Lowry
The Historian’s Daughter by Rashida Murphy (link here)
Forgetting Foster by Dianne Touchell (link here)
Hope Farm by Peggy Frew
Extinctions by Josephine Wilson

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I already have another pile waiting—and no doubt will be adding to it after the Perth Writers Festival in February—but once again, knowing my limitations, I won’t plan to review in 2017.

aww2017-badgeIf you’re interested in taking part in the 2017 challenge, you can sign up here.

Here’s to another great year of reading!

 

 

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…and a Happy New Year to all

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January 1, 2017 · 5:45 pm

Season’s greetings…

and peace to all, wherever you may be…

 

christmas

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The next wave updated (part 3): Amanda Gardiner, Louise Allan and Kim Coull

This is the last of three posts featuring the group of Western Australian women writers who were my guests two years ago under the banner ‘The Next Wave’. It’s been a great pleasure to watch their development as writers since then, and to know them individually as the lovely women they are.

Here are Amanda Gardiner, Louise Allan and Kim Coull reviewing what these last two years have brought to their creative lives.

You can also read about Emily Paull and Michelle Michau-Crawford here; and Karen Overman and Rashida Murphy here.

Amanda Gardiner

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Photograph by Sarah Mills

There have been a lot of changes in my life since I was featured as one of Amanda’s WA women writers to watch out for.

In 2015 I began work as a post-doctoral research fellow at the South West campus of Edith Cowan University. I love my job and it has given me the opportunity to pursue ideas that had been bubbling away in my imagination for years.

The work I am most proud of is an interdisciplinary research project called The Spaces Between Us that is based on my doctoral research into women who committed child murder in colonial Western Australia. As part of the project I invited six artists (including a composer) to engage with the 55 cases I had uncovered.

One of the results of the project is an exhibition that is being held at the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery throughout December 2016 and January 2017.

It is hard to do the type of work that I do. There is a lot of pain, and suffering and death. There is a lot of injustice and shame. It is a heavy weight to bear. So it is important to me to share what I do in ways that embody empathy, respect and compassion. Ways that invite questioning and a deep and nuanced understanding of context—of why people behave in the ways that they do.

And this is the intent of The Spaces Between Us, and the idea behind working with this group of artists.

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For me, the resultant work has beome a form of bearing witness. Of not turning away. The exhibition allows us all to carry and hold the mothers and babies; to let them know they have not been forgotten and that we seek to find and evoke wisdom, compassion and social change through their trauma and suffering.

This past year working on the project has been a rewarding experience for me, and I have learned a lot from this talented group of people.

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Serving It Up by Sarah Mills. Mixed media installation, 100 x 100 cm

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Bird’s-eye view of the above

You can listen to me talking about the project on the ABC’s Books and Arts program.

Another achievement I am proud of is being a member of Westerly’s 2016 Writers’ Development Program. One of the most exciting things about being part of the program is that Susan Midalia is my writing mentor. I have had a literary crush on Susan for many years, and working with her on my Westerly piece has been such a rewarding experience—she always asks just the right questions.

Also:

I was the winner of the 2014 Magdalena Prize for Feminist Research.

In 2015 I received the second place award in the National 5RP (5 minute research pitch) Competition for my presentation ‘Sex, death and desperation: Infanticide in colonial Western Australia (1829–1901).’ You can watch it here.

I was also featured on Radio National’s The Science Show. You can listen here.

My PhD thesis was shortlisted for the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association (AWGSA) PhD Award in 2016.

And in 2016 I was Highly Commended in Shorelines (Bunbury’s writing for performance festival).

The cover of the catalogue for The Spaces Between Us features Helen Seiver’s adding absence. Photo by Lloyd-Smith Photographics
Watch a documentary on The Spaces Between Us (by Peacock Visuals) here

Louise Allan

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Well, much has happened since the first series of ‘Next Wave’ blog posts two years ago.

Since then, the biggest development has been that Allen & Unwin will publish my novel in September 2017. I still have to pinch myself every day—I can’t imagine seeing my book on a shelf in a store, or in someone’s hands.

Going back to December 2014, and the news that my novel had been shortlisted for the 2014 City of Fremantle TAG Hungerford Award: it didn’t win, and although I was disappointed, it didn’t hurt as much or for as long as I thought it would. I took a lot of encouragement from the shortlisting—it meant that a group of independent and experienced authors had read my manuscript and decided it had merit. It meant I was on the right track.

I’m also quite philosophical about these things—I’ve had my share of disappointments, and I know that things happen when the time and place are right. So I told myself something even better was waiting in the wings.

After speaking with author and writing teacher Natasha Lester, I decided to seek an agent before looking for a publisher. I sent my manuscript to Lyn Tranter at Australian Literary Management, and a few weeks later, Lyn telephoned. She had a lot to say, most of it negative. My book needed a lot of work, not just a few tweaks here and there, but a major rewrite.

I was up for it. I stripped my book right back—if it were a tree, I’d say I took to it with a chainsaw, cutting not just the leaves and twigs, but the hefty branches, too, until all that remained was the trunk. Many paragraphs and even whole chapters were assigned to the trash and will never be seen on a page again. Indeed, the excerpt that I included in the December 2014 post here no longer lives! Then I added scenes back in, one by one. Some of them are nearly the same, with an added line or two that changes the emphasis, but many are totally new. I also rewrote the ending, and right up until the last few pages I had no idea how it would turn out. Hopefully, it will be a surprise for readers, too!

I believe my story is much better, much truer to my themes. There were parts of previous versions that even I didn’t like, but I didn’t know how to fix them. I needed someone with experienced eyes to tell me, and I’ll be forever grateful for Lyn’s feedback. I can’t overstate how helpful feedback from the right person is, and how important it is to heed that advice, especially for someone like me, a first-time novelist without a creative writing degree who was learning on the job.

Lyn accepted my rewritten novel and the first publisher she sent it to, Annette Barlow at Allen & Unwin, accepted it. I’m now waiting for the structural edits—I have no idea how extensive they’ll be or how long they’ll take, but, once again, I’m up for it.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to write Novel #2. My first few attempts were in third-person point of view, but they were abysmal. So I returned to my tried and true first person POV, and the words are flowing. It seems I write best when wearing the shoes of my protagonist.

One other thing: my novel is no longer called ‘Ida’s Children’ and I have no idea what the new title will be, so I can’t tell you what to look out for. Stay tuned…

Thanks, Amanda, for following up on this series. It’s only been two years—a short time, really—and look what’s happened in between. I hope the next two years are just as productive.

You can find Louise on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram or on Pinterest

Kim Coull

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It is very still here this morning as I write this. Summer is creeping in. But I do love this last hurrah as the jacarandas break out. It’s about 11 am. The horse across the road is neighing. I never see this horse, although it keeps me company on the days I have time to sit and write. Like this morning.

In the last two years there has been a lot of space and in that space the heart of the game has deepened for me. Words have morphed into vibrations and back again. There’s been a great deal of silence and in that silence (paradoxically) I’ve found another well to plumb, or rather it has been like falling into an ocean and eventually finding myself washed up on a distant but vaguely remembered shore.

I’ve been time-travelling back into my music and writing songs. I made a harp recently. On it I carved the primal sound (although I’ve heard that may be only a secondary vibration to the initial ping). I have been interested in the healing value of Sanskrit and Gurmukhi and also language that creates soundscapes and vibrations, and I am applying this to the writing process. Over the past year, especially, from this intersection of sound, words, vibration and silence, I’ve written an album of songs that I plan to record in 2017.

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I am also working on my book about art, narrative therapy and archetypes and hope to publish that next year as well as my poetry manuscript.

Some writing I have put away, understanding that it has served its purpose. Other writing is continuing to find voice in these varied ways. Perhaps getting older also makes you value silence and the nectar in the pause.

You can find Kim on her website

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The next wave updated (part 2): Rashida Murphy and Karen Overman

In this post, Rashida Murphy and Karen Overman, part of the wonderful group of Western Australian women writers I featured here two years ago in the series ‘The Next Wave’, talk about what has happened in their creative lives since then.

Rashida Murphy

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In 2014, when I was featured in the ‘Next Wave’ series, I had a manuscript entitled ‘The Historian’s Daughter’. I also had a year to go before I submitted that manuscript as part of a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University. In August 2016, The Historian’s Daughter was published by UWA Publishing. Since then, my life has traversed uncharted waters. As a novelist I have appeared at two regional writers festivals and been invited to the Perth Writers Festival in 2017. I have judged writing competitions and just finished a stint as a guest editor of the journal Westerly (‘New Creative’ issue). I am to be a Writer-In-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre next year. All of these events seem designed to make me pinch myself (which I do, frequently, and my husband no longer appears concerned when I yell, Ouch!).

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Life as a published writer has unexpected moments of grace. Like the time I walked into a bookshop in Fremantle and the wonderful manager recognised me and told me my book was ‘selling well.’ And the time, in a library, a woman came up and said her friend had recommended she buy my book. Friends and strangers have posted positive reviews of The Historian’s Daughter, and it has been sighted and photographed in India, America, England and Canada, in addition to various cities in Australia. And I find myself answering questions about writing as if I know something. In truth, I’m terrified. Proud of my novel, yes, but terrified that I’ll find out it’s been a big mistake and this will all go away in a puff of smoke. This feeling is sometimes referred to as The Imposter Syndrome, a malaise many writers suffer from, apparently.

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Interviewed by Charlotte Guest at the New Norcia Writers Festival, 2016

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With fellow guest editors of the Westerly ‘New Creative’ issue

So where to, next? I’ve started writing my next novel and I expect it to change so many times that I won’t try to describe it in a sentence. Yes, it has women with foreign names who wear flowing skirts and have completely non-exotic childhoods. (I write fiction, after all).

Next year, I expect to wander around, lost for days, waiting for someone to find me and take me home. We are moving south of the river. As a northerner, this thought flummoxes me and feeds into my directional dyslexia. They say change is good for the soul, don’t they? I’m hoping ‘they’ are right. At the very least, expect some entertaining stories about those strange people who live south of the river, eat bananas and keep goannas as pets. Now I really must ring my kids (all of whom live south) and assure them it’s an advantage to live close to us again. It doesn’t matter how far they run, we’ll find them.

Rashida’s blog rashidawritenow
UWA Publishing

 

Karen Overman

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So what have I been up to since last we met?

‘The Blue Moment’ manuscript sits percolating in a drawer with its sisters (I shall return soon to this manuscript to ‘prune’ and feed anon), and work upon another manuscript has been embarked upon. This most recent will form part of a trilogy.

In the interim I have been travelling lots—Finland, Norway, Ireland and soon a return to Russia and China. On these travels my mind becomes a net scooping up little bits of shimmer-and-gravity along the way.

Oh, and I have been blogging. Some pieces of shimmer make it into these blogs. On one occasion a piece of gravity did, too, in a blog addressing the hysteria (and unkindness?) being displayed towards the Muslim community in Australia. I say Australia, but its argument could be applied to the wider world.

I think I poked a bit of a hornet’s nest. Apart from being kindly informed that I was ‘a piece of s**t’, and then hearing from another dear reader, ‘I hope you die in a terrorist bomb blast’ (I’m hoping I don’t get one of these readers in the Christmas Kringle…)—it gained an audience from all over the world. At last count it had attracted almost 23,000 shares. It also confirmed my deep-seated feeling that if my larger work ever attracts a substantial readership, I hope this doesn’t occur until at least three minutes after I’ve popped my clogs!

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Did this brief moment of notoriety make me want to crawl back into my shell?

No.

Did it make me want to court greater notoriety?

No.

Did it make me want to moderate my opinions?

Not really. (Well, perhaps momentarily after the first few death threats, but when the hundreds of messages of affirmation began streaming into my Facebook Messenger in-box from all over the world…no, no rescinding of opinions at all.)

Most importantly, it reaffirmed my belief in the power of the word. And, especially for someone like me who eschews public speaking, the power of the written word.

The effect of the blog drove home to me how important—in my life, and perhaps in yours—it is to think deeply about what is occurring in the world that surrounds us: the beautiful things, the ugly things, the unfairnesses and the actions that make us as fine as we can aspire to be. These are all worth applying the best of one’s mind to, and perhaps even to take the further step of writing down the fruits of such thought.

On 19 November 1863, Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address said, The world will little note, nor long remember what is said here—and he couldn’t have been more wrong. The world remembers every word of his address, firstly, because what he said was fine; he stated his nation shall have a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But, most significantly, his thoughts live on because he Wrote. Them. Down.

The power of the written word cannot be underestimated. So, as a mantra to myself, and as an exhortation and encouragement to my fellow writers on Amanda’s generous-spirited blog, keep writing.

Keep thinking, deeply.

And, keep writing!

Karen’s blog: hvalsang
Karen’s novel: The Avenue of Eternal Tranquillity

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The next wave updated (part 1): Michelle Michau-Crawford and Emily Paull

Two years ago, looking up/looking down presented a series on Western Australian women writers to watch out for. As I wrote then:

There’s so much creative energy among writers on the western edge—some of it being nurtured in university writing programs, some finding inspiration and support through writers centres, some brewing entirely independently. This four-part series features eight WA women who are part of that creative flurry. All of them have a manuscript ready, or nearly ready, to submit to agents and publishers, and I hope we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

It’s a true pleasure to observe the evolution of a creative life, and I’m delighted to present an update on what some of them have been doing. Here’s how Michelle Michau-Crawford and Emily Paull responded to an invitation to review their last two years of writing…

Michelle Michau-Crawford

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When I was invited in November 2014 to be one of the featured writers on The Next Wave series, I had just returned from one month in Paris. While there I worked on a manuscript with a working title I had completely forgotten existed until revisiting Amanda’s blog series earlier this week. I spent much of the summer of 2014–15 locked away, further developing that manuscript, and in the early months of 2015, while it wasn’t quite complete, I felt ready to commit to signing a contract with my preferred publishing house, UWA Publishing.

12218707_10153761607677079_2142340854_o (1)Leaving Elvis and Other Stories was published just under twelve months later, in February 2016, in time for the Perth Writers Festival. That introduction to the reality of being a published author in contemporary times was far removed from my imagined writing life: living on a secluded island, quietly sending my writing out via boat or seaplane.

I decided early that I would be open to all the experiences that arose as a result of my first full-length publication. After all, as I noted when the fabulous Julia Lawrinson launched my book, I had served a 20-plus-years writing apprenticeship before I felt ready to share my stories. The six-month period post-publication whirled by, challenging and invigorating me.

As well as participating on the two panels at the Perth Writers Festival, I spoke at a literary high tea, at writers’ centres and in various bookshops and libraries. I travelled to several country writers’ festivals, facilitated workshops and was interviewed in those venues, and for various newspaper and online features. I had an on-camera interview in a television studio, something that I never envisioned as I worked at writing, but after the first few awkward minutes (where I forgot what my book was about), I managed to almost enjoy the experience.

I was fortunate enough to have my work reviewed favourably locally and nationally in the mainstream media, judged a writing competition, and overall had a hectic but stimulating publication year. I met many readers and connected with a number of writers I hadn’t known prior to publication, and discovered that no matter how established Australian writers are, they are by and large incredibly generous and supportive of fellow authors.

My biggest thrill throughout the year came after receiving the first letter penned (or typed, in this case) by a reader: a man who’d driven a long way to hear me talk, had bought the book and read it and then taken time to send me a personal letter saying the book had resonated deeply with him. It affirmed what I already knew: that as satisfying as the other attention and experiences may be, I write to communicate via the written word with readers, not to be known as a public figure. Talking to people who’ve taken the time to engage with my writing remains the most rewarding gift to flow from publication of my first book.

In August I organised an event-free month and took the opportunity to refocus on writing. I had been chipping away at some other writing while completing and promoting my book but hadn’t felt I had sufficient headspace to truly engage with it. So I waved goodbye to Elvis and went away for two weeks to Varuna, the National Writers’ House, in the Blue Mountains, where I managed to make significant progress towards my next project. On my return I had several more public events culminating in a brilliant weekend at the inaugural Australian Short Story Festival held in Perth in October. I am now back at work on my current writing project, one I cannot speak about at this stage for fear of jinxing further development!

Other than that, some of the things I spoke of in that initial Next Wave feature remain the same. I had hoped to return about now to spend time in Paris, for I choose to believe that regular time in Paris helps me write more effectively. However, life’s circumstances conspired to keep me closer to home. If I’d been there at the time I had intended, then Leonard Cohen—the great artist I’ve adored since childhood; the man who’d unknowingly led me to Paris in the first place—would have died while I was far from home. Between dealing with that and processing the result of the long and ugly US election, curled up at home under a blanket was really the only place to be last week. On a brighter note, I have resumed attempting to learn to speak and read French, and stubbornly refuse to concede defeat. One day I will read more, though probably not all, of those French texts I have collected over the years!

Michelle’s website
Facebook page

Emily Paull

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What a difference two years makes.

iphone-july-2016-086Since I was featured as one of Amanda’s WA women writers to watch out for, a lot of things have changed. Some of them were good changes—such as, for example, having short stories published in two anthologies. My story ‘A Thousand Words’ was published in the UK in a collection called [Re]Sisters, and I was lucky enough to have a story called ‘The Sea Also Waits’ selected by editor Laurie Steed to be a part of the Margaret River Press anthology Shibboleth and Other Stories.

When I last wrote for this blog, I was about to begin my time as one of three Young Writers in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre—those ten days were probably some of the most productive of my life, and I managed to revise a whopping 40,000 words of Between the Sleepers, a historical novel set in Fremantle between 1937 and 1945. Part of this residency was a consultation with Amanda Curtin on the first 50 pages of my book, and her guidance on some of the early issues in the novel has really helped me clarify its direction as a whole.

In early 2016 I began sending the novel to agents, and started work on another project: finishing my Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing and Publishing, which I took online at Deakin University.

I currently have two writing projects on the go. One is another historical novel, which I have tentatively titled The Turing Project. It is the story of Clementine, a university student who throws herself into researching the wartime cryptanalyst Alan Turing after the suicide of her childhood best friend. The novel alternates between Clementine’s story, set in the early 2000s, and Alan Turing’s story, which many people may be familiar with now due to the film The Imitation Game. This novel began its life as a NaNoWriMo project back in 2009 (National Novel Writing Month, where you challenge yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days). Writing about people who existed and whose stories are well known presents a challenge in itself, but I am enjoying throwing myself into this world and learning about my new characters.

iphone-july-2016-144My other writing project is a collection of short stories, which is currently titled Well-Behaved Women. It so far consists of ‘The Sea Also Waits’ (from Shibboleth and Other Stories), ‘Dora’ (Highly Commended in the 2016 Hadow/Stuart Award for Fiction) and ‘Miss Lovegrove’, which was shortlisted for the John Marsden/Hachette Australia Award for Young Writers at the end of 2015. I’ve been a fan of short story collections for a long time, and I hope that my collection can find a place in the incredibly high standard of collections currently being published in Australia.

I mentioned that while some of the changes were good, some were not so good. For those readers who live in Perth, you may already know that my beloved Bookcaffe closed its doors at the end of June 2016. While we’ve been seeing for a long time that the bookselling industry is changing, and that people are tending to buy more and more of their books at cheap online retailers, I never wanted to experience this downturn firsthand…but there I was, clearing shelves and adopting as many of the unsold books as I could so that I knew they would be going to a home where they would be read (eventually) and loved. I still work in a bookish job—I am a sales representative at Westbooks, where I visit public libraries and make sure they have all the best new releases, and I am also doing freelance work such as teaching seminars at this year’s All Saints College Storylines Festival.

In general, despite some of the bizarre and depressing things that have happened this year, it seems like 2016 has been a year of progress for me, and one in which I have learned a lot about myself as a writer. I think the most important thing is that I have finally taken on board a piece of advice that was given to me by Craig Silvey a number of years ago, something which has taken this long to become innate. When I asked Craig what advice he had for someone who wanted to become a writer, his answer was something like this: You don’t become a writer, you are a writer, every day, and in everything that you do. That feels truer to me now than it ever has before, and I am just grateful to be putting my words on pages, never knowing if anyone will ever read them or not.

Emily’s blog: The Incredible Rambling Elimy

 

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