Monthly Archives: December 2013

Australian Women Writers Challenge—2013 wrap-up

awwbadge_2013I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge this year—the first reading challenge I’ve undertaken. I chose the Franklin level, committing myself to read at least ten books by Australian women writers and to review at least six. The year is nearly over, and it’s time to look back at my totals: twenty-three books read, six reviewed. Challenge successfully completed, although clearly there has to be a could do better comment against the reviewing total.

I noticed a couple of things in my pattern of reading. First, it decreased generally in the second half of the year and, especially, in the last two months. I wonder whether that’s just me or if other people experience that same sensation of life speeding up as the year draws to a close, with less time available for reading? And second, I have a bias towards reading Western Australian women writers. I’m sure the same could have been said of my reading in previous years, and I make no apology for it.

And so, here is my summary for 2013, with links to reviews and also to short extracts featured in my Reasons to love a novel series:

Dawn Barker, Fractured (Hachette, 2013)

Emma Chapman, How to Be a Good Wife (Picador, 2013) *extract here

Caroline Hamilton, Consumed (ABC Books, 2008) *reviewed here

Wendy James, The Mistake (Penguin, 2012)

Favel Parrett, Past the Shallows (Hachette, 2011)

Iris Lavell, Elsewhere in Success (Fremantle Press, 2013) *reviewed here

Lynne Leonhardt, Finding Jasper (Margaret River Press, 2012) *reviewed here

Natasha Lester, What Is Left Over, After (Fremantle Press, 2010) *extract here

Kirsty Murray, Vulture’s Gate (Allen & Unwin, 2009)

M.L. Stedman, The Light between Oceans (Vintage, 2012)

Courtney Collins, The Burial (Allen & Unwin, 2012) *reviewed here

Julienne van Loon, Harmless (Fremantle Press, 2013) *reviewed here

Felicity Young, Antidote to Murder (crime fiction, HarperCollins, 2013)

Hannah Kent, Burial Rites (Picador, 2013)

Deb Fitzpatrick, The Amazing Spencer Gray (junior fiction, Fremantle Press, 2013)

Yvette Walker, Letters to the End of Love (UQP, 2013) *reviewed here

Romy Ash, Floundering (Text, 2012)

Kirsten Krauth, just_a_girl (UWA Publishing, 2013)

Marlish Glorie, Sea Dog Hotel (Etext Press, 2013) *extract here

Paddy O’Reilly, The Fine Colour of Rust (HarperCollins, 2012) *extract here

Angela Savage, Behind the Night Bazaar (Text, 2006)

A.J. Betts, Zac & Mia (Text, 2013)

Debra Adelaide, The Household Guide to Dying (Picador, 2008)

These are fine works deserving of acclaim and respect—and my list only scratches the surface of what’s available from Australian women writers. A quick browse through the reviews on the AWWC site will introduce you to many more.

fractured coverhowtobeagoodwife cover165133the mistake coverpasttheshallows





If there is to be an Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2014, I will sign up again—and resolve to do better with reviews!

elemental_COVERAnd finally, I would just like to acknowledge some of the wonderful bloggers who chose to review or otherwise support Elemental in 2013 (some through the AWWC):

Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
Magdalena Ball, The Compulsive Reader
Rashida Murphy, Rashida WriteNow
Serje Jones, Kill Your Darlings
Marisa Wikramanayake, Guys Read Gals
Marlish Glorie, Book Stew
Lynne Leonhardt
Natasha Lester, While the Kids Are Sleeping
Britt Ingerson, Buggalugz Book Blog
Kristen Levitzke
Louise Allan, Life from the Attic
Emily Paull, The Incredible Rambling Elimy
Joy, Book Coasters
John Paul Newbury, Open Writing

A big heartfelt thank-you to you all!


Filed under Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

Inspired by time and place…

A lot of research went into the writing of my second novel, Elemental—and research is something I love. I remember missing the first half of a teleconference because I was so engrossed in something I was researching on the net that I forgot the time! But possibly the most exciting part was visiting places in the UK where the novel is set: the Shetland Islands, fishing villages in the north-east of Scotland, Great Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast.

Here are a few photographs from those visits, along with some brief extracts from the novel they inspired.

Fishing villages


I was born in a village as far north-east as you can go on the Scottish mainland, closer to Norway than London. Roanhaven was only two miles from the town of Gadlehead, and I’m told they’re all the one place now. But back then, oh, we were a folk apart, we thought Gadlehead as much a stranger-place as Fraserburgh to the north, Collieston to the south, and all those inland villages where Ma would sell fish from the creel on her back.

Pink granite


That wind!…Every year it took a little more of the houses in Tiller Street, wearing them away grain by grain. Not the frames, no, for the pink granite of Gadlehead will survive more generations than I’ll ever know, but the soft matter between that yields to the elements.



Jockel Buchan, an old fisherman, strode through the shallows to reach me. Waded in, he did, almost to the knees of his great seaboots.

The Knab, Lerwick


The Knab is spectacular. You can see forever from its wild summit. Rabbits scamper this way and that among the gorse and marigolds, and the cliff face is home to hundreds of puffins hunkering down among the small mauve flowers…



Aye, they are the strangest little things, birds that look as though they’ve been put together on the Lord’s day off by someone with a sense of humour—a hodgepodge thrown together with the bits left over from other birds…


Filed under Elemental, Writing

3, 3 and 3: Ash Gibson Greig, music composer

b303_AshGG1This month’s 3, 3 and 3 guest is Perth-based composer Ash Gibson Greig, who specialises in music for film, television and theatre.

You might not have heard his name, but chances are you’ve heard Ash’s music. His work for television has screened nationally and internationally—some fifty programs or series including Who Do You Think You Are (Australian series), Jandamarra’s War, Comic Book Heroes, Desert War, Yagan, Singapore 1942, Murdoch, Leaky Boat, Jack the Ripper: Prime Suspect, SAS: The Search for Warriors, Death of the Megabeasts, The Secret History of Eurovision, Time Trackers, Desperately Seeking Doctors and The Australian Wine Revolution.

He has also composed and produced scores for a string of award-winning short films, as well as several features, and is well known for his work in the Perth theatre scene.

Ash’s name appeared in yesterday’s announcement of the 2013 AACTA (AFI) Award nominees, for the documentary Desert War—his third AACTA nomination. He has received multiple nominations for WA Screen Awards, and APRA/Australian Guild of Screen Composers awards, recently winning a WA Screen Award for Best Original Music (longform) for Jandamarra’s War. He has also been the recipient of a WA Screen Award (Excellence in Craft—Music Composition) for Gallipoli Submarine, an Australian Guild of Screen Composers Award (Best Music, Short Film) for Iron Bird and a WA Screen Award (Best Score) for the short film Boxing Day.

Ash is one of the busiest people I know, and I’m delighted he’s taken time to talk about some of the things he loves.

3 things I love about what I do

1. It’s easy to take for granted the freedom that my occupation affords me. My wife always says, ‘You have such a good life, being able to get up whenever you want’, which is true, but of course it doesn’t take into account that when I have deadlines (which is regularly) every day of the week becomes a work day!

2. One of my favourite parts of the process is making final changes. I’ve gone through the procrastination while trying to start, the potential stress of first feedback, and the few/many notes and changes following that. Now it’s time to take it in as a whole, tweak what I need to, and cross off the final couple of notes that mean the director and producers are happy. It’s also bittersweet, as it might be one of the last times I have to listen to a score that I’ve spent quite a lot of time on before it disappears into the annals of projects past.

3. Hearing a score or song performed by musicians or singers is also a huge buzz. It doesn’t happen often for me, as I usually create my scores on a computer (augmented by some soloists), but the times that it does are spine-tingling. A couple of highlights are: the excitement of hearing some jazz band arrangements I’d done for the opening of the State Theatre Centre of WA, the raw power of the horns as it all came together as I’d heard in my head; and the satisfaction of hearing some songs I’d written for an independent musical sung for the first time and fitting the vocal ranges of the chorus and soloists perfectly.

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. I’ve always said that I must visit Africa before I die. I’ve been to Egypt, but the vastness, the dramatic contrasts in landscape, and the diverse peoples in the southern half of Africa captivate me. Whether it’s South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia—anywhere where there is nature and animals appeals to me immensely.

2. There is something about nature that gives me energy and peace, and mountains in particular make me feel as close to some form of spirituality as anything I’ve experienced. I tend to tire quickly in cities, but have plenty of hiking energy when in nature. I adore Switzerland, but I haven’t visited North America yet. Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or anywhere in the Canadian Rockies or wilds would fill me with awe.

Amanda4 J

3. My wife was born in Japan and I’ve visited Japan twice. I have so much more to explore. A land of such dramatic contrasts in every conceivable way, a country and people that are endlessly fascinating, strange and beautiful. And the food is the best food in the world!

Amanda1 J

3 favourite film composers

1. This is a hard one, as I love so many, but Star Wars has to be in the top three. It brought orchestral scores back into favour in Hollywood, its themes are the most memorable of any movie in history and every single note John Williams composed is masterful and inspiring.

2. American Beauty affected me deeply as a movie and a score. I adore Thomas Newman’s music. The way he used the piano, marimba, percussion and ethnic string instruments created a score as unique as it was influential. This score cannot be mistaken for any other, and added another dimension to an already excellent film. It is modern film scoring at its finest.

3. Jon Brion’s score for P.T. Anderson’s film Punch Drunk Love is another one that impressed me because of its sheer creativity. Anderson’s unique style in this quirky film needed a quirky score, and the mixture of percussive textures, harmonium, and electronic and orchestral elements was the perfect complement. It impressed me so much that it influenced my own score for my first indie feature film.

You can find out more about Ash’s work on the following sites:

Website The Music of Ash Gibson Greig

IMDb entry

Amanda3 J


Filed under 3 3 and 3 (creative people)