Monthly Archives: February 2016

A timely reminder…

I was asked last week what’s happened to my photo-reminders to look up and look down. Here’s the answer:

Version 2

I’m spending most of my time in the State Library of Western Australia, immersed in research, and—you guessed it—forgetting to look anywhere else! So thanks for reminding me.

It won’t be long before my morning walks are set against the backdrop of beautiful autumn sunrises, so you can expect to see some of those soon.

In the meantime, here’s a favourite skyscape from my archives.


We can all use a reminder to look rather than just see.


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Filed under Photo-reminders looking up/looking down

Robyn Mundy talks about Wildlight

Robyn Mundy author #1205CFD

Photo by Kirsty Pilkington

I’ve been waiting a long time for something new from my friend Robyn Mundy, and the wait has been worth it. I couldn’t be more thrilled that she’s here talking about her brilliant new novel, Wildlight (Picador).

Robyn’s first novel, The Nature of Ice (Allen & Unwin, 2009), remains one of my all-time favourites, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Dobbie Award. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to beg, borrow or steal a copy—or preferably buy one here. After you’ve read Wildlight, that is.

If there is a link between The Nature of Ice and Wildlight, it is in the wild places that Robyn brings so beautifully to life in each—in the former, Antarctica; the latter, Maatsuyker Island.

Robyn is intimately acquainted with both. In the preliminary stage of writing Wildlight, she and her partner spent four months living and working alone on Maatsuyker Island as volunteer caretakers and weather observers. And she has summered and over-wintered at Australian Antarctic stations, working as a field assistant on science research projects.

Robyn works seasonally as an Assistant Expedition Leader on ship-based tours to the Antarctic, Arctic and other remote locales. The rest of the time, she lives in Hobart, where she writes and teaches writing.

Here is the blurb for Wildlight:

We all bow to the weather. It’s the light and dark of being at this place. You plant yourself on the edge of an ocean and you see how startling nature is, that it’s fierce and beautiful and totally indiscriminate.

Sixteen-year-old Stephanie West has been dragged from Sydney to remote Maatsuyker Island off the coast of Tasmania by her parents, hoping to recapture a childhood idyll and come to terms with their grief over the death of Steph’s twin brother. Cut off from friends and the comforts of home, exiled to a lonely fortress with a lighthouse that bears the brunt of savage storms, the months ahead look to be filled with ghosts of the past.

Steph’s saviour is Tom Forrest, a 19-year-old deckhand aboard a crayfishing boat. When the weather allows, Tom visits the island, and he and Steph soon form an attraction. But Tom must conceal at all costs the illegal fishing he takes part in, orchestrated by his tyrannical brother. And he dare not dwell on his fear of the sea or his deep-worn premonition that the ocean will one day take him.

Wildlight is an exquisite, vividly detailed exploration of the wayward journey of adolescence, and how the intense experience of a place can change the course of even the most well-planned life.

And now, over to Robyn…

Wildlight front cover

2 things that inspired your book

1 Land: I grew up studying my parents’ wall chart of Tasmania and listening, through a crackling radio, to evening weather reports from around the state. Maatsuyker Island’s pattern of westerly storms had me picture a wind-battered outpost on the edge of the Southern Ocean; I’d see keepers trudging to and from the lighthouse to dutifully tend its light. I must have put myself in that picture, for I longed to know such a place.

2 Ocean: A second inspiration stems from a growing-up of boating: rowing down the bay to pull the net and craypot, or trips with Dad in the big boat, a packet of jaw-wrenching Minties ever at hand. I can still summon the moment of seeing the craypot reach the surface, peering down to a small haul of crayfish.

As an adult, visits to Hobart often included a walk around Constitution Dock to see the fleet of fishing boats with their craypots stacked on deck. But it wasn’t until I spent four months on Maatsuyker Island in 2010–11, looking down upon these small boats in formidable conditions, that I gained full admiration for their fishermen and women.

IMG_9190 Serenity 2#1216508

How and why do these formative experiences, stored in memory sometimes for decades, transfigure into story? I only know that a wild place, and the people who inhabit it, inspired the makings of Wildlight.

2 places connected with your book

1 Becoming: I’m interested in the way a wild place—far removed from the comfortable urban lives we might otherwise live—impacts upon us. I’m not talking idyll. Immersion in such a setting can be hard, uncomfortable, may even resemble an imprisonment. Stephanie of Wildlight will tell you that. But ultimately, and sometimes only on reflection, the encounter—clear and simple in its focus, removed from the thousand distractions that cluster our day—is liberating, vivid, perhaps powerful enough to shape or direct us beyond. I am fascinated with the process of becoming and its connection with place.

2 Writing at Camden Haven: In the early stages of writing Wildlight I was lucky enough to be awarded a writing residency at gorgeous Camden Haven on the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales. It came packaged with the valuable guidance of mentor Ian Templeman, to whom Wildlight is dedicated. One day Ian commented on my hosts’ home, built on a bend of the Camden River: I can imagine your character living somewhere like this. That idea put itself to creative work and evolved into the setting and trajectory of the final part of the novel. Thank you, dear Ian.

2 favourite quotes from the book

1 I really like my character Tom. He is nineteen, a deckie on his older brother’s crayboat. He wants a purpose to his life. He wants to be free of his brother’s control. Tom’s need for a future of his own choosing has him chart the point within a person where goodness ends and a darker force takes over. With sound reason Tom fears the ocean, but at the same time the awe he feels for his surrounds is something I love about his character:

On a clear morning he’d be pulling pots in the dark, the first hint of dawn the eastern horizon purpling to a bruise. Before the sun tipped above the ocean, the promise of light would amplify the sky—a curtain turned blood orange, the Mewstone toy-like against its breadth.

IMG_8394 red sunrise Mewstone_web

2 On my desk I have a piece of lighthouse glass I found on Maatsuyker Island. For such a small object it’s surprisingly heavy, the glass 10 mm in thickness. It holds its own story: a bygone storm with force enough to smash a toughened shield of glass. Throughout Wildlight the glass of the lighthouse takes a hold of my character Stephanie:

She heard herself babbling when she’d promised herself she wouldn’t; that at first the glass looked clear but when you really looked it was the most delicate sea green imaginable, each curve infused with hundred-year-old bubbles. The lighthouse glass was sunlight punching through the back of a wave and that’s how she saw it, the swirl and twist and how the ocean’s energy seemed locked inside the glass. Light set it in motion.

IMG_8367 prisms & view_web

Wildlight is in bookstores now
For more information, visit Pan Macmillan/Picador
Visit Robyn’s website, Writing the Wild
Book trailer here


Filed under 2 2 and 2 (writers + new books)

Elemental on air

Kate Evans from Radio National is a lovely interviewer and I was delighted to talk to her about Elemental. If you didn’t catch it on Books Plus or Books and Arts this week, the podcast is here.


Filed under Elemental

Working with an editor: 12 tips

iStock_000018482964XSmallWriters who are new to the editing process (and even some who are not so new) sometimes feel apprehensive about working with an editor. Here are a few tips that might help.

1 Don’t be defensive; approach the process with an open mind

2 Do remember that the editor’s role is to help you bring the manuscript to its full potential. The editor is on your side, and if it sometimes feels like that isn’t the case, remember that the editor is also the reader’s advocate

3 Don’t dismiss the editor’s questions without really thinking about them—let them sit in your mind for a while, take a walk around them to see what might be on the other side. If you’re unsure why the editor is asking a question or what it means, ask

4 Don’t feel you have to accept every suggestion the editor might make just to make them happy. This is a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation; it’s about getting the best result. It’s not about power and it’s not about keeping the peace

5 Make yourself familiar with the publisher’s house style and don’t berate the copyeditor for changing your double quotation marks to singles, or your -ize spellings to -ise—or, worse, undo all of those changes in the edited manuscript. If keeping double quotation marks or -ize spellings feels like an issue of life-or-death for you, discuss this with the editor and publisher before the editing process begins

6 Don’t format your manuscript with fancy headers and footers, headings, columns

7 Don’t ever submit a manuscript that contains text boxes

8 Don’t use the space bar to attempt to align lists or indent paragraphs (use tabs or indents)

9 Do hand over a style sheet, if you have one

10 Do hand over a chronology, if you have one (please have one!)

11 Do hand over any other relevant guide documents, e.g. genealogy, physical descriptions of characters, mud map

12 Do tell the editor if you’re computer-challenged and you’re unfamiliar with onscreen editing using Track Changes

I hope your experience of the editing process is as rewarding as those I’ve had—both as a writer and as an editor. Good luck!


Filed under Tips for writers