Category Archives: Elemental

A podcast and some good news…

I was delighted when Will Yeoman, from The West Australian, invited me to talk about Scotland in this episode of ‘The Pod Well Travelled. It was hard to choose one place among the many in Scotland I love, but in the end it had to be Shetland, where part 2 of Elemental is set. You can also listen to discussions about Finland and Arles in this episode.

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And for the good news…

In a year that has been, and continues to be, so difficult and unnerving, it is a singular pleasure to be shortlisted for the WA Writer’s Fellowship, part of the WA Premier’s Book Awards.

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The full shortlists are here. Congratulations and good luck to everyone!

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Candles at dawn…

It’s just before 6am. A light, warm drizzle, not enough to extinguish the candles flickering all along the street. Dark shapes at the tops of driveways. Radio blur, and then the bugles, near and far, the long notes of ‘The Last Post’ overlapping, out of sync…

I never know how to feel about Anzac Day. I don’t want to glorify war; I don’t want to fly flags. I do want to honour the sacrifice of lives. And as someone who spends much of her life digging around in the past, I want to acknowledge the way every war (including the one we’re living through now) leaves indelible marks on individuals and families, societies, nations, on who we are and how we live our lives.

This is Meggie Tulloch, in Elemental, remembering…

In 1921, Anzac Day was not a national day of mourning, not in the way we know it these days. The newspapers retold the story of heroism, and there were parades and services. It was a day for grieving, aye, but a kind of mourning closer to the heart. Wounds still fresh.

A Monday, it was—what silly details you remember. Magnus was on the day shift.

Go if ye want, an’ whenever ye want. I’ll not be going with ye.

I put my hand on his shoulder but he shrugged it off.

What’s the point, Meggie? Whatever’s the point of any of it. Tell me that. 

He shouldered his way through the kitchen, grabbed his bicycle and left for Castlemaine, long before he needed to.

Around midday, we took the children up to the stone we’d laid in the dunes for Stivvy and looked out across the sea. Home is the sailor… But Stivvy—he was not home, was he. Magnus was right: whatever was the point? But then I looked across at Clementina, looked for bitterness in her face, and it wasn’t there any more; it had not been there for a long time now. While Hal and Jessie ran barefoot, chasing wavelets back to the ocean, she brushed her fingers across the words we’d scratched on the stone and what I saw was a kind of soothing I didn’t understand. But I was glad for it, aye, so glad.

That was the point, the only point, and I wished Magnus could have seen it too.

Lest we forget.

Summer floral background of nature - flowers of red poppies. Summer landscape with red poppies . A big plan is summer flowers.

Photo: iStock

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7 weeks in 20 photos…

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National Art Library, V&A Museum (London)

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George Orwell and Dylan Thomas drank there… (London)

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On top of the world… (Lerwick, Shetland)

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The lovely Jeena McNab, McNab’s Kippers (Lerwick, Shetland)

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and Jeena’s mother, former herring girl Rita McNab

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The youngest reader I’ve ever signed a book for… (Shetland Library, Lerwick)

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and the first ladder I’ve ever signed (Edinburgh Book Shop)

 

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You can find a story anywhere… (Lower Slaughter)

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The Madhatter Bookshop (Burford)

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Bath Records Office

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Toppings & Co., Bath

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The closest I get to a selfie… (Brighton)

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When you look up, there might be wings… (Tours, France)

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or a wingless horse… (Tours)

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or lions… (Pont-Aven)

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Unforgettable… (Chateau Chenonceaux, Loire Valley)

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Forest art, looking down… (Concarneau)

 

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Don’t forget to read the plaques… (Quai Voltaire, Paris)

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and listen to what the birds tell you… (Paris)

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And always, always remember to visit the books… (Paris)

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French fishing girls…

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In a French coastal town in Brittany, where I was recently, researching something completely unrelated to fishing or fishing girls, I often found myself thinking of Elemental’s  Meggie Tulloch and the herring girls of north-east Scotland.

I hadn’t known much about the rich fishing heritage of Concarneau, but when I went on a walking tour around the harbour and listened to the guide speak about the prominent role played by women and young girls in the fishing industry I began to experience a sense of déjà vu. In Concarneau, the focus was sardines rather than herring, and the girls worked in confiseries (canning factories) dotted around the port.

 

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They wore aprons and Breton bonnets that were different to those worn by other women of the town, and when they were not preparing and packing sardines in oil, they were knitting, or cleaning fishing nets, while waiting for the return of the fleet. And praying that their men would not be lost at sea, pulled to the ocean floor by the weight of their wooden-soled leather seaboots.

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Sounding familiar?

And then I discovered that the name of the oldest canning factory in Concarneau, established in 1893, is Maison Courtin. A French version of Curtin? I don’t know, but I’d like to think so.

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New edition of Elemental

UWA Publishing is releasing a new edition of Elemental for the Australia/New Zealand territory, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. It’s a new size and a new price—with a new cover, too. I confess I will miss the original image of my wee reid-heid, with her arresting stare, but I love this new, atmospheric vision for the novel…

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I’m told the new edition will be in stores on 1 December but is available for ordering via the UWA Publishing website next week.

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Northern-bound…

I will be setting off soon, bound for a northern autumn—some familiar places and some I’ve never been to. The trip will be a combination of book promotion (for Elemental in the UK) and book research (for a work of creative non-fiction coming out in 2018, and my fiction-in-progress which is still, well, in progress).

As well as visiting various bookshops in Scotland and England, I’ll be doing a couple of author talks. One is at the Shetland Library, Lerwick, on 14 September, where I spent some time researching in 2007. As you can see, I still have my library bag!

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The other is at the delightfully named Madhatter Bookshop, Burford, on 19 September. How could anyone resist a shop that sells books and hats?

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Details and links are on the Events page.

In the meantime, here’s one of my favourite photos of the autumnal north…

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Creating a sense of place

I was recently invited to contribute a piece to the Scottish Book Trust’s ‘Five Things’ blog. The Scottish Book Trust is a fabulous organisation that promotes reading and writing as having the power to change lives—and that’s my kind of ‘mission statement’!

My piece is on creating a sense of place in fiction, and you can read it here.

 

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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.

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Scenes from the 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

For those of you who missed it (there’s always next year!), here’s a quick photo-tour of the wonderful Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali…

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Sunrise, Sanur Beach, pre-festival

 

Superb writers dinner hosted by the Fairmont Hotel, Sanur

Writers dinner hosted by the Fairmont Hotel, Sanur

Maltese writer Antoine Cassar (Passaport Project) samples kopi luwak

Antoine Cassar (Passaport Project) samples kopi luwak en route to Ubud

Opening ceremony at the Ubud Palace

Festival opening ceremony, Ubud Palace

With Avi Sirlin, Jane Maryam and Kate Evans at Casa Luna

With Avi Sirlin, Jane Maryam and Kate Evans at Casa Luna

My first session, Why Write?, with Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Mireille Juchau and Nam Le

My first session, Why Write?, with Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Okky Madasari, Mireille Juchau and Nam Le

My second session, Make History, with Isa Kamari, Avi Sirlin and Tory Loudon

My second session, Make History, with Isa Kamari, Avi Sirlin and Tory Loudon

Long Table Dinner event, Honeymoon Guesthouse

Mpho Tutu, keynote address: 'Without forgiveness, peace cannot fly.'

Mpho Tutu, keynote address: ‘Without forgiveness, peace cannot fly.’

Sofie Laguna: 'The more innocence you bring to a voice, the more you expose the world's corruption.'

Sofie Laguna: ‘The more innocence you bring to a voice, the more you expose the world’s corruption.’

Chigozie Obioma: 'I want to distance my book from being an allegory. Making symbols of concrete things is constraining.'

Chigozie Obioma, on The Fishermen: ‘The brothers are a metaphor for the foundational myth of Nigeria; the madman the seed of destruction.’

 

Porochista Khakpour: 'We throw the ball and the reader has to catch it.'

Porochista Khakpour: ‘We throw the ball and the reader has to catch it.’

Anuradha Roy: 'I think very hard about endings, even at the start of a book.'

Anuradha Roy: ‘I think very hard about endings, even at the start of a book.’

Dorothy Tse: 'I teach [my creative writing students] to be better readers.'

Dorothy Tse: ‘I teach [my creative writing students] to be better readers.’

Nam Le: 'Writing anything involving human beings with some care and some rigour is inevitably a political act.'

Nam Le: ‘Writing anything involving human beings with some care and some rigour is inevitably a political act.’

Finegan Kruckemeyer: 'I try to write open, allegorical works that children can read into what they want.'

Finegan Kruckemeyer: ‘I try to write open, allegorical works that children can read into what they want.’

Michael Chabon: 'You need to acknowledge what's going on under the surface of anything in life.'

Michael Chabon: ‘You need to acknowledge what’s going on under the surface of anything in life.’

Drusilla Modjeska: Incarcerating people (on Manus) is 'destabilising for the spirit of the ground.'

Drusilla Modjeska: Incarcerating people (on Manus) is ‘destabilising for the spirit of the ground.’

This guy had nothing to say.

This guy had nothing to say.

Closing night, Blanco Renaissance Museum, Ubud

Closing night, Blanco Renaissance Museum, Ubud

Farewell brunch for writers, Casa Luna

Farewell brunch for writers, Casa Luna

Thanks to:

writingWA, for airfare sponsorship

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festival accommodation sponsors

The beautiful Fairmont Hotel, Sanur

the beautiful Fairmont Hotel, Sanur

The very bohemian Bali Bohemia, Ubud

the very bohemian Bali Bohemia, Ubud

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival for a truly inspiring festival experience

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Coming up… Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

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Halo. Nama saya Amanda.

Well, that’s about as much Bahasa Indonesia as I’ve managed to master so far for next week’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, but there’s still time to learn a few more helpful phrases!

This year’s festival (28 October – 1 November) features 165 authors from 25 countries, and a packed program of panels, readings, conversations, workshops and special events.

Elemental, with its main character Meggie Tulloch travelling from a tiny island at the top of the world to a large one at the bottom, meshes well with the festival’s theme, 17,000 Islands of Imagination. I’m thrilled to be participating in three events and very much looking forward to meeting the writers involved:

Why Write? 29 October: Panel discussion chaired by Rebecca Harkins-Cross, with Mireille Juchau, Okky Madasari, Nam Le, Amanda Curtin.
Make History, 30 October: Panel discussion chaired by Tory Loudon, with Avi Sirlin, Isa Kamari, Amanda Curtin.
Long Table Dinner, 31 October: literary dinner with Afonso Cruz, Anne Buist, Graeme Simsion, Haresh Sharma, Dorothy Tse, James Shea, Eka Kurniawan, Endy Bayuni, Andreas Harsono, Todung Mulya Lubis, Amanda Curtin.

Festival Facebook page
Twitter @ubudwritersfest

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