Category Archives: Elemental

Coming up… Ubud Writers and Readers Festival


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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Book club baking!


Amy Wiseman baked these Elemental-themed treats for her book club’s discussion of the novel today. Don’t they look delicious! Meggie Tulloch would never have seen this much jam as a fisher girl in the north of Scotland, where ‘jeely pieces’ consisted of no more than a scrape of watery jam on a chunk of dry bread. And I doubt there was anything so luscious and generous made in the Mills & Ware biscuit factory in Fremantle, either. 🙂

Beautiful, Amy!


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Shortlisting of Elemental, WA Premier’s Book Awards

elemental_COVERThis week I was thrilled to learn that Elemental has been shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards in the Fiction category. My little red-haired gutting girl is proud to be in the company of these stellar titles:

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (Random House Australia)
Coal Creek by Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin)
Eyrie by Tim Winton (Penguin Group Australia)
The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr (Fremantle Press)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Random House Australia)

You can read the full press release here.

The six shortlisted titles are also eligible for the People’s Choice Award. You can vote for your favourite here (WA residents only, and voting closes 29 August).

I was also thrilled to see that the shortlist in a new category, WA Emerging Writers, includes writer friends Dawn Barker for Fractured (you can read a recent 2, 2 and 2 guest post from Dawn here) and Yvette Walker for Letters to the End of Love (my review here).

What an exciting week it’s been!



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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

10 things I love about Sydney…

In no particular order…

The Rocks

I always think of Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie Bow… a place of ghosts and time-travellers

Sydney skies

which always have a story to tell

Those intrepid bridge walkers

I admire them but I’ll never be one of them!



fond memories of Saturday-morning shopping in this old suburb when I lived in nearby Drummoyne many years ago—and I still love its shops and cafes and markets and Federation architecture

Opera whites

a stray glimpse of those iconic sails through the trees—the Sydney wow factor!

The Art Gallery of New South Wales

home of one of my favourite paintings, Grace Cossington-Smith’s The sock knitter


The coat hanger

52,800 tonnes of cross-harbour style

Adriano Zumbo

macarons and works of art sculpted in choux and sugar… yes, please!

Great friends

Tony and Pauline (with the charming Pompey). Click here to read the story of Tony’s long-lost—and now found—band, Fuchsia



Better Read Than Dead

voted Lonely Planet’s Favourite Sydney Bookshop—and the lovely folks at BRTD have invited me there to talk about Elemental on Wednesday 24 July, 6.30pm (more information here). If you’re nearby and free that night, please come along—I’d love to see you!




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Cook the book?

305552_519986454721641_290325696_nAt the launch of Elemental last week, the wonderful Britt Ingerson, Publishing Assistant at UWA Publishing, made these gorgeous butterfly biscuits. They were so popular that they disappeared in the blink of an eye. If you want Britt’s recipe, you can find it here.

Britt writes that her inspiration came from this passage in Elemental:

I sniffed some luscious smell, unfamiliar. Mmmm, said Kitta, throwing back her head, breathing it in. Cinnamon an’ raisins! And beautiful it was after weeks of fish oil, fish blood, fish guts, fish, fish, fish. We went into a bakery—heaven! You could almost eat the air. I was achingly tempted to sacrifice four of my precious pennies on a sugar biscuit fashioned into the shape of a butterfly, but a chorus of long-dead Duthies protested in my head: Raickless waste! Extravagance!

And then, my lovely neighbour Mike Ockenden came by with some traditional Cullen Skink—hands-down the most delicious soup I’ve eaten since I had the same in north-east Scotland—no, actually Mike’s was better! Here’s what Meggie says about it:

Ooh, imagine! The taste of a smokie! Or Cullen Skink, the milky soup made with mashed potato and smoked haddock. I nodded, hungry for cold-water fish, fish from my mother’s creel.

I love that Mike made it the way Meggie would have done, too.Slide1

A huge thank-you to Britt and Mike for these very special culinary responses to Meggie’s story. A new spin on ‘cooking the books’?


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On launching a book…

Monarch life stages

My new novel, Elemental, was released on 1 May but tonight it will be officially launched—which means there’ll be a lovely gathering of friends, family and colleagues, some wine, a couple of speeches. A launch celebrates the result of a long metamorphosis, which can be grossly simplified as: a cluster of ideas > manuscript > book. You hope what you release into the world is something of beauty and something of value.

A friend phoned last night and asked me how I feel.

I remember trying to describe that for my first launch in 2008. This is what I said then:

I’ve loved working with other people’s books [as an editor] for 24 years. When I began researching and writing The Sinkings in 2003, I hoped, as all writers do, that my manuscript might one day turn into a book but I knew too much about publishing to be confident that that would ever happen. So I am truly thrilled to be standing here with this book in my hand, and still perhaps a little incredulous at my good fortune. Thank you, Terri-ann [Terri-ann White, Director, UWA Publishing], for believing in The Sinkings and taking a chance on a new writer—no small thing in the publishing world today.

Here we are, third book, five years later, and I can still say: that’s how I feel. Thrilled. Lucky. Thankful.


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A wee countdown: 1


… and to complete the countdown, here’s a word that’s unlikely to be heard in ‘real’ conversation today. The archival photograph is courtesy of my friends at the Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Centre in Scotland.




large tubs or troughs containing herring ready for gutting

From Elemental:

There was also the screaming of hundreds of gulls circling above the farlins, and calls of Fill up! and Over here!


Elemental will be available tomorrow from good bookshops, online booksellers and direct from UWA Publishing. Thanks for checking in!


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A wee countdown: 2

Nearly there! Today’s quote comes from the fraught world of sibling relationships—a case of foot-in-mouth. The mouth in question belongs to Meggie’s brother.

bonnie clip


good-looking girl

From Elemental:

Don’t ye be foolish, he said, and he seemed to be casting about for some reassuring word. Ye’re no bonnie clip, that’s true, but ye’re a hardworking quine an’ there’s lads who don’t take poorly to a fat face.


If you’ve missed these, just click on the links: having a jamaica, chuckney, jeely pieces, laavie, quine, tammie noriepeenie and bubblyjock.


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A wee countdown: 3

Would you know a bubblyjock if you met one?





From Elemental:

I sidle in and look from one to the next. Granda, his face as scarlet as the comb on a bubblyjock. Ma, upset but tight-faced. Unty Jinna by the window, keeping a wary watch for anyone passing by.

Have you also mastered having a jamaica, chuckney, jeely pieces, laavie, quine, tammie norie, and peenie?


Filed under A wee countdown