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November 2012


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thesoundofsilencelargeA lovely bit of news. The Sound of Silence has been shortlisted for the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards (Nonfiction). A big thank you to the 22 women who so bravely shared their stories of miscarriage and prevailed with me through the lengthy editing process. It seems it was all worth it. Given that miscarriage is a subject that is not openly discussed it’s great to have another platform to bring the book to the public’s attention. The award winners will be announced in December. Keep your fingers crossed for us! You can read more about the book here.

This collection of stories is achingly beautiful.  Parenting Express

Deeply moving and honest…We all can benefit from the wisdom and experience of the stories captured and shared here.  Birth Psychology, journal of the American Association of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health


The Invisible Thread series: Peter Stanley

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Quinn's PostOne of the wonderful things about editing The Invisible Thread was discovering writers that I had previously wanted to read but had somehow never got around to. Like historian Peter Stanley. Indeed, reading for this anthology made plain what an incredible bunch of historians Canberra has nurtured. Bill Gammage, Charles Bean, Ken Inglis, Manning Clark, Hank Nelson, Keith Hancock, Humphrey McQueen, Tom Griffiths and, of course, Peter Stanley. They are some of Australia’s best historians, and The Invisible Thread has gems of writing from them all, including an extract from Peter Stanley’s Quinn’s Post.

Quinn’s was the size of a school playground but it was the key to the Gallipoli campaign and hundreds of men died there. When Peter first visited Quinn’s it had a profound effect on him — he describes it as a ‘road to Damascus moment’ — and he immediately decided to abandon the book he was planning to write in favour of a book on Quinn’s. In this interview he told me that the process of writing Quinn’s Post was unlike any other book: ‘This was an extraordinarily easy process…This was a book that seemed to fly.’ He wrote Quinn’s Post very quickly, ‘in a trance’, and I read it in a similar way. I would have read it in one sitting if the necessities of life had not intruded, but the benefit of being forced to stop was that in the spaces between reading — while preparing dinner or doing the washing up — I found myself reflecting on the events and stories Peter reveals.

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Quinn’s was unlike anywhere else in Gallipoli because the trenches were just 10 yards apart. The Australians and Turks could hear each other talking, laughing, living. Ironic gifts of bully beef were thrown across no-man’s-land and into the enemy’s trenches. Peter tells these stories to deconstruct the mythology surrounding the Anzac story, to take us inside the reality of war. His book is fascinating stuff and I found talking to him equally fascinating (the Kiwis will love him for what he says). Don’t miss his musings on what he’d say to ‘Charlie’ (Charles Bean) if he could take him to dinner.

rating the underrated

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TWO STEPS FORWARDToday’s post is about some lovely news. Two Steps Forward has been shortlisted for the inaugural Most Underrated Book Award, and I’m pretty chuffed. As author Nigel Featherstone is fond of quoting, only one per cent of writing in Australia gets published. (I have no idea how this stat was arrived at but if Nigel’s quoting it it must be true.) That figure is enough to make one feel grateful just to get into print. So to then have your book recognised for an award, well it’s pretty nice.

The award has been established by SPUNC, the advocacy body for small and independent publishers, with the criteria being that books can’t have won any of the major awards. It’s the only book industry prize to award both the author and the publisher. And that’s important, because so often it’s the smaller publishers who are taking risks on authors and books they feel passionate about.

In truth, 99 per cent of books published by independents are underrated. Okay, I made that stat up, but if you look down the list of any of the major literary awards it’s always the big end of town that’s represented. Well-established and well-known authors by publishers with the big bucks. And yet, as SPUNC President, Emmett Stinson, notes: ‘Independent publishing plays an essential role in Australian culture. The vast majority of titles written by Australian authors are produced by small and independent publishers.’

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By my reckoning the probability that a book of short fiction can take out the gong is nil (I’d put money on The Cook to win) but it’s a thrill to be nominated, and I’m looking forward to a celebratory drink at the Gala Awards ceremony this week.

If you live in Melbourne Readings has 20 per cent off all the shortlisted titles during November. Why not buy all four (she cheekily suggests).

The Invisible Thread series: Adrian Caesar

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Adrian Caesar is a poet and prose writer as well as a fellow hand waver (here we are in action).

During our interview Adrian said a great many things that struck me. For instance: ‘The great thing to me about poems is that you can, in a sense, write them in the margins of your life.’ I love that: writing in the margins.

I also found his writing process fascinating, the way he incubates a poem in his head before it emerges. ‘I do quite a lot of writing in my head,’ he said. ‘And I can carry poems for a long time…before they actually arrive on the page.’ If I don’t write phrases down they evaporate, so I find this way of working so interesting.

Adrian was on the Advisory Committee that read through the work of over 150 writers and made recommendations about those to be included in The Invisible Thread. In this interview he reflects on the selection process, the gems of writing he discovered, and his overall impression of the region’s literature. He revealed that through the reading process he became much more aware of how rich the region is in historians. This was one of my great realisations, too. I found the works of historians like Bill Gammage, Peter Stanley, CEW Bean, Tom Griffiths and Ken Inglis (I could go on) so compelling.

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Do watch the interview right through to the end or you’ll miss seeing Adrian read ‘A Valediction’, his poem included in The Invisible Thread.