QUT Creative Writing Gala & Meeting Susan Johnson!

Friday night was a super special occasion. The annual QUT Creative Writing Gala is an exclusive do held at Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe in West End. At first I felt pretty out of place – I arrived early and found myself teeter-tottering in high heels near a group of my ultra-suave tutors and lecturers. Finally, the venue filled with other final year undergrads and postgrad students. Never before was there a bunch of kookier or more awesome people in one place.

The Avid Reader venue is ideally suited for book events. We walk through the bookshop out onto a terrace set up with a mic for our guest speakers and an open bar. We were well-fed all evening with trays of finger foods.

The gala is the night that the winners of the QUT Undergrad and Postgrad Writing Prizes are announced. My friend Katerina Gibson’s short story, ‘Nesting’, was shortlisted for the undergrad prize. When her name was called as the winner, the crowd exploded with applause. As well as $1000 in prize money, her work is soon to be published in Kill Your Darlings literary journal. This is a big break for an emerging writer, and I am so glad she’s receiving this recognition.

The final highlight of the night was getting to meet author, Susan Johnson. I read her novel, My Hundred Lovers, earlier this year. It came at a perfect time of my life to challenge me to think and feel deeply about myself. I’ve been desperate to meet her, but I narrowly missed out twice since she’s been busy with the launch of her new novel, The Landing. When I saw Susan among the crowd, my heart fluttered before I second-guessed myself. The only picture I’d seen of her was a photo on her book’s back cover. It doesn’t prepare you at all for actually standing face to face with her. Her eyes and smile hold an intensity that a posed author pic can’t capture.

You might relate to the feeling of wanting one of your favourite celebrities to really notice you. I keep forgetting that writers aren’t like most celebrities. Instead of experiencing constant harassment from screaming fans, writers have quiet and isolated existences, struggling alone at a laptop or note pad and even forgetting sometimes that there’s a bigger context beyond. I was humbled by the gratefulness and sincerity with which Susan Johnson greeted me. I didn’t have the words to express how much My Hundred Lovers means to me, but I was glad to have at last met her.

So there you have it. Watch out for Katerina Gibson’s story in Kill Your Darlings in the near future! And if you haven’t already, please seek out Susan Johnson’s books and treat yourself to her confronting but beautiful writing. Don’t forget to add me as your Writing Buddy for National Novel Writing Month!

Haul | Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe

I’m normally too far away from Brisbane’s West End to visit Avid Reader, but this particular day I was down that way buying frames at the optometrist.  I was lured into the bookshop by 1. their advertised sale and 2. the need to buy a book on my university set text list.  It was too good an opportunity to miss.  Here’s what I got!

Complete Prose by Woody Allen

417GW7EVDXL._SX294_BO1,204,203,200_This collection contains fifty-two pieces by famous film director, Woody Allen.  People seem to either love him or hate him, but you can always find me in the Woody Allen adoration camp.  I’ve enjoyed his uniquely neurotic humour ever since I first watched Annie Hall.  

Short story collections are easy reading.  Complete Prose is almost 500 pages long, but a single story will only take me a short sitting to read.  This makes them perfect for relaxing before bed or as a pick-me-up first thing in the morning before getting ready for the day.  I’ve read Woody Allen’s writing before, and I can confidently expect to be laughing out loud at this book.  I’m very chuffed to have got it for only $9.95 in Avid Reader’s sell out sale!

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

barracuda-book-coverYou might remember that I talked about Barracuda previously on my blog.  You can read that review here.  I ended up having to buy my own copy for my university unit about Australian writing.

This is a hefty-sized book, but it’s very readable and fast-paced.  I know I’ll enjoy analysing it more deeply for uni.  It has smart techniques and complex characters and themes that will be engaging to talk about in my research essay.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

9781847088420Disclaimer: I didn’t actually buy this book from Avid Reader.  I met my friend at the bookshop and she leant me her own copy of this book, insisting that it would be right up my ally.  I couldn’t resist sharing it with you in this post.

The Empathy Exams is a collection of personal essays.  Through various scenarios, Leslie Jamison challenges the how, what, when, where, why of empathy.  I am so excited to read this.  Empathy is a quality that I’m deeply interested in and committed to, and I can’t wait for this book to challenge and teach me.

Back cover reviews describe The Empathy Exams as “fiercely, prodigiously brave” and “a work of tremendous pleasure and tremendous pain”.  I am hooked.  Expect a review when I finish reading!

So that’s all I got!  I sheltered my brown paper bag from the driving rain and got them safely (and drily) home.  What about you?  Have you bought any exciting new books recently?  Do you have a favourite bookstore to share?  

Don’t forget to check out Avid Reader’s website here or ‘like’ their Facebook page here to keep track of the exciting things happening in store. 

Haul | Rosetta Books Maleny

I let loose and bought a small stack of books when I visited Rosetta Books Maleny last weekend.  I want to share with you what I got.

721761d5-c411-4dee-9166-012a291543a6-bestSizeAvailableHow to be Both by Ali Smith

This jumped out at me because I’d heard my favourite YouTuber, Tanya Burr, mention it in a vlog.  (Funnily enough, Tanya has something to do with another book in my haul…)

How to be Both, published only last year, has already raked in so many accolades that you can barely see the front cover of my copy through its list of awards!  If my interest wasn’t already hooked, the New Statesman‘s review on the back would have clinched it: “Dizzyingly good and so clever that it makes you want to dance”.  That’s what I’m talking about!

The blurb doesn’t give much away.  I glean that it has a twisting narrative that transcends centuries, but beyond that, the story is a thrilling mystery (and I’m looking forward to it all the more because I don’t know what to expect).  I think it must be one of those have-to-read-it-to-know sort of experiences.  Honestly, I can’t wait.

9780571316465The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera

The latest novel by French-Czech author, Milan Kundera, only appeared on bookstore shelves earlier this year.  I feel thrilled to be reading such fresh-off-the-press literature!  You might have heard of Kundera’s best-known story, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, also a movie starring Juliet Binoche.

At only 115 pages, this is a tiny book.  The hardcover edition and its dust jacket are absolutely gorgeous.  The end papers are egg-shell blue, offsetting the crisp white pages and lemon yellow of the jacket.  This is a book that withstands being judged by its cover.

I read the first chapter to my dad, and we decided to read it together over a couple of weeks.  So far, I have a strong impression of a simple but smartly-woven story with a very Woody Allen-esque vibe.  I can tell I’m going to enjoy it.

love-tanya-burr-book-coverLove Tanya by Tanya Burr

Remember I said my favourite YouTuber had something to do with my haul?  I have loved watching Tanya’s vlogs for a couple of years now.  I find them reassuring since she understands on a personal level a lot of things I have battled with in the past e.g. anxiety etc.  You can check out her channel here.

Love Tanya is a big collection of her stories, tips, tutorials, and recipes.  It contains a lot of lists that count down her Top 10s in categories such as how to deal with anxiety or dress for a first date.  All very useful and relevant, and written with love as the title suggests.  It also contains blank lists for you to chronicle your own thoughts.  Tanya explains that she wants you to turn her book into your own keepsake of memories.

So that’s all I got!  I’m very excited about my purchases.  I can’t wait to finish reading my set texts for uni so I can do some reading for pleasure!