My 3 Favourite Mothers in Literature | Mother’s Day 2016

BeFunky Design

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful women who raised us.  Take a break from brainstorming ways to show your mum some love, and remember your favourite fictional mothers.  Here are my 3 favourite mothers from childhood books:

Miss Honey | Matilda

Miss Honey is Matilda’s school teacher and eventual adoptive mother.  When Matilda’s biological family punishes her for being unique, Miss Honey embraces Matilda’s individuality.  She does everything in her power to nurture Matilda’s special talents and make her feel loved.  Her overflowing joy spreads positivity to her students.

tumblr_mxzyuu2Gdj1qdojzho1_400

Molly Weasley | Harry Potter series

Molly Weasley is fiercely protective.  She confronts danger head-on to keep her family safe.  Despite being a tough cookie, Mrs Weasley can also be tender.  Her knitted Christmas sweaters and home cooked meals keep her loved ones warm and cosy all year round.  When Harry visits, she makes him feel like part of the family.

molly-weasley-gif

Marilla Cuthbert | Anne of Green Gables

Marilla Cuthbert may not have signed up for motherhood, but she steps up to the plate when Anne Shirley comes to live at Green Gables.  At first, Marilla is stone cold and strict.  But as Anne warms her heart, she is surprised to experience love like she has never known before.  Sharing in Anne’s misadventures becomes the most rewarding part of her life.

anne-of-green-gables-movie-stills-06-1024x576

I hope this list gave you the warm and fuzzies.  Who are your favourite mothers in literature?  Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Photo credits: http://www.tumblr.com / http://www.wordpress.com / http://www.anneofgreengables.com

Advertisements

Lifeline Bookfest Haul January 2016

It’s that time of year again.  Lifeline Bookfest is back at the Brisbane Convention Centre! This biannual festival is a paradise for avid readers with its insanely priced secondhand books.  Despite a small budget, I got some great deals.  I’m pretty darned excited!

9780141019451On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith wowed me with her smart and sassy debut, White Teeth.  On Beauty is her third novel.  The printing is so gorgeous it borders on erotic.  Glossy flower patterns overlay a rich chocolate brown background.  If you judged this book by its cover, you’d expect wit, sensitivity, and sensuality – three things I know Zadie Smith is gifted with.

Lights Out in Wonderland by DBC Pierre8083820

Remember when I read Vernon God Little?  I loved it so much I knew I had to read more by its Booker Prize winning author.  I have enormous expectations for DBC Pierre’s third novel and I’m confident he’ll deliver.  He wields an irreverent poeticism that makes everything he writes both appalling and beautiful.  I can’t wait to see how his later work compares to his groundbreaking debut.

6238269The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I fell in love with the French film adaptation The Hedgehog years ago (strongly recommend!)  This 2008 bestseller is translated from the French by Alison Anderson.  I’m intrigued to see how the layered story is structured in book-form, and how Muriel Barbery inhabits each one of the unique voices making up her moving narrative.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy9780307455291-uk

This is the film tie in copy of the Pulitzer Prize winning bestseller.  Despite its modest size, this book promises to pack a punch.  Cormac McCarthy is notorious for his unconventional but powerful style.  I’m excited to appreciate his brave techniques and learn more about writing in the process!  This could be the start of a long love affair with an amazing author.

Did you make it down to Lifeline Bookfest this January?  If so, what great books did you find?  If you have a Bookfest haul to share, I’d love to hear all about it!  Plus don’t forget to share your 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  

Photo credits: http://www.penguin.com / http://www.goodreads.com / http://www.abebooks.com

Graduating from University!

Exciting news!  I graduated on Monday night with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing.  The experience made me reminisce on high school.  High school valedictory was a proud moment shared with best friends.  Sadly, graduating from university was nothing like that.  

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 2.55.55 pmFinishing is surreal.  The semester fizzled out so gradually that I’ve been in holiday mode for over a month now.  University doesn’t offer you the emotional build up and transition that high school does.  Being handed your glorified-toiletpaper degree by an ancient academic is no substitute for crying on the shoulder of your favourite teacher.  The only time I felt any sense of finality and excitement was when the concert organist played Chariots of Fire.  That smidge of sentimentality hit me hard as I sat among strangers with a mortarboard-induced headache.  I smiled to see my family waving wildly from the front row.

Graduation got me feeling existential.  I’ve changed beyond recognition since leaving high school.  I lost the baby fat riding my cheeks, grew out my pixie cut, and discovered that Kmart is not the only vendor of fashion.  I learned to drink and swear, bought a car, wore platform heels, had my life broken and rebuilt numerous times.  I’m painfully aware that I am the sum of everything I have ever experienced and everyone I have ever known.  I’m not all I hoped to be, but I can embrace what I am.  For one, the worst people I’ve met are no longer in my life.  And the best people I’ve met are closer to me than ever – a small but supportive safety net of friends.  Having this is possibly my proudest achievement.

I wish graduation had been an experience more worthy of nostalgia like finishing high school.  But at least I know now what I want.  I have another year of postgrad studies planned and a goal at the end of it.  Six months ago I was at my lowest point.  I can confidently say that this is my highest.  I can only go up from here.

Queensland Writers Centre 2016 Program Launch

dd

Based at State Library of Queensland, the Queensland Writers Centre is a member program that supports the professional development and success of writers.  I had the pleasure of attending its end of year party and 2016 program launch on Friday.  

Nearing its 25th anniversary on January 14, QWC is trying a new approach – releasing its program in two parts for flexibility in response to member feedback.  I’m excited about quite a few special events promised in the first half of 2016.  This is my first year as a member and I’m planning to make the most of the discounted rates and resources available.

If you are an emerging or developing writer, I urge you to check out QWC’s program.  It has a variety of events from beginner skills to niche specialisation including marketing unpublished work.  Either grab a free program next time you visit the State Library of Queensland or check out their website.  You might like to start off by tagging along to the QWC Open Day on January 14.  Definitely pencil it into your diary.

QWC’s quarterly magazine is also an invaluable resource – it includes pages of competitions and submission openings so you know when and where to submit your work.  It takes the time and effort out of keeping your finger on the pulse of publishing opportunities.  View the complete list of resources and signup information here.

I’m personally most excited about the Year of the Edit, a 10-month-long capstone program that assists writers in developing their manuscript before submitting to publishers.  Cool stuff!

 

 

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!

National Novel Writing Month 2015

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!  Would-be novelists, jump on board.  

National Novel Writing Month is an annual event and nonprofit organisation that supports and motivates writers to start and finish a 50,000-word novel in November.  Committing to this scary deadline pushes you to achieve way more than you would have imagined possible!  TBH, who wouldn’t feel motivated by the kick-ass logo?

Sign up for free at www.nanowrimo.org.  Then when the clock starts ticking on November 1st, earn milestone badges by logging your word count as you go.

NaNoLogoNaNoWriMo offers loads of resources, including Pep Talks and forums where you can get inspired by like-minded people.  If you are tackling NaNoWriMo with a group of friends, add them as your Writing Buddies.

This is the first year that I’ve participated and I’m excited!  Luckily, NaNoWriMo coincides with the end of the uni semester.  I’m planning to go away for a few days after submitting my final assignment to detox from the internet and get cracking on my novel.    Expect some progress posts later in the month.

Feel free to add me as your Writing Buddy.  I would love to see you online!  Good luck!

Meeting Meg McKinlay at the Queensland Literary Awards 2015

At this year’s Queensland Literary Awards at the State Library of Queensland, I had the pleasure of meeting children’s author, Meg McKinlay.  Meg’s latest novel, A Single Stone, won the Griffith University Children’s Book Award.  During her acceptance speech, I was thinking to myself how amazing it would be to go up to her and say hi.  But then what after “hi”?  I was feeling nervous already.  

After the ceremony, I raced out, bought a copy of A Single Stone, and then began the mincing dawdle of someone who prefers to wait awkwardly nearby a celebrity rather than interrupt them.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 11.06.11 pmWhen Meg noticed me star-strickeningly clutching her book, she offered to sign it for me.  I needn’t have been nervous.  We ended up sitting down to chat about our mutual love of The Silver Chair from The Chronicles of Narnia, a book that resonates deeply for us both.

It was amazing to have such a natural, down-to-earth conversation with an author that I admire.  I felt humbled.  Meg McKinlay was so open to share about herself and expressed sincere interest in my passion to be a children’s author.  She wrote a kind note to me inside A Single Stone which I will treasure.

I can’t wait to read A Single Stone.  You can expect a review when I do.  What an amazing experience!

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out the other Queensland Literary Award winners.  You can even read the short story finalists of the State Library of Queensland’s 2015 Young Writers Award.  My earlier post has all the links you need to check them out.

Important Links:

Meg McKinlay

Queensland Literary Awards

Queensland Literary Awards 2015

I was honoured to be invited to this year’s Queensland Literary Awards.  The ceremony took place last night at the State Library of Queensland to celebrate outstanding writers over a range of categories.  Being in the same room as some of Brisbane’s (and Australia’s) most prestigious writers was way too exciting!  It was like author I-Spy, which is perhaps the dorkiest and coolest thing ever.

A Bit of History

After former premier, Campbell Newman, scrapped government funding for the Queensland Literary Awards in 2012, a passionate, not-for-profit association of volunteers rallied community support.  The I Love Literature campaign was born.  

May this year, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk brought back public funding for the awards, even creating a new category for a work of state significance, mentorship for writer’s development, and doubling the support for the young writer’s category.  Isn’t that really something?  It’s incredible to look back on how much support the awards have received from a community that realises their importance.

The Winners

Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance (Prize: $25,000)

Winner: Warrior, Libby Connors

University of Queensland Fiction Book Awards (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Golden Age, Joan London

University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia, Don Watson

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Pause, John Larkin

Griffith University Children’s Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay

University of Southern Queensland History Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: ANZAC, The Unauthorised Biography, Carolyn Holbrook

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Merciless Gods, Christos Tsiolkas

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Waiting for the Past, Les Murray

Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards (Prize: $10,000 Each)

Winners: Megan McGrath and Rebecca Jessen

Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The First Octoroon or Report of an Experimental Child, Andrew Booth

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Aurora, Elizabeth Kasmer

2015 Queensland Writers Fellowships ($15,000 Each)

Winners: Inga Simpson, Krissy Kneen, and Karen Foxlee

The Courier Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: On the road…with the kids, John Ahern

SLQ 2015 Young Writers Award

8-218642-Logo-280x210-2Now, you may ask, why was yours truly invited to go along to this event in the first place?  I was one of four highly commended entries in the 18-25 category of State Library of Queensland’s 2015 Young Writers Award!

I only found out a week ago that my children’s short story ‘Eyes and Ears’ had been shortlisted.  It was surreal seeing my name projected up onto the same screen as some of Australia’s great writers.

All of the highly commended and winning entries are available to read online.  Please go check them out!  My fellow finalists are all beautiful writers and so deserve this recognition for their work.

15 – 17 Category 1,500 Word Short Story (Prize: $2,000)

Winner: The Washing of Iniquity, Rosie McCrossin

Runner up: Cher PereClara Harin Lee

Highly commended:

18 – 25 Category 2,500 Word Short Story (Prize: $2,000)

Winner: Surface, Grace McCarter

Runner up: January Days, Faith Mudge

Highly commended:

So there you have it!  There are so many books I need to add to my to-read list after hearing about the finalists.  Several of my lecturers and tutors at QUT had shortlisted books, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.  

Expect another post soon all about some the ceremony and the people I had the honour of meeting.  It was an amazing night.  

Important Links:

Queensland Literary Awards

State Library of Queensland

What’s Your Promise? | World Mental Health Day

Leading up to World Mental Health Day on October 10, Mental Health Australia has released an incredible campaign that makes it easy to make a difference.  I went into a coffee shop today and picked up one of their postcards.  It encourages you to make a promise to yourself.  There are so many simple things you can do to improve your happiness and wellbeing.  Find out what I promised at the end of the post.  This post is longer than average, but super important to me!

You may already know that I struggled with anxiety a lot this year.  Now that some things have changed and I am looking after my mental health better, I am a lot happier.  A few people even complimented me that I look much healthier too!  I am now more aware than ever of the importance of caring for my mental wellbeing.

Mental Health Australia’s postcard has a list of tips.  I feel passionately about a lot of these.  Please think about how you could start to use them in your own life.  They don’t take much time or effort to do, but will make a huge difference.

Ten Tips for 10/10

1. Sleep well

Having trouble getting to sleep?  There are so many guided meditations and other relaxing sound files you can listen to that can help calm down your mind.  I also find that a warm bath and a hot cup of tea relax me enough to sleep.  What things work best for you?

2. Enjoy healthy food

Good food makes my body feel energised.  I feel peppy and fab after a delicious, fresh meal.

3. Plan and prioritise your day

I used to struggle with this a lot in high school.  I always put a lot of pressure on myself as a high achiever, but I soon discovered that I couldn’t be perfect all the time.  Learning to plan and prioritise took a weight off.  Writing a to-do list could empty my mind enough to calm down and approach things one at a time.

4. Tune in to the music you love

What things make you happy?  Do them and love doing them!  Public approval not required.

5. Cut down on bad food and booze

As soon as I cut down on sugar and caffeine, my natural energy comes back.

6. Switch off your devices and tune out

I find that reading a book is super relaxing when the back lighting of my laptop or phone is keeping me buzzing.  I can usually only read for half an hour before my nodding head let’s me know it’s bed time.

7. Hang out with people who make you feel good

I think this tip is the most important to me.  Throughout the roller coaster of this tough year, the thing that has made me feel happiest, calmest, and best about myself is being around loving people.  Like everyone else, I need time by myself to do work and chill on the computer.  But when blah feelings kick in, nothing gets rid of them like spending time with people who bring positivity.

8. Join in, participate, and connect

Some of the best times I’ve had were when I built up the moxie to go do that thing I was invited to but was thinking of skipping because I couldn’t be bothered.  Putting in the effort to join in can be surprisingly rewarding.

9. Exercise your body and mind

Ah yes.  That one where your body has to move from the couch.  I was afraid it would come to this.  In all honesty, I actually find exercise so energising.  Even if I don’t go for a run, a short walk is a powerful way to unblock your head and feel more focused and grounded.

10. Seek advice and support when you need it

There are so many services available if you don’t feel like you can talk to your friends or family about things you are experiencing.  Do a Google search for walk-in centres near you, or for free, anonymous hotlines you can call to chat with a professional.  You absolutely never need to feel alone.  There is always someone else who has been in your exact same position.  I’m sure you have at least one friend who is a good listener and will open their arms to you.  Do you have someone in mind?  Give them a call.  Meet up for coffee and talk to them.

Now that I’m finished writing about this postcard, I’m mailing it to my dear friend who I think will appreciate it.  I love that this campaign makes it so easy to share the love!

What’s Your Promise?

I am going to make a promise to myself.  Something small and simple that I know will make a long term difference to my mental wellbeing.  Something I should never have stopped doing in the first place!

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 4.47.05 pm

What promise will you make?  Follow this link to submit and share your promise.  You can also get inspired by talking a look at the Promise Wall.  Over 9,000 people have shared their mental health promises!

I would love to see your promise if you would like to share it in the comments section.  Well done, you, for doing something positive to care for yourself.  Now share this with someone else!  

An Afternoon with R.A. Spratt at Brisbane Writer’s Festival

I went to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival for the first time ever today!  There were so many amazing events I would have loved to have gone to, but I managed to fit in one masterclass between uni and work.

rh3BWF is an annual event held in the State Library of Queensland.  Writers and publishing industry professionals flock from all over Australian to share their experiences and knowledge in panels, seminars, and workshops.  The festival also offers great volunteering opportunities that students and emerging writers can take advantage of to network and gain experience.  Check out the BWF website here to see what’s on offer.  It’s running until the 6th of September so you still have a few days left to get in on the action.

The masterclass I attended was led by bestselling Australian children’s author and television writer, R.A. Spratt.  She’s the adult responsible for the Friday Barnes and Nanny Piggins series.   She talked about how to plot a novel and come up with interesting characters through several interactive workshopping exercises.

My favourites of her advice for writing characters were:

  • Remember that everyone has something wrong with them

So make your characters flawed and interesting!  What might be a quick character hook?

  • Borrow qualities from people you know

Basing your character on a real person makes it easier to imagine what your character would say or do in a particular scenario.

  • Ask yourself how and why each of your characters think differently

All of your characters are unique, so figure out how their minds work and why.  This will decide what your character says and does, and how.

R.A. Spratt’s great sense of humour made the masterclass fun and comfortable.  Not to mention she brought chocolate to inspire us (getting a sugar rush is her version of putting on a thinking cap)!  She was bursting with hilarious anecdotes about how she finds ideas and runs writing classes in primary schools.  I’m now very excited to get my hands on one of her books.  Please check out her website here.  You can also follow her on Twitter!

I hope you have a great week, full of inspiration and exciting new learning.