7 of 7 books that changed my life


Good evening folks – this is my final 7 books that changed my life in 7 days. And boy, it’s not enough space, dear nominator, the inimitable Jen Webb. I have not covered the poetry, the non fiction, the short story collections, nor the women who inspired me, really anything I read post 2010….And I want to do one for picture books that if you haven’t read you haven’t lived (Shrek – I mean the original by William Steig, anyone?) or the books of cartoons, or my love of obscure science fiction….

But, with all this in mind, dear readers, I have to tell you that The Body Artist by Don DeLillo is my final book.
I have agonised. But this one is a stand out – partly because of what he does with plot involutions (I LOVE plot involutions, this is part of why I’ve never published any of my  novels) and tone. Every sentence rings with the vigour of something toiled over. The whole book is a poem.

I was working in book selling in Adelaide when I picked it up. I took it (still in hardback) to an optometrist appointment. I saw reception, sat down and stayed there for 2 hours riveted, hardly daring to breathe the spell on me was so strong. They forgot about checking my eyes, or maybe I just didn’t hear them call me in…

Those opening paragraphs, the birds on the lawn, the banal conversation that haunts and haunts the rest of the story. If you haven’t, you must read this one.


Day 6 of 7 Books that changed my Life


Hello – I’m up to day 6 of 7 of the 7 books that changed my life…

Today I have been thinking that The Secret History by Donna Tartt has to make it onto my list. I haven’t felt the earth move for her other books, but The Secret History – I almost expected the characters to pop over and tell me what happened next.

I came to it late – read it about 2003 – after the hype (which I never believe BTW) had died down. I stayed up all night reading, so the final climactic scenes happened in the early hours of the morning when you are most vulnerable to suggestions and can be made to believe the worst. That’s how I feel Tartt treated her readers; she manipulated us as much as the characters did one another…. And of course Henry did what Henry did. What choice did he have?

I think I should probably re-visit this one, even though I am still shuddering from the last time. I think it’s actually a horror story in disguise…

In 2013, John Mullan wrote an essay for The Guardian titled “Ten Reasons Why We Love Donna Tartt’s The Secret History”, which includes “It starts with a murder,” “It is in love with Ancient Greece,” “It is full of quotations,” and “It is obsessed with beauty.” I have to agree with him.

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Day 5 of 7 Books that changed my life


Day 5 of seven books that changed my life – sent this way to you by the very dear Jen Webb.

Today is HARUKI MURAKAMI day! Mainly because I can’t choose a favourite book. Is it Sputnik Sweetheart that confirmed my dislike of the Ferris wheel? Or Kafka on the Shore who still haunts me today about a decade after I read it. Or Hard Boiled Wonderland? I cannot choose. I love his darkness but also the very wonderful talking cat dialogues, the landscapes the strangeness of the world through his eyes.

If you have time you should check his website http://www.harukimurakami.com

Each book is like a glittering storm of familiar dust dancing through the darkness, exquisite jewellery to adorn the mind.


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Day 4 of 7 Books that changed my Life


I’m already up to day 4 of my seven days of books that changed my life.

And it’s a tough one tonight folks, but A.S Byatt stole my girl’s heart with Possession. I’d been living on a strange diet of Jane Austen, romantic poets with a modern poetry twist and also (for another course I was taking) lots of Asimov and science fiction. Somehow Possession married everything I loved about all of this and threw in a great mysterious central poetry drama. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I read it again now- but damn she’s clever.


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My own well thumbed copy of Possession that’s been on trains and picnics and many places with me.

Day 3 of books that changed my life


I am struggling with this because there SO MANY BOOKS – but I have to choose 5 more…

I read Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being in my 20s. I don’t remember a thing about it – but I do remember being in a kind of altered state afterwards. As if the book had rewired my brain somehow. That the magic of the words in that particular order had arranged my synapses into new and extraordinary patterns.


Photo by me with my dodgy thumb

DAY 2 of Books that Changed my Life


Day 2 of the 7 days of books that changed my life.

I was mooning around the Campus of Wollongong University, on the Australian Coast, avoiding duck poo in the long winding brick paths, dreaming about becoming a ‘writer’ and reading all sorts of authors and dabbling in poetry. As you do. So, there I was in my second hand denim jacket that came with train tickets in the pocket, and I picked up this volume with no context.

The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter blew my socks off. Not only was it sexy and dark and all those things you want your writing to be, it was a POEM and it was also a NARRATIVE. But it wasn’t one of those epics. And it was so engaging. And it was written by an Australian Woman. I was in love…

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Dorothy Porter eminent Australian poet and writer graduated from her arts degree the year I was born. She wrote in many fields – poetry, litbretti and also for young adults. At the time of her death she was collaborating on a rock Opera with Tim Finn. Her work was often dark and centred on the destructive nature of the human impulse. She died in 2008 of complications due to breast cancer. A star went out.

7 Books for 7 Days


I’ve been nominated by the esteemed Prof. Jen Webb to nominate 7 books over the next seven days that CHANGED MY LIFE (sorry, I didn’t actually mean to shout there…) which made be scribble lists and walk and circles and sigh. There were too many. There were not enough. They weren’t clever… Then, dammit I thought about books that actually changed my direction – books that consumed me as much as I consumed them.

So, I take you back to 1992. I was in year 10 and I had a free hour because I had outright refused to study any maths subjects for my High School Certificate. Everyone else is in class, the sun beams down and I pick up the book I’ve nicked from my dad.

I lost myself, I was swallowed whole, the book had me by the throat, how could this man write like this?

I realise The English Patient had only just hit the shelves. I read it before it was famous, before it was a film, before all that followed. It was unlike anything I’d ever read. It did things with language and plot that made me tingle with delight.



On Reading

Uncategorized, Writing/Publishing

I remembered something last night – as the rain over the city twinkled in the light and gurgled in the drain pipes. I remembered that I am in love with reading. And that this is why I write. Because if I can do to a reader what Ondaatje did to me when I was about 17 and just ready for a book that was a poem and a love song and a nest of complications to rattle my brain and reassure me that the world was not at all a simple place, then I will have achieved my life’s ambition.

The world is no simple place.

Is it the writer’s job to remind us of that – no matter what they write? Perhaps.

Here I am working away at many projects, some more advanced than others, some in poetry some fiction some non fiction, occasional journalism and I realise I am stabilising my view of the world by admitting – word by word by word – that it is more complex and nuanced and incredible than I will ever be able to fully express.

And that I am at peace with that. Because I have tried.



Mentoring – The Top 5 Tips for Creative Writers


I am currently mentoring a year ten student – let’s call her Miss C – and it’s a really enriching experience. I hope it is for her, too.

I found myself giving her a list of writerly advice, and I think I would probably do well to heed my own words.

I thought I would list my top 5 tips from a practicing writer to a beginner and then remember that they really apply to everyone who is undertaking creative practice. No matter how good you get and how experienced you become, it’s always helpful to stop and unpack what you are doing.

  1. Make plans.  I found myself confiding to Miss C that in fact I wish someone had sat me down and taught me to plan writing when I was 15. Because that’s the bit you don’t see when you consume a book.
  2. Work towards an endpoint. Dream up where your story might go and take it towards that; in all likelihood you will change your mind, revise and edit, but in the meantime go to that point you can see on the horizon. (This does relate to planning, see step one…)
  3. Collaborate. The writing life can get a bit lonesome, so if you are ever offered the opportunity collaborate your heart out. Humans are social beings (even if writers sometimes forget this) and collaboration makes for new and interesting points of reference for your work.
  4. Keep your reader in the back of your mind – but don’t let them get behind the wheel too much.
  5. Be focussed – perhaps you could call it obsessive – but it’s important to stay with your writing though the tough times. Days of despair, keep writing. Days of dreadful anxiety, keep writing. Stay there and it will pass. After that you will have words on the page.

Note to self: revisit this page regularly.