Categories
Books Writing

The Miles Franklin Literary Award. Melbourne Writers Festival

I was power walking and angry listening. In my earphones was the voice of an award-winning Aussie writer, discussing his concerns about the literary prizes of the world, and how potentially harmful he thought them to be, considering the subjective nature of reading and writing. I could see his point, but overall I had to disagree; great work should be acknowledged.

A couple of years later, I entered a short story competition…and won. The announcement was electric. I clapped my hand over my mouth (you know it, just like in the movies) and flicked my head around to where my sister was smiling back at me. Someone had liked my story. Someone had loved it, in fact, and I couldn’t quite believe how wonderful that kind of validation felt. This was one of my babies—one that I had agonised over, questioned, written and re-written so many times I thought I was going nuts. And now I was seeing it light up the world outside of me, making a difference in other peoples lives. Gosh, I was proud.

Over the coming days, though, I started to consider the validity of my win. Did I really deserve it? Of course, I was proud of my story, and, using the skills I’d picked up along my writerly way, I was confident that my story had technical merit. But was it the best? What did the best really look like?

My biggest punch of reality was the story that came in second place. It was a good story. It was a really, really good story. Not only was it superbly written, but the final paragraph delivered a twist so satisfying that my mouth flew open and a great big, ‘Hah!’ came flying out. That had never happened to me before while reading. Ever. This was clearly an award-winning story. And yet…it hadn’t won. My mind went straight to the podcast, to the writer who’d questioned it all, and finally, I could see what he was talking about. Comparing two stories is a bit like comparing an apple and an orange. Who’s to say which is sweeter?

With that said, as I sat in the audience of this Sunday’s announcement of the Miles Franklin award—clapping wildly as Michelle De Kretser took out the 2018 prize for her novel, The Life to Come— I decided once and for all. Literary competitions are good. They will never be entirely black and white, or fair; an opinion is an opinion, after all. But perhaps we should try to see the good in literary competitions, look at them through those glasses I love so much: the rose-coloured ones.

Competitions like the Miles Franklin, The Stella Prize, The Man Booker (just to name a few) can provide a roadmap, a huge wavy flag that says, ‘Look here! This is one way to write, this is one way to live!’ My passion for reading and writing—and for being a good human, for that matter— naturally leads me to think of these competitions as a rich source of learning and growth.

And, as for the subjectivity that places a question mark over the heads of every award-winning book out there…the great news is this. We get to decide the true winner. Us. The voracious readers. The learner writers. We know which books and authors resonate with our own sensibilities. And if our own opinion just so happens to be the same as that of the judges, well. Hi-fives all ‘round, hey?

Congratulations, Michelle De Kretser. I read your words and I wish they were mine. xx

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Categories
Reading Writing

Krissy Kneen. Melbourne Writers Festival

Fear of judgement. I could fill a page with all the times it’s crippled me. All the times I wanted to do something but didn’t, all the ways I could have grown in this life of mine if only I’d stood firm and owned what I had to offer.

I’m in the front row at my second Melbourne Writers Festival event (Therapy Couch: Krissy Kneen) and there it is again, that word: humanity. It’s thick, and it’s oozing from Krissy Kneen as she talks through some of the fears she faces with her current project—a memoir recalling the history of her family, and the way it all sits within her life.

The scars of her family history are raw and deep, and, by writing a book on such a personal subject, Krissy will be exposed. She admits she’s nervous when it comes to Twitter and the various other social media platforms, and I don’t blame her. With the rise of the internet, ‘passing judgement’ has become all the more brutal.

It’s a moral fine line she’s walking, too, as it often is when it comes to writing memoir. Because even though our story will always be ours to tell: does it ever really belong only to us? What about the other characters in our lives? Krissy’s deceased Grandmother, who played a huge part in this family story, never wanted this story to be told. Krissy knows it—she’s reminded every time her Aunty shouts it down the telephone—and yet, she has chosen to tell the story, anyway.

Krissy recalls the moment she realised her Grandmothers passing meant the end of her uncomfortable silence. She would now be free to tell the story that, previously, she’d felt obliged to keep quiet. I can imagine the relief she must have felt. How many life choices might I have made differently if not for the wants and needs of others? I can think of a great many.

There really is no escaping the ache of humanity, is there? It’s the one thing we all have in common, whether we choose to share it with each other, or not. The stories of our humanity connect us and are often strewn with painful truths; truths that, these days, most of us would rather escape, than face. It’s easy to sit at the bottom of a mountain. But if you’ve ever stood at the top of one, I’m betting you know all about that view.

As I leave the auditorium, bumping shoulders with the people of my day, I can’t help but feel a hum of admiration for this woman called Krissy Kneen. Here is a woman who is chasing after her truth. She is standing in all of her power, and despite the ever-present fear of judgement, she is calm and she is steadfast. She sees the challenges. She chooses to move past them.

This is her life. Her story. Good on her for granting herself permission to honour it.

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Categories
Reading Writing

John Marsden. Melbourne Writers Festival, 2018

Recently, a friend asked me if I’d ever experienced a ‘sliding doors’ moment. I didn’t even have to think about what my answer would be. I rattled off a moment from the past where a right turn, instead of the left that I took, would have drastically changed the course of my life.

I suspect that yesterday I experienced another one of these perfectly orchestrated twists of fate. Because maybe, rather than simply blaming poor time management skills, I was actually meant to be late to my first Melbourne Writers Festival event. Maybe I was meant to walk in on John Marsden right at the very moment he was unzipping his skin and revealing the inner scars that have no doubt been etched into the lives of each of his characters.

John Marsden.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work, John is an Australian author, perhaps most famous for the young adult series, ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’. I was first introduced to the ‘Tomorrow series’ when I was about sixteen and, as luck would have it, the first four or five books had already been published by then. I gobbled them up with barely the urge to sleep or eat.

But let’s talk about the John Marsden of today. The John Marsden whose talk at the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival I was quite late for, because I’m a goose who just happened to lose track of time on the wrong day.

I scurried out to the garage—car keys jangling, jacket half on, kissing the air around my husband and children—and I was off. I won’t talk too much about the drive there, but I will say the traffic was maddening and added ten more minutes onto my estimated time of arrival. (We should just skim over the moment I flicked the gear stick into reverse, instead of first gear, don’t you think?)

Upon arriving at the venue I apologised to the lovely girl manning the front desk. She smiled and directed me to an empty seat, with sympathetic eyes and very little fuss. One of the marvellous gifts of this writer’s festival of ours are the volunteers. Their passion for books and arts always shows, and how lovely it is to see (especially when you’re very bloody late. Omg.)

As I listened to the conversation unfold between John and his interviewer, I was struck by the quiet nature of the man. John Marsden, not the writer, but the ordinary, imperfect being, baring his soul to a room of strangers.

There was no talk of the books that fed my creative soul throughout my youth—I was clearly late enough to have missed that boat. But I found myself sitting there thinking: perhaps I am hearing exactly what I was meant to hear. Perhaps if I’d been there from the start, I’d have missed the relevance of a writer’s humanity in this whole reading/writing shindig.

Do you believe in fate?

Because, after yesterday’s frantic dash and subsequent late entry to Marsden town, I really think that maybe I do.

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Categories
Books

Melbourne Writers Festival and Me

I am the proud owner of a cunning new plan. I’ve just unwrapped it, and there it is, slowly spinning on the Lazy Susan of my mind, while I sit wondering why on earth it took me so long to think up such a genius plan.

The thing is this. A few months ago I was gifted a five-session pass to attend the Melbourne Writers Festival. And like the lovely, bouncy book nerd that I am, I opened my arms wide and I ran, across a light-flooded field of daffodils, to my bookshelf, where I found several of the books I’d need to read in preparation for the big event. (Okay, so there were no daffodils. But how wonderful if there was!)

Anyway. The writers festival. The non-existent daffodils. The Bookshelf. Cutting a long story short, I found myself staring into a week of all things bookish, and here I am: the morning of, and It’s struck me.

I must share this with the people of blog land.

Because, for me, this blog has always been about sharing bits and pieces of my life, connecting with like-minded people, smashing our days and our hearts together and seeing what magic comes of it all.

What might happen if I take you to this festival of dreams with me? In what way might I take you—I don’t even know. Knowing me, it’ll likely include the words ‘magic’ or ‘wonder’ or ‘butterflies’. (And If you’re giggling into your hand, you either know me personally or have read a vast majority of my posts so far. Aww, besties. xx)

I’ll keep the events I’m attending a secret until I post about them (because surprises are THE best) but what I will tell you is that there’ll be at least five posts from me over the next seven days. I’ll likely sprinkle a few photos onto my Instagram page along the way to make it a little more fun, also (you’re all very welcome to join me there if you’d like).

So! What do you think of my cunning plan? Let’s do this, is what I think! It’ll be all sorts of wonderful, won’t it? We’ll be bookish besties for an entire week.

And what MAGIC that will be. (Wink.)

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Categories
Life

Riding In Trains With Girls

Australia is out the window and I’m feeling every bit of it.

The wobble of a train-shaken gut, the blur of gum trees and their naked cousins—every element of this three-hour train ride seems to be working together, whipping me into the icky sick of it all.

What a surprise this country of mine is, as we rumble along the tracks. It’s the middle of winter, and yet rural Victoria is a little bit confused about it all. What dress would I like to wear this winter, she wonders. And oh, how easily she changes her mind.

One moment she wears grass, like straw—paddocks of it, tall and waving in the sun. The next: sheep nibbled fields of emerald-green. Such indecisiveness makes me wonder if perhaps Mother Nature is a Pisces, like me.

The train is relentless in its quest to make good time, so much so that it seems to be wishing the beauty of the country away. I can’t say I’m sorry about that. Because although this vast stretch of land is all the bits of beautiful, and ever so charming in her lop-sided-windmill ways…this train has somewhere to go.

Home.

I’ve been visiting family in country New South Wales—just me, no one else—and do you know what? It’s been reading, and writing, and wonderful. How these few days have filled my belly and breathed life back into my dreamy (and maybe a little bit exhausted) soul.

But do you know what else? The very best thing to have arisen from this refreshing time away? Home. Knowing it would still be there. Knowing that after I’d finished letting my soul do all the deep breathing…home would be waiting.

Gosh, how I’ve missed home.

And gosh—how I’ve missed the people I share it with.

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Categories
The Darling Blog Of May

Darling Day 3. What’s in a word?

Let’s talk about words.

I adore words. I wrote about them here and I will, no doubt, write about them again on this blog because… I’m a little bit nerdy, like that.

I love writing words.

I love reading them, hearing them, thinking them. But most of all: I love feeling them.

Writing is one of those feeling things, for me. Reading also. And even though books have been a huge presence in my life for quite some time, it wasn’t until studying creative writing at university that I really started to think about words, and how they function in our lives.

Truly. I was stunned. How was it that something as simple as word choice could completely change the meaning of a sentence? And did you know that removing a word could enhance a sentence, rather than detract from it? I mean. What magic is that!

And so. I thought— why not dissect a word during the darling blog of May? Pick a word; play with it. Search for the magic hidden in its guts and sprinkle that magic around so all of you can share some too. Wouldn’t that be darling?

Yes! Let’s do it! And, in honour of the darling blog of May, the lucky word that will be chopped in half and gutted will be…

Darling. (Ha! I bet you didn’t see that one coming.)

Dar-ling.

The start of the word is a little bit ugly, isn’t it? (My Australian accent thinks so, anyway). To me, DAR drops off the tongue like a rock that’s just been lobbed into the ocean. It’s clunky. And not at all graceful.

But.

If we look at the end of the word—the LING sound—can you hear how it flings itself off the tongue? Isn’t-that-cool? It sounds like a lovely little handbell on a hotel countertop, one you could ring and ring all day just to hear the tinkling goodness of its song.

To me, it’s the LING part of darling that makes the word chime. It’s the LING that makes the word sing.

Darling.

Darling.

See? Pretty, isn’t it?

Then there’s the deeper stuff of words, the emotions that naturally rise from a word because of how we’ve heard it used before. Take darling, for example. We’ve all heard it said a thousand times, and usually, it’s said with a deep puff of love. It makes sense that when we hear the word darling, we will feel nice.

Of course, the word darling doesn’t always bring in all the good feels. Mums? Dads? I’ll bet you’ll agree. The word darling can be something of a double-edged sword when it comes to using it on our precious little cherubs. At least, it is in my house.

Example 1. ‘Darling. Please. Get down off the TOP rung of the ladder. For the HUNDRETH time.’

Example 2. ‘Darling. You are so many different kinds of lovely. Never change.’

How epic is that. ONE word. So many meanings.

So! We come to the end of my little nerd fest. I hope you forgive me for putting you through all that, especially if you’re not a big reader or writer. Then again, it is all a part of this little darling month of mine—pushing the boundaries of darling, seeing just how much this little word has to give.

I think it gives an awful lot. I so hope you agree. xx

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The darling blog of May

Categories
The Darling Blog Of May

It’s Happening.

The challenge is on…and I shout YES.

I accept.

A blog a day. For one whole month.

One whole month of getting to know this little home I’m building.

A whole month of getting to know all of you! 

Yep. It’ll be one whole month of wonderful. One whole month of…ice-cold panic.

ICE. COLD. PANIC.

Goodness me. Is that my heartbeat?

Oh, dear.

Just a moment. Sorry. Just breathing for a bit. One cat-and-dog. Two cat-and-dog. Three.

Okay! Where was I?

Ah, yes.

This little idea of mine: The Darling Blog of May.

Every day in May, I plan to write a blog post hovering around the theme DARLING, and the rules are…there are no rules.

I might write about the word darling.

I might write about a darling day, or moment, book or song. 

I might write about a darling person, a darling thing.

A darling everything. A darling nothing.

There are no rules.

And thank goodness for that because I’ll need plenty of room to think outside my little box of darling. (There are a LOT of days in May, you know.)

SO.

That’s my idea, and this is my invitation to you:

Come on in!

Every day. One day. I’ll be here.

It’ll be nice!

No. Scratch that. It’ll be more than nice.

It’ll be darling.

 

The darling blog of May

Categories
Life

The Little Blog Of Everything

This is an everything blog.

A little bit of sugar, a little bit of spice.

And, right now—like Forest and his many park-bench dwellers—you (the reader) and me (the writer) just never know what we’re going to get from this place, do we?

But Brooke, I hear you say. You are the writer. Hold the wheel. Steer.

Just take us to a place we know, a place we love.

A place we choose.

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You may have already met the many versions of writerly me—especially if you’ve followed along on my Sunny Mummy journey—and if so, you may be wondering which me will be the captain of this particular ship, at any given blog post.

Will it be the very serious me; the scholar and the thinker, the champion of all things books and arts and creativity?

Will it be the dreamer, the romantic, the philosopher? The Mum?

Or will it be me of the adorably nuts kind; me who wishes the world was made of chocolate, and cherry-red wine, me who thinks she’s way funnier than she actually is. (And yes. The latter is the captain of this particular blog post. Sorry about that.)

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So!

What will the next post be? A photo blog: short, sweet and poignant? Or will it be wordy and slow, important and true?

And deep?

This is my confession.

I don’t know.

All I can say about this little land of words is that it is, and always will be, a place for anyone who finds it, a place for anyone who needs it. A place that changes and moves, because life changes.

Life moves.

And that’s what I want for this space.

Life.

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With this confession lies an apology of the sincerest kind. Sometimes you will be lost here, wishing for direction, wishing for routine wrapped in a neatly labeled box.

This place will give you all of the things, sometimes. And none of them sometimes, too. What exactly it will give you, I can’t be sure.

BUT.

What I can be sure of is this.

My heart lives in this place.

And where my heart lives, I live.

All of me.

And hopefully…

All of you, too.

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Categories
Books

Falling In Love By Lamplight

I can’t remember the moment I fell in love with books.

But I know it was by lamplight.

A warm orange flush against the wall.

The shadow of a Mum, and a girl, and a book, and a bed.

A memory for all the senses.

A craving for the comfort of night.

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Are you there with me?

Mum’s soft voice, her words scattering into the twilight.

Like fireflies.

Waves, fizzing onto custard sand.

Winged chairs, lifting into the setting sun.

I feel it like I feel yesterday, that love.

That magic.

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Little girl me sped through the days, just to meet the night again.

Just so the story could go on.

Nothing’s changed, not really.

Except maybe the shadows on the wall.

The little girl I used to be: somewhere along the line, her shadow twisted and popped.

And grew.

The lamp lit voice: it’s not Mum’s, anymore.

It’s mine.

Colouring in the hearts of my own babies.

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I can’t remember the moment I fell in love with books.

And maybe the when doesn’t matter.

Maybe the why doesn’t matter, either.

It’s the who and the what and the how that will never leave me.

The lamplight.

The two shadows, big and small.

It’s the truest story I know.

And it’s all about how I fell in love… for the very first time.

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