Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Tying back to 'January business'

I would just like to say CONGRATULATIONS TO ME for posting at least once a month on this blog, this year, sometimes more than twice a month. I win the internet. But I was rereading this from earlier in the year and was struck by all that has happened since, even though it feels as though it's been quite a quiet few months. Also, I need to write something before Sunday, because then it's December and I will have missed a month on the blog, to nicely circle back to the start of my paragraph.

Firstly, same-sex marriage! What a crazy year. After a terrible end to Julia Gillard's groundbreaking turn as PM (I know I'm not the only one who cried during her leaving speech. Say what you want about her politics, she's a class act), I was willing to give the Ruddster another go, once he'd pulled on his big boy pants and decided to behave himself. Also, he was offering a conscience vote on the whole gay marriage issue which was nice. Anyway, in a fit of alarming stupidity, Australia managed to elect Gollum- I mean Tony Abbott and his 1950's views of...well, everything. This included his frequent and clumsy dodging around the issue of same-sex marriage, saying it wouldn't be a 'high priority' for his government. Right then, as you do, at least he told us up front (WHY was he elected, again?). But as soon as the ACT Legislative Assembly passed their gorgeous Marriage Equality Act, Tony's hightailing it to the High Court to challenge it. Bit of a high priority now, hey Tone? (There's a lot of 'high's in those last couple of sentences. Deal with it.) So, after lamenting back at the start of the year how disappointed I was that Australia hadn't taken that crucial step into the 21st century, I find myself still angry, but at a very specific group of people, and also inspired by the ACT. Don't give in.

It is impossible to list all the books I've read since I wrote that first blog because I'd be typing for a week, but I've now joined up with the Jane Austen Society of Melbourne (pretty sure I'm the youngest member by a decade at least, and the meetings are lovely and always interesting) and have been making my way through an ever-growing list of all different types of books that have piqued my curiosity. This includes most of Sonya Hartnett's work which has been like the best kind of literary treat. And yep, I've kept up with New Girl, which is still lovely, and yep, I've watched all of McLeod's Daughters which was mostly terrible (apologies to fans of the show, but I remembered it being so much better).

I still have not heard back from the agency that has my manuscript. It's been well over a year, so that feels not right. I should probably take it back, but I'm so busy with uni and other writing stuff that I don't have the time to go over it now. So I've decided to leave it with them until I do, and if they get back to me in the meantime, all the better. But, I had my first piece of fiction published this year and was PAID for it, so snaps for me! Read more here. Hopefully I can get something else published next year as well...(I never did go back to that angry draft I wrote about Manohar Lal Sharma. Other, better writers have said what I wanted to say with more art. And it's made me feel sad even thinking about it as I type this.)

Also, the Book Thief film :) Yay. We've had trailers and stills and all manner of juicy blog tidbits from Markus Zusak, so I can safely say I'm even more excited about the film now than I was back when I wrote that entry. Out in January - only weeks away!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Men of Letters

I've been thinking a lot recently about privacy and the fine lines that criss-cross over the whole idea. Recapping Women of Letters events has become somewhat of a habit, and there was totally that one time that Marieke Hardy read my recap and thanked me for it which made my life. But I read this article this morning and have had second thoughts. What goes down at these events is public in the sense that several hundred people attend and listen to the letters. But it is also intrinsically private. Some letters tell stories of unimaginable grief, some of childhood secrets, some detail personal relationships. All of them are touching and many of them are funny, even amongst sadness. But it's made me think twice about some of the detail I put into my recaps. Although the letters are often reproduced in anthologies or online, it is always with the writer's permission. Their stories are not mine to retell, however summarised they might be. So I'll keep going to these events, and I'll keep laughing and crying and appreciating, but I don't think I'll keep recapping.

I will say this: yesterday I went to my first ever Men of Letters event, and it was fabulous. 11 men - Casey Bennetto, Glenn Robbins, Gideon Haigh, Peter Russell-Clarke, Tony Wheeler, Richard Flanagan, Brian Mannix, Sam Cooney, Frankie J Holden, Bert Labonte and Derryn Hinch - were writing to 'The Woman Who Changed My Life'. Some wrote to wives, daughters, mothers, friends, some to women who were no longer with us, some who were sitting in the Regal Ballroom listening. One letter was written to the ocean, one to Marieke Hardy herself, and one to Brittanica - definitely three of the most enthralling letters I have ever heard.

I've already bought my ticket to next month's event, and I'm so excited to hear that this show is going even more global than before (Britain and Ireland yeow!). Also, the third anthology is being launched next month! Hopefully, there'll be plenty more to come.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Women of Letters recap

The sun was absolutely blazing when we walked down High St Northcote, and we had to wait for our eyes to adjust when we entered the cool, dim Regal Ballroom. This afternoon both Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy were present, along with a line-up of wonderful women who were writing to the theme 'a letter to the thing I lost'.

First up was singer-songwriter Rebecca Barnard, who wrote to her car, lost deep in the labyrinthine bowels of the Crown Casino carpark. She described perfectly the creeping, irrational anxiety we have all felt when losing our bearings in a sea of parking spaces, complete with thinking up various rapist deterrents, which in Rebecca's case included shooting them in the face with breast milk. She told us of her utter and desperate relief upon finding the parking attendant, and apologising to him for 'having no spatial awareness because I'm so hormonal at the moment'. A side-splitting letter to start off a potentially devastating topic.

Next up was the simply glorious slam poet Maxine Beneba Clarke. She performed her letter in a glorious mix of spoken word and song, and wrote to her fears, specifically to her fears for her children. Her voice sent shivers through me, and the ballroom was completely speechless as we listened. She spoke of the most terrible things she could imagine happening to them, and when juxtaposed with lines like 'the truth is we walked death row before we learned to crawl' and 'these fears will drift like powdered charcoal on the wind', it made for an almost surreal experience. The applause was long and loud.

Culinary queen Stephanie Alexander was next. She wrote to a beloved letter from her 'guru', the food writer Elizabeth David, who she tragically never met properly in the flesh. Stephanie is a Francophile who was heavily influenced by Elizabeth David's writings, but it was Stephanie's prose that had the audience completely and utterly drawn in. Her letter was articulate, masterful and clear, and there was an audible groan when she revealed at the end that she had lost the treasured letter from her hero!

Randa Abdel-Fattah, author and academic, wrote one of the most intense letters I have heard. She wrote to her composure, and put us in vivid context - travelling with her elderly father and her young daughter, trying to get through the checkpoints to the Palestinian West Bank to see her father's birthplace and her grandfather's grave. As Randa marvelled at the patience of the Palestinians she shared the bus with, knowing it was a normal, everyday experience that they had to deal with, she was infuriated by the treatment dealt to them. 'Those who are denied their human rights do not have the luxury of despair'. Thankfully, Randa and her father managed to obtain a 7-day pass, which was better than nothing. You could have heard a pin drop in the ballroom as she read.

Finally, Gorgi Coghlan brought the entire place to tears with her letter to the deceased child of a close friend. The bereavement was fresh, but Gorgi wrote with warmth and heart in the face of what was obviously the rawest of experiences. She acknowledged that while there was nothing good that could ever possibly come from such a tragedy, such things can help us remember to find the good in our own lives we're lucky enough to still have. Keeping a clean house pales in comparison with keeping a happy family. Stories and laughter and songs are more important than timetables and groceries. And on that note, the reading was finished, and we had a break to buy more drinks, write our own letters, and listen to a very entertaining Q & A!

I think my favourite thing about Women of Letters is that it exposes you to a range of people and experiences you would not otherwise have come across, all linked by a common thread. It really drives home the similarities we share, whatever someone's circumstances, and the understanding that transcends differences and binds us together.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


This blog is a little rushed, but I wanted to write something about my experience. It's been such an interesting ride, and a few piddly words on my piddly blog can't really convey that, but I'll try and sum it up quickly.

A couple of months ago I submitted a story to Voiceworks magazine, a superb li'l publication run by the good folks of Express Media (mainly staffed by people under 25). I've been reading Voiceworks for years, and I think I even submitted something a couple of years back, but I realised recently that I only had a couple more chances to get something in because I'll be 25 in June, and the magazine is published quarterly. So I wrote this piece, a dark little story about a girl called Bronte and her life, and Voiceworks got back to me and told me it had been shortlisted for publication!

Being edited professionally and collaboratively for the first time was a wonderful experience. It made me think so much harder about my story and the minutiae of character's and their decisions, as well as the structure and language. AND Voiceworks pay their contributors, which for young, unpublished authors is pretty special. I went to the launch on Saturday, met lovely people, drank some wine and picked up a fresh copy of the magazine which can be purchased easily for $10.

On Monday night I read at Debut Mondays, a monthly event run by The Wheeler Centre that involves readings by 4 'new' authors. Included in the line-up with me was Kirsten Krauth, Fiona McFarlane and Adam Browne, all of whom are published novelists and share illustrious careers including publication in The New Yorker (McFarlane), editing the NSW Writers' Centre magazine (Krauth), and winning the Aurealis Prize for best Australian short story (Browne). I have had a few reviews and features published online (unpaid) and 'Bronte' is my first piece of published fiction. To say I was intimidated is somewhat of an understatement.

Debut Mondays is held at The Moat, the cafe beneath The Wheeler Centre. I was so nervous I couldn't actually finish my hot chocolate (sheesh) before I went to meet Donica, the program coordinator. I was up last on the list of speakers, so my heart had plenty of time for a vigorous workout. Listening to the authors read their work was bliss. I have read The Night Guest and just_a_girl already, but hearing them read aloud by the writers themselves is always much, much better. And I have not yet had time to read Pyrotechnicon, but after hearing Adam Browne read an excerpt, I cannot WAIT. It was finally my turn, and with my heartbeat roaring in my ears, I introduced myself and started reading. Brilliantly, there was a bright light and a big microphone right in front of me which made it difficult to see the audience, and easy to forget them. I actually felt myself getting calmer as I read.

I got some really lovely compliments afterwards and stalked the other authors until they took pity on me and signed my copies of their novels. They were all so nice to talk to and I think I managed to come across fairly coherently - go me. I can't recommend these Debut Monday events enough. All my near and dear ones who came to support me said they enjoyed themselves, and it was a great opportunity to meet other literary-minded people.AND Debut Mondays pay their contributors also. I am so incredibly lucky and thankful for this opportunity. And now I need to sit down and write more, stat.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

MWF 2013: No Safe Place

Okay, so yesterday when I said I would be going to Women of Letters today, I meant it. Except that my dementia-riddled cat kept me up half the night and I had a very uncomfortable sleep punctuated with weird dreams and when I dragged myself out of bed this morning I felt a bit sick. I went to the Writers Festival, because Writers Festival, but I'm not quite feeling up to driving anywhere this afternoon as there is a high chance I may fall asleep at the wheel. So you get this blog early! And I get to take a nap this afternoon.

This morning I was back at ACMI for No Safe Place, an event hosted by Clare Renner. She was interviewing Morris Gleitzman and Deborah Ellis about their books written for children, and more particularly, their books that focused on young characters in danger. I was drawn to this event because of the subject matter, but also because I am a massive Morris Gleitzman fangirl and I like hearing him speak about his books and readership. However, I hadn't done much research on Deborah Ellis, and was pleasantly surprised to realise I had actually read some of her work before.

Morris Gleitzman spoke about how he still uses humour in his stories, no matter how bleak the setting/plot because the more he puts his characters in jeopardy, the more he wants to give them tools to cope with it. He enjoys starting with a character, then getting to know them and the biggest problem in their lives. He focused particularly on friendship in his Felix series (After, Once, Then and Now) because he likes to believe that maybe, MAYBE, a friendship could provide some kind of safe place, despite the worst of human circumstances surrounding it. He maintains that innocence is not the same as ignorance; rather, innocence is a lack of cynicism, and therefore she be preserved as much as possible. He thinks his target readership of 8-12 years old is the perfect age to believe in your own power to influence change - kids of that age are often old enough to know how to question things, and not blindly accept everything the adults around them say and project, but young enough to predate the rush of hormones and cynicism that can often accompany adolescence.

Deborah Ellis believes that children have a really strong sense of justice and injustice, and that 'safety' is an illusion, no matter how much we would like it to exist (which I agree with also). She was also quick to remind the audience that the present that happens today only happens because of decisions made in the past. Too easily we forget this, and lose the chance to make the right decisions for the future. Clare Renner also quoted Malala Yousafzai's UN speech when she thanked the writers for using pens and paper as their most powerful weapons, which was a really lovely way to finish off the talk.

There were heaps of questions asked, a few from some really articulate kids. I joined the line to have my book signed, and this boy in front of me was sort of hopping on the spot as he saw the authors come to sit down in front of the signing queue. 'I can't believe I'm really here!' He said, and I melted into a puddle of book appreciation. It's moments like these that I love best about the Writers Festival, and I wish, wish, WISH I'd bought tickets to more events.

Friday, 23 August 2013

MWF 2013: History's Script and This Is Scotland

It's that time of year again - Melbourne Writers Festival! I really regret not buying my tickets earlier this year - three of the events I wanted to attend were booked out when I got my act together (Tavi's World, Book Club and Lucrezia Borgia). I have booked tickets for four events now - not nearly as many as I would like to attend, but money and time are two issues that I can't really compromise on at this stage of my life, so it is what is is. Today, however, was my first of three festival days!

I took the tram in to ACMI at Fed Square and fronted up for History's Script at 11.30. Michael Cathcart from Books and Arts Daily on Radio National was interviewing Sarah Dunant and Jane Sullivan, and recording the whole session to broadcast on Tuesday. Before I even talk about the session, I just have to say that it made me even more ticked off that I'd missed the Lucrezia Borgia session. Like, ragey. It would have been so good (especially as Sarah Dunant was involved, and has just written a novel on the Borgias called 'Blood and Beauty').

Sarah Dunant is a well-known historical fiction and thriller author who studied history at Cambridge, but her interest was really piqued from reading historical fiction. She feels that gender affects people's approach to history and her obsession and specialisation in the Italian Renaissance was influenced by Florence, where she now spends a lot of her time.

Jane Sullivan is a journalist who has written two novels, the most recent of which is called 'Little People' and set in Melbourne in 1870. She came to Australia in the late 1970's and found out that Melbourne used to be known as 'the Chicago of the South'. She has not studied history beyond high school (she studied literature at university) but came to history through her love of stories.

Both of these women were excellent speakers, and their passion and enthusiasm was evident. Sarah Dunant likes to put the 'soil' in place in her manuscript first - the politics, culture etc - then create a character from that, and stick to the character the stuff that she knows. There was much discussion of the 'licence to invent' when writing historical fiction and where the lines are drawn, and the existence of different truths - after all, 'the victors write the history' that is most commonly known/accepted. Sarah Dunant in particular talked about her disagreement with the Showtime series of 'The Borgias' - why add sex and violence and nudity and sensationalism, when the real truth of the history is just as crazy and exciting? Jane Sullivan pointed out the importance of afterwords - how they can acknowledge what's true, what's untrue and what the author/historians are still not sure about.

Michael Cathcart spoke about 'pluralising' history - how history is inclusive of lots of different versions of truth and we know have British histories instead of British history and Australian histories instead of Australian history. Sarah Dunant also expanded on her theory of gender and historical fiction - men are now coming to read historical fiction more and more, so have the men changed, or has the historical fiction changed? It's also important for women, particularly young women, to read about times (often quite recent) where women didn't enjoy the same rights we do. It shows us how carefully we need to protect what we do have.

Having thoroughly enjoyed myself, I inhaled some caffeine and went to the Deakin Edge simply stunning Atrium for the This is (Sparta) Scotland panel. Liam McIlvanney was chairing, and the Scottish writers taking part were John Burnside, Kirsty Gunn and Doug Johnstone, which pretty much meant it was an hour of auditory bliss with that many accents floating about. They read pieces of their work to us, and then discussed what it meant to be a Scottish writer, and the literary backdrop of the country. There was particularly interesting mention of different brands of nationalism and the discomfort of being appropriated into it, being known as the 'voice of a nation'. Coming from a nation famous for their crime writers, Doug Johnstone deliberately includes family life and mundane domesticity in his high-octane crime dramas in order to explore those contrasts. John 'bleak is my middle name' Burnside expressed delight that here at the Melbourne Writers Festival 'you can walk from one cultural experience to another without getting drunk along the way', and they all mentioned other writers who had influenced them in various ways - Iain Banks and Irvine Welsh (Doug Johnstone), Neil Gunn (Kirsty Gunn - no relation!) and Hugh MacDiarmid and John Muir (John Burnside).

I came home to blog about these sessions in preparation for tomorrow, when I'm going to No Safe Place, and also a Women of Letters salon. Expect another blog in the next 48 hours! Meanwhile, I have some reading to catch up on.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

An unexpected fall into Sydney

Long time readers of my blog (hello, three or four people that you number!) might recall my last dealings with Jetstar, when I went to Japan with family. Due to the 18-hour delay on our flight to Narita, we were each issued with a $100 Jetstar voucher. It was set to expire in September, and I hadn’t given it too much thought, because I figured I wouldn’t have the time to go anywhere. But after receiving my August roster, and noting that I had a spare two days, I thought I’d check it out regardless. $77 later (plus the voucher money), I had plane tickets to Sydney. I didn’t get too excited until I realised it had probably been a good thirteen years since I had been there, and started to realise how much I had forgotten about it. I was able to stay with Margi (Mum’s cousin) and it was so good to catch up with her and see Padstow again.

Dad and Riley drove me to the airport, and as we turned into the carpark, I got an email from Jetstar to say my flight had been cancelled. Ah, Jetstar. Not that it surprised me, but I figured I may as well go inside and talk to someone at the desk. Luckily they were able to fit me onto a flight that only left half an hour later, so we all sat in the food court and waited. Ever since my first European trip, when I was 18, I have simply loved being in airports. I don’t even know why. I think I just associate them with traveling and all the great experiences that go along with traveling. Either way, I get really giddy and excited in airports. I’ve even managed to get over my fear of flying. I mean, no one likes flying (and if you do, you’re weird and I don’t want to talk to you about it), but I’m over that phobic sense of doom that comes from being in the air in a big metal box.

Margi picked me up from Sydney Airport because she’s awesome, and I had the best night’s sleep in one of the comfiest spare beds I’ve ever slept in. Perfection.

I got up early on Tuesday (well, 7.30, but that’s pretty early considering I was on holiday) and walked to the train station. The sun was already warm and delicious and there were no clouds, and I was listening to a Sonya Hartnett audio book and Padstow is gorgeous, and it really was such a gentle and perfect start to the day. It took about fifty minutes from Padstow Station into Town Hall Station, because luckily enough, Sydney Airport is on the same line as Padstow, which is handy for visitors. I bought a hot chocolate and a bacon and egg muffin and sat in this cute little cafe to wait for the walking tour to start (I was way early). The walking tour I went on was run by I’m Free Tours, and most of you will know that I was a guide for this company in Melbourne for about five months this year. Annoyingly, I had to give it up because uni was too demanding of my time, but I wanted to do the Sydney tour, which has been running for four and a half years! My guide, Justine, started the tours with her boyfriend Ross, and was really interested when I told her I had worked with the tours in Melbourne.

We started at the Town Hall, and walked through the Queen Victoria Building. We saw the Pitt St Mall, and Hyde Park, including Raymond the dancing pensioner, made famous in a Tropfest film! Woo! We walked along Macquarie St and saw the old rum hospital and the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, and Sydney’s oldest church, St James. The little cross on top was once the highest point in Sydney....

St. James' Church - formerly the tallest building in Sydney
We walked down Martin Place, peeking in at the anchorwoman reading the news, and saw the enormous GPO, with the ANZAC cenotaph in front. We saw Sydney’s sweet attempt to compete with Melbourne’s street art/laneway culture - in Angel Place, they’ve suspended a canopy of 110 empty birdcages as a tribute to the many species of birds driven out of their natural habitat by the building of the city. It was quite beautiful. We had a break in Australia Square, with the charming sculpture of the ‘Waiting’ businessman, by Seward Johnson Jr. After our break we kept walking, heading up to Customs House with it’s scale model of Sydney beneath a transparent floor. That was pretty impressive. Customs House also had a number of swastika-like symbols in the foyer, and a sign up explaining why they had chosen to keep them there, despite the very negative Nazi connotations associated with the symbol. The swastika, at some point or other during history, has been appropriated by most major religions and stands for peace and Customs House says it’s important to remember it’s lovely origins, and try and reclaim them.

We headed through the beautiful Circular Quay, past buskers and holiday makers, saw Cadman’s Cottage and walked up through the Rocks. I’m Free Tours also offers a night tour of the Rocks at 6pm (all nights except Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve) that goes into more detail about it’s crazy history full of mystery, murder and mayhem. I had planned to do it, but found myself far too tired, so I’ll save it for my next trip. We did, however, see some parts of Rocks on the normal day tour that were interesting: the only roundabout in Sydney where it would be legal for me to graze my sheep; the Hero of Waterloo pub, famous for getting sailors drunk, waiting for them to pass out, then kidnapping them and forcing them into slave labour on ships; and a view and explanation of the history of Fort Denison. The tour finished at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, with a perfect view of the Opera House. The tour was chock-full of interesting history and trivia about the city, much like the Melbourne tour. It’s such a good way to spend a morning, and includes heaps of useful info about what to do during your stay. It also includes a free map with info on free stuff, cheap eats and attractions, and transport. Most importantly, make sure you TIP. Yes, it’s free, but it is the guide’s job. They make no wage or salary, so they live off their tips. As a former guide, take it from me. TIP DECENTLY.

After I’d finished the tour, I stopped for lunch of roast pumpkin, apple and chestnut winter salad and a cider and I sat outside and basked. I headed to The Rocks Discovery Museum which provides a pretty comprehensive history of the area divided into four ‘eras’ - pre-European colonisation, as a convict settlement, as a port, and the 20th century history. I had a huge chocolate ice-cream and went back to Customs House and lurked around their library trying not to spend all my spare time indoors. By the time I hopped on a train back to Padstow, I was nearly asleep on my feet. I accidentally power-napped when I got home and lay down on the uber-comfy bed, but half an hour later I was up again, and spent the night catching up with Margi and eating pizzas. Bliss!

The next day I let myself sleep in for an hour, but I was still on the train and in the city by 10.30am. After breakfast, I did the Writer’s Walk around Circular Quay, which comprises about 60 plaques set into the ground stretching all the way from the Opera House, round Circular Quay nearly to the Overseas Passenger Terminal on the opposite bank. I think I managed to miss a few plaques (I don’t think I quite reached 60) but I took photos of some and read every word. They encompass both living and deceased writers, who are with Australian or who have visited Australia. For instance, May Gibbs and Banjo Paterson are obviously mentioned, but so are Charles Darwin and Arthur Conan Doyle. It was a real eclectic mix. 

I headed into the Museum of Contemporary Art because it was so close by, but, embarrassingly, I didn’t look at any of the art. Instead, I spent lots of money on presents at the gift shop. I was waiting to start a guided tour, but I was investigating my map of Sydney and thought I’d try the Art Gallery of NSW instead, so I walked from Circular Quay, through The Domain, to the Art Gallery. I stopped for lunch and had a grilled chicken burger with avocado and Swiss cheese and then spent an hour wandering around the European collection at the Art Gallery. It’s handy knowing what I like to look at most - pre-20th century European art - because it means I can be in and out of an art gallery quickly, particularly if I’m pressed for time. The Art Gallery of NSW has some really beautiful sculpture as well.

ANZAC memorial at Hyde Park
I walked from the Art Gallery, back through The Domain and down into Hyde Park and went to the ANZAC memorial. It’s a really solemn place, but strikingly beautiful with a really moving ‘sacrifice’ sculpture in the middle. There’s also a little museum on the bottom floor which is free to look at (as is everything I did today!). My legs felt like someone else’s, so I headed back to Padstow, stopped for an orange juice at a nice cafe near the station, and walked back to Margi’s. Margi really kindly drove me to the airport and I was on a plane, with a stomach full of airport pad thai by 6.30. Sean picked me up in Melbourne and I went home to unpack!

It was a great mini-break, and a wonderful way to rediscover Sydney. I’ll definitely be back soon, but I still maintain that Melbourne is better. I also really enjoyed sightseeing on my own - moving at my own pace, doing only the stuff that really interested me, eating HUGE amounts of food...yeah. Loved it!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Women of Letters recap

Okay, so I lied in my last recap when I said it would probably be my last recap for a while. As soon as I found out the lineup for this event, I jumped online to find it had already sold out, and my couple of days of hesitation had cost me a ticket to the lineup I was perhaps looking forward to more than any other WoL event I had attended, ever. So, I moped for a month, then in the days leading up to the event I stalked the Facebook and Twitter pages obsessively hoping someone would have a spare ticket to unexpectedly get rid of. Thanks to Elyse, best person in the world, she found some this morning and promptly snapped me one up. So I headed to the Regal Ballroom, in my new and improved traffic-free route (ie. NOT Punt Road) and met up with Elyse and co!

Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire were at Splendour in the Grass (half their luck!) and our wonderful host today was musician and actress (and WoL alumni), Clare Bowditch. The host plays such an important part in these salons, and she did not disappoint, introducing each guest and giving us some kind of insightful comment that tied back to the letters that had been read. And she looked beautiful, as usual. The theme today? A letter to my temptation.

First up was Estelle Tang, writer, bibliotherapist (ahem, awesome!) and personal hero of mine. Estelle wrote to Gwyneth Paltrow, and the weekly newsletter sent out by Paltrow's company- Goop. This was a cheeky letter, relishing in the more outlandish statements made by Paltrow - including the phrase 'I would rather die than let my kids eat Cup-A-Soup' - and poking fun at the ludicrously expensive items on the weekly newsletter available for purchase. Estelle has subscribed to Goop, and continues to read the newsletter every week, and I must confess, I am quite curious myself. Estelle's timing and delivery was flawless, and it was an riotously good letter to kick of the salon with.

Next up was musician Joanna Nilson. She listed a number of temptations throughout her letter, trying to decide what was her biggest one. Her letter was 8 parts hilarious, 2 parts utterly devastating, and included musings on smoking ("a more thrillingly dangerous version of chewing my nails"), booze, marijuana and other, harder drugs (though her paragraph on heroin and its utter shitness was sobering after all the laughing we'd been doing), food (chocolate, cheese...basically everything I enjoy as well) and a glowing reference to the town she was from as "a herpes sore on the twat of the nation". Eventually she mentioned her final temptation - bad men - and listed a Greatest Hits of her "man-baby boyfriends" which, again, had us in stitches. Her accurate and painful description of the depression she experienced after a particular break-up really hit home, and it was this which made her decide she needed to avoid terrible boys above all else.

Judith Lucy, comedian and author, began her letter with the sentence "Annoyingly, I don't have many temptations left". She then went on to wax lyrical about her oldest and dearest temptation - television. Her letter was, predictably, gut-bustingly hilarious and included phrases such as "Mum would have to physically lock me out of the house so I could get some sunshine". Her reading included singing, and a demonstration of how she used to watch a wall-mounted, fridge-sized television (hint: it involved lying flat across the WoL table with her legs crooked as though she were "watching Gilligan's Island with [her] genitals". Impressions of Days of Our Lives (her favourite soap) and the mention of something called 'Dr Feather Weather's Wonderful Workshop' rounded out one of the funniest letters I've ever had the privilege of hearing.

An audible ripple ran through the ballroom as Kat Stewart took the mic. Was it because her character on Offspring is making crazy storyline waves in the show, or was it just because she's amazing? It didn't matter. Kat's letter was an ode to motherhood, and trying to achieve a work/life balance. It was honest, and it was touching. Her love for her son cannot be contained in words, but she did her darndest to communicate it, with phrases like "his laugh makes me euphoric". She spoke about the longing she felt for another baby, a sibling for her son who she adores unconditionally, and the simultaneous longing to continue working, and creating and being artistic, and having a life that was hers, and not held in place by a baby. She mentioned a book, The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood, which sounds amazing (and includes a contribution from Clare Bowditch) that elaborates on the topic. I don't think she knew which longing (temptation) would win out, but it was obvious that this is a subject close to many women's hearts.

Finally, we had Libbi Gorr, broadcaster and author. Libbi wrote to Kate Middleton. More specifically, she wrote to the temptation she continually gives into - wishing she was Kate Middleton. In fact, one of the only times she didn't want to be Kate Middleton, was when she wanted to be her sister, Pippa, instead. And one of the strongest reasons for wanting to be Kate Middleton, is because her mother is Carole Middleton. The tongue-in-cheekness of this letter was countered by the rather sweet and poignant realisation, that she didn't really want to be Kate Middleton, because wishing to be Kate Middleton means wishing away her own life, and all the richness of it. (Also it would mean wishing away her other temptation of wanting to be Jane Kennedy). She finished by acknowledging how difficult it would be to be Kate Middleton, and how Kate Middleton probably wishes at times that she could be Libbi Gorr - being allowed to tell people to 'fuck off' for example. She listed some affirmations for Kate which we had to repeat back to her, and took her seat amidst of shower of laughter and applause.

In the break I wrote a question for the panel (as we are invited to) without really expecting it to be read. But it was read! Yay! But it wasn't answered, because my question was "Will Billie die on Offspring?" and that would violate the terms of Clare Bowditch and Kat Stewart's contracts to tell us. Boo. It's probably for the best. Because if the answer was "yes", I'd be inconsolable and avoid the show, but if the answer was "no", I'd work myself into a knot of anxiety wondering if it will be Jimmy or Patrick instead, and I really don't want any of them to go. Sigh.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

My newest review!

Now live on the Art Smitten website for SYN Media. It was an honour to review this book and you can read my thoughts here.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Women of Letters recap

I tried to treasure this experience more than usual today because I am entering a stage of the year where I may not be able to keep Sundays free anymore. Missing Women of Letters is not fun, but I'm sure I have other anthologies to look forward to, and perhaps more writers will post their letters a few weeks or months down the track on their personal websites (like Bindi Cole and Jess McGuire etc). Anyway, it was just Sean and I today, and we found a far more efficient route to the Regal Ballroom than up Punt Road, so hopefully will use that again! Marieke Hardy looked like Arwen, and Michaela McGuire was MCing once more. Our theme today: a letter to someone I once made cry.

First up was comedian Hannah Gadsby. She wrote to her mother about the two occasions she can recall making her cry, pointing out that her mother too, had made Hannah herself cry more than once. Her letter was hilarious - dry and witty, including an imitation of her mother's voice and discussion of being high on furniture polish. Despite being "sensitive to sound, and hungry" as she was reading her letter, she still managed to finish it on-the-fly, having run out of time to complete the letter before the start of the salon today. Her letter was funny, yes, but also incredibly touching, and a lovely portrait of her relationship with her mum.

Next was writer Josephine Rowe. The lyrical nature of her prose shone through beautifully, writing to a traveling friend (as in, a friend she once went traveling with) who she has lost contact with. Her letter navigated the muddy waters of relationships, things that can go misunderstood and unsaid, and detailed the confusion people can feel with someone even when they feel closer than ever. Very poignant and all read out with a very sore throat, so we were very lucky she was able to attend at all!

Senator Christine Milne was next, writing to the students she taught at Devonport High School during the late 70's and early 80's before embarking on a political career. She made them (and herself) cry, by playing them the LP of "The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk" with music by Ed Welch and the voice of Spike Milligan. Her passion for this story was evident and she expressed her interest to know how the students would react to it today when they listened to it as adults. I've never read/listened to this before, so I'll have to add it to my list...

Musician Grace Knight's letter had the entire room in tears. She wrote to a childhood friend of hers, upon whom she had unloaded terrible secrets. For many years this friend was the only person who knew of the dreadful abuse Grace had suffered, and Grace's letter explored her fear of telling people about it and the effects on her later life, when she punished herself relentlessly for something that wasn't her fault. Then she spoke about forgiveness, and the completely unexpected healing that it brought. This part was the most tender and the most affecting, though her entire letter was beautiful and brave. I think out of all the WoL events I have attended, Grace's letter has elicited the strongest emotional response in me yet. Michaela McGuire thanked her for her bravery also, which made us all cry some more.

Finally (and with a perfect letter to finish on), it was journalist Ramona Koval, writing to her mum. Her letter was funny and sweet and touching, but had the undercurrent of seriousness that tends to pervade letters at these salons. Her mother had spoken to Ramona about having to hide that she was Jewish, in order to keep safe during the Second World War. Baby Ramona than assumed she would need to do the same thing, and subsequently spent several months doing Christian Religious Education at school while her Jewish classmates went off to be taught by a rabbi elsewhere. Ramona gave some gorgeous anecdotes about how she liked the Bible stories and was chosen to be Mary in the nativity play, all before she was found out, but (and maybe it was just because I was still emotionally broken from Grace  Knight's letter), I felt quite sad during the whole letter, thinking of the fears of children during the Holocaust continuing through the generations.

We had to leave early today for other commitments, so we didn't stay for questions, but if this does turn out to be my last Women of Letters event for a while, I feel pretty lucky that it was this one.

Saturday, 15 June 2013


I came across this website ages ago, and promptly forgot how I got there, and couldn't remember the title. After spending forever Googling things like 'tiny gardens' and 'miniature gardens' and 'tiny outdoor settings', I had long since given up finding it. Then I was in Readings Carlton, and saw THIS:

Such an adorable little book, available for purchase here.

But it made me finally remember the original website I had searched for (the same website that has now made this book). Everyone check it out when you need a little bit of a boost. It's guaranteed to make your day.

Sunday, 2 June 2013


I don't really know how to begin this, or even where to go with it. I am writing this because I don't know how to feel, and I wonder if it's just me or if everyone has a different opinion?

A few weeks ago I reported on Facebook and Twitter that a guy had smacked my behind in the middle of crowded Swanston St. I was standing at the ATM, and completely lost in my own thoughts - when it happened, I was so shocked, all I did was turn around and yell 'OI!' at him (in a typical fit of eloquence appropriate to the situation, obvs.). I was still waiting for my money to come out of the machine, so even as he shot back, 'Settle down' and kept walking, I couldn't follow him. Not that I wanted to.

It was a bloody horrible feeling. Having your personal space invaded is bad enough, but to be caught completely unawares, touched in an intimate place (and quite forcefully too, it really hurt), 100% against your will is a very disempowering feeling. Also, the fact it happened in a crowded street was humiliating. I was feeling all shaky, but trying to appear unaffected because I didn't want anymore unwelcome attention. I collected my money and waited until I caught a glimpse of him in the crowd up ahead. He was walking quite slowly, (I think accompanied by another person, it was hard to tell), and he looked unsteady on his feet. Whether he was under the influence of something or if that's the way he is normally, I have no idea. I hung back until I was sure he was some way up. There was no way I was going to walk in front of him. I started walking, hoping I wasn't going to be late for work because I was hiding from some dude who was taking his sweet time up Swanston St. I kept catching glimpses of him as he was further up, and I saw him do the same thing to TWO other women. My eyes weren't on him constantly, so I don't know if he got anyone else, and the only thing I was brave enough to do was tweet about it and put it on Facebook, telling people he was headed north of Swanston St. The thought crossed my mind to call the police, but what could they have done? Even if he was still around when they got there, they had no proof that he had done anything wrong, and as not one single person protested when he did it to me at the ATM, I wasn't counting on witnesses.

What I should have done, is run after him, and told him off loudly. That way it would have warned other people around us, and maybe he wouldn't have had the opportunity to do it to those other women. But, and I am really ashamed to admit this, I was scared of him. All he'd done was smack my bum - I should have been stomping all over him in protest. But he was much bigger and taller than me, and because he looked drugged, or at least drunk, and obviously had no qualms about keeping his hands to himself, I was afraid of him hurting me again. I crossed the road when I was sure he was far enough away from me, and I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind.

A few days later I saw him, chatting to a busker on the intersection of Bourke and Swanston. I got that horrible sick feeling in my stomach and just avoided the place entirely. He wouldn't have known me from a bar of soap, but I didn't like the feeling I got when I saw him, and hoped I wouldn't again.


The other night I was walking around the city at night with a group of people. It wasn't late - perhaps 7pm. I saw him again. He was sitting with another guy, who looked scruffy and dirty and cold. They were sitting on cardboard boxes, leaning up against vending machines under the cover of a train station.  I stared at him. And instead of feeling that hot, bubbly sick feeling in my stomach, I just felt overwhelming sadness. And I thought instantly about my house, and my warm bed, and my fridge full of food, and my computer, and my bank balance, and my university course and my health, and all these things that I have right in front of me, ripe for the taking and the using and the discarding when I'm finished with it. And I thought of how angry this man had made me and how silly that anger seemed now.

Not to blow my own horn, but I give a lot of money to charities and sponsees, and I will try and give money to homeless people when I have cash on me. It's partially a generosity thing, but partly a faith thing too. I always end up with enough money for the things I need, and I firmly believe that giving away money doesn't make you poorer, because it always finds its way back to you somehow in some form. Some people will call it karma, for me it's more of a spirituality thing, but I've done it for quite a while (okay, pious-y lecture over, sorry guys).

I didn't approach him. I didn't give him any money. I kept walking.

I am still afraid of him. And I am still mightily pissed off with him and with any person who thinks it's okay to touch someone inappropriately without their consent. But I am chastened by the fact that I never considered this man's circumstances, and I was so conflicted about what to do in this situation. It wasn't even a self-important judgement call like 'because this man has assaulted me, he doesn't deserve my money'. It was more of a weird, fear thing. And it was so much easier to keep walking and pretend I hadn't seen him. I'm not proud of myself. I don't know how to feel, or what the right thing to do or think would have been. I wonder what other people think about this and if anyone wants to let me know?

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Women of Letters recap

More Women of Letters goodness from the Regal Ballroom in Northcote! It's a quicker post than usual, but that has more to do with the limited time I have to write this post, rather than a reflection on the quality of the event. It was, as always, simply wonderful. (And FOOD! They've introduced a veggie menu and I had the pizza and it was bangin'.)

The theme today was 'A Letter to the Person Who Told Me What I Needed To Know', and Michaela McGuire was back as MC! First up was actor Saskia Post, writing to her stepmother. In beautiful, lyrical prose she spoke about the life lessons she'd learned and it painted a realistic and touching portrait of the relationship between the two of them.

Up next was comedian Kate McCartney, and her letter was addressed to Twitter, or the Twitterverse in general. This was one of the funniest letters I can remember ever hearing, but it also came directly from the heart, as Kate recounted how the connections that she made on Twitter have changed her life and have also done a lot for her sense of self-worth.

Next was singer Kate Cebrano, who couldn't be there in the flesh, but sent in a video of her reading her letter to the band that gave her a job singing for them at the age of sixteen. She's had a successful career spanning a couple of decades, so it was lovely to hear about where it had all started.

Then there was actor and Playschool sweetheart Justine Clarke and her letter was brilliant - I think it was the highlight of the day for me. She wrote to her partner, and thanked him for teaching her that romance did not necessarily mean life playing out like an MGM movie musical. The Regal Ballroom exploded with laughter when she told us about their days of early courtship. She was on a road trip with him, wondering, hoping if it would be the day they finally said 'I love you'. Her heart leapt with joy as he turned to her, somewhat hungover and exhausted, and told her quite sincerely, 'I love utes'. It only took her a second or so to realise she hadn't quite heard what she'd hoped.

Lucky last was poet Telia Nevile, and she was writing to John Hughes - more specifically, to his catalogue of films. Amazingly, music from the soundtracks played as she spoke, and those swelling anthems sounded completely badass. Despite her experience of high school not quite measuring up to the representation of high school presented in the films, the films have an irreplaceable hold on her heart.

This was all followed, as usual, by a break and a Q and A with the speakers, and then, THEN, they told us it was Marieke Hardy's birthday and we all sung along, to her extreme mortification. But I hugged her as I was leaving and Sean got her to sign his mother's book, so it was a winning day all round :D

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

'Just Follow Me' - my first published work! (Back in 2008, I mean)

Okay, I know the writing is nothing special, but this is sentimental, dammit, for so many reasons. Not least the fact that it's a tribute to my Dad and they published it in the Father's Day issue in September 2008. Anyway, you can't read it (unless you enlarge the pic), but it's proof of my first publication. Yay.

Sorry about the crappy quality.

Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World [Jane Caro] - review

This is a literature review I wrote for SYN Media. It's for the collection of writings, edited by Jane Caro, written and compiled in response to Alan Jones's comments on women supposedly 'destroying the joint'. It's available for purchase here.

Le cover

Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World

When controversial shock-jock Alan Jones woke up on the morning of Friday the 31st of August 2012, I doubt even a man of his inflated self-importance could imagine the storm provoked by a seemingly offhand comment he would make on-air that day. After complaining about money put aside to increase women’s access to leadership and decision-making roles along with financial services and markets, and to help with violence prevention to ensure more women’s safety, Jones huffed and puffed and proclaimed: ‘Women are destroying the joint’.

Within hours, the Twittersphere was alight, and the now familiar #destroythejoint hashtag had been created. This hashtag and the prompt response of outraged men and women is credited with reclaiming what was intended to be a misogynistic insult, and using it as a weapon in the fight against sexism and discrimination in modern Australia. Now Jane Caro, a feminist of many different hats including writer, speaker and broadcaster, has edited a new collection, Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World, which includes contributions from 26 women along with the Destroy the Joint Administrators of the Facebook group.

Alan Jones uses words to attack and discriminate, and women are using words to fight back. The definition of feminism has been widely debated for decades, and some definitions have been less than flattering. The negative (and incorrect) connotations associated with the word feminism have helped create a disturbing trend where women are afraid to identify as feminist. The phrase ‘I’m not a feminist but...’ is inevitably followed by expressions of desire for equality between the sexes and it is this precise definition that forms the basis of modern feminism. Privileged, sexist men in positions of power and with a radio station willing to air their misogyny (like Alan Jones) have encouraged women to feel shame at the thought of speaking out (read: complaining) for their rights. This patriarchal structure ensures women fear aligning themselves with a political movement created to strengthen the position of women, lest they be thought of as man-hating, shrill, and - God forbid - less attractive to the male gaze and sensibilities.

This book uses clear cut facts and statistics, along with humour, polemic, memoir, analysis, satire, fiction and even tweets to deconstruct the idea of feminism and what it means in 2013, as well as providing irrefutable proof of discrimination against women in politics, the workplace, the media, the home and in schools. Even the penultimate phrase that started it all has been redefined - as contributor Jennifer Mills puts it, ‘women are destroying the joint, insofar as that joint is patriarchy, and it was our intention all along.’ (p. 109).

This is a love letter to women everywhere, without placing women on a pedestal simply for possessing vaginas. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is, of course, discussed both fairly and critically and contributors explain their allegiance or lack thereof to particular government policies with clear and concise detail. Senator Christine Milne’s contribution is a timely commentary on sexism in Australian politics. Alan Jones would be quivering behind his microphone and sense of entitlement to read these fiercely intelligent writers as they systematically strip his credibility to shreds.

Length does not allow for this review to cover every contribution, but examples include the hilarious Corinne Grant - or possibly her male evil twin? - in ‘A Letter to Feminists from a Man who Knows Better’, and Steph Bowe and Lily Edelstein inspire with their present-day experiences of being teenage feminists. Also focusing on the next generation of feminists is Dannielle Miller, tearing down the negative stereotypes attributed to teenage girls and Monica Dux, describing the effect misogynistic comments can have on girls as young as two years old. Stella Young reminds feminists of the sense of equality they strive for, to ensure it is inclusive of feminists with disabilities and the ways to achieve this.

Emily Maguire takes us global, with simultaneously horrifying and bolstering reports of discriminatory laws and the women brave enough to challenge them, often at great cost to their personal safety. Chapters like this make the Destroy the Joint Administrators comments ring true - ‘it’s not about the individual. It’s about the collective.’ (p. 104). This can be applied to the sense of sisterhood in support networks for feminists across the globe, but is also representative of the wider message behind feminism. It isn’t about male and female and the differences between them. It’s about the collective, humanity as a whole. Breaking down the barriers to reach equality between the sexes is just one of a hundred little revolutions that need to take place in order to abolish all forms of discrimination, whether they are based on sex, gender, race, politics, religion, abilities or beliefs. This book is one mighty, thought-provoking leap in the right direction.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Harry Potter

Anyone who knows me will know that I am arguably the nerdiest of all Harry Potter nerds, and I wear this badge with considerable pride. This year I reread each book and watched the film versions as I went, and I've just finished Deathly Hallows Part 2, and am sort of paralysed with feeling and emotion and wibbly varieties of the shakes. It's really hard to put into words how much this story means to me, and the extent of my admiration for J.K Rowling. I've read all sorts of scholarly reports that analyse the series and break down the themes and accuse it of being misandric, misogynistic, anti-religion and all sorts, but none of this dents the response this series of books stirs inside me. Also, as a card-carrying member of the literary snob brigade, I have had discussions with PLENTY of people who attempt to blunt my appreciation of the series. They'll patiently list the faults with the books and it's really quite endearing that they think it will penetrate any of my enthusiasm. I will love these books until the day I die, and I'm going to be reading them until that day also. Some random stranger on the internet made this list when the seventh book was first released, and I'm going to borrow it for my blog, because I think it says most things I'd like to say, and very concisely too.

1. Hugs to Dobby, for giving your life so freely, for setting an example one could only hope to follow, and for dying "a free elf."

2. Hugs to Narcissa Malfoy, for proving me wrong, for loving your son, and for making me shriek, "Cissy, you devil!"

3. Hugs to Molly Weasley, for standing fast for your family, for taking on Bellatrix, and for totally pwning her face off.

4. Hugs to Remus Lupin, for being unbearable at times, but also for reminding why I fell in love with your character in the first place.

5. Hugs to Tonks, for giving birth to the only turquoise-haired baby for miles around, for being unchangingly fearless, and for being a HUFFLEPUFF!

6. Hugs to Harry Potter for being a man and not a n00b, for choosing normalcy and a sandwich, and for making me love you at last.

7. Hugs to Ron Weasley, for growing up in the hardest way possible, for facing your fears, and for changing in spite of them.

8. Hugs to Hermione Granger, for putting up with two knuckleheads, for falling in love with one of them, and for beating the Cruciatus Curse like a pro.

9. Hugs to Ginny Weasley, for loving Harry no matter what, for your eagerness to fight, and telling Cho the Ho to BACK OFF.

10. Hugs to Percy Weasley, for giving me a good cry, for seeing your wrongs, and for living to fix them.

11. Hugs to Fred Weasley, for fighting evil unquestionably and for not really being dead, just in another room.

12. Hugs to George Weasley, for losing your ear and your best friend... and fighting anyway.

13. Hugs to Severus Snape, for proving me right, for being more amazing than I could have imagined, for helping Harry understand himself, and for sacrificing your life in order to do so, though you knew it was coming.

14. Hugs to Draco Malfoy, for getting punched by Ron, for managing to retain your family, and for being the Master of the Elder Wand. (Hecksz yes!)

15. Hugs to Neville Longbottom, for fighting injustice at any cost, for backtalking like there was no tomorrow, and for destroying one hell of a Horcrux.

16. Hugs to Grindelwald, for making mistakes and regretting them.

17. Hugs to McGonagall, for being crazy awesome, for keeping your cool collectiveness, and for being ruthlessly brave.

18. Hugs to Kreacher, for your devotion, for your wit, and for your love of Regulus.

19. Hugs to Regulus Black, for being the first to turn on Voldemort even though you knew what that meant.

20. Hugs to Lucius Malfoy, for having peacocks on your lawn (WTF, awesome!)

21. Hugs to Albus Dumbledore, for making me doubt you, for making me trust you, and for explaining everything like I knew you would.

22. Hugs to Colin Creevey, for sneaking into the fight, for fighting your hardest, and for not being afraid of the thought of death.

23. Hugs to Andromeda Tonks, for losing everything you started with and not letting go for a moment.

24. Hugs to Voldemort, for having no idea what Harry was talking about, which while funny, was really, just very sad.

25. Hugs to Mr. and Mrs. Cattermole, because I'm sure you're both very confused and of course a hug from a stranger would help.

26. Hugs to Dudley, for finally growing up, for letting go of prejudice, and for being the coolest Muggle ever.

27. Hugs to Luna Lovegood, for weathering what would kill most and for fighting just as hard.

28. Hugs to Fleur Weasley, for standing by your man, for growing out of your original snootiness, and for not forgetting.

29. Hugs to Ernie MacMillan, for putting your pompous attitude to good use!

30. And lastly, hugs to J.K. Rowling, for teaching me lessons in life and love, for making me laugh, for making me cry, and for giving me one of the best presents of all time, a gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Women of Letters recap

Today was special because it was the first Women of Letters event that Sean came to. And he loved it. And he drove. Which makes him special. But yes. We were back at the Regal Ballroom in Northcote and Elyse and her mate Chelsea joined us, and we were up in a cosy corner of the room with drinks and vegetarian pastries, sitting back waiting to be assaulted with feels. And by Jove, we were.

The radiant Emilie Zoey Baker was MC-ing today because Michaela McGuire is still overseas, but Marieke Hardy was taking tickets at the door and I tried not to look like a complete loser and trip over my own feet or stop breathing or something when I saw her, but SUCCESS. I behaved, more or less, like a functioning adult. The theme today was 'A letter to the missing puzzle piece'. I freaking love these themes. 

First up, was the hilarious Jane Kennedy, who shared a couple of letters written by her twelve-year-old self and her twelve-year-old bestie, back when they were - you guessed it - twelve. We laughed heartily at the mentions of familiar but nostalgic television shows and footy gossip, but the best part was when Jane then read a letter from her twelve-year-old self if she had been twelve in 2013. The text-speak littered through the letter was apt, but the best part was when she compared the dinner Mum was making that night - slow-cooked Moroccan lamb with quinoa and kale, as opposed to the corned beef in the original letter. 

Singer Jess Cornelius was next, writing to her sister, who was 'missing' from her adolescent memories. This was a far more sombre letter - you could hear a pin drop while Jess was recounting the troubles with her mother and her sickness, but it was laced with the sort of tender humour that makes these letters and these speakers so damned relatable and moving. I found Jess's letter really interesting - living in separate countries has not damaged their sisterly relationship, but it painted a less idyllic picture of the relationship between sisters which I have never been privy to. In my experience with friends who have sisters, I have seen a wide range of 'closeness', and Jess spoke about this with a refreshing frankness.

Rose Chong, costume-woman-extraordinaire was next, and in her softly-spoken British accent, she wrote to her father, who had disapproved of her coupling up with a Chinese man, but who had gradually come to accept and respect her partner. The focus of Rose's story was her court case, after she had accidentally illegally acquired 25 kangaroo skins for costuming needs. However, the court charged her with possession of kangaroos, not just their skins, and she was therefore let off with a light slap on the wrist and the promise not to kill anything for the next six months, which she managed just fine. 

Bindi Cole, an artist with a life full of extreme experiences, wrote to her future child. She told us of the pain that her and her husband had endured with years of trying for a baby, and the devastation of their miscarriage. She also spoke of her faith in God, and how this was helping her through it, and the comfort of prayer. Those of you who know me personally will know how much this resonated with me (the faith part, not the trying to get pregnant part). She wrote with beautiful optimism to this baby, explaining about how she couldn't wait to meet it. Everyone was feeling a bit teary and wobbly once she finished her letter, and then she revealed that she had started the letter on Monday, finished it on Wednesday and on Thursday had found out she was pregnant. The Regal Ballroom exploded in cheers.

Finally, there was Kerry Greenwood, author of many, many books including the Phryne Fisher series. She lives with a real-life wizard, which is pretty freaking amazing, but she wrote to her missing ability with numbers. For an accomplished woman who has done a whole heap of amazing things in her life, the one element that brings her to her knees is numbers, and she recounted with great wit and sass everything she had trouble with (measurements, cooking etc) and how she got around it. She was a delight to listen to - particularly descriptive and humorous, perhaps because of her knack for writing novels? Anyway, she was a perfect way to finish the line-up. 

During the break, Marieke Hardy came to our table to offer us stamps for the letters we were writing and I extremely red-facedly asked her to sign my notebook, and she did so, incredibly obligingly. Sean and I somehow ended up having a detailed discussion with her about crying during the letters and how make-up tends to run. Marieke was worried one of her false eyelashes would slide down onto her top lip like a particularly dashing moustache. I sort of laughed and stared at her, trying to come to terms with the fact I was having a conversation with her. Sean made up for my complete inadequacy with his easy chatter. Yep. It was sort of the best day ever.

Emilie Zoey Baker finished up with the questions for the guests and they were wonderful and funny and insightful and perfect. I left feeling more inspired than ever. The next Women of Letters cannot come quickly enough. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sayonara Japan!

Phew! I'm writing this from Melbourne. We flew into Tullamarine at 10.55am today and have spent the day unpacking and relaxing. Sean came and picked us up from the airport because he is awesome, and we had Marnie and a bunch of guests over for dinner...we had Japanese. It was amazing. BUT, before any of this happened, we had one last day in Kyoto!

We packed up like pros and were out of the house and at the station by 11am. We put our luggage in storage lockers and got on a train to Fushimi Inari Shrine. It's only a ten minute train trip, and the shrine is right outside the station. It's a massive shrine with hundreds of orange torii gates forming tunnels, providing some fantastic photo ops. We spent plenty of time walking around and Marnie bought two kimono jackets and after a spot more shopping, we took the train back to Kyoto Station.

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari
Then we jumped in a taxi and took off to Nishiki Market! (Didn't want to waste our last day!) Nishiki Market is a massive food market in the middle of Kyoto, and they sell HUGE amounts of seafood and pickled vegetables and various cakes and sweets. Dad had oysters while we browsed, and then we went for one last okonomiyaki meal, this time, Osaka-style. Crazy delicious, as I have come to expect.

Nishiki Market

Then it was back to the station, onto a 88-minute bus ride to the airport, and then we boarded a plane to the Gold Coast at 8.40pm! I didn't sleep a wink overnight, but managed an hour or so on the flight this morning to Melbourne. It was great to be back in Australia, hearing our accents etc, but I can't wait for my next trip. I've made a bucket list and am trying to decide what to save for next. Until then, I'm hoping to keep blogging semi-regularly. Only time will tell...