Saying yes to things that scare me, that push me to my limits, make me better. What it is to be a writer, to have things to say, a platform to say them. It’s coming, and I want to be ready for it. Debut. Debut. Debut.
We watched Chernobyl with our hearts in our mouths. How you can know the ending to the story and still hold your breath as the moments unfold.
We sat by the fire on the front deck with (yes) peanut butter stouts. The ringtail possum is back, a new ringtail, and it climbs along the top of the fence between our house and the next, into the mock orange, up the tree. Winter in Queensland is not. so. bad.
My hometown, in Iowa. My parents’ backyard. The apple tree, leaves from buds that green the landscape. Hope for health, for immunity, for recovery. My first book for them (for you, Mom and Dad). Copyedits in the ICU, Acute Care, Rehabilitation Centre, a rented house, my growing-up home. The way things change, are changing. How I am more than a child now.
The Mississippi River flooded along much of its length, bloated with water, reclaiming spaces. I love this river, I shared pictures here.
Some of the best lectures I have ever heard—here on the BBC Radio 4 Podcast. Hilary Mantel on history, fiction, truth, death, perspective, adaptation. Four-plus hours of wisdom, the kind you have to listen to again and again. (And I will).
AWP 2019. Portland, Oregon. 15,000 writers, agents, editors, booksellers, educators, and spectators meet to talk all things literary. A book fair with 700 exhibitors, too many books and journals to count. Too many in my suitcase. (Oops).
I caught up with friends from previous writers’ conferences, workshops, the Writer to Writer mentorship program. Are you a writer? Submit an application!
It astounds me how many words there are in the world, how many things can be said in so many ways—important things, valuable. I need to get writing again!
This month, my story Eclipse was published at The Writer here. It began as a vignette in the first fiction class I ever took!
The editorial report for The Breeding Season was phenomenal — 17 pages of care and consideration, and in working through the feedback I was able to deepen the story of Dan and Elise in ways I couldn’t have imagined. TBS is now back in the hands of my publisher, and I’m back at The Writers’ House, Varuna, beginning the next long project! It’s hard to go from an ending back to a very beginning again, but long days of thinking and walking and free-writing, as well as a FANTASTIC generative workshop with Stephanie Bishop, have made it all take shape in my head. Now, to keep the momentum …
I’ve started reading Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad again … the first time I wasn’t in the right mindspace for it. Maybe because, as Sarah Perry says in her Guardian review: “Saadawi stitches the narrative together from so many points of view and points in time, one often overlapping the other, that the tension has a tendency to dissipate.” So I put it down, but recently picked it back up, and I’M LOVING IT.
I'm reading the book Deep Work, by Cal Newport, which highlights ways to improve concentration, productivity, and get into that flow-place where real, solid, meaningful work happens. YES! I first checked out the book from the library a few months ago, kept it too long, and eventually had to buy it so I could drop notes throughout. I don't read a lot of these kinds of books, but Molly Young at the NYT says it best: "As a presence on the page, Newport is exceptional in the realm of self-help authors. He is not an obvious maniac. His writing isn’t befouled by stylistic abuses. He has not granted himself a job title featuring the word 'guru' or 'maven.' Partly for these reasons and partly because his diagnoses rang true, I bought in to Deep Work."
I watched the movie MOTHER! this week (on my own), loved every dark surrealist moment of it, felt so connected to the images of creation and desire and suffering. As a writer, and as a mother. And now that I've read the director's vision, I have to watch it again.
After a week full of personal literary REJECTIONS (a prize, a panel, a novella, an anthology) -- a win! The Australian Research Council today announced that my good friend and sci-comm champion Christine Beveridge has been awarded a prestigious $3mil Laureate Fellowship (1 of 16 across Australia) for her work on plant growth. It's a HUGE WIN for her and for early-career scientists (she will be making life better for you!), and because I did some editing/writing work on the application, I'm taking it as a personal win, too! Because we need something to keep us writing, right?
I made a few changes to my writing workshop and spent a morning sharing it with 45 keen ECRs at ASSAB. It was so much fun to hear about everyone's projects afterwards -- I met an emerging memoirist, a scientific illustrator (Pariya!), and a video game designer, all of whom are passionate about enthusing the world. I also loved hanging out with all the phenomenal ladies from the Dragon Lab. They are the future of science, right there.
I met some pretty amazing people at the Australian Mammal Society meetings this week! A special shout out to Thomas Guillerme, who gave a great ECR presentation on scientific accountability and organisation; Ariel Marcy, who designs games that teach science; and Amber Gillett, whose wildlife art is scientific and beautiful all at once. And thanks to everyone who came to my writing workshop!
I'm now officially the Assistant Secretary for the Australian Mammal Society for the next 3 years -- and definitely planning to sneak some literary stuff into AMS newsletters. Hehe.
I'll be running another writing workshop at the Australiasian Animal Behaviour (ASSAB) meetings next week, so if you're coming to the conference I hope to see you there!
I've been dipping into the anthology Best American Short Stories of the Century, which has some pretty phenomenal pieces in it. My favourites so far are "A City of Churches" by Donald Barthelme and "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates, which I'd read before but which inspired me in a whole new way this time.
I spent a week at Airey's Inlet, Vic, on a writing retreat with three amazing writerly friends. I wrote 2.5 stories (inspired by the stories above), submitted an essay, and watched a lot of logs burn in the potbelly stove. Did I mention there was wine? These retreats are priceless.
I am so excited to announce that I've accepted an offer with one of my all-time FAVOURITE publishers -- Allen & Unwin! The Breeding Season will be edited by Jane Palfreyman and will hit bookstores mid-next year!!
This month, my novel The Breeding Season is in the hands of prospective publishers! I hope they love love love it. I want this book to meet the world.
"I don’t want to put distance between myself and my work, or between my work and the public. I want to show that the questions these animals face are universal." My latest essay, out in Nature now.
On Thursday the 19th (6:30pm) I read in a salon of emerging writers alongside the smart, eloquent Gail Jones at Avid Reader in West End. This time, an excerpt from my unpublished novel, The Breeding Season.
My 10yo daughter and I also read this month at Wild Readings at the Mu'ooz Eritrean restaurant in West End on Tuesday the 17th at 6:30pm. Mine was new story about bones and flying. Hers is a retelling of a famous folk tale. I love this kid of mine.
One of the first short stories I wrote, in my first fiction class back in 2013, will soon be published at The Writer! "Eclipse" has changed a lot since that first version, but I'm happy it found a home (and a 2nd place prize) eventually. Moral of the story? If you can't let it go, there's probably a good reason. KEEP REVISING. In my case, I had to find the right voice/perspective, and everything fell into place!
I did my first reading from the novel this week, amidst Picasso's Vollard Suite at the Queensland Art Gallery as part of Krissy Kneen's talk on Picasso and sex. (Though when she talks about it, it's all-caps SEX.)
My skin-chair-divorce story "Love for Love's Sake" is out now in NOON Annual. The edition is seriously corporeal. Love every page.
IT'S DONE! I finished a draft of The Breeding Season and am now planning revisions with my ASA Mentor, Krissy Kneen. I love that she is reading my words. I can't wait for the world to.
Thanks to a slow postal delivery to Australia and an envelope that was used as a notepad by my daughter, I just discovered that AGNI nominated my essay "Breakup Tips" for The Pushcart Prize ! If you haven't read the piece, it's online here.
Holidays down the coast, in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, and back up again. I'm posting pictures on my Instagram feed here.
All through 2018, I'll be mentored by Brisbane writer Krissy Kneen as part of the ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship Program (supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund). Krissy is going to help me make my novel The Breeding Season into the best book it can be! I can't wait, she's AMAZING. (Read this story NOW).
Breeding Season is now available to read online at Overland.
I did a workshop on Science and Fiction at SLSA with one of my favourite writers, Matt Bell. If you haven't read his work, check out this incredible novella. PHENOMENAL.
I presented a talk on science and creative writing* at the annual conference for the SLSA - Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts in Tempe, AZ, and then, on the morning of November 10th, I read "Pluripotent." (That later became this)
I'm excited to share that the editors at Creative Nonfiction have nominated my essay "Pluripotent" for a Pushcart Prize! I wrote that story of my PhD and cancer and motherhood in so many different ways over so many years, until a class with Lidia Yuknavitch broke everything open. And the answer was stem cells, of course.
On October 18th, I read an excerpt from "Pluripotent" at the monthly Wild Readings session at Mu'ooz in West End. My first reading! Details about the group are on the WR Facebook page.
I just got my hard copy of the latest Creative Nonfiction. It's one of my absolute favourite literary magazines -- always beautifully curated and thought provoking -- and I'm so happy my words are part of it! Editor Hattie Fletcher was encouraging and insightful, and the whole process was a lot more fun than editing academic manuscripts ...
The MONA was the most wonderful and intense museum experience I've ever had -- especially since I was seeing it both in my own perspective and that of my novel's characters. My brain was literally leaking out my ears! Luckily, I had a glass or three of local pinot noir to catch it in :)