A Guide to Writing Drunk

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“I was drinking a case of 16-ounce tallboys a night, and there’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all.”
On Writing, Stephen King

One of the persistent stereotypes about writers is their fraught relationship with alcohol. For some, it’s absolutely accurate. But for most of us who write, we know it isn’t true. While there may be plenty of creatives who struggle with sobriety, it’s no greater in percentage terms than members of the general public experience. Still, why let that get in the way of giving it go?

Stephen King is the cautionary tale but what he did was alcoholic writing. Drunk writing is less intense, less destructive to life in general and a much more rare occurrence. Continue reading

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Book Review: The First Stone by Helen Garner

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Helen Garner could write a book about painting one wall of her living room and it would still be fascinating, that’s how good a writer she is. But having now read three of her books, I’m seeing a theme: she is baffled at why everybody doesn’t think like her and more baffled when people won’t take the time to try to convince her to think otherwise, then give her the opportunity to do the same.

The First Stone is creative non-fiction, meshing tales from Garner’s own personal life, particularly emphasising her and her friends’ experiences with feminism and unwanted male attention, with the story of two accusations of sexual harassment at the University of Melbourne by two students against the head of Ormond College, one of the residences. It comes to her attention when she reads about it on the front page of The Age newspaper, as the students have taken their complaint to the police after being unsatisfied with the university’s handling of the matter. Continue reading

Why I Don’t Go to Libraries Anymore (and Why I Love Them Anyway)

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My local council has recently built an architectural award-winning building (even though I’ve heard people describing the outside as looking like Donald Trump’s hair) and moved both its offices and the library into it. I’m assured it’s beautiful inside. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t gone in and don’t have any plans to.

I don’t go to libraries anymore. The last time I went to a library was with my sister and her then pre-school aged daughter on one of their weekly trips to return the children’s books they’d borrowed and select some more. Before that? A body corporate meeting of unit owners where I lived that just happened to be in a hired meeting room at a library. And before that? During my undergraduate studies, which I finished when I was twenty-two (nearly half my lifetime ago). Continue reading

Controversy in Writing

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Without having any real evidence to back up the theory, I have always thought that writers could be divided up into two categories: those who court controversy and those who avoid it. (I later realised there was a third category – writers who are controversial without realising it – and you can read a bit about that here.)

I also figured out a long time ago that getting involved in any type of controversy tends to leave me upset in greater proportion to any change I may be able to effect in advocating for one side or another. So I generally try to stay quiet unless I feel very strongly. And even then, I moderate myself and think long and hard about how to phrase what I want to say in order to avoid reactions from trolls and people who never change their mind about anything even in the face of overwhelmingly logical arguments. After all, the vitriol of stupid people can be vicious and my greatest ambition is an easy life.

Besides, how much controversy is there in writing really? Continue reading

The Nine Types of Book Review

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Once a book is published, there are two things an author hopes for: sales and reviews. Sales are good because they allow a writer to be financially supported as they write their next book. Reviews are good because they lead to more sales. And the more stars each review has, the more validated the author feels and the more confidence potential readers have.

But regardless of whether a book is good, bad or somewhere in between, and assuming it has had enough exposure, it will have each of the following types of review.

The Never-Read-It Review
Obviously someone who reviews a book they’ve never read has a nefarious purpose, either to promote or prevent the reading of it. Platforms like Amazon usually don’t allow a review of a product that hasn’t been bought directly from them so that helps a little. Platforms like Goodreads rely on the honesty of the reading community they have assembled. It doesn’t always work. Continue reading

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Gayle Forman is a brilliant writer. They say that easy reading is hard to write and If I Stay was a very easy read. Told in a first person narrative by Mia, a seventeen-year-old high school senior and a gifted cellist, the news comes through that schools are closed for a snow day so Mia, her parents and her little brother plan a busy day out visiting friends, family and stores. They never even make it to their first stop on the itinerary though because a truck slams into their car.

Her parents die instantly and the scene Forman writes describing the aftermath of the crash is so visceral that I was nervous getting in a car afterwards. Seeing their lifeless bodies, Mia can’t bring herself to look for her little brother and instead stumbles across her own. Except she isn’t dead. She’s badly injured and for the rest of the book has an out-of-body experience watching the doctors and nurses trying to save her and her friends and family in the hospital waiting room coping with their loss and praying there won’t be any more. Continue reading

This Was Supposed to Be the Announcement of My New Book… But It Isn’t

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Draft Image for Black Spot Cover

This is a strange blog post to be writing. It was supposed to be the announcement of the release of my new book, Black Spot. I’ve been talking about it here for years now, from conception to writing to shortlisting in the 2016 Text Prize to its planned publication. I’d originally planned to release it in February 2018 but life and a hectic new job kept delaying it. It was eventually ready by the end of May 2018 (apart from the cover, which would be ready a few weeks later). And then came something that threw a spanner in the works. Continue reading