Short Story: Midday in the Bourke Street Mall


She has such a strong sense of this moment but almost no sense of herself in it, except as an observer. Maybe because she doesn’t come to the city much anymore. She isn’t a part of it. She used to work in the city years ago but not since then. But this is where the recruiters are. This is where the jobs are now.

She has already met with one recruiter. She mistook his polite enquiry about what she was doing for lunch as a come on. Or maybe she didn’t mistake it at all. She will meet with another recruiter this afternoon and will listen for over an hour while he outlines everything that is wrong with her. She will sit there and take it.

But for now she sits at midday in the Bourke Street mall. There’s a book in her bag but so much is going on around her that she has no interest in getting it out. The bench below her is hard and cold, metallic beneath the back of her thighs, even through the material of her skirt. Continue reading

Short Story: The Ballet


I look good. I like to make an effort when I go to the ballet. Some people turn up in jeans, track suits, even school uniforms. I always wear a dress. At the moment, it’s concealed underneath a knee-length black overcoat. I’m also wearing knee-high black boots in deference to the cold. It’s a nightmare driving to and parking in the city so I usually take the train but it’s winter and the platform is chilly.

I duck into the partially enclosed seating area but it isn’t any warmer. The breeze whistles through unintentionally but perfectly created wind tunnels and ruffles my hair. I hate the wind more than any other kind of weather. For rain, I have an umbrella. For sun, I have hats. For heat, I have loose, barely-there clothing. For cold, I have jackets – like the one I have on now – and scarves and gloves. There is nothing for the wind but staying inside. But I have to go out to get to the ballet. So instead I have a hairbrush in my bag to repair later the damage it is doing now.

He sits down next to me before I even realise he is there. “Hello.” Continue reading

Eulogies: The Hardest Writing Any Writer Will Ever Do – Part 1


I am not good with death. Perhaps no one is good with death, although doctors and funeral directors must deal with it so often that they develop coping mechanisms. I haven’t developed any yet. Possibly (and luckily) because I haven’t been exposed to it too often. That was until the last few years.

In 2012, my cousin Scott died unexpectedly. In 2013, my second cousin Zac died unexpectedly as well. And this year, my 89-year-old grandmother Betty died. It wasn’t unexpected – at that age, it can’t be. But it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s unexpected or not. All types of death are equally difficult to comprehend, to accept.

For the funerals of both Zac and my grandmother, I was asked to write eulogies. Normally a writer is so pleased to be asked to write anything. But normally you don’t cry through every word as you type it on the page. Normally there’s a happy ending. Or one of your own choosing anyway. Nobody would choose this. Nobody who had a choice would choose death.

These are the times when I wish I wasn’t a writer. So nobody would ask me to write a eulogy. Because there are no words. Nothing that can make it right. Nothing that can do justice to who they were when they were still alive, nothing that can do justice to how perfect they were in their imperfect lives. Continue reading

Book Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Other Pieces by James Thurber


I bought this book because I’m embarking on a reading challenge, which is to read a series of books that have been made into movies that I’ve already seen and thought were pretty good. Usually I find it hard to read a book if I’ve already seen the movie of it because I spend a lot of time doing comparisons. “That’s not what happened in the movie.” Or anticipating what’s about to happen. “This is the part where he gets shot.”

This is a book of James Thurber’s short stories, one of which is “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. It was probably a good book to start this challenge with because the titular short story is only five pages long. It’s hard to get caught up with comparisons on such a short piece of text. In fact, apart from his name and the fact that Walter Mitty gets caught up in daydreams to alleviate the boredom of his life, there aren’t too many similarities between the short story and the movie starring Ben Stiller. But it’s a good short story. Continue reading

Mills & Boon Short Story Competition Entry: A Novel Seduction


As a follow-up to my Wednesday blog post about writing competitions, here is a short story (or more accurately, a short scene) I wrote back in 2000 for a Mills & Boon competition.

It’s not exactly embarrassing but I think there is an obvious subtext that I wasn’t ready to be published yet (i.e. a young author asks a mentor for help, albeit in a Mills & Boon context).

Try not to laugh too much. Continue reading

Why It’s Unlikely You Will (and Why You Shouldn’t Take It to Heart When You Don’t) Win Writing Competitions


In my entire life, I’ve entered four writing competitions. They were:
*The 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript
*The 2015 Griffith Review’s Novella Project III Competition
*The 2015 Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Project
*A 2000 Mills & Boon short story competition

It should be obvious to anyone reading this that I didn’t win any of them or you would have heard about it by now. You would have heard a lot about it!

After I submitted to the Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Project, I wrote a blog idea on my ideas board about competitions. Specifically that writers entering competitions shouldn’t get dejected when they don’t win. And here’s a few reasons why that hopefully make all of us “losers” feel a little bit better. Continue reading

Guest Post: The Man Who Cut His Lawn With Scissors by Zac Newnham


Today’s guest post is perhaps an unusual one. The author, Zac Newnham, is family – my second cousin – although family promoting family, there’s nothing very unusual about that. His knack for top-notch short stories (from the very short to the slightly longer) meant that when the Melbourne Writers’ Festival asked people via Twitter who their favourite short story writers were, I immediately tweeted back about “a relatively unknown up-and-comer, Zac Newnham” and predicted “big things ahead for him”.

Continue reading