It’s on: MWF 2013

The Melbourne Writers Festival kicks off for me tonight and I feel a little bit like it’s Christmas!

I’m starting off my festival experience with some philosophy, hearing Peter Singer speak on ‘Effective Altruism’ as part of the Big Ideas series.

Effective altruism is an emerging movement of people who have  accepted that we ought to live more altruistically, and make our altruism as powerful as possible.  Philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer will discuss the ethical issues that effective altruism raises, and introduce this developing concept by presenting the effective altruists themselves: who they are, how they live, and why they have chosen to live that way. 

As controversial as he might be, Peter Singer I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts.


I often ask myself about the complexities of altruism, especially in terms of what’s reasonable to expect of each ourselves and others, and I expect this session will be extremely enlightening.

Are you going to anything at the festival this year? If you’d like to join me at the MWF this year, don’t forget to tune in to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

If you’d like to know more about what I’m going to check out at the Melbourne Writers Festival, read more here…

Lisa Sewards: White Parachute

It’s been a little while since I last attended an art exhibition, and even longer since I’ve been to one of my favourite Melbourne venues, Fortyfive Downstairs. Last time I visited 45 Flinders Lane, it was to see one of my heros, Samual Johnson in a three-person play The Haunting of Daniel Gartell. It was a fantastic evening, and I’ve been looking forward to a chance to visit the venue again.


This week I had that chance, and this time it was to share in an experience; a raw, beautiful and moving experience. Tuesday night was the opening of Lisa Sewards’ first solo exhibition, White Parachute. This stunning show, featuring works on paper, paintings, objects and installations explores the memories of the artist’s mother who, after having spent five years of her young life in a displaced persons camp in northern Germany shares her experiences of uncertainty, loss and hope.

Despite the fearfulness the situation, central to Lisa’s mother’s memories is a WW2 parachute, of white silk, abandoned and subsequently found by the women and children of the camp. The women refashioned the parachute into much needed dresses, underwear and as a small luxury, fine silk ribbons.

20130703-220023.jpgThe ribbons, white and silky, stood out from the despair of the camp and in turn, stand out from the works on display in Lisa’s show.

Through Sewards’ reconstruction she creates a postmemory of the space of that parachute falling into the lives of those in the camp. Sewards, like most children of camp survivors, is engaged in a process that is not yet complete and may never find resolution. The silence of falling white parachutes is akin to the silence of her mother in relation to the events of those years – Essay by Dr Julie Cotter, exhibition catalogue.

Having read a number of war stories, of displacement and heroism, novels such as The Book Thief, In Falling Snow, and most recently, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, this exhibition has provided a series of illustrations to accompany the  words that I’ve read over the past year. To have such haunting images available, to illustrate the equally haunting stories I’ve read, seems to have helped me to form a better understanding of what a terrifying period of time this must have been.

20130703-220031.jpgAlthough this show is reverent and clearly aims to raise an awareness of the circumstance of displacement, it is not somber. The hopeful image of the artist’s mother as a child, the repeated imagery of the billowing parachute and the silken ribbons themselves create a theme of hope, of finding comfort.

In addition to this beautiful treatment of a difficult theme, Lisa’s ability to master a wide range of mediums was on full display in this exhibition. Her works on paper are always stunning and her print collections are easily some of my favourite works. In saying that, her larger pieces in oils, collages and photography are impressive and add a real impact, a punch, to her shows.

The inclusion of Lisa’s installation piece, a parachute not unlike that which her family found all those years ago, helps to draw a very real connection between the audience and the art.

Lisa’s show, White Parachutes is showing at Fortyfive Downstairs until 13 July 2013 and will conclude with an artist talk and Russian high tea on Saturday, 13 July. For more information visit here…

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TBYL Events: The Next Step

I’m thrilled to be able to reveal the details of the next TBYL Event, which will be held on Wednesday 22 May 2013, 7pm – 8pm at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne.

“The Next Steps” is a perfect session for all of us who dream of one day being published, but who aren’t quite sure where to start…

the next step

It’s your chance to get some tips, straight from the source, on how best to achieve your dream of being a published author. TBYL Events is proud to present Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor from Escape Publishing (the exciting new digital publishing arm of Harlequin) and two successful Escape authors Rhian Cahill and Charmaine Ross.

They’ll be sharing their experiences of writing and publishing, offering advice on everything from pitching your ideas, developing your story, manuscript presentation, and hints on the submission process.

This one-hour session is an opportunity to tap into the exciting world of publishing, to ask questions and to share experiences with other aspiring authors.

If you’d like some take-away information, you can download a brochure here and you can find out more about Escape Publishing and our special guests Kate, Rhian and Charmaine on the TBYL website.

Tickets are just $20 ($15 concession) and seats are limited. You can book now…

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Past, Present, Future: Flavours of Urban Melbourne

In usual style, Jonette and Daniele have been eating well…

Their latest publication, Flavours of Urban Melbourne (Smudge Publishing) is true to form – full of gorgeous photographs, inviting restaurant profiles and inspiring recipes from some of urban Melbourne’s finest.

Urban Melb 1

‘Flavours of Urban Melbourne’ showcases the profound ebbs and flows of styles and cultures within the café and restaurant culture in this capital city of food.  East meets west, meets north and south.  A fusion of cultures flourish together, as well as side-by-side.  It is hard to put a finger on the pulse, let alone describe the free-fall movement that the city’s suburbs are experiencing today.​

It might be difficult, but not impossible, and Jonette and Daniele have done an amazing job at putting their finger of the eclectic mix that makes urban Melbourne such an incredible place to explore.

For me, this book achieved three things; it fondly reminded me of stunning suburbs I frequented when I was younger, it highlighted the embarrassment of riches available in my own Bayside suburbs, and lastly provided brand new ideas about what to do in suburbs I’ve never had the opportunity to visit.

Urban Melb 3Kicking off with a little history and an ode to coffee, the book then separates out into Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western suburbs.

The highly cultural, inspirational and linguistically diverse suburbs of Melbourne have a poignant past, a vibrant present and a wealth of opportunities moving into the future, with many different population groups making their presence felt…

Flavours of Urban Melbourne is sure to have something of interest for all readers. Personally, I was drawn to the delicious range of cafes – I think I’ll do a bit of a tour with the boys for the next few weeks!

Urban Melb 2I must admit that I’d hoped to find a few of my local favourites, but didn’t find many Hampton spots listed. Of course though, on reflection I realised that that wasn’t really what I needed from this book. What this guide offers is new ideas! New ideas, new places to visit – established venues full of history and achievements, as well as new endeavours staffed by inspired hosts, barristers and chefs.

This big, gorgeous book has been sitting on my coffee table for the last month or so, and I’ve very happily picked it up many times over to take a look at photos of the establishments, their food, the surrounds and most interestingly, the people who enjoy this rich urban life.

If you’d like to find out more about Flavours of Urban Melbourne visit Smudge Publishing online, and check out their range of books. 

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Produce to Platter: Daylesford and Surrounds

The wonderfully talented Jonette George and Daniele Wilton’s have been at it again, this time exploring the food and wine bounty of Daylesford and its surrounds in Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and The Pyrenees (Smudge Publishing).

Produce to Platter: DaylesfordI’ve reviewed a few books from this team now, and one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about Jonette and Daniele’s books is that they highlight the fact that we here in Victoria enjoy an absolute embarrassment of riches! We’ve so many stunning regions, both urban and rural, all of which are unique and abundant with produce and also skilled chefs and wine-makers who can in turn bring great food and wine to our tables.

The Daylesford region is a fine example…

Defining a region and highlighting its features is the privilege of only a few. When Jonette George and her daughter, Daniele Wilton, decided to write a book about the Macedon Ranges region, they were confronted with a challenge. Within two hours of each other, they discovered 3 distinct regions, bursting with outstanding produce and wine.

Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges blurs boundaries with the Ballarat and District wine region, which in turn blurs into the Pyrenees. With such  thriving regions like pigeons in a row, the girls decided to create their own treasure box, and showcase the three-in-one.

Producers, providores, viticulturists and chefs are all featured in this guide to the regions, with local produce exulted and wine revered. Signature recipes with full page food shots are mingled amongst pages of stunning photography of the regions. Stories, history and local anecdotes abound in yet another Produce to Platter sensation.

As with their previous guides, this latest is a satisfying blend of description, photography and tantalising recipes. It begins with a well-considered history of the region and a welcome from fellow foodie Rita Erlich. It shares with us the secrets of local markets, local growers and famous restaurants, including the likes of the Lake House, Frangos and Frangos and the Lydiard Wine Bar.

It’ll come as no surprise to my friends and family that the inclusion of Daylesford Cider Company was my favourite…

But why cider? What was the impetus to make this interesting drink? Surely it had something to do with its long history but also because his family came from Somerset, the home of cider for many generations. Cider was the topic of discussion in his family for many years growing up. David points out that cider actually originated in the Middle East where the first apple trees appear to have been cultivated more than two thousand years ago. Indeed, cider seems to have been an important drink the evolution of societies, playing a strong role in both France and England. The drink even made it across the pond as Pilgrim settlers brought the tradition to America in the 17th Century. Of course, those same traditions made their way to Australia and continue to be propelled by cider makers such as Mr. Stagg.

…but I also loved reading about cottage restaurants, country al a carte dining and cafes and bars of all shapes and sizes.

I’ve spent a little time in the Daylesford and Ballarat region, but it’s only now that I realise that I’ve only just scratched the surface of this amazing culinary area. Looks like it might be time for another weekend away…

You can check out more about Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and The Pyrenees at Smudge Publishing.

Stay tuned to the blog on Friday to find out how you could win a copy of the book for yourself, with the launch of a massive book give-away!

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Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs

A little while ago, I was fortunate enough to enjoy Jonette George and Daniele Wilton’s Flavours of Melbourne and Produce to Platter: Mornington Peninsula. Both were beautifully compiled and have now been followed up by the equally impressive Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs (Smudge Publishing).

I practically leapt at the chance to review this guide, mainly due to the fact that I LOVE this region! The Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs will always hold a special significance for me, it’s where Matt and I spent our honeymoon fourteen years ago, this week.

Matt and I have returned to the region many times since, the most recent visit being only a fortnight ago. This guide only works to make me want to visit again and again, they’ve include so much to tempt me.

“Drive along the highways and bi-ways of the Yarra Valley to discover a unique cosmos of regional vignerons, wine-makers and chefs making use of the bounty of local produce supplied from farm gates, small shop-fronts, artisan craftsmen and boutique enterprises.

Full-colour photography showcases this food and wine region to its stunning best – and stories about the vineyards, restaurants and producers take you behind the scenes to discover the secrets of the locals.”

It’s a visitors guide to one Victoria’s finest wine regions, as well as offering plenty of ‘take-home’ treats, recipes from some of the region’s most inspired chefs. There’s Parmesan gnocchi with zucchini flowers from De Bortolli’s chef Heath Dumesny, followed up by Duck confit with spinach pancakes from Margaret Van Der Meulen from Seville Estate. To finish, something sweet from Jam Lady Jam with Richard Hauptmann’s Brioche Loaf.

As well as beautiful photography and descriptions of places I remember fondly, such as De Bortoli, St Huberts and The Yarra Valley Grand Hotel, Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs includes many wineries, restaurants and farms I’ve not yet visited. Inspired, my next visit will be sure to include stops at Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley Gourmet Foods and Sticks Yarra Valley.

“Set on a bucolic 90 acres at the base of the Christmas Hills, the winery [Sticks Yarra Valley] provides guests with a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy their visit as well as a memorable view of the Yarra Valley.”

This stunning book will not only serve as a travel guide (in paperback, it’d easily fit in your luggage to accompany you on your journey) it is also a gorgeous book to have sitting on your coffee table or in any kitchen. Its wonderful photography (by Charlie Brown) has captured the spirit of the valley and the hills in its lush green Spring months and its brown and orange autumnal glory.

I can tell you now, my copy is going to get well used, and I’m sure that yours would too.

You can check out more about Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley and The Dandenongs at Smudge Publishing.

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More writers, more reading: Debute Mondays

A nice, quick post today to report back on the wonderful Wheeler Centre event that I snuck away to see last night. As usual, it took a bit of organising to get out of the house and into the city, but thanks to my lovely Mum and my understanding kids I made it to Debute Monday at The Moat, just in time.

Debute Mondays, run once a month, are an opportunity to hear new fiction straight from authors. In cozy surrounds, in an atmospherically lit corner, four emerging authors kindly shared their words…

Firstly, we heard from Jessie Cole, author of Darkness on the Edge of Town (HarperCollins). Her choice of scene was interesting, a scene in which main character burley Vincent, finds himself in his bathroom assisting a near-stranger manage burning mastitis. It was a perfect example of the starkly practical yet teasingly erotic tone of her novel. My favourite phrase of the evening… “…All bedraggled and broken”

Darkness on the Edge of Town is our TBYL Book Club book for November. You can buy a copy of the book here…

Next we heard a short story from Melbourne-based writer and student Robyn Denison. Her story, Ketchup was bizarre, evocative and beautifully visual. Again, the theme of practical, everyday objects being transformed into something much more was worked in skilfully within this surreal piece of writing. Nearing the end of the piece, Denison’s line “The movement is soothing and the leaving is pure” struck me as quite beautiful.

Next, a change of pace with Zane Lovitt. Sharing a story entitled Comedy is Dead from his crime novel The Midnight Promise (Text Publishing) and narrated by Private Investigator John Dorn, Zane had us squirming in our chairs, a little unsure where to look. His story, set in an adult entertainment store, complete with fake orgasms and associated paraphernalia was funny, irreverant and very noir. Left on a cliff-hanger, the reading left the audience wanting more…

Lastly, the evening was rounded off by the multi-talented, Melbourne-based Edwina Preston who shared a reading from her new novel The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer (UQP). I was completely captivated by the opening description of Canyon, as the type of town that did not yet understand that “large words could contain small meanings.” Even in this short snap-shot, the story was rich with characters – cartoonish but darkly so, their descriptions and roles literal and larger than life. Fascinatingly circus, and a little bit ‘carny,’ this scene brought to mind a strange blend of Nick Cave’s work and Andrew Nicolls’ If You’re Reading this I’m Already Dead.

In short, I’ve now got more books for the reading pile!

If you have a chance, I’d really encourage you to get along to one of the Wheeler Centre’s Debute Mondays. They’re a great way to support new Australian writers and to discover amazing new literature.

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Tuesday bites…

I’m in the city today, in day-job mode, but I thought I’d sneak a little blogging in over lunch time. Here’s a couple of bites to brighten up your Tuesday afternoon…

1. Have you checked out this great little video from National Year of Reading 2012? It’s now been converted to cinema format… let me know if you spot it?!

2. It’s Spring, and I’ve been hit by the Spring cleaning bug worse than ever before. Planning my approach, I thought that my workspace might be a pretty great place to start, and these tips from Mum’s Business should give me just the kick-start I need.

3. Do you think I could sneak off to Brisbane this week? Okay, perhaps not, but those of you in sunny Queensland might like to check out the Brisbane Writers Festival. It starts tomorrow!

4. Lastly, if you’ve not already done so, why don’t you pop on over and meet our two new TBYL Reviewers? I can’t wait to bring you lots of reviews from the lovely Tam and Kathy!

What’s your afternoon shaping up like?

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My wordy weekend

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Melbourne Writers Festival is the highlight of my literary year. Never am I happier than when I’m listening the wonderful words of people like Carrie Tiffany, Gillian Mears, Jenny Hocking…

It wasn’t easy to fit the festival in this year, I’m not sure how we got so busy this month, but I worked hard to carve out a little time over the weekend to get to a couple of sessions.

Saturday, I revisited my own rural childhood through the works of Carrie Tiffany, Rachael Treasure and Paddy O’Reilly. Three talented authors, all of whom in their novels, have captured the essence of country, the hardship of the outback and the beauty of the rural way of life. In this wonderfully relaxed session, Carrie, Rachael and Paddy helped us to get a little closer to their characters, and also told us something of why writing rural is so important to them.

As is often the case with these sessions, we were also really lucky to be able to get a glimpse of the writing process. Carrie describing her writing as a little like creating a colleague, a collection of “found objects”, whilst Rachael revealed her desire to affect, to support a “paradigm shift of some kind” helping people to understand through fiction the importance of soil health and smart operation in the production of our food and the care of our land. In turn, Paddy recalled a need to explore the paths people carve for themselves, especially in small towns; “they follow the same tracks, go to the same places, see the same people.” The effect that this has on small town folk is captured wonderfully in her novel, The Colour of Rust. 

I was incredibly grateful to these authors, as they’ve encouraged me to revisit my own small rural background, after many years of hurriedly moving away from it.

On Sunday, I had a little more time in at Federation Square and made it to two sessions.

Firstly I heard from the inspiring and poetic Gillian Mears, the author of The Age Book of the Year, Foal’s Bread. A sold-out session, the BMW Edge was filled with dedicated fans of Gillian’s work, most of whom could be seen reacting with a real appreciation and tenderness for the work of this talented author.

Again, the session itself afforded us an opportunity to hear more about how this book was written, including a little on why it’s taken so long to be published. The answer to this often asked question is that it was as a result of consideration for an older sister with her own story to tell. Eventually though, Gillian admitted, this novel had to see the light, with the Narcarrow’s story aching to be told.

Gillian’s love of horses, riding and jumping was evident from the outset of this conversation – she spoke of horses in poems, rich with sensory details; their smell, their shine, their silkiness. In turn, her grief at her illness and the restrictions that it has placed on her riding and writing was palpable. She was open and generous in her discussion of MS, and the significant effect that it has had, and continues to have on her life.

If you’ve not already read the award-winning Foal’s Bread, I’d strongly recommend it. You can read my review here.

After this moving conversation, I was up for something a little more political, and attended a fascinating session Labor in Vain. The panel, featuring Maxine McKew, Steve Bracks and biographer, Jenny Hocking, discussed the question of whether or not the Labor Party could be said to be ‘in crisis’ and if they are, what they should do about it.

The session was very revealing, and raised many important questions about party dynamics, the importance of the ‘party line’, and the role of the media and opinion polls. I could have happily heard more, and one hour hardly seemed to do justice to this important topic.

In addition to the sessions themselves, one of the real highlights of the MWF for me was the opportunity to have a book signed and to share a quick word with the authors. I’m really pleased to have been able to add to my book collection, two more signed copies…

I’ve one more event to attend on Thursday. I’m very excited about this keynote address by Germaine Greer, who’ll be discussing our language and its use… “in an oration that will make you think seriously about our place in the world and the role that language plays in putting us there.” Stay tuned for my review of this session, or if you’d like to come along, you can book here.

Have you been able to get to any MWF sessions this year? You can check out their program here…

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Booked in, now out of my way!

When I started That Book You Like… 18 months ago, I did so with the aim of reading differently. My goal of reading widely and outside my comfort zone has led me to meet a most incredible range of new authors and readers, and most enjoyably, to share them with a fantastic community of bookish people.

I’m pretty sure that this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival will allow for many more such meetings, and I’m thrilled! Enquire Within promises to be a fabulous gathering of wonderful minds from across the world; authors, intellects, commentators and of course, readers.

Here in Melbourne, we are incredibly spoilt for choice. Scarcely a week goes by that there’s not an author event or a big idea on stage, presented by The Wheeler Centre or the many fabulous bookstores and libraries around the state. To me, Enquire Within, Melbourne’s 2012 Writers Festival (running from the 23 August until 2 September) is the delicious icing on the cake of twelve months of amazing literary adventures.

The program promises to not only be entertaining, but also rich with insight, analysis and review:

“Our program addresses questions about liberty and responsibility; it takes inspiration from beautifully told stories; it listens to startling newcomers and intellectual heavyweights; it revels in literary coups and writerly gossip; and it celebrates words and language and hence, life.”

Opening with words from Simon Callow, on Dickens, the festival starts on a high note. This leads a program rich with authors and commentators from across Australia and the world.

The full program is available now, from the Enquire Within website. But here’s a little heads up on what I’ll be attending and reviewing…

Outback Lives, Saturday 25 August
Does rural fiction have an agenda? Is the bush a setting or the reason for the story? Rachael Treasure (The Girl and the Ghost-Grey Mare), Paddy O’Reilly (The Fine Colour of Rust), and Carrie Tiffany (Mateship with Birds) discuss why they are drawn to tales of life on the land. I’m particularly excited about this one after having chatted to Carrie earlier this year.

In Conversation with Gillian Mears, Sunday 26 August
Her first novel in 16 years, the Miles Franklin-shortlisted Foal’s Bread, has immediately returned Gillian Mears to the literary spotlight. The award-winning author of Ride a Cock HorseThe Mint Lawn and The Grass Sister talks with Ramona Koval about her life, living with MS, and her love of northern NSW, so often the setting for her writing. You can read my review of Foal’s Bread here.

Labor in Vain, Sunday 26 August
As its state governments are blasted from office and its federal fate seems sealed, is the Labor Party in crisis or experiencing hiccups? Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks, Whitlam and Lionel Murphy biographer Jenny Hocking, and former member for Bennelong Maxine McKew, discuss Labor’s present predicaments and its future. Hosted by Laura Tingle.

Speaking Australian with Germaine Greer, Thursday 30 August
To define us is to negate us. Those who are trying to impose a standard English on all the varieties of Australian speech are not simply wasting their time; they are applying an inappropriate notion of standardisation that would crush the life out of the living language. Australians contribute to literary culture all over the English-speaking world. Are they bilingual? Are they secure enough to distinguish between – and enjoy – different kinds of Australian, or are they hamstrung by spurious notions of correctness? In this keynote address Germaine Greer will discuss our language and its use, in an oration that will make you think seriously about our place in the world and the role that language plays in putting us there. Proudly supported by Queen Victoria Women’s Centre.

Are you going to anything at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival?

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