Friday 31 August 2012

Great Sentence of the Week #6

He slunk off to the kitchen to make her a peanut butter and lettuce sandwich – sure she hated them, but wasn’t that half the point? Steel, Peanut Butter and the Story of Thursday (Sharp)

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Past lives and the people we leave...

I had lunch in the city today... OK, I know this is not exactly earth-shattering news, but this was lunch with former colleagues, from my life before full-time writing. A bitter-sweet lunch; missing their company, but not the lifestyle they represent; missing the train rides and time to read, but not the trains; missing the character of the city, but not the chaos – especially not the “over-emotional” types with blood streaming down their arms. Oh, most of you missed her... she came in after most of you had gone back to work.

Anyway, to those of you who read these mumbling musings – thanks. To those I missed seeing – catch you next time. And to Sashie – enjoy Brisvegas and please start writing again. You have real talent.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Great Sentence of the Week #5

The sandbanks rippled underfoot, schools of herring swerved and morphed as one in the channel, and across the bay the breaths of breaching dolphins hung in the air. Breath (Winton).

Friday 17 August 2012

AWAW 2012

In the coming months, keep your eyes out for the 2012 edition of "Award Winning Australian Writing."  A great compilation of award winning short fiction from the last year. I know one of the authors - and the guy who is writing the Foreword. Find out more at

The morning blues...

Is it just me, or is the sky a brighter shade of blue this morning? And I wonder if the air has ever been as fresh and crisp – like chilled spring water to a thirsty man. Have the Blue Gum trunks ever shimmered as they do today – like the glow of some exotic silk. Are the lawn dew tips like diamonds? Or has there been an overnight falling of crystalline manna? Breathe...

A pair of kookaburras laugh up in a high-v. And for once, it doesn’t feel like I’m the subject of their mirth. The instant coffee is nutty and delicious. Toast and butter smells. A Whipbird chatters outside my window. My morning headache is passing – no tablets required.

My business has its first pay cheque in the bank. Nothing massive, but that never really mattered. I can do this. I tell myself it’s possible. And for this briefest moment, words feel easy...

Saturday 11 August 2012

Great sentence of the week #4

They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now — nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom. Heart of Darkness (Conrad)

Thursday 9 August 2012

Why Coachwood Critique?

The Coachwood is a medium-sized tree growing in temperate rainforests along eastern Australia. And I happen to have one growing in my own little suburban rainforest. The Coachwood has two great virtues:

1)    It’s practical: it was much prized in the past as a decorative, fragrant timber that was easy to work with. It was used in fine timber work such as cabinet making and coach building, but was also used in more practical tool making; from axe-handles to WW2 fighter-bombers.

2)    It’s beautiful: the Coachwood is one of the most beautiful trees in the forest, with distinctively mottled grey, silver, pink and green bark. It also produces multitudes of creamy pink star-shaped flowers during the warmer months. A stand of Coachwood trees is a beautiful sight.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Well, I think great writing needs to do at least two things:

1)    It must be practical: telling the story of a character, or an event, or a research finding, or a business venture, or why the writer should win a job vacancy. It must be clear and easy to read. Efficient in its use of words, grammar and punctuation. And like any good tool, it needs to function as it was designed.

2)    But it also should have ‘beauty’: there are no bad stories, someone once told me, just bad story tellers. If what you have to say stirs emotions – be it engaging, or entertaining, or fascinating, or disturbing, or exciting – then it can only strengthen what it is you have to say. Your words should elicit a response; otherwise the reader may stop turning the pages, or click somewhere else. It should inspire or excite, horrify or amuse, change an opinion, or fortify one. It should move the reader. It should have flow and feeling and sound and rhythm.

In everything I write – be it an entry in a short story competition, or my next business writing project – I try to apply this approach. Hence – Coachwood Critique.