Category

reading notes

inspiration & influence personality and story reading notes

36 Books that Shaped my Story – Reading as Creative Influence

September 1, 2017

My free ebook ’36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence’ celebrates the books we love as our creative legacy and the clues they give as to what is emerging in our story.

The story of ’36 Books that Shaped my Story’

I’m so excited to be launching my ’36 Books’ ebook and sharing the story with you!

When I started working out what to include as a special gift and free ebook here, I wanted something that summed up the heart of Quiet Writing. I wanted to create something that sparked creativity, that shared generously and that provided a springboard for others for their own reflections on their lives and creativity.

And I kept coming back to books – sharing books that made a difference to me, sharing how they influenced me and shaped my life, reflecting on how this can be a source of growth.

Words are at the heart of Quiet Writing – the words we read, the words we write, the words we say to ourselves or another person such as a trusted friend or coach as we form our vision and process our journey. The words we listen to as we read, as we engage with another fully and the words we want to write.

And story is the shape the words make – the narrative we weave through the body of work that we create through career, our creative endeavours and our passions. This story is unique – no one has read the same books as you in the same way; no one has the same life experiences as you; and you are the only one to combine your passions and experiences in the way that you do.

Gathering special books around us

I’ve always gathered special books around me as a sort of altar, a source of strength, a connection to influence, like a wise chorus of silent voices surrounding me. So when I read Sage Cohen’s piece, ‘Honor you lineage’ in her book, Fierce on the Page, it rang special bells of resonance. In her beautiful piece, Sage explains:

I have always been magnetically drawn to the books I need as teachers. Recently I cleared a shelf and, with great reverence, placed on it the books I most love – the ones that have shaped me in the way that water shapes stones, almost imperceptibly over time.

She invites us to gather the books we most love around us and to sit with them and appreciate how they have influenced our vision and sense of direction, especially in our writing life.

And importantly, she flags that in the light and strength of these books and words, the heart of what we want to write is lingering:

I wonder if that’s really all our writing asks of us: to know what we love, to listen, and to give ourselves over to what presents itself.

So that’s what I did – I gathered the special books that have shaped me over time and spent time with each of them, honouring what they have brought to me. And it became a fascinating and deep exercise. Choosing them, remembering what they have given me, unpacking and unravelling it a little more, organising it into a continuum and seeing how it fitted in the context of my life – was an insightful joy. And I learnt so much about myself and the recurring themes in my life.

It became a deep excavation and navigation of what I love and how it drives me.

And that is the heart of Quiet Writing – it’s about gathering the threads of our lives, finding the connecting pieces and weaving them together.

I communicate this heart and this spirit, through writing and life coaching, the twin hearts of Quiet Writing, so we can work with it in a supportive way to shine. For when we find those connecting pieces, those values, those desires, those long held passions and values, they can help us negotiate the next phase more successfully and work out what we really want to do and feel.

What to expect in ’36 Books that Shaped my Story’

So what can you expect in ’36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence’? It starts with a personal essay about the rationale and process and draws the threads of the experiment and experience together into key themes.

The second part then tracks through each of the 36 books individually and shows how they appeared in the context of my life and the legacy and influence they have provided. There are also suggestions as to why you might want to read each book.

Taken overall, the book shows how the books you love can be:

  • a source of writing inspiration
  • a narrative for your life
  • a timeline for reflection
  • prompts for memoir
  • a way of gathering evidence about your body of work over time
  • a way of understanding what you really love
  • a way of noticing the key themes of your life, and
  • the key to the influences that are your guiding light.

I think will find it a valuable read about the value of books and reading as creative influence and as a way of finding clues to help you enrich your quiet writing life.

How to get your copy of ’36 Books’

So if you already a Quiet Writing subscriber, the link will already be with you in your inbox via the ‘Beach Notes’ monthly message I have sent out.

If you are not already a subscriber, make sure you sign up to connect and receive ’36 Books’. Just sign up to the right or bottom on this page and the ebook will be with you in no time.

You will also receive my regular ‘Beach Notes’ newsletter full of inspiration about books, writing, story, narrative, voice, personality and all things quiet writing to inspire you. You will also be the first to know about Quiet Writing life coaching, guest posting and e-course opportunities when they are available.

I hope you enjoy ’36 Books’. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on and share our thoughts on reading, books, creativity, influence, story, narrative and writing. These are all fabulous inspirations central to Quiet Writing and the community here.

I can’t wait to hear your feedback – happy reading and reflection!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

How to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity

Being ‘Fierce on the Page’ – a book review

On the art and love of reading

How to craft a successful life on your own terms

Quiet Writing

inspiration & influence introversion reading notes

Creative and Connected #10 – in praise of comfort reading

August 18, 2017

Comfort reading is a ritual, like worry beads or a nice hot cup of cocoa at bedtime. It relies on repetition and familiarity. It makes unbearable times bearable.

Jane Sullivan

Turning Pages – The authors you read when you need a bit of comfort

comfort reading

Here’s a round-up of what I’ve enjoyed and shared this week on comfort reading. Find out about the comfort books people read and reread, and why!

Anyone else had a tough week and feeling in need of some comfort reading? I’m not sure if it’s Mercury Retrograde, the Eclipse Season, the Balsamic Moon, or a combination of all three right now, but it feels a perfect time to hunker down with a good book.

All this energy made the words ‘comfort reading’ come to me – that revisiting of the books we love and that special genre or author that just makes us go ‘ahhhh’ and rest up, all cosy, hot chocolate or cup of tea in hand.

So here are some links and thoughts on comfort reading including my favourite comfort reads as we head into the weekend with all this fairly intense energy. So if you’re feeling unwell or just in need of some rest and respite, here is some inspiration for reading, comfort style.

I hope you find some time to rest and read. Would love to hear about your comfort reading preferences and practices too!

Podcast on comfort reading

A podcast that features and praises comfort reading is:

Reading the End Podcast Episode 10

There’s a great list of books on the show notes plus thoughts on what makes a comfort book. The hosts reinforce that there are different categories of comfort books: ones that put things in order eg. Georgette Heyer books; episodic books that don’t require so much effort; books for when you are sad and books that represent ‘wholesome olden times’! They include one of my comfort book authors, Rumer Godden. It’s a fun listen and a great list! It reinforces that comfort reads are contextual and different for everyone, though there may be common themes and authors that reappear.

There were surprisingly few podcasts on this important issue!

Another option is to let the guys on The Casual Academic do the reading for you and read along when you can or just learn from them. I really enjoy this podcast when I just want to listen and learn about literary fiction but I’m finding it hard to do as much reading as I would like in the genre. Always interesting and educational, as well as fun, I’m sure having a laugh is important in this type of reading.

comfort reading

Books and reading notes

My reading week

In line with my recent post on reading more productively and the accountability here, I finished David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. This was a very special read that will stay with me for a long time. There’s so much richness on work life and our identity as we express it through work and how we can be lost and found there. It’s a book I will continue to revisit and explore.

I’ve started reading Sharon Blackie’s If Women Rose Rooted: The Journey to Authenticity and Belonging in hard copy and also Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis by Helen Bynum as an ebook. Both very different reads, but fascinating in their own way.

I’ve also been really hard at work reading my own ebook ’36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence’ as I prepare to send it out into the world to Quiet Writing subscribers!

Book and blog notes on this week’s theme of comfort reading

It was fun to explore what other people have said about comfort reading and their suggestions. But first, my favourite comfort reads.

I love a book that I can just curl up inside, a setting that I love, a love story or psychological engagement, something that takes me into people’s lives as I watch the events and relationships unfold. I like the warmth of people connecting or a narrative that takes me into a place where I can just be or watch, especially engaging with character and place.

So here are my comfort reads and authors:

Maeve Binchy

A long-time love, there’s just something so cosy about curling up with a Maeve Binchy book. They are all wonderful; the ones that come to mind are: Tara Road, Quentins, Circle of Friends, Evening Class and A Week in Winter. I love how the characters often reappear as familiar faces across different novels. They’re grounded in a spirit of realism as well, as Maeve Binchy explains:

I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks. 

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes has become more famous with Me Before You which came out as a movie. This is fabulous as she is an excellent writer and I love stepping into the world of her books. All her narratives have that sense of comfort in story and love engagements but in various settings and environments. Enjoy any or all of: The Ship of Brides, Silver Bay, Peacock Emporium, Foreign Fruits, Silver Bay, Night Music, The Girl You Left Behind and The Last Letter Your Lover. 

Daphne Du Maurier

I’ve shared my love of Daphne Du Maurier and especially my favourite novel, Rebecca. My Cousin Rachel is a great read too and enjoying attention due to the recent film adaptation. But also really engaging are The House on the Strand, Don’t Look Now and other Stories and The Birds and other Stories. Du Maurier’s short stories are especially good reads when you just want a shorter bite.

comfort reading

Liz Fenwick

Being a great lover of Cornwall, Liz Fenwick’s novels are often my first choice when I’m looking for a holiday read or just want a relaxing chill-out read. I love books that take me to special places and Fenwick’s novels are enjoyable and engaging reads with a mix of love, family history, intrigue and Cornish landscape. I’ve enjoyed: The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair, A Cornish Stranger and Under a Cornish Sky.

Rumer Godden

Rumer Godden is another special author whose books I seek out when I’m needing comfort. My preferred stories seem to be ones like The Black Narcissus and In This House of Brede that involve nuns and the drama and personality of cloistered communities. They are books I reread and enjoy, often at times of illness and bedrest!

comfort reads

 

Blog/Twitter/Instagram posts and interactions:

For thoughts on comfort reading, here are some excellent posts:

Booksellers share their best comfort reads and tips, via Readings a fabulous Aussie bookshop, including fantasy, Agatha Christie, Harry Potter, poetry and Anne of Green Gables (a recurrent recommended comfort read!)

In The appeal of comfort reading, Psychologies Magazine explores what makes a comfort read we return to:

‘I can read it over and over again,’ people said, and perhaps that is the most important thing of all. Like prayers, our comfort reading becomes a ritual. I may find something new in the Anne [of Green Gables] books every time, but the words themselves never change. Our comfort reads are talismans, touchstones, that will never let us down.

In The Irish TImes, The Guyliner postulates on why he reads the same books over and over again:

They’re not cerebral, they’re not impressive, but they wrap themselves around me every moment, even when I’m not reading.

Rebecca is one of the books he returns to, with such a beautiful response to it:

Gloomy and glamorous and beautifully written, I always come back to Rebecca. I never want it to end, and always wish we could find out what happens next. With each reading, I will the second Mrs de Winter to tell Mrs Danvers to sod off, to speak up and be confident, to enjoy her time as the lady of Manderley. But, of course, she never does – she can only be herself.

In Turning Pages: The authors you read when you need a bit of comfort, Jane Sullivan says that comfort reading is a ritual and notes the authors who pop up consistently: Raymond Chandler and L M Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame). Of Raymond Chandler, she says:

It worked because I knew that voice. I’d read the book before, I’d seen the movie, I knew what was going to happen. And the voice took me into a familiar world: guns, hooch, faded glamour, treacherous dames in seamed stockings, telephones on the wall, guys wearing hats and trenchcoats in the warm California rain.

Sarah Bessey shares 10 books she reads over and over. It’s a fabulous list and includes Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden.

In Comfort Books. Is this even a thing? The Bloggess queries why her comfort books are “full of murder and angst and bizarreness and are not really what anyone in the world would consider to be a happy or relaxing read.”

It seems we revisit books for all kinds of reasons and different ways of sourcing comfort. Do share your thoughts on your comfort reads in the comments or on Instagram or Facebook – would love to hear!

On Quiet Writing and Tarot Narratives

On Quiet Writing this week, we explored the art of efficient blog post writing in a guest post by Benjamin Brandall, How to write a blog post when you have almost no time. It’s been really well-received, providing practical strategies for being organised with blog posts and getting the actual writing done.

My Tarot Narratives on Instagram have continued to be a rich source of inspiration and insight for my creative journey. Thanks for all the interactions! Twyla Tharp’s reminder today, from The Creative Habit, was around working environments and habit:

In the end, there is no one ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that’s habit forming. (p17)

Have a fabulous creative weekend!

comfort reads

Creative and Connected is a regular post each Friday and the previous posts are below. I hope you enjoy it. I would love any feedback via social media or comments and let me know what you are enjoying too.

Feature image via pexels.com

Keep in touch

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017. This includes MBTI developments, coaching, creativity and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world. My free e-book on the books that have shaped my story is coming soon for subscribers only – so sign up to be the first to receive it!

Quiet Writing is on Facebook – Please visit here and ‘Like’ to keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community. There are regular posts on intuition, influence, creativity, productivity, writing, voice, introversion, and personality including Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Creative and Connected #9 – on the art and love of reading

Creative and Connected #8 – ways to honour your unique life blend

Creative and Connected #7 – how to craft a successful life on your own terms

Creative and Connected #6 – how to be a creative entrepreneur

Creative and Connected #5 – being accountable to ourselves and others

inspiration & influence planning & productivity reading notes

Creative and Connected #9 – on the art and love of reading

August 12, 2017

Read in order to live.

Gustave Flaubert

reading

Here’s a round-up of what I’ve enjoyed and shared this week on various social platforms on the art and love of reading. My post on How to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity has been really well received this week. Thank you so much for the feedback about how this post has inspired thoughts about reading practices. Above all, it was so lovely to connect with kindred souls who share my passion for reading.

So to further share that joy, here are some podcasts and reads that celebrate the art and love of reading.

Podcasts on the history, art and love of reading

I listened to two podcasts about reading this week and they were perfect counterpoints about the historical contexts of reading and current ways to enjoy reading.

In Our Time: Culture – Reading – BBC Radio 4

In this discussion from 2000, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the politics and practice of reading. The podcast covers the history of reading in social and political contexts with a particular emphasis on how women were banned from reading in times past and how it was seen as a trivial activity for them. This historical perspective makes you realise how far we have come. I always feel a responsibility to take these hard-won rights forward.

Guinevere de la Mare and the Silent Book Club – on the Secret Library Podcast with Caroline Donahue

This was such a great podcast chat on a movement I had completely missed – the Silent Book Club. Developed in response to the occasional pressure and social nature of book clubs, Silent Book Clubs involve just turning up together to a venue and reading. It emanated from Guinevere turning up with friends to a bar and just reading over a glass of wine. And this is the flavour behind the Silent Book Club. With Chapters growing all over the world, it’s a word of mouth trend that celebrates just sitting in a public place with others and reading. I can’t actually think of anything more appealing right now. Introverts unite! I notice there is no Australian branch so I think I’ll start a Sydney one – if any local people are interested, let me know. Happy days!

 

reading

 

Books and reading notes

My reading week

In line with my post this week and reading more and the accountability here, I finished two books I’ve had underway recently. Jojo Moyes’ Paris for One was such a fun read, full of chance encounters that result in quirky life changes and fresh perspectives. I loved the last story especially.

I finished listening to The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon, by Scott Baker as an audio book. As a result, I’m weaving dictation into my days via my iPhone and Mac Pro as I work. It’s so easy and a stepping stone to using dictation more fully for writing and transcription.

I’ve continued savouring David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity in a slow read (probably too slow) on work and identity. It does, however, feel like it’s mirroring my life, so maybe there’s a reason for the slowness of my reading, so my life can keep time. A favourite quote this week:

To find good work, no matter the path we have chosen, means coming out of hiding. Good work means visibility. (p146)

reading

Book notes on this week’s theme of the art and love of reading

Alberto Manguel is an author to savour on the art and love of reading.

His  A History of Reading takes us into the heart of the experience of reading through a series of interconnected essays. It focuses on his personal response to reading from all angles, such as: learning to read, picture reading, being read to and reading from various standpoints such as translator and author. It’s a beautiful reflection and treasure trove on reading.

In ‘A Reading Diary: A Year of Reading Favourite Books’, Manguel decides to reread some of his favourite books, one month at a time. It’s a journey over a year, blending memoir, journal writing and reviewing into a reflective reading experience. There’s a lovely review of this book here.

One thing I have found as I revisited my books about books and reading this past week is that the authors are all so witty and funny.

A favourite book of mine in this genre is the fabulous Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman. This 1998 book was recommended to me by a fellow bibliophile and it’s a book of essays celebrating the love of books. It’s so very funny in the way that only a book lover can appreciate. My favourite essay is ‘Marrying Libraries’ about how Anne and her husband are merging their book collections into one after a time together and the conflict and negotiations that ensue. So many great thoughts and laughs:

Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves. How could it be otherwise?

I’m a huge Nick Hornby fan. No other writer makes me laugh out loud as much, and so I was delighted to stumble across his collection of essays on reading, first published in the US Believer Magazine. The Complete Polysyllabic Spree is the full collection of these 28 monthly essays on the books he has bought and read. I just smile the whole way through reading these essays. They are a romp through reading, including the classics, with humour as the connecting thread.

Some of Nick’s thoughts:

If reading books is to survive as a leisure activity – and there are statistics to show that this is by no means assured – then we have to promote the joys of reading, rather than the (dubious) benefits.

and

I’m a writer, and I need to read, for inspiration and education and because I want to get better, and only books can teach me how.

In terms of novels about books and love of books as a connecting factor, there are two main ones that stand out for me:

84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff – My copy has disappeared, ironically, but it’s a slim volume celebrating books as a connecting piece between people, in this case, a London antiquarian bookseller and a New York based reader. Based on the true story of their connection and exchange of letter over nearly 20 years, it’s a celebration of books, reading and the connections they inspire.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer – This book is focused on post-war Guernsey and is told entirely through letters between various correspondents. It tells the story of connections between columnist Juliet Ashton and the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, as they live under German occupation. Mary Ann Shaffer wrote this book, her first novel, when she was 70. Sadly, she didn’t get to see it in print. It’s a heart-warming story of friendship, love and books across the miles.

reading

Blog/Twitter/Instagram posts and interactions:

On the art and love of reading, Joanna Penn’s post on Habits of a Book Junkie in a Digital Age is excellent on digital reading strategies and trends including how to review books.

I shared the beautiful piece by Kerstin Pilz, on Tiny Buddha, How a 10 day silent retreat helped heal my grieving heart last week. Inspired by Katherine Bell’s guest post here: Our Heart Always Knows the Way, the first of our Wholehearted Stories series, Kerstin has written a fabulous post on how life change is all about hard work and not luck in Why luck had nothing to do with my self-directed life.

On Instagram, there’s been plenty of activity around Susannah Conway’s The August Break focused around noticing, community and inspiration. Yesterday’s prompt was lavender. Not being able to think of any lavender in my immediate surroundings, I went back to my recent iphone shots and found this skyscape I had forgotten about:

 

reading

Another thought would have been the Murasaki-Shikibu lavender ink I write with every day – I thought of this hours after! It’s a great month of prompts for noticing and seeing afresh, also connecting with special memories, sacred objects and new people.

I also shared that my favourite novel is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Here’s me thinking it’s an unusual choice. Clearly not, when it’s been voted UK’s favourite book from the past 225 years. I’m so glad so many people are discovering its pleasures!

On Quiet Writing and Tarot Narratives

On Quiet Writing, we have been exploring the art and love of reading in the post on How to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity

Here are some other relevant posts on Quiet Writing on books and reading:

“You are the authority on you” – a review of Danielle LaPorte’s White Hot Truth

Reading Australian Women Writers in 2017

Being ‘Fierce on the Page’ – A Book Review

My Tarot Narratives on Instagram have continued to be a rich source of inspiration and insight for my creative journey. Thanks for all the creative interactions. Thomas Moore’s SoulMates keeps popping up lately. Here was a key quote that emerged:

I’m not suggesting that all psychological experience is interior, but it’s clear that the dynamics, dramas, and characters of the individual soul play themselves out in the external world, so that relationship is always a dialectic between inner and outer, a dance between actual people and one’s own life of the soul.

Have a fabulous creative weekend!

Creative and Connected is a regular post each Friday and the previous posts are below. I hope you enjoy it. I would love any feedback via social media or comments and let me know what you are enjoying too.

Feature image via pexels.com

Image 2 of ‘Compartment C, Car 193‘ 1938, by Edward Hopper, in Edward Hopper by Rolf Gunter Renner, Taschen

Image 4 of ‘The Quiet Room’ c1929by Sir George Clausen from ‘The Reading Woman’ Calendar 2017

Keep in touch

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017. This includes MBTI developments, coaching, creativity and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world. My free e-book on the books that have shaped my story is coming soon for subscribers only – so sign up to be the first to receive it!

Quiet Writing is on Facebook – Please visit here and ‘Like’ to keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community. There are regular posts on intuition, influence, creativity, productivity, writing, voice, introversion and personality including Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Creative and Connected #8 – ways to honour your unique life blend

Creative and Connected #7 – how to craft a successful life on your own terms

Creative and Connected #6 – how to be a creative entrepreneur

Creative and Connected #5 – being accountable to ourselves and others

inspiration & influence planning & productivity reading notes

How to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity

August 7, 2017

reading

People have asked me how I get so much reading done. Here are my strategies for how to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity.

On Quiet Writing, we share the threads that tie our wholehearted stories together. They can be passions, skills, values – anything we go back to over and over again in different ways.

One of the key golden threads that ties my story together is reading and a passionate love of books. My life has been a mosaic of loving reading, learning about it, teaching it and sharing this love with others.

In this post, I share my reading story and background in teaching reading and sharing its joys and skills. I reflect on my current approaches, providing strategies for reading more broadly and effectively for creative purposes and pleasure.

My reading story

I wrote in my last Creative and Connected about our unique blend and how the skills and experience we bring together make up our onlyness and contribution to the world. When I reflect on my onlyness, the art of reading, teaching people to read at and sharing this love shines out.

As a child I always loved books. I can remember being at school in Year 1 reading a story about The Cutty Sark. It’s my first memory of being a fluent, independent reader. I grew up in a house full of books and my father was an avid reader. On holidays, I can remember him reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and The Source by James A Michener. He read Australian classics to me when I was young – Blinky Bill and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and those stories still resonate.

Read

I excelled at English, especially exploring books deeply and writing essays about them. I was headed for a career in journalism and communications but was put off by the more extraverted side of this. So I studied English and Education instead, enabling me to develop my love of reading and literature and also learn to share it. I studied primary education and focused on literacy. My Honours year featured research on literacy and language structures in early readers and whether they encouraged children to enjoy reading. I also researched the poetic reading experience and whether educators fostered a love of reading poetry.

Later, I completed a Diploma in Adult Education specialising in literacy. This focused on adults who had missed out on the ability to read and write well in their first language or who needed to learn it in English as another language. For nearly 20 years I taught in this field, teaching everything from how to read signs to working with apprentices on their trade courses to teaching speed reading and reading for tertiary and academic purposes. I gained a Masters in Language and Literacy specialising in English for Speakers of Other Languages where I learnt all about genre and social contexts.

Then, I became a leader in adult vocational education including working on strategic policy and advising Ministers and Government. My reading was all policy documents, reports, media and many emails! I also read about leadership, mentoring, competencies of leadership and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as I built my leadership and self-leadership skills especially as an introvert.

And through all this time, I read for more personal enjoyment: for pleasure, for information and for productivity. I love to mix reading novels with reading that is more about personal development, learning and knowledge. Being an INTJ Myers-Briggs Type, Introverted Intuition is a dominant function. The ideas and symbols from books are a central organising principle in both my inner and outer life with pretty much everything stemming from that quiet reading time.

The many skills of being able to read

As my background shows, there are many skills of being able to read and many ways in which it plays out. Here are just some examples:

  • functional reading – to get around and meet the basic needs of society
  • content reading – reading for vocational areas, for a purpose such as a course
  • reading for pleasure – focused on the pure experience and enjoyment of reading and books
  • reading for information – reading to research, gain ideas, summarise, scan and skim
  • academic reading – skills of reading literature and articles to summarise, argue a point, write an essay and come up with something new
  • reading for social media – scanning, reviewing, liking, responding, connecting, visual reading
  • reading for strategic purposes – policy, strategy, positioning, influencing, persuasion

And the truth is, we often mix them up to suit our reading purpose.

There’s also a kind of reading linked to creativity and productivity and ‘reading like a writer’. It’s something I am finding myself thinking about as I step into more fully embracing my writing life. It’s as if we need to bring all the many skills of being able to read together and apply them in a new way. This is especially so in this environment of social media and technological choices around how we read. So what does it mean to ‘read like a writer’?

read

Reading like a writer

Novelist V E Schwab takes the role of reading seriously in her job as a writer. In an interview on Caroline Donahue’s The Secret Library Podcast, she says:

About two/three years ago, I decided I wasn’t reading enough. I was really busy and I couldn’t find time…At the beginning of the interview I said “it’s not about finding time, it’s about making it.” And I realised that reading is a fundamental part of my job and not just in the, “Oh I need to know what else is selling and what else on the shelves.” It’s a fundamental part of becoming a better writer…”

V E Schwab describes a ‘story monster’ that lives inside her chest and the more stories she takes in, the cleverer it gets. The story monster provides intuitive guidance when writing, like a barometer, enabling her to feel the story. Reading broadly is the best way to ‘feed’ the story monster, and is a critical input into the writing process. She explains:

So I decided that reading needed to be treated like any other part of my job and needed to be something that I made time for, a commitment. And so I set out to read one hundred books a year. I always have one paperback, I always have an e-book and I always have an audiobook….I’m continually accompanied by narratives….It’s still difficult, I still have to work at it…but I’m just committed to it.

You can read V E Schwab’s summary of her year in reading for 2016 here. This interview and her committed approach to reading made me think about my own practices. It really helped me to hone my thinking about the various reading skills we bring into play, how we can vary our reading for creativity, pleasure and productivity and read like a writer.

read

 

How to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity

Some of the hallmarks of reading for more creativity, pleasure and productivity including reading like a writer include: setting a target, accountability, variety, intent, making the most of the opportunity to read and making time.

Here are some strategies for reading for more creativity, pleasure and productivity. They are based on my knowledge and experience as well as tips from other committed readers including V E Schwab, Joanna Penn, Gabriella Pereira and Nick Hornby:

1 Read across different book formats

In line with V E Schwab’s strategy, read across book formats – hard copy, ebook and audiobook. I find I read differently and choose specific types of books for each format.  I tend to use ebooks when I want to really study a book and make electronic highlights and notes. I’m listening to audiobooks on writing techniques and business for authors. And I like to relax and read for pleasure with the hard copy of a book in my hand. You can autosynch between devices including between ebook and audiobook. You might decide to go pretty well all digital as Joanna Penn has done. Find out what you like to read and how and mix it up!

2 Make time for reading

All the committed readers I know including myself make time for reading. They don’t watch a lot of television or they get rid of the TV altogether. Or they get used to reading with distractions! Social media is another time waster that takes away our reading time, so monitor that carefully. Find a way to weave reading into activities like driving and walking via audio books. It’s simply a case of committing to reading more and putting the strategies in place to make it happen.

3 Commit to reading goals for the year

One strategy that helps is to set a reading goal for the year such as 100 books a year as V E Schwab has done. You can also join book clubs or reading challenges with goals such as the Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge I have participated in over a number of years. I’m aiming to read 52 books this year. I know I need to be more organised in tracking my progress to this goal. I’m also aware I do a lot of reading that is not related to completing a book, but it’s still a goal worth shooting for or extending beyond.

4 Be accountable to your reading goals

Once you’ve set the goal, be accountable to it. My Creative and Connected posts each week are an opportunity to check in on my reading. It’s amazing how quickly the week rolls around and just being accountable keeps me focused. I could perhaps include a goal and tracking in my Creative and Connected post as a way of keeping an eye on progress and being more accountable. You can also keep track of your reading via Goodreads.

5 Read more than one book at a time

Probably one of the big changes in my reading habits is that I no longer read one book at a time. Reading across different formats has helped to break this limiting way of thinking. I’m now reading about 4 or 5 books at once. I read across formats depending on the circumstances. And I can pick up the book that best suits the time I have – like reading to relax at the end of the day rather than speeding up the mind with ideas. It might not be for everyone and there are times when you might want to read one book at a time, but it’s worth experimenting with.

6 Read across genres (mix it up)

Linked to both #1 and #5 is reading across genres and across fiction and non-fiction. There’s a fabulous list of genres here. V E Schwab reminds us of the value of reading broadly. If you’re writing a novel, read both inside and outside the genre you are writing in for new perspectives. If you like historical fiction, read the occasional fantasy novel. Have both fiction and non-fiction books on the go at once so you can choose what suits the moment best. Even if you love literary fiction, have lighter novels available to you so you can keep reading when you are not quite up to the more intense read.

7 Stop reading a book you don’t like 

Another habit I’ve learnt to break is feeling that I need to finish a book even if I don’t like it. Nick Hornby in Stuff I’ve Been Reading says: “Read what you enjoy, not what bores you.” And in The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, he says of a boring book: “Please, please: put it down. You’ll never finish it. Start something else.” It’s good advice. It only slows you down and wastes your time.

8 Read actively: highlight, take notes, make reading lists

Reading actively helps keep you engaged so highlight, underline and take notes. Ebook options make it easy to highlight electronically and keep these documents as a single record. I keep notes in a large Moleskine journal too if I am reviewing a book, such as when I wrote about White Hot Truth. This more intensive reading can be time-consuming but it rewards you many times over in return as you engage deeply with an author’s message. In DIY MFA, Gabriela Pereira suggests actively making reading lists just as you would in a formal MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program.

9 Share your reading experiences

Share your reading experiences whether it be on Instagram, your blog or on Goodreads. Write reviews, share quotes, celebrate your library, participate in reading challenges, blog about genres that you love and why. Through my daily Tarot Narrative, I link books to a tarot story for the day which helps me to revisit the books in my library and share value from them. Others are appreciating this connection! Social media has been such a boon for sharing reading experiences, finding out about new books and reminding us of what we love.

10 Read like a writer

Gabriela Pereira in DIY MFA says that “Reading like a writer is like trying to figure out how a magician performs his tricks.” V E Schwab suggests a similar view on this when she talks about her ‘story monster’. It’s really about getting behind the scenes, under the hood and getting a feel for the narrative or structure of non-fiction. As Pereira goes onto say:

Because the moment you figure out how the author pulled off her trick, you’ll be able to start applying it to your own work.

11 Read about reading 

And finally, read about reading and take the time to reflect on your reading journey just as I have done here. Seek out books that help you take a meta view of your reading patterns and skills and how to extend them. Connect with those that seek to spread the pleasure and joy of reading through reviews and sharing information about books.

I’m preparing two special reads about reading coming soon:

  • Creative and Connected this Friday will feature a round up of books about reading and celebrating reading: the art, history, process and joy of it. So look out for that!
  • I’m working on a free ebook on reading as creative influence. It’s about the books that have influenced my story, so sign up to Quiet Writing to be the first to receive it once it’s released this month! Just pop your email in the box on the right.

And whilst I’ve talked about reading more in some ways, it’s not always about quantity. Reading more creatively, productively and enjoying it is always a valuable goal, regardless of volume. A message that resonated in my recent coaching training is to honour our spend, making sure we carve out space to apply what we read and implement the knowledge.

Thanks for reading. I hope this has been useful and of interest.  

Share your thoughts on how you read more or differently for reading, creativity and pleasure – would love to hear! You can respond via the Comments here or on Facebook.

read

inspiration & influence reading notes

“You are the authority on you” – a review of Danielle LaPorte’s ‘White Hot Truth’

April 4, 2017

white hot truth

 

“I’m a seeker who writes about what I find. And maybe, on just the right day, I can help you flatten your learning curve. If I’ve got anything to say, it’s this: you are the authority on you.”
Danielle LaPorte – White Hot Truth: Clarity for keeping it real on your spiritual path from one seeker to another

I am a huge fan of Danielle LaPorte. I love her clear, crisp, grounded, heart-filled way of talking and thinking. Her work is concurrently suffused with spirit and light whilst being grounded in experience and day to day living.

She speaks directly to my heart, and I’ve been listening for nearly 10 years now since I first came across her work when I was somewhat completely brought to my knees with the open-hearted surgery that is grief.

Back then, Danielle’s web-site was called White Hot Truth, something I needed at a time when each day had the consistency of mud I tried to swim through. “Yes, I’ll have some of that ‘White Hot Truth’ please“. I read and followed, a gentle disciple of the heart, as Danielle spoke to me of hope and self-compassion.

I’ve since followed her work and when I saw that White Hot Truth was coming back in another form as a book, I signed up to read ahead, review and be part of the ‘White Hot Truth’ launch team. I knew from experience this would be something very special, a honed diamond sparkling its message for me and others to catch.

The light in White Hot Truth

White Hot Truth is this diamond, each chapter a facet of light, grounded in a memoir-kind of reflection, distilling experience that heads straight for the heart. I alternated between reading on-screen and listening to Danielle’s voice via the audiobook. This made the reading process all the richer as I shifted between my voice engaging directly with the words, and Danielle’s voice reading her own.

The book traverses so many realms – it’s deep and wide but its terrain is clear and sweeps away any barriers to understanding in its path. The essence of the book is to become aware of the lies or unhelpful blocks that may have found their way into our trusting hearts including the “really big lies” of inadequacy, authority and affiliation. And to recognise that we are able to take in so much influence and so many ideas and still be the authority on ourselves, the one to make the decisions with wisdom, the one to set boundaries with an open heart.

Some quotes from White Hot Truth

Danielle draws from wide sources to find the most perfect quotes to place strategically. And then sprinkled through like stars sending their energy through the text, there are Danielle’s own quotable quotes and truthbombs.

A few of my favourites of so many I have highlighted:

On flow: “It was too much flow and not enough restraint. I was a river in need of some riverbanks.”

On forgiveness: “The heart runs on its own clock, untethered from calendar days or years.”

On self-help: “The best self-help is self-compassion.”

On approval: “Working for approval takes up a lot of energy, and it can be a huge distraction from seeing the gifts that you already hold in your hands.”

Wisdom, paradox and authenticity in White Hot Truth

A key piece of wisdom threaded through-out is that of paradox. White Hot Truth shows how with clarity, you can take both perspectives and find a path. For example, you can lead with your heart and your head. You don’t have to choose. How many of us have shut down one side of the equation because we fear losing the other, when really it’s a false dichotomy. I know I have. This book opens up paradox as a kind of wisdom.

I read White Hot Truth concurrently with Marrow by Elizabeth Lesser. In Marrow, Elizabeth talks about ‘Authenticity Deficit Disorder’, how we tiptoe around those things we really want to say or be, those things that really matter as we go through our days. It seems that sometimes it takes a tragedy, serious illness or terrible grief to make us go there to the marrow. And even then we can manage to side step it.

In White Hot Truth, Danielle speaks directly, supporting us to honour our authenticity and love who and what we are. She encourages us to recognise where we may have inadvertently blunted our ability to cut through. She shows us how to speak up without fear, through being a voice and model for how to speak up.

Being real and who we are as influence

Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening talks about the energy of being real, of ‘mana’, of the extraordinary power of being who we are to influence others:

In this way, without any intent to shape others, we simply have to be authentic, and a sense of ‘mana’, of spiritual light and warmth, will emanate from our souls, causing others to grow – not towards us, but towards the light that moves through us.

White Hot Truth made me smile with recognition and more than once, I held my heart as my eyes filled with tears as something broke through, probably self-compassion.

At times laugh-out-loud funny, other times shocking and sobering, it’s a ball of bright authentic light offered as a guide from one seeker to another to illuminate our path. I’m so grateful for its warm and passionate influence. Like ‘The Hierophant’ card in tarot, this book is a teacher and a reminder that:

….we are not alone; we can actually take someone else’s advice and methods and recast them to meet our own needs

Playing with Symbols, Monicka Clio Sakki

In fact White Hot Truth encourages us to do exactly that and for you to be the authority on you. I know it will shape and guide my own inspired path now and for years to come.

Review and Publication notes:

White Hot Truth will be published on 16 May 2017 and is available on pre-order. Because I am part of the White Hot Truth Launch Team, I got the advanced digital copy. You can get a chance to listen to the book before it’s in stores with the free audio book. Find out how here: daniellelaporte.com/whitehottruth/

Keep in touch

Quiet Writing is on Facebook – Please visit here and ‘Liketo keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community. There are regular posts on books, tarot, intuition, influence, passion, creativity, productivity, writing, voice, introversion and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top and below) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017. This includes tarot, MBTI developments, coaching and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world. New special offers coming soon including a limited number of pro-bono coaching opportunities.

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Influence, gratitude and choosing to shine – Danielle LaPorte

white hot

creativity inspiration & influence reading notes

Influence, gratitude and choosing to shine – Danielle LaPorte

February 25, 2017

A combination of influences helps us shine and sing our unique song. It was a pleasure to meet one of my shining stars of influence, Danielle LaPorte.

Influence over time

I have been following Danielle for some time now. After my brother’s death in 2007, the world turned upside-down and I was searching for meaning in many places including online.

I came across Danielle LaPorte through her book, Style Statement co-authored with Carrie McCarthy. I worked through the book assiduously and explored Danielle’s online presence at her website then called White Hot Truth.

 

Danielle LaPorte books

Through this work, I learned to better understand my key style drivers, my passions, what makes me tick, why I like what I like, why it’s important and how to cut through the restrictive perceptions that hold me back.

The entrepreneurship product The Firestarter Sessions appeared not long after, a guide for soulful guide to creating success that I dived into. What inspiration: white hot truth, passions, success on your own terms, entrepreneurship.

For the Sacred Creative type that I found myself to be from working through ‘Style Statement’, this was exciting, revolutionary and passionate material.

Advice I love:

Here is some of the advice from Danielle that I have loved over the years:

About Going with the flow:

Going with the flow isn’t about being passive or lazy. It’s not about just letting things happen “to you”. It’s not aimless wandering. It’s a co-creative act.

“The flow” is the ocean of cosmic intelligence. It’s the substance that carries the whole shebang. The flow is life energy itself.

Going with the flow is responding to cues from the universe.

When you go with the flow, you’re surfing Life force. It’s about wakeful trust and total collaboration with what’s showing up for you.

And from The suck factor of life balance, + passion as a cure to stress: one of my all-time favourite posts which questions the notion of work/life balance:

This is not a balanced life. But it works. And the more I pursue my passions, the more uncomplicated my life gets, actually. There’s not much in my life that I resent. And if resentment builds, I’m swift to get it off my plate. It’s not the imbalance-ness that stresses me, it’s doing meaningless things that aren’t taking me where I want to go.

Given passion is my word of the year – I need to be going back to this one and apply it. Perhaps stick the post on the wall or somewhere I can see it as a reminder! It’s all about the passion.

And this pure gem from Bag your Boundaries

You can protect yourself and be open-hearted.

Well yay to that! I so love that fresh, pure and direct thinking. I need to keep listening, going back to it and applying it like a salve.

The Desire Map and Core Desired Feelings

I’ve worked through the brilliance of The Desire Map and identified my Core Desired Feelings to help clarify my focus. It’s all about getting what you most want by defining how you want to feel as the roadmap.

I included my Core Desired Feelings in my Welcome to Quiet Writing as the summary of my passions and focus and how I want to feel:

Core Desired Feelings

And as I am writing this, I am realising more why passion is my word of the year. It underlies all of this and the clues as to how to get there: setting boundaries, being open, with working out how I want to feel as the guide. I need to be driven by passion not concepts of work life/balance and yes, I can both protect myself and be open-hearted. And not be afraid to be revolutionary in what I think and how I work.

Danielle comes to Sydney and I’m listening

So when I heard Danielle was coming to Sydney with the support of the Wake-Up Project, I signed up straight away for the opportunity to hear and see her live. Months went by and then the day came. Australian musician, Clare Bowditch, kicked off the night with her own brand of big-hearted music, creativity and fun with all of us soon singing and finding our collective voice.

Then Danielle stepped onto the stage to be her own kind of magic. That is what I love about her – she is her own person, unique, authentic, revolutionary and hard to define – and she encourages us to be the same.

The most amazing thing was how Danielle held the stage and the space with her presence and pure connection with the audience. After some initial thoughts, she encouraged us to give her a word, a thought and then would riff on that. It was like a musical experience, flowing, creative, focused and wise.

I was too busy listening and focusing to take lots of notes but here are some insights.

Key takeaways and riffing thoughts:

Setting boundaries vs barriers

Just as the quote above about openness and boundaries reminds us: it’s OK to set boundaries and they don’t need to be barriers. They are an act of self-compassion in a world where so much is being asked of our energy. To be there for others, we need to be looking after ourselves and setting clear boundaries is part of that. It’s saying things like: “This is OK, that is not OK.” “I’m making this space and time to do this writing/walking/xxxx.” “I’m not doing that/going there because it’s toxic/not working for me/is a waste of time.”

In setting boundaries, the mental fog goes away and we are rooted in self-love and self-compassion. And we can focus.

Memorable thought from the night:

Unbotherability is the fruit of the spirit.

Loving yourself may look unloving to others

Danielle talked about three key lies and from ‘Leaving the church of self-improvement‘ they are:

The Lie of Inadequacy: You were born not quite good enough.

The Lie of Authority: Outside authority validates your worth.

The Lie of Affiliation: Groupthink is good think.

Things we tell ourselves may run ourselves down. Things others tell us, the influences of church and state, may mean we act on what others may think, want or demand of us, if unspoken. Acting on our own truth and self-love may look unloving but it’s what we need to do for authenticity and to get our work done.

Self-compassion

Feel the pain and keep showing up. It’s about befriending pain and weakness, being kinder to ourselves and not letting that stop our work in the world. It’s being supportive of our own work and creativity and how it’s forming in us. Like thinking about what we say when we speak to ourselves looking in the mirror. And honouring the need to keep showing up – keeping blogging, writing that draft, working that intuition, connecting with others. And then showing up.

Having goals with soul and our Core Desired Feelings as an anchor

How we go about pursuing things really changes when we work from passion and what we really want.

Memorable thought from the night:

You can’t fight your way to peace.

Core Desired Feelings guide how we work as well as what we are aiming for, with the process and end result aligned.

Being present vs narcissism

Be present, generous with our time and listen. Have a beginner’s mind. Have a prodigal relationship with our own reality – get back to what really matters and counts.

Memorable thought from the night:

There’s an epidemic of women being boundaryless.

Narcissism is a disease of self-worth; being present and having a beginner’s mind is the opposite of narcissism.

Forgiveness

You can’t force forgiveness. It’s more about acknowledging the divine and the consciousness of the other person. That’s something I can work with. More thoughts on that here: What if forgiveness isn’t about forgiving.

Shining light

And then afterwards I got to meet Danielle. We smiled together. She signed my precious dog-eared, worked-through ‘Desire Map’ book. Feeling such a fan-girl, I said, “It’s such a pleasure to meet you!” She noted that my book was an old one and I had been around for a while.

That’s so true. There was so much more I wanted to say but being the introvert that I am, the words don’t always come straight away as I would like them, it’s usually later.

On Instagram afterwards, Danielle puts up an awesome post about people slipping her notes and cards after gigs that she reads them later, usually on a plane. That’s such a beautiful idea for an introvert like me who needs time to think and show gratitude in words, ideally by writing.

And she says:

And I cry. The notes from mothers telling me about their daughters reading my stuff (and how the mom had never heard of me before), those notes slay me. I’m really truly deeply grateful for the gratitude. ▪️ And, my perspective: someone making a change because of something I said/wrote…has microscopically little to do with me and epically everything to do with them. It’s all timing and choice. And courage. It’s all you, babe. All you.

So now, with a little more time, I say:

Thanks Danielle for the clarity, over and over, about myself and my soul goals. You’ve helped me work through them and keep in touch with them over a tough time when I struggled to know myself and my path. And you practically help me to focus each day with my core desired feelings especially now as I transition to a new business and life.

You’ve given me that strategy for passion that a Queen of Swords, INTJ type of girl needs. Though I think anyone really can work better from their passion and authenticity if they really understand it. And that’s become my passion now as I make a new start: working with others to understand their influence and voice their passion and authenticity in the world. And you are so right – it is all about timing, choice, courage, boundaries and self-compassion. This is the time. So thank you for your light to shine the way so I can choose to shine. Terri xx

And some final reflective takeaways

You can be an introvert + express feelings and gratitude.

Find ways to express it that work for you: being more prepared, thinking ahead, notes, cards, blog posts, personal messages.

I need to thank others more for their influence and light to shine my own.

Try and write shorter snappier blog posts – at least sometimes 🙂

Danielle LaPorte and me

Keep in touch

Quiet Writing is now on Facebook – Please visit here and ‘Like’ to keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community. There are regular posts on influence, passion, creativity, productivity, writing, voice, intuition, introversion, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and tarot!

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top and below) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017. This includes MBTI developments, coaching and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world. New opportunities coming soon!

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Passion: 17 inspiring quotes on doing what you love

Overwhelm, intuition and thinking

Lyrebird: spirit animal for Quiet Writing

inspiration & influence reading notes

Reading Australian women writers in 2017

February 6, 2017

Working out what to read next is always a challenge. But books by Australian women writers are always on my mind and that’s in no small measure due to the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

It’s the sixth year of the Australian Women Writers Challenge and it has done much to change the face of how Australian women’s writing is seen and celebrated.  The challenge is part of a world-wide movement to raise awareness of excellent writing by women, helping readers to “challenge the subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read.”

The challenge was started in 2012 by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to gender imbalance in books reviewed, in reading preferences and choices and in award representation. It has created a groundswell of readers, reviewers and bloggers making a conscious choice to read, review, recommend and celebrate books written by Australian women.

Promoting Australian women’s writing

I participate to help promote Australian women’s writing. The challenge overall has resulted in thousands of Australian women writers’ books being read and reviewed. It’s led to increased national and international recognition of the initiative’s achievements, built slowly over time. 

The challenge has made me keep my antenna up about Australian women writers’ successes, awards and commendations. The Australian Women Writers Challenge connects with other movements aiming to raise awareness of writing by women – VIDA Women in Literary ArtsThe Stella Prize and #readwomen on twitter celebrating women’s writing. I’m proud to be a Stella Sparks supporter, this year highlighting the impact of nonfiction writing by women on Australian culture and society.

It’s always so fabulous to see Australian women writers succeeding locally and on the world stage including seeing their stories made into movies. Think ‘The Light Between Oceans’ and ‘The Dressmaker’ in recent times.

My experience with the challenge

It was natural for me to want to engage with this challenge from the start.  I have a great love of Australian women’s writing. My Australian literature bookshelf is about 80% women writers. This passion developed naturally during my university literature studies and has endured. It’s my history and lineage.  They are not the only writers I enjoy, but they are the writers closest to my experience with all the local references, influences and language especially as it relates to women.

I also want to contribute to the legacy of writing by Australian women into the future. The challenge has kept my writing heart alive and is an inspiration as I read. It’s a message too that I am also able to write and create, express my stories and find space for my narratives in whatever form. As my heritage, it’s where I can find linkage, possibilities and a springboard for creating.

What’s in it for participants?

I’ve signed up again in 2017 because it’s now an integral part of my reading choices. I continue to be inspired and excited by Australian women’s writing. There are so many Australian women writers’ works I simply would not have noticed or enjoyed if not for the challenge.

Many of these books were picked up because I was looking for Australian women writers in libraries, bookshops and online. I possibly would not have read ‘The Light Between Oceans’, ‘Poet’s Cottage’, ‘The Longing’ or ‘Claustrophobia’ if not for the challenge. These have become some of my favourite reading experiences over the years.

I have deliberately read across genres and the challenge has contributed to my enjoyment of the beautifully science fiction inspired, ‘When We Have Wings’, the Celtic fantasy world of ‘Sea Hearts’ and the weaving medieval narrative of ‘The Scrivener’s Tale’.

I’ve been more aware and excited when Australian women writers have been nominated, short-listed and won awards for their books. And I’ve sought out the books to see why they were celebrated in their achievements, especially ‘Questions of Travel’, ‘Burial Rites’, ‘Mateship with Birds’, ‘All the Birds, Singing’ and ‘The Natural Way of Things.’

How I’ve participated and what I’ve read over the years

In terms of participation, my reading lists are not enormous – around 6 to 7 books a year. (Some participants would have read this many books already this year – at least!) I’ve engaged with the AWW community via social media, tweeting and blogging and contributing in that way. I’ve made some great online connections with Australian women writers and readers. This has enriched my reading life and extended beyond it.

Last year, my reading attention was elsewhere and my AWW focus was a bit light on, so I am keen to engage more in 2017.  I also hope to do better with the reviewing side this year.

Here’s my reading list so far over the past 5 years of the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge:

2012:
Searching for the Secret River: A Writing Memoir – Kate Grenville
Sarah Thornhill – Kate Grenville
When We Have Wings – Claire Corbett
The Light Between Oceans – M L Stedman
Poet’s Cottage – Josephine Pennicott
The Engagement – Chloe Hooper
Disquiet – Julia Leigh

2013:
Fishing for Tigers – Emily Maguire
Sea Hearts – Margo Lanagan
Sydney – Delia Falconer
The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton
The Scrivener’s Tale – Fiona McIntosh
The Longing – Candice Bruce

2014:
Questions of Travel – Michelle de Kretser
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
Mateship with Birds – Carrie Tiffany
Currawong Manor – Josephine Pennicott
The Fictional Woman – Tara Moss
Claustrophobia – Tracy Ryan
All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

2015:
The Golden Age – Joan London
The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka – Clare Wright
Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty
A Short History of Richard Kline – Amanda Lohrey
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
The Lake House – Kate Morton

2016:
One Life – Kate Grenville
The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

It’s been a rich journey and I encourage you to seek out the voices of women writers that excite and sustain you wherever they may be.

What am I planning to read (and review) in 2017?

My list so far for 2017 includes:

The Good People – Hannah Kent
Indelible Ink – Fiona McGregor
Speaking Out – Tara Moss
The Wife Drought – Annabel Crabb
Resilience – Anne Deveson

This year has a special focus on classics and forgotten Australian women writers. Readers are encouraged to review one or two classics, including books “that might once have been popular but which have now fallen out of favour.”  A classics Bingo card will soon be released to encourage people to read books from various decades.

This post, ‘100 Years of Australian Women’s writing online’, outlines the significant efforts to collate digital archives and documents to support the challenge. Elizabeth Lhuede is compiling a list of digital archives and downloads, finding many more classic and forgotten books online than anticipated. So much richness is to be found there!

To find out more about the challenge:

If you want to know about the background to the challenge, you can read about it hereAnd you can sign up for 2017 hereYou can participate to whatever level you can manage and there’s no ‘failing’, just doing what you can (as I do!).

The AWW reading and writing community is generous, diverse and inspiring. You can connect via the blog, through twitter @AusWomenWriters or hashtag #AWW2017, via the vibrant Facebook community or through Goodreads. There are readers, writers and reviewers from all walks of life reading so diversely and widely. The consolidated reviews are excellent and highlight the work of AWW readers and writers across all genres. 

The pleasures and learning are immense, raising awareness of reading choices and celebrating narratives and works by Australian women. It inspires women to find their voice through reading the voices of others. It’s no light-weight endeavour. These are the voices of creative possibilities and I treasure them.

I look forward to another year of reading books by Australian women writers. I hope you’ll join the challenge and connect with the community to inform your reading choices. And a special thanks to Elizabeth Lhuede for initiating the challenge and continuing the leadership of its evolution in 2017. I, for one, am so appreciative.

Thought pieces:

This Stella Prize podcast ‘Winning Women’ features a conversation between Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner Eimear McBride and 2016 Stella Prize winner Charlotte Wood. It’s a riveting and rich discussion on the work of both writers and gender in writing.

Via the Sydney Writers’ Festival Instagram account and Charlotte Wood, last year’s Stella Prize winner, some inspiring words to finish:

Upon receiving the 2016 Stella Prize, #CharlotteWood recited her five reasons to keep #writing, penned when she considered quitting.
1. To make something beautiful. Beauty does not have to mean prettiness, but can emerge from the scope of one’s imagination, the precision of one’s words, the steadiness and honesty of one’s gaze.
2. To make something truthful.
3. To make use of what you have and who you are. Even a limited talent brings an obligation to explore it, develop it, exercise it, be grateful for it.
4. To make, at all. To create is to defy emptiness. It is generous, it affirms. To make is to add to the world, not subtract from it. It enlarges, does not diminish.
5. Because as Iris Murdoch said, paying attention is a moral act. To write truthfully is to honour the luck and the intricate detail of being alive.

Keep in touch

Quiet Writing is now on Facebook so please visit here and ‘Liketo keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community. There are regular posts on creativity, productivity, writing, voice, intuition, introversion, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), tarot and books.

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top and below) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017 – including MBTI developments and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world.

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

reading notes writing

Being ‘Fierce on the Page’ – a book review

October 9, 2016

Fierce on the Page: Become the writer you were meant to be and succeed on your own terms’ by Sage Cohen, Writer’s Digest Books

Fierce on the Page - book cover

I first came across Sage Cohen through her book Writing the Life Poetic which focuses on building poetic voice and putting poetry back into our everyday lives. I also had the opportunity of working on my poetry through Sage’s online classes a few years back. From these experiences, I come to Sage’s works on writing with high expectations of both a pleasurable reading experience and wise, practical advice.

And I am never disappointed. ‘Fierce on the Page’ is a rare and rich read, structured as a series of 75 reflective essays that offer strategies, perspectives and practices to encourage ferocity in writing and in life.

Sage defines ferocity and the fierce writer in her introduction:

The fierce writer ensures that the time and energy she invests in her craft pays dividends of insight and evolution. The fierce writer discovers how to come into his alignment with his authority, leverage his interests, and honour his rhythms, to become the truest instrument of his craft.

From page one of the first essay, ‘You Are Your Best Expert’, I was lulled by Sage’s reassuring voice telling me stories and building on these to make connections. The essays provide a path to navigate the way into writing and into progressing through many aspects of its craft and life.

Each contemplative essay is so thought-provoking. My copy is now full of underlining, connections and possible creations sparked by the reading experience. Sage’s practical business writing background is also woven through the pages. There is a blend of wisdom honed from writing experience of all kinds, along with a grounded sense of what works to bring forward new possibilities and how productivity can be enhanced.

Some of the key strengths of ‘Fierce on the Page’ for me are:

  1. Its associative approach: There is an energy of association underlying each essay. An anecdote or story is told or an experience recounted. These reflections then form the basis of the essay. It’s an evocative reading experience as you are folded into each idea and its applications evolve. This associative approach lends a wise felt experience that makes it easy to engage on a very deep level.
  2. The structure of each essay: Each essay builds from its opening to a realisation or discovery and then a practical application. From there, we are given suggested strategies to apply and questions to dive into to enable us to ‘be fierce’ in our writing endeavours. Woven into this are quotes and references from other creatives that provide prompts and shifts to our perspective.
  3. The poetic language of discovery: As each essay reaches moments where the connections and realisations are crystallised, the language likewise reaches a quiet crescendo of feeling. The learning is expressed sensitively and enacted directly, as with the language of poetry. The images and associations created from this narrative approach make the reading experience lived and heartfelt.

For example, in ‘Write Your Manifesto’, essay #55:

I have come to accept that the writing life is expansive enough to hold my many refractions, and that these add up to the whole of what I have to give.”

In ‘A Bug’s Life, A Writer’s Life’, essay #58:

When you are at an impasse of transition, and your next steps are unclear, follow the words. Trust the words. Trust the cliffs, the canyons, the face flowers. Trust your disorientation and your sense of direction. Trust what you find and don’t find. The shadow gives shape to light. These are your stories. The dance of interdependence is a hum of words.

In ‘Get to the Place of Grace’, essay #63:

Whatever it means to you in your life and your writing, be on the lookout for that lift-off in your words and that landing in your being. Hone your attention to the place of grace where you can feel, know and trust that you and your piece of writing have completed your journey.

Sage’s reminds us that: ‘You have everything you need—and you are everything you need—to do the writing you want to do’. These words provide the gentle encouragement many of us need to begin, to continue or to start up where we left off.

I encourage you to seek out the wisdom and practicality of ‘Fierce on the Page’ as a support in engaging in quiet, resilient writing and in succeeding in where you want to be in your writing. Sage’s books are always on my desk as talismans of encouragement and practice. This special book will stay close at hand, gaining more comments and underlining over the years, as I seek to apply its messages and be fierce with my own writing and life.

Master the Margins

Thought pieces:

You can visit Sage Cohen’s Fierce on the Page website for more information including a community page to share thoughts from the practical exercises in the book.

The interview Mantu Joshi on Writing and Living Fierce is an inspiring example and shows the power and outcomes that can come from living out fierce and committed writing strategies. In this case, it resulted in a book on resilient parenting, written two hours a week over two years.

Other books on writing by Sage Cohen that I recommend are:

Writing the Life Poetic – an invitation to read and write poetry; fabulous for re-engaging with the spirit of poetry in your life.

The Productive Writer – practical strategies and thought processes to increase your productivity and move from ideas to action and outcomes in your writing life. I’ve written a book review of The Productive Writer which you can find here.

inspiration & influence reading notes

Reflections on reading Australian women writers

March 8, 2015


It’s International Women’s Day and I’m sitting here on a sunny Sydney Sunday listening to women’s music on the radio – flipping between Double J and Triple J – and thinking about reading Australian women writers.

It’s my fourth year of participating in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge and I thought I’d take a few minutes on this IWD to reflect on my experience of reading Australian Women Writers via the challenge.

The challenge is about enjoying, supporting, sharing and promoting Australian women’s writing. If you want to know about the challenge, you can read more about it here: Background to the Challenge. And you can sign up for 2015 here: Sign up to the Challenge.

aww-badge-2015

Started by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to gender imbalance in books reviewed, in reading preferences and choices and in award representation, the challenge has created a groundswell of readers, reviewers, bloggers and tweeters making a conscious choice to read, review, communicate about and celebrate books written by Australian women.

Now in its fourth year, the challenge has resulted in thousands of Australian women writers’ books being read and reviewed and national and international recognition of its quiet achievements.

As the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge blog states:

The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is part of a world-wide movement to raise awareness of excellent writing by women. It helps readers to challenge the subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read.

I’ve signed up again in 2015 because it’s now an integral part of my reading choices and I continue to be inspired and excited by Australian women’s writing. I’ve enjoyed diverse reads over 2012 to 2014. There are so many Australian women writers’ works I simply would not have noticed or enjoyed if not for the challenge.

The challenge has made me seek out new Australian women writers, revisit writers I’ve enjoyed and kept my antenna up about their successes, awards and commendations within the circle of women’s writing and beyond.

It’s kept my writing heart alive and is an inspiration as I read; a message that I am also able to write and create, express my stories and find space for my narratives in whatever form. As my heritage, it’s where I can find linkage, possibilities and a springboard for creating. I’ve written about that here and here adding my voice to the space.

In terms of participation, my reading lists are not enormous – around 6 to 7 books a year, but they are steady and growing. I’ve struggled to write the reviews as I would like, but I’ve engaged with the reading and with the AWW community via social media. I’ve contributed that way and made some great online connections with Australian women writers and their readers that have enriched my reading life and beyond.

You can participate to whatever level you can manage and the pleasures and learning are immense for that investment, raising awareness of reading choices and celebrating narratives and works by Australian women and inspiring women to find their voices through reading the voices of others.

It’s no light-weight endeavour. These are to me the voices of creative possibilities and I treasure them.

Here’s my reading list so far:

2012:
Searching for the Secret River: A Writing Memoir – Kate Grenville
Sarah Thornhill – Kate Grenville
When We Have Wings – Claire Corbett
The Light Between Oceans – M L Stedman
Poet’s Cottage – Josephine Pennicott
The Engagement – Chloe Hooper
Disquiet – Julia Leigh

2013:
Fishing for Tigers – Emily Maguire
Sea Hearts – Margo Lanagan
Sydney – Delia Falconer
The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton
The Scrivener’s Tale – Fiona McIntosh
The Longing – Candice Bruce

2014:
Questions of Travel – Michelle de Kretser
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
Mateship with Birds – Carrie Tiffany
Currawong Manor – Josephine Pennicott
The Fictional Woman – Tara Moss
Claustrophobia – Tracy Ryan
All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

Many of these books were picked up because I was looking for Australian women writers’ books in libraries, shops and online. I possibly would not have read ‘Light Between Oceans’, ‘Poet’s Cottage’, ‘The Longing’ or ‘Claustrophobia’ if not for the challenge and these have become some of my favourite reading experiences of the challenge so far.

I have deliberately read across genres and so if not for the challenge, may not have enjoyed the beautifully science fiction inspired, ‘When We Have Wings’, the Celtic fantasy world of ‘Sea Hearts’ or the weaving medieval narrative of ‘The Scrivener’s Tale’.

I’ve been more aware and more excited when Australian women writers have been nominated, short-listed and won awards for their books and I’ve sought out the books to see why they were celebrated in their achievements, especially ‘Questions of Travel’, ‘Burial Rites’, ‘Mateship with Birds’ and ‘All the Birds, Singing’.

In 2015, I’ve already read the exquisitely tender ‘The Golden Age’ by Joan London and have Annabel Crabb’s ‘The Wife Drought’ lined up to read. I’m keen to read Clare Wright’s ‘The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka’ and also read some writers I haven’t read like  Sonya Hartnett, Geraldine Brooks and Liane Moriarty.

It’s been a rich journey and I encourage you on this International Women’s Day to seek out the voices of women writers that excite and sustain you wherever they may be.

AWW2015

blogging reading notes

Beaches and books

June 11, 2014

at the beachIt’s been such a busy time these past months…this the continuing mantra of my life. And the posts here are so infrequent when I had planned so much more this year.

In between the busyness, beaches and books have sustained me, my Instagram feed has mostly reflected the books I am reading and sights from walks on the beach. (Until recently heading to Japan and that’s another story to come!)

On the beach, walking, the sun setting, the cool sand and the water rushing or lapping depending on the day.

And the books, mostly Australian Women Writers lately though not exclusively – I’ve read Michelle de Kretser’s ‘Questions of Travel‘, Carrie Tiffany’s ‘Mateship with Birds‘ and Hannah Kent’s ‘Burial Rites‘ as well as Elisabeth Gifford’s ‘Secrets of the Sea House‘ plus enjoyed a reread of a gentle favourite, Rumer Godden’s ‘In this House of Brede‘. I’ve eagerly entered these worlds and stayed there for my 30-40 minute train journey on most days.

Both beaches and books have sustained me.

The beach grounding me as it always does, my feet in the sand, the act of walking, the water cooling my thoughts, my breathing calming.

The books keeping me connected to my love of words, my creative heart that is somewhat languishing. The part of me that wants to write more poetry and the novel that I imagine but cannot quite get to that other creative desk of the heart at present.

Words that have come to me lately:

The spirit of her invincible heart guided her through the shadows.

from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, and:

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

from e e cummings loveliest poem, ‘maggie and milly and molly and may’.

And my own beach walking poem on this theme:

 Narrative

She starts up high, facing north
towards slow mist,
watching the sea wash
into the rain’s drift below.

She is called to the beach
as if to a baptism, bride-like,
white as the air, stepping
down the rough rock stairs.

She narrates her life,
writes as she walks,
as if the sand and shells are
the bones of her story.

And the pieces connect her:
an imperfect white oval shell,
a fig leaf from a canopy,
the sketched black lines
of a creature’s moving home.

Cool and tight limbed,
she ends in another place,
as if washed by waves,
her contours, clear and shell-lined
as the Borromean grottoes
of Isolabella,
her white shining lights
coming home.