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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.

reading notes

Reading Australian Women Writers

January 8, 2014

awwbadge_2014I participated in The ‘Australian Women Writers Challenge’ in 2013 for the second year. I had another wonderful reading and connecting experience that built on my 2012 experience and many years of enjoying Australian women’s writing.

So what is the challenge? It’s about enjoying, supporting and promoting Australian women’s writing. You can read the background to the challenge here and sign up for 2014 here. Started in 2012 by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to an under-representation of women’s writing in Australian literary prizes being awarded, it has developed into a strong, diverse group of readers and reviewers celebrating and sharing writing by Australian women.

You can choose your level of engagement in the challenge and there’s no pressure to complete, just a target to aim for. In 2013, I aimed to read 6 and review at least 4. I achieved the reading part of the challenge with 7 reads. As in 2012, I haven’t done as well with the reviewing part but will capture the reads in this summary post and aim to review in 2014.

So why am I signing up again and why is it important?

Reflecting on the 2012 experience, I summarised my rationale as below:

I have a great love of Australian women’s writing. My Australian literature bookshelf is about 80% women writers. This love developed naturally during my university literature studies and has endured. It’s my history, lineage and backyard; 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 the experience of women.

I am engaging with the challenge again in 2014 to broaden this experience further; in 2012 and 2013, I have learned about so many new and exciting Australian women writers and absolutely loved the diverse reads. Through-out the challenge, I have been deliberately seeking out writers that are new to me and genres that I don’t normally read.

There is still plenty of work to do in promoting Australian women’s writing as this post indicates. As Margo Lanagan commented on twitter about this, it is depressing from a bookseller and it made me sad, sad that a person selling books couldn’t find such strength and beauty in Australian women writers as I do. It would at least help with book sales to people like me having this knowledge even if it’s not a personal love.

Perhaps I expect too much but in any case, as a result of the dialogue since this post, Mr Page has signed up for the challenge again in 2014. I hope this time the real challenge is finding the time to read as much as he wishes to in the rich diversity of Australian Women’s Writing – new and old. That is certainly my experience.

Reflecting on 2013

In 2013, I read 7 books towards my target of 6. Because I didn’t get to the reviews (again) in 2013 and in the spirit of the AWW community, here are my reads with a few brief comments.

  • Fishing for Tigers by Emily Maguire – I loved blogging buddy Liv White’s review and was interested in the Vietnam setting. I’ve never been to Vietnam and the novel created a sense of the steamy beauty of Hanoi. ‘Fishing for Tigers’ focused on relationships played out against a sense of place and dislocation from home.
  • Sea Hearts, by Margo Lanagan – There have been some fabulous reviews on this book, especially Elizabeth Lhuede’s review, and it has won numerous awards. ‘Sea Hearts’ took me to another world and showed the impact of longing, desire and power on a small island community where men can have beautiful women fashioned from seals. I don’t often read speculative fiction and I enjoyed it immensely as a new AWW genre this year.
  • Sydney by Delia Falconer – the non-fiction book about my home town. I struggled with this book more than I wanted to but perhaps that was precisely the point. Sydney is a mass of contradictions; as Falconer writes: “Surely no other city’s pleasures are so bound up with revulsion, or their beauty so dependent on the knowledge of corruption.” ‘Sydney’ is well researched and captures Sydney in all its complexity.
  • The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton – was a great read. I loved her previous books and this one didn’t disappoint. Kate Morton has enjoyed high praise including as top voted Australian writer in the 2013 booktopia poll. I also read ‘The Distant Hours‘ by Kate Morton though this story didn’t engage me as much as The Secret Keeper’s compelling narrative.
  • The Scrivener’s Tale – Fiona McIntosh – was my first read of 2013 and an epic adventure traversing modern and mediaeval times. Again, this was outside my usual reading fare and I enjoyed it for its feistiness, sense of mystery and historical contexts.
  • The Longing – Candice Bruce – was my last and favourite read of 2013. ‘The Longing’ tells the story of a modern day curator researching for an exhibition of an American romantic landscape painter. The lives of two 19th century Australian women that he painted are also told: one a Scottish immigrant and the other her Aboriginal servant. ‘The Longing’ is beautifully written and like a rich landscape itself. Author Bruce is by background an art historian, writer and curator so the detail is delicate and authentic. It’s about love, loss and longing, history, home and family.

What have I learnt from 2012 and 2013?

  • AWW is a great journey; read outside your usual genres, discover some of the Australian Women Writers – recent or past – that you haven’t encountered up till now.
  • You don’t have to review in the order that you read and you don’t have to review at all. That said, I get great value from the reviews of others so I am hoping to contribute more in this regard in 2014 during the year rather than at the end and by learning to write better reviews.
  • The AWW reading and writing community is fantastic. You can connect on the blog, through twitter @AusWomenWriters or hashtag #AWW2014, through Goodreads; there are readers, writers and reviewers from all walks of life reading so diversely and widely. Even though I didn’t review, I tweeted and blogged and contributed in that way and made some valued connections with like-minded readers.
  • The consolidated reviews are excellent and highlight the work of AWW readers and writers across all genres. Check out the review listings here – there’s plenty of inspiration and information.
  • It’s really all about raising awareness of Australian women writers to inform reading choices.

What am I planning to read (and review) in 2014?

My exciting list so far for 2014:

Michelle de Krester – Questions of Travel
Hannah Kent – Burial Rites
Carrie Tiffany – Mateship with Birds
Favel Parrett- Past the Shallows

A special thanks to Elizabeth Lhuede for initiating the challenge in 2012 and for the 2013 team for maintaining the hard work of holding it all together for the benefit of us all.

I hope you’ll join the challenge!

reading notes writing

Celebrating Australian Women’s Writing

February 24, 2013

awwbadge_2013

The ‘Australian Women Writers Challenge’ is one of my projects for 2013. I undertook this challenge in 2012 and had a wonderful reading and connecting experience and looking forward to extending and enriching that this year.

So what is the challenge? You can read more about it here but basically it’s a reading and reviewing challenge to lift the profile of Australian women’s writing. It was started in 2012 by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to an under-representation of women’s writing in Australian literary prizes being awarded. It has since developed into a strong, diverse group of readers and reviewers celebrating and sharing writing by Australian women.

You can choose your level of engagement in the challenge and there’s no pressure to complete as such, just a target to aim for. Last year, I aimed high (read 10, review 6) and in a busy year managed most of the reading and none of the reviews. This year, I am aiming a little lower (read 6, review at least 4) and hope to over-achieve!

So why am I signing up again and why is it important?

I have a great love of Australian women’s writing. My Australian literature bookshelf is about 80% women writers. This love developed naturally during my university literature studies and has endured. It’s my history, lineage and backyard; 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 the experience of women.

I am engaging with the challenge in 2013 again to broaden this experience further; in 2012, I learned about so many new Australian women writers and so many diverse reads. I have been enjoying deliberately seeking out writers that are new to me and genres that I don’t normally read.

It’s important because the profile of Australian women writers has been under-represented in terms of awards and book reviews, as surprising as this is. Read this post on the background to the challenge to get a feel for some of the issues. The AWW Challenge has done much to celebrate and raise awareness about Australian women’s writing and I for one am very grateful for the community and experience, as well as the profile being generated. The challenge has resulted in a powerful ground shift that has attracted national and international attention.

Reflecting on 2012

In 2012, I read 7 books towards my target of 10. Because I didn’t get to the review in 2012 and in case anyone is looking for potential reads for this year, I’ll list my reads and add a few brief comments.

Searching for the Secret River: A Writing Memoir – Kate Grenville‘s account of the research and writing experience of ‘The Secret River’ was always going to be an engaging book for me, being about a number of key interests: writing, family history, genealogical research, fact and fiction and the intersection between them. One branch of my family also settled in the area Kate was researching and writing about so it was all close to home personally and a fascinating read on how fact and family story came to be a work of fiction.

Sarah Thornhill – Kate Grenville followed on from ‘The Secret River’ so a natural next read and it didn’t disappoint as a close study of what is what like for strong willed women in colonial times with all its many challenges, especially in terms of culture and gender.

When We Have Wings – Claire Corbett was thrilling and a read that took me right out of the present to another world where people can grow wings and society is separated into those who can fly and those who can’t. Technically brilliant, especially in its descriptions of the experience of flying, and a well constructed story in a whole new space and time, I enjoyed ‘When We Have Wings’ thoroughly. This review by fellow AWW Challenge participant, Mark Webb provides more detail. Well worth reading – a fantastic debut novel from Blue Mountains based writer, Claire Corbett.

The Light Between Oceans – M L Stedman was one of the books I picked up and bought from reading the back blurb when looking for a new Australian Women Writers read in 2012. It soon emerged that this book was gaining interest all over the world and with good reason. Set against a wild West Australian coastline, featuring a remote lighthouse and with a twist and turn plot and gut-wrenching life decisions, it was a highlight for me in 2012.

Poet’s Cottage – Josephine Pennicott was another book purchased without any prior knowledge as part of AWW2012. Set in Tasmania, with a family history to uncover, a murder mystery, some wonderfully eccentric characters and an inherited cottage with secrets, it’s another atmospheric read.

The Engagement – Chloe Hooper – spooked me completely one night. It’s a suspenseful, intense and mysterious ride, with the engagement as much with the reader as between the two main characters who form a dubious connection that takes on a life of its own on a remote western Victorian property. Read for its sheer intensity.

Disquiet – Julia Leigh is a tight and very disturbing novella about an Australian family returning to family and chateau in France, escaping turmoil but arriving to just as much dislocation. Everything is like a film still, the language sharp and fresh; it’s aptly titled.

What have I learnt from 2012?

  • AWW is a great journey; read outside your usual genres, discover some of the Australian Women Writers – recent or past – that you haven’t encountered up till now
  • You don’t have to review in the order that you read and you don’t have to review everything.
  • Don’t over-complicate the reviewing; I started by researching the background of novels for my reviews and I made it all too complicated for myself. Revisiting all the furore that surrounded fact and fiction in ‘The Secret River’ got me all confused. In the end, I had to remind myself, it’s not an academic treatise for university.
  • The AWW reading and writing community is fantastic. You can connect on the blog, through twitter @AusWomenWriters or hashtag #AWW2013, through Goodreads; there are readers, writers and reviewers from all walks of life reading so diversely and widely, it’s a treat. Even though I didn’t review, I tweeted and blogged and contributed in that way – it was fun, I made some valued connections with like-minded readers, I found a whole host of book bloggers I didn’t know about and I learned a heap.
  • The consolidated reviews are excellent and highlight the work of AWW readers and writers across all genres. Check out the review listings here – with reviews all neatly sorted by genre, there’s plenty of inspiration and information.

What am I planning to read (and review) in 2013?

I’m currently reading ‘The Scrivener’s Tale‘ by Fiona McIntosh, classified by AWW as ‘speculative fiction’, a genre I haven’t engaged with extensively. Other books on the list are:

  • Sea Hearts, by Margo Lanagan – there have been some fabulous reviews on this book, especially Elizabeth Lhuede’s review and want to experience this book for myself
  • Fishing for Tigers by Emily Maguire – loved blogging buddy Liv White’s review and interested in the Vietnam setting
  • Sydney by Delia Falconer – this book is physically exquisite and about my home town; I loved Delia Falconer’s ‘Service of Clouds’ and her celebration of the Blue Mountains in that novel so I am sure ‘Sydney’ will also celebrate its heart
  • Joe Cinque’s Consolation – Helen Garner – because I love Helen Garner’s hard-hitting analysis in her non-fiction works and I haven’t read this one
  • The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton – loved her previous books and Kate is enjoying high praise including as top voted Australian writer in a recent booktopia poll.

Well, that’s my six books, for now anyway – I am sure many more will vie for my attention this year. It’s such a rich field of pleasure, the work of our Australian women writers, so let’s celebrate and document it.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Lhuede for initiating the challenge in 2012 and maintaining the hard work of holding it all together for the benefit of us all.

I hope you’ll join the challenge!

My #AWW2013 reads lined up and ready to go!

My #AWW2013 reads lined up and ready to go!

reading notes

On writing book reviews

September 12, 2012

Having asked the question about how to progress my writing of book reviews for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2012, here are a few gems on writing book reviews, with suggestions on techniques including what to do if you don’t actually like the book (always awkward):

As if immediately answering my question, Annabel Smith pops up on the AWW blog with a post on ‘What makes a good book review?’ I suppose with over 1000 reviews now under its belt, this question was bound to arise in the context of the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. Annabel’s advice includes remembering that a review is an evaluation not a summary, it’s personal, and however you feel about the book, your argument should be supported by evidence. She includes some great questions to inspire your writing of reviews or just to keep your review on track.

In ‘Ten ways to write a book review and what to do when the book sucks’, Emlyn Chand provides some tips on traversing this genre. She is not afraid of a synopsis, as long as it doesn’t give things away. Most importantly for me, Emlyn talks about hitting your stride and finding your uniqueness with reviewing. I think this is what I was alluding to in my last post: trying to find a unique path between literary criticism and other genres in reviewing. Perhaps it’s not another genre; just a matter of being yourself and finding your place and voice. Perhaps, as with most things, it’s about practice

What to do if you don’t like the book? Emlyn touches on it; in ‘How to write a good bad book review‘, Tori rips right into what to do if you don’t really like the book you are reviewing.  There are lots of excellent practical suggestions for managing this situation including: being specific (similar to being evidence based); keeping it ‘between the pages’ and not being personal about the author; and writing in such a way, that however you feel, you know you can ‘own it’ ie the review and any response.

So some valuable tips and taking my own advice, it’s about practise, and a practice I’d best get on to instead of putting it off. I promise: the book reviews are coming soon!

PS Absolutely loving ‘The Engagement’ by Australian writer, Chloe Hooper – thrilling read!

reading notes

Book voyeurs unite

September 4, 2012

I have loved the phrase ‘book voyeurs’ since I read about it in the Guardian ages ago. David Barnett writes:

I think it was Sarah Crown who first set me off. “Is it just me?” she asked (while accepting the cliche of that opening phrase), “is it just me, or are the contents of other people’s bookshelves/bedside tables/desks/whatever ALWAYS more interesting than your own?”

Well, is it just me, or … look, does anyone else have an unhealthy obsession not just with what people have on their bookshelves but what they’re actually reading right there and then?

I used the concept to create a couple of posts here and here on what I was reading; ‘Reading Notes for Book Voyeurs‘, an ‘occasional series’, I called it. Very occasional, as it turns out. I do weave my reading in and out of my blog posts, so perhaps this is why it seems more, but there it is, a series of two! Time to pick up the pace here, it seems for all the book voyeurs amongst us.

Reading is one of the great loves of my life. I have toyed with the idea of a separate book and reading blog, but the general advice I have gleaned out there is ‘don’t start a second blog’. I also have trouble with managing the time and content for one, so not keen to try and manage two. So I’m working with the concept that this blog is about my theme of transcending and what helps rise above, cut through, triumph over the negative and overcome, and I include books and reading here.

If anything has had the power to help me move through, overcome, make sense of and negotiate the world, it has been books and reading. A large part of my life has been dedicated to honing my skills in this area, personally and through studying literature, literacy and language; my career path includes being a teacher of reading and writing to adults, so this theme runs strong.

I find it helps to have a theme and focus, a meaningful reading project, to anchor my love of reading in a busy stream of activity. This year’s reading project is the ‘Australian Women Writer’s 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge‘. I have chosen to read 10 books in a range of genres and review 4 of them. I’m loving the AWW 2012 challenge and the community and activity it’s inspiring. Having a long and enduring love of Australian literature and women’s writing, it’s been wonderful to connect with this space again. Designed to refocus and re-engage people with the writing of Australian women, the challenge has been wildly successful with 1000+ review, a great website, twitter feed, Goodreads site and a rich community of readers and writers to engage with.

I’ve so far read 5 of my 10 works by Australian women writers this year and have just started my sixth today. I am sure I would not have become aware of some of these books if not for the challenge and being more generally attuned to the work of Australian women writers. Plus I’ve connected with some fabulous bloggers and writers who share my love of Australian literature and good writing.

So far, I have read:

Searching for the Secret River: A Writing Memoir, Kate Grenville

When we have Wings, Claire Corbett

Sarah Thornhill, Kate Grenville

The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Stedman

Poet’s Cottage, Josephine Pennicott

And I’ve just started the gorgeously suspenseful, ‘The Engagement‘ by Chloe Hooper.

The reviews are yet to come and are in the planning stages and yes, I need to get onto them as the year is marching away. I started to work on my review of ‘Searching for the Secret River’ with some research on the net, and found I had quite forgotten the furore around history and literature that surrounded ‘The Secret River’ in 2006 and must admit that minefield put me off and somewhat stalled my review writing.

In any case, I will work on my planned review mindful of the background issues, but my reading of both ‘The Secret River’ and ‘Searching for the Secret River’ was positive, tapping as both books do into my key interests of family history research, writing about this, trying to gauge what might have happened in the spaces of fact, if imperfectly, and understanding also that writing novels in historical contexts requires some fictionalising.

All this made me reconsider the act of book reviewing in the context of this blog and also AWW2012, and what form the reviews should or could take. I guess this may be part of the challenge of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for me: finding a meaningful way to write about these works that fits with my theme of ‘Transcending’ here and honours the tradition of resilience that these books are borne from, with Miles Franklin, the pioneering Australian women writer as its symbol and inspiration,

I’d best get back to reading the very engaging, ‘The Engagement’ and also working on those book reviews but I welcome your comments on:

  • books and reading as part of ‘Transcending’
  • your experience of books and reading and how they have helped you overcome, move through
  • book reviews and blogging generally – how can they come together?
blogging music & images reading notes

What I’m loving

June 24, 2012

The orchids outside my front door

Image

The bracelet that attracted me yesterday: simple, cool and calm.

These books that arrived recently that I can’t wait to get more time to dive into.

Race out and buy them too:

This I Know: notes on unraveling the heart – Susannah Conway

Instant Love: how to make magic and memories with polaroids – Susannah Conway, Amanda Gilligan and Jenifer Altman

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain

Changing on the Job: developing leaders for a complex world – Jennifer Garvey Berger

‘Blogging from the Heart‘: the e-course, the creator – Susannah Conway, the community that has evolved from the group taking the course, the reading I have engaged in over the past 6 weeks from this brilliant creative tribe, how good we look on feedly when all together like a gorgeous magazine of kindred souls – thanks Susannah for yet another inspiring and perfect learning experience that will impact for a very long time…

The Lominger Leadership Architect tool and how we are using this in my work space to define and develop the leadership skills we need for the challenging times ahead in Australian vocational education and training

‘The Light Between Oceans’ by L.M.Stedman, an expat Australian writer living in London. I finished this novel this morning as part of the Australian Women Writers’ 2012 Challenge. It featured lighthouses, a wild West Australian coastline, a remote island, language that took me there and circumstances that wrenched my heart. And yes, I cried. A beautiful, atmospheric and engaging read.

What are you loving?