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The Gentle Art of Reading

New writers are always being told to read. Sometimes widely is added to that admonition. At other times the instruction includes the phrase ‘out of your comfort zone’. Occasionally it’s repeated for emphasis; ‘Read, read, read and write, write, write.’ But what is often left out is how to read.

 

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How does anyone keep up with everything that is going on in the digital age? What would Charles Dickens do in this age when more books are published than ever before across three different forms – digital, audio and hard copy – and when authors are expected to post regular updates about their life and work across the many platforms afforded them by social media? Would he be tramping across London still? I like to think of him, armed with a smart phone, updating his Insta with selfies with Wilkie Collins or a beef pie and pint taken after a good tramp. Would he have tweeted ‘Carrying Wilkie in Cumberland #sillysprain#BFF’?

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Self-portrait in Despair, Courbet, 1844-45

 

Jeanette Winterson spoke for many authors at the recent Australian Book Industry Awards when she said:

What we’re really protecting is the life of the mind; the creative core of what we are. If you attack creativity what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter that we’re human beings, because very human being ever born across this planet, across time, is part of the creative continuum. We’re protecting something which is so valuable. This is more than an industry. This is the heart of humanity ... We need to protect this ecosystem.  

Jeanette Winterson,  Australian Book Industry Awards,  2016

At the Australian Book Industry Awards last Thursday (19 May), Jeanette Winterston made an impassioned plea on the behalf of Australian writers and readers and everyone involved in the Australian book industry.  She urged us to fight the Productivity Commissions Draft Report on Intellectual Property ‘with every breath.’

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I've been thinking recently of my early years writing when I'd just started having poems published in various journals around Australia. I had begun my poetry apprenticeship - and, like any apprentice, I was helped enormously by those who had already established poetry careers. This was in the mid 80s - a time before the real burgeoning of creative writing courses and just before the establishment of the state-based writers centre in Victoria.

Posted by on in Writing Articles

So last year I did something I'd always wanted to do. I participated in NaNoWriMo. I wrote 50,000 over the course of November and I have the certificate to prove it. Why did I participate? Surely, as someone who calls herself a writer, I'm writing all the time. Well, yes and no. I do try to write in a disciplined way but there are times when different areas of my life compete for time. I wanted to immerse myself in the writing experience and I knew if I told everyone - and, just as importantly - if I told myself - I was participating in NaNoWriMo, my writing time would become a priority that people (including me!) imposed on only with great reluctance.

The incidents I wrote about aren't in sequence. There is a slightly higgledly piggledy aspect to the whole because part of the time I was writing in text box programme called Write or Die, which made my computer emit frightening noises if I didn't reach a specified word count in a given amount of time. I tried to keep editing and revision to a minimum, so the whole has a ratty shape and an important plot element came to me about halfway through the month of November. On the whole, however, I'm really happy. I loved the experience of writing and trying to keep on-going revision to a minimum - normally I revise laboriously I go. Above all else, it proved to me that I can write a lot over a short period of time if I just make that time.

When the month was over, I felt a little lost, although Christmas loomed. When Christmas was over, I found that I could settle back into revising the novel I had been working on prior to NaNoWriMo with more dedication. I had no excuse, after all. I even had a certificate to prove it!

I recently discovered there's a whole host of different timed writing challenges - and a wiki with all the information.

Who is going to join me NaPoWriMo? Sounds like fun!

...

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Recently my tablet keyboard abruptly stopped working. Okay, I thought it was abrupt until I remembere the almond milk incident. I immediatley ordered another keyboard which, when it arrived, worked for a third of a sentence and froze. I had a mini breakdown, during which I alienated the family, including the dog, by not shutting up about how technology had failed me.

Posted by on in Writing Articles
The Perfect Sentence

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I’m like Stanley Fish; I appreciate the fine art of the perfect sentence. I love its structure, pattern, poise and precision. Fish’s ‘How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One’ has seduced me. How could I not buy a book whose first quote is?

 

One Day the nouns were clustered in the street,

An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.

The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.

The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.

 -Kenneth Koch, “Permanently”

 

I causally picked up the book in the GOMA bookshop in South Bank Brisbane. I was so excited that someone else loved the sentence as much as I did. I had to have this book. Instead of collecting fine wines or lino prints, Fish collects sentences. And so do I!

 

 

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It's an easy phrase to say; you can't judge a book by its cover. But the reality is different. We always judge books by their covers. I've been teaching a class on Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse and this prompted me to do some reasearch on the packaging of that book over the years. Here are three completely different covers.

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