Young Tasmanian Writers’ Prize

I was delighted and honoured to judge the Senior Section of the 2017 Young Tasmanian Writers’ Prize and I can tell you that there is some exceptional writing talent in Tasmanian secondary schools. The winning entry by Ben Smith Noble will be published in the December issue of  Tasmania 40°South. I do hope you get yourself a copy as I think you will be astounded by the work of this gifted young writer. I expect Ben Smith Noble is a name we will hear often in the future.

Here’s the announcement:
Forty South Publishing and the Tasmanian Association for the Teaching of English (TATE) are pleased to announce the winners of the Young Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2017 as judged by Karenlee Thompson (Senior Section), Anne Blythe-Cooper (Junior Section) and Penny Lane (Peter Sharp Memorial Award – Junior Section). 

Senior Section: Years 10-12
Winner ($300, publication in Tasmania 40°South, December 2017 issue)
Ben Smith Noble, Taroona High School – Napoleon, or, the musings of Mr Pink

Runners Up ($30 gift voucher courtesy of Fullers Bookshop)
Sigourney Costa, Elizabeth College – The visitors
Emily Fereiro, Elizabeth College – As strangers prepared

Freya Cox, The Friends School – A colour of loss
Melina Fullbrook, Kings Meadow High School – Words

Junior Section: Years 7-9
Winner ($300 plus publication in Tasmania 40°South, December 2017 issue)
Connie Genaris, Ogilvie High School – Apple Juice

Peter Sharp Memorial Award 2017 ($100 plus publication in Tasmania 40°South, March 2018 issue)
Kirra Watkins, St Aloysius Catholic College – Turbulent Seas

Runners Up ($30 gift voucher courtesy of Fullers Bookshop)
Katie Johnson, Taroona High School – The edge of the world
Ishtar Lintner, Exeter High School – Taking flight
Mabel Sward, Ogilvie High School – Candy store

Isaac Burns, St Aloysius Catholic College – Hunted
Zara Casimaty, St Michael’s Collegiate School – Taking flight
Samantha Collins, St Michael’s Collegiate School – The wolf pack
Mia Cooper, Ogilvie High School – Flames are alive
Sarah Jaeger, St Michael’s Collegiate School – Mirror of deception
Kara Landsberg, Exeter High School – Blurry face
Miriam Langford, St Aloysius Catholic College – Last laugh
Lucy Nicol, Mt Carmel College – Katherine’s snafu
Kate Poynter, Taroona High School – Laughter
Annwen Roberts, Taroona High School – Destroying the wall
Guy Robertson, Taroona High School – Through the sparrow’s eye
Noah Sward, St Aloysius Catholic College – Things change
Kirra Watkins, St Aloysius Catholic College – Music of the dead

Congratulations to all the finalists. Also to be congratulated are Tasmania 40°South and Fullers Bookshop for their work in fostering young writing talent. 






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Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival

So glad I made it to the Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival.

Lucinda Sharp (Director of Forty Degrees South), yours truly, Fiona Stocker (‘Apple Island Wife’) at Hadley’s Orient Hotel.

It was a busy time for me but I crammed in what I could. Here are some highlights:

I attended the shortlist announcement of the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prizes where I met and chatted to a number of authors, journalists, readers and supporters. It was held on stage at the beautiful Theatre Royal. Congratulations James Boyce, Gregory Day, Pete Hay and Rebe Taylor as well as all the shortlisted authors in other categories.

 The following night it was off to the introduction and welcome drinks at major sponsor Hadley’s Orient Hotel where I was very happy to see my Flame Tip on sale (thank you Fullers Bookshop). Did I move some books around on their lovely display to get me in the same shot as Ryan O’Neill? Hell yes!


Powerful poetry by Jim Everett (puralia meenamatta).Brazenly introduced myself to the charismatic writer Arnold Zable. Then it was off to hear Ryan O’Neill chatting about ‘Their Brilliant Careers’ which I am now laughing my way through. I also met one of the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize judges Fiona Stocker and we talked about her current journey to the publication of ‘Apple Island Wife’ .

 My other super highlight was the launch of the Forty South Anthology and meeting fellow finalists in the 2017 Tasmanian Writers’ Prize. I got to read from my story ‘Alice . . . Incomplete’.


Having now read all the short stories, I can say I am thrilled to be in the company of so many wonderful writers.  The effervescent Lucinda Sharp of Forty Degrees South introduced James Dryburgh who launched the book and ran a fabulous panel discussion with writers and judges on ‘writing to theme’.  I really enjoyed the interaction and was fascinated by our vastly different approaches to writing short stories. I had the opportunity of chatting to James after the event about his book ‘The Blafour Correspondent’ which was launched in Tasmania by Bob Brown last month.

 Tasmanian Writers Centre director Chris Gallagher and all the staff are to be commended for putting together such a diverse and entertaining festival.  Once again, Tasmania, I salute you!



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Victoria – it’s a wrap

New Leaves

Melbourne is such a wonderful city: hip eateries, cool book shops, and charming people who know how to live in the moment. I had such a fabulous time there promoting my book and it took me a while to settle myself back into a semblance of normalcy. Anyway, here – finally – is my wrap-up of the tour.

I hit the ground running and tweeted my way around some gorgeous bookstores on day one (If you missed the Twitter posts, there’s a few shots at the end of this post) , before heading up to Macedon, where I joined author Eliza Henry-Jones and we crisscrossed through divine little towns around the area, from Lancefield to Woodend. Unfortunately, I am missing a number of photos because of phone issues. The shops – and their dedicated owners – amazed me. Book Bonding in Gisborne, Red Door Books in Lancefield, Aesop’s Attic in Kyneton and the Paradise Bookshop in Daylesford are all notable for their quirky selections and friendly staff but my highlights were New Leaves in Woodend (who hosted our main event) and Maldon’s The Book Wolf.

 New Leaves:
Woody was an excellent host, welcoming us with champagne and chatting about the location, the local football finals, his book buyers, and – of course – all things bookish. There’s a lot packed into this beautiful little store and the people who came along to our event made Eliza and I feel at home as we chatted about our respective books (Eliza’s ‘Ache’ (Harper Collins) and my ‘Flame Tip’ (Hybrid Publishers)) which both feature bushfire. Champagne was sipped, laughter ensued. I fell in love with the resident cat, Jupiter. Woody told us about the Manbooker Man Book Club (MBMBC) that he runs there in Woodend (google it!). I think there’s around fifty members with anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen or so men turning up to each meeting where the blokes discuss the month’s chosen book. A very impressive book shop in a beautiful town, worth a drive out from the city.


The Book Wolf:
Another book shop that will not disappoint is The Book Wolf, nestled into the wide main street of Maldon, a beautiful town with tempting shops and great fudge. Mike is the dapper owner of The Book Wolf and he was so warm and welcoming. We had a cuppa and sat in the salon-like surrounds chatting about – you guessed it – books. Mike has some really cool plans for the store (he purchased it not too many months ago) and, as you can see by the pics, it is the perfect venue for bookish soirees, poetry readings, book club events, etc. So pop in and see Mike if you are visiting Maldon and, of course, purchase a copy of Flame Tip if you don’t already have one.

Once back in Melbourne, I was racing around stores just out of the city. Again, there are too many to mention but I particularly liked Avenue Bookstore and My Bookshop by Corrie Perkin.  I have to play favourites though so my first place gong is a tie between Benn’s Books in Bentleigh and Top Titles in Brighton (both pictured here).

And – finally – I got to meet my publishers – Anna Blay and Louis de Vries from Hybrid Publishers. We have had so many interactions and in-depth email ‘conversations’ throughout the full publishing process that I felt I knew them well anyway but there is something special about face-to-face interaction. It was made all the more special by the company of Lisa Hill (ANZ LitLovers) and Ros Collins (writer/memoirist and wife of the late [fabulous author] Alan Collins), who hosted a marvellous afternoon tea.

Some of the  stores I visited:

Thanks Victoria!


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Victorian Tour – Update One

Check out these pics. New Leaves (complete with resident cat!) is hosting a chat session between Eliza Henry-Jones and myself as we promote our recently released books. We’ll be there on Sunday 20th August.

Eliza’s novel (Ache, Harper Collins) and my collection of short fictions (Flame Tip, Hybrid Publishers) have bushfire as the central theme, and we will be skipping around country Victoria chatting to book-lovers and residents (and maybe lots of cats and dogs). You are sure to find our works in all the good bookstores and I hope to bring you lots of pics of the fabulous shops we will be visiting. I’ve been told to pack my winter woollies (coming from Queensland) so I’ll be the one wearing ten layers and standing closest to any available heater.


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Look out Victoria – here I come


I am delighted to say that my jaunt down to Victoria has the green light for mid-August. Victoria will always be The Garden State to me (I’m pretty sure that’s what the number-plate logo was ‘back in the day’). Gardens. Culture. Fashion. Great Food.

I’m hoping to spend time visiting some Melbourne bookshops – I’ll keep you posted on that. I can confirm that there will be a wonderful country cruise-around in the company of fellow author Eliza Henry-Jones. More details shortly.

I love Melbourne and I love country Victoria, and it seems to have ‘been a while between drinks’ so I’m really looking forward to it. I hope the southerners will turn on a bit of sunshine for me!


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After the Carnage by Tara June Winch: Book Review

I have been exceptionally quiet on the review front of late. I had committed to review a couple for the Australian Women Writers Challenge but, apart from that, I have insulated myself a little to concentrate on my own work. However, as Lisa Hill – one of the busiest women I know – is once again hosting Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ LitLovers and will no doubt be continuing her phenomenal reading and posting routine, I feel the very least I can do is offer up one review.

After the Carnage by Tara June Winch is a collection of short stories, themed (it seems to me) on humanity; what it means to be human, to travel great distances both literally and metaphorically, to see and hear and question, to taste fear and to touch poverty.

I was so busy wallowing in the Australianness of the opening story ‘Wager’ that I skated over the abandoned pre-teen Tom just to hear more of the conversation between the now adult Tom and his stepfather. Tom is so eager to please, talking about hoping to become a doctor in “a little voice so he wouldn’t think I was trying to be a big man under his roof” (5) and ordering chips and rissoles with a question mark, by way of a request for approval from his mother. My sense of unease grew as the grog flowed and the pokies coerced but – despite having been given a warning in the opening sentence – I still wasn’t prepared for the ferocity of the denouement when it reared up and socked me in the jaw.

‘After the Carnage, More’ is stunning in its simple, ordinary descriptions of a complex, extraordinary situation. On a day in Lahore when the sky is “rapidly remodelling itself in ash” (35), a man remains calm in the face of his own pain and injury while he tries to quell any underlying sense of panic about the location and condition of his wife.

My two favourite stories of the thirteen – ‘Easter’ and ‘The Proust Running Group of Paris’ – both echo back to my long-held belief that fiction can be as important as non-fiction (sometimes more so) in telling us truths. Fiction can wrap truth into manageable and palatable parcels that are a joy to unwrap, even when the contents are far from jubilant.

The narrator of ‘Easter’, an American journalist, has “bottled” his memories into:

. . . the taste of yak cheese, the pungent marijuana, the hangover from brandy and altitude, the feeling of dirty hostel blankets, every conversation. (88)

He tries to be a rock for his sister. As she cries on a Paris street, he comforts her with an arm over her shoulders, “as if protecting her from a wild wind blowing in from Ohio” (99) and he hoards the memory (just as he’s done with those from childhood) so that he can revisit it.

In ‘Easter’, the author gives us relatable packaged memories but in ‘The Proust Running Group of Paris’ it is the characters that tinkle a faint bell from the past. If you’ve ever known an alcoholic intimately, you’ll likely relate to this description of Barcry, the first runner to join the group, formed online through a forum topic.

Barcry was a four-month-sober alcoholic who’d drink everything in a two-mile vicinity, until all last orders were called, and then he would arrive home and open his children’s Holy Communion non-alcoholic wine – in the faint hope that the stuff had fermented in the previous decade. (159)

I was mildly disappointed that many of the stories are peppered with the universal Americanisms of cell phones and Moms while I hankered for more wattle flowers and possums scratching at fly screens but Tara June Winch has taken us around the world with this collection and I, for one, feel all the richer for it.

Tara June Winch, After the Carnage, UQPress, St Lucia, Queensland, 2016
ISBN: 9780702254147
This book was gifted to me by a very dear friend.


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I like Bob Dylan BUT . . .

I’ve just listened to Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture which was described as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘eloquent’ by the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius. ‘Rambling’ was the word that came to my mind but that’s okay because that’s Dylan, and I’ve always been a fan. But the word that really springs to my mind is ‘Why’.  Why?

I do not presume to diminish Dylan’s contribution to the world of words but, seriously, I have to ask: With the number of wonderful literary names alive in the world today, why did the prize have to go to a musician and lyricist? And, if such a radical move was warranted, why Dylan above the (now late) great Canadian, Leonard Cohen? In addition to providing a poetic and lyric backdrop to our lives, the always erudite and entertaining Cohen socially and philosophically influenced our times dynamically.

When I think of the Nobel Prize for Literature, I think, firstly, of books. Yes, Dylan has published books – seven books of his drawings and paintings, some collections of the lyrics to his songs, a memoir and one work of prose poetry. Let’s face it, he is not known for his books. He is known for his lyrical compositions and the profound impact he has made in the music industry, winning a slew of awards and breaking record sales.

Leonard Cohen published books of song lyrics too.  But he also wrote two extraordinary novels (The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers) and published over a dozen collections of poetry.

The announcement of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature may very well have been the straw to tip the burden. By all accounts, Cohen was a good, decent, kind man but I feel somewhere deep in his soul, a tiny pebble of bitter sadness may have vied with his congratulatory thoughts toward his fellow lyricist. He died less than a month after the announcement that Bob Dylan had won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.

In Dylan’s lecture, delivered as a recording rather than presented in person, there’s a strange kind of book review – or three to be precise – followed by a roundabout questioning of what literature is. He says: ‘But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read.’ I agree with him there and so I am left with that same word when I think about the Swedish Academy’s 2016 decision . . .  WHY?


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