After almost two hours driving through peak hour traffic in the rain, I pulled up at a bakery in Port Melbourne for directions.
"You mean Graham Street," said the barista, hot coffee roaring into a paper cup. He nodded at the customer beside me. "That's where we went. They call it Port Melbourne Primary now." And rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, we all went there. Just drive down the overpass. You can't miss it."
The customer stepped out into the rain with me, a stranger in his land, to point the way. Pleased to be asked.
Schools are such alive places. After two days, meeting around one hundred students, I was astonished at their attention, and their creativity. We talked about writing and inspiration, and what is most precious to us. One boy tried to tell me his most precious thing was a zombie.
"An imagined zombie," he laughed, delighting in my (feigned) horror.
"Surely the best kind," I replied.
Another boy told me he'd like a "golden hoverboard." A beautiful girl showed me a drawing of her most precious thing, her mother, and my heart went out to her. I kept thinking about everyone long after I'd left that Friday, and was happy when a student called Willow wrote to say she'd read Irina the Wolf Queen 'all day and all night' and loved how it was dreamy and mysterious.
(You can read WIllow's comments under 'what readers say.')
My thanks go to the warm and friendly teachers at Port Melbourne Primary, and to the librarian, Margaret Whitford, who facilitated the visit.
"Irina and The Lost Book"
Chat to Leah and get your copy signed
Saturday, December 13
Collins Books, 132 Main Street Croydon
This is an extract from the speech given by Donna Ward at the launch of Australian Love Stories, edited by Cate Kennedy.
"Australian Love Stories... describes love at the domestic and intimate level but reveals Australians as a people who know about big love, a people who embrace difference, know about kindness and tolerance, offer succour to those in need, and attend to the environment that sustains us.
This book is a counterpoint to the Woolworth’s t-shirt. The t-shirt with the Australian flag across the top of it and below the flag, the line: If you don’t love it, leave it. Many think this is about racism but it is about so much more. It is about love and hate. It suggests if you dissent from a certain image of Australia you should go. Australian Love Stories suggests the opposite. It suggests that you stay and challenge bad behaviours precisely because you love the relationship you’re in, or the country in which you live. This book reveals Australia is so much more than a sporting nation, it is a nation of people who know what love is and who will stand in a state of love in order to transform hate. "
Inkerman & Blunt
invites you to join us when
Rodney Hall launches
Australian Love Stories, ed. Cate Kennedy
6.30 for 7 pm Thursday 16 October
The Avenue Bookstore
127 Dundas Place Albert Park
by October 13
Last week's panel at the MWF with Maria Takolander, Craig Cormick, Marcus Waters and Patrick West was a great opportunity to hear how other writers approach their work, and the themes that drive them. Jeff McMullen launched the anthology with an impassioned plea for all of us to engage more deeply with our world. Here's the short introduction to how 'Of Life Below' was written for The World To Come:
A short story can be made to do pretty much anything you want. As a writer, one of my main preoccupations is how life bears down on the human character – and the story is an incredibly versatile mode for examining that.
It also has yields an artistic result in a relatively short time. It’s exciting to read that first draft and see the pattern of symbols and phrases emerging -- it’s one of the most addictive things about writing fiction. It allows us to get into contact with what Natalie Goldberg calls “the wild mind.”
When I heard about this anthology of speculative fiction, The World To Come, I felt like it was an invitation to write very freely. My mind latched onto the term “speculative fiction.” I knew it as an umbrella term for all sorts of writing – sci-fic, dystopian and so forth – but personally, I found the term liberating. My story would not have to conform to realist constraints.
I started with a character, Karol, who was suffering from a recurring dream, an unpleasant, lucid dream. She didn’t know -- though I knew -- that this was not a flashback, but a ‘flash forward’ or a premonition. I decided to set the story in the French city of Colmar, where I’d been inspired by the dense atmospheres of the old buildings and streets. This seemed an interesting contrast– Karol’s uncomfortable sense of the future, in the setting of Colmar, a place thick with the past.
Karol is still in love with Jarvis, who’s left her; all the time she feels troubled by a future that she no longer shares with him. I realized that I was exploring how we can be haunted by things that haven’t yet happened. This is true for Karol; she is haunted by what won’t happen, and she’s also being hunted down by what will happen.
And so the pattern emerged.
As I revised the story, I saw a third element of time – or rather, what is not time. Karol’s premonitions are of a death – a murder, to be specific – giving rise to the question of what happens after death? Is there some sphere alongside our own, even in dialogue with our own, that is not time bound?
As a practitioner, I find writing to be at its most exhilarating when we let the unconscious, (or the wild mind), shows us something. This is also a great way to read. When we read stories from The World to Come – and indeed any short story – we can ask this question. What are we being shown? Can we treat these tales as clues to the larger riddle of our existence?
To buy your copy, visit
The World to Come
Looking forward to the launch and panel discussion this Sunday ...
The World to Come, edited by Dr Patrick West and Dr Om Prakash Dwivedi will be launched by Australian journalist Jeff McMullen AM, as part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. The launch will be preceded by a free panel event featuring Dr Patrick West in conversation with Dr Maria Takolander, Leah Swann, Dr Craig Cormick and Dr Marcus Waters.