When dreams come true…

Over the last few days, I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to read an advanced review copy of the new Writing the Dream anthology, to be published in November by Rockingham-based Serenity Press.

You may have noticed me sharing my excitement and enthusiasm for this book on my Facebook pages and Twitter accounts during its genesis and development in recent months.

Writing the Dream v4

Serenity Press will release Writing the Dream in November.

Its creation is the serendipitous result of an imaginative and professional collaboration by two people I greatly respect and admire (and genuinely adore!).

Serenity Press founder Karen McDermott and her newly appointed co-director Monique Mulligan have been planning and working on the Writing the Dream project for close to a year, and their hopes and aspirations for this magical book are nearing fruition at last.

With the book’s launch just a few weeks away, they have every right to feel immensely proud of what they have produced – as should each of the other contributors to the anthology.

Monique and Karen

Monique Mulligan and Karen McDermott, of Serenity Press.

If you haven’t seen any of my earlier posts, I should explain that Writing the Dream is a collection of engrossing, entertaining, informative and illuminating essays by 24 talented Australian writers, each at a different point on their individual writing journeys. Each contributor also shares their top five writing tips — and there are many gems among them.

Prolific historical novelist Anna Jacobs has dozens of published novels under her belt and has accumulated a significant fan base here in Australia and overseas, while Natasha Lester, Sara Foster and Jenn J. McLeod each have several novels published to date and are seeing their latest titles jostling for space at the top of best-seller lists.

Teena Raffa-Mulligan has been quietly and consistently writing and publishing children’s picture books and chapter books for decades, and recently published her first romance novella.

Rebecca Laffer-Smith writes a mix of fantasy novels, educational texts and children’s stories and has launched her own publishing company with the aim of making reading more accessible for those who find the pastime challenging.

Tess Woods’ delight in having her first novel published as an e-Book in 2015 has been surpassed by the recent launch of paperback version through one of Australia’s leading publishing houses, and Louise Allan currently has a sought-after agent presenting her first novel to potential publishers.

Sonia Bellhouse has achieved outstanding success in short story writing competitions and harbours ambitions to publish novels; T. W. Lawless is experiencing considerable success with his thrillers involving Peter Clancy; and Sandi Bowie realised her dream to write about life with cystic fibrosis.

Melinda Tognini’s desire to share the ‘invisible’ tales we often don’t hear about led to the publication of her collection of stories about the lives of West Australian war widows, and my former colleague and kindred spirit Michele Nugent, who has been earning a living from her writing for thirty years, is now taking tentative steps on the path toward having her first novel published.

The West Australian’s Books Editor William Yeoman, in his foreword for Writing the Dream, says ‘it’s the individuality and intimacy of their personal narratives which will touch and inspire’. I have to agree with him.

Writing the Dream will occupy a prime position among my comprehensive collection of references, practical and inspiration texts on the craft of writing. I’m confident it will become a firm favourite — equally perfect for those days when I am buoyed by my aspirations and believe I can take on the publishing world, and those days when I’m teetering on the edge of doubt.

Writing the Dream can be pre-ordered at Serenity Press and for a limited time is available with a complimentary – and complementary – notebook, with space for aspiring authors, poets and writes to dare to put their own dreams onto paper.

When the stars align…

Fate. Chance. Kismet. Coincidence. Serendipity.

Whatever you call it, many times in my life when I have been facing a big decision or the possibility of change, the stars have aligned to allow me to proceed toward my purpose.

Halley's Comet 1986

Halley’s Comet — photographed, by me, in the sky over Dandaragan, early 1986.

But after spending five or six years contemplating my novel-writing dream, I hadn’t done more than write out a list of possible scenes, having woken one night brimming with ideas and unable to get back to sleep until I’d written them down.

Then, while interviewing an author I admired, I felt the twinges of professional envy and knew that if I was serious about writing a novel I’d better do something about it.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience, I knew how to write, but writing fiction is considerably different to writing fact. I wanted to learn the craft, and I wanted to learn it well.

According to an old saying in spiritual circles, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Through fate, chance, kismet, coincidence or serendipity, I found my teacher.

Daydreaming about how to move forward, I logged on to Facebook and the first item in my news feed was a post a friend of mine had shared about novelist and writing teacher Natasha Lester, who had just one place left in her university extension course, Nailing Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books, due to start the following week.

I couldn’t waste another minute. I clicked on the link, signed up and knew instinctively that this would be a valuable next step on my writing journey.


Author Natasha Lester taught the Nailing Your Novel course at UWA Extension.

I learned more about the nature of the novel in that five-week course than I had learnt in a lifetime of reading and many years studying literature at secondary and tertiary level.

Each week I travelled more than an hour each way to attend the classes, during which Natasha detailed the processes of novel writing, offered practical tips, guidance and inspiration, set exercises to encourage creativity, and used examples from classic and contemporary fiction to reinforce the course content.

She reminded her students that writers should also be readers; that we should read the sort of fiction we wanted to write, as well as stories beyond our comfort zone.

And Natasha urged us to foster a desire to learn more about the writing process, by attending other classes, joining a writing group, reading books by experts in the field and, most importantly, by writing at least a little bit, every day.

Review: Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue

Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue is a rollicking read.

A few days ago, I was messaging a dear friend about the work of novelist Michael Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, in 2001, for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Our messaging prompted me to remember reading and reviewing Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue in late-2012 / early-2013, and I found myself smiling at the recollection of what a romp it was – pure, unadulterated fun, and written in a seemingly effortless, thoroughly engaging style that could surely only have resulted from an abundance of talent combined with a perfectionist’s eye for precision. I thought it might be timely to share my review of Telegraph Avenue. And, in the meantime, I’ll be moving Kavalier & Clay closer to the top of my to-read pile – in anticipation of the anticipated release of Chabon’s next novel, Moonglow, due for release in November. Bring. It. On.


Telegraph Avenue

Michael Chabon

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue is a quirky, character-driven study of what it means to be a parent, spouse, friend and small business operator in suburban America at the start of the 21st Century.

Set in Oakland, California, in the summer of 2004, the novel explores the relationships between second-hand record store owners Archy Stallings, an African American, and Nat Jaffe, white and Jewish, and their wives Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, who run a home birth partnership.

When they learn that ‘the fifth richest black man in America’ plans to open a megastore with a vinyl records outlet nearby, Archy and Nat fear for their struggling enterprise, which relies on the patronage of colourful characters with a penchant for jazz, blues, funk and soul music (whose comings and goings greatly enhance the narrative).

Aviva and the heavily pregnant Gwen also encounter problems, as a complicated home birth looks likely to lead to a legal stoush, and Archy’s unacknowledged teenage son Titus arrives in town to captivate Aviva and Nat’s boy, Julius.

Add a corrupt councilman, Archy’s estranged father – a former ‘blaxploitation’ film star – and a back story linked to the Black Panthers, and the result is a dense, complex and immensely satisfying novel that will hold you spellbound. There’s even a timely cameo from a young Illinois senator named Barack Obama.

Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon, is published by Fourth Estate