On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

When we learn a foreign language, it is usual for progress to be assessed in terms of four separate categories: reading, writing, listening and speaking. But in relation to mastering our native tongue, the distinction between these categories is given far less emphasis. 

Because some of my favourite philosophers are comedians, I often think of a line about how to know if you’re suited to being a comic, one that is amusingly relevant to the life of a writer too: “You have to like sitting on trains and have quite low self esteem.”

Remember school play night? All the bustle and the brimming nerves. The school hall lit up specially in the dark and the sound of activity within. Your parents forsaken at the door as you caught sight of your friends – everyone pink with excitement, suddenly so much to say, the glory of importantly pushing aside the curtain that separated mere humans from the Stars of the Stage. And afterwards, when everyone wanted to know you. You felt special, special, special. 

It all began with a family holiday in Bali in 1975. I was instantly smitten with the culture, the food, the place, with the rustic charm and that infectious Balinese warmth. Our lodging, the Hotel Tjampuhan, was a shadow of its former self. Peacocks roamed the garden, the swimming pool was filled with spring water, there was no electricity and the entire island seemed like an overgrown jungle. 

Watching him from above, the boy looks insignificant against the expanse of the ocean. I can mark his progress to the water by the tracks across the sand, the last of them erased by the next wave sweeping up the beach. Board under his arm, he wades through the shallows out to the bar, eventually sliding it under him where the water deepens. It is here that the transformation occurs – the gangly, fidgeting teenager on land becomes the fluent, easy paddler on water.

Euroa, Benalla, Glenrowan, Wangaratta – these north-eastern Victorian towns are imprinted on my mind, their lyrical names a soundtrack to a childhood spent travelling the Hume Highway from Melbourne to see family. Early settlers in Australia, the myth of my ancestors and their overland journey from the Blue Mountains to Wangaratta is the stuff of legend. 

on the way to Jo’s funeral we hit a cow

and in Terang the police slow us down 

Like most writing students, money is an issue for me. Two-minute noodles are a regular menu item and I get mistaken as a staff member at Savers in Footscray because I’m there so often. 

Bunkered down between the old stone walls of the State Library of Victoria basement, the Melbourne Writers Festival office is humming with intensity and antici­pation. With over 400 artists confirmed, more than 400 events planned, and over forty venues ready to roll, preparations are in full swing for the 21–31 August 2014 festival. 

headshot of Kate Belle

Sales of romance fiction were estimated to reach $1.35 billion in 2013; Kate Belle argues that it’s time to start taking the sentimentalists seriously.

“Do you write ‘Mummy-Porn’?”

The words fell from my anesthetist’s curvaceous lips as I gazed into his vivid violet eyes. “My goodness, he’s handsome,” the thought stumbled through my stupid, sedated mind. Even bleary with drugs, I still sensed the mocking tone. Internally I struggled, knowing I was incapable of intelligently defending myself.