Feedback for the 2016 Bellingen Readers' and Writers' Festival
I thought the Festival one of the warmest and nicest I have ever attended. Such welcoming people - such a brave and beautiful cultural town (Danube Glass! A great jeweller's! The beautiful buildings - and the mural of the Bellingen area on Hyde! The Bakery's tarts!) - and such good sessions. I particularly enjoyed the three playwrights, it was a terrific session. Brian Purcell was a very sympathetic presenter with us poets. I loved the bookseller, who did quite well for me. And my hosts - I cannot say enough about their kindness. A big warm doona, coffee in bed to rouse me, a beautiful dinner on the Sunday night, and they drove me to sessions and, finally, to Coffs Harbour. And many thanks to Judith Turner who fetched me from Coffs and then toured me round the essential venues before taking me to my hosts.
A lovely person called Sandra met me on Monday morning and straightway said she'd take me to the Promised Land - which she did! Right around the Promised Land loop road, before Paul Nebauer (my host) arrived to drive me to Coffs.
Someone said they're thinking of making the festival bi-annual. I think that would be a big mistake, especially as a couple of other festivals have folded. And especially as they have you at present!
Yes, I enjoyed myself. Thank you so much, Irina, for inviting me. An occasion like this really stimulates and keeps one going!
We all had such a wonderful time out in Bellingen! You did such a great job with the organising of the event, so thank you so much for having us! Now you just have to try and start eating properly again - no more 'stressorexia'! (Meanwhile, I think all Josh, Graham, Ali and I did in Bellingen was eat! I'm still feeling full from how much food we consumed!!)
Thanks again for such an enjoyable festival! LYNETTE NONI
It was a wonderful festival and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. You did a fantastic job pulling it all together, a brilliant accomplishment. You struck the right notes throughout and asked excellent questions of your authors. I chatted with Richard Glover and Tony Windsor, managed to take some pictures of David Williamson with my new (and a little troublesome still) camera. Talking publicly about the multi-layered and themed Chipman is always a challenge for me, but diverting. I never seem to know what I will say until I've said it. I call it an entertainment (certainly) and a provocation although the only provocative stuff is contained in the deliberately scabrous missives from Danny Dudgeon; a playing with words, just persiflage really. I'm happy that the book opened your eyes, so to speak. Wild? I guess so if I look at it from the top of the maypole view point.
I bought one of Mark Dapin's books (Spirit House) and Dr. Leah Kaminsky's We're All Going to Die) and they are both sitting on my desk about to be read.
Until the next time, my very best wishes Irina, and once more, thank you for everything. JIM ANDERSON
Thanks so much for having me at the festival. I had an absolute ball and it was great to network with a fine bunch of authors and readers. Well done and thanks again. Nice to meet you, too! GREG BARRON
I just wanted to say once again how much I loved the festival! You're a really wonderful director - the quality of the speakers and themes was so high. I just had a ball! And I feel very privileged to have been a part of this wonderful event. I know Leah really loved it too. LEE KOFMAN
Just a note to heartily thank you & the entire committee over their fabulous efforts over the weekend. I know what's involved in creating that seemingly seamless process & I hope you are all relaxing & unwinding in the north coast sunshine!
Thanks for organising a wonderful festival. Such a great range of writers and lovely audiences. You and the team did an amazing festival on the limited resources of a generous town. One of the aspects I really enjoyed was having the time over the three days to meet with other writers, to become buddies with some, to get to know the town a little, and of course to drag a heavy suitcase home with new books. My workshop group was one of the best I've ever had - a pleasure to have taught. The panel sessions were all interesting.
An excellent festival, you must be exhausted but I hope also very proud!
Associate Professor JANE MESSER, Program Director, Postgraduate Creative Writing Programs
I've been meaning to get in touch with you to say what a delight your Belligen Writer's Festival was. I headed north with Helen Chebatte and her husband Charlie and I must say it was such a beautiful journey, from start to end - although we headed back to Sydney on Sunday after brunch, we all felt so wonderfully sated by all that the Festival offered.
Ben Ager, Jamie Oxenbould, David Terry, Karen Pang, Jennifer Corren and Michelle Doake in Gary Baxter's "CAMP"
It’s been a long time since I crossed the coathanger to the north side to go to the theatre, but recently I took myself off to the Ensemble to see a play called “Camp”.
I arrived in ignorance as to whether the play was about 1970s gay culture or a Nazi prison or the great Australian outdoor pastime.
It turned out to be the last mentioned.
Not being an aficionado of this activity, I groaned when I saw the stage, a bearded fellow sitting in a camp chair on fake grass complete with plastic dog turd nearby in a scene approximating a camping site.
It doesn’t take long for the action to take off however, as three couples make their appearance on stage and the double entendres start flying around about the flaps on the tents closing at night and the erect tents.
Of course, all three couples are suffering tensions in their relationships, and when this is added to the discomforts of a crowded campsite, noisy neighbours, misbehaving children (whom we never get to see, thank God!), and a poisonous snake, you expect a disaster, but no.
All’s well that end’s well, and you find yourself laughing volubly all the way through this tightly written play.
Baxter has given us a terrific piece of theatre that should be taken up by the many amateur theatrical groups in country Australia. It’s a perfect piece for rural performances, as audience members recall their own horrific camping experiences, and we have all had them.
Mark Kilmurry must take credit for his tight direction, which captures the nuances of the text while keeping the dialogue snappy and humorous.
Michelle Doake is a stand-out in her role of Maggie, with mesmerising comic timing and exceptionally funny body language, but the rest of the cast were also terrific, rounding out an extremely enjoyable night at the theatre despite my initial reservations.
It’s a great play for all the family if you don’t mind a few risqué jokes.
In-depth One-day seminar on Sufism, its philosophy and literary tradition
Sufism (comes from Arabic noun, suf, literary meaning course wool and the Sufi is the one wearing woolen garments) is the name of a great Oriental intellectual tradition. Sufism has been divided into two practical and theoretical parts: To those who practice it, Sufism means a quick spiritual foray into a space where the presence of the divine could be experienced. To those who are concerned with its theory, it is a body of knowledge that expands its influence in Western academia and culture. As Robert Graves wrote, a ‘cross pollination’ of Sufism in Western poetry and literature.
As an elixir of wisdom, intuition and an intellectual Yoga, Sufism has been known, cherished and even practiced in the West since time immemorial. Western poetry and writing in each epoch as Robert Graves wrote, illustrate ‘cross-pollination' of pollination of Sufism and its intellectual tradition. It is hard to find a single great Western poet or thinker who has not been inspired by Sufism. Dr Johnson loved Sufi Oneness and pantheism; Voltaire in Candid saw Sufi philosophy as an antidote to social injustice and religious extremism of his time. Goethe loved Sufi poetry; Richard Burton and Robert Graves were keen on practicing Sufism. Sufism was also cherished by Australia's greatest poet Professor Alec Derwent Hope. Hegel draws on Sufi thought in his works. Danish fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen was the first who brought the news about the Sufi music and dance known as “Whirling Dervishes” to Europe.
Nobel laureate, Doris Lessing is the doyen of contemporary Sufis in the West. She identifies Western admiration of Sufism since the 1960s as ‘a Sufi craze,’ and ‘Sufi bandwagon’. For Lessing, Sufism was a kind of universal feeling, emotion, a quick fix and an access with no intermediary. “Sufism is something one experiences on one's own,” she would say. Sufism is a treasury for sharpening your poetic and writing intuition and inspiration, one who tastes it knows it.
Rumi is a household name in the West. His poetry is now in the best-selling list in the United States. He is famous as Shakespeare in the West. Sufism has been used as healing effects on psychosomatic disorders; that is why Rumi is called by many as ‘healer of our time’.
This one-day course will introduce you to Sufism, its philosophy, spirituality, literary and cultural heritage and to Rumi, his poetry and his Whirling Dervishes.
Course Outcome: By the end of the one-day course, the participants should be able to:
have a widespread understanding of what Sufism is? Identify key concepts in Sufi philosophy, Sufi literature, poetry and art. Learn about the theoretical and practical aspects of Sufism.
define, explain and discuss key theoretical and literary texts in Sufism and its philosophy. Learn how to analyse a mystic discourse in a literary and poetic text.
apply Sufi knowledge and intellectual tradition for enhancing their capacity for intuition and creativity.
explain and discuss cross-fertilisation between Sufism and different branches in Western intellectual tradition.
identify and understand leading Western thinkers, poets and writers inspired and influenced by Sufism.
understand mystical experience in Eastern and Western traditions.
9:15-10:30am: Introduction: Sufism, Sufi philosophy
10:30-10:45am: Coffee break
10:45am-12:00: Influence of Sufism in the West: Idries Shah, Richard Burton and Doris Lessing, etc.
12:00-1:00pm Sufi Tales: Rumi (Mathnawi) & Attar (The Parliaments of Birds)
1:00-2.00pm: Lunch break
2:00pm-3:15pm: Sufi arts and music: Whirling Dervishes
3:15pm-3:30pm: Coffee break
3:30pm-4:30pm: Mystical Experience (ecstasy) from phenomenology to psychoanalysis:
Rumi and his Love/mystical poems
About the presenter and tutor
Dr Ehsan Azari, is an internationally acknowledge academic, researcher and writer. He has an MA (1st Class) in English literature and linguistics and a PhD in English literature from Macquarie University. He has taught different subjects in different universities. He is an Adjunct fellow with Writing & Society Research Centre (UWS) and an academic with The School of Humanities and Communications Arts (UWS). He is the author of Lacan and the Destiny of Literature: Shakespeare, Donne, Joyce and Ashbery: (2009 Continuum). He frequently writes for the Australian and international media on a wide-range of topics.
Writers: here’s your opportunity to eyeball an agent and pitch to a publisher!
From left to right: Belinda Alexandra, Carl Harrison-Ford, Selwa Anthony, Andy Palmer, Linsay Knight
Professional Development Seminar for Writers
Time and date: 9am-5pm, Sunday 19 February 2012
NSW Writers’ Centre, Callan Park Rozelle (Enter Callan Park from Balmain road opposite Cecily Street and follow the signs to the NSW Writers’ Centre)
There is plenty of free parking at the Centre.
Cost: $150 for waged, or $135 for seniors and students, plus $10 for pitching session.
Payment includes morning and afternoon tea and lunch. Please let Irina know if you are a vegetarian.
NB You must attend the full day to be eligible for the pitching session.
Payment: Send cheque/money order made out to Australian Writers Network and post to Irina Dunn, PO Box 136 Balmain NSW 2041 or deposit fee in Westpac BSB 032020 account 254469. Don’t forget to add $10 if you wish to make a pitch.
NB There are limited places for this one-day seminar and applicants will be enrolled in the order in which payment is received.
9am-10am: Opening address — Andy Palmer on “The Modern Author”
ANDY PALMER is Allen & Unwin's publicity director. He has worked in Australian book publishing for over 25 years at Pan Macmillan, HarperCollins Publishers, Simon & Schuster Australia and Hachette Australia. For eight years he ran Publicity Matters, a Sydney-based PR agency specialising in books and writers. In that time he was the Sydney Writers' Festival publicist for two years and the federal government's Books Alive (now called Get Reading) campaign publicist for seven years.
Morning tea 10am-10.30am
10.30am-11.45am The surgeons of your manuscript
Chair: Irina Dunn
With thousands of unsolicited manuscripts hitting the desks of Australian publishers a year, the onus is on writers to ensure that their work is as polished as it can be before submitting it to a publisher. Your friends and family will love your work, but only a professional editor can give you a dispassionate assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, suggest improvements in its structure, get rid of those embarrassing grammatical errors and other writing glitches and make your words shine on the page. Jean and Carl speak with many years’ experience as freelance editors; Jean is also a creative writing tutor and both she and Jan will talk about how writers can develop techniques to edit themselves. Alison Green speaks from the point of view of an in-house editor preparing the work of her authors for publication.
12pm-1.15pm: Agent Selwa Anthony and her clients Belinda Alexandra and Grant Hyde (see below for bios)
Chair: Irina Dunn
With publishing an increasingly difficult field to break into, hear what Selwa Anthony, one of Australia’s top writers’ agents, has to say about the current climate in Australia, what books are being taken up by the major publishers, what the prospects are for overseas interest, and what are the distinguishing features of successful Australian books and authors. Selwa Anthony’s clients Belinda Alexandra and Grant Hyde talk about how they broke into publishing, what efforts they put into getting their first and subsequent books published and their plans for future work. There will be ample time for all your questions at the end of this session.
2pm-3.15pm: What kind of books are publishers looking for today?
Chair: Irina Dunn
Hear what Jacob Coates, Alison Green, Linsay Knight and Melanie Ostell have to say about the kinds of manuscripts they are looking for, which titles are doing well in today’s market, whether they look at unsolicited manuscripts, their relationships with agents, and how they want manuscripts presented to them. There will be ample time for all your questions at the end of this session.
Afternoon tea 3.15pm-3.45pm
3.45pm-5pm: The Pitching Session
This is a unique opportunity to pitch your manuscript to a publisher. Your pitch will be strictly limited to three minutes. The panel members will assess the pitches and award a prize to the pitch they think has the best chance of being published. The prize is a copy of the current Australian Writer's Marketplace, an essential reference and resource for writers.
NB The pitch will be judged NOT on your presentation but on the genre and subject of the manuscript you are pitching.
To participate in this session, please email ONE PAGE with the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org, and don’t forget to add $10 to your fee if want to make a pitch.
Pitching page for [YOUR NAME] Phone number: Email address: Title: (of your manuscript) Length: (number of words in your manuscript) Genre: (eg memoir, young adult fiction, speculative fiction, chick lit, historical novel) The title of a comparable book which your book would sit next to on a shelf in a bookshop: Synopsis: maximum 300 words.
The publishers on the panel will be provided with copies of the pitch page you submit.
You may either read from the page you submit or you may simply speak for three minutes.
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF SEMINAR GUESTS
From left to right: Alison Green, Jacob Coates, Jan Cornall, Jean Bedford, Grant Hyde, Melanie Ostell
BELINDA ALEXANDRA has been published to wide acclaim in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, USA and throughout Europe. The daughter of a Russian mother and an Australian father, she has been an intrepid traveller since her youth. Her love of other cultures is matched by her passion for her home country, Australia, where she is a volunteer carer for the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Services (WIRES). She wrote the novels White Gardenia, Tuscan Rose, Silver Wattle and Wild Lavender. Her latest novel, Golden Earrings, is set in Spain and has once again given her readers a story they love.
SELWA ANTHONY was born in the Australian country town of Cowra, NSW. Her passion for books was ignited by her father when he gave Selwa her first library card when she was just eight. Having migrated from Lebanon in the 1920s, her father loved writers like Lawson, Paterson and Marcus Clarke, and they helped him love Australia. He also passed this love for Australian literature onto Selwa. She has said, "as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had a yellow road paved with bricks, mine seemed to be paved with books".
Selwa’s career began in the book section of a large department store in the 1960s. A decade later she was the retail and marketing manager in Sydney for a major book company, where she was the first manager to feature Australian books at the front of the store. During this time she also had her own radio book chat program, syndicated throughout Australia, and reviewed books on the Midday Movie Show with Bill Collins.
In 1984, the Selwa Anthony Author Management Agency was born. Selwa credits bestselling Australian author Colleen McCollough with her becoming an authors’ agent, after Colleen said of her: "Selwa has the best eye for a manuscript of anyone I have known and should become a literary agent".
Since signing up her first popular fiction author – the late Evan Green – Selwa pioneered the first breed of popular Australian fiction writers. Almost thirty years later, successful authors on her list are plentiful with the likes of Belinda Alexandra, Tara Moss, Kate Morton, Kim Wilkins (aka Kimberley Freeman), Diane Armstrong, and many more.
Selwa’s agency champions the cause of Australian authors, who are often underappreciated in their own country. She focuses on discovering and promoting home-grown authors who have wonderful Australian stories to tell.
Selwa has also written four books of her own – The Lebanese Cookbook, co-authored with her two sisters, two "little positive thinking books", Succeed With Me and Wake Up, Shake Up, Stand Up, with Jimmy Thomson, and The Spirit of Australia, with Sue Williams.
Selwa is married and has two daughters, a stepson and stepdaughter, and two grandchildren. She lives in Sydney.
JEAN BEDFORD teaches Creative Writing at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is the author of the short-story collections Country Girl AgainandColouring In (with Rosemary Creswell), the novels Sister Kate, A Lease of Summer, Love Child, If With a Beating Heart, Now You See Me, and three detective novels. She has been a journalist (Literary and Arts Editor of The National Times), a publisher’s editor (both in-house for Angus & Robertson and Transworld, and freelance for most major Australian publishers), a teacher of ESL and of creative writing, as well as commissioning editor of several short story and essay collections. She has been a judge for numerous regional, state and national literary grants and prizes, including for the Literature Board of the Australia Council, both for literary grants and for publishing subsidies, as well as for various Fellowship of Australian Writers and National Book Award prizes. She has several times judged the NSW Premier’s Award for fiction and the Australian/Vogel Award as well as the Nita B Kibble Award.
JACOB COATES is the founder of Jaffa Books, a new e-publishing company based in Brisbane. A keen reader of speculative fiction, Jacob has always loved the works of some of the masters of these genres. J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas Adams are two of the greatest inspirations to him. Since emigrating from England at fifteen, Jacob started writing his own work before graduating from QUT’s creative writing degree in 2010. Jaffa Books was conceived shortly afterwards, and successfully launched late last year. Jaffa Books is an e-publishing company based in Brisbane. Jacob is always looking for exciting new talents, and accepts a wide range of fiction across any genre and almost all lengths. Offering an attractive royalty deal for writers, Jaffa Books is well suited to first-time or upcoming authors.
JAN CORNALL is a Sydney-based writer, performer and teacher who supports writers through the long process of realising their creative work. The author of 15 plays and musicals, a feature film, three CDs of songs and a novel, Jan teaches creative writing at writers’ centres, community colleges and universities in Australia and the Asia Pacific. Jan also leads writing retreats in inspirational locations: Bali, Fiji, Laos, Cambodia and the Australian desert. She is dedicated to nurturing the unique attributes of each writer, and each year a number of her students go on to publish with major publishing houses. See www.writersjourney.com.au.
IRINA DUNN is the Director of the Australian Writers' Network, which has 7,500 subscribers throughout Australia and abroad. She wrote The Writer’s Guide: a companion to writing for pleasure or publication, (Allen & Unwin), which was described by the Australian Book Review as ‘a godsend for writers’ and as ‘one of the clearest and most commonsensical compendiums around’. Irina has been a regular programmer, speaker, presenter and moderator at writers’ festivals at Ubud in Bali, Byron Bay, Norfolk Island, Darwin and Sydney Writers’ Festivals. For the last four years she has chaired the Woollahra Council Local Writers’ Festival. In 2010, she was invited to be a judge of the inaugural Randwick Council Literary Awards.
ALISON GREEN is CEO and co-founder of Pantera Press, which was founded in 2008. Pantera Press is small, independent and Australian, and brings together an unusual mix of passions for the arts, business and philanthropy. With her background in psychology and business strategy, Alison’s creative vision is to foster debate by discovering and nurturing talented new authors and publishing books readers rave about. With its “Good books doing good things”™ mantra, Pantera Press supports programs such as The Smith Family’s Let’s Read initiative that encourage the joy of reading. Since May 2010 Pantera Press books have received critical acclaim, with a best-seller, several books going in to reprint and Sulari Gentill's novel A Few Right Thinking Men being shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book for this region.
CARL HARRISON-FORD commenced his life in publishing as a “poison taster”, assessing unsolicited manuscripts for a large publisher. In the subsequent four decades he has been a self-employed editor. During that time he has worked on fiction — both literary and popular, including much crime fiction — and a wide variety of non-fiction, from the academic, general history and biography to books on sport, and memoir, a wide range but excluding Lifestyle and New Age. Some years ago he was the Editor in Residence at the University of Canberra, and earlier still was instrumental in the establishment of the National Book Council Manuscript Assessment Service.
GRANT RAYMOND HYDE was born and raised in Maroubra in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. A bookmakers son, he attended Waverley Catholic Boy’s College until his matriculation in 1986. He worked as a clerk for his father until he was graded with the NRL’s Eastern Suburbs Roosters (Sydney Roosters) in 1989. His football life ended in 1992 with the death of his father and a serious career beckoned. Over the following years he worked as a hotel manager, gym instructor, building project manager and real estate agent, all with varying degrees of success. It was his interest in human history and his love of the Polynesian people that brought him to complete his first novel Lords of the Pacific in 2008, and it was published the following year. The stand alone sequel Islands of Gold was released in January 2011. Grant is currently working on his third novel, Daniel’s Empire, an Australian saga set in early Sydney Town.
LINSAY KNIGHT is widely respected as a leading expert in, and contributor to, children’s literature in Australia. As the Head of Children’s Books at Random House Australia, she has nurtured the talent of numerous authors and illustrators to create some of Australia’s most successful children’s books. Linsay is also the author of several successful non-fiction children’s books, and the editor of a number of children’s dictionaries and story collections, including 30 Australian Stories for Children, 30 Australian Ghost Stories for Children and four age story collections: Stories for 6, 7, 8 and 9 Year Olds.
MELANIE OSTELL has more than 20 years' experience in Australian book publishing as a bookseller, educator, editor and publisher. For many years she was senior editor at Text Publishing and in June 2011 she took up the position of Publisher of the Pier 9 imprint at Murdoch Books. Pier 9 is the narrative imprint of Murdoch Books, which has been publishing award-winning titles since its founding in 1991. Pier 9 publishes around 22 titles each year with an emphasis on narrative non-fiction that includes memoir, biography, history and popular science titles. We also publish literary and genre fiction and select young adult fiction.
For information about the program, contact Irina Dunn email@example.com, or call 0403 48 63 63.
Whose books will become the Russian classics of tomorrow?
We know what novels Russians read in the 19th century — the great classics of Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
Under Communism they read Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak and Gorky, often as Samizdat (underground) hand-written copies circulated among trusted friends.
But what are Russians reading in the free market economy?
Does literature play the same significant role today as it did under both Tsarist and Soviet rule?
How do current Russian novels reflect the society which produces them?
Why are Russians devouring writers such as Victor Pelevin (pictured above), Tatiana Tolstaya, Boris Akunin and others in such huge quantities?
IRINA DUNN takes a look at some contemporary Russian writers, explaining why they are so popular, how they reflect the current zeitgeist of the country and which might become the classics of tomorrow.
IRINA DUNN BIOGRAPHY
Irina Dunn is the Director of the Australian Writers Network. Previously she was Director of the NSW Writers' Centre, Manager of the Australian Writers’ Guild Authorship Collecting Society and Managing Editor at Booktopia. She wrote The Writer’s Guide: a companion to writing for pleasure or publication, (Allen & Unwin), which was shortlisted for the Australian Publishers’ Association National Education Awards.
The book she co-authored and co-edited with two scientists, A Natural Legacy: Ecology in Australia, won the Royal Australian Zoological Society Prize for best text on the subject AND she received an international prize for her documentary about the Australian women's peace movement, "Fighting for Peace".
She represented NSW as an Independent Senator from 1988 to 1990.
Irina was born in Shanghai, China, and is of Russian, Irish, Portuguese and Chinese background. She is a cultural tour guide and takes Australian travelers to Russia, the Baltic States, Mongolia and China.
Place: Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club, Level 3 restaurant, 93-97 Spring Street – Bondi Junction
Date and time: Tuesday 4 October 2011, 6.30pm-10.00pm
EARLY BOOKING ESSENTIAL AS PLACES ARE LIMITED.
Cost: Light supper plus talk $35.00 per person (non-refundable) Regrettably, no complimentary tickets can be issued as prices have been minimized to keep the costs affordable for Soirées guests.
Payment: Deposit to Westpac BSB: 032 051 Acc: 162 874
Make sure you include your name in your payment then send email to:firstname.lastname@example.org for your receipt/ticket, or send cheque payable to “Soirées Littéraires”, PO Box 572 Paddington NSW 2021.
Peter Miller-Robinson is a songwriter, singer and guitarist whose original music embraces elements of folk, blues and jazz. He also plays mandolin and eight-string ukulele. He is known for rich vocals, dexterous playing and astute, often wry lyrics. Peter has been awarded twice by the Australian Songwriters' Association.Peter is an enthusiastic live performer who plays regularly at festivals, universities, folk clubs and on national and public radio. He has shared the stage with many well-known local and international artists. In 2007 he supported Bo Diddly, Eric Burdon, Rodriguez and Chris Smither at the Basement in Sydney during their Australian tours.In 2009, Peter was invited to tour Ireland by Kingdom Management. A highlight of this trip was playing at the hallowed De Barras Folk Club run by the famous Moore family, Christy, Barry (aka Luka Bloom) and Gavin. The tour was a great success and Peter will be returning to Ireland in June this year. This Pain Quotidian show will be one of his last in Sydney before Peter flies out. Peter is currently completing his second CD, "Amongst Others", before the trip. Peter acknowledges the inspiration of the generation of songwriters he grew up listening to, including Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. There are also the darker influences of Lou Read and John Cale from 60s New York. As well as Peter's own compositions, you can expect to hear fine interpretations of songs like "Dance Me to the End of Love", "Hallelujah", "I Shall Be Released", "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "Crazy Love" and even "Perfect Day".
Peter will be accompanied by long-time musical friend, Tim Watts, on double bass.
What the critics have said about Peter..."Fine writing" Philip Adams: "A compelling story teller" Drum Media: "Haunting tales" Sydney Morning Herald
3. Michael Wilding and Inez Baranay at Leichhardt Library
4. Review of Michael Wilding’s The Prisoner of Mt Warning
Welcome to the January 2011 e-newsletter of the Australian Writers Network, which goes to 5,000 recipients each month.
In this newsletter we will be offering items of interest to both published and aspiring writers, as well as to discerning readers.
If you have a short review of a newly published book or a writing quote you wish to share with Network News subscribers, please send it to email@example.com.
We will advertise gratis items of general literary interest sent in by subscribers, but if you wish to advertise your book or event through our e-newsletter, please contact us regarding the very modest fee we charge for this service.
2. Soirées Littéraires (February)
GUY DE MAUPASSANT: HIS LIFE AND WORKS Guy de Maupassant is one of the greatest short story writers of all time and is considered to be a father of the modern short story. He also wrote six superb novels. He hated war, he hated religion and he adored women, but De Maupassant found little happiness in his short life - the epitaph he wrote for himself was "I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing".
This talk by well-known literary expert Susannah Fullerton (pictured above) illustrates the genius of this troubled writer and tells the story of his short and turbulent life.
Time: 6.30pm-10pm, Tuesday 1 February
Venue: "La Brasserie", 118-126 Crown Street Darlinghurst, Sydney (Nr William Street)
Cost: Supper + Talk $30.00
RSVP essential, limited spaces
Regrettably, no complimentary tickets can be issued as prices have been minimised to keep the costs affordable for Soirées guests.
Payment: Make cheques to Soirées Littéraires, PO Box 572 Paddington NSW 2021 or deposit $30 in Westpac BSB 032 051 Account 162 874.
3. Michael Wilding and Inez Baranay at Leichhardt Library
Irina Dunn talks to Michael Wilding and Inez Baranay (above) at Leichhardt Library about their new novels from Press On
The Prisoner of Mount Warning by Michael Wilding
Wilding’s latest novel is a take on the secret world, mainstream and underground journalism, writers’ centres, the counter culture and much else. The book is a heady ride from Sydney to Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.
Peter Corris writes: “If this was as much fun to write as it is to read, Michael Wilding must have enjoyed writing The Prisoner of Mount Warning.
With The Tiger by Inez Baranay
With the Tiger is set both in Australia and in India, and makes entertaining, often dryly satiric, observations on the last years of Joh’s Queensland, the gay art scene, and the high-flier social circles of Sydney during the boom and bust of the 1980s. – Paul Sharrad
A racy read, this is a worthy addition to your literary vocabulary. – Sahara Times
Leichhardt Library Italian Forum, 23 Norton Street, Leichhardt, Sydney 6pm, Thursday 3 February, 2011
4. Review of Michael Wilding’s The Prisoner of Mt Warning
by Irina Dunn (Quadrant Jan-Feb 2011)
One reason I like Michael Wilding’s work so much, and this may be the same reason it is sometimes misunderstood, is that the acute social observation of his writing is sometimes taken as unmediated description. And so the creative imagination of the author is dismissed as if he were a mere cipher for recording the world around him.
Not so. Wilding is a sly writer, who lures you in with a knowing laugh only to turn the joke around and leave you gasping. There were many such moments in Academia Nuts and Superfluous Men, his novels about aging academics as they reach the end of their careers and face anonymous retirement.
Wilding’s latest novel The Prisoner of Mt Warning returns to the heady pot-smoking paranoid seventies by focusing on a group of one-time hippies whose past exploits are catching up with them to embarrass them. If you were young in the seventies, you might know what this means.
A writer turned investigative reporter, Wilding’s protagonist Plant is the most innocent of all the players, despite the implications of his name, in what is gradually revealed to be a widespread spook network.
Huxter, the arts editor of a major newspaper, employs Plant to track down a man called Dorritt, who has written a disturbing article about being kidnapped, tortured and subjected to sex slavery while in the employ of the secret service many years before.
Dorritt had been enlisted by his professor to conduct a survey of alternative magazines and newspapers after funding for Dorritt’s PhD program was terminated. Dorritt had a nervous breakdown during the course of his research and was put away for years, emerging only after a “Writing as Therapy” course at a writers' centre prompted him to record his earlier traumatic experiences. It is this that has got Huxter so worried.
Trouble for Plant is, Huxter doesn’t want to say too much about the case because, as Plant correctly opines, he’s personally involved.
“Find out what he’s [Dorritt] planning to write.” “What sort of things?” “How would I know what sort of things?” said Huxter. Very clearly, Plant thought, but he kept quiet. Huxter was worried about something and wasn’t going to say what it was. Something that Dorritt might write. But if Dorritt in the end didn’t write it, then Huxter didn’t want to have said what it was. That was clear. It was also clear that it was something serious. Something worrying. Something incriminating. Otherwise there would be no reason for Huxter not to tell Plant.
In his search for information about Dorritt, Plant visits Bobby, the American proprietor of Bobby’s Books who, with “blonded hair, gold necklace, earrings, bangles, beige business suit”, was clearly inspired by Pat Woolley of Fastbooks.
Bobbie tells Plant of her reaction when Dorritt visited her years before to interview her for his research project on the alternative press:
“I thought he was a poet,” said Bobbie. “One of those English ones. All dandruff and unwashed socks.” “I’d like to talk to you,” he said.” “Talk,” said Bobbie, counting out another twenty-five copies of How to Grow Your Own Dope and Harvest It. “Well, interview you,” said Dorritt. “Go ahead,” said Bobbie. He took out his notebook. “What is the aim of your publishing program?” “To sell books,” said Bobbie. He laughed. A madman’s laugh… “Apart from that?” “Apart from that we’re going to be out of business.” He snuffled some more. “But your editorial objectives?” “Not to publish poetry,” she said. Hoping that would get rid of him. But it didn’t. He just wrote it down.
Plant’s mission to find the elusive Dorritt takes him to inner city pubs, the Greek restaurant above Hyde Park, the writers’ centre in Rozelle where Dorritt is a volunteer. Plant is a keen observer of his environment, as an investigative reporter should be, and brings Sydney to life with piquant details of his travels around it:
They drove across to Ashfield, parked the car and walked past the church hall and the food being doled out to the down and outs, past the Polish house, last relic of the post-war Slavic migration, down into the new Chinatown, in the Shanghai Night. In the early afternoon. Hand made noodles. Shallot cake. Vegetable dumplings. Chili pepper tofu.
Plant follows his quarry to the hills behind Byron Bay, the scene of the crimes Dorritt alleges took place — kidnapping, torture, sexual slavery and interrogation. He visits the commune and finds that Rose, one of the original inhabitants, still lives there. There’s the bowl of fruit on the wooden table. The bowl of dope. Familiar? The heady smoke of pot rises from the pages when Plant sits around the hippy table, questioning Rose and Huxter’s colleagues Angela Dark, a journalist, and Ghostly Sperrit, political speechwriter and bagman, about their involvement in Dorritt’s kidnapping and torture, since they were at the commune at the time the alleged events took place.
Plant becomes increasingly paranoid when his friend Fullalove suggests that Plant may have been employed to find Dorritt so that “the contract man knows where to go”. Enmeshed in a spy ring in which everyone lies or is evasive, maybe even his friend Fullalove, his paranoia provides the links for transforming a complex set of hints and suppositions into the ultimate paranoic interpretation of the case and make it seem plausible, at least until the end of the story.
This is a story which will confront you with its logic and suck you in with its reasoning.
Plant’s sensitivity to the nuances of communication lead to many hilarious moments in this very funny novel, while Wilding’s wonderful ear for menacing dialogue and a witty punch line make The Prisoner of Mt Warning a must for anyone who would enjoy a spy thriller loaded with black humour while taking a nostalgic trip back to the radical 70s.
NETWORK NEWS — November 2010
CONTENTS1. IRINA DUNN website 2. MICHAEL WILDING at the Toxteth Thursday 25 November 3. SOIREES LITTERAIRES Christmas Party 4. News from publisher PRESS ON 5. WET INK — the best-looking literary magazine 6. PINEROLO, the new Children's Book Cottage in the Blue Mountains 7. A humorous word from SANDY GANDHI, Australia's most easterly Indian, on celebrity chefs
__________________________________________________________________1. IRINA DUNN WEBSITE — OPEN FOR BUSINESS
If you are struggling with a manuscript, needing help to improve it, or wanting advice on finding a publisher, you are invited to visit my website to look at the range of services I offer writers of both fiction and non-fiction, including adult and young adult fiction, scientific writing, biography and history. “From her first reading of my manuscript, “A History of War Surgery”, Irina Dunn was enthusiastic about its possibilities. Her perception has been proven correct. It has just been accepted by a major international publisher… Irina’s contribution to this thrilling outcome cannot be underestimated. I commend her unconditionally to all those seeking sophisticated guidance towards a similar outcome.” Dr John Wright, A History of War Surgery (Amberley Publishing 2011)“It was only after I followed your advice to a 'T' that I was offered a contract from a commercial publisher. A big thank you! It was one of the most worthwhile meetings I've ever had.” Louise Austin, Journey to Tobruk (Pier 9 2009)
2. MICHAEL WILDING RETURNS TO THE TOXTETH THURSDAY 25 NOVEMBER
Peter Corris writes: “If this was as much fun to write as it is to read, Michael Wilding must have enjoying writing The Prisoner of Mount Warning. A take on the secret world, mainstream and underground journalism, Writers’ Centres, the counter culture and much else, the book is a heady ride from Sydney to Byron Bay and the Gold Coast with Plant, resting writer, investigating something that might have happened but perhaps not. Wilding has created a world both funny and creepy for Plant and the reader”.Michael will be interviewed about The Prisoner of Mt Warningby IRINA DUNN, Director of the Australian Writers’ NetworkJoin us for dinner after for a “buy one get one free” meal deal OR a $10.00 for T-bone steakIF YOU ARE STAYING FOR DINNER YOU MUST RESERVE. Thursday, 25 November, 2010 at 6 for 6.30 pm Upstairs function room of the Toxteth Hotel, 345 Glebe Point Road, Glebe Entry to interview: gratis Bookings for dinner & inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 0403 48 63 63 NB You do not have to stay for dinner __________________________________________________________________3. SOIREES LITTERAIRES IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE ITS CHRISTMAS CONCERT You are invited to attend the last Soirees Litteraires meeting for the year. This will be a night of Christmas, Noel, Navidad, Natale and Weihnachten, when you will be entertained by a European musical and poetic medley with artists, singers and speakers who participated in Soirees during the year. Join us in celebrating a very successful year with tapas, wine and coffee.MCs: MICHAEL TESORIORO and PETER MILLER ROBINSONMichael Tesoriorowith MICHAEL TESORIORO, baritone PETER MILLER ROBINSON voice, guitar LEONARD MAHEMOFF - bass SHIRLEY POLITZER - piano ANNE LAMBERT - poetry IRINA SPINADEL - poetry ( French ) LISA CARLOSS - poetry ( English )Irina Spinadel, Peter Miller Robinson and Lisa CarlossJOIN US? at the French Restaurant "Le Pain Quotidien" ("The Daily Bread") Cnr Fitzroy & Bourke Streets, Surry Hills 6pm – 9pm, Tuesday 7 DecemberENTRY Tapas + performance $30.00 Wine/beer $5 per glassBOOKINGS Le Pain Quotidien (02) 9360 8460 Regrettably, no complimentary tickets can be issued as prices have been minimised to keep the costs affordable for Soirees guests. NB RSVP ESSENTIAL AS NUMBERS ARE LIMITEDFor inquiries or suggestions about the Soirees program, or offers to give a talk, call IRINA SPINADEL (Organiser) Tel: (02) 9363 1147Irina Spinadel is asking everyone attending this event to bring a small gift to be placed under the Christmas email@example.com myspace.com/soireeslitterairesSoirées Littéraires — Promotes European cultural life in sympathique surroundings __________________________________________________________________ 4. NEWS FROM PRESS ONPress On fiction brings the voice of the individual writer with the minimum of intervention, not genetically engineered by editors, nor contaminated with additives by agents.With Press On fiction you get the writer’s cut, fiction written from a creative imperative, not as a commercial speculation. This is fiction that has an urgency and a meaning, fiction that compels and rewards.You can subscribe to any three titles (any mix of titles or multiple copies) for $60 ($100 overseas). Subscription gives you a discount of 30% on the retail price.Press On is now in partnership with Arcadia, the general books imprint of Australian Scholarly Publishing. Subscriptions or single copy orders should be placed with Australian Scholarly Publishing.PRESS ON TITLESMichael Wilding, THE PRISONER OF MOUNT WARNING "This satirical odyssey from an Australian literary legend has his protagonist heading north to find himself, among other things. Charles Dorritt recovers from a breakdown by doing a writing course and dcides to write of his torutre and slavery at the hands of the security services. He's pursued by Plant, who's been hired to dissuade him from revealing all. It's also a journey into the past, an era of magic mushrooms and free love. Wilding was at the forefront of a rebellious Australian literary movement in the '70s; in this book, he weaves a narrative of personal, literary and political dimensions into an entertaining yarn." - Phil Brown, Brisbane NewsInez Baranay, WITH THE TIGER “A racy read, this is a worthy addition to your literary vocabulary.” – Sahara Times “Elegant and intricate prose.” – The StatesmanPhillip Edmonds, LEAVING HOME WITH HENRY Henry Lawson arises from the vaults of the National Library and hitches a ride out of Canberra. A contemporary road novel with epic implications, this is a vision of Australia the way we live now, seen from Henry’s perspective of how we might have been. Are we an egalitarian people, or only individuals pursuing pleasure? When the nineties met the noughties. Phillip Edmonds is managing editor of Wet Ink (www.wetink.com.au), the quarterly magazine of new writing.Peter Corris, WISHART'S QUEST “Wishart's Quest is Peter Corris at his best.” – Muhammad Cohen, Asia Times “Corris's portrayals of Australia stand out uniquely – forceful, hard–driven, compassionate.” – James Ellroy Peter Corris is undoubtedly one of Australia’s top storytellers. – Sunday MailFORTHCOMINGRoss Fitzgerald and Trevor Jordan, FOOLS' PARADISE: LIFE IN AN ALTERED STATE “Bawdy, irreverent and very politically incorrect, Fool’s Paradise is not so much a novel as a rambunctious political cartoon, blending State, academic and sexual politics into a chaotic, kaleidoscopic farce.” – Ian McFadyenPeter Corris, THE COLONIAL QUEEN A compelling evocation of Australia’s boom-time years – and of the gamblers and survivors inhabiting its shady side. “Authentic and unforced ... not divorced from the society and politics of the time. And part of the politics is to do with water, just as is the case now.” – Thomas Keneally “Corris has successfully combined his considerable knowledge of the sport of boxing with his dramatic account of the nineteenth century paddle steamers that serviced the third-longest navigable river in the world. The result is a cracking storyline with sharp dialogue and an original setting.” – John Dale SUBSCRIBE AND SAVE - ANY 3 BOOKS FOR $60 - (OVERSEAS $100)Australian Scholarly Publishing Pty Ltd. 7 Little Lothian Street North, North Melbourne, Vic 3051 tel: 03 9329 6963 fax: 03 9329 5452 email: firstname.lastname@example.org On-line: www.scholarly.info __________________________________________________________________5. WET INK — the best-looking literary magazineIf you haven’t checked out Wet Ink you should. It's a "magazine that’s dedicated to publishing new and exciting writing”.Inside each issue you’ll find fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction, interviews, photography, book reviews and more. It’s the place to discover some of today’s best up-and-coming talent, as well as new works by established authors.A bonus is that Wet Ink is a beautifully produced magazine that is a pleasure to look at and fondle. __________________________________________________________________6. PINEROLO, the new Children's Book Cottage in the Blue MountainsI am delighted to learn that MARGARET HAMILTON has finally realised her dream of establishing a house dedicated to children’s literature in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.Pinerolo aims to promote Australian picture books and their creators, educate children and adults about picture books, provide a venue for the exhibition of original artwork from picture books and bring people interested in picture books together in an inspiring environmentHere’s Pinerolo’s invitation to you all to attend its OPEN DAY.__________________________________________________________________7. A word from SANDY GANDHI, Australia's most easterly Indian, on celebrity chefs"Cook as good as you look" by Sandy GandhiThe truth is often hard to swallow but the fact is, we’ve eaten our way to the top as the world’s fattest nation. Perhaps it’s because we’re constantly bombarded with adverts for fast foods, confectionery and alcohol by way of TV, magazines, billboards and flyers in our letter boxes with discount coupons attached.How can a kid resist an unhealthy meal when it comes with a free toy?And if that’s not enough, have you noticed how many cooking shows there are on TV?On any given day, some commercial channels have at least five cooking shows programmed, not forgetting all the food that’s rammed down our throats during the commercial breaks.We’ve got celebrity chefs coming out of our ears – there’s the sultry chef, and the boy next door chef.There’s the gay chef, the black chef, the straight chef and the white chef. Zer’s ze European chef and the oriental chef, and there’s the cook and the chef.We have the master chef, the iron chef, the fat chef and the thin chef, even the effen chef.It seems life’s just one big cook-off – it’s no wonder we can’t keep the fat off!Sandy Gandhi lives in Byron Bay and is a Foreign Gossipondent Extraordinaire. Her motto is, “if it hasn’t happened, I’ll make it up!”Email: email@example.com__________________________________________________________________If you think someone else might be interested in the above information please forward it to them. If you do not wish to receive further such messages, please reply with "REMOVE" in the subject line.
The Australian Writers Network is pleased to invite you to
"The role of magic in Romanticism"
a talk by Nicholas Routley, with songs performed by Russian soprano Mariana Bakhtan
European Romanticism was the last serious attempt before post-structuralism to postulate an alternative to scientific rationalism.Nicholas Routley discusses the role of magic in European Romanticism, its transformative power, so that things are never quite what they seem. Being a musician, he refers mainly to the metaphoric and descriptive techniques of a few composers, including Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin.
To his mind, their kind of truth is truer than scientific truth.
Born and educated in the UK, Nicholas Routley lectured at the University of Cambridge before moving to Australia in 1975 to take up a post at the department of Music at the University of Sydney. He founded the Sydney Chamber Choir in that year and was its Musical Director for 30 years. He retired from the Choir, and a year later from the University, to devote himself to composition. His research interests include music of the fifteenth century, particularly that of Josquin des Prez, and opera. He is widely known as both conductor and pianist in Australia, South-East Asia, and Europe. A pupil of Franco Ferrara and Carlo Maria Giulini, he has conducted several major orchestras including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and is in great demand as a choral conductor. As a pianist, he studied with Peter Feuchtwanger in London, and specialises in chamber music, especially with singers, having worked over long periods with counter-tenor Hartley Newnham, tenor Gerald English, and soprano Marilyn Minns. Since 1996 he has been actively engaged in composition, having written several vocal works, a symphony, and the symphonic poem “Icarus”. He is currently engaged on a series of operas on the subject of the Indian epic poem, Mahabharata.
Mariana Batkhan received a scholarship at the Saint Petersburg State Music School for gifted and talented children at age 6. Nine years later she graduated with honours. She has since graduated from the Saint Petersburg State Musical College and State University of Art and Culture with honours where she earned her Bachelor of Music Teaching and Bachelor of Music Theatre Directing and Performing. Mariana plays piano, guitar, accordion, recorder and the Russian folk instruments, domra and balalaika. From 1989 she has taught piano, guitar and voice. She has conducted and accompanied choirs, and has extensive performing, directing and composing experience for live theatre. Mariana has performed as a singer and an actress in plays such as Medea, Snow Queen, Misfortune from an Affectionate Heart, Tartuffe, Maria and her Sisters, Snow White and Thumbelina. Mariana played with the Sydney Balalaika Orchestra from 2007-2009. In 2008 she was offered a permanent slot at the SBS Radio Russian Program where she has been reviewing films, performances, concerts and exhibitions in her broadcast "Art Review" ever since. Most recently Mariana accompanied the St Scholastica's College Choir at Angel Place. Mariana is currently working on her first solo piano and voice album, due out in late 2010. Mariana teaches piano/voice/guitar at the Modern Music Lessons School located in the CBD on George St where she has the highest retention rate of all the teachers.
at the French Restaurant "Le Pain Quotidien" ("The Daily Bread")
Cnr Fitzroy & Bourke Streets, Surry Hills
6:00pm – 8:30pm, Tuesday 2 November
Dinner + talk $30.00
$5.00 per glass for beer and wine
Le Pain Quotidien (02) 9360 8460
Regrettably, no complimentary tickets can be issued as prices have been minimised to keep the costs affordable for Soirees guests.
NB RSVP ESSENTIAL AS NUMBERS ARE LIMITED
For inquiries/suggestions about the Soirees program, or offers to give a talk,
call IRINA SPINADEL (Organiser), (02) 9363 1147
SL promotes European cultural life with French food in sympathique surroundings and meets on the 1st Tuesday of the month.
Irina Dunn interviews Singaporean writer Shamini Flint, author of the Inspector Singh crime fiction series
Shamini Flint began her career in law in Malaysia and also worked at an international law firm in Singapore. She traveled extensively around Asia for her work before resigning to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist, all in an effort to make up for her ‘evil’ past as a corporate lawyer!
Her Inspector Singh novels are published by Little, Brown and have been translated into numerous languages. Titles include Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul and Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villainy.
“It's impossible not to warm to the portly, sweating, dishevelled, wheezing Inspector Singh …” The Guardian wrote.
Shamini also writes children’s books with cultural and environmental themes including The Seeds of Time, an environmental fantasy and Ten, a tale of growing up and football. Her latest book is Diary of a Soccer Star – a ‘laugh out loud’ story of the trials faced by a would-be soccer star.
What is your name?
Shamini Mahadevan Flint is the rather clumsy handle that I go by but Shamini Flint if it’s a book cover and I need to project that combination of exotic and hard that I hope sells crime books!
Where were you born? Where do you live? Have you always lived in Singapore?
I was born in Penang in Malaysia but was an air force brat so moved around a lot, including a couple of years in the UK when I was child. Finally, the family settled for a few years in the small seaside town of Kuantan in Malaysia before eventually moving to Kuala Lumpur. I moved to Singapore around ten years ago for a job and stayed when I quit as my hubby still works here.
What education did you receive (schooling, university)?
I studied in Malaysia right up until A-levels but then went to the UK to study law at the University of Kent, did the Bar in London and a Masters at Cambridge in an effort to postpone getting down to real work.
What aspirations did you have as a child/youth?
I was always going to be a lawyer. I read To Kill a Mockingbird at an impressionable age plus my mum was a lawyer and our bedtime stories used to consist of the peculiarities of the law of trusts and such like!
You mentioned that you were a corporate lawyer. How did you get into this field and what sort of work did you do in this role? Why did you decide to leave this field?
I have to confess I became a corporate lawyer in a shameless episode of greed when I was offered a very good job at an English firm with offices in the Far East. I worked on mergers and acquisitions, corporate insolvency, capital market fund raisings – oh my word, it’s too boring to even write it! I abandoned the role in a fit of hormones when I was expecting my first child to be a stay-at-home mum.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Shortly after the hormones mentioned above had ebbed, six months after my daughter was born, when I realised I was probably the worst stay-at-home mum in the history of the world!
Did your family support your ambition?
Well, they were all so horrified that I had given up the law to be at home that I think they were pleased that at least I was doing ‘something’. Mind you, it’s viewed as a hobby until such time as I get a ‘real job’!
What was your first venture into publishing?
When shopping for books for the kids, I realised that – especially at picture book level – they still didn’t cater for Asian kids. I decided to fill the niche with a series of picture books about a little girl travelling around Singapore and Asia doing very ordinary things. The first of the series was Sasha Visits the Botanic Gardens but the fifteenth should come out this year.
You have written several children’s books? What are they? And what age-group are they aimed at?
There are many picture books with cultural and environmental themes including the Sasha books, Jungle Blues and Turtle takes a Trip. I was (and am) hoping to generate a feeling of belonging and sense of responsibility for their own environment in Asian children. I have also written an environmental fantasy for 9-14 year olds, The Seeds of Time, and two other children’s novels (I do occasionally write for fun!) about soccer, Ten and Diary of a Soccer Star.
When did you get the idea of writing a crime series? Were you influenced by Alexander McCall Smith or perhaps Hong Kong writer Nury Vittachi? Someone else? Maybe Agatha Christie?
As a reader of crime fiction, a lawyer, and someone who wanted to write books set in a contemporary Asian setting with an emphasis on the law and politics of the place, crime seemed an obvious choice. I have certainly read and enjoyed all the authors mentioned. I also enjoy Ruth Rendell, PD James, Reginald Hill and Ian Rankin.
How did you dream up a character — Inspector Singh —that is so different to you? Are you fond of him?
It worries me that I don’t think I am that different from my plump copper, except for the turban and beard, of course! He has an underlying bitchiness which sounds very much like me on occasion (and a fear of flying too!). I am fond of Inspector Singh, we have become good friends over the course of the first three books. I find that I don’t have to ‘write’ him so much these days as just let him go his own way … and follow with a pen taking notes.
What sort of reaction have you received from your Malaysian/Singaporean critics? Are they critical of any aspects of your books in particular?
On the whole, the reaction has been very positive. Asians get fairly tired of the sort of over-exoticised portrayal of Asia so beloved of the publishing industry. The Singapore book, however, did get a very nasty review in the Singapore Straits Times, although a glowing one in KL. It seems the sensitivities described in the books are still present!
Have you offended any religious/political sensibilities in your books?
Probably – but all I have done is fictionalise genuine points of social and political concern. It is inevitable that there will be some backlash from such an approach in nations that are still very much finding a space for criticism in the public sphere.
I get the impression that you have a strong social conscience and that you are trying to draw attention to certain themes through your fiction, eg the logging of rainforests in A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder. Which comes first, the fiction or the issue when you start writing a book?
Actually, I have to confess, the issue often comes first in the sense it will be the spark that gets me going. Whether it is the drugs laws in Singapore, illegal logging in Malaysia or the progress of the war crimes tribunal in Cambodia, the issue often comes first!
Have you received a different critical response from the Anglo-world?
Overwhelming positive (which has been a comfort and will hopefully help sales!).
Was it easy for you to find a publisher for your first Inspector Singh book?
I self-published to begin with using the company that I set up to publish children’s books. After the second Singh came out, I decided it was too difficult to write and publish in so many genres so I sent the books off to a few publishers. Two of them came back immediately so it was not difficult as such. Having said that, it was quite likely that there was interest because the series looked credible as there were already two books available. I suspect a single manuscript would have faced the usual rejections.
Do you have an agent?
What do you tell budding authors when they ask you for guidance?
I believe everyone has a story to tell so the key is the process of turning thoughts and ideas into prose on paper. I think the critical factor is the discipline to keep trying and to not let the inevitable self-doubt triumph.
What is the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing for me is the opportunity to share ideas and stories with readers. The worst is walking into a bookshop and finding that there is still no space for poor Inspector Singh on the shelves!
Can you make a living as a writer or do you need to supplement this income with other work?
I can just about make a living – but not the sort I did when I was that successful corporate lawyer! Fortunately, my newly (after the kids were born) developed interest in environmental issues means that I don’t regret the sports car that much!
Finally, what case is Inspector Singh going to solve next?
Inspector Singh Investigates: A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree.
The Australian Writers Network is delighted to invite you to
An Evening with Singaporean writer SHAMINI FLINT, author of "The Inspector Singh Investigates" series
'Shamini Flint completely captivated the audience. You are soooooo.... in for a treat in Sydney. She had everyone in hysterics and that was the serious bits.’ Western Australian audience member
Shamini is visiting Australia to attend the Byron Bay Writers Festival, but if you are not going to the festival, this is your opportunity to hear this exciting new young author in Sydney in conversation with AWN Director IRINA DUNN while enjoying a fabulous Singaporean-style feast for only $25.
In an effort to make up for her ‘evil’ past as a corporate lawyer, Shamini now works as a writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist.
She has published three books in her Inspector Singh series: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul, and The Singapore School of Villainy, out this month. She is also the author of several children’s books.
Shamini says: ‘I think crime is an excellent genre if one’s intention is to shine a spotlight on contemporary social and legal issues in Asian society. I chose a Sikh because I wanted someone physically iconic – and the turban does that. Also, after September 11, Sikhs were targeted in the US having been mistaken for Moslems and I thought that was an interesting modern day twist to being Sikh. And of course, he’s a misfit (doesn’t a good cop have to be?) in that rather sterile place that is Singapore.’ Reviews
‘Inspector Singh is a crime series hero like no other – fat, cantankerous, cynical but utterly endearing – and could do for Asia what Mme Ramotswe has done for Botswana.’ Daily Telegraph (UK) ‘Family feuds, cultural clashes and commercial chicanery add up to a feast of fun.’ Adelaide Advertiser ‘There is rich and evocative detail of life in the Malaysian capital - so pungent you can almost smell it.’ Notebook VENUE Harry's Singapore Restaurant Level 1, 198 Elizabeth Street, Sydney (entrance via Campbell Street)TIME AND DATE 6-8.30pm, Monday 2 AugustCOST $25 only for banquet + talk The restaurant is licensed.PARKING is available at the nearby Goulburn Street Parking Station for $10 for the evening.BOOKINGS Make cheques out to Australian Writers Network and send to PO Box 136 Balmain NSW 2041, or deposit $25 per ticket in Westpac BSB 032 020 account 254469 in the name of Australian Writers Network.NB Please ensure you write your name on the deposit so it can be identified.BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL, LIMITED NUMBERSCONTACTIrina Dunn, mobile 0403 48 63 63 or email firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Australian Writers Network takes pleasure in inviting you toSOIREE LITTERAIRE FOR AUGUST"From Rousseau via Hemingway to Catherine M - a journey through French memoir"A talk by Patti MillerPatti's talk will explore memoirs set in France written by a variety of English, American and Australian writers as well as memoirs written by French writers. This will not be an historical survey but an intriguing, eclectic and idiosyncratic look at French-flavoured memoir, shaped by a passion for French literature and for the view from inside a life.PATTI MILLER is the author of Australia’s best-selling autobiographical writing texts, Writing Your Life and The Memoir Book, and of The Last One Who Remembers (memoir), Child (novel), and Whatever The Gods Do (memoir). She is published regularly in newspapers, magazines and literary and art journals. She has been teaching writing for many years and has specialised in life writing since 1991. She teaches a memoir workshop in Paris each year through the Sydney Writers’ Centre. She also mentors the development of manuscripts, many of which have been successfully published. For more information, see www.lifestories.com.au.
JOIN US? at the French Restaurant "Le Pain Quotidien" ("The Daily Bread") Cnr Fitzroy & Bourke Streets, Surry Hills 6:00pm – 8:30pm, Tuesday 3 AugustBYO or you can purchase wine by the glass at the restaurant.ENTRY DINNER + TALK $30.00 (NB NO REFUNDS)RSVP ESSENTIALPAYMENT Make cheques out to Soirées Littéraires and send to Irina Spinadel, 23 Nelson Street Woollahra NSW 2025 or deposit $25 per ticket in Westpac BSB 032 051 Account 162 874 in the name of Soirées Littéraires.BOOKINGS AND INQUIRIES IRINA SPINADEL (Director) Tel: (02) 9363 1147