I will not stay silent

Many, many moons ago I ran a  different blog. It started off being some place to write but gradually morphed into a feminist and critique blog. Ultimately I couldn’t keep up with posting (the beast required daily feeding by the end) so I locked it. (Don’t worry, the site is archived with the National Library of Australia, so future generations can ponder why early 21st century writers were so damned sarcastic all the time.) I started this site a few years later and promised myself that I would only post about books, literature and writing – to keep myself out of more dangerous territory. So today I’m breaking my own rule.

Recently, Clementine Ford made the news after she reported a man who had abused her online to his employer. His employer conducted an investigation and decided to terminate that man’s employment.

For some reason, despite the employer having its own reasons for terminating that man’s employment – Clementine has been abused, vilified and blamed. I say “for some reason” but I think we know the reason. The bullies of the internet protect their own. Accountability is a tree falling in a forest on another planet, light years away. According to the charmers recommending that a human being go into the bathroom and kill themselves, or be gangraped, the only person to be blamed for abuse is, paradoxically, the abused. Sound familiar? This isn’t just Clem anymore. This is a pattern. This is all of us.

Today women in media, and from other walks of life, are refusing to remain silent. This by journalist Tracey Spicer :

Every day, around the world, women and girls are harassed, bullied and abused on social media. It’s time say, ENOUGH! We stand with Clementine Ford, and every other woman who has been threatened with rape and murder for simply expressing an opinion. These men need to be held to account. Social media platforms should provide more protection. And legislators, in all jurisdictions, must work together to stop violence against women.

This campaign was initiated by concerned women in media. Clementine Ford did not initiate, arrange or participate in this campaign. But take a look at the @ mentions in her Twitter feed. That’s not an aberration. It’s not okay and I will not be silent.

The End of Seeing by Christy Collins

theendofseeingWe lived between nappies and traffic jams, mobile phones, and a small stretch of green we called our own, which we rarely saw in the daylight. We reminded each other of garbage collection schedules, the child carers’ names, and which jabs Mia had had. We attended dinner parties, pulling threads from our clothing, pushing our hair into place, smelling of the contents of bottles that still line our bathroom cabinet, and wondering if this was really how we wanted to spend our free time.

And we were still, there was no doubting it, the privileged.

Christy CollinsViva La Novella winner The End of Seeing is just 190 pages long but it took me an eternity to read. It is so beautiful and so, so painful that I had to take it in small doses. Read a few short passages, put it down, shake my head to clear the lump in my throat, and return to the sunlight for a moment.

The protagonist, Ana, is grieving. She is grieving the loss of her daughter Mia and on its heels the disappearance of her partner Nick. Her family and friends tell her to give up waiting. They bury an empty coffin. And she goes home to the empty house in the suburbs they moved to to give Mia some space, desperate for a life that had room for them, though it was never the life they planned.

Nick was drowned, it is assumed, when a leaky boat full of asylum seekers went down in the Mediterranean. Ana cannot let go of this end, she cannot believe he was on that boat. She goes to Europe to follow him, she has print outs of his black and white images, and traces the trail of his last photojournalism assignment. The big one. The one that meant something. And the one that eventually got Nick disappeared.

From the shores of the Mediterranean to the hotel laundries, brothels and cramped apartments, this is a story of a flood of people with nowhere to go, with no hope, with nothing but a series of bad options. And it’s about the forces that would rather their stories weren’t told. Ana’s grief is tangible, it leaps off the page and threatens to crush you, it grows from the singular grief for two lost loved ones, to a wide ranging grief for the world, for the life she leads, for the lives of others who are lost, lost, lost. I wanted to write to Collins after I finished this book, which took me nearly a month to read, rather than the half hour its length suggests. I wanted to say “Christy, you hurt me. And it was just what I needed. It was perfect.”

It’s not just an emotional punch lurking within these pages. This is a novella that seems important in a global, the time is now, kind of way. But it’s a painting, a sonnet, not a protest march. Or perhaps it’s both. Please read this.

The End of Seeing, Christy Collins: five stars.

Read it because: it might change you forever.


A comma splice sounds like a delicious dessert

writing remindersBut it isn’t.

I’ve started leaving myself little bullying notes about grammar. It seems I have developed bad habits with our friend the comma. This is in addition to my existing bad habits with switching tenses and being too brief with the proofreading. Eventually I’ll just be a walking bad habit.

The thing is, I feel I’ve learnt a lot of grammar as I go, rather than ever having foundational knowledge. Perhaps I skipped that day at school. I distinctly remember learning spelling, but commas? It’s like the dark secret of the writing world.

All of that aside, this is why, in my opinion, paying a professional to edit your work is worthwhile. I am helping promote International Book Promotions editing service. It’s specifically designed for indie authors and is actually quite affordable. They also offer ebook formatting.

Here’s the deal, I’m doing this on a commission basis. This may work out badly for me, or not. Contact me if you’d like a price list and more information about the service. I don’t bite. Email leatherboundpounds [at] gmail [dot] com.

The Book That Changed Everything

neverending_story_childhood_bookjpg-300x300I have always been a reader. I read voraciously as a child, picking up whatever was to hand appropriate or not, to the consternation of my parents. But I don’t really have a feeling of what reading delivered to me before I was encouraged by a teacher to read The Neverending Story. That, for me, was The Book That Changed Everything.

I know what you’re thinking, the bookish kid discovered a book about a bookish kid discovering a book, what a cliché. But, you know, clichés are born from a kernel of truth and the truth behind The Neverending Story is that literature is both an escape from and a return to reality. It is safety and comfort in a time of confusion, it is rebirth and rejuvenation, it is stepping outside the world in order to see it from a new perspective.

In The Neverending Story, Bastian is on the run from bullies and takes shelter in a bookshop where he discovers a book, The Neverending Story. By reading it he becomes part of the story himself, and upon his urging the pages of his very story are read – the story that ends with the pages of his very story being read – the story that once begun will never end. It was my first glimpse of weirdness associated with the fourth wall, something I adore even now, and even as I write this I have goosebumps.

Looking back, so many of my favourite books embrace toying with the fourth wall, or outright destroying it, and I’m certain my enjoyment of these games goes right back to the way I was involved in Ende’s story as a child. There’s a lot of angst about what literature is at the moment, who is inside and outside the rarefied circle of the Literary Establishment. The success of The Neverending Story shows that what literature, yes, even good, capital L Literature, should do is open an arm to us, the pleb readers, and embrace us. Take us into the heart of the story and we will always carry that story in our hearts.

Do you have a Book That Changed Everything? I’d like to start a series of guest posts, to share formative moments of readers. You don’t need to be a writer, the book that changed you doesn’t need to be a childhood book, or a great classic, it just needs to be something that you feel deep in your soul. The Literary Establishment is us, you know, the readers. Let’s embrace it and share our stories.

Email leatherboundpounds [at] gmail [dot] com if you would like to share your Book That Changed Everything.

Messed it up but rest assured no-one ever thinks they’re cured


There’s a line in a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, “just a minute while I reinvent myself”. I don’t know what Anthony Kiedis is singing about there but the line stops me every time. The past six months have been a period of reinvention and part of that has been learning a whole lot of new things. Some things I’ve learnt this year include:

  1. Riding a bike isn’t actually like riding a bike. I just got the gear changes right before my fancy new toy was stolen.
  2. Proofreading is hugely important. Don’t be an idiot, proofread your stuff.
  3. Risk taking helps you grow. And I’ve only just realised there’s no rules on what you do in life. I know I’m hugely privileged in that I’m able to take this risk, try on a new career for size, invest in a new way of living. Part of me still doesn’t quite believe that I’m allowed to do this.
  4. The jasmine scent in my garden seems to have a direct line to my heart. It tells me everything’s going to be okay, it tells me to take my time.
  5. Writing requires time spent alone, with nothing but the sound of birds and distant traffic around you. And it requires time spent in company, out of your element, doing new things and finding new sensations. Writers are travelers in the land of experience. But it’s not just writing. It’s about being fully human, not just going to work and coming home and the churn of routine.
  6. The power of belief. Faith that there is a point to all of this, that it will work out. It’s hard sometimes but sunny days and quiet times make all the difference.

Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward

welcome-to-orphancorpI twist my hand at a weird angle to get to the itch on my wrist below the shackle. I mean, they call them ‘the Consequences of movement violations’, but shackles is what they are. When I forget to refer to them as such I get ‘the Consequences of speech violations’, which is pretty much just a gag. No one cares what I call that because everything sounds the same with a mouthful of rubber, doesn’t it?

This novella, one of this year’s Viva La Novella winners, had me hooked from that dark, wry, oddly funny first paragraph. Mirii is 17, she only has a week left of her stay in Orphancorp. When she turns 18 she’ll be turfed out into the wide world. But some part of her can’t believe it’s really going to happen. And perhaps it won’t, any infraction, from a touch to a comment out of place, could lead to Consequences and if you accrue enough Consequences they could lead to Prisoncorp. According to Mirii: “Orphancorps[…]buy unaccompanied minors from the state and can’t keep ’em past eighteen. That is unless they mess up, then it’s right to Prisoncorp. Once you’re in there it’s pretty much the end of it.”

The children in Orphancorp are put to work, caring for infants, building or repairing electrical equipment, kitchen duties. Anything they can be used for. Sex is common among teenagers, pregnancy is common, as is home made abortion and drug use. In a world that is so cold, so harsh, any touch – any kindness is a luxury.

The novella is gripping from the convincing tone of the narrator, to the bleak reality Ward has created. It’s whip smart, edgy and well paced. Perhaps my only hesitation is that I wanted to know more of the world outside the Orphancorp that has sunk to this. But even so this story is a triumph of dystopian inventiveness.

Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward: four stars.

Read it for: a dystopian nightmare with urban sass.

We are the meaning

By Frances Gunn

By Frances Gunn

I long to sit and just be quiet with you; to have time to drink tea and make plans and dream together again. The time we had was filled with a hundred things that left no time for time. And I was sad and chronically tired and sometimes you would stroke my hair softly as I fell asleep at 8pm.

There’ll be time for us, you said:

We’ll do it in the time Russian heiresses spend stretched out on yachts reading Foucault.

We’ll do it in the time umbrella manufacturers spending watching the weather channel.

While Japanese school girls compose mobile phone novels on bullet trains; while lawyers read the fine print; while housewives paint their toenails.

You promised me there’d be time.

The End of Seeing, Christy Collins

This novella is breaking my heart.

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