Meredith Grant

Meredith Grant
Meredith Grant is an emerging Regional Victorian writer. She has been shortlisted for the Trudy Graham-Julie Lewis Lit. Awards for Prose, runner-up for the FAW Qld. Soapbox Article competition and most recently been awarded runner-up in the Writers Victoria Regional Members Writing Competition. She has also contributed to on-line Journals and had articles and personal memoirs published on-line. She studied Professional Writing and Editing at Ballarat University and has a strong focus on writing non-fiction. Her goal is to become a freelance writer where her contributions will cover her experience and knowledge on topics that sit close to her heart, including Australia's homeless epidemic, teenage depression and Australian adoption matters. She is currently working on her full length memoir she hopes to have published, until then her short memoir works are being submitted to various opportunities and competitions which she hopes will help raise her writing profile.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

How to be a book reviewer by Allena Tapia

    Hi bloggers, I am currently looking at book reviewing as my most current interest topic of writing, and came across this article by Allena Tapia which I found to give some very sound advice as far as starting out on the book reviewing platform. I wanted to share this as well as keep it close on hand for reference. If this is an area you're also interested in I hope it helps. Reviews can of course be new titles and older, I guess the focus would be on newer titles, but older titles / classics are in my opinion just as good to plug a book that resonates with you and could offer another reader some great reading. Start your platform with Goodreads and build your audience. Hope to hear from you guys on these platforms. Meredith

     First, Act Like a Book Reviewer: Review Books, A LOT

  • woman in front of shelves of books

    Being a paid book reviewer likely sounds like a plum job for many writers, who generally love reading as much as writing. Despite this, it's certainly not a pipe dream. Seriously, I'm a real person, and I do it every day. There is indeed paid work available for book reviewers.
    The first step is to obtain books on your own (at your own expense) and publish reviews on open platforms like Goodreads or Amazon.
    This helps the writer in several ways. First, it keeps you on top of the recent releases in your interest areas and genres. This is important because reviewing focuses on recent releases (with a few exceptions). It also teaches you the process of writing a book review. Interacting with other writers, reviewers and readers will help to shape your prose. You'll also get the chance to observe their review styles. Last, you may begin to develop a following of fans who appreciate your reviews and writing style. It is from this following that you build your audience for later endeavors.
  • 02
     Develop Your Own Book Review Outlet

    woman writing in journal

    Once you've got the hang of reviewing books, you'll want to develop a site or niche where you can publish your work yourself, such as a fan page or a blog.  It helps to establish you as an expert, and puts the focus on you as a reviewer/brand, as opposed to Amazon reviews, which people may not associate as much with the review authors. It also serves to gather your prose/writing in one area/profile, which you can then use later on as evidence of your beautiful prose style and sparkling reviewer's wit.
    At this point, you are still generally shouldering the cost of the books yourself. However, there are platforms and site such as BookSneeze, which gives free books to some bloggers in exchange for published reviews.
    Personally, I recommend starting a book review blog, as you are in full control, and may even be able to monetize the site and begin earning pay for your reviews that much earlier. Also, you can then open your blog/site up to authors who are seeking reviews or doing blog tours. It might mean that you'll then start getting your books for free from the author/publishers. It also means that you'll be privy to brand new releases- ones that may not even be available to the public yet. Again, this will serve to underline you as an expert. Another bonus is that you begin to build relationships with those authors/publishers.
    Often, the books that you receive from these relationships and from places like BookSneeze are Advanced Readers Copies. It is a "rough draft" of the book produced for first readers and reviewers. These ARCs costs less to produce and can be sent out early, even if the final book isn't completely done. Also, ARCs can't be sold/resold on It helps keep the new releases under wraps and keeps the profits with the publisher!
    If you can cultivate a relationship with a publisher at this point, you may have the good fortune of being put on their marketing/publicity list. It means that they'll send you emails or catalogs asking you which of their new releases you'd like a copy of. What a book lovers dream!
  • 03
     Gather Your Documents Together

    Woman typing on laptop

    It is now almost time to start chasing those paid opportunities. But, you need to prepare! Gather together your best reviews- the ones in which your prose just flows, and your passion is evident. Format them attractively and save them as a PDF. Also, if this particular review is on a site, save the URL, too, as some book reviewing jobs ask for links.
    Next, prepare a resume focusing first on your book reviewing credits and skills, and second on your other writing credits and skills. Yes, it's true, some outlets who are in a position to pay book reviewers may request a traditional resume. However, they're not looking for a list of every job you've had in the past 5 to 10 years. They're looking for evidence of your writing/reviewing ability. Be sure to learn about how to write a job resume if you need help with this step.
    Your last document will be a cover letter. It will generally be the text of an email responding to open jobs/projects. Put together a basic cover letter for a generic book review position, and then slant it for each potential project.
  • 04
     Pursue Paid Book Reviewing Jobs/Projects

    Woman writing in notebook surrounded by flowers

    It's time to start making some dough. Even if you're hoping to focus on reviewing for specific magazines, or reviewing for a particular leader in the industry, I still recommend that you build up your credentials and give yourself some monetary encouragement by getting some paid work.
    Look for specific freelance writing jobs that ask for book reviewers. Yes, there are a few here and there. I run into this request at least once a month through my established freelance writing jobs lists. If you find an opportunity that you want to take up, respond specifically (tailor your cover letter) and quickly (as these guys get inundated fast). Don't be discouraged if you don't get a response. It is a volume game. When someone puts such an attractive job out there on the WWW, they likely have their pick of the litter. Keep trying.
    You may pick up some regular clients in this manner, which is always good, since, hey, you've reached your goal! You are now a paid book reviewer! (But read on anyway.)
    Generally, these companies, sites, or publications have a relationship with the publisher, so you'll likely receive the review copy from your new client. It may vary, though.
    One side note here. There are often authors or companies that pay reviewers for positive reviews. It is an ethical consideration for you if you want to continue and be accepted in the book reviewing field. Generally, a reviewer is thought to be an impartial source.
    Check out this New York Times article on paid book reviewers for more information.
  • 05
     Pitch to Magazines, Journals and Newspapers

    Man reading book with coffee

    Now that you're an established book reviewer with a few (paid) clips in your portfolio, the next level could be getting your reviews placed in publications- both print and online. It might net you a wider audience, and certain publications net you some cred as a writer/reviewer. Also, print publications may pay a bit better, too.When I say "publications," I am including the big guys here: Booklist from the ALA, Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly. Of course, you may want to start smaller, such as with a regional rag, and build up to the power players, right?
    I've covered how to query magazines extensively on this site, and the process is similar to book reviews. However, there might be a bit of variety. For example, some editors may want to see the review in total, as opposed to pitch or query letters. Some may list you as an ongoing potential reviewer, one in a pool, and send you books that match your stated interests or expertise areas every so often. Some may come to you with potential titles, whereas some may let you pitch titles that you think their readership would like.
    Finding outlets that accept book reviews is similar to finding magazines to publish your other written work: start with the Writers Market or visit the magazine's website.
  • 06
     Keep Current and Get Educated

    Man reading on tablet in living room

    Retain your status as a paid, professional book reviewer by staying current and relevant in the field. Keep on top of new releases, specifically those in your favorite genres. In addition, most major book sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble have sections regarding upcoming releases. Following publishers on Twitter, or signing up for their marketing emails may also result in insider scoops.
    In addition, consider joining the National Book Critics Circle, a professional association for book reviewers. They offer education and networking resources for reviewers, along with updated listings of potential outlets. Wondering why this recommendation is at the end of your process? It's because the NBCC is open to professional reviewers who can show published review clips. Now, t
    Updated November 12, 2017

Saturday, 23 July 2016

New book review - 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed

Hi everyone, just letting you know I have posted my review of Cheryl Strayed's 'Wild.'  To find it just head over to my page Book Reviews.  Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Little Library - Melbourne

Stumbled across this unique idea through a facebook post by Humans in Melbourne. 

Yes, it's a community library where any one can visit, sit, read, relax, meet other people, talk, learn and borrow or swap books all on an honesty system.

Although it's not purely just for those who may be homeless, it certainly breaks down barriers allowing anyone from any walk of life to go in without feeling as though they don't belong, or can't afford its luxury.

Located within Melbourne Central, on Level 2, you could be excused for almost passing without noticing; myself included.

Inside you'll see what looks like a bookstore, but it is so much more. The Little Library is a place where absolutely anyone can come and borrow or swap a book for free. There is no membership, there is no shopkeeper or security guard, it is all done on honesty.

I would hope every major city could invest in utilising a space to provide this same concept for their own locals. Wow, what food for thought!

Sunday, 29 May 2016


Recently I was lucky enough to try my hand at a new technique of writing called Regionalism and local color in short fiction
I hope that wasn't a sigh I heard? 

Anyway, this new opportunity meant research, another new concept for me for most of my writing is strongly non-fictional, but I was ready for something different, ready for a new challenge and who knows I might pull something great off.

For those who don't know what 'Regionalism and local color' writing is, here's a little bit about it. 

By definition, local color is defined as the characteristics and traits that make a location unique, like the gold fields - as I happened to choose for my story.  It's about the food shops and attitudes of the people in a town.

Local color stories concentrate on landscape, dialect like that found in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it's about customs and folklore specific to geographic region or locale.  It's said that the setting can be so integral to the story that it sometimes becomes a character itself.
Thematically, many local color stories share an aversion to change, a weakness for sentimentality or nostalgia for the anachronistic beliefs of a past. It's a place where characters adhere to traditional gender, ethnic and social economic roles - so it's like keeping things real.  But when it comes to plot, often very little happens for the storytelling itself revolves mostly around the community and it's rituals rather than one character's experiences.

Local color taught me a thing or two other than writing in a new genre, it taught me the importance of accuracy in research and how I was able to manipulate what I found to structure my own story and characters in a way I visualised. It allowed me to have fun with characters, setting and dialect, so much so perhaps my story wandered more towards character than locale - I don't know - I'll leave that for the judges to decide. 
Regardless, this new sense of short-fiction writing brought new life and interest for me personally, I really felt my character's come alive more than ever, I could really see them living how I plotted their lives and most importantly it gave me a far more thorough understanding of my own locale I never knew existed. It presented an opportunity to visit local cemeteries and historic land marks, such as old mines I never would've otherwise. It gave me the in-depth knowledge needed to understand local history and then translate that into something inspiring through my penmanship.  

I've added a few paragraphs of my local writing in my page titled 'Writing Stuff,' please head over and have a read, tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Bookshop of Kabul- Bookshops Of the World

The Bookseller of Kabul was one of many books listed on my bucket list of books to read and quickly became one of my many favorite reads.

This post was inspired by The Bookseller of Kabul, with real photo's of the bookshop itself.  Pictured opposite is the real man behind the story Shah Muhammad Rais.

Yes it's an International bestseller, but what I've come to learn since having read this extraordinary book first published in 2002 is how much controversy the Author Asne Seierstad caused due to telling the story of Sultan Khan (Shah Muhammad Rais).
It surprises me that Shah Muhammad Rais found this account of his life so incorrectly depicted, especially when the Author shared four months of her life in Shah's home to write of his and his families experiences as Afghani's. How welcoming they had been, how open, honest they were with Asne, and how careful Asne consciously made the effort in telling their story through their own words and feelings.

Asne writes the foreward appearing  to be so aware in maintaining anonymity, telling a story as she puts it, in literary form, while based on real events.

It's easy to read this story wondering if it's actually fiction or fact; sign of a good writer many would agree!

There's always two sides to every story though isn't there?

It's reported that Shah Muhammad Rais and his family sought asylum in Norway as political refugee's after things revealed about them from the publishing of the book made life in Afghanistan unsafe. Shah then went on to publishing his own book, Once upon a time was a bookseller in Kabul, which tells his own story.

September 10 2003
By: Shah M Rais
It was my heartfelt desire to come to Norway and say hello to newfound Norwegian friends who had read a book, which was supposed to accurately depict my lifelong struggle against fundamentalism, tyranny and illiteracy in Afghanistan from the window of Asne's home. I never dreamed that the opposite circumstances would have arisen, circumstances that I never could have imagined when I extended to her my hospitality, precious time, and the benefits of my experience during a moment of tragedy and crisis for my country and the world. Instead of writing a true portrait of my family, my country, and myself she has closed the window on truth, defaming all of us in her cold desire for money, believing that the low and the salacious would sell better than the high and the honest. In this she has proved temporarily correct, but there is too much light flowing through the many windows opened by honest people during the global ordeal that terrorism has caused for such a hollow victory to last.
She has told the press that she has written or said nothing to put me in danger.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Bookshops of the World

Shakespeare & Company Paris- Most photographed bookstore in the world!
A Brief History of a Parisian Bookstore
"I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations." —George Whitman
I just love George Whitman's definition of how he came to "create" this bookstore, it conjures an immediate imagination of your own, one where you can see rooms filled with favorite genre's, favorite all-time classics just waiting for your presence, to spot them silently awaiting your perusal, your excitement in meeting them, in stepping through into a universe of it's very own - and how wonderful does that feel.

Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookshop located in the heart of Paris, on the banks of the Seine, opposite Notre-Dame. Since opening in 1951, it’s been a meeting place for English speaking writers and readers, becoming a Left Bank literary institution.

The bookshop was founded by American George Whitman at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, Kilometer Zero, the point at which all French roads begin. Constructed in the early 17th century, the building was originally a monastery.

When the store first opened, it was called Le Mistral. George changed it to the present name in April 1964—on the four-hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth—in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Her store at 12 rue de l’Odéon was a gathering place for the great expat writers of the time—Joyce, Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Pound—as well as for leading French writers.

From the first day the store opened, writers, artists, and intellectuals were invited to sleep among the shop’s shelves and piles of books, on small beds that doubled as benches during the day. Since then, an estimated 30,000 young and young-at-heart writers and artists have stayed in the bookshop, including then unknowns such as Alan Sillitoe, Robert Stone, Kate Grenville, Sebastian Barry, Ethan Hawke, Jeet Thayil, Darren Aronfsky, Stephen Rea, David Rakoff, and Linda Grant. These guests are called Tumbleweeds after the rolling thistles that “drift in and out with the winds of chance,” as George described. A sense of community and commune was very important to him—he referred to his shop as a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.”

Three things are asked of each Tumbleweed: read a book a day, help at the shop for a few hours a day, and produce a one-page autobiography. Thousands and thousands of these autobiographies have been collected and now form an impressive archive, capturing generations of writers, travelers, and dreamers who have left behind pieces of their stories.

In 2002, at the age of twenty-one, Sylvia Whitman, George’s only child, returned to Shakespeare and Company to spend time with her father, then eighty-eight years old, in his kingdom of books. In 2006, George officially put Sylvia in charge. On the shutters outside the store, he wrote: “Each monastery had a frère lampier whose duty was to light the lamps at nightfall. I have been doing this for fifty years. Now it is my daughter’s turn.”

Sylvia introduced several new literary endeavors. In June 2003, Shakespeare and Company hosted its first literary festival, followed by three others. Participants over the years have included Paul Auster, Will Self, Marjane Satrapi, Jung Chang, Philip Pullman, Hanif Kureishi, Siri Hustvedt, Martin Amis, and Alistair Horne, among many others.

In 2011, with the de Groot Foundation, Shakespeare and Company launched the Paris Literary Prize, a novella contest open to unpublished writers from around the world. In recent years, the bookstore’s had cameo appearances in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Shakespeare and Company also continues to host at least one free literary event a week, and has been delighted to welcome young and emerging writers along with today’s leading authors.

The shop’s latest projects include a Shakespeare and Company publishing arm and an ongoing search for a farm and writers’ retreat in the countryside around Paris.

Although George Whitman passed away on December 14, 2011—two days after his 98th birthday—his novel, this bookshop, is still being written, both by Sylvia and by the thousands of people who continue to read, write, and sleep at Shakespeare and Company.

If I ever visit Paris, this will be a must visit on my bucket-list of places to see before I die.

Notes shared in this post have been resourced from Shakespeare and Co's website titled "History."

Saturday, 2 January 2016

January's Author Spotlight

Each month I hope to introduce you to a special author whom I've come to love and perhaps even resonate with his or her writing on a very personal level; it might even include an author I have either just experienced or endeavor too via spotting a read of new interest. Some of you may already know some of these authors from having already read their books. Some authors we may get to know together for the first time, sparking a common interest in wanting to read something completely different to the usual genres we're use to.
Either way I hope you enjoy this new addition to my blog for 2016.

Just for the record, Paulo Coelho has become one my most read and favorite authors. His writing brings deep emotional attachment and thinking, it makes you want to live a better, fuller life; a purposeful life. After reading one of his books, I'm left pondering my own life's purpose, life's value and I feel much alive with this experience I never want to let go.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is considered one of the most influential authors of our times, he's also become one of my all time favorite authors having read a huge line-up of his books including 'The Pilgrimage' and 'The Alchemist.' His books have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide, have been released in 170 countries and been translated into 80 languages; what author could ask for anything more.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947 he soon discovered his vocation for writing. His career includes working as a director, theater actor, songwriter and journalist. His collaboration with Brazilian composer and singer Raúl Seixas gave some of the greatest classic rock songs in Brazil.
In 1986, a special meeting led him to make the pilgrimage to Saint James Compostela (in Spain). The Road to Santiago was not only a common pilgrimage but a turning point in his existence. A year later, he wrote 'The Pilgrimage', an autobiographical novel that is considered the beginning of his career.

In the following year, Coelho published 'The Alchemist'. Slow initial sales convinced his first publisher to drop the novel, but it went on to become one of the best selling Brazilian books of all time much to Coelho's surprise. The story of Santiago is a testament to how powerful our dreams can be and the importance of listening to our hearts. It really is a must read for any avid reader, believer or anyone looking to transform or add true meaningfulness to their lives.

Other titles include 'Brida' (1990), 'The Valkyries' (1992), 'By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept' (1994), the collection of his best columns published in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo entitle 'Maktub' (1994), the compilation of texts 'Phrases' (1995), 'The Fifth Mountain' (1996), 'Manual of a Warrior of Light' (1997), 'Veronika decides to die' (1998), 'The Devil and Miss Prym' (2000), the compilation of traditional tales in 'Stories for parents, children and grandchildren' (2001), 'Eleven Minutes' (2003), 'The Zahir' (2005), 'Like the Flowing River' (2006), 'The Witch of Portobello' (2006), 'The Winner Stands Alone' (2008), 'Aleph' (2010), 'Manuscript found in Accra' (2012) and 'Adultery' (2014).
You'll love them all!
Coelho has received numerous prestigious international awards, amongst them being inducted into the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 2002 and Messenger of Peace by the United Nations since 2007. In 2009 he received the Guinness World Record for the most translated author for the same book (The Alchemist).

This title is one I have not yet read, however will make it one of my priorities for 2016; here's a little look at what it's all about. If you've already read it please leave your comments and thoughts.

Synopsis by Foyles Bookstore London
The new novel from internationally acclaimed author Paulo Coelho - a dramatic story of love, life and death that shows us all why every second of our existence is a choice we all make between living and dying. Veronika has everything she could wish for. She is young and pretty, has plenty of boyfriends, a steady job, a loving family. Yet she is not happy; something is lacking in her life, and one morning she decides to die. She takes an overdose of sleeping pills, only to wake up some time later in the local hospital. There she is told that her heart is damaged and she has only a few days to live. The story follows Veronika through these intense days as to her surprise she finds herself experiencing feelings she has never really felt before. Against all odds she finds herself falling in love and even wanting to live again...

Monday, 28 December 2015

Bookshops of the World

I stumbled across this bookstore while googling 'bookstores of the world', it appealed to me immediately probably because one, it's outdoors, two it has that Mediterranean feeling of being on holidays and reading books, and three it's something vastly different to anything I've seen before. Bart's Bookstore located in California is the largest outdoor bookstore in the world, boasting an extensive range of rare books - a definite for my list of bookstores to visit before I die.
I don't know what it is but unusual shops like this gets my heart rate going in a good way, especially when it houses books.
My favorite all-time bookstores are those old stores - not the musty, smelly types, but the old-style that surround you in all their glory of colorful jackets lining the walls from floor to ceiling, boasting new titles you've not seen before or perhaps have forgotten about until now.

One of my all time favorite stores like this is The Hill of Content Bookstore located in Bourke st Melbourne. It wasn't until I'd visited the Reading's bookstore at the State Library Melbourne that I learnt of this quaint bookshop after a staff member kindly referred me there.

You'll find this bookstore just a short stroll from the Treasury Gardens and Parliament House which dates back to the gangster days of Squizzy Taylor an Australian-based career criminal in the 1920s, famous for his pick-pocketing, arm robberies and murder. ( A bit of history folks)!

Yep, this bookstore is as good as they can get. I don't know about you but I can't get enough of being surrounded in books and this is what you get when you visit the Hill of Content bookshop. In my opinion nothing can beat an old style book store either, with a rickety sweeping stair-case taking you to a new level of more books; more books! You can also find the often very hard to get journals like The Australian Book Review. I usually visit this bookstore with a list in hand of titles I'm keen to take home and more than often I leave with titles I never came out looking for - but never disappointed in doing so. Who would go to Big W to buy a copy when they could spend a few lazy hours perusing the shelves here?

If you haven't yet been fortunate enough to visit this bookstore I highly recommend that next time your in Melbourne include a visit here.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Teenage Depression

August seems so long ago when I last posted and there's been a million and one things been going on since. Over the past few months I have reached the low of all lows life could've thrown my way, but more so, life has thrown my son the hardest, darkest lessons ever imaginable.

It's alarming yes, even more so when confronted with the fact your own flesh and blood is suffering a disorder you have very little control over; in fact you don't have any control over. It comes as a shock, the most terrifying reality any parent could be confronted with, yet the reality is there are hundreds of thousands of families facing this ordeal every day, every night of their lives, and it's one of the most scariest notions to ever have to contemplate.

Our story started as you might remember back in August with what was an eating disorder. This eating disorder is not uncommon among our young adults, in fact 1 in 16 young adults, approximately 180,000 young people suffer from some type of disorder between the ages of 16-24.

The problem is complex with no one particular reason why it affects so many. Perhaps self-image is the major player in this, our kids are so caught up with how they should look, comparing themselves too much with role-models, with favorite actors or actresses; hero's.

Surely this couldn't account for a whopping one-quarter of all young Aussies?

Sadly, it does.

Our kids are mostly concerned with school and study, with being able to cope with stress and their body image.

When we first sought professional help for my son, one of the first questions asked of him was,
'Are you happy with your current weight?'
His answer was simple, 'no.'

In fact he said he hated his body, he hated that his body showed signs of maturity beyond his years. Hair growth, acne, deep voice. He was uncomfortable being a boy suddenly plummeting into a man's world without any introduction; preparation.

Sitting alongside a child who is in the prime of his youth, who should be glistening with health, whose developing body should be displaying some kind of maturity, it instead projected a pasty, unhealthy reflection of someone you would've thought had been convalescing from illness. And perhaps he was.

My son's life and purpose deteriorated rapidly, who knows why?? Even he found it hard to pin-point any one factor, and looking back there was no 'one' factor, it was a number of things, things that had compounded so profoundly that it became too much for such a young man to deal with.

He found himself trapped in his own world of sorrow, his own world of despair; He could see no alternative, no end to this debilitating feeling that was consuming him and like so many other young people, he too could only find refuge in the ideal of taking his own life.

Alarmingly, suicide is the biggest killer and accounts for more deaths of our young people than that of car accidents.

You must think I'm crazy when I say this, but we're lucky; lucky my son had great friends and access to networks that I strongly believe helped save his life. And I think that's the answer, if people are vigilant enough to see signs that ring alarm bells, that cause uneasiness, that are out-of-character, abnormal and to not only identify these changes but be quick to act on them, seek help, advice, to let peers know something is not quiet right.

We will be eternally grateful to my son's friend who was strong enough to step-up and let us know he was scared for his mate and scared for himself. He didn't know what to do, who to talk to. He must have fought with the idea of betrayal, going behind his friend's back by telling his mate's parent's of every move, every discussion that took place inside and outside school. He was our watch dog, our surveillance and without him I strongly believe the outcome would've have been very different. Social media can be a hindrance, but it can also be a savior, for us I think it was a mix of both.

As a parent my darkest day was sitting alongside my son as his mental health was reviewed with him openly admitting to his plot to kill himself. It was the most confronting thing I've ever had to encounter to say the very least and just writing about it brings tears welling back to my eyes causing my heart to grow heavy once again.

I'm not naive, I know now we will live with a constant fear of 'What if this feeling ever returns?' I will always be sleeping with one eye open, and my ears pricked to the most minute sound that beckons investigation.

I'll always, forever be mindful of triggers, yet know life still has to move on at the same pace, maybe now just with a little bit more caution for everyone's peace of mind.

The truth is we will have to be forever vigilant for our son, always on the look out for changes in his mood, his desires, his over-all well-being. But that's a small price to pay to keep him here.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Life's little curve balls

lack or loss of appetite for food (as a medical condition).
an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat.
noun: anorexia nervosa

Recently I was confronted with the alarming fact that my fifteen-year-old son might be suffering from an eating disorder or worse a mental health issue.

While I've never been concerned with his eating habits of the past, I have been aware of his increased seclusion from the outside world mainly due to playing on-line computer games which I likened to being "normal" teenage activity.

His changes in appearance I've put down to growing-up and puberty. He's got tall for fifteen, he has body hair that perhaps far exceeds many others of his friends the same age, he likes his own space; his privacy. His appetite has decreased, not a little, but a lot. His moods swing from being talkative to the verge of becoming a recluse. He doesn't share his thoughts, feelings, ambitions, in fact he doesn't have any ambitions now or for the future, another sign I thought would change over time as he matures. His self-esteem is low, he tells me he hates his body, but he's always been self-conscious. He says his quads are too big, but they are skin and bone and I can't understand where on earth he would get the idea they are otherwise.

It wasn't until I sat beside him at the dinner table and noticed him struggling to consume 1 meat pie with chips and eggs, that I asked him what was wrong.

He pats his stomach suggesting he's full while an entire meat pie sits untouched in front of him. I make a joke you'll become anorexic, he replies,

It's a shock, an instant hit of reality and I would be lying if I said the condition anorexia had never crossed my mind before now.

Have I been naive to think these changes he's been displaying are normal; acceptable?

I'm worried sick; I google 'Anorexia,' and I'm still not convinced this is what he might be heading for even though some signs point to early diagnosis. I'm not in denial, or am I?
I don't want to believe this could be reality, that this is affecting my son who always had such a healthy appetite as he was growing up.
I open pages of Strictly Parenting written by Michael Carr-Gregg, Australia's leading parenting expert. I read the section on anorexia which predominately points to adolescent girls.

I visit websites and take particular note of physical signs, and now it starting to become more clear and make sense of ailments he's displaying, but I had never associated with an eating disorder.

Yes, he feels tired, but isn't that because he plays on his X-box so much?
Yes, he never has any energy and is often lethargic, his facial features have changed, his skin pale and pasty, his eyes sunken with dark circles, he has vomited on occasions following dinner, putting it down to eating too much. He has no muscle, he is skin and bone with no definition.

So now there is a real chance my son maybe suffering from not just an eating disorder but much more. Resources will now become my valuable friend, my source to determine if or when I might need to get my son professional help.

I've listed below some resources I've found in a short time and still reading through.

National Eating Disorders Collaboration

Anorexia Nervosa | Eating Disorders Victoria

Anorexia nervosa | Better Health Channel

Sunday, 2 August 2015

We're all artists

I'm watching the Voice, there's cheering, there's coaching, there's artists fighting for their places, to show their talent, to be heard, to tell their stories, to prove their right; and their not dissimilar to us writers are they.

Singers, dancers, musicians, writers, they all need to learn their craft and we are all apprentices at some point in our careers. As writers we want to entertain our readers, we want to leave them at some point cheering, crying or laughing from the experience they just had, much like other artists.

And as a writer our craft is complex, it's not just a matter of putting words down (or is it)? We need to take into consideration a lot of things, things as simple as sentence length and structure, capitals, comma's and spelling.

Then there's things a little more complex like knowing nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections, and knowing how and when to use them correctly.

As we progress through our apprenticeship we might try our hand at understanding how dangling, squinting and misplaced modifiers can change how a sentence is interpreted. We might then need to take into consideration fragments and run-on sentences, we need to use these skills and use them to write short stories, articles, essays, interviews, memoirs, poems, novella's novels, biographies and columns.

It might take some of us longer than others to learn this craft, to become proficient; to become published, much like our counterparts making it on the big stage. And as writer's, yes, we too want to make the big stage, we strive for that big break regardless what our genre is or expertise. We want our stories to touch hearts, to leave impressions -some everlasting - much like a musician. We want our readers to feel, to be moved regardless how we make that happen.

We writer's must keep plodding along as artists, improving, growing. We must believe in ourselves, in our stories, in our audiences, and while one story might not make the grade, the next will. Our stage is huge where we get to showcase our art in journals, newspapers, blogging, on-line, periodicals, magazines, anthologies, competitions and through self-publishing.

Our art is hard, but it's also rewarding and yes rewards are out there to chase, some are small and some big, perhaps the biggest for most is publication while others chase smaller dreams, it doesn't matter what your dream is just chase it and the rewards will follow.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Where I write

Perhaps this is a tad pretentious of me, but hey, it might be a bit of fun after having read dozens of 'where I write,' columns in the Writers' Forum magazine, who follow authors such as short story writer Steve Beresford, crime writer Bill Kitson and columnist and non-fiction writer Penny Legg just to name a few.

So firstly I don't have the luxury of Bill Kitson's, where I get to write from locations across the Mediterranean, soaking in bayside views from islands across Greece; but then again I'm not a famous novelist either.

While most admit to writing from locations such as the kitchen, dining room, coffee shops, sunrooms and under umbrella's on patio's (not forgetting luxurious island locations), they all still seem to have a dedicated office where they can retreat to perform their writing when they need to.

I too have tried writing from many locations much of which is already listed, and in agreement some locations work better than others depending on the day, your mood and time permitting.

My Home office

Yer I know, it's not very inspiring, but then again should it be? Isn't it a good thing to have office spaces that can't detract us writer's from our train of thought; that doesn't distract us with interesting items placed around us?

Just outside beyond the tiniest frosted glass window that sits to the left of my office, is a rural setting that whether in winter or summer is filled with inspiration. Teaming rain fills the house with a deafening roar upon the tin roof in winter, while families of Rosella's and Honey-eaters fight over lunch, hopping from shed roofs to the bare branches of the Mt Fugi, all invisible from my work station.

In winter I write better from places that provide warmth and that's definitely not my office. Most of the time I'll sit up at the kitchen bench under the heater with my laptop. Other times when I don't want any distractions such as phone calls, pantry's and fridges, housework, dishes, washing, walking the dog and thinking about preparing dinner or cooking muffins or cup-cakes for tomorrow's school lunches, I'll go to the local library.

Like Steve Beresford I can't write if there is music, TV noise or conversation around me; it just completely destroys any concentration I might have.

My Whiteboard / noticeboard

Here I keep track of all writing commitments like competition deadlines, anthologies and opportunities among a few other things like a portrait of myself and my daughter, a palmistry guide; another past-time of mine, and my horoscope.

While most of the author's interviewed in Writers'Forum are full-time writers, writing anything from six to fifteen hours a day, I scramble to find a few precious uninterrupted hours a week to produce my work, but all-in-all it's enlightening to know that most of us writers whether well-published or not, all work much the same; some days we will produce great work while others are merely used as stepping stones for future works and there's nothing wrong with that.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Why would anyone suggest to Rob a Bank?

I know, it sounds ludicrous doesn't it? But hey, it sells, trust me, read on.

Today I was killing time so speak in Collins Booksellers. It was one of very few occasions that I have gone into a book store without an agenda. I had time to mull over the genres, places I would less frequently explore, and what happened next was like stumbling over a lost fortune.

Firstly, I found some classics, like To Kill a Mockingbird, which as we all know has made a huge come back on the brink of the anticipated publication of, Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

Lingering on lower shelves, places not met with the occasional eye as those placed above the mid-drift, were copies such as Miles Franklin's My Brilliant Career/My Career Goes Bung and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally, which I read in high school.

But it was this book When to Rob a Bank by co-authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, that caught my undivided attention. Why, I'm not completely sure? I'm not an economist, or know about economics by any stretch of the imagination, in fact, when I got home I googled the definition 'Economics' just to make sure I was on the right page and everything.

No doubt it was the title that intrigued me, and with further investigation I found the co-authors were bloggers like myself - okay - they're better bloggers - that's a given. These guys have blogged over a decade with more than 8,000 blog posts - what an effort. They built their blog following the publication of their first book Freakonomics which by the way sold more than 7 million copies, hence they have never looked back.

It would be an understatement to say these two guys have a passion for what they do. Their successes have kept them blogging with their own admission,
...there wasn't any evidence the blog helped sell more copies of our books. In fact it may have cannibalized sales, since every day we were giving away our writing.

I can't wait to read past the intro of What Do Blogs and Bottled Water Have in Common?
I'm un-willing to do a spoiler alert on this one; you'll just have to read the book like myself to find out the answer.
And if I have learned one lesson today, then I've learned several. Blog well, not just good content, but relevant content; great content). Blog like there's no tomorrow, be savvy, be unpredictable, and you too might very well publish your own book one day from blog posts.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Discworld Author Dies

In the latest copy of Writers Forum - May issue, I was initially excited to see a picture of my old friend adorning the pages, but after reading the first paragraph I quickly discovered with a deep sense of sadness, Sir Terry Pratchett had passed away. My first thought was how could such an iconic author slip away so silently after having such a bold and infectious effect on so many readers? Surely he was up there on par with authors like Bryce Courtney and Joan Collins who both had wide publicity following their deaths.

My first experience of reading Terry Pratchett books was by introduction when a fellow student in my writing for young adults class, spoke with such enthusiasm and deep attachment for his love and amazement of this author.

As I had never read or even heard of Terry Pratchett before then, I was left intrigued to find out what all the fuss was about with his story-telling, and hence the first book I selected and read was The Amazing Maurice and his educated rodents, and as introductions go, we hit it off like two-old room-mates, sharing the same kind of humor and apparent love for furry felines.

So forgive me for a second as I'm suddenly thrown into bereavement for a fellow I scarcely knew, but had however fallen in love with through the pages filled with street-cats, rodents and Nome's who temporarily took residence in my imagination that was expanded and fulfilled by such a dutiful storyteller as Pratchett.

It must be eight or nine years since I last read a Pratchett novel, it was like an addiction where I just couldn't get enough of his feverish tales, searching bookstores like Collins and Angus and Robertson for titles in my new fave genre of Young Adult Fiction.

Met with such an inviting line-up, I could barely make a choice; I mean really - what could top the Amazing Maurice? But there it was the first book of Nomes, Truckers, and if I hadn't already been transported to worlds containing uncanny mischievous characters, here I was thrown into the lives of Grimma, Masklin and Gurder who met my acquaintance with admiration, hope and loss that would lead me to believe there is more than just humankind trying to make a difference in their lives.

So it would seem an end of an era to the infamous Discworld series, but on a brighter note, it has reignited my interest in the vast array of novels I still haven't yet immersed myself in. So now it would seem my reading list has just got bigger; thanks Terry, you were truly amazing.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Melbourne Literally

There was never a question that my weekend in Melbourne would not include a visit or two to some favorite book stores. Yes, it was a well planned journey, one that had me write a list of 'Goodread' titles I've been in pursuit of - some for a while, while others are new additions to an ever growing wish list that seems to constantly get richer.

So here's a little preview of some books I actually purchased; some of which were not even on a list.

So firstly, you've probably already recognised my most favorite actor from the Good Wife, Alan Cummings. Since the May episode of the ABC's Book Club, I have fallen deeper in love with this wonderful man and his enduring candid humour, so any wonder when I saw a copy of his memoir Not my father's son, there was no question whether I should buy it or not.

Of course The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad has been patiently awaiting my purchase, a fixture for some time on my list of want to reads. And so now I am going to have to quickly read my way through The Rosie Project - which by the way has me totally intrigued - in order to fulfill this burning desire to read my new stash.

But wait, what will be first? There is another contender I haven't told you about yet, an unexpected addition to my reading slush pile, that's right, a book that came left field, throwing itself under my nose as I searched the Hill of Content bookstore counter tops for anything that might grab my fancy. Mind you, the last time I did this in the very same book store, a copy of Women of Letters, Between Us by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire took me by surprise, having me turning pages filled with letters written by ladies like Cate Kennedy and Stella Young. Sadly Stella is no longer with us, but she did leave an ever lasting memory of an intelligent, witty lady who left me in stitches.

So what was so interesting I here you say that I felt so compelled in buying this latest installment to fill my personal library? Well I hope it won't disappoint, as the title says it all, The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller. I feel this book could've been written by me, as I have a list of my own after all, perhaps my list is a little less ambitious than Andy's, whose includes a lot of classics like Moby Dick which by the way could also be another want-to-read of mine...oh, see what I mean, books! There's no stopping me.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Our next Generation

So it seems our kids are taking this world by storm in the Humanitarian stakes and I think it's a great thing.

Recently in an issue of the Sunday Herald-Sun Style magazine, I learned about five inspiring young Aussie kids who all believe there is a place for everyone in this world to help improve the quality of life of those less fortunate than ourselves.

From being 7-year-old fundraisers, volunteers and political activists (that's right political activists), to a 12-year-old not-for-profit entrepreneur and a 14-year-old author, these kids all follow a common theme and that is they have wanted to make a difference in other's lives enough that they have lead us adults by the hand, walking us through their endeavors to see their ideas become reality.

We have to ask ourselves, why have we left it up to our younger generation to take the bull by the horns so to speak? Why have we made it our kids responsibility to take action on such issues you'd expect a well informed adult to otherwise address? Are our lives that busy that our kids are the only ones left with enough time on their hands or the only ones who have the inclination to take action, to make a change?

Fundraiser - Lennon age 7 (picture compliments of to link to full story, click on post heading

How many times have we seen or heard the plight to help end homelessness? Come on think! That's right The big Sleep-out, or Vinnies CEO Sleep-out, where community members and leaders rough it for a winters night out in the elements with only a sheet of cardboard for their bed, a cup-of-soup and a warm drink before the sun comes up; their efforts not only raise much needed funds but more importantly raise awareness to help stop this growing trend that's taking place on our very own doorstep.

(picture compliments of
Twelve-year-old Cassidy started her very own Not-for-profit charity called Hawksbury's Helping Hands, after witnessing a homeless man looking through a bin for food. Her plight started small, serving hot soup tp small number of local homeless people and since has grown with 15 volunteers now on board, providing more than 77,000 meals since 2011.

In my own local community we have what's called the 'Soup-bus,' where on specific nights of the week the bus provides a warm dinner to the needy, it also provides a warm heart from the volunteers (who by the way are lined-up, so to speak, on a waiting list to help), who listen and talk to these people, helping their lives stay connected with society, even if it is only in some small way.

So kudos to our kids, we have everything to be proud of knowing our future generation have soul, that they have a selfless view on society and not only recognise issues surrounding our everyday lives including poverty, homelessness, starvation, lack of education and climate-change, but they have what it takes to step-up and make a change.

I'll leave you with one thought. Tonight when you're rugged up in the heated luxury of your own home enjoying a cooked dinner with family you can share the days events with, laugh with; when you climb into your cosy bed of fresh smelling sheets and fluffy pillows, of warm blankets and Doona's, consider what it would be like to spend just one night out in the elements of a wet, freezing winter's night. Consider having no bedding to sleep with, no shelter, no protection, no safety, no food or drink to stop the hunger, no-one to comfort or reassure you.
Consider what we can do to help and then thank our lucky stars we have our kids looking after the worlds future in making it a better place to live in; then believe that we are the lucky country as Donald Horne once said.


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