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.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

A breath of fresh air!

Here's to new beginnings!  

Over the coming weeks I will be giving the old blog 'Writers-fix' a bit of a face-lift.  As you may have noticed it is now titled 'Writer's and Reader's-fix, incorporating now a bigger emphasis on reviewing reads of both favorite and possibly not so favorite books I have and endeavor to indulge in.  

My writing exploits will remain the same, updating you on techniques, comps, tips and my latest achievements.  


Over Sixty-Shades of Gray: A Journey Through Life's Later Years

Here is one of the latest titles I've recently had the pleasure to review, I enjoyed this read and highly recommend it to anyone 50+ ...