Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Memories of Flowers

My Blueberry Ash tree is flowering again for only the second time in about 15 years. It's well worth the wait. They seem to appear suddenly and I greet the flowers with a gasp of joy when I first notice them.

En masse they appear like a pale pink cloud against the sky. Up close their detail is miraculous, each individual flower a tiny frilly skirt, a dancer's dress, a fairy costume.

That's what I decided when I was about 5 anyway, and first discovered such a tree on Mrs Brown's hill.

We lived out in the country with money and transport both in short supply but I had, since the age of about 5, a best friend, Denise, and together, even at that age, we were free to roam and explore as we wished. No-one seemed to worry much as long as we showed up before dark. So I think I was with Denise when the blueberry ash tree first showed itself.
Mrs Brown's hill was also home to the sweet-scented pittosperum,
wild raspberries and finger limes that made us
screw up our faces and shriek at their sourness when we peeled off the bumpy green skin and sucked out the little spherical beads of juice. (Denise and I and 6 other friends from school hiked in northern Italy together a few years back, so those country friendships endured.)

But is there anything like flowers to bring back memories? Smells, yes, but the sight of flowers remembered from long ago is something else again.
My mother wasn't much of a gardener though she kept cut flowers in vases in the house at all times, as my sister and I still do. (She thought nothing of lopping off a few branches of the blossoming Anzac peach tree to fill a vase in the kitchen.) My Dad was the gardener, cultivating huge terraces of multi-coloured dahlias, a bright blue hydrangea hedge, climbing pink cottage roses and an enormous featured white azalea bush in the middle of the front lawn.
Mrs Brown, who owned the hill and the farm down on the flats, was the only person I knew who cultivated annuals in neat borders and artistic clumps. Frequently she invited me out into her garden to pick posies of purple bachelors buttons, violas and pansies to take home.

I'm transported when any of these things bloom for me now. Even the pittosporum, which I was told should be chopped out post haste, brings pleasure with its heady perfume and its flower heads full of bees.
Is it any wonder then that I spend much of my time in the garden, exulting over the offerings there, ignoring the broken, dirty fingernails and the detritus in my gumboots? It's all worth it when something like the blueberry ash decides to bloom, bringing with it memories of 2 bare-foooted five-year olds loose on Mrs Brown's hill.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Serendipity - the Story of Barney Rubble

'Reading, Writing & a Few Dog Stories' this blog is called. I've read several disappointing books lately that promised much and failed to deliver; my writing is at the end of a major manuscript edit, which leaves me with only dog stories. But it's time to write this one anyway.
At 14 plus (we think), our beautiful old boy Barney is visibly slowing down. Today for the first time we decided to walk him separately from the other two, who rather test his patience and his fitness as he tries to keep up, especially with the taunts of dancing queen Stella (right) who baits him mercilessly..
So this is Barney's story, and it might go on a bit.

In 2010 we booked a dog-friendly house on the Tweed Coast where we'd stayed before. Stella and Archie came with us, happily travelling in the car for all 1,800 kilometres. At the side of the house there was a separate unit, permanently let. Behind the large gate across the driveway there was big black dog—of unknown temperament—and it soon became clear that he was there on his own. No-one came near. He became the focus of my every waking thought. I gave him biscuits through the wire, pushed bowls of water under the fence and stuck a note in the gate so that if anyone came it would fall out and, hopefully, they would respond. The note stayed put for 4 days.
Then a vehicle started to come late at night. I became the best spy in the district and unashamedly monitored its every move. Each time the driver would spend half an hour or so at the unit then drive off. This time they'll have taken him, I thought every time it happened. I'd run down the stairs in my nightie, out into the front yard and shine a light up the driveway. There, inevitably, I'd see two sad eyes reflected in the torchlight, saying 'He's left me again.' It became unbearable.

Through the agent and then the owner of the house, I finally tracked down the dog's owner. Nice bloke, a tradie who'd got work in Brisbane and couldn't take the dog with him. No Plan B.

So it became my mission, with the owner's awkward support, to try and find the dog—then named Zahn—a home. Several times I came close but each time the potential owner pulled the plug.

The best was a retired eye surgeon whose own old dog had recently died. I met him on the beach several times as I was now walking Zahn with the others every day.
First run together on Pottsville dog-friendly beach
The doctor and his wife had a beautiful house with a huge garden just this side of the sandhills. He loved the idea of taking Zahn as his own. All was agreed; the owner was thrilled to bits, my husband and I both breathed a sigh of relief but when I went to take the dog's bowl and bed over, 'the wife' backed out. Lucky there were no weapons nearby when she  announced that. The doctor cried. I seethed and in a week we were due to head back to Melbourne.
So far, worst holiday ever.

Meanwhile my husband had to fly back south for a funeral so I was there alone, weak with angst, grief and rage - all manner of things that don't enrich the soul.
But - praise be - (and here I remembered why I married him) in the course of yet another close-to-tearful phone conversation about the fate of Zahn—which was looking like the local pound—my treasured spouse said 'Oh for God's sake, just bring him home with us!"  Really?? REALLY?

And so, a few days later, Zahn was piled into the car with Stella and Archie for a very testing 1,800 kms drive back to Melbourne with a one-night stopover in a tiny dog-friendly unit in Sydney overlooking Lavender Bay. Our new dog looked like he was in 7th heaven. (He's still first in and last out of the car, always.)
A Border Collie/Kelpie cross he's as smart as a whip, obsessed with sticks and tennis balls (which we discourage because of damage to his teeth) and insists on playing with whatever toy he can find, every night just when we settle down to relax after dinner. We figure this must have been when his owner came home after work and finally gave him some attention.

'You'll play with me now, won't you.'
We sometimes ponder how this dog who (yes, 'who') seemed to have been reared largely on neglect could be so patient, calm, loving and clever - but he is. (We changed his name to from Zahn to Barney after consulting a linguist/speech pathologist friend who said the names were close enough not to bring about identity confusion provided he didn't see our lips move.)

And so we have had our Barney Rubble for 6 years. He's only now showing his age, 'going in the back legs' and losing his appetite. He's on the best geriatric dog care our lovely vets can provide and he will be denied nothing that will make his latter days easier.

This (left) is Barney today. The beard is greying, the energy is diminishing, though he still musters all he has to chase Stella at every opportunity. There's a bit of rivalry between them still, especially for important things like proximity to the fire...

Can I bump her off without anyone noticing?

All our friends love Barney. They fondle his ears and say 'Well, you landed on your feet, didn't you!' But in fact we are the winners. We'll be telling Barney stories long after he's carried his last big stick over the rainbow.

Meanwhile, if anyone should ask you for a definition of serendipity, I think Barney's story would be a good illustration.


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Things We Keep

Today I set about cleaning up my study. I know. Again! But after term break, you can't start off with a messy desk. A small, extra desk buried under paper, books and journals, was moved out; a spare armchair moved in. (This is where I'll sit quietly and read in my soon-to-be-tidy study.) Piles of books had to be put somewhere other than balanced on chairs, all bookcases being full; mountains of lecture notes, journals, cards and souvenirs had to be thrown out, recycled or allocated a space. Lucky I knew about Sisyphus.

There was a throw-out pile, a recycle pile, an op shop pile, a 'X might like this' pile. And then there was the problem pile. What to do with all those things I had decided to keep because they were too pretty, precious, unusual or dear to my heart to throw away? And I'm talking years and years worth.
I'm talking about little things like this on a postcard (below left) from a Sydney Writers Festival some years ago:

Where that came from is anyone's guess. I've never been to the Sydney Writers Festival but the poem, by John Mc Mahon, is the kind I'd like people to recite to their 5 year olds at bedtime.

Amongst that same pile of small things was this tiny little book (right) devoted entirely to Longfellow's The Wreck of the Heperus.  A great and epic poem but again, origin of this book unknown. My mother was fond of telling us she felt like 'The Wreck of the Hesperus' if things were getting on top of her so I can't relinquish that, can I.

In the piles to be dealt with there were countless arty-crafty projects planned or started and never finished. Paints, collage materials, pressed flowers, beads, 2 polystyrene heads and packets of wooden dolly pegs I'd bought in case they ever became obsolete. (If they do, I have lots.) 

These (above) must have been from when I decided to resurrect a childhood activity of making treasure maps so authentic my 8 year old cousin and I easily fooled our mothers, on Bribie Island one weekend, into believing that we'd found a real pirate treasure map! Well, they said they believed us... It required a paper picture, the edges torn unevenly, then soaked in cold tea, dried and all the edges burnt over a lighted match.

No worries about playing with fire even then.

More difficult to dispense with was this supplement from The Times in, I think, 2003, following the discovery of a previously unknown novella by Charlotte Bronte.

I was sure it would be a literary treasure beyond imagining but who wants it now? It's no doubt readily available to one and all on the internet. Find it and hit print, I bet. But still I probably won't throw out this paper version from The Times.

Endless unused cards and postcards turned up, carefully preserved but obviously too beautiful for me to give away. How pointless is that? I suspect I feared that the recipient wouldn't love them as much as I did so instead they've sat unseen in a box for more years than I care to confess.

Here are two below. Maybe I'll frame them and swoon over them until, like many things we hang on our walls, I don't see them anymore. Better to find them like this every once in a while and appreciate them all over again.

The one above left is from a platinum photograph  by one P. H. Emerson, (1856-1936) in the Australian National Gallery called Gathering Waterlilies.

The other is a photograph by Frank Hurley - Gathering anemones at Belah, Palestine, 1918

And below, the one that stopped me in my tracks - a copy of the leaflet from my mother's funeral. Despite a haphazard education that ended when she was 13, Margaret Mary Murray (née Malone) loved poetry and could recite it till the cows came home. This, below, was one of her favourites - and one she lived by.

And how do you get back to the clean-ups when you find that?

I know the internet is the source of all things just waiting to be found. However, there is something tangibly beautiful about printed objects that we can hold - and keep.



Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Peggy Frew and Elizabeth Harrower

What a privilege to have heard both these women speak recently during the spate of Writers' Festivals that have provided so much for us to think about. It was with some surprise though that I started to think about these two together, in relation to two most memorable protagonists.

I've been reading like mad lately, the consequence of a pile of wonderful books on my To Read pile, many of them from young women graduates of RMIT's Professional Writing and Editing course. I should be queasy with envy, I know, but in fact I'm filled with admiration. Lucy Treloar, Kate Mildenhall, Myfanwy Jones and Peggy Frew to name a few.

The story that has stuck in my mind most recently has been Peggy Frew's Hope Farm.

Set mainly in a Gippsland hippy commune in the mid 1980's, this tells the story of 13 year old Silver and her needy, unreliable mother Ishtar, who conceives Silver when she herself is just 17 and decides, bravely, to keep the baby when all around her are pressing her to give her up.  (At times I wondered if it would have been better for Silver if her mother had made a different decision but that's by the by.)

There are endless great reviews of this book and I don't plan to write another one but the character of Silver affected me to the bones. I lived with her as she shivered through the cold of this strange, ramshackle commune where her mother has dragged her to live, silent and neglected. I lived with her as she longed, in vain, to be noticed, heard, loved and included. And all the while I had a spectre on my shoulder asking 'who does Silver remind you of?'
In the night it came to me, as so often happens - it is Emily Lawrence in Elizabeth Harrower's  The Long Prospect. Harrower gives us a piercing, gut-wrenching portrait of 12 year old Emily, starved of love and condemned to live, as an outsider and a nuisance, in the boarding house owned by her detestable grandmother, Lilian. Emily's own parents have moved to Sydney with scant regard for their daughter's happiness and have only cursory contact with her.

Ishtar, Silver's mother, has none of the malice of Lilian. She is just too needy herself—with good cause—to give Silver a fraction of what she craves. What struck me about the two girls—teetering on the brink of adolescence, when a mother's love might be the most important thing in the world—is the terrible silence of their loneliness, their powerlessness to express their needs, especially their need for love, stability and belonging. They are piercingly similar and I could offer Peggy Frew few greater compliments than a comparison with Elizabeth Harrower.

But one of the (many) things that so impressed me about Hope Farm was the psychological consistency of how Silver develops into adulthood. Without the overt mother love she craves Silver has little chance of escaping the dysfunctional traits that might result - attachment issues among them.

It is perhaps a truism that the most important thing a mother's love teaches us is that we can be loveable. Without that belief it might well be a rocky road to fulfilment. We see that in Silver as she grows up into adulthood. With Emily Lawrence we're left to wonder, and hope.
Now if only someone would write a sequel to The Long Prospect...

Monday, 13 June 2016

One thing leads to another...

After my spaniel Archie's success on Twitter I didn't feel quite so bad when, for a subject called Creating Digital Content at RMIT, I had to start a Twitter site of my own - yes, in my own name, no hiding behind Archie. I set out to follow mainly writers, publishers, some favourite 'reviews' (Paris, London, Sydney, New York) and a select few of the umpteen million How-to's posted by those (who are these people?) who would tell us how easy it is to be a successful—and presumably, published—writer in this world where the proliferation of self-published books seems positively alarming. Quality control anyone?

The self-promotion thing on Twitter is hard to take. Archie never had to put up with this. But, I have to confess that, if you can bypass all that, a lot of excellent articles come my way - 'Popular in Your Network' - without me having to trawl through the entire journal, review or whatever. Someone in cyberspace is pretty cluey about selecting what they think I might like to read. More often than not, they get it right.

For the same subject at RMIT we had to create a major project, most typically a website of some kind which many chose as a place in which to showcase their own writing.  Lots of them are hugely impressive.
I chose instead to create a site where I could explain the background, the impetus, behind a manuscript of mine called The Time of the Lilyweeds. This manuscript has been through Varuna, through an ASA mentorship and has, it seems, been 'polished' to within an inch of its life. There are now no excuses for not putting it out there to publishers to find its way either into print or into their no-doubt bulging recycle bin. A terrifying thought. I have other manuscripts finished, another underway which I'm putting out to trusted friends in episode form for feedback. But Lilyweeds, as it's referred to by those I know, love and trust, is the one I'm committed to, the one I want 'out there' as a lasting tribute to a group of women whom I believe to be severely under-represented in Australian fiction.
It might be a bit premature, mightn't it, giving this unpublished manuscript its own website at this early stage?

But if you'd like to know about it and why I came to write it, there's a lot of information there at


I'd love you to let me know what you think...




Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Lost Love of Harold Fry & Miss Queenie Hennessy

Recently a friend lent* me The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy but then I heard it was in fact a sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry so I bought that and read it first.  In fact the author, Rachel Joyce (I think I'd love her as a friend), prefers them to be thought of as companion works rather than sequels and prequels.
Harold Fry, retired and saddened by his loveless marriage and one shockingly tragic event in his life, receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a woman he worked with many years ago. She writes to let him know she is in a hospice with not long to live. Harold, upset, writes the flimsiest of replies but when he heads out to post his letter, decides to keep walking until he can deliver his note to Queenie in person, 600 miles away at the other end of England, a feat which he hopes will keep her alive. His trials along the way and the people he meets tell us a lot about the human heart.

Description of landscape in literature is pretty much out of favour these days. I love it—writing it and reading it—but many others are scathing and roll their eyes in disdain. So imagine my pleasure in finding that Harold is liberally sprinkled with descriptions of the English countryside such as:

"It had never been such a beautiful May. Every day the sky shone a peerless blue, untouched by cloud. Already the gardens were crammed with lupins, roses, delphiniums, honeysuckle and lime clouds of lady's mantle. Insects cricked, hovered, bumbled and whizzed."

So right now you're either gagging or thinking 'gosh I must read this!' (And it was long listed for the Man Booker prize.)
In Queenie these beautiful images abound but are even more touching because the beauty of landscape is all Queenie has, apart from her memories of her long and unspoken love of Harold Fry.

"I could lose a morning trying to identify the colours and shapes in a rock pool; anemones with long black tentacles, rust-green flowers, silvery barnacles, skittering black crabs and pink-spotted starfish."

Despite the subject matter, neither book is maudlin. Queenie herself can be very droll:

"I should add here there are things I have tried to lose. A pair of slippers I won in a tombola. A sunflower ornament that clapped its plastic leaves as daylight came and released a refreshing odour of such chemical toxicity that all my bean seedlings died."

Of the two books, I loved Queenie more. It's wry, funny, heartbreaking and peopled with characters you might never forget, from the selfless nuns who run the hospice to some of the terminally ill patients, including the foul-mouthed Finty who won't die without dress-ups and a fight, and who, in her final days, learns to tweet and says 'Fuck! I'm trending!"

There is a beautiful, personal piece by Rachel Joyce (left) at the end of Queenie in which she says "I set out to write a book about dying that was full of life." In this she has succeeded well. Both books are set to be much loved for a long time to come.

And I do find all that description of landscape very gratifying. I hope it becomes a trend.


* past tense of lend - lent or loaned? I had to look it up.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

On My "To Read" Table

Last Saturday I finally got to head to Dymocks in the city to spend my Christmas voucher. What a long time it's been sitting there, waiting, burning a hole in my wallet. Luckily my Clunes friend, who seems to have read most of the books in the world, was on hand to occasionally pull a face or shake his head and very cautiously advise against something I'd picked up to consider buying. He did this with The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. 'Nah, you wouldn't like it,' he said, and after a brief verbal review, I believed him.

He did try to talk me into This Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, saying it was the most profoundly moving thing he'd ever read but I've heard others say it's slit-your-wrists territory and will give you nightmares for years, so I erred on the side of caution and left it on the shelf, for the time being at least.

So what did I end up with?

  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Green Road by Anne Enright and 
  • My Brilliant Friend the first of those Ellena Ferrante books that seem to have divided many people into love it/hate it camps.
So, plenty to go on with. Winter coming, open fires to light and any number of 4-legged friends to share the couch.

tow dogs sleeping on a couch
Not much room for me....


Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Tell-Tale Heart - How Scary Is It Really?

Last week in my Short Form Fiction class, my lecturer, the amazing Ania Walwicz, brought us copies of The Telltale Heart, a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843.
When I saw it, my own heart did a little flip as I remembered being scared out of my wits by this tale when I was very young. How young, I now wonder? I said in class that my mother read this tale to me when I was about ten and it frightened the daylights out of me. Now, after having read it and discussed it with others, I can't believe this to be right. I know that there was at least one well-thumbed copy of Edgar Allan Poe stories in the house, but surely no-one would read such a horrible story to a ten-year old? Yet the written tale itself is not really all that frightening.
To summarise, a young man becomes obsessed with the pale, dead eye of the old man he lives with, to such an extent that he finally kills him, chops him up and hides him under the floorboards. (See? Not scary at all.) He denies his own patently obvious madness and when two policemen arrive, summoned by the old man's screams, the young man's own guilt leads him, quite quickly, to confess.

The impetus for his confession, and what scared me witless as a ten year old, is the sound of the old man's heartbeat, pounding away, unstoppable, even after his death.
Many films have been made of this short story - predictably all short, as there's not much of a plot. One, made by Brian Desmond Hurst in 1934, was quickly withdrawn from the cinema and written up in newspapers at the time as the film that was 'too horrible to show'.

My family were all avid movie-goers so I suspect it was one of these short films I got to see so young. And ever since, the sound of a pounding heart, in any movie, has had the capacity to scare me quite terribly. Now that I've re-read The Telltale Heart, combed YouTube for a dozen versions of the short film and watched them all, I think the scare factor has dissipated.

Pity, really. I think I'll kind of miss it....


Sunday, 6 March 2016

Dogs on Twitter?

Here’s something you may not know. Thousands of dogs all over the world have their own Twitter accounts. Can you believe that?
Okay, let me go back. I was one of those people a bit dismissive of Twitter. I chortled disdainfully along with Jon Faine when he relayed the news to radio world that there were rumours of YouTube merging with Twitter and Facebook to form a conglomerate known as YouTwitFace. I applauded the divine Miss Kitty Flanagan when she did an hilarious skit shouting Twitter-type information loudly, from a park bench. 
Who cares, I thought, who in the Twittersphere let another cup of tea get cold, bemoaned their dimpled thighs or caught the cat chewing their toothbrush? (Actually, a good warning in that last one maybe...).
So when a particular course I’m doing decreed that we all must have a ‘presence on the ‘Net’—including on Twitter—I hit upon the amazingly unique idea of hiding behind one of my dogs (thanks Archie) and setting up the account in his name.
And oh, how very unoriginal that turned out to be. A zillion dog owners throughout the world thought of this years ago. Many of them have four and five thousand followers!

And how entertaining it is to join the ranks. (Don't mention the time-wasting...)
There’s the gorgeous golden retriever, Tennyson Tails, who tweeted “Human has left vacuum cleaner in the doorway of lounge (turned off). How can I possibly get round it, I will have to sit in the hallway forever.”
Digger (left) with his exploding bed - honestly!
Or the beautiful Cockerpoo (I think we call them Spoodles), Royston Bradley, with a photo of all his toys pegged on the washing line '........ an old photo, Marvin has no ears now'.
There’s the irresistible West Highland Terrier, Busby Watson, with his message “Me moustache is covered in gravy. Look like Poirot.” 
And countless trails of destruction—dog beds, shoes, videos, tv remotes, fruit from backyard trees—with cute photos offering funny justifications from the doggy perpetrators.
I realise this is a bit like people trying to relate their dreams, isn’t it. Chances are you’re not falling around in helpless laughter as I often am when I waste time in the doggy Twittersphere. You have to be there. And thousands of dog-lovers the world over obviously are. Archie has clocked up 335 followers in his first few months. True! Most are from the UK, some from Canada and the US and a few from Australia and Europe. One devoted Follower is a German Neurophysicist now living in Ohio. Go figure.
So look, I know it’s a time waster. There’s climate change, Donald Trump, Syria, Africa, refugees, shameful governments all over the world, broken promises and self-serving policies that will affect the state of humankind for centuries to come. How calming then, it is, to view a Tweet with accompanying photo of a brown cocker spaniel staring fixedly at a sunny window and the caption – “Looking for a fly.”  It’s a great antidote, I can tell you. Check it out.


Friday, 26 February 2016

Book Launch - The Light on the Water

Few things can be more inspirational for an aspiring writer than to attend the book launch of someone you admire and respect. Olga Lorenzo is a creative writing teacher at RMIT and her new book - The Light on the Water - was launched at Readings Bookshop in Carlton on Thursday night.
The place was packed to the walls and every face was beaming.  The goodwill in the room was palpable and not just because of the free wine. There were family members, close friends, lecturer/colleagues from RMIT and elsewhere and plenty of students, most of them aspiring writers.
When Olga read from her book there was rapt attention and the excerpt she chose delivered all that we could have hoped.
Most of us left hugging a signed copy of the book (I started to read mine as soon as I got home and can't put it down) and I'm guessing a lot of us were thinking 'Oh please let this be me one day!' - not in envy, but in happiness for someone else's success and inspired by all those years of persistence that culminated in a joyous night like this.
Congratulations Olga and thank you for sharing!


Thursday, 4 February 2016

My ASA Mentorship

My writing space at Varuna

In late 2014, following a nudge from one of my RMIT lecturers, I applied for a Mentorship with the Australian Society of Authors. I submitted excerpts from my manuscript The Year of the Lilyweeds (since renamed) which had won a Varuna fellowship the previous year.
I spent hours perusing the ASA list of all the people available as mentors - everyone who's anyone in the world of writing and publication, it seemed to me - and eventually chose Diana Giese, a Sydney-based writer, literary journalist and editor. One of the many testimonials available said "Diana understands the culture and essence of the publishing world, and what it takes to turn a manuscript into a publishable work. It was her encouragement, unfaltering belief and undying optimism...that kept me going when I was ready to call it a day...."
I also invested time in close examination of Diana's own website - http://www.dianagiese.com.au and concluded that here was a woman who gets things done! And how right that turned out to be.
The mentorship has finished now and I have been the recipient of 12 months of the most wonderful support and insightful comment from Diana throughout. I was invited to join the ASA as an Associate Member and have enjoyed ongoing contact with the ASA administration, who have been prompt, friendly and informative whenever I've had a question. 

There's no 'but' coming here. It has been an amazing privilege throughout. For a start Diana read my entire manuscript, which mentors are not obliged to do. From that point we worked on the manuscript together throughout the year - mostly via email - negotiating changes, deleting parts that didn't seem to go anywhere and adding a lot of material to expand the story and let the characters grow. I deleted about 25,000 words and added another 40,000. 
It was such a thrill and a challenge to hear comments like 'Your readers will want to know more about Jack' or 'I think Bridie and Jacob must get together'. As the story is an historical fiction I found myself researching  things like National Service in Australia, music of the Depression years, what might an isolated woman be reading in 1950, knowing that I had someone to be accountable to and knowing that she wouldn't miss a trick!
I have a very different manuscript now from what it was 12 months ago. The latest hard copy went off with a kiss and a sigh to Diana a week ago. All fingers crossed.
What an honour this experience has been. The What Now? phase isn't nearly so daunting, knowing that this manuscript, thanks to Diana and the ASA, is as good as I can possibly make it.


Oh! The 2015/16 winners have just been announced! Congratulations and the best of luck to every one of them!