Tag Archives: Scot Gardner

WiP Sneak Peek

The marvellous Ms Simmone Howell has tagged me in a meme challenge. Henceforth I must throw caution to the wind and permit a sneak peek at my work-in-progress – specifically seven lines from page seven or page seventy-seven.

I’ll confess to clicking ‘compile’ in my writing software to stitch a manuscript together. And to reading the copy on pages seven and 77. And not being entirely comfortable.

So I returned to those chapters and, after some huffing, puffing and hand wringing, I edited and rewrote.

I don’t know if that’s in the spirit of the meme, particularly given the inadvertent destruction of dwellings fashioned from straw and sticks. Karma came back to haunt me anyway. When I recompiled the manuscript, the page numbers had changed. What used to be on pages 7 and 77 wasn’t any more. This effectively meant that editing until I was happy could take an eternity. I had to draw a line somewhere, sometime.

So here you go, brave readers. Please find below what was a seven line snippet from page seven of my WIP:


Michiko lingers at the showroom door downstairs. “Hey, thanks for all your help,” I murmur. “It made it easier, knowing you were nearby, ready to stab me with a sharp implement.” She giggles and that’s it, that’s enough for me. One moment of levity punctures the heaviness in the room, my chest, my mind. Lets fresh air trickle back in.
I put an arm around her, acting more boldly than I feel. “So, when do you fly?”


As for tagging others, I hereby toss the gauntlet at Ms Leanne HallMr Michael Pryor, Sandy Fussell and  Mr Scot Gardner. No pressure, guys.

UPDATE: You can check out Sandy’s post, here.

A new calendar cometh (Part 2)

2011 has been a tough year but not without highlights. Some of these include:

– Dawn over the wetlands at Kakadu
– Visiting Pascoe Vale Girls’ College for the Premiers’ Reading Challenge. Best crowd ever and I can proudly say all the library copies of my books had been stolen.
– Building friendships with other authors; I’m blessed to get to hang out with some truly fantastic people with wonderful, magical minds.
– Getting a short story published in The New Paper Trails
– Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France
– Lunchtime in the library at MacKillop College in Werribee, hanging out with the Book Clubbers and signing copies of Five Parts Dead for many more students than the teachers expected.
– A new bike
– Good friends and family
– Doing a masterclass in writing graphic novels and comics. (How cool is it that classes like this exist?)
– Clare Bowditch’s Eva Cassidy tribute show (made me cry)

Next year I’ll strive to avoid fulltime work and submerge myself in writing again.

Other favourites experienced during 2011:

TV: Deadwood; Friday Night Lights; season 5 of Skins; Bored to Death; 30 Rock reruns
Movies: Murundak: Songs of Freedom; Red Dog; Harry Potter finale; The Ides of March
Reading: Jeph Loeb’s Batman: Hush series; Glenda Millard’s beautiful The Naming of Tishkin Silk; Craig Thompson’s Habibi (Wow!); Derek Landy’s The Death Bringer; Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know
Music: Wilco’s The Whole Love; Bon Iver’s trippy self titled album; vintage Springsteen; the Jezabels generally.

To everyone who has visited and engaged with this irregular blog, read my books, followed me on Twitter or supported me in other ways, you have my profuse thanks. May the new year bring you adventure, love and laughter.

Random post-birthday musings

1. As part of my preparation for a session at this year’s Melbourne Writers’ festival, I read Alice Pung’s new book, Her Father’s Daughter. I don’t often do non-fiction, let alone memoir. It feels too much like work and not enough like escapism. But perhaps I’m maturing. I know I’m ageing. Either way, Alice’s story was evocative, brutally honest and beautifully written. It will turn up on school reading lists, deservedly.

Looking back, the day Alice and I spoke to young writers at MWF was the same day the High Court over-ruled the so-called ‘refugee swap deal’. All people with views on refugees and multiculturalism should read Alice’s book. And watch Go Back To Where You Came From on SBS. Please.

2. Having conquered a memoir, I grabbed Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy, which I’ve stored for over a year, waiting for the right time. Before I began it, I downloaded Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know. Man, did that blow me away. Scot’s narrator is a kid who gets apprenticed to a funeral director. He’s also a character you really want to see find some peace.

I can tell you that Scot has clearly done his research because some of the detail surprised me. That’s saying something because my Dad is a clergyman who has a fair bit to do with funeral directors. And I’ve spent many hours in the Coroner’s Courts, including a tour behind the scenes. This book could upset some readers but I still recommend it highly. Death shouldn’t be a taboo topic. The Dead I Know is a crackerjack yarn suitable for teens 15 and up.

3. Reading How To Make Gravy is like peering through a microscope at the germs of ideas that led to songs. For instance, Adelaide begins with the lines ‘The wisteria on the back veranda’s still blooming / and all the great aunts are either insane or dead…’ I love that opening. With no disrespect intended to my departed great aunts, it always reminds me of my childhood, visiting them in houses that seemed to be permanently mid-summer yet shaded by a sadness I didn’t understand – despite the Aunts’ mischief and hospitality.

These were women from a generation where many of the men were slaughtered on battlefields or returned too damaged to marry and have a ‘normal’ family life. I have the postcards written to them by their soldier brothers. Perhaps a story will emerge from these cards one day.

For the record, Paul Kelly says ‘insane’ was too harsh on his relatives but ‘eccentric’ didn’t work as well in a song. Never trust a song writer, he says.

4. There’s a lot of time travel involved in hearing the stories behind Paul Kelly’s songs. He jumps back to when he was writing them. I’m transported to when I had them reverberating from a cheap car stereo, commuting to university and various jobs – woodchopping, gardening, cleaning bricks…

Last year I saw the documentary on the making of Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. I ended up buying the doco packaged up with the album, out-takes and DVDs of various live performances including the entire Darkness album in 2009. That means I can watch Springsteen and the E Street Band belting out a song in 1978 and then see them tackle the same track three decades later. The Boss’ voice and face may have changed but the passion hasn’t. It’s great stuff.

5. And so, back to the title of this post. I injured myself recently and was immobilised for a couple of days. I’m allowed to get on a bike for the first time in three weeks this weekend and even then I’ll need to exercise caution, dammit. Throw in a birthday and there’s been a whole lot of introspection going on.

I’m more conscious than ever of the stories around me, the battles all people face every day. There’s the healer grieving at facing retirement – the spirit still willing but the flesh unable to give any more. There’s the medico, so worn down by responsibilities and history that he carries the load on his spine and tells his tale to strangers, seeking his personal redemption or cure. There’s the father watching a daughter fight for life. The wife mired in a misery she is seeding for another generation and tends like a vegetable patch. The child being bullied.

And, today, the small group of indigenous Australians achieving a rare victory against the News Limited juggernaut.

So many stories. So little time. I wonder what my story will be when I have 30 years of writing to look back upon.

Snapshots from a novel #5

Wow. When I finished Scot Gardner’s Happy as Larry it was late at night. Bad move. I closed the cover and lay awake, tense and restless, for several hours. Outside my room, traffic growled and hissed. In my mind, a postman buzzed along the footpaths of Villea. Scot’s characters still inhabited my imagination.

I’m not going to serve up any hints or spoilers here – other than to say this book is like storm clouds on the horizon. When you see a mess of dark, bruising clouds you might think ‘there’s a storm over there’ but, based on blue sky above, make the assumption that distant turbulence won’t darken your day. That’s how I read Happy as Larry. And, with my attention elsewhere, I didn’t hear the wind change, didn’t sense the temperature dropping, didn’t feel the raindrops until the hailstones had me ducking for cover.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve read so many of Scot’s novels that I was caught unawares. Each of them is a yarn that could be happening wherever you are. Right now. Step outside and you could be one of the characters. (I grew up in rural Victoria so the stories feel particularly real to me. In Gravity, the shift from the country to a dingy urban block of flats felt like a chapter from my life.)

Happy as Larry‘s Villea feels like any number of rural towns I’ve lived in or visited as a journo. Despite the familiarity, I didn’t see this particular story emerging. From where I’m sitting, that’s good writing.

Here are some extracts:

(p34) They ate breakfast and dressed as quietly as they could, loaded up their gear and set off for the long jetty at four-year-old kilometres per hour.

(p168) While Larry knew and trusted his father, his mother had been battered and marked like a lunch-box peach.

(p189) Mal lay beside his wife in bed and felt the ocean of indifference rise between them. It had been winter in their bedroom since the baby died, and his sex-drive had gone into hibernation.

(p194) Sadness he didn’t know he had crept out of his belly and grabbed at his throat.

I’ve dog-eared lots more pages but I’ll resist further extracts. When you read it, please send me some of the lines that resonated with you.

Happy as Larry was published by Allen & Unwin in 2010 and is a CBCA notable book for 2011.