The day finally arrived... Melbourne Writers Festival edition of the First Tuesday Book Club... YAY! This special event was hosted at the ABC's Elsternwick studio with Jennifer Byrne and her usual side-kicks, Marieke Hardy and Jason Steger, as well as special guests, American novelist David Vann, and science writer Margaret Wertheim. An enthusiastic and sometimes divided debate ensued about the themes and literary merit of Laurent Binet's HHhH - a historical novel focussing on the 1942 assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. A more measured discussion followed when the team's attention shifted to George Eliot's Middlemarch - a narrative about the ordinary folk of fictitious English midland township of Middlemarch during the early 1800's. This celebrated novel explores themes ranging from politics and religion, to the status of women, marriage, education and hypocrisy... "every sentence rich and beautiful". A worthwhile exchange of my time - sometimes you just have to do something special for yourself!

MWF_Schools_Program_2012Because I volunteer in our school library with our wonderfully enthusiastic readers and writers, I get to go to the Melbourne Writers Festival Schools Program with the students... YAY!! So early this morning our numbers swelled on the station platform where we met in the chilly hills air in anticipation of the day ahead. Lots of  excited chatter as the train snaked its way into Flinders Street. Across the road to our destination at Fed Square. Finally we landed in the Yarra Building where we were treated to inspiring encounters with celebrated authors of young people's fiction.  Lili Wilkinson of Love-Shy fame shared the details and a reading from this latest work. She was enthusiastic and engaging as she shared the tale of intrepid school newspaper reporter, Penny Drummond on her quest to achieve fame by 'finding and fixing' the loveshy-afflicted boy hiding in her school. Then there was Cassandra Golds, who told us about the nightmare that plagued her days as well as her nights, until she gave voice to its characters in the story of The Museum of Mary Childs - a spooky and intriguing tale of poor little Mary who doesn't understand why she can't play with dolls or go next door, or why she must live with her strict old aunt.... until the day she finds the perfect doll, and does go next door... and learns the horrible truth of who she really is. I haven't read this one yet, but it has ascended to the top of the MUST READ list. MWF - always a treat & something for everyone and every age! 

In Conversation with John Marsden @ Abbotsford Convent

Australian_Society_of_AuthorsWhat a breath of fresh air to hear John Marsden speak at a small gathering in the cosy surrounds of Bishop’s Parlour at historic Abbotsford Convent last night. During this unique event hosted by the Australian Society of Authors, John shared stories, both sad and humorous, from his own childhood and early career that helped form the writer he has become. His refreshing casualness added to the sense of familial conversation. Inspiring to hear this celebrated author and teacher speak as an educator about a vision that recognizes the importance of the rules of English grammar and expression as guiding principles, but refuses to be harnessed by them. A vision that removes some of the academic shackles our education system sometimes imposes on kids that limits imagination and creativity, rather than liberating it so that they can truly realise their potential, unfettered by arbitrary rules - rules about how we must use language, and how we must not use it, what is a word and what is not a word, how we must structure our writing and how we must not structure it – rules that stifle expression and incentive instead of giving it wings!

Writing from History @ The Wheeler Centre

Wheeler_CentreAnticipation over! Finally at the Wheeler Centre to indulge myself in this wonderful opportunity hosted by Writers Victoria, to share the journey of exploration that is writing from history. So many stories from the group of participants - all on a mission to complete their own work - memoirs, political intrigue, encounters with the hereafter... and then my own - the true story of a child's journey and survival of war-torn Europe. This is the wrenching account of the war from the perspective of the small child who would survive the Nazi menace, leave her beloved homeland of Holland, meet a stranger in a foreign land and eventually become my mother. This first instalment of Writing from History has provided renewed determination to continue this long-held mission; it has brought a fresh approach to research and working with source material, as well as considering critical factors such as structure, ethics and audience. I'm grateful that we have fallen into the experienced and capable hands of historical writer Christine Balint.