Seminar: The Essentials of Getting Published

On Sunday the 10th of March I am part of a panel at the NSW Writers' Centre 2-day seminar on the Essentials of Getting Published.





It looks like an incredible weekend, and if you are serious about getting your work published you should definitely be planning on getting to this event.
Details of the full seminar:


Seminar: The Essentials of Getting Published

Who: Linda Funnell, Anna Maguire and guests



Digital publishing expert, Anna Maguire


When: Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 March, 10am-4pm
Cost: Full Price: $320; Member: $225; Conc Member: $190

Traditional publishing is going through big changes – what’s going on and how does it affect writers? And what are the alternatives? Can you really reach an audience if you do it yourself?
This two-day seminar will give you an insider’s overview of the rapidly changing publishing landscape.  As big traditional publishers merge and indie self-publishers storm the bestseller charts, the world of publishing has never offered so many options for writers.  Join publisher Linda Funnell and special guest speakers – including digital publishing expert Anna Maguire – and discover how to make your publishing dream a reality.


Details of my panel:
  
Sunday 10 March 2013

2.15 – 3.30PM

Success stories
: BEM LE HUNTE, PAT GRANT, WALTER MASON, JUSTIN SHEEDY
Hear about publishing from the author’s point of view.

Some of the work of Pat Grant


You can enrol for this seminar here.

The Book that Inspires Belinda Castles

Belinda Castles is an award-winning Australian novelist whose most recent book, Hannah & Emil, was one of my holiday picks over at the Universal Heart Book Club.
Belinda was my guest recently at an Inspirational Conversation at Ultimo library.


Belinda Castles & Walter Mason at Ultimo Library


When I asked her to name a book that had inspired her, she instantly named Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe's Making Stories. This book, which I also found intriguing, shows actual extracts from the early drafts of famous writers such as Peter Carey and Patick White. Belinda said that seeing the prosaic struggles such greats engaged in gave her hope, and she realised that the process of creation is slow, gradual and at times difficult for all of us.




I asked Belinda a question that I am always struggling with - should we dream big or stay realistic? I made a video of her reply:




Oh, and this is Belinda's favourite quote, from Samuel Beckett:







Read more about Belinda's latest novel, Hannah & Emil here

Author Gabrielle Lord on success, craft and meditation

Author Gabrielle Lord


One of my favourite Australian writers is the legendary Queen of Crime, Gabrielle Lord. I have been reading and loving her books for twenty years. That is why I am so excited to be hosting Gabrielle for my Inspirational Conversation at Ultimo Library on Wednesday 27 March - you can book for this free event here.
In preparation for our Conversation, I asked Gabrielle a few questions and she has been generous enough to share her answers here:


Are you one of those people who is a news obsessive, or do you prefer to avoid newspapers and television? 

I still love reading newspapers – spreading them out and studying them for the news items that interest me.  I check into the news online from time to time. I’m turning into the sort of tragic who yells at the television set occasionally!   I went through a stage of not bothering with news at all and relying on taxi drivers to keep me up to date with what was going on, but then found I was missing out on great stories!  I read often just for the story—rather than the implications of it; items like “Man holds up TAB with knife and fork’  or more seriously, the plans of evil-doers exposed can make terrific storylines for me that are useful in my novels.  I had a very interesting lunch last week with a Detective Chief Inspector, and caught up with a lot of Sydney news that way.

What has been the greatest thrill of your career so far?

Recent career thrills for me would have to be the astonishing success of the Conspiracy 365 series for younger readers.  I’d always wanted to write thriller-style for kids and this gave me the chance. Seeing it made for television was a delight!  Also the great thrill of Fortress’s success although that’s now receding into history – and my memory!








You are an extremely successful writer who has enjoyed a stellar career. What was a great gift – a break or a piece of advice - someone gave you early on in your writing journey?

The big break was Fortress, my first published (but third written) novel – this launched me into international success with a movie deal happening within weeks of its publication.  Other bits of advice have come in dribs and draps – Bryce Courtenay’s ‘bum glue’ – i.e. just staying at the desk and the late Frank Pierson (Dog Day Afternoon screenplay etc) after talking about the different ways to plot a complex story using flags, coloured pins, coloured pens for different subplots, maps, illustrations, story boards etc, ending up saying ‘Nothing fucking works!’  That’s so true.  It takes hours and hours – hundreds of hours -- of hard thinking and going crazy and going for walks and sudden moments of inspiration saying “Yes!  That’ll work!’  My career has had plenty of very very quiet times when I’d wonder when the next cheque was going to arrive.  The writing life is very good for teaching us to live with – and accept -- uncertainty.






Does writing get better or easier as you get older and write more and more books?

The craft gets easier because I know a lot more about how to do it now, but the subjects become more complex the more deeply one lives.  So finding the right way to write about it becomes more difficult.







Your books often have religious motifs, themes and characters, and I know you have written the lyrics to a whole book of hymns. Is there a meditation or prayer practice that is important in your life?

I practise (very inexpertly) daily meditation time.  I practise (again very inexpertly) attempting to stay present and watchful of my mind and my responses all the time.  I practise constant gratitude for all the good things – and the tricky things – in my life.

What you’ve referred to as a ‘book of hymns’ was more a book of prayers – for tough times.  I used angels rather than God as the medium for the prayers, because the word ‘God’ has become so charged and has had such bad press these days whereas I thought that angels were more ‘user-friendly.’  

And are you religious, spiritual or neither?

It’s my understanding that the practice of consciousness is essentially a spiritual process.  I’m not ‘religious’ in the sense that I go to church or recite rote prayers etc but in the sense of ‘religion’ meaning ‘to rebind’ or ‘bind back’ I have found that a sense of being part of a flow from some powerful Source gives energy and meaning to my experiences.


Gabrielle Lord is one of Australia's most beloved crime writers, and in 2012 she received the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work.  Gabrielle has now written fourteen adult novels as well as a successful series for children called Conspiracy 365, recently made into a television series. Her most recent novel, Death by Beauty, is the latest in her Gemma Lincoln PI series. 
Read Gabrielle Lord talking about Death by Beauty here.













Eremos Presents: The Modern Pilgrim

This Sunday, March 3, I am part of a panel of fascinating travellers and authors exploring new ideas of pilgrimage.
If you are in Sydney, I would love to see you at this event - the perfect way to spend a thoughtful, meditative Sunday afternoon.
All details below:


Creating 5 Magical Elements in Our Lives



 Recently I heard the wonderful Sharon Snir give a talk about love and miracles. It was an incredible morning, and I came away inspired and with a profound sense of connection to all of the people who had sat in the room listening with me. Sharon spoke about cultivating magical elements in our lives, and here are some of the thoughts she inspired:


 1.    Recognising our oneness – We imagine that all of our problems are unique and that no-one can possibly understand what we are going through. Sharon does an exercise where we think of the ultimate solution to our most pressing problem, and then we share this solution only with a stranger in the room. Almost everyone reports that the solution they heard was, in fact, part of the solution to their own private, urgent concern. The joys and worries in our lives are universal. This is both humbling and exciting. There is a profound – if mysterious – connection that all of us share.


2.    Be kind – Much of what we continue to learn about success and about life concentrates on the need to be harsh, critical, cynical and critical of other people’s points of view. Anyone who watches reality TV will be aware of a bizarre new mantra: “I didn’t come here to make friends.” Really? I want to go everywhere and make friends. That is what my life is about – connection, caring and helping other people to lead fabulous lives. I didn’t come here to make enemies. Kindness is central to the recent work of Stephanie Dowrick, and you can see my post about it here.


3.    Be grateful – This is an idea I came late to. I am a bit of a world-class grumbler, and have been known to pen a stinging letter of complaint. But when I really examine my history of complaint I can see one thing and one thing only: it never, ever made me happy. There is very little magic in whingeing. The book that probably alerted me most to the importance of gratitude, and the empowering practical ways we can incorporate it into our lives, is Rhonda Byrne’s appropriately named The Magic. It’s well worth checking out.


4.    Forgive – Yeah, I know – everyone says it. But it’s a big one. To be frank, I am still working really hard on forgiving some of the people in my life who I view as having hurt me. It’s a gradual process. But I can honestly say that the really big acts of forgiveness I have succeeded in have been incredibly liberating, not just for me but for all the people around me – not least the person I was angry at. So take it in small stages. I may not completely have forgiven, but I certainly don’t wish the people with whom I mentally and emotionally struggle any ill. And that’s a big step all on its own.


5.    Cultivate a sense of wonder – Said it before and I’ll say it again – our culture rewards cynicism. We view people who are trying to be good and happy with contempt, and we scold, criticise and belittle anyone who tries to avoid negative patterns of thought and behaviour. “Face up to reality,” we say, “and wipe that smile off your face - it’s not good for everyone, you know.” It’s not, but I can try to make it good for me. In fact, that’s all I can do. The world is filled with wonderful people and things. Be on the lookout for them. And don’t let the grumblers get you down. You don’t even have to answer them. Shower them with good cheer and they’ll disappear soon enough. Create wonder, not argument.


Sharon Snir is a psychotherapist, healer and author who has recently published The Little Book of Everyday Miracles. You can read my review of it here.
You can hear a fascinating live interview with Sharon on SBS radio here.
Sharon is the founder and creator of a system of learning, called The 12 Levels of Being. She gives regular lectures, seminars and workshops in Australia, Asia, Europe and in the United States. Sharon has written three books. The 12 Levels of Being, published by Shekhina books in 2007, Looking for Lionel –How I lost and Found my Mother through Dementia, Published by Allen and Unwin in 2010, and The Little Book of Everyday Miracles, published in October 2012 by Allen & Unwin. She has her own on-line weekly radio slot, a small private practice and is on You Tube. 
You can learn more about Sharon at www.sharonsnir.com



Losing February by Susanna Freymark







I am often struck by how little modern technology has intruded into the world of fiction, and how rarely the objects and technologies we rely on each and every day are ever made a part of the story. In Susanna Freymark’s gritty new novel Losing February, this is remedied once and for all. This book hinges on text messages, emails and internet chat as it recreates a doomed love story in regional Australia. 


Author Susanna Freymark


Bernie has fallen in love with a married man, and he grows to represent all that is missing from her life – romance, passion and the kind of deep connection a middle-aged divorcee with three kids has slowly grown to forget. But of course, such a relationship is fraught, particularly since the object of her affection is a public figure and also someone from her past with whom she has re-connected (thanks, again, to the internet).

In the idyllic landscapes of Northern NSW, Bernie slowly falls apart as her close network of female friends fails to provide her with the other kinds of comfort and solace she requires. Drunken movie nights and invasively confessional conversations only leave her feeling more isolated, sitting on secrets she can’t possibly share. I loved this harsh assessment of the limits of friendship, an anti-romantic view that one rarely encounters. No matter how close her cronies might pretend to be, Bernie knows that even they have their own moral and personal limits that she doesn’t dare transgress.

Losing February charts the hopeless pursuit and the frantic, pathetic longings of a never-could-be love affair, and I’m sure all of us could relate to the increasingly obsessed Bernie as she tries to make the whole impossible situation seem meaningful. She deteriorates into a virtual world of cyber sex where she can feel desired – if not respected – and where she makes an increasingly disastrous series of casual hook ups that, perhaps surprisingly, lead to some acts of sexual liberation and personal realisation. 

There was so much in this, Freymark’s first novel, that I responded to. Its honesty, its complete engagement with the real world, and its perfect re-creation of some of the obscure, and slightly sad, prepossessions of early middle-age. The rawness and realness of her protagonist’s responses left me utterly enthralled, and never once did her world veer into the unreal or the clichéd. There are very few writers engaging with the realness of new ways of meeting people and of negotiating sexuality, and for this liberating theme alone Losing February is worth a read. 


Details: Losing February by Susanna Freymark

A new Australian novel published by Macmillan.

You can follow the book's author, Susanna Freymark, on Twitter @SusannaFreymark or check out her website here.

Psychologist Nicola Gates on Leading a Long and Happy Life

In March, leading Sydney psychologist Nicola Gates is giving an intriguing talk on leading a long and happy life at Glebe library, as part of Seniors Week. You can book for that free event here. It sounds fascinating, and I am certainly going along.
I had a few questions I wanted to ask Nicola about maintaining energy and enthusiasm as we age, and she was kind enough to share a few of her insights.More about Nicola and how to get in touch with her at the end of this Q&A:


Q: Do you think our culture exhibits a healthy attitude towards aging, or are there areas where we could improve?

I think we are actually in a state of transition and developing a much more positive attitude towards aging.  I do think that previously there was a lot of pessimism.  For the vast majority gone are the days of the golden handshake and death within 5 years.   This change has come about through a number of changes- increased life span, better health services, increased number of older adults - the boomer generation with their great expectations and higher disposable wealth.  Consequently for many, older age is now a time of possibilities.   This awakening is increasingly being reflected by society, the media, and general social and cultural attitudes.  However, the most important determinant of our own older age that we can control is our own attitude and health promoting activities and lifestyles.  Science suggests that the journey starts in our middle years.


Q: What do we do about maintaining our energy and curiosity into our old age?

Studies suggest that as much as 60% of diseases / health issues and discomfort are associated with life style.  Although we can’t change our genes, and for the most part our socio-economic situation, we can certainly change our life style to insure that we are in tip top form in terms of  our individual optimal physical, mental, spiritual and social health.  A great term is TLC - we all need  tender love and care, but TLC also means therapeutic lifestyle change. The reality is our bodies do get old but there are many ways to exercise and keep physically fit with flexible joints and strength. A healthy diet is necessary to fuel the body, improve our immune system, and increase our capacity to resist and recover from any ill-health issues.  Relaxation and stress reduction is vital, as is having meaning and purpose in our lives.  Lastly, being socially connected to family or friends and having lots positive emotional experiences. I have had the fortune to interview hundreds of older Australians and one thing I learnt from their collective wisdom is that attitude makes a huge difference.  The Harvard University “Counter-clockwise Study” certainly demonstrated that thinking ‘old’ makes people old and their lives contract.  One way is to be positive, optimistic and be open to the world.  I am inspired by a lovely 83 year old nun who upon very late ‘retirement’  discovered information technology and purchased an ipad!  Be inspired – and make necessary life style changes. 



Nicola Gates is speaking at Glebe Library in March



Q: As so many developed societies are aging rapidly, do you think we are moving into the era of the late bloomer? Is 60 the new 30?

Marketing and media like using catchy phrases to describe social phenomena so the cliché 60 is the new 30 may have appeal.  I think the expression is trying to encapsulate that at 60 you have another possible 30 years of time to grow and explore.  However I do not think 60 is the new thirty because it essentially means that years of life experience and developing wisdom are forfeited.  Psychology has a long history of describing different stages of the life span– developmental, social, neurological, physiological, etc.  – and 60 is another  stage – albeit different now to how it was a generation or two ago.  I also think caution is required as even within developed first world societies, there is a huge discrepancy between how individuals experience 60 and older.  It is wonderful that there are the late bloomers – usually those in good health with economic and social resources, however, sadly, there are many who certainly feel that they are in their autumn.  The essential idea is that everyone gets the opportunities to carve out their later years as they would wish and to have optimal functioning-or as is being described  ‘positive aging’.


Q: What books or authors do you recommend to help us cultivate our wisdom and enthusiasm as we grow older?

There are many books, programs, websites, and blogs  proffering advice and stories of life journeys and self-help guides.  However one of the fabulous things that happens as we get older is that our life experience makes us more unique. Consequently I can’t recommend anything specific as my suggestions wont resonate with lots of people- instead I would just suggest: explore and remain curious and reflective.  There are many wonderful discoveries yet to be made.  Perhaps on that note maybe I can say that one of my favourite books for life is Dr Suess’  Oh the places you’ll go  - it is a life touch-stone disguised as a children’s book.  Work out which page you are on and keep moving forward……



Q: What’s something I could do right now that would spark my inspiration and help me prepare for a healthy and happy old age?

Sit comfortably, let yourself relax into a daydream and imagine what you want your ideal healthy and happy older age to look like. What are you doing? Who are you with? Where are you? How do you feel?  By imagining what you want you are significantly closer to making it become a reality.   Then write down your ‘blue sky’ ideal and work out the relevant steps or strategies.  Make the life you want.  It is yours.

Nicola Gates is a neuroscientist and registered clinical neuropsychologist and psychologist with a wealth of clinical experience in both public health and the private sector.
You can see more about her and her work at her website  http://www.brainandmindpsychology.com

New Books - General

Here's what I'll be reading in the coming weeks:




How Will I Behave Today by Venerable Wuling - This is a Buddhist freebie from outside the Vegetarian Supermarket in Cabramatta. This is a regular source of reading for me, and this little book of Buddhist parables for children looks lovely.



Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer - This is a short book about Krakauer's obsession with exposing the author of Three Cups of Tea as an exaggerator and possible fabricator. I actually have some reservations about this whole "scandal" and think that Krakauer probably went a bit far, but I will reserve my judgement till I have finished this book. All writers of memoir should probably look at it.



Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Connor - I heard an interview with Janet Connor recently on Unity FM, and she was so charming I had to get this book. It's a spiritual approach to creative writing.



The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy - You probably need to be a subscriber to Success magazine to get excited about this one. Hardy is the publisher of that fine magazine, and this book is one I have been meaning to read for a while.




Going Clear by Lawrence Wright - Books about Scientology are a favourite sub-genre of mine, and this looks like being the ultimate expose by a Pulitzer Prize winning writer. Has had a lot of press.




My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf - A graphic memoir about growing up with a mass murderer. I first found out about this when it was recommended on the Emerging Writers' Festival blog. Anyone who is gay and spent their formative years in the 1990s will be hyper-aware of Jeffrey Dahmer, gay serial-killer and a press obsession back then. This is a quirky graphic-novel by one of his school mates, remembering what a peculiar boy Dahmer had been.

New book from Bloomsbury on three Western mystics






Author: James Charlton

Author James Charlton


Most of us are aware that the words ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘you’, ‘yours’ can mislead us into feeling separate from other people. Bloomsbury has released this book as ‘an exhilarating contribution to a recovery of the unifying power of non-dual awareness and connectedness.’ 

Three European thinkers are highlighted; each of them takes a non-dual approach. Western non-dualism has been ignored by the mainstream for centuries. On the other hand, the concept of non-duality remains basic in much of Asian religion.

Meister Eckhart, Mother Julian of Norwich and Thomas Traherne are interpreted as ‘theopoets’ of the body/soul who share a moderate non-dualism. Their passion for unitive experience is linked to construals of both ‘the Self’ and ‘Awakening’ in the Hindu philosophy of non-separation.

Mother Julian of Norwich


A key chapter is titled ‘Losing and Finding the Self’. Within the Infinite lies the finite, and vice versa. Accordingly, spirituality is not so much a matter of following the Buddha or Jesus (or whomever) but of identification with the Realized Being to whom the Spirit nudges us.

The teaching of Ramana Maharshi (d. 1950) is discussed by way of counterpoint to the more moderate non-dualism of the three Europeans. Charlton mentions an early Christian statement which expresses an affinity with Hinduism: ‘God is my being; yet I am not the being of God.’ This is a non-dual affirmation which steers away from monism.

Ramana Maharshi


Charlton favours an inclusive, non-dual and process-oriented model of theology and philosophy. Since he adheres to an ultimate transcendence, his position implies panentheism as distinct from pantheism. His previous books are poetry collections: Luminous Bodies (Montpelier Press, Hobart, 2001) and So Much Light (PardalotePress, Hobart, 2007).


My Three Words for the Year




OK, I am a little slow. Couple that with being very disorganised, and you'll soon realise I can take a little while in getting around to things. No excuses offered, it is my own particular karma. And of course, I would love to be able to change it and become a whole different, super-organised and productive person. I'm just not there yet.
Fortunately my life's curcumstances mean that I get three New Years in which to begin my resolutions. So if I don't make January 1, I always have the Vietnamese Lunar New Year around February, and if I miss that deadline I have the Khmer New Year in April. After April I need to get serious.
I was inspired (as I often am) by Chris Brogan, who has a neat little idea to frame each year with three words. These words he uses as his lynchpin, the ideas on which he bases all his projects for the year.
If you are anything like me, certain words can become really significant over a period, can appear constantly and make you smile. These are the words I know I should be incorporating into my life's philosophy. They arise organically, and they never seem to leave you alone.
So, here are my Three Words for 2013:

Joy - This is a central focus in my life, and has been for many years. I think it is the quality I find most important, the thing I want most in my life. So this year I am elevating it to the #1 consideration. I want to be a joyful person, I want to spread joy, and I want to invite joy into my life.

Lovingkindness - I guess this word came into my life years ago through the work of Thich Nhat Hanh and Sharon Salzberg. Lovingkindness is a Buddhist quality and one of the Brahmaviharas - the abodes of the gods. When we dwell in lovingkindness we are already in heaven. So this year I need to remember to be kinder, more patient and more sympathetic. Is what I'm about to do loving and kind? If not, don't do it.

Consistent  - It's exactly what I'm not, and the absence of consistence has had a real impact on my life. I need to work consistently, be consistent in my commitments, my moods and my actions. I guess I want to apply this one mostly to my work. I am kind of happy with a bit of inconsistency in other areas of my life, particularly my intellectual and spiritual beliefs, where I think consistency is often a sign of fear and can veer into inertia.


What are your three words for the year?

Jesse Blackadder on Women, Writing and Antarctica


Novelist Jesse Blackadder



One of the most fascinating people to have come into my life over the past couple of years is the novelist Jesse Blackadder. Jesse joined the Writing and Society Research unit at the University of Western Sydney, where I am also a grad student. Since I first met her Jesse has released a fabulous historical novel, The Raven's Heart, and now this new novel about the first women to visit Antarctica, Chasing the Light. I had a chat with Jesse to find out what it was like to visit Antarctica and write about it:







1.       Where did the fascination with Antarctica come from? Is it an old thing, or something you developed later in life?

It came later in life for me, and it came from a book. I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s beautiful 1971 novel Antarctica. Supposedly an eco-thriller set in an unspecified but near future, Antarctica is really much more than that, engaging with and challenging many of the conventions of Antarctic literature. It reflects on the glory and foolishness of the heroic era explorers, introduces other cultural perspectives (e.g. through the character Ta Shu, a Chinese poet who is part of the Artists and Writers’ Programme and whose poems and reflections on the feng shui of Antarctica are scattered through the text) and explores questions of becoming indigenous to Antarctica. Among the many things happening in this novel, women play a central role throughout, working in all aspects of Antarctic life. I was enchanted, and that feeling grew the more I came to read and learn about Antarctica. I became determined to go there myself.


Jesse Blackadder paddles through Antarctica

2.       One of the principle themes in your writing is women’s strength and the reclamation of women’s place in history. Do you think we’ve moved ahead a lot on that front, or is there still a lot of work to be done?

Historical fiction is one place where so much reclamation of female history is happening – authors are finding snippets, hints, rumours of lost female history, and writing to bring it to life again. While historical fiction isn’t always historically correct – and doesn’t claim to be – it influences our world view, and restores women as active participants in history. Antarctic history is far more masculinist than that of most countries, which makes it a fascinating arena in which to work. There’s no other continent where women were physically prevented from setting foot. It’s an extreme case, but certainly in polar history there is much more to be done to incorporate female experience as a valued part of polar life.


The author, dressed for Antarctic success

3.       You have managed to turn an aspect of the research into your novel, Chasing theLight, into a children’s book due out in July called Stay: The Last Dog inAntarctica. From a writer’s perspective, this is a brilliant use of your time, research and skills. Any tips for other creative people on how to think laterally when it comes to productivity and creative output?

I hadn’t thought seriously about writing a children’s novel, but when ‘Stay’, the fibreglass seeing eye collection dog who has lived in Antarctica for 20 years, was dognapped and hidden in the Hagglunds vehicle that took me out on my Antarctic field trip, the idea started to seep into my creative subconscious. I’ve also just completed a feature for Australian Geographic on women in Antarctica that’s coming out on 1 March. My approach is to be open minded about where the research might lead me – a novel, a journalism feature, a blog post, a children’s story. To survive financially these days, writers often need to use the same research for more than one finished product. Of course you could also be smart and write a series of novels with the same characters/settings. That’s probably the smartest thing – and the one I’ve never managed.

4.        In spite of an incredibly gruelling research process that saw you travelling the world as well as engaging in the academic world you managed to finish Chasing the Light in very good time. What is your secret to actually sitting down and writing instead of getting lost in the process? Do you have any tricks, a schedule?

One big trick – a deadline. I can’t tell you how much more productive I’ve become with a publisher’s contract. Once HarperCollins expressed interest in the novels, I pushed my publisher Jo Butler to shorten the time I had available to write both Chasing the Light and Stay, because I knew the writing would simply expand to fill the time available. Armed with a deadline, I wrote on board the ship to Antarctica, at airports, in bed, on trains, in waiting rooms. It was especially true for the children’s novel, which was easier to dip into. A deadline has got to be the most inspirational thing for me. Mind you, I am still finishing up the ‘exegesis’ – the academic work that I have to hand in along with the novel in order to complete my Doctor of Creative Arts – and I’m a bit behind schedule!

5.       Who are the writers who have inspired you along the way? Who are you a fan of?

Jeannette Winterson has enchanted, challenged and inspired me since I first read one of her novels in the 1980s, and The Passion remains one of my all time favourite books.

Elizabeth Arthur’s 1995 novel Antarctic Navigation follows the journey of a woman who sets out to re-enact Scott’s sledging journey to the South Pole. Like Robinson’s novel, it’s epic in nature, and powerfully elicits Antarctica, while raising fascinating and absorbing questions about the nature of life, science and reality. I still can’t believe that I won’t meet its main character Morgan one day.

The books that I first read in childhood – James Herriot’s All creatures great and small series about a vet in Yorkshire in the mid 1900s remain beloved and I revisit them every few years.



In  this photograph Jesse is wearing a white hat that covers a whole bunch of wires glued to her scalp. She  had to have a test to rule out epilepsy, as part of the stringent Antarctic medical, and wore this portable brain reading mechanism for three days. It's a good look, especially when she had to give a speech to a bunch of writers over that same weekend. She told them she was part of a test to see if writers had different brainwaves...




Jesse Blackadder’s website is www.jesseblackadder.com
Read a review of Jesse's previous novel, The Ravens Heart, in the Lambda Review, here.

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