Wednesday wrap with lettuce

Today the most important thing I’ll do is go here:


Kate has been talking about this place for ages, on twitter, and while I have done three drive bys in an effort to get a gelato, it just hasn’t worked out. I couldn’t see the shop, there were no parks available, and so on. But today is the day. I will report back later.


This is an article on a fifteenth-century dream-vision poem “Mum and the Sothsegger,” drawing comparisons between it and Game of Thrones. (I’m wondering whether sothsegger is Middle English for soothsayer (‘mum’ in this context means one who keeps quiet, is wise; and sothsegger is the truth-teller).

Mum and the Sothsegger from The Paris Review


I was on a facebook page yesterday, a Ned Kelly one, probably the NK one, and they were discussing a novel about NK and a secret son (ahem) and one commenter said ‘I don’t think people should write fiction using historical characters.’ I’m not active on the site, but I found it interesting. There are people who will think this (people who like to read pure history NF) and then others, like me, who want to draw on historical characters for inspiration for fictional ones. There’s no right and wrong here, only opinion, but I can imagine opinions being strong.

This article asks the question How True Should Historical Fiction Be? I think I agree with the writer here, especially when she says

But novelists are not history teachers. It’s not our job to educate people, and if we start using words like “duty” and “responsibility” about historical fiction – or any fiction – we’re in danger of leaching all the vigour out of it with a sense of worthiness. A novelist has no real duty to anything except the story he or she is creating, the characters who inhabit it and whatever view of the world he or she is offering with the novel’s ending. But if you are going to play fast and loose with historical fact for the sake of a good story, you’d better have done your research thoroughly if you want readers to take you seriously; only then will you have the authority to depart from those facts.

I think research is important, and it should be ‘meticulous’ as mentioned in the article, but if we are talking fiction, then anything goes, just as anything goes with other types of fiction. The litmus test of believability is whether a publisher will publish it and readers accept the story. But even in a novel where everything is invented, there still needs to be a logical coherence and plausibility for the created world of the novel.

My novel has been described as audacious, and it is cheeky, in that I’ve taken two of Australia’s ‘sacred cows’ and mashed them together. Does it work? You will be the judge of that. It’ll work for some and not for others. Like anything.


This is a podcast from Sydney Writers Festival (I think, I may be wrong, I’ve had these tabs open across my computer screen for about a week now) where the subject is Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk, and owner of goshawk Mabel, who she bought and trained during the time of grief after her father suddenly died.

I’ve raved about the book all over town, now here is a podcast of an interview with Macdonald. It’s wonderful. She talks with such passion and fondness, about Mable, about her father, about being a child who loved hawks.

I need to look up Macdonald’s closing address to the SWF, I know that’s been podcast as well. She’s a treat.


Why do Australians hate thinkers?

This is a provocative piece that feeds into the tall poppy thinking that does seem prevalent in this country. Why is it so? (BTW I’m loving Amy Schumer at the moment and so, it seems, does the world. But I’m waiting for her to be turned on. I don’t think tall poppy is exclusive to Australia and Australians.)


Fancy a writing retreat in Sri Lanka?

This looks really good. I’ve been aware of it over the last couple of years. One day, I think to myself. One day…


Writing groups and critiquing. It’s a logical first step or early step for writers who are serious about their work, and determined to get some momentum and finish some pieces. I was in a writers’ group for a couple of years and while it was good while it lasted, it is no longer a thing. That’s ok for me, I felt I had moved past needing that type of structure (I’d gotten* an agent) but I know established writers who are in groups and they work well for them.

I have offered to read a writing comrades novel manuscript, and I want to do a good job of that, so when I saw this article, I thought it could be useful.

Writing Groups. How to write a constructive critique.

I’ve done a bit of reading around this. I know that when I come to read the ms, I need to remember it’s about the author and her work, not about me and how I would do it; also to focus on things that are helpful to the author and deliver them in a helpful manner. Oh the pressure. But I do want to help!


Just found this this morning. It’s Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, talking about the theremin in Good Vibrations. Good Vibrations is a song from my childhood, and the first one that I thought was really really amazing. I’d probably had Beatles songs as the backing track until then, and some jazz care of dad, and classical care of mum, and of course I had nursery rhymes set to music on record, there was Peter and the Wolf, Rolf Harris (yes); those broadcasts that came through the big box mounted on the wall up the front of the primary school classroom, which was ABC and for kids. ‘Let’s Sing!’ I think was the program, we had booklets with the words, possibly with the notes (for recorder?) and typical ’70s-style illustrations. But Good Vibrations and the Beach Boys. I remember where I was when I heard it for the first time (Mt Eliza, my aunt’s place) and who I was with (my tearaway cousins, boys who skated, swam, biked, drove cars way too early, crawled into tunnels with petrol bombs to ‘make the bats fly out’ and could run at top speed along their gravel driveway. THAT was my childhood. Back in town, it was a slightly watered-down version of the hijinks we got up to at Mt Eliza. I remember hearing the song, and finding the woooooo sound magical. It transported me, somewhere. It was amazing.


Can reading make you happier?

Pfft, like they even have to ask.


That’s it for me until Saturday. I’ve decided to post twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, a manageable schedule I think.

A question: does anyone know how ‘tags’ work, and categories too? What are their functions? What do I do with them? They seem to double up in purpose? thanks.

* I recently found out this is ungrammatical, but to write ‘I’d got’ seems so weird.

11 thoughts on “Wednesday wrap with lettuce

  1. 1. Gelato Messina – you can’t go wrong.
    2. Historical fiction – like any writing genre, there’s good and bad examples. But NK specifically, I LOVED Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang.
    3. I grew up with the Beach Boys playing – they always put me in a happy place.
    4. Saw that article about reading tagged with “Is reading the perfect therapy?” (or similar) on Twitter this morning. Well der, of course it is.
    5. Tags and categories have different purposes (categories are broader, for sorting posts into and tags are ways of highlighting very particular words or topics) but work in much the same way: they make your blog more ‘searchable’ and also more likely to be found on the interwebs. That is a highly simplified answer but feel free to email me for more 🙂

    1. It was amazing Kate, so yummy. Think I will be assisting with trips north to the uni-zone as much as possible over the next few years…

      I loved Carey’s True History as well, only read it last year, wanted to make sure I didn’t read while I was writing. Mine is very different to his, but didn’t want any transfer of ideas.

      Thanks for explaining tags/categories. I think I knew that but then wordpress format changed and it threw me.

  2. 1.There’s a wonderful Paris Review interview with Hilary mantel in which she speaks very insightfully about the relationship between fiction and historical fact. Alas, I can;t find my copy, but look it up.
    2. The Beach Boys was the soundtrack my husband and I fell in love to. Our first conversation was about The Beach Boys and we had God Only Knows as our wedding song. They’re magic.
    3. I’m in a writing critique group. I still find it enormously useful. I work with Amanda Curtin, Natasha Lester, Dawn Braker, Yvette Walker and Sara Foster. They all have such different approaches, I really learn a lot through the process.
    4. Categories are broader than tags. For example, I have a category called ‘reading recommendations’ which includes my monthly reading round-ups, friday faves etc Anyone who likes one of those posts can click on the category and see all the posts within that category – so it helps people navigate your site and get to the content they’re more likely to enjoy. Within the posts for my reading recommendations category I tag every author I mentioned. Tags work more for general internet searching than for in-site searching.

    1. Hi Annabel, little while, no chat! I’ve got a hard copy of that Mantel interview, it also has an interview with Elena Ferrante (done by her editors who are the only people who know who she is) and also I think it’s got another terrific interview in it too. An absolute bonanza of interviews. Everyone’s going to have their own opinions, especially historians and historical writers, of which I am neither, not really.

      Your writing critique group, talk about a powerhouse bunch of women. You’re lucky, has the group been running long? Ours last a couple of years but I have to say, it never felt smooth to me.

      Thanks also for your explanation of tags and categories.

      1. Yes, they are brilliant. I have known Amanda for many years and been in a writing group with her a couple of times before. I met all the other girls at PWF 2 years ago and asked if they’d be interested in a critique group and they all said yes. They bring such a fantastic range of skills to the meetings, and also are incredibly supportive through the ups and downs of the writerly life. We’ve been sporadic at times but lately have been meeting roughly monthly which has been great

    2. Hi Annabel — um, wow! As Jenny said, that is some powerhouse of a writing critique group you have there! I’m jealous! I’m not part of a writing group — like you, Jen, I was in one some years back, but I found myself in a different creative space to most of the other folks; the group slowed and finally disbanded, quite naturally. I’m a dreadful loner by nature, anyway. But I’d crawl out of my lonely writing hole for that writing group of yours, Annabel 😉

  3. Hi Jenny, some of my favourite things in this post, including gelato, theremin, and Helen Macdonald. Yum.

    Categories vs tags: I had this page bookmarked from ages ago when I was trying to work out the same thing myself: — one of the differences is that categories support hierarchies, tags do not (so you can create more of a relationship or linkage with categories).

    Theremin in Good Vibrations — oh-ho, we’ve tweeted about this! As I understand it, the theremin sound in Good Vibrations is not a “proper” theremin, but an electronic sound-alike, the electrotheremin, or Tannerin (named after Paul Tanner, who invented it, and played on Good Vibrations). It’s easier to play than the theremin. Here’s a link: . It’s splitting straws, though. If Brian Wilson says it’s a theremin, it’s a theremin, baby! That’s certainly a theremin that Bri-bri plays (really badly!) in the video you’ve linked to. He’s sort of sad and almost unwatchable in that vid, I found.

    Gelato Messina: I’m bookmarking that one for my Melbourne trip next month!

    Historical fiction, mash-ups, etc: Oh now I can’t wait to read your novel even more! I’m HUGELY in favour of the making up of things, when it comes to fiction. I love fiction that blurs the boundaries. I care little for what’s real. Honestly. I want the *feel* of real. I want the novel I’m in (I’m reading) to feel as if it’s real, but I honestly don’t care if it’s not. When I wrote Lena Gaunt, I decided very early that I didn’t want to use the names of any of the real people involved in the early days of the theremin (Lev Termin/Theremin; Clara Rockmore) — hence The Professor, Lena Gaunt in my novel. But I applaud your audacity, and I kind of wish now that I’d space-shifted Clara Rockmore to Cottesloe Beach, instead of inventing a character called Lena Gaunt who shares some (but not many) similarities with Clara Rockmore.


    1. Interesting what you say about the historical mash up idea. I had a teacher who said anything goes as long as it works. I suppose the ‘as long as it works’ can be very arbitrary and it will be readers who decide if something works for them. And that, as we know, is so variable, reader response.

      I’ve just looked up Clara Rockmore, so she was Lithuanian. Space-shifting her to Cottlesloe Beach would have been super rad.

      Thanks for your input on tags and categories, I think I know what I’m doing now.

  4. PS I just had a poke around your new look site – I see you’ve got a title, a cover and everything – how exciting! I’m looking forward to reading your book very much.

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