Book Review: Paradise Lot: GoneGoneWorld -Episode1

  • 51dZfOoctVL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Paradise Lot-GoneGodWorld:Episode 1
  • Author: R.E Vance
  • Category: Urban Fantasy 
  • Pages: 76
  • Price: FREE today 25th October

Summary:The gods are gone. All of them.

Their last message to humanity was: “Thank you for believing in us, but it is not enough. We’re leaving. Good luck.” At first no one took them seriously. Until, that is, all the denizens of all the heavens and hells started showing up on people’s doorsteps. Creatures that were once thought of as myth are now refugees striving to adapt to life on earth. Trouble is, after eons of living forever, they’re not very good at being mortal.

Caught in the middle is Jean-Luc, a struggling hotelier who (reluctantly) promised to help these wayward ‘Others’ live in this new GoneGod world. But taking care of his guests, keeping his hotel afloat and dealing with the constant drama of the Others’ lives is figuratively killing him. And now that an unusually strange Other is in town, his figurative demise might soon become more literal.

Paradise Lot is a new urban fantasy series by R.E. Vance that chronicles the adventures of the humans and ‘Others’ alike, as they struggle to navigate this strange, new post apocalyptic godless world.

Review: Read in one sitting I was drawn quickly into Paradise Lot: GoneGodWorld Episode 1 and into the dreams of a man, Jean-Luc who yearns for his dead wife.  I was swept away by the fast-paced story about Jean-Luc himself, a hotelier in the town of Paradise Lot, where the  creatures of myth and legend, of story and heaven and hell now reside after the Gods left. They are called the ‘Others’ and are still adjusting to life on the now godless mortal plane. 

Paradise Lot: GoneGodWorld Episode 1 is a fast paced, action packed paranormal thriller set in an incredible world. Author R.E Vance weaves mystery, action and elements of romance teamed with a witty, likeable main character of Jean-Luc, a tough, yet compassionate man living in a godless world surrounded by angels, demons, fairies, Billy Goat Gruff, Medusa and the archangel Michael, just to name a few. 

Five stars people! Five! I can’t wait to read the next episode. 

My review is posted little late but please grab it today 25th October for free if you love a great paranormal read! After today it will $0.99c. 

Buy this book: Amazon FREE 25th October

(Note: Want the book, but don’t have a Kindle? That’s not a problem at all – You DON’T need a Kindle to read this book. You can still read it for FREE on any computer or tablet using Amazon’s free software available here.)

Read all Welcome To My Library Book Reviews HERE

Author Bio: R.E. Vance lives in Edinburgh with his wife, soon to be born child and imaginary dog where he enjoys a beautiful city, whisky and long walks. All he really wants is to quit his job and write stories based in Paradise Lot. All he really hopes for is that his child-to-be is born healthy (ten fingers, ten toes and at least two eyes will do) and that eventually he can can get a real dog so that he can have an excuse to go on even more long walks.

Grab the whole series:



PL Ep 4

PL Interludes

2015 Inky Award Winners #InkyAwards

I’m back with more literary award news! The 2015 Inky Award Winners were announced today! See all the shortlisted novels here 2015 Inky Award Shortlist. There are some amazing books on this short-list. If you love YA or know someone who does – check it out!


The Inky Awards recognise high-quality young adult literature, with the long-list and shortlist selected by young adults, and the winners voted for online by the teen readers of

2015 Gold Inky Award for an Australian Book

Inky Gold Winner

Description: Josie Browning dreams of having it all. A stellar academic record, an amazing career in journalism – and for her current crush to realise she actually exists. The only problem? Josie can’t get through twenty-four hours without embarrassing her sister Kat or her best friend Angel, let alone herself. Josie’s luck changes though when she lands an internship at the glossy fashion magazine Sash. A coveted columnist job is up for grabs, but Josie’s got some tough competition in the form of two other interns. Battle lines are drawn and Josie quickly learns that the magazine industry is far from easy, especially under the reign of powerful editor, Rae Swanson.

From the lows of coffee-fetching and working 10-hour days, to the highs of mingling with celebrities, scoring endless free beauty products (plus falling for her cousin’s seriously gorgeous flatmate James) this is one year Josie will never forget.

Totally fresh and funny, this debut novel from industry insider Gabrielle Tozer reveals just what is behind the seeming glamour and sparkle of the magazine industry.

2015 Silver Inky Award for an International Book

Inky Silver Winner

Description: Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


The Inky Awards recognise high-quality young adult literature, with the longlist and shortlist selected by young adults, and the winners voted for online by the teen readers of

Inside a Dog is all about books – by young people, for young people. It is a place for teen readers and the home of Inky, the reading wonder-dog. On the website you can:

  • Find great reads
  • Share your reviews of books you love – or hate
  • Discuss book news and hot topics on our news blog and in our forums. Win stuff!
  • Gain insight into an authors’ thoughts about writing and reading with our
  • Writer in Residence.
  • Join or create a book club to talk about your reading.

2015 Queensland Literary Awards

Another host of talented Australian writers have been honoured in the 2015 Queensland  Literary Awards on October 10th. I am a a couple of days behind on sharing the news – but here it is!

The former Awards once included the title ‘Premier’s‘ but funding was withdrawn and the awards abolished  by Premier Campbell Newman, shortly after winning the 2012 Queensland state election. Thankfully,  in 2012 a group of passionate Queensland volunteers and advocates for literature established the not-for-profit Queensland Literary Awards (QLA).

The Awards recognise and reward outstanding Australian writers. The 2012 and 2013 Awards were made possible by the generosity and commitment of many partners, donors and volunteers.

It brings to mind a thoughtful, but passionate article written recently by author Kate Forsyth about funding for the arts and why it is so important. I quote: ‘Storytelling is absolutely crucial to human culture. Speaking up, writing it down – this is how humans connect and communicate and learn and grow and share. It is how we make sense of this mysterious universe we live in.’ (Kate Forsyth)

In May this year the Premier of Queensland and Arts Minister announced the Queensland Government would once again support the state’s literary awards, taking the prize pool up to $300,000.

Congratulations to all the winning and short-listed authors.

The Winners:

Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance (Prize: $25,000)

WarriorWinner: Warrior, Libby Connors

Warrior is the extraordinary story of one of Australia’s little-known heroes, one of many Aboriginal men to die protecting their country.


University of Queensland Fiction Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

22825770Winner: The Golden Age, Joan London (Read review by Angela Long HERE)

This is a story of resilience, the irrepressible, enduring nature of love, and the fragility of life. From one of Australia’s most loved novelists.

University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

the bushWinner: The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia, Don Watson

Don Watson explores the bush as it was and as it now is: the triumphs and the ruination, the commonplace and the bizarre, the stories we like to tell about ourselves and the national character, and those we don’t.

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

The PauseWinner: The Pause, John Larkin

Declan seems to have it all but he feels as if nothing will take away that pain that he has buried deep inside for so long. So he makes the only decision he thinks he has left: the decision to end it all.

As the train approaches two versions of his life are revealed. In one, Declan watches as his body is destroyed and the lives of those who loved him unravel. In the other, Declan pauses before he jumps. One moment. One pause. One whole new life.

Griffith University Children’s Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

A single stoneWinner: A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay

Every girl dreams of being part of the line, the chosen seven who tunnel into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important. But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question everything she has known? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything? 

University of Southern Queensland History Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

AnzacWinner: ANZAC, The Unauthorised Biography, Carolyn Holbrook

Anzac, the Unauthorised Biography cuts through the clamor to provide a much-needed historical perspective on the battle over Anzac. It traces how, since 1915, Australia’s memory of the Great War has declined and surged, reflecting the varied and complex history of the Australian nation itself.

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award (Prize: $10,000)

mercilessWinner: Merciless Gods, Christos Tsiolkas

Love, sex, death, family, friendship, betrayal, tenderness, sacrifice & revelation. This incendiary collection of stories from acclaimed bestselling international writer Christos Tsiolkas takes you into worlds both strange and familiar, and characters that will never let you go.

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award (Prize: $10,000)

WaitingWinner: Waiting for the Past, Les Murray

Les Murray’s new volume of poems – his first in five years – continues his use of molten language. From ‘The Black Beaches’ to ‘Radiant Pleats, Mulgoa’, from ‘High Speed Trap Space’ to ‘The Electric, 1960’, this is verse that renews and transforms our sense of the world.

Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards (Prize: $10,000 each)

Winner: Megan McGrath
Winner: Rebecca Jessen

Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The First Octoroon or Report of an Experimental Child, Andrew Booth

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Aurora, Elizabeth Kasmer

2015 Queensland Writers Fellowships ($15,000 each)

Winner: Inga Simpson
Winner: Krissy Kneen
Winner: Karen Foxlee

The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: On the road…with the kids, John Ahern


For more information about the Queensland Literary Awards (QLA), please see their website.  Follow the QLA on Facebook and Twitter. 

Mama Lana’s Community Foundation

Last year I found out about a wonderful local organisation called Mama Lana’s Community Foundation and I wanted to share a few of the wonderful things Mama Lana’s does selflessly for the local community. See below for more information about Mama Lana’s and an interview with one of the volunteers about their library for the homeless and disadvantaged patrons.

I also wanted share the details of one of their major fundraisers this year,  the Fake It ’til You Make It Tribute Band Festival on Saturday the 17th October at Penrith Paceway.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It is Australia’s biggest Tribute Band festival and includes some of the best tribute bands in the country.  Starting at 2pm, it is a day of fun and enjoyment for all the family with some fantastic music and entertainment until late into the night. Tickets can be purchased HERE from Ticketek.


About Mama Lana’s: Mama Lana’s is a wholly not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping our often forgotten homeless and underprivileged community in the greater Penrith region. They currently provide hot meals four nights a week, supply food and toiletry packs, and clothing and blankets to keep them warm during the colder months. They also assist Torton Place Penrith and the Ross Hutchison Foundation, as well as other local charities, hostels and drop in centres.

Mama Lana’s also liaise on behalf of the patrons with Centrelink, Penrith Council, Department of Housing and other resource centres and government departments to help the patrons any way we can to make their lives more comfortable and bearable, as well as seeking to find long term solutions to better their circumstance. Each night we are seeing new faces, reinforcing to us that the need for our service is necessary.

The Mama Lana’s Library

I love a library! And so do many people. Another wonderful thing that Mama Lana’s provides to the homeless and underprivileged is a mobile library. I asked Shae, a dedicated Mama Lana’s volunteer and expert book-lover about her thoughts on the library and the positive benefits of books being readily available to the patrons when they drop for a warm meal.

How long have you been running the library? Was it your idea? Are all the books donated?
Shae: I started the library with my friend Beth in Feb 2014 and we have been running ever since, with the addition of another friend, Beck . We are under the bridge every Monday night and we take around six carry-on luggage suitcases full, a box of magazines, plus a box of puzzle books, notebooks and pens/pencils (we give these out but all books and magazines are for borrowing only).

We try to “rotate the stock” very week or so, so there are always fresh titles available. All the books and magazines have been donated from supporters which is amazing, and for which we are so thankful! We have hundreds of books in the library and frequently replace old titles with new ones (i.e. we review what has/hasn’t been borrowed or had much interest and replace them with things people are asking for.)

If someone has a particular title, author or genre they are interested in we either bring them from the collection or we ask supporters if they are able to donate what we are after. Any books that are not suitable due to lack of interest, or we get double ups of (sometimes triple ups – Tom Clancy and Dan Brown, I’m looking at you) we hold on to them to sell at fundraising events instead. We also love coffee table books as they are often popular for people just to browse through while they are enjoying their meal. We’ll be having a book stall at the Fake It Festival as well.

Our supporters are incredible – it usually doesn’t take long at all for them to answer the call of a request. We’ve had hard-to-find old-style Westerns donated, whole series of particular authors, even a massive box of Top Gear magazines which the beautiful donor has delivered from the central coast! It would have cost a bomb! We truly appreciate the support we receive, not only for the library but for Mama Lana’s as a whole.

If anyone has any books they want to donate can they contact Mama Lana’s or you?  
Shae: Yes, they can either PM the Mama Lana’s Facebook page, email me at Usually we ask them to drop the donations at Storage King Penrith (to Reception) as I’m unable to collect from people. If they can’t access Mama Lana’s due to distance, I recommend contacting The Footpath Library which is an extensive network set up in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth providing books to the homeless community, or contacting their local homeless services or women’s shelter etc.

As a basic rule we don’t accept chick lit or women’s fiction for the library but are happy to accept if for fundraising stock if the donor is okay with that. Sci-fi/Fantasy is also another genre that doesn’t really work in the library but does sell well.

We steer clear of anything that can be trigger topics such as sexual abuse or violent crime, as we do have patrons for whom these topics are very upsetting. We do take kids’ books as we have a few children under the bridge, however we keep these to a minimum.

What benefits have you noticed from people being able to access books? (mental stimulation/distraction/creating discussion, reconnect with a past interest / reliving stress / engagement / a sense of belonging)

Shae: All of the above – readers, particularly homeless readers such as rough sleepers or train riders, may not be able to access the public library for borrowing. We offer a service they appreciate as reading not only fills their time but provides mental stimulation, enjoyment, distraction – all the things you mentioned. It also allows us to engage with people – we have many an interesting discussion about the books, or topics they raise. Generally we have a regular set of patrons who use the library, even just to browse, so we know them very well now and tend to carry conversations on from the week before, or they come back saying they’d learned something new about the previous discussion. We’ve also learnt a heck of a lot from our patrons!

You are a passionate reader – I am sure this transfers well to the everyone borrowing books. I’m sure you have some wonderful discussions. -What is a usual night like under the bridge?

Shae: We have many similar interests in reading and that allows to have meaningful interactions. Harry Potter is a huge topic for myself and Mr N. – we discuss it almost every week and never tire of it. He’ll come to me and say something like “ If you could invent a spell, what would it be?” or “Which subject would you want to teach and why?” and off we go for an hour or more! We have established some terrific relationships with our patrons through these interactions. We’ve even come to the stage that we choose a new title and try to read it at the same time so we can discuss it like a book club.

But a usual night is us arriving at 8pm, a few of our regular patrons assisting us in unloading the car (those suitcases are heavy!). We set up while people are getting their meals, then we begin! Some nights we have heaps of people browsing and borrowing, other nights it’s just browsing and discussion.

As we work on an honour system (i.e. we don’t have library cards or take anyone’s name down for the books they are borrowing) we establish trust with our patrons as they know when they return the books to us they fulfilling our “handshake agreement” and being fair to others who want to enjoy our library as well. Since we opened, I would say we have only had around 10 to 20 books not returned, and that is usually because the person has moved on and we have lost contact, which we completely understand under their circumstances. We once had a gentleman return books to us after 6 months because he had travelled interstate and then eventually come back – he didn’t want us to think he had stolen them! New patrons are usually pretty excited to see the set-up but can often be unsure about whether they allowed to borrow because it’s their first time at the meal service. We make sure we explain the system to them, let them feel comfortable to browse etc. It’s lovely to see their eyes light up when they know they are able to borrow up to six books for as long as they need them.

We have been extremely lucky to have the most incredible collapsible book display stands built for us by one of our patrons (see picture below). This not only LOOKS amazing, but also assists any less-able patrons in browsing the collection – previously we could only display the books in the suitcases on the ground which was very difficult for some who have physical limitations. Now they are displayed as beautifully as any bookshop thanks to Mr J. and his creative talent and generosity.

MLCF Library

To donate to Mama Lana’s click HERE or click HERE to find out how you can help with donations of food/toiletries at drop off location at Storage King Penrith.


11888047_971168156259116_4684065922592862457_nTribute Band Festival – BUY tickets at Ticketek

Fake It ‘Til You Make It is Australia’s biggest Tribute Band festival and includes some of the best tribute bands in the country.

If these were the real bands, it would be the festival from heaven. The bands have been hand chosen to be professional and look like and sound like the originals. The festival will have some seating but will mainly be general admission with grass sitting areas, street performers, face painting and other festivities.

It is a day of fun and enjoyment for all the family with some fantastic music and entertainment until late into the night.

Children’s Book Council of Australia – 2015 Book of the Year Winners & Honour Books

The winners have been announced for the Children’s Book Council of Australia 2015!

Congratulations to all the talented Australian authors and illustrators.  For the full shortlist click here to read.

Winner: Book of the Year Older Readers

The Protected by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

(Read my review HERE)

Honour Books: Older Readers

Nona & Me by Clare Atkins (Black Inc.)


The Minnow by Diana Sweeney (Text Publishing)

The Minnow

Winner: Book of the Year Younger Readers

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present by Libby Gleeson Illus. Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)


Honour Books: Younger Readers

Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks (Random House Australia)

Two Wolves

Withering-by-Sea: a Stella Montgomery Intrigue by Judith Rossell (Harper Collins Australia)


Winner: Book of the Year Early Childhood

Go to Sleep, Jessie! by Libby Gleeson Illus: Frey Blackwood (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)

Jessie sleep

Honour Books: Early Childhood

Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes: Illus: Stephen Michael King (Working Title Press)

Scary night

Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester (Allen & Unwin)

Noni the pony

Winner: Picture Book of the Year

My Two Blankets: Illus: Freya Blackwood Text: Irena Kobald (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)


Honour Books: Picture Book

One Minute’s Silence: Illus: Michael Camilleri Text: David Metzenthen (Allen & Unwin)

one minutes silence

The Stone Lion: Illus: Ritva Voutila Text: Margaret Wild

the stone lion

Winner: Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

A–Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land by Simon Barnard (Text Publishing)

AZ Convicts

Honour Books: Eve Pownall Award for Information

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly Illus. Robert Ingpen (National Library of Australia)

Tea and sugar

Audacity: Stories of Heroic Australians in Wartime by Carlie Walker (Department of Veterans’ Affairs)


For more information:  The Children’s Book Council of Australia – Engaging the community with literature for young Australians. 

2015 Literary Awards News: National Biography Award & NSW Premier’s History Awards 

Literary Award season continues with the announcement of the winner of the National Biography Award last week and today with the announcement of the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

Winner: National Biography Award ($25,000)

C J DennisDescribed as a “forensic work of recovery”, the  extraordinary biography of popular Australian poet CJ Dennis,  An Unsentimental Bloke, The Life and Works of C.J Dennis by Philip Butterss has won the $25,000 National Biography Award – Australia’s richest prize for life writing from a field of 72 entries.

The judges praised Butterss for his deeply informed, illuminating and delightfully readable work; “the first full biography of the man who wrote The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke, The Moods of Ginger Mick and several other classics.” “An Unsentimental Bloke is a meticulously researched account of the life and times of CJ Dennis, possibly the most popular writer ever to pen stories for an Australian audience and far and away the most popular of all Australian poets,” the judges reported.

 NSW Premier’s History Awards 

State Library

Eight judges considered 180 entries across six prize categories.

The Premier of NSW, the Hon Mike Baird MP commented ‘these awards are a celebration of the diversity and excellence in historical practice in Australia and the importance of historians in marking and understanding our nation’s past.’ ‘Celebrating the vital work of historians and the role of history in our society is fundamental to the core values of th State Library of NSW...’

The award announcement, on Friday 4th September will also launch NSW History Week.

2015 Shortlist:

Australian History Prize ($15,000)

  • The Bush, Don Watson (Penguin Books Australia)
  • The Europeans in Australia, Volume 3: Nation, Alan Atkinson (NewSouth Books)
  • Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World, Tim Low (Penguin Books Australia)

Australian First World War History Prize (commemorative medallion)

  • Anzac, the Unauthorised Biography, Carolyn Holbrook (NewSouth Books)
  • Homefront Hostilities: The First World War and Domestic Violence, Elizabeth Nelson (Australian Scholarly Publishing)
  • The Lost Legions of Fromelles, The true story of the most dramatic battle in Australia’s history, Peter Barton (Allen & Unwin)

General History Prize ($15,000)

  • Crisis of the Wasteful Nation: Empire and Conservation in Theodore Roosevelt’s America, Ian Tyrrell (University of Chicago Press)
  • Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity, Warwick Anderson & Ian R Mackay (Johns Hopkins University Press)
  • Wild man from Borneo: A Cultural History of the Orangutan, Robert Cribb, Helen Gilbert & Helen Tiffin (University of Hawai’i Press) NSW

Community and Regional History Prize ($15,000)

  • Leisure Space: The Transformation of Sydney 1945‐1970, Judith O’Callaghan and Paul Hogben (NewSouth Publishing)
  • The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress: An Environmental History, Cameron Muir (CSIRO Publishing ‐ Earthscan from Routledge)
  • The Luck of the Irish: How a shipload of convicts survived the wreck of the Hive to make a new life in Australia, Babette Smith (Allen & Unwin)

Young People’s History Prize ($15,000)

  • A‐Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land, Simon Barnard (Text Publishing)
  • Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony, Stephanie Owen Reeder (NLA Publishing)
  • My Gallipoli, Ruth Starke & Robert Hannaford (Penguin Books Australia)

Multimedia History Prize ($15,000)

  • A History of Forgetting: from Shellshock to PTSD, Lorena Allam & Timothy Nicastri (ABC Radio National)
  • Brilliant Creatures, Dan Goldberg & Margie Bryant (Mint Pictures)
  • The Dalfram Dispute 1938: Pig Iron Bob, Sandra Pires (Why Documentaries)


Book Club 10th Anniversary @ Byron Bay Writers Festival #BBWF2015

11811313_10153219111633051_618038503188595463_nLast week I left Sydney and travelled north to the 2015 Byron Bay Writers Festival – but I wasn’t alone – I went along to the beaches of Byron Bay and the festival to celebrate with my book club for our 10th anniversary. There has been ten years of books, ten years of friendship, love and laughter, ten years of reading books we may not have picked up had we not been in this book club – and ten years of discussion about the beauty of words and the many stories presented to us from inside the covers of these wonderful books.

We’ve read such a diverse range of books –  from memoir to prize-winning, non-fiction to fantasy and classics, literary to popular genre, contemporary, short stories, biographies and more. Some we loved, and others not so much and many more in between, but no matter what the book, no matter the rating we gave it or the genre –  every book has prompted a great discussion.

Our book club began in the thoughts of Angela, (my co-reviewer here at WTML) who started the book club in June 2005. I thank her for that, as I can’t imagine my life without the ten years of diverse reading, the love and friendship that has grown from a love of words and the enormous amount of fun we’ve had, (and there has been a lot!). I don’t even want to think about how much wine and champagne has been consumed in that ten years!! A few members have come and gone and we miss them still, but thank you all Angela, Sharyn, Carlea, Vanessa & Tracy – my fabulous friends – we have had a ball over the years, and thanks again Angela – without you it never would have happened!

Book Club NEW

Here is a picture of ten years of books. If you are interested in seeing the full list carefully recorded by Ange –  CLICK HERE.

Book Club Favourites: The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pyjama’s, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Secret River, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The God of Small Things, Stasiland, Water for Elephants, Life of Pi, The Slap, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Still Alice, The Happiest Refugee, The Red Tent, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Light Between Oceans, Boy; Lost, The Rosie Project, Here Come the Dogs.

2015 Byron Bay Writers Festival


Good way to start the festival!

I am a Sydney Writers’ Festival tragic, so I was looking forward to the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Some of the content didn’t appeal to me but luckily there was generally 4-5 different panels on at each time-slot so there was more than enough to choose from. The weather was beautiful, the company fabulous and the various festival marquees provided a relaxed atmosphere to the day. We came and went as we pleased, listened to panels that interested us and sat in the sun! Here is a few snippets of what I enjoyed at the festival:

Day 1:

  • 30 Minutes with Liane Moriarty: Liane talked about what inspires her to write, which included deathbed confessions, secrets and the little lies that people tell.
  • Jeni Caffin lead a great discussion with Robert Drewe, Russell Eldridge & Chigozie Obioma on a panel about Animals in Literature.
  • Sibella Court, Erik Jensen and Joshua Yeldham talked about Why Art Matters – this was a great discussion about what inspires us to create art, and how it is enjoyed by others.
  • Pit Stop: Wine, champagne & beer with the Book Club beauties. We are diverse drinkers as well as readers.
  • Next: On Tour; Five Writers, Five Towns in Five Days – Chaired by Zacharey Jane, this was a funny panel to listen to. Mark Dapin, Chris Flynn, Lian Hearn, Ellen van Neerven & the self-proclaimed handsome Zohab Zee Khan (I have to agree!) had obviously enjoyed their road trip! These five writers hit the road to Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Casino, Alstonville and Murwillumbah, bringing the festival to regional audiences. They visited pubs, clubs, schools, libraries, art galleries and more.  There was plenty of banter on stage, readings, and some awesome slam poetry from Zohab.
  • Following on from Zohab’s slam poetry the next session on our list was Leaping off the Page: Spoken Word ArtThis was great! Slam poet Miles Merrill ‘the driving force behind spoken-word and performance poetry in Australia‘ chaired this panel brilliantly, and we all enjoyed listening to Emilie Zoey Baker, Samantha Turnbull & Zohab Zee Khan perform the art of the spoken word. This was one of my favourite panels of the festival.
  • Friday Night Book Club! Book Club has always been on the first Friday of the month and this month was no different. Tracy hosted a fabulous night and  we had a great time talking books and reminiscing about all the fun times. Thanks Tracy for the awesome food, cake, wine & champers! Book discussed: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. 

Day 2:

  • A shorter day at the festival…the boutique shops of Byron Bay were calling to us….
  • Four book clubbers went to see Julia Gillard in conversation with Clare Wright. From what I hear from the girls, this was a fantastic panel with our former Prime Minister.
  • Tracy and I went to listen to James Bradley, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The marquee was a little empty which was a shame as it was a great discussion – but James did make note that this was the second time he had been put in the same time-slot at a festival as Julia Gillard. Bit of bad luck there! I enjoyed his talk on Clade, his new novel about time, family and how a changing planet might change our livesJames noted ‘Connections we have are not necessarily biological anymore, how we relate to people is evolving’. What he wanted the book to do was to remind ourselves that we can change the world. Clade is now sitting in my TBR pile – I’m looking forward to reading it!
  • Byron Bay shopping. I may have bought a silk dress for way too much money. And a top, and a jumper, and a scarf.
  • Pitch Perfect with Alex Adsett, Cate Paterson & Sophie Hamley. Three people pitched their book in front of the crowd, two publishers and one agent. Just a little nerve wracking – but they pulled it off – and they did well. The agent & Publisher advice: Don’t wait till the end of pitch to get strong and compelling, start with your hook, don’t compare your book to international authors – you are marketing your book for an Australian market compare your book to Australian authors. Make sure you have a strong sense of the Australian marketplace, publishers are looking for a strong narrative drive and great hook.
  • Wine, dinner, pub, dancing, drinking, another pub, drinking.. bed.

Day 3:

  • I may or may not have had a tiny bit of a hangover and was incredibly tired, but I made it to the festival for a couple of hours. What a champion! Give me a medal! Anyway…
  • First up I saw Jacqueline Harvey entertain a whole gaggle of children in the First National Marquee. They loved her and her books. And no wonder – she has an amazing amount of energy and really knows what kids like to read. And what is that you ask??? Kids like: Humour, adventure, suspense, magic, bad guys, animals, mystery and kids in charge. There you are – go write the next Harry Potter! What are you waiting for?
  • How awesome are Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton? They had adults and children alike eating out of their hands. Hilarious, whether chatting with Simon Marnie on ABC Local Radio at the Saturday Paper Marquee, or over with the kids in the First National Marqee. Andy’s advice on how to grab the attention of a child reader: The title is very important. What kid doesn’t want to read something about a bum? or a Bumosaur? Or a Zombie Bum? Also, the first line and the first chapter needs to SO good, they don’t want to go play the Xbox. You are competing for their attention. Terry Denton also noted that ‘kids are doing an amazing amount of reading, even if it’s not books.’

All in all it was a great trip celebrating books and friendship – and all set in one of the most beautiful places on the Australian coastline.

Writers Fest 1

Writers fest 3

Writing Workshop with Garth Nix at the #ASA

Were we excited? Yes! It’s Garth Nix people! The man’s bio is impressive to say the least, (check out his books here and bio here) and as an author, former editor, literary agent, bookseller and all round nice guy he had plenty of knowledge to share with us. One thing I didn’t realise until Garth said it, is that he doesn’t normally teach writing courses, so this opportunity to learn from him was special indeed!

We, that is Helen, Robin, Maureen and I were very much looking forward to learning from one of the greats about this writing thing we are all trying to do. And learn we did! I’ll reveal a little of what Garth taught us at the course, but the rest I’m going to clutch to my chest and back into a corner – it’s mine I tells ya, MINE! But, next time a course comes along with Garth Nix – go to it! And you know what – another good thing about courses is the people you meet! We are all there for the same reason –  to learn (except some who think going to a course is to ramble constantly and take up valuable time) but generally we are passionate about our writing and are looking for ways to improve it. But when it also leads to great long-lasting friendships then that is a wonderful bonus.

It was definitely one of the best writing courses I’ve done as not only did Garth teach us about the CRAFT and BUSINESS of writing in great detail (his advice on submitting work, especially for the Speculative Fiction genre was invaluable), but he also taught us about what comes first – the ART of writing.

The ART of writing was enlightening to me – so this is the gold nugget of information I will share from the Garth Nix course. I know the process of writing isn’t all sitting at a computer madly tap, tap tapping away, but the thinking process, the mulling over a storyline or a plot point, the making of a scrap-book etc is all part of the writing process. So as I said, I’d heard some of this before and generally do those things, but the way Garth explained his process included a lot more than that – it was just what I needed to hear and may very well help me get my first chapter where it needs to be, as well as the rest of my book. Re-draft ahead!

  • ART: Garth explained that good books work because they transfer emotion to the reader. This is done well in the books we love, that’s why we love them. For a writer this means preparing yourself for the emotional scenes you need to write. Think of the scene you need to write – what is the emotion you are trying to convey and sink yourself into it – whether it is reading a book, watching a play or movie, listening to music, or viewing pieces of art. Now again, think of the scene you need to write. What tone and emotions should it convey? What movie, book, or song transfers emotion to you? Watch it, read it and listen to it. Flood your awareness – then write. Your CRAFT is in service to your ART. The CRAFT is making your artistic vision a reality.
  • Keep that tight focus with a straight forward structure (especially for beginner writers). If you’re a genius – go for your life!
  • Keep writing. Seriously just keep writing. (Don’t spend years re-writing the same manuscript like I did in the past). Don’t sit festering while your work is being rejected. LOL – this is gold! Anyway – just keep writing!
  • Look at the Rhythm (pattern of the words) and the Euphony (how it sounds to the ear) of your writing.


Garth shared this little quote with us:

‘A great story badly told can be a best seller – a poor story brilliantly told probably won’t be.’

But we really want is this : a great story brilliantly told. Easy right?


All in all, it was a great day with a lot more information learned than I listed here. I highly recommend any writer attend if Garth Nix runs another course. Thanks Garth, your knowledge was invaluable, and thank you to the Australian Society of Authors (ASA), to which one day I hope to upgrade my membership from ‘Associate Member’ (aspiring writer)  to ‘Full Member’ (author). Keep writing Lisa!

For more gold nuggets of information about Garth’s course please check out Robin’s wrap-up at Write or Wrong and Nicola’s at Thoughts on Fantasy.


Book Review: Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu

  • Title: Figgy in the World
  • Author: Tamsin Janu
  • Category: Children’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Omnibus/Scholastic Australia 2014
  • Awards: Joint Winner NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Joint Winner: Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Fiction. Shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize and the CBCA Awards in the Younger Readers category.

Summary: Figgy has two problems. One is her name. Nobody in Ghana has that name. The other is that her grandmother is ill and needs special medicine. Figgy can’t do much about her name, but she can do something for Grandma Ama. She will go to America and bring back the medicine, and Kwame, her special goat, will go with her. Out in the wide world she will meet some bad people, but she will also find good friends.

Review: Tamsin Janu was inspired to write fiction for children after living for three months in Ghana, West Africa and working at a school and orphanage. In reading this novel I could really feel that experience coming through in the story.

The voice of Figgy captured me from page 1. She was a delightful character to read with such an innocent and wonderfully fresh outlook on the world. Figgy, who is the only Figgy in her village in Ghana, or the World she thinks, heads off with her beloved goat Kwame to make her way to the United States of America for medicine for her Grandma Ama. It doesn’t even occur to her that she can’t do it. Figgy wants to go to the United States to help her Grandma – so she sets out to do it! Simple! Children have such a straight forward thought process – one that I wish as an adult I could have kept hold of as I got older – but generally it leaves us all, or most of us anyway.

What a brave, resilient and observant little girl is Figgy, and although there are a few moments in the book where I thought some of the help that came along was extremely fortuitous, it didn’t take away from the story, or the wonderful voice of Figgy.

In Figgy’s incredible search for medicine for Grandma Ama, she faces many ordeals, both good and bad, meets new friends, including the resilient Nana, a boy she meets along the way, and learns about the ways of the World outside her village. Their adventures on their way to the ‘United Stilts of America’ as Nana puts it, is sometimes funny, often sad, and highly entertaining. This would be a great read for kids from 8 or 9 up, or to read out aloud to a class, or to your kids at home. And in a world of technology and excess, it shows us what is really important when it comes down to it, our family and friends, our health, shelter, food & water, but most of all love.

Congratulations to Tamsin on her joint win for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Fiction and good luck for the 2015 CBCA’s Younger Readers category.

Buy this book: Booktopia, Bookworld, Boomerang Books, or download from Apple iBooks or Amazon.

Read all Welcome To My Library Book Reviews HERE

Bio: I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. I studied law and international and global studies at the University of Sydney, and since January 2014 have worked as a youth worker in a remote community in the Northern Territory Central Desert.

I am inspired to write by the things I have seen and experienced. My first children’s novel, Figgy in the World, was born from memories of my three-month stay in Ghana, West Africa in 2009. It follows a little Ghanaian girl named Figgy and her goat Kwame on a mission to find the medicine that will make Figgy’s Grandma Ama well again. Many of the locations I visited and Ghanaian kids I met are depicted in my novel.

Visit Tamsin’s website: or like her on Facebook


aww-badge-2015This book has been read and reviewed for the 2015 Australian Women Writers challenge. To read more about the challenge see their website To read about why I joined click HERE.

Speculative Fiction Festival at #NSWWC

I was going to blog about this but Robin at Write or Wrong got it so right. Here is her wrap-up of the Speculative Fiction Festival at the NSW Writers’ Centre last weekend. It was a great day! Must have been the company…..

Write or Wrong

image Be Careful What You Wish For

As you all know I can’t resist a good festival so I of course went to the Speculative Fiction Festival at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre run by Cat Sparks. A good time was had by all. My main take-aways from the day are listed below. Enjoy.

Garth Nix

  • Garth Nix is so brilliant and so talented that he sold his first short story at the age of 19 to a magazine he didn’t even submit to. No I don’t feel like elaborating on that story because the specialness might decrease and I prefer to keep him godlike in my mind.
  • Garth Nix states that there are no dead manuscripts. A manuscript might not sell simply because it does not fit with the appeal of the time, in another five years it might suddenly be in. Don’t ever throw away manuscripts, resubmit…

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Book Review: What Happens in Book Club… E1 (It’s not me: It’s you) by Robin Elizabeth

Spotlight on Australian Women’s Fiction – What Happens in Book Club… Episode 1: (It’s not me: It’s you) by Robin Elizabeth.

Summary: Your book club reads books? That’s adorable, Gwyn’s book club drinks wine and rates the hunks from classic literature. Sure they were once a regular book club, full of feisty discussions about Proust, but that all changes after the most awkward book club meeting of their lives. When schoolteacher Gwyn’s generally conservative book club covers a popular novel of a more suggestive nature, Gwyn can’t help but think of all the literary hunks in a suggestive fashion.

Enjoy the delicious sunny Australian setting as Sydney schoolteacher Gwyn learns all about lust, love, friendship and herself. And always remember, what happens in book club, stays in book club.

Review: What Happens in Book ClubEpisode 1 ( It’s not me; It’s you) by Robin Elizabeth is the first of a five-part series about books, friendship and love – oh, and maybe some wine to go along with all that! I love the beginning of this book! My own book club also read a popular novel of a suggestive nature, Fifty Shades of Grey, and lets just say what happened after that discussion must also come under the heading of ‘what happens in book club… stays in book club‘ and in Gwyn’s book club – after reading Fifty Shades of Grey they decide to ‘cleanse their loins‘ by ‘reading a classic of some sort‘. Furthermore, a year of reading novels about strong women is suggested and in Episode 1 (It’s not me; It’s you) they begin with Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

I really enjoyed What Happens in Book Club… Robin Elizabeth’s sharp wit as she tells of heroine Gwyn’s unlucky love life is hilarious, and that mixed with the fact that the men Gwyn meets seem to resemble the leading men from her book club’s monthly read is just too funny. Who hasn’t wanted to see what it would be like to find a Mr Bingley? Or a Mr Rochester. Gwyn does, and with hilarious results. I also loved the dialogue between Gwyn and her friends, Mac and Selene. The interaction between the three ladies is very engaging, whether it is face to face, over a wine or two, a cocktail or a pint or three, in their daily 3.05pm online chat or their get togethers at the pub. Gwyn is a sharp, funny heroine who is looking for love in all the wrong places, or perhaps it’s finding her!

But who does Gwyn really want? The mysterious man from the very beginning of the book – the sexy silver fox who lingered at the bar after they discussed Fifty Shades of Grey, the man Gwyn calls Mr Grey.

I’m looking forward to reading What Happens in Book Club Episode 2 (I’m just not that into you) and can’t wait to see what sexy men emerge from the literary classics at their book club! I hope Mr Grey, the silver fox, turns up again for Gwyn’s sake! After her adventures with Mr Bingley and Mr Rochester I think she needs it!

Don’t forget to download Episode 1 absolutely FREE here: Apple iBooks / Google Play / Scribd / Barnes & Noble Nook / Kobo / Inktera / Oyster  / Also available on Amazon.

Buy What Happens in Book Club Episode 2 (I’m just not that into you) here: Amazon / Apple iBooks / Google Play / Scribd / Barnes & Noble Nook / Kobo / Inktera

Read all Welcome To My Library Book Reviews HERE


Author BioHi, I’m Robin. I do like getting caught in the rain but not as much as I like Pina Coladas. When I’m not soaking wet and drinking coconut flavoured rum mixed with pineapple cordial, out of a brown paper bag, I’m a mum to three gorgeous children, a little angel just turned four and my identical Prince Charmings just turned eighteen months.

I’m an English teacher by trade and enjoy teaching at an all boys high school when not on maternity leave. I’m assured by staff that the boys miss my sense of humour and wish me back soon, and I’m assured by the boys that I don’t have a sense of humour and my jokes are not very good. I love writing, particularly stories for and about women and have recently, filled with my own sense of self-importance, started passing on my expert parenting tips and how to be a mad cow tips on my blog. You’re welcome Earth.

Visit Robin Elizabeth at her website HERE

aww-badge-2015This book has been read and reviewed by Lisa Fletwood for WTML for the 2015 Australian Women Writers challenge. To read more about the challenge see their website

Book Review: Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith

Following is another great book review by Angela Long!

  • Title: Whiskey & Charlie
  • Author: Annabel Smith
  • Category: Adult Fiction
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark 2015 (First published as Whiskey Charlie Foxtrot in 2012)
    Review by Angela Long for Welcome to my Library

Summary: Whiskey & Charlie is a captivating debut novel of brothers who have drifted apart and the accident that will determine their future, by an unforgettable new voice exploring the struggles and strengths of the sibling bond.

Some twins communicate in a secret language all their own. For Whiskey and Charlie Ferns, the two-way alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta) whispered back and forth over their crackly walkie-talkies is the best they can do. But as the brothers grow up, they grow apart. Whiskey is everything Charlie is not – bold, daring, carefree-and Charlie blames his brother for always stealing the limelight, always striving ahead while seeming to push Charlie back. By the time the twins reach adulthood, they are barely even speaking to each other.

When Charlie hears that Whiskey has been in a terrible accident and has slipped into a coma, he is shocked…although perhaps not devastated. But as days and weeks slip by and the chances of Whiskey recovering grow ever more slim, Charlie is forced to look back on their lives and examine whether or not Whiskey’s actions were truly as unforgivable as Charlie believed them to be.

Review: Whiskey & Charlie – brothers, twins, and antagonists: identical and yet nothing alike. Their bonds tenuously strung across a lifetime of rivalry.

Annabel Smith explores the relationship between the brothers through the eyes of Charlie, the younger of the twins. Younger by minutes, Charlie lives in the shadow of Whiskey, believing he lives a life of seconds. Yet as the story develops, we see that Charlie’s perspective is not always reliable; the narrative is twisted and dented by his experiences and bias. He has lived his life as a victim and most of that sentiment stems from his relationship with his brother, a little taller, a little braver. Now as Whiskey lies in a coma, hanging on to the last threads of life, Charlie is forced to face the choices he has made in their relationship. Through a series of vignettes he looks back through life shaping events, and as the months drag by he begins to acknowledge his own shortcomings. The twist of irony is that Charlie believes he must learn to forgive Whiskey when in fact it is himself he needs to redeem.

The structure of the novel is based on the two-way alphabet – a common interest to the twins and their special language growing up. Each chapter name relates loosely to the content and the alphabet provides the thread that eventually holds the brothers together. Although cleverly constructed this felt a little contrived. The narrative didn’t suffer but it wasn’t added to by the chapter titles, and most of the time I barely registered their connection as I hungrily turned the page to see where the next section would take me.

Annabel Smith has crafted a novel that is unsentimental – Charlie is not a likeable character.  As this becomes more evident our empathy turns and lies alongside Whiskey as he silently hangs on to life. For me I wanted Charlie to ‘get it’ to see how his choices had affected him and his relationships with everyone close to him. My emotions were stirred; I felt angry for his long-suffering girlfriend Juliet and wanted to cheer when his best mate finally told ‘him it like it was’. Unable to give of himself, Charlie’s arrogance and pride are a mirror of the narcissism that he accuses Whiskey of. Charlie needs to change and although there are adjustments, he never undergoes a metamorphosis enough to be fully likeable. Interestingly it is this lack of change that gives Charlie his most human quality, the inability to be other than who you truly are. His edges have been honed but he would always be a little cynical, a little self-absorbed, a little bit Charlie. This is the success of the novel.

I stumbled upon Annabel on Twitter as she was launching her novel into the American market. After reading Whiskey & Charlie I look forward to reading more of her work.

Follow Angela Long on Twitter 

Buy this book: Source BooksBooktopia, Bookworld or download from iBooks or Amazon.

Read all Welcome To My Library Book Reviews HERE


Author Bio:I am the author of Whiskey & Charlie (published in Australia as Whisky Charlie Foxtrot) digital interactive novel/app The Ark, and A New Map of the Universe, which was shortlisted for the West Australian Premier’s Book Awards. My short fiction and non-fiction has been published in iconic journals Southerly and Westerly, and I have been privileged to be selected as a writer-in-residence at Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre and the Fellowship of Australian Writers. I have been an invited guest, as panellist and chair, at Melbourne Writers Festival, Perth Writers Festival and regional festivals in Albany and Margaret River. I hold a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University, am an Australia Council Creative Australia Fellow, and a member of the editorial board of Margaret River Press. I am currently working on Monkey See, an epic quest with a sci-fi twist featuring a monkey, an evil priestess and the mother of all tsunamis. 

Visit Annabel Smith at

aww-badge-2015This book has been read and reviewed by Angela Long for WTML for the 2015 Australian Women Writers challenge. To read more about the challenge see their website

Australian Literary Awards News

I am travelling through the USA at the moment and struggling to keep up with the blogging but here is some not very up to date, yet still newsworthy details on recent Australian literary awards. At the moment I am enjoying the Californian coastline, visiting Boston, including the witchy Salem, New York City, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, Jackson MS, New Orleans, then home! We are having fun, catching up with friends, eating too much and enjoying exploring the varied and interesting place that is the USA. I’ll do a holiday blog soon – but enough of that – here is the award news!

First up is the Miles Franklin Award, one of Australia’s most prestigious literary awards, ‘established through the will of writer Stella Miles Franklin, best known for her novel My Brilliant Career.’ The Miles Franklin Award is presented each year to a novel of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.

Then we have the inaugural Russell Prize for Humour Writing at the State Library of NSW on the 25th June, 2015. Light or dark, fun or farce – published works of fiction, memoir, poetry and verse by Australian writers were considered for the biennial $10,000 prize, with entries now open. The Prize has been made possible by the generous bequest of the late Peter Wentworth Russell, a farmer, businessman and passionate reader. Administered and presented by the State Library of NSW on behalf of the estate, the prize aims to celebrate, recognise and encourage humour writing, and to promote interest in this genre.

2015 Miles Franklin Award

23rd June: The 2015 Miles Franklin Award was awarded to Sofie Laguna for The Eye of the Sheep (Allen & Unwin), a wonderful book reviewed here on Welcome to my Library by my fellow reviewer Angela Long. Read her review HERE.

Commenting on behalf of the judging panel, State Library of New South Wales Mitchell Librarian, Richard Neville, commented that ‘the power of this finely crafted novel lies in its raw, high-energy, coruscating language which is the world of young Jimmy Flick, who sees everything. But his manic x-ray perceptions don’t correspond with the way others see his world. His older brother understands him some of the time, and his mother almost all of the time, but other people, including his violent father, just see him as difficult. Weathering successive waves of domestic violence, Jimmy navigates his way through the shoals of alcohol-abuse, illness and tragedy that swamp his parents, and ultimately reaches the possibility of equanimity. The Eye of the Sheep is an extraordinary novel about love and anger, and how sometimes there is little between them.’


Congratulations to Sofie Laguna for the win! I am sure the $60,000 prize will help support this talented author in her writing career. And what a writing career! Sofie is an accomplished and award-winning writer of children’s chapter books, picture books, adult fiction and plays. Read more about Sofie Laguna HERE. 

The other shortlisted authors (who each receive a $5000 prize) are as follows:

The Russell Prize for Humour Writing

25th June: The biennial $10,000 2015 Russell Prize for Humour Writing was awarded to Bernard Cohen for The Antibiography of Robert F. Menzies (HarperCollins Publishers), selected from a diverse field of 57 entries.

Bernard Cohen

The novel is set in Canberra where a soon-to-be-elected prime minister invokes the spirit of Sir Robert Menzies. Increasingly discontented with his role as mere nostalgic symbol, Menzies makes a run for it and with much hilarity the Antibiographer seizes the opportunity to document the most significant untold story in Australian political history, and save his career!

The Judges – Dr Kathryn Heyman, Paula Tierney and James Tierney – praised the “biting wit” of the novel and its “ambitious themes, ridicule and craft.” At rimes a reader might be encountering a novel, a biography, a political satire or the wittiest PhD exegesis there’s ever been,” the judges reported.

Chair judge Kathryn Heyman observed: “Bursting with many perfectly choreographed moments, the judges felt that Cohen perfectly captured the states of nervy restlessness in the Australian psyche, while possessing the grace of great fiction.”

NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive Alex Byrne added: “Humour writing is not an easy genre to master, and Bernard Cohen and his fellow shortlisted authors have shown how humour is not only there to entertain us but to, perhaps more importantly, raise and promote important discussions about our contemporary culture.”

The other shortlisted titles:

  • A Short History of Stupid, The decline of reason and why public debate makes us want to scream, Helen Razer & Bernard Keane (Allen & Unwin)
  • Boomer & Me, A Memoir of Motherhood, and Asperger’s, Jo Case (Hardie Grant Books)
  • I, Migrant, A comedian’s journey from Karachi to the outback, Sami Shah (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Full Ridiculous, Mark Lamprell (Text Publishing)
  • The Wife Drought, Why women need wives, and men need lives, Annabel Crabb (Random House Australia)

For more information on the Russell Prize for Humour Writing, please the State Library of NSW website 


Varuna Sydney Writers Festival 2015 – Carrington Hotel Katoomba

The start of my big week of literary shenanigans began on Monday night when attending the 2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards – and on Tuesday it was up to the fabulous Carrington Hotel in Katoomba for Blue Mountains program of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. It has become a bit of tradition for me and my fellow writers fest tragics Angela & Sharyn. I am pretty sure this is our 6th year at the Carrington, and as always, we enjoyed it. Geordie Williamson is a favourite chairperson of ours and always leads a well researched in-depth discussion, and we also spotted Kate Fagan there – she can’t hide from us! We missed her commentary this year, but I guess she should be allowed to sit back and relax and enjoy the festival as well. We’ll forgive her chairing on Monday when we really wanted her as a chair on Tuesday. Hint hint SWF, we always go to the Carrington Hotel on the Tuesday each year and we want Kate!

Ellen & JohnNew Voices: Debut Fiction

John Connell and Ellen Van Neerven talk with Geordie Williamson about the role of place and the resonance of the past in their fictions.

Geordie kicked off the day with the first session with Ellen Van Neerven, author of Heat and Light, a novel inspired by the intersection of familial history, location and identity, and John Connell, an Irish writer, award-winning journalist, and producer who was awarded the Varuna Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellowship to finish his first novel, The Ghost Estate.

Geordie commented of on the fact that these two new and emerging writers are from different countries with different backgrounds and traditions. He asked Ellen and John: Where did you grow up? What are your origins?

Ellen Van Neerven is of the Mullinjali people, (around the Gold Coast and scenic rim of NSW), and Dutch heritage. The winner of the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished indigenous writer says that all of her work is writing back to country, and that every time she goes back to country it is like a heightened experience for her.

John Connell’s origins lie deeply in County Longford, Ireland. His story is a rural story, and growing up there he had a great sense that the old Ireland still lingered, full of men and women of great intelligence and wit, storytellers who never had a chance to go to school. The Ghost Estate was inspired by the boom and bust in Ireland, which was fueled by building industry. He grew up in the in-between, when old Ireland was being pushed away and the people grappled with change.

Geordie commented that both authors are writing out of traditions but both the Aboriginal and Irish traditions are problematic.

John described himself as caught between the generations, he grew up not quite ‘in country’ as past generations, but more like half in the past/half in the future. He navigated characters in his novel that are not quite part of the past, but not entirely in the future either.

Ellen: Heat and Light is not a memoir but autobiographical in some ways. The first part of story is about her great-grandfather, and the conflict between the people born in cities and those born in country, and the passage that you make going back and forth. Some of the characters in her novel are experiencing that passage back into country.

John: The people he is writing about are ‘in country’ and want out. Poor, ill educated people who are subjected to the power and whim of others. They are offered a chance to escape, but they seem to be losing an essential piece of themselves in the process. In Ireland, he says, you are your town, then parish, then county, and the people are deeply connected and tied to the land and the place of their people.

Geordie: To what degree as you started writing did you feel the shaping forces of the market, or the award culture? How you navigate those factors when writing your own work?

Ellen: She was quite nervous prior to publication, and thought Heat and Light wouldn’t fit the market. She won a prize (David Unaiopn Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer) which resulted in publication offer from University of Queensland Press. She noted that the manuscript needed a lot of work though. She was hesitant, but had the support of her publisher and editor, and not being a traditional style of book, she searched for a way to fit it in – but then came to the realisation that ‘it is what it is’ and was guided by her editor to split the book into the three parts of Heat, Water and Light. As a young emerging writer she is very much influenced by peers but is really trying to do her own thing.

John: Writing is a tough life and in Ireland he has so many brilliant writers behind him – it’s a tough market. There is a line in his book ‘our story is suffocating us’, and he feels that pressure from the successful Irish writers of the past – Joyce on one shoulder, Becket on the other and John McGahern to the left. He finds thats it is interesting and tricky to find his place amongst it all, but is trying to navigate his own way as a writer.  It takes time to establish yourself and through things like writers festivals people can get to know the writer, and maybe see a little bit of them coming through in the book.

Geordie: When you start do you outlay a complete plan, or do you write it out from memory. How to approach it?

John’s story popped into his head all in one – and he treated it at a job writing a few hours each day and always left a little bit to write the next day. John Malouf told him ‘Even when you’re not working on the book – you’re working on it.’ It’s always on your mind.

Ellen: She doesn’t plan – with a memoir you have your little bits of truth that are like sign posts. There might be a path mapped out but not sure where you’ll end up. Ellen writes from place and family story.

Read Angela Long’s review of Heat and Light HERE. 

Sydney Writers’ Festival appearances:

Ellen Van Neerven:

  • A Pack of Lies: Narration in Fiction – Walsh Bay 21st May 11.30 – 12.30
  • The Honest Awkward Truth – Walsh Bay 21st May 4.30 – 5.30

Helen HHelen Macdonald: H is for Hawk

Geordie Williamson talks with Helen Macdonald about her award-winning book H is for Hawk.

Geordie describes H is for Hawkas a beautiful piece of grief work, about a woman and her hawk‘ but it is also a (book blurb) ‘kaleidoscopic biography  of the brilliant novelist T.H White‘, a tortured novelist whose masterpiece, The Goshawk, describes White’s struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest.

Helen began the session with a reading from her novel, a section of the book where she meets her hawk Mabel, for the first time. Helen’s beautiful lyrical writing was captivating:

‘..the man pulls an enormous, enormous hawk out of the box and in a strange coincidence of world and deed a great flood of sunlight drenches us and everything in brilliance and fury. The hawk’s wings, barred and beating, the sharp fingers of her dark-tipped primaries cutting the air, her feathers raised like the scattered quills of a fretful porpentine. Two enormous eyes. My heart jumps sideways. She is a conjuring trick. A reptile. A fallen angel. A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary. Something bright and distant, like gold falling through water.’

Geordie: Tell us a little bit about why you are such a passionate falconer.

Helen worked as a falconer in the Middle East, and had been nuts, as she describes it, about hawks and falcons and obsessed with being a falconer since a young child. She practised this craft with older men, solitary people, the ‘monkish elite’ and thought she was one of these guys, part of their fellowship.

Helen goes on to say that when her father died suddenly at 67, her world ripped apart. She had been incredibly close to her dad – and at first she thought she was fine but really she was falling apart. Her novel grew from this grief.

Geordie asked how she dealt with putting her grief down for all to read, with self-disclosure without treading on other people’s grief (in her family).

From what I gather from my memories of the session and my scribbled notes, Helen wrote of her own grief, and her own journey through it. I will learn more soon, as I have her book sitting next to me now as I type this, and I’m very much looking forward to the reading of it.

Her father was a quiet private man, and not much of him is in the book and Helen says she wanted to be careful – some books are written within the grief, others are written after. She wrote H is for Hawk five years after, but it is not emotion written with tranquility of hindsight and looking back thoughtfully, there is raggedness to it. Geordie noted that Helen’s writing is fragmented in parts followed by longer sentences, an elegant unfolding of wonderful prose. Helen says she tried very hard with the styling and syntax – short sentences followed by an unspooling  of words. The human aspect of the book was much harder to write about, but the words about her hawk Mabel, flowed easily.

Helen says there is ‘no getting over grief, you just incorporate it into your life. It changes the architecture of who you are as a person.’ Her book is about falling off the world for a bit, and working her way back. She spent time in a feral state in the country, her landscape had changed and there were times when she didn’t want to come back. Helen feels that if you are broken you can go into the wild and you heal yourself, but she went too far. From what she was saying I gleaned from it that she almost lost herself. And for her, antidepressants pulled her back from the edge.

Helen came back into society after a year in the wild training Mabel and eating way too much rabbit. She learned a lot that year – including ‘how finite our lives are and how short’. She still slips into her hawkish eye sometimes.

Helen says ‘Falconry is about letting birds go and hoping they will come back to you’ and she comments on the many ‘parallels between life and nature.’

This was an amazing session – Sharyn, Angela and I enjoyed it a lot. Helen was wonderful to listen to and we are all looking forward to reading H is for Hawk for our Book Club in July.

Sydney Writers’ Festival appearances:

  • Helen Macdonald: H is for Hawk – Walsh Bay 21st May 1.30 – 2.30
  • Back to the Wild – Walsh Bay 23rd May 3.00 – 4.00
  • 2015 Closing Address Helen Macdonald: On Looking at Nature – Walsh Bay 24th May 6.00 – 7.00pm

The two afternoon sessions I attended were Joan London: The Golden Age and Helen Razer and Bernard Keane: A Short History of Stupid. More to come from me about those sessions. Too many things to do and not enough time! Watch this space!

For more information, full SWF schedule and tickets please visit the Sydney Writers Festival 

2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Award Winners

Last night – I am sitting at the State Library of NSW awaiting the announcement of the 2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards – and I have to say this is pretty cool. This is the first Premier’s Literary Awards I have attended with my fellow book reviewer Angela Long and we are very pleased to be here! What an amazing array of talent we have here in Australia! Congratulations to all nominated.

Firstly, we were welcomed by Dr Alex Byrne, the NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive, followed by respected Gadigal Elder, Uncle Allan Madden, with the traditional Welcome to Country.

Multi-award winning playwright Mr. Ross Mueller, who delivered the NSW Premier’s Literary Award Address, talked of jobs and culture in the arts, and that our freedom of expression is dependent on an independent arts community. He urged the federal government to further support the arts, and the importance of its place in our everyday lives. He commented ‘We’re all in this together, editors, writers, publishers…this is our nation, this is our time.’ 

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards is one of Australia’s most prestigious literary awards with a total of $310,000 of prize money presented across 13 categories.

Acting Premier for NSW Troy Grant said: “These Awards celebrate and honour Australia’s greatest living writers, and on behalf of the NSW Government I would like to congratulate all the shortlisted authors and winners for 2015. Through these prestigious awards we also acknowledge the vital work of our translators, and I am thrilled the inaugural Multicultural NSW Early Career Translator Prize is being presented this year.”

2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Award Winners

Book of the Year $10,000

  • The Bush, by Don Watson (Penguin Books Australia)

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction $40,000

  • The Snow Kimono, Mark Henshaw (Text Publishing)

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing $5,000

  • An Elegant Young Man, Luke Carman (Giramondo Publishing)

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non‐fiction $40,000

  • The Bush, Don Watson (Penguin Books Australia) $40,000

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry $30,000

  • Earth Hour, David Malouf (University of Queensland Press)

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature $30,000 (Joint Winners)

  • Figgy in the World, Tamsin Janu (Omnibus/Scholastic Australia)
  • Crossing, Catherine Norton (Omnibus/Scholastic Australia)

Ethel Turner Prize for Young Adult’s Literature $30,000

  • The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting $30,000

  • The Babadook, Jennifer Kent (Causeway)

 Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting $30,000

  • Black Diggers, Tom Wright (Queensland Theatre Company)

The NSW Premier’s Prize for Translation $30,000 

  • Brian Nelson

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translator Prize $5000

  • Lilit Zekulin Thwaites

2015 Community Relations Commission for Multicultural NSW $20,000

  • Black and Proud: The story of an AFL photo, Matthew Klugman and Gary Osmond (NewSouth Publishing)

Special Award $10,000

  • David Williamson AO

Judges Comment: ‘David Williamson remains our greatest playwright with a prodigious output of more than 40 plays that have shaped how we view ourselves’

Williamson has written scripts for significant Australian films such as Gallipoli, The Club, The Year of Living Dangerously, Phar Lap and Brilliant Lies – some of which have been adapted from his own plays, as well as for mini-series and tele-movies.

Prems Lit Awards

For more information please see the  State Library of NSW.