Friday, 20 February 2015

celebrating creativity: live music

Wow, wow and wow!
On Sunday Joe and I had the pleasure of seeing The April Maze live and I'm hooked! They weren't a band I'd heard of before, but I'd been doing some research for work and found the details of their gig online. It turned into so much more than a simple afternoon out listening to good music - it became a celebration of creativity...

It's not often we see live music anymore - we have three kids and live in the country where not a lot of opportunities present themselves. But count back ten years ago and we were living in Ireland with live music everywhere, country living or not. Dingle - our local town - had all kinds of music and we loved a night out in the pub with live entertainment.

So the best thing about the gig - apart from just being there and the music of course - was hearing the creative process behind the songs, from the all-night songwriting sessions to the background of the lyrics themselves. It was an afternoon spent celebrating creativity and I loved it. Of course we had to buy a CD and it's been playing almost non-stop in the car - check out their latest here.

I'm a firm believer that you can't create in isolation - nothing beats the inspiration found in a trip to the gallery, on the pages of a magazine and in the backstory of a fabulous band. In the spirit of this, we've decided to make the most of opportunities found locally, even if it's only for a small window of time like we had on Sunday (just over an hour without the kids, then Joe had to bring them back to the venue - thankfully child friendly - and they joined us for the end. It wasn't as 'relaxing' to have them there, but enjoyable all the same!).

How do you nurture your creative spirit and celebrate that found in others?

PS This is not sponsored at all, I just wanted to share with you one of our Australian musical gems!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

recent reads: jane smiley's some luck

Some Luck made me feel as though Jane Smiley had taken me by the hand and said, 'Come, let me tell you a story.' The first part of a trilogy (with the second, Early Warning, due out later this year), this novel spans from 1920 to the 1950s. As the family at its pivot - Walter and Rosanna Langdon - bring their children up on their farm in Iowa, we see the world from each of their viewpoints, right down to the earliest sights for their children. Each chapter spans a year with the narrative moving forward as each character ages and grows, adventures and - for the Langdon children - start families of their own.

I just loved this book - from the actual physical thing itself with its rough-cut pages and stunning cover, to the gently written words inside. Part of what drew me so completely in, I think, is that my own family have strong rural roots going back generations and it's interesting to see someone else's point of view of what leads to urbanisation and a detachment from the land in some, whilst in others the pull towards farm life remains so strong. 

I think A Thousand Acres and Barn Blind are the only books of Jane Smiley's that I've read, but with Some Luck I'm hooked. I can't wait to see what happens in the next instalment (which goes from 1953-1986) and I'm delighted it's not going to be too long before it's released. A must read, Some Luck is a doorway in to many lives and a journey into the American heartland. Enjoy!

Monday, 9 February 2015

recent reads: victoria hislop's the sunrise

Victoria Hislop's The Sunrise was the perfect full-stop to a busy week. No responsibilities other than regular family life meant I could do a job then read and repeat the process all day - bliss! And wasn't I lucky, because this novel was a real page-turner. Set on the island of Cyprus during the early 1970s, the resort of Famagusta is the place to be for the jet-set. The first part of the book revolves around The Sunrise, a luxury hotel like no other - 500 rooms and each of the full every night. That is, until a military coup sends both tourists and 40,000 residents of the town running for their lives.

The Sunrise was recommended by my sister, Kate. We mainly like the same books, but sometimes there's a distinct gap. Initially thought this novel fell into that category, but it just goes to show that it's worth reading the first chapter of a book to make sure. I didn't get far in before I was hooked and knocked it over in a day, desperate to find out what happened next. What's even better, is that Victoria Hislop has a number of previously published works and I'm heading off now to track them down!

Have you read The Sunrise? And have you almost missed out on a great read, just because first impressions weren't the best?

PS Cover image via here.

Friday, 6 February 2015

a year of australian writing - alice pung's laurinda

Life inside an exclusive girls' school is revealed by scholarship winner Lucy Lam. 
Laurinda, Alice Pung's first novel, comes after the success of her previously published memoirs Unpolished Gem and Her Father's Daughter. This is a fabulous read with a remarkably strong voice - John Marsden couldn't have put it better than his cover statement "Alice Pung totally nails it with Laurinda." I've been to both co-ed and single sex schooling and this novel could have sprung from either place - the intricacies of the social hierarchy are stripped apart under Lucy's observant eye and we are the fortunate observers into this important stage of her life.

I'm going to call it early and say that Laurinda will be one of my favourite reads in 2015 - a rash statement to make at this stage of the year, but it is amazing!

Have you read Laurinda? Did it make the grade and send you back to your own school days?

PS I'm joining in with Pip's A Year of Australian Writing.

PPS Cover image via here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

january instagram

Hello! Has it really been that long?!
The past month fell away with the ongoing school holidays and anything apart from survival had to stand aside. Honestly though, we did have a lovely time, even with me going back to work in the middle of it all. This is the first week that everyone will be back where they're meant to be - two at school and one at four-year-old kinder (don't talk to me about those smug people who've just sent their last children to school - oh well, that will be me next year!).

I'm easing back into the blog today with some shots from the past month on Instagram. Our roses continue to bloom (I wish I'd kept count of how many times I've deadheaded and they've flowered again) and they've been joined by crinum lillies, dahlias, alstroemeria, chinese lanterns, petunias, geraniums and canna lillies - amongst other things! All so very much appreciated in a garden that two years ago was sand and dirt.

I'll be back during the week with some recent reads and writing insights. How have things been in your neck of the woods?!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

summer reading 2015: the undertaker's daughter, all fall down, mothers and daughters

From life in an American funeral home to the relaxing waters north of Broome, books have taken me on quite a journey this summer. I've enjoyed swapping the hustle and bustle of the school holidays for some much-needed down time between the covers of some great reads. Kate Mayfield's memoir The Undertaker's Daughter recounts her time growing up in Jubilee, Kentucky and the steady influx of the deceased and those who mourned them. It's a surprisingly gentle account and written with a strong and absorbing Southern voice. Highly enjoyable.

Jennifer Weiner's All Fall Down is a race from start to finish, the inside scoop on Allison Weiss and her supposedly perfect life. We soon learn that Allison gets through the days aided by 'mother's little helpers' - pick-me-ups that assist with her fast-paced, adrenalin-filled schedule. When Allison's world comes crashing down, she has no choice but to sit back and let her family take over. Recovery is impossible without this leap of faith and Allison doesn't believe it's possible without her front and centre. Not a very relaxing read (Allison's pre-fall schedule is exhausting!), but a timely warning about doing too much as we begin a new year.

Australian Kylie Ladd's Mothers and Daughters picks up where All Fall Down leaves off: what happens once our children become teenagers and forging identities of their own? And what does that mean for their parents? When four mothers and four teenage girls holiday in the north with limited access to technology, tensions arise. The blissful, holiday brochure accommodation the travellers conjured in their imaginations doesn't match the scenery. Meanwhile the friendships they've held so dearly look to be falling apart at the seams. An engaging and entertaining read.

Have you read any good books lately? What should I seek out in 2015? I'm doing Pip Lincolne's A Year of Australian Writing and plan to read as much homegrown talent as possible. I can't give up my international reads though, so it's going to be a busy time!

PS Picmonkey collage using images as follows: The Undertaker's DaughterAll Fall Down, Mothers and Daughters.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

happy new year 2015 - the writer's edition

The final 2014 writer's edition slipped by in the busy whirl of Christmas preparations, end of school and bushfires. When the countryside around us flared up on 19 December it affected many people we know and brought the year to an abrupt end. Finally declared safe in the past week, the fire burned through over 5000 hectares, affecting many local landholders, native fauna and flora. Rehabilitation works have now commenced and people are able to start planning for the future.

My own 2015 has got off to a flying start. I will be working 12 hours a week as a journalist on our local newspaper, something I'm delighted about and will complement my novel writing at home. I officially started this week, however I did write a couple of stories for their final December edition. The juggle of childcare has commenced, although with a great team behind me I think we have it covered! It's actually quite good starting during the school holidays - hopefully we will have found some kind of routine before Term One begins at the end of the month.

While there has been little time for my second manuscript in recent weeks, I'm pleased to announce that at just over 37,000 words, I am almost half-way through my first draft. This is something I only started in October and it seems incredible that I have already reached that point. The basic gist of it is a tree change gone wrong - a retired couple are heading to the country to start a new life, but tragedy strikes on the eve of their move.

My first manuscript (a Fly In, Fly Out mining couple discover that all that glitters isn't gold) is still out for consideration and I don't expect to find out anything more for the next couple of months. It's been wonderful to reflect on the past year and see how far I've got with my writing. I don't know what will happen with this manuscript, but to realise I've achieved a lifelong dream and I'm only 41 is amazing. It leaves so much time to achieve the next dream (and the next and the next!), which is of course to write another book (and another and another)!

What does 2015 have in store for you?! I hope it's all that you wish! Thank you for joining in with my writing journey at Stonefruit Season and I look forward to sharing more with you over the coming year.

PS The pic was taken at a roadside flower stall near Jamieson, Victoria - so cute!