Patricia Wrightson – all about erasure

As a young reader, Patricia Wrightson was one of my favourite authors. But in this short piece I wrote for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I reevaluate Wrightson's use of Indigenous culture. Drawing on Aboriginal stories and culture, Wrightson’s fictional spirit characters held all the power and mystery of 60,000 years of Dreaming – power distinctly lacking in invented colonial fantasies like May Gibb’s saccharine Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. A gifted and evocative writer, Wrightson opened my eyes (and my mind) to the possibility of magic and mystery that belonged to this place, this continent. [...]

2022-08-10T16:38:28+10:00August 10th, 2022|Interesting Articles, Writing|3 Comments

Invisible Women of Australian History

Today is yet another milestone: I've had an essay, titled Invisible Women, published in the excellent Inside Story magazine. Inside Story's contributor list reads like a Who's Who of quality Australian journalism, so I'm feeling bit lightheaded, frankly. A version of this essay began life as the final chapter of the biography. I wanted to discuss Elizabeth Macarthur's legacy, and to explain why she was important, and it all came out in a heated rush. But my editor thought not, saying that it differed (in tone and content) too widely [...]

SMH – What to read in 2018

Wow! Got a mention beside the big kids in today's Sydney Morning Herald. Jane Sullivan has an article called 'What to read in 2018: a selection of the big books on the shelves next year.' And if you scroll right down (keep going, yep keep going), you might find a mention of me. Huzzah! From Sullivan's list I'm also keen to read: Eleanor Limprecht (The Passengers, Allen & Unwin, March) - because I've enjoyed her earlier novels. Ruby Murray (The Biographer's Lover, Black Inc., April) - because with a title like [...]

Hilary Mantel talks about history, facts and fictions

Hilary Mantel, a novelist rightly famous for twice winning the Man Booker prize with her historical novels about Thomas Cromwell, yesterday gave the first of her three BBC Reith Lectures. In the first lecture (published here in this weekend's The Guardian), Mantel explores the complicated relationship between history, fact and fiction. You should really go and read the whole thing. Now. But if you still need prompting, try this excerpt... Evidence is always partial. Facts are not truth, though they are part of it – information is not knowledge. And [...]

Why is history still written mainly by men?

Fantastic article in The Guardian: Only four female writers appeared in the list of top 50 bestselling history titles in the UK last year. And women are still perceived as more suited to writing about drawing rooms than battlefields. Why? Leading historians and biographers discuss sexism and subject matter. All the big British names in history and biography have contributed to the piece, and quite a few big names from elsewhere too.  Well worth a look. And if you are in the longform essay mood, try this review by Janet [...]

2018-03-27T20:31:57+11:00February 8th, 2016|Interesting Articles|0 Comments

Popular history writing remains a male preserve, publishing study finds

Here is a fascinating, and depressing, article showing publishing's overwhelming bias towards male historians and male historical subjects. Slate magazine studied 614 popular history titles published last year in the US and found a genre dominated by generals, presidents and male authors. Of those 614 titles, three-quarters were written by men.  Of the published biographies, nearly three-quarters were about men.  Only six percent of male biography authors wrote about women.  Sigh. Slate argues that the persistence of this imbalance, even among authors writing for presses that publish more academics, "seems [...]

2018-03-27T21:00:27+11:00January 12th, 2016|Interesting Articles, Writing|0 Comments

The Informed Imagination: Drusilla Modjeska discusses writing The Mountain

Australian writer Drusilla Modjeska has written an insightful and thought-provoking article in Meanjin about writing her latest book, The Mountain. I fear the excerpt below might make the article seem like hard work but it's definitely not.  The piece provides a fascinating glimpse into the decisions, difficulties and responsibilities of writing. ... it was, for me, a kind of liberation to come to understand that fiction stands on different ground from history. There is scope for play along the borderlines, but there is also a ravine, to use Inga Clendinnen’s [...]

2018-03-27T21:42:32+11:00November 22nd, 2015|Interesting Articles, Writing|0 Comments

Sex and writing

You can probably have sex without writing but it seems (this week at least) that writing without sex* is impossible.The Daily Beast's Mark Dery explains in this article how Strunk and White's famously popular The Elements of Style is in fact a call to reject feminine, or flowery, prose.“No book is genuinely free from political bias,” George Orwell wrote, in his essay “Why I Write.” “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” The opinion that the canon laws of usage, composition, [...]

2018-03-21T14:55:36+11:00August 7th, 2015|Interesting Articles|0 Comments

Where does non-fiction end and fiction begin?

Back in April I drew your attention to a marvelous review by Janet Malcolm of the non-fiction work of Joseph Mitchell.  In the course of the review Malcolm makes the startling revelation that his non-fiction is substantially enhanced by the (recently discovered) fictional additions. Mitchell’s travels across the line that separates fiction and nonfiction are his singular feat. His impatience with the annoying, boring bits of actuality, his slashings through the underbrush of unreadable facticity, give his pieces their electric force, are why they’re so much more exciting to read [...]

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