Category Archives: This Writing Life

This Writing Life: Sculpture on the Farm 2019

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Sculpture on the Farm is an art exhibition and competition held at ‘Fosterton’, an idyllic grazing property north of Dungog in New South Wales, and a partner event to the Dungog Festival. What a brilliant way to bring art lovers and tourists to the area! And with the major prize-winning artwork being acquired by Dungog Shire, everyone will be able to enjoy the winner’s sculpture into the future.

This is the second year Sculpture on the Farm has been run. Thanks to being stuck in hospital, I was hugely disappointed to miss last year’s inaugural show and was determined to make it this year. Dungog is only an hour or so drive north of Newcastle, and a lovely little town nestled in the foothills below the glorious Barrington Tops. No matter what the art was like, I was guaranteed gorgeous scenery and a terrific day out.

Last year’s exhibition attracted over 2,000 visitors. Given the stream of cars headed up Fosterton Road to the farm, the wonderfulness of the art on offer and the overall excellence of our experience, I have no doubt this has been well-exceeded this year. I’ll have to make a note to go early next year and beat the crowds.

As with so many rural events, this was run by volunteers and they did a great job. Everything was smooth from the parking to the ticket-buying to the easy to navigate layout.

Make Sculpture on the Farm a must-see for next year. If it’s anything like this year’s event, you’ll love it.

Here are some of our piccies from the day. Enjoy!

Sculpture on the Farm. Dusty Days in the Saddle by Sam Anderson.

Dusty Days in the Saddle by Sam Anderson. This was Jim and my favourite.

Sculpture on the Farm. Sticky Fleece by Greg Salter.

Sticky Fleece by Greg Salter. Some of you may remember a photo I took of a monster fleece in the National Museum of Australia that came from a sheep nicknamed Shrek. The sheep had been left unshorn for years and was in a terrible state when found. The artist has taken the idea of Shrek’s fleece and what wondered what would happen if you could pull objects out of it like a magician’s hat, with the strangest thing being… a donut! I loved this one. It was incongruous and funny.

Sculpture on the Farm. The Theatre of the Shadow by Peter Tilley.

This was the winning sculpture – The Theatre of the Shadow by Peter Tilley. The photograph doesn’t do it justice. It was amazing!

Sculpture on the Farm. Big Old Buck by Tobias Bennett.

Another favourite – Big Old Buck by Tobias Bennett. He looked so proud in his landscape. He even had metal goolies!

Sculpture on the Farm. Waiting for Rain by Jimmy Rix.

Waiting for Rain by Jimmy Rix. This was rather poignant, in particular when it was displayed next to the farm’s rain gauge.

Sculpture on the Farm. The Mob by Catie Sully.

The Mob by Catie Sully. This was huge fun. Like a mob of teenage boys racing off to do mischief.

Sculpture on the Farm. Selfie Girl by Laurent Rivory.

Selfie Girl by Laurent Rivory. “A parody of the self-obsessed, complete with hair extensions, filler lips, Brazillian butt lift and fake eyelashes.”

Sculpture on the Farm. Dance Around the Moon by Inge King.

Dance Around the Moon by Inge King (1915-2016). This could be yours for $75,000.

Sculpture on the Farm. Flowers of Glass by Lynden Jacobi.

Loved these flowers made of old plates. They were so happy! Flowers of Glass by Lynden Jacobi.

Sculpture on the Farm. Heart to Heart by Amanda Harrison.

Heart to Heart by Amanda Harrison “explores friendship, sharing and always being there to listen. Good friends are to be treasured, with joy and grace.” I think this sculpture reflects this perfectly.

Sculpture on the Farm. The Next Generation by Rod Buckland.

Another favourite. The Next Generation by Rod Buckland.

Sculpture on the Farm. Emergent by Bridget Whitehead.

Emergent by Bridget Whitehead. A lovely limestone carving representing a seed that pushes into the ground before emerging upward.

Sculpture on the Farm. Posed by Nicole O’Regan.

Posed by Nicole O’Regan. I liked the animation in this one.

Sculpture on the Farm. Topiarius by Carolyn Rendle.

Topiarius by Carolyn Rendle.

Seed I, II and III by Natalie Duncan. “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars.”

Sculpture on the Farm. Fore by Gary Boote.

Fore by Gary Boote. One for golf lovers (like us).

Sculpture on the Farm. Much Like Life by Tobias Bennett.

Much Like Life by Tobias Bennett. “Much like life, the universe and everything, there is no beginning or end. Everything is connected in time and space.”

Sculpture on the Farm. Isle of Flowers by Lynden Jacobi.

Isle of Flowers by Lynden Jacobi.

Sculpture on the Farm. Surface Tension by Keith Chidzey.

Surface Tension by Keith Chidzey. This was almost creepy, as if the timber and steel hand was just waiting for a lightning strike to bring it to life.

Sculpture on the Farm. Rowers by David Perkins.

Rowers by David Perkins. This was cute. The rowers move on the breeze or if touched lightly.

Sculpture on the Farm. Chess Set by Gary Boote.

Chess Set by Gary Boote. Made out of mesh bins!

Sculpture on the Farm. The Butterfly Effect by Amanda Harrison.

Had to laugh at this sculpture. The Butterfly Effect by Amanda Harrison.

Sculpture on the Farm. Villanelle by Nigel Dobson.

Villanelle by Nigel Dobson. I liked how this stood out in the landscape.

Sculpture on the Farm. Earth Cry by Keith Chidzey.

Earth Cry by Keith Chidzey. A beautiful sculpture carved out of Huon pine.

Sculpture on the Farm. Sir and Madame Leather by Ren Thackham.

Loved these! Sir and Madame Leather by Ren Thackham. Instead of animals being made into coats, the artist has made coats into animals. So clever.

Sculpture on the Farm. Bush Spirit II by Jane Dawson.

Bush Spirit II by Jane Dawson. “Bronze for strength, its form suggests a movement forward, clothed in the iconic Akubra and Driza-Bone for shelter against the elements, all reference the Spirit of the Bush.”

Sculpture on the Farm. Sirens by Kim Elliot.

Sirens by Kim Elliot. Beautiful.

Sculpture on the Farm. Horse’s Ass by Felicity Cavanagh.

Horse’s Ass by Felicity Cavanagh. Right up my alley.

Sculpture on the Farm. La Foglia by Emilia Krumm.

La Foglia by Emilia Krumm.

Sculpture on the Farm. Malus by Natalie Duncan.

Malus by Natalie Duncan. “malus is the genus the common apple belongs to. This work explores the Garden of Eden tale, and the relationship of Eve and the snake; forever bound together in their crime, the downfall of mankind.”

Sculpture on the Farm. Left, Right, Left by Ionas Kaltenbach.

Left, Right, Left by Ionas Kaltenbach.

Sculpture on the Farm. Maximus by Rod Buckland.

Maximus by Rod Buckland. “This piece was inspired by my late father-in-law Max. Braford bulls are strong and quiet in nature which encapsulates Max. He is mounted on a worn stair tread which represents his footsteps in life.” Lovely and poignant.

Sculpture on the Farm. Besos by Sallie Portnoy.

Besos by Sallie Portnoy. The photo doesn’t do justice to the colours. They were stunning.

Sculpture on the Farm. The Fox and the Moon Stick by Michael Garth.

The Fox and the Moon Stick by Michael Garth. “… an Aesop’s fable yet to be written.”

Sculpture on the Farm. Much Like Water by Tobias Bennett.

Much Like Water by Tobias Bennett.

Sculpture on the Farm. A Long Walk Home by Sam Anderson.

Another favourite. A Long Walk Home by Sam Anderson.

Sculpture on the Farm. The Vision by Ian Scott.

We adored these. The Vision by Ian Scott. “In The Vision, people are staring at something in the sky.” Except it looked like they were staring at us in wonder. What fun!

Sculpture on the Farm. Ginkgo Tree by Rudi Jass.

Ginkgo Tree by Rudi Jass, a kinetic sculpture. I liked how this was placed in a paddock on its own, with the hills as backdrop.

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Which is your favourite Sculpture on the Farm?

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This Writing Life: RWA Melbourne 2019

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It’s taken a bit longer than I anticipated, but the promised This Writing Life post on the recent Romance Writers of Australia annual conference is now here.

I do have a good excuse, and it goes by the name of Eddie and the Show Queen which releases in only… *takes a deep breath* nine days. I am so excited and can’t wait for you to read about Eddie and Alice’s race for the Show Queen crown, and their absolutely gorgeous romance.

Before we get into some lovely piccies, I’d also like to remind you that, in a super special promo, Summer and the Groomsman is this week’s Apple Books Free Book of the Week. Yep, you can pick up the Eddie’s brother’s story for free on  Apple Books. How cool is that?

This offer ends September 7th, so grab it now if you don’t have a copy or share the freebie love by telling your romance lovin’ friends.

Right. The conference.

In one word: brilliant.

Lanyard and program RWA 19

Lanyard and program RWA 19

I loved it. Now, I usually say that about Romance Writers of Australia conferences because I adore catching up with writing buddies. I also always come home with some writing or business gem that I can use going forward. But, like everything, some conferences are better than others and this one was a good ‘un.

There were three highlights for me (other than the partying with friends). Nalini Singh’s Polish and Shine Beyond the First Draft was full of great tips for making books sing. It was so good I wish I’d done her session on Writing Novellas too, but I was very glad I did Melissa Storm’s workshop on Winning Ad Strategies, which was on at the same time. That was my second highlight, even though I’m still trying to get my head around the information. The final highlight was Amy Andrews’ hilarious and uplifting Closing Keynote. She had the room in stitches and earned a well-deserved ovation at the end.

My biggest takeaway was to do with advertising. It seems a ‘must’ now, rather than a ‘would like’ item for my to-do list. It’s not easy for readers to find books these days because there are simply so many. Not all of us subscribe to our favourite author’s newsletter or blog, and social media is hard when Facebook gives our page posts little reach, unless we pay to have it extended.

To be honest, the thought of advertising makes me want to curl up in a ball. I’ve dabbled a few times with Facebook and Amazon ads and not enjoyed the process, but life’s full of things we suffer rather than enjoy. Sit-ups come immediately to mind. Pap smears another.

My gripe with advertising is that it distracts me from writing. And I have to do maths. Simple maths, admittedly, but maths all the same. Yuck.

This from a girl with a science degree and a post-grad in business management.

There are three solutions. One, ignore the whole thing and just write and rely on other strategies and word-of-mouth. Two, contract it out. Three, train the man of the house, an engineer who is very good at maths and for whom spreadsheets hold no fear.

Methinks he’d rather play golf, though. So would I.

One to ponder

My sincerest thanks to the conference co-ordinator Tanya Kean and her team Donna Munro, Joanne Dannon, Kristine Charles, Nardia Sheriff, Eliza Renton, Di Inglis, Wendy Davis, Savannah Blaize, Melanie Coles, Rachael Howlett and Alison Stuart. An excellent job done by all.

Now for the bit you’ve been hankering for: piccies!

The Cocktail Party

As always, the cocktail party was a hoot. This year’s theme was Twisted Fairy Tales. As you can see, there were some very twisted costumes indeed!

Author Paula Roe at the cocktail party, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Author Paula Roe

Harlequin publisher Rachael Donovan with author Alison Stuart, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Harlequin publisher Rachael Donovan with author Alison Stuart

Authors Amanda Knight and Emily Madden, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Authors Amanda Knight and Emily Madden

Young adult author Bec Nicholas, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Young adult author Bec Nicholas

Elizabeth Duffield and Ebony McKenna, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Authors Elizabeth Duffield and Ebony McKenna

Leisl Leighton, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Author Leisl Leighton

Lisa Ireland and Rachael Johns, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Authors Lisa Ireland and Rachael Johns

Author Michelle Douglas, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Author Michelle Douglas

Author Sara Hartland, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Author Sara Hartland

Author Shannon Curtis, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Author Shannon Curtis

Author Amy Andrews, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Author Amy Andrews

Breakout Sessions

Emily Roach's breakout session on Standing Out on Social Media, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Emily Roach’s breakout session on Standing Out on Social Media

Melissa Storm's breakout session on Winning Ad Strategies, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Melissa Storm’s breakout session on Winning Ad Strategies

Nalini Singh's talk on writing series, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Nalini Singh’s talk on writing series.

Gala Dinner and Miscellaneous

Cathryn Hein at the RWA Gala Dinner, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Me at the Gala Dinner. Those late nights were catching up…

DB Tait, Trish Morey and Marion Lennox, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

DB Tait, Trish Morey and Marion Lennox

Amy Andrews receiving her life membership, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Amy Andrews receiving her life membership

Gatecrashing Rachael Johns' book club live broadcast, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Gatecrashing Rachael Johns’ book club live broadcast

Conference goodie bag contents, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Conference goodie bag contents

Amy Andrews delivering her hilarious closing keynote speech, 2019 Romance Writers of Australia conference

Amy Andrews delivering her hilarious closing keynote speech

Cathryn Hein, the Monday after the conference

Me, the Monday after the conference, looking a tad red-eyed.

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I hope you enjoyed that brief behind the scenes peek at the RWA Conference. Remember, if you’re an aspiring writer, Romance Writers of Australia conferences are the jam. Learn more about this fabulous organisation and all it offers here.

Before I go, please allow me this gratuitous plug for Eddie and the Show Queen.

Here’s what fellow author Michelle Douglas had to say about the book:

I finished this on Friday night and it was an utter dream of a story. I loved Eddie so hard, wanted to be best friends with Alice (and Paige), the opening made me laugh, and the ending made me swoon. Just…perfect. Highly recommended!

Eddie and the Show Queen releases September 10th. Pre-order your copy today from your favourite online bookstore or these retailers.

amazon.com | amazon.com.au | amazon.co.uk

iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Barnes & Noble

Booktopia | Angus & Robertson | Bookdepository

And if you’re shopping on iBooks, remember to pick up your free copy of Summer and the Groomsman, which features Eddie’s shy brother Harry.

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This Writing Life: Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

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Fictionally Yours Melbourne attending author graphicWowsers, what a show Fictionally Yours, Melbourne turned out to be!

This was my first Fictionally Yours event and I had an absolute ball. It was huge in so many ways. The venue at Crown Exhibition Hall couldn’t have been better, the attendees were just gorgeous – so much enthusiasm for reading! – and the organisation was super smooth. Enormous thanks and kudos to Tina and Penny and all the Fictionally Yours volunteers. You were brilliant. And I mustn’t forget my excellent assistant, fellow author DB Tait.

It was so busy that I could only take photos during the quiet times, before the doors opened or at the end of the day when the crowds were thinner and I could leave my table for a speedy nose about, so none of the photos I’m about to share do justice to how full-on the event was. There were fans wheeling suitcases and trolleys filled with books, readers who’d made their own souvenirs and autograph books for authors to sign, wonderful swag to pick up and play with, and happy, excited people everywhere.

And to top it all off, the weather was kind, I discovered a whole bunch of fab new authors and got to spend time with old buddies.

The. Best. Fun.

Here are a few snaps from my travels. Enjoy!

Me, ready to go at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne

Me, all ready to go at Fictionally Yours on Sunday.

Author Alli Sinclair at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne.

Author Alli Sinclair (left).

Fiona Archer at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne

Fiona Archer busily signing.

Fiona McArthur at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Fiona McArthur. Watch out for her Teaser Tuesday visit next week, where she’ll be showing off her new release The Desert Midwife. There might be a giveaway!

JA Collard ar Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

JA Collard.

Jennifer Ryder at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Jennifer Ryder and her assistant. Jennifer’s table was opposite mine and it was lovely to meet her. She has a gorgeous looking rural romance out called Sing It, Sam. Check it out at her website jenniferryder.com

KE Osborn at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

A smiley KE Osborn (right).

A reader's amazing book lamp at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

A reader was carrying around this amazing book lamp and getting authors to sign the pages. So cool!

Keri Arthur at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Urban fantasy author and Romance Writers of Australia Ruby finalist Keri Arthur (left). Luuurve her banner.

The raffle draw at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

With lots of great prizes, the raffle draw was understandably popular.

Kristin Mayer at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Kristin Mayer

RC Boldt at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

US author RC Boldt.

Tamara McWilliam at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Tamara McWilliam. Lovely lady!

Me and gorgeous Tess Woods at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Me and gorgeous Tess Woods. Tess’s new release Love and Other Battles is on my want-to-read list. You should put it on yours too!

And now for a few miscellaneous piccies

Collage of photos from Star Hotel, Rutherglen

Collage of images from Star Hotel, Rutherglen, Victoria, where we stayed on the way down to Melbourne.

The Yarra River, Melbourne at night.

The Yarra River at night. Melbourne couldn’t have been more wonderful weather wise. So lucky!

Ballerina sculpture outside the Arts Centre, Melbourne.

Ballerina sculpture outside the Arts Centre. Isn’t it beautiful?

Lifts inside the stunning art deco Manchester Unity building.

Now these are what I call lifts. Inside the stunning art deco Manchester Unity building.

Melbourne coffee humour.

Melbourne coffee humour.

I hope you enjoyed this trip to Fictionally Yours, Melbourne. Make sure you stay tuned for next week’s Teaser Tuesday where there’ll be a fab guest and maybe even a giveaway!

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This Writing Life: Vivid Sydney 2019

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Vivid is an annual light, music and ideas festival that brightens Sydney for around three weeks each winter. Jim and I first went in 2017 and though we didn’t get to see all of it, what we did see was spectacular and left us vowing to return for the full experience. So last weekend we hopped on the Newcastle-Sydney train and did just that.

Here are some photos from the evening we spent wandering the displays. They don’t do Vivid justice, but they’ll give you an idea of how lovely these light shows can be. A lot were interactive this year, which makes things fun. Watching families dance so they can make a sculpture move or flash light was a hoot, and you only had to look at the little ones’ faces when they played with a sculpture to see how wondrous they found it.

I won’t name all the photos and sculptures because that would take forever, and I know you’d much prefer if I was working on Eddie and the Show Queen!

Vivid runs until June 15th so if you can, get to Sydney and be awed.

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The 6 metre high Marri Dyin puppet at Barangaroo.
The 6 metre high Marri Dyin puppet at Barangaroo. It was followed around by a shoal of puppet fish. Wonderfully done.
Vivid Sydney 2019
Museum of Contemporary Art.
Museum of Contemporary Art. The ‘Let Me Down’ light show was absolutely gorgeous.
Turtles promoting Vivid at Taronga Zoo.
These turtles were amazing. We’ll have to go to Vivid at Taronga Zoo next time.
Customs House.
The Customs House ‘Under the Harbour’ light film (not sure what else to call it) was wonderful.
Customs House
More Customs House
Circular Quay
Circular Quay
Circular Quay artwork
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Opera House
Opera House forecourt artwork
Botanic Garden artwork
Botanic Garden artwork
This was the sculpture that made party lights when you danced in front of it.
Botanic Garden artwork
Loved this one. It was kind of spooky.
Botanic Garden artwork
And this.
Ferry ride on the harbour
Catching a ferry is a cheap and fun way to take in more of the displays.
Vivid 2019 - Barangaroo
Barangaroo looked so pretty. There were fish hidden in the trees.
Robot SPACELand music and light show
Robot SPACELand music and light show at Darling Harbour was a blast.
 More Robot SPACELand
More Robot SPACELand
Bright mushrooms at Cockle Bay.
This Darling Harbour display was wonderfully bright and happy-looking.

Hope you enjoyed this peek at Vivid!

See you for Teaser Tuesday next week, when we’ll have an extra special debut guest sharing a snippet from her debut rural romance. Mark your diary because it’s going to be fab!

 

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This Writing Life: ARR 19

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Last weekend I attended A Romantic Rendezvous in Sydney at the Bankstown Sports Club, where a lovely time was had by all.

There are four events in the A Romantic Rendezvous series, with Brisbane and Sydney held last weekend and Melbourne and Perth scheduled for this coming weekend (30th and 31st March). They were (and are) chockers full of authors representing every romance genre, and feature special guests like Aussie urban fantasy star Keri Arthur (who generously filled in at the last minute when Sherrilyn Kenyon had to pull out) and American historical author Celeste Bradley.

It’s always a thrill to catch up with readers, new and old. I love a good natter and what better topic to natter about than books?

I had planned to take lots of photos but got distracted, as tends to happen at these events. But here are a few piccies of the event for you to enjoy.

If you haven’t booked for this weekend in Melbourne or Perth, that’s okay. I’m sure you’ll be able to buy a ticket at the door. Visit the Australian Romance Readers Association for attending authors, venue details and times.

Me all set up and ready to go at ARR19, Sydney.
Me all set up and ready to go!
Authors Maddison Micheals, Amanda Knight and (standing) Bronwyn Parry at ARR19, Sydney.
Authors Maddison Micheals, Amanda Knight and (standing) Bronwyn Parry.
Jodi Perry, whose gorgeous book cover tablecloth I'm seriously jealous of, at ARR19, Sydney.
Jodi Perry, whose gorgeous book cover tablecloth I’m seriously jealous of!
Fellow Outback Brides author Kelly Hunter with Avril Tremayne at ARR19, Sydney.
Fellow Outback Brides author Kelly Hunter with Avril Tremayne.
Kandy Shepherd and special guest Keri Arthur at ARR19, Sydney.
Kandy Shepherd and special guest Keri Arthur.
Ann B Harrison with her gorgeous cowboys.
Ann B Harrison with her gorgeous cowboys (photo courtesy of Ann).
Penelope Janu, Amanda Knight and me at ARR 19, Sydney.
Penelope Janu, Amanda Knight and me (photo courtesy of Amanda).
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This Writing Life: Scone Literary Festival

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The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is one of my favourite places (and the setting for one of my most popular rural romances, Heart of the Valley), so I was thrilled to bits to when Scone Literary Festival invited me to appear on a panel.

Books in the heart of wine and horse country? How could I possibly say no?

The festival was held on the weekend of the 10th -12th November and the weather couldn’t have been more gorgeous. Not only the weather, but also the venue – Scone’s pretty Arts and Crafts Hall which has a lovely outside area and was the perfect place for al fresco lunching and the festival’s “Soiree in the gardens” on Saturday night.

Scone Arts and Crafts Hall

Scone Arts and Crafts Hall

The line-up of speakers was even more impressive, with broadcaster and columnist Phillip Adams, journalist and hugely popular non-fiction author Peter FitzSimons, acclaimed author Don Watson, Gold Walkley award-winning journalist Joanne McCarthy, and The Dressmaker author Rosalie Ham and the film’s producer Sue Maslin, along with many other excellent writers.

I was delighted to be on a panel with fellow author Kim Kelly, who read aloud the most beautiful piece of writing from her book Wild Chicory, and artist, photographer and author David Darcy. Check out David’s website for a look at his work. It’s amazing. Paula Stevenson did a stellar job facilitating our session, during which we discussed rural and regional stories from around Australia and how we develop our characters and settings. It was terrific fun.

The entire program was filled thought-provoking, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes funny talks and panels, and the Festival’s atmosphere hugely amiable. Bookseller Ian from Hunt A Book (how cool is that bookshop name!) was a joy, and the catering excellent (country cooking… my mouth waters just thinking those words).

If you love ideas and stories and talking books, a bucolic setting and country hospitality, then this festival is for you.

Keep an eye on the website, or the Festival’s Facebook or Twitter feed for updates about next year’s event.

Thanks to Jan Sinclair and her team for a truly memorable weekend.

Here are a few piccies for you to enjoy!

Scone’s gorgeous mare and foal statue

Scone’s gorgeous mare and foal statue. Naturally I had to pat it.

Peter FitzSimons was hugely entertaining, and his chat with Phillip Adams covered everything from his new release Burke and Wills to republicanism, to the way Australia celebrates its failures, along with many other topics in between.

Peter FitzSimons and Phillip Adams

Peter FitzSimons and Phillip Adams

As a fun interlude between sessions, the festival featured “pop-up poets” who charmed us by reading their own or other’s works.

Pop up Poet Richard (Rick) Wright.

Pop up Poet Richard (Rick) Wright.

Above is Rick Wright whose aunt was the distinguished Australian poet Judith Wright, and who is a talented poet and author himself. I was honoured and delighted when Rick gave me two of his books: Poemotion, which is filled with terrific bush-style poetry, and the beautiful hardcover Hold Fast: History, heritage and the challenges of life for a primary producer heading into the 21st Century.

Poemation and Hold Fast by Richard Wright

Poemotion and Hold Fast by Richard Wright

Hold Fast is fascinating!

I’ve had the notion to set a book in the New England area for quite some time (20+ years, in fact, from when I used the travel the area in my pasture seed selling days). Hold Fast makes me want to do it even more. It’s also a must-read for anyone interested in the agricultural history of this rich and stunning region, and with the trials and joys of rural life.

Hold Fast and Rick’s poetry books can be purchased direct from Rick via his Hold Fast website.

Don Watson and Phillip Adams

Don Watson and Phillip Adams

Don Watson in conversation with Phillip Adams was another excellent session. It was interesting to hear about his relationship with former Prime Minister Paul Keating, for whom he was speech writer, and also about growing up in Gippsland. I really need to read his book The Bush, although the book I’m most curious about is Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language.

Tom Thompson telling us about the photos in ‘To Beersheba 1917’

Tom Thompson telling us about the photos in ‘To Beersheba 1917’

October 31st marked the 100th anniversary of the Australian Light Horse Charge of Beersheba, during World War I. With perfect timing, Tom Thompson launched his new book To Beersheba 1917 at the festival. To Beersheba 1917 contains 100 previously unpublished photographs from the Haydon Family archive at ‘Bloomfield’, Blandford. Check out their website for more about this historic property and some excellent photos. It’s well worth a visit.

Guy Haydon famously rode his horse Midnight in the charge, during which poor Midnight was killed (a story in itself, and which you can discover more about on the website). The photos Tom showed were incredible. Although many were heartbreaking too.

Horsing around on the Hunt A Book bookstall.

Horsing around on the Hunt A Book bookstall. If you’re ever in Scone, drop in and say hi to Ian.

The “Soiree in the gardens” on Saturday evening was a sublime event, with music, local wine and nibbles, and Jan entertaining us with a song.

Soiree in the gardens

Soiree in the gardens

Soiree in the gardens, Scone Literary Festival 2017

Committee president Jan Sinclair singing for us.

The Dark Art of Writing Domestic Drama panel featured (L-R) Paul Mitchell (We. Are. Family.), Melissa Lucashenko (Mullumbimby – longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award) and Mel Jacob, and was facilitated by Joanne McCarthy.

The Dark Art of Writing Domestic Drama panel

The Dark Art of Writing Domestic Drama panel

I was lucky enough to enjoy a good chat with Mel whose book In Sickness, In Health and Jail:  What Happened When My Husband Unexpectedly Went to Prison for Two Years sounds a great read.

Scone's lovely The Thoroughbred hotel.

Scone’s lovely The Thoroughbred hotel.

That’s me done for the year with writing events. Which is just as well, because I’m veeeery behind with my writing and we have a big few months coming up with a relocation and a few other changes.

And, of course, the release of The Country Girl on December 18th. Can’t forget that!!

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This Writing Life: 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering

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It’s been a while since I’ve managed a This Writing Life post. The last one was back in July (yikes!) when I shared piccies from Taronga Zoo.

It’s not that I haven’t been doing things. I’ve been out and about quite a bit this year. It’s more a matter of squeezing in the time to do up the posts. My number one priority is writing books and that sometimes means that the blog must miss out.

But not this week!

In a better-late-than-never post, today I’m sharing photos from the 2017 New South Wales Rural Women’s Gathering held in Narrandera, Friday October 27th to 29th.

What a brilliant weekend.

I have fellow rural romance author Jane Carter (new release: Prodigal Daughter) to thank for my attendance at this event. Jane is a Narrandera local and suggested at the 2016 Romance Writers of Australia conference that we could present a writing workshop at the Gathering, and I jumped at the chance. I am so, so glad I did because I had a BALL.

Me and Jane Carter at our trade stall.

Me and Jane Carter at our trade stall.

The women I met and heard talk were amazing. There was Jane, of course, but also Narrandera’s newly elected local NSW Member of Parliament Steph Cooke, who gave a very funny opening speech (and gave me an excellent idea for a character). Plus Kate O’Callaghan, general manager of Southern Cotton, Dame Marie Bashir, former Narrandera local and second longest serving Governor of NSW (among other achievements).

Betina Walker of Whispering Pines Organics related her incredible and inspirational story at the gala dinner, and who you can learn more about in a video here. We were also entertained with talks from Rosalie Ham, author of The Dressmaker, and Sue Maslin, the producer of its hit film.

There was also Fran McLaughlin from Big River Herbs at Narrandera, Jane Sibley from Hilltops Honey at Young, and winemaker Belinda Morandin from Morandin Family Wines at Griffith, Jane’s friend Tracey Boschetti, and that’s just to name a few of the rural women at the event who demonstrated the success that can be achieved with a bit of grit and self-belief. Wonderful, wonderful.

Besides the keynote speeches and trade stalls, there were also plenty of workshops covering everything from getting friendly with your chainsaw, to estate planning, how to be fire wise, secrets to community engagement, flamenco, making mead, rural mental health and much, much more. The full program can be found here.

Next year’s gathering is at Merimbula, on NSW’s beautiful, southern Sapphire Coast, on 19th – 21st October. I’m marking my diary. For more info, check out the 2018 Gathering website.

Now here’s a few happy snaps from the weekend. Enjoy!

Nothing like a road trip, especially when there’s sweet things involved, and Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory hit the spot. But it was the truck artwork outside Gasworks Garage opposite that really put a smile on my face.

Gasworks Garage's cute truck and animal sculpure, Junee

Opening night of the Gathering was at the Fisheries Travelling Stock Reserve where we shared a variety of “bush food” prepared by local Wiradjuri Elder Michael Lyons, including kangaroo curry and witchetty grubs, along with lovely local wine.

Dame Marie Bashir at the 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering,

Dame Marie Bashir. Couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous evening for the opening.

Me, Jane Carter and Tracey Boschetti enjoyed some local wine.

Me, Jane Carter and Tracey Boschetti enjoyed some local wine.

Once darkness fell, we were treated to the Cad Factory’s open-air video, sound, light and textile artwork, Shadow Places. Sadly, the photos don’t do it justice, but it was certainly intriguing and a lovely way to end the evening.

One of the Shadowlands art installation.

This was an ever changing video projected on to large square haybales. Visually stunning.

A Shadowlands art installation.

This one was very Blair Witch Project. Remember the scary film from the late 90s?

Shadowlands art installation

This one was pretty but also a little alien. I kept thinking something was about to hatch from it.

Gathering 'ear tag' lanyard

Loved our Gathering lanyards made of cattle ear tags. And having the program attached proved a veeeeery handy thing!

2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Celebratory cake cutting on the Saturday of 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

gala dinner 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Gala dinner yumminess!

Rosalie Ham at the 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Rosalie Ham entertaining us with how she came to write The Dressmaker.

Table decoration, 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

The tables at the gala dinner were cleverly decorated with a dressmaker theme. We were even given cute little pin cushions to take home.

2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Raffle draw and thank yous at the dinner. Followed by dancing. Such fun!

I hope you enjoyed this small insight into the terrific event that is the NSW Rural Women’s Gathering. If you get the chance, come along to the next one in Merimbula. I promise you’ll leave it feeling truly inspired.

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This Writing Life: Taronga Zoo

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Welcome to the latest instalment in my This Writing Life adventures. I seem to be having a few this year, and looking at my calendar there are more to come with the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Brisbane next month, along with the New South Wales Rural Women’s Gathering in Narranderra at the end of October and Scone Literary Festival in November.

A few weeks ago, Jim and I booked ourselves in for a weekend in Sydney and a trip to Taronga Zoo, and what a wonderful time we had!

It had been 23 years since we first visited the zoo. We were living in Newcastle back then, and drove down especially. No driving this time. It was buses and trains and a ferry – a far more sensible and less stressful way to get around, and ferry rides are a great way to enjoy the harbour and public transport is excellent for people watching.

Ferry ride to the zoo

Catching the ferry to the zoo.

The zoo has changed quite a bit in the intervening years. There’s now a cable car to take you from the bottom to the top and give you an aerial view of some of the enclosures. There are also new habitats that must be so much better for the animals, but are brilliant for us humans too. My absolute favourite was the squirrel monkey enclosure where you can get up close and personal with the animals. Small groups are led through the enclosure by guides while the monkeys do their monkey thing, darting around feet, gobbling fruit, and climbing all over the place. It was magical!

We were also lucky enough to see a platypus swimming around its pond, which was very cool because they’re notoriously shy and hard to spot. All it took was a bit of patience, something a lot of people didn’t have. We lost count of the number of people who walked through that enclosure, took one glance, declared it empty and moved on. If they’d stayed for a few minutes and watched carefully, they’d have seen the platypus snorkelling around too. Sadly, none of our platypus photos turned out. It was a speedy little thing and the truth is we were too enchanted watching it to bother with much happy-snapping.

We did take lots of other photos. Here’s a few for you to enjoy.

Asian elephant

Male Asian elephant. His keeper was doing log rolling and other exercises with him to keep him entertained.

Giraffe

The giraffes at Taronga have a great view

Barbary sheep

Barbary sheep

Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon. Creepy things!

Snake - I think an inland taipan

I think this is an inland taipan or fierce snake, which is also the most venomous in the world. Also scarily big and not something I’d like to tread on.

Lizard resting

Snake

I wouldn’t like to tread on this one either.

Meerkats

Meerkats are cool.

Squirrel monkey

Squirrel monkey. They were adorable.

Lemurs

The lemurs were all huddled under their heat lamps, keeping warm and bonding.

Pretty duck

The mandarin ducks were stunningly coloured.

Electus parrots

Eclectus parrots. Loved how close you could get to some of the animals. This little girl could nearly touch them.

Seal talk

The seal talk was great fun.

Jumping seal

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil. We caught the last of the keeper talk and it was wonderful to learn that they’re making progress on conserving these animals after being so badly hit by Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

Royal Spoonbill

Royal Spoonbill

Sydney view

As you can see from the view, it was a cracking winter’s day for visiting the zoo.

For more information about Taronga Zoo, check out the website. Or better still, go visit!

Hmm. This makes me think we should trip out Dubbo way and visit Western Plains Zoo again. We’ve been a few times before and it’s brilliant. Maybe on the way back from Narranderra. Ooh, now there’s a plan…

 

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This Writing Life: The Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft 2017

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At long last, the much-awaited Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft photo essay is here!

This is up there with one of the best book research trips I’ve done. There’s nothing quite like heading out into the country, getting coated in dust and people watching. All excellent food for the writerly soul. I went a bit trigger-happy with the camera, taking well over 500 shots, which is why they took me a while to work through. That and the fact I’m currently madly editing CHRISSY AND THE BURROUGHS BOY. My guess is you’d much rather have a new book than a few photos, no matter how fun they are.

The Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft started over 130 years ago, and is held next to the Bowen River Hotel on (obviously) the Bowen River, north Queensland, 110 kilometres south-west of Bowen and 35 kilometres west of Collinsville. The event attracts people from all over Australia, most of whom camp at the grounds. The campdrafting competitions run over all three days with the rodeo on Saturday and Sunday, and junior bush sports on Sunday.

There’s also live entertainment and a bar operating into the night, bush poetry, stalls selling clothing, rural paraphernalia and other goodies, and plenty of country fare to keep visitors sustained. It’s dusty, sprawling, packed with drama overlaid with country music, and set in a fantastic historic location. Definitely one for your bucket lists.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m doing research at a rodeo in north Queensland in the first place? It’s for a book I’m in the throes of plotting out, the climax of which occurs at an event similar to the Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft. But the story doesn’t involve rodeo riding. It’s about something else which you’ll find aaaaall about in the future. I’ll leave you to speculate!

Except for a few photos where I felt a caption was needed to give context, I’ve left the rest to speak for themselves, otherwise it’d be endless quips like “man takes nose-dive off bull” or “drool-worthy man in hat ‘n chaps on horsey, looking sexy”, of which there seem to be many. Funny that.

Now enjoy!

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bush poetry

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Excited to be here!

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and CampdraftRiver Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Miss Rodeo Australia

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Hard to find a park at the campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Mini campdrafting for under 8 years. Too cute!

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

With a bar, food and entertainment running into the nights, pretty much everyone camped.

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Sorry, Mum and Dad-in-law, we dirtied your car again.

If you’d like to find out more about the Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft and put it on your bucket list (which you should do), check out their website or Facebook Page where you’ll find plenty of info and photos.

Back to editing I go!

 

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This Writing Life: Vivid Sydney 2017

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I know you’re eagerly anticipating a This Writing Life photo essay about my trip to the Bowen River Rodeo but I went a bit click-happy while I was there, resulting in a bazillion images go through. I figure you’d much prefer me to be working on another rural romance instead of poring over photos, even if they are juicy ones of Aussie cowboys being all sexy and manly as they wrestle steers and ride bulls and gallop about and tip their hats and offer up laconic winks and make me want to… *clears throat* Sorry, got a bit drooly for a moment.

The post is coming though, I promise!

In the meantime, please enjoy these snaps from Vivid Sydney, the annual light, music and ideas festival that brightens the city for around 3 weeks each winter, which Jim and I managed to sneak a look at the night we flew back from Townsville.

We would have loved to have seen the whole thing but were too knackered from travelling to visit all the sites, and there are a LOT of them, along with night markets and other festivities. With the festival closing in a few days there was no chance of a return visit either, so we made the most of the time and energy we had and took a harbour cruise. Cold, but oh so wonderful.

I should probably have taken more photos but we’d parked ourselves on the prow and I was terrified of dropping my phone in the water, and quite honestly I couldn’t be stuffed. I wanted to experience the beauty of Vivid without whipping out my phone every two minutes.

I hope this small selection brightens you up. Vivid certainly brought Sydney harbour to life.

Vivid Sydney Circular Quay

Circular Quay and the Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Looking back at the Opera House and Bridge

Sydney Opera House

The colours on the Opera House were glorious, like the colours of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sydney Opera House

So pretty. Almost makes you wish the Opera House looked like this all the time.

Botanic Gardens Vivid 2017

The Botanic Gardens had a display of sunflowers that followed the light. So cute.

Barangaroo - Vivid Sydney 2017

Barangaroo was like opening your eyes underwater. Just beautiful.

If you’re ever in Sydney in May-June then make sure you take in Vivid. These pictures don’t do it a shred of justice – between not understanding the new settings on my phone and the wobbly boat it was hard to take decent shots. We only scratched the surface of the festival, but what we did experience was STUNNING!

 

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