Books, Writing

Michelle DeKretser. Melbourne Writers Festival

It was time to tackle a difficult read—a bold move, on my behalf. I’d grown up reading only for pleasure and, up until that point in my life, I’d not felt the need to be challenged by books. Reality could be a bitter pill to swallow as it was; did I really want it shoved in my face? Did I want to be huffing and puffing at the dictionary every ten words? No. I didn’t.

But I would do it anyway.

I decided on an Australian literary fiction novel that had a shiny gold sticker on it: an award winner. Surely this would challenge me. I lasted fifty pages before I turned to my husband—who was lounging on the couch opposite me with his own book— and made the big announcement.

‘The struggle is real,’ I said, and it was. Oh, my goodness it was.

Wordy passages of profound thought. Dull family portraits, the monotony of everyday life. A bit of love. A bit of hate. A bit of everything and nothing all at once. I raised my eyebrow and decorated the google search bar on my phone with the words I’d come to know way too well over the past few days, ‘Define (insert word here).’

‘It’s okay to stop reading,’ my husband said, smiling up at me from his book—which he was loving, by the way. And so, it seemed I had a choice. I could go on, allow myself the potential to expand as a reader (and, perhaps, as a human) or I could give up and go find another book. A lovely, lovely book!

Oh, man. I knew what the answer had to be. I needed to read on, I’d kick myself if I didn’t.

The dominoes fell about a quarter of the way through when I had the uncanny sense that the book was becoming more. I frowned into it, gently rocking back and forth on our beloved flower armchair (the same one that’s rocked both our precious babes to sleep, on countless occasions) when I realised what had happened. For the very first time, I had seen me within the pages of a book. Not just the outer crust of me. The inner creaks, the bones, the blood; and all the horrendous aches and pains life had thrown my way.

It felt awful. It felt so bloody awful that I just did not know how I could possibly last through another moment of such soul-scraping reality. Surely, I’d have to put the book down. But I didn’t. I kept reading. And then the book was finished. Just like that, I’d been changed because I dared to go to a place, within the world of literature, that frightened me.

There lies the beauty and the beast that is literary fiction—the grace of the art, the rawness of humanity; these are books coloured by the real-lives of writers who dare to expose life’s simple truths so that us readers might come to know ourselves, and our world, differently.

***

Michelle De Kretser is one of Australia’s best when it comes to finding the truth and telling it in the form of a novel. As I sat in the audience of her Q and A session on Saturday—only days after she won her second Miles Franklin Award—I was taken right back to the book that changed me. My burst into the world of literary fiction and the humanity that connected me to it, and it to me.

Michelle’s characters are ordinary, flawed people—at least, the ones I’ve met so far— and they are so alive with the human traits we all share. It was fascinating to hear her explain the way she draws the lives of these imperfect individuals, crafts them into little gems that reflect the lives of us, the readers.

It was very easy to be inspired by Michelle and her cheeky confidence.  She spoke about all the crap of life as though the fixes were obvious, that underneath the complications of modern living, lies simplicity. People. Just trying to be.

All the beautiful textures and colours of the world, and there they are— in the minds of our most cherished writers, on the pages of our most precious books. Surely, to be human is to share our lives and hearts with others. To take a chance. To show each other our scars and to help each other heal from them. Because life hurts so much better when we roll with the punches, together, don’t you think? To me, that’s the beauty of literature. And I get the feeling that Michelle De Kretser just might feel the same way.

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Books

Melbourne Writers Festival and Me

I am the proud owner of a cunning new plan. I’ve just unwrapped it, and there it is, slowly spinning on the Lazy Susan of my mind, while I sit wondering why on earth it took me so long to think up such a genius plan.

The thing is this. A few months ago I was gifted a five-session pass to attend the Melbourne Writers Festival. And like the lovely, bouncy book nerd that I am, I opened my arms wide and I ran, across a light-flooded field of daffodils, to my bookshelf, where I found several of the books I’d need to read in preparation for the big event. (Okay, so there were no daffodils. But how wonderful if there was!)

Anyway. The writers festival. The non-existent daffodils. The Bookshelf. Cutting a long story short, I found myself staring into a week of all things bookish, and here I am: the morning of, and It’s struck me.

I must share this with the people of blog land.

Because, for me, this blog has always been about sharing bits and pieces of my life, connecting with like-minded people, smashing our days and our hearts together and seeing what magic comes of it all.

What might happen if I take you to this festival of dreams with me? In what way might I take you—I don’t even know. Knowing me, it’ll likely include the words ‘magic’ or ‘wonder’ or ‘butterflies’. (And If you’re giggling into your hand, you either know me personally or have read a vast majority of my posts so far. Aww, besties. xx)

I’ll keep the events I’m attending a secret until I post about them (because surprises are THE best) but what I will tell you is that there’ll be at least five posts from me over the next seven days. I’ll likely sprinkle a few photos onto my Instagram page along the way to make it a little more fun, also (you’re all very welcome to join me there if you’d like).

So! What do you think of my cunning plan? Let’s do this, is what I think! It’ll be all sorts of wonderful, won’t it? We’ll be bookish besties for an entire week.

And what MAGIC that will be. (Wink.)

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Writing

The Wonder of the Muse

It’s the cool rush of fire shooting down the limbs, filling up the head, the heart, the page.

The spirit.

The muse, some people call it.

But what’s in a name? said the muse, to the writer who sat his desk once upon a time,  dipping and scribbling, waiting for his words to fly.

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It’s bigger than a name, surely— this mysterious, creative force.

It’s a train that barrels through the writers imagination, often with no known destination.

It’s a one-sided phone call from the heavens, where no words are spoken, but millions are heard.

And written.

And felt.

Music. Books. We’ve all felt those.

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It’s a feeling like no other, this force that takes the creative folk of this world. Magic in a million whispers; an offer they’ll either drop or fly into the sunset with.

It’s a chest flooded with light and a dare to fill a blank page.

It’s an epiphany.

A promise.

A gift.

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A gift for writers and a gift for the readers of their words.

A gift for humanity, is what it is.

Mysterious and strange.

And overflowing with wonder.