Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Sitting in - Melbourne voices

Last week I had a few where-am-I flashes. My front door confused me, because it wasn't my London front door. I saw a woman I vaguely knew, but I couldn't work out which city I knew her from. I went out for a coffee to the same cafe I've gone to nearly every morning for nearly 6 months, and was surprised when I got there that it wasn't the same cafe I'd gone to nearly every morning for over 12 months in London.

But yesterday well and truly anchored me.

My Monday morning writing group, led by Nicole Hayes, is the ideal way to start the week. We're a mixed bunch in terms of ages and backgrounds, each working on very different projects. Yesterday we read an extract of a novel set in Melbourne in the 70s and 80s, captured brilliantly through the POV of a teenage girl desperate to be on the stage. In a plea to her father to take her to the ballet, "he can't bloody well miss the Richmond vs Collingwood match to watch a bunch of poofters prancing on a stage," can he.

Brilliant. We know where we are and when.

Driving home I stopped at the lights by Dairy Bell. And remembered. Getting off the train at East Malvern to go and get an ice-cream after school / delay going home to Glen Waverley. Walking from my old apartment, down Belgrave Road, holding hands with my nephew when he was young. I kept driving along Malvern Road and saw the buildings of my old school up on the hill, turned down High St, passed Harold Holt where I've swum more kms over the last 30 years than I could count.

So I was in a pretty contemplative mood when I arrived at the Malvern library for the Tales Out Loud session with Sofie Laguna.

The small group of us were taken to a room upstairs that looks out over the oval I walk the dog on most mornings. We were offered coffee, tea and biccies, and a choice of listening to Sofie reading from her new (not yet published) book, or Q&A, or a bit of both. She started reading.

Sofie's trained as an actor, so it's wonderful to hear her read with Jimmy's 6 year-old energy, and an intensity that doesn't seem quite right from the start. The Eye of the Sheep wastes no time and in our session we're firmly placed with the Flick family in Altona and Laverton with Holdens and Passiona. We've got Dad retreating to Merle Haggard with a bottle of Cutty Sark, and Mum doing her Doris Day - a brilliant balance of comedy, tension and a hand placed on the heart getting ready to grip.

The official launch is on Thursday night at Readings (Hawthorn). I'd get there if you can.

To cap off a Monday of sitting in with fantastic Melbourne writers/ing, I started reading Nicole Hayes' first novel, The Whole Of My World. Another thought I'd had driving home was how come I haven't read this before? Every week Nicole is fresh and keen to listen to our latest work. She has that rare talent of giving valuable feedback and suggestions after just one read, and I haven't read her first book yet! She's already finished writing her second!

It's my first YA novel as an adult, and even though I like footy I wasn't sure that I was going to really enjoy it. I mean, I'm a long way from the target demographic. Shelley, with an e, is a Glenthorn Football Club fan who tracks more footy stats than the professionals. Starting at a new Catholic girls' school, she's doing her best to stick to her dad's saying: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to position.

After just a few pages I was thinking I need to buy it for one of my dearest friends (from old girls' school days), and I'll get Nicole to sign it, and I should turn the light out now, I need an early night, okay just one more chapter.

I read the pre-season (about a quarter of the book). I turned the light out and put an eye mask on. I thought about my day, the writers here, how there's so many opportunities to meet them, hear them and learn from them.

I knew I was in Melbourne.


  1. Lovely post, Jen. Excited that I'll be there with you soon x

    1. Thanks Amanda - it's going to be fab to see you on this side of the world soon. Hope Sheepwash (and Deb) are inspiring you on the novel's home straight.