Sunday, April 7, 2024

Great Journeys: How To Knit A Human

This afternoon, I attended the launch of How To Knit A Human by Anna Jacobson, a memoir about mental illness and recovery, as well as of a remarkable voyage in discovering lost parts of oneself. 

Some years ago, Anna suffered a period of psychosis that left her with large gaps in her memory. How To Knit A Human charts her attempts to reclaim some of those memories, or at least understand their loss, and to 'knit' together a sense of personhood through artistic projects such as writing, drawing, and photography. 

The book is itself part of the knitting of the self that she performs and reflects upon.

Anna's book formed the creative component of a doctorate in Creative Writing that she undertook with my supervision, and there was added pleasure for me today in seeing one of my students publishing her work to a wide audience. The book was launched at Avid Reader Bookshop in West End, with fellow writer Kris Kneen giving an insightful and warm speech to accompany its way into the world. It was also recently reviewed very favourably by The Guardian newspaper here.

Anna Jacobson (left) and Kris Kneen at Avid Reader Bookshop

Friday, April 5, 2024

Book Launch of Running with Pirates

My new book Running with Pirates will be launched at Avid Reader Bookshop in West End on Thursday 8 August.

I will be in conversation with fellow author Nick Earls, whose works include Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses, and 48 Shades of Brown

The event is free, but bookings are essential.

I hope to see you there!

A balcony view of Astrakeri Beach, Corfu, and the Albanian hills

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Cover reveal: Running with Pirates

The cover of my next book Running with Pirates has been released. It bears an evocative design by Lisa White, who has also created book covers for titles by authors such as Craig Silvey, Pip Williams, and Kate Moreton.

For me, the cover of Running with Pirates responds sympathetically and joyfully to the book's themes of adventure and reflection, its setting of Greece, and to a certain playfulness that comes with one of the storylines: in the fable-like qualities of the ocean as a pattern, a texture of the past and of remembering, and of ships, too. As well as the very particular nature of storytelling for one's children. 

It's also graced with a very generous cover endorsement by fellow author Susan Johnson, who writes of the book: Hearthbreaking, joyful, tender. The full catastrophe: Greece and life, in all its pain and glory.

The book itself will be released on 30 July this year.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

First Pages of Running With Pirates

This week I received the 'first pages' of my new book, Running with Pirates, a memoir about fatherhood set on the Greek island of Corfu that will be published in August.

The term 'first pages' refers to the first iteration of typeset pages that are printed out as proofs of a book and then marked up with any final changes that need to be made. The first pages can also be used for the advanced reading copies that are sent out to reviewers, booksellers, and other industry partners who need to read the book, albeit in its 'uncorrected' form, well ahead of the actual publication date. This is because reviews tend to come out at around the same time as the book's publication date.

For an author, I think there's a special quality about these pages, because they represent another first: the moment when the book takes a physical appearance that isn't of one's own making. In other words, the text takes a step beyond the laptop, the study, and the many earlier drafts, and begins to look like an actual book, which partly means something that doesn't belong entirely to me anymore. 

This is a kind of first farewell to the work, as well as an initial meeting with how it could be shaping up for others.

Arillas beach, Corfu

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Prague to Budapest (a list poem)

Blue light. 
American neighbours.
One of their party is in first class:
“Ooh, first class,” says their friend,
after they've gone.
“I know, right,” says another.
Village houses pale against fields.
Black branches like inverted arteries of the lungs,
beside river-narrow lakes.
Fluorescent lights outside barns.
American neighbour:
“Do you have a crap laptop
to download everything on?
I’ve got every movie I’ve ever watched
on that thing.”
Ticket inspection.
Grey light.
Flat country, ploughed.
Wishing we were going slower
so I might read the village names
given on short platforms.
Factory towns, apartment blocks.
Remembering the Museum of Communism,
and the apartment projects, for workers:
build, work, dig, labour as virtue,
but writers underground.
First stop, Kolin, 8:19am.

Pink buffet cart.
Email from our host in Budapest,
who is called Attila,
from Hungary!
Pink buffet cart returns.
Pardubice, 8:41am.
Text from my sister Bryndis,
her New Year's dinner photos,
Reykjavik under snow, floods in Hungary,
as in Brisbane.
The web of weather reports.
Inside and outside light.
How warmth can mean such different things.
Reading Jessica Au’s
Cold Enough For Snow,
a book of nearness and distance.
How they combine when we meet family
after time apart,
memory the link between carriages,
along a line, not joined completely,
yet close to inseparable.
M’s head on the table,
a pillow of scarf and ham baguettes
that would be better off elsewhere.
O asleep, too.
F reading cricket news:
David Warner’s cap removed
from a trolley,
luggage lost.
Stately mansions with hollow windows.
Valley roads, brown hills, low clouds.
A plain town with a few, Prague-pretty streets,
the rest of the houses either alpine or Soviet, an odd mix.
I wonder, too, while reading,
why Au doesn’t name Australia specifically,
but rests it anonymously as
a memory setting, not a “here”.
The Museum of Communism insisted:
We will name the past precisely,
its language of remembering is direct, not implied.
Not veiled.
The museum cafe was closed “due to technical reasons”, the same bureaucratic language finds its way even there, where it is despised.
Broken coffee machine?
Southwards, the Austrian influence becoming more pronounced
in forehead-like eaves, thoughtful.
Villages that climb to churches.
Cotswold-like hills.
Fast flowing streams that suggest higher mountains. Steepness.
A factory called Adast.
I look it up on the free train wifi: fuel pumps manufacturer. Well, why not.
Brno, 10:18am.

The boys have started writing their own list poems that point out how lame mine is.
A walk to the restaurant carriage: double espresso and Viennese wafers.
Breclav, 10:52am.  

Red-capped station guard.
Crossing the border into Slovakia, 11:05am.
Glimpses of the sun beneath clouds.
Kuty, 11:12am. 
Attempted snooze.
Bratislava, 11:58am.

Full train, much calling out.
A screaming toddler who has had enough. 
A sound that cuts through into the eyeballs, says O.
Parents imploring. 
The atmosphere on trains changes after every station.
More vineyards, misty hills. 
The smell of warm food on cold clothes.
News, Wayne Rooney sacked. 
Discussion, do strikers make good coaches? Dalgleish. Others? Ferguson played as a forward. Oh and Cruyff, of course. Pep.
Noon is not making a difference to the grey sky, but a band of orange remains low on the horizon, a faint promise.
Italian neighbours chatting across the aisle.
Words: chiesa, Maria, quattro, bello, mangiare, musica, sharing NY fireworks videos without headphones.
Blue train stations.
Tidy Graffiti, seemingly in permitted parts of the walls.
Remembering a young guy I once met who travelled the world to tag trains. Disliked street art, which is sanctioned. Tagging is unwelcome, the real thing, he said.
Nove Zamky, 12:55pm. 

M playing silent piano on my knee. Air piano?
Sturovo, 1:25pm.
First sight of the Danube, overflowing and silty. 
Hungary on the other side.
Carriage lights go off, officially enough light to count as day.
Szob, 1:36pm.

Tiled roofs. Guesthouses. 
Riverside prosperity. 
Balconies and patios for the first time.
Nagymaros-Visegrad, 1:53pm.

A few yellow houses standing out from the white and ochre of more suburban streets. 
Holiday cabins.
Someone making a reel about Budapest before even arriving playing the first bars of George Ezra's “Budapest” over and over while editing.
Recalling what Mark Twain once said: it’s easier to write about a place before you get there.
Vac, 2:06pm. 

Next stop, Budapest.
First bars still going. “My hidden treasure chest…”. Not so hidden at the moment. 
Very well announced.
Go through Felsogod
Next, Alsogod. Hmm!
“Hidden treasure chest” man has gone to the toilet, which is also, also good.
Budapest outskirts, 2:20pm.

Bags pulled down around us.
Squeak of puffer coats being put on.
Pink-yellow light.

(PS the journey was clean, comfortable, modestly priced, efficient, and on time.)