Books to Die For … crime and thriller writing uncovered @ Springwood Library

Last weekend this event (Books to Die For … crime and thriller writing uncovered …) was held at the Springwood Library. I have been a fan of detective stories for a long time, and enjoy thrillers too, so there was little hesitation to go along and listen to five Australian writers in this field.

Rachel Franks, Coordinator of Education & Scholarship at the State Library of NSW, started off the proceedings with an entertaining and informative overview of the genre. This included a handout which was effectively a literary genealogical tree, tracing the development and expansion of detective stories in particular, as well as highlighting some of the best examples in each category.

Chilling suspense novels are the speciality of Jaye Ford, a former news and sports journalist. Ford explained how she came to writing psychological thrillers featuring ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Many of the crimes that she writes about are intimate and personal, and they are triggered by news stories, personal experiences and that rich vein of writerly inspiration – ‘what if?’.

I have recently come across Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle, Associate Professor of Media at Macquarie University. It is one of two books by Doyle based on research into the Forensic Photography Archive at the Justice and Police Museum in Sydney. The photos featured in the books come from a collection of 50,000 plus photos found by chance, with no labels and little in the way of identifiable information. During Doyle’s talk, some were shown in a slide show montage of mug shots, bullets embedded in walls and photos of police standing around in various poses at crime scenes. Doyle has also written several fiction books.

Next was Candice Fox, a crime author who has won consecutive Ned Kelly Awards for her novels. She has recently released Never Never in collaboration with James Patterson. Fox gave a humourous overview of her journey to publication, and outlined the impact of a strange childhood in western Sydney on her world view as a writer. Fox was recently interviewed on the podcast, So You Want To Be A Writer, and the link to the episode is here.

The final speaker was Chris Allen, a writer of action fiction. He provided a literary roadmap to his emergence as a writer. This trajectory was supported by his career in the armed services, law enforcement agencies, security operations for an aid agency in East Timor as well as appointment as Sheriff of NSW in 2008. Allen writes action thrillers with a theme, such as corruption and corporate greed in developing nations.

This series of talks opened up not only more books to read and authors to follow, but made me think about the writing process and the many influences that come into play.

Have you been inspired by author talks?

[Photo: apple blossoms]


Blogging – what, why and where?

I was recently asked to put some words together in response to this question for a post on the Writers in the Mist blog. This blog is hosted and managed by the fabulous staff at the Blue Mountains City Library, and includes pieces contributed by my local writing group.

One of my fellow writers, Therese Doherty, also responded to the call and you can find her interesting and thoughtful response here. Therese’s blog – Offerings from the Wellspring – can be found here. The byline for this great blog is ‘creativity and connection in a living world’ and her posts are beautifully written, considered and encourage deeper reflection.

The Blue Mountains City Library also has a blog for readers – Readers in the Mist. There are book reviews, articles, news and entertaining infographics like the one in this post.

So below is my response to why I blog, and the original post can be found here.

Why did I start a blog?

Earlier this year I gave some serious thought about what mattered most to me and creativity was high on the list. I thought starting a blog would offer a creative outlet as well as creating discipline with regular posting – it would help me to write more. Which it does!

Why did I choose the theme I did?

I thought about what I liked in other blogs and what I wanted to blog about. It came down to wanting to share aspects of mountain life as well as writing about writing. So the Monday posts are about musings from the mountains, and the writing related posts appear on Thursdays.

How often do I blog?

Twice a week. This did feel a bit ambitious at first but I have found a rhythm and actively seek new material and experiences to blog about, which fuels my creativity, which creates more blog material! Before I started I made a list of possible blog topics and I keep adding to this as the ideas roll in. I keep the blogs short – usually around 400 words – which also keeps it manageable.

Why did I choose this blog site?

My blog is on I set up a blog for serial fiction there a few years back and found the site easy to use. It works well across devices which is handy as I travel a bit for work and write a lot on my tablet and phone.

What is it like to get feedback on posts?

It’s really encouraging. I have received some great feedback and it is interesting to take a step back and review what generates a higher response. One of my best posts was a writing book review (Still Life with Teapot) and anything that includes a reference to writing morning pages usually gets some feedback. I am still learning but putting in lots of tags definitely helps. I also enjoy reading and following other blogs, and provide feedback too as I know it makes my day to know that someone has taken the time to read my blog.

Tips for new bloggers?

Content matters most. Blogs are a great way to get your voice and your interests across. Some will get a better response than others, and it is important to read what others are writing too. I have come across some really great blog posts and found inspiration and learned a lot from more experienced bloggers. I now feel more engaged as an active writer in a virtual community.

If you are thinking about blogging, I’d encourage you to give it a go. There are many benefits to creating, writing and putting your work out there, and to be an active part in a writing community whether it’s local or online or a happy mix of the two.

Why do you blog?

[Photo: dog in a bathtub reading The Land for some inexplicable reason atop the newsagency at Gunning, NSW]


Beneath the surface

The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre at Katoomba is an amazing space. Located beside the equally fantastic Blue Mountains City Library  in Parke Street, above the Coles/Village complex, the site offers a wide variety of exhibitions and resources along with a great cafe and gift shop. And the outlook from the viewing platform is spectacular.

The current exhibitions include Mapspace and Hayley West’s Remnants of the dead and demands on the living.  The West exhibition is defined as an artistic inquiry into death rites, a contemplation of life and loss, a reimagining of objects and memories. A range of media is used to highlight the transformation of objects; their role and importance change over time as they are passed on to the next custodian. This transformation is often shown as cathartic, ‘a way to sit with grief’. 

One of the aims of the exhibition is to raise the level of death literacy through arguing that by being informed and prepared for death, this knowledge is in turn empowering not only for ourselves but for others.

Grief can be difficult to display in our society. The visible signs of grief are seldom on show; there are no widow’s weeds or black armbands to demonstrate to others that you are grieving. There was a podcast about this last year on Earshot (Radio National) which outlined how it was challenging at times not only to reveal that you were grieving, but also how to signal that you were ready to return to the world. Another interesting podcast on this matter was an interview earlier this year with Airdre Grant on her book, Stumbling Stones. Grant is able to articulate the wild despair that can accompany loss, the sense that everything that mattered so much before the loss subsequently barely matters at all.

West’s exhibition offers some insights into how objects can be transformed to help with the process of grieving and of acceptance. It is thought provoking and despite the gravitas of the subject, it offers hope.

[Photo: Hoskins Memorial Presbyterian Church (Uniting Church of Australia), Bridge Street, Lithgow]