Books

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5 minutes with author Imbi Neeme

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Imbi Neeme, a novelist, blogger and short story writer based in Melbourne. Her blog <em>Not Drowning, Mothering </em>won the 2010 Bloggies award for best Australian/New Zealand Weblog. After winning prizes for her short fiction works, she was awarded the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize for her manuscript <em>The Spill</em>, which was this month published as her debut novel.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Neeme about characters, Shakespeare and tips to prepare manuscripts for publication.</p> <p><strong><em>Over60</em></strong><strong>: What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>Imbi Neeme: <em>Less </em>by Andrew Sean Greer. I loved this book’s gentle humour and hapless protagonist. Plus, it really packs an emotional punch at the end. I cried.  </p> <p><strong>Character or plot – which one is more important to you?</strong></p> <p>Gah! This is like choosing a favourite child (which my children regularly ask me to do). Ultimately, I need both character and plot to keep my interest. If there is a very interesting person where nothing much happens to them, that’s a wasted opportunity to me; same applies to an interesting situation with thinly drawn characters. But, if I absolutely had to choose, I’d choose character. People are endlessly fascinating!  </p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>I have no routine to speak of. It’s really a “grab whatever time I can” situation. I blogged during the years that my children were very young and learned to write in short, sharp bursts. There’s no gentle, easing into it for me. I just open the laptop and go.</p> <p>When writing the first draft of a manuscript, my aim is always to write 250 words a day, although I might increase it to 500 words when I’m in full flow. I set my expectations of myself low so I get a sense of satisfaction from achieving my target and can close my laptop without resenting everyone and everything else in my life.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>I certainly have periods where I’m writing less, either because life is too busy or I’m somehow not in the mood to write. However, I’m always thinking about writing – either my current manuscript or an idea for a new short story or a blog post. As long as I’m thinking about writing, I don’t feel like I’m truly blocked. </p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>I don’t like it when authors over-describe their characters – as a reader, I like to be left a certain amount of space to imagine them myself. So if a protagonist ever looks in a mirror and describes themselves or what they’re wearing, my eyeballs start rolling so much I can’t read any further.</p> <p>Don’t tell anyone, but I love a proposal scene, no matter how corny. Seriously, I cry any time anyone proposes to anyone.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>If I had to choose just one, I’d choose Shakespeare. That way, I’d know once and for all who he was and if the name was just a pseudonym for a collective of writers (I’d have extra food on hand, in case it was a large cohort). Reportedly, Shakespeare wrote <em>King Lear </em>under lockdown conditions. I could ask if this was true and, if it is, make him (or them) apologise at once to a whole generation of writers who are currently feeling deeply inadequate.</p> <p><strong>Do you have any tips for writers looking to publish their manuscript?</strong></p> <p>I think it’s important to give all feedback you receive along the road to publication proper consideration, even the feedback that makes you want to shout and stamp your feet. I don’t mean that you have to do everything everyone tells you – ultimately, you remain the boss of your manuscript. But when someone suggests something that you don’t agree with, it’s good to at least ask yourself <em>why</em> it’s eliciting that kind of response and see if that’s something worth addressing.</p>

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5 minutes with author Katherine Firkin

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Katherine Firkin, a writer and TV news journalist based in New York, US. Having worked for over a decade in journalism – with roles at the <em>Herald Sun</em>, <em>7 News</em>, 3AW Radio, Nine’s <em>Today </em>show and Network Ten – Firkin has now jumped into publishing with her debut novel <em>Sticks and Stones</em>.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Firkin about creating backstories, Andrew Sean Greer, and how her journalism career influenced her crime fiction writing.</p> <p><strong><em>Over60</em></strong><strong>: What is your best writing tip? Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</strong></p> <p>Katherine Firkin: There’s a quote by American author Libba Bray, which I have as the screen saver on my laptop: “Write like it matters, and it will.”</p> <p>This concept kept me on track as I worked through the many drafts of my debut novel <em>Sticks and Stones</em>, as it reminded me to always give 100 per cent to my writing. There are times – particularly at the start of a novel – when the process of creating an entire manuscript can feel utterly overwhelming. But if you keep turning up, fully committed to whatever it is you are trying to create, you can have faith that eventually the writing will take shape.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>I really enjoyed <em>Less</em>, by Andrew Sean Greer. It’s a satirical novel that follows a second-tier author on a literary tour around the world. The writing is fabulous, fast and witty, and the flawed protagonist made me simultaneously cringe and laugh.</p> <p><strong>How has your experience as a crime reporter influenced your fiction writing?</strong></p> <p>There’s no doubt my career as a reporter has influenced my writing. One of the unique aspects of the job is that you are constantly on the road, visiting new places and meeting people from all walks of life – it gives you an incredible insight into the lives of those that perhaps you may not socialise with in normal circumstances.</p> <p>You also tend to see people at their absolute best, or in their most vulnerable moments. For crime or court reporters, it tends to be more of the latter. I’ve sat across from a mother who’d lost her son only hours earlier, I’ve watched parents identify their deceased son after he was struck by a train, I’ve sat in funerals of murder victims, I’ve had people beg for help in finding lost relatives… These are things that I don’t take lightly, and they certainly stay with me as I develop my stories.</p> <p><strong>Which comes first, character or plot?</strong></p> <p>With <em>Sticks and Stones,</em> I had a very strong sense of the opening scene and the central crime that was going to be committed. From there I spent a huge amount of time developing my characters, writing their backstories, and just generally creating their lives in my head. I don’t like to start writing or even consider an overarching plot until I know who I have in the book. And I’m not a planner – once I have a general sense of what I want to happen I start writing and let the characters dictate how things play out.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>Being a reporter is not a 9-to-5 job, so I don’t have a set routine with my writing as far as hours or days are concerned. However, I’m definitely a morning person and I try to be up by 5am every day, so I can get an hour or two of writing in before my reporting shift begins. On days off I can get as much as six hours of solid writing done, but on most days, I tend to average two to three focused hours.</p> <p><strong>Based on your experience, what is the most common misconception readers get from crime novels?</strong></p> <p>There seems to be a misconception that writing crime is easy, because the language tends to be simpler than, say, historical fiction. While it’s true that no one reading my book is going to need to reach for a thesaurus, I’m not convinced it would have been any easier if I’d chosen to tackle any other genre. Every style has its challenges, and when you write crime you have to pay particular attention to pacing and timelines.</p> <p><strong>What trope in thriller grinds your gears?</strong></p> <p>I’m not too worried by tropes in thrillers, because I truly believe that any concept can be successful if it’s executed well. Having said that, I made a conscious decision not to have a journalist running around solving crimes – I’m yet to meet a reporter who has the time, desire, or skills to play detective on their days off! I also avoided giving my lead detective Emmett Corban a particular ‘past’ or ‘dark secret’ that he needs to overcome.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>I’m going to go old school here and choose two women who influenced my childhood enormously: Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton. </p>

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A beginner’s guide to reading and enjoying poetry

<p>One of the things you get asked most when people find out that you’re a poet is whether you can recommend something that could be read at an upcoming wedding, or if you know something that might be suitable for a funeral. For most people, these occasions – as well as their schooldays – are the only times they encounter poetry.</p> <p>That feeds into this sense that poetry is something formal, something which might stand to attention in the corner of the room, that it’s something to be studied or something to “solve” rather than something to be lounged with on the sofa. Of course, this needn’t be true.</p> <p>We’ve seen over the past couple of months how important poetry can be to people. It’s forming a response in advertisements and marketing campaigns, it’s becoming a regular part of the public’s honouring of frontline heroes and, for people who write poetry more often, it’s becoming a way to create a living historical document of these unprecedented times – this latter point was the aim of the new <a href="https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/write/">Write where we are Now project</a>, spearheaded by poet Carol Ann Duffy and Manchester Metropolitan University.</p> <p>In years to come, alongside medical records and political reporting, historians and classes of schoolchildren will look to art and poetry to find out what life was like on a day-to-day basis – what things seemed important, what things worried people, how the world looked and felt and was experienced. Write where we are Now will, hopefully, be one such resource, with poets from all over the world contributing new work directly about the Coronavirus pandemic or about the personal situations they find themselves in right now.</p> <p><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/407507872" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>So the crisis has perhaps brought poetry – with its ability to make the abstract more concrete, its ability to distil and clarify, its ability to reflect the surreal and strange world we now find ourselves in – back to the fore.</p> <p>Many of you might be thinking now is the time to try and get to grips with poetry, maybe for the first time. A novel might feel too taxing, watching another film just involves staring at another screen for longer, but a poem can offer a brief window into a different world, or simply help to sustain you in this one.</p> <p><strong>How to enjoy poetry</strong></p> <p>If you’re nervous around poetry or are scared it might not be for you, I wanted to offer up some tips.</p> <p><strong>1. You don’t have to like it</strong></p> <p>Poetry is often taught in very strange ways: you’re given a poem and told that it’s good – and that if you don’t think it’s good then you haven’t understood it, and you should read it again until you have, and then you’ll like it. This is nonsense. There are poets and poems for every taste. If you don’t like something, fine. Move on. Find another poet. Anthologies are great for this, and a good place to start with your poetry journey.</p> <p><strong>2. Read it aloud</strong></p> <p>Poetry lives on the air and not on the page, read it aloud to yourself as you walk around the house, you’ll get a better understanding of it, you’ll feel the rhythms of the language move you in different ways – even if you’re not quite sure what’s going on.</p> <p><strong>3. Don’t try and solve it</strong></p> <p>This is something else that goes back to our educational encounters with poetry – poems are not riddles that need solving. Some poems will speak to you very plainly. Some poems will simply move you through their language. Some poems will baffle you but, like an intriguing stranger, you’ll want to step closer to them. Poems aren’t a problem to be wrestled with – mostly poems are showing you one small thing as a way of talking about something bigger. Poems aren’t a broken pane of glass that you need to painstakingly reassemble. They’re a window, asking you to look out, trying to show you something.</p> <p><strong>4. Write your own</strong></p> <p>The best way to understand poetry is to write your own. The way you speak, the street you live on, the life you’ve lived, is as worthy of poetry as anything else. Once you begin to explore your own writing, you’ll be able to read and understand other people’s poems much better.</p> <p>I would say this as a poet, but poetry is going to be even more central to how we rebuild after this current crisis. Poetry, especially the teaching of how we might write it, has this wonderful ability to create a new language, to imagine new ways of seeing things, to help people to articulate what it is that they’ve just been through. The way we move forward, as a community, as a society and, in fact, as a civilisation, is to push language to new frontiers, to use language to memorialise, reimagine and rebuild, but also to remember that poetry can be an escape, something to be enjoyed, something to cherish.</p> <p>With that in mind here is a poem I wrote for Write where we are Now.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/137321/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/331106/original/file-20200428-110779-1fegtkr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=237&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption"></span></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-mcmillan-535042">Andrew McMillan</a>, Senior Lecturer, Department of English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/manchester-metropolitan-university-860">Manchester Metropolitan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-beginners-guide-to-reading-and-enjoying-poetry-137321">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 novels with a real sense of place to explore from your living room

<p>Everybody knows the concept of “desert island books”, the novels you might pack if you were going to be marooned on a desert island. Thanks to the pandemic, many of us are indeed now marooned, except that instead of lazing on palm-fringed beaches, we’re in lockdown – in urban apartment blocks, suburban terraced houses or village homes.</p> <p>A good book can help us forget about the world around us and also substitute our longing for pastures greener. It can take us from our sofa to the beaches of Thailand (as in Alex Garland’s <em>The Beach</em>) or to the streets of New York (as in Paul Auster’s <em>City of Glass</em>).</p> <p>So, as someone who researches and teaches literature, I’ve chosen five novels that allow me to be elsewhere in my mind, whether that’s a glorious English countryside setting, the streets of a European metropolis, or the urban sprawl of an unnamed Indian city.</p> <p><strong>Kazuo Ishiguro: <em>The Remains of the Day</em></strong></p> <p><em>The Remains of the Day</em> tells the story of Stevens, the aged butler of Darlington Hall, and his ill-judged life choices that saw him being involved, albeit only on the fringes, with British fascism in the interwar years.</p> <p>This allusion to British fascism in particular is something that makes this novel stand out: it is a subject matter not often discussed or even taught.</p> <p>But at the moment, I can particularly take solace in Ishiguro’s beautiful descriptions of the countryside that Stevens – unused to the freedom of travel – encounters during his journey across south-west England:</p> <blockquote> <p>What I saw was principally field upon field rolling off into the far distance. The land rose and fell gently, and the fields were bordered by hedges and trees … It was a fine feeling indeed to be standing up there like that, with the sound of summer all around one and a light breeze on one’s face.</p> </blockquote> <p>As the lockdown drags on, this is a feeling I am longing for.</p> <p><strong>W.G. Sebald: <em>The Emigrants</em></strong></p> <p>This collection of four novellas is predominantly set in England and Germany but also offers glimpses of the US, Egypt, Belgium and Switzerland. Focusing on a different protagonist in each novella, Sebald portrays how the long shadows of the second world war have affected individuals – but also how Germany has engaged with its troubled past.</p> <p>His descriptions of the town of Kissingen’s illuminated spa gardens, with “Chinese lanterns strung across the avenues, shedding colourful magical light” and “the fountains in front of the Regent’s building” jetting “silver and gold alternately” conjure up images of times gone by and a town as yet untroubled by the scourge of antisemitism.</p> <p>Sebald’s narrative is a collage of fiction, biography, autobiography, travel writing and philosophy. His prose is so full of quiet beauty and eloquence that it always helps me forget my surroundings and enter a quiet and contemplative “Sebaldian” space.</p> <p><strong>Patrick Modiano: <em>The Search Warrant</em></strong></p> <p><em>The Search Warrant</em> pieces together the real-life story of Dora Bruder, a young Jewish girl who went missing in Paris in December 1941.</p> <p>Modiano attempts to retrace Dora’s movements across Paris and his book is full of evocative descriptions of quiet squares and bustling streets where she might have spent some time.</p> <blockquote> <p>In comparison with the Avenue de Saint-Mandé, the Avenue Picpus, on the right, is cold and desolate. Treeless, as I remember. Ah, the loneliness of returning on those Sunday evenings.</p> </blockquote> <p>From the first page it is clear that the city of Paris assumes the status of a character – and as readers we can follow the narrator’s (and Dora’s) movements on a map.</p> <p>If we are familiar with Paris, we can picture where they are. By tracing Dora’s possible steps, Modiano evocatively recreates the twilight atmosphere of Paris under occupation.</p> <p><strong>Rohinton Mistry: <em>A Fine Balance</em></strong></p> <p><em>A Fine Balance</em> is a sprawling narrative that takes the reader all the way to the Indian subcontinent.</p> <p>Set initially in 1975 during the emergency government period and then during the chaotic times of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Mistry’s novel focuses on the lives of four central characters whose lives are on a downward spiral, from poverty to outright destitution and, ultimately, death.</p> <p>Mistry does not whitewash the reality of urban poverty in India. His narrative does not hide away from disease or overcrowded slums with “rough shacks” standing “beyond the railroad fence, alongside a ditch running with raw sewage”. His are not places where we might want to be. But as readers, we become utterly engrossed in his characters’ lives – we hope with them, we fear for them and, at the end, we cry for them.</p> <p><strong>Elena Ferrante: <em>My Brilliant Friend</em></strong></p> <p>Elena Ferrante’s novels take me straight to my favourite city of Napoli. Starting with My Brilliant Friend, the four novels chart the intensive relationship between two girls, Elena “Lenù” Greco and Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo, who grow up in a poor neighbourhood in the 1950s.</p> <p>Reading Ferrante’s sprawling narrative conjures up images of Napoli and makes me feel like I am standing in the Piazza del Plebiscito or having an espresso in the historic Caffè Gambrinus. Together with Lenù, I can see Vesuvio across the Bay of Naples, the:</p> <blockquote> <p>delicate pastel-colored shape, at whose base the whitish stones of the city were piled up, with the earth-coloured slice of the Castel dell’Ovo, and the sea.</p> </blockquote> <p>I can feel, hear and smell Napoli around me. Reading about the city might not be as good as being there in person; but, at the moment, it is a close second.</p> <p>Of course, books can’t stop a global pandemic. But, for a short while, they can let us forget the world around us and, instead, transport us to different places, allowing us to at least travel in spirit.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/135367/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-berberich-319477">Christine Berberich</a>, Reader in Literature, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-portsmouth-1302">University of Portsmouth</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-novels-with-a-real-sense-of-place-to-explore-from-your-living-room-135367">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Duchess Camilla makes acting debut in charity project

<p>The Duchess of Cornwall has performed her first ever character role since joining the British Royal Family as she joined Oscar winners for a charity reading.</p> <p>Appearing alongside Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi and actors Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad, Duchess Camilla took part in the sixth episode of<span> </span>James and the Giant Peach, with Taika and Friends<span> </span>on YouTube.</p> <p>“I’m not much of an actor but I’ll do my best,” Camilla told Waititi, a New Zealand filmmaker, before she began reading the Roald Dahl classic from her Birkhall residence.</p> <p>The Duchess played the part of the Ship’s Captain in the story. One of her lines read: “Holy cats! Send a message to the Queen at once! The country must be warned!”</p> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4g1wRIMNV9M"></iframe></div> <p>The project is an initiative from the Roald Dahl Story Company to raise funds for Partners in Health, who are working on the front line amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>The Duchess, who is royal patron of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, said in a statement: “I hope this campaign will raise vital funds to support those most in need at this very challenging time – as well as helping families and children currently in lockdown to find a moment of comfort through the joy of reading.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">The Duchess of Cornwall has joined <a href="https://twitter.com/TaikaWaititi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TaikaWaititi</a> and The <a href="https://twitter.com/roald_dahl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@roald_dahl</a> Story Company for her first character reading in Episode 6 of James and The Giant Peach with <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TaikaAndFriends?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TaikaAndFriends</a>. 📖 <a href="https://t.co/lMcITcoDb7">https://t.co/lMcITcoDb7</a></p> — Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) <a href="https://twitter.com/ClarenceHouse/status/1265629629194416130?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 27, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>The readings have also been joined by a number of other celebrities, including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Chris Hemsworth.</p>

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JK Rowling unveils new book and will donate all royalties

<p>JK Rowling has unveiled a new children’s book, which she is releasing in chapters each weekday for children to enjoy during these “strange, unsettling times”.</p> <p>The author announced the news on Twitter, saying the upcoming book – titled <em>The Ickabog</em> – is not a spin-off of her best-selling <em>Harry Potter </em>series.</p> <p>Rowling said she wrote “most of the first draft” more than 10 years ago, while she was still writing the <em>Harry Potter </em>books.</p> <p>“A few weeks ago at dinner, I tentatively mooted the idea of getting <em>The Ickabog</em> down from the attic and publishing it for free, for children in lockdown,” Rowling said in a statement on Tuesday.</p> <p>“Over the last few weeks I’ve done a bit of rewriting and I’ve decided to publish <em>The Ickabog</em> for free online, so children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.”</p> <p>Chapters of <em>The Ickabog </em>are being published every weekday until July 10 on <em><a href="https://theickabog.com/">The Ickabog website</a></em>.</p> <p>Rowling also invited young readers to draw illustrations for the story in an official competition being run by Scholastic. Winners will see their artwork in the book, which will be published in print, eBook and audiobook in November.</p> <p>“Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things: we aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!” she said.</p> <p>Rowling is pledging all author royalties from the book to “projects and organisations helping the groups most impacted by COVID-19”, she wrote on Twitter.</p>

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Creating writing: 3 tips to start

<p>Always wanted to write, but had no clue where to begin? It can be daunting to get started and put the first sentence on that blank page. Author and creative writing lecturer Ronnie Scott shared some tips to help you get on track to writing your first novel.</p> <p><strong>Start where you are</strong></p> <p>Looking for inspiration? Take notes – the best ideas might just be waiting in plain sight.</p> <p>Scott advised aspiring writers to carry a notebook and get into the habit of writing down what they see in their surroundings. “It gets you into the habit of thinking, thinking visually, and then translating that into words,” he said.</p> <p>Apart from improving your writing skills, these notes can also help spark ideas and develop the seed for your future stories.</p> <p><strong>Allocate time for research</strong></p> <p>Research is important to provide your story with rich details and authenticity – but it can also distract you from writing the story itself. Scott recommended separating the research stage from the creative parts of the work.</p> <p>“Allocate yourself an hour of research, for example,” he said.</p> <p>“Then for the next days of your work, you are absolutely just going to play in the document … you’re going to write down anything that comes into your head.”</p> <p><strong>Challenge yourself</strong></p> <p>If you have a great story idea but don’t know how to put it into writing, take on small challenges. For example, you can try creating a 200-word version of the story or allocate an hour to get as many words as possible on the page.</p> <p>Even if the end result isn’t satisfactory, the exercise could yield new learnings. “You [might] have something bad on the page,” Scott said.</p> <p>“You can come back to it tomorrow. You can read it critically, you can think, ‘Okay, what was I trying to do here? Why didn’t it work out?’</p> <p>“You unfortunately have to probably go through a bit of creative discomfort to get yourself to finish something, but once you do that, there are really great things waiting on the other side.”</p>

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How the Queen came to hold 7 Guinness World Records

<p>It’s been 68 years since Queen Elizabeth II took over the British throne, and ever since, the 94-year-old monarch has made history many times over.</p> <p>Among her many accomplishments are Guinness World Record titles, which the Queen holds quite a few of.</p> <p>From longest-reigning queen to the wealthiest, here are some of the Queen’s Guinness World Records.</p> <p><strong>Oldest British Queen</strong></p> <p>On 21 December 2007, Queen Elizabeth II was given the title of oldest British queen at the age of 81 and 244 days old.</p> <p>The record was previously held by the monarch’s great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria.</p> <p>Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on 6 February 1952 following the death of her father King George VI.</p> <p>Her reign surpassed Queen Victoria’s on 9 September 2015, after ruling for over 63 years.</p> <p>As of the Queen’s 94th birthday on 21 April 2020, she has ruled uninterrupted for 68 years and 75 days.</p> <p><strong>Oldest current monarch</strong></p> <p>In 2015, Queen Elizabeth became the world’s oldest monarch when the former title holder, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, died at the age of 90.</p> <p><strong>Longest-reigning living monarch</strong></p> <p>While the Queen currently is the fourth-longest reigning monarch in the world, she does hold the title of the longest-reigning living monarch.</p> <p>The top three longest-reigning monarchs include King Louis XIV of France, who ruled for 72 years and 110 days, followed by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who ruled for 70 years and 126 days and King Johann II of Liechtenstein, who was ruler for 70 years and 91 days.</p> <p><strong>Most countries to be head of state simultaneously</strong></p> <p>The Guinness World Records revealed Queen Elizabeth holds the record “in terms of the number of independent nations for which the same person is lawfully Head of State at the same time” with 16.</p> <p>Acknowledging that this makes her “possibly the most powerful woman in the world,” the book of records states: “While the Queen's role is nominal and ceremonial (exercising no political powers), more than 139m people in 15 Commonwealth states (plus the UK) recognise her as their monarch.”</p> <p><strong>Most currencies featuring the same individual</strong></p> <p>Queen Elizabeth’s profile is featured on the coinage of at least 35 different countries, while Queen Victoria’s image appeared on currency from 21 countries and King George V appeared on 19.</p> <p><strong>Wealthiest Queen</strong></p> <p>In 2012,<span> </span><em>The Sunday Times</em><span> </span>estimated the Queen’s total wealth including fine art, jewellery and property, to be £310m (AUD 579m).</p>

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How to read Shakespeare for pleasure

<p>In recent years the orthodoxy that Shakespeare can only be truly appreciated on stage has <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11956151/Sir-Ian-McKellen-Dont-bother-reading-Shakespeare.html">become widespread</a>. But, as with many of our habits and assumptions, lockdown gives us a chance to think differently. Now could be the time to dust off the old collected works, and read some Shakespeare, just as people have been doing for more than 400 years.</p> <p>Many people have said they find reading Shakespeare a bit daunting, so here are five tips for how to make it simpler and more pleasurable.</p> <p><strong>1. Ignore the footnotes</strong></p> <p>If your edition has footnotes, pay no attention to them. They distract you from your reading and de-skill you, so that you begin to check everything even when you actually know what it means.</p> <p>It’s useful to remember that nobody ever understood all this stuff – have a look at Macbeth’s knotty “<a href="https://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/if-it-were-done-when-tis-done/">If it were done when ‘tis done</a>” speech in Act 1 Scene 7 for an example (and nobody ever spoke in these long, fancy speeches either – Macbeth’s speech is again a case in point). Footnotes are just the editor’s attempt to deny this.<span class="attribution"><a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/" class="license"></a></span></p> <p>Try to keep going and get the gist – and remember, when Shakespeare uses very long or esoteric words, or highly involved sentences, it’s often a deliberate sign that the character is trying to deceive himself or others (the psychotic jealousy of Leontes in <a href="https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-plays/winters-tale/">The Winter’s Tale</a>, for instance, expresses itself in unusual vocabulary and contorted syntax).</p> <p><strong>2. Pay attention to the shape of the lines</strong></p> <p>The layout of speeches on the page is like a kind of musical notation or choreography. Long speeches slow things down – and, if all the speeches end at the end of a complete line, that gives proceedings a stately, hierarchical feel – as if the characters are all giving speeches rather than interacting.</p> <p>Short speeches quicken the pace and enmesh characters in relationships, particularly when they start to share lines (you can see this when one line is indented so it completes the half line above), a sign of real intimacy in Shakespeare’s soundscape.</p> <p>Blank verse, the unrhymed ten-beat <a href="http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/sonnetstyle.html">iambic pentamenter structure</a> of the Shakespearean line, varies across his career. Early plays – the histories and comedies – tend to end each line with a piece of punctuation, so that the shape of the verse is audible. John of Gaunt’s famous speech from Richard II is a good example.</p> <blockquote> <p>This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,<br />This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars.</p> </blockquote> <p>Later plays – the tragedies and the romances – tend towards a more flexible form of blank verse, with the sense of the phrase often running over the line break. What tends to be significant is contrast, between and within the speech rhythms of scenes or characters (have a look at Henry IV Part 1 and you’ll see what I mean).</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6u009U1q69A?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p><strong>3. Read small sections</strong></p> <p>Shakespeare’s plays aren’t novels and – let’s face it – we’re not usually in much doubt about how things will work out. Reading for the plot, or reading from start to finish, isn’t necessarily the way to get the most out of the experience. Theatre performances are linear and in real time, but reading allows you the freedom to pace yourself, to flick back and forwards, to give some passages more attention and some less.</p> <p>Shakespeare’s first readers probably <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/apr/01/reading-shakespeare-book-plays-emma-smith">did exactly this</a>, zeroing in on the bits they liked best, or reading selectively for the passages that caught their eye or that they remembered from performance, and we should do the same. Look up <a href="https://shakespeare.folger.edu">where a famous quotation comes</a>: “All the world’s a stage”, “To be or not to be”, “I was adored once too” – and read either side of that. Read the ending, look at one long speech or at a piece of dialogue – cherry pick.</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/pjJEXkbeL-o?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>One great liberation of reading Shakespeare for fun is just that: skip the bits that don’t work, or move on to another play. Nobody is going to set you an exam.</p> <p><strong>4. Think like a director</strong></p> <p>On the other hand, thinking about how these plays might work on stage can be engaging and creative for some readers. Shakespeare’s plays tended to have <a href="https://www.shakespeareswords.com/Public/LanguageCompanion/ThemesAndTopics.aspx?TopicId=37">minimal stage directions</a>, so most indications of action in modern editions of the plays have been added in by editors.</p> <p>Most directors begin work on the play by throwing all these instructions away and working them out afresh by asking questions about what’s happening and why. Stage directions – whether original or editorial – are rarely descriptive, so adding in your chosen adverbs or adjectives to flesh out what’s happening on your paper stage can help clarify your interpretations of character and action.</p> <p>One good tip is to try to remember characters who are not speaking. What’s happening on the faces of the other characters while Katherine delivers her long, controversial speech of apparent wifely subjugation at the end of The Taming of the Shrew?</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ti1Oh9imI8I?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p><strong>5. Don’t worry</strong></p> <p>The biggest obstacle to enjoying Shakespeare is that niggling sense that understanding the works is a kind of literary IQ test. But understanding Shakespeare means accepting his open-endedness and ambiguity. It’s not that there’s a right meaning hidden away as a reward for intelligence or tenacity – these plays prompt questions rather than supplying answers.</p> <p>Would Macbeth have killed the king without the witches’ prophecy? Exactly – that’s the question the play wants us to debate, and it gives us evidence to argue on both sides. Was it right for the conspirators to assassinate Julius Caesar? Good question, the play says: I’ve been wondering that myself.</p> <p>Returning to Shakespeare outside the dutiful contexts of the classroom and the theatre can liberate something you might not immediately associate with his works: pleasure.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/136409/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-smith-221714">Emma Smith</a>, Professor of Shakespeare Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oxford-1260">University of Oxford</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-read-shakespeare-for-pleasure-136409">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Rachael Johns

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Rachael Johns, a romance writer and English teacher based in Perth. Her novel <em>The Patterson Girls</em> was named the Favourite Australian Contemporary Romance in the 2015 Australian Romance Readers Awards and General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2016 Australian Book Industry Awards. Her latest book <em>Something to Talk About </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Johns about Marian Keyes, stay at home activities, and her favourite romance tropes.</p> <p><strong>Over60:</strong> <strong>What is your best writing tip?</strong></p> <p>Rachael Johns: To be a writer you must also be a reader and you must read LOTS, inside and outside your genre. Read for pleasure but also with a critical eye, trying to learn from your favourite authors and the bestsellers.</p> <p><strong>How have you been holding up living with coronavirus restrictions?</strong></p> <p>As an author, I’m quite used to living a quiet life at home, but having my family around all the time has made being creative a little bit harder. I’m using the downtime when I can’t focus as much on writing to read lots, catch up on TV and have finally taken up knitting – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.</p> <p> <strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p><em>The End of Cuthbert Close</em> by Cassie Hamer.</p> <p><strong>What do you think makes for great romance?</strong></p> <p>Chemistry, conflict and emotion. I love when there’s a lot of playful banter between the two main characters – when they’re clearly attracted to each other, but they can’t or don’t want to act on these feelings for some reason.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>I try to keep to school hours, Monday to Friday. First hour or so involves admin stuff – like emails, interviews, chatting with readers on Facebook/Instagram and then I get serious. I aim for about 2,000 words a day, and if I don’t make those words during the week, I try and make them up on the weekend.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>Usually if I’m stuck mid-book it’s because I’m trying to make the characters do something that isn’t really true to their personality. Once I remember this, I go for a long walk or take a shower and try to brainstorm what else could happen instead that is within their character.</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>I’m not a fan of the really alpha male hero, but aside from that, I’m open to most romantic tropes. My top favourites however are ex-lovers reunited, friends to lovers, and a good love triangle.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with? </strong></p> <p>Ooh, tough choice – can I really only pick one?! If so, I choose Marian Keyes – I’d love to pick her writing brain but also just hang out with her because she seems so warm and funny!</p>

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Why rereading Harry Potter might be the next best thing after your friendships

<p>Humans are innately social creatures. But as we stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, video calls only go so far to satisfy our need for connection.</p> <p>The good news is the relationships we have with fictional characters from books, TV shows, movies, and video games – called parasocial relationships – serve many of the same functions as our friendships with real people, without the infection risks.</p> <p><strong>Time spent in fictional worlds</strong></p> <p>Some of us already spend vast swathes of time with our heads in fictional worlds.</p> <p>Psychologist and novelist <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22yoaiLYb7M&amp;t=122s">Jennifer Lynn Barnes</a> estimated that across the globe, people have collectively spent 235,000 years engaging with Harry Potter books and movies alone. And that was a conservative estimate, based on a reading speed of three hours per book and no rereading of books or rewatching of movies.</p> <p>This human predilection for becoming attached to fictional characters is lifelong, or at least from the time toddlers begin to engage in pretend play. About half of all children create an <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Imaginary-Companions-Children-Create-Them-ebook/dp/B000TTVQAU/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?dchild=1&amp;keywords=marjorie+taylor%27s+imaginary+friend&amp;qid=1586910704&amp;sr=8-1-fkmr0">imaginary friend</a> (think comic strip <a href="https://calvinandhobbes.fandom.com/wiki/Hobbes">Calvin’s tiger pal Hobbes</a>).</p> <p>Preschool children often form attachments to media characters and believe these <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-28765-005">parasocial friendships</a> are reciprocal — asserting that the character (even an animated one) can hear what they say and know what they feel.</p> <p>Older children and adults, of course, know that book and TV characters do not actually exist. But our knowledge of that reality doesn’t stop us from feeling these <a href="https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/soco.2008.26.2.156">relationships are real</a>, or that they <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333748971_Parasocial_Interactions_and_Relationships_with_Media_Characters_-_An_Inventory_of_60_Years_of_Research">could be reciprocal</a>.</p> <p>When we finish a beloved book or television series and continue to think about what the characters will do next, or what they could have done differently, we are having a parasocial interaction. Often, we entertain these thoughts and feelings to cope with the sadness — even grief — that we feel at the end of a book or series.</p> <p>The still lively <a href="https://twitter.com/reddit/status/1128051192288796672">Game of Thrones discussion threads</a> or social media reaction to the <a href="https://www.popsugar.com.au/celebrity/Offspring-Season-5-Preview-34780442">death of Patrick</a> on Offspring a few years back show many people experience this.</p> <p>Some people sustain these relationships by writing new adventures in the form of <a href="https://www.fanfiction.net/book/Harry-Potter/">fan fiction</a> for their favourite characters after a popular series has ended. Not surprisingly, Harry Potter is one of the most popular fanfic topics. And steamy blockbuster <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/hayleycuccinello/2017/02/10/fifty-shades-of-green-how-fanfiction-went-from-dirty-little-secret-to-money-machine/#58583ef3264c">Fifty Shades of Grey</a> began as fan fiction for the Twilight series.</p> <p><strong>As good as the real thing?</strong></p> <p>So, imaginary friendships are common even among adults. But are they good for us? Or are they a sign we’re losing our grip on reality?</p> <p>The evidence so far shows these imaginary friendships are a sign of well-being, not dysfunction, and that they can be good for us in many of the same ways that real friendships are good for us. Young children with imaginary friends show more <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630910">creativity</a> in their storytelling, and higher levels of <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/1131670?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents">empathy</a> compared to children without imaginary friends. Older children who create whole imaginary worlds (called <a href="https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cdev.13162">paracosms</a>) are more creative in dealing with social situations, and may be better problem-solvers when faced with a stressful event.</p> <p>As adults, we can turn to parasocial relationships with fictional characters to feel less <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022103108002412">lonely</a> and boost our mood when we’re <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2008.00197.x">feeling low</a>.</p> <p>As a bonus, reading <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377">fiction</a>, watching high-quality <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-44293-001">television shows</a>, and playing pro-social <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21171755">video games</a> have all been shown to boost empathy and may decrease <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jasp.12279">prejudice</a>.</p> <p><strong>Get by with a little help</strong></p> <p>We need our fictional friends more than ever right now as we endure weeks in isolation. When we do venture outside for a walk or to go the supermarket and someone avoids us, it feels like <a href="https://www.newswise.com/coronavirus/why-social-distancing-is-so-difficult-how-research-explains-our-behavior/?article_id=728360">social rejection</a>, even though we know physical distancing is recommended. Engaging with familiar TV or book characters is one way to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550612454889">rejuvenate</a> our sense of connection.</p> <p>Plus, parasocial relationships are enjoyable and, as American literature professor Patricia Meyer Spacks noted in <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/are-rereadings-better-readings">On Rereading</a>, revisiting fictional friends might tell us more about ourselves than the book.</p> <p>So cuddle up on the couch in your comfiest clothes and devote some time to your fictional friendships. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/apr/08/rereading-favourite-books-pleasure">Reread an old favourite</a> – even one from your childhood. Revisiting a familiar fictional world creates a sense of <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08824096.2017.1383236">nostalgia</a>, which is another way to feel less <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-20034-013">lonely</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23163710">bored</a>.</p> <p>Take turns reading the Harry Potter series aloud with your family or housemates, or watch a TV series together and bond over which characters you love the most. (I recommend <a href="https://ir.ua.edu/handle/123456789/3189">Gilmore Girls</a> for all mothers marooned with teenage daughters.)</p> <p>Fostering fictional friendships together can strengthen <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.160288">real-life</a> relationships. So as we stay home and save lives, we can be cementing the familial and parasocial relationships that will shape us – and our children – for life.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/136236/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/elaine-reese-1027041">Elaine Reese</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-otago-1304">University of Otago</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/missing-your-friends-rereading-harry-potter-might-be-the-next-best-thing-136236">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Tony Abbott hits back at Malcolm Turnbull’s Peta Credlin claims

<p>Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hit back at Malcolm Turnbull over claims of a “bizarre relationship” with a senior staffer. Turnbull spoke about Abbott and his former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, to ABC’s 7:30 which is mentioned in his new memoir <em>A Bigger Picture</em>.</p> <p>“He worshipped and feared her and she, on the other hand, treated him with disdain,” Turnbull told the ABC’s 7.30.</p> <p>“It was as though she felt, ‘I’ve created you, you’re my creation’, and she felt she owned him.</p> <p>“It was a bizarre – a truly bizarre – relationship.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Coming up tonight, <a href="https://twitter.com/leighsales?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@leighsales</a> interviews former prime minister <a href="https://twitter.com/TurnbullMalcolm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TurnbullMalcolm</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abc730?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abc730</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/auspol?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#auspol</a> <a href="https://t.co/VkHJjbFtNX">pic.twitter.com/VkHJjbFtNX</a></p> — abc730 (@abc730) <a href="https://twitter.com/abc730/status/1252129925500264448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 20, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>On Tuesday morning, Abbott was quick to respond.</p> <p>“I am aware of some pretty odious comments that one of my successors made last night,” he told Seven’s Sunrise.</p> <p>“Anyone who’s watched Peta Credlin on TV would know what an extraordinarily capable person she is.</p> <p>“She was an important part of the Abbott Government, she was a fine thinker, a greater organiser and a trusted colleague.”</p> <p>In a chapter titled ‘Tony and Peta’, Turnbull’s memoir revisits the relationship between Abbott and the woman who briefly served as deputy chief of staff in his own office while the Liberal Party was in opposition.</p> <p>When Abbott overthrew Turnbull as leader in 2009, Turnbull switched camps.</p> <p>Turnbull said that despite Abbott’s “carefully cultivated image as the hairy-chested, bike-riding, firefighting alpha male, complete with a swagger that would put a sailor to shame”, he was a pussycat when it came to his chief of staff.</p> <p>“You were really dealing with Peta and Peta was running the country and that was obvious, and dominating Abbott,” he told 7.30.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">On the dynamic between <a href="https://twitter.com/HonTonyAbbott?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HonTonyAbbott</a> and Peta Credlin. “You were really dealing with Peta. I mean Peta was running the country, and that was obvious, and dominating Abbott.” - <a href="https://twitter.com/TurnbullMalcolm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TurnbullMalcolm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abc730?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abc730</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/auspol?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#auspol</a></p> — abc730 (@abc730) <a href="https://twitter.com/abc730/status/1252178719763918848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 20, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Turnbull’s ‘no holds barred’ memoir is a scathing analysis of his three-year tenure as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia and hypocrisy within the Liberal Party is a theme he returns to often. If Turnbull isn’t slamming his successor, Scott Morrison, for his “cringe-worthy ‘daggy dad’ persona”, he’s calling Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton a “narcissist who was self-delusional” for thinking he could ever be prime minister.</p> <p>The personal lives of Nationals MPs Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen are also discussed in this book, including Turnbull himself being “sickened by the hypocrisy” of Christensen, who is a devout Christian but regularly visited “seedy” nightclubs in Manila.</p> <p>Christensen has since defended the trips, saying he was visiting his Filipina fiancée.</p>

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5 minutes with author Nicole Alexander

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Nicole Alexander, a novelist and fourth-generation grazier based in Moree, New South Wales. Her debut novel <em>The Bark Cutters </em>was shortlisted for an Australian Book Industry Award in 2011. Her latest book, <em>The Cedar Tree </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Alexander about Ernest Hemingway and how being a grazier has influenced her writing.</p> <p><strong>Over60:</strong> <strong>What is your best writing tip?</strong></p> <p>Nicole Alexander: Writing is about redrafting and refining, making that manuscript shine like a pearl.</p> <p><strong>How has your agricultural background influenced your writing?</strong></p> <p>As a grazier I’m very aware of my surroundings. Our landscape is a living breathing entity and because of that I treat the land as a character in all of my novels. The setting is the background to the narrative, but it is also the tapestry that the story unfolds upon and getting the detail right ensures that the work has a strong sense of place. It’s a sense of place that defines us and moulds us as individuals and having that reflected in a work of fiction can only make the story stronger and more authentic.</p> <p><strong>What book are you reading right now?</strong></p> <p>I’ve just finished Elliot Perlman’s <em>Maybe the Horse Will Talk</em>, a political satire set in Melbourne’s corporate world. Perlman’s take on the #metoo movement is emphasised by the use of overblown characters and a distinct lack of subtlety. Playful and witty.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p><em>Olive, Again</em> by Elizabeth Strout. The sequel to Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book <em>Olive Kitteridge</em> takes up from where we left the retired schoolteacher. I love feisty Olive as she struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Olive’s community is not so joyful and she herself is in her twilight years, so the narrative is not always uplifting but Olive’s life is a microcosm of our society – murder, inheritance, mayhem, retirement homes and children who should know better. Through it all Olive remains, obstinately, Olive.</p> <p><strong>Is there any books by other authors you wish you had written?</strong></p> <p>I think that there are particular works that only certain writers can craft and each of us have our own gifts. One book that stands out for me is <em>Cold Mountain</em> by Charles Frazier. It tells the story of W. P. Inman, a wounded soldier from the Confederate army who walks for months to find the love of his life Ada Monroe. It reminds me of Homer’s <em>Odyssey</em>. I don’t think anyone else could have written it.</p> <p><strong>When it comes to writing, do you plan ahead or go with the flow?</strong></p> <p>I tend to plot part of the story and then see where the narrative takes me as the characters development. Flexibility is important to the story arc – otherwise as an author you risk limiting narrative possibilities.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>I’ve always been drawn to Ernest Hemingway for his wonderful stories and the sparseness of his prose. His experiences as an ambulance driver during the Spanish Civil War and his larger than life persona would I imagine ensure an intriguing dinner companion.</p> <p><strong>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>‘The oxen is slow, but the earth is patient.’ Some say the quote is attributed to Buddha but there is no firm reference. Either way it’s a marvellous saying!</p>

Books

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5 books to keep young people happy during lockdown

<p>Stories can be mirrors that help young people express feelings about a given situation. They give children a vocabulary for what is happening. But, because of how <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html">fiction works in the brain</a>, stories can also be windows. When we read fiction, we inhabit other bodies and feel the concerns of other people. This helps young people to develop empathy – but has another profound effect. Reading stories makes us feel experienced and increases resilience.</p> <p>I’ve chosen some wonderful books that all function both as mirrors and windows for children as the world faces the effects of Coronavirus. They are beautifully written and/or illustrated and should fire young imaginations, while comforting the whole family.</p> <p><em><strong>The Red Tree</strong></em></p> <p>This is a beautiful picture book – sparse of text – with lush landscapes in <a href="https://www.famousauthors.org/shaun-tan">Sean Tan’s</a> magical style. The reader loses themselves in pages that are achingly evocative of yearning, loss and wonder in a kind of heady cocktail of intense emotion, boredom and stoicism.</p> <p>Dark leaves fall in our character’s bedroom, but by the end, they have coalesced into a beautiful red tree.</p> <p>There is space here for even a very young reader to express what they think is happening page by page. The art could stimulate imitation. I can also imagine making a little red tree trunk and branches and adding a leaf to it, day by day.</p> <p>There is very little reading to be done, so a slightly older child could also “read” it to a younger one.</p> <p><em><strong>The Mousehole Cat</strong></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/antonia-barber/">Antonia Barber</a> sets her classic story on the Cornish coast. The narrative is about a cat who saves the day when her community is threatened. It is wordier than many picture books, but narrated by the cat in clear, beautifully written prose – it’s a pleasure to read aloud.</p> <p><a href="https://www.booksillustrated.com/artist.php?id=5">Nicola Bayley</a>’s illustrations are engaging and immersive – who wouldn’t like to go to the seaside right now? – and the characters easily inspire affection.</p> <p>Touching on concepts of scarcity and sacrifice, this is a very empowering story for a young listener or reader. The smallest character in the story is the hero who saves everyone – by singing. It would be easy to live in this story for a while, going fishing from the laundry basket, practising storm singing, repeating some of the turns of phrase.</p> <p>The illustrations are inspiring for young artists and could also be the basis of remembering visits to the seaside, pretend beach picnics or natural history lessons.</p> <p><em><strong>Comet in Moominland</strong></em></p> <p>A trip to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/tove-jansson">Tove Jansson’s</a> Moominland always makes everything better. Here, the family flee from an approaching comet, meeting many favourite characters on the way.</p> <p>The much-beloved Moomins are eccentric hippo-like people, very accommodating of difference and otherness. That said, many of the characters have their little ways, and being accommodating isn’t always comfortable. The realism of the relationships gives even the silliest of Jansson’s stories the texture of real life.</p> <p>Quirky line drawings are immensely endearing and the story, while exciting with elements of real fear, never feels as if it will end badly. The language is fun, with word play and characters’ attitudes and, again, the child is the hero. It’s not hard to draw a Moomin, and there are endless opportunities for drama. Year twos or threes can probably read it to themselves, with someone on hand for the tricky bits, but it’s fun enough to engage older children, and silly enough for littlies.</p> <p><em><strong>The Wee Free Men</strong></em></p> <p>Tiffany Aching comes from chalkland, where nobody has it easy, and everyone works hard. When a rift opens on her doorstep and her despised little brother is taken, she discovers she’s not ordinary, after all. Armed with a cast-iron frying pan, she takes on the full force of Fairyland.</p> <p>This is a riotous out-loud read from the late <a href="https://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/about-sir-terry/">Terry Pratchett</a>, featuring a tribe of “pictsies” who speak in a Scottish accent that sounds a lot like the stand-up comic Billy Connolly. Tiffany’s gran has recently passed away – and the danger feels quite real – but we know that Tiff will get us through. She certainly does, battling forces of depression and self-doubt to do so – another young leader in a time of community danger. Even hardened teenagers might smile at the best bits and tweens will devour it whole. Children as young as six or seven can follow along.</p> <p>The narrative is a role-play bonanza and there are opportunities to investigate British folklore, identities in the United Kingdom and gender roles. Illustrations in the text might inspire art and mapping the settings would be an interesting exercise. Further adventures of some of the characters could be written, and geography lessons about chalk grassland would be easy to work in.</p> <p><em><strong>The Book Thief</strong></em></p> <p>For resilient older children and teens, <a href="https://www.chipublib.org/markus-zusak-biography/">Markus Zusac’s</a> story is set in a time of many lives lost – Germany during the second world war – and narrated by Death. It is gorgeously written (an international bestseller, adapted for film) and, while the subject matter is difficult, the narrative pulses with life and hope.</p> <p>For a young person engaged with current events, questioning authority and impatient of parental efforts to shield them from the grimmer elements of our current reality, this book could be a lifeline.</p> <p>Liesel Meminger is illiterate when the story begins, but takes a book that has been dropped at her brother’s graveside. As she begins to read and to leave childhood behind, she steals many more books. Love, death and the importance of even futile actions inform the story of Liesel’s coming of age and provide ways of thinking about what it means to be human.</p> <p>This could be read together silently, perhaps taking chapters in turn, rationed out as a treat for discussion or not. It’s a natural accompaniment to history lessons, geography, or some <a href="https://www.duolingo.com/">online German instruction</a> and watching the film could lead to a discussion of adaptation. But perhaps you could just leave a copy of it out for anyone who needs it to find and make their own.</p> <p>Many of these titles are available electronically, but local bookshops are delivering and posting orders. After all, there’s nothing more comforting than snuggling behind the protective embrace of an open book.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/134260/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mimi-thebo-1002534"><em>Mimi Thebo</em></a><em>, Reader in Creative Writing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bristol-1211">University of Bristol</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-five-books-to-keep-young-people-happy-during-lockdown-childrens-author-134260">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Katherine Scholes

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Katherine Scholes, a Tanzanian-born novelist based in Tasmania. She has sold more than two million books in Europe, with translated editions in Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Portuguese among others. Her novel <em>The Blue Chameleon</em> won a New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and <em>The Stone Angel</em> was longlisted in the International Dublin Literary Awards. Her latest book <em>The Beautiful Mother </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Scholes about <span>Dostoyevsky, memoirs, and reading in bed.</span></p> <p><strong>Over60:</strong> <strong>What is your best writing tip?</strong></p> <p>Katherine Scholes: Write the story that only you can tell. Begin by looking at the palette of your life – family history, personal experiences and interests, the people and places you know. If I find something in my story research that connects with my own story, however slightly, I always take note of it.</p> <p>My biggest rule is that all the main characters must change as a result of the things that will happen to them in the drama. I plan some of the changes in advance and others take me by surprise. I carefully keep track of them all as I work.</p> <p><strong>What book(s) are you reading right now?</strong></p> <p>I’m reading the new Marian Keyes novel <em>Grown Ups</em>. As always, she delivers humorously insightful pictures of family life, and tells a great story. Excellent escapism! Next, I’m going to revisit <em>The Hospital by the River</em> – the autobiography of one of my heroes, Dr Catherine Hamlin. She died recently at the age of 96, while still involved in running the fistula hospital she and her husband Reg established in Addis Ababa over sixty years ago. In the difficult times we are in, I want to read about people who are brave and compassionate.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you cry?</strong></p> <p>To be honest, it was my own novel <em>The Beautiful Mother</em>. While it’s not ultimately a heart-breaking story – more one of wonder and hope – there is a section that made me cry not just when I first wrote it (that’s normal) but every single time I re-read it, right up to the proof-checking stage. My editors said they had the same experience. Intense emotional engagement is what I most want from a book, so the tears are good ones.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p>Self-published memoirs. I find a wealth of amazing stories, characters and settings in these books and often use them in research. I’m well aware that the content would have been lost to the world if someone hadn’t gone to the effort and expense of publication. The books are easy to discover online or through libraries, but they often struggle to find the readership they deserve.</p> <p><strong>Paperback, e-book or audiobook?</strong></p> <p>Lots of people just love a good old-fashioned book, and I’m one of them. But every format has its advantages. Audiobooks are great for listening to while travelling and walking (even falling asleep). E-books offer easy, instant access – especially ideal in today’s strange world. They can also be a good way of reading long novels in bed. Some readers commented on the size and weight of my last novel <em>Congo Dawn</em>. They didn’t want the story to end, but they were getting sore wrists!</p> <p><strong>What do you think is the most challenging work you’ve ever read?</strong></p> <p><em>Wolf Hall</em> stretched the boundaries of my background in English history. I still loved the book, but I knew I wasn’t grasping the full story. Before that, it was <em>Crime and Punishment</em> by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which I studied at school. I never thought I’d get through it, but the main character has lingered with me now for many decades.</p> <p><strong>What do you do when you’re not writing?</strong></p> <p>I try to move around, as I always spend far too long sitting at my desk. Every day I walk along the beach outside my house, with my dog Darcy (She’s a staffy-whippet cross, if you can picture that!). Usually my parents come along as well. They often share anecdotes from their lives spent in England, Wales, Cornwall, Tanzania and Tasmania – which makes the times extra precious.</p> <p><strong>Which author, dead or alive, would you most like to have dinner with? </strong></p> <p>Graham Greene. I’m inspired by his novels, especially the ones set in Africa like <em>A Burnt-Out Case</em>. I’ve got a treasured copy of <em>In Search of a Character: Two African Journals</em>, which is a publication of his research notebooks. I wish I could be as disciplined as he was. He wrote to a very strict daily schedule – however, at least it also involved a glass of wine, a nap and a good dinner.</p>

Books

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Guide to the Classics: Albert Camus' The Plague

<p>Some weeks ago, I got an email from a student who had returned to Northern Italy over Christmas to see family.</p> <p>Unable to return to Australia, they were in lockdown. The hospitals were filling up fast, as COVID-19 <a href="https://epidemic-stats.com/coronavirus/italy">began to spiral out of control</a>. Sales of Albert Camus’ 1947 novel <em><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11989.The_Plague?from_search=true&amp;from_srp=true&amp;qid=lkEWcCTf5p&amp;rank=1">The Plague</a></em> (<em>La Peste</em>) were <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/28/albert-camus-novel-the-plague-la-peste-pestilence-fiction-coronavirus-lockdown">spiking</a>. Everyone was buying it.</p> <p>Rereading <em>The Plague</em> over these past weeks has been an uncanny experience. Its fictive chronicle of the measures taken in the city of Oran against a death-dealing disease that strikes in 1940 sometimes seemed to blur into the government announcements reshaping our lives.</p> <p>Oran is a city like anywhere else, Camus’ narrator tells us:</p> <blockquote> <p>Our citizens work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich. Their chief interest is in commerce, and their chief aim in life is, as they call it, ‘doing business’.</p> </blockquote> <p>Like people anywhere else, the Oranians are completely unprepared when rats begin emerging from the sewers to die in droves in streets and laneways. Then, men, women and children start to fall ill with high fever, difficulties breathing and fatal buboes.</p> <p>The people of Oran initially “disbelieved in pestilences”, outside of the pages of history books. So, like many nations in 2020, they are slow to accept the enormity of what is occurring. As our narrator comments drily: “In this respect they were wrong, and their views obviously called for revision.”</p> <p>The numbers of afflicted rise. First slowly, then exponentially. By the time the plague-bearing spring gives way to a sweltering summer, over 100 deaths daily is the new normal.</p> <p>Emergency measures are rushed in. The city gates are shut, and martial law declared. Oran’s commercial harbour is closed to sea traffic. Sporting competitions cease. Beach bathing is prohibited.</p> <p>Soon, food shortages emerge (toilet paper, thankfully, is not mentioned). Some Oranians turn plague-profiteers, preying on the desperation of their fellows. Rationing is brought in for basic necessities, including petrol.</p> <p>Meanwhile, anyone showing symptoms of the disease is isolated. Houses, then entire suburbs, are locked down. The hospitals become overwhelmed. Schools and public buildings are <a href="https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/comment/excel-convention-centre-covid-19/">converted</a> into makeshift plague hospitals.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/L8Dyf-wules?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class="caption">A convention centre in London has been transformed into a 4,000-bed hospital.</span></p> <p>Our key protagonists, Dr Rieux and his friends Tarrou, Grand and Rambert, set up teams of voluntary workers to administer serums and ensure the sick are quickly diagnosed and hospitalised, often amongst harrowing scenes.</p> <p>In these circumstances, fear and suspicion descend “dewlike, from the greyly shining sky” on the population. Everyone realises that anyone – even those they love – could be a carrier.</p> <p>Come to think of it, so could each person themselves.</p> <p>The failure of the governors to consistently impose “social distancing” is shown up spectacularly in the novel’s most picturesque scene. The lead actor in a rendition of Gluck’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EENw_ptgGcg">Orpheus and Eurydice</a> collapses onstage, “his arms and legs splayed out under his antique robe”.</p> <p>Terrified patrons flee the darkened underworld of the opera house, “wedged together in the bottlenecks, and pouring out into the street in a confused mass, with shrill cries of dismay”.</p> <p>Arguably the most telling passages in <em>The Plague</em> today are Camus’ beautifully crafted meditative observations of the social and psychological effects of the epidemic on the townspeople.</p> <p>Epidemics make exiles of people in their own countries, our narrator stresses. Separation, isolation, loneliness, boredom and repetition become the shared fate of all.</p> <p>In Oran, as in Australia, places of worship go empty. Funerals are banned for fear of contagion. The living can no longer even farewell the many dead.</p> <p>Camus’ narrator pays especial attention to the damages visited by the plague upon separated lovers. Outsiders like the journalist Rambert who, by chance, are marooned inside Oran when the gates shut are “in the general exile […] the most exiled”.</p> <p>Today’s world knows many such “travellers caught by the plague and forced to stay where they were, […] cut off both from the person(s) with whom they wanted to be and from their homes as well”.</p> <p><strong>Multiple allegories</strong></p> <p>Camus’ prescient account of life under conditions of an epidemic works on different levels. <em>The Plague</em> is a transparent allegory of the Nazi occupation of France beginning in spring 1940. The sanitary teams reflect Camus’ experiences in, and admiration for, the resistance against the “<a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-brown-plague/?viewby=title">brown plague</a>” of fascism.</p> <p>Camus’ title also evokes the ways the Nazis characterised those they targeted for extermination as <a href="https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/defining-the-enemy">a pestilence</a>. The shadow of the then-still-recent Holocaust darkens <em>The Plague</em>’s pages.</p> <p>When death rates become so great that individual burials are no longer possible – as in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFy3_hEBcy8">scenes we are already seeing</a> – the Oranaise dig collective graves into which:</p> <blockquote> <p>the naked, somewhat contorted bodies were slid into a pit almost side by side, then covered with a layer of quicklime and another of earth […] so as to leave space for subsequent consignments.</p> </blockquote> <p>When this measure fails to keep up with the weight of these “consignments”, as with the genocidal actions of the <em><a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Einsatzgruppen">Einzatsgruppen</a></em>, “the old crematorium east of the town” is repurposed. Closed streetcars filled with the dead are soon rattling along the old coastal tramline:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thereafter, […] when a strong wind was blowing […] a faint, sickly odour coming from the east remind[ed] them that they were living under a new order and that the plague fires were taking their nightly toll.</p> </blockquote> <p>Camus’ plague is also a metaphor for the force of what Dr Rieux calls “abstraction” in our lives: all those impersonal rules and processes which can make human beings statistics to be treated by governments with all the inhumanity characterising epidemics.</p> <p>For this reason, the enigmatic character Tarrou identifies the plague with people’s propensity to rationalise killing others for philosophical, religious or ideological causes. It is with this sense of plague in mind that the final words of the novel warn:</p> <blockquote> <p>that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Ordinary hope</strong></p> <p>There is nevertheless truth in the description of Camus’ masterwork as a “<a href="https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books/article-the-hope-at-the-heart-of-albert-camuss-plague-novel-la-peste/">sermon of hope</a>”. In the end, the plague dissipates as unaccountably as it had begun. Quarantine is lifted. Oran’s gates are reopened. Families and lovers reunite. The chronicle closes amid scenes of festival and jubilation.</p> <p>Camus’ narrator concludes that confronting the plague has taught him that, for all of the horrors he has witnessed, “there are more things to admire in men than to despise”.</p> <p>Unlike some philosophers, Camus became <a href="https://www.pdcnet.org/philtoday/content/philtoday_2017_0999_10_2_177">increasingly sceptical</a> about glorious ideals of superhumanity, heroism or sainthood. It is the capacity of ordinary people to do extraordinary things that <em>The Plague</em> lauds. “There’s one thing I must tell you,” Dr Rieux at one point specifies:</p> <blockquote> <p>there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is common decency.</p> </blockquote> <p>It is such ordinary virtue, people each doing what they can to serve and look after each other, that Camus’ novel suggests alone preserves peoples from the worst ravages of epidemics, whether visited upon them by natural causes or tyrannical governments.</p> <p>It is therefore worth underlining that the unheroic heroes of Camus’ novel are people we call healthcare workers. Men and women, in many cases volunteers, who despite great risks step up, simply because “plague is here and we’ve got to make a stand”.</p> <p>It is also to these people’s examples, <em>The Plague</em> suggests, that we should look when we consider what kind of world we want to rebuild after the gates of our cities are again thrown open and COVID-19 has become a troubled memory.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/134244/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-sharpe-125260">Matthew Sharpe</a>, Associate Professor in Philosophy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/guide-to-the-classics-albert-camus-the-plague-134244">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Natasha Lester

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Natasha Lester, a writer and public speaker based in Perth. Her 2008 debut novel <em>What Is Left Over, After </em>won the T.A.G. Hungerford Award for Fiction, and her books <em>The Paris Orphan </em>(also known as <em>The French Photographer</em>) made the New York Times Best Seller list. Her latest novel, <em>The Paris Secret</em>, is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Lester about historical fiction, Margaret Atwood’s humour, and writing while social distancing.</p> <p><strong>Over60:</strong> <strong>How have you been doing with social distancing?</strong></p> <p>Natasha Lester: As a writer, I’m used to working at home and not seeing too many people during the day so not much has changed! Although the house is much less calm and tranquil at the moment; my children’s schools have closed down because of the current situation we’re all facing, and my children are studying online. This means I’m constantly being pulled out of the 1940s and into the present whenever the kids need a hand. I don’t mind though – I’d rather they stay well and healthy.</p> <p><strong>What is your best writing tip? Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you</strong><strong>’</strong><strong>ve ever received?</strong></p> <p>The best writing tip I received was when I returned to university to study creative writing and wrote my first book as part of a master’s degree. I had no idea how to write a book and I was convinced that I needed to have some kind of plan or outline, but I had neither, just a very vague idea of a character. My supervisor told me to just write whatever was in my head that day about the story, and to do that every day. To trust that the story would work itself out if I trusted myself enough to sit down and write. So I did and it worked!</p> <p>The worst writing advice is to write what you know. I was not alive doing the 1940s, I’ve never worked as a war correspondent, and I can’t sew; yet I’ve managed to write about all of those things by doing the research and by emotionally connecting to my characters.</p> <p><strong>How did you start writing historical fiction?</strong></p> <p>A bit by accident! I wrote a contemporary novel, but it just wasn’t working and I didn’t know how to fix it. So I threw it in the bin, moped for a bit and then sat down to re-read all of my favourite novels. I realised that most of them were historical novels and I wondered why I hadn’t been writing what I loved all along. So I started that very day with [my novel] <em>A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald.</em></p> <p><strong>What book(s) do you think is underrated?</strong></p> <p>Amor Towles is now very well-known for <em>A Gentleman in Moscow</em>, but I also adored his first book, <em>Rules of Civility</em>. It’s definitely worth reading.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>This might sound strange, but Margaret Atwood’s <em>The Testaments</em> made me laugh. Atwood is so very witty, and her clever humour runs wild through the book as a nice counterpoint to the grim situation the women in the story are facing. </p> <p><strong>When it comes to writing, do you plan ahead or go with the flow?</strong></p> <p>I would love to be able to plan but I can’t! I’m so planned and organised in every area of my life except writing. I try to outline the plot of a book, but I have no ideas at all. Then I sit down to just write and the ideas come. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my creativity thrives in chaos!</p> <p><strong>How do you deal with writer</strong><strong>’</strong><strong>s block?</strong></p> <p>With three kids and a full-time job as a writer that I cram into school hours, writer’s block is a luxury I can’t afford. If I ever get stuck on a scene, I go for a walk. Fresh air and active meditation are the best creativity helpers.</p> <p><strong>Is there a clich</strong><strong>é </strong><strong>that you can</strong><strong>’</strong><strong>t help but love?</strong></p> <p><em>The Paris Secret</em> is the first time I’ve written a childhood friend romance. I loved exploring my characters’ friendship as kids, and how that changed as they became adults.</p>

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Love and a happy ending: Romance fiction to help you through a coronavirus lockdown

<p>Romance fiction has two <a href="https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx">defining features</a>.</p> <p>First, it centres on a love story. Secondly, it always ends well.</p> <p>Our protagonists end up together (if not forever, then at least for the foreseeable future) and this makes the world around them a little bit better, too.</p> <p>In times of uncertainty, upheaval and chaos, readers often turn to romance fiction: during the second world war, Mills &amp; Boon was able to maintain its paper ration <a href="https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198204558.001.0001/acprof-9780198204558">by arguing</a> its books were good for the morale of working women.</p> <p>The books the company was producing in this period were not about the war. Most never even mentioned it. Instead, they provided an escape for readers to a world where they could be assured everything was going to turn out all right: love would conquer all, villains would be defeated, and lovers would always find their way back to each other.</p> <p>Today, romance publishing is a <a href="https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx">billion-dollar industry</a>, with thousands of novels published each year. It covers a wide range of subgenres: from historical to contemporary, paranormal to sci-fi, from novels where the only physical interaction between the protagonists is a kiss, to erotic romance where sex is fundamental to the story.</p> <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_34_(Internet_meme)">Rule 34</a> of the internet states if you can think of something, then there’s porn of it. The same, I would argue, is true for romance fiction.</p> <p>But where to begin? As both a scholar of romance fiction and an avid reader of it, I’ve put together this list of five great reads for people who might want to start exploring the genre.</p> <p><strong>If you like Jane Austen, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42279630-the-austen-playbook">The Austen Playbook</a></em> by Lucy Parker</strong></p> <p><em>The Austen Playbook</em> is the fourth book in Parker’s London Celebrities series (all only loosely connected, so you can jump in anywhere).</p> <p>Heroine Freddy is an actress from an esteemed West End family, trying to balance her desire to perform in musicals and crowd-pleasers over her family pushing her towards serious drama. Hero Griff is a theatre critic and his family estate is playing host to a wacky live-action Jane Austen murder mystery, in which Freddy is playing Lydia.</p> <p>Parker is a gifted author, and this book is a light, bright and sparkling delight.</p> <p><strong>If you like (or hate!) dating apps, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863092-the-right-swipe"><em>The Right Swipe</em></a> by Alisha Rai</strong></p> <p>Many people now find partners on dating apps, but these apps are often <a href="https://theconversation.com/right-swipes-and-red-flags-how-young-people-negotiate-sex-and-safety-on-dating-apps-128390">not exactly friendly</a> for women.</p> <p>Rai addresses that to great effect in <em>The Right Swipe</em>, where heroine Rhiannon is the designer of a dating app designed specifically for women.</p> <p>She meets hero Samson the first time as a result of swiping right, and then the second time, months later, when he’s teamed up with one of her primary business rivals…</p> <p><strong>If you’re fascinated by psychology, try …</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35852829-the-love-experiment"><em>The Love Experiment</em></a> by Ainslie Paton</strong></p> <p>Paton is one of Australia’s smartest and most underrated romance authors. <em>The Love Experiment</em> draws on the <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167297234003">36 questions</a> developed by psychologist Arthur Aron to explore whether intimacy could be generated or intensified between two people if they exchanged increasingly personal information.</p> <p>The 36 questions were popularised in Mandy Len Catron’s 2015 New York Times essay <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/style/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html"><em>To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This</em></a>. Here, journalist protagonists Derelie and Jackson undertake the experiment in Paton’s book, only to find love is more complex than 36 questions.</p> <p><strong>If you think we need to save the oceans, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42016094-project-saving-noah"><em>Project Saving Noah</em></a> by Six de los Reyes</strong></p> <p>This book emerges from <a href="https://romanceclassbooks.com/about/">RomanceClass</a>, a fascinating community of English-language romance writers and readers based in the Philippines. One of their distinctive features is their collaboration with local actors in Manila to perform excerpts from the books (including <em>Project Saving Noah</em>) at their <a href="https://romanceclassbooks.com/live-reading/aprilfeelsday2019/">regular gatherings</a>. I was privileged enough to attend one of these last year.</p> <p>Protagonists Noah and Lise are graduate students in oceanography competing for one spot on a research project, while simultaneously being forced to work together. Their romance is conflicted and compelling, but what stands out about this book is the vividness with which their environment – natural and academic – is constructed.</p> <p><strong>If you like your protagonists to have some maturity, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44084867-mrs-martin-s-incomparable-adventure"><em>Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure</em></a> by Courtney Milan</strong></p> <p>If Milan’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she was at the centre of the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-the-romance-writers-of-america-can-implode-over-racism-no-group-is-safe-130034">recent scandal</a> engulfing the Romance Writers of America, which penetrated through romance’s usual cultural invisibility.</p> <p>When she’s not standing up against systemic racism, Milan writes excellent, mostly historical, romance. Mrs Martin is a delightful historical romp, as our two heroines Bertrice (aged 73) and Violetta (aged 69) team up against Violetta’s terrible nephew, and fall in love and eat cheese on toast together.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/133784/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jodi-mcalister-135765">Jodi McAlister</a>, Lecturer in Writing, Literature and Culture, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/love-and-a-happy-ending-romance-fiction-to-help-you-through-a-coronavirus-lockdown-133784">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Bernard Gallate

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Bernard Gallate, a writer, illustrator and teacher based in Sydney. He worked in the animation industry for companies such as Hanna-Barbera and Walt Disney before turning to writing and illustrating children’s books. His first contemporary novel, <em>The Origin of Me </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Gallate about creating children’s books, dealing with writers’ block, and Ruth Park’s timeless work.</p> <p><strong><em>Over60</em>: What is your best writing tip? </strong><strong>Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</strong></p> <p>Bernard Gallate: Good tip: Experiment with perspective. Instead of always writing from within a character, step back a little and give them free reign occasionally, as if you’re observing them doing their own thing.</p> <p>Worst tip: “Keep writing regardless of how you’re feeling”. I think it’s ultimately more productive to spend a little time tending to your internal state, instead of pressing on defiantly in a terrible mood. Small excursions and occasional treats are always beneficial.</p> <p><strong>How did you find writing a novel compared to writing children’s books?</strong></p> <p>I think everything has to be more distilled, more concise when writing children’s books because of the size restrictions dictated by format. There was definitely more freedom to explore multiple ideas in the early stages of writing my novel, <em>The Origin of Me</em>. Later in the process though, structuring and re-structuring became a huge challenge – especially with a dual narrative involved.</p> <p><strong>What book(s) are you reading right now?</strong></p> <p>I’ve just started <em>The Drover’s Wife</em> by Leah Purcell.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p><em>Nothing to See Here </em>by Kevin Wilson. It’s about a young woman, Lillian, who’s cajoled into becoming the nanny of twins who spontaneously combust when upset. The premise sounds grisly, but the book is a hilarious spin on the tale of an underdog prevailing against the odds.</p> <p><strong>When it comes to writing, do you plan ahead or go with the flow?</strong></p> <p>I prepare as much as possible, then jump right in and yield to the flow whenever it comes and wherever it takes me. Going somewhere unexpected and maybe a little risky is always preferable to stagnating. I wrote a 25-page synopsis for <em>The Origin of Me, </em>but the story was constantly evolving right up to the final draft.</p> <p><strong>How do you deal with writer’s block?</strong></p> <p>I give myself permission to play, go on an excursion, a walk or a swim. The solution often comes when I’m not fixated on finding it. If a scene is a bit stodgy, I challenge myself to transform it into something tasty, or remove it. A lot of my worst sections have become favourites.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Ruth Park. Her widely acclaimed first novel, <em>The Harp in the South, </em>has never been out of print. And after twelve years of working at The Rocks Discovery Museum, I still have young visitors telling me that <em>Playing Beatie Bow </em>is their favourite book. I love her descriptions of Sydney’s Surry Hills and The Rocks in earlier, leaner times, and her characters are unforgettable.</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? </strong></p> <p>The gay character being portrayed as witty, flamboyant and neurotic but destined for a tragic ending like a briefly spectacular firework is a bit overdone. Hopefully my character, Pericles Pappas, is a bit more nuanced. I’m always a sucker for the outsider finding their place in the world, and for the average protagonist doing something exceptional.</p>

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