Susan Wyndham: On Losing a Parent

Click here for more details or to buy My Mother, My FatherAfter my 2008 book Life in His Hands, about the Sydney neurosurgeon Charlie Teo and his patient Aaron McMillan, a young pianist who had brain cancer, I declared that I would never write another book about illness and death. But then my mother died.

Mum faded away so slowly that I didn’t even admit to myself that she was dying. I was an only child and she had been divorced and on her own since I was a small child, so we’d had a close relationship.

I was alone with her when she died at home. Mum was 82 and you could say – in that dreadful cliché – ‘‘she’d had a good innings’’, so her death wasn’t a tragedy. You could even say it was a relatively peaceful death.

But for me it was a devastating shock. I wasn’t prepared for it at all. And in the months after she died I was wracked by all sorts of complicated thoughts and feelings.

Apart from the great absence she left, I was filled with guilt and regrets. I felt the pain of her suffering and played her death over and over in my mind. I felt I hadn’t shown her enough love and care. I had lost the person who had loved me most and longest, and with her went part of my identity and purpose. I became terribly aware of my own mortality and the brevity of life.

None of those feelings are unique to me but until you experience them you have no idea how they can bowl you over. The thing that saved me was talking to other people, hearing their stories and telling them mine. Hearing what other people went through and how they survived helped me to feel less alone and less crazy. And I realised that as a baby boomer I was surrounded by people in the same phase of life.Susan Wyndham

Towards the end of 2011 I was at a party and found myself talking to Jane Palfreyman, a publisher at Allen & Unwin whose father had also died that year. As we stood there tearily sympathising I asked, ‘‘Do you think there’s a book in this?’’ ‘‘Yes, I do,’’ she said.

So I commissioned the 13 other writers who are in My Mother, My Father. Some were people whose stories I partly knew, others were writers I admired and hoped would have something interesting to say. We could all see that we might help other people by sharing our individual stories about those great universal themes of life, death, families, love and all its complications.

Each story is beautiful and tough and moving – and sometimes funny – in its own way. I hope readers will find stories with particular meaning and resonance for them.

Thank you for sharing this with us Susan.

Click here for more details or to buy My Mother, My FatherMy Mother, My Father

edited by Susan Wyndham

Some of Australia’s best known writers share their wise and searingly honest experiences of losing a parent.

The loss of a parent is an experience that we all face without any training – relating to a parent through old age and illness; going through the actual death in different circumstances and whether we can help parents to have a good death; the emotional aftermath – shock, grief, relief, the effect on families; funerals, wills and other rituals; clearing out the house and keeping memories alive; recovery and carrying on with life; the longer-term changes in us and our relationship with our parents.

Edited by Sydney Morning Herald literary editor, journalist and writer Susan Wyndham, My Mother, My Father is a collection of stories from 14 remarkable Australian writers, sharing what it is to feel loss, and all the experiences and memories that create the image of our parents. Contributors include Helen Garner, David Marr, Tom Keneally, Gerard Windsor, Susan Duncan and Caroline Baum.

These stories are intimate, honest, moving, sometimes funny, never sentimental, and always well written.

About the Editor

Susan Wyndham is the literary editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. In her career as a journalist she has been editor of Good Weekend magazine, New York correspondent for The Australian and a deputy editor of the Herald. She is the author of Life In His Hands: The True Story of a Neurosurgeon and a Pianist, and has edited and contributed to several other books.

Click here to order a copy of My Mother, My Father from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookshop

Countdown to Australia’s Favourite Novelist: 20-11 as voted by you

What a journey it’s been. From the hundreds of nominations, to the tens of thousands of votes, and here we are at the second last day of the countdown to Australia’s Favourite Novelist.

For those that are coming to the party a little late, here’s the story so far:

We hope you’re all looking forward to tomorrow when we unveil  Australia’s top 10 Favourite Novelists, as well as the launch of our Australian Stories Initiative. Booktopia is proudly Australian Owned and Operated and we all love Australian books. So we thought, well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what we’ve got in store for you. Let’s just say buying Australian Books has never been easier.

Plus there will be loads of discounts and freebies on offer from tomorrow through to Monday.

But what a list we have for you today. 20-11 in the voting. Sit back and enjoy.


Our Pick

20. Helen Garner

Helen Garner’s first novel, Monkey Grip, was published in 1977, and immediately established her as an original voice on the Australian literary scene. She is known for incorporating and adapting her personal experiences in her fiction, something that has brought her both praise and criticism, particularly with her novels, Monkey Grip and The Spare Room.

Throughout her career, Garner has written both fiction and non-fiction. She attracted controversy with her book The First Stone about a sexual harassment scandal in a university college. She has also written for film and theatre, and has consistently won awards for her work.

Our Pick

In subsequent books, she has continued to adapt her personal experiences. Her later novels include The Children’s Bach and Cosmo Cosmolino. In 2008 she returned to fiction writing with the publication of The Spare Room, a fictional treatment of caring for a dying cancer patient, based on the illness and death of Garner’s friend Jenya Osborne. She has also published several short story collections: Honour & Other People’s Children: two stories, Postcards from Surfers and My Hard Heart: Selected Fictions.

Click here to go to Helen Garner’s author page


19. Fiona McIntosh

Fiona McIntosh is a fantasy author originally born in Brighton, England. At the age of nineteen, she travelled first to Paris and later to Australia, where she has lived ever since.

She worked for many years in the travel industry but after her shift to full-time writing she roams the world researching and drawing inspiration for her novels.

Our Pick

Adelaide is her home base, which she shares with her husband and twin sons, but Fiona does most of her writing from the peace of southern Tasmania.

To date she has written 24 adult novels across various genres and seven novels for children.

Click here to go to Fiona McIntosh’s author page


18. Keri Arthur

Keri Arthur first started writing when she was twelve years old, and to date, she’s finished fifteen novels.

Her books have received many nominations and prizes, including making the final five in the Random House Australia George Turner Prize.

Our Pick

She has also been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards, received a ‘perfect 10′ from Romance Reviews Today, as well as being nominated for Best Shapeshifter in PNR’s PEARL Awards.

She’s a dessert and function cook by trade, and married to a man who not only supports her writing, but who also does the majority of the housework. They have one daughter, and live in Melbourne,

Click here to go to Keri Arthur’s author page


17. Dianne Blacklock

Dianne Blacklock was born in Sydney and grew up in the St George area, completed a bachelor of arts degree at the University of NSW, then married, raising four children. She has been a teacher, trainer, counsellor and market researchers.

Dianne was 39 and a part-time TAFE communications teacher when her first novel was chosen from the “slush pile” of unsolicited manuscripts at Pan Macmillan in 2000.

Our Pick

She has since had eight novels published, Call Waiting, Wife for Hire, Almost Perfect, False Advertising, Crossing Paths, Three’s a Crowd, The Right Time and The Secret Ingredient.

When she’s not writing she goes on rampages through the house, cleaning and emptying out cupboards and making everyone do extra chores. Needless to say, the family prefers it when she’s writing.

Click here to go to Dianne Blacklock’s author page


16. Geraldine Brooks

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues.

In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

Our Pick

She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. Her first novel, Year of Wonders, is an international bestseller, and People of the Book is a New York Times bestseller translated into 20 languages. She is also the author of the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence.

Click here to go to Geraldine Brooks’ author page


15. Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville is one of Australia’s best-known authors. She’s published  eight books of fiction and four books about the writing process. Her best-known works include the international best-seller The Secret River,  The Idea of Perfection, The Lieutenant and Lilian’s Story.

The Secret River has won many prizes, including the Commonwealth Prize for Literature and the Christina Stead Prize. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award.

Our Pick

Several of her novels have been made into major feature films, and all have been translated into European and Asian languages.

In March 2010 Kate Grenville was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of New South Wales and in November 2012 she was awarded the same honour by the University of Sydney.

Click here to go to Kate Grenville’s author page


14. Mandy Magro

Mandy Magro lives in the picturesque country township of Mossman, North Queensland, with her husband and daughter.

Our Pick

She loves writing about the Australian outback and all the wonderful characters that live there, and her own adventures on the land have made her the passionate country woman she is today.

Her previous novels include Rosalee Station and Jacaranda.

Click here to go to Mandy Magro’s author page


13. Matthew Reilly

Matthew Reilly is the international bestselling author of ten novels: Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Area 7, Scarecrow, Hover Car Racer, Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors and Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves.

In 2005, Matthew was the first author to participate in the Australian Government’s ‘Books Alive’ initiative, for which he wrote the short novel Hell Island, featuring Shane Schofield. Over 200,000 copies of that work were given away for free in August of 2005.

Our Pick

Matthew’s books are published in over 20 languages and he has sold over 3.5 million books worldwide: over 1 million in Australia alone; over a million in the US; and over a million in the UK.

Walt Disney Pictures have optioned the movie rights to his children’s book, Hover Car Racer, while Ice Station was optioned by Paramount Pictures.

Click here to go to Matthew Reilly’s author page


12. Nick Earls

Nick Earls writes long, short and medium-sized fiction, so far including twelve novels and numerous shorter works. With the publication of the first installment of the Word Hunters series in September 2012, he is now officially also a writer for children.

Reputable reviewers have compared his work with that of Nick Hornby, Raymond Carver, Martin Amis, VS Naipaul, JD Salinger, Woody Allen and Jeffrey Eugenides, which just goes to show that, if you write enough and publish enough, anything can come your way.

Our Pick

He is the winner of a Betty Trask Award (UK) and Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award. Perfect Skin was the only novel to be a finalist in the Australian Comedy Awards in 2003, and was adapted into a feature film in Italy (Solo un Padre, Warner Brothers/Cattleya). 48 Shades of Brown was a Kirkus Reviews (US) book of the year selection, and was adapted into a feature film in Australia (Buena Vista/Prima). Five of his novels have been adapted into stage plays.

He has also written for newspapers, including the New York Times, the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald.

He was born in Northern Ireland, but has spent most of his life in Australia, where many of his books have been bestsellers.

Click here to go to Nick Earls’ author page


11. Mem Fox

Mem Fox was born in Australia, grew up in Africa, studied drama in England, and returned to Adelaide, Australia in 1970. She is Australia’s best loved picture-book author.  Her first book, Possum Magic, has sold over four million copies and is still the best selling children’s book in Australia, 29 years after its publication.

She has written over 40 books for children among which are the perennial favourites: Possum Magic, Time for Bed and Where Is The Green Sheep?; and several books for adults also, including her best selling book for parents: Reading Magic: how your child can learn to read before school and other read aloud miracles. Her book: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes was on the New York Times best-seller list for 18 weeks in 2008—2009 and also won best book for young children at the 2010 Turin International Book Festival in its Italian edition. Her books have been translated into 19 languages.

Our Pick

Mem Fox was an Associate Professor of Education at Flinders University in Adelaide where she taught teachers for 24 years until her early retirement in 1996. She has received many honors and awards from various Australian governments and other organisations for services to literature, as well as three honorary doctorates for her work in literacy. She has visited the USA over 100 times as both a consultant in literacy and as an author. She keeps threatening to retire but never quite gets around to it as she is always finding something new to write about or shout about.

Click here to go to Mem Fox’s author page


Don’t forget to come back tomorrow at midday as we announce the Top 10 votes for Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

Award-winning author Charlotte Wood reveals her Five Favourite Australian Authors

animal-people

Award-winning author

Charlotte Wood

author of The Children, Animal People, Love and Hunger and many more

reveals her

Five Favourite Australian Authors

                                                   —————————————————

I hate picking favourites; mine change all the time. But here are Five Australian novelists I really love.



Patrick White

Because of his humanity, the depth of his perception, his humour and his boldness with language. The Solid Mandala is one of my most cherished books.

Click here to buy The Solid Mandala by Patrick White



Helen Garner

Garner’s precision, the clarity of her gaze and her willingness to turn that gaze on herself as much as her characters – she is an inspiration to me and always will be. The Spare Room is a masterpiece of truthful fiction.

Click here to buy The Spare Room by Helen Garner



the-great-arch

Vicki Hastrich

Author of just two novels so far, but what novels they are. Swimming with the Jellyfish and The Great Arch are both full of wit, charm, quiet ambition and astounding language, but her compassion and empathy are what shimmer long after the technical dazzle quietens.

Click here to buy The Great Arch by Vicki Hastrich



Tegan Bennett Daylight

Like Garner, Daylight is so clear-eyed it makes you weep. Her newest stories, about the turning point between adolescence and adulthood, have made me gasp with the shame and pain of recognition. I have learned more from Daylight’s writing than almost anyone else’s – her novels are Safety, What Falls Away and Bombora.



Joan London

The Good Parents is one of the Australian novels I most loved in the past decade. London has the kind of serious, literary ambition that can be easily overlooked because of its subtlety and grace, but her writing is true, confident, soaringly good. I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Click here to buy The Good Parents by Joan London


Charlotte is shortlisted for Booktopia’s: Australia’s Favourite Author.

Be sure to check out (and subscribe to) Charlotte’s new literary magazine The Writer’s Room Interviews

And check out Charlotte’s answers in Booktopia’s Famous Ten Terrifying Questions here. Below is a little taste….

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I think fiction is the only place for me, really, and a novel provides a bigger space to muck around in than a short story. It’s nice to visit other places sometimes – I’m writing non-fiction at the moment – but I’m getting homesick for the novel, and can’t wait to walk through the door again. A novel allows me space to breathe, spread out, and think.

Click here to go to Charlotte’s author page on Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

The 50 Must Read Australian Novels (20 to 11) (The Popular Vote 2010)

A quick glance at the full list of your (remember, you voted for it) 50 Must Read Australian Novels will reveal which publisher is leading the way when it comes to keeping affordable editions of the Australian Classics in print. The Orange Revolution. This list shows that not only are these wonderful books remembered, but they are being read, talked about and shared amongst friends. So publishers, listen up – give us more great Australian content – and when you’re done, don’t forget to tell us you’ve done it, and we’ll read it. Promise. (Just don’t publish the books in poo brown, again, or choose dusty old brownish paintings for the covers, or let someone who can’t read design the covers, or publish them in fake red leather and gold lettering on the spine or… etc.)

I step down off my box and reveal the next ten – 20 to 11 of your 50 Must Read Australian Novels. (Full List of 50 Must Read Australian Novels now available – click here)


eucalyptus

20. Eucalyptus

Murray Bail

On a country property a man named Holland lives with his daughter Ellen. Over the years, as she grows into a beautiful young woman, he plants hundreds of different gum trees on his land.

When Ellen is nineteen her father announces his decision: she will marry the man who can name all his species of eucalypt, down to the last tree.Suitors emerge from all corners, including the formidable, straight-backed Mr Cave, world expert on the varieties of eucalypt.

And then, walking among her father’s trees, Ellen chances on a strange young man who in the days that follow tells her dozens of stories set in cities, deserts, faraway countries…

Awarded the Miles Franklin and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Eucalyptus is Murray Bail’s best and most moving novel. It is both a modern fairy tale and an unpredictable love story played out against the spearing light and broken shadows of country Australia.

Haunting and mesmeric, Eucalyptus illuminates the nature of story-telling itself. Continue reading

Rebecca James author of Beautiful Malice answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Struggling writers all over the world take down your pictures of J.K. Rowling – we have a new poster girl for you – Rebecca James… Who?

Good question. The very same question people asked in 1997 when the name J.K. Rowling was mentioned. Who?

In November 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald published an article about a woman in Armidale, NSW whose novel Beautiful Malice, had started “a worldwide bidding war which has pushed advances on her manuscript past $1 million and led the The Wall Street Journal to wonder if she is the next J.K. Rowling.”

That woman was Rebecca James and Beautiful Malice “has been sold in more than 20 countries and is scheduled to be translated into at least 13 languages. Not bad for a book that was initially rejected by every literary agency in Australia.”

I love that bit.

The article continues… “The Wall Street Journal described how the book sparked a frenzy among publishers at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair and called it ”a sexy psychological thriller”, a ”brilliantly plotted page-turner” and ”Stephenie Meyer … without the vampires”.

What is Beautiful Malice about?

“Set in Sydney, James’s novel depicts the relationship between Katherine, a solitary girl whose sister was brutally murdered, and gorgeous fun-loving Alice, who befriends her. Alice’s influence is transformative, but as Katherine emerges from her grief, she discovers her new best friend can be chilling as well as charming.” (Click here for the full SMH article)

BEAUTIFUL MALICE will be available from 1st May 2010  (pre-order here$19.95 SAVE 20% 

READ AN EXTRACT – CLICK HERE

The story of Rebecca James is wonderful – it is a  rags-to-riches story which will warm the hearts of Continue reading

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