Dirt Music – playing in my head, again…

I’ve discovered that great books are worth a second read in one lifetime. I recently revisited Tim Winton’s novel, Dirt Music, and it’s still a magnificent, compelling read. Besides the accolades on the title below, it won quite a few other awards too.


Dirt Music is a tale of raw psychological depth, about being held back by the violent chains of the past, of a life-inertia born of grief and regret—where the rescuer and the rescued are not clearly signposted (I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that’s the happy part).

Descriptions of the novel are more numerous than Dirt Music covers in this post.

Dirt music 4

Apart from my bolded additions, Penguin Books describe the (love) story thus:

‘Georgie Jutland is a mess. At forty, with her career in ruins, she finds herself stranded in White Point (a ‘personality junkyard’) with a fisherman (with a dirty secret) she doesn’t love and two kids whose dead mother she can never replace. Leached of all confidence, she spends her days in isolation tedium and her nights in a blur of vodka self-recrimination. One morning, in the boozy pre-dawn gloom, she sees a shadow drifting up the beach below – a loner called Luther Fox (haunted by his past), with danger in his wake.’

There are many twists and turns and vivid settings, and you don’t dare skim-read in case you miss the author’s lyrical prose. Tim Winton elucidates things many people don’t talk about, reminding us that we’re not alone. I enjoy the way he walks among us with a universal voice (no matter what country you’re from)—which drops us right alongside his characters. Even if you don’t understand all of Winton’s characters you’ll care, and want to know what happens to them.

My imagination provided me with different settings ten years on from my first reading, a possible cause for concern, but I’m sticking to the theory that it was just a different film version running through the projector in my head. I knew the ending—but couldn’t remember exact details, yet Winton had me on tender-hooks ALL over again.

Here are some of my favourite quotes that won’t spoil the story. -

  • Georgie looked at the martyred jut of his hip bones.
  • “The hot Vegemite breath of a child.
  • “The girls had a slutty self-possession that attracted men and boys like food.
  • When a character is way out at sea, swimming in rough, choppy seas – “The water is all bellies and hips like a packed dance floor.”
  • “The sky was a sea, blue as a coma.”
  • The stars roll by on their wheels.”
  • “Tonight every flurry beneath the rock feels like the breeze of her passing.

Years later, I’m drawn to the vulnerability of the male characters, and am more sympathetic to their poignant loneliness. Winton’s calibrated unfolding of Luther Fox and Big Jim Buckridge, even other minor male characters, shows great sensitivity and highlights a vulnerability, a sense of them being trapped in their own shells. Heath Ledger was expected to play the role of Luther Fox in the movie – he would have been a perfect choice.

Dirt music 5

Below are a few humble quotes from Winton on winning the Miles Franklin Literary Award – from a Sydney Morning Herald interview.

Tim Winton

Tim Winton

“You get a little bit of affirmation [from literary awards], which is nice, but you can’t take it too seriously because if you win it doesn’t mean necessarily that yours is the best book. If you lose it doesn’t mean yours isn’t the best book,” Winton says.

“I’ve been doing it long enough to know that it’s a bit of a crapshoot, a bit of a lottery and you can’t take it too seriously. Otherwise you’ll give yourself a broken heart, you know. Or you’ll start writing with a view to cracking the prizes.”


I enjoy escapism, so Dirt Music is my favourite of Winton’s books. Although his other novels are also evocative journeys, the emotionally compelling and ultimately uplifting story of Dirt Music puts it on my short-list of favourite novels.

Any suggestions for other inspiring writers of succinct prose? I’d love to read them.

Penguin Books Australia

Tim Winton’s Big Issues – smh.com.au

To all the writing perfectionists …

I’m following on from my previous post, Why I Write, and promise this will be one minute and fifty-four seconds well spent. The YouTube clip I’m recommending is titled – Ira Glass on the Creative Process. I know there’s a plethora of wonderful writing advice out there, but this one sticks for me.

What is Ira Glass known for, besides his enviable abs and self-effacing humour?

this american life 1

Photo credit: bit.ly/1j9NpH3 The Onion

Mr Glass’s award winning radio show,  This American Life, tells the stories of ordinary Americans, most of them true and most of them by or about everyday people. Don’t let the word, ‘Americans’ put you off; these stories are fascinating because they are about all of us. This American Life is broadcast on nearly 600 stations (including ABC radio, Australia), and is consistently the top Podcast on iTunes.

Da da … Ira Glass on the Creative Process, it’s gold:

As an aside, if you’re a commuter or planning a car trip I recommend downloading the $3.79 App and listening to Somewhere in the Arabian Sea-

this american life 3

This story is still on their favourites short list and goes for an hour. Fun to listen to Ira Glass getting into big trouble when he asks about sexual relations on the USS John C. Stennis.

What are your golden nuggets of writing advice? I’d love to know. :)


Why I write

The erudite and purportedly flippant Lee-Anne (also champion of the written word, chooks and dogs) at Is It Just Me, has kindly asked me to join a blog hop answering a few questions on Why I Write.

So, here goes, and I’d love to know your answers to these questions.

How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

Genre? No idea what genre I belong in, novel wise. I’ve always been the round-peg in the square hole. Is there a genre for romantic comedy/suspense with a dark twist? The book covers in ‘romantic comedy’ don’t quite match my story. I will work on this…

Like Pinky Poinker, I could blame Monty Python and The Young Ones, (I’d add Absolutely Fabulous) for encouraging my differences.

ab fab

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1qhLVgu

But I’d also have to add the influence of my dear, one-of-a-kind scientist father who is somehow so culture/gender/race/sexuality-blind that everybody can relate to him. It’s something I aspire to, whether writing or not.


OK, he’s fashion blind too. Orange TOWELLING hat!

Should one write to a prescribed genre? I can’t control what comes out anyway, it’s a lot like having a tummy bug.

Why do I write?

Writing is caffeine for my soul.

When I’m pleased with how I’ve arranged my words, it feels sexier than chocolate and champagne in a hot tub with the man of my dreams. Probably because the happiness from writing is more attainable and lasts longer. Actually, now I’ve found this image …

hot tub

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1ltsAFP

Why do I write? Like the psychologist Dan Gilbert says – we, as individuals, are a work in progress that mistakenly think our identities and personalities are finished. We live under the illusion that the person we are now is who we will remain for the rest of our lives. The writing journey has liberated me from that illusion, it’s helped me unfurl. I love that word. UNFURL.

Writing is like showing the world my insides. That’s scary but writing is greater fun than this fear. It’s also about connecting with people. I’ve also learnt to toughen up, to take constructive criticism on board, but not to hang my self-worth or the equilibrium of my soul on external opinions. Still, it’s the biggest shot in the arm when someone tells me they really enjoyed Arafura and/or the humour in the story.

Writing and reading can decrease our sense of isolation. We are social beings and besides, it’s cheaper than therapy.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process sounds simple, yet in reality, is fraught. I try to clear my mind of the everyday. It helps if I meditate or listen to music that appeals to my soul. But it can take a couple of days to get in the right zone. It’s not writers block, it’s about feeling light-hearted enough to be funny, or playful perhaps, to find my voice, or the voices of my characters.

Coffee helps. Praise helps. Praise rockets me to the sparkly zone pretty damn quickly.

Then, when I’m there, as Ann Lamott explains – “It’s tea-time, and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It’s that simple.”

tea party 3

And this crazy… Photo credit: bit.ly/1vc0EY2

Except, like a crazy-lady/ steam train that can’t stop, my characters keep talking to each other – and I scribble conversations on scraps of paper, or in my phone – at red lights, in the middle of the night, even dash in and out of the shower in case I forget. (I really am going to get a whiteboard for the shower.) I look like one of those people who can talk on their phone hands free, except I don’t even have a phone or the earpiece. See? Crazy.

Reading other authors broadens my writing process too. It’s reassuring to see a famous writer break a rule. But as my old-head-on-young-shoulders daughter tells me, “You have to know the rules to break the rules.”

What I’m working on.

I’m working on the second book in the Arafura series, Arafura – Unfinished Business, which should be published in a couple of months, or just as soon as I take my meds for editing disease. Here is the cover, designed by the talented Michelle Rene Goodhew. I think Michelle Rene has walked the fine line of illustrating a cover implying danger but also a more light-hearted element.

Arafura final

The first book is Arafura – Blood, the Wet and Tears.

For this blog hop, Why I Write, I would like to pass the baton to the inclusive, generous Su Leslie at Zimmerbitch: Age is just a (biggish) number. (who understands that age is relative – my Dad would get that!)


and the irrepressible and forthright Shelley Sackier who claims she is all of the below, but she forgot to add her positive aura. Shelley has previously written a post of this kind and her response is at Peak Perspective,


Here are some other links to the Why I Write blog hop, which may interest you:

The Adventures of Pinky Poinker 




With Some Grace

and thanks again, Lee-Anne at Is It Just Me?

Why do YOU write?

Keeping up with the Jones’s …really?

A young friend (McMansion-child) of my daughter’s walked into our then house and exclaimed, “Oh, this is the smallest house I’ve ever been in!”

It probably was. Our house was built in 1920, and from then until the end of the Second World War it was the local house women went to have their babies. Apparently labour wards didn’t exist in hospitals back then, they’d just pop down to the local mid-wife’s abode. Our lounge room was the three-bed ward, my eldest daughter’s bedroom the delivery room. New mothers stayed for TEN days! (The mind boggles how the midwife managed the washing, and cooking … )

Our chirpy young visitor was correct in her real estate appraisal, and we added a second living area and indoor/outdoor deck on later. But I was often comparing us against the Jones’s mothers with their architect designed, well-appointed homes at my daughters’ school, trying not to. It was an affluent suburb, and we didn’t have a ‘normal’ house. But I discovered it was a blessing, a good lesson in life – march to the beat of a your own drum, ie don’t apologise if your drum is smaller, or different, or a bit quirkier. Are you happy with your drum? Well, then …

Besides, did other, fancy homes have -

1. – a tree house?

Treehouse 2

2. – a flying fox?

flying fox

3. – feral Cabbages roaming the garden?



4. – a kookaburra window made by arty brother-in-law?


5. - not a man-shed to die for, but a man-shed that refused to die.


Please note – shed, not house. It wasn’t THAT small.

6. – TWO shower-heads in the shower? (it was like that when we bought the house, I swear!)

7. – wonderful neighbours? (You know who you are :))

8. – ghosts? We didn’t either, but we should have!

9. – a frog pond whose inhabitants made ‘other’ neighbours complain, and hardly any visiting children fell into.

After renovating and narrowly avoiding an owner-builder-style divorce, we moved to Canberra. Our current home is a plain-Jane type home. I now write in my spare time, so poor Jane is neglected, incontinent during wet weather and has annoying wool carpet which collects stains, but she’s comfortable, and my husband makes wonderful wine in the cellar.

Unfortunately said husband (please note – I said the wine was wonderful, not the husband,) has stamped his different beat on to Jane, and the neighbours are talking, but I’ll keep that story for the next post. I never said the beat of your own drum had to be embarrassingly eccentric.



PHOTO versus ART challenge

A quick, playful post for Friday -

Show a photo and then a contrasting artwork of a place you’ve lived, or where you’re currently living. Be as inventive as you like.

If you’d like to join in, send the link to your post in the comments. :)

My photo is of Sydney Harbour -

Sydney harbour


And the contrasting artwork of Sydney Harbour is the cover of Midnight Oil’s record, Red Sails in the Sunset -



Photo credit: Midnight Oil

Have a great weekend everybody!

Drawing your own line in the sand.

I’m inspired by a thoughtful comment on my last post about Maya Angelou. Rebecca mentioned inspiring young women and men on how they see themselves, but it’s a challenge for all of us really—whether its appearance, age, occupation, skin colour, wealth, poshness of abode, etc

Why are so many of us concerned about what others think? Sure, in our evolutionary history, getting on socially meant the difference between life and death. But many of us allow what others think of us (and sometimes only what we THINK others think of us) to overshadow what we think of ourselves.

I once worked with an inspiring youth counsellor. Boundaries, she said, most peoples’ problems are about boundaries. About not setting boundaries between wives, husbands, parents, children, friends, relatives, work colleagues, the general public. Also about not drawing a line between what people think of you and what you think of yourself.


Maya Angelou knew about boundaries. Maya found the edges where she ended and others began.

your opinion

Being a fox (and not a hedgehog), I have grappled with boundaries. I can easily default to thinking the confident hedgehogs of the world know better than me. Even back in Year 5, Sharon of the Shaved Arms once sniffed that, although my skinny legs stood in the way of even a working relationship between us, if I shaved them I’d be much improved. Alas, my mother gave me a boundary—I was not allowed near a razor before high school.

Teaching classrooms of young, often super-charged egos with a mixed bag of parenting forced me to learn about boundaries, real fast—bless them. And training a puppy who thinks he’s a human trapped in a dog’s body, who my husband would ditch me for if he was … that is another line in the sand!

Anyhow, I hope the word boundary begins to tease its way into your consciousness as it has mine. It’s not a magic wand-method, it takes effort, and these links say it better than me. I chose Oprah because she and Maya were good friends.

Begin to Set Personal Boundaries  Oprah

How to Set Boundaries – 3 Crucial steps Tiny Buddha    Britt Bolnick



A phenomenal woman, indeed.

Maya Angelou—author, poet, human rights activist, has died at age 86.


Photo credit: bit.ly/1kMe9M7

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


What empowering, inspiring words on true beauty for young girls and women to hear, for us all to be reminded of.

maya 3

Photo credit: bit.ly/1pzeSkl

maya 4

Photo credit: bit.ly/1msLhHg

maya angelou 2

Photo credit: bit.ly/1hzROgA


Photo credit: bit.ly/1nWkoMT

I am enriched reading her legacy of literature, poetry, her quotes—that’s how Maya Angelou has made me FEEL. I am off to role model “kick ass” to my young girls, and give “NORMAL” a good run for its money, although that’s just probably being an embarrassing mother. :) And I’m off to read Maya’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), about her very challenging life up to the age of seventeen.

maya 5

Photo credit: bit.ly/1pzlBed


Photo credit: bit.ly/SRQvno

I am sure Maya will rest in peace, because she worked hard for it in her life.

Maya Angelou official website

Huffington Post  article