Meet the Author: Patrick Holland

Patrick’s top tip for aspiring authors: Write about the first time you really hurt someone. That will knock the conviction that you’re a wonderful misunderstood genius out of you. Then you’ll be on your way.


patrick-holland300-image-581x445Patrick Holland is the award-winning author of The Source of the Sound, The Mary Smokes Boys, Riding the Trains in Japan and The Darkest Little Room. He lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Find out more at:



Why do you write? I think if you boiled it back to its essence, the answer would be because there is something healing – restorative – about the creative act. With luck and discipline, you can discover beauty and order in chaos.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would be a farmer and a composer. I still aim to become a composer one day. I’ve composed a few little pieces. And I’d have land and run cattle. Or else I’d be a hairdresser. All the girls at my hairdresser’s seem to have a wonderful, carefree life day to day.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? To be honest I never had any difficulty. The first few things I sent out were recognised by prizes and were published by default. The difficulty isn’t getting published, it’s making your work really worthwhile. Emerging authors being so focused as they are on publication baffles me – with that focus you’re almost certain to become a creature of the market. And the novelty of seeing your name in print will quickly wear off. Write what you most want to read. Then try to shape it even more to your own desires. None of us are all that unique, you’ll still find an audience, and you’ll have your authenticity intact.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? That I get to use my imagination daily, always trying to discover something more strange and beautiful and true than yesterday.

—the worst? The many years of watching your friends buy new cars, houses etc, while you, in the world’s terms, languish.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Pay less attention to what other people thought I was doing, and more about what I thought.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m glad I was never told the truth. If a writer truly knew how hard it was going to be at the outset, I doubt they’d start.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Hemingway’s from the intro the The First Forty-Nine Stories

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you’ll dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it to the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.

Writing isn’t violin playing or calculus. You can’t just practice and study and get good at it. You need first hand experiences of life, and the more, and more varied, the better for a writer.



Patrick Holland

The last bushrangers in Australian history, James and Patrick Kenniff, were at the height at their horse thieving operation at the turn of the 20th century. In One, troops cannot pull the Kenniff Gang out of the ranges and plains of Western Queensland – the brothers know the
terrain too well, and the locals are sympathetic to their escapades. When a policeman and a station manager go out on patrol from tiny Upper Warrego Station and disappear, Sergeant Nixon makes it his mission to pursue the gang, especially, Jim Kenniff, who becomes for him
an emblem of the violence that resides in the heart of the country.

It asks what right one man has to impose his will on another, and whether the written law can ever answer the law of the heart.

One is available here.




Meet the Author/illustrator: Lance Balchin

New happy Lance

Lance’s top creative tip: Experience is everything! I have tried to do as much as possible in this life, experience as wide a slice of this world as I can. Everything you do and every conversation you have will form part of the worlds that you create in your writing.

Lance Balchin studied photography at the University of Tasmania and went on to complete a Masters of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. Lance has worked as a head chef, co-owned a media production company, worked in fashion photography and fine art portraiture, and taught adult photography and film making. Lance was mentored by many of the original pioneers of the emerging Melbourne gonzo arts scene. The influences of Tom Waits, George Orwell, Patti Smith and Bukowski have always led his writing and image making. Lance is based in Brisbane.


Why do you write? I think that I write, illustrate and take photographs for the same reason; to communicate the way in which I see the world around me to others. The visual arts and literature are ways of performing to an audience and I love the idea that that audience could be anywhere and that my illustrative and written performance might move them and create an invisible connection between me and them.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d work in community law. I finished a law degree at the same time as getting the first publishing deal with Five Mile Press and have been too busy working on the Mechanica series to take it any further. I’d only be interested in working within my community to help people to whom the legal system offers little chance of substantive justice. I grew up in the working class suburb of Collingwood in the late ’70s and saw the importance of community action and support organisations.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Realising that what I had was a book. I’d finished a dozen illustrations and was thinking about exhibiting them in a gallery but then realised I could build a narrative around them. I was very lucky to find Karen Tayleur at Five Mile who has supported and helped develop the concept ever since.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? I have done all the illustrations and writing for the books. The team at Five Mile helped polish the graphic design. I’ve also developed a range of video and online content to help support the books.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? At the moment it is the ability to work seven days a week on the books. I love getting up ridiculously early (at 2am) and working through the morning. The best thing about my writing life is the writing I suppose; love the process.

—the worst? Honestly, nothing. I love what I do and getting the chance to do it leaves me no room to complain about any aspect of my writing and illustration life.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Nothing. I would do exactly what I have done up until now. Writing for me came at the right time. Finishing law gave me the discipline to tackle longer projects and my background in the visual arts gave me a way of making images that would get my book noticed. I think all the elements that have gone into making Mechanica were the product of 46 years and couldn’t have come earlier.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? It’s all so new to me still so I can’t say I know enough to want to change anything. As a children’s author I’m competing with an exciting and engaging world of digital entertainment, I knew that when I decided to put he book together. While it is hard to get many children to put down their iPad to read a book, I think that authors can still produce books that cut through all the noise to create worlds that children love to explore. I hope I’m doing that with the Mechanica series.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? There’s a song called ‘Work‘ by John Cale and Lou Reed that is about Andy Warhol. “It’s work, the most important thing is work…’ For me creating anything involves work – thousands and thousands of hours of work; most of which goes nowhere. You just have to keep going and write, illustrate or photograph something every day to progress forward.




Lance Balchin


At the end of the 22nd century, the environment has collapsed, species have become extinct and the land can no longer support nature…
Drone armies, engineered by humans, have fought one another across the east and west, but during these battles, many became damaged and lost contact with their handlers.
In an effort to overcome the species loss, robotics designers created Mechapets, complex robots that were crafted to resemble Earth’s lost but most exquisite insects and birds. The Mechapets were kept in sanctuaries and zoos for the public to enjoy, but it wasn’t long before some of the insects and birds escaped and began colonising lands, where they encountered some of the lost military drones.
The Mechapets, now known as Mechanica evolved at a startling rate, increasingly becoming dangerous hunting machines. Battles were fought against the ruthless species of Mechanica, who threatened human existence.
Protagonist Liberty Crisp has grown up surrounded by Mechanica. She has intimate knowledge of these robots, having learned about them from her parents, both scientists, and being taught by expert, Reginald P. Prescott. However, when the Steel Wall Defence System collapses on Saraswati, Liberty’s island home, it’s up to her to save its human inhabitants from almost certain destruction by the Mechanica.
Mechanica is a dystopian tale for our times, appealing to us to live more sustainably and with a greater appreciation for our precious resources.

It is available from

And here’s the link to the trailer…


Meet the Illustrator: Heather Charlton

I’m delighted today to introduce one of my fellow Wild Eyed Press picture book creators, Heather Charlton.

I asked Heather to tell me a little about herself…

!cid_57BE901D-63AC-47B7-91EC-F6A58CE4DC5B@homeA long time ago my father found me struggling to begin a primary school art construction project. To encourage a bit of resourcefulness he said: “Make something out of nothing and you will be all right.” His words motivated me to find a different way to make things work, and while I successfully completed the construction, I did not follow my father’s footsteps into an engineering career. Instead, I eventually undertook studies in fine art and have since enjoyed a creative journey in both business and pleasure.
Among various endeavours including raising my family,  part of my work life involved running my own floristry business, a commercial art studio and  more recently the management of a remote Indigenous Art Centre.
I enjoy the art-making process.  Ideas  for projects come from everywhere, and I scribble thoughts down quickly.  I have written and illustrated several stories for children, have one picture book published and other works are in progress.
Now, so many years later, my father’s words stay with me and I’m still making something  out of ‘nothing’ to bring ideas to life. And I’m still all right.

Find out more about Heather on her website



What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? Having the opportunity to spend time working with something I enjoy, and seeing the creative process through to becoming an actual product.
How do you approach an illustration project? If the work is a book, I read the manuscript several times to get the feel of the story. If necessary I research the subject matter/characters, then read again. I make  small quick sketches as ideas emerge as some of these may be useful later.  When working on a book, I rarely make illustrations in order,  often choosing the simpler ones first  as a ‘warm up’.  As the first and last pages are cornerstones to a picture book  I  like to leave them until most of the other works are complete.
What are you working on at the moment? I am  making preliminary drawings which will become paintings for a new children’s picture book.
Are there any areas of art that you still find challenging? Making art can be both exciting and challenging, but I find experimenting with use of  new media is sometimes outside the comfort zone.  This is good however, as trying new tools can produce surprising outcomes.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Finding a publisher
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I am interested in many forms of creative pursuit, however ideally I would be sitting on a beach somewhere above the 26th parallel with pen in hand as my best-selling story unfolds, while a long line of publishers queue in the dunes.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? To join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Challenge yourself and keep trying .  If it doesn’t work the first time, take a break then try to look at the problem from a new angle.
What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators? Buy the cookbook – ‘A hundred and one ways with mince’.


Wild-Eyed-Press_Mama-and-Hug_030416_front-coverMama and Hug

Written by Aleesah Darlison

Illustrated by Heather Charlton

Published by Wild Eyed Press, 2016

When Hug first climbs out of his mother’s pouch it is spring, deep in the Australian bush. The trees are in blossom and new green growth is everywhere. As Hug grows, the season changes to the sharp dry crackle of summer. One day danger comes to the bush and Mama must flee to protect her baby, Hug. Aleesah Darlison’s tender story of a koala and her joey is delicately illustrated by Heather Charlton. Buy the book here.


Meet the Poet & Speaker: Matt Jackson

Matt’s top tip for authors? Protect the time you set aside for writing with your life. It is so easy to prioritise perceived obligations and the tasks you believe you should be doing ahead of writing because there are times when writing feels like a frivolous activity. Especially when you aren’t happy with what you are writing and when it isn’t being read. However, if I am not writing I don’t feel like I am living the way I want to. I lose my verve. And a life without verve isn’t worth living. So do whatever you need to in order to protect that time you set aside for writing. Let the people close to you know why it is important and put the time in your diary to write before you put anything else in there.

Matt presenting 1Sydney-based Matt Jackson is the founder of Affectors, a TEDx speaker, poet, and sought-after business coach who works with national and global clients. Matt graduated from Melbourne University with BAs in Arts and Commerce and has worked diversely, including in advertising where he translated creative concepts for business people and business concepts for creative people. Now as a poet and speaker he performs to international business, scientific, medical and artistic audiences. Find out more about Matt on Twitter:


Why do you write? My childhood was full of disruption so writing started as a kind of self medication to protect myself from environmental factors that were outside of my control. I write to reflect on events and create an illusion of order that calms me. I remind myself every day of what Jerry Juhl had posted above his desk whilst writing for the Muppet Show: “Not writing is worse.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Making music or performing theatre. Like writing they use language to stimulate the mind and stir the emotions. They delight in sound, pattern and meaning. Through their own language they mimic natural patterns and then violate the audience’s expectation to make a memorable experience. Perhaps this is why I enjoy performing my poetry so much.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Convincing myself that not being published wouldn’t stop me from writing. That took ten years. Originally I wrote because of the way writing affected me. Once I graduated from university I wrote with the goal of being published in mind and I lost the joy. I didn’t write for ten years. When I started again it was because I wanted to feel that joy again. I eventually achieved my goal by no longer pursuing it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The unexpected moments when my subconscious takes over and it no longer requires effort. The question I get asked most often is, “how long does it take to write a poem”. The answer is very unsatisfying for the person. If I write every day then it will take a very short time and very little effort for me to write something I am proud of. If I don’t write every day then I won’t be able to write something I am proud of no matter how much time and effort I put into it. So the answer, from my experience, is that it takes writing every day in order for me to write a poem in less than an hour that I am proud to perform.

—the worst? That my subconscious never asks for my permission to write about me and often the results are terrifying. The writing that I find most fulfilling and inspiring comes from my subconscious. The process of writing is transformed into an exhilarating experience which is similar to running through a maze in the black of night and knowing that there’s a Minotaur in there with me. The result of the process is that I come face to face with an aspect of myself that I was hiding from for a very long time.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Believe in myself more and accept that rejection from close-minded people is a fortunate occurrence. It is hard to believe in yourself when you are pursuing something different to your school friends, family and peers. You feel unsatisfied when you are trying to fit in and you feel alone when you are doing your own thing. Eventually you realise that the more you do of what you love the more likely you are to end up in the same room with people who believe in you. That takes time to realise.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Playing it safe is a self-imposed death sentence to living the creative life you want to. There were times in my life when I allowed myself to believe in the illusion of security. I wanted to feel safe so I desperately wanted to believe that some jobs offered security in the form of a salary. I studied for those jobs and I worked in those jobs for years until I watched people get walked out of the building as soon as the business was in trouble. Today I find security in the activities that bring me joy and open my mind to new perspectives. There is no activity that offers me these things all the time, but reading and writing do so more than any other activity.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

I do my thing and you do your thing.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,

And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you, and I am I,

And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

If not, it can’t be helped.

-Fritz Perls


The Age of Affect sml

In The Age of Affect, Matt Jackson, whose clients include Adobe, QBE, CBA and The University of Sydney, explores how business affects people, drawing on decades of experience as a practising artist and owner of two businesses, as well as the experiences of 15 of his peers. Uniquely dispersing 53 poems and stories that bridge the gap between art and commerce, the book covers:

The importance of creating a Culture of Courage
Leading with Authenticity
Discovering Passion and Purpose
The Relationship between Art and Commerce
Understanding Decision Making and Drive
Goal setting & building a Community
Filled with examples and relatable stories, The Age of Affect integrates what we can learn about the art of business and what the business of art can teach us.

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Glennys Marsdon

Glennys’s top tip for aspiring authors: While it’s nice, and helps, to be professionally published and win awards, there are plenty of books out there that haven’t been, and yet they’ve gone on to make a huge impact on people’s lives. It’s more important to just enjoy the process of writing regardless of the outcome, and if your writing has an impact on you, chances are it will impact others too. So grab a coffee, a packet of Tim Tams, open a Word document and just start typing. Then rinse and repeat. And when doubt creeps in, as it will, seek out other writers for support.

gmIt’s my great pleasure today to introduce the inspirational Glennys Marsdon, owner of consumer psychology consultancy The Customers’ Voice, who has more than 20 years’ experience researching human behaviour. This has resulted in marketing campaigns for clients like HBF and ECU, plus investigation into social issues including domestic violence and drug/alcohol abuse. In 2012 she was nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards and she now sits on several Boards. Her writing life began in the ‘90s as editor of the Australian Red Cross Youth News Magazine. Her first short story won the Stirling Literary Award and her first book, 50 Ways To Grieve Your Lover, received international success after being used in the NZ Pike Mine Disaster. The book also resulted in her being profiled in marketing guru Seth Godin’s worldwide search for people making a difference. Her second book Me Time: 100 Strategies For Guilt Free Me Time won a People’s Choice Award and her blog The Ponder Room was read in more than 60 countries within the first six months. She has a monthly column in a local magazine, regularly writes for the City of Perth and contributes to a number of other outlets. Two years ago she started Personal Branding workshops which apply her business knowledge to uncovering the essence of a person’s brand.

Follow Glennys on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Why do you write? For the past 20 years I’ve been writing business reports on anything from ice cream to domestic violence and sewerage pumps. Apart from helping bring new products to market, or ads to the television, the main reason for writing these reports was to ensure my pantry was never bereft of tins of tuna. In the fast paced consulting world, it wasn’t uncommon to have 12 large projects on the go at the same time. In the past as the deadlines accumulated my mind would escape into silly stories which I used to email off to a handful of colleagues who were also working through the night. The stories worked as a kind of release valve from all the heavy thinking. Years on, the advent of blogging has proved an ideal portal for my chattering monkey mind. I love getting caught up in the rhythm of the words and the surprise journeys they take me on, especially when they reward me with a giggle at the end.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? At five foot five and with a middle age spread I guess modelling is out of the question. My genetic composition also rules out artist, musician or sports star and, thanks to an aversion to embarrassment, acting. The ability to feel seasick in the bath limits any water based activities, and the bombardment of ideas constantly penetrating my brain renders mindful Yogi unlikely. Since I draw the line at academia, I guess that leaves me with the corporate world, and spending more time on my consumer psychology work, which brings me back to research and business writing … doh! So short answer, no idea.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? A deep lack of confidence, (spawned out of a high school teacher declaring that I couldn’t read, and a university professor saying I couldn’t write), that made pushing the send button unbearable. That was until I stumbled upon an editor prepared to take a chance. So confidence and the ability to get your work seen.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover/illustrations? My first book was in part a tribute to my artist partner Michael Collins who passed away, so it was important to keep control over how his images were used. As a result, I chose to go down the self-publishing route, which also allowed me to avoid the soul destroying pile of rejection letters. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and learnt a lot about what goes on behind the scenes, so have continued to self-publish.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? For fiction it’s about getting lost in the rhythm of the words and being entertained by where they take you. For non-fiction it’s realising that a few squiggles on a blank page can have immense power. They can even help people get through the most difficult of times.

—the worst? The perception, among some, that writers can sustain a life when writing or speaking for free; they wouldn’t expect the same from their plumber. That and the endless but necessary editing.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Read more. Reading teaches you all the essentials, like character, structure, language, tone, setting and more importantly how your writing compares to those who get published. I’d also get out from behind the computer more and meet other writers earlier on in the journey. Trying to work it out yourself is exhausting, especially when there are writing groups out there that teach you the craft, show that you’re not alone, and that published authors aren’t any different to you, although I suspect they eat less tuna.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t worry about what people think, not everyone will like what you write, some might hate it, and you only need a few loyal readers to start you on your way.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? When the first editor who paid me for my writing retired, I told her that I’d enjoyed working with her and would like to get similar work with other editors, but was too scared to approach them. She pointed out that I’d managed to contact her and added, ‘I wasn’t scary, most of the time.’


50 ways50 ways to grieve your lover

Glennys Marsdon

‘For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.’ Johnny Carson.

After the loss of a loved one, be it the death of a partner, child, pet, or divorce, people experience a 12 month fog, not knowing what to expect. This is not helped by the fact that as a society we avoid talking about death. At 43 Glennys Marsdon suddenly found she was a widow. As a qualified psychologist she drew on more than two decades of experience researching human behaviour to investigate what was ahead of her. A year later when a good friend asked for advice she fired off an email titled ’10 Things I’ve Learnt’. The 10 things grew to 50 and when more people called for advice she realised the emails had to be shared. Written as a series of 50 short light-hearted emails to a friend, the book focuses on the first 12 months after loss. It contains 100 tips, 85 quotes and cartoons from her partner Michael Collins (dec.)

Other books include: Me Time: 100 Strategies For Guilt Free Me Time; Freelance Life: An Action Plan To Become a Successful Six Figure Freelancer; Pondering Life Series

The books are available from

The 50 Ways  E book version can be purchased on Amazon











Meet the Author: Deb Rae

Deb’s top tip for aspiring authors: Believe in yourself.  Everyone writes well some days, and not so well on other days.  Focus on why you’re writing, and what you will produce for your reader. Then write with all your passion and heart.

DRae - Photo - 7 Apr 15My guest today is Deb Rae, bereavement expert and author of Getting There: Grief to Peace for Young Widows. Deb’s learning started through personal experience when she decided to quit her day job at age 36 and travel the world with her husband Stuart. However, Stuart was killed in a road accident in Poland and Deb found herself thrust into a slow, confusing, painful, personal transformation. Everything changed for her. She had to find a new home, a new job, a new country. As a result of her experience she found herself thinking a lot about how life works and the ways people deal with change. Deb’s transformation process took her back to university, out to a little farmhouse and back overseas. She was also invited into the homes and workplaces of many other people looking for better lives, stronger teams and more productive businesses.


Why did you feel there was a need to write this book? I have always preferred to express myself through writing.  After my husband Stuart died, I started writing even more than ever.  I struggled to understand what was happening to me in my grief, and had no idea how to talk about it.  So I wrote.  At first it was just for me to process the confusion and pain, but then I began to realise that my stories would be useful for others experiencing a confounding loss.

After Stuart died, I also looked around for books to help me, but found they were too sentimental, abstract, or just told the grieving person’s story.  I also couldn’t find any books for young widows written by an Australian.  I wanted to get the low-down about grief.  I wanted the raw, honest truth.

I decided to produce a book that was a resource for other young women; that told real stories about what happens when you’re grieving, had lots of suggestions for action and had a sense of humour.  I spoke with many other young widows whose quotes in my book are as real as you can get.

What was your greatest personal challenge in writing it? People often asked me if writing the book was cathartic and maybe at first it was.  But a lot of the time it was actually pretty painful.  To write about what it’s like to grieve, I had to relive many experiences I’d rather forget.

So I procrastinated!  I was also still working full-time and dreaded coming home to have to think about the worst days of my life all over again. There were many nights and weekends when I ate lots of ice-cream and wrote very little. It took years to produce just a few chapters.

Finally I gave myself a deadline.  I sent my family and friends an invitation to a party that was five months away – when I would introduce the first draft of my book.  And it worked!  I gained some momentum and finished the book relatively quickly.

Were there any obstacles to having the book published? I talked to other authors and did a lot of research about how to publish the book. Over the 10 years it took me to finish the book, the publishing world changed quite dramatically.  More books were being self-published and e-books became far more popular.

I eventually decided to self-publish so I could have more control over the layout and marketing of the book.  I also had a mentor who helped me through the process, shared contacts and advised me about potential pitfalls.  There were many decisions to be made and I learned about a lot of things I’d never heard of before.

How involved have you been in the book’s development? Did you have input into the layout/cover/illustrations? I had full control over designing the layout of the book, its cover and the photos that are included.  My book is intended to be an honest conversation between two grieving people – the reader and me.  It’s also resource where a grieving woman will write her deepest secrets and come back to many times over many years.  It therefore had to be inviting, beautiful and make a connection. That’s why the cover shows a group of women holding hands and walking a long road together, all the pages have a beautiful design overlay and the book includes photos of my husband and myself so the reader can really see who I am.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to write your book? Not to take on the whole project as a huge single task. Every time I sat at my desk, I’d think to myself that I had to write a whole book, which was incredibly daunting!

I eventually worked out how to break the book down into chapters and sub-chapters. Each day I would focus on writing a couple of sub-chapters, which seemed much more manageable. Or I would just go with whatever creative flow turned up on a given day and write what appealed to me in that moment. That writing was always the best I did.

If you were writing it now, what would you do differently? I’d doubt myself less and recognise my achievements more. I wouldn’t wait until I thought I was ‘ready’ because that day never comes.  I’d just start. I’d also connect with other writers and get more feedback about my writing from people I trust to be honest with me.

How do you hope your book will contribute to a greater understanding of grief? My intention is that people understand grief more, are aware of the misconceptions we can hold about grief and are more comfortable about talking about death and dying. I talk in my book about the importance of recognising that grief is an individual journey.  We do it in our own time, in our own way.

Social perceptions about how long grief should take, how much we should cry and how we should be strong can actually make dealing with a loss even more difficult. Understanding that we don’t have to have all the answers when we’re supporting someone who’s grieving can be a great relief. You just need to be with the person and give them the space to experience their grief in whatever way it’s happening for them.

My book is honest, real and will make you laugh. I created it this way so people who are grieving, and the people who support them, can really understand what grief is like, and not be so afraid of it. When we have that shared understanding, we can talk about grief more (without relying on misconceptions). That will make life easier for everyone.

What do you think you would be doing now if your life hadn’t taken this path? I would probably be writing policies and procedures for not-for-profit organisations all over Mackay!  My life would certainly not be so fulfilled and I wouldn’t have the same level of confidence I have in myself now.

It wouldn’t even matter if my book was truly terrible – it’s more about the fact that I had a big goal and I kept on going until I achieved it.  I think that, whatever our goal is, fighting to make it a reality is one of the greatest things we can do as a human being.

Because of this expanded confidence, I’ve since taken on many other goals and had many other experiences that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t written the book.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The people I get to meet who have read my book. We’ve both been through grief and instantly have a connection. They include young widows, but also people who have divorced, given up a child for adoption or older widowed men. I love having the opportunity to support people in a meaningful way and help them feel understood.

—the worst? Trying to decide what to write about next!  I have lots of ideas and not enough time to do work associated with my current book as well as start writing another one.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I wouldn’t be so hard on myself. I’d understand that some days you get into the groove and produce some excellent work. Other days are more of a struggle and far less productive. You need to keep perspective on the overall goal and have realistic expectations (especially if you’re holding a paying job at the same time).

I’d also develop more of a routine. Having certain habits or routines can get you into a head space that is conducive to creativity and writing. Set up your work space, use a certain pen or computer, and follow a few set activities before you start writing. The routine subconsciously gets your mind ready to jump into the desired activity.

What’s the best writing advice you were ever given? Write from the heart. Whenever I obsessed about whether my writing was good enough, my writing was terrible!  I finally learned to just focus on saying (through my writing) what I really knew needed to be said.  Then my words were authentic, powerful and meaningful.

What do you read for enjoyment? I love to read autobiographies. I also find myself reading a lot about neuroscience, neuroplasticity and the latest theories from world renowned psychologists. I find human beings and our minds fascinating and we’re learning so much more now than we ever knew.

If you could sit down and have a chat with any writer past or present, who would it be and why? Stephen Fry. I love his honesty, authenticity and willingness to talk openly about his life experiences, which may be perceived as successes and failures. This is the way I’d like for all of us to be able to talk about grief. I enjoy Stephen Fry’s intellect and sense of humour.  He also doesn’t pretend to be something he isn’t (or so it appears!) and he fully embraces every experience life offers him.  That reminds me of my late husband.


Getting There - Cover

Getting there: Grief to Peace for Young Widows

Deb Rae

When your world is rocked by disaster where do you go? What do you do? How do you go on? In her words, Deb sucks as a widow.  She kicked, screamed, ran away.  She felt alone, overwhelmed and thought she’d never be happy again. Deb’s husband was killed in a random accident while they were living overseas.  In an instant, she lost her best friend and had to leave behind her home, her job and her dreams.  She gets how horrible life becomes as a young widow, how you wonder if you’re going crazy and whether there’s any hope for a better future.

Her real, honest and revealing words connect with your pain. Then make you laugh. She helps you understand why you feel the way you do and that it’s (almost) all ‘normal’.  And she helps you dig deep into your own strength so you can take another step into your future. All this is backed up with lots of practical survival tips tested by many other young women.

The book is available here.



Meet the Author: Roslyn Russell

Roslyn’s top tip for aspiring authors: Be critical of your writing and be prepared to knock out sections that are not working – be ruthless, and not self-indulgent. Your writing will benefit from this enormously.

ros-lovely-photo-2Roslyn Russell is a historian and curator who operates a consultancy which undertakes historical and museum projects. Roslyn has written books on Australian history and literature, including Literary Links between Australia and Britain (Allen & Unwin, 1997), Ever, Manning: Selected Letters of Manning Clark 1938-1991 (ed.) (Allen & Unwin, 2008), and The Business of Nature: John Gould and Australia (National Library of Australia, 2011).

Museum exhibition development has taken Roslyn to Barbados, where she has worked on two major exhibitions – the Museum of Parliament and National Heroes Gallery in Bridgetown; and Exchange: A Place of Mystery and Discovery for the Central Bank of Barbados. She collaborated with Alissandra Cummins and Kevin Farmer in compiling Plantation to Nation: Caribbean Museums and National Identity (Common Ground Press, Champaign, Illinois, 2013). Barbados also inspired her novel, Maria Returns: Barbados to Mansfield Park (Bobby Graham Publishers, 2014); and Barbados: More Than A Beach (2011) (free on iTunes).


Why do you write? For two reasons: one prosaic, one not so. I often write books that have been commissioned, for example, High Seas & High Teas: Voyaging to Australia was commissioned by the National Library of Australia, which also published another book of mine, The Business of Nature: John Gould and Australia (2012).

On the other hand, I also write books on subjects for which I have a passion. My first novel, Maria Returns: Barbados to Mansfield Park (Bobby Graham Publishers, 2014) was inspired by my love of the novels of Jane Austen and my experience of working in the Caribbean nation of Barbados, where I gained a much greater understanding of the nature of slavery and its immense contribution to underpinning the wealth of many British families, including the fictional Bertrams of Mansfield Park. I am currently working on a novel about another of my interests – small museums and their collections, and the people who work in them.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Actually, I can’t imagine not writing – everything I do, in my personal and professional life, involves writing, including books, museum exhibition text and reports on museum collections. I would be an entirely different person if I were not a writer.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I have to say that I haven’t had many problems, mainly because I usually write commissioned history books, and have been fortunate enough to have had them published by mainstream publishers such as Allen & Unwin, HarperCollins and the National Library of Australia. My first novel was produced by a small publisher, but I have never tried to break into the mainstream of published fiction. That would be another challenge again.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being caught up in a subject and enjoying planning and visualising how it should be written. I have spent many productive hours plotting the next chapters of my novels or historical works while on long plane flights or during long-distance car travel. It is the best use of this otherwise ‘dead time’ that I know of.

—the worst? I’m sure everyone says this – writing to meet a deadline.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not take on as many writing projects at the one time, and learn to say ‘no’ a bit more. But I am not good at taking my own advice – every project sounds interesting and too good to let go.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? No matter how hard you try to encompass all evidence and viewpoints, and how many disclaimers you make, people will always misinterpret you if they want to, and tell you that you should have written your book differently. Don’t be surprised and upset if and when this happens.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Just start writing – you can always go back and refine it later, but it is important to get those first thoughts down and then it will begin to flow.


High Seas and High TeasHigh Seas & High Teas

Roslyn Russell

National Library of Australia


‘The rats I frighten away by throwing books or anything hard at the spot at which they commence their gnawing,’ wrote emigrant Janet Ronald in her journal kept aboard the Invincible in 1857.

Packed in cheek by jowl with fellow passengers and crew, life on board the ships transporting convicts and free settlers from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the nineteenth century was rigidly defined by social class: lower-class passengers dined on homemade concoctions of mutton fat pudding and preserved potatoes, while those traveling first-class enjoyed elaborate multi-course dinners, including fresh meat, slaughtered on board.

Navigating the social mores on these giant floating microcosms was only half the story. Amid the chronicles of flirtations and hijinks, odours and rats, nineteenth-century diaries capture tales of despotic captains, disease and domestic discord. From those sailing under servitude to emigrants seeking a new life, the people who braved the journey changed Australia.

The book is available here.