The sound of wise words

If I stop typing now there is relative silence. There’s no editor talking shop while pacing through my room. No fellow writers sit nearby. I can’t overhear someone conducting a difficult phone interview the in the next cubicle. I don’t get ongoing circulars to all staff about new research tools or resources. I can’t ask […]

Looking at literary culture

There’s a slight reflection on the bookstore window. In it I can see the streetscape – pedestrians, a café and a tree behind me. But I ignore the reflection and peer into the store. Hundreds of books sit on shelves and tables and in potential buyers’ hands. These books have made it. They’ve been written, […]

Non-fiction stories

I’m in a gallery looking at photographs. Well, in this context ‘photographs’ may be a misleading word. These images are on photographic paper but actually they’re abstract moments in chemistry and light. They comprise dribbles, daubs and geometric shapes in different tones of browns, oranges and blue. Apart from one image, which has the faint […]

Oh the technology

I’m pining for an old phone with a handset – one that enables a suction-cupped ‘bug’ to be kissed to the receiver and has just one wire that goes to the recorder. My new-media set up of cords, adaptors, headphones, mobile phone and digital voice recorder is not working today. In fact it’s immersing us […]

Follow your heart

Last week, a writer-friend whom I greatly respect told me I was ‘dedicated’ to my writing. Embarrassed, I brushed her compliment aside. But later I had to accept that what she said was partially true – at least in the context of my own life. I am now more dedicated to my writing than ever. […]

A big change

‘The book of my enemy has been remaindered / And I am pleased,’ wrote Clive James in his 2003 poem of the same title. Ten years ago, the remainder table was considered a literary backwash. It was reasonable for James to use it as a place to celebrate the failure of a literary foe. But […]

International Research II: ‘As long as I don’t die, this will be a great story.’

Long ago, when I returned from a year of working and backpacking overseas, I lived in a shared house. A few months into my tenancy, my birthday came up and I was chuffed that my five other housemates cooked me a simple meal to celebrate. In the chilly winter air we talked over candlelight and […]

A journal that makes sense

On my first morning in Paris, I awoke to the sounds of suitcase zippers and rustling plastic bags. A couple of girls whispered to each other as they brushed their hair and sprayed their too-sweet deodorant about. My mouth tasted of yesterday’s airplane. At first I was disoriented. So I lay for a while, wrapped […]

International research: it’s enough to give you a nosebleed

When I was in Japan earlier this year I tried to interview a local friend of mine. I’d hoped to capture her story on audio for later use in some kind of podcast or radio documentary. She’d already spoken about her experience in English (her second language) with great depth and lucidity. When I asked […]

Picturing the essay

When I speak to Leila Philip, multi award winning non-fiction writer and Associate Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the College of the Holy Cross in the USA, our conversation lilts over the work of many others. She talks about Wallace Stevens, Walker Evans and James Agee. I hear of Errol Morris, Merce Cunningham […]