Book Research Gratitude

Research is the bedrock of my novels. It is the place where I find inspiration, joy, meaning, characters and story. I am never happier than when I am in the free-flowing state of inquiry, following my curiosity and passion as it emerges, taking a right-angled turn here, or a big swooping deep dive there.

Many people help me along the way and never want anything in return (though I do always gift them something in gratitude); people who are passionate about what they do are more often than not, I have found, utterly delighted to share their knowledge.

I’ve collected a raft of people of late who have helped me with my future stories. So let me take a moment to thank them and perhaps you will find some inspiration here, or if you are able, you might be able to support their wonderful business.

Firstly, I visited Noosa’s only coffee farm, Noosa Black, in Kin Kin and was treated to a lovely luncheon on the deck overlooking Traecy and Peter Hinner’s plantation. They were so generous with their time, knowledge and passion. Their single origin coffee is sold through local IGA supermarkets on the Sunshine Coast and through their online store. The really beautiful thing about Noosa Black is how community powered the business is. Traecy and Peter’s vision from the start was ‘local’, and everything they’ve done, from planting the trees to roasting the beans has been driven by local labour, and then it is sold locally too, so the food miles are short! It is a vision that means all the dollars associated with the farm circulate within a small geography, which is really very cool.

Next, I got to travel to the beautiful Barossa Valley in South Australia and visit Trevallie Orchard’s fruit farm, with my expert guide Sheralee Menz, who knows the business and history of the farm from the ground up. The fruit orchard is a piece of living history, still growing heritage varieties of apples and with a magnificent fig tree over one hundred years old! To my greatest disappointment, I had a total camera fail and only got this one lovely shot of a fruit tree flowers (a pear, I think?). You can buy Trevallie’s beautiful fruit from their online store or in Farmland stores or at the truly magnificent Barossa Farmers Markets each Saturday morning in Angaston. (We had the BEST breakfast there!)

And most recently, I spent time at Padre coffee in Noosa, first with owner and coffee expert, Marinus Jansen, who shared so much information with me I truly couldn’t write fast enough. One of the most fabulous things about Padre is their ‘open door’ policy of information. They train people who want to be roasters and hold regular cupping sessions. Soon after my time with Marinus came to an end, I joined coffee roaster Vanessa Joachim for cupping, and then she invited me back the next day to watch a roasting session. And then barista, Kayla Byles, talked me through siphon brews, batch brews and V60s! Needless to say I was pretty high on coffee when I left!

Other than that, I have been chatting to some special people who are helping me with my next book; but I can’t quite tell you about them just yet. However, I want to say again how grateful I am that people are so willing to share their experiences and knowledge with me, which eventually comes out in my writing.

One of the things readers tell me frequently is how much they’ve loved learning about food in the books I write and behind it all are the people on the ground, with their hands in the dirt, literally and symbolically.

From me to you, thank you!!

 

 

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Movie Review: Captain Underpants

Bright. Loud. Frivalous.

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I went to see this movie for two reasons. Firstly, I have a five-year-old son, who upon hearing the very term, ‘Captain Underpants’, began to laugh and asked to see the movie. Secondly, because I once heard an interview with the creator of the novels, Dav Pilkey, and was so moved by his story that I have longed for the moment my son was old enough to enjoy Pilkey’s creations.

You see, Pilkey was a child with dyslexia and ADHD and was repeatedly sent out of class and into the hallways. The pain he experienced at school gave him a keen sense of connection and service to children and actually began volunteering with school kids straight out school himself–something very unique for an eighteen-year-old. This was a young man who had a mission, I thought. And I think the worldwide phenomenon that is his books, proves that. This is a man who gets kids.

Having said that, I haven’t read any of the Captain Underpants books (as I’m still waiting for my son to get a bit older). My review here is strictly on the movie.

Firstly, my beef with his film is the level of violence contained in it for a G-rated film. I don’t see how animated violence (torching cats, having people hit by cars (repeatedly), or machines that want to shrink your brain and turn you into a zombie) is any different to actual violence. My son climbed into my lap towards the end (the grande finale of violence) and said it was scary. Still, he did want to hang on till the end and that is the first film he has actually sat through till the credits rolled.

I think this movie is pitched at kids slightly older than five. I’m thinking 7-9 years would be a good indication, as some of the humour is mature and there is a fair amount of written text that contains jokes, if only you know how to read.

It’s over the top. It’s meant to be.

But too much violence for me (and my son).

3 stars.

 

 

 

My First ‘Food in Story’ Writing Workshop

Food in Story, Writing Workshop:

 

 

Are you writing a novel? Writing memoir? Writing for blogs or social media?

Food connects us all.

Everyone has stories in their memory and in their heart that include food. Days spent in the kitchen with your mother or grandmother making biscuits. Afternoons wandering the apple orchard, picking fruit with your brothers and sisters. Maybe brewing some cheeky cider with your dad in the back shed. The first time you tasted seafood. The warm, hearty stews that kept you going through a difficult winter. The endless lasagnes left on your doorstep after a bereavement. Every day, we eat. Every day, we create more memories.

Perhaps you would like to take some of those memories and get them onto paper. Maybe you would like to channel your passion for food into writing for magazines. Maybe you would like to know how to enhance your fiction writing with the joy of food.

This workshop is for you.

Join with me to discover diverse ways to use food in story. This one-day course gives you a raft of new writing tools to approach food in your writing with more fun, depth and elegance. Bring your pages to life with mouthwatering descriptions and tantalising facts to hook your reader and keep them reading till the very last bite.

To find out more about the workshop, go to my WORKSHOPS page.

Sunday, 5 November, 9am-4pm, Cooroy (Noosa hinterland, Qld)

To book, follow the link here.

I hope to see you soon!

 

Film review: Gifted

Take your tissues!

3.5 stars

 

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This story is about a man, Frank (Chris Evans) who is raising his niece, Mary (McKenna Grace), after his sister ended her life, and the custody battle that begins for Mary, waged between Frank and his estranged mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan). Mary is a mathematics prodigy, and while Frank claims his sister would have wanted her child to have a normal life, Evelyn believes Mary needs to have her gifts strongly directed into further specialised study (i.e. taken out of school and sent to university).

I went to see this film for two reasons. Firstly, an uncle raising his deceased sibling’s child is a similar scenario for one of my characters in the new book that I’m writing now, so it was good research. Secondly, having a child who is ASD and clearly a touch gifted in some areas himself (as well as challenged in others), my husband and I have more than once questioned whether mainstream schooling is the best place for him. This kind of story is one that can cut straight to the core of a parent’s fear: will I make or break my child?

I needed tissues, more than once. Yet I would still say that the film could have gone to deeper places to really reach down our throats and pull out our heart. Likewise, it could have taken up to great places of joy, which would have enriched the viewing experience and also made the tough moments that much tougher. There’s some strong acting in here and a notable performance by Lindsay Duncan as the deeply conflicted grandmother who is still trying to reconcile the loss of her daughter and the role she may or may not have played in it.

I left the cinema feeling somewhat flat and for me that isn’t how I want to feel after a film.

 

 

 

 

Film Review: Hampstead

Pleasant * Gentle * Uplifting

3.5 stars

Hampstead is an English film with an American twist, an almost-rom-com, which I found a pleasant-enough way to pass the time of day.

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It stars Diane Keaton (who I love, and I will watch anything she’s in) and Brendan Gleeson, in the story of a blossoming relationship between Emily (Keaton) and Donald (Gleeson), held together by the glue of a legal battle to defend Donald’s “squatters rights” to stay in his shack that he has built in Hampstead Heath in London. The scenery is gorgeous and there are some lovely moments of humour.

I went into the cinema knowing absolutely nothing about this film, having simply passed the movie poster at the front of the building and making an impromptu decision to head on in. So I didn’t know that the story was based on the true life events of Harry Hallowes, who won his squatters rights in 2007.

Look, as much as I adore Diane Keaton, I did spend some time at the beginning trying to orient myself as to where in time and space I was in this film, and then to reconcile her place in this otherwise very British film. In fact it highlighted to me quite sharply just how differently I feel about US or British films.

But what I was looking for was something gentle, uplifting and beautiful, and that is what I got. I walked out feeling good and that’s always a bonus.