In just over a month, my second non-fiction title will be on the shelf (2 July). The dilemmas, struggles and answers included in Buddhism for Meat Eaters were ones that had been brewing for around thirty years. I always wanted to be vegetarian (preferably vegan) but my physical body did not agree. I was left with a constant sense of guilt, shame and grief over this struggle–my spirit was willing but my body wasn’t.
For years I kept a journal, thinking I could wrestle out this conflict on the page, until years later I had to accept that I had no answers. I put the journal away, and carried on with my life, never having found the peace I craved.
Then one day, I was lying awake in the middle of the night. It was a full moon and I often struggle to sleep during that lunar phase. I can’t even remember what I was thinking about specifically, but somewhere between midnight and two am, it was like the decades of struggle finally made sense. All the threads came together, and I’d finally begun to find peace in the last place I expected to uncover it: Buddhism.
I jumped up and grabbed by laptop and wrote out a page, then sent it to my agent. This! I wrote. This is what I want to write about! For the record, I don’t actually recommend you send your agent/publisher wild ramblings at two o’clock in the morning as a way of pitching an idea, but in this case, it worked. Haylee said she loved it, asked me to write out some sample chapters, began pitching it before I’d finished writing it, and I was blown away to find that it sold so quickly. Clearly, my struggles with eating meat were not unique to me. There was a market for this book. Certainly, by the number of you who have left me comments saying things like This book was written for me or I need this so much or I can’t wait to read this, I am absolutely not alone in this quandary.
Ultimately, this book is one of hope, of healing and making peace with your body, mind, plate and world. If you are drawn to it, I hope it brings you as much encouragement as it did me.
p.s. I love this cover so much. It was designed by Lisa White, who also designed the cover for my first novel, The Tea Chest. I think Lisa truly gets my vibe.
I often think I don’t read enough, but when I look back over my list of books I’ve dived into over the past 12 months, I see that not only do I read more than I think, but that I read quite a few non-fiction books each year too.
Here is my Top 5 non-fiction titles I devoured this year (in no particular order).
Sophie’s Patch, by Sophie Thomson. This I’m more than just a gardening book, it is an inspiring, life-affirming guide to love, passion and health. Total joy.
Any Ordinary Day, by Leigh Sales. How do we cope with tragedy? Leigh Sales has the answer, having compiled extensive research into how our brains and bodies respond after the worst day of our lives. It sounds heavy, but it’s written with such a lightness of touch to be both moving and inspiring at the same time.
How to Give up Plastic, by Will McCallum. As a species, humanity is facing one of its biggest environmental disasters: plastic pollution. We can’t afford to turn away. The time to face up to this and remedy the situation is right now, and this book shows you how to do it, room by room in your house.
Buddhism for Break-ups, by Meshel Laurie. Relationship breakdowns happen across all areas of life–love, friendships, families and workplaces. But breaking up ‘well’ takes commitment and effort and that’s what Meshel Laurie sets out to show us in this book. If you’re not going through a break-up (I wasn’t), it’s still great reading to be prepared when the next one comes your way, as it inevitably will.
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to read this book. Eckhart Tolle is one of the most influential thought-leaders on the planet and for good reason. His wisdom is profound and resonates long after you’ve closed the book.
I hope you find some inspiration in this list for your next great non-fiction read.
This article is featured in this month’s issue of WQ magazine, the official publication of the Queesland Writers Centre (a super resource for writers at all stages).
I believe there are two horses residing within me: a Clydesdale and a unicorn.
I have seven horses of my own, used to run a horse rescue charity, and recently published Horse Rescue: inspiring stories of second-chance horses and the lives they changed (Penguin). 2014 is also the Chinese Year of the Horse. So it seems a good time to tell you about my invisible Clydesdale and unicorn.
They are the two sets of my writing self—the practical and the magical, heaven and earth, yin and yang… however you like to think of them. And I need them both in order to do my job, answer my vocational calling, find inspiration and meet my deadlines. The challenge is to get them to cooperate despite their very different agendas.
The Clydesdale is a workhorse. It is there every day, in its harness, ploughing the fields. It shows up if it’s feeling weary or injured, if the weather is poor, and even if its handler is asking too much of it. It is stoic, steady, completely task-oriented, wearing its blinkers so it can only see the path in front. It likes a schedule, turns up on time, and enjoys warm mash at the end of a hard day’s labour.
The unicorn, on the other hand, is flighty. It has wings. (Hey, it’s my unicorn; it can fly if it wants to.) It doesn’t have to stay in the field. It doesn’t even have to show up! And I can’t make it turn up because it has wings. It can go wherever it wants to go. It is fickle, doesn’t like to tough it out in the rain, likes to paint its shiny mane and tail with rainbow nail polish, fancies champagne and chocolate, and would far rather use its time slipping in and out of portals to other worlds than slogging it out in the mud. Time and deadlines mean nothing to the universe-hopping unicorn. It cares not for plans, structure or linear plotlines.
They are both powerful. They are both necessary. And they both need to be fed or they will wither, starve and die. They tell me they are struggling in different ways. The Clydesdale gets grumpy, physically sore and tired (though will struggle on long past when it should). The unicorn is more prone to tantrums, melancholy, catastrophising and tears. But when they start to act out and show their discomfort, I’ve learned that I need to pay attention and do something about it.
The Clydesdale is concerned with the physical world, so to feed it I need to make sure its base needs are met. To give it energy to do its hard work in the field, it needs good quality, energising food. Caffeine doesn’t cut it. I’m talking vegetables, fruit, protein, antioxidants, organics and juices. I need to cut out the foods that slow it down, like sugar, dairy and caffeine. It needs attention to its muscles and fitness—ergonomics, gym-based strengthening programs, injury (RSI) rehabilitation, rest, an occasional day off, and massage.
The unicorn is concerned with mental and emotional wellness. The unicorn has a huge responsibility for bringing in new ideas and content. If I don’t feed the unicorn, I’ll simply drain it of all its life and colour. To feed the unicorn, I must supply it with imagery and experience. I need to take it on artistic adventures. I need to fill it with sensory stimulus—music, art, film, stories, nature, foods, excursions and new knowledge. I need to give it freedom to explore without constraints, and silence and gentle spaces to hear it speak its dreams without judging, shaming or cutting them down before they’re fully expressed.
If you’re anything like me, you might be firmer friends with one than the other. For me, I’m more comfortable with the Clydesdale. I will happily work around the clock for something I’m passionate about. But it is harder for me to allow my unicorn untethered freedom to indulge its whims and fancies—in other words, it’s hard for me to play, to lighten up. Perhaps for you, it is more difficult to harness the discipline and work ethic of the Clydesdale. You have no problem going to the theatre and dreaming up stories but there is resistance to putting pen to paper day after day.
Wherever you’re at, it’s okay. Use your strength to its advantage and treat yourself kindly while you learn to encourage and nurture the weaker relationship in this pair. One day, they’ll both be pulling the same plough together at the same time, and it will be a fully functioning pink plough with sparkly wings, churning out a great story, with a strong structure, delivered on time, and with just the right amount of magic.
It’s so lovely when authors help each other and this week I was once again gifted with some wisdom from of Australia’s prolific, talented and best-selling authors.
The scary thing about getting your first big publishing break(s) is that you’ve finally managed to scramble your way up into another level of achievement, only to have to kind of start from the bottom again as you attempt to write like, you know, a professional.
I am very grateful to author, Sue Williams (latest book, Father Bob: The Larrikin Priest), for taking time out from her terrifying deadline this week to talk to me about the processes and quandaries of non-fiction writing and to share a bit of coaching as I work through my first major non-fiction book, to be published by Penguin in 2015.
My non-fiction book is about horses. And as a huge animal lover, I hope to write lots of animal-themed books over my career. But I have to get this one right first! So it was really reassuring to be able to quiz Sue one-on-one to check in with her and myself to make sure I was on the right track.
Please visit Sue at her website and check out her extensive collection of bestselling Australian books. Father Bob is sitting beside my bed right now waiting for me to get through the pile and I’m really looking forward to it 🙂
This is precisely why I write books: to make people feel good.
I love this story. From May this year, ‘Books on Prescription’ will begin in the UK, with doctors able to ‘prescribe’ a book to assist a patient and improve their mood. The books include both non-fiction and fiction, as well as poetry. It’s also hoped the scheme could help the struggling libraries. Win-win. How wonderful!
In the first couple of months after my baby was born, life was pretty insane in our house. Something I missed the most was reading and it was only when I began to learn how to get the reading time back into my life that I started to feel normal again. I always read before going to sleep, something that’s a very powerful mood producing activity for me. I literally feel stressed if I don’t have a good book nearby to delve into.
But it has to be the right kind of book. For me, there’s no point in reading something angst-ridden, violent, negative, sarcastic or miserable in order to feel better. Uplifting, comforting, engaging and fun–that’s what I want to read and that’s what I want to write.
My contemporary fiction novel, The Tea Chest, about three Australian women thrust together in a bid to sell tea to the English, will be out in 2014. And if you’re looking for something to make you feel good (a book that reads like a chocolate brownie tastes) then it might just be the book for you.