Saturday, October 30, 2010

What I’m grateful for in Kingaroy...

1. CAPTAINS PADDOCK VINEYARD: One of the areas local wineries, Captains Paddock was the most impressive place to wake up each morning and chill at the end of the day! I had a split level cottage with a ‘booie monster’ sculptured fireplace, digital TV and vineyards on my doorstep. I walked the rows of vines but the spider webs freaked me out so much I had to change my daily exercise routine by strolling to the Bell Tower restaurant each morning. My hosts at CP - Maryanne and Peter - were so hospitable it was like having dinner, coffee and an afternoon bevy with my own family. Their dogs Zell and Merlot were like siblings and made me feel safe by sitting by my door. I have to recommend a few things from the menu: sticky date pudding, prawn korma, scones with Shiraz jelly. As for the wines, try the rosetta (a blend of merlot and chardonnay) and for a real treat go the 2007 Last Syrah!

2. CROW FM: I’m grateful to Corky at Crow FM who welcomed me into the studio only to be grilled by three students from Kingaroy State High School – Brenten, Jake and Marlo. See pics below of us near the Crow FM van and outside the building. We had fun talking about books, writing, life, growing up and food!

3. PEANUTS: Of course, anyone who goes to Kingaroy has to indulge in what the region is famous for – the nuts! And EVERYONE will tell you the best place to buy your nuts is the Peanut Van I purchased the hickory smoke (the most popular nut according to the vendor), the Mexican delight (they apparently taste like tacos) and chocolate coated chilli nuts. I have to say that for a town that has had an annual Peanut Festival for the last fifty years, I was surprised there wasn’t a giant peanut to be found, like the Big Merino in Goulburn or the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. All I could find was this peanut (see pic below) only a couple of feet high at the Kingaroy Heritage Museum. I like nuts so I’m grateful I got the best in Kingaroy.

4. MULTI-TASKING: I’m grateful for the ability to multi-task. As you’ll by the pic below, I seemed to have mastered the art while in Kingaroy. Here I am sitting on the veranda of the cafe at Captains Paddock (my cottage is in the background) on the phone, checking emails, drinking my morning coffee and eating scones with Shiraz cream, all at the same time! Don’t really need to do much else do I?

5. RELAXATION: I’m grateful that I found one of the few places where I can truly relax. I was given some tips by Zell the day I arrived. Check out the pic below where he is teaching me how to just lie back and chill. After intensive days in the classroom, I did just that. Just not outside on the grass of course! I was grateful to be able to relax so fully at the end of every exhausting day.

6. KINGAROY STATE HIGH SCHOOL: I’ve saved the best till last, and I want to say now how grateful I am to the dynamic Narelle Knapp and the staff at KSHS for the invitation to run workshops, give author talks, yarn with teachers and parents and meet the local community. I only got to travel to Kingaroy because of the school’s invitation and it was an enriching experience for me and hopefully, also for the students.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What I’m grateful for in Deni...

1. YARKUWA INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE CENTRE: First and foremost I am grateful to the staff and board of Yarkuwa for inviting me to be part of their Wamba Wamba / Perrepa Perrepa Cultural Week celebrations. I was there for story-time with primary school kids, most of whom turned out to be the most delightful kids I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. I even got to yarn with a few toddlers who were so gorgeous I momentarily considered motherhood. Then I had a facial and a nap and snapped right out of it. I was also privileged to give the speech at the Nyerna: Deniliquin Reconciliation Group dinner at Deni RSL. What an inspiring gathering of people. Kudos to Jennifer Townsend and her team for pulling it all together. Overall congratulations to Carlee Rundell-Gordon and everyone at Yarkuwa for a memorable week for locals and visitors alike. Pic above is with Carlee.
2. DENI-ITES: I am not exaggerating when I say that the people in Deni were nearly ALL incredibly kind, generous, hospitable and friendly. There seriously must be something in the water there – oops, I was told not to mention the water – but you know what I mean. The kids were all noticeably well behaved, and the adults beyond helpful. I felt welcome from the minute I arrived by chariot from Albury Airport. With that in mind, I can’t believe I took so long to find my way to Deni. Special mention must be made to my minders Steven Ross and Debbie Flower who provided an endless stream of hysterical commentary.
3. UTES: Did you know that Deni is the ‘ute capital of the world’? Well neither did I. But it is. And I had only just missed out on the world famous Ute Muster that attracts 25,000 plus ‘friggers’ (apparently this is the term used by locals to describe those who attend) from across the globe. It’s hard to imagine what it’s really like so I may have to return to experience it for myself. What I see though, is the public art in Deni that has been created to honour the ute. See pics below of the ‘ute up a pole’ and the ‘mosaic ute’, and yours truly at the entrance to the utemuster site. Just FYI because I know you’re desperate to know: ‘On October 2, 1999, Deniliquin wrote itself in to history claiming the Guinness World Records title for the largest parade of legally registered utes in the world with 2,839 utes taking part. Since then the Festival has reached new heights with over 7,000 utes counted at the Festival in 2008.

4. THE CROSSING CAFE: Not sure how I managed to get The Crossing Cafe mixed up with ‘the courthouse’ but there was some confusion when I was trying to meet up with Steven. Once sorted, I enjoyed the most stunning breakfast of pan fried mushrooms on bruschetta, with spinach and Meredith feta, and the best coffee in town. I can’t do it justice here, so you’ll just have to check it out yourself. Apparently, it’s the place everyone is on the weekends also!
5. DENI NEWSAGENCY: I’m told my book signing at the Deni Newsagency was the inaugural for the local business. I’m grateful to owner Mark for inviting me into his space to meet locals, sell a few titles and ease my way out of down from there. Also thanks to Matt from TAFE who purchased a book for his daughter. There are still a few books left at the newsagency if you happened to have missed out.

6. 2QN’s PAUL DIX: I’m a huge fan of community radio and I was humbled to be invited into the studio with Paul Dix on Radio 2QN. Paul is the longest serving breaky announcer in Australia at the one station and in 2008 celebrated 50 years in radio. It was great to meet Paul, having done a phone interview with him in 2008 when I released Avoiding Mr Right. I’m grateful that he was keen to have a yarn and also plug the cultural week I was there to celebrate.
7. RED RIVER GUMS: What stood out for me most in Deni, aside from the above, was the sense of peace I felt there. I could’ve roamed the parks and along the river all day but I had to work of course. When I did get the chance to stroll I took in the lushness of the main park in town situated conveniently behind the Multi Arts Centre where I was working. I hugged a big red river gum tree – its part of the eucalyptus family. Sometimes a girl just needs a hug, eh?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some more things I’m grateful for in Hervey Bay:

1. HERVEY BAY LOCALS: I’m grateful to all the locals from Hervey Bay who came along to the RSL club to have a yarn with me on Wednesday, 13 October. Thanks also to Aunty Marie Wilkinson for her generous and warm welcome to Butchella country. I was in wonderful company as seen in today’s pic by Jocelyn Watts of the Fraser Coast Chronicle.
2. JOB SMART: So generous were the locals, that after my speech Robert Garland from Job Smart handed me a donation for the La Perouse Public School. The money will go towards art supplies for our wonderfully talented students. I handed it over today and everyone is VERY grateful.... and excited.
3. GLENDYNE EDUCATION AND TRAINING CENTRE : I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit Glendyne with Josie Montano and yarn about writing, storytelling and following dreams. As I stood there talking to both Murri and non-Indigenous students, I was reminded of the joy of working with young people.
4. JEFFREY: I’m grateful for meeting Jeffrey at Glendyne. He wants to be a boxer and I have no doubt whatsoever that he will reach his full potential and all his life goals.
5. HERVEY BAY LIBRARY: I love libraries; I always have, even before I had books of my own in them. Now I have even MORE respect and gratitude to librarians. I really enjoyed my time at the Hervey Bay library where I had the opportunity to talk about the research for Manhattan Dreaming.
6. KEBAB BOY: Apologies for the title, but I cannot remember his name – although he did tell us. Here was a young man confronted with three starving women – two crazy Kooris one irresistible Italian – and yet he was so devoted to mixing a ‘special hot sauce’ for the ‘special hot Commissioner’ that he wasn’t flustered at all by us. Our brief culinary encounter was another reminder of the polite young people in Hervey Bay. Oh, they have great kebabs also.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What I’m grateful for on Fraser Island...

1. KOOKABURRUS: I’m an urban chick. I like lots of people and cars and shopping malls. I like the heartbeat of the city that comes from millions of people on my doorstep. And anyone who knows me knows I’m more of a people person than an animal person. And to be honest, I don’t generally like being woken in the morning by foreign sounds like kookaburras banging their beaks against the reflection on glass doors of my holiday-house veranda. BUT, I admit that I was genuinely grateful for the opportunity to chat to a kookaburra on Fraser Island as my new feathered friend [pictured above]. I think he /she was concussed when he let me stroke his feathers.
2. SIGNORA BOLOGNESE: Our chef from Bris-Vegas, otherwise known as author Josie Montano made cups of tea, fruit pladdas (that’s Josie-speak for ‘platter’), toasted sangers and best of all she came armed with chocolate truffles and books for all. I’m grateful for all her positive energy but also her support for an afternoon nanna nap.
3. BIG KEV: I’m grateful to Uncle - as I call him out of respect - who toured us around the massive island. Did you know Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world? Well it is - 123 Kilometres long, 240 metres high and 184 000 hectares in size. Kev played tour guide and we’ve visited Mackenzie’s Lake, Eurong, Central Station, Lake Wabby and Sandblow.

4. FOUR WHEEL DRIVING: I had a 4-wheel drive for nine years a while back, and never once did I take it off road. It was one of those small funky-white vehicles with a short wheel-base, easy to park and great on fuel consumption. I only had it because I wanted a soft-top. So, hitting the sandy tracks of Fraser Island in a ‘real’ 4-wheel drive was a new experience for me. And WHOA! Talk about rough and tumble. I’ve got discs misplaced, need a hip-replacement, have whiplash and seat-belt marks across my chest. Let’s just say I’m grateful for whoever invented the sports bra!
5. DE-BOGGING BACKPACKERS: I’m not a fan of backpackers, but I do try to do some community service each day. Mine on Fraser Islander was supervising the de-bogging of backpackers on a driving track on Fraser Island. It was a little bit scary as sand flew all directions and bumper bars looked like they might detach themselves from vehicles, but Signora Bolgonese was there with a pladda to calm everyone’s nerves, and The Commissioner smoked cigarettes to calm all our nerves.
6. ELI CREEK: I’m grateful to the two young boys who walked Signora Bolognese and I down Eli Creek, the largest creek on the eastern beach of Fraser Island. Famous for pouring up to four million litres of clear, fresh water into the ocean every hour, walking amongst the eels was one the most adventurous things I’ve done in a long time.
7. MAHENO WRECK: We saw a rusty boat on Fraser Island too. It was once a luxury passenger ship for trans-Tasman crossings and a hospital ship during the First World War. The big boat was being towed from Melbourne to Japan for scrap metal when it was caught in a strong cyclone in 1935 and she – why it has been given the female gender I’m not so sure - eventually drifted ashore and was beached on the eastern shores of Fraser Island. What I’m really grateful for is that we didn’t hit a backpacker running in front of our vehicle wanting to get their photo taken in front of the wreck. Of course WE managed to get OUR photo taken!
8. DINGOS: I was grateful to see the local native animals in the flesh, some with a little too much flesh for my liking, and I desperately wanted to feed them although it’s illegal to do so. I heard stories that the sandy coloured wild dogs on the sandy island used to just roam amongst the tourists at the Kingfisher Bay Resort back in the day, before the dingo proof fence. I reckon that’s how it still should be.

9. EUROLIE : OK, so I’ve found the place I want to set / write the next novel. Here at Eurolie! The perfect setting for creative inspiration. If you’re planning a trip to the Fraser Coast, I recommend this holiday rental for honeymooners, families, and believe it or not, it makes the PERFECT writers’ retreat!! Be sure and tell the owners Anita sent you! And for a small fee I’m sure Signora Bolognese and The Commissioner can be part of your entourage. I always want them in mine!


1. THE HERVEY BAY ROTARY GROUP: I arrived in Harvey Bay thanks to an invitation from rotary members Kevin and Sandy Alexander after they read an article about yours truly in Australian Women’s Health back in March. The deal was I do some speaking engagements in exchange for accommodation and touring around Fraser Island. I love my job! So day one I spent enjoying Australia’s whale watching, cafes along the Esplanade, great big sharks, and strolls along the Urangan Pier. Unfortunately, it was wet but still warm. I’m grateful to the HBRG for giving me my introduction to the region because I actually fell in love with the Fraser Coast on the drive out from the airport to town. [see pic above taken in the entrance of Vic Hislop’s Great White Shark and Whale Expo]
2. THE COMMISSIONER: I’m grateful to The Commissioner who flew in from Cairns to keep me company among the Hervey Bay whales and Fraser Island Dingoes and to who doesn’t insist on riding shot-gun all the time. Or as some wordsmiths like to call - gunshot.
3. COURTEOUS PEOPLE: I’m grateful to the locals in HB who were incredibly friendly and courteous. It’s the kind of community-mindedness and generosity that is often lost when towns are taken over by tourists and HB is a tourist-town. Most notable were the young teenagers I observed in the street and the supermarket who were polite to passers-by and shop assistants. I’m also grateful for the reminder that most young people are generally good kids.
4. PAOLO’S: There’s simply too many delicious looking restaurants to choose from in HB, and being a foody, the evening meal was incredibly important to me, less so for the Commissioner. After a quick bevy at Hoolihan’s pub we liked to the look of Paolo’s Pizza Bar as we drove past – we needed a venue that would cope with the volume of our laughter – and within minutes were seated. Dining on the Diavola pizza, I wondered if chilli was needed on top of the salami and jalapeno’s to increase its fiery intensity. The Commissioner thought yes. The food, service, background music and walls signed with testimonials from satisfied customers, set the mood for a fantastic dining experience. Special mention of the incredibly polite, youthful wait staff; you guys / girls rock.
5. WHALE WATCHING: HB is Australia’s whale watching capital and humpback whales visit here on their southern migration staying in the waters nearby between mid-July and early November, so it was the perfect time to see the 40 tonne mammals while here. So, the Commissioner and I donned our plastic ponchos – thankfully there’s no photographic evidence at hand – and boarded the Quick Cat II in the hope of seeing a ‘belly flop’ [that was the Commissioner’s desire not mine]. Unlike many others, I was grateful for the merest glimpse of the majestic mammals as they performed some water ballet for us all. Special mention to staff member Courteous Curtis who was full of whale-watching trivia and performed some card tricks for the Commissioner and I. [Some pics above of the whales in waters on the Fraser Coast]
6. WALKING in HB: I like to walk. I do it most days in some form or other and I try to maintain it while on the road. It gives me time to clear my head, take in the local area and of course feel less guilty about the pizza I’ve eaten as part of my trip (and the chocolate etc etc etc). So, I headed along the Esplanade from my hotel in Torquay towards the Urangan Pier. It was drizzly and blowy but the locals were out in force at 7am and I was grateful they greeted me with smiley faces. I have no doubt everyone’s also friendly here because it’s hard not to feel like you’re on holidays with the palm trees and gorgeous sees. I’ll be coming back!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

OUT NOW: Landmark multilingual Indigenous anthology

22 talented Indigenous authors, diverse in age and backgrounds, share their cultural, artistic, political and personal interests of being Aboriginal in the 21st century, in the recently released This country anytime anywhere the first multilingual anthology.

This country anytime anywhere is a contemporary collection of writing from emerging authors, as well as many award winners, including Marie Munkara, winner of the 2008 David Unaipon Award for Every Secret Thing (also judged the 2010 Northern Territory Book of the Year).

IAD Press Editor, Allison Thatcher says, “This country anytime anywhere is the first anthology of Indigenous writing to include translations from English into eight Aboriginal languages from the length of the NT. These translations have added something extra special to the featured works”.

Sandra Thibodeaux of the NT Writers’ Centre explains, “The initial phase of development involved workshops and consultations with over 100 NT Indigenous people, some already writers, but most were newcomers with an interest in telling their stories”. “From the enormous amount of works received, the writers selected represent Central Australia, the Barkly region and the Top End. It was particularly exciting and inspiring to see the talent flowering from the Barkly region, considering it's located so far away from either Darwin or Alice Springs”.

Arts Minister Hon. Gerry McCarthy MLA officially launched This country anytime anywhere (IAD Press) on Saturday, 4 September 2010, as part of the Desert Harmony Festival, Tennant Creek.

Media contact: Steven Satour
Phone: 08 8951 1333 / 0427 201 903 Email:

Monday, October 4, 2010

What I’m grateful for this week in Sydney:

1. FAMILY & FRIENDS: After submitting the latest draft of Paris Dreaming, it’s really wonderful to have more hours in the day to do the things that mean most to me, like hanging out with family and friends. I’m grateful for lunch with Michael at the Trinity Bar on Saturday, dinner with my Mum, siblings and nephews on Saturday night and spending Sunday at the Art Gallery of NSW enjoying the art+soul program with lots of friends, including Robynne and Karen (pictured above).
2. FILMS: I saw two movies in the past few days; Dinner for Schmucks with Steve Carrell who is a comedic genius, and The Diary of Wimpy Kid (chosen by my nephews). As concerning as this may sound to some, I actually enjoyed both films. Sometimes I’m just grateful for a meaningless laugh, and the opportunity to spend time with my nephews at the cinema.
3. FOOD: I’m grateful for the delish delights I allowed myself to indulge in these past few days. My highlights: steamed chocolate pudding at the AGNSW Cafe, apple crumble pizza at maranello's and a banana choc top at Hoyts. Of course, there was also a lot of salads and protein in between these deadly dishes.
4. FOTOS: Fotos are tangible memories. I am a tourist with my camera but have no real technical skills in taking decent photos. So I appreciate and am grateful to those who can capture certain moments properly, like Matt Sutton who was clicking madly at the Deadlys for Hart Magazine. Thanks for sending me the pics above Matt.
5. FITNESS: I’m grateful for being in a groove now where I feel guilty when I don’t do some form of exercise every day. It’s a bit freaky these days to find myself racing home from work to get to the gym before it closes. I really enjoy the rush. I also like knowing that if I do my self-imposed minimum requirement of exercise each day, I can treat myself to something ‘naughty’. I’m also off soy milk (and here’s why) and V! Apparently they were contributing to my belly, and not necessarily the wine and chocolate!

Friday, October 1, 2010

What I’m grateful for at the 16th Deadly Awards, September 27.

1. CELEBRATING: The Deadly awards each year provide us with the opportunity to take some time to celebrate all that is wonderful in our communities nationally. More specifically, the awards pay tribute to those who are considered to have excelled in their particular field: in the arts, sports, education, health and leadership. To find out who the awards were presented to this year, go to the Deadly’s website. The best part of the celebration of course is catching up with friends and family from all around the country. Such a blast!
2. LITERATURE CATEGORY: I was fortunate to be nominated for the 4th time in the category of Most Outstanding Contribution to Literature, alongside the very deadly Larissa Behrendt, Kevin Palmer and Michael Torres. I reckon we’re all winners, but unfortunately only one us got a ring. I am grateful to, and thank, all those who voted for my novel Manhattan Dreaming and I feel incredibly humbled to have won. I am particularly grateful to the Deadly’s for making the statement that ALL genres are eligible, unlike the mainstream literary community who don’t rate commercial women’s fiction as worth of literary awards. At least in our communities, ALL stories and modes of storytelling are regarded as valuable.
3. ENTERTAINMENT: The Deadly awards each year are jam-packed with entertainment highlights. This year mine included performances by Archie Roach who dedicated his words to his late partner, Ruby Hunter. The other highlight was Aunty Ali Mills singing Waltzing Matilda in language. To get a taste of her unique rendition check out one of many YouTube versions.
4. IAN THORPE: Ian Thorpe has long been a philosophical and practical supporter of improving the conditions of Indigenous youth through the Ian Thorpe Fountain of Youth. Aside from being grateful for his commitment to our cause(s), I’m also grateful for his fabulous sense of humour, getting on one knee to slide my Deadly ring in my finger. Let’s face it, three Deadly rings and no engagement ring should make any man want to do the same!
5. FROCKING UP: I’m grateful for the opportunity to frock up each year at the Deadly's - not that one needs an excuse! See pics above of yours truly with Ms Miah Wright, the Divine Casy Donovan and a very dear friend and once producer of mine, Ms Caroline Barton.