Archive | August, 2013

What’s that Freud guy doing in my book?

29 Aug


freudI’ve been asked quite a few times about the quotes from Sigmund Freud which start each chapter in ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ so finally, at the urging of the lovely Kate Belle I have decided to share.


‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is all about sex, love and intimacy. For me, the process of writing it was not only one of telling a story, but of meditating on these themes and what they mean. I wanted to explain in psychological terms, but in a subtle and humorous way, why Edie acts the way she does. Why does she feel so heartbroken at the beginning? Why does she feel like a failure? Why does she fall so deeply in lust with Professor Brownlow? And why, when she eventually falls in love, is it so obviously right for her?


Giving Edie her best friend Sally who is a psychologist of sorts was a way for me to explore these themes in a fictional way. And when I researched (Googled) sex, love and intimacy all roads led to Freud. Although he was sometimes a bit of a crackpot, the impact of his radical theories on childhood, sexuality and relationships are still with us today.


Initially I put my research into the story in the form of university essays on Freud from Sally. Sadly, in the editing process it became obvious that this wasn’t working. So, in order to keep this theme going I introduced the little Freud quotes.


It soon became apparent that Freud and I were on a similar wavelength. For every chapter in the book, he had something totally appropriate to say. I never had to try too hard to find a relevant quotation. Take ‘One is very crazy when in love’ (chapter 2); Love and work…work and love, that’s all there is (chapter 4) and ‘Everywhere I go; I find a poet has been there before me’ (chapter 11). Absolutely perfect!


I’m sure many readers just skim over the quotes and that’s totally fine, but for me they are the frame for the story and an extra little layer to ponder. For those who are so inclined.  You can check out ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in this preview.



From silence to enlightenment – ‘Sex, Drugs and Meditation’ by Mary-Lou Stephens

23 Aug


small sex drugs‘Sex, Drugs and Meditation’ is ABC radio journalist Mary-Lou Stephens’ first book. Her memoir has an unusual structure. A ten-day silent meditation retreat provides the frame and the backdrop to her story.


Mary-Lou’s decision to take the retreat is driven by a re-structure at the radio station where she works. Enter Elliott Purvis, her sociopathic boss. While radio has given Mary-Lou a haven and a purpose, she realises she may have to abandon it. Can she find a way within herself to deal with Purvis’s intimidation and bullying? Hence the silent retreat. For a woman who makes her living from talking, this is a challenge indeed. But the author has demons that she must confront as middle-age approaches.


Throughout the ten days that Mary-Lou meditates, in a range of agonising positions, her mind, and the story, flashes back to different scenes in her life. Her childhood was fraught with unpredictability. As the youngest of six children with an obsessively religious mother, Mary-Lou had to fight for attention. Her ongoing addictions to food, alcohol and drugs stem from these early beginnings.


The story charts Mary-Lou’s journey from actor to singer to radio host and the different addictions that plague this path. It follows her through a number of twelve step programs and the realisation, during the ten days, that she needs to let go of her anger and grief around a man in her past.


‘Sex, Drugs and Meditation’ is both humorous and moving. Mary-Lou’s deductions about her fellow meditators, fuelled by the silence, are found to be way off mark. Her observations on her own contortions – both mental and physical – and the ways people survive the retreat are often wryly funny.


While I’m not sure that I’ll be rushing along to the next Vipassana retreat, I found Mary-Lou’s account honest, entertaining and, in the end, uplifting. This book will strongly resonate with anyone who has experienced addiction. The message is clear and hopeful – people can change. I hear a sequel is in the wings, so stay tuned.


This is my eighth review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013


Hanging on to the glow – three days of peace, love and words in Byron Bay

8 Aug

Well another Byron Bay Writers Festival has come and gone, but the glow lingers. Something magical happens when you get a bunch of writers and readers together. As the smart and funny David Astle said (see video) it was like we were all part of a giant Jamboree of people who cared about words and ideas. And the sun shone!

intimacy I was privileged to share a panel talking about intimacy with Mary-Lou Stephens, Graeme Simsion and Susanna Freymark. And also a panel called ‘Chick-lit, mass market am I literary enough for you?’ with Anita Heiss, Ed Chatterton, Colin Falconer and Moya Sayer-Jones. We had a lot of fun, as you’ll see on the video. The laughter at the start is for Ed Chatterton’s story about the humiliation of sitting next to Michael Robotham in the signing tent. We writers are sensitive folk.bbwf 2

I also loved hosting the Pitch Perfect Panel on Saturday morning, where five emerging writers pitched to some of the finest minds in the Australian publishing industry. I’ll eat my hat (that’s an in-joke for those who were there) if we don’t see at least one of those authors published before too long. I also enjoyed being one of the ‘Hypatia’s Hell Raisers’ in the Stella Prize Trivia night which celebrates Australian Women’s Literature. I now know that Hypatia was the first well documented female philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. I think I only answered one or two questions, but I’m sure I gave the impression it was more, which is absolutely the main thing!stella

Other highlights included Justin Heazlewood’s striptease and pole dance (see video) and hearing Denise Scott talk about her father dressing up as a clown at her sixteenth birthday party. A surprise favourite was John Elder Robison, who had fantastic photos from the seventies, when he was a roadie with Kiss and Black Sabbath. And there was so much more, but… you’ll just have to watch the video.

I am over in Fremantle next week for the Elizabeth Jolley Conference and will also be at the RWA fancy dress cocktail party on Friday. Fancy dress is not one of my strong points, but I do have a sailor hat. Hope to see you there.