Friday, 31 August 2012


Whilst working my way through university I used to work in a book exchange and then in a bookstore. I saw all of these women – intelligent, articulate, often professionals – reading romances. I thought: 'Why?'. I saw all of these boys reading 'Commando' war comics. I thought: 'Why?'.

Then it occurred to me one day: they're reading something.

So many people read nothing, or very little, which I've never understood. How can you understand yourself and the world around you if you don't read? At the very least, I would think life would be so much more boring if you didn't read.

So, here's to everybody who reads something everyday: horror, bodice-rippers, fantasy, comic books, erotica, sci-fi, women's magazines, biographies, you name it. You're reading, improving your mind, and having a great time in the process.

As for me, I just finished 'Love and Summer' by Williams Trevor. It's a lovely, short book about young love in Ireland. One more novel to read for college and I then can get back to reading the fiction I love reading most: Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Whitley Strieber, Michael Crichton and more. Then there's the whole shelf of zombie novels ...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I’ve had fun this year incorporating some real-life occurrences into my writing, as well as some real people from my life. I think the key to making this work is to keep the most interesting and humourous elements of the various situations and to embroider from there. And when it comes to including people you know, you need to be very careful not to offend. Especially if you’re painting someone in a less-than-flattering light, then you really need to draw the character in such a way that they won’t be identified.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


So far this year I’ve read some great novels for college, with characters who have really come alive for me.

‘Judge Holden’ in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Absolutely the most harrowing book I’ve ever read, but an immensely rewarding read. Truly, the Judge is The Devil incarnate.

‘Holden Caulfield’ in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Such a wonderfully flawed character. This is one of the few classics that, for me, really shows why it has such enduring popularity.

‘Stephen Wraysford’ in Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong. A marvellously nuanced character whose journey we follow from just before, and through, World War 1.

‘Paddy Clarke’ in Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. The child narrator of this novel irked me initially, but I soon came to love him. A superb exercise in capturing a child’s voice.

‘Katniss Everdeen’ in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Quite simply, I adore this character. What Collins puts her through in this novel, and its two sequels, is astounding. Katniss is a truly resilient protagonist, and she feels so real to me.

And the really interesting thing is that I wouldn’t have picked up any of these books unless they had been prescribed for my course. I definitely think that, as both a both a reader and a writer, I’ve been greatly enriched by engaging with these characters and their journeys.

Telling stories

I was sitting in class the other day, reading out one of my stories to a (very patient) group of fellow students. It's fascinating when people really listen to your writing. And illuminating when you start to lose them! That's when you realise what needs to be fixed in a story. I'm trying to make sure that I read all of my creative writing aloud nowadays. You can hear the imperfections so much more easily when you do.

I remember reading several James Patterson novels a couple of years ago. They were well-written, engaging page-turners. But I hadn't realised just how popular and prolific is!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Saturday, 25 August 2012


For college this year, we were asked to write a memoir piece based on an experience in our life. I loved this project. I wrote about the big surgery I had nearly four years ago, which so drastically changed my life. I can't recommend enough how cathartic the process was to write about something like this. It helped me to understand what I went through, and how I've become – in so many ways – a different person. I hope to keep working on my memoir, to share the experiences I had with the medical system, and to try to give some tips and insights into how to better manage your recovery after major surgery.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Coming soon: King Kong

Another musical coming in 2013.

King Kong

Here’s a show that I thought would never, ever be adapted for the stage!

Modern audiences would know the legend of the great ape from the 2005 Peter ‘Lord of the Rings’ Jackson special effects extravaganza, King Kong. If you’re from my generation, though, you’ll remember the wonderfully schlocky 1976 version starring Jessica Lange in the Naomi Watts role. And if you’re a real film buff, you might have seen the 1933 original on late-night TV, starring the gorgeous Fay Wray, the original ‘scream queen’.

The people who brought us the arena spectaculars ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ and ‘How to Tame Your Dragon’ are involved in this production. So, we’re apparently going to be treated to a thirty-foot tall animatronic Kong on-stage! The creative team looks to be quite promising, with the show featuring a book by the writer of the gorgeous The Light in the Piazza, Craig Lucas. Although I’ve not heard any tunes from the show, word on the street is that the score is good and that it will be a mix of 1930s songs and new musical material.

The show has had two workshops, this year and in 2011, so hopefully they’ve ironed out any problems. I’m keeping an open mind about this production, hoping that we might have something unique on our hands. Melbourne has been the testing ground for several debut professional productions in recent years that didn’t quite live up to expectations – ‘Doctor Zhivago’, ‘Moonshadow’ – so fingers crossed this show gets legs. Either way, I think we’re in for a spectacle, as I have the feeling there will also be quite a bit of animation projection for this production, which seems to be part of the current musical theatre zeitgeist.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Coming soon: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

2013 is shaping up to be a big year for musical theatre aficionados!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Once the infectious title song of this family musical gets into your head, you will spend days getting it out again! Borrow a 'stunt' child to take along to this kid-friendly show. Following award-winning seasons in London and New York, 'Chitty Chitty' opens in Melbourne in January 2013, after its 'out of town try-out' in Sydney from November 2012

Borrow a friend's copy of the heartwarming 1968 film, upon which this show is based, which was in turn taken from the novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car by Ian 'James Bond 007' Fleming. The musical features a charming score from the legendary song-writing duo the Sherman Brothers ('Mary Poppins').

An all-star cast recently announced includes: David Hobson, popular opera favourite; Rachael Beck, one of Australia's finest leading ladies; George Kapiniaris, our favourite 'wog boy'; Alan Brough, of 'Spicks and Specks' fame; and many more. Best of all, it features a flying car! Look out Mary Poppins!

Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

Wednesday, 22 August 2012



This spoke to me.

In total, I have written over 9,000 words for three different writing projects for college this week: I rock! Yes, yes: pride cometh before the fall and all of that, but it's nice to give yourself a boost every now and then! And if it's any consolation, my cat just walked over my keyboard, typing as she went, as if to say: 'Anyone can write ... '

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Sage words from Mr Orwell. We discussed his essay 'Politics and the English Language' at college last semester. I've included a link, below. It's great reading in the way that it encourages clear, concise writing techniques. Memo to self: read this essay again ...

Monday, 20 August 2012


This year, I've discovered just how rewarding writing can be. Even though I've got a long – and sometimes intimidating – journey towards hopefully becoming a half-way decent writer, the act of writing is bringing me great joy. It reminds of when I used to do amateur theatre. There's a feeling of satisfaction you get when you are creating something.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


I wrote a long piece on Stephen King for one of my college classes this year. I've loved his writing now for more than twenty years. Even if you don't like his material, you have to admire his support for emerging writers, literacy, books and humanitarian issues. He really puts his money where his mouth is.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Elmore Leonard

Some very useful writing advice from a fairly legendary writer, Elmore Leonard. Interestingly, a very large number of his stories have been adapted for the screen.

Friday, 17 August 2012


This year, I’ve been trying to get inspired to find out what it is I want to do for the rest of my life. That is, how to make a living and to find more enjoyment and meaning in my everyday working life. I’m hoping that my day job will come to include more writing and editing. Then hopefully I can transition to becoming a full-time editor and/or writer. And I’m hoping I can find more fulfilment in life through my creative writing.

In the meantime, I’m reading a variety of inspirational materials, including following the blogs/websites, below. They all talk about following your dreams yet also trying to make money from doing work that you love. And they all talk about using your writing to help you achieve your aims.

Zen Habits
Often voted the one of the best blogs on the web. Leo Babauta is all about simplifying your life and finding happiness through creative thinking and pursuits.

Live Your Legend
Another very popular blog. Scott Dinsmore encourages everyone to do work they love and to make a living from it.

Change Your Thoughts
A blog from the other side of the pond. Steven Aitchison gives very real tips on how to make a living from working for yourself on the web.

The Art of Non-Conformity
Chris Guillebeau is on a mission to visit every country on the planet. Along the way, he shares tips for changing the way you live through travel, and working for yourself through microbusiness.

Following these guys’ blogs, I get a spoonful of inspiration everyday, which helps me keep going forward with my writing and editing.

Do, do not

I love it when two of my favourite subjects intersect ...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

R & H

Great article from Melbourne's 'The Age' newspaper from 13 August, about Australia's connection to the legendary partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

'It sounds like the plot for a musical. In 1923 Dorothy Blanchard, the daughter of a Williamstown ship's captain, won a beauty pageant and sailed to America, dreaming of being a movie star. She toured the US as understudy in a stage revue before marrying a New York businessman and having two children. On a cruise she met budding stage lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who was unhappily married. They fell madly in love … ’

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


I've seen many variations on this over the years and they always make me smile.

Our Language

  • There's no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
  • English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
  • We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
  • And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two indices?
  • Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through the annals of history but not a single annal?
  • If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
  • If teachers taught, why didn't preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?
  • Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways?
  • How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?
  • How you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love?
  • Have you ever run into someone who was dis-combobulated, grunted,  ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would ACTUALLY hurt a fly?
  • You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.
  • English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race at all).
  • That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it!

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Editor Strikes Back

The return of Tina: super editor and business writer.

This one's for all of you – you know who you are, and there are many of you out there – who've ever had to edit a manager's writing.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

This 'n' that

1 - The computer says 'no'.

Yesterday, I got my first rejection for a writing submission. It was for a short story I'd entered for an anthology at one of the Melbourne universities. They sent me a short email with the whole 'thanks but no thanks' deal. And they'd taken eight weeks to get back to me. Meh. Onwards and upwards! Today, I submitted two short stories to another two competitions/anthologies. And I'm waiting to hear back about a third submission, too. Fingers crossed!

2 - The write stuff.

I'm over half-way through my course this year, the Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. So far, no-one has had to die. But two fellow students, with whom I was to write a collaborative piece, did leave the course several weeks ago. I'm trying not to take that too personally ...

3 - 20/20.

So far this year, I've read twenty books and seen twenty pieces of theatre. Not bad, I reckon! I'm a bit behind in my theatre reviews for my blog, so memo to self to get writing!

Friday, 10 August 2012


Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker's
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


It's not easy being a theatre reviewer. And in the face of 'challenging' theatre, it's even less easy being a generous theatre reviewer ...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


I just wanted to let those of you in the audience, who have signed up to be Grammar Police, know that I've ordered our uniforms ...

Monday, 6 August 2012

It's a wild world

Musical –
Producer/Company –
Sue Farrelly, Executive Producer
Venue –
Princess Theatre, Melbourne
Date and time –
Thursday, 31 July, 7.00pm
Cast –
Major cast members –
Gareth Keegan, Gemma-Ashley Kaplan, Jolyon James, Sally Bourne, Tony Cogin, Rodney Dobson, Robert Grubb, Blake Bowden, Marney McQueen.
Major creative team members –
Cat Stevens/Yusef, Rachel Wagstaff, Anders Albien, Stephen Amos, Yvette Lee.

Cat Stevens is well-known for a string of popular songs and albums from the 1960s-70s. These songs include: ‘Matthew and Son’, ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, ‘Wild World’, ‘Peace Train’, ‘Morning Has Broken’, ‘Remember the Days’, and ‘Moonshadow’. The last of these songs is the title of the musical featuring Steven’s songs, which played its premiere season in Melbourne from May until August 2012.

Cat Stevens famously converted to Islam in the late 1970s, changing his name to Yusef Islam, or simply Yusef as he is now known. When embracing his new faith, Yusef gave up his music and the subsequent fame for twenty-five years, retiring to undertake philanthropic work. In the 1990s, he again became active in music, and he then started releasing albums in the mid-2000s under the name of Yusef. This duality is reflected in the credits for ‘Moonshadow’, which lists it as ‘Created by Yusef’, with ‘Songs by Cat Stevens’.

‘Moonshadow’ is a jukebox musical in a similar vein to ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘We Will Rock You’. The show features the previously mentioned Cat Stevens’ songs, as well as many new songs from the musician’s new career as Yusef. All of these pieces are hung upon the frame of a plot created to showcase the material.

The central story of ‘Moonshadow’ is similar to Romeo and Juliet; two star-crossed lovers held apart by family issues. The main action of the story, though, is the journey undertaken by the lead male character, ‘Stormy’. He embarks upon an odyssey to solve the central concern of the story, which is the absence of a sustainable source of light and heat for the people who populate the planet of ‘Alaylia’, the setting for the musical.

Unfortunately, ‘Moonshadow’ doesn’t quite succeed in the way that the other previously mentioned jukebox musicals do. The somewhat confusing plot – which tends to meanders throughout, borrowed as it seems to have been from a number of sources – concludes with a final resolution sequence that seems too simplistic. The well-known Cat Stevens’ songs are effectively interwoven into the plot, yet the rest of the new, pleasant enough pieces by Yusef lacks emotional resonance and tends to feel like filler material.

In the lead role of ‘Stormy’, Gareth Keegan has been directed to play the role quite broadly. The same is the case with another pivotal role, that of ‘Moonshadow’ played by Jolyon James. The result is that the talented actors playing both characters, with whom we spend most of the show, often lack the depth needed for the audience to better engage with the story and the action.

The production benefits greatly from the presence of strong leading ladies. Gemma-Ashley Kaplan gives a winning performance as ‘Lisa’, Stormy’s love interest. And Sally Bourne, as Stormy’s mother ‘Layla’, stops the show with her stunning ballad rendition of ‘Wild World’. The villain of the piece, ‘Princess Zeena’, is played with great relish by Marney McQueen. Unfortunately, their characters – like a number of others in this musical – seem somewhat underwritten, and so they many of the principal roles don’t effectively enough assist the audience to connect with the overall piece.

The design of ‘Moonshadow’ has clearly been a major focus for the creative team, and it was beautifully realised. The sets, costumes and effectively animated backdrops gave a wonderful sense of a modern resetting of the ‘Arabian Nights’. Kudos go to Jolyon James who spent the entire show on stilts as the character ‘Moonshadow’, making him appear more than eight feet tall.

Unfortunately, the overall superior look and feel of ‘Moonshadow’, coupled with the wonderful Cat Stevens’ songs, are not quite enough to make up for some of the deficiencies with the writing and structure of the show. This seems to be reflected in the box office for the production, as it is closing much earlier than expected, and the producers apparently don’t plan to tour within Australia in the near future. I think an intense period of revision of this show would be the best suggestion, perhaps combined with additional creative talents who could then lend a fresh set of eyes with a view to this musical’s future incarnations.

Beautifully trippy
(The Abusicals two-word summary is, of course, tongue-in-cheek.)

Saturday, 4 August 2012


Or as I like to think, the world's oldest editor.

Oh, and a useless piece of the trivia, the bird symbol is actually the hieroglyph for the letter 'a'.