Blog Archives

Pope Benedict XVI — The Writer

I started this blog with the intent of exploring any and all genres of non-fiction.Pope Benedict XVI_collage

Well, that does include theology and philosophy ­— and perhaps the most prolific theologian has made global headlines of late.

That’s right.

Pope Benedict XVI.

He has publised 66 books over his life, in multiple languages, and almost half of those have been published since 2005, when he became Pope.

The cynical part of me thinks, in a crudely commercial sense, that he was probably published more after he became Pope because of the profile the position gave him, in that, the eyes of publishers probably lit up with dollar signs.

But while the disillusioned writers among us might think that, the reviews of his most recent book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (2012), probably demonstrate his ability to reflect on Christianity’s deepest characteristics and explore them in a way that’s easy to understand.

At least, that’s how I read this remark:

 I recommend this book highly especially to those who might have some doubts about particulars of the Christmas story. ” — J. Puleo 

All in all, as an ex-Roman Catholic and despite any reservations I may have about how Pope Benedict XVI directed the Church during his papacy, I might actually pick up one of his books to try and understand why the story lines that form the basis of Christianity continue to endure after 2,000 years.

Have you read one of Pope Benedict XVI’s books?

Would you recommend it?


Cat blog signature


My Top 15 Favourite Australian Female Writers

Last week, the Aussie Women Writers group asked tweeps (Twitter users) for their Top 10 favourite Australian women writers across all genres.

Of course, I couldn’t keep it to 10, so here are my Top 15 (note: in no particular order).

Non-Fiction (mid­–20th century to now) 

  • Leigh Sales — her book on David Hicks, Detainee 002 is, in my humble opinion, one of the best examples of Australian creative non-fiction around. It’s well-researched, fair and balanced, and well-written. You can’t ask for more than that.
  • Germaine Greer — I nearly listed Germaine in the Pioneer section below for, of course, her work The Female Eunuch is a seminal piece of work in the feminism movement. I also enjoyed her wit on the lawns of the NT Museum and Art Gallery at the NT Writers’ Festival in 2009.
  • Chloe Hooper — I think Chloe and Leigh are together the best creative non-fiction writers in Australia. Chloe presented in a clear and fair-mannered way, in her award-winning book The Tall Man, the story of Cameron Doomadgee’s death in custody on Palm Island.
  • Maria Hill — A professional female military historian in the Australian marketplace, yay! Maria is bubbly in person and has great drive to bring a woman’s perspective to a traditionally male category. Check out her book Diggers and Greeks about Australians in Greece in World War II.

 Pioneer Fiction (late 19th–early 20th century)

  • Katharine Susannah Prichard I was introduced to her novel Coonardoo during my undergraduate literary studies and loved the book. I can’t believe it’s not held in as high esteem as …
  • Stella Miles Franklin My Brilliant Career is clearly a stalwart of Australian literary studies. I’ve also thought of it as our version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Henry Handel Richardson Maurice Guest is another work that looms large in the Australian canon and that all lovers of Australian literature should read.

Contemporary Fiction (mid-20th Century to now)

  • Kate Grenville — My favourite is Idea of Perfection. It’s a great romp through rural life and how romance changes throughout life. This isn’t to ignore her other work, but I think this book is often forgotten.
  • Libby Gleeson — When I was in my early teens, Eleanor, Elizabeth opened my eyes to the beauty of young adult literature. It’s one of the few books in that category I’ve ever read (no, I haven’t read Harry Potter or Twilight).
  • Hazel Edwards —this is a more personal favourite, as I met Hazel in Darwin in 2008 and she was very encouraging of my writing ambition and even helped to brainstorm some titles ideas for my book on Beersheba.
  • Andrea Goldsmith — again, another more personal favourite. I met Andrea through a novel-writing workshop series run by the Victorian Writers’ Centre in Melbourne. Her book Reunion is an daring work about friendships and relationships across life.
  • Leonie Norrington — yep, another personal one. Leonie was the President of the NT Writers’ Centre when I joined the committee in 2003. She’s an incredible person and writer. Her recent book The Devil You Know is another I’d recommend for young adults.
  • Jennifer Scoullar — a personal inspiration. She’s made anthropomorphic writing to a fine art — dare I say she’s even Kafka-esque. Jenny’s now part of the distinguished Penguin rural author stable and I encourage you to check out her latest book Brumby’s Run.

Poetry (late-20th century to now)

  • Dorothy Porter — another pioneer of genre with her verse novels, especially The Monkey’s Mask and Akhenaten. I also fondly remember her as being kind enough to respond to my email questions when I was a second-year undergraduate student writing an essay about books turning into movies — in her case, The Monkey’s Mask.

Short Stories (late-20th century to now)

  • Cate Kennedy — sure Cate’s now written novels (which I also highly recommend) but she managed to grow a public profile from her short stories first. That’s rare in today’s crowded literary marketplace. Her collection of short stories Dark Roots is a must for any writer and reader of short stories.

There are many more Australian female writers I’d like to list including — May Gibbs, Marion Halligan, Elizabeth Jolley, Anita Heiss, Alexis Wright, Delia Falconer, Susan Johnson, Jackie French, Patsy Adam-Smith, Helen Garner … and the list goes on!

Indeed, Wikipedia has some 442 Australian women writers, which is missing some of my top 15.

Who are your favourite Australian women writers, in any category?


10 Steps in Publishing a Book — or What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Rewriting Beersheba

Why haven’t I been working on my Beersheba manuscript for the past several months?

Well, I took on a freelance project, my second one under Ryter Publishing.

The project has been to publish a high-quality, photographic coffee table book for a Defence client, titled — War in the Valleys : 7th Battalion Battle Group (MRTF–1), Afghanistan, October 2008 to June 2009.

I have prioritised this freelance project over my Beersheba book, thankfully with the blessing of my publisher Andrew Kelly of Red Dog Books (!).

I thought some of you might interested in how a book develops, so I wanted to share what it’s taken to get this book to print.

My main role has been as the project manager, which was being the conduit between the designer, printer and client. I was also the editor.

Stat Check

  • Physical specs — A4 (landscape); hardback (paper laminated case); 140 pages; four-colour
  • Word length — 44 articles, ranging in length from 120 to 4,500 words; and ranging in style, from informal, light-hearted tone to formal Defence writing — Total manuscript length: 45,000 words; that’s about the same length as my Beersheba book.
  • Photos — Some 1,260 photos were whittled down to 106 photos, and the page number for each photo was stipulated. The client put in a huge effort to get this done; over the Christmas break no less!

The Process

Step One — Set-up the project

  1. My tasks — Evaluate project and source suppliers. Receive brief, files and source a designer and printer
  2. Designer — Extracted the manuscript from the initial design that was prepared

Step Two — Manuscript Development (Structural Edit)

  1. My tasks — Conduct initial structural edit; Establish style guide; Propose/develop the glossary and acronyms list, organisational chart and new book order
  2. Designer — Prepared next text design
  3. Client — For the 7RAR birthday parade, the client was able to take the new text design and book dummies to show the lads that the project was indeed happening!

Step Three —1st page proofs

  1. My tasks — During Step 2, I Identified that two articles were alike in subject and the client decided that these two articles should be ‘merged’. That was fun ’cause one article was serious in tone, the other light-hearted
  2. Designer — Prepared 1st page proofs for the manuscript, except the newly merged article and photos

Step Four — Pick photos!

  1. My tasks — Proofread 1st page proofs. Edited and merged the two articles
  2. Client — As mentioned in the stats, the client spent the Christmas doing this, which displayed exceptional dedication to project!

Step Five — 2nd page proofs

  1. My tasks — Proofread 2nd page
  2. Designer — Insert the selected photos to produce 2nd page proofs
  3. Client — Chase-up a team photo that was stubbornly not in the main group of photos and was too small for a book print

Step Six — 3rd page proofs

  1. My tasks — proofread 3rd page proofs — this was my last chance to ensure consistency and pick-up spelling errors. So of course, the corrections was three-times as extensive as what I did for 2nd page proofs. *Groan*
  2. Designer — Take-in 3rd page proof corrections to produce the final set of proofs
  3. Client — Let’s include the nominal roll. Superlative idea!

Step Seven — Print-ready files

  1. My tasks — Give the final set of proofs the once-over
  2. Designer — Prepare the absolute final, print ready files


Step Eight — Printer proofs

  1. Me — Look over the printer proofs (a.k.a. ozalids) to make sure that nothing’s abruptly dropped off during the printer’s processing of the files

Step Nine — Advances

  1. Me, Designer, Client  — Receive advance of the book from printer. Approve bulk stock delivery. HOORAY!

Step Ten — Bulk Stock Delivery

  1. The lads receive a high-quality coffee table book that could be sold in the shop if they so chose.

That’s it!


A Wrap-up of Australian Non-fiction Award Winners in 2011

It’s that time of year: where news outlets produce copious montages and interviews reflecting on the year that has been, while individually we wonder what happened to the new year’s resolution we made more than eleven months ago.

In the spirit of the season, and to help raise the profile of the craft of non-fiction writing generally, let’s review the non-fiction winners of 12 of Australia’s literary and history prizes and awards for 2011.

The list is generally dominated by biographies and autobiographies of historians, architects, sports people, politicians and migrants, as well as stories of communities affected by cultural challenges and tragic events.

So, the non-fiction book award winners for 2011 are (in chronological order of announcements, starting with the most recent) *drum roll*:

Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History (winners announced 1 Dec 11):

–      A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W K Hancock by Jim Davidson  and Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny and Murder in the Great War by Peter Stanley

Walkley Nonfiction Book Award (winners announced 27 Nov 11longlist):

–      King Brown Country: The betrayal of Papunya by Russell Skelton

Colin Roderick Award (winners announced 26 Oct 11, shortlist): though not strictly a non-fiction award, a non-fiction book won it again this year:

–      Worst of Days: Inside the Black Saturday Firestorm by Karen Kissane

Western Australia Premier’s Book Awards (winners announced 30 Sep 11):

–      Category: Non-fiction: A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W. K. Hancock by Jim Davidson

–      Category: State Library of WA: WA History Award: Vite Italiane: Italian Lives in Western Australia by Dr Susanna Iuliano

Victorian Premier Literary Awards (winners announced 6 Sep 11, shortlist):

–      Category: Nettie Palmer Prize for Nonfiction: An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark by Mark McKenna

Queensland Premier Literary Awards (winners announced 6 Sep 11):

–      Category: Non-Fiction Book Award: An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark by Mark McKenna

–      Category: History Book Award – ­­Faculty of Arts, University of Queensland: Northern Voyagers: Australia’s monsoon coast in maritime history by Alan Powell

New South Wales Premier’s History Awards (winners announced 5 Sep 11):

–      Category: General History Prize: Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem Between the Wars by Shane White, Stephen Garton, Stephen Robertson and Graham White

The Age Book of the Year (winners announced 25 Aug 11 [Matilda blog]):

–      Category: Non-fiction: A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W. K. Hancock by Jim Davidson

The Australian Centre Literary Awards (Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne — winners announced 2 Sep 11):

–      Category: Peter Blazey Fellowship: Helen Ennis

–      Category: Asher Literary Award: this one’s for a female writer whose work carries an anti-war theme and I’ve included it because of my personal bias towards military history: The Old School by PM Newton (crime novel) and Ruin by Roberta Lowing (poems about Iraq war)

–      Category: Ernest Scott Prize for History (winners announced Aug 11): A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa and how it led to the Settlement of Australia by Emma Christopher and A Three-Cornered Life: The Historian W K Hancock by Jim Davidson

Australian Book Industry Awards (winners announced 25 Jul 11):

–      Category: General Non-Fiction Book of the Year: True Spirit by Jessica Watson

–      Category: Biography of the Year: The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do (which also won Book of the Year) and How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (winners announced 8 Jul 11):

–      Category: Non-fiction: The Hard Light of Day by Rod Moss

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards (winners announced 20 May 11 [ANZ Litlovers Blog]):

–      Category: The Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction (which also won Book of the Year): Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs by Margaret Simons

–      Category: National Biography Award: Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin by Alasdair McGregor


So, as it’s the Christmas season, do you take into consider whether a book has won an award when buying books?




%d bloggers like this: