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Oblong Obsession Posts

Burnt Out by Victoria Brookman

Burnt Out, by Victoria Brookman, book cover

Writing that difficult second novel, it might be what many authors consider to be a good problem. Their debut novel has been published, an epic achievement, and now they have the opportunity to write another book. What aspiring novelist wouldn’t want to be in such a situation?

Cali, an author residing in the NSW Blue Mountains may be such a person, in Burnt Out (published by HarperCollins Publishers, January 2022) the debut novel of Australian author Victoria Brookman. Cali’s struggling to write her second novel, in fact she was meant to have turned in the manuscript long ago. In reality she hasn’t even started work on it. But for the moment that’s the least of her worries.

Her home has been destroyed by a bush fire, likewise her possessions, and to top it off her husband has left her. But Cali sees an opportunity amid the turmoil. Speaking to a television news crew, she tells them her manuscript was also incinerated, and goes onto chide politicians and well-off Australians for their inaction in response to the devastating bush fires. Her words immediately strike a chord nationwide.

After seeing her on-air rant, a billionaire offers her a place to stay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, so she can “re-write” the novel. But will Cali overcome her second book syndrome, or will she find herself overwhelmed by the lies she keep telling everyone, including herself?

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Nick Cave: Nothing you create is ultimately your own

Is it possible to create something, be it music, literature, painting, an app, well, anything that can be created really, that is uniquely yours, that doesn’t contain even an iota of an idea from a person, or a thought, you consider influential? Probably not, says Australian musician Nick Cave:

Nothing you create is ultimately your own, yet all of it is you. Your imagination, it seems to me, is mostly an accidental dance between collected memory and influence, and is not intrinsic to you, rather it is a construction that awaits spiritual ignition.

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To write your next novel, you must forget your last one

Sara Freeman, writing for Granta Magazine, with some sage advice for authors embarking on the writing of their next novel, to write your next novel, you must forget your last one:

There’s a kind of necessary amnesia that sets in after you finish writing a novel. Like childbirth, you must forget; the future requires it of you. If you remembered, really remembered, then surely you wouldn’t do it again. Or perhaps it’s that the experience itself of writing a novel is a kind of sustained forgetting, a controlled fugue.

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COVID chasers are not getting COVID out of the way

When the COVID pandemic started almost two years ago, people would side-step each on the footpath for fear of contracting the virus. Now some people, known as COVID chasers, are going out of their way to become infected, by attending so-called COVID parties, where, I suppose, someone in attendance has the disease. People are of the belief they can get COVID “out of the way”, and get on with their lives.

If only it were so simple. The problem is we’re not dealing with a disease that gives an infected person life-long protection once they recover. While someone who is infected with COVID, and recovers, will develop anti-bodies, the life of these anti-bodies is short lived, lasting anywhere from three to sixteen months. Like all diseases, COVID affects everyone differently. Someone might feel like they have a cold, but another person, especially those unvaccinated, may find themselves in an intensive care ward. There’s the real risk COVID will get them “out of the way” instead.

With the virus spiralling out of control in some areas, the chances are many people will contract the virus. If you became seriously ill, perhaps you could draw some consolation from having made the best efforts to avoid the disease. But how many people would feel that way given they had deliberately tried to become infected? Be careful what you wish for. In the meantime, be safe, and keep reading books.

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2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) Awards

Nominations are open for the 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards ABIA Awards, until Monday 14 February 2022. With a wide range of award categories, it looks like publishers and authors will have little difficulty finding a slot for their work:

  • General Fiction Book of the Year
  • General Non-Fiction Book of the Year
  • Literary Fiction Book of the Year
  • Illustrated Book of the Year
  • Biography of the Year
  • Picture Book of the Year (ages 0-6)
  • Book of the Year for Younger Children (ages 7-12)
  • Book of the Year for Older Children (ages 13+)
  • The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year
  • Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year
  • Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year
  • International Book of the Year

The longlist will announced on Tuesday 22 March, the shortlist on Monday 23 May, with the winners named on Thursday 9 June 2022.

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2022 Hazel Rowley Fellowship shortlist announced

The shortlist for the 2022 Hazel Rowley Fellowship has been published. Created in memory of late British born Australian writer and biographer Hazel Rowley, the fellowship supports Australian writers of biographies. Authors submit ideas to the organisers, who select what they consider to be the best proposal. This year though, the field seems particularly tight:

We had an extremely strong field of applications this year, with a wide range of biographical subjects. This made the shortlisting hard,’ said Della Rowley, Hazel’s sister. ‘We received a large number of high-quality proposals. Perhaps as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, writers were busy thinking about good topics for biographies.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 2 March 2022.

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The gift you can gift the most difficult person to gift

A gift for people who have everything? Could well be. Sydney based writer Ashley Kalagian Blunt, has a suggestion. What’s one thing we like talking about, apart from ourselves? Our favourite story. If someone took the time to read a book you especially like, and then sat down with you for an hour or so to discuss it, wouldn’t that be enjoyable? It doesn’t have to be a book though. A movie or an album also works. I think it’s true, experiences make the best presents.

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The Northman, a film by Robert Eggers

The Northman, trailer, the latest feature from American filmmaker Robert Eggers, is a dark, brooding affair, set in tenth century Iceland. There’s some star power here, the cast includes Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Alexander Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe, and Björk. Eggers has a penchant for horror themed stories, and while it doesn’t look like there’s too much bump in the night stuff, there’s gore aplenty.

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Warning: book clubs may be a threat to your life

Killing Katie: Confessions Of A Book Club, the debut play of late Sydney based Australian scriptwriter Tracey Trinder, takes theatre goers into the sometimes murky world of book clubs. Think book clubs are groups of likeminded novel aficionados, happily swapping notes about their latest reads? Think again.

Trinder’s play lifts the lid on bitter internal politics, feuding, and murder, after the straight talking, bold Katie, joins a readers group convened by Robyn. Unhappy with Katie’s unseemly exuberance, Robyn plots to remove her from the club, with unforeseen dire consequences.

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Case Study, by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Case Study, by Graeme Macrae Burnet, book cover

If Case Study (published by Text Publishing, 19 October 2021), the fourth novel of Glasgow based Scottish author Graeme Macrae Burnet, were a movie — and who knows, it might yet be — based upon video or film clips, it would be called a found footage story. The found footage technique is commonly seen in horror films, but it be could argued there’s elements of horror in Burnet’s latest work.

The literary equivalent of found footage is epistolary, where a story is told through a series of letters, or other written works, of which Case Study is an example. Martin Grey, who lives in present day Clacton-on-Sea, contacts the author after finding five diaries written by his cousin some fifty years earlier, under the pen name Rebecca Smyth. The journals detail her dealings with Collins Braithwaite, a therapist, who is remembered for his unconventional practise methods.

Rebecca’s sister Veronica, who had been a patient of Braithwaite’s for two years, killed herself, and Rebecca has no doubt the therapist was responsible. After creating a fictitious identity, and new persona for herself, Rebecca likewise becomes a patient of Braithwaite, in order to find out more about him. As the author reads the journals though, he comes to realise the intrinsically straight-laced journal writer was becoming ever more delusional, as she increasingly wrapped herself up in her free-spirited alter-ego.

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Writing tips for emerging authors from George Saunders

Words of advice for aspiring writers by American author George Saunders, and winner of the 2017 Booker Prize. This one resonates with me:

Know when you over-revise: those new to writing should overwrite just “to get a familiarity with their particular world. We have to learn our individual symptoms” of over-revision. “For me,” Saunders says, “the symptom is the humour goes out of it.”

In writings of mine there’s always the temptation to go into great detail about settings and environments. It seems to me if I over-revise, or cut out superfluous information, I know I’ve gone too far in doing so if the story loses its soul, or becomes too dry. But Saunders is right, overwriting is a great way to become familiar with the backdrop to the story you’re writing.

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Man accused of stealing unpublished books arrested

An Italian man who has been using deception for several years to obtain unpublished manuscripts from well-known authors, has been arrested. Targets of Filippo Bernardini, who works at a London publishing house, included Margaret Atwood and Sally Rooney.

In an interview with The Bookseller in 2019, Atwood confirmed there had been “concerted efforts to steal the manuscript” of her book The Testaments, before it was released. “There were lots of phoney emails from people trying to winkle even just three pages, even just anything,” she noted. According to The Guardian and The New York Times, author Sally Rooney and actor Ethan Hawke were also targeted in a similar manner.

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