Sunday, December 14, 2014

Writing book reviews
Book reviewing is another way for new writers to get into print and practice skills in another area of writing. 
here are John Updike's 5 rules for reviewers: 
  1. Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame them for not achieving what they did not attempt.
  2. Give them enough direct quotation – at least one extended passage – of the book’s prose so the reader can form their own impression, can get their own taste.
  3. Confirm your description of the book with quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy precis.
  4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending.
  5. If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author’s oeuvre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s theirs and not yours?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

a Masterclass at the Memoir Club

The Memoir Club: August Memoir Writing Masterclass with Barbara Brooks & Alison Lyssa

Tuesday, 26 August 2014, 6.00 - 9.00 PM

The Randwick Literary Institute,
60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

Our next Memoir Club meeting is an opportunity to fire your writerly imagination and  garner crafty writing advice from two popular, highly regarded and extremely experienced writers and teachers of creative writing.
Photo from
The Masterclass will focus on strategies, ideas and techniques to aid your writing project. Part of the evening will be a conversation between Barbara and Alison on the scope memoir offers for you to explore your story and your role as the ‘eye’ of that story – the ‘eye’ that is at once participant, narrator and interpreter of the thought, feeling and experience that your story illuminates.

Given memoir’s brilliant power of bricolage and its freedom to borrow from fiction, poetry and drama, we’ll be discussing such techniques as: the vivid depiction of place and people; the creation of scenes; and the writing of dialogue. And, there’s memoir’s power to use language: its clarity, its rhythms and its delight in metaphor. Important too – well, actually, crucial – is your participation. Your questions and input will be welcomed.
For part of the evening we will divide into two groups for writing exercises and discussion. For the writing exercises please bring:

Writing materials and your sense of adventure; and,
An object or photograph that connects you with a theme, person or place vital to your writing project.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A new series of four masterclass workshops

I'm running a new series of four masterclass workshops on writing memoir - fictional memoirs and novels included. These workshops will run from September to December and will be four hours sessions on Saturday afternoons.

If you're interested contact me at

Monday, June 23, 2014

Next Tuesday’s Memoir Club presents a new talent that will change Australia’s contemporary literary landscape. Come be among the first to share in the stories of Michael Mohammed Ahmad, a young Lebanese writer from Western Sydney, whose work of autobiographical fiction offers insight into the life and customs of The Tribe, members of a small Muslim sect who fled to Australia just before the civil war in Lebanon in 1975. Young Bani offers a child’s unflinching yet wise view of the lives of three generations of an extended family who live in Alexandria, The House of Adam:

“I was only seven when this happened but it always feels like right now. My Tayta raises her blouse and shows me her stomach. It’s so big it rests on her large thighs. Her skin is golden and soft, and sometimes, when she holds me close and kisses me, her body feels like a plastic bag filled with warm water. She only has a few teeth left and she smiles between them. Tayta’s hands are like wood because she has arthritis. They’re thick and brown and dry and she can hardly move them, except for when she’s preparing aa-jeen, which is what we call dough. Tayta places both her hands under the base of her stomach and she lifts. She reveals to me eleven scars that look like train tracks running in different directions just below her belly button. She points to one and she says in Arabic, ‘This is your father, Jibreel.” Then she points to another and says, ‘Here is your Uncle Ehud.’ Then she points to another and another and another, and she lists her other three sons; ‘Osama, Ibrahim, and the youngest, Ali.’ Then my Tayta points at two more scars and says, ‘Here are the girls, Amina and Yasmine…’ She hesitates before she names the scar that belongs to the third daughter. She says, ‘This is Mariam.’ Then my grandmother’s smile withers and her few teeth look like they might fall out when she points at the final three scars and says, ‘Here are Firaz, Khalil and Shahrazat… they died before we left Lebanon.’"

Tuesday  24 June 2014


Randwick Literary Institute

RSVP Betty by 22 June: 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad 

in conversation with Beth Yahp

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is proudly from Western Sydney and has been engaged in nurturing and producing writing and media from and about Western Sydney via Westside Publications and the Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy Movement. He is a Lebanese-Australian from a Muslim-Alawite background and his first book, The Tribe (Giramondo, 2014), is an incredibly detailed, memoir novel based on the familial world of his Western Sydney childhood.

Leading anthropologist Ghassan Hage described The Tribe as ‘a significant and astonishing novel that takes us inside the cultural world of the Adam family, a socio-economically disadvantaged Australian Syro-Lebanese Alawite extended family from Sydney and Melbourne… The book is in the best tradition of ethnographic novels: it generously offers us access to a unique cultural world and describes to us some of its features, warts and all, with remarkable details.'

Ground-breaking, funny, intricate and moving, The Tribe opens up Arab-Australian lives far from the racist abstractions dished out by mainstream media. Michael Mohammed Ahmad is an exciting new literary talent, whom the Memoir Club is honoured to present this month. 

Do come and share in his stories of our multi-faceted culture and city!

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is director of SWEATSHOP: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. He was chief editor of Westside Publications from 2005 to 2012. His essays and stories have appeared in the Guardian, HEAT, Seizure, SBS Online, The Lifted Brow and Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia (Allen & Unwin). In 2012 he received the Australia Council Kirk Robson Award in recognition of his leadership in community arts and cultural development He is currently a doctoral candidate in the University of Western Sydney Writing and Society Research Centre.

Beth Yahp is the author of a novel, various short fiction and non-fiction, and works for the stage and radio. Beth was recently awarded a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney, for a travel memoir which is due to be published by Random House Australia in 2015. Beth currently teaches in the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Sydney.

About the Memoir Club: a meeting place for readers and writers 

 Last Tuesday of every month (29 July, 26 August etc.). 

6.00 - 9.00 PM (come at 5.30 PM to help set up and have a cuppa before the program starts at 6.00 PM)

 The Randwick Literary Institute, 60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

Tel: 02-9398 5203 (for directions and venue info) Street parking available. Clovelly bus 339 on the doorstep. For how to get there, see:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Saskia Beudel at the Memoir Club 27/5/14

The Memoir Club Presents: Saskia Beudel in conversation with Barbara Brooks

Tuesday, 27 May 2014, 6.00 - 9.00 PM

The Randwick Literary Institute,
60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

Saskia Beudel’s A Country in Mind: Memoir With Landscape “intertwines genres of memoir, travel literature, historical and ecological writing in order to reveal the complex interplay between history, memory and landscapes”.—Autumn Royal,TEXT Review

After a period of loss, and much change, Saskia began walking. Within 18 months she had walked in the Snowy Mountains, twice along the south-west coast of Tasmania, the MacDonnell Ranges west of Alice Springs, the Arnhem Land plateau in Kakadu, the Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, and in Ladakh in the Himalayas. But she kept returning to the glowing ochre gorges of central Australia.

The book that emerged tells stories from Australia’s desert heart, examines the entanglement of Aboriginal and European cultures, remembers POW camps in Indonesia during World War II, and relives childhood epiphanies in a haunting collection of landscapes while tracing family secrets across the globe. 

Saskia powerfully captures the enigmas of displacement, belonging and the intricacies, often strikingly at odds with one another, of Aboriginal and settler understandings of the desert environment in her book A Country in Mind, which will be discussed at the Memoir Club.

Saskia Beudel is the author of the novel Borrowed Eyes (Picador, 2002), which was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for fiction and the Dobbie Awards for a first manuscript. She has published widely as an essayist, with works appearing in the Iowa Review, Best Australian Essays, HEAT, Overland and the Cultural Studies Review. Her second book, A Country in Mind, was published in 2013.

Barbara Brooks has published fiction, essays and a biography,Eleanor Dark: a writer’s life, and co-edited Mud Map: Australian women’s experimental writing. She teaches at UTS and Masterclasses (see

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne (Books Writing Ideas) has a newsletter. The feature 'Dailies' has interviews with writers or articles about writers and writing.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A new masterclass for 2014 will begin in March. Email me at for more information.
 Dahl Trust-colour
 Today, Peter Rose, Editor of Australian Book Review, announced details of the Australian Book Review Dahl Trust Fellowship, a new association for the magazine. The Fellowship will form the cornerstone of ABR’s first Environment issue, to be published in October 2014.
ABR seeks proposals for a cogent piece of journalism on any aspect of eucalypts. Any Australian writer with a significant publication record (books, creative writing, essays, or journalism) is eligible to apply. The Fellow’s article will appear in the print magazine and ABR Online.
 This Fellowship is generously supported by Bjarne K. Dahl Trust. Peter Rose commented: ‘ABR is grateful to the Trust for this far-sighted support for
Australian writers. It represents an extension of our current partnerships and our
editorial range, which is a great thing for the magazine.’

The ABR Writers’ Fellowships are intended to reward outstanding Australian writers, to enhance ABR through the publication of major works of literary journalism, and to advance the magazine’s commitment to critical debate.

Eligibility and entry guidelines

Full details about how to apply and eligibility can be found on the ABR website.

Closing date

The deadline for applications is 31 March 2014. Applicants are encouraged to discuss their proposals with the Editor before submitting them.

More information

Contact Peter Rose on (03) 9699 8822 or
ABR gratefully acknowledges the  support of the Bjarne K. Dahl Trust.