Category Archives: Writers

Digging deep for genres

I RECENTLY read two great examples of #EcoFictionThe Breaking by Irma Gold, straight off the back of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

These are extraordinary and very different books, and genres aren’t really important unless you’re marketing a title and you need to know where to put it in a catalogue or on a bookshop shelf, but they have many commonalities.

Not that long ago – around the time I was completing final edits on my debut novel Tank Water – I realised that it, too, has a genre. This was a thrilling discovery! Everyone needs friends, after all, and #OutbackNoir is a broad church (probably standing on a barren ridge, or on the edge of a desert) with several side chapels, ruined of course.

It’s an extension of the bookshop darling #RuralFiction, but the use of the French word ‘noir’ (black’) is the clue, suggesting a story that’s dark, perhaps a little bit disturbing, and certainly dramatic. ‘Outback’ speaks for itself… we’re not in the suburbs on this bookshelf.

Speaking of France, darkness and drama, this short clip (below) was recorded on a family trip to Grottes Préhistoriques de Cougnac, just outside Gourdon in that country’s southwest.

I dug it out because my next book, now in that exciting phase of manuscript polishing, and set in the recesses of one of the world’s largest open cave systems right here in NSW, is seeking a genre. I’m not sure #UndergroundNoir even exists, although with a story about a pioneering female cave explorer, I shouldn’t be shy of new territory.

Annie Seaton’s Undara certainly fits the bill, described as #EcoAdventure, but I’m keen to know what other pieces of fiction you’ve encountered that involve journeys beneath the surface of the Earth.

Please dig deep and put your thoughts in the comments thread!

Live phantom caught on camera!

I RECENTLY FRONTED a music hall; an old-school, East-End-of-London line up of rollicking romance replete with all the requisite roister-doister of an era long gone.

How did this happen?

Well, truth be told I tried to get out of it. Twice. It had been fifteen years since I’d trodden the boards of any theatre and part of me wondered if I could still cut it in front of an audience. So I let it be known that the part of Eric von Schneider, master of ceremonies, was up for grabs… but no man in the Deepwater region of NSW would take on this pivotal role. It was up to me to play the lecherous ladies man!

The Deepwater Players have performed a piece of community theatre every couple of years since 1981, when much-needed funds for medical equipment could be raised in no other way. Across those decades, high-school teacher Jenny Sloman has directed the shows, and this year she handed over the reins to Richard Moon (who happens to be my husband… maybe that’s how I got the part?) to make his directorial debut.

The troupe stages its work within the Deepwater School of Arts, a late-Victorian country hall with a proscenium stage that we transformed into the Whitechapel Music Hall Theatre. Community volunteers did everything from feeding audiences to performing the show!

People flocked from across the region. Some even came from Brisbane, Sydney, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast to see us sing, dance and move our way through music, lyrics and steps from Noel Coward to Lady Gaga and Kenny Rogers!

Thanks to Max S. Harding having a camera at a central table, images were captured (please note: despite wearing an extremely convincing wig, it’s not my real hair!).

Phantom of the Music Hall was written in 1996 by Australian playwright Judith Prior and is bursting with comedy of highly questionable political incorrectness. Nevertheless, it manages to say something about diversity.

It’s the story of a misunderstood Phantom (played by Chris McIntosh) who doesn’t like pantomime but stalks the wings of the Whitechapel Theatre, spooking the cast and crew.

Ambitious new owner Mrs Worthington (Katie Newsome) is convinced that pantomime is the way to make money, and is madly pushing actors with questionable abilities – because all of them are actually the backstage crew – including stage hands Charley and Fred (Cath Wheatley and Charlie Coldham), stage manager Arthur (Denis Haselwood), and wardrobe mistress Martha (Jen Lanz) to rehearse Cinderella. Her daughter Millicent Worthington (Monica Newsome) pluckily plays the lead role despite an early encounter with the Phantom that leaves her rather dazzled.

After Queen Victoria (Helen Grant) makes an appearance at the Whitechapel Theatre, things start to come undone like Millicent’s seams. Eric Von Schneider tries one too many moves on the talent – Daphne de Lace (Catie Macansh) – who refuses to go on if the dreaded Phantom makes an appearance.

The efforts required to convince this spectre that a fairytale is in fact a melodrama create a night of hilarous Cockney-themed comedy, proving that we all see things differently, even ghosts and queens!

If you were in the crowd, thanks for coming to support our show.

Phantom of the Music Hall, May-June 2021 by Deepwater Players
Deepwater School of Arts
Director: Richard Moon
Producer: Jen Lanz
Designer: Michael Burge
Choreographer: Lindy Alt
Stage Manager: Mari Grantun
Cast: Charlie Coldham, Helen Grant, Denis Haselwood, Jen Lanz, Catie Macansh, Chris McIntosh, Katie Newsome, Monica Newsome, Cath Wheatley, Michael Burge
Chorister and Soprano: Christine Davis
Featuring: Deepwater’s Cool Choir
Lights: Peter Sloman, Rob Wheatley, Jenny Sloman
Thanks to all behind-the-scenes, front-of-house, kitchen and bar staff and the Chapel Theatre Glen Innes for the loan of costumes, props and sets

(Another) year of independent reading

WHILE the world has been distracted by a pressing pandemic, a small group of readers in the northern NSW New England region committed to reading and discussing a range of independently-published books, and now they’re getting ready to announce the pick of the crop.

Trophy handmade by Richard Moon

This is the second year the High Country Book Club based in Glen Innes has awarded a literary prize. Across 2019 we read a broad range of titles published by readers in three continents and gave our first gong to Lady Bird & The Fox by Australian author Kim Kelly.

In 2020, our pool of choices was extended from indie authors to the publications produced by independent presses, those that don’t have huge marketing machines behind them and could do with a boost. Since we’re based at The Makers Shed, a destination for handmade, skill-sharing and artisanal products, our focus on indie titles is apt.

Our reading year kicked off with Jo-Ann Capp’s Four Hot Chips (published by Boogie Books). The true story of one family’s childhood cancer journey, this is a heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting short read, exploring relationship dynamics when loved ones are under pressure.

We continued with The Worst Country in the World by London-based Patsy Trench, which documents the author’s search for the reasons her ancestress Mary Pitt migrated from Dorset to New South Wales in 1801. Replete with fictionalised scenes where history remains undiscovered, this book is an eye-opener about colonial Australia.

In Hide (published by MidnightSun) we ventured into fiction. Penned by South Australian author S. J. Morgan, this thriller took us on a wild journey from Thatcher’s Britain to the Australian outback, via a chilling look into international bikie culture.

Staying with fiction, we read Kim Kelly’s Walking. Partly based on true events, this novel explores the world of orthopaedic surgery in the first half of the 20th century, through the eyes and experiences of patients, practitioners and their loves, lives and hopes.

You Had Me At Hola by Leigh Robshaw took us on a true-life South American odyssey, recreating the author’s 1990s adventures to find her heart’s desire in foreign lands. Scenes from this title are still regularly talked about in book club meetings months later!

We were visited by Yumna Kassab to kick off the second annual High Country Writers Festival with a discussion about her short fiction debut The House of Youssef (published by Giramondo). This acclaimed collection sheds light on lives in the Lebanese-Australian community.

Mary Garden’s Sundowner of the Skies (published by New Holland) was an external and internal adventure, documenting the 1920s England-to-Australia flight of Mary’s father Oscar Garden, and exploring what high achievers do when they give up their wings.

To complete the year, we read Hayley Katzen’s debut memoir Untethered (published by Ventura Press) and were delighted Hayley could join us for another writer’s festival session to chat about her search for a sense of belonging from academia to farm life in the Clarence Valley.

All High Country Book Club titles are available for purchase from The Makers Shed, and can be posted to readers within Australia. Browse our online bookshop.

Congratulations to all the finalists in 2020… we’ve been uplifted, challenged, thrilled, frightened, moved, angered, entertained and encouraged to keep reading by your engaging works of fiction and non-fiction.

The winner of the High Country Indie Book Award 2020 will be announced during the High Country Writers Retreat on Saturday October 24. Bookings essential! Join the High Country Book Club by attending The Makers Shed on the third Saturday of every month from 10am-12pm.