Hexenhaus_COVER_FINAL

HEXENHAUS IS IN THE HOUSE

When I say that Hexenhaus is the house what I really mean is that she is in book stores. Having this book published is a dream come true for me, one of those biguns from the bucket list crossed off….and don’t it feeeeeel good!!!

This is a tale of three girls whose stories span four hundred years and take us from medieval Germany with its witch hysteria to late seventeenth century Scotland where mysterious things are taking place in a manor house and all fingers point to the young maid and the accusation is leveled at her – WITCH…..and then there is our contemporary girl who just wants to get through her HSC and win the affections of a boy from her local small town but the burning torches start hunting her and her mother  after ludicrous, senseless gossip starts singeing the edges of their quiet lives.

My stories were drawn from family history, the very real and tragic tale of the Renfrewshire witches (sometimes known as the Paisley witches) and a letter that sits in the Hanover University Library, written by a man to his daughter from the Hexenhaus, a torture factory that became the prototype for Nazi concentration camps and the inspiration for the evil cottage in Hansel and Gretel. The modern story was drawn loosely from my own experience of living in a small town.

My characters are brave and courageous and I love them all. They are all drawn a little from myself and my two sisters.

The mass panic and hysteria that saw these girls go through absolute hell and triumph in spirit, one way or another, is a reflection, a mirror, to what is going on in our own sorry world right now. I’ll let you read it and draw your own comparisons!

You can purchase Hexenhaus (GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT) at most good book stores. Or for your shopping pleasure and without the need to get up from where you are sitting now, you can click on any of these link and order it and it will be delivered to your door (lazy option).

Dymocks

Booktopia

Riverbend Books

Abbey’s Bookshop

Where the Wild Things Are

Potts Point Bookshop

Robinsons Bookshop 

 

 

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LIFT-OFF

Well, there you go! HEXENHAUS was officially launched on Monday night with the help of the sensational Bec Mac. Launching a book is really one of the most rewarding aspects of the rather solitary life of a writer. For months and months and MONTHS you sit at your laptop and tap words, sculpt sentences, shuffle paragraphs and excise entire organs from your manuscript while keeping her heart beating and the passion simmering.

When you finally have that book in your hands it is an emotional experience but when you come together with all the people in your life that matter the most, to celebrate the safe arrival of your book, it is tantamount to a spiritual experience. Thank-you to Riverbend Books at Bulimba for your hospitality.

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity by my publishers at UQP to breathe life into my three very special characters. Veronica, Katherine, Paisley; I salute you and I now send your stories of empowerment, courage under fire and grace in the most difficult of circumstances, into the world.

In The Crucible (which has inevitably been compared to my little book of witch hysteria)….there was the clearly drawn analogy to the hate and fear of McCarthyism, the Red Terror, fear of Communists, during the Cold War! IN HEXENHAUS I have drawn the timely parallel between the Early European witch-hunts and  irrational hysteria of imagined folk devils and the current climate in our world of politically driven ‘terror’ of others, the rife and hateful Islamaphobia that is dangerous and destructive to the inherent goodness of humanity. Love, tolerance and community are under direct attack by the insidious racism that runs, as an undercurrent, through our Western political systems. My novel of three young women facing persecution by scared and small-minded people shines a light on the source of people’s ability to be caught up in baseless hysteria when in a mob led by burning torches.

Perhaps my cautionary tale will help readers to see that historical connection. Let’s make sure that the Burning Times of the witch-hunts and the 20th century Holocaust do not ever happen again. Ever.

Hexenhaus is available in all good book stores – Dymocks, QBD and Booktopia and lots of independents like Where the Wild Things Are, Beachside Bookshop at Avalon Beach, Abbeys, Macleans, Riverbend Books, Love That Book and many, many more. Need I remind you that Christmas is coming up? Buy HEXENHAUS for yourself, a friend, your daughter and your grandmother.

Peace out.

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Avalon Market Day

On Sunday, 20th November, I will be going along to the Avalon Market Day. Beachside Bookshop is hosting a wonderful day of bookishness with an Abundance of Australian Author Awesomeness. There will be writing workshops and author signings all day.

Authors appearing include – Kirsty Eagar, Will Kostakis, Sophie Hardcastle, Tara Eglington, Lesley Gibbes, Belinda Murrell, Alice Campion, Cameron Bloom, Helen Thurloe, Harriet Cumming, Jen Trusswell, Helen Chebatte and Louise Park and of course, myself.

I am really looking forward to this. Avalon Beach is a beautiful spot and I look forward to buying up some great Australian literature to fill up my own Christmas present lists.

If you can come along that would be lovely, if not you can contact the Beachside Bookstore (02 99189918) and you can order books (minumum of two) by any of the above authors and still get them personally signed. The bookstore will then ship them to you for free anywhere in Australia. What a mighty good deal that is!

Signed books for Christmas! Won’t the kids love it!!?

Nik x

 

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We’ve all lived in the Hexenhaus

‘Hexenhaus’, my new novel, was released today. The 31st October. 2016.

Most people have heard of the witch trials of Salem. They were the destructive outcome of dangerous folklore. But all across Europe, from Sweden to Germany, France, Spain and the UK, the idea of the ‘witch’ became the blame pigeon for epidemics, failed crops, birth defects and any manner of misfortune. The early European obsession with witches illustrated the cultural fear and fascination with women’s innate power which was shadowy and misunderstood. The female body summoned social anxiety because of its very power to give life. Women were viewed with suspicion and wariness.

In today’s world such attitudes and superstitions sound ludicrous but we live in a society that still argues about women’s reproductive rights and the pay gap. Domestic violence is a huge problem and one in three women will be sexually assaulted by a male during their lifetimes. The patriarchal stranglehold has not completely released its grip! When a male politician can stand in front of a placard reading ‘Ditch the Witch’, a reference to the female Prime Minister of his country, the stench of burning flesh and hair still wafts past him on the breeze, all the way from seventeenth century Salem and Europe.

I have been fascinated with witches since childhood (since Samantha Stephens of the television series Bewitched to be precise). In my new novel, Hexenhaus, based on historical characters and events, I aimed to transport readers back to a time when witches were fully believed to be real. It is hard for us looking through a contemporary lens to imagine a world where the sexism was so bad and the fear of the supernatural so intense, that people, even those of great learning, wholeheartedly believed that those accused and burned were actually witches. There were other political and religious motives at play in the later periods of persecution but these were times of which we can barely conceive. Hexenhaus was written to shine a light on those dark times.

Set in Bamberg, Germany in 1626 and Renfrewshire, Scotland 1697, two bookends of the seventeenth century, the historical threads of my narrative introduce Veronica Junius and Katherine Campbell, two young women inadvertently caught up in the witch hysteria of their time. Veronica escapes to a fairy-tale, idyllic existence in the woods which is her sacred and safe place, while Katherine finds herself confronted by a small child tormented by superstition so intensely that she sees her maids flying high in the sky at night, coming to visit her and poke her with pins while demanding that she give her soul over to the grim man in black. The accusations terrify the Renfrewshire community and Katherine must fight for her very life while enduring unspeakable tortures.

The modern thread of my story, the third strand in the braid,  shows how hysteria is not confined to the darkest corners of history but still very much alive and well in our own back-yards. The witch-hunt in Bundanoon, Australia, portrayed in Hexenhaus, is a finely directed spotlight on how the media and politicians, spiritual leaders and neighbourhood-fence gossips can fan and fuel irrational fears into full-blown mass hysteria. Pick your folk devil ‘Muslims’ ‘homosexuals’ ‘single mothers’ ‘welfare recipients’ ‘people with tattoos’ and so on and so forth.. Early Europe had witches, Hitler had Jews, we have…..fill in your greatest fear here!

My brave characters of Veronica, Katherine and Paisley find themselves vulnerable to the bigotry and small-mindedness of those around them who are driven by fear and an intense hatred of things they do not understand.

‘Hexenhaus’ honours my female ancestors whose blood runs through my veins. My great great great great great grandmother was burned for being a witch. If you were to follow your mother-blood back through the ages you would all come across the same charred bones.

We are all sisters standing on the edge of the universe.

Those who suffered before me, persecuted as ‘witches’, bequeathed their strength that flows through my veins, their wisdom which has given me knowledge, their inspiration which has given birth to my new book Hexenhaus and I offer my book to the world as a way of showing my gratitude.

It is dedicated to my grandmother but also to every woman, man and child who lost their life so brutally at the gallows or at the burning stake, at the hands of a world driven mad by irrational fear.

We must be vigilant and never, ever let it happen again.

‘I fly through the candle’s mouth like a singeless moth.’ Sylvia Plath – Witch Burning.

 

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Hexenhaus – countdown

We are coming into the home stretch. I can now reveal the front cover of my new novel to you. Thank-you so very much to Kate Forsyth for her lovely endorsement. Nicole Hayes (One True Thing) also has some great words of support for the back cover…but for that, you must wait.

Here’s a little taste of what Hexenhaus is all about –

“A powerful historical novel about three young women caught in the hysteria of their own times.”

In 1628, Veronica Junius flees to the woods of Bamberg, Germany, with her small brother after their parents are condemned as witches by the notoriously sadistic Hexenbischof, and are burnt at the stake.

At the dawn of the eighteenth century, Katherine Campbell, a Scottish maid, is drawn into political dissidence with the Jacobites. She is falsely accused of causing the demonic possession of the eleven-year-old daughter of the manor house. Will Katherine pay the ultimate price for her beliefs?

In the present day, Paisley Muller-McLeod, a senior student in an Australian town, lives with her single mother, a practicing Wiccan who runs a New Age shop. When hateful gossip begins to singe her mother, Paisley must navigate her way through the burning torches of small-town prejudice.

Three women, separated by a span of 400 years, find themselves weathering similar crises, all linked to the hysteria that fans an accusation of ‘witch-craft’. Has anything really changed?

The paperback will be available in Australian bookstores on October 31st, published by UQP (University of Queensland Press). It will also be available in e-book format.

Details of the various book launches will be finalised shortly.

Put Hexenhaus on your Christmas shopping list! Everyone knows someone who will love this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Literary Gestational Blues

There is nothing more exciting for a writer than getting that call that tells you a manuscript has made it through the treacherous fertilization process – the acquisitions meeting at a publishing house. Before that time your dream of a book is just that – a dream. You may have the words down and you may have an interested editor but they have to come together and get the endorsement, the fusion, that only a positive vote in the boardroom can provide. The development and arrival of a new book are often likened to the human birth process. While defying all odds to get there, books keep arriving on the shelves. It seems like a smooth factory, a literary conveyor belt, seamless and ceaseless. But if you were to go deep within the body of the publishing industry you would see just how difficult it is for an embryonic seed of story to become a full-blown book with a cover, spine and lots of leaves. For every one that succeeds, thousands fall by the way side, forgotten, discarded, delegated to that cavernous bottom drawer or Amazon kindle.

When I got that call about my upcoming novel ‘Hexenhaus’ I swore and cried, almost like when I’d found out I’d been pregnant in real life. I was full of hope, great expectations and fear. Would it all be okay, would I like the cover, would anyone read it? Because some books, like kids, become disappointments. I jest. No kid, of course, ever becomes a disappointment. Every single one is adorable in their own way. Adolph Hitler’s mother probably liked him. Charles Manson probably made sweet gurgling noises as he suckled from his beloved mother….Not disappointments so much as …some books just don’t make a lot of friends. You know what I’m saying? But when I got the call that I was going to have a new book, I was ecstatic, relieved and overjoyed.

Nine months is a walk in the park. This gestation will take fifteen months from that phone call to delivery. You get the call, you pop the champagne and then the early boredom sets in while nothing, nothing, nothing seems to happen. It took about six weeks for the contracts to be finalised and signed because one person or another involved in the process went on leave, got sick or spent more time tending to more fertile writers’ needs. No bitterness, none. When I’m selling like J.K. Rowling I’m sure things will move more quickly. High hopes! Then I waited, no belly-swelling except for the endless chocolate biscuits and more champagne. Thumbs twirled until they nearly became unscrewed.

Then a month later I got structural edits….big sweeping changes like the order of stories. My book tells the stories of three young women’s adventures through real-life tortures at the hands of witch-hunters. This is, I am sure, much more painful and terrifying than being pulled apart by the hands of editors. At this point your characters put on more flesh and your words get snipped away so that the narrative doesn’t get lost in the detail. All good. Getting smoother. This is where you hear the words ‘story arc’ a lot.

Three or four months after that I started copy edits. This is a big book with a lot of subject matter (and torture and hedgehogs). It was a daunting copy edit made more difficult by my challenging relationship with technology. My new editor was patient and diligent with a wonderful eye for getting my baby into the best health possible for her upcoming ordeal (exposure to the harsh elements of readership). In many ways an editor is like a fairy godmother, turning bits of pumpkin into crystal.

A cover arrived fresh from the designer and with a tweak here and there, we had Hexenhaus looking good. This is like seeing a 3-D ultrasound photo of your baby. It’s very exciting.

Then came the first pages and the proof-reading. It’s amazing how inept an eye can be and even after multiple reads I would find something I’d missed. Done and dusted and ready for the type-setter….

That’s where I am at now. Awaiting a nice endorsement from a peer/literary idol…that doesn’t say….’what a load of codswollop’. Thinking about book launches (baby showers?) Getting invited to writer’s festivals for next year (that’s exciting…they are like those baby pagents where you parade your baby about in public….hmmm…not really). Starting to tell everyone and anyone that I am having a book…a book…a book….on October 31st. People are getting sick of hearing this but I DON”T CARE!

I am already thinking about her sibling and I already have a name. Victorieux. Instead of a book about three witches, this one will be about three warrior girls. You know you are impatient when you are planning your next child while still awaiting the one in your belly (publisher’s office).

I am bristling with excitement. Hexenhaus is wriggling and writhing and cannot wait to get into the fresh air of bookshops with the smell of lovely, woody untouched pages on her breath. I feel her pulsing with longing to be held by gentle, loving reader’s hands, who fall asleep at night with her resting on their chests.

It is a long, fretful, finicky time, this book-cooking caper. But it is labour of love, a magical and miraculous journey.

Write a book. Find the perfect publishing partner. It’s not easy but neither is true love. Nurture your baby and that moment when you hold her in your hands for the first time will be like no other feeling. I can’t wait to hold Hexenhaus. I feel like crying just thinking about it. Soon, my darling, soon.

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That time I was a pin cushion…

Donating blood is one of the most important things you can do as a member of the human community. It is the gift of life to a stranger and what could be more wonderful than that? My husband has done it and because it was one of my fifty 2016 challenges, yesterday I fronted up to the vampire van and signed up to hand over my pound of flesh….or a 400ml sack of blood as the case may be.

I wasn’t nervous. Needles don’t phase me. Given the choice between a Tim Tam and a needle, I would always go the biscuit but I’m not one of those people with hypodermic phobia and the sight of blood fascinates me rather than the opposite. I am a fan of Tarantino films. I wanted to be a vampire as a child and also briefly considered being a surgeon so blood and I…we go way back…we are tight…we have no problems with one another.

So after checking my general health, ticking all the boxes to say that I hadn’t had a threesome with a mad cow in Timbuktu any time recently or shot up green caterpillar juice with junkie Oompa Loompas in Loompaland in the last three months, I was good to go.

The whole thing was like plugging into headphones. Lie back, insert mosquito-thin needle into arm, squeeze squishy ball and make small talk with the other people being drained. We chatted about the weather (cold), the mushy brains associated with pregnancy (smushy peas) and general chit-chat. Time went on (minutes). I was cool and chilled out and relaxed thinking this is a piece of cake while thinking about the actual piece of cake I would get as a reward for my altruism.

And then…the nurse-woman-vampire looked at me weirdly and asked if I was alright. A bit dizzy I said. And then……a lot dizzy, a lot cold and a lot passing out.

My blood pressure dropped to something silly and they whipped out the needle and put me in the shock position, lying back with my legs in the air. Feeling somewhat foolish, I waited for the nausea and light-headedness to pass. It took a while.

This happens sometimes apparently.

I hope to be able to try again in a few months. I hope they sapped enough out of me to save the lives of a couple of small people (as I didn’t fill the whole bag).

Giving blood is a worthwhile thing to do. Do it. Just be aware that even if you are fine with it…sometimes…your body isn’t.

I have fifty challenges for this year. I’ve done the silent meditation retreat and now the blood donation (kind of ) and next I’ll be volunteering in a soup kitchen. I may not be totally brilliant yet at being a generous community-member or enlightened person….but at least I’m trying, eh?

 

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WINTER MAGIC

Once a year in Katoomba in the beautiful Blue Mountains behind Sydney, the place transforms into something out of a Harry Potter novel. On the Saturday nearest to the shortest day of the year (winter solstice) the locals and thousands of eager visitors dress up in the spirit of the festival and descend upon the small township.

This year was even better than last. It is becoming an annual family tradition for us to attend. The streets were filled with a diverse and crazy mob of dressed up loonies and it made my heart glad. Just to prove that the place is magic on that day, the rain and wind that had been pestering the mountain since early morning, cleared and parted, warming to an unseasonably sunny and mild day, perfect for the massive, musical, vibrant street parade full of music and dancing, drums and horns.

The highlight of the parade for me was the zany and very pink-themed LGBT mob who carried flags bearing the word ORLANDO. As they passed we hooted and applauded and it was heartening to see the crowd so supportive. There were tears of grief and sadness but also tears of joy that we could all come together and cheer as we were reminded of the incredible global support and sympathy extended to that community in the wake of the tragedy.

Many, later that afternoon, descended upon the (allegedly) haunted historic hotel, The Carrington, and it really was incredible to see the bizarre characters lining up at the bar. That scene from Star Wars was happening in front of my eyes.

There were spectacular fireworks displayed over the top of the Carrington at nightfall and it was hard not to believe that you were at a party thrown by Jay Gatsby.

Then came the Fractured Fairy-tale Ball, a sumptuous feast enjoyed beneath a canopy of chandeliers and mock forest in the beautiful dining room. The entertainment provided by the Porcelain Dolls, a dance troupe, was the crowning glory of the entire festival and embodied the zany, sexy, bizarre theme of the day. We were entertained with a circus/burlesque version of an Alice in Wonderland that made the diners feel that they had indeed fallen down the rabbit hole.

One fellow at a table near me was dressed in full body white paint and a furry white g-string with a glow-in-the-dark unicorn horn. Where else would you find someone sitting on a baroque chair at a $150 a head ball, basically in the nude? This is why I love this festival.

I cannot wait for next year. Bring on the winter crazies. I love you all. For the shortest day of the year we sure packed in a lot of fun.

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THAT TIME I WAS A PRETZEL

My son once observed that I vacuum like a possum on speed. This is a keen observation because I should point out that I have ADHD. While life might be more manageable with medication, I do without and just skate through life like a runaway train.

What might pose the greatest challenge to someone like me? How about a ten day silent meditation retreat? I know I’m sometimes a complete masochist but even I couldn’t come up with such a torturous idea…. except that I did. I turned a significant age and while my peers were off on mid-life crisis P&O Cruises, I decided to do a boot camp of the mind. What could possibly go wrong?

This is me. I wake up each morning before the sun and leap out of bed freaking out because the clock is ticking and I am running out of time to write my next book, go on that diet, win an Academy Award and change the world. The expression take a chill pill was invented specifically for me. I am the least calm human I know. I am a walking cyclone and it unnerves my fairly relaxed family. I am go-go-go and yet when I turned ‘that age’ I decided that I wanted to learn how to …..just stop. I wanted to learn how to be still. So when I read about a ten day retreat teaching Vipassana meditation, I knew I’d found my sabbatical. The retreat closest to me was in the Blue Mountains (they are scattered all over the globe) and I promptly booked in for the ordeal…I mean enlightenment.

I talk a lot. A. Lot. So most people thought the idea of me being silent for ten days was a complete joke. I would show them. My teenage son said that if I lasted the ten days he would book in and do a retreat as well. He was that sure I would fail. Challenge on!

The place rested on the escarpment in one of the most beautiful Australian bush-settings you can imagine. A hundred of us signed up and after our first hour of meditation we were banished into a state of silence, forbidden eye contact with others, no reading materials, writing materials, any form of technology and no dinner. Listen to me! No dinner except for two pieces of fruit but they were half pieces so technically one piece of fruit. No coffee. No wine. No meat. No touching. No laughter. No words. Nada. Nothing. And the wake up bell calling us to the meditation hall came at 4.15 a.m. each day, early even for me.

So for ten days I got up in the cold dark, trying not to be crushed by a stampede of kangaroos on my way to the hall where I sat like a garden statue and contemplated the true reality of existence by realising that everything is impermanent except the pain you feel in your hips during long bouts of meditation because that hell is endless let me tell you! Eleven hours a day of sitting like a human pretzel, contorted on a cushion on the floor, eyes shut, concentrating on the space beneath your nostrils taught me pretty quickly that anything that I have ever complained about in the comfort of my own home was trivial by comparison.

Stillness? Silence? I was inwardly screaming, chanting four letter words, sneaking glances from between crocodile slits of eyes, at the others, liking one girl’s snazzy pants, hating on the hippiest poser with the perfect posture. I itched and sneezed and coughed while others around me farted and faintly snored.

Back in my basic but comfortable room, I began reading my shampoo bottle label from sheer boredom. I was truly more alone with myself than I have ever been in my life and it was unnerving.

The not speaking was the easiest part and actually quite liberating. I came to see that so much speech is just idle chatter. My bones were taking a beating from all the floor-sitting but the lack of stimulation was hardest. Tears came on day four. By day six however, I was looking better, feeling better, slowing down and feeling that elusive thing that I never feel….I felt relaxed. The vego lunches were delicious. I was sleeping well. I started to get it. Life. The blinkers were off.

And I survived. Did I become a Jedi mind warrior? Now, now, baby steps. I may not be enlightened yet but my knee-jerk reactions to life have become less violent and my ten days as a pretzel taught me that I control time, not the other way around. I also learned that ditching dinner is an awesome way to drop kilos. Now it’s time for the teenager to go get some shut-up!

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THE RHYTHM AND PATTERN OF WORDS

At the end of the first panel of the very first ever Rock & Roll Writers Festival in Australia (Brisbane), the very wonderful author, Nicole Hayes, told us, from the audience, that she learned the pattern and rhythm of words as a young girl, by listening to the lyrics of Don Walker‘s songs. This pretty much summed up why we had all gathered, on this humid, sticky-frickin’ hot weekend at the Brightside in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. The audience and the speakers were all there to celebrate the primal, healing, exciting and passionate rhythm and pattern that we find in words; in novels, music memoirs, song lyrics and the critics’ examination of them. Words have power and my golly god we had some fun talking, lots and lots of talking; having blistering, hilarious and emotional conversations about the words that swirl in and about rock & roll – from the songs to the memoirs to the reviews and commentaries.

The inaugural Rock and Roll Writers Festival was in one word – a triumph (‘a’ doesn’t count as a word does it?) It was a glorious celebration and jollification of diversity in music and the literature which surrounds it. The two day festival buzzed and crackled with a vibrant and sexy energy, in true rock & roll form!

In the sultry hub of Fortitude Valley (a character in itself), tucked away in the the very chill, very funked-up Brightside Hotel, a collection of ragamuffin writers, musicians, performers and commentators joined together to create a weekend long party to revel in what we love most – the rhythm and pattern of words.

After a pointed but warm welcome to country by Bob Weatherall (yes Australia – we can do better!) the festival opened with My Back Pages, led by Sean Sennett, which produced some fascinating banter between rock-writing veteran, Chris Salewicz, the absolute legend, Ritchie Yorke and musician Don Walker, who would later teach me about the Oxford comma. (I have clearly grown up because as a young groupie I’d be snorting cocaine and undressing rock-stars….now I’m having conversations with them about punctuation!)

The day was warm, the sky was blue but man oh man there were a lot of cool cats roaming the venue.

The highlight of Day One for me was the Freakin’ and Peakin’ panel which examined the cliche of drugs and alcohol in rock n roll. Do they help or hinder the creative process? Well jeeez…that was always gonna open a can of worms but who would have thought those worms would be so outrageously entertaining!?? Geoff Corbett led the discussion (some reviewer called him wizened…I would opt for wise in a super cool guru Yoda sort of way). On the panel we had spunky Jake Stone, who is now kick-boxing away his demons; the irrepressibly  hilarious wookie, BC Michaels ( BTW BC, I watched the punching bong clip last night and …well…I’m equal parts disturbed and impressed); Andrew McMillen who wrote a great book on the subject and looked eerily like my son (I actually did a double-take) and Jenny Valentish (I’m her greatest fan said in a really stalky, creepy voice). This panel took a delicate subject and rattled the crap out of it. It was everything a rock & roll panel should be. Awesome.

We all got a bit rowdy out the back in caravan/green room world, but please forgive us Joe and Leanne as we were all just…. well…extremely excited to be there. There were birthdays to sing about (the lovely Kate Hennessey and the above mentioned Chris), cake to eat, complimentary booze to drink and the occasional cigar to smoke. The vibe was electric and when the didgeridoo came out….well…there was no holding us back. It was there… backstage…..in the beer-soaked sunny afternoon of Day One, that some of the more unspeakable/not-for-public-consumption stories got told. But what happens at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival stays at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival. I traded some gems with Mandy Nolan, Don Walker, doco man, Justin, Jenny, Jake, BC and Geoff. Some of the greatest conversations I had were with the amazing volunteers.

We partied late into the night at the Black Bear Lodge where we were entertained by three of our amazingly talented panelists – Deborah Conway, Jess Ribeiro and Jackie Marshall. Just wow. Their performances were so powerful they made me wanna cry with joyous abandon. The champagne flowed. Kate Hennessey sampled some birthday Kraken. Sally Breen and I fell a bit in love. And then I also fell a bit in love with Jess R. And then Tammy Lee Rock and …..so on and so forth. By the end of Saturday night pretty much everyone loved everyone else and that, my friends, is a good thing!

My panel on Sunday explored the pleasure and pain that comes with the lust and sex that is wrapped up with music. Led by the one and only Bec Mac, we careened like mad people through our conversation, taking the mickey out of each other, sharing…well oversharing like nobody’s business, reading soft porn to the audience…stuff like that. My boobs seemed to try to steal the show…they do that….and Jackie Marshall owned the stage in the world’s sexiest MuMu, delivering the very strong and important message that ”everyone deserves a root!” Along with Nicole Hayes and Ben McLeay (aka Thomas Violence) we titillated the crowd with our bawdy silliness/deeply astute observations on human sexuality.

In History Never Repeats – Leanne Kelly deftly led a great conversation with Clinton Walker (who told me he thinks I’m a bit weird), Andrew Stafford (one of my new favourite people) and Chris Salewicz (who after a few Monkey’s Shoulders later in the afternoon, began to remind me of a young Robert de Niro). This panel looked at how music reacts to social change and upheaval. It was Sunday. I was sober. This sounded like the most intelligent and eloquent panel but that was probably because I was so focused and attentive and…sober. I also loved listening to Noel Mengel, Bernard Zuel, Kate Hennessy and Dave Faulkner and many others.

I am so grateful to have been invited to this special, unique and exciting festival and I’m sure it will go from strength to strength. I have made some wonderful new friends and laughed more than I have for a long time. My face hurts.

Being a writer is mostly a lonely business but the first weekend in April, 2016….made it all worth while.

LONG LIVE THE ROCK & ROLL WRITERS FESTIVAL. LEANNE AND JOE – I SALUTE YOU!!