Monthly Archives: December 2009

Sunday Mail column for Sunday 27 December 2009

It’s hard to resist. At this time of year the temptation to write a list of resolutions is as strong as the one to sneak a spoonful of leftover trifle at four am.

What is it about our desire to start over? I think it’s more than just about self-improvement. I think those last few days of December are like the days before I start writing a new novel.

Ask most writers and they’ll tell you that their next novel is always going to be the best one. The one with the most intriguing characters, the most sparkling dialogue. The next novel is always going to be your greatest work. Until, well, it isn’t.  You write that first page and in an instant this new story transforms into something as colourful and intriguing as cold porridge. And you are left to trudge your way through this – what you know now is a rather flawed – story. But hey, you’ve spent the advance from the publisher, so you’d better write something.  And what keeps you going? Well, not having to repay the advance (always an incentive) and the notion that actually the NEXT idea you have is really the best one. EVER.  And you can’t wait to start that one because, truly, it’s perfect.

See what I mean?

So right now, we think of how golden 2010 will be. How much healthier and fitter and slimmer and smarter and less stressed and more focused and more organised we plan to be while we learn Spanish and tennis and make our way through the Miles Franklin winners of the past ten years and learn to make our own pasta. Because who doesn’t love home-made pasta, right?

And we hold on to this notion until about March when we realise that making your own pasta is over-rated and hello? – fattening and right now you don’t want to know about Miles Franklin unless she can come round to your house and do a load of washing while you try to stop your toddler from eating all the crayons. Again.

So this year I’m cutting myself some slack and going for just two goals. First up, I’m going to try harder to live in the moment. I’ve been quietly patting myself on the back all year about being a full time mum and spending so much time at home with Ava until I realised that actually, Ava and I were sharing space not spending time. I was racing around emailing, writing, cooking, cleaning, living while she crawled around my feet. So my goal next year is to give her my full attention more often. The washing can wait.

My other goal? Well, I’m determined to have more meaning in my life. And I’ve come up with an idea – it’s a journey I’m hoping readers will take with me in 2010.  More details next week. Til then, happy new year.

Sunday Mail Column 20 December 2009


So you’re either counting down the number of sleeps til Christmas OR counting down the days until your therapist is back from holidays. Like it or not, we’re on the home stretch to 25 December. Now since it’s Christmas, the season for giving, my gift to you is a last minute how-to-cope advice column.

So here we go, my top eight survival tips for Christmas Day.

Tip One:  We all like to multi-task BUT Christmas Day is not the day to also stage an intervention on your brother just because the family all happen to be together.  Do not say, “Brian, we’re here today because we’re all concerned about how much you’re drinking. Now who wants potato?”

Tip Two:  When there’s a pause in conversation, do not say to your single thirtysomething cousin Marie,  “Tick tock Marie, you’d better hurry up and have a baby.”  Marie will punch you.

Tip Three:  Ditch the diet. Enjoy Christmas and go the whole hog. (Not literally. I’m not advocating you eat glazed hog).  Have a serve of pudding. Have the stuffing and the gravy and the potatoes.  If you can’t indulge at Christmas, when can you?   Okay, Boxing Day. But after that it’s back to the low-carb, Israeli army, liver detox cleanse all the way.

Tip Four:  Do not regift. Unless you have removed all the evidence.

Tip Five:  When your Dad asks you to snap the wishbone with him, do not close your eyes and mutter, “I wish Uncle Frank would go back on his medication”.

Tip Six:  So you have to take “home-made” biscuits to the Pre-Prep Christmas Extravaganza but you’re exhausted?  Buy a nice big packet of biscuits from the bakery, wrap them in your own cellophane paper and voila! You have homemade biscuits. Who’s going to know? Just you and Santa.

Tip Seven:  Do not get drunk and ring your ex-boyfriend on Christmas Eve. And if your call goes through to his answering machine, DO NOT sing “Last Christmas” until the tape runs out.

Tip Eight:  If you have a choice between playing Monopoly and watching A Very Brady Christmas after dinner, choose the latter.  Monopoly always ends in tears.  However A Very Brady Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity for family bonding. You and your family will be on the edge of your seats wondering if Mike will survive the building collapse. (I don’t want to give the ending away but lets just say the benefit of having a gentleman’s perm is that it acts a bit like a hard hat).

Merry Christmas!

Trailer for my new book Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school)


What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?

I’m stuck.

So I have a title for my book – hurrah! – but I’m stuck at the opening chapter. Did I say chapter? I meant line. I’m stuck at how to kick this sucker off.

I don’t think has happened to me before. With my first two novels the beginning just sort of came to me. The right sentence literally fell from my fingers. But this time … I’m feeling a bit “ugh”.  And when I have the right opening sentence I always know. You just feel it.

But maybe I’m putting too much importance on the first sentence? Who am I kidding? I often decide whether or not I’m going to buy a book based on that first line.  The question is, do most writers always have a great opening line in their first draft?

One of my favourite first lines is from Venero Armanno’s Firehead: “She used to sell her kisses for caramels; her lips went for long licks of licorice and her touch for tangerines and tutti frutti” ( At least I think that’s the first line).

Then there’s “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Or “They shoot the white girl first”.  Toni Morrison, Paradise.

Perhaps I just need to write “a shitty first draft” (to quote Anne Lamott). Or do I hold out for perfection? Or do I go eat some chocolate and hope the answer comes to me?

Yeah.  Think I’ll go for the chocolate …

One Sunday Morning …

You know I’ve been meaning to do a blog for a while. My friend Kim Wilkins writes a fabulous blog called Hexebart’s Well. I don’t really know what that means but I know that Kim (who is an award-winning fantasy writer) posts really interesting stuff on writing and her life as a writer.  I’m not so sure what I’m going to post here.  Maybe this will be an account of my attempt to write the sequel to The Girl Most Likely.  I promised myself ten years ago that I would write the sequel to that novel the year the main character (Rachel Hill) and I both turned 37.

So here we are – both 37 – and, um, I’ve written nothing.  Excellent.

It’s 8.15am on Sunday and I’m meant to be writing and instead I’m listening to Tiger Woods: The Shag Files and wondering what dessert I should make my friends when they come round for dinner on Tuesday night.

The thing I love about writing is writing. The thing I hate about writing is, well, yeah that’d be writing.  My next book is always the best one until I actually write the first sentence. Then it seems to look rather pedestrian.


Happy Sunday.