New essay in Reading Like an Australian Writer 

Book cover of Reading Like an Australian Writer, edited by Belinda Castles. It features an illustration of a person with dark curly hair and wearing a green singlet, immersed in a book, with pencils and other books floating around.

I have a new essay in Reading Like an Australian Writer, an anthology of writers examining the techniques, storytelling ways, and sometimes strange magic of other writers via a range of styles: personal, responsive, academic, analytical. It’s aimed at emerging writers, writing students, but also fans of Australian literature and reading in general. It’s an anthology of deep reading, admiration and celebration. In the essays I’ve read so far there’s a sense of wonder and gratefulness for the writer and their works being written about.

My essay ‘An Uneasy Anticipation’ is about MJ Hyland‘s use of tension in her three novels, with a strong focus on This is How, one of my all-time favourite books. One thing that surprised me while writing the essay was that I formed thoughts about how tension works in literary, character-driven fiction, as opposed to novels that are primarily plot-driven. I wanted to delve into what gets us turning the pages in a novel like This is How. I wanted to write something useful, analytical, but not reductive. Hyland is both a brilliant craftsperson and a deeply intelligent, and I suspect often instinctive, writer, so it would be a crime to reduce the works down to a mere set of ‘literary techniques’ that result in propulsion. Her books also linger in the mind and even in the body, viscerally.

It’s a terrific and varied collection; I’m loving the other essays and am grateful to Belinda Castles for having me involved. Here is more info from the publisher’s website, for those who are curious:

All writers begin as readers.

This is an ode, a love letter, to the magic of reading. To the spark that’s set off when the reader thinks … I can do this too. Some of Australia’s top writers take us through these moments of revelation through the dog-eared pages of their favourite Australian books.

Ellen van Neerven finds kin on the page with Miles Franklin-winner Tara June Winch. A.S. Patrić discovers a dark mirror for our times in David Malouf’s retelling of an episode from The Iliad. Ashley Hay pens letters of appreciation and friendship to Charlotte Wood. These and many more writers come together to draw knowledge from the distinctive personal and sensory stories of this country: its thefts and losses, and its imagined futures. Australian fiction shows us what it is possible to say and, perhaps, what still needs to be said.

Reading like an Australian writer is an inspirational and heartfelt collection of essays that will enrich your reading of Australian stories and guide you in your own writing.

Featuring contributions by Ellen van Neerven, A.S. Patrić, Peter Polites, Ashley Hay, Roanna Gonsalves, Nicholas Jose, Julienne van Loon, Tegan Bennett Daylight, Ryan O’Neill, Rose Michael, Jane Rawson, Anna Spargo-Ryan, Felicity Castagna, Nigel Featherstone, Cate Kennedy, Angela Meyer, Fiona McFarlane, Hoa Pham, Maria Takolander, Debra Adelaide, Emily Maguire, Belinda Castles, Irini Savvides, Stephanie Bishop, Beth Yahp and Mykaela Saunders.

‘A communal praise song to Australian literature in its many guises. I’ll be returning to these pages repeatedly.’ — Kathryn Heyman

‘Belinda Castles has produced – through canny, insightful curating – an invaluable new resource for studious writers and devoted readers alike. The essays collected within these pages not only serve to document contemporary Australian literature, they actively work to sustain its future.’ — Sam Twyford-Moore

‘This is a timely book, bringing fine and inventive reading strategies to so much significant and personally cherished writing.’ — Brenda Walker

Reading Like an Australian Writer is published by NewSouth and is now available in all places where good books are sold.


If you need any advice with tension in your own manuscript, get in touch!

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