The 5am Club


Have you seen the 5amwritersclub hashtag bandied around on Twitter? These committed writers get up at 5am to write. Squeezing every drop of ink out of their daily schedule. I often envied those people, I questioned my own drive and passion for writing because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice those precious hours in bed! 

I just couldn’t image doing it. I mean who really wants to get out of a nice, warm, cosy bed at stupid o’clock in the morning to sit at a desk and think, let alone write?

That was until a recent bout of early morning waking. We’re talking brain engaged at 3am and not switching off no matter how many sheep I counted. Thoughts racing around the tarmac of my mind, crashing into the barriers and making me restless. 

One particular morning, about 4:30am, I got up. Made a cup of tea and fired up my…

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The Reader’s Gazetteer: D

Kathleen Jowitt


D and E will both feature books from John Buchan’s Dickson McCunn series. I’m not going to apologise for this: I can think of few authors who are so good at landscapes, either real or imaginary, and, if you don’t know the place yourself, it’s difficult to tell where the seam is between the two.

D is for Dalquharter, but it’s interesting to see how Dickson McCunn gets there. He starts in Glasgow – real enough – and takes a train.

A little after midday he descended from a grimy third-class station whose name I have forgotten. In the village near-by he purchased some new-baked buns and ginger biscuits…

We’re already in imaginary countryside. Dickson stays overnight in a village called Cloncae, which Google optimistically suggest might be an anagram of ‘Conceal’, and passes through Kilchrist, which also seems to be fictional. Then he reaches Kirkmichael, which might or might…

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2018 Voss Prize winner

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

The 2018 Voss Prize winner has been announced, and the winner is


Bram Presser for The Book of Dirt!

I had lost track of how many prizes this remarkable book has won, so I looked it up at the Text Publishing website:

  • Winner, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, 2018
  • Winner, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing, 2018
  • Winner, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: The People’s Choice Award, 2018
  • Longlisted, Nib Waverley Library Award, 2018

Unfortunately I can’t tell you what the prize is worth because I can’t find that information on the Voss Prize website.  But from the photo I saw at Twitter, Bram looks very pleased:)

It was an impressive shortlist—I can recommend every one of the books that I’ve reviewed as very good reading:

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December Reflections 6: best book of 2018

Kathleen Jowitt


It’s been another year of ‘reading what I happen to feel like reading‘, an approach which I recommend. Ceasing to feel guilty about the books that I have or haven’t read has been one of the best decisions of my life. Before I set off on my InterRail trip, I asked people to recommend me books that they had enjoyed, and then loaded up my e-reader with the results. I also downloaded a lot of free stuff from Project Gutenberg. More recently, I’ve been reading and re-reading books with particularly convincing imaginary locations, for my Reader’s Gazetteer series.

I’m amused to note that my top three this year have strong f/f themes, which in some ways is very representative of my reading habits, and in other ways leaves a lot out. But there we go.

I’ve already written about Heather Rose Jones’ Alpennia series, and why I enjoy…

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Vodka & Apple Juice, by Jay Martin

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Vodka & Apple Juice is a travel memoir with a difference…

First of all, it’s about travel in Poland, not a destination that gets much attention in the travel memoir market.  Secondly, it’s written by the wife of an Australian diplomat, based in Warsaw for a three-year posting.  And finally – most importantly- the author took the trouble to learn Polish so that she was not dependent on translators for local information.

Jay Martin was a senior public servant in Canberra when her husband’s career change took them to Warsaw, a world away from more fashionable destinations like Paris, London and Rome.  Before long they are caught up in the diplomatic social whirl, and Jay finds that she has a lot to learn about how to shop, how to dress and especially how to make small talk with people she will never see again.

(Her struggles to maintain a vegetarian diet in…

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Miss Ex-Yugoslavia, by Sofija Stefanovic

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

I came across this interesting memoir via Non-Fiction November, when I read the review at What’s Non Fiction. 

Sofija Stefanovic is based in New York, but like me, she’s an Australian with roots elsewhere.  She was born in what was Yugoslavia and is now Serbia, and migrated to Australia to escape the growing instability in the 1980s.  Her father loved it here, but her mother missed home, so (having prudently acquired Australian citizenship first) they went back, only to find that things were worse than before.  And so they returned, to join the community of Yugoslavs in Melbourne, whose numbers were by then swollen by refugees fleeing the violence.

To deflect any sense that this is another misery memoir of discrimination and not belonging, Stefanovic begins with a droll chapter about a beauty pageant that she has organised.  The competitors are all from the now separate countries that used to…

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