Month: January 2021

BW competitions in 2021

After feedback from our members survey and the engagement with Ballarat Flash in the past few years, the Ballarat Writers committee has decided to stop running the monthly Ballarat Flash competition.

It will be replaced with regular writing prompts on our Facebook page and in our Ballarat Writers newsletter.

The Pamela Miller Prize will continue as an annual prize for members, and we are currently working on how we can make it a bigger and better opportunity for the first half of the year, with the winner announced at our June members night.

The biennial prize will continue to alternate between the Southern Cross Short Story Prize (2021) and the Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize (2022).

If you have any comments, questions or ideas, please feel free to contact Megan on ballaratwriterscompetitions@gmail.com or, better still, join our committee at the AGM on 10 February and make a contribution to Ballarat Writers! Contact our Chair, Rebecca, on chairperson@ballaratwriters.com to find out more

Book review: Lament, by Nicole Kelly

Title: Lament

Author: Nicole Kelly

Publisher:  Hawkeye Publishing, 2020

Nicole Kelly is the author of short stories and non-fiction articles, and is currently working on her second novel.  She is a school teacher and lives in rural Victoria.

Lament, written as historical fiction, is her first published novel. It was short listed in the Hawkeye Books Manuscript Development Prize in 2019, and later accepted for publication by Hawkeye in 2020.

The novel opens with Ned Kelly and his gang arriving in Glenrowan. From there they set out to derail the train travelling from Benalla in the belief a contingent of the Victorian Police Force are on board. In the expected aftermath of the train crash, the gang plan to take hostages, then ride on to Benalla and rob the local bank. However things don’t go as expected, and Ned begins to realise he and the gang have to change their plans.

Written in the first person, Ned is an observant, descriptive narrator. His voice is strong, full of rage, and his belief in the Kelly gang is unwavering. But as their plans begin to unravel, Ned begins to see the potential for another way of living and starts to question what he really wants to do with his life.

This leads Ned and the Kelly gang to move away from the High Country, and, in an attempt to begin again, they make their way down south. As they start to build a new life for themselves, their plans again go astray, and they are left to face the repercussions of their past lives as bush rangers, forcing them to deal with the devastating consequences. 

Nicole Kelly has written a fast-paced, exciting novel – part fiction, part fact. In her hands, Ned Kelly comes alive as we hear his thoughts, his fears, and his yearnings. The characters in the story are well drawn out, with their adventures told in captivating detail that leaves the reader with an understanding of how life was for members of the Kelly gang and their families.

Ned Kelly is portrayed as a proud man, with a firm self-belief that he would be remembered. As indeed is the case.

But Lament presents us with another version – one that explores the humanity of Ned Kelly, and with it, an enthralling story that offers another side to the life of the man who has become such a part of our Australian history.

Reviewed by: Linda Young

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

January Members’ Meeting

Our monthly in-person Members’ Nights are back! We are meeting at our old stomping ground, the Bunch of Grapes hotel, on the last Wednesday of each month. Details for January are:

Where: Bunch of Grapes, 401 Pleasant St South, Ballarat
When: 7pm, 27 January 2021
Cost: FREE but booking is appreciated
Please see your newsletter for the booking link, or contact us.

It would help us if you were able to please book a ticket using the link above, but it is not essential. Normal contact-tracing rules will apply once you arrive at the Bunch of Grapes.

To welcome you all back, Ballarat Writers will be shouting attending members a drink (house wine, beer on tap, soft drinks or tea/coffee). It’s parma night on Wednesdays so if you would like to grab a hearty meal beforehand, the room is available for dining from 6.30pm. (Full menu also available.)

Also, we will have a book giveaway, courtesy of Nicole Kelly, held over from the end-of-year picnic!

The committee has been working hard during our year of isolation and we look forward to bringing you more in-person events in 2021. With the AGM happening on 10 February, now would be a good time to chat with us if you are interested in helping out or even joining the committee this year.

Most of all, we are so excited to see some familiar faces again after so long!

Book review: When the Apricots Bloom, by Gina Wilkinson

Title: When the Apricots Bloom

Author: Gina Wilkinson

Publisher: Hachette Australia, 2020

Gina Wilkinson is a journalist, foreign correspondent and documentary-maker.  In this debut novel we follow three young women living in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The story is based on the writer’s personal experience of life in Baghdad under Saddam.

Two teenagers pledge love and loyalty with a blood oath. Huda is a village girl. Rania is a sheikh’s granddaughter, Iraqi nobility. After sharing a delightful adolescence on the banks of the Tigris, Huda and Rania lose contact.

When Saddam seizes power in Iraq, war, sanctions and tyranny bring the golden years of the Fertile Crescent to a bloody end. Tensions with Washington increase and a nervous Iraq increases security. Embassies withdraw non-essential staff.  Iraqis live in fear of Saddam’s secret police. They can invade your home, threaten your children or even snatch you off the streets.

Twenty-four years after their oath, Huda and Rania are struggling to raise their own teenagers in dangerous circumstances. Rania has contacts in the resistance. When Huda’s brothers are killed in a brutally crushed uprising, Rania disappears, hiding a shameful secret. Huda holds Rania responsible for the boys’ deaths.

When Huda lands a secretarial job at the Australian Embassy it seems too good to be true. Then the secret police order her to spy on Ally Wilson, the young wife of the Australian Deputy Ambassador to Iraq. The brutal intrusion of uniformed men into her home shatters Huda’s world. Her teenaged son, they warn, can be ordered into the regime’s murderous militia which trains boys to be killers.

Ally must hide her American citizenship, a deception that is dangerous. Western women are not safe on the streets. Ally, naïve and reckless, goes out alone. Huda tries to protect her even while she is forced to spy on her.

Read a Q&A with Gina Wilkinson about When the Apricots Bloom

at better reading

The secret police order Rania’s teenaged daughter to the presidential palace where sadistic sexual practices are known to take place. Rania and Huda are now reunited in an uneasy alliance to save their endangered children. They plan to smuggle them out of the country by forcing Ally to use her diplomatic position to help them.

In a world that nurtures suspicion rather than trust the women push the boundaries of safety. Friendships form despite the dangers and torture them in an emotional tug-of-war as the regime forces them to keep secrets from each other. The closer they become, the more they fear each other. Emotions are on-edge as they fight off the urge to trust. Blood oaths are stronger than anything … aren’t they?

Wilkinson weaves a gripping, page-turning plot of intrigue, fear and courage. When the Apricots Bloom takes us into a world that is foreign, exotic and terrifying as its strong characters struggle under the rise of tyranny. It challenges our comfortable existence and our privilege and reminds us that nations we have demonised and gone to war with are populated with people just like us. Knowing that I had more in common with the naïve Ally Wilson than with the brave Iraqi women, I read When the Apricots Bloom with sadness, huge respect and admiration for the courage of those who survive and resist. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It will not disappoint.

Reviewed by: Maureen Riches, January 2021

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

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