Month: May 2022

Book review – The Luminous Solution, by Charlotte Wood

Title: The Luminous Solution: creativity, resilience and the inner life

Author: Charlotte Wood

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2021; RRP: $32.99

Charlotte Wood is an established Australian writer of fiction and non-fiction who counts the Stella Prize and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction amongst her accolades.

The author had earlier conducted a series of in-depth interviews with writers exploring the creative process, which she later published in her highly successful book The Writer’s Room. She also explores the writing process in her podcast The Writers’ Room. Much of what she discovers from these conversations and her own practice is contained and developed further in The Luminous Solution.

The phrase ‘luminous solution’ is how the author describes that experience when a writer hits a wall with a new work and, despite all their efforts, is unable to progress, but then, inexplicably, a resolution presents itself, often involving a radical rethink of the entire work.

She gives as an example her own struggle with The Weekend, which she  ‘initially envisaged (as) a wry celebration of domestic realism’ based on the friendship of three old friends, but hit a  creative dead end, putting it aside in despair for several months.

A ‘decrepit, geriatric dog’ belonging to one of the three friends, however, kept haunting her and one day, months later, she suddenly realised its dereliction and confusion represented less comfortable, hidden aspects of the women themselves and their relationship. This was Charlotte Wood’s own ‘luminous solution’.

In the process of pinning down how this sudden illumination worked and how it could arise,  the author found other creatives – not just writers – experienced this sudden resolution and also discovered that the experience and the nurturing of it could be found in certain patterns of behaviour and background that creative people shared. 

Throughout the book she constantly references the work and practices disclosed in comments by other creatives, both Australian and international. In the process she discovers practices that were repeated, including some she realised she did herself but had not really thought about. These practices formed the foundation for and fed these sudden, inexplicable breakthroughs that often broke the practitioners’ previous approaches and/or the norms of what they were trying to achieve.

Listen to Charlotte Wood on her writing practice

at the garrett, 2019

The Luminous Solution is a freewheeling ride through a wide range of topics – writing tribes, the use of anger, humour, nature, teachers, dreams, identifying what was missing, sharing work, art,  therapeutic reading, feral writing, spirituality and religion, writing the un-writable and more – synthesising all parts into a coherent whole.

Each creative practice is developed in separate chapters. They are disparate: some internal states, some a particular environment, some ordered and routine, some involving spontaneity and letting go. But combined they lay the groundwork, fertilising the creative mind and making it possible for the sudden leaps that carry both creator and creation forward, whether it be a painting or a piece of writing.

The writing style is very close and immediate and captures a sense of a mind probing deep inside to voice something that by its very nature cannot be pinned down or reduced to a series of steps.  Capturing – naming – the ineffable. The writing voice is reflective and what could easily have been something fuzzy and disconnected comes together with a precision and immediacy that brings all separate, sometimes opposing, elements together into a coherent whole.

The Luminous Solution will appeal to those who create as well as those who simply love reading and literature and who wonder sometimes how writers come up with the scenarios, characters and outcomes that they do. Serious students of literature and those who study the practice of writing also would benefit. There is also a psychological aspect to it in her references to dreams, creativity and the subconscious that would appeal to those who are interested in a more  scientific or academic approach to the workings of the human imagination.

Reviewed by: Rhonda Cotsell

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

Review copy provided by the publisher

Book review – Dinner with the Schnabels, by Toni Jordan

Title: Dinner with the Schnabels

Author: Toni Jordan

Publisher: Hachette, 30 March 2022; RRP: $32.99

Toni Jordan is an established Australian author with six novels to her credit. Amongst her well-known works are Addition in 2008 and the Miles Franklin longlisted historical novel Nine Days in 2011. Nine Days was also judged Best Fiction in 2012 at the Indie Awards. Toni has received numerous other prizes and accolades for her writing and holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a PhD in Creative Arts. She lives in Melbourne.

Dinner with the Schnabels is an entertaining, fast moving, funny and relatable story that ranges over a one-week period. Simon Larsen is having a tough time. He’s lost his job and business and he and his wife, Tansy, and their two children have moved to a cramped flat after being forced to sell their former home. Tansy now works full time and Simon spends time on the couch, his self-worth in tatters and struggling daily for motivation.

Tansy’s family, her mother, sister and brother are heavily involved in her life and add to the pressure Simon feels to get his life in order. He agrees to take on a hurried backyard landscaping job for a friend who is to host a special event for the Schnabels. Simon has from Monday to Saturday to complete the undertaking before the big occasion on Sunday.

A relative who is unknown to them arrives and Tansy takes her in despite the difficulties the family is under. Monica has alternative ideas and views about life and comes and goes at all hours. In the meantime, Simon procrastinates with the backyard overhaul but convinces his in-laws, Tansy, and himself that he is on track for completion for Sunday. He is also worried about Tansy and the future of their relationship as he discovers she is holding a secret from him.

Toni Jordan on writing

at the garret

This is a modern-day depiction of life in the fast lane and how quickly life can unravel when circumstances change. The story delves into the daily struggles, ambitions, and pressures from extended families.  Simon, Tansy and their children, Mia and Lachie, are lovable and funny and at times sad and reactive. The reader is invited to travel with them, particularly with Simon who is suffering emotionally and yet trying to pretend otherwise. His agonising, lingering procrastination brings tension and frustration as the time ticks by and the backyard work remains unfinished.

The characters are vibrant, well developed and stay in the reader’s head well after the last page is turned. There are several twists and turns laced with anticipation that keeps the story galloping along at an enjoyable pace until the very end. Does Simon make the deadline?  What happens on the day?

Toni Jordan’s Dinner with the Schnabels is relevant to current-day life and is a laugh aloud reading experience.

Review by: Heather Whitford Roche

Ballarat Writers Book Review Group 2022

Review copy provided by the publisher

The 2022 Pamela Miller Prize

It’s that time of the year again with the Pamela Miller Prize, our annual flash fiction competition.

The winner of the Pamela Miller Prize will receive a certificate and $100 first prize, as well as publication in the Ballarat Writers newsletter and website. The winner will be announced at the Ballarat Writers July members’ night. 

The Pamela Miller Prize first ran in 2015, in memory of Pamela Miller, who was a very active and productive member of Ballarat Writers. She was a writer of short stories and poetry, and won the short story competition with ‘Murder at MADE’ in 2014. Early in 2015, Pamela wrote a very popular poem called ‘Bronze Heads—The Prime Minister’s Walk’ as part of a Ballarat Writers project during the Begonia Festival.

Entries open: Sunday 1st May

Entries close: Wednesday 1st June

Ballarat Writers is accepting fictional prose entries of up to 500 words on the theme Something Overhead. Entry is free. 

This is limited to members of Ballarat Writers, so make sure you’ve joined or renewed your membership!

All entries must:

  • be original and unpublished
  • be written by a current member of Ballarat Writers (committee members are not allowed to enter)
  • engage with the theme Something Overhead, and be 500 words in length or less (not including the title
  • be sent to competitions@ballaratwriters.com with the subject line, ‘2022 Pamela Miller Prize Entry’

As the competition will be a blind judging, please do not include your name or contact details on the entry. 

You can read more about the Pamela Miller prize here.

Good luck and happy writing!

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