Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Feature: Bookish Charm and Erin Johnson!

In late July, I found myself browsing the Etsy website and stumbled across a fantastic store called Bookish Charm.  A few hours and a considerable chunk of change later, I was the proud owner of some beautiful new pendants.

Bookish Charm is the brainchild of Erin Johnson, self-professed booklover from good old U.S. of A.  Her pieces feature quotes from beloved classic books and statement items for the book nerd in everyone.  Handmade, simple and beautiful, these items were a must have for me!

Left: "She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain." (Louisa May Alcott) Bottom right: "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
Erin also puts meticulous effort and love into the packaging of her jewellery; each item arrive in its own handmade box with a quote on the inside lid.

Top left: "Write" pendant.  Centre: One of the gift boxes.
Since they arrived a week ago, I’ve had one around my neck every day, and should you be one of the winners of my giveaway, I have a funny feeling you will too!

Thanks to Erin, I have another set of the same three pendants from my purchase to give away to three eager readers!  But before I tell you what you need to do to get one, here's a message from Erin herself:

I just wanted to say a quick hello and thank Emily for taking the time to host this giveaway. It's always wonderful to meet others who are equally enthusiastic about writing and literature!

Best of luck to all of you that enter, and I hope that you all have a lovely rest of the week. :)

All you have to do to win one of the pendants is follow three easy steps.

1) Follow this blog using Google Friend Connect.
2) Leave me a comment containing your favourite literary quote ever, and stating which piece you    are interested in.
3) Show Erin some love by liking “The Wandering Reader” on Facebook and following her on Twitter if you’ve got one! (You can also read her blog at

There are three pendants to give away, one of each of those featured above, and the winners will be drawn at random, then announced on this blog in mid-September.  Best of luck to you all! 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Western Australian Writing Review: Money Street by J.K. Ewers

First of all, this book is so old it doesn't even have an ISBN. It also doesn't have a cover image or a title on the front, only on the spine in gold embossed lettering.  Published by Patersons press in 1948 (in Australia, 1933 if you were in England), Ewers' account of life on a poor but happy street was one of the first fictional portraits of metropolitan Perth.  It continues as one of few!

Elman Day, a veteran of World War One with a stump for a leg, stumbles across Money Street on his way home one day and is captivated by the adopted daughter of the street, a young girl named Betty.  He is soon embroiled in a number of sup-plots, including a farcical attempt at setting up two of the street's older inhabitants on a date, the loss of a prized racehorse, and a rivalry for the affections of Betty.  At first it seems as if each tale, while amusing, has little to do with any other, but in time the author shows his hand and ties the plot together, if at times unconvincingly. The prose style is simplistic and mimics British speech; characters say things like "Golly!" and "Gosh!" so often you may think that you have accidentally borrowed an Enid Blyton tome from the library instead, except for the adult themes of drinking, gambling and prostitution.

I found this book a chore to read, as the pace remained the same throughout the entire novel, including during fight scenes and bushfires.  While the characters' quirks and idiosyncrasies were sweet, sweetness alone does not make a novel.  The ending, without giving anything away, frankly came out of nowhere.

However, as an example of early Western Australian writing, the book is as to be expected, and contains those common themes of horse-racing and back-blocks humour identified by Richard Nile in his book The Making of the Australian Literary Imagination.  Many Australian National myths also rear their heads; The ANZAC legend, love of the empire, the bush and the lost child myth.

Read this book if you are a literary historian, but not if you want a good read.

One out of five skinny racehorses.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Diary of an Honours Student Week Four

How to Stay Motivated

Somewhat ironically, I'd rather watch White Collar than write this post.  Winter is turning to Spring, there are many unread books festering in a pile next to my bed, and while there aren't many good movies showing at the moment, I'd still rather watch Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones go through marriage counselling than spend a few hours agonising over a literature review.

I'm sure you've been in my shoes.

It's important to really understand WHY you are doing something as big as a research thesis, or writing a novel, or starting your own business etc. etc.  When you embark on such a project, ask yourself a few questions.

1. What do you hope to gain from finishing this project?
2. Why did you initially consider the project?
3. What influenced your choice of subject?

In my case, my goal is to work for a publishing house/ manuscript assessment and editing firm/ literary journal/ be a famous writer, all without having to leave Perth for long periods of time.  By doing a research thesis which is ABOUT Western Australian writing, I'm not only learning about those who came before me, I am celebrating them.  At the end of a year, I hope to be in a better position to move into the industry.

If your project reflects you, your goals and your interests, then motivating yourself is a case of gluing butt to chair and letting your fingers fly across the keyboard.

I know that's harder than it sounds.

Why not consider making an inspiration board to hang above your workspace?  Include pictures of things you want, like your perfect house, a pet, a car, a holiday overseas.  Write a mantra in colourful post its, or if not a mantra, a reprimand.  I know someone who has "Attend: You're Paying for It", but you might like to write "You Chose This" or "Next Stop, Paris".  I haven't worked out what I would like to write as my mantra, but I do have a note card which says "It Can Be Fixed" as this is my personal lesson for writing and life.

If you're not the arts and crafts type, you could try a reward system.  Tell yourself that if you get at least three tasks done per day you can have something you enjoy, like a bubble bath, a coffee with a friend or a night out at the movies.  If you cut corners and go without doing these tasks (or do them but do them half-heartedly) the only person who is going to know is you... but really isn't that the worst person to let down?

Make a list.  Make it on Monday and give yourself a time limit to get all the things on it done.  There is something satisfying about ticking things off of a list.

Ask someone you trust to tell you off if you go on Facebook too often!  Ask your mother or room-mate to take your phone or television away from you while you are working.  Lock anything that you find yourself using to procrastinate in a filing cabinet and give the key to your Dad when he goes to work so you can't have it until he comes home.  Do whatever you can.

Don't write long blog posts when you should be working!  :)  Less than 70 days, everyone.

You may also like to look at this post.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Diary of an Honours Student, Week Three

Well, my little tadpoles, would you believe that we are almost frogs?

We are.  There are only 75 days left until my thesis and those of my friends must be handed in.  (And on that topic, I would love to put a little countdown meme on the dashboard of this blog, showing how many days left... could anyone recommend a good one?  Would anyone be interested in that?)

Time seems to be going very fast.

This week was a tough one.  As some of you may know, I am newly single and trying to keep busy busy busy.  That's easier said than done!  (But that shouldn't be the case as I have 12000 words due soon... what have I been doing?!)  I do want to thank all my beautiful, wonderful and patient friends for putting up with (as one friend called me) Bitter Aunty Em.  In my defence, there had been alcohol involved and I was tres tired.

I have been doing a seminar through the University's Teaching and Learning Centre which is called Honours Paragraphs on Paper.  Basically the whole point of the four week course is to outline approaches to different parts of a thesis, such as the Lit Review, which was last week's topic, and then we have two blocks of time set aside in which we write like mad things to get some (you guessed it) paragraphs on paper.  The class is made up of students from multiple disciplines, so it's not as hand-holdy as you might think.  I do this class every Monday afternoon for a month; there are two more sessions left.  Will it help in the long run?  Who knows?  But my word count has certainly grown.

Also on Monday, but this time in the morning, I revisited my proper undergrad days by sitting in on a lecture with a friend.  (Don't worry, I asked the teacher if it was okay.  I'm not even badass enough to crash a lecture without permission.)  I didn't actually go to do the lecture though, I just wanted the company.  Instead, I used the time to handwrite some of the short story that I am supposed to be turning a full draft of in on Friday (Eek!)  Something that the teacher said DID spark my attention though, so thanks Brett for a new angle on my research!

Wednesday was the worst day ever.  Here's a tip for you: going through a shit time?  Don't dress and act like it.  Fake it til you make it, honey.  Tracksuit pants and oily hair do not a happy girl make.  Especially not if, after yoga, sweaty and sore, you traipse the miles and miles back to your car only to discover that your steering wheel has locked itself up and you can't make the key turn in the ignition.  (Another tip: if this happens to you, try taking your car all the way out of park and back again, then jiggle the wheel a bit, THEN try the key.  Thanks Dad.)  That afternoon was pretty much a write off, but as it was Julia Child's 100th birthday, I watched Julie and Julia until I felt better, then studied to my little heart's content.

It was my last week of work at one of my jobs this week too; if it seems like I didn't do much work, it's because I was there a lot.  But now, Honours is my full time job!  Aside from blogging, of course.  I did manage to write about 600 words on the theory part of the thesis this Saturday, and I am confident about the progress I will make in the next few weeks.

Wish me luck, tadpoles!

This week I have been loving:

* Muesli
* Game of Thrones
* Audrey Hepburn
* Owl Eyes
* This Maroon 5 song:

Also, don't forget to check out the COMET parody issue, over at the webpage right now!  Featuring my story Surivor: Honours Island!


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Diary of An Honours Student, Week Two

Everywhere, students making goals.  Or in some cases, perhaps not. It must have seemed like such a good idea, this blackboard, but give young adults chalk and a space to write and inevitably someone's going to make a dirty joke.  I keep wondering, what would my answer to this question be?  I don't know...

Before I graduate I want to have written a thesis and a story that I am proud of, and that I love.

Still doing my Yoga.  Standing poses this week, my body was soooooore after.

Kait and I headed to Jean Pierre Sancho (okay so some of these are from Week One...) and had tasty treats for lunch to celebrate the beginning of a new semester.  This tart was superb!

The view from the Heath Ledger Theatre, before a performance of Signs of Life. My mother is quite taken with photographing pretty views lately!

Delicious, delicious strawberries.  I feel better when I eat healthy snacks while I study!

But then again, sometimes you have to take your brother to school and you end up at work an hour early... and only a nice stack of hot cakes will do!  The coffee was rubbish though!

A bath bomb aesthetic that was inspired by Essie Button.

Manicure by Monique at Lisa Corrie Hair and Beauty.

After a heartbreaking day...  morning still came...

And if you were wondering, yes my thesis is going well!

Monday, 6 August 2012

When to Throw in the Literary Towel

One of my favourite writers tells a hilarious story about forcing himself to finish reading a novel by one of Australia's late great authors.  He managed to wince his way through to the end, and then promptly raced outside to hurl the tome as far as he could down the length of his back yard.  (You can read the story in his words plus some more interesting things about him and his work here.)

The experience was a lesson in exercising the right NOT to have to waste time on books that don't grab you.  As much as I am loathe to use this now-popular bastardization of the English language, this was the YOLO (You only live once) principle in action.  Life is too short for bad books.

So how do you know when it's time to give in and re-shelf or even re-gift that book you've been battling?

1.  If your bookmark hasn't moved in more than a month, it's time to stop reading.

2.  If you can't remember what happened, it's time to stop reading.

3.  If reading it leaves you physically and emotionally exhausted/ cranky/ borderline psychopathic, it was probably time to stop reading a while ago.

4.  If reading makes you need to go to sleep, it's time to stop reading.  Unless you're having trouble sleeping, in which case it might be handy to keep the book on hand for nights when your brain has trouble shutting down.

5. If doing the dishes/ your laundry/ your homework suddenly seems very appealing by comparison, it's time to stop reading.

6.  If you are able to tell me what has been going on on Neighbours, Home and Away, The Shire or Being Lara Bingle lately, then it's time to stop pretending you've been reading.

7.  If the book is currently being used as a cup holder, a leaning block for painting your nails, a paper weight or toilet paper, it's time to stop reading.

8.  If you find yourself drifting off into thought while you're reading, only to emerge chapters later to realise that you just relived the last trip to the dentist you had in excruciating detail, it's time to donate that book to someone less interesting than yourself.

9.  If the book doesn't inspire you/ make you think about the world in a new way/ teach you something/ know about basic grammar and spelling rules/ feature characters who are realistic and likeable or at least admirable in their unlikableness then it's probably not a good book and you should only continue reading it if you want to use it as a learning exercise in what not to do.

10.  If you are tempted, like the author I mentioned, to physically damage the book, stop.  It's never worth it.

Remember: the book you can't finish now might be the book you devour and love at a later date when the time is right.  When I first read Wuthering Heights I couldn't even tell you what was going on.  It's now one of my all-time favourites.

As for right now, I'll be returning my copy of Ulysses to its spot on the shelf until next Bloomsday.

What have you tried to read lately that you just couldn't finish?

On another completely unrelated note, at work on Sunday, I overheard a mother talking to her daughter.  The daughter wanted to know what "that book up there" was about, the book in question being 50 Shades of Grey.  The mother explained that it was about a relationship between a man and a woman but it wasn't a very good book.  "Why not?" asked the girl.  The mother, trying to be diplomatic, answered that she didn't believe or want to believe that anyone would let someone be that mean to them as the relationship in the book was not a good one.  I thought this was a lovely, concise recap of what irks me about that book and I commend the lady for giving it.