Over the past month, I have been upgrading the look and feel of RobertFairhead.com. As anyone who has undertaken this type of project will know, the process can be frustrating. Very frustrating!
But, reviewing the blog posts and selected writing I’ve published on the website since its launch in July 2017 also proved enjoyable. At times it felt like I was browsing through the family photo album.
With the website upgrade completed, I thought I’d celebrate by re-posting a selection of my favourite blog posts from the past year or so, snapshots of writing that brought back pleasant memories of when I wrote and published the original posts.
I reviewed Sweeties by Leon Silver for Writers NSW in May 2017. Sweeties’ stream-of-consciousness narrative & prose reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road & in addition to reliving the protagonist’s life in the book, it had me reliving my life in dreams at night!
I once had a dream that was so real and intense it reminded me of the Chinese Philosopher, Chuang Chou, who dreamed he was a butterfly. And when he awoke, Chou said no longer knew whether it had been a dream he was a butterfly or whether Chou was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man.
Once-upon-a-time (not so long ago) wannabe writers typed-up and printed their manuscripts, posted them to publishers with a replied paid self-addressed-envelope, and then waited for an offer to publish or, more often than not, for a dreaded rejection!
I recently attended a screening of Three Summers, which had a Q&A session with the writer/director, Ben Elton. I have loved his work since seeing him on TV in England in the 1980s. And I love his writing, from his first novel, Stark in 1989. So it was a great privilege to meet Ben after the Q&A.
To celebrate the introduction of 280-character Tweets by Twitter, Meanjin Quarterly ran a microfiction competition. The “@Meanjin Twiction” rules were simple, tweet a 280-character story and include the hashtag #meanjin280.
As the cliche says, you should never judge a book by its cover — though this book’s cover with the dog would catch my eye in a bookshop. But I’ve found the first sentence to be a fair judge of whether or not I’ll enjoy a novel.
One day, I saw Amy the yellow lab in Queens Park with her owner, “The bloke with a beard”. He told me that ‘John had died’ and ‘Amy was missing him’. It took a few moments to realise he was talking about one of my fellow dog walkers, “The old bloke who walked Amy the lab for his neighbour”.
Ask anyone who, like me, was a kid in Australia the 1970s, “What were the books you read at school?” and we’re likely to recall at least three novels. There may be more, but for me, these three are the classics, the ones I had to read, analyse and write essays on in English.
In May 1992, the local literary news in Australia was all about Tim Winton and his novel, Cloudstreet. I thought it an omen. We were both in our early 30s and had grown up in Western Australia. He’d just won his second Miles Franklin Award and I was about to have a second crack at being a writer!
As a kid growing up in Perth, W.A. in the 1960s and ’70s, I didn’t learn about the Vietnam War from classroom history lessons. Vietnam and the broader Indochina War were on our radio and TV news every morning and evening, and in the front page headlines of our daily newspapers.
Writing can be lonely, especially if you’re living on your own in a cramped flat, in another country, far away from family and friends. So I volunteered to work one afternoon a week at the local Oxfam shop, to get away from my writing desk, to get out of my flat, and to meet and mingle with people.
It’s little wonder many writers thank their editors in forewords, dedications and acknowledgements. As I’ve found writing book reviews for Writing NSW, editors have a magic touch when it comes to reviewing a writer’s work and suggestings edits.
In their heyday, the Ian St James Awards offered the biggest fiction prize in the UK and Ireland for unpublished writers. I submitted several short stories to the awards from 1992 to 1995. None were finalists, let alone winners, but the critiques by the judges inspired me to keep writing!
When Writing NSW asked if I would like to review On the Blue Train by Kristel Thornell, a novel about the eleven days in 1926 when Agatha Christie disappeared, I thought it would be an interesting assignment and a chance to learn more about this famous author and to finally read one of her books.
Revisiting these blog posts felt just like turning an album page to a fondly remembered photo.
But RobertFairhead.com is more than blog posts. It also contains a selection of my writing — articles, book reviews, short stories and travel writing. And for some of this writing, I literally had to go back through my photo albums to find images for the new look website.
This was also an enjoyable experience, which I’ll recount in a later blog post. And who knows, it too may become one of my favourites!
© 2018 Robert Fairhead
NB. You might also be interested in this post, My First Buddhist Lesson (October 2018) — if I’d paid attention, it may have taught me the patience needed to update this website!
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of a middle-aged dad and dog owner. Among other things, Robert is an editor and writer at Tall And True, an online magazine, blog and forum for writers, readers and publishers. Share and showcase your writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — on TallAndTrue.com.