Monday, December 15

The Graveyard Book: a neat and tidy review

Children's cover illustration
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is one of the greatest books for children's bedtime reading.  The Graveyard Book is a spooky modern reimagining of The Jungle Book, telling the story of Nobody Owens, an orphan raised by the ghostly inhabitants of a graveyard.  As Bod explores the side-by-side worlds of the living and the dead, his safety is threatened by the man who murdered his family.  This is a classic coming-of-age story that will resonate with both young and older readers.

Bedtime reading gold?

What makes The Graveyard Book such a brilliant bedtime read is its structure.  Each chapter is an episode, containing a story with a satisfying beginning, middle, and end.  Enjoying the story one chapter at a time, children will be excited to continue following Bod's journey, but will sleep soundly at each chapter's end.  I think this would also make it a fantastic audio book.

Adult cover illustration
Double demographic?

Neil Gaiman has referred to The Graveyard Book as "a book for adults that children would like too".  It is for parents AND for their children.  In fact, the book has been published with several different front cover illustrations to highlight its different demographics.  

Two different narratives fit snugly side by side: one of a child's coming of age in a big and scary world; and another of parents struggling with the emotional conflict of letting go as their child outgrows their cotton-wool protection.  This double narrative makes The Graveyard Book a rewarding read that validates the experiences and emotions of both young AND older readers.  

Thursday, October 23

Youth and Children's Writing Prize and Uni Update

Shortlists and Prizes!

So a very quick and exciting update for you!  Firstly, my short story Eyes and Ears won the 2014 QUT Youth and Children's Writing Prize.  I might have dropped off the face of the blogging world the last few months, but believe me, I've been busy at work in the writing world.  

Secondly, my poem Getting Late has been shortlisted for the 2014 QUT Poetry Prize.  The winner is to be announced sometime this week.  I'm on tenterhooks.  

This sudden and overwhelming recognition for my work has taught me a real lesson.  Certainly true for me is the axiom that we're our own worst critic.  But it's time I stopped undervaluing my work and started believing in it.  

General Updates

It's been an amazing semester of learning and opportunity at uni: 

1.  I'm growing proficient and passionate about proofreading.
2.  I'm trying to freelance my way into publications.
3.  Poetry is definitely a medium my creative mind makes sense in.
4.  Career counsellors and teachers are helping me to get an idea of what I'll do after graduation.

I've been absent from Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils for a long while.  I'm in the process of rethinking my online presence and I'm not sure yet if this is the best platform for me.  You can expect some tweaks sometime in the future.  

Anyway, that's all for now.  Take care and I'll fill you in on the results of the Poetry Prize!

Tuesday, July 22

120 Years of Seven Little Australians

The opening lines of Seven Little Australians had me hooked.  In 1994, Ethel Turner's children's classic was the only book by an Australian author to have been continuously in print for 100 years!  That's an enormous feat to boast.  And for a kid's book too!

Having heard past students grumble "too old" over this book, I wasn't pumped to read it for uni.  Yet in the first lines, I found something homey and familiar I did not expect.

What do you think?

Before you fairly start this story I should like to give you just a word of warning.  If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately and betake yourself to Sandford and Merton, or similar juvenile works.  Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.  
Ethel Turner.  1894.  Seven Little Australians.  Ward, Lock & Co., Limited.  

Remind you of anything?  Let me throw around a couple of names...  E. Nesbit?  Lemony Snicket?  

This sort of writing is so familiar and comfy to me.  The first person narrator, addressing the reader in that sweet, motherly way is so full of warmth.  This style of storytelling, while boring or unfamiliar to some, gives me the same feelings of safety and ease as it did when I first read E. Nesbit as a child.  

And that "word of warning"...  Despite being 120 years old, this is so reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events novel.  It feels way too current for a book written two centuries back.  

It's amazing these storytelling styles are evident so far back in time, and are yet so fresh and friendly now too.  

Saturday, July 19

Short existential update...

How are you?  I haven't written in a while due to a muddle of busyness and boredom.  When my reading life isn't inspiring, I hit dry spells in blogging and writing.  

Daunting life changes and new responsibilities have me feeling even more existential than usual.  I'm wondering how I can reimagine my writing habits and goals to work better.  I'm tantalised by the idea of doing some music reviewing.  If you can suggest any favourite reviews as examples, I'd love to read them.  

Sadly uni semester two is about to start.  The next six months promise to be tough, but I hope that  exciting inspiration and new work comes out of it despite the stress.  

This has been a very brief touch-base sort of post before I get busy again.  In the meantime, I hope your reading lives are still fantastic!

Wednesday, June 11

Bookfest Haul June 2014

So I have yet another Bookfest haul for you to enjoy!  I had an eye out for books from my semester two reading list... 

My best friend Kate and I headed down to the June Lifeline Bookfest on its final day.  You might remember my January haul.  If not, you can catch up HERE.  

Check out what I got for $21!

  1. The Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  2. The Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
  3. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
  4. The Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
  6. Deadly Unna? by Phillip Gwynne
  7. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  8. Dirt Music by Tim Winton
  9. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

I'm excited to be growing my Lemony Snicket and L.M. Montgomery collection, and then there are new authors to start collecting too.  Junot Díaz is a literary great that my writing tutors rave over.  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is his first novel so it'll be exciting to see how the voice I remember from his magnificent short story collection This is How You Lose Her translates to a long work.  

Anyway, a funny highlight of the Bookfest was having my picture taken beside way too many copies of Fifty Shades of Grey.  The whole length of the table was double-breasted with them!  Possibly a bit scary, but mostly hilarious.  

After sating our appetite at Bookfest, Kate and I went and filled our grumbling tummies at Grill'd.  Then we got a bit adventurous at the gourmet dessert lounge Cowch, which just opened in the delicious district of South Bank Grey Street.  My mouth is watering over the memory of turkish delight ice-cream with fresh strawberries and curls of chocolate.  We sat in front of the open fireplace and watched the far side of the street wibbling and wobbling through the heat haze.  

Braving the chill wind, we enjoyed the view from the bank of the Brisbane River until after dark.  

I hope you got a chance to duck down to the Bookfest, but if not there's always January 2015 to look forward to!  Expect to hear plenty about the books I bought as we get busy reading for semester two.  

Wednesday, June 4

Uglier than a carpark

Who knew the fabulous Hugh Laurie was also an author?  I would've clambered on board that train ages ago if only I'd known!  His crime novel The Gunseller is a wit-driven comic spoof of the genre.  

I was given an excerpt of The Gunseller as a uni reading and the pdf cut off on a terrible cliffhanger after only three pages!  The beginning is so dynamic, so rip-roaring that I waited weeks to source my own copy to read on.  One of the highlights of the first chapter is this amazing bit of character description.  It showcases Hugh Laurie's freshness as a writer.  I hope you enjoy and are inspired to read on too:

Raymer, I estimated, was ten years older than me.  Which was fine.  Nothing wrong with that.  I have good, warm, non-arm-breaking relationships with plenty of people who are ten years older than me.  People who are ten years older than me are, by and large, admirable,  But Raymer was also three inches taller than men four stones heavier, and at least eight however-you-measure-violence units more violent.  He was uglier than a car park, with a big, hairless skull that dipped and bulged like a balloon full of spanners, and his flattened, fighter's nose, apparently drawn on his face by someone using their left hand, or perhaps even their left foot, spread out in a meandering, lopsided delta under the rough slab of his forehead.  

Hugh Laurie.  1996.  The Gunseller.  UK: Arrow Books.  p 4.

Monday, April 28

The Meaning of Liff - Douglas Adams' Dictionary

You know how there's always something you can't quite describe because there's no word for it?  It's agonising!  But trust Douglas Adams to come to the rescue with his "Original Dictionary Of Things There Should Be Words For."  

The "New and Unimproved" edition of The Meaning of Liff was published last year on the book's 30th anniversary.  I was surprised and delighted to receive it as a gift.  This book is best described as a genius, hilarious gift to the world - you can stop fluffing about for words that don't exist and experience the great relief of knowing that someone else knows exactly what you're talking about.

If you need any more convincing, here are a few highlights:

Abilene adj.  Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow
Beppu n.  The triumphant slamming shut of a book after reading the final page
Dewlish adj.  (Of the hands and feet.)  Prunelike after an overlong bath
Essendine n.  Long sigh emitted by a fake leather armchair she sat on
Frolesworth n.  Measure.  The minimum time it is necessary to spend frowning in deep concentration at each picture in an art gallery in order that everyone else doesn't think you're a complete moron
Kettering n.  The marks left on your bottom or thighs after sunbathing on a wickerwork chair
Malibu n.  The height by which the top of a wave exceeds the height to which you have rolled up your trousers
Perranzabuloe n.  The squirty function in an electric iron
Scosthrop vb.  To make opening or cutting movements with the hands when wandering about looking for a tin opener, scissors, etc., in the hope that this will help in some way
Shoeburyness n.  The vague uncomfortable feeling you get when sitting on a seat which is still warm from someone else's bottom
Thrupp vb.  To hold a ruler on one end of a desk and make the other end go bbddbbddbbrrbrrrdrr
Wigan  n.  If, when talking to someone you know has only one leg, you're trying to treat them perfectly casually and normally, but find to your horror that your conversation is liberally studded with references to (a) Long John Silver, (b) Hopalong Cassidy, (c) the Hokey Cokey, (d) 'putting your foot in it', (e) 'the last leg of the UEFA competition', you are said to have committed a wigan

Adams, Douglas and Lloyd, John.  2013.  The Meaning of Liff.  30th Anniversary ed.  UK: Faber and Faber.  

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did and rush to procure your own copy.  This is a sensational mashup of quirksome ideas.  

Friday, April 25

Zadie Smith for Interview Magazine

Remember how much we fawned over the gorgeously wise and witty Zadie Smith, author of groundbreaking debut White Teeth?  Her conversation with Christopher Bollen for Interview Magazine is a must-read.  

Follow the link to read the interview: Zadie Smith for Interview Magazine

Photo credit: Sebastian Kim 2012
Zadie Smith has come back under my focus for a research paper I'm in the process of writing.  This 2012 interview has reaffirmed my adoration for her.  Not to mention, it's a profound and challenging insight into her writing career and views on writing.  She looks back on her experience of White Teeth to evaluate the change in her writing direction.  

Coming from such an important writer for this generation, the ideas she presents are exciting.  Reading this has riled me up with passion for the art form.  She reminds me of the supreme power and beauty of writing.  

Please take the time to savour this glimpse into Smith's life. 

Follow the link to read the interview: Zadie Smith for Interview Magazine

Saturday, April 12

Theatre Review: "Cimarrón" at Brisbane Metro Arts

Sally Lewry's brave new performance work Cimarrón is a call to the wild.  I wrote this review for uni after going to see it in March, but I thought I might as well share it with you too!  

When I read that Sally Lewry’s new performance work Cimarrón hoped to reveal its audience’s inner “savage beast”, I felt a touch of dread that my viewing experience might involve eating dirt and making animal noises at my fellow theatre-goers.  I’m a shyish person so audience participation is exactly the sort of thing I like to avoid.  Brisbane’s Metro Arts celebrates risk-taking theatre and often hosts unconventional works with confronting messages.  With this in mind, I arrive more scared than excited about what is in store for me. 

The Sue Benner Theatre is mood lit with plush red chairs sloping to a dirt floor.  It makes me think of a horse corral.  My friend and I make up one third of the audience for tonight’s performance: the brave few?  When the lights dim, the small room seems to grow huge.  Despite my wariness, I find myself squinting into the shadows for signs of life.

A wild woman (played by director Lewry) tiptoes into view.  Wearing a hessian mask and a fur coat back-to-front to expose her semi-nakedness, she represents the pure and primal animal part in us all.  A hunter (Tamara Natt) lures and captures the wild woman.  She strips her of her mask and coat and begins the gruelling process of breaking her spirit into submission.  Observing ranchers breaking in wild horses inspired Lewry during the process of creating Cimarrón.  This analogy is central to the narrative.  Clever control of the lighting transforms the space into a cage or corral where the performers’ silhouettes on the walls heighten the sense of entrapment.  

Like the use of lighting, the costuming choices also help to convey meaning.  With so little else present on stage and only minimal dialogue, the costumes work overtime to double as props.  There is a great deal of symbology at work.  As the wild woman is gradually ‘broken in’ (horse analogy) she becomes more and more like her captor until she finally adopts the same uniform her captor wears.  This uniform consists of a black sack-dress with two sashes attached at the neck.  These sashes act like horse’s reins to control both women, revealing their submission to a higher power.  This begs the question, does climbing higher on the social ladder mean becoming more enslaved by the system that structures that society?  This is one of many challenging questions Cimmarón prompts its audience to consider.

Lewry’s goal as a performance artist and director is to create “evocative” and “original” works that wrestle with socio-political issues.  She achieves this through physical and visceral theatre, of which Cimmarón is representative.  Lewry and Natt’s performances in Cimarrón are highly physical.  There is an exhausting amount of galloping around and digging involved.  Because there is so little use of dialogue in the work, it puts faith in strong physical movement to impart the narrative.  I doubt it would have been nearly as successful in presenting its poignant message if the story had depended on dialogue.  Like all English teachers will tell their classes, it is better to show than to tell.  Cimarrón tackles complex issues and puts forward a powerful message without leaning on the use of dialogue as a crutch.  The experience of puzzling the meaning from the visual clues is much more engaging and memorable.

The title of the work, Cimarrón, is a Spanish word meaning “that which cannot be tamed”.  Lewry points out it is also a word used to refer to slaves that have escaped captivity to live on the edges of society.  In a crucial scene near the end of the performance, blaring music stirs the wild woman into a gallop on the spot.  Her abandonment of self-control is infectious.  She allows her primal instinct to run wild, spitting, sighing, hair flicking, completely freed.  This is an intimate moment that has a remarkably immersing quality.  If there was a real horse galloping onstage it could not have been any more captivating.  For the first time during the performance, the tension in my body relaxes and I feel completely at ease.  If only she could gallop forever.  If only I could join her.  I realise this moment unlocked a small part of my own inner animal.  When it ended, I felt disappointed to leave it behind.  It speaks to the ability of Cimarrón to inspire a visceral reaction and stir up from within a bit of “savage beast”: that which cannot be tamed.

I entered Metro Arts timid of having to do things that made me feel uncomfortable.  I left that shyness behind.  Practically galloping down the stairs and out into the Brisbane twilight, I felt riled up inside with an animal energy I couldn’t yet explain.  Through its narrative of domestication, Cimarrón urges its audience to ask if we have become slaves to the socio-political structure we created.  Lewry argues we have.  The story of the wild woman is a cautionary tale, warning against letting the conventions and structures of society enslave our inner animals.  But it is also a call to the wild to stop silencing that inner beast.  It may not have been as confronting as I dreaded beforehand, but what I didn’t expect was to be quite so moved. 


2014.  “Artist – Sally Lewry.”  Accessed March 14, 2014.

2014.  “Metro Arts Brisbane – Artistic Statement.”  Accessed March 20, 2014.

2014.  “Metro Arts Brisbane – Cimarrón.”  Accessed March 14, 2014.

Huxley, Matt.  2014.  “The Domestication of the Human: A Review of Cimarrón.”  Accessed March 11, 2014.

Lewry, Sally.  2014.  Cimarrón.  Writer Sally Lewry.  Performed Brisbane, Sue Benner Theatre: Metro Arts.  Performance: Theatre (viewed 12 March, 2014).

Lewry, Sally.  2014.  “About.”  Accessed March 14, 2014.
Lewry, Sally.  2014.  “Cimarrón.”  Accessed March 12, 2014.ón/

Friday, March 14

Metaphors We Live By

Metaphors aren't just a device of language.  They are part of everyday life in a bigger way than I realised.  

There are everyday concepts that are metaphorical and structure our perceptions, thoughts and actions.  ARGUMENT IS WAR is a great example given by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in An Introduction to Literary Language (1988).  

"Your claims are indefensible.  He attacked every week point in my argument.
I've never won an argument with him.
You disagree?  Okay, shoot!
He shot down all of my arguments" p 81.

See how we talk and think about arguments in terms of war?  This is a metaphorical concept that we live by in our culture, which structures the entire way we perceive arguing.  

The second part of this idea really grabbed my attention.  Imagine a culture where arguments aren't viewed in terms of war, but rather as a dance.  Just picture it! Instead of warring opponents, the participants are performers - harmonious, balanced, aesthetically pleasing.  

We would find it weird to even call what they are doing "arguing".  It's so different to our perception of what an argument is.  That's because in our culture, we have a discourse form structured in terms of war, not dance.  

"The concept is metaphorically structured, the activity is metaphorically structured, and, consequently, the language is metaphorically structured" p 82.  

Lakoff and Johnson provide more excellent examples to help you grasp the idea.  As I read on, I was surprised by how invisible and ingrained these metaphors are.  I use them constantly!  They are just part of the way our culture perceives the world. 

"Theories and Arguments are Buildings:
Is that the foundation for your theory?
We need to construct a strong argument for that.
So far we have put together only a framework of the theory" p 82
"Understanding is Seeing:
I see what you're saying.
It looks different from my point of view.
Now I've got the whole picture" p 84. 
"Love is a Patient:
They have a strong, healthy marriage.
The marriage is dead - it can't be revived.
It's a tired affair" p 85. 
"Significant is Big:
He's a giant among writers.
That's the biggest idea to hit advertising in years.
It was only a small crime.
His accomplishments tower over those of lesser men" p 86. 
"Emotional Effect is Physical Contact:
His mother's death hit him hard.
That really made an impression on me.
I was touched by his remark.
That blew me away" p 86. 
"Life is a Container:
Life is empty for him.
Get the most out of life.Live your life to the fullest" p 87.

This read was eye-opening and quite beautiful.  The metaphors that structure our cultural perceptions can be thoughtprovoking when you stop to consider them.  


Scholes, Robert, Comley, Nancy R., and Ulmer, Gregory L.  1988.  An Introduction to Literary Language.  New York: St Martin's Press.  

Friday, March 7

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time

I've been desensitised to war stories.  I can read or watch them with the same level of emotion as drinking a glass of water.  But Slaughterhouse Five changed my apathy and made me feel something.  

"LISTEN: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time."

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is a contemporary classic that tells the surreal and poignant story of Billy Pilgrim, a soldier, optometrist and time-traveller.    Billy's story centres around the 1945 bombing of Dresden, a point in time he seems never able to escape.  His life flashes forwards and backwards in apparent chaos, sometimes with fantastical sidetracks that caused me to question reality and review my attitudes towards the causes and value of war and love.

At times this novel is dawdlingly slow and at others hectic and suspenseful.  But it always provides an insanely fresh interpretation of topics that have grown dusty and clichéd.  I enjoyed the experience of being reawakened to the emotional impact of subjects so over-analysed they grew helpless to inspire feeling from modern readers.

The narrative voice of Slaughterhouse Five is simple and eccentric, succeeding in lullabying its reader into a dreamlike mood - much like Billy himself who is passive to the twists and turns of his bizarre fate.  The continually repeated phrases act as fingerposts in Billy's life, so strange and yet always reimagining the same images and scenes again and again.  In this way, the narrative structure reflects the cyclical rollercoaster of its readers' own lives.  This short book manages to encompass so much of life.

I was impacted by Vonnegut's depiction of post traumatic stress disorder.  There are so many interpretations of Billy's reality, but I found that looking past the question of fact versus fiction, his time travel was effective in unpacking the experience of PTSD in a way that allowed me to empathise.  Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time, but he can never escape it.

I realise reading Slaughterhouse Five has expanded my understanding and perception of many topics.  Its universality and evocation of emotional empathy makes it moving and memorable.   

Wednesday, February 26

Advice from Kurt Vonnegut

Reading Kurt Vonnegut's modern classic Slaughterhouse 5 (review to come shortly) has given me huge admiration for his talent.  Here are his 8 keys to being a great writer:

1.  Find a subject you care about

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about.  It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element of your style.  

2. Do not ramble though

I won't ramble on about that.  

3.  Keep it simple

As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were more profound.  'To be or not to be?' asks Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The longest word is three letters long.  Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, by my favourite sentence in his short story 'Eveline' is just this one: 'She was tired.'  At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.  Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but even sacred.  The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.'  

4.  Have the guts to cut

It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak.  But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head.  Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.  

5.  Sound like yourself

The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child.  English was the novelist Joseph Conrad's third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt coloured by his first language, which was Polish.  And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical.  I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanised tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench...  I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seems to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.  What alternatives do I have?  The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.  

6.  Say what you mean

I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more.  I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say.  my teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine.  The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all.  They hoped that I would become understandable - and therefore understood.  And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music.  If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood.  So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.  Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before.  Why?  This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.  

7.  Pity the readers

Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately.  They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don't really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school - twelve long years.  So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists.  Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify, whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment.  So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.  

8.  For really detailed advice...

For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, a more technical sense, I commend to your attention The Elements of Style by Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.  E.B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.  You should realise, too, that no would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.

I'm going to try implementing this advice when I write this week.  I'm attracted to the recurring concept he introduces of being as simple and truthful to yourself and your idea as possible.  I feel that this could be a powerful and liberating way of telling stories I really care about, but may have struggled to write about in a way I felt was "good enough".  What do you think?

Friday, February 7

Embrace Logophilia with Me

Looking back I realised I haven't done a post about words I love in ages!  It's about time to get back to the origin of logophilic bliss!  

aureole noun: the circle of light surrounding something especially around the head of someone represented as holy
beetling adjective: projective or overhanging (especially a rock or a person's eyebrows!  How random is it that they specified eyebrows of all things?  This really made me laugh but I love the onomatopoeic sound.)
cosmogyral adjective: whirling around the universe (does this make you think of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?
catoptric adjective: relating to a mirror, reflector or reflection 
emollient adjective: having the quality of softening of soothing skin
frisson noun: sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill  (I need to learn to use this word more often, it's so fabulous.)
genuflection noun: the act of bending the knees in worship or reverance
inveigle verb: persuade via deception or flattery (not only is this word fun to say, but I can imagine contexts where I could whip it out: "stop INVEIGLING me Sharon!" etc.)
kenopsia noun: the eerie and forlorn atmosphere of a place that's usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet (I LOVE this word.  It often reminds me of schools on holidays or shopping centres after closing hours.  It's enchanting.)
miasm noun: oppresive or unpleasant atmosphere that surrounds or emanates from something
nacreous adjective: consisting of or resembling mother-of-pearl (I'm delighted there's a word for this!)
roister verb: enjoy oneself in a noisy or boisterous way
sonder verb: the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own (this breaks my heart, this is so true!)
sillage noun: the scent that lingers in air; the impression made in space after someone has been and gone (what a poetic concept with an oddly unfitting word to describe it...)
verdigris noun: bright bluish-green crust or patina formed on copper or brass by atmospheric oxidation

Taking the time to leaf back through my book of words did fill me with happiness.  I must remember to do that more often!  Which of these words do you adore and what others fill your heart with gladness?  I'd love to hear what words make your poetic heart burst!

Thursday, February 6

How to enjoy a clockwork orange

Sometimes I shy away from BIG books with BIG statements. Think dystopian classics like 1984, Brave New World and The Handmaiden's Tale.  How can I enjoy a book that isn't meant for pure entertainment?  

I've found dystopian novels daunting in the past because they aren't meant for pure entertainment like so many books.  I've had to learn to slow down my consumption of entertainment in order to unlock pleasure in expanding my perspective.  

I read A Clockwork Orange.  I would like to make one thing clear before I continue: It is written amazingly.  I did enjoy it immensely as a piece of great writing aside from its content.  

And then when you add the story and themes...  Well.  Even as an anti-hero, main character Alex was still someone I could empathise with.  Through his journey I experienced a journey of learning too.

Expanded consciousness

I'm unsure if this reading experience changed my mind or if what it prompted in me was rather the ability to hold onto several different ideas without having to settle for one "true" one.  My understanding of notions like free will and freedom was certainly challenged.  Through Alex I gained insight into a perspective that resonated with me.

What then remained was for me to engage in reflection, link and connect these ideas with things around me - things I saw on tv and read in other books - and thus employ this expanded consciousness in my life.  

Damaging self-doubt

When I started reading A Clockwork Orange, I worried that my "enjoyment" would be damaged by the pressure of having to gain something from the reading.  If it's provoked so much debate over the decades, there's surely some deep stuff in there I need to understand, I reasoned.  I was daunted by the thought that I wouldn't be able to glean anything from it, and therefore be less of a reader.  

As it turned out, learning was the part I enjoyed THE MOST 

I misplaced my fears as I fell into step with the great writing.  Because I was immersed in the reading of a story, the BIG ideas that I was so daunted by came naturally to me.  This taste of learning was invigorating.

When I finished reading, I felt a deep sense of achievement.  There is something fantastic about reading a book that teaches new ideas, as if it was more than a book.  My experience was like walking out of an optometrist with new glasses - what I saw was the same old, but my perception was clearer, more informed, more vibrant.  

This thrill is something I am becoming addicted to.

Reading A Clockwork Orange was an exercise in enjoying the process of learning.  The expanded consciousness I gained within its pages has made me excited to seek new ideas and perspectives.  

Wednesday, February 5

New Bookshelves!

I've been saving up all my Christmas and birthday money from the rellies to buy two beautiful bookcases.  What do you think?

I've longed for glass-doored bookshelves for ages.  My pokey little childhood shelves used to gather so much dust that I resorted to bagging my books to preserve them, which was frankly depressing.  

My room still stinks like Ikea but every time I walk in I get to experience a flush of happiness.  I now have a (small-scale version) private library like those I've always envied in photographs!  


Thursday, January 23

Bookfest Haul January 2014

I went to the Lifeline Bookfest this week and managed to constrain myself from buying the lot... like last time...

You may remember last time I went to the Bookfest I went madly out of control and bought way more than I planned to.  You can read all about that fiasco HERE.  

That's not to say that I don't love my purchases, but I simply can't afford the shelf-space!  So to avoid a similar situation this time round, I wrote myself a list of books I need for uni plus a couple I want for my collection.  

Great Expectations is one of my texts for an upcoming literature unit I will be studying.  Seven Little Australians and Northern Lights are texts for a Youth and Children's writing unit the following semester.  A Tangled Web is a beautiful, hardcover collector's edition L. M. Montgomery novel.  And you remember White Teeth?  I love this book and this copy is brand new!  

I may not have bought much but I am extremely pleased with what I found.  I call it a success.  

Tuesday, January 21

If on a winter's night a booklover...

A book for booklovers about books.  A story within a story within a story.  In which YOU the READER are the hero.  

I bought If on a winter's night a traveller by Italian writer, Italo Calvino, as a celebratory gift to myself after completing my first year of uni.  I didn't read it straight away.  It had an air of mystery that seemed too enchanted to disturb and such a modest cover that it was forgotten in favour of more exciting books.  

I picked it up today.  

If on a winter's night a traveller is written in the 2nd person.  This is not a familiar format for novels and it's rarely done justice because it's so fiddly and tricky to do.  If 1st person is 'I', 'we', 'our' and 3rd person is 'he', 'she', 'it', then 2nd person is 'you'.  'You' do this.  'You' do that.  The obvious advantage of 2nd person is it makes the reader the protagonist, implanting them in the plot.  

Here is the first paragraph for your enjoyment:
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.    Relax.  Concentrate.  Dispel every other thought.  Let the world around you fade.  Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room.  Tell the other's right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!"  Raise your boise - they won't hear you otherwise - "I'm reading!  I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!"  Or if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone.  
Italo Calvino.  1980.  If on a winter's night a traveller.  p 1.

What do you think?  I find it's like being whispered a secret - it's such a different sort of reader participation.  

I'm hoping this little taste will incite you to trap it and read along.  It's only a small book, very manageable and thrilling with novelty and intrigue from the first page.  I can hardly wait to see where it leads.  

Sunday, January 19

Allow me to introduce myself

So today's the big day!  You may have noticed there are plenty of changes to Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils, not the least of which is I'm finished with my old pseudonym "The Book Florist".  

In this post I will introduce myself properly and explain the new updates.  

My name is Paige Hadley.  This is what I look like ----->

I am an Australian creative writing student based in Brisbane.  My ultimate dream is to write adventure fantasy books for children, as these are the books that made the greatest impact on me.  In the meantime though, I’m currently working on getting short work published in online journals. 

I am a dog-owner, part-time video store worker, cosplayer, Hufflepuff, romantic, bibliophile (lover of books) and logophile (lover of words).  One of my hobbies is water-colour painting.  The background artwork was done by yours truly. 

When I started Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils I was still in highschool.  I decided to use a pseudonym after my parents warned me about good cyber-safety. 

However, now I’m an emerging writer attempting to get new work published.  Online presence is extremely important.  My blog and other social media accounts are a way that my future publishers and readers can contact or engage with me through a mutual love of books. 

This blog has allowed me to speak before I burst from too many emotions.  It has allowed me to feel like a part of the world – a world that loves the same words strung into the same sentences and new sentences being written all the time. 

Regardless of what my future holds, I will always keep Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils as my sacred safe place.  It will always be about sharing a love of reading and writing. 

So about these updates:

There is a brand new and improved About Me page.  Either follow the link to view or you will find the page up top. 

There is also a brand new Contact Me page.  There you will find my contact email and the links to all my social media accounts.  Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube and Blogher.  These links are also in the side bar for easy access. 

So now you know a little more about me, have a roam around and explore the new pages and links. 

I’m excited to get back into the full swing of blogging because - as always - I’ve got so much to say!