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5 minutes with author Rachel Givney

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Rachel Givney, a writer and filmmaker based in Melbourne. She has written and edited scripts for television shows such as <em>Offspring</em>, <em>The Warriors</em>, <em>Rescue: Special Ops</em>, <em>The Young Doctors</em> and <em>All Saints</em>. Her debut novel <em>Jane In Love </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> spoke to Givney about Jane Austen, discipline, and the enemies-to-lovers trope.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Rachel Givney: “Don’t get it right, get it written.” Get the first draft written down – it doesn’t matter if it’s terrible, just finish it. The old cliché is true, any art is 1 per cent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration. Once you have that first draft written, it’s much easier to go back and edit.</span></p> <p><strong><span>After years of screenwriting, you finally wrote your first ever book. How did you approach this novel compared to your other work?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Writing a novel required me to include greater sensory detail, to set the scene for the reader in a way not needed in screenwriting. </span></p> <p><span>For example, a part of the book is set in 1803, where the character Jane travels to London. The polluted Thames would have smelled rotten as the industrial revolution dawned; London’s inhabitants would have churned the streets to mud with their boots, Jane might have expressed shock and horror at the squalid scenes. I described these for the reader, whereas if I were writing a screenplay, I would have left it to the production designer, the director, the actors, to bring it to life through audio-visual choices. With the book I also had greater opportunities for introspection, to describe characters’ thoughts, and express feelings which they keep to themselves.  </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Jane Austen’s <em>Persuasion</em>. Austen wrote it towards the end of her life, to me it feels sadder and quieter than her other more popular works, though it still contains the astute observation of her earlier novels. The moment where the hero, Wentworth, estranged for many years from the heroine, Anne, lifts her into a carriage, is filled with quiet erotic tension, quite striking for an Austen novel. The way he holds her and the way she responds shows neither of them has forgotten what they once had; that real love, while it may lay dormant, never dies… </span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Unreliable Memoirs</span></em><span>, by Clive James. A hilarious, heartfelt tale of suburbia. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you wish you had written?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Sophie’s Choice</span></em><span> by William Styron, I loved this Gothic masterpiece.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Writing for film and television deadlines for 15 years has taught me good lessons in discipline and routine.  On a good day, I rise at 6 or 7 and go for a run around the park. Then I will have breakfast and shower and get to my desk at 9am-ish. I will write for four hours, taking a 15-minute break every hour. Lunch is at 1 to 2pm, then another two hours of writing in the afternoon, stopping at around 4pm. I write whatever is next to be written. </span></p> <p><span>On a bad day, I get to my desk and nothing comes, or it comes out badly, and then I hate everything. And this is the time when I hope I have the discipline to forge on, to “don’t get it right, get it written”.    </span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Jane Austen! In reading Austen’s letters while researching <em>Jane in Love</em>, I sensed great wit and cleverness, but also sadness. Austen’s an enigma, she wrote around 3000 letters in her life, upon her death, her sister Cassandra burnt all but 161 of them. I’d love to hear her talk about her writing, but only if she wanted to, I wouldn’t want to pry. If she didn’t want to talk about that I’d ask her if she had a good recipe for elderflower wine, I believe she liked making it!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope can’t you help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I love the website <a href="https://tvtropes.org/">tvtropes.org</a>! My favourite trope is any romance between two seeming enemies who are forced to spend time together, where hatred changes to respect, and respect turns to love, like Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth in <em>Game of Thrones</em>.</span></p>

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3 things historical literature can teach us about the climate crisis

<p>New novels about climate change – climate fiction, or cli-fi – are being published all the time. The nature of the climate crisis is a difficult thing to get across, and so <a href="https://theconversation.com/imagining-both-utopian-and-dystopian-climate-futures-is-crucial-which-is-why-cli-fi-is-so-important-123029">imagining the future</a> – a drowned New York City, say; or a world in which water is a precious commodity – can help us understand what’s at stake.</p> <p>This is unsurprising in these times of crisis: fiction allows us to imagine possible futures, good and bad. When faced with such an urgent problem, it might seem like a waste of time to read earlier texts. But don’t be so sure. The climate emergency may be unprecedented, but there are a few key ways in which past literature offers a valuable perspective on the present crisis.</p> <p><strong>1. Climate histories</strong></p> <p>Historical texts reflect the changing climatic conditions that produced them. When Byron and the Shelleys stayed on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816, the literature that they wrote responded to the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-a-volcano-frankenstein-and-the-summer-of-1816-are-relevant-to-the-anthropocene-64984">wild weather</a> of the “year without a summer”.</p> <p>This was caused largely by the massive eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora the previous year, which lowered global temperatures and led to harvest failures and famine. Literary works such as as Byron’s <em><a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43825/darkness-56d222aeeee1b">Darkness</a></em>, Percy Shelley’s <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45130/mont-blanc-lines-written-in-the-vale-of-chamouni"><em>Mont Blanc</em></a>, and Mary Shelley’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/eight-things-you-need-to-know-about-mary-shelleys-frankenstein-93030"><em>Frankenstein</em></a> reveal anxieties about human vulnerability to environmental change even as they address our power to manipulate our environments.</p> <p>Many older texts also bear indirect traces of historical climate change. In <a href="http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170419-why-paradise-lost-is-one-of-the-worlds-most-important-poems"><em>Paradise Lost</em></a> (1667), Milton complains that a “cold climate” may “damp my intended wing” and prevent him from completing his masterpiece. This may well reflect the fact that he lived through the coldest period of the “Little Ice Age”.</p> <p>Even literature’s oldest epic poem, <em><a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Epic-of-Gilgamesh">The Epic of Gilgamesh</a></em> (c. 1800 BC), contains traces of climate change. It tells of a huge flood which, like the later story of Noah in the Old Testament, is probably a cultural memory of sea level rise following the melting of glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age.</p> <p>These historical climatic shifts were not man made, but they still provide important analogues for our own age. Indeed, many cultures have seen human activity and climate as intertwined, often through a religious framework. One of the ironies of modernity is that the development of the global climate as an object of study, apparently separate from human life, coincides with the development of the carbon capitalism that has linked them more closely than ever.</p> <p><strong>2. How we view nature</strong></p> <p>Reading historical literature also allows us to trace the development of modern constructions of the natural world. For example, the Romantic ideal of “sublime” nature, which celebrated vast, dramatic landscapes like mountains and chasms, has influenced the kinds of places that we value and protect today in the form of national parks.</p> <p>When we understand that such landscapes are not purely natural, but are produced by cultural discourses and practices over time – we protect these landscapes above others for a reason – we can start to debate whether they can be <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/28/britain-national-parks-reclaim-rewild">better managed</a> for the benefit of humans and non-humans alike.</p> <p>Or consider how in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the work of nature writers such as <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/A_Memoir_of_Thomas_Bewick_written_by_him.html?id=CLtcAAAAcAAJ&amp;redir_esc=y">Thomas Bewick</a>, <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/charlotte-smith">Charlotte Smith</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/grrlscientist/2013/nov/05/natural-history-selborne-gilbert-white-anne-secord-book-review">Gilbert White</a> played a powerful role in promoting <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08905490903445478?scroll=top&amp;needAccess=true&amp;journalCode=gncc20">natural theology</a>: the theory that evidence for God’s existence can be found in the complex structures of the natural world. Past literature has also been crucial in disseminating new scientific ideas such as <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25733437">evolutionary theory</a>, which understood natural phenomena as entirely secular. Literature does not just reflect changing views of the natural world; it shapes them.</p> <p>Studying historical texts helps us to understand how modern cultural attitudes towards the environment developed, which in turn allows us to perceive that these attitudes are not as “natural” or inevitable as they may seem. This insight allows for the possibility that today, in a time in which our attitude towards the environment could certainly improve, they can change for the better.</p> <p><strong>3. Ways of thinking</strong></p> <p>Some of the attitudes towards the natural world that we discover in historical literature are contentious, even horrifying: for example, the normalisation of animal cruelty portrayed in books such as <a href="https://www.mimimatthews.com/2016/04/22/animal-welfare-in-the-19th-century-an-earth-day-overview/">Black Beauty</a>.</p> <p>But we can find more promising models too. Voltaire’s <a href="https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Po%C3%A8me_sur_le_d%C3%A9sastre_de_Lisbonne/%C3%89dition_Garnier">poem</a> on the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, for example, has been used to think about the ethics of blame and optimism in responses to modern disasters, like the 1995 <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/lessons-from-earthquakes-there-isnt-always-someone-to-blame-when-the-earth-goes-from-under-our-feet-1569149.html">Kobe earthquake</a> and the 2009 <a href="http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2009/04/an-earthquake-in-the-theodicy-doctrine/">L’Aquila earthquake</a>.</p> <p>Reading past literature can also help us to appreciate the natural world for its own sake. Samuel Johnson commented of the natural descriptions in James Thomson’s poems <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52409/the-seasons-spring">The Seasons</a> (1730) that the reader “wonders that he never saw before what Thomson shows him and that he never yet has felt what Thomson impresses”. Amid the frenzied distractions of modern life, the work of authors like Thomson, Dorothy Wordsworth and John Clare can help us to slow down, notice and love nature.</p> <p>Historical literature can remind us of our own vulnerability to elemental forces. The famous depiction of a storm in King Lear, for example, mocks Lear’s attempt:</p> <blockquote> <p>In his little world of man to out-scorn<br />The two-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.</p> </blockquote> <p>Shakespeare might appear to aestheticise dangerous weather, but the play reminds us that the storm is far bigger and messier than any human attempt to represent and interpret it.</p> <p>At the same time, literature can remind us of the need to take responsibility for our own impacts upon the environment. We may not want to follow pre-modern and early modern literature in viewing climate change as divine punishment for bad behaviour. But when Milton suggests that it was the fall of man that brought in “pinching cold and scorching heat” to replace the eternal spring of Eden, his narrative has clear figurative resonance with our present crisis.</p> <p>Historical literature can show us how writers responded to climate change, trace how they influenced modern ideas about nature, and reveal valuable ways of relating to and thinking about nature. The climate crisis cannot be addressed only through technological solutions. It also requires profound cultural shifts. To make those shifts requires an understanding of past ideas and representations: both those that led to our current predicament and those that might help us address it.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127762/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-higgins-287911">David Higgins</a>, Associate Professor in English Literature, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-leeds-1122">University of Leeds</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tess-somervell-896321">Tess Somervell</a>, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-leeds-1122">University of Leeds</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/three-things-historical-literature-can-teach-us-about-the-climate-crisis-127762">original article</a>.</em></p>

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American Dirt fiasco exposes the shortcomings of publishing industry

<p>In an early chapter of <em><a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/American_Dirt_Oprah_s_Book_Club/FkiSDwAAQBAJ?hl=en">American Dirt</a></em>, the much-hyped novel now at the center of a racial controversy, the protagonist, Lydia, fills her Acapulco, Mexico, bookstore with her favorite literary classics. Because these don’t sell very well, she also stocks all “the splashy bestsellers that made her shop profitable.”</p> <p>Ironically, it’s this lopsided business model that has, in part, fueled the backlash to the book.</p> <p>In the book, Lydia’s favorite customer, a would-be poet turned ruthless drug lord, orders the massacre of Lydia’s entire family after her journalist husband writes a scathing expose. Lydia and her 8-year-old son must flee for their lives, joining the wave of migrants seeking safety in the U.S.</p> <p>With the border crisis as its backdrop, the book was anointed by the publishing industry as one of those rare blockbusters that Lydia might have stocked in her fictional bookstore. Its publisher called it “<a href="https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250209764">one of the most important books of our time</a>,” while <a href="https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2020-01-27/oprah-winfrey-american-dirt-book-club">Oprah</a> chose it for her book club.</p> <p>But the author, Jeanine Cummins, is neither Mexican nor a migrant, and critics <a href="https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/pendeja-you-aint-steinbeck-my-bronca-with-fake-ass-social-justice-literature/">savaged the book</a> for its cultural inaccuracies and damaging stereotypes. At least one library at the border <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/27/opinion/american-dirt-book.html">refused to take part in Oprah’s promotion</a>, 138 published authors wrote an <a href="https://lithub.com/dear-oprah-winfrey-82-writers-ask-you-to-reconsider-american-dirt">open letter to Oprah</a> asking her to rescind her endorsement, and the publisher canceled Cummins’ book tour, claiming <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/01/30/american-dirt-tour/">her safety was at risk</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.colorado.edu/cmci/people/journalism/christine-larson">As someone who studies the publishing business</a>, I see this ordeal as a symptom of an industry that relies far too heavily on a handful of predetermined “big books,” and whose gatekeepers remain predominantly white.</p> <p>Sadly, this model has become only more powerful in the digital era.</p> <p><strong>A high-stakes poker game</strong></p> <p>Today’s publishing industry is driven by three truths.</p> <p>First, people don’t buy many books. The typical American <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks/">read four last year</a>.</p> <p>Second, it’s <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2013/03/28/book-discovery-give-me-blind-dates-with-books/#1d6618f23192">hard to decide which books to buy</a>, so most people look for bestsellers or books by authors they already like.</p> <p>Third, nobody – not even big publishers – can predict hits.</p> <p>As a result, the business can sometimes seem like one big, high-stakes poker game. Like any savvy gambler, editors know that most bets are losers: People don’t buy nearly enough books to make every title profitable. In fact, only about <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/books/review/Meyer-t.html">70% of books</a> even earn back their advances.</p> <p>Luckily for publishers, a single hit, like Michelle Obama’s <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38746485-becoming?ac=1&amp;from_search=true&amp;qid=bwZd6RTzVB&amp;rank=1"><em>Becoming</em></a>, can subsidize the vast majority of titles that don’t make money.</p> <p>So when publishers think they have a winning hand, they’ll bet the house. To them, “American Dirt” seemed to have all the cards, and the book sold at auction for <a href="https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/book-deals/article/76994-book-deals-week-of-may-28-2018.html">seven figures</a>.</p> <p>With that much money on the table, publishers will do everything they can to ensure a payoff, channeling massive marketing resources into those select titles, often at the expense of their others.</p> <p><strong>Who’s holding the purse strings?</strong></p> <p>It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1960s, publishing was a sleepy industry, filled with <a href="https://www.pw.org/content/publishing_in_the_twentyfirst_century_an_interview_with_john_b_thompson">many moderately sized firms making moderate returns</a>. Today, just <a href="https://www.bookbusinessmag.com/post/big-5-financial-reports-reveal-state-traditional-book-publishing/">five conglomerates</a> dominate global publishing.</p> <p>Big firms seek big profits, and, as Harvard Business School professor <a href="https://www.npr.org/2013/10/24/239795165/blockbusters-go-big-or-go-home-says-harvard-professor">Anita Elberse</a> has pointed out, it’s cheaper and easier to launch one enormous promotional effort for a single “big book” than to spread resources across those smaller bets.</p> <p>With each publishing house releasing just one or two big books a season, few authors can hope to produce one of those splashy bestsellers.</p> <p>That’s even more true for marginalized authors, because every step in the publishing and publicity process depends on <a href="https://blog.leeandlow.com/2020/01/28/2019diversitybaselinesurvey/">gatekeepers who are largely white</a> – to the tune of 85% of editors, 80% of agents, 78% of publishing executives and 75% of marketing and publicity staff.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the book world does occasionally publish blockbusters by authors of color, whether it’s <em>Becoming</em> or Tayari Jones’ <em><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/books/review/american-marriage-tayari-jones.html">An American Marriage</a></em>. As black author Zora Neale Hurston <a href="https://pages.ucsd.edu/%7Ebgoldfarb/cogn150s12/reading/Hurston-What-White-Publishers-Wont-Print.pdf">wrote in 1950</a>, editors “will publish anything they believe will sell” – regardless of the author’s race.</p> <p>But those editor beliefs about what would sell, she noted, were extremely limited when it came to authors of color. Stories about racial struggle, discrimination, oppression and hardship – those would sell. But books about marginalized people living everyday lives, raising kids or falling in love? Publishers had no interest in those stories.</p> <p>Of course, well-told stories of struggle are important. But when they’re the only stories that the industry aggressively promotes, then readers suffer from what novelist Chimamanda Adichie calls “<a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en">the danger of a single story</a>.” When a single story gets told repeatedly about a culture that readers haven’t experienced themselves, stereotypes become more and more deeply engraved in popular culture. In a self-perpetuating cycle, publishers become even more committed to promoting that one story.</p> <p>Much of the criticisms around <em>American Dirt</em> centered on Cummins’ lack of first-hand experience – the book, for instance, was peppered with <a href="https://medium.com/@davidbowles/non-mexican-crap-ff3b48a873b5">inaccurate Spanish expressions</a> and off-key notes about the middle-class heroine’s actions and choices.</p> <p>While a vast network of publishing insiders would have likely looked at <em>American Dirt</em> before it was published, they all missed elements that were glaringly evident to informed readers. For the mostly white publishing world, Cummins’ book simply fit the narrative of the “single story” and aligned with pop culture stereotypes.</p> <p>Its failings easily slipped past the blind spots of the gatekeepers.</p> <p><strong>The internet’s unfulfilled promise</strong></p> <p>The internet was supposed to have upended this system. Just 10 years ago, pundits and scholars heralded <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/mar/22/society1/">the end of gatekeepers</a> – a world where anyone could be a successful author. And indeed, with the digital self-publishing revolution in the late 2000s, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/they-own-the-system-amazon-rewrites-book-industry-by-turning-into-a-publisher-11547655267">hundreds of thousands of authors</a>, previously excluded from the marketplace, were able to release their books online.</p> <p>Some even made money: <a href="https://christinelarson.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Christine-Larson-Open-networks-open-books-gender-precarity-and-solidarity-in-digital-publishing-1.pdf">My research</a> has found that romance writers doubled their median income from 2009 to 2014, largely due to self-publishing. Romance authors of color, in particular, found new outlets for books excluded by white publishers. Back in 2009, before self-publishing took off, the Book Industry Study Group identified just six categories of romance novels; by 2015, it tracked 33 categories, largely driven by self-publishing. New categories <a href="https://bisg.org/page/Fiction">included African American, multicultural, interracial and LGBT</a>.</p> <p>By 2018, at least <a href="https://www.actualitte.com/PDF/autopublication%20etats%20unis%20chiffres%20bowker.pdf">1.6 million books across all genres had been self-published</a>. Nonetheless, though choice is expanding, readership has stayed <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks">flat since 2011</a>. With more books but no more readers, it’s harder than ever to get the attention of potential buyers.</p> <p>Meanwhile, many grassroots outlets that could push a midlist book – industry jargon for one not heavily promoted by publishers – to moderate levels of success have receded. Local media outlets that could create buzz for a local author are hollowed out or <a href="https://www.usnewsdeserts.com/">have vanished altogether</a>. In 1991, there were some <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=wruuBgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT43&amp;lpg=PT43&amp;dq=john+b+thompson+decline+of+independent+bookstores&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=5l9nKK1Tbi&amp;sig=ACfU3U01GFevWyDLEGvuDwSwDvaE7Uovzw&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjatPqaiLbnAhXFXc0KHU-LCNQQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=john%20b%20thompson%20decline%20of%20independent%20bookstores&amp;f=false">5,100 indie booksellers</a>; now there are <a href="https://www.npr.org/2018/03/29/598053563/why-the-number-of-independent-bookstores-increased-during-the-retail-apocalypse">half that many</a>.</p> <p>The onus is now on authors to promote their own work. They’re spending a full day a week doing so, according to a forthcoming paper I wrote for the Authors’ Guild. In that same paper, I find that authors of color earn less from their books than white authors; in addition to other serious problems, this indicates they may have fewer resources to promote themselves.</p> <p>It’s clear the internet has not delivered the democratization it promised.</p> <p>But it has helped authors in at least one important way. Social media has offered a powerful outlet for marginalized voices to hold the publishing industry accountable. We’ve seen this twice already this year – with <em>American Dirt</em> and with the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-the-romance-writers-of-america-can-implode-over-racism-no-group-is-safe-130034">Romance Writers of America</a>, which lost sponsors after it penalized an author of color for condemning racial stereotypes.</p> <p>Such outcries are an important start. But real progress will require structural change from within – beginning with a more diverse set of editors.</p> <p>On Feb. 3, executives from Macmillan, the publisher of <em>American Dirt</em>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/feb/03/macmillan-latinx-american-dirt-dignidad-literaria">met with Hispanic authors and promised to diversify its staff</a>.</p> <p>It’s an example that the rest of the publishing industry should follow.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-larson-426866"><em>Christine Larson</em></a><em>, Assistant Professor of Journalism, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-colorado-boulder-733">University of Colorado Boulder</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/american-dirt-fiasco-exposes-publishing-industry-thats-too-consolidated-too-white-and-too-selective-130755">original article</a>.</em></p>

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“Mahalo ScoMo” Hawaiian shirt added to National Library archives

<p>After Scott Morrison infamously went on a Hawaiian trip during the unprecedented bushfires that gripped the nation, his “Mahalo ScoMo” shirt was created in response to the ordeal.</p> <p>Now, that shirt has been immortalised forever, after the creator donated one of the Prime Minister-patterned shirts to the National Library of Australia.</p> <p>The button-up shirt features dozens of hibiscus flowers, a print which is commonly featured on tropical themed clothing.</p> <p>However, this one comes with a twist, as their stamens were emblazoned with Scott Morrison’s face, complete with a smug smirk.</p> <p>Australian menswear company MR. KOYA designed the shirts, with all proceeds from their sales going directly to the NSW Rural Fire Service.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the shirt to gain traction and go viral on social media, with over 1000 Aussies being quick to snap up the limited made-to-order shirt, raising $35,891 for firefighter relief.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Recording season 15 of <a href="https://twitter.com/bondirescuetv?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@bondirescuetv</a>, and once again I'm saying "It's the hottest summer on record" in the opening segment. ⁠<br />⁠<br />To honour this harrowing occasion, I'm wearing the <a href="https://twitter.com/mrkoya?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mrkoya</a> "Mahalo ScoMo" shirt - an ode to our PM's leadership skills.⁠<br />… <a href="https://t.co/DipS7JteAN">https://t.co/DipS7JteAN</a> <a href="https://t.co/wOllol223x">pic.twitter.com/wOllol223x</a></p> — Osher Günsberg (@oshergunsberg) <a href="https://twitter.com/oshergunsberg/status/1224918660663386114?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 5, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Now, following the incredible response, the shirt has entered one of the country’s largest collections of cultural ephemera to join other items of significance gathered during the bushfire crisis.</p> <p>MR. KOYA co-founder Yema Akbar said the design was a huge success, with one new Australian planning to wear the shirt during his citizenship ceremony.</p> <p>“It wasn’t quite ready in time. We weren’t sure how the shirts would be received, but we’ve been thrilled with the overwhelming reaction,” said Mr Akbar.</p> <p>“We are privileged to be part of the formed collection of ephemera on the bushfire crisis.</p> <p>“The support received has been truly inspirational and is a testament to the larrikin spirit of Australians, digging deep to have a cheeky laugh.”</p> <p>The shirt will be housed in the library’s Special Collections Reading Room.</p>

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5 minutes with author Frances Whiting

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Frances Whiting, a novelist, feature writer and columnist based in Brisbane. She published two collections of her columns – <em>Oh to Be a Marching Girl</em> in 2003 and <em>That's a Home Run, Tiger!</em> in 2006 – before releasing her debut novel <em>Walking on Trampolines </em>in 2009. Her second novel, <em>The Best Kind of Beautiful </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Whiting about Ernest Hemingway, the detective series she could not get enough of, and the role of panic in her writing.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Frances Whiting: I love that quote from Ernest Hemingway: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” It makes me laugh – and wince a little bit – because it’s true. The best writing tip I can give it just to put in the time. A large part of the process is committing to it. Just sitting down, taking a deep breath, and beginning…</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh/cry?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’ve just discovered Kate Saunders, who writes these lovely mystery series in the vein of Agatha Christie. The protagonist is a genteel lady detective Laetitia Rodd. She is such a delightful and witty character I look forward to reading more of her adventures. The book I read was <em>Laetitia Rodd and the Case of the Wandering Scholar</em>, and I enjoyed it immensely.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Panic, most of the time, to be honest. I work full time, I have a teenager, a tweenager, a husband, a 95-year-old mother and a very large dog to take care of, so I squeeze it in between all that! Mostly very early in the morning when the house is quiet, I can get an hour or two in. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Walk. Walk. Walk. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>When it comes to books, I don’t think the word “should” belongs. Reading is so very personal, isn’t it? But if I wanted to recommend a book that beautifully illustrates the flow and rhythm of writing, I would gift someone any P. G. Wodehouse novel. </span></p> <p><strong><span>How have your other jobs, past and present, influenced your fiction writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>All of them have in some way. From primary school teacher, waitress, go-go dancer (not really), nanny, event manager, journalist and lecturer, it’s all the stuff of life, isn’t it? Which is the stuff of books!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Mary Wesley, because books-wise she was a bit of a late bloomer, like me!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What cliché(s) do you wish novels would stop using?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I like to be surprised by books, and I really don’t like it when we can see what is coming a mile away. I hope my books are less obvious to the reader and that when the surprises come, they really are just that.</span></p>

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How to learn about love from Mills & Boon novels

<p>“We expect love to be one of our greatest joys. But, in practice, it is one of the most reliable routes to misery,” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/10/romantic-realism-the-seven-rules-to-help-you-avoid-divorce">wrote Alain de Botton</a> in a recent article, before informing us that divorce rates <a href="https://theconversation.com/january-divorce-rush-dates-back-to-the-middle-ages-35928">peak post-Christmas</a>.</p> <p>Some have blamed one well-known publisher of romance novels as a reason behind this tidal wave of lost hopes. One scholarly article in the <em>British Medical Journal</em> <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/veteran-bodice-ripper-that-defies-parody-bp625mpml">claimed</a> that Mills &amp; Boon was a contributing factor to divorce, adultery, and unwanted pregnancy.</p> <p>Mills &amp; Boon is over 100-years-old and has an established reputation of supplying escapist romantic fantasies for its predominantly female readership across the globe. But with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I’d like to come out in defence of these romantic novels. Despite their escapist nature, there is a considerable amount of realism contained within their pages.</p> <p>This might seem like a surprising claim. But realism in romance has always been a part of romantic fiction. Charlotte Smith (1749-1806), an early writer of romances, also injected a degree of reality into her novels. While her heroines of sensibility were being wooed from the turrets of their high towers by heroes with appellations such as Orlando and Willoughby, her subsidiary characters faced issues such as extra-marital affairs, unwanted pregnancies and marital rape. As Stuart Curran <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9780230550711">argues</a> of Smith’s works, they record a moment in English fiction where the “intrusion of ‘real life’ into the world of romance marks the beginning of a reconstituted literary realism”.</p> <p>And I reckon that this “literary realism” is equally available, at least in some measure, in many of the romantic novels of Mills &amp; Boon. But how shall we define “realism”? The sceptic’s definition should suffice. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/10/romantic-realism-the-seven-rules-to-help-you-avoid-divorce">De Botton lists</a> seven rules that will allow any reader to develop the emotional skill of romantic realism, and thereby save their marriage.</p> <p><strong>Embracing imperfection</strong></p> <p>First on the list is to “accept perfection is unrealistic”.</p> <p>Now, the heroes of the average Mills &amp; Boon romance, despite appearances on the covers (which generally feature muscular Adonis-like men or heroes who bear a resemblance to popular film stars) are, in fact, very far from perfect. The male lead of Penny Jordan’s <a href="http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=24667"><em>The Most Coveted Prize</em></a> (2011) freely admits this to himself. As the reader is introduced to Kiryl, the narrator informs us that he has “a darkness within him that he had never wholly been able to control. Something of a mental vampire, an echo of himself that, when aroused, could only be calmed by feeding off the emotional pain of others”.</p> <p>It will take the equally far from perfect 19-year-old heroine Alena to save Kiryl from himself and cement their relationship. In order for this to happen, Alena has to accept the reality that Kiryl is not the perfect hero she has constructed him to be within her imagination, saying to him: “I didn’t love you. I loved someone I created inside my own head and heart – someone I now know never existed. That was weak and foolish of me.”</p> <p>Once she has admitted the truth to herself and, in de Botton’s words, “she has grasped the specifics of his imperfections”, she is free to focus on the fact that she loves him anyway, and would rather be with him and his imperfections than spend the rest of her life without him.</p> <p><strong>The art of loving</strong></p> <p>This leads me nicely onto de Botton’s fourth rule of romantic realism, which instructs us to “be ready to love rather than be loved”. Alena – along with countless other Mills &amp; Boon heroines – loves her hero even though she is fully aware of his failings.</p> <p>So the heroines have no issue following de Botton’s advice. But it must be acknowledged that the heroes do have more trouble. Their alpha male status seems to inhibit them from admitting what they perceive as weakness – which for the main part, manifests itself in the form of their vulnerability to the heroine. The final admission of the hero’s undying love for her will almost destroy him.</p> <p>But, as Kiryl admits, “a man can only lie to himself for so long”, and despite Jordan reducing him to a shadow of himself – as she does with so many of her heroes – it will become clear that the hero of the tale can only be saved by embracing both the heroine and his love for her.</p> <p><strong>But it’s all about the sex, right?</strong></p> <p>One of the criticisms which have been levelled at Mills &amp; Boon romantic novels over the years is the inclusion of scenes of an explicit nature. How realistic is the invariably great sex the average Mills &amp; Boon heroine can anticipate with her hero?</p> <p>As de Botton observes, one of the frequent failings in relationships is that we fail to “understand that sex and love, do and don’t, belong together … the general view expects that love and sex will be aligned. But in truth, they won’t stay so beyond a few months or, at best, one or two years”.</p> <p>Not many Mills &amp; Boons address this point. But some do. In another sample from her corpus, Jordan does attempt to hint that the “other key concerns” that de Botton highlights such as “companionship, administration, another generation” do have an impact on sex in relationships. In her 1982 novel, <a href="https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/p38167/blackmail.htm"><em>Blackmail</em></a>, the heroine, Lee, is forced to take a break in sexual relations with her husband Gilles because the birth of her son “had not been an easy one”.</p> <p>And akin to her literary ancestor, Charlotte Smith, Jordan also featured many older heroines. In her novel from 1989, <em><a href="https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/p29067/a-rekindled-passion.htm">A Rekindled Passion</a></em>, for example, the heroine, Kate, is just shy of 40. Kate has spent all of her adult life as a single mother, having fallen pregnant at age 16. When the baby’s father, Joss, reappears, Kate turns down his offer of sex after he tells her he wants her, saying: “It wouldn’t be sensible. We’d both regret it.”</p> <p>Both Kate and Lee love their heroes, but their love is not aligned with sex. The heroines and heroes reach their happy endings in these novels, because all parties accept this.</p> <p>Harlequin Mills &amp; Boon, as a publisher, openly retails their fiction as escapism. But like all great romantic fiction, from its earliest days to contemporary times, these novels do address realistic issues which people face every day in their relationships.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/71530/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/valerie-derbyshire-331457">Valerie Derbyshire</a>, Doctoral Researcher, School of English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sheffield-1147">University of Sheffield</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-learn-about-love-from-mills-and-boon-novels-71530">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Maya Linnell

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Maya Linnell, a writer based in rural Victoria. After working in journalism and public relations, she is now writing fiction and blogging for Romance Writers Australia. Her debut novel, <em>Wildflower Ridge</em> was recently shortlisted for the 2019 Australian Romance Readers Awards. </span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Linnell about rural living, Anh Do’s uplifting work, and the literary trope she can’t stand.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Maya Linnell: Let yourself write junk! I’ve heard it said that an author doesn’t know what they’re trying to say until they’ve finished the first draft, so give yourself permission to write waffly descriptions and scenes that are likely to be cut in the next draft, just so you can push through and complete the story. Then you can cut the wheat from the chaff.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Anh Do’s <em>The Happiest Refugee</em> is uplifting, heart-wrenching and inspiring. I dare someone to read it without smiling.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How has rural living influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’ve lived in small country towns most of my life, and my office overlooks our paddocks, so my writing days are full of breaks to check on the cows, shoo the chickens off my garden and admire the wallabies, with a sound track of magpies, galahs, honeyeaters and cockatoos. It’s second nature to write about the issues faced by my community, my friends and my family on a regular basis, whether it’s livestock, snakes, succession planning, drought, mental health, good seasons and bad, and of course weather.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh or cry?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker</span></em><span> by Joanna Nell was a heart-warming tale that made me cry, and I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Cassie Hamer’s second novel <em>The End of Cuthbert Close</em> which had me laughing every second page. It will be out in March and I know it’ll fly off the shelves.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I sit at my desk from 9am to midday every weekday while I’m working on my first draft and tell myself the quicker I hit the 1,000 word mark, the quicker I get to do other things, like gardening, baking or sewing. At the moment I’m sewing skirts for my <em>Bottlebrush Creek</em> book tour – encompassing Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia) – and it’s a great incentive to stop me procrastinating or giving in to writers block.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Paperback, e-book or audiobook?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Paperback! After a day at the computer, I can’t stand looking at a screen for leisure. I also love audiobooks for long drives, housework and gardening. We live in the country in a big house, with huge gardens, so I get plenty of listening time!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Maya Angelou. She was the first famous person I’d ever heard of with the same name as mine – which was quite unusual in my small country town – and her writing is just beautiful.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? </span></strong></p> <p><span>I love most tropes, but I can’t stand a book that trivialises violence against women. It’s less common these days, but that whole ‘abusive rogue who redeems himself to become the perfect partner’ is never going to work for me.</span></p>

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“Book murderer”: Author’s travel hack sparks debate

<p>Carrying books in your trip can be tricky. Some copies may prove too thick, heavy or bulky, taking up precious space in your luggage.</p> <p>While some resort to e-books and audiobooks, Alex Christofi has something else in mind.</p> <p>The British author took to Twitter on Tuesday to share his hack. “Yesterday my colleague called me a ‘book murderer’ because I cut long books in half to make them more portable. Does anyone else do this? Is it just me?”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Yesterday my colleague called me a 'book murderer' because I cut long books in half to make them more portable. Does anyone else do this? Is it just me? <a href="https://t.co/VQUUdJMpwT">pic.twitter.com/VQUUdJMpwT</a></p> — Alex Christofi (@alex_christofi) <a href="https://twitter.com/alex_christofi/status/1219564301029138432?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 21, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Christofi defended the book cutting as a way to help him keep reading.</p> <p>“The alternative is I just don’t read them because I can’t be bothered to carry them around,” he shared.</p> <p>“If people would just publish in sensible sized volumes I wouldn’t need to take matters into my own hands.”</p> <p>Some fellow readers expressed approval of Christofi’s trick.</p> <p>“I really like this Alex, and am completely ok with it. In fact it undercuts (tish boom) their hubris in writing such a bloody long book in the first place,” one responded.</p> <p>“Why are people so precious about the books they buy? Crack the spine, spill stuff on it, dog ear pages who cares as long as you’re reading,” another wrote.</p> <p>However, most replies were critical of the method. “I’ve never seen anyone do this. It’s definitely a book crime,” one wrote.</p> <p>“Is it just me, he says, posting a murder on the timeline,” another replied.</p> <p>“I’ve been an avid reader since I was 2. Carrying around books was never a burden to me, it was a joy. To mutilate a book to save an inch or two/a few ounces, then criticize the author/publisher for making such large/long/big books. His bindings are loose in more ways than one,” one said.</p> <p>“You’re a monster,” more than one commented.</p> <p>Publishing company Simon &amp; Schuster chimed in with a recommendation, “Can someone get this man an audiobook or e-book?!”</p>

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5 minutes with author Janet Gover

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Janet Gover, a writer and former television journalist based in London, England. Her 2016 outback novel <em>Little Girl Lost</em> won the Epic Romantic Novel of the Year Award presented by the Romantic Novelists' Association in the UK. Her latest book, <em>The Lawson Sisters </em>is out on January 20.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Gover about Dr Seuss, Terry Pratchett and outback Australia.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Janet Gover: Allow yourself to write badly sometimes. Seriously. When I’m doing the first draft of a book, I’m still discovering the characters and their story. Sometimes I’ll write a chapter that I know is not good, but I write it, go past it and continue my voyage of discovery. I then come back and fix the bad bits later, when I know what I was really trying to say.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read? </strong></p> <p><span>Any book. Just read. Reading is so much more than just a pleasure, it opens your mind to new ideas and places and people. Read fiction, non-fiction, kids’ books, graphic novels… whatever appeals to you. And if you haven’t already, read <em>The Lorax</em> by Dr Seuss. I keep coming back to this book that has wisdom well beyond the years of its intended readers. </span></p> <p><strong><span>How has outback Australia influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>When I left Australia to travel, I started to realise how unique outback Australia really is. Things we see every day and often take for granted don’t exist anywhere else in the world. That’s why so many of my books are rural stories. As someone once said to me… You can take the girl out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the girl.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you cry?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I am a huge fan of Robyn Carr’s <em>Virgin River</em> series. I recently reread the first book – and, yes, I got all misty. That’s why her books have such a prominent place on my shelves.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I try to be at my desk by 9 every morning, although sometimes I cheat and linger in bed with a cup of tea, a book and my cat. I spend my mornings doing emails, and paperwork and chatting to friends online. I grab a bite of lunch around midday and that’s when I start writing. I bury myself in the book until my husband calls to say he’s leaving work. That call gives me time to finish what I’m doing – and quickly do the breakfast dishes before he gets home. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I don’t really get writer’s block, but when I am struggling, that’s when [the advice] above becomes important. I just write through it. I know what I am writing is bad, but that doesn’t matter because at some point my Writer Brain kicks in and tells me what I really should be doing. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What romance trope can’t you get enough of? Alternatively, what cliché do you wish romance novels would stop using?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I love a second chance story. <em>The Lawson Sisters</em> is one of those. We all make mistakes in our lives, and I like to think we will get the chance to put things right.  </span></p> <p><span>I am not a huge fan of the ‘forced marriage’ trope. This may have worked in the past, when women had so little power, but I think that as writers in the 21st century, we should be telling our readers that they are strong and able to take charge of their own lives. That’s a theme that reoccurs a lot in my stories.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>This is a tough one. I get terribly nervous around authors I admire and am afraid I’ll say something silly and embarrass myself. I would love to have dinner with the wonderful Terry Pratchett. No author has ever made me laugh or cry as much as he has. I would like to say thank you and I miss you.</span></p>

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Margaret Atwood’s new book to remain unseen until 2114

<p><span>Margaret Atwood’s unread manuscript will remain locked away until 2114.</span></p> <p><span>The Man Booker prize-winning novelist is one of the first contributors to the Future Library project based in Norway. </span></p> <p><span>Conceived by Scottish artist Katie Paterson, the project saw a thousand spruce saplings being planted in the forest of Nordmarka outside Oslo in 2014. In a century, the trees will be cut down, turned into paper and used to print an anthology of 100 unpublished books – including Atwood’s. </span></p> <p><span>“The idea is that one author per year is commissioned specifically to write a new piece of work for the forest, with the knowledge that nobody is going to read it until the trees are fully grown,” Paterson told <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-17/the-future-library-norway-wood-margaret-atwood/11783438">ABC RN</a>.</span></p> <p><span>Paterson said Atwood was the first author she and the Future Library Trust approached for the initiative.</span></p> <p><span>“We got a phenomenal response from Margaret,” Paterson said.</span></p> <p><span>“She responded to our letter not only agreeing to write for the Future Library, but giving us advice about what kind of trees to plant and how to plant them because she grew up in a forest herself.”</span></p> <p><span>Atwood, author of T<em>he</em> <em>Handmaid’s Tale</em>, said of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/05/margaret-atwood-new-work-unseen-century-future-library">her decision to participate</a> then, “It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long.</span></p> <p><span>“When you write any book you do not know who’s going to read it, and you do not know when they’re going to read it. You don’t know who they will be, you don’t know their age, or gender, or nationality, or anything else about them. So books, anyway, really are like the message in the bottle.”</span></p> <p><span>Since Atwood joined, five other authors have come on board: <em>Cloud Atlas </em>novelist David Mitchell, Turkish writer Elif Shafak, Icelandic poet and lyricist Sjón, Man Booker-winning author Han Kang and Norwegian autobiographic novelist Karl Ove Knausgård. Every year until 2114, a writer will be invited to contribute to the collection.</span></p> <p><span>The trust plans to store the manuscripts in a special Silent Room in Oslo’s new public library, and print 3,000 copies of all 100 texts when the time arrives.</span></p> <p><span>Paterson acknowledged that there are “many unknowns” in today’s world. “We’re in a total climate crisis, in a catastrophic moment, and so we can’t predict entirely that the forest will still be there in a hundred years, but we have to do everything we can to ensure that it will be,” she said.</span></p>

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How to send a letter to the future you

<p>As we enter a new year and decade, it is the perfect time to check in on ourselves, look at what we’ve accomplished so far, and reassess our goals for the future.</p> <p>You can do this by writing a letter to your future self as a reminder of where you’ve been in life and your current aspirations as well as a motivating message to go further.</p> <p>There are many tools that can help you send this letter. Apart from the analog time capsule, you can also use note-taking apps or access special websites such as <span><a href="https://www.futureme.org/">FutureMe</a></span> or <span><a href="https://lettertomyfutureself.net/">Letter to my future self</a></span>.</p> <p>After you write the note, set the time you want it to be sent – be it a week or five years from now – and fill out the email address where you want to receive the message.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">Just got my first letter from <a href="https://twitter.com/futureme?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@futureme</a> which I wrote a year ago. <br />Really needed that reminder and a kick up the ass!! 2020 I am SO ready for you 👊🏾</p> — Milo James (@MiloKnowsBest) <a href="https://twitter.com/MiloKnowsBest/status/1213825395503616000?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 5, 2020</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">On New Year’s Day, I received an email from 21-year old me.<br /><br />The email, received on 01/01/2020, was written on 12/3/2015.<br /><br />Judging from the email &amp; from what I remembered, it was the time when I was at a crossroad in my life.<a href="https://twitter.com/futureme?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@futureme</a> <a href="https://t.co/OEee5B1giI">pic.twitter.com/OEee5B1giI</a></p> — Syaza Nazura (@nazu2308) <a href="https://twitter.com/nazu2308/status/1213220010719617024?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 3, 2020</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">Got nostalgic after reading a letter that I wrote 4.5 years ago to my future self and realized how far I've really come.<br /><br />The decade ahead is definitely filled with endless possibilities. Let's make sure that we grab every opportunity to improve and make our past selves proud! <a href="https://t.co/WyNrdrMK25">pic.twitter.com/WyNrdrMK25</a></p> — Tyrone Tan (@iamtyronetan) <a href="https://twitter.com/iamtyronetan/status/1212055856524587008?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 31, 2019</a></blockquote>

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5 minutes with author Lily Malone

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Lily Malone, a writer based in Margaret River, Western Australia. Following her 2016 debut trade paperback <em>The Vineyard In The Hills</em>, Malone launched the <em>Chalk Hill </em>three-book series set in the titular fictional Western Australian town. The last addition to the trilogy, <em>Last Bridge Before Home</em>, is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Malone about writing during school hours, the wonders of the outdoors, and the one thing that makes for great romance.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Lily Malone: My best writing tip is a very simple one. The darn book won’t write itself so you have to put your butt on the seat and start somewhere, and you have to commit to turning up and writing even on the days you’d much rather go for a walk or go fishing!</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p><em><span>Dear Banjo</span></em><span> by Sasha Wasley was just beautiful and had many tender moments that made me chuckle.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What do you think makes for great romance fiction?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Chemistry between the characters. That doesn’t have to be sexual chemistry all the time, but you need things to make it believable that these two would fall in love and stay in love.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I am lucky enough to almost be writing full time these days, so for me, that is four days a week. Monday to Thursday are my writing days and I do a day’s admin work at a local business on a Friday. On weekends I try to keep for running around after my kids – swimming lessons, sleepovers at mates et cetera – making sure we have food in the house, catching up with friends and more. </span></p> <p><span>I try to hit my writing room from 9.30am and work through the school day. I can only write when the house is quiet, so school hours suit perfectly. I don’t write on the school holidays, so generally I set myself writing goals accordingly. For example, I could aim to finish a first draft by the end of Term 2, finish editing by end of Term 3, and get the book out to my beta readers, incorporate feedback and finish the whole book by end of school year. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</span></strong></p> <p><span>If I’m stuck in a story I go for a walk or do something outside. I can solve the plot problems of the universe when I’m out walking.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Tess Woods (author of <em>Love at First Flight</em>, <em>Beautiful Messy Love</em> and <em>Love And Other Battles</em> and very much alive), because she’s a hoot (and she can cook). So I’ll be inviting myself to Tess’s place for her to cook me dinner!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Is there a trope that you can’t help but love?</span></strong></p> <p>I like reunion romances or second chance romances – I think it’s why I loved <em>Dear Banjo </em>by Sasha Wasley so much. Many of my books will have second chance/reunion elements to them – for example <em>Fairway To Heaven</em>, <em>The Vineyard In The Hills</em> and also my latest one, <em>Last Bridge Before Home</em>.</p>

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Why words for single women have changed through time

<p>In a recent interview with <em><a href="https://www.vogue.co.uk/news/article/emma-watson-on-fame-activism-little-women">Vogue</a></em>, actress Emma Watson opened up about being a single 30-year-old woman. Instead of calling herself single, however, she used the word “self-partnered.”</p> <p>I’ve studied <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/never-married-9780199237623?lang=en&amp;cc=us">and written about</a> the history of single women, and this is the first time I am aware of “self-partnered” being used. We’ll see if it catches on, but if it does, it will join the ever-growing list of words used to describe single women of a certain age.</p> <p>Women who were once called spinsters eventually started being called old maids. In 17th-century New England, there were also words like “<a href="https://www.whimn.com.au/love/dating/unmarried-and-over-26-theres-a-name-for-women-like-you/news-story/8e72155c24a8fc79719512d7597b4f08">thornback</a>” – a sea skate covered with thorny spines – used to describe single women older than 25.</p> <p>Attitudes toward single women have repeatedly shifted – and part of that attitude shift is reflected in the names given to unwed women.</p> <h2>The rise of the ‘singlewoman’</h2> <p>Before the 17th century, women who weren’t married were called maids, virgins or “puella,” the Latin word for “girl.” These words emphasized youth and chastity, and they presumed that women would only be single for a small portion of their life – a period of “pre-marriage.”</p> <p>But by the 17th century, new terms, such as “spinster” and “singlewoman,” emerged.</p> <p>What changed? The numbers of unwed women – or women who simply never married – started to grow.</p> <p>In the 1960s, demographer John Hajnal <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/115001673/John-Hajnal-1965-European-Marriage-Patterns-in-Perspective">identified</a> the “Northwestern European Marriage Pattern,” in which people in northwestern European countries such as England started marrying late – in their 30s and even 40s. A significant proportion of the populace didn’t marry at all. In this region of Europe, it was the norm for married couples to start a new household when they married, which required accumulating a certain amount of wealth. Like today, young men and women worked and saved money before moving into a new home, a process that often delayed marriage. If marriage were delayed too long – or if people couldn’t accumulate enough wealth – they might not marry at all.</p> <p>Now terms were needed for adult single women who might never marry. The term spinster transitioned from describing <a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/spinster-meaning-origin">an occupation that employed many women</a> – a spinner of wool – to a legal term for an independent, unmarried woman.</p> <p>Single women made up, on average, <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/never-married-9780199270606?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">30% of the adult female population</a> in early modern England. <a href="http://www.localpopulationstudies.org.uk/PDF/LPS68/LPS68_2002_26-41.pdf">My own research</a> on the town of Southampton found that in 1698, 34.2% of women over 18 were single, another 18.5% were widowed, and less than half, or 47.3%, were married.</p> <p>Many of us assume that past societies were more traditional than our own, with marriage more common. But my work shows that in 17th-century England, at any given time, more women were unmarried than married. It was a normal part of the era’s life and culture.</p> <h2>The pejorative ‘old maid’</h2> <p>In the late 1690s, the term old maid became common. The expression emphasizes the paradox of being old and yet still virginal and unmarried. It wasn’t the only term that was tried out; the era’s literature also <a href="https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001911725">poked fun</a> at “superannuated virgins.” But because “old maid” trips off the tongue a little easier, it’s the one that stuck.</p> <p>The undertones of this new word were decidedly critical.</p> <p>“<a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/33875142?q&amp;versionId=41687269">A Satyr upon Old Maids</a>,” an anonymously written 1713 pamphlet, referred to never-married women as “odious,” “impure” and repugnant. Another common trope was that old maids would be punished for not marrying by “leading apes in hell.”</p> <p>At what point did a young, single woman become an old maid? There was a definitive line: In the 17th century, it was a woman in her mid-20s.</p> <p>For instance, the single poet Jane Barker wrote in her 1688 poem, “<a href="http://www.poetryexplorer.net/poem.php?id=10036317">A Virgin Life</a>,” that she hoped she could remain “Fearless of twenty-five and all its train, / Of slights or scorns, or being called Old Maid.”</p> <p>These negative terms came about as the numbers of single women continued to climb and marriage rates dropped. In the 1690s and early 1700s, English authorities became so worried about population decline that the government <a href="http://www.localpopulationstudies.org.uk/PDF/LPS68/LPS68_2002_26-41.pdf">levied a Marriage Duty Tax</a>, requiring bachelors, widowers and some single women of means to pay what amounted to a fine for not being married.</p> <h2>Still uneasy about being single</h2> <p>Today in the U.S., <a href="https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/time-series/demo/families-and-households/ms-2.pdf">the median</a> first age at marriage for women is 28. For men, it’s 30.</p> <p>What we’re experiencing now isn’t a historical first; instead, we’ve essentially returned to a marriage pattern that was common 300 years ago. From the 18th century up until the mid-20th century, <a href="https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/families/marital.html">the average age at first marriage</a> dropped to a low of age 20 for women and age 22 for men. Then it began to rise again.</p> <p>There’s a reason Vogue was asking Watson about her single status as she approached 30. To many, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/27/marriage-by-this-age-babies-by-that-age-when-will-we-stop-giving-women-deadlines">age 30 is a milestone for women</a> – the moment when, if they haven’t already, they’re supposed to go from being footloose and fancy-free to thinking about marriage, a family and a mortgage.</p> <p>Even if you’re a wealthy and famous woman, you can’t escape this cultural expectation. Male celebrities don’t seem to be questioned about being single and 30.</p> <p>While no one would call Watson a spinster or old maid today, she nonetheless feels compelled to create a new term for her status: “self-partnered.” In what some have dubbed the “<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2017/04/the_history_of_self_care.html">age of self-care</a>,” perhaps this term is no surprise. It seems to say, I’m focused on myself and my own goals and needs. I don’t need to focus on another person, whether it’s a partner or a child.</p> <p>To me, though, it’s ironic that the term “self-partnered” seems to elevate coupledom. Spinster, singlewoman or singleton: None of those terms openly refers to an absent partner. But self-partnered evokes a missing better half.</p> <p>It says something about our culture and gender expectations that despite her status and power, a woman like Watson still feels uncomfortable simply calling herself single.<em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/amy-froide-411337">Amy Froide</a>, Professor of History, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-maryland-baltimore-county-1667">University of Maryland, Baltimore County</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/spinster-old-maid-or-self-partnered-why-words-for-single-women-have-changed-through-time-126716">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Rachael Treasure

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Rachael Treasure, an author based in southern rural Tasmania. Her 2002 debut novel <em>Jillaroo </em>has been recognised for inspiring more women’s stories to be shared in the contemporary rural genre. Her screenplay <em>Albert’s Chook Tractor</em> was filmed for SBS Independent TV. Her seventh novel, <em>White Horses </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Treasure about brainwave states, sustainable farming and finding time to write in the ute.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Rachael Treasure: Trust that there’s a big swirling creative field of energy inside you. As a writer our job is to get beyond the everyday beta brainwave state – the state that is self-critical, fearful of other’s judgement or limiting. Once you allow yourself to get into an alpha brainwave state and beyond you can then relax and trust the ideas to come and let the creativity flow.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p>My latest novel <em>White Horses</em> – not just because I wrote it but because I’ve woven my heart and soul into it. It’s a book to show that no matter what life throws at you, you can heal. The book also gives people hope that regenerative agriculture can help us reverse climate change and the ill health of humanity.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>Meg Bignell’s <em><span>The Sparkle Pages</span></em> – it’s about a Tasmanian mother who is struggling with life. It’s poignant, funny and a very clever first time novel.</p> <p><strong>How has living and working in rural Australia influenced your writing?</strong></p> <p>My rural journey underpins all my novels – from serious issues like rural youth suicide and succession planning where the farm is often left to sons and not daughters, to the land degradation we now see across the entire continent… it’s all taken from my direct experience. On the upside also in my stories is my daily work on the farm. We are restoring the ecology and regenerating our soil using regenerative farming techniques. Mother Nature is responding so well it inspires me to keep using story to get information out to the masses. I want to entertain my readers, and I also want other farmers to see how they can cut costs, reduce chemical use and avoid droughts and return their land and life to healthy systems.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>There is no routine, but I aim to write everyday even if I can only find ten minutes. I generally do the morning farm chores, drop the kids to school, do an hour or so in a café on the way back to the farm then move the livestock. We move our sheep and cows daily so the land gets long rests. Then I write again on my laptop – either in the ute or sitting in the shed or the paddock. Sometimes I get an idea whilst cooking and I write on my laptop on the kitchen bench… the meals on those nights are often a bit hit and miss!</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>I don’t get writer’s block as I’ve learned about brainwave states and how they impact creativity. So if I feel sluggish in terms of creativity, I meditate for ten minutes. Plus, my life is so varied and rich that inspiration is all around me! I only have to look at our Aloeburn Poll Merino ewes or our cows to come up with an idea. Or look at people as I drive to school. Art is all about observation. So I look and listen and observe all the time. Julia Cameron’s <em>The Artist’s Way </em>is a brilliant book for people who feel they are blocked artistically.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Can I have a dinner party? There are so many! I’ve had dinner with Monica McInerney in Dublin and that was beautiful and I’d love to do it again, however I think on the top of the list would be William Shakespeare. It would be very entertaining and interesting given the language and era difference, and culturally I’d love to see what he thought of me – a Tassie-as lass!</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? </strong></p> <p>Something that really irritates me is this belief that farmers are in drought because it hasn’t rained. It’s not true. We are in drought because in 200 years of white settlement we have drained the marshes, drained the river mouths to allow ships in, overgrazed the land, ploughed our soils so they blow away, reduced biodiversity in everything and continue to now kill most life in the soil to grow monoculture crops that have very little nutrients. All these things are avoidable and that’s where I stop getting irritated and begin to get excited as we and other farmers all over Australia and the world are changing to regenerative farming, so we have healthier food and healthier environments and cleaner water.</p>

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A history of loneliness

<p>Is loneliness our modern malaise?</p> <p>Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy <a href="https://hbr.org/cover-story/2017/09/work-and-the-loneliness-epidemic">says</a> the most common pathology he saw during his years of service “was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”</p> <p>Chronic loneliness, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/12/duncan-selbie-isolated-bad-health">some say</a>, is like “smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” It “<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/08/dangers_of_loneliness_social_isolation_is_deadlier_than_obesity.html">kills more people than obesity</a>.”</p> <p>Because loneliness is now considered a <a href="http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/08/lonely-die.aspx">public health</a> issue – and even an <a href="http://fortune.com/2016/06/22/loneliness-is-a-modern-day-epidemic/">epidemic</a> – people are exploring its causes and trying to find solutions.</p> <p>While writing a book on the history of how poets wrote about loneliness in the <a href="https://www.britannica.com/art/English-literature/The-Romantic-period">Romantic Period</a>, I discovered that loneliness is a relatively new concept and once had an easy cure. However, as the concept’s meaning has transformed, finding solutions has become harder.</p> <p>Returning to the origins of the word – and understanding how its meaning has changed through time – gives us a new way to think about modern loneliness, and the ways in which we might address it.</p> <h2>The dangers of venturing into ‘lonelinesses’</h2> <p>Although loneliness may seem like a timeless, universal experience, it seems to have originated in the late 16th century, when it signaled the danger created by being too far from other people.</p> <p>In early modern Britain, to stray too far from society was to surrender the protections it provided. Distant forests and mountains inspired fear, and a lonely space was a place in which you might meet someone who could do you harm, with no one else around to help.</p> <p>In order to frighten their congregations out of sin, sermon writers asked people to imagine themselves in “lonelinesses” – places like hell, the grave or the desert.</p> <p>Yet well into the 17th century, the words “loneliness” and “lonely” rarely appeared in writing. In 1674, the naturalist John Ray <a href="http://www.thesalamancacorpus.com/varia_various_1500-1699_ray_a-collection_1691.html">compiled a glossary</a> of infrequently used words. He included “loneliness” in his list, defining it as a term used to describe places and people “far from neighbours.”</p> <p>John Milton’s 1667 epic poem “<a href="https://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Emilton/reading_room/pl/book_1/text.shtml">Paradise Lost</a>” features one of the first lonely characters in all of British literature: Satan. On his journey to the garden of Eden to tempt Eve, Satan treads “lonely steps” out of hell. But Milton isn’t writing about Satan’s feelings; instead, he’s emphasizing that he’s crossing into the ultimate wilderness, a space between hell and Eden where no angel has previously ventured.</p> <p>Satan <a href="https://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Emilton/reading_room/pl/book_2/text.shtml">describes</a> his loneliness in terms of vulnerability: “From them I go / This uncouth errand sole, and one for all / Myself expose, with lonely steps to tread / Th’ unfounded deep.”</p> <h2>The dilemma of modern loneliness</h2> <p>Even if we now enjoy the wilderness as a place of adventure and pleasure, the fear of loneliness persists. The problem has simply moved into our cities.</p> <p>Many are trying to solve it by bringing people physically closer to their neighbors. <a href="https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/life/info-2014/loneliness_2010.html">Studies</a> point to a spike in the number of people who live alone and the breakdown of family and community structures.</p> <p>British Prime Minister Theresa May has set her sights on “combating” loneliness and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/world/europe/uk-britain-loneliness.html">appointed</a> a minister of loneliness to do just that in January. There is even a <a href="https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org">philanthropy</a> called the “Campaign to End Loneliness.”</p> <p>But the drive to cure loneliness oversimplifies its modern meaning.</p> <p>In the 17th century, when loneliness was usually relegated to the space outside the city, solving it was easy. It merely required a return to society.</p> <p>However, loneliness has since moved inward – and has become much harder to cure. Because it’s taken up residence inside minds, even the minds of people living in bustling cities, it can’t always be solved by company.</p> <p>Modern loneliness isn’t just about being physically removed from other people. Instead, it’s an emotional state of feeling apart from others – without necessarily being so.</p> <p>Someone surrounded by people, or even accompanied by friends or a lover, can complain of feelings of loneliness. The wilderness is now inside of us.</p> <h2>Populating the wilderness of the mind</h2> <p>The lack of an obvious cure to loneliness is part of the reason why it is considered to be so dangerous today: The abstraction is frightening.</p> <p>Counterintuitively, however, the secret to dealing with modern loneliness might lie not in trying to make it disappear but in finding ways to dwell within its abstractions, talk through its contradictions and seek out others who feel the same way.</p> <p>While it’s certainly important to pay attention to the structures that have led people (especially elderly, disabled and other vulnerable people) to be physically isolated and therefore unwell, finding ways to destigmatize loneliness is also crucial.</p> <p>Acknowledging that loneliness is a profoundly human and sometimes uncurable experience rather than a mere pathology might allow people – especially lonely people – to find commonality.</p> <p>In order to look at the “epidemic of loneliness” as more than just an “epidemic of isolation,” it’s important to consider why the spaces of different people’s minds might feel like wildernesses in the first place.</p> <p>Everyone experiences loneliness differently, and many find it difficult to describe. As the novelist Joseph Conrad <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=8P99Y2HWGK4C&amp;dq=under%20western%20eyes&amp;pg=PP1#v=onepage&amp;q=true%20loneliness&amp;f=false">wrote</a>, “Who knows what true loneliness is – not the conventional word but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask.” Learning about the range of ways others experience loneliness could help mitigate the kind of disorientation Conrad describes.</p> <p>Reading literature can also make the mind feel like less of a wilderness. The books we read need not themselves be about loneliness, though there are lots of examples of these, from “<a href="https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/69506-10-books-about-loneliness.html">Frankenstein</a>” to “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/aug/24/teju-cole-top-10-novels-solitude">Invisible Man</a>.” Reading allows readers to connect with characters who might also be lonely; but more importantly, it offers a way to make the mind feel as though it is populated.</p> <p>Literature also offers examples of how to be lonely together. British Romantic poets often copied each other’s loneliness and found it productive and fulfilling.</p> <p>There are opportunities for community in loneliness when we share it, whether in face-to-face interactions or through text. Though loneliness can be debilitating, it has come a long way from its origins as a synonym for isolation.</p> <p>As the poet Ocean Vuong <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/04/someday-ill-love-ocean-vuong">wrote</a>, “loneliness is still time spent with the world.”<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/91542/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/amelia-s-worsley-443122">Amelia S. Worsley</a>, Assistant Professor of English, <em><a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/amherst-college-2155">Amherst College</a></em></span></p> <p>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-history-of-loneliness-91542">original article</a>.</p>

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4 simple strategies to reclaim your attention and look up

<p><span>After a period living and volunteering in the far north of India, Australian primary school teacher Hugh van Cuylenburg was blown away by the remarkable positivity of the comparatively underprivileged locals. How was it, he wondered, that young people he knew at home, who had food, shelter, friends and a loving family, struggled with their mental health, while these kids seemed overwhelmingly happy? This experience led him on a journey to find answers to this question.</span></p> <p><span>Years of study, research and questions followed and, through this, van Cuylenburg came to understand that practising gratitude, empathy and mindfulness leads us to happier and more fulfilling lives. </span><span>Backed by evidence-based analysis and inspiring personal anecdotes, <em>The Resilience Project</em> brings these life-changing messages to life for an ever-broadening audience. In the passage below, van Cuylenburg offers four tips to help reclaim our attention, look up from our devices and better experience the incredible real world that surrounds us.</span></p> <p><span>**</span></p> <p><span>A 2017 Deloitte survey found Australians checked their phones more than 35 times a day on average, an increase of around 17 per cent on just the year before. Thirty-five per cent of us check our phone within five minutes of waking up in the morning, and 70 per cent use phones during mealtimes with family and friends.</span></p> <p><span>Needless to say, it’s extremely hard to be mindful and mentally present when some of the world’s biggest media corporations are trying to rip our time and attention from our hands. Smartphones are here to stay, and so is social media. And they’re not the only threats; in 2018, the World Health Organization classified gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. Our kids are copping it from everywhere.</span></p> <p><span>That’s the bad news. The good news is that we are not powerless, and the other side of this shiny technological coin has many benefits that can help enrich our lives. But we need to be careful. There are four simple strategies that I strongly recommend you try, so you can reclaim much of what the attention economy has taken from you:</span></p> <p><strong><span>1. Delete Facebook from our phones</span></strong></p> <p><span>On 2 July 2018, I dumped Facebook from my mobile and vowed only to look at it when I was using my laptop. I haven’t been on Facebook since, and it’s not because I’m trying to avoid it – I’m just not as easy a target for Mark Zuckerberg’s addiction engineers as I was when I had Facebook in my pocket.</span></p> <p><span>The decision to delete the app was a life-changer. I didn’t feel that I was any less connected to the people I wanted to connect with, and I realised I had spent most of my time on Facebook looking at garbage – stuff that, if someone asked me to check out in real life, I’d laugh at and walk away. I’ve often wondered how I’d react if I walked past a cafe, saw a friend and they said, ‘Just in time! My coffee has arrived. Would you like to see how it looks from directly above?’</span></p> <p><strong><span>2. Turn off notifications</span></strong></p> <p><span>There is no reason whatsoever to have notifications on our phones switched on. The only reason they exist is to suck us back into the app abyss. We don’t need to know every single time someone has liked a photo, sent us a message, commented on a thread we’re following or tagged us on Twitter. It’s getting to the point where we don’t really decide when we check our phones; our phones are deciding for us – more than 35 times a day!</span></p> <p><strong><span>3. Rearrange our home screens</span></strong></p> <p><span>The only apps we should have on our home screens are ones we’re not addicted to. Once you clear all the addictive stuff off your home screen, you’ll be amazed how few things you really ‘need’ on your phone. In my case I was left with just three apps: music, podcasts and Google Maps. That’s it. Everything that has an addictive component I have placed in a separate file on the sixth screen across labelled ‘Regret’.</span></p> <p><strong><span>4. Leave home without our phones</span></strong></p> <p><span>When we disconnect from our phones we reconnect with life. Thanks largely to persuasive technology we’ve been conditioned to think we can’t be without them. When we leave home these days we check that we have our keys, wallet, sunnies and… ‘Where’s my bloody phone?’</span></p> <p><span>A few years back I started leaving mine at home at every opportunity. OK, often I need my phone for work, but do I need it if I’m going out to dinner? Going for a run? To the movies? Cricket training? Phones only serve to interrupt these moments and derail the joy of being present with the people we’re with, even if that person is ourselves.</span></p> <p><span>Not long after setting myself the rule about limiting my phone use, I caught up with a mate at a pub in Fitzroy.</span></p> <p><span>It was a very quiet night at the pub as I sat at the bar and swapped stories with my mate. After a while he got up to go to the gents’. ‘Back in a sec,’ he said and disappeared. Suddenly I was one of only a few punters in the entire pub. Like Pavlov’s dog I reached into my pocket to get my phone, and I actually felt annoyed that I’d left the thing at home.</span></p> <p><span>I had nothing to do for the next minute or so. It was a strange feeling, like the world had stopped. ‘How did we not look weird when we were sitting without anything to do, in the time before smartphones?’ I pondered. That’s when I noticed the barman just a few feet away, cleaning a pint glass.</span></p> <p><span>‘How’s your night going?’ I inquired. ‘It’s pretty quiet – you must love that?’</span></p> <p><span>‘No,’ he said, ‘I actually prefer it when it’s busy.’</span></p> <p><span>‘Really?’</span></p> <p><span>‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I’m just going through some difficult stuff at the moment and when it’s really quiet I can’t get it out of my head, but when it’s busy I escape it for a bit.’</span></p> <p><span>Suddenly I was in the midst of a serious moment with a fellow human being, and the world felt very full again. ‘Oh,’ I said, giving him my complete attention. ‘Are you alright?’</span></p> <p><span>‘No, not really,’ he replied. ‘I’m just going through a breakup and it’s pretty full-on at the moment.’</span></p> <p><span>‘I’m really sorry about that,’ I said. ‘I know exactly how that feels. It’s awful.’</span></p> <p><span>The barman and I were still talking about his situation five minutes after my mate returned.</span></p> <p><span>‘Anyway,’ he said as a couple of customers appeared at the other end of the bar, ‘I’ll let you guys get back to it.’</span></p> <p><span>‘Take care of yourself, mate,’ I said as he turned to serve the others. He flashed me a little thumbs up.</span></p> <p><span>When I got home later, all I could think was, ‘Thank God I left my phone here.’ The barman clearly needed to reach out and make that connection in that moment; as soon as I opened my mouth to speak to him he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. If I’d had my phone with me, that conversation would never have happened. I’d have buried my head in the internet, and if the barman had wanted to talk about his emotional problems he’d have had to lean over and say, ‘Excuse me, do you want to talk about my breakup for a minute?’</span></p> <p><span>Increasingly, over the past ten years, more and more of us have been using social media to try to fulfil our basic psychological needs: the need to feel loved, to feel like we belong, to feel validated and achieve degrees of social status.</span></p> <p><span>If we’re hungry for love, we post a photo of ourselves and all people have to do is press a heart button to let us know they approve. If it’s status we crave, we can simply add a ‘status update’ to show people we aced the job interview, took the holiday, skied down the mountain or welcomed the child. In return we hope our screens will bloom with little blue thumbs to feed our psychological hunger.</span></p> <p><span>But it doesn’t really nourish us. The flesh-and-blood thumbs up that the barman at the Union Club Hotel gave me meant more than a million likes on Facebook could. I imagine our talk that night meant much more to him than a sad-face emoji, too. This was an everyday illustration of the benefits of communication and social connection, something I am passionately advocating for day in, day out at The Resilience Project.</span></p> <p><em><span>Extract from </span></em>The Resilience Project<em><span> by Hugh Van Cuylenburg, published by Ebury Australia on 19 November 2019, RRP 34.99</span></em></p>

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5 minutes with author Peter Watt

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Peter Watt, a historical fiction writer based in Maclean in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. He has worked as a soldier, prawn trawler deckhand, builder’s labourer, surveyor’s chainman, pipe layer, real estate salesman, private investigator, police sergeant and advisor to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. Currently he spends 6 months of the year working as a volunteer bush firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service. His latest book <em>The Queen’s Tiger </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Watt about Les Norton novels, historical fiction, and a memorable pearl of wisdom from his mother.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Peter Watt: The best tip is simply persevere and don’t get your mum/wife/partner/best friend to tell you what she thinks of what you have written.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p>Wow! I think it cannot be simply just one book. Reading is a feast of many courses.</p> <p><strong>How have your past jobs influenced your writing? </strong></p> <p>I guess being exposed to the best and worst in humanity has helped shape my reflections on life. Nothing is black and white when you finally reach your 70<sup>th</sup> year on the planet.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>If I wanted to laugh, I read the great Robert G Barrett’s Les Norton novels.</p> <p><strong>What do you think makes for a great </strong><strong>historical fiction work?</strong></p> <p>I think that careful research makes for great historical fiction. To be able to take the reader back to a time of their ancestors and let them see how they have much in common with them. They are the living ghosts of our current lives who haunt us.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>During the non-fire season, I dedicate six months to research and writing. That means buckling down to a 10-hour day, six days a week. Part of being a writer also means I have to mow the lawns, take out the garbage and every other job my wife finds for me around the house! Occasionally during the day I reply to reader’s emails.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Many authors of some note writing in our genre admire Bernard Cornwell – as I do.  I have had the pleasure of dining with a true gentleman, Wilbur Smith, whose work inspired me to write the novels that I do.</p> <p><strong>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>My old Irish grandmother used to tell me that you can’t afford to buy cheap. My own mother would always say when things got tough on the farm where I grew up [that] this, too, shall pass. How true in both cases, despite being clichés.</p>

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5 minutes with author T.M. Clark

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is T.M. Clark, a Zimbabwe-born author based near Brisbane. She has continued to showcase her passion for Africa in her novels and children’s picture books. Her first novel <em>My Brother-But-One</em> was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Award 2014. Her latest book <em>Cry of the Firebird </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Clark about binge writing, second-chance romances, and her favourite Afrikaans words.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em><span>What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</span></strong></p> <p><span>T.M. Clark: “You must write every day.” I’m a binge writer, the worst advice for me is to try to give me a routine. People need to remember that what works for one writer might not necessarily work for another. This is one of those pieces of advice that, for me, simply doesn’t gel – ever!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book(s) are you reading right now?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Just starting <em>Hangman</em> by Jack Heath. Knowing Jack primarily as a children’s author, I’m still wrapping my head around him writing awesome successful thrillers, with serial killers, gritty crime and criminals! I’m excited that he has spread his wings and doing both genres. I am loving this book and can’t wait to find out what happens.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>The Trouble with Christmas</span></em><span> by Amy Andrews. I laughed out loud and loved this story. I think everyone should read it to get a little joy in their lives, smile and have the happy feeling I had by the end of the book. I loved this book for the unadulterated romantic comedy that it was – from the cowboy on the cover to the last tacky Christmas decorations.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How have the places you’ve been influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Obviously growing up in Zimbabwe and South Africa has had a huge influence on my writing, but also on the way I think things through. I know that now I’m an Australian princess who loves my internet and electricity working, but I still love Africa! I believe more than anything that being an Australian has opened my eyes to the beauty that is still there in Africa, and the difference of the people who just do their job and who have a seemingly bottomless source of optimism despite all the chaos going on around them. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Routine – what routine? Seriously, other than running around after the men in my life (hubby and two university-going sons), I organise the CYA Conference and the Writers at Sea Retreat and collect books from all over Brisbane and South East Queensland for our Papua New Guinea library building project. When would I get a routine?</span></p> <p><span>I do, however, have time blocked out in my diary to write and I guard that with the same ferocity as a mother leopard. Every Friday I’m usually found at the Queensland Writers Centre, joining others for the Writing Friday event, where we use the Pomodoro method of timed sprints to achieve words from 10am to 4pm. I also have my time blocked out to write my book during September and October. I don’t do much socialising or anything in those months as that is writing time.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What is your favourite word, in English or any other language?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Voetsak.</span></em><span> It’s a South African word that means ‘go away’. Everyone in southern Africa and every dog understands it – no matter their upbringing, all colours and languages under the rainbow. </span></p> <p><span>Another favourite is the word <em>yebo</em> (Zulu origin but shared across most of the languages now), meaning ‘yes’. It also is the answer to everything whenever anyone asks and you don’t know the answer. If you are feeling under the weather but don’t want to tell someone when they ask, you just say ‘yebo’. If you ask directions from someone and they say ‘yebo’, you know they are just politely saying ‘hello and I don’t know’. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love? Alternatively, what trope grinds your gears?</span></strong></p> <p><span>While I know they’re a trope that doesn’t suit everyone, I love second-chance romances. Recently in real life, I got to know about a writer friend who is now in his 70s and had a second chance with his very first girlfriend from when they were 16 years old. It ended happily this time when they got married, and it just made my heart flutter because I am a softie. I believe in soulmates and fate, and I adore that they gave it another chance. </span></p> <p><span>A trope that irritates me… No, nothing. I’m blank on that, but bad or lazy writing irritates me and I have a lot to say about that. The poor tropes get an unnecessary bad rap – it has nothing to do with the author writing a bad book.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Sir James Percy FitzPatrick, writer of <em>Jock of the Bushveld</em>. It was read to me as a kid, and I reread it every now and again now as an adult. It’s one of the few books that have been with me across four changes of country and are still on my bookshelf. I adore the period he wrote of, the wagons, the teams of oxen pulling them through the <em>bundu</em> and the wild game, the frontier of Africa of yesteryear. </span></p> <p><span>He was a forward thinker for his time, with the underlying theme of this book being one of a man not accepting ‘the way’ that burdened him, wanting to break away from it all and be free. I wonder how much of himself he put into his characters, or if it was all just the story at the time…</span></p>

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5 minutes with author Maggie Joel

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Maggie Joel, a British-born writer and an operations manager based in Sydney. Her historical novels have been published in Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK. Her latest book <em>The Unforgiving City </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Joel about writing while having a full-time job, Virginia Woolf, and the experience of reading evocative books.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Maggie Joel: Definitely show not tell. I’m always surprised when writers tell us what their characters are feeling instead of showing us. It was drilled into me in every creative writing class I attended that the skill for the writer was in working out ways to show us the character’s emotions whether it be by mannerism, physical description, dialogue or whatever. Simply telling us they are scared or delighted or anxious is breathtakingly lazy almost to the point of disrespecting the sophistication of the reader.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p><em>Little Boy Lost</em> by British author Marghanita Laski. In the ‘60s and ‘70s Laski was a well-known author and TV pundit in the UK, but she is all but forgotten now. This novel, published in 1949 and set in France in the months following the end of the war, appears to be a simple enough tale of a man’s search for his child – but don’t be fooled, this is a masterpiece of storytelling. I have never had such an emotional response to a novel before or since. It is a little gem.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>Probably the biography of Muriel Spark by Martin Stannard that a friend loaned me a few months ago. She was such a confident, witty and often quite savage observer of life and people that I’m sure I laughed out loud at various points in the book. To have that kind of confidence in your abilities and such utter contempt for the abilities and frailties of others is joyous to read. I relished it!</p> <p><strong>What do you think makes for a great </strong><strong>historical fiction work?</strong></p> <p>I think it all boils down to one thing: creating an emotional response in the reader. When I look at the books with a strong historical setting that have influenced me – <em>The Remains of the Day</em> by Kazuo Ishiguro, <em>The Go-Between</em> by L.P. Hartley, <em>The Shooting Party </em>by Isabel Colegate, <em>Brideshead Revisited</em> by Evelyn Waugh – they’re all books that look back, both fondly and critically, on the recent past, and where nostalgia for a bygone era plays a major role. They are incredibly evocative works, utilising research and literary devices to generate an emotional response within the reader.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>I work full-time, so my writing routine means weekends. If I am in the throes of a new novel, I will be at the computer by 8am Saturday morning and will work all day, and all-day Sunday. If I have managed things well, I take a few weeks of long service leave from work and that can make a huge difference in getting that first draft down, really in a matter of weeks. All my books involve a substantial amount of research which I try to fit in around the writing and in the evenings when I get home from work.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>When I had writer’s block – for two years about eight years ago – I didn’t deal with it. That is to say, I tried everything and nothing worked. In the end I gave up trying, gave up reading even, and admitted I was no longer a writer. It was awful, like giving up a part of myself, but looking back I think I needed to reach that point, to start living a life that no longer involved writing, no longer involved books. After a year or so it just lifted, almost overnight. I haven’t suffered from it since. But really, if the book I am writing is not so utterly absorbing to me that I am compelled to write, then the book isn’t worth writing.</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>Diaries! That handy little journal that your character conveniently finds secreted away in the victim’s or suspect’s bedroom at exactly the right moment and that conveniently fills in all the blanks that the character otherwise could not know. And then we have to suffer page after tortuous page of italicised excerpts from said dairy. Dear God! Save me from it.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Oh, definitely Virginia Woolf. Cliched I know, but I’d be lying if I gave any other answer. Her life and writing have inspired me more than any other writer, I come back to her time and time again. Having said that, I can imagine her being a rather reticent, if not so say, prickly dinner guest who would sit there the whole evening contributing absolutely nothing then coming out with some pithy and piercing observation right at the end of the night that leaves the rest of the company speechless and slightly offended – at least I hope she would!</p>

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