Melbourne vs everywhere

There’s nothing like getting a new phone or signing up to a new social network to get you thinking about your contact list. Looking over my burgeoning Google+ profile, I realised one thing: I know too many writers. And then I decided to amend that to “I know too many writers from Melbourne”.

And it’s not just showing up in the shiny new depths of Google+. Have a look at that blog-roll at the side of this page – there’s 6 recommended blogs, of which 4 are authors living in Melbourne.

  • Jay Kristoff – Literary Giant – based in Melbourne, his debut novel, Stormdancer (a Japanese Steampunk Fantasy) will be released in 2012. His blog has plenty of helpful information for first time writers from  what to do  on your first phone call to agent (now with sad kitten photo!) to his on-going series of posts on the history of steampunk.
  • Max Barry’s blog – Max is a Melbourne writer whose playful but scientific approach to satire is exemplified by the just-released Machine Man, a book which was written through his site with a page a day being published online. It took on feedback from readers as it grew, from what they liked and didn’t to what cover the book should have,  and it’s a fascinating experiment in writing as well as a damned good book. Buy it. Buy it now.
  • John Birmingham’s Cheeseburger Gothic – John Birmingham is an Australian writer who blips from writing fiction to non-fiction (including one of my favorites, a warts and all history of Sydney called Leviathan) to political and personal rants that amuse while they inform (unless you are Andrew Bolt).  This blog aggregates all his various writing (for the Brisbane Times, the ABC, and others) to one page, which is useful as he writes a lot. He’s not based in Melbourne, but then, he always seems to delight in breaking people’s expectations.
  • Patrick O’Duffy – Author, editor and e-publisher – Patrick is an editor and a writer who lives in Melbourne. His blog has both examples of his own short fiction and tips for writers, including excellent advice on the mechanics and nuances of writing and a large amount of musing about Batman (and often, posts that combine the two).
  • Wait Here For Further Instructions – Cam Rogers – from Cooktown, QLD, but based in Melbourne (seeing a theme here?) Cam can often be found in other places as well – he’s a novelist, a travel journalist and a photographer. His blog veers between serious and heartfelt thoughts on great acts of creativity, connecting with people and writing for a living to hilarious anecdotes that will make you laugh even as you wonder how the hell he is still alive. Often in the same post.
  • Writing Bar – blog of the Sydney Writers’ Centre – not in Melbourne! But also not a writer. None the less, this is a really useful blog for inspiration and information about writing, writing news and occasionally hilarious writing stuff they find on their travel through the web.

Now, I love Melbourne but I suspect I am maligning the creativity of the rest of the country by only have two links from outside of Victoria.  So, anyone have any suggestions for great Australian blogs by authors or about reading and writing that I should absolutely be keeping an eye on?

Please let me know in the comments, either here or on Boomerang’s Facebook* page when this post makes an appearance there.


* Is talking about Google+ on something that will come up on Facebook considered bad form? Like, bringing up your new partner and how great they are when you meet your ex, or talking about your new job in front of your old boss? Actually, if there is anyone out who wants a Google+ invite, feel free to drop me a comment and let me know. Because if I am going to be rude to Facebook, I may as well do it properly.

Reading like you write

Do you write like your favourite authors?

Over on Cam Roger’s* website, there’s a comment thread getting going on social groups and networking amongst your friends and someone raised an interesting idea; that we are the sum of a few people that we spend the most time with.

This is an idea popularised by motivational speaker Jim Rohn who argues that if you think about the five people you spend the most time with, you are probably the sum (or more accurately, the average) of those people.  Basically, you are who you know. It’s not a ground-breaking idea – we’ve all heard about the dangers of “getting in with a bad crowd” and seen many books for aspiring writers/artists/rich people that recommend surrounding yourself with successful writers/artists/rich people.

(Although, speaking as the struggling writer type myself, perhaps I should surround myself with rich people instead of writers? After all, my writer friends can come up with their own prose, but perhaps someone rich might be able to spare a few pennies for my writing. I reckon it might be beneficial for artists generally to meet less other starving artists over a bottle of homebrew and go out with more people who can shout them a bowl of soup.)

But it got me thinking – if we gravitate towards the people we want to be like, does this mean that we read the people that we most want to write like? It’s an interesting idea, that our favourite books are not so much guests on our bookshelves but a style guide to our thinking.

What about people with very varied tastes? What if you have some Jane Austen next to your copy of Mama Mia, like many women I know? I have friends who are equally at ease with easy-reading humor such as Freakonomics or wading through the thick prose of Tolkien. I enjoy the acerbic abstract brevity of Chuck Palahnuik every bit as much as the frothy levity of Bill Bryson, and I like to temper my taste in biographies with occasional forays into the fantasy worlds of Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin.

And believe me, if I could write as well any one of them I would be a very happy – and also pretty rich. What do you think? Would you like to write like your favourite five authors? And would mixing their styles even be possible?


* For those of you thinking that name looks familiar, yes this is the same Cameron Rogers who I interviewed on this blog last year. He’s an Australian author and his blog, Wait Here for Further Instructions, is both a useful site full of information on writing and traveling and a repository of some of the strangest and funniest true stories I have ever heard. Don’t believe me? Read this one on coffin-bashing undertakers, the richest man who ever lived in a shed and the Cooktown cyclone.