Tag Archives: writer

Did Your Existential Crisis Come With…?

In a lunch break between marking assessment tasks, I posted a photo I had taken in the morning (and doctored) and started with this question, “Did your existential crisis come with…?” and I intended to write a few witticisms.

It took on a life of its own.

This is how it ended up.

Did your existential crisis come with
A) free steak knives
B) a side order of chips
C) shoes that don’t give you blisters
D) extra marking of assessments
E) ill-fitting underpants
F) the playful observation of Berocca fizzing in a glass of water
G) guessing how many jellybeans are in the jar
H) exceptional Excel spreadsheet capabilities
I) looking good in glasses
J) obscure hobbies and interests
K) the satisfaction of picking your nose
L) drinking a hot beverage without it going cold
M) making the perfect fart noise with your mouth
N) not throwing up. Ever.
O) understanding the clinical benefits of ice baths but choosing not to have one
P) acne in middle age
Q) predicting the guilty person in a crime show
R) alphabetising stupid lists
S) using humour to disguise an overwhelming sense of individual doubt and fear
T) picking ripe fruit at the grocery store
U) being able to recite your favourite musical verbatim
V) never being able to find a convenient parking spot
W) reliving personal embarrassing moments in your head and providing scathing personal commentary
X) knowing faith and doubt make wonderful conversationalists
Y) wondering if you started something earlier how different might things be now
Z) being able to let it go

Mount Pleasant – A Track By Track Breakdown

Here is a track-by-track breakdown of the songs on the record, what inspired the band and how I used those ideas to create the narrative of each song for the book.

Listen to the album here: MOUNT PLEASANT


I wrote the Prologue as a way of establishing the setting and motifs of the collection, that of deceit, deception and false facades. The setting of Western Sydney was inspired by the origins of the band, and it is the city I live in.

The Prologue is a fictional retelling of the changing of the name of the suburb where three of the band members grew up. There is no music for this piece of flash fiction but it explains the origins of the album’s title and frames the inspiration of each track, and allowed me to explore a set of stories based in Western Sydney in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The title of the album comes from the name of the suburb where three of the band members grew up. As a name it no longer exists. The local council wiped its name to clear itself of the violence and dangerous youths inhabiting the space. Nothing changed except the name.

Track 1 Holding Pattern

This was the first song released off the album and the first story I wrote. The title of the song is an in-joke as a close friend of the band claimed they were being kept in a ‘holding pattern’ due to the band’s lack of decision making. The band describe the song as being a bit all over the place but feeling right.

It was released with the cover art of the album which gave me the idea of a young girl living in an apartment complex, running up and down the stairs as a means of having some form of control in her life. She meets a recently arrived young boy and the story explores the holding pattern each of them lived in based on their suburb and how it affects their lives.

The song is angular and emphatic in the opening before a pause, a held breath leading to a crushing crescendo, and I wanted the narrative to have that same sense of movement. To have the reader imagine what it means to run, to be held within social strictures, and to be left behind.

Track 2 – Potemkin

The song title refers to the Potemkin village. The myth of the term comes from stories of a fake portable village built solely to impress Empress Catherine II by her former lover Grigory Potemkin, during her journey to Crimea in 1787.

I translated the original setting of Crimean Russia to that of a high school student, the pauper queen as she is named in the story, attending a performance of King Lear and explores the artifice of theatre as a metaphor of the schoolgirl’s existence. This existence extends to where she lives and how it defines her life and the life of her younger brother.

For the ending of this story I channelled John Hughes and The Breakfast Club for a monologue that would look great as a short film or a slam poem.

Track 3 – Pendock and Progress

This is my favourite song on the album. It is fast, frenetic, chaotic and triumphant, yet has pauses for breath. And I love the sound of the snare drum; it’s a perfect sonic fit in the track. It is the names of the streets where the band grew up.

It was the second song released and the second story I wrote. Pendock Close became a cul-de-sac, a dead-end street the protagonist rides his second-hand bike around. The cul-de-sac stands as a metaphor for the facades of society we inhabit, those we are forced to live and yet have no understanding there is something other what you consider normal.

Track 4 – Meet Me In The Meadow

This is a softer sounding song, and the narrative follows the burgeoning relationship a girl has with her crush, and the metamorphosis of adolescent sexuality. It is almost romantic in its feel, and the band used a quote from the Wes Anderson film, “Moonlight Sunrise” as the title.

In reading a synopsis of the film, the romantic element stood out. Not wanting to frame a narrative with a Wes Anderson style I diverted it to examine how boys and girls engage with the facades of masculinity and femininity; how they are both forced into frameworks that are detrimental to their developing sense of emotional, sexual and mental identity.

There are echoes and facets of these facades found in other stories in this collection, notably “Potemkin,” “Time Away” and “Gueules Cassees.” We need to interrogate who we are and understand how we have been deceived into accepting less than what we are worth.

Track 5 – Shambles

This story has a lightness in the music and in the content in comparison to the other stories. It is more comic in its approach than the other stories but still reflects the divide we encounter between what we think we are and what we really are. It is tongue in cheek in places, and it was definitely fun to write, and is reflected in the bouncy joyfulness of the music.

The protagonist is in his last year of high school and his academic life is a bit of a shambles. He’s a Western suburbs philosopher who likes grunge, works in a fish’n’chip shop and says there are two types of people in every situation. It even had my editor, Jodi, using “There are two types of people…” in her vernacular after editing this story.

I don’t think we use the word “shambles” enough. Time to bring it back.

Track 6 – Time Away

The band describe the song as an attempt of taking “time away” from all of the pitfalls of life but the escape is never found. Therefore my vision for this story was the father of a family who get to go on a holiday to the Gold Coast only to come home and find out he has been retrenched.

When Jodi sent back her initial edits, the email began with an expletive enhanced exclamation. I know if I get that then the story is working. Ben Hobson, who provided the quote on the cover, also connected with this story. I believe it is the heart of the collection.

The opening of this song has two parts. The first sounds like a demo track, setting up the motif of the track. The second part of the opening is a favourite section of mine as it has the drum track muted, all the top end rolled off so there is no sibilance in the hi hats, and it feels like a heartbeat, which was channelled into the father in the story. When the track kicks in proper, the bass drum is a thumping vibrancy underpinning the remainder of the track. There are so many layers to this track in its construction as it builds and builds in the midsection of the track before pulling back, and it is in this section, the return to the muted drums, that the father in the story wrestles with himeself.

It is perhaps one of the “softest” stories to read but the resonance is unsettling. Stories of masculinity and what that means, are in the forefront of our minds, and how that affects us, our children and families, and the wider community. From that central story, which as Track 6 is like the halfway point, every other story resonates from that point and reflects the broader perspectives and perceptions. One action can have far-reaching consequences.

Track 7 – Summer Sun

This story references the horrendous summer bushfires of 2001/2002 in Sydney where the paradoxical beauty of the world is slowly being destroyed. Our understanding of the macro comes into focus when we see the lives of individuals in the micro.

Bushfires are a constant threat in Australia and in 2019-2020, from September to almost March, significant parts of the country were on fire. This year we have had significant rainfall and lower temperatures.

We will within this dichotomy, between risk and reward, and the story focuses on a young man who observes the destruction of the bushfire even as his own body undergoes chemotherapy treatment.

Track 8 – Well, Go Well

This song serves as an interlude before “Gueules Cassees” and the band was influenced by Boards of Canada in the composition of this track.

I used it as a platform to lead in the final track, and once I knew what the focus was for “Gueules Cassees” I focused on developing a masculine voice for this interlude. A Twitter thread gave this piece its impetus where the user asked people to respond with apologies used by men in situations of domestic violence, sexual assault or manipulative behaviour in relationships. This narrative is a compilation of various apologies which frames the final track on the album.

The opening of the narrative begins, “APOLOGISE LIKE A MAN.” and uses various iterations of this sentence with different punctuation and capitalisation. It is also the final line. I was interested in how punctuation and capitalisation affected the reading experience and the intended meaning.

Track 9 – Gueules Cassees

The band describes this as the most brutal track to close on. “Gueules Cassees” is a French term meaning ‘broken faces’ and refers to ex-servicemen of World War 1 who returned home with disfigured faces due to the war. A Google search will provide you with some horrifying images of the reality of war, and the people who tried to assist them in their return to society where physical disfigurement lead to social ostracism, loss of status, breakdown of relationships or being turned away from jobs.

I needed to find a parallel of broken faces and in choosing the issue of domestic violence, I wanted to engage with the issue and the hiddenness of its impact on women. I was hesitant to write this, wanting to be authentic and truthful without getting it wrong, so I sought the opinion of other readers. Three women volunteered to read for me, to ensure I had the veracity of the story correct. Unfortunately, it rang true for those early readers, and they also offered new insights to develop the narrative further. I hope I have done this narrative justice.

It is a brutal concept, reflected in the music and the language. Seeing this song played live at the end of 2020 was remarkable as I had had the story drafted, and the intensity of the track was palapble to me.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for listening.

Mount Pleasant Cover Reveal

I know I have been banging on about working towards a new project so I am very thankful that today I can reveal the cover for my forthcoming release, Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant is a concept chapbook of 10 short stories based on the music of Solkyri, from Sydney, Australia. Solkyri are a post-rock band, and this is their fourth album, released in February 2020.

Mount Pleasant is inhabited by individuals who experience joy and laughter, doubt and confusion, fear and uncertainty, revelation and resurrection. These stories invite us to reflect on who we are now and ask us to investigate ourselves in relation to the pasts that may or may not have shaped us and the futures we wish to shape for ourselves.

“I am conscious of where I come from and the sadness that grows inside of me. I am curious to know what it means and what it makes me.”

In a Western Sydney suburb that no longer exists, its name erased and replaced with another, a façade is created to mask the truth of its existence.

Behind it is…
a girl who runs
a young woman dreaming beyond her uniform
a boy cycling through his family line
a girl who yearns for metamorphosis
a young man playing with polarities
a father who has lost himself
a young man decaying under the summer sun a man’s apology
a woman who longs to be seen

When the viciousness of hope is a powerful drug,
the inescapability of hopelessness is even more devasting.

What is Post-rock?

Post-rock is a form of experimental rock music characterised by an exploration of textures and timbres, structures and forms, soundscapes and riffs, rather than a verse/chorus, verse/chorus structure typically found in rock music. The music has its own narrative through the rise and fall of sounds, textures, tempos, crescendos and decrescendos, aural assaults and minimalist orchestration.

Who Are Solkyri?

Formed in 2006, Solkyri deliver moments that blend intense vulnerability with pure power built around the interplay of guitars and driving rhythms, with nods to math-rock, shoegaze and ambient music.

‘Mount Pleasant’ strives to push the boundaries of both sides of its personality, its unyielding energy and its tender moments of intimacy. It is the culmination of years of personal reflection and the rediscovery of passion. Prominent radio station Triple J described it as “Beautiful yet precisely chaotic post-rock.”

I encourage you to have a listen to the record (link below) via Bandcamp: Mount Pleasant. I have been to many of their gigs in the past and they are always a great live band.

And check out other great bands on Birds Robe Records.

A huge thanks to Jodi Cleghorn for the design work and layout.

Another thank you goes to Ben Hobson, author of To Become A Whale and Snake Island, who said, “Profound slices of human truth. There is such a clarity in character, and a precision in a lived experience of Australia within these stories. Adam’s skill is in making us remember those small moments in our lives that mean so much to us. Read this to engage your heart.”

In my next post I will explain the inspiration behind each track from the band’s perspective and how it inspired my take on each track.

Links for preorder will be available very soon via The Jar Writers Collective.

2021 is Limitless

2021 is Limitless

Each year the members of The JAR Writers Collective develop a word for ourselves that will help define the year to come for our individual goals and pursuits, dreams and visions.

My word for 2021 is LIMITLESS.

I can see it as a reaction to the restrictions we have endured in 2020 but I am thinking more along the lines of internal perceptions of my own creativity, faith and spirituality, sense of self, who I am as a husband and father (and what it means for my family) who I am as a teacher (and what that means for me and my students). I am no fool to think that 2021 will not have its challenges and difficulties (I can already outline a few of them) but where is my focus to cope with them and to build resilience?

In being limitless.

I have stuck the Post It Note above my desk to be a constant reminder to build my foundations in something stronger than myself in order to know who I am and to be a blessing to others.

What is your word for the year?

Piper’s Reach: The Writer and the Reader

Piper’s Reach – The Writer and the Reader

A writing adage you see on various blogs is to write for your ideal reader, the audience you want to read your work. You create in your mind an image of a specific person, male and/or female, the type of person you imagine will enjoy reading your novel. The specific reader in mind, may in fact, be you.

When Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) and I sat down to write the epistolary serial Post Marked: Piper’s Reach (now being edited as an epistolary novel), it presented an interesting dichotomy. The instigation of the No Spoiler Policy (we did not discuss the plot or character development, but rather let the narrative form as an organic process) meant we were thrust into the role as simultaneous writer and reader.

It was unique as Jodi wrote as the character of Ella-Louise and I wrote as the character of Jude; two high school friends reunited by letter after 20 years of silence.

Click here to read about Piper’s Reach – The Project


As each letter was written, posted and received, we had no idea of its content in regards to plot or character. It was the perfect balance between writer and reader. 

We wrote as authors, read it as readers. 

With each letter we would read and reread from different perspectives:

As writers:

  • Looking for the momentum and motivation in the character’s actions and how it moved the plot forward
  • Contemplating different permutations of plot for both characters
  • Establishing back-story and history for each character, events significant to both characters and how it affected the present day.

As readers:

  • We became caught up in the lives of the characters; how their past and present intertwined, split, became a messy entanglement and how they tried to sort it out.
  • We read the voice of each character, how Ella-Louise and Jude articulated their thoughts, what they wrote about and how they expressed it; what they revealed and what they kept hidden.

Jodi asked if I read the letters as the character of Jude or as myself because I was both catalyst and consumer, the writer and the reader. It was hard to separate myself from the narrative of Ella-Louise and Jude, to be solely the reader as each new letter was a revelation of character, plot, motivation and secrets.

There were times when I deliberately distanced myself from the character of Jude to read a letter, to be the reader and not the writer. I let myself be absorbed into the world of Ella-Louise as she revealed it, taking it at face value, rereading it again to further my understanding of who she was and what she wanted.

In the same way there were letters I read intentionally read as the character of Jude to feel the impact of the letter as Ella-Louise wrote to her dearest and most-loved friend.

Engaging with the letter as either writer or reader produced strong emotions, even to the point of tears.

Now we are in the editing phase, we get to experience the narrative of our characters all over again, this time solely as readers. After we have made our notes and compared them we will return to our role as writers and continue fashioning the narrative and our characters.

It lead me back to a question I have asked myself over the last couple of years in regards to writing and reading: Is a reader more interested in the story or the writing?

Is it an either/or, both/and dichotomy? Is the reader more interested in being moved by the story than the power of the words? Or is it the power of the words the more important aspect for the reader?

The power of storytelling versus power of writing with which there is no clear answer. The answer will not be a “Yes” or “No” response but a sliding continuum of responses. For some readers story will trump the writing and for other readers the power of the words will enhance the story and be the focus.

As a writer I aim to balance the power of the story with power of the word. I use words to convey the power and strength of the story, and I want you to be engaged as a reader with the story, drawn in by the power of the words.

Keep an eye for updates on the progress of Post Marked: Piper’s Reach and I hope you enjoy the story.

Dream a Little Dream

People love to dream of what they could achieve.

I dream about what I could achieve as a writer. You may dream about what you can achieve your creative sphere: in music, painting, sculpture, cooking, gardening, craft.

When I began writing three years ago, I didn’t have a dream of what I wanted to achieve. I began to write because it was something that was burning in me to do. As time has progressed, my vision has become clearer in regards to what I want.

I dream of having books published.

I dream of earning passive income through the books I write.

I dream of becoming a known blogger in the areas of writing and creativity.

I dream of seeing my name on the list of nominees for the Miles Franklin Literary Award (a prestigious literary award in Australia).

Recently I wrote down the projects I wanted to complete. Written on the first page of my first moleskine notebook are: 4 novels, 2 novellas (both collaborations, one is multi-media), 2 non-fiction projects, 1 picture book, 1 anthology of short stories.

Beyond the completion of these projects, there will be others to fill their place. More novels, novellas, non-fiction books, picture books, collaborative projects, anthologies, scripts, graphic novels. Plus other things I haven’t even dreamed or contemplated. And then in the “weird, but why not” category: I want to write a book about drumming, writing and spirituality.

Over the washing up (one of my “Thoughtful Spots” as Winnie The Pooh would call it, where I think through plots, ideas, blogs), I dreamed that Post Marked: Piper’s Reach was the break out book of the season. Jodi and I were invited to readings and signings, television show interviews.

That’s a dream.

But how do you go about achieving your dreams?

Some flirt with the idea of following their dreams but never act on it. Their dreams fade away and waft away like a fart on the breeze.

Others begin with gusto and vigour but they become wisps of ghosts, withered husks, as their seeds wither in the ground. Their dreams never come to fruition because they never followed through.

Dream with me a little more.

How do you achieve your dreams?

1. Make Plans

Dreams require planning. Without planning and commitment, dreams will only remain in the imagination.

John Lennon wrote: “Life is what happens to you/While you’re busy making other plans.”


Life involves planning. There is room for spontaneity. Between the hours of 3pm and 6pm on the fifth Sunday of the month. Book it in.

Let me counter this statement with a proverb: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”  Proverbs 25:28

Go and get a pen and come back. Now.

You’re back? Good.

Write down what you want to achieve, no matter how simple or unrealistic they seem. Putting it down on paper begins to solidify the intent and instill the need to be in control of your dreams.

I’ll see it when I believe it.

2. Set a Timetable

It’s no good to make plans and then use the paper to wipe your bum. You need to timetable your projects.

How long will each project take? How long do you want it to take? What time do you have available to work on a project? When can you make time? Do you want to write a novel in a year or 3 months?

Break it down into monthly, weekly and daily targets.

Prioritise your projects, but allow for flexibility.

And make sure you finish what you start.

3. Be Accountable

A little wisdom again from the Book of Proverbs (11:14): For lack of guidance a nation fails, but many advisers make victory sure.

Developing a good network of creative (or non-creative) people can keep you accountable, keeping you on track to achieve your goals. Have them check up on you on a regular basis.

Lastly, dreaming is easy. Making them a reality is hard work.

What are your dreams? How do you go about fulfilling them?

A Writer’s Emotions

Prompted by a previous post The Reasons Why, a question was raised that is specifically focused at writers: What does it feel like when you write?
As with any creative endeavour, the creative process is a Hydra, a labyrinth, a slippery bar of soap and having to sort out the pile of electrical cables that have somehow entangled themselves behind the television cabinet (all electrical cables, speaker leads and instrument cables are sentient beings that tangle themselves in knots even when coiled correctly – for the non-musician, think of a plate of spaghetti).
Each creative person has their method, but at the heart of it, what does that person FEEL when creating.
Here’s what a few twitter friends had to say:
WookiesGirl Its the most frustrating and yet fulfilling thing I do.
LilyMulholland  to get those people out of my head…it’s getting pretty crowded in there…
Emma Newman Much better.
Helen Howell I’ve just finished writing a flash for my blog for friday, and it feels good. Just did a book review and I kinda feel pleased when I see the effort I have put into it up on the screen. When I write I become transported to the world I create. I not just see and hear my characters, I feel what they feel – writing is more than a therapy it’s a magical experience.

How do I feel when I write?

My other creative endeavour is music. I play drums. I equate writing and drumming/music, two artistic endeavours, as sharing the same process. There is the “rehearsal” phase, developing craft and technique (the drafting and editing phases), and there is the “performance” phase (the finished product).

The rehearsal phase is often a dog’s breakfast, splattered from one end of the kitchen to the other. Whatever you put your hand to is smeared rancid custard. It’s gruelling, tiresome, frustrating, painful and makes you want to take out your eyeballs with a crayon.

But there are times in the practice room when rudimental exercises become meditative. You find a flow, a rhythm, a beat.

Then there are moments when playing music is sublime. Those moments during a live performance when every part connects seamlessly from drums to guitar to bass to vocals to keys. You carefully execute the parts you hear in your head, translated into your hands.

However, to make roses bloom, (to mix my metaphors even further) you have to get your hands filthy dirty and smelling of manure.

How do I feel when I write? I feel a spectrum of emotions from giddy excitement of a new idea to the joy of the first few drafts. Then comes the hard work of shaping and refining. It can suck the life out of you and the story. Think of fingernails dragged down a chalkboard.


There is a certain smugness and self satisfaction when a story is as perfect as you can make it.

And it feels good.

How do you feel when you write?