Monday, August 30, 2010

My new blog for the professional woman

Well I am proud to say it is almost spiffy, still needs some work, but do visit and let your pals know I am OPEN FOR BUSINESS. (:

Monday, July 12, 2010

So ends the hiatus

Let’s work backwards.

My last post was on May 19. My last entry into the lovely diary I keep by my bed was June 10. Did I have a car accident? Did I have a baby? Why does my mind go to both those extremes? (Probably because I am reading 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'.)

No, I am happy to say that, by and large, no real hideous dramas befell me, just your garden variety ones BUT my creative output in other areas of life went into jet propulsion motion and I walked away from a media course I did confused about the kind of (wanker alert!) online presence a professional writer like myself should have.

I was told and was convinced that a more formal, writer-for-sale blog was required, that I should Twitter only for business and that I shouldn't say anything on Facebook I wouldn't mention before a table full of colleagues in the office. The result? I stopped all communications.

Offline, in the world where real oxygen is required, I was pumping out so many words, strategies and 'concepts' for new (much appreciated) clients and the now-in-production magazine I am working on that the idea of either recounting those days to myself in my diary OR banging on here about other topics was just the straw that would break this slapper's back.

Now I am feeling slightly re-energised; I attended July’s Year Of The Novel class at The Wheeler Centre on Saturday where author, Andrea Goldsmith, popped in to take questions on her book, Reunion, which had been a set text.

Thing to note! She reads for two hours every morning before she does anything else. Ah, the pressure!

I came home and got straight onto my homework, a technique called CLUSTERING. Have a read about it here. I also went back to a short piece I wrote about Glengarriff, a small town in Ireland I have some connection to. I might spit and polish it and post it here for my own gratification.

In the meantime a big girl professional blog spruiking for work is on the way. Probably. I think so ... we'll see ...

PS: How about the Julia/Kevin imagery I posted in May. Am I a Canberra insider?

PPS: The book pictured here is 2010 Birds of a Feather diary by Jean Lowe and Greg Johnson, truly gorgeous and currently not in use at my place.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mrs Underhill Book Club update

The next book for the Club is We Need to Talk About Kevin, a 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver, concerning a fictional school massacre. Do not confuse it with a book called ‘We need to talk about me taking your job Kevin’, a new book by Julia Eileen Gillard.

This is the suggestion of ‘founding member’, Fiona Findlay, who is about to move to Sydney and still be a clubber. We love her!

We will meet in the flesh at my place at 8pm on the evening of Wednesday 21 July OR you can make online comments about the book by that date here on

Please do come along on the 21st though and have a wine or a tea or a cheezel and have a laugh with us.

I believe Lionel is a guest on First Tuesday Book Club With Jennifer Byrne 10:05pm - Tuesday, June 1 on ABC1.

If you would like to hear a journo from The Guardian interview Lionel, go to

Alrighty then. Happy reading

PS: Image source:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In praise of small lives

Sometimes sayings, words, or thoughts come up in life in a synchronistic way. Chatting with someone recently about their frustration over their partner’s “small life” and his disinterest in engaging in the outside world, I began to wonder what is meant by such a thing.

What is a big life and what is a small?

- Is a big life full of big ideas ... daring political thought and activity or ambitious actions on career and financial fronts?
- Is a big life one lived very publically, one that requires loads of people to be involved – perhaps by community participation, public performance, a huge family or so on?
- Or is a big life one that encompasses lots of travel and risk taking?

- Is a small life one that centres on the domestic, the personal, the egocentric or the quiet?
- Is it one that is crowded with unchallenging interests like daytime TV and magazines about pop culture?
- Is it one lived locally, not globally, occupied with personal concerns, hobbies, day-to-day tasks and routines in housekeeping, child rearing and the like?
Is it simply one that doesn’t involve seeing other people’s viewpoints?

Living a “small life” was something that concerned me much more when I was younger. Then it represented a life of claustrophobic boundaries where I did not meet many new and interesting people, I did not travel enough and I was not a global commercial success of some kind, any kind.

Today I fear a “small life” that does not bring service and joy to others, that is too self concerned and doesn’t impact on others enough in helpful ways and one that doesn’t expose me to new ideas and information.

A recent trip to Sydney brought this home. I was so blessed (staying at The Observatory Hotel for God’s sake) and seeing some very dear old friends and meeting some new ones and thus I became intensely aware of how privileged I am compared to so many people - hence the man sitting at the traffic lights outside the QV building was the recipient of $5.

I am aware of this privilege every day and try to honour and appreciate it but, hell, I am not the Dalai Lama.

Sometimes I think the feeling of “the small life” can come simply from getting stuck in too much of a rut. Personally the sunroom has been home to too much distraction lately. Despite – ironically - recently finishing RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher my own attention has been wondering, mainly because of that feeling of being a whiskered mouse chasing the wheel.

Being in Sydney, solo, got me some mojo back I hope. Frustrations with my main client are not as exhausting as I was making them. Good ideas and talented people are everywhere and there are new tricks to try if only I open up my eyes and see the rabbit and the hat before me.

I did my YEAR OF THE NOVEL homework (reading an article by Orham Pamuk) about ‘The Implied Author’ in the cafe of the Gallery of New South Wales while a frilly bummed Ibis picked and pecked around me. One of my art heroes – Edmund Capon (Director and Chief Curator of the Gallery since 1978) – was meeting over lunch at a table nearby. In the gallery shop was a copy of his book (I Blame Duchamp, published by Penguin) plus pairs of colourful mismatched socks inspired by the man himself.

I remember hearing an interview with Capon on ABC radio back when I was enjoying my ‘sabbatical’ in Byron Bay six or seven years ago and really enjoying it and becoming intrigued by him. What passion, what humour! I should have bought the coloured socks when I had the chance so I could look down and remember those qualities on days when I need ‘em.

Then I headed round the Archibald show (the winning SAM LEACH/Tim Minchin portrait is extremely impressive up close) before walking back through gorgeous Sydney city to the Rocks, dumping my gear at the hotel before walking, for the first time, over the city’s famous bridge. (I listened to interviews with Peter Carey and Ian Rankin on ABC Radio National’s book show as I walked and took some photos that I really like.)

While not listening to the podcasts I found myself pondering some of what I’d read at the gallery. Orham Pamuk had said, “I feel happy the moment I reach my desk, my pen and my paper. In no time at all I can leave behind the familiar, boring world of the everyday and step into this other, bigger place to wander freely, and most of the time I have no desire to return to real life or to reach the end of the novel.” And he’s mentioned that his “daughter can tell that I have not written well that day from the abject hopelessness on my face in the evening. I would like to be able to hide this from her, but I cannot. During these dark moments, I feel as if there is no line between life and death. I don't want to speak to anyone, and anyone seeing me in this state has no desire to speak to me either.”

No one can say Pamuk lives a small life (a little thing called the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006) but he reminded me of something that bothers me with writers sometimes ... do you have to observe life but not participate in it to be good artistically?

Peter Carey spoke about being a voyeur and how that is a necessary quality for a novelist. Many writers speak of that. Hell, even in my humble magazine writing I sometimes find myself wishing to change an interviewee’s quotes so they sound more erudite or express an idea more elegantly. (Tisk tisk, I don’t do it of course!)

Then Ian Rankin chimes in and lists all the rock concert ticket stubs he has on his pin board in his office, proof of his passion for music and his alter ego of a frustrated musician. He has people like REM inviting him to his concerts when they’re in town because he’s mentioned one of their songs in a book and they’re fans. Now THAT is a big life!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death at a funeral versus Celine Dion being there ...

Well she lives, she blogs.

Let’s ignore the fact it’s been more than three weeks since I wrote here. After all it only really matters to me. As I had formed this blog to support creative writing and literary efforts and interests generally on my part, however, it’s a bit of a concern.

Let’s not bang on about what’s been taking up my time. It certainly hasn’t been anything too deep in the realm of art ... though I have put together some pretty saucy emails of late.

The book, DROOD – A NOVEL, by Dan Simmons has finally been completed. I love a big book but 771 pages, when you’re trying to get through a page and a half before nodding off each night, may not be the right way to go just now. Especially when On Chesil Beach (Book Club) and This is How (Year of the Novel course) are waiting in the wings.
Simmons had a review in April 11’s M Magazine (The Sunday Age) for his new book, Black Hills. The first few chapters of that book are included at the end of Drood. The reviewer, Lucy Sussex, says Simmons “makes a number of risky moves” in this new book, “but succeeds”. I’ll leave it to someone else to check out for now. I’ve got to get on with my knitting.

Speaking of knitting, the craft magazine project I was launching in August has now moved to November. Sighs of frustration but frank relief all round. We will now have the opportunity to produce a truly mind blowing mag. After months of planning and spread sheets and mind numbing office politics it will be my great pleasure to kick off the creative, for me, side of the mag today by interviewing an interiors stylist I used to adore in my PR days – one Megan Morton – who has a new book out called HOMElove. Read this piece about her and you will see why I look forward to this conversation.

While not immersed in creative activities of late I have, of course, continued to enjoy and experience the best and worse that life has to offer. I saw two acts for the Comedy Festival – Cardinal Burns and (now novelist) Julian Clary. I took Mum to see Julian ... now how many fisting jokes did he make?

And, sadly, between late March and early April I went to two highly contrasting funerals. I won’t belittle the emotional drought of one by comparing it to the other but I will say that Celine Dion belting out ‘I’m your lady and you’re my man’ at the funeral of an 81-year-old widow is probably NOT the ideal choice. Still, as her middle aged son pointed out, it is one of HIS favourite songs!!!!!

Mr Underhill says there’s a short story there for me to tackle. I find it hard to write while gagging however.

Over and out XX

Monday, March 22, 2010

Planning and magic

Life currently is all about planning and looking ahead; namely planning for the first issue of the new quarterly magazine I will be part of in mid August and looking for a house to buy with all that entails. It’s tiring but inspiring and is often leaving me with that panicky feeling of a mountain of work to do and no idea where to start.

My neck is a stiff rod at the end of many days and I keep moving two things in my diary – write blog and do some Year of the Novel work – from one page to the next.

The Year of the Novel (YON) gang have kicked off a blog ... so I can now bang on there plus at Mrs Underhill and the new one for for the magazine ... overload me thinks!

Of course life in all its glory has continued amidst this with THE WORST HAIRCUT IN TWO DECADES arriving on my noggin, attendance at THE JUNES (with the wonderful Suzannah Espie) at The Caravan Music Club, a visit to Federation Square to see Spotlight’s event as part of the L’oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, boiled bacon and cabbage for Saint Patrick’s Day, a full day at the Fashion Festival’s Business Seminar ( great line up – I took notes; let me know if you want them) and a trip to Docklands to Pier 21 to see the Harpers Bazaar runway parade with Ms F, a couple of house inspections, a houseful of wonderful overnight guests after mad dinner party and various other girly girl catch ups.

I am slaving away on planning documents, excel sheets and power point presentations for the new mag so my literary adventures have been on the lean, lean, lean side. I would point however to a lovely podcast interview I listened to with the author Dan Simmonds whose book, Drood: A novel, I am currently enjoying.

For those of us who carry all round white man guilt he has a wonderful passage in one of his books where a Native American character ends up in New York and is wowed by the Brooklyn Bridge and expresses the thought: “So ... they have their magic too”. I don’t know, just liked it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Elvis' daughter married Michael Jackson for God's sake

February passed by quicker than the bad dim sim my pal, Miss G, once consumed - then ejected - in the time it took us to drive around the block from the Chinese take out.

I often say that February is a crazy month. Following on from all the Christmas and New Year shenanigans I have always either had (in the old days) L'OrĂ©al Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) duties or, in the past six years, magazine duties as soon as the New Year kicked off and, so, Mr Underhill’s birthday would fly past, then mine would (Valentine’s Day in case you’re asking), then more and more festivities and celebrations. Finally, March arrives and I roll into a new size pair of undies and examine new broken capillaries around my nose and I start talking about “taking stock” and really making some life changes. Yada yada yada.

This year really has been crazier than ever and non work-related writing has not just hit the curb, it’s been washed down the drain and I’m not sure I can even find it now.

Quick re-cap … for my own purposes more than anyone else’s … there’s been the birthday bbq festival of the wonderful Mrs Peters, the completion of my company profile job for an architectural firm, Chinese New Year dinner at Bamboo House (tea smoked duck – an ABSOLUTE must), the final issue of the magazine as a monthly publication (it hits stands in May), dinner at Ichi Ni, the Fig Festival at Patsyfox’s house (3pm to 3am!!), renewal of yoga, the first (and really enjoyable) Mrs Underhill’s Book Club gathering for 2010, a night at The Greyhound watching drag shows, lunch with an old writing pal at The Botanical (she is going to finish her first novel this year and has good reaction from very weighty publishing reps already), Quan 88 with Ms O’B and baby Tessa, GEORGE MICHAEL, a suite of 27 press releases for a beautiful spa client, an article for Advance Global Australia (woo – an international audience AND Kevin's Rudd's the patron you know ...) and finally the long weekend at The Windsor. No wonder the back yard is full of weeds and my glass collection has disappeared beneath dust! Who’s got the time for God’s sake?

It doesn’t end you know. Last night was Donovan’s for the birthdays of Mrs Juckert and Mrs Jackson which was one of the most divine nights I’ve spent in a long time and tonight I am honoured to attend the launch night of Patsyfox’s LMFF exhibition.

The blessed life of a completely spoilt slapper – ME – continues.

Professionally I have just also powered through a complete contents breakdown for a new 176 page magazine and done an EXCEL SHEET!!!! (alert alert) for its production time line. And today I wrote my first blog post related to the magazine. My brain hurts, my neck is now officially on solid trunk (luckily I have Aurora Spa Retreat vouchers to cash in) and my poor old runners have not been getting the work out they so desperately need.

Excitingly, however, I think a new phase is genuinely about to commence with, FINGERS CROSSED, work matters becoming more settled and the commencement of The Year of The Novel (led by Sallie Muirden) with the Victorian Writers Centre commencing on Saturday. Again I will be thrown in with group of strangers all sharing a love of the written word and the aspiration to add their own voice to the world’s ever-growing library. I don’t need to write a book. I am currently reading Drood: A Novel by Dan Simmons and cannot get into bed fast enough to start consuming it. The world doesn’t need me but, when I read a book as FUN as this one, I want to join in the fun too.

Hell, we’ll see. As Mr Underhill says to me whenever I wonder if something unlikely will come to fruition: “Honey, anything can happen. Elvis’ daughter married Michael Jackson for God’s sake”.