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Over time, this website has grown an archive of short non-fiction pieces; most of them are on the art and craft of writing, and they have been gathered from the rolling conversation here on the home page. Elsewhere on the site there are pages devoted to my novels and journalism; there are even a few old photographs from the past. I update the home page as often as I can.

Sometimes I write a piece that doesnít seem to fit the website and these go to my blog. The archive can be accessed via the Writing Life tab above, or to the left. If you have a minute or two to spare, pour a cup of tea and take a wander. I hope you find something to enjoy.

I can be contacted direct or through my literary agent and if you have any comments about the website or my writing, please email, and I'll be happy to get back to you



THE NOVELIST AS ISLAND

© Carol Lefevre

20th June 2016

This piece just published in The Island Review reflects on the essentially island-like state of the novelist, and asks whether it is possible to survive the demands and pressures of the digital present without either giving up or dumbing down. It also indulges my love of the poetry of the Beaufort Scale.

The island in the photograph is West Island, off Rosetta Head in the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia. The island was mined for granite to provide the foundations for South Australia's parliament house.

The Novelist As Island can be read here



THE BARBARA HANRAHAN FELLOWSHIP

Barbara Hanrahan (1939 - 1991)


21th March 2016

Barbara Hanrahan was a leading printmaker and a writer whose career began in 1973 with The Scent of Eucalyptus. She went on to publish thirteen novels and two collections of stories, and at her untimely death in 1991 South Australia lost one of its greatest creative talents.

The fellowship established in her name is awarded every two years during the Festival Awards for Literature at Adelaide Writers' Week. It is a prize that every South Australian writer dreams of winning, and I am thrilled to say that I am the recipient of the 2016 Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship.

What with the release of a new book, Quiet City: Walking in West Terrace Cemetery, and the fellowship, 2016 has got off to a great start. I am looking forward to settling into the writing of the new novel this fellowship supports.









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OTHER PLACES

I write a lot, and often end up with more words than I know what to do with. These blogs are the overspill.

Follow my blogs at:
thefountainoverflows
Longer posts on all things literary. thirtybeautifulbreakfasts
A month of mindfulness in the kitchen turned into this series of breakfast posts.


THE QUIET HOUR


Lately Iíve had a passion for ghost stories, in particular those written by Susan Hill of The Woman in Black fame. The first thing about these books is that they are satisfyingly compact and it is possible to read each of them in a single sitting. The second is that they offer the novelist a masterclass in conjuring atmosphere.

It might have been the heatwaves that came and went over the holidays, but I did enjoy the damp, foggy London street settings of Hillís The Mist in the Mirror. For the weather alone, I would read it all over again, though I found its ending deeply unsatisfying. The Man in the Picture transported me to Venice, and I shuddered, as I was meant to, at its painting of a street scene with the power to entrap the viewer. In The Small Hand, a dealer in antiquarian books becomes lost in a country lane at dusk and finds himself in a ruined garden where he feels a childís hand slide into his own. Thus, with no child to be seen, the haunting of Adam Snow begins, and with each manifestation the small hand grows increasingly sinister.

The atmosphere in all of these works is beautifully evoked by setting and of course by the weather. Their isolated houses, or grand public schools emptied for the holidays of all but a caretaker, their lonely paths across moorland, or the deserted midnight streets around the River Thames become a kind of haunting in themselves. Meanwhile, Hillís spare, precise prose draws the reader inexorably on and it is nearly impossible to put the book down.

Susan Hill is a wonderful storyteller; she pulls the reader in and keeps them guessing. After reading four of these books in a row it seems that part of the fascination of the ghost story is the way it renders horrific events so lyrically and with unfailing attention to the dressing of the sets. Style is all, and yet without an underlying sense of morality the ghost story would lose much of its power to haunt.


NOTES FROM THE GARDEN


For many seasons now our old plum tree has borne little or no fruit. The reason is that it was badly savaged by possums in consecutive springs, and it has taken time to recover. But this spring it was smothered in blossom, and now in late summer it is heavily laden with delicious dark red plums, so many that we are having trouble using them all.

To my joy, I discovered that plums can be harvested while still green. So I began to stew them early and enjoyed weeks of sharp-fruit breakfasts, accompanied by dollops of thick Greek yoghurt and sprinkles of freshly grated nutmeg. Then I found a recipe for Spicy Green Plum Chutney. When the plums began to ripen properly, I made plum crumble to keep and to give away, and batch after batch of ruby-coloured jam. Meanwhile, we were still eating fruit by the handful, and the birds are claiming their share.

Had I known that the old tree would recover, I might not have planted four new plum trees in another part of the garden. If we have bumper crops like this when these young trees mature I will have to set up a roadside stall to dispose of the produce.

I have picked the first pears from our new, small pear trees, and love looking at the tiny fruit still left on the tree -- there is something almost magical about it. Elsewhere apples are ripening, and we will soon be entering the apple pie days. In April and May there will be quinces.


RESEARCH WORK



One of the most fascinating aspects of my recent research into the lives of those buried in Adelaideís beautiful old West Terrace Cemetery was an investigation into early medical practices, including herbalism and homeopathy.

It started as a way to understand something of the panic and desperation of our earliest settlers when faced with medical emergencies, and resulted in wonderful snippets of information that related to my own garden. For example I learned that in the Middle Ages physicians attempted to ward off the plague with herb rue, the grey-green leaved plant with a modest yellow flower that grows unobtrusively underneath my roses.

This gave me an excuse to delve into my copy of Nicholas Culpeperís Complete Herbal, first published in 1653, with its Shakespearean language and its intricate descriptions and illustrations of medicinal plants.

I have always loved this book, and thought its recipes quaint and charming. But this reading brought the realisation that cordials and decoctions and poultices were all these people had as a defence against fearful injury and illness.

While I loved knowing that the herbs I grow would have been recognised centuries ago by monks and nuns in their physic gardens, I ended with a sense of relief and gratitude that medical knowledge has moved on.








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