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All Kinds

I am a hopeless romantic. 

But wait. That doesn’t make sense, because romantics are the ones who do hope, even when it makes more sense not to. They’re the ones who dare to pursue ideals, chasing the shimmering tail of a shooting star even as it fades from sight. Offer a romantic a glimpse of beauty and she cannot forget it.

Romantics envisage a world where moments have meaning, and souls, significance. They give gravity to a stolen glance, a simple gesture, the light in a room, or the timbre of a voice.

Of course, romantics are idiots. I am an idiot, but I’d like to be an articulate one. You see, romantics struggle to accept reality because they conflate how things are with how they ‘could’ or ‘should’ be. They mind-wander down a thousand roads not taken, set up camp in the land of dreams, and embark on rambling soliloquies. 😉 And they feel so intensely it exhausts not only them, but the people around them. Romantics are the sods who are moved to tears watching Toy Story, because ‘Woody doesn’t want to be left behind!’ and ‘Buzz believed he could fly, and he can’t!’. Since romantics care too much and hope too hard, they often take on the emotion of others’ as their own. They are the pathetic people who can’t bear nature documentaries, because they know they’ll end up yelling at the TV screen as a seagull closes in on a baby turtle, slipping on sand as it tries to reach the ocean.


In a word, romantics are annoying. They need level-headed friends who can tell them, ‘I’m pretty sure the shooting star’s gone now, and maybe it doesn’t make sense to keep tromping around all night in the dark after it.’ Or stuff like, ‘You know, the movie’s not real – but here’s a reminder: the toys work stuff out.’ And, while watching documentaries, these same friends chime in with, ‘Don’t look right now. Oh cool, the turtle made it. Yeah, it really did. No, I’m not lying. Jeez, that was one time, and you weren’t s’posed to be looking…’.

Yeah, romantics sure are a handful. But this world needs all kinds of people, and I think maybe romantics and pragmatists help each other. Pragmatists need reminders that’s it’s okay to feel vividly and look for beauty and wonder, so they don’t become pessimists. And romantics need a little grounding so they’re not overwhelmed by emotion.

So maybe romantics aren’t hopeless after all.

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Love is…

Since today is Valentine’s day, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about love.

Love is:

-Singing to the stars and hearing them sing back.

-Attempting to pirouette on a tightrope.

-Savouring time instead of spending it.

-Wrenching your heart out of your throat, coughing it into your hands – a pulsing, bloody mango – then shredding it against a cheese-grater.

-Realising your shadow resides in another person. And your light.

-Skidding down a slope of laughter.

-Letting someone see you splinter and fray.

-Feeling butter-soaked in warmth.

-Stumbling, falling, getting up again.

-Who the hell knows?


Please comment and share what love is to you!

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The beginning of a new year always prompts me to think about what I want to accomplish. I usually realise that I lost my list of resolutions from the previous year, or achieved a couple of my goals but forgot about the rest.

Yesterday I caught up with one of my friends, and we talked about writing an ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS. One that includes goals not just for this year, but for your whole life. Too often we tell ourselves that the things we want the most are out of reach. I’m asking you to let yourself think of everything you truly want, and then write it all down.

Yes, I realise that completing a draft of this list may take a while. That’s okay.

But only include goals you really want to accomplish. Not the things someone else has told you you should want. Or the things that you want right in this second (‘To eat a dozen doughnuts!’) – that you probably won’t want in the next minute. Don’t write down passing whims; write down recurring dreams you can’t shake even when you’ve been told to, and record the little things that are big to you. Use the ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS to savour moments, celebrate victories, and remember what you’re chasing.

I’m not saying that we should all expect to become movie-stars or billionaires, or even that a lot of people would want to. I just think it’s good to be honest with yourself about what you want. That way, you can prioritise and try to make some of those hazy fictions you’ve imagined for yourself into realities.

Here are a few examples of goals on my list:15682726_10154824814752152_786379100_n

  • Learn how to cook vegetarian lasagne.
  • See a whale.
  • See Uluru in person.
  • Create a secret passageway in my home.
  • Play the role of Mercutio in a stage production.

I’ve already done the first two (years ago), but they’re on the list because they were life goals that mattered to me. I still cook lasagne, and now I should add something to the list like ‘Learn how to make cannelloni by myself!’, because that would also give me a sense of satisfaction. (Okay, I like Italian food.)

I’ve seen Beluga and Humpback whales, and I love them. Whales are magnificent. They fill me with awe. If you haven’t seen one yet, please consider adding it to your list.

As for the others… Well, I’ve wanted to see Uluru for a jolly long time, and it’s really up to me to save some money and make it happen. I don’t want to climb Uluru – I know it’s sacred to the Aborigines – I just want to see it. Stand in front of the great beating heart of Australia. Breathe in desert air and red rock. Look up at the endless summer sky out in the middle of my country.

Now, this is my list – not yours. It would be easy to shoot down the things on my list. ‘You can see sky anywhere; look out the window!’. That’s what I can imagine some people saying. When I went to London with my sister, our mutual friend expressed a lack of interest in the London Eye and told us drolly that it was ‘just a big Ferris wheel’. This comment amused me, but I also felt compelled to point out that the fete-style attraction held a certain appeal for a lot of other people, if not for him.

But back to the piece of my list: who doesn’t want a secret passageway? I mean, come on. Come on. I could feel like one of The Three Investigators! I could host Murder Mystery nights!

It would be amazing.

Oh, and as for Mercutio? Well, this is one dream that I accept may not become a reality. I do understand that Mercutio is traditionally played by a man. But I think casting a woman would be an interesting reinterpretation, especially considering the theory some hold about Mercutio’s sexuality. If the director decides that Mercutio is secretly in love with Romeo, then how might that part be explored by a woman? And what kind of sharp contrasts could be drawn between Romeo’s best friend and Juliet, if Mercutio was female?


Anyway, I’m going to include aspirations like ‘Play the part of Mercutio’, even if the chance of it coming to pass seems downright ridiculous or at least improbable. After all, this is my ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS – and I want the freedom to think big.

I don’t expect everything I want to happen and I know that plenty of goals are, at least in part, dependent on other people. But I will work for the things that matter most to me and try to put myself in a position to get what I want… and I’ll remind myself to enjoy the journey. Because spending time with family and friends and doing things like making lasagne and daydreaming all counts.

So, if you want, make your own ULTIMATE LIST OF (IM)POSSIBLE DREAMS. If you tell anyone about it, try to say the whole title in caps – the way I’ve typed it. 😛 Doing so will remind you that whatever made the list is capital-letter important to you. (And talking at capital-letter volume has the added bonus of baffling or annoying whoever you’re talking to!) 😉

Oh, and one more thing. I’ve always wanted to write stories and get them published. So, knowing that later this year I will have a book in bookshops makes my heart swell.

My narrative, The Whirlpool, has been accepted for publication by Wombat Books. Working with Rochelle Manners and Emily Lighezzolo has been a pleasure, and I love the book’s beautiful illustrations by Helene Magisson. My story has become a tangible thing. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Most dreams aren’t impossible. If you reach, sometimes dreams come true.



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With the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, I’d like to take a moment to talk about magic. And I’d like to tell you that magic is real.

You see, as a child, I was a great believer. The sight of mushrooms and clover-patches made me glow inside. I saw fairies in our backyard (I admit now they may have been dragonflies, but at the time I was convinced). I paid special attention to antique wardrobes and mirrors – hoping a Talking Beast or one of Shirley Barber’s unicorns would burst through the other side. I saw the seas and sky as portals to other worlds. When I was five, I’d spin below the mango tree at my primary school, watching clouds swell and blossom, and think of its branches touching the sky and extending into other realms. If I went to the beach, I imagined that the sunlight glimmering on the water was a sort of secret code, sent from one magical race above water to those below it. I was fully aware that I couldn’t build a time machine – the only materials at my disposal were sticks, leaves, gluggy glue, and glitter – but I still wanted to try.

I always knew that I was reading fiction. That didn’t matter to me – what mattered was that it could all be true. I could be like Lucy Pevensie or Harry Potter because if I was to cross paths with an umbrella-carrying faun, or encounter a house-elf, I’d respond with more joy than surprise. I loved the idea that magic could be lurking around the corner: a marvellous hidden world (or several) co-existing with our own. But, sadly, it seemed that this world was to remain hidden. My life was never interrupted by a wizard who ushered me out of my messy bedroom (it’s basically the same as a hobbit-hole, right?) to send me on an adventure. I was never conscripted to work with the LEP (Lower Elements Police), mesmerised by good ol’ Holly Short, or mind-wiped by a conceited centaur (but if I was I wouldn’t know it, would I?). And my letter from Hogwarts must have gotten lost in the mail.

So, for kids like me who grew up under the shining influence of magic, you can imagine how soul-crushing reality turned out to be. Something terribly sad happened to me and all of the believers like me: we grew up. We grew up and were slapped by life’s blandness or bleakness… and sometimes its tragedy. It became apparent that good does not always prevail. Help does not always arrive just when it’s needed the most. And that spark of idealistic determination that defines the fantasy hero is hard to hold onto. Part of growing up is losing your innocence. It’s easy to feel disillusioned when faced with uncertainty, betrayal, corruption, heartache… and other issues, like the loss of a loved one, human and animal exploitation, poverty, and climate change. It can be easy to think, ‘This world is pretty screwy. Where’d all the magic go?’. Or, to echo C3PO’s sentiment: ‘We’re doomed.’ Or, to quote Private Hudson from Aliens, ‘We’re all gonna die! Game over, man! Game over!’.

But, when you think about it, any compelling magical world is far from problem-free. Heroes are heroes in any realm because they emulate positive qualities like kindness, bravery and selflessness – qualities that we might recognise in the people around us. This is reassuring. And while magic may not be experienced as a tangible thing, it is real nonetheless. As the fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book, The Little Prince, says, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye’. Magic moments might very well be intangible or invisible, because some of the most real things that you’ll ever experience will happen inside your head. Your thoughts change how you perceive yourself and interact with the world. And unless you experience insights about life, pain, and love next to someone who’s become adept at knowing you – and has learnt to read your soul in your expressions and mannerisms – these moments may go unseen, unnoted. That doesn’t make them less real. (And, don’t get me wrong, some of these moments might happen because of the person who’s beside you.)

Magic exists because we recognise it in the inexplicably beautiful, or we create it. As a child, I allowed a sense of wonder to uplift me – and that was magical. If I stop and think about it, I still chase that sense of wonder. (I sent myself on an adventure to London; I hang out with hard-core, sword-wielding nerds; I am mesmerised by the sky’s colours, and I choose not to forget my mistakes. Because, let’s face it, that whole mind-wiping thing resulted in some serious personality-regression for Artemis.)

Magic simmers in the little moments. In listening to a spine-shivering song, or reading a line in a book that makes you ache. Magic is in laughter. In gliding over ice, running until your breath is raw in your throat, eating pie, or taking in a staggeringly beautiful view. Magic is meeting another person’s eyes and realising that you can hear their unspoken thoughts. Magic is in sharing ideas, emotions, time. So, I’m going to give you the same advice I’m giving myself: search for magic in the everyday. Naivety and idealism are not synonyms. You don’t need to hide from issues in order to seek out the good. Be idealistic. See magic around you, and make magic. It’s there if you look for it. Trust me.


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How To Write Ugly

Some writing aches with beauty and makes you feel like another person has distilled a truth of the universe that part of you had always known, but never fully articulated.

Some writing causes you to reflect and discover new aspects of yourself: the true soul of your soul.

Stories may awaken a sense of nostalgia in you, and leave you to ponder life and all of its impossible possibilities. Things that were once options but no longer are. Some writing reads like a half-sketched map of adventures not taken. Characters may live out a thousand versions of your life, had you chosen differently, or motivate you to reconsider your choices now.

Stories can be empowering, awe-inspiring, life-changing. I truly believe that.

And some writing is ugly. Some is supposed to be. Because writing reflects the human experience, and humans inevitably experience pain, misery and suffering. (This blog is not supposed to be a major downer, by the way, I’m just getting real here.) The other stuff is real, too. Absolutely. Love, joy, kindness and hope exist. Love is what makes living worthwhile. There are glorious moments where you realise that another person in this vast and too small universe understands the same thing you do; where kindness prevails, and magic shines in the everyday. We can’t lose sight of all the good, but failing to represent the grime of life in narrative form would be a mistake.

Which brings me back to writing ugly. I once told a writer friend that his story was too eloquent. ‘What’s wrong with it?’ he asked. I told him that he’d used a beautiful style for a moment that wasn’t beautiful. And there is a place for prose like Henry James’, but I thought this particular scene deserved raw emotion. My advice was to stop trying as hard and let the action play out. If a scene is brutal, then make me feel whiplashed. Use the language your story demands. Use words like ‘crush’, ‘ooze’, ‘smash’ and ‘grit’. Experiment with choppy sentences, blunt sounds. Subtlety can be wonderful, but certain situations call for a sledgehammering. So, bash me over the head with words. Try not to get caught up in the kind of writing that will make you feel consumed by a fatalistic view of the world, but give me something authentic. Characters are allowed to panic, to get scared or angry, and emotionally and physically beaten up. All of that’s okay, but it is nice to watch them fight, and will them to succeed, and to cheer when they do.

So, if you wanna give it a go, write ugly. It’ll make the light in your stories shine brighter.