The brief for October 2021's Furious Fiction was to set the short story in a COURT, include a character who measures something, and the words BALLOON, ROCK and UMBRELLA. Recalling Hemingway's advice to write one true sentence, I wrote, "The policewoman at the front of the Court is trying to catch my eye."
In September 2020, I launched the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring short stories written and narrated by me that I've published over the years on Tall And True. My goal with the podcast was to share and showcase something I love doing, writing, on a medium I also love, podcasting.
The ABC RN Bookshelf podcast episode looked interesting: "What does it mean to read like a writer? Twenty-five Australian writers give their thoughts." And then I recognised two of the contributors, Belinda Castles and Nicholas Jose, whose books I'd read and reviewed for Writing NSW. So I clicked play.
A question posted by Penguin Books Australia in 2017 popped up in my Facebook timeline memories: What's the longest book you've ever read? Back then, I'd responded Gone with the Wind. But after sharing the old post on the ABC Book Club, I realised there are longer books, and I'd read one of them.
Michael Palin embarked Around the World in 80 Days in 1988 and again from Pole to Pole in 1991. My wife and I were avid watchers of his adventures on BBC TV. And inspired by Palin, we left England to travel overland to Australia following his "Pole to Pole" route and means of transport in 1995.
I've blogged about how my son stopped reading for pleasure in his teenage years. And yet, despite his ongoing disinterest in them, he still surprises me with books for my birthday, Fathers Day and Xmas. Pathfinders: A history of Aboriginal trackers in NSW by Michael Bennett is one such pleasant surprise.
The Australian Writers' Centre runs a Furious Fiction writing competition on the first weekend of the month. Writers have 55 hours to write a 500-word short story based on a brief. I've never won or been short or long-listed, but in May 2021, I published Twelve Furious Months of my entries as an eBook.
Last year, I launched the Tall And True Short Reads audio fiction podcast featuring my short stories. And in April (2021), I chose a story I wrote thirty years ago for episode 18 of the podcast. However, some of my stories are longer than they are short. And Back to School is one of those stories.
My son called a few days before my birthday: "Without giving anything away, dad, would you like a book about a couple of famous labs?" I laughed: "Well, without giving anything away, son, I've been hoping you'd give me THAT book." And so, on my birthday, I was delighted to unwrap Olive, Mabel & Me.
In April 2020, I wrote my first short story for the Australian Writers' Centre's monthly Furious Fiction competition. This April, I submitted my thirteenth straight entry. The anniversary means I've also shared twelve Furious Fictions on the Tall And True writers' website and Short Reads podcast.
For several years, I've set myself age-related birthday challenges. When I turned 55 in 2017, I swam 55 laps. I did the same at 56 swimming 56 laps. And then, at 57, I found I'd torn both shoulders and couldn't swim one lap! 58 in 2020 was a stay-at-home write-off. But what could I do to mark turning 59?
Launched in September 2020, the Tall And True Short Reads podcast features short stories written and narrated by me, Robert Fairhead. Each episode includes a story and my writer's insight into why and how I wrote it. Episode 16, Three Minute Microfiction (March 2021), featured three microfiction pieces.
My first "published" writing was an Enid Blyton, Famous Five-style adventure story, Sand Island, in 1972. I wrote the story and illustrated it with textas. My aunt, the only one in our family who owned a typewriter, typed up the manuscript. And my father helped bind and cover the book. I was ten-years-old.
In 1987, my wife and I shouldered our backpacks and set off from Australia. The plan was to live and work overseas in England for two years, using it as a base for UK and wider world travels. And the widest of these were inspired by reading books like Alan Moorehead's The White Nile and The Blue Nile.
In March 2020, I heard an interview with former Middle East correspondent, Sophie McNeill, about her book on Syria, We Can't Say We Didn't Know. It inspired me to start a travel piece on my experience in Syria in 1995. But I got sidetracked by life and other writing and didn't finish it until January 2021.
The downside bedtime reading is dozing off midway through a chapter, paragraph or sentence. And when combined with my habit of juggling several books at once, it takes me a long time to read a book. But I love reading. And although it wasn't a favourite year, I thought I'd share my favourite books of 2020.
My first attempt at the Australian Writers' Centre's monthly Furious Fiction competition fell on my first weekend of lockdown in April 2020. Some feared the prospect of social isolation, working from home, and long hours spent lost in their thoughts. But for me, it was a perfect storm — uninterrupted time to write!