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 of 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!
Amazon discounted Kindles during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales. I have several ebook apps on my tablets and phones, including the Kindle app, and I have a small library of ebooks from Amazon and elsewhere. But I've never read an ebook from cover to cover. So could a Kindle help me enjoy ebooks?
NAIDOC Week is a celebration of Indigenous Australian culture and survival and usually takes place in July. Being an unusual year, NAIDOC Week 2020 was postponed to November. But it remained an opportunity for Australians to acknowledge our Indigenous people and to reflect upon a sad and shameful history.
One fine mid-October Sunday, I returned home from the morning dog walk to be greeted with the news our annual council clean-up was on Monday. After previous clean-ups, I thought we had nothing left to throw out. And I looked forward to a long productive day of writing … until I checked the attic and shed!
On 11 January 2018, I posted my first #bookcovers and #firstsentences book to Instagram, On the Beach by Nevil Shute. On 5 October 2020, I celebrated my 500th with The Boy Behind The Curtain by Tim Winton. The homage series spans fiction and nonfiction, adult and children's, traditional and e-book titles.
A member of the ABC Book Club on Facebook recently asked, What do you use for bookmarks? So I rifled through the bookshelf and posted a photo of my motley collection: tickets, postcards, photographs, ribbons, receipts, newspaper clippings, notes, a letter, a leaf, and an assortment of proper bookmarks.
Tall And True Short Reads is an audio fiction podcast featuring original short stories from TallAndTrue.com, written and narrated by me, Robert Fairhead. I launched the series with a trailer on 5 September 2020. And I published the first episode, Five Meet On Zoom, on the podcast feed five days later.
To promote their September 2020 edition, Meanjin Quarterly announced a Pandemic Fiction challenge on Twitter. A one tweet story on the COVID pandemic, using the hashtag #Meanjin280. The prize for the best ten tweets: a twelve-month magazine subscription and publication on Meanjin's blog. I tweeted three stories.
Australia wasn't alone in underestimating the threat of COVID-19. In our defence, the country was distracted by the Black Summer bushfires, which blazed from September 2019 to March 2020. But by mid-March, with the fires extinguished, our focus shifted to the pandemic and its possible impact.
The Australian Writers' Centre runs a monthly #FuriousFiction short story competition. I submitted my first entry to #FuriousFiction on the first weekend of our COVID-19 lockdown and have taken up the monthly challenge ever since. So I was interested to see a bonus 23-word fiction story challenge.
Henry Rollins said, "A great way to learn about your country is to leave it." I learned a lot about Australia while overseas from 1987 to 1996. Books like Alice Nannup's When The Pelican Laughed helped my education. And from her memoir, I learned about the Stolen Generation and a connection with my Nan.
Ever since childhood, I've loved reading at bedtime. Even in my teens (unlike my son, sadly), I read most nights, and in my career-driven twenty-somethings, I kept up the reading habit with short stories. Now middle-aged, I still love reading, though rather than one book, I have a pile of beside books!
Life began at forty for me. Obviously, I'd had a life before my fortieth. I'd travelled and lived overseas, changed careers (several times), got married (once), bought cars and property, and owned a dog. But the birth of my son in 2002 changed everything for me. And I learned the joy of being a dad.
In 2001, I had a bright idea. I'd combine my love of writing with my software skills and create a writers' website, a forum where writers could showcase their work, readers could enjoy a wide range of writing, and publishers could unearth new talent. But it took sixteen long years to launch Tall And True!
Furious Fiction is a monthly writing competition run by the Australian Writers' Centre: 55 hours to write a 500-word short story based on a brief. The first prize is $500, with the winner published on the Writers' Centre website. And April's Furious Fiction fell on the first weekend of COVID-19 lockdown.