Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Teacher Evening at Black Inc.

Meet Black Inc. authors Alice Pung and Clare Atkins

Come and meet Alice Pung, author of Unpolished Gem and editor of Growing up Asian in Australia, and Clare Atkins, author of Nona & Me.

Alice will speak about her new novel Laurinda, set in an exclusive girls school, and Clare will speak about her novel Nona & Me, which is set in Arnhem Land, and is the story of two friends, Rosie, who is white, and Nona, who is Aboriginal.

Free event, all welcome. Refreshments provided.
Date: Tuesday 19th August 2014
Time: 6.30pm for a 7.00pm start
Location: Black Inc. Office, 37-39 Langridge St, Collingwood VIC 3066 (on the corner of Langridge and Cambridge streets)
Bookings: Free event but numbers are limited, so please RSVP by Friday 15th August to

If you live interstate and are unable to attend and are interested in receiving information about Laurinda and Nona & Me, please contact Elisabeth Young on

Friday, August 8, 2014

National Bookshop Day

To celebrate National Bookshop Day on Saturday 9th August we asked some Black Inc. authors to tell us about their favourite bookshops.

Alice Pung

"My favourite bookshop is Readings in Lygon Street, in Melbourne. I have been going there since I was 20 - such a warm and friendly place. They are so supportive of local writers - my favourite memory was when Helen Garner launched my book Her Father's Daughter there and made my dad all teary."

Alice Pung's novel Laurinda will be published in November 2014

David Hunt

"If you like books, and I do, you can’t go past Newtown’s Better Read Than Dead. The staff are both friendly and informed and I love haunting its zen-corridor space. Abbey’s Bookshop is an institution that hasn’t dated and its adoption of Galaxy means that’s where I go for my regular sci-fi and fantasy fixes. Pages & Pages in Mosman has the advantage of being well-stocked with Jon Page, a bookseller par excellence. Readings in Carlton is my home away from home and Berkelouw Book Barn at Berrima has the best book and burger combo in Australia."

David Hunt is the author of Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia

Andrew Leigh

"Around the corner from my office, in the newly funkifying suburb of Braddon, sits Electric Shadows. Its tall bookshelves are a browser’s delight, and the owners generously host book launches and other literary events. Even on those days when I’m too busy to pop inside, Electric Shadows’ ever-changing book displays give me a chance to see what’s just been released. Like so many bookstores around Australia, it contributes to making us a smarter and more interesting nation."

Anna Goldsworthy

"In Adelaide, I enjoy Mostly Books in Mitcham. Its staff are warm and helpful and clearly readers (you can recognise one a mile away). It supports local authors and knitting circles. And it has a table of highly seductive toys. In Melbourne, Readings."

Anna Goldsworthy is the author of Welcome to Your New Life

Brad Hutchins

"As I live in both the Gold Coast and Brisbane I have two local favourites who are friends and have been really supportive with my book launch.

Nobby Beach bookstore, on the Gold Coast, is a vibrant little family run book-exchange nestled amongst the ever-popular stretch of cafes, restaurants and bars of Nobby Beach. John and Leah moved up from Tassie years ago for a bit of warm weather and have run the store ever since. They have a wide range of used books and a great exchange program that rewards loyal, avid readers. They also stock new books with a great selection of classics, non-fiction and new releases. But what I really dig about this store is the friendly and helpful staff who are all enthusiastic supporters of Australian writers, with a genuine love for the written word. Ask them for a recommendation – they’ve read ‘em all!

Karen and Michael are the friendly owners of Books @ Stones in Brisbane; a wicked store in the middle of Brissy’s bustling ‘burb of Stones Corner. Their shop has it all, and they do a great job of helping people delve through their extensive range to find a winner. If they don’t happen to have the one you’re chasing, they’ll gladly order it in. What stands out about this shop is the commitment they have to helping Australian writers. They’re constantly organising events for local authors. With such professional, passionate people keeping a thumb on the pulse of the publishing world, it’s no wonder they run such a fantastic operation."

Claire Dunn

"Last year I moved to a leafy little townhouse in Glebe, Sydney. It was a great location for an avid walker. While in one direction I would meet harbour, in the other, I would invariably end up at Gleebooks. During my university years it held a kind of mystique; wandering the aisles  I occasionally allowed myself to wonder whether anything I wrote would ever adorn its shelves. Fifteen years hence I still love the feel it has of a bookshop full of secret corners and unusual finds, but yet organised with care and attention. I find the books I want, and those that lay waiting for me to discover them. Each visit is an adventure, these days with the added treasure of locating my book amongst the spines."

Friday, July 4, 2014

7 tips for writing history by John Hirst

“The documents are not the world; they are the surviving traces of the world you have to imagine.” – John Hirst

1. In research don’t start at the beginning and hope to reach the end; work over the whole period the whole of the time.

2. If all the books agree, look at the evidence again (they may have been copying each other).

3. Play with titles and tables of contents soon after you start—the research will change these and then they will guide the research. 

4. Use the documents to find the passions and preoccupations of your people—and write about those.

5. Don’t refer to organisations by acronyms; use short titles. The longer the list of abbreviations, the worse the book.

6. Don’t write with your notes close at hand. The documents are not the world; they are the surviving traces of the world you have to imagine.

7. Read over your notes for the next part—and then sleep. Don’t get up until you have decided on an opening sentence.

John Hirst’s latest book Australian History in 7 Questions is available now in all good bookstores.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

7 Surprising Things about Australian History

In Australian History in 7 Questions, historian John Hirst asks and answers the questions that get to the heart of Australia’s history.

Here John shares 7 surprising things about Australian history as found in Australian History in 7 Questions.

1. Australians are a very compliant people: they do what the government says.

2. Who paid for the convicts’ rum? Answer: The British taxpayer.

3. The House of Lords was a friend to democracy in Australia.

4. Who put on the biggest show for the opening of the first Federal Parliament? Answer: The Chinese.

5. The convicts are not the source of Australian anti-authoritarian attitudes.

6. In World War II it was Robert Menzies, not John Curtin, who first said we must look to America.

7. Multicultural society in Australia is becoming less diverse.

You can read about these surprising things and much more in John Hirst's Australian History in 7 Questions, available now in all good bookstores.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

10 Found Foods
In My Year Without Matches: Escaping the city in search of the wild, Claire Dunn tells her story of spending a year living off the grid in a wilderness survival program. Here she writes about some of the wild foods that she lived off.

In 2010 I embarked on a year of bush immersion, learning the arts of indigenous living, such as primitive fire lighting, tracking, basketry, bird language and building a shelter from natural materials. Bush food was a priority. While this wasn't Survivor, I wanted to eat as much as possible from the land. While initially a wall of green, gradually my forest home became a supermarket as I discovered the wild foods at my thatched doorstep. Here are ten of my favourites.

1. Native Grape  (Cissus hypoglauca)
Despite hanging in dark bunches of berries in late summer and autumn, comparing the five-leaf water vine to a grape is drawing a long straw. Tart, and with a bitter crunch if you fail to spit the seed, the rainforest native is still one of the more satisfying of bush berries, if only due to its abundance. It boils up into a great jam – even better when sweetened with bush honey.

2. Geebung (Persoonia virgata)
Affectionately known as a snotty-gobble, the pea-green fruit of the geebung are the all day suckers of the bush food world. Littering the ground in summer, I would fill my pockets and pop a couple in my mouth whenever I passed. Spit out the skin, and suck away on the sweet, fleshy seed coating.

3. Mountain Devil Flower (Lambertia formosa)
Devilishly spiky, the fire-engine-red flowers of the mountain devil also hold delicious nectar. Without the advantage of a honeyeater's long beak, you have to wrap your entire mouth over a flower in the early morning when the nectar runs thick, or steep it in water along with banksia flowers for a cordial.
4. Seaweed
A three-day solo mission to a remote beach tested my hunting and gathering skills. The variety of soft seaweeds in the rock pools provided excellent greens. Boiling them up with some pippies and a smudge of miso, I was a happy camper when I fell into my swag under a pandanus tree that night.

5. Roly-poly (Billardiera scandens)
When our local Gumbaynggirr guide spied the unripe oblong fruits of the roly-poly vine, his eyes gleamed. According to him, it is the holy grail of bush food, but near impossible to source before the possums do. It was therefore with some excitement that I stumbled upon a single ripe grey fruit on the ground in early summer. After removing the skin, the flesh was a cross between a kiwi and a blueberry, and by far the sweetest wild fruit I encountered.

6. Native Sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla)
The new red leaves of the native sarsaparilla vine seem to illicit either love or hate. While slightly astringent, for me the Dr Pepper sarsaparilla flavour was a taste sensation. Apparently a great blood cleanser, it was great addition to a wild salad and worked just as well to delay thirst.

7. Flax Lily (Dianella)
The stunning indigo of the dianella berries look too good to be true. They're much more than eye candy though, and I had to remind myself to leave some for the birds when they fruited in abundance during summer. This versatile plant also offered me leaves for basket-weaving and string, and while the fruits can also be used as a blue dye, I wasn't about to waste them on such frivolities.

8. Sour Currant Bush (Leptomeria acida)
This nondescript spiky plant which scratched its name on my skin daily, redeemed itself when it sprouted dozens of tiny translucent edible berries. Aptly named, they reminded me of the sour candies I favoured as a kid. Still, apparently higher in vitamin C than any citrus, I snacked as I went – at least I wouldn't die of scurvy!

9. Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia)
A trip to the waterhole was never complete without a chew on a lomandra leaf. While not exactly curbing a carb craving, the base of the inner leaves delivers a good starch hit and has a sweet bok choy kind of taste. The remainder of the leaf joined the bunch drying in my shelter for basket-weaving.

10. Bulrush (Typhus)
This is one of those uber survival plants with more uses than I have space to list. The fresh roots and tubers were delicious when roasted on the coals, and necessitated a fun, muddy adventure to harvest. The fluffy 'cotton' in the seed head made excellent tinder for fire lighting.

My Year Without Matches: Escaping the city in search of the wild by Claire Dunn is available now in all good bookstores.