Publishers of books that change lives

Cold Vein and MamaMia Podcast

As a regular listenter to some of the podcasts from the MamaMia network I was beyond all states of excitement when I accompanied our author Anne Tonner, the winner of the 2017 Finch Memoir Prize for her book Cold Vein, to the offices of MamaMia in Surry Hills, to record a podcast episode of No Filter with none other than Mia Freedman herself.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as we entered the rather ordinary looking building and took the lift to the third floor but was hugely surprised to discover, upon exiting the lift, a huge (like I mean HUGE) light-filled room filled with desks and computers and people. There was also plants and astro turf and the steady, slightly manic energy of a lot of very busy people.
The podcast recording studio itself is quite small, completely blacked out on the inside and the walls covered in soundproof padding. (I am sure there is a technical name but I have no idea what it is, basically it looked like grey foam eggshell cartons.) I shoved myself in the corner, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible while Anne sat at the desk, looking a bit like she was about to endure a rather unpleasant counselling session…I did feel for her as doing interviews can be quite taxing and frightening but I knew she has prepared. Then Mia swept in and I was surprised to see that she was about as big as me (i.e. short and small) and was not wearing typical office-like clothes but a tee shirt and cargo combat pants. However, she did have on a very impressive pair of silver sneakers which I immediately wanted. A lot.
She very quickly made Anne feel comfortable, asked her if there was anything she didn’t want to talk about and then launched into the interview. For a full hour, without any notes or even referring to the book itself, Mia was able to vividly recall exact wording and phrasing of parts of Anne’s story, and asked some very insightful and interning questions. I was actually rather impressed with her skill (not to mention her sneakers) and thought that Anne answered all her questions beautifully and thoughtfully. It really was a terrific experience and I am sure it will make a great interview. I hope you can find some time to listen to it when it comes out on the No Filter podcast today.
Follow the links below

Anyone for a cup of tea? Or not?

My younger son started uni last year and we have been talking about dating and yes, ok, about sex, which lead to a discussion on recognising a Yes or a No. The signs of sexual consent. Yes, tricky!

He told me that the student body had posted The Cup of Tea PSA, a clever Thames Valley Police 3 minute video featuring stick figures, to ensure the first years understood the concept of sexual consent on campus.

In The Cup of Tea PSA, rules of consent are explained using that most fantastic of English traditions, tea drinking. Almost universally you will be asked the question in every home in Britain, ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

Tea as a euphemism, well, well!

The video begins with the very up front and straight down the line, ‘Oh my God, I would love a cup of tea!’ response, no grey lines here. But then it moves into illustrating where consent lines can get blurry. These responses range from the fairly simple: to understanding that your guest did want tea, but changed his or her mind once you put the kettle on, to the less clear: your guest isn’t really sure how to feel about tea right now.

If you say, ‘Hey, would you like a cup of tea?’ and your guest answers, ‘Uh, you know, I’m not really sure,’ then you can make them a cup of tea, but be aware that they might not drink it.

And if they don’t drink it, then — and this is the important bit — don’t make them drink it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean they have to drink it. And if they say, ‘No, thank you’, then don’t make them tea. At all.

The video goes on to explain what to do if someone loses consciousness while you are asking them if they want tea, even if they said yes prior to passing out, ‘you should just put the tea down, make sure the unconscious person is safe and, this is the important part again, don’t make them drink the tea.’

That’s a lot of talk of tea and I get it, I do. My son said that yes it was an important message but he doesn’t have to remember the making a cup of tea analogy to recognise the signs of sexual consent from potential partners and he certainly would never give tea to anyone unconscious!

In Love, Sex and No Regrets for Today’s Teens, author Elizabeth Clarke writes about how important it is being able to practise saying, ‘I’m not comfortable with that, I don’t know you that well, I want to know you better’ or simply ‘No’.

Elizabeth stresses that a healthy sexuality for teens comes down to being old enough and mature enough to know how to say ‘No’ when you need to and to recognise when your partner is saying ‘No’. That means if you aren’t getting a response from your partner, if there’s shrugging or suggestions of ‘I don’t know’ then that is a ‘No’.  An unenthusiastic anything is a ‘No’.

‘Yes, just do it’, or ‘I may as well get it over with’, are responses that really shouldn’t be heard but seem to be accepted in our sexualised society where boundaries do get blurry and issues of self-worth aren’t discussed. Elizabeth tells us what these ‘No’ signs are from other people in a straightforward, honest way.

The Brits do love their tea and the PSA does get the message across, albeit very simplistically.  However, it does ultimately demonstrate the importance of  ‘No means No, which is a message our teenagers need to know the signs of, with or without a cup of tea as their guide.

Sarah Blundell

Getting a Lift Mick’s Way – Ep1

Mick Miller has a chat with some important people in his life in his faithful ’68 VW Beetle. Mick survived cancer and packed up the Rocket and headed out around Australia. He speaks with some of the people who helped make that possible for him and the resulting book Travelling Australia Mick’s Way.

Finch Memoir Prize announced!!

Finch Publishing is pleased to announce that the winner for the 2018 Finch Memoir Prize is Vicki Laveau-Harvie with Okotoks Erratic.
The three judges, Candida Baker, Caroline Baum and Mark O’Flynn, were in complete agreement about this dark humoured story of an out of control family beset with decay and bitterness.
Caroline Baum said, ‘Okotoks Erratic grabbed me by the throat and never let go …  Its sharp vinegary tone added  a thrilling and bracing  note to  this portrayal  of an extreme  dysfunctional family. The writing has a visceral quality as well as a terrific sense of timing, irony and place … I loved it.’
Candida Baker described the manuscript as reminding her of ‘a young Margaret Attwood or Alice Munro’.
Mark O’Flynn said the writing was ‘clear and concise, and wonderfully written’.
The winner, Vicki Laveau-Harvie, says: I am so very pleased to be the winner of the 2018 FinchMemoir Prize. Writing memoir represents freedom and possibility for anyone who chooses to do it. To share what I’ve written as a result of this prize will be an enduring joy for me.’
The judges also wished to award a Highly Commended to Fay Keegan and her manuscript
All Stations to Waterfall.
The winning manuscript will be published in June 2018.

Mix it up this Christmas, come on step out of your Book Comfort Zone! 

A typical conversation between my husband and myself about a new book goes something like this:

Me: Just finished this great book. Do you want to read it? I think you’ll enjoy it.
Him: Mmm is it a Sci-fi?
Me: No it is a surprisingly compelling memoir given the subject matter. I didn’t want to put it down…
Him: Sounds like a YOU sort of book… I am on book #23 of [insert sci-fi series here] at the moment, so no I don’t think so.
Me: (eye rolling)

Book comfort zones, we all have one, that safe couple of aisles in the bookstore where we feel guaranteed to find something that we will enjoy. My husband resides squarely in Sci-fi land, sometimes straying onto thriller aisle but very rarely.

I was chatting to the fountain of all wisdom, my hairdresser, about this phenomenon and it turns out that most people are either firmly in the fiction or non-fiction camp and rarely cross over. As an example her husband will not read anything other than a biography or memoir.

Now I have a confession to make. Prior to working here at Finch Publishing I would rarely, if ever, go into the non-fiction section, maybe for a cookbook and then only to satisfy my guilt and have a quick look at the dieting books but basically that was it. My comfort zone is definitely in the fiction section. I prefer novels, a TV drama over a reality TV show and would rather watch a movie instead of documentary any day!

Well that was then and since non-fiction has become a necessary part of my reading – at times the only reading I have time to do – a whole new section in the bookstore has revealed itself to me. Intriguing, well written memoirs allowing me to share someone’s story, now present themselves invitingly. I have taken steps past the rows and rows of cook books to discover a land of new titles. I Knew You’d Have Brown Eyes, Home Truths, Emotional Fitness, The Happiness Quest , Raise Your Voice and yes I know they are all FINCH titles but they were all new to me and each one filled with the potential for changing my life!

Some truly have, after reading The Priests by James Miller I realised that my brother may also have suffered from a type of PTSD and so began to look at things with different eyes. Home Truths by Mandy Nolan is a totally underrated book particularly if you are a mum completely over the yummy mummy crew, this one will give you a good laugh with your glass of Pinot Gris and made me re-evaluate what I call ‘Home’ and why. Life a Guide by Andrew Fuller is the only book that my husband actually picked up and it truly did help him get out of bed one morning…Hitchy Feet, Cold Vein, Love Sex and No Regrets so many more have all had an effect on me.

So really all I am saying is, yes, there are those comforting aisles in your bookshop where we all feel safe and at home, familiar authors with familiar covers, but maybe step beyond those on your next visit and pick up something that is truly out of your book comfort zone and you may be pleasantly surprised!

Recovery, discovery and bucket lists

We live in the era of 24/7 access to information but delayed implementation of our dreams. How often have you said, ‘When we have more money … when the kids have finished school … when we retire.’ Do we really have to wait until we’re about to kick that bucket to find the gumption to follow a dream or would our lives improve if we did it now?

It took a major illness to convince Olympic coach and motivational speaker Mick Miller to do something different. He decided to do a trip of recovery and discovery around Australia – and he didn’t need a fancy motor home or months of planning to do it. Instead he packed up his trusty VolksWagon Beetle The Rocket with a two-man tent, an esky, a sleeping bag, a blender and a few clothes; took a quick look at the map (turned it up the right way), found highway one and drove off.

Of course, life happens, even – especially – on the road. Mick occasionally needed more treatment, the Rocket needed a heap of treatment, and he had to overcome encounters with rain, wind, red dirt storms and giant semi’s. Notwithstanding these challenges, Mick started on his goal to being more present and to live a happier, healthier and more mindful life.

Mick spent fifteen months on the road and recorded his journey along the way. Every couple of weeks he would send a video clip and a bunch of photos to his friend Robyn Ford, who transcribed them into the blog that eventually became Travelling Australia Mick’s Way.

It’s impossible not to get wanderlust browsing through this beautiful hardback tribute to Mick’s journey – 292 pages of magnificent photographs of the iconic Australian landscape peppered with Mick’s thoughtful and often entertaining roadside musings. It’s best enjoyed with your feet propped on the coffee table, and a cuppa and a lamington (or some double chocolate Tim Tams) in hand.

Laura Boon – It’s all write publicity

Publishing Manager Sam Miles gives us a brief synopsis of the shortlisted 2018 Memoir Prize books

This year we had some really outstanding entries in our memoir prize and I don’t envy our judges having to make their final decision! Here is a round up of the shortlisted entries:

Tin Gypsy by Alan Sampson: This is a heartfelt account of a father who visits his son who is living and working in the wilds of Canada’s Yukon to try and persuade him to come home to Australia and get a ‘proper’ job. However after being practically drowned in an extreme kayaking adventure, nearly eaten by a bear and beaten up in a bar brawl, he realises his son is the one who is living life to the full.

All Stations to Waterfall by Fay Keegan: A wonderfully clear-eyed and poignant account of how an accident –falling from a train carriage- at a young age shaped Fay Keegan’s life and that of her family’s. Fay’s story is compelling.

A Little Bit Country by Georgina Lawrence: When Georgina and her young family are fed up with the heatwaves sweeping the city they spontaneously decide to move to the outskirts of the Adelaide Hills and buy a tumbled down farm. Without any knowledge of any kind of farming experience they are plunged headfirst into ‘true’ country life. Utterly charming and humorous.

Okotoks Erratic by Vicki Laveau-Harvie: When her elderly mother is hospitalised, Vicki is summoned to her parents’ home in America to care for her father. What she discovers when she arrives is a power play that has been going on between her parents that has dramatic and possibly fatal ramifications for all involved. An intensely gripping, black humoured drama.

A Woman of Strange Substance  by Sacha Jones: This is the follow up to The Grass Was Always Browner which was published by Finch a few years ago. It follows Sacha to London where she continues to pursue her dreams if becoming a prima ballerina but is thwarted by the many distractions of London’s patisseries. Charming and funny.

Coming Home to Squabbling Ground by Jenifer Severn: A painful childhood with a remote and complicated father shapes Jennifer’s life in ways that she doesn’t even realise. Her attempts at reconciliation later in life lead her to contemplate her life from a completely new angle. A thoughtful and considered examination of family relationships.

Finch Memoir Prize shortlist announced

The judges have finished their shortlist ahead of time and I am delighted to announce that we have six shortlisted authors. They are:

  • Alan Sampson with Tin Gypsy
  • Georgina Lawrence with A Little Bit Country
  • Fay Keegan with All Stations to Waterfall
  • Vicki Laveau-Harvie with Okotoks Erratic
  • Sacha Jones with A Woman of Strange Substance
  • Jennifer Severn with Coming Home to Squabbling Ground

Congratulations to our shortlisted authors! I don’t envy the judges in making their final decision!

Good Reads Giveaway

Finch is happy to announce a Good Reads Giveaway!

10 signed copies of How to Be Thin in a World of Chocolate are being given away. So enter now or if you just can’t wait grab a copy at bookstores it is out today. Don’t forget if you are a Good Reads member – post a review and tell us what you think.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

How to Be Thin in a World of Chocolate by Michele Connolly

How to Be Thin in a World of Chocolate

by Michele Connolly

Giveaway ends November 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Mick Miller – Learning to ‘go with the flow’

Mick Miller had an incredible career as a high performance coach for some of Australia’s top athletes, including Olympians, Rugby League teams and America’s Cup campaigns.  He was used to living a life on four-year Olympic cycles, with constant demands on his time and resources, high pressure to reach KPIs, high stress and even higher expectations. He was constantly pushing, pushing, pushing! ‘I was looking after everybody else, but not really looking after myself,’ said Mick.

He swam every morning at Newport Beach. One day he swam over a clump of seaweed at the northern end of the beach and observe how it just drifted with the current of the ocean – it just went with the flow. Mick thought about how amazing it would be to live life like that, to just go with the flow.  When he got out of the water he felt a lump on his neck, a swollen gland that he hadn’t noticed before. Three weeks and two operations later he was given the diagnosis of neck and throat cancer. One of the doctors told Mick, ‘Mate, we are going to have to nearly kill you to make you better. I had put to everything on hold, including the mortgage, closed my business and embarked on the first day of the rest of my life.’

Mick was convinced that he would be able to cruise through the treatment, pretend everything was normal and not tell anyone he had cancer, for reasons he is still not quite sure why.  He quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be quite that simple.  Treatment started well, but the wheels began to fall off about halfway through. Paula Macleod, the Head and Neck Cancer Care Coordinator at Royal North Shore Hospital, asked him one day: ‘Mick, why do you keep trying to crash through the brick wall when there is a door there that you can easily open?’  Mick knew then that he just had to surrender, ‘go with the flow’ like that seaweed at the beach and ask for some help.

Mick soon realised that, just like in the sporting arena, a team approach is vital and that in the hospital he had an amazing team around him for support consisting of nurses, dieticians, medical and radiation oncologists, and surgeons. ‘My recovery really was a team effort and every single person contributed in some way or another.  From the dedicated team at the hospital, my sister Laura, special friend Robbie, my friends who organised rosters, drove me to treatment, cooked meals and had me to stay in their homes.  Friends who would call or text, hold my hand, laugh at my jokes, inspire me and encourage my dreams or simply those who had me in their thoughts.  It was important to surround myself with the right people, with the right energy – an incredible bunch of people who helped guide me through the whole experience.”

After leaving hospital, Mick decided to make a few changes in his life, treat each day as a gift and go with the flow. Post-treatment and some 25kg lighter, he took a holistic approach to healing with regular appointments with a psychologist, nutritionist, acupuncturist, naturopath, massage therapist and physiotherapist, truly investing in himself and his recovery.

He also decided to embark on a journey of recovery and discovery, circumnavigating Australia in his 1968 sky blue VW Beetle fondly named The Rocket, raising funds and awareness for post-cancer recovery.  His travels led to world acclaim through his blog, ‘Travelling Australia Mick’s Way’ and then the publication of his inspirational book with the same title.  A portion from the sale of each copy of Travelling Australia Mick’s Way is donated to help cancer patients and their families post cancer treatment via The Tomorrow Trust, which helps to bring some normality back into the lives of cancer patients and their families.

Today Mick is a much sought after public speaker, performance coach and freelance radio commentator. Mick is passionate about giving back and helping other cancer patients and their families, often touching base with new cancer patients referred to him for a chat by Paula Macleod.

‘Life is different now, I consciously choose not to brand anything good or bad, it is just different and everything that I have experienced is exactly that: an experience.  All these experiences have helped shape me to become who I am today and have given me a much clearer perspective on life: no fears, no expectations, no rush –  just going with the flow.’

Mick Miller