past, present and future with annabel smith


theark-annabelsmithWelcome back to Past, Present and Future, the fortnightly (ahem) post in which I invite a special guest over to Book to the Future for a nice, hot cup of tea and a spot of time travel.

For anyone new to Book to the Future, here’s the deal: I ask someone bookish to share with me a little bit about the book they’ve just read and the book they’re reading right now. I also get them to take a peek into their crystal ball and let me know what they’re planning to read next.

My guest for this edition of Past, Present and Future is none other than Annabel Smith, author of digital interactive novel, The Ark. Here’s what Annabel’s been reading…



The last couple of months have been a reading wasteland for me, as I have worked every spare minute preparing for the publication of my novel The Ark. Now it is out in the world I’m very happy to get back to to my ridiculously enormous reading pile.



I adored Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and have since been exploring her backlist, most recently with her novel The Ten-Year Nap, which explores the difficult line walked by working women who become parents.

I read a few reviews which dismissed the novel as the whining of privileged white women but I found it incredibly relatable and I respected Wolitzer’s willingness to tackle a subject which is so ordinary as to seem unworthy of being the subject for a novel. The timing was perfect actually, as in November, I’m lucky to be writer-in-residence at Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, and I’ll be starting a new novel which engages with similar themes, and draws on my experiences with post-natal depression.



Yesterday I devoured Edan Lepucki’s debut novel California in one sitting. Set in a not-too-distant and easily imaginable future in which extreme weather events and environmental problems are making parts of the country uninhabitable, Cal & Frida create a new life for themselves in the wilderness. When Frida becomes pregnant they journey to a closed community, hoping to be accepted.

The novel is beautifully written and the day-to-day details of post-apocalyptic survival are fascinating, as are the dynamics of the communities that form under extreme conditions. California is also a very insightful portrayal of the ups and downs of marriage, especially under fraught circumstances.

Though the settings were quite different, in terms of themes I found many interesting parallels with my recently-published novel The Ark.


For the third year in a row, I am taking part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, in which I have challenged myself to read at least one book by an Australian female author each month.

I have just begun Emily Bitto’s The Strays, and am instantly beguiled by its gorgeous writing and sepia-toned depiction of childhood in the Melbourne of the 1930s.

Centred around the family of an artist, it looks like it is going to explore ‘bohemian parenting’ and female friendship and I can’t wait to see where it goes.



Annabel SmSONY DSCith is the author of Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, and A New Map of the Universe, which was shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards. Her short fiction and non-fiction has been published in Southerly, Westerly, Wheeler Dailies and Junkee. She holds a PhD in Writing, is an Australia Council Creative Australia Fellow, and is a member of the editorial board of Margaret River Press. Her digital interactive novel/app The Ark has just been released. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you so much for being a part of Past, Present and Future, Annabel! Congratulations on the launch of The Ark – here’s wishing it every success. Best of luck with the new novel…

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book to the future bookmarks 11 – the spring cleaning edition


No, I can’t really believe it’s been close to two months since I last wrote anything either, but that’s how it goes.

Things are, of course, still piling up around me – the garden needs weeding, the house needs cleaning, books need reading and words need writing, but I’m getting there, one task at a time. Which is the only way to approach these things, really.

After a short, unintentional winter hibernation, I’m back, and it’s spring and I’m feeling better for the much-needed rest. I’ve even given Book to the Future a bit of a facelift. I hope you like it!

I know it’s not much of a Book to the Future Bookmarks post without a heap of links, but in the spirit of spring cleaning, I deleted my unread bookmarks. All five hundred and seventy two of them.

So, I’ll leave you with one link only this time around. But I promise, it’s a good’un.

Image source
Zadie Smith. Image source here.

Very slowly a pair of profoundly blue eyes rose to meet Miss Adele’s own green contacts. The blue was unexpected, like the inner markings of some otherwise unremarkable butterfly, and the black lashes were wet and long and trembling. His voice, too, was the opposite of his wife’s, slow and deliberate, as if each word had been weighed against eternity before being chosen for use.

“You are speaking to me?”

“Yes, I’m speaking to you. I’m talking about customer service. Customer service. Ever hear of it? I am your customer. And I don’t appreciate being treated like something you picked up on your shoe!”

The husband sighed and rubbed at his left eye.

“I don’t understand – I say something to you? My wife, she says something to you?”

Miss Adele shifted her weight to her other hip and very briefly considered a retreat. It did sometimes happen, after all – she knew from experience – that is, when you spent a good amount of time alone – it did sometimes come to pass – when trying to decipher the signals of others – that sometimes you mistook–

Zadie Smith’s latest short story, Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets, has been shortlisted for the BBC’s National Short Story Award. It’s also, of course, amazing. It’s published in full right here. Make sure you put aside some time to read it – it’s a treat.


I might not have been writing, but I’ve been reading constantly over the last couple of months. Last week, I finished Cracking the Spine, a collection of short stories accompanied by essays written by their authors, and I’ll be writing a review soon. I’m also slowly making my way through The Big Issue’s annual Fiction Edition, as well as catching up with my Review of Australian Fiction subscription (one of the smartest things I’ve done this year was subscribe to RAF). And, as if that’s not enough short stories, Australian Love Stories is right near the top my pile of books to read. I’ve been swimming in short stories, and I couldn’t be happier.

There are novels on my pile of books to review soon, too – like, for instance, Jessie Cole’s Deeper Water. Cole is the kind of writer who makes me forget I’m actually meant to be a reviewer; she pulls you into her world everything else just sort of falls away. But the novel you can expect to see reviewed next on Book to the Future…isn’t actually a novel at all. It’s a novella – Julie Proudfoot’s The Neighbour. I won’t say too much about The Neighbour. I’m saving it up for my review.

Anyway, this is all just a long, roundabout way of saying that life can be overwhelming, but stories, long and short, are the best way of escaping from it all.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but it’s good to be back.

(One other thing: I’ve just added a heap of new blogs to my Required Reading list over in my sidebar. If you’re looking for links, that’s the ideal place to start!)

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46365aBooks – read and unread – half-finished mugs of tea, emails, plans, long overdue conversations. Things are piling up in great waves around me, pulling me in, slowly sucking the sand from beneath my feet.

I’m taking a break from my usual Bookmarks and Past, Present and Future posts for a couple of weeks. I need to catch up on reviewing books, get myself organised – and take a few big, deep lungfuls of air before I plunge back into the swell.

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past, present and future with daniel young

ppandbttftinctureimageIt’s time again – time for Past, Present and Future, the fortnightly blog post in which I invite a very special guest to grab a cup of tea and come time travelling with me. The idea is really simple – I ask someone bookish to share with me a little bit about the book they’ve just read, the book they’re reading right now, and the book they’re planning to read next. No crystal ball required.

Joining me on the blog this fortnight, it’s editor of Tincture Journal, Daniel Young. Let’s find out what Daniel’s been reading…


The team at Writers Bloc have been running book clubs in Sydney, and the book I’ve just finished was our selection for the July Cult Classics book club. These clubs are now also being run online, so you can join the Facebook group if you are interested in discussing interesting new books, journals and TV shows with like-minded people. So far we’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse Five, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The House of Mirth. There is also a Bright Young Things book club, but I’m unable to keep pace, although I did manage to sneak in Holly Childs’ recent novella, No Limits.

This month we’ve read Elizabeth Harrower’s The Watch Tower. I had suggested the-watch-towerreading something by Harrower without really knowing too much about her: just some vague awareness that her out-of-print books were being revived by Text Classics and that her work was much admired by the likes of Patrick White. It was another book club member who suggested we start with The Watch Tower and I’m very glad we did.

This is a beautifully written book that captures the horrifying realities of psychological abuse that can be hidden among us in everyday life. Set in World War II on Sydney’s north shore, the book constantly shifts between the perspectives of two sisters, Laura and Claire, and their life with Laura’s husband Felix. There is a depth of psychological insight here that serves as a fine example of what novels can do that other forms cannot:

She had a sensation of having mislaid a vital pleasure that she could not quite remember, or a piece of herself. There was nothing to dream!

This book could be described as a domestic drama, but it’s an intense and satisfying read that will remain with me for a long time. Essential Australian literature.


I’ve just started reading Bark, the latest collection by Lorrie Moore. I bought it about a
month ago and it rose very quickly to the top of my reading list for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m basically a sucker for short stories and it seemed like a lighter choice after reading The Watch Tower. Secondly, Lorrie was interviewed recently on the KCRW Bookworm podcast and this piqued my interest to delve more deeply into her stories. So far I’ve only read the first story, Debarking:

barkBut this, the Spam postcard and the note, he felt contained the correct mix of offhandedness and intent. This elusive mix—the geometric halfway point between stalker and Rip van Winkle—was important to get right in the world of middle-aged dating, he suspected, though what did he really know of this world? It had been so long, the whole thing seemed a kind of distant civilization, a planet of the apings!—graying, human flotsam with scorched internal landscapes mimicking the young, picking up where they had left off decades ago, if only they could recall where the hell that was.

The deft mix of humour and truth is so far an intoxicating one. While I’ve encountered a few of her individual stories around the place, I hadn’t yet read one of her full collections and don’t yet have a good sense of her oeuvre. So far so good!


Things get tricky here because my “to-read” pile is almost taller than my coffee table (and that doesn’t count the ebooks, magazines and lit journals!). I’m also knee-deep in submissions for Issue Seven of Tincture Journal and it’s really about time I bedded down the content and started the editing process. Then there’s my own writing, including an impending historical fiction assignment, which is really going to need more attention in the coming weeks.

the-big-sleepHowever: there are two main contenders for my next read and the choice will come down to timing. Firstly, I really want to read The Sleepers Almanac No. 9. These collections of short fiction, published by Sleepers Publishing, are always full of brilliant new Australian writing and I’ve been meaning to get to this latest volume since it came out in April.

The next novel in my list will probably by The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler—another book club selection! I’m super excited that I’ll finally have a reason to get into some Chandler: my own little hard-boiled wonderland on the couch.

Daniel Young is a reader, writer, editor and software developer from Brisbane, currently living in Sydney. He is the founder and editor of Tincture Journal, and his short fiction has been published in Hello Mr. Magazine, Cuttings Journal and in Seizure‘s Flashers project. He is struggling to write a novel while studying a Master of Arts in Writing. You can find him on Twitter @jazir1979.

Thank you Daniel, and happy reading. I’m bumping The Watch Tower further towards the top of my To Read pile! If you’re not already aware of Tincture, make sure you click the link above and go take a look.

I spent most of last week freaking out about all the writing I have to do at the moment, then when I sat down and wrote a list of everything on my plate…it wasn’t actually as overwhelming as I thought. Also, I need to learn that panicking about deadlines, strangely enough, doesn’t make them go away.

Writing is happening. With a little luck, I’ll have a new review online very soon.

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