Archive for the 'Non Fiction' Category

Writing prompt – hardships

Woman collecting water from a public fountain in Morocco

We take many things for granted in our world. Most Australians would assume that running water in our home was an essential utility, one we couldn’t do without. We certainly whinge and complain if the water supply is cut off for an hour or two for repairs or for pipeline maintenance. It’s as if someone had cut off our hand.

I took the photo above in the village of Sefrou near Fes in Morocco when we were touring that country a year or so ago. The people of this village had no water piped into their homes. They had to visit the public fountain in the street to gather water for their domestic use, probably several times a day. It is a hardship we in western countries would not tolerate, but for these people it has been a way of life for centuries.

What hardships do you face? Think about aspects of your life which might be a hindrances to you fully realising your desire to write. Is it a difficult family situation? Perhaps illness? Is it an unrewarding job you must maintain to survive? What about that disability?


Write about the things that hinder you from fully realising your potential as a writer. Turn your scribbled notes and ideas into a magazine article, or a short fictional story or even a touching, emotional poem.

Good writing.

Review: Field guide to the birds of Colombia

As regular readers woud know I do regular reviews of books here on my writing site. Every writer should be an avid reader, and I enjoy sharing what I am reading with regular visitors to this site.

This time the review is a little different. Normally I would review books about writing, novels I’ve read or volumes of poetry. I have also reviewed children’s books, including picture books on occasions. (Click here to read more of my reviews.)

This review focusses on a Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia. As my long term readers would know, I also write articles about and post photos of Australian Birds on Trevor’s Birding site. I’m not going to write a new review of this book here. If you are interested in reading this review, click here.

Why Colombia?

This book was given as a special gift to a close family member who has close connections with Colombia. One day I hope to get to that fascinating country and do some birding. Of all the countries in the world, Colombia has more bird species than any other, with nearly 1800 different kinds. By way of comparison, Australia has about 800 different birds.

Book review: “The fearsome flute players”

The fearsome flute players

I don’t often write about another of my passions – birding – on this site. But I do include book reviews here. I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book about Australian Magpies, one of our most recognisable and best loved birds.

The book is called “The fearsome flute players: Australian Magpies in our lives.” This is not a scientific thesis paper; it is written in an entertaining and engaging manner, incorporating hundreds of stories of ordinary people in South Australia telling their encounters with these wonderful birds.

I won’t give a full review here but rather refer you to Trevor’s Birding, another site I write so you can read an extensive review of this book.

Special Offer:

The publisher a special offer to readers of my birding site. Mention Trevor’s Birding when you order online and you will also receive a CD of 200 photos of South Australia, including some beautiful photos of scenery and water birds.

I strongly recommend this wonderful book.

Good reading – good writing.

Australian Magpie

Review: Searching for the Secret River

Cover - Searching for the secret river

I have recently read Kate Grenville‘s historical novel The Secret River. You can read my review here.

Straight after finishing the novel I went on to read her follow up book Searching for the Secret River.

In this second book she goes into great detail about how she researched the novel. The story is based upon the life of her great-great-great grandfather, but she took the facts gleaned from family history and extensive research both in London and in Sydney over a five year period and transformed it into fiction. She has used fact as a broad brush in the hands of her imagination and the finished novel is brilliant. It gives the reader a much clearer view of life in the early years of settlement in the young Australian colony.

Searching for the Secret River is a fascinating expose on the thinking processes of one of our leading authors. Grenville takes us on a journey from the first inklings of an idea for a book through to the finished product. At first she was planning a non fiction book but she struck so many obstacles along the way that she changed tack completely, fictionalising it and letting her imagination run. I’m pleased she did.

While she does address some of the issues faced by all writers of fiction, this is not a handbook on writing. Sure, she does explain why she changed from first to third person, but generally it was the research that so intrigued her that she recounts in the first part of the book. Throughout she grapples with her attitudes, and those of the settlers, towards the Aboriginal people who would have lived in the Sydney area during the time in which she sets her novel. She was confronted by some very unsavoury discoveries. The reader of the novel is likewise confronted by some of the events of those days. Australian history is not always the clean, lovely accounts I read as a student many years ago.

While she has drawn from actual  historical records, her novel is not another version of history. ‘I was shameless in rifling through research for anything I could use,’ she writes, ‘wrenching it out of its place and adapting it for my own purposes… What I was writing wasn’t real, but it was as true as I could make it.‘ (Grenville p. 210)  She has been criticised for her (alleged)  misuse of history. I think she has achieved what most other writers struggle with – she has made history come alive for the reader.


  • Grenville, K, 2007, Searching for the Secret River. WF Howes, Leicester.

Book review: new edition of a popular bird field guide

Simpson and Day Field Guide to the Birds of Australia 8th edition

Simpson and Day Field Guide to the Birds of Australia 8th edition

Many of my readers here possibly do not know that I am a passionate birder. In fact, I write a very popular birding blog called Trevor’s Birding (click here). It is one of the most popular of its type with many hundreds of daily visitors. Heaps of photos too.

One of the essential tools of every birder (bird watcher) is a reliable field guide. These books illustrate each of the bird species found in a particular country or region. I have about 10 such books covering Australia, south east Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Europe.

In Australia we are blessed with a number of great field guides. With over 500,000 copies sold since the first edition in 1984, the Simpson and Day Field Guide to the Birds of Australia has proved to be one of the successful guides. Today sees the publication of a new, fully revised and updated 8th edition.

I’ve written an extensive review of this guide on my birding blog here.

The guide has been published by Penguin Books Australia.