The Arcade

For the past few years I’ve been working on the first book in a young-adult trilogy, inspired by my favourite place in the world – The Southern Gulf Islands in Canada .

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These islands – “strung like a shimmering necklace between the mainland and Vancouver Island”, if I can steal the Lonely Planet description – have such a unique vibe and special place in my heart (my family have a house on Galiano Island). Not only do they offer stunning landscapes of beaches, bluffs, lakes, and forests, the islands attract communities of artists, free-spirits, nature-lovers and independent thinkers. On Galiano for example, you won’t find a commercial supermarket, but you will find a bookshop and artisan galleries. The island culture therefore feels concurrently caught in the past (rustic and pastoral) and a step ahead (free of the constraints and boxes of the modern world).

My book ‘The Arcade‘ uses the spirit and beauty of the islands as inspiration, but it’s still very much fictional. It’s an environmental-fantasy story that follows a group of island teens as they reach adulthood, grow curious of the world outside their small peaceful realities, and take on the external forces that threaten to endanger their utopian home.

I think it’s time we started talking more about environmental issues in young-adult fiction, given the uncertainty of our future on this planet (there are many things I could reference here, but the latest on the Arctic seed bank is particularly pertinent).

The first book is finished now and I’m currently seeking an agent, but thought I should start getting this idea out into the world, to see if anyone’s interested in knowing more or beta-reading for me. I’ve also just made the Pinterest board that I’ve been using as inspiration for the past year public.

The Arcade on Pinterest

Please get in touch if you’d like to chat about The Arcade!

Kahli xoxo

 

 

 

I Said I’d Chill Out This Year…

…and I have. Kind of. My focus for 2017 was meant to be working hard in my new day job, enjoying London, spending time in nature, and finding an agent for my recently finished YA novel ‘The Arcade’.

I’ve been doing all those things. But I’ve also taken on two small writing projects on the side, because I can’t help it! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Blogging about magic
Back when I lived in Vancouver in 2011-2013, I worked at a shop on Granville Island called ‘Dragonspace‘. It was, and still is, a dragon shop. That is, it sells dragons and other mythological, esoteric, Celtic and fantasy-related items. I love that place. I still think about it all the time, and it will always be a second home for me. So when my old friends there contacted me and asked if I’d want to write the blog for the recently launched Dragonspace website, I had to say yes! Writing these kinds of features does not feel like work at all, and I can’t wait to do more. You can read what I’ve done so far, and check out our beautiful inventory, here.

Road-tripping, in fiction and real life
I’ve written a ‘social story’ for LongShorts, a digital platform featuring stories told through a social feed by fictional characters (as if you were reading the characters’ Twitter feeds). My story is aptly called ‘Road Tripping’ and is about three unlikely road companions traveling through Western Canada and the troubles they’ve left behind. You can read a preview here, and the whole story via the app. I’m in the process of writing Part II at the moment.

I also went on a real road trip last weekend to the Jurassic Coast and Cornwall. We went fossil hunting along Charmouth Beach, drank until 2am in a campsite bar with Cornish locals, spent Easter Sunday at the famous Roskillys Farm eating as much clotted cream ice-cream as we could fit, admired the turquoise waters of St Ives, visited the breath-taking Tintagel Castle of Arthurian legend, and had lunch at Rick Stein’s bistro in Padstow and then saw Rick Stein himself in the deli! I think when you’re an ex-pat in London, you always feel pressured to see as much of continental Europe as possible, but England has so many treasures itself and I love discovering them. They might not be as exotic, but they’re delightful.

Agent Hunting
I’m still seeking an agent/publisher for ‘The Arcade’. It’s the first book in an intended YA trilogy, and is a low-fantasy story with environmental threads. It’s set amongst a network of utopian islands (modelled off the Canadian Gulf Islands) that come under threat from a sinister outside force. More info readily available to anyone who might be interested!

Meeting New People
Tomorrow, I’m hosting my first attempt at a London Meetup group, focused on Walking + Storytelling, at Hampstead Heath (my favourite place in London) – details here. 

Reading
And finally, I’ve obviously been reading a lot. Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels truly transformed me, and taught me how honest and jagged good writing can be. Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle had me obsessed and reading in coffee shop lines for weeks. Ruth Ozeki’s ‘A Tale for the Time Being‘ and Eden Robinson’s ‘Monkey Beach‘ taught me so much about atmosphere and location as character. And Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids‘, Joy Harjo’s ‘Crazy Brave‘ and Bill Bryson’s ‘The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid‘ – all starkly different memoirs – had me absorbed in varying experiences of youth, privilege, and art, and gave me an unsettling realisation of how times have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.

All in all, I feel at peace, frequently creatively inspired, and more comfortable in London week by week. More to come soon.

Kahli xoxo

My Pursuit of Green Spaces

I normally only blog about books/writing here, but I wanted to share my second big love today – nature and the outdoors. I’m no Katniss, and I probably wouldn’t survive a night out in the wild alone, but moving to a big smoggy city like London has made me realise how much I crave being around trees or general leafiness.

Luckily, London actually has an amazing range of green spaces within a commutable distance. I’ve been trying to discover as many ‘green’ day-trips as I can. These are my favourite places for woodland walks and field frolics so far (travel distance is from where I live in inner-east London, via public transport).

Hampstead Heath – 40 mins

Hampstead has a wonderful literary history, which originally attracted me to it, but its heath and woods and fields are prime terrain for ‘wandering aimlessly’. I went for a long ramble the other day and found Kenwood House, an old country manor with a history stretching back to the early 17th century. The whole area is perfect for jogging, dog-walking and just sitting back with a book, too. And John Keats’s house is just nearby if you fancy a visit…

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Richmond Park – 1.5 hours

Two words – wild deer. You do kind of feel like you’ve stepped into another world at Richmond Park when you spot your first lot of deer – both Red and Fallow kinds wander the space freely. My first sighting was of towering antlers poking out from the grass under the shade of tree. These guys were very handsome. Even at the height of summer, it’s easy to find a secluded spot amongst trees to picnic and feel like you’re lost in the woods, when really, the quaint Thames-side town of Richmond is just a walk away.

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Epping Forest – 1 hour

Epping Forest is an area of ancient woodland between London and Essex. I’ve gotten lost in here a few times before, once stumbling upon Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge from Tudor times. The forest covers around 2,500 hectares, so you can definitely spend all day walking, cycling or riding along the wooded paths. It’s no wonder the forest was once called ‘the lungs of London’.

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Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood – 45 mins

We visited these woods on the day before Halloween and they were aptly spooky. It was very misty that morning and the shaded pathways were cloaked in silver fog, conjuring images of witchy gatherings and ancient rituals. These oak-hornbeam woodlands are said to be a part of the original wildwood that covered most of Britain about five thousand years ago.

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The Chiltern Hills – 1.5 hours

We explored this lovely area last weekend. I’d read that the Ivinghoe Beacon was an easy hike close to London, and there are a few different trails of varying levels you can take to reach the beacon. We did the Ridgeway Trail, which took us through vast green fields and butterfly reserves, past friendly sheep, horses and Belted Galloway cattle, over tall hills and through stunning orange forests. When we reached the top of the beacon, I marvelled at the beautiful English countryside around us. Apparently these trails have been used by merchants and soldiers for centuries, and it’s easier to feel transported to different times when you’re on the peak of a mountain or beacon.

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I’m excited to explore more of the lush green world around London. I just discovered the Capital Ring walking trails, which look like an awesome way of seeing a bit of everything without going too far out.

If you have any of your own recommendations, feel free to comment!

Kahli xo

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

I’m Still Here

I may have fallen off the blogging wagon since moving to London, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been active! Since arriving here back in March, I’ve been trying to take advantage of this crazy creative kingdom, and its equally intriguing neighbours across the sea.

I spent the last five months working for an events company that brings together executives from the broadcasting and digital entertainment industries all across the globe. It was an enlightening work experience for many reasons, but I particularly enjoyed learning about the rising importance of social influencer marketing, broadcasting from space and digital imaging via NASA (!!), and the future of technology in cinematic storytelling. I’m understanding more and more how “creativity-technology-business” is an interwoven triquetra. I used to only focus on the creative side, but that’s changing.

I’m also volunteering for the Book Bus, a literacy charity that I’ve loved and followed for years (I even blogged about it back here!). I met some of the team at the London Book Fair back in March, and that led to me helping out with their communications. I’m currently writing stories for the monthly newsletter and blog. I love hearing the tales from Zambia, Malawi and Ecuador about books and storytelling bringing communities together and inspiring change.

Writing-wise, I’ve been writing web copy for a few London-based start-up companies. I was not prepared for how huge the start-up community is here, as we don’t really have one in Brisbane. But it’s a fun community to be a part of, and as a writer, I get to help develop the tone and style for a growing web presence, which is exciting.

I’m also getting close to finishing the first draft of a novel. It involves utopian islands and an environmental evil, and that’s all I’ll say for now.

Over the last seven months, I’ve managed a bit of traveling. We road-tripped from London to Stonehenge-Bristol-Bath-Forest of Dean-Brecon Beacons National Park (in Wales). I loved Wales so much that I went back to Cardiff for a long weekend and cycled the amazing Taff Trail, which took me to THREE CASTLES, through forests and countryside, and essentially into another world. I’ve also hopped over to France a few times – around Normandy, Alsace, and Savoie, plus Paris and Bordeaux. Worked in Amsterdam, and played tourist in Copenhagen and Barcelona. This is why we Aussies flock to London, right?

I’ve been inspired to blog again as this is the first week of my life that I’ve been able to dedicate full-time to writing and editing. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I really hope it’s this! I’m always looking to chat about opportunities – writing, editing, events – so drop a line if you’re interested in collaborating.

Until next time (which hopefully won’t be another seven months away…oops…),

Kahli x

Calling from a red phone box…

Hello! I’ve done that thing that most Australian twenty-somethings do, and I’ve moved to London.

I’ve only been here for three weeks, but just like when I paid my too-brief visit to Portugal and the Netherlands last year, I’ve found myself gravitating towards literary places around the city. Which, in London, is kind of like using a metal detector in a bank vault. This place is so full of literary history and promise, it’s overwhelming (truly, it’s overwhelming…I’ve been bowled over by a horrible cold, but maybe that’s due to the persistent silver skies). I’ve only just scratched the surface, but here’s a quick photo journal of the places I’ve seen so far (click images for captions). More to come! So much more to come…

 

Finding stories in Portugal & the Netherlands

I just came back from two short but full weeks exploring Porto + Lisbon in Portugal, and Amsterdam + surrounds in the Netherlands.

While I was away, I became a little obsessed with writing TripAdvisor reviews, only because I’d found them so helpful when I’d been scouting hotels/restaurants/medieval churches etc. to visit, and I wanted to give back to the community. When you sign up as a TripAdvisor reviewer, you’re meant to pick your ‘Travel Style’ from a list of badges such as ‘Nightlife Seeker’, ‘History Buff’, ‘Foodie’, ‘Eco-tourist’, and so on and so forth. I struggled with this, because I’m kind of just a person who wanted to see beautiful and strange sights and learn some interesting things about the world and its inhabitants. I didn’t have a specialty.

But if I had to pick a specialty, I’d say that I did gravitate towards places that had some kind of literary significance – notable bookstores, spaces writers & artists frequented, attractions that celebrated story or literary culture in some way. Here’s a quick collection of those places, their history and my experiences.

1. Guerra Junqueiro House Museum – Porto, Portugal

This lesser-known attraction is the 18th-century home of a famous Portuguese poet, preserved and turned into a museum that boasts an intimate and impressive collection of Portuguese silverware, ceramics, jewellery, furniture and religious artwork. While the collection isn’t ‘literary’ as such, it seems in line with the poet’s vision of preserving and promoting art and cultural artefacts. You can read Junqueiro’s poem The Digger in English here. The melancholy nature of it seems common in Portuguese art.

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(Casa Junqueiro exterior)

2. Livraria Lello Bookstore – Porto, Portugal

Livraria Lello is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, and one of the most beautiful in the world, according to sources such as the Guardian, Lonely Planet, myself and now you, once you look up all the photographs. The rich wood, pressed copper and stained glass decor is so gorgeous, you almost forget to stop and look at the books. Luckily there’s a cute little cafe on the top floor where you can sit and have a coffee and admire it all.

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(Staircase inside Livraria Lello)

3. The Majestic Cafe – Porto, Portugal

This historic cafe, with its stunning art nouveau decor, has been frequented by significant Portuguese politicians, artists, writers, academics, and other important public figures since its opening in 1921. (Including, apparently, everyone’s favourite J.K. Rowling when she lived in Porto in the 1990s and was penning a little story about a wizard.) We had some fantastic cheeses and glasses of port here. It was quite busy and cramped inside, so I’d say it’s a better place for artistic conversation than artistic meditation these days.

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(The Majestic Cafe exterior)

4. Livraria Bertrand – Lisbon, Portugal

This is meant to be the oldest bookstore in the world, founded in 1732. It was destroyed in 1755 by the earthquake that annihilated basically everything in Lisbon (seriously, look it up), but was rebuilt shortly after. The bookstore’s stock and interior now resemble the clean and bright shelves of chain bookstores such as Waterstones or old Borders (R.I.P), but the decor and furnishings hint at its longstanding history. (I picked up a copy of Pessoa’s selected poetry here, as it seemed necessary I check out Portugal’s most celebrated poet when in his home city of Lisbon).

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(Livraria Bertrand on Rua Garrett)

5. Lisboa Story Centre – Lisbon, Portugal

This one doesn’t necessarily have literary history attached to it, so much as it’s an example of history presented in a literary way. The Libsoa (the local way of spelling Lisbon) Story Centre is an interactive museum where you’re given an audio guide that leads you through colourful and entertaining exhibits that present Lisbon’s impressive history in chronological order, beginning with the Phoenicians. It’s like walking through a pop-up history book, with a notable segment being ‘the earthquake room’, where you hear and see the story of the 1755 earthquake played out.

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(Exhibit at the Lisboa Story Centre)

6. The Anne Frank House – Amsterdam, Netherlands

This is, of course, a must-see for any visitor to Amsterdam, literary significance aside. But as a young writer, I was struck by the experience of walking through the house where Anne and her family had lived in secrecy for all those years, and seeing the physical journals in their glass cases at the end of the tour. Everyone finds a different way to connect to Anne’s story, but for me, it’s a testament to the power of the written word, and the importance of preserving human experiences.

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(Anne Frankhuis from across the canal)

7. Efteling – Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands

This is a theme park a little outside of Amsterdam that celebrates all things fantasy, fairy tale and folklore. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to stepping into a different world. The attention to detail in this wonderland is astounding–every inch of it is a work of art. Park highlights include the Droomvlucht – a suspended carriage ride through multiple fantasy settings, and Raveleijn – a live stunt show featuring trained ravens, swordfights, and real horses on fire. The dragon rollercoaster is also a must-do, because it’s a dragon rollercoaster.

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(Entrance to the Droomvlucht ‘Dream Flight’ ride at Efteling)

8. The Bench – Amsterdam, Netherlands

I’ll end on a contemporary one. Fans of John Green’s young-adult novel The Fault in Our Stars will know that a part of the book/movie is set in Amsterdam, and you can visit the very bench one of the story’s most heartbreaking scenes takes place on. I found it. I sat on it. I felt sad.

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(Hazel and Gus’s bench by the Leidsegracht canal)

I saw other amazing things too, like the still-sturdy walls of Sao Jorge Castle, the dim halls of multiple port cellars, vibrant Porto from the dizzying heights of a cable car, the gorgeous floral universe that is Keukenhopf Gardens, and Sunflowers by Van Gogh IRL. Even the non-literary places were rich in story and personal experiences. I’m glad to have seen it all, and to have brought little pieces of multiple worlds back in my suitcase.

Hey Brisbane,

You’re pretty wonderful.

This isn’t really related to books or writing, but I’ll give myself a free pass in order to briefly pay homage to my home city. I’ve been back for two weeks now and perhaps it’s just fickle ‘absence-makes-the-heart-etc.’ sentimentality, but Brisbane is far more beautiful and promising than I remember. It’s like reuniting with an old friend from high school and discovering she’s grown taller, bolder, more beautiful, and has picked up bits and pieces of passion and intellect from her various world travels that make her intriguing but still familiar. Something like that.

Of course, the fact that I’ve been in holiday mode and essentially a tourist in my own city has helped. Regardless, here’s a quick list of things I’ve very much appreciated experiencing in Brisbane and its surrounds since my return:

– Portside Wharf and the river in general
– The view from Mount Glorious Restaurant and Cafe
– Superman Escape at WarnerBros Movieworld (still the best thrill ride I’ve ever been on)
– The entire menu at Verve on/below Edward St, especially the ciders and risotto
– The warm surf and real sand of Caloundra’s beaches
– Diggers Pies at Albany Creek
– The Australian Dinosaurs and Collectomania (featuring an amazing full hobbit hole miniature) exhibits at the Queensland Museum
– Not the fact that the stunning Regent Theatre picture palace in Queen St is gone, but that at least I can still enjoy a long black in the foyer
– The State Library book shop
– The quality merchandising of so many stores at Westfield Chermside (I know this is a strange one, but the displays are so pretty to look at)
– Bunyaville Conservation Park
– Gorgeous ‘Queenslander’ houses, gum trees, a pretty great rail system, kookaburras on wires, alfresco breakfasts, hot car seats, the beautiful 50c coin… and so on and so forth.

It will surely dull, but for now, Brisbane ILY. It’s good to be home.