colourful book spines on book shelves

Every once in a while, when I’m scratching around for something new to write, I make a list of the things I obsess about.  Thankfully, some of them change over time, but there are always new ones to fill the gap.

It’s true that writers write about what they think about most of the time.  Things they can’t let go: things that plague them; stories they carry around in their heads waiting to be heard. Continue reading

Fortnightly Story: Painstaking Progress

painting of two lovers
Credit: Creative Commons

‘Painstaking Progress’

by Libby Sommer

first published in Quadrant




One can never change the past, only the hold it has on you.  And while nothing in your life is reversible, you can reverse it nevertheless – Merle Shain.


I’m imagining a cloudy autumn morning.  There’s a room.  Half office, half bedroom.  Not too large and not too small.  The windows of the room face east and look out towards the ocean across the expanse of a green gully.

I picture a woman sitting on a bed with pillows behind her back.  The windows are open.  Perhaps it is Saturday morning.  On the bedside table is a mug of tea and a photograph of the woman’s daughter on her wedding day.

Continue reading

Writing Is Not Unlike A Sushi Roll

salmon, prawn, rice, seeweed sushi rolls on blue and white dish
Credit: Creative Commons Image

Sometimes there is a person in one of my creative writing classes who is obviously very talented.  I can bring to mind one in particular.  You could sense people holding their breath as she read, and often her hands shook.  The writing process opened her up.  She said she had wanted to write for years.  She was so excited about writing that she straight away wanted to write a book.  I said to her, slow down.  Just practice writing for a while.  Learn what this is all about.

In Japan becoming an itamae of sushi requires years of on-the-job training and apprenticeship.  After five years spent working with a master or teacher itamae, the apprentice is given his first important task, the preparation of the sushi rice.

Writing, like becoming a Sushi Chef,  is a life’s work and takes a lot of practice.  The process is slow, and at the start you are not sure what you are making.

Futomaki  (“thick roll” – rice on inside, nori on the outside)

Uramaki   (“inside-out roll” – rice on outside, nori on the inside)

Temaki     (“hand roll” – cone-shaped roll)

That’s how it was for me.  I thought I could jump in and write a book in 6 months.  In fact, it’s taken me 20 years to write a publishable manuscript:  ‘My Year With Sammy’, the story of a difficult yet sensitive child, published by Ginninderra Press last year.

So cut yourself some slack before you head off on a writing marathon.

Writing is like learning to prepare the rice for sushi:  the apprenticeship is long, and in the beginning you are not sure whether a Futomaki, a Uramaki or a Temaki will be the end result.

who I am and why I blog


My name is Libby Sommer and I’m a Sydney writer.  My first book, ‘My Year With Sammy’ was published by Ginninderra Press in December, 2015.  It’s available as a paperback and an eBook.

I started to blog on WordPress in February this year as a way to communicate with other writers and readers and to share some of the things I’ve learnt .  32 of my short fictions have been published in literary journals in Australia and the U.S.  I post one of these stories each fortnight on WordPress.  Every other week  I post something about the writing process.  My tips concentrate on one aspect of the craft of creative writing.

My second book, ‘Tales of the Crystal Ballroom’ has been accepted for publication by Ginninderra Press and will come out later this year, or early next year.  The stories are about some of the characters who dance in a fictional dance hall.  My short story ‘At the Festival’ is published May 2016 in Quadrant.  And I’m proud to say I’ve had a poem accepted for an anthology of Social Justice poems to be published by Ginninderra Press in July 2016 to celebrate their 20 year anniversary.  Sorry for the shameless Self Promotion.

As I live and work alone, blogging is a way for me to connect with a community of like-minded people.  Isolation is the bane of the home office worker.  As a creative person, we need heaps of time and space alone and we work in a room all by ourselves, although my preference is to work with pen and paper in a cafe surrounded by other humans.  We also need stimulation and social interaction.

My children are grown up and lead their own lives.  My life mostly consists of reading and writing, working out at the gym, Yoga, coffees or lunch with friends, spending time with family, movies, long walks in nature, bush dancing (previously Ballroom and Latin American dancing).  It’s a pretty good life, except for that damn problem of isolation.