Is literary fiction a category or a quality?

A question worth considering. For me, it’s about quality.



Do you even have a choice?

I’m not sure exactly why, but I have found every single one of my careful decisions, made during five years of deliberations and reading the blogs, questioned lately.

  • Cover
  • Pricing
  • Style and voice
  • Book length
  • Category
  • Marketing

By people who know better, know what they like, know what I need and should be using.

Okay, in some cases I actually asked. So I deserve what I got for insecurity.

But none of it has helped: I have not been able to nod wisely and say, “Thank you – that’s just what I needed.” Too stubborn. Too pigheaded. Too ME.

So I trundle on, and have the nerve to enjoy it.

Note to myself from a while back:

“It seems ‘literary’ is going to have to be my Amazon category – the other ones…

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Life as I know it by Michelle Payne with John Harms

This is one of the most inspiring memoirs I’ve read.  Michelle Payne’s story is well worth reading.

Life as I know it by Michelle Payne with John Harms

‘I used to tell people, ‘I just want to win the Melbourne Cup.’

On 3 November 2015, Michelle Payne (aged 30) became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.  Michelle rode a local horse, Prince of Penzance, an outsider with odds of 100 to 1.  Michelle’s win may have taken the international racing world by surprise, but Michelle had spent most of her life working towards this win.

Michelle Payne was six months old, the youngest of eleven children, when her mother Mary died.  Her father, Paddy Payne raised his family, with the older children pitching in to help.  As a family, they managed a dairy farm and racehorses as well as home and attending school.  As a family, every one pitched in.  At the age of 5, Michelle’s dream was to win the Melbourne Cup.  By the age of 7 she was doing track work.  Michelle was 15 when she first raced.  She won her first race in Ballarat, on a horse trained by her father.  She won her first Group One Race in October 2009.  Michelle was the third female jockey to ride in the Caulfield Cup, and also had a ride in the 2009 Melbourne Cup.

Over her career, Michelle has had a number of bad falls resulting in dreadful injuries, and has worked hard to recover and get back on the horse.

In this book, written with John Harms, Michelle writes of her life as the youngest of a large family, of the challenges of being a jockey, of the opportunities she had and the difficulties she faced. It’s an uplifting story: the story of a resilient young woman, part of a close-knit family, determined to succeed.  And who, amongst us, who saw the Melbourne Cup race in 2015 can forget the elation of Michelle and her brother, Stevie, when Prince of Penzance won?  Or Michelle’s declaration that anyone who said women couldn’t compete with men in the racing industry ‘could get stuffed’?

Michelle’s story is about resilience, about believing in yourself, about remaining positive in the face of adversity.  It’s also a story about a family working together to support each other.

‘I finally got a chance to ring Dad, too.  ‘How’d you go?’ he asks.  ‘Well, I got to pack my bags and come home,’ I say.  He laughs.’

I enjoyed reading this book, learning more about Michelle Payne, her family, and her drive to succeed.  I’d recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, or simply wanting to read a heart-warming story of triumph over adversity.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Melbourne University Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this memoir for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith