Visiting Franz Kafka Museum in Prague

In early June last year, I had the opportunity to visit Prague and Franz Kafka Museum. Visiting Prague was something I have been wanting to do for a very long time. And I absolutely loved it! We rented an apartment in a building which dates back to 13th century, located in the heart of Old Town Square and only 100 metres away from Astronomical Clock.

Franz Kafka Museum PraguePrague is full of history, art and Franz Kafka. Our apartment was right opposite House at the Minute (see photo above), a historic home from the 1400s where Kafka and his family lived from 1889 to 1896. Kafka’s three younger sisters Gabriele (Elli), Valerie (Valli) and Ottilie (Ottla) were born there.  From this house, as a child, he walked to the elementary school, accompanied by their family cook. House at the Minute is an interesting looking building with its façade displaying many Italian renaissance-style sgraffito frescoes. Today, there is an Italian restaurant on the ground floor called Ristorante Italiano A Minuto where we had one of the best Italian dinners alongside to a stunning red wine.

Franz Kafka Museum PragueOn the opposite corner of the Old Town Square, there is Kafka Café (see photo above) under a large building located on the corner of Kaprova Street and Maiselova Street. This is where Franz Kafka was born. He and his family lived there until 1885.

Franz Kafka Museum Prague

Visiting Franz Kafka Museum in Prague

I saw the sign of Franz Kafka Museum from St Charles Bridge and immediately wanted to go and visit. It’s located on the other side of Vltava River, an area called Malá Strana (Lesser Town). When we got there, a weird looking old woman with a slipping make-up greeted us. It looked like her face was trying to catch up with the make-up and failing miserably. Even though, we told her that we were from Australia, she carried on talking to us in Czech. Still, we miraculously understood that we had to go back to the gift shop to buy our tickets for the museum.

It was dark inside. I didn’t know what to expect from the museum but when I stood in front of the first page of Kafka’s letter to his father, the one starting with “Dearest Father, You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you.” I felt an immediate connection with this remarkable author although I hadn’t read any of his books before I visited Franz Kafka Museum.

The exhibition consists of two sections: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography. Existential Space is all about how Prague shaped Kafka. His diaries, letters to family members, lovers, friends and editors are all part of this section. Imaginary Topography, on the other hand, is all about how Kafka recreated this imaginary Prague in his books.

Franz Kafka Museum Prague

On November 1, 1907, Franz Kafka was hired at the Assicurazioni Generali –an Italian insurance company where he worked for nearly a year. His correspondence, during that period, witnesses that he was unhappy with his working time schedule which made it extremely difficult for him to concentrate on his writing but at the same time he felt more like a sketch artist than a writer. In a letter to Felice Bauer he wrote: “I was, in another time, a great sketch artist, but I learned to draw in a scholastic system, under the direction of a mediocre woman painter, causing the loss of all of my talent.” Today, some fifty small sketches and illustrations remain and some of them are on display at the museum.

As a tribute by Franz Kafka Museum, Kafka’s drawings were used to produce and animation called The K Animation. It represents the daily descent of Kafka’s soul into the abyss of the blank page. You can watch a part of it here.

Museum shops are my thing and I so wanted to buy one of Kafka’s books from the gift shop but they didn’t have anything in English. So I had to wait until I came home.

Pissing fountain just outside Franz Kafka Museum. Enjoy!

Author Sightings: Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya Elias

author sightings elizabeth gilbert rayya elias

Author Sightings: Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya Elias

March 7, 2014

As part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Elizabeth Gilbert gave a 90-minute talk at City Recital Hall Angel Place about the journey she took to create her book: The Signature of All Things and creativity in general. She was introduced by her best friend: Rayya Elias and we all found out that they “everly” love each other.

I spent whole morning listening Eat, Pray, Love on Audible while making a little pouch with a personal note in it (see photo above) as a gift for Elizabeth Gilbert. I was still in the process of reading The Signature of All at the time but an American first edition of Eat, Pray, Love was organised months before for her to sign after the event.

Before the event, I looked around to observe what kind of people would want to come and hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk. I should say what kind of women because the audience was mainly woman, except for my husband and a few other men –we’re proud of you guys. Although my husband is not familiar with Gilbert’s work, he thoroughly enjoyed the whole event. She was incredibly engaging, approachable, charming, articulate and very funny.

I find Elizabeth Gilbert quite inspiring. Not because she is a brilliant author or memoirist but also an icon of humility. You can be famous, successful and that approachable at the same time? I love people who show me what’s possible.

During the talk, she touched on the subject of perfectionism. This is especially important for women because, us women, let perfectionism hold us back –before we even embark on any creative project. I personally spent quite a bit of time there, waiting for the perfect moment or learning the perfect skill to start writing. Clearly, not knowing something well or having done something before never hold men back in stepping forward.

“Work doesn’t have to be easy, it just has to be interesting.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

Towards the end of the talk, Gilbert’s best friend, Rayya Elias, played some of her songs for us which was unexpected because I was not familiar with her work at all. So, I didn’t know anything about her music, her friendship to Elizabeth Gilbert or her memoir Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, hair and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side. Don’t worry; I’ll fix all of that and more when the right times. All I want to say for now is “awesome talk and thank you!”

Book Review: Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland

book review outlining novel K. M. WeilandBook Review: Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland entered my life at the right time and in the right way. The right time part is all about learning to write in an orderly fashion before I make a mess. It happens, you know, especially if you are new in this writing business. And I am new! The right way part? This is really cool: I won the book! Along with Katie’s Structuring Your Novel book. Give-aways usually don’t cover Australia but I was lucky this time. My booksarrived, smelling like strawberries and they were both signed. Jealous?

Book Review Outlining Novel K. M. Weiland

I was convinced that I would be an outliner even before I read Outlining Your Novel. It suits my personality; I am Virgo and I thrive in orderly environments. However, if I needed any further convincing or just plain reassurance, Outlining Your Novel did that, too.

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success covers:

• Benefits and misconceptions about outlining
• Choosing the right type of outline for you
• Different outlining tools
• Brainstorming ideas
• Creating and developing characters
• Organising your scenes
• Discover backstory of your characters
• Key story factors like motive, desire, goal, conflict and theme
• Character interviews
• Discovering the setting
• How to format your finished outline
• How to put your outline to use

Outlining Your Novel also includes exclusive interviews with authors like: Becky Levine, Larry Brooks, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Roz Morris, John Robinson, Jody Hedlund, Aggie Villanueva, Lisa Grace, Carolyn Kaufman and Dan L. Hays and you can the interviews at the end of each chapter. The authors answer these important questions:
• Can you describe your outlining process?
• What is the greatest benefit of outlining?
• What is the biggest potential pitfall of outlining?
• Do you recommend “pantsing” for certain situations and outlining for others?
• What’s the most important contributing factor to a successful outline?

Please note that Outlining Your Novel has a workbook (see photo below) which can be bought separately. Book Review Outlining Novel K. M. Weiland

About the Author

K. M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic, the western A Man Called Outlaw, the medieval epic Behold the Dawn, the portal fantasy Dreamlander, and the historical/dieselpunk adventure Storming. When she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors on her award-winning blog She makes her home in western Nebraska.

Tribute to My Soul Brother Mithat Danışan (aka Panço)

Tribute my soul brother Mithat Danışan (aka Panço)

Tribute to Mithat Danışan (aka Panço)

Four months into a brand new year and we already lost David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Keith Emerson, Prince and many others. These musicians touched millions of people around the world with their art. I mean, me and my husband are still mourning for the death of Toto’s drummer Jeff Porcaro who passed away in 1992, followed by his brother Mike Porcaro who passed away months before we went and saw Toto in Europe, June 2015. We only know of them because of their music: we’re not related, we didn’t even know them personally but can you imagine what it would be like for their family members and personal friends or even colleagues?

Well, I have become one of those people recently. My soul brother, our bass player, Mithat Danışan (aka Panço) passed away a day after his 67th birthday from a heart attack. He was one of the best musicians the country ever produced, being a part of the very first rock band in Turkey and pretty much every other band that came after it.

I have so many wonderful memories of this great man and I will cherish each one of them forever. It’s hard to choose favourite memories of my time with Panço, there are so many but one that comes to mind was the time of our rehearsals at his place. Nejat, his oldest son was about 5 years old at the time and Yiğit –the youngest –was just a baby. Nejat used to come up to us every time we took a break and tell us that when he grew up he would be playing Omer. Omer was the name of our keyboard player, so he meant “When I grow up, I will play the keyboard.” The next day he would say “When I grow up, I will play Suavi.” By that, he meant the drums. Panço’s wife Ülkü Abla used to make us sucuk-ekmek in the oven (sucuk is a very spicy sausage, very much like chorizo) and a big pot of Turkish tea. I recently realised that I really miss those sucuk-ekmeks but the funny thing is I don’t even eat meat! At the end of each day after the rehearsal, Panço used to give me a lift back home on his motorbike. Being winter, I used to get cold with the wind rushing in through the sleeves of my jacket. As a solution to this problem, he suggested I would reach out from both sides and put my hands in his pockets. But he was a big guy; my hands wouldn’t be able to reach his pockets. We still had a good laugh out of it though.

Tribute soul brother Mithat Danışan (aka Panço)

I tracked him down about a year ago on Facebook through a common friend. I thought he’d be the last person to use Facebook but there he was. He was so chuffed about our finding each other after 27 years. He told me he missed me so much. He was happy to hear that I now live in Australia –a country he, himself had visited as part of his band’s world tour many years ago. He sent me You Tube videos of his youngest son playing base in a private message and he asked me to pay him a visit next time I’m in Kuşadası. Seeing him again after all those years would have been the highlight of my next trip.

I am proud to have known such a fine gentleman with such generosity and a giant heart. He was a dear friend, great musician and my big brother. Turkey has lost a truly great musician who left an indelible mark on my soul and the history of Turkish rock music. RIP Panço. You will surely be missed.


Desk Plants for Writers

desk plants writers

Desk Plants for Writers

I have a confession to make… I don’t have a green thumb. Yes, my father was an agriculture teacher and he left a huge forest behind but I have the tendency of killing plants, not growing them. Even the unkillable ones! The trust is, I have a long plant killing criminal record. I mean I killed our yellow orchid; Nikki. Yes, she is my latest kill.

desk plants writers

RIP Nikki

I keep hearing benefits of having indoor plants especially in writing rooms. And what I’m hearing recently keeps getting louder and louder. Even the list of ideal office plants is getting longer. I have no choice but to convince myself to get one of those green things.

So, why do we really need those indoor plants?

Apparently, we need plants to improve indoor air quality, reduce stress, uplift our mood and promote productivity.

Plants improve air quality
Plants improve indoor air quality by removing harmful air pollutants present in the home. It’s not just because us humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide but also we are surrounded by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from plastic or synthetic materials. They are in our furniture, paint on the wall, fittings, computers, etc. they even say that indoor air is always more polluted than outdoors! So we need indoor plants.

Plants reduce stress and uplift our mood
I don’t know how they do it but indoor plants relieve staff stress and reduce negative mood states by up to 60%. And you don’t have to have a jungle to achieve that.

Plants promote productivity
Indoor plants promote productivity and performance. They have done some studies around that I believe those people who did those studies. Period!

Now that I’m convinced, I have to consider my plant options.

The List
Did you know that there is a list of NASA approved indoor plants? Oh yes, there is. Following plants are in total compliance with the rules here:
• Areca Palm
• Lady Palm
• Bamboo Palm
• Rubber Plant
• Dracaena Janet Craig
• English Ivy
• Dwarf Date Palm
• Ficus Alii
• Boston Fern
• Peace Lily

For me, none of these would fit to some tiny little area I have on my desk and I don’t like having large objects on the floor as I move things around –I still haven’t figured out the best position for my desk but still searching. Succulents are small but some of them have spiky bits and I could be quite clumsy sometimes.

What to do?

All of a sudden, I remembered my money tree downstairs, right next to the gate. I was given a tiny little stalk of it with only four fleshy leaves by Irene –my lovely Asian neighbour who lives a few doors down. She gave it to me and said “Now, you go home and grow some money, my dear.” How cute is that?

And I did grow some money! I named it Lakshmi and grew another one in another large pot downstairs –named that one Lakshimette. Then I had Lakshimette 2! Maybe my black thumb karma is improving?

Binominal name of money tree is crassula ovata but let’s not get technical here. Money tree is also known as jade plant, friendship tree and lucky plant. It is low maintenance, no spiky bits and I just love its luscious green roundness. It hasn’t got a name yet but I believe it’ll come to me. In the meantime, any suggestions?

desk plants writers

My Favourite Authors: Samad Behrangi

Samad Behrangi has always been one of my favourite authors since I was a little girl –we spell his name as Samed Behrengi in Turkish, by the way. You may have spotted one of his books in my previous post; My Favourite Books Growing Up. If you haven’t, you can read the post here.

We have a saying in Turkey that children who’d been brought up with Samad Behrangi’s books turn out fine no matter what life throws at them. It is no surprise since Behrangi’s books portray the lives of children from poor villages of Iran who remain good in the face of poverty and hardship. Well, I have been brought up with Samad Behrangi’s books and I guess, it is safe to say that I too turned out right despite all that injustice I had to face through a large portion of my life.

favourite authors samad behrangi

Behrangi’s Life
Behrangi was born into a lower-class Azerbaijani family in Tabriz, Iran in June 24, 1939. He graduated from a teacher training school in 1957 and he obtained his degree in English from Tabriz University while teaching Persian in rural Azerbaijani schools.

He was mostly famous for his children’s books, especially The Little Black Fish but he was also a teacher, translator, social critic, poet and folklorist. He wrote many pedagogical essays, translated Persian poems into Azerbaijani and collected and published several samples of oral Azerbaijani literature.

Behrangi’s Children’s Books
Here’s a list of some of Behrangi’s children’s books. Why some? Because I don’t know the English titles for many and finding all the book titles is a bit of a drama because at the end of the day, these are not Harry Potter books, are they?

The Little Black Fish (this is my favourite Behrangi book, ever!)
The Tale of Love (the very first, full-size, non-curriculum book I have ever read)
Oldooz and the Talking Doll (also one of my favourites)
Oldooz and the Crows
The Little Sugar Beet Vendor (loved that little guy and how he peeled the sugar beets)
One Peach and One Thousand Peaches
24 Restless Hours

I read all of Behrangi’s books and I read them all in Turkish. At that time, as a child, I believed that there was goodness in the world. Only light, no darkness. I truly believed that until one day I turned over one of his books and found out that my favourite author was actually killed by Shah Pahlavi’s men and thrown into Aras river to make it look like he was drowned in there. It was exactly three years one day before I was born. I remember how my child brain struggled to process this. At that moment, my whole perception of life was shattered. In the photo below, you see Behrangi being carried out of Aras River.

my favourite authors samad behrangi

Then came the military coup in Turkey when I was ten and my Behrangi books were screaming communist or leftist —both were equally bad at the time. I wondered if the police or gendarme came to our flat and searched for banned material and found my books, would they take me into custody and beat the sole of my feet with sticks until they split off, then make me walk on prison floor washed with salty water like they had done to one of my parents’ teacher friend?

As a final note, I would like to leave you with one of Behrangi’s profound quotes.

My Favourite Authors: Samad Behrangi

Visiting Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Istanbul

the museum of innocence

Visiting Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Istanbul
During Gezi Park protests, a dear friend of mine sent me a photo of a police officer firing his gun at protesters, aiming right underneath the sign of Orhan Pamuk’s real life Museum of Innocence. It was a heartbreaking scene; my country, my police, my people and one of my favourite author’s museum sign.

When you see something like that, you immediately want to go back and do whatever you missed out during your last trip. However, Turkey is a bit like India —only in a smaller scale—that every region has its own cuisine, natural beauty, unique history and dialect. So, you can never see everything; there’s always something else, some place else to see and experience. I mean, I’m from Turkey but there is a lot even I haven’t seen yet. Well, The Museum of Innocence was one of those places.

Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk (above) at the Museum of Innocence. Copyright

Luckily, the situation calmed down back in Turkey and in the end, the very same dear friend of mine and her husband who took us there on a fine May afternoon in 2015. The plan for that night was to go to a wine house around Galata Tower (see photo below) to have dinner and catch up with friends. To be able to visit the museum on the very same day, we left early. So Artun drove us down to Kadıköy. After parking the car at a nearby parking building, we walked up to the pier to catch a ferry. The ferries are the normal form of transportation in Istanbul and that is the best way to travel from Asian side of Istanbul to European side —I believe Istanbul is the only city in the world that stretches across two continents. I guess we walked through a tunnel after that, caught a tiny carriage of a train which travels underground but still doesn’t qualify as tube or metro. Once we came out at the other side, we found ourselves on famous İstiklal Caddesi (İstiklal Avenue) in Beyoğlu.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower, Istanbul

Well, The Museum of Innocence may seem like just off İstiklal Caddesi, however, it takes some searching, climbing uphill and then go downhill and consulting local taxi drivers –twice actually but Alpay doesn’t want to talk about it—to find this incredibly out of sight place. But when maroon-painted, narrow townhouse (photo below) pokes its head out and you have your experience only then you realize that it is well worth it.

the museum of innocence

The Museum of Innocence Copyright

Although, the novel came out in 2008, I read in 2011—and of course, I read it in Turkish. I now own a Turkish copy of the novel which I bought from Turkey during one of my visits, an autographed American fist edition, and the museum catalogue called The Innocence of Objects, too. In the last chapter of the novel, this is what it says:

And let those who have read the book enjoy free admission to the museum when they visit for the first time. This is best accomplished by placing a ticket in every copy. The Museum of Innocence will have a special stamp, and when visitors present their copy of the book, the guard at the door will stamp this ticket before ushering them in.

So, I brought my autographed American first edition all the way from Sydney to Istanbul to be stamped at the museum which can be seen in the photo below along with Füsun’s earrings and my bookmark.

visiting Orhan Pamuk Museum Innocence

The Museum of Innocence opened its doors in 2012 and its exhibition is divided and presented in display cabinets—some of them are box-sized cabinets, by the way— which contain objects collected by Orhan Pamuk and Kemal Basmaci. Each cabinet —there are 83 chapters in the novel so there are 83 display cabinets at the museum—corresponds to a chapter in the novel with the same number and title. The way it is designed makes you feel like you’re rereading the novel. This time through real life objects.

masumiyet muzesi Istanbul

Spiral of Time Copyright

As you step inside the museum, you are greeted with a huge spiral pattern (see photo above) on the floor: Spiral of Time. Orhan Pamuk’s catalog of the Museum of Innocence, The Innocence of Objects explains the Spiral of Time as the time spiral that the novel develops; symbolizing Aristotelian ideas about time as a line that connects indivisible moments. Objects, like atoms, are carried through to the clocks exhibited in the central stairwell that comprise Box 54, “Time.” Each object in the museum, whether a salt-shaker or a cigarette butt, helps us remember the moments, converting time into space. The little booklet you explains it a bit further as: While the spiral represents time and the story itself, the golden dots represents moments in time, or the individual objects within the story. The ground floor of the museum also houses the biggest piece under its roof: Box no: 68 with 4213 cigarette buts (see photo below).

museum of innocence

Photo credit: Nihan Vural (Istanbul Travelogue)

On the first and the second floor, the story continues with the objects and wall movie installations. Limon’s cage can also be seen on the first floor. If you need to refresh your memory, there are copies of the novel in different languages and a few places to sit while you’re reading, too.

visiting Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence


On the top floor, the story still continues through box numbers 80-83 this is the room where Kemal Basmacı lived from 2000 to 2007 while the construction of the museum carried out. On one wall, Orhan Pamuk’s preliminary sketches for the boxes and his manuscript of The Museum of Innocence are on display.

the museum of innocence

Kemal Basmacı’s room (above).

visiting Orhan Pamuk Museum InnocenceIn the basement, you can find museum shop and toilets. I love museum shops so I actually spend quite a bit of time in every museum I visit and pick up some really cool stuff. From this particular museum shop I bought a fridge magnet, a bookmark and Füsun’s earrings (see photo). Füsun’s earrings are designed and produced by Kıymet Daştan according to the description given by Orhan Pamuk himself. I haven’t worn mine yet but I’m looking forward to it. Next time, I’m thinking of getting some of the posters as well—not that I have enough wall space but I’ll work something out.

visiting Orhan Pamuk Museum Innocence

A snippet of a narrow road (above) on the way to the museum. I personally enjoyed reading some of the graffiti on the walls as a reminder of Gezi Park protests. If you decide to visit The Museum of Innocence, you might walk down this road yourself.

The Museum of Innocence can be found in this address below:

Çukurcuma Caddesi
Dalgıç Çıkmazı, 2
Beyoğlu, 34425


Writing Tools and Resources

writing tools resources

Writing Tools and Resources

Writing Tools and Resources
Here are some of the tools and resources I use. I hope they will help you as much as they have helped me. The list is ever expanding as I am still a student and would like to stay that way. So come back and check the actual page every now and then —Writing Tools and Resources page can be found on the main menu which is on top of every page.

Scrivener is a word processor and outliner which helps you outline and structure your ideas, organise notes, research and create characters, settings and build worlds. It is the ultimate writing software which I have been using for some time now and highly recommend.

Evernote is where I take notes, save my research, capture ideas, plan holidays, keep my recipes, course notes, my clippings from eBooks and so much more.

Wunderlist is an online to-do list application. Smartphone friendly therefore your lists go to the supermarket with you.

Penzu is a personal online journal with military grade security.


On Writing by Stephen King
In this part memoir, part writing book, Stephen King pains a real picture for anyone who wants to write, equips them with all the tools and you may learn things like “adverb is not your friend.”

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
I’m not a huge fan of Lamott’s books about her faith or grandchildren but I enjoyed her unique approach to writing in Bird by Bird and “shitty first draft” is not the only thing I took from this book.

Natalie Goldberg’s Books
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg

You’re a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins
This book is full of practical tips and inspiration. Jeff Goins knows how to convince you that you actually are a writer and prepares you for the road ahead.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
An ultimate book on creativity. With The Artist’s Way, you learn how to write your morning pages.

No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty
Chris Baty is the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and this book is an absolute must if you ever want to be a part of NaNoWriMo.

K. M. Weiland’s Books on Outlining and Structure
When it comes to outlining and structure, Katie of K. M. Weiland is your person. I have all four in both formats: eBook and paperback. As you can see, there are accompanying workbooks too which are incredibly valuable and they get you started immediately.
Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland
Outlining Your Novel Workbook by K. M. Weiland
Structuring Your Novel by K. M. Weiland
Structuring Your Novel Workbook by K. M. Weiland

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
This is another good book on structure. James Scott Bell puts it out there with great examples and some extras too. I highly recommend this one.

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi Reference Books
I believe every writer should have these in their library. These books help you create fresh, compelling and captivating characters.
The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (A companion to The Emotion Thesaurus)

Food Writing
As you may know, I am a published food writer so I thought I’d add a little list of books on food writing as well.
Will Write for Food by Diane Jacob
The Recipe Writer’s Handbook by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane L. Baker
The Resource Guide for Food Writers by Gary Allen, published by The Culinary Institute of America.

Writing Blogs to Follow
Helping Writers Become Authors by K. M. Weiland
The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn
Positive Writer by Bryan Hutchinson
Live Write Thrive by C. S. Lakin
Writers Helping Writers by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Goins, Writer by Jeff Goins

My Favourite Books Growing Up

My Favourite Books Growing Up

My Favourite Books Growing Up

My father was an avid reader and he wanted me to have a solid reading habit starting from a very young age. He’d had a cunning plan of setting up a library for me even before I was born. Thanks to him, I had this amazing library full of a variety of children’s classics and devoured them before I finished primary school. Later on, everything else I didn’t have was borrowed from the library of Teachers Society in the city by my father. It was a total bliss and because of that library, I was exposed to literature of other cultures from around the world. My favourite one was books from Scandinavian countries with their white winters and all that time I thought Laponya (Lapland in Turkish) was Japonya (Japan in Turkish) misspelled. Wasn’t I in for a shocking discovery some years later?

My father also taught me how to read books properly. He used to say that “There is a reason why this particular author wrote this particular book,” while waving that “particular” book in the air at the same time and add “When you read this book, try and find that reason.” I always search for that “why” every time I read a book, even today.

What were your favourite books growing up? This is the question I want to ask every time I meet someone for the first time. I’m not really interested in what they do for a living or how many kids they have. I just want to know, which childhood favourites shaped them up and molded them into the person they are today.

I have put together a list of my favourite books I enjoyed immensely as a child. I’m warning you though. You won’t find The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia here. However, you might still find some of them interesting enough to read —only two of these books are not translated into English. If you’re thinking that they are children’s books and you’re too old for that kind of stuff, then let me remind you a quote from C. S. Lewis:

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Well, here’s my list…

Kibritçi Kız (The Little Match Girl) by Hans Christian Andersen
This was a tiny book I owned with incredibly detailed, gorgeous illustrations. I absolutely loved this book but it tore me apart with its ending. I’ve never been to Denmark but this is as close as I got to Andersen during a trip to Vienna last year: I spotted this plaque (see photo below) on the wall of a building. Apparently, Andersen had lived on the second floor of this building from June 9 till July 9 in 1834.

Hans Christian Andersen

Gümüş Patenler (The Silver Skates) by Mary Mapes Dodge
This book had made me want to visit Rotterdam. Years later, when I actually spent one night there, the place was such a disappointment. I still love the book, though. And did you know that The Silver Skates was first published in 1865? I didn’t! Up until yesterday.

Küçük Kara Balık (The Little Black Fish) by Samad Behrangi
I read all of Samad Behrangi’s books but The Little Black Fish speaks to me on a deeper level. I recently ordered a brand new copy of The Little Black Fish from an online shop in Turkey (see photo below) and read it immediately soon after it arrived. Having read it as an adult made me realise why I love this book so much: I am the little black fish. You can read it online here. Don’t worry, it’s in English and it’s not just for children. I believe every adult should read The Little Black Fish.

favourite books growing up

Lokomotifçi Lukas (Jim Button and Luke The Engine Driver) by Michael Ende
Not The Neverending Story or Momo; this was my favourite Michael Ende book. I remember curling up with Lokomotifçi Lukas and my favourite blanket for more than one occasion. I probably read it four times. I’m hoping to find an old copy of it during one of my trips to Turkey one day. Like the one in photo below which is exactly the same copy I had.

Lokomotifçi Lukas (Jim Button and Luke The Engine Driver) by Michael Ende

Küçük Prenses (A Little Princess) by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was the “girlie” book I enjoyed very much. It was part of my library which was formed by my father before I was born. As an extra delight to the story itself, they were showing TV series at the time on our one and only channel back in Turkey. In black and white. I was glued to the screen. I recently tracked down a free Kindle version of it. I might sit down and read it one day again.

Şimdiki Çocuklar Harika by Aziz Nesin
Şimdiki Çocuklar Harika was about a new generation kids and how they would do things differently. There was a section about swapping places with their parents and how they would punish them if they were naughty. The punishment methods varied between children who were from well-to-do families and poor families. It was funny and interesting.

Seyyahatname by Aziz Nesin
We, as a family, enjoyed Seyyahatname immensely. It was about an American tourist visiting Istanbul and a couple of Turks showing her around while pretty much everything was going wrong. It was so funny we couldn’t stop quoting bits and pieces from the book. Later on, they made it into a four-part television series.

So what were your favourite books growing up?

A Lunch with Robyn Davidson

A Lunch with Robyn Davidson
October 3, 2014
at Maya Ubud, Ubud – Bali

I read Tracks as late as 2014. It was recommended by another author —probably Elizabeth Gilbert. That’s how I found out about it and of course Robyn Davidson.

Although, I have been living in Australia for almost 13 years now, I’m not much of an expert when it comes to Australian literature. I only read a few books of Australian authors like Kate Grenville, Markus Zusak and Geraldine Brooks and maybe a few more, but that’s about it. I just don’t have Australian friends who read and could make some good recommendations for me. Most people I know seem to be reading science fiction, fantasy or thriller anyway. None of which my favourite genres.

I’ve come to realise that if you don’t connect with a country through its literature, then connecting with its people is even harder. Well, Australians are not making it easy, I have to say, despite their reputation of being friendly. You get one or two who would want to connect but then they usually don’t know what to do with someone like me. When I say someone like what I mean is someone who is different, not mainstream or vanilla flavoured. Well, if I’m ever going to be likened to any frozen dessert, that would be fig and walnut kulfi, not ice cream of any flavour.

That being said… I still made my connection. And I did that through Robyn Davidson’s book: Tracks. And this is exactly what I shared with her during a lunch in Bali which was organised by Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, in 2014.


It was a beautiful day on many levels: I met some really nice people before the event started (Karine, an interior designer from Paris and Coba, a Dutch-Indonesian who owns a library in Lovina, Bali). Rosemary Sayer’s introduction was quite engaging and Robyn Davidson was delightful; she was kind enough to talk to me, listen to my difficulty in connecting with Australia and even have her photograph taken with me (see below).

Me and Robyn Davidson

And when she signed my book (see below), she wrote this:
“For Gulden,
I hope Australia learns to appreciate you. With good wishes.
Robyn Davidson”

signed book

Although my signed copy of Tracks went straight to the trophy room, here’s my favourite bits and pieces for you to read:

There are some moments in life that are like pivots around which your existence turns – small intuitive flashes, when you know you have done something correct for a change , when you think you are on the right track.

One really could act to change and control one’s life; and the procedure, the process, was its own reward.

Before that moment, I had always supposed that loneliness was my enemy. I had seemed not to exist without people around me. But now I understood that I had always been a loner, and that this condition was a gift rather than something to be feared.

I think when you are truly stuck, when you have stood still in the same spot for too long, you throw a grenade in exactly the spot you were standing in, and jump, and pray. It is the momentum of last resort.

The self did not seem to be an entity living somewhere inside the skull, but a reaction between mind and stimulus.

The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision.

The question I’m most commonly asked is ‘Why?’ A more pertinent question might be, why is it that more people don’t attempt to escape the limitations imposed upon them?

Wherever there is pressure to conform (one person’s conformity is often in the interests of another person’s power), there is a requirement to resist.

The modern arterial roads around Port Augusta had almost immediately petered out into crinkled, wretched, endless pink tracks leading to the shimmering horizon, and then there was nothing but the dry red parchment of the dead heart, God’s majestic hidey-hole, where men are men and women are an afterthought.

However, she was the first person so far who had not greeted my idea with patronizing disbelief.

His grin disappeared like greasy water down a plug-hole.

A compliment bled from the master was worth a million given freely by anyone else. There

Though this may sound like a negative quality, it was essential for me to develop beyond the archetypal female creature who from birth had been trained to be sweet, pliable, forgiving, compassionate and door-mattish.

The trip home reinstated a faith in myself and what I was doing. I felt calm and positive and strong, and now, instead of the trip appearing out of character, instead of worrying about whether or not it was a pointless thing to do, I could see more clearly the reasons and the needs behind it.

It lay, crystal clear, beneath the feelings of inadequacy and defeat, the clever, self-directed plan that had been working towards this realization for years. I believe the subconscious always knows what is best. It is our conditioned, vastly overrated rational mind which screws everything up.

Although she could not understand my desire to be alone, her company was never an infringement of my privacy, as it was easy and relaxed and carried with it that ability many Aboriginal people have to touch and be affectionate without stiffness, and to be comfortable with silence.

How animals ever forgive us for what we do to them, I will never understand.

The road leading out of Alice was narrow, twisted and perilous with huge lorries hurtling along it, and if there was one thing that camels hated it was anything bigger than them that moved.

I was on an untouchable high. I had sprouted metaphorical wings.

Their shit had turned to water by the time we got there. So had mine.

I wondered what powerful fate had channelled me into this moment of inspired lunacy. The last burning bridge back to my old self collapsed. I was on my own.

The answer came back, ‘She’ll be right, mate,’ the closest thing to a Zen statement to come out of Australia, and one I used frequently in the months ahead.

… and I grew muscles on my shit.

Without actually saying yes, they didn’t say no either, a common form of politeness amongst Aborigines called courtesy bias.

Some string somewhere inside me was starting to unravel. An important string, the one that held down panic.

It’s amazing how well one can communicate with a fellow being when there are no words to get in the way.

I liked, still like, the person who emerged from that process far better than the one who existed before it – or since it. In my own eyes, I was becoming sane, normal, healthy, yet to anyone else’s I must have appeared if not certifiably mad then at least irretrievably weird, eccentric, sun-struck and bush-happy.

… it seems to me that the good Lord in his infinite wisdom gave us three things to make life bearable – hope, jokes and dogs, but the greatest of these was dogs.

As I have said before, friendship in certain subsections within Australia amounts almost to religion. This closeness and sharing is not describable to any other cultural group to whom friendship means dinner parties where one discusses wittily work and career, or gatherings of ‘interesting’ people who are all suspicious, wary, and terrified of not being interesting after all.