Christy Collins

Thoughts on books, writing and life


Christy Collins (she/her)

I'm a passionate reader, writer, traveller and researcher. I love beautiful pens, notebooks, journals, and books. I have always been drawn to the written word. When not immersed in a great novel, you can find me filling the pages of a personal journal or jotting down ideas for my next writing project. Whether through reading or writing fiction or through personal reflection, I'm always exploring the power of words to inspire, connect, and transform.

Publication day

It must’ve been in July 2012 that I first heard the story of a bird species that was holding up the approval for a mosque development, which means that today – publication day of “The Price of Two Sparrows” – is eight and half years later.

There have been many people who have helped in many different ways over those eight and half years but for today the crew at Affirm Press, and especially my wonderful editor Ruby Ashby-Orr, should be celebrated. I’m so grateful to Affirm for their commitment to finding manuscripts and turning them in to books and then getting them out in to the world and into readers’ hands. Ruby, I’ve loved working with you on “Sparrows”. Thanks for your hard work, patience, persistence and enthusiasm.

Here’s hoping “The Price of Two Sparrows” finds some readers and starts some conversations out in the world. I’m very grateful to all who’ve helped get it to this stage.

Open Call for Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio Residence Program 2018–2019 s(k)now

About the open call for residence program 2018 – 2019 s(k)now

Sapporo is one of the world’s more unique cities of its size, as its 2 million residents live in cold, snowy conditions for a good portion of the year. In Sapporo City Hall one finds a snow safety station, which symbolizes the central importance of snowy life in this urban city. Urbanization was driven by the Sapporo Winter Olympics in 1972. Developments include remarkable snow removal operations, road heating, underground passages and transportation infrastructure; winter entertainment includes sports and snow festivals, as well as daily routines in society. Over time, these winter features grew in importance. Experience generated diverse forms of knowledge and creative activity to energize the city, which appears to coexist with nature. 

When you look at Sapporo and Hokkaido within the context of Japan, this area deep in the north boasts a very special natural environment, lifestyle and history. At the same time, when you look at the place without emphasizing national borders, geographically this area belongs to the subarctic region of the globe. In this context, the life of people in Sapporo and Hokkaido are the southern reaches of a long line of subarctic culture. For the open call of Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio, we hope to bring together these two perspectives. Together with the creative minds of artists, we want to encourage a great experiment toward seeing beyond boundaries. In this year, we are organizing three programs within 2018-2019 s(k)now project hosted by City of Sapporo and AIS Planning, and supported by Agency for Cultural Affairs Government of Japan. We look forward to receiving enthusiastic applications from artists and creators. 

Overview of Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio: Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio is an artist in residence program and facility that opened as a project of Sapporo City in the context of the Sapporo International Art Festival in summer 2014. Surrounded by rich nature and a quiet environment, the building hosts 13 studio apartments, an exhibition space and common studios accessible to the community. It also functions as a resting place for all the visitors of the park. In addition, the atrium lounge on the ground floor is constructed as a communal area, where local people can drop in freely, to generate conversations between artists participating in the program on a daily basis as well as through various events, artist presentations and public projects. During the program year of 2017, a total of 407 artists participated, including 85 non-Japanese artists from 23 different countries. 
For more information, please visit our website:

2018 – 2019 s(k)now Program 

Key word: Winter, Snow and the Subarctic.

Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio is organizing three open call programs with the theme: Winter, Snow, and the Subarctic. In their encounters with culture in Sapporo and Hokkaido as well as exchange with locals, artists are invited to develop and explore their ideas through work based on the theme Winter, Snow, and the Subarctic. We will assist participants in mastering a plan, research and production during the residency.

1) UCCN Program (Background Limitation)

Number of artists: 2 (people or groups)

This program is supported by the media art city of the Unesco Creative Cities Networks and limited to the artists who are either born, live or work in any of the following 13 cities:


Content: By the end of the residency program, artists will provide a final presentation (in any format) of the research they conducted over the 60-day residency period.

2) Exhibition Program

Number of artists: 1 (people or groups)

All nationality except Japanese and residence of artists must be outside of Japan. (Foreign artists living in Japan and Japanese artists living abroad are not applicable ).

Create an exhibition presenting the research they conducted over the 60-day residency period.

Supported by: Agency for Cultural Affairs Government of Japan

3) Artist-in-School program

Number of artists: 1 (person or a group)

All nationality except Japanese and residence of artists must be outside of Japan. (Foreign artists living in Japan and Japanese artists living abroad are not applicable ).

Participate in the Artist-in-School program operating within Japanese elementary schools. Participants are required to use a classroom as a studio for 2 weeks to create a project. By the end of the residency program, artists will provide a final presentation (in any format).

Note: About Artist-in-School (for Community Program) Recently in Japan, it is quite common to find the classrooms in elementary and junior high schools, built extra-large during the high-growth economy, nearly empty due to low birth rates. The Artist-in-School program saw this ‘gap’ as a new site for artist-in-residence initiatives, so that artists could make use of empty classrooms as working studios in operational public elementary schools for a period of time. In addition, artists engage with the school community through their activities, including school children, teachers, parents as well as local people.

Supported by: Agency for Cultural Affairs Government of Japan

1. Schedule

Application period: From September 5th to October 21st, 2018.

Selection: Sunday, November 4th, 2018.

Project period: (60 days) Saturday, January 5th to Tuesday, March 5th, 2019.

* Tentative date for welcome party and artist talk: Middle of January, 2019

*Tentative date for presentation and exhibition: from Saturday, February 23rd to Sunday, March 3rd, 2019.

2. Eligibility

Applicants must:

・have experiences in the field of visual arts.

・be at least 18 years old when starting the residency (students are not eligible).

・understand the aim of the residency program and present their results in the final week of the program.

・be able to participate in events and activities organized at Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio.

・be responsible for producing work, exhibiting and taking down the exhibition on their own and dis cussing with coordinators and the director of Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio.

・be able to attend the opening event and the final presentation

・be able to follow the regulations of the facility.

・be able to speak and understand either English or Japanese.

3. Support

Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio will provide:

・an invitation letter.

・studio rent and heating expenses.

・travel cost (actual fee of 1 return trip from the place of activity to Sapporo, maximum 150,000 yen).

・living expenses (for food, life and research fee) 300,000 yen.

・materials fee (for final presentation and etc) maximum 100,000 yen.

・arrangement of translation volunteers, coordination with institutions and organizations.

4. Studios

・Accommodation studio B; one room per person or a group (open 24 hours).

・Other facilities in the building: Common areas on the ground floor / exhibition space / multi purpose rental studio.

*Common areas are open to the public. Artists are required to consult with members of staff in advance regarding usage of this space.

5. Notes

・Any expenses exceeding the support must be covered by the artist.

・Overseas residents who need a visa to enter Japan are responsible for obtaining the correct documentation.

・Artists from countries which have not concluded a tax treaty or a country with which Japan has concluded the tax treaty but where income is taxable may be liable for income tax on the sum provided to support their activities and transportation.

・Family and partner are acceptable (maximum 3 people), however the amount of support is only provided for the invited artist.

6. How to apply

Deadline: Sunday, October 21st, 2018 (23:59) Japan time.

Please choose and complete the following online application forms. (Please upload personal ID, portfolio, etc). After sending the online application form, applicants will receive an automatic response indicating reception of the online forms. If you do not receive it, please contact us.

1)UCCN Program *link to application form

2)Exhibition Program *link to application form

3)Artist in School Program *link to application form

– Applications which arrive after the deadline will not be accepted.

– Any application materials which are damaged or illegible are not subject to be considered in some cases.

– Submitted data will not be returned.

7. Selection and Selection Committees

Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio and the committee will select artists based on the application forms and portfolios submitted. During the selection, interviews may be conducted. All applicants will be notified the results by Sunday, November 4th, 2018.

A selection committee consisting of internationally recognized artists and the director of Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio will carefully review and evaluate applicants.

The selection committee is:


Soichiro Mihara

Takayuki Yamamoto 

9. Contact

Open Call to Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio

Tel: +81-11-820-2140 (10:00-20:00: Tuesday to Sunday Japan time)

E-mail: application [AT]

Book review: Women of a Certain Age

Having just passed what a friend recently termed “the birthday that shall not be named” I was particularly keen to get my hands on a copy of Women of a Certain Age hoping that the collected wisdom of fifteen diverse Australian women would shed some light on a few issues my friends and I are beginning to see in a slightly less abstract light than was perhaps the case in our twenties and thirties.


I’m ‘all in’ on of the concept of this book: giving voice to women over forty to discuss aging, survival and being an age that reportedly makes women feel invisible and silenced by our patriarchal, youth-oriented culture. According to the back cover the essays are ‘tales of celebration, affirmation and survival about what it is like to be a woman on the other side of 40, 50, 60, 70…’  To my disappointment, however, many of the essays seem less interested in the authors’ current reality and experience than in relating stories from their childhood, adolescence and young adulthood – sometimes with only a short final paragraph linking this to their current age or viewpoint.


The strongest essays in the collection engage more fully with the experience of being middle aged or older and for me the standout is Krissy Kneen’s essay on the aging female body and the way it is perceived (and indeed sometimes not perceived) by the wider community. Kneen narrates an experience of going to the movies with her similar aged husband. When he hands over their two tickets the usher literally fails to see her standing beside him, and asks: ‘“Is your friend already in there?”’


Another of the essays that has stayed with me is Jeanine Leane’s ‘Black boxes’ in which Leane reflects that ‘Whitefellas never can decide what kind of Blackfella they want.’ Pointing to the changing and inconsistent expectations of those (white) people in various positions of power that have – often negatively – affected her educational and employment opportunities since the 1960s.


Perhaps my perception of these essays was overly influenced by my particular reading of the packaging and by the media materials I had read before the book arrived in my letter-box. Others will likely find a great deal of interest in what is certainly an interesting cross-section of Australian girl- and young woman- hoods recalled, but that is not what I was hoping to get from this book.


I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Fremantle Press.

Beach reads

I don’t think I have ever spend more time and energy (and indeed money) on choosing my beach reads as I have this summer. Having come to the end of a PhD in the closing days of 2017 with a “flop and drop” holiday to Thailand planned for over the new year I read blog posts, newspaper articles and trawled all the 6 month old “summer reads” articles in the British and American newspapers and magazines in order to choose a handful of books to take with my on holiday.

Beach reads are quite particular. I don’t enjoy the more commercial books in this category and indeed have to been known to throw a book across a room for being too ‘dumb’ but I didn’t want to crack open Proust or Joyce by the pool either. In the end I selected a small shortlist of books to buys, finalized my choices in the bookstore and then selected which of my purchases to actually take with me and downloaded a couple of extras to my ereader in case I ran out or felt more like those. In the end I took the following books with me: The Answers, Catherine Lacy; Americanah, Chimaanda Ngozi Adichie, Beautiful Animals, Lawrence Osbourne; Bel Canto, Ann Patchett and Swing Time, Zadie Smith. I got through (most of) the first three on my six-day holiday, including the flights. Here are my thoughts on them in the order in which I read them:

The single-girl-in-the-city book: “The Answers”, Catherine Lacy

My least favourite of the three books was an impulse deviation from my list made on a whim in the bookshop. While I had planned to buy either “Conversations with Friends” (Sally Rooney) or “The Idiot” (Elif Batuman) at the last minute I swung to “The Answers” on remembering having read a glowing review of it and intrigued by it’s concept of a fragmentation of girlfriend roles over a number of paid women each tasked with separate girlfriend roles – sex, mothering, emotional support, intellectual sparring, downtime, anger and so on. While initially engaging, for me this book didn’t quite deliver. Though it is faithful to its premise I found the book highly expositional in a way that I found grating and the protagonist had a certain blankness that in the end I felt weakened the narrative. Later, on revisiting the review, I saw that the writer had compared “The Answers” favorably to Miranda July’s “The First Bad Man” which I also read on a beach and did not enjoy. It’s a pity I had not remembered this detail while bookshop browsing because it would have almost certainly dissuaded me from picking up this book. All this said, I think this is precisely the type of book that tends to be taken more seriously when written by a man and while I think “The Answers” is flawed it does tackle some interesting questions about modern relationships in an innovative way.

The literary thriller: “Beautiful Animals”, Lawrence Osbourne

This book was the one certainty I had when entering the book shop for my post-PhD submission beach-read-binge. I had read a number of reviews and knew I wanted this in my suitcase. And indeed it is a rather delicious mixture of young, ultra-rich, beautiful women swanning around a Greek Island and a thriller involving a refugee which I found both intriguing and highly relevant. One pure pleasure of the book was that even when the book transported me, as books are apt to do, I still found myself either lolling on a Greek beach wondering what was for lunch or road tripping through Italy in a fancy car. I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read on a number of levels  – with a strong plot and plenty of stuff happening, a delicious summer setting and not so lightweight that I can’t remember anything about it ten days later. That said I found the last quarter somewhat less successful than the preceding sections, but would still recommend it as a great smart beach read.

Cross-cultural literary fiction: “Americanah”, Chimaanda Ngozi Adichie

This was a recommendation from my favourite bookseller and was perhaps my favourite of the three books, with a great protagonist and an apparent project of showing America from a Nigerian’s perspective as well as Nigeria from an American’s. It’s a smart and very timely reflection on race relations especially as they pertain to America but much of it is relevant for Australia too. If I had any quibbles with it I found the late-middle section dragged just a touch and Ngozi Adichie has chosen to make her narrator a less talented writer than herself resulting in the insertion of blog posts on race that, while relevant and smart, are less well written than the rest of the book and lacking its subtlety.

Reading on the plane

I can recommend choosing a book on an e-reader for on the plane; I found the patch of light cast by the overhead reading light fell such that it was uncomfortable to hold my paper book at an angle in which it could comfortably be read. It was also a compact way of having many books in a format convenient enough to store under the seat in front of me (Mr K is very tall so I always end up in the middle seat when we travel together so he can have a window seat which he finds gives him more options of how to sit and sleep).

Overall it was a very good week of reading. If you arrived at this post looking for a beach read specifically you might consider “Beautiful Animals”. For the best of the three overall I think “Americanah” is a timely, challenging and elegant novel well worth your time and which I will be recommending to friends.

And in good news – I still have the rest of my stash to read now I’m back home.





Saying goodbye to my book club

I recently left a book club that I had loved attending for a good handful of years. A club full of bright, beautiful women in the middle of what will probably be the busiest phase of their lives. The club had shifted focus as people moved in and out of it and as members’ lives changed. I left because I felt it had stopped being book-focused in any real way with people expressing increasing disinterest – both overtly and covertly – not so much in books in general, but in the ones we had chosen to read and discuss in particular.

Michelle, who initiated the club and advertised it on Gumtree, originally proposed we would read books from the ‘1001 books to read before you die’ list, or rather lists as there are a number of versions. Other members were working their way through the 100 books listed by The Guardian so we added this to the allowable book selections and took it in turn to propose either a book selection or, more commonly, to present a shortlist to the group who then helped to make the final decision. In my opinion this was the most successful phase of the book club. Later, craving some more contemporary reads, a better geographical spread and a broader variety of selections by female authors, we all but abandoned this list for a loose, and not always adhered to guideline encompassing any book that had received an award.

But I don’t think the actual book selections are what have let us down as much as our level of commitment to reading them and properly discussing them. Apparently this is not uncommon. The brochure from the Reading Contemporary Book Club suggests this is the main reason people join, claiming that their group’s primary focus is on books and that the social aspect is secondary. And so, my plan is to try joining it this year to see if I can regain the excitement I felt about the book club when it first started.

If I am honest I would actually prefer it was a “Classics” book club. I read and buy contemporary fiction anyway, as well as consuming many literary reviews, podcasts and online articles and attending events and festivals. Part of the appeal, to me, of the 1001 Book Club, in its first form, was the way it helped me to build up my knowledge of the canon. As partial and as problematic as the idea of the canon is, the books that form it are strange and wonderful and when reading ten to twelve of them a year they begin to connect and reflect each other in interesting ways.

So thank you, Michelle and to everyone who has formed part of the group over the years. I never thought I’d be a book club type of person but at its best the group taught me about myself, about the books and about the world. Some nights it was thrilling: a true exploration of the literary as well as the cultural. Here’s hoping I can find some glimmer of that early experience in my next book club.

I’ll keep you posted.

Kimonos and selfie sticks, the temples of Higashiyama


Arashiyama was swarming with tourists and so it wasn’t the mystical place I had been imagining, but the temple gardens were stunning and the bamboo forest was still rather beautiful despite the noisy throngs of selfy-stick carrying tourists.


Okayama was our base for visiting Naoshima Art Island but the city itself has a lot to offer, not least the demi-glazed katsu don which we happily sampled in the evening. No doubt Okayama is even more beautiful when the sun come out!

Hitting Osaka for dinner

We took a quick side trip to Dontonbori for dinner, even though Osaka wasn’t on our hit list for this trip, because JR passes seem to make us train-happy. The food here is incredible but the Okonomiyaki at Chuo and the egg tarts at Lord Stow’s Bakery are my highlights from this trip. I think the beautiful Hokkaido seafood has dampened my enthusiasm for ‘chain’ sushi anywhere else. (I’m hoping this affliction proves reversible once I get home!)

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