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Inspiration Constellation

I like to say it took me 39 years to write Time and Tide in Sarajevo. Really though, it took about 6 years. I started with a scene that remains in the book almost unchanged, arriving unexpectedly during my morning pages. I finished on the day it went to print, with the final couple of words I changed.

Here are some of the things that circulated my mind as I wrote, my own constellation of inspiration:

10 years ago today, Baby B at a protest in Sarajevo. 📷 on film by _jhadzios.jpg

At a protest in Sarajevo, 2008. The protests I went to shaped my thinking and clearly informed the novel. (Photo by Jelena Hadžiosmanović)


Film: Run Lola Run (1998)

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First sign of spring, Igman 2010

Song: Phantom by Sarah Blasko. This song was my touchstone for the mood of the book. If I ever got lost, I would return to it.


'Fragile Sense of Hope (Xglass)' (2013), an incredible artwork by Šejla Kamerić. Replicating the act of taping windows with goldleaf, Šejla illustrates the futility and fragility of the acts we do to care for ourselves and others in dangerous situations.

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In a big city, you can get anything you want delivered to your door, but you'll never find strawberries as good as the ones at the pijaca


When I tried to find the source of this quote, it turns out Seamus Heaney was paraphrasing Václav Havel. Watch him talk about it at 40:12 of this interview. In the interview he describes hope in this way: "Hope, said Havel, is not optimism. It isn't grounded on the notion that everything will turn out well. Hope is the horizon beyond the actual. It's a transcendence thing. Hope means that you believe something is worth working for, and is worth sticking at, worth persisting with, so in that sense hope became an allowable concept."

This is a definition of hope that makes sense to me, has informed me as a writer, as a teacher and as a person. Not optimism, but the belief that there remains something/someone worth working for.

Poem: 'For You' by Sharon Olds. Another touchstone. Thank you to Sarah Sentilles for introducing me to this poem, which says in a stanza what I needed a whole novel to say.

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The view from my student's office, taken on a visit in 2014. Those mountain ranges, always framing things, even from up high

Nothing to see here 🙅🏼‍♀️ Just another Sydneysider obsessed with jacarandas #purplerain.

Jacaranda trees in Sydney

At the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2017, my sister and I watched several documentaries about the history of sport in Bosnia. While I already had written most of the sections with Bruno, these films confirmed for me that I was on the right track with him. A hero from another time. The interviews in those films informed much of the characters' reactions to Bruno.

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Statue for Pioniri, Grbavica. Pictured here in 2008.

A book beloved by many of my students, Ježeva kućica by Branko Ćopić


Maida on her birthday, I think 2010

Another touchstone.


I've always found the crowd more interesting than the game at sporting matches. The football references woven throughout the book come from that fascination, and the observation of the intense fandom in Sarajevo.

This is a playlist of music I imagine the character Aida putting on before she goes out.

More to come!

Anti nuclear march in Sydney, 1983. I like to imagine Evelyn's parents were there.

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