What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet.’(WIlliam Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

When I was born, several lifetimes it seems to me now, my scholarly grandfather gave me my name. ‘Dina’ he pronounced, ‘after one of our ancestors from the ancient town of Safed in Palestine, now Israel. Little did he know that I would manifest one of its meanings: the judged one, or sometimes the one vindicated.

I have  been judged, or rather mocked, many a time for changing my name. Although my first and true name is Dina, my parents, anxious about anti-semitism, named me a safe English-French equivalent, ‘Denise’. It is on my birth certificate. ‘Dina’ is nowhere to be seen in any official document. But I much prefer it to the English version.

a22fa3d6-db30-4eae-bd27-ee972d6c559cWhen I married, for the first time, I took my husband’s name, as was the custom in those pre-feminist days. It happened to be a good old Scottish surname. Entirely unsuitable for a young man wanting to embrace the Jewish faith. With our Scottish-named three-year old daughter in tow, we saw a solicitor and legally changed our name from ‘Mac-something’ to the neutral and acceptable ‘Davis’. It happened to be his mother’s maiden name, which carried a poetic justice because she was his main parent. Thus by my early twenties I’d already had three surnames: my maiden name, my first married name, and then my legally changed name. Continue reading “What’s in a Name?”

RIP Anita Shreve

Dina Davis’s Reviews > The Stars Are Fire


I am sad to learn of Anita Shreve’s death. I have read every one of her novels and enjoyed them. They are accessible, easy reads with good pace and well-drawn characters. Sadly The Stars are Fire did not come up to the standard of her previous novels. There were some undeveloped characters, and it was hard to feel sympathy for Grace as she displayed the typical subservience of a woman in an abusive marriage. The plot was a little disjointed and difficult to follow. I wanted to know more about Grace’s relationship with the doctor she worked for. On the whole I was disappointed, but still appreciated Shreve’s use of language, and her obvious love of the Maine coastline always shines through. Requiescat in Pace.

Image copyright Washington Post

Excerpt from Anita Shreve’s Obituary, copyright Washington Post

Ms. Shreve was a teacher, journalist and nonfiction author before she began to focus on fiction in her early 40s. She went on to publish 18 novels, which became fixtures of countless book groups and attracted a large and loyal following.

Many of Ms. Shreve’s novels were set in New England and touched on subjects as diverse as airplane crashes, textile mills and World War II. Her books seldom had happy endings, but all of them shared an irresistible page-turning quality, with a strong emotional undercurrent, often colored by death and romance.

Cilento Independent Publishers

Capriccio: A Novel

‘Capriccio: a Novel’, the story of the woman who came between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, is published by independent Sydney-based publishing house, Cilento. They gave me all the professional services of a commercial publisher, and so much more. My manuscript went through a rigorous editing and proofeading process. I was offered the same services as a mainstream publisher, and retained far more control  every step of  the way. I cannot speak highly enough of the friendly, timely and professional services I received from Cilento.

To honour the publication of “Capriccio: a Novel” I have set up this website, with help from Evan Shapiro, Director of Cilento. Here you will find excerpts, articles, and background information.

Unlike ‘vanity’ publishers, Cilento will not publish a book unless it meets their criteria, and until it has undergone a rigorous editing process. The author works closely with the publisher, to achieve the best possible…

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Writing by the Rules (Or Not)

Virginia Woolf

Is it only our greatest writers who are allowed to break the rules of writing? And what exactly are these rules? Mantras such as ‘Show not Tell’ ‘Point of View’ ‘Omniscient Narrator’ or ‘Close Third Person’ seem to abound in 21st century writing guides. I doubt whether the great Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Jane Austen, or Ernest Hemingway had ever heard of these ‘rules’. Yet their writing survives to this day, never out of print or out of favour. And of course, whether unconsciously or not, each of these writers were instinctively following many of these techniques. Many, but not all – depending on the fashion and flavour of their times.These writers were ground-breakers and rule-breakers.


In my own writing group, I’ve found the use of  technical criteria for feedback limited my creativity, and constrained my writing voice. It seems to me that intellectualising the writing process is the opposite of that unconscious process which produces the best writing. It’s as if we have to cross a bridge from the so-called ‘right-brain’ which governs creativity, to the ‘left-brain’ which controls planning, logic and reasoning. And that crossing can often be a painful obstacle course. I once exclaimed to my group: ‘Away with your rules! They do my head in!’ Clumsy expressions indeed, which burst out of my mouth unbidden but unstoppable.

Sentences which flow with speed, grace and simplicity look easy to the reader, but experienced writers know it is the hardest writing of all. Like the Zen archer who does not appear to be aiming, yet strikes the bull’s eye every time, the writers untrammelled by rules and regulations, unconcerned with the fashions of the day, are the ones who stay in our minds the longest.

Writerly Darwin

Signing my book off into the world. Darwin launch of “Capriccio: A Novel”








Did you know that Darwin is a Mecca for writers, artists, and all souls creative? In my three months in the Top End, I have been published in the NT Writers Anthology, been shortlisted for a literary prize, participated in a left-of-centre Writers’ Group called ‘Write Now’, been invited to Government House for a Poetry reading, and to crown it all, launched my first novel.

As if this cornucopia of writerly delights were not enough, the city of Darwin offered further delights: Brilliant theatre, dance and music at the vibrant Darwin Festival, held annually in August, monthly meetings with Darwin poets under the canopy of trees in a Coconut Grove café, an exhibition of Darwin’s fascinated history curated by the historians and presented at the prestigious Northern Territory Library, and the annual Indigenous Art Awards (NAATSIA) held in the sunlit grounds of the Museum, with stunning views of the sunset over the Arafura Sea.


Alana Valentine signing my program at the premiere of ‘Letters from Lindy’

There have been author talks, award-winning theatre, concerts, and debates. ‘Women in the Spotlight” featured the former Chief Minister  of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, Alana Valentine,the playwright who created “Letters to Lindy” and the NT Children’s Commissioner, Colleen Gwynne, who helped to expose the shocking treatment of children in detention. Over these magic three months, I have had a feast of cultural and sensual delights, and many surprises. I even won the door prize at the NTWriters’ Awards! A rare occurrence indeed. The prize went to Mary Ann Butler, playwright extraordinaire, for her award winning play, “Broken”, a sensation both in Australia and overseas.

Darwin, you are the Queen of the North. Any writer who calls herself a Territorian must stand proud. 

“EDGE”: A short story

Sylvia Plath

The following is an excerpt frm my short story which was a finalist in the 2018 NT Literary Awards:  

EDGE  by Dina Davis

Rubbing her hands together, desperate for warmth, the young mother dragged a blanket from the empty cot nearby, to drape over her shoulders. Her two children were still sleeping in this hour before dawn. It took a supreme effort of will to shuffle to the little table under the bedroom window that served as a desk. She opened her journal with stiff aching fingers, and reached for her fountain pen

 The water’s frozen in the pipes, and the blood’s frozen in my veins.  My hands are stiff and blue with cold as I write this. It’s the worst winter London has known in over thirty years. Thirty years; my age last birthday and what have I to show for it? A failed marriage, a few poems, and a mediocre novel. At least I didn’t publish it under my own name. Mother would be mortified if she knew that monster was based on her. 

There’s nothing left. Only the children – my two roses. They’ll surely be better off without me. How it breaks my heart to see them, both asleep now, thank God, curled up into their little balls in the bed we needs must share, just to keep warm. I’m seizing these precious moments to write, before they wake. As the temperature drops so the words, bitter words, are pouring out of me on these dark mornings. I’ve a feeling these new poems are the ones that will make my name, make Mother proud of me.  I’m putting them all together in one collection, a small book but a powerful one.

There was just enough light to see the loose page with the draft of her last poem, Edge, its crossed out lines and scribbled notes rebuking her.

She looked again at the title page of her collection, with its simple dedication to Fleur and Timothy. The words were wrung out of her in these early mornings, when she woke to the blackness, after the sedative Dr Horder prescribed had worn off. These hours before dawn, while the children were still mercifully asleep, were hers alone. At first, in the months after he had left her, the words had flowed out of her in those silent ghostly mornings at Court Green. It was as if she needed to fill the gaping wound his absence made inside her with these new, angry, savage poems.


Continue reading ““EDGE”: A short story”