1st August, 2017
Very pleased to have signed a publishing contract for my memoir Two Generations with IP/Ventura Press in Sydney. The book will be released in April, 2018 and the editing process begins next week.
After much rumination, I began researching and writing this book five years ago. Writing a family history can be fraught; what do you put in, what do you leave out? The work revolves around my father’s secret revealed, by accident, twenty years after his death. This dreadful and heartbreaking event no doubt shaped his life and in turn, my life. I was interested in the anonymous quote; ‘It can take six generations for suffering to work its way out of a family.’ Unpacking family story is cathartic and difficult. The experience enabled me to see my parents in a new light and delving deeper into the story unlocked myriad memories and feelings.
A backdrop to the work is the systematic bombing of Darwin in 1942-3 by Japanese planes. The north of Australia was attacked over 100 times, with Darwin being bombed 65 times. Soldiers were unprepared and unsupported as modern artillery had been sent overseas to support England against the Germans and America against the Japanese. This work offers a meaningful contribution to what we know of the attacks on Darwin.
30 July 2017
Yesterday, I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon at the presentation of the Alan Marshall Short Story Awards at the Eltham Library. Very pleased to have been awarded the Highly Commended (Local) for my short story Breaking-In.
During Melbourne’s winter of 2014, I had the privilege of studying creative writing at Oxford University in the UK. It was a hot summer by English standards. The average temperature was between 22C-24C, with long balmy nights. On one such evening, two of my new writer friends and I sat on a bench in Exeter College’s quadrangle. It was after dinner, and we had spontaneously spilled out from the under-croft bar with our drinks. I’m not sure what they put in the gravy on the roast-beef that night, but the three of us sat squashed together on the seat giggling like a gaggle of Year 10s preparing for their formal. One of my friends is an Associate Professor at Bordeaux University, France and the other a successful ghostwriter from Oklahoma in the US. For me, it was a memorable night, a simple night, laughing with two new friends. Since that happy time, the souls of our countries have been darkened by acts of hate and terrorism. In the shadow of the Orlando shootings, the bombings in France a few months back, and the shootings of the Lindt Cafe hostages in Sydney late last year, that funny evening in the quadrangle seems like such an innocent time, laughing and sharing a drink with two friends from the other side of the world.
As part of the Montsalvat Arts’ Festival, actor Deborah Lawrance read my short story Footy Record in front of the fire in the Great Hall.
I’ve just signed with literary agent the Drummond Agency. Am taking a month off from writing. Ideas for stories keep popping into my head. I am busy jotting down characters, plot, place and time. Even though I am not writing it is proving a fruitful and creative time.
Majestic Montsalvat was the scene for the announcement of the 2015 Alan Marshall Short Story Award. My story Footy Record took out a local award. I was in good company as the other entries were all well crafted and skillfully written. A two day Masterclass at the artists’ colony with the other winners and facilitated by judge Archimede Fussilo was stimulating and fun. Working with other writers to hone the craft is one of life’s most pleasurable treasures.
Spent a glorious, stimulating and chilly writerly week at Varuna, the Writer’s House in the Blue Mountains. Consultant Babbette Smith worked with me to finesse the MS. Her fresh eyes helped with structure, grammar and those sneaky little typos.
Last Saturday I attended an art exhibition, Home Sweet Home – A Memorial by artist Anna Taylor. The Memorial is in the form of a library of handmade books containing stories of families affected by war.
I was deeply moved by the narratives and especially by guest speaker, Sarah Tapscott Archibald, a veteran of Iraq. Sarah is a wife and mother of two beautiful young girls. She spoke about her PTSD from having served in Iraq, and the affect it still has on her and her loved ones. She is the fourth generation in her family to be deployed. Her words, ”An individual doesn’t go to war, a family goes to war,” rings true with my experience. How many other families have been affected by the trauma of war?
I have just finished a series of readings of my short story Eggshells, showcased in the Melbourne Subjective – an anthology of contemporary Melbourne writing, published by the Cartridge Family. The readings took place in venues around Melbourne and have been a lot of fun. Hearing the spoken word gives the listener a richer experience of prose and poetry. It allows for the rhythm and richness of the words to be accentuated. I am very grateful to be in the company of some of the city’s leading writers and poets.
February is the start of the structural and copy editing of my manuscript – A Different War. I feel the task is comparable to fossicking for gold. I ruminate over words and lines with a curious mind, rolling each around into another sequence, trying to dig deeper into the meaning of what I have written, eventually discarding the bits that don’t work. Eventually, my digging uncovers a shiny piece worth keeping.
A mass of yellow sticky notes with my scrawled writing reminding me of details I need to check, cover the now dog-eared ms.
I am at the beach trying to not read or edit my manuscript A Different War. I promised myself I would put it away for January and revisit it in February when I’d take on the hard work of structural and copy editing. How hard should it be not touching my work for a month? I find my mood has changed and it is as if I am treading water and life is passing me by. I promise myself I will try and start a new short story; something completely different. But nothing comes to mind. Perhaps I will go for a walk along the beach followed by a latte at the local café.
The weather is cool at the coast. I am sitting in the sun-room at the back of the beach house. The sun is streaming in and the trees outside are being buffered by a strong sea breeze. Not like Melbourne’s summer weather at all – I love it. Walks along the beach when it is cool are invigorating and get the blood circulating. For me this weather is far more enjoyable than the sharp teeth of the summer sun bearing down upon my head and shoulders.
Holidays are happy days; released from the tight reign of work schedules and domestic chores. This year is our first summer holiday without our beloved border collie Bonnie. She died in August last year. How she loved the beach and I still have visions of her running along the sand, tongue lolling, chasing waves, stones, balls, sticks, other dogs … anything … after all she was a border collie; born to run and herd. Her best beach trick was to chase an unsuspecting dog she met on her walk into the sea and then not let it escape. Her sheep herding instincts, embedded deep in her DNA, came to the fore and if the unsuspecting canine tried to run from the waves, Bon would be there chasing it back into the whitecaps. The only reprieve was for us to call her name and distract her. She would look around, the dog would bound out of the water, and the chase would be on again. How we miss her!
As I sit in my room and reflect on my writing this year, I am pleased with the outcomes and look forward to 2015 for other exciting adventures in this world of writing.
The personal journey of writing A Different War has been rich in myriad ways; sad, yet uplifting. The stand-out for me is the sense that I have come to know my father all over again, as a mature adult and not the young woman who was just out of her teens when he died – green to the world and all the peculiarities of the human condition.
I am just about finished the first draft with a small section to research and write about how signals worked in the field, as my father was a signalman and a gunner. My aim is to finish the first draft by the end of this month, let the work cool off in January and tackle it again in February, when hopefully, I can see it with fresh eyes.
One excerpt from the memoir, A Swim, a Bicycle and a Ride to Hell received a Highly Commended in the national Laura Literary Award and was published in the winners’ journal. Another extract was showcased in the Melbourne Subjective – an anthology of contemporary Melbourne writing, published by the Cartridge Family. This anthology is rich with fiction, non-fiction, essays and poetry about memories, stories and imaginations about our vibrant city. Copies are available at varoius bookshops around Melbourne including: Readings in Carlton, Hares and Hyenas in Fitzroy and that wonderful Aladdin’s cave of literature the Eltham Book Shop in beautiful and still a bit leafy Eltham.
The icing on the cake for me this year, was my time studying post-graduate Creative Writing at Exeter College, University of Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK. I was a resident in college and wrote at my desk that overlooked the quadrangle from one window and on the opposite side of the room I gazed over Turl Street and the passing parade of visitors and Oxfordians going about their daily business. If you are a fan of the British detective series, Inspectator Morse, then watch the episode where he dies on the lawn. He dies outside my room. My window overlooked where he breathed his last Inspector Morse breaths.
My days were spent attending lectures and tutorials surrounded by writers from all over the world. Evenings were filled with vibrant and exhilarating conversations about authors, books, plays and the best bars in which to have a drink before or after attending a Shakespearian play or classical music recital at one of the many cathedrals or chapels. I felt truly alive with my international tribe and have found it difficult to settle into the hum drum of day to day, work and domestics.