Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Right to Bear Arms

Another school shooting, another senseless tragedy....to quote  Peter Seeger who asked in his  1950s song,  Where have all the Flowers Gone?– "When will they ever learn?"
The flowers that have now gone in this latest carnage are not soldiers lost in war. They are the flowers of childhood, children whose  lives have been wasted, given up to the God of the gun lovers. The mourners are not young women who have lost lovers. They are parents  who thought their children were safe in school, who should have been safe.
The  innocence of childhood has gone from the lives of the children who witnessed this outcome of everyone's right to bear arms. 
In eight days the people who defend their right to bear arms will attend their churches to celebrate Christ 's birth and pray for peace that will never come in a society with an enemy within. God's own country?   Perhaps  God has left the building.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Stephen King Said

I don’t want to plagiarise the master but the gist of what he said was – if he didn't know how the book he was writing would end then he was sure the reader wouldn't know either.
Thank you Mr King.  Having had your book “On Writing” on my book shelf since the time it was released here in Oz, it sure has taken me a long time to follow your advice.
I am usually a plotter and a planner. But having decided in October to write a book in a month in November, I made a change.  
With a ‘what if’ that gave me a problem and a cast of characters, I set out with only a mud map and no destination in sight. My task was to write a 60000 words in the month, 2000 words a day,  to make the writing as good as it could be given the deadline, to be aware of structure and to carry along all the threads of the story and not leave smoking guns lying about.
I made the 60000 word deadline but the destination is still not in sight. More writing has to be done.  Much editing and rewriting is required. Much research is needed. I guess I will kill a lot of ‘darlings’ before it is finished. 
But what an enriching experience to find that what began as a crime fiction story became a multi-layered novel about the dynamics of friendship along with the mystery, crime and romance-I hadn't anticipated the latter but it evolved.
It took a lot of self control to not look back, not to read past chapters. No time for that. Resisting  the urge to print the day’s work, to read and edit it, broke a lot of my entrenched writing habits.
Magic happened and I learned a lot about motivation, cause and effect and all the other aspects of writing we read about but maybe don’t give enough attention. It was a great experience and I recommend it to any one who wants to lift their writing to another level.

Friday, 19 October 2012

My Word Train Waits

I am going on a journey. A writer's journey. I have made my booking, made my commitment to travel from chapter one to chapter ? At this stage I do not know how many chapters there will be. The destination is 60 000 words and I hope to last the distance. My word train leaves on November 1, by then I will be packed and ready. The journey concludes on November 30. This call to adventure came on September 1. I had three projects clamouring for attention, one social history,one crime fiction and the other a memoir. I was waffling and dabbling in all three and getting nowhere fast. I needed a deadline to break out of my procrastination.  The decision to write a book in a month seemed like a good idea. Like all successful journeys, this one had to be planned. First I had to leave my comfort zone, make my decision public, do the ground work...get out of bed earlier.
The word train lingers at the station while we take on board what is needed for the journey. Ideas, the necessary elements,  begin to appear. Like the usual traffic before departure, some arrive quickly and others drag their feet as they dawdle along.  Some ideas arrive without a ticket and are rejected, some decide to wait for a later train and others become something else. As I mull over the crowds of ideas jostling for a berth, plot and character begin to make their presence felt.  I test what is logical and what  doesn't work and I realise the wisdom of waiting . It is a mistake to begin writing too soon, before all the actors are assembled and ready to await their curtain calls.
There are eleven thinking days left before the writing begins.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Writing the November Book in a Month Novel

I have been going to do it for ages but November 1 rolls around each year and the calendar is usually full of the stuff of living and the preparations for Christmas. Usually it is a time when less writing gets done, not more.  Which goes to prove that  “ if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” as someone once wrote in advice to writers.
Fail? In the past, I didn’t get started.  November 1 is too late to decide what to write about. This year I am ready and I am clearing my life’s decks for a good solid month of writing.
Why am I going to cancel just about all social activity, cease house work  and hope it rains so I won’t have to water gardens?
Because I need a deadline.  I discovered that deadlines make it possible because without one, it is easy to let other stuff push the writing out of the way. So I am making it known that I am hibernating  in the writing cave during November, rather like the French novelist who told his friends to “consider me dead until October” whenever he was about to write a book.
By November 1, I will know my characters,  I will have exercised my ‘what if’ muscle and will have mapped out their journeys with enough flexibility to allow for surprises.  I might know the outcome, but once the journey begins who knows what will happen?
On November 1 at 6am  I will write the words… “…
But that would be getting ahead of myself. Let the planning begin.
I dare you.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Random Act of Kindness

I walked out to turn off the sprinkler and was stopped in my tracks by the sheer delight of seeing a Willie Wagtail perched on the rim of a flower pot singing its little heart out as it took a bath.   

The garden had enough water but there was no way I could rob the bird of its pleasure so I sat on the porch chair and watched and listened and waited for it to finish. I am sure it knew I was watching.

It preened, it shook its feathers, it danced and sang;  it stayed, singing beneath the shower for so long that I wondered if it would be too wet to fly, but fly it did, disappearing into a rose madder sunset.

I remained sitting, gazing at where the bird had been and I was glad I had noticed, that I hadn’t just turned the water off and deprived it of its pleasure. My reward was the wonder of sharing its joy and while I watched, I was really there in the moment, just me, the bird, the water and the sunshine.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Margaret Catchpole and the Sand Mandalas

I watched the monks in their orange robes toil for long hours creating colourful Sand Mandalas. On the last day their work was swept up to become a pile of sand to be poured into the river to remind us of the impermanence of all things. How many of us would write books if we knew they would be shredded the day after completion?
As I wait to hear those magic words–your books are ready–I have wondered how fate decides who will be remembered and who will be forgotten. I have thought about that issue a lot during the months I was writing Margaret Catchpole’s biography.  Margaret Catchpole  was just one of the thousands of women who arrived as convicts at Port Jackson in those first decades of colonial settlement of Australia and she is one of the few that history has chosen to remember. The first person who wrote about her, the Reverend Richard Cobbold, is remembered as the author of Margaret Catchpole. Now, one hundred and sixty-seven years after the Reverend wrote the fictional story of her life, I have written her true story, as true as available evidence allows. Will someone, one hundred and sixty-seven years into the future, remember me as the author of Margaret Catchpole? Will there be readers searching library shelves for either of those books? Will they read and wonder what life was like in 1797 or in 2012. Or will our words be dispersed to the elements like so many Sand Mandalas?  

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Margaret Catchpole

The deadline is fast approaching, my new book will soon be launched. I guess I will miss the presence of Margaret Catchpole having lived with her for so long. I hope she will rest easy now that her story has been told, now that her identity and her history has been returned to her. Here is a short precis  or her story.

The moon rose late on the night in 1797 when Margaret Catchpole rode John Cobbold’s horse to London. Did she steal it or borrow it? Did she act alone or did she have accomplices? Horse stealing was a capital offence in Georgian England. Did she risk her life for love, friendship or freedom? 
Margaret Catchpole was just one among the thousands of convict women transported to New South Wales but she was the only one whose name has rarely been absent from print since the day in August 1797 when she stood before the Bury Summer Assizes and heard her death sentence announced.
Through the eleven letters she wrote to friends and family in Suffolk, presented together possibly for the first time, Margaret Catchpole–Her Life and Her Letters investigates and reinstates the life story of the woman whose identity became so blurred she was thought to be a myth—or someone else.
Margaret Catchpole–Her Life and Her Letters is one woman’s eyewitness account of floods, hardships and the loneliness of the early settlers, recorded by this remarkable convict woman whose voice speaks for the many forgotten ones whose hard labour built the foundations of European Australia.
I invite you to read her story and make your decision about her place in Australian history.