Tag Archives: women writers

My Writing Journey

These last few weeks I have been away. First to Rye to a beach house, a place to write and read, without the intrusion of television or the Internet. Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit was played in the evening. Talk and wine flowed easily enough. The beach was a place to walk and meditate.

I was reminded of Sandy Cape a bay on the Indian Ocean in Western Australia. Each year that I lived on an inland farm we went to the coast. Most evenings we would go fishing. Pulling on our warmest clothes to walk from the shack, it was only a few moments along a stony track to the beach. We heard the ocean before we saw it and smelt the moist salty aroma drifting to us on the breeze. Fishing  from the beach was the perfect end to a perfect day. Along the beach, every man and his dog it seemed had the best spot. Chairs were placed carefully, for experts leave nothing to chance. We carried our catch back to the shack in a plastic bucket. We would clean the fish outside under the stars, scattering iridescent scales onto the sandy ground. Reflected in the flowing luminescence of the kerosene lamp they looked  like tiny lunar mountains. A little oil on the barbecue, a dusting of flour and the fish were soon sizzling. We often went for long walks along the beaches that edged the coast. A blissful time.

After Rye, we went  to the city of Adelaide, often forgotten, but very beautiful. We stayed a week, walked ten to fifteen kilometres a day and absorbed the surroundings by osmosis.

It was then back to writing when I returned home. I edited the second chapter of my novel again, a chapter that has always been a problem for some reason. I’m happy with it at the moment and will now put it aside. There was a lot in that chapter: a couple meeting, marrying, and then the intrusion of an American serviceman.

I enjoy reading short stories, can you guess which story the following comes from? I’ll give you a couple of clues: it is the opening of the story and the writer is from New Zealand. This is one of my favourite short stories.

‘Very early morning. The sun was not yet risen, and the whole of Crescent Bay was hidden under a white sea-mist. The big bush-covered hills at the back were smothered. You could not see where they ended and the paddocks and bungalows began. The sandy road was gone and the paddocks and bungalows the other side of it; there was no white dunes covered with reddish grass beyond them; there was nothing to mark which was beach and where was the sea. A heavy dew had fallen. The grass was blue. Big drops hung on the bushes and just did not fall; the silvery, fluffy toi-toi was limp on its long stalks, and all the marigolds and the pinks in the bungalow gardens were bowed to the earth with wetness. Drenched were the cold fuchsias, round pearls of dew lay on the flat nasturtium leaves.

A writing tutor might say, ‘Look, this writer uses “paddocks and bungalows” twice in close proximity’, the tutor might also say, ‘Look, this writer uses the words “just” and “was”  words best avoided,’ the tutor might also say, ‘and the writer uses “big” twice in this small example and it’s such an uninspiring word’.    And yet to me this is evocative writing, a truly beautiful description of an early morning by the sea.  So while you need to be aware of the rules of writing if you write for the  modern day reader there is no need to slavishly follow each edict so that your writing ends up like a dried out piece of fish.

Have a good writing week, Elise

PS Remember to have FUN.

 

 

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My Writing Journey

A good writing week, this is because I have sorted out a few problems with the plot and now have an arrow to the end of the story. It means more work and war scenes which are not the easy to write but I will approach them from a different angle and see how they turn out. Not a lot to tell you about the writing process this week as it seemed to fall into place without too much difficult. I wouldn’t say the writing sings but I am enjoying it. The number of chapters of my WIP (work-in-progress) that I had last week have been thrown out the window and I am writing the novel (as per my new outline) in eight parts and any number of chapters…the rigid format of trying to fit everything in to a strict format of chapters just didn’t work for my novel. I am also working on my collection of short stories of which I will write more in the coming weeks.

Have a good writing week, best Elise

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Rosa Praed (1851-1935) 19th Century Literature

Our Australian landscape is filled with Gothic imagination.

 Rosa Caroline Praed. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 118008

Rosa Caroline Praed –  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Women trapped in marriages with unkind and sometimes violent husbands is a theme that Rosa Praed returns to repeatedly. She was one of early Queensland’s most important writers. A member of the squattocracy, she came from a socially prominent family with interests in both literature and politics. Her unhappy experience of marriage is reflected in her work.

While not strictly Gothic novels, the three novels  Rosa set on Curtis Island, An Australian HeroineThe Romance of a Station and Sister Sorrow, are pervaded by the oppressive isolation of the bush and trapped women.

More than half of her 45 to 50 novels are set in Australia, but most of her life was actually spent in England where she developed a writing career and achieved celebrity  in literary and political circles.

She also had an interest in spiritualism.  It emerged in the unhappy early days of her marriage on Curtis Island and it increased in her later life. Her novel Nyria had its genesis in seances and Rosa believed that Nyria, a Roman slave, was reincarnated in her companion Nancy Haward.

Rosa Praed’s novels portray much of her own life.  It is impossible to read, for instance, descriptive passages in any of the three novels set on Curtis Island, An Australian HeroineThe Romance of a Station and Sister Sorrow, without feeling the oppressive isolation of the bush that she experienced there. Anyone looking down today, from the bare hill on which Monte Christo homestead stands, or approaching Curtis Island across the Narrows in a small boat would see the same desolate scenes as Rosa Praed, and the same endless mangroves ahead. Similarly it is impossible to read her novels portraying unhappy marriages without reflecting on the sadness within her own marriage.

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My Writing Journey

I have had a good writing week. I now have twelve chapters and it feels right. The writing is good in some chapters in other chapters I need to make them sing. I had advice from a writer I met recently and it has helped to make the story flow.
Needless to say I worked hard for most days.
Last night I went to the city of Melbourne with a new friend, she is an art curator and
explained  the history of White Night. It started in Paris, which is my
favourite city, and France of course is which is a country I love, well perhaps Egypt comes first! We parked near The Willows a restaurant in St Kilda Road and caught a tram to the city. We saw
wonderful light shows and our beautiful buildings were lit up and magical.
There were about half a million people and the going was tough to get through the crowds.
But the feeling and togetherness of the crowds of people made up for this. I spoke to my
daughter this morning, told her I didn’t get home until after three this morning, and
she too had been at White Night with her family, although I didn’t know they had
decided to go. Her comments were exactly how I felt about a wonderful community event.
I was very lucky to be with someone who knows so much about art and is an artist
and sculptor and a teacher and curator of art. A good night but I’m sorry,
because of the crowds (well-behaved and friendly) we didn’t get to see as many
of the art exhibits as we wished.
My son is off to Paris in June, to Spain and other climes! My small granddaughter’s
favourite place (although she has never visited) is Paris, she tells me she feels a connection.
Perhaps her uncle will bring her home a gift from Paris, and also something
for her brothers. My oldest grandchild is now taller than his mother, a handsome
and engaging young man, and his brother is the light of everyone’s life! How blessed
we are with family and good friends. Remember, today tell someone you love them,
and friends of the heart are family too!
Enjoy your writing week, best, Elise.

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My Writing Journey

This past week, I spent some days writing, some days editing and some days with my family. I have made progress since I printed out the whole manuscript of my WIP (work-in-progress) of course not as much as I would have liked. I’ve had no word from the publisher who is going to read ‘My from the Heart’ manuscript but I’m confident she will get to it eventually.

Cliche’s to avoid in writing:   A single tear that runs or trickles down someone’s face, the character who is ‘worried sick’,  anytime the ’chips are down’, anything ‘on the brink’ of something, anyone who ‘takes pride’, is ‘bored to tears’, or anything/anyone who ‘lurks’ , I once wrote about shadows lurking in the corner of a room!

There are hundreds of cliches and because a lot of them are from the twentieth century or earlier they sound old-fashioned; it’s best to avoid them in dialogue, although one or two might add colour and ‘set the scene’.

Enjoy your writing week,

Elise

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Can’t read, Won’t read!

Ekaterina Botziou is a friend. This article is about people in the UK where she lives. Ekaterina is funny and wise and beautiful and comes from the heart.

Ekaterina's Greek Expectations

In the UK, it has been claimed that one in five adults struggle to read and write – that’s 8 million adults who are deemed functionally illiterate with an apparent reading score below level 2  (a report by the Sutton Trust). Worse still, that’s 8 million adults who can’t read or enjoy my blog! Something must be done!

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My Writing Journey

I finished the nearly last chapter of my WIP (work-in-progress). It is set in Northern California and I enjoyed the research for this chapter. I read about mushrooms and pine forests and crawfish and violet-green sparrows. It was a joy to write. I will leave that chapter now and come back to it in a few weeks to edit it several more times. Because my WIP is a time split novel I have chapters set in different time periods and I also move my characters around: different states in Australia and the one set in Northern California. Today I worked on a chapter set in 1968. My protagonist is a journalist, recently returned from Vietnam. I love reading a story with a twist in the tale and my WIP has exactly that. It takes time to plot and even then I sometimes change what I plotted in my outline. Such is a writer’s journey!

A  librarian friend, recently  in Paris, visited Shakespeare and Co and sent me a picture postcard of the bookshop. I am envious of the few hours she spent browsing there. She explained that one has to queue for entry as the bookshop would be overrun with people, locals and visitors from all around the world, otherwise.  The postcard she sent me is one I will keep.

As a writer do you hear the siren song of what you may write in the future? I do and it’s hard not to put pen to paper (read fingers to keyboard). A short story I started a few weeks ago hasn’t progressed further. It seems I am the type of writer who must finish one thing before I start another. The idea is there, fermenting, waiting for the right time. I need to research this story but I haven’t decided if I’m  going to finish it. But the protagonist is insistent and demanding so perhaps I will write her story.

Good writing, Elise

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My Writing Journey

A busy week with a writers group workshop and working on my WIP. I have particularly enjoyed re-working my Northern California chapter. I love research and the area I have set my story in is particularly beautiful. I will finish editing this chapter today. So not a lot to write about re my own writing as I have my head down and my fingers are typing as fast as they can. The main thing is that I have written or edited something everyday so as not to get away from my story.

An excerpt:   It was a place where a hundred generations of feet had padded across the soft brown pine needles. She imagined gold-bearing rocks beside dry trails, meadows and wild bees and the smell of wood-smoke laced with maple branches.

I like the way Americans call pastures ‘meadows’  and small towns ‘villages’ part of their English heritage I guess.  I was wondering if Americans use the word ‘pastures’  as well? Perhaps one of my American readers could let me know and also do you ever use the word ’track’ rather than ’trail’?

As promised some more thoughts about Aprons

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids, And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms,

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brown, bent over the hot wood stove, Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron, From the garden, it carried all sort of vegetables, After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls, In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees, When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds, When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folks knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner. It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes. REMEMBER  Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw. They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. I don’t think anyone ever caught anything from an apron but love.

 ANAIS NIN

When she was searching for inspiration, she would study drawings sent to her by fans, sit on the floor and sift through personal photographs or walk outside to listen to mockingbirds. ‘Their melody is important to my work and life here,’ she said in a 1973 documentary. ‘I want my writing to levitate.’ Sometimes, she would bring a hand-held tape recorder to capture their songs. If all else failed, she would swim.

Have a good writing week, Elise

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My Writing Journey

I had a good writing week.  I only have a couple of thousand words to write to finish my last chapter (there are still a couple of ones I have to write) then it’s editing and finishing some research. I left my short story unfinished but I may decide to  finish it as I don’t love it as I should. I also sorted through masses of clippings, print-outs and outlines for stories  long forgotten. I did find some interesting pieces saved from years ago. One is on the history of aprons. I sent it to my friend Bianca  and she wrote back:

I absolutely love it. It has to be high on my list of favourites, bringing back memories of my childhood in our little flat in Littlehampton when Mum used to work miracles in what was a landing (or free space area) converted into a little kitchen, where two was a crowd.

I don’t think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also easier to wash aprons than dresses and aprons used less material.

But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

I will continue the history of aprons next week.

The last verse of:

The Song of Wandering Aengus

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

The song is one of my favourite poems.

This is a description of the home of Anais Nin and Rupert Pole in the hills of Silver Lake, near L. A.

A glass- and-concrete house on a hilly Silver Lake street.

Eric Lloyd Wright, a third-generation architect designed the house for his half-brother Rupert and Anais.

In the sixth volume of her Diary, Anais described the one-storey dwelling perched above the city as ‘one large studio, no separate, small partitions. It had the sense of space of Japanese houses; it had the vista of a Japanese screen, all sky, mountains, lake, as if one lived out of doors. Yet the roof, held by its heavy beams, gave a feeling of protection while the big windows which separated the roof from the studio framed the flight of birds, the sailing of clouds.’  What I love most is the feeling of light and space that Anais writes about in their home. And there’s a small interior Japanese garden cut into the floor near one of the glass panels of the living room wall, where Anais would etch swirls in the sand with a small hand shovel. The stone fireplace, she wrote, was ‘like that of a castle’. There was a grand piano and packed bookshelves.

LITERARY TIP OF THE DAY the verb ‘WAS

 I read recently ‘WAS’ is a passive word. Do not let anyone tell you  it is. ‘WAS’ is infrequently passive, and is a part of good English. It is a wonderful verb. If it suits your story use it freely.

English is fun. It is a flexible language for telling stories.

Have a good writing week and to all a Happy New Year, Elise x

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My Writing Journal

I have pasted the prologue from my WIP below. It is a time-split novel set in wartime Brisbane, Australia and also Leura, New South Wales in 1968, and Northern California in 1951.   It is the story of two women, Vivien and Katherine, and the American serviceman they both love.  The story may have a  happy ending but then again it may not. I know how it ends but my readers will have to wait to find out.

The reason I am posting this short prologue is because writers who read my blog  have expressed an interest in reading a sample piece. I hope you enjoy the prologue below.

On prologues: Keep them short, a page or less, if you are going to write them. A modern reader does not want to read pages and pages before Chapter One. I am not sure I will have this prologue (or any prologue) in my completed manuscript.

Prologue

Brisbane, October 1944

 By the time the young woman walked halfway up the drive the drizzling rain started to beat down and the sky was darkening.  She straightened her headscarf and hurried on, the pea gravel hard under her wedge sandals. The high hedges hid the house from its neighbours and the smell of night jasmine from unseen gardens saturated the warm air.

Ahead, at the end of the long drive, was the dark outline of a weatherboard house with a spacious verandah and a garden, faintly discernible, filled with budding azaleas: red and pink, and rain-drenched.

The woman, despite her confident bearing, hesitated at the front door. Opening her handbag she took out a small torch and checked the brass name plate of the house. Reassured she was at Ashburton, she unknotted her headscarf, shook out her damp hair, and as if thinking of something else she rang the doorbell.

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