Some years ago I wrote a series for the ABC I called ‘My Bush Hideaway.’ They were intended to record life in a coastal village These 21 stories were later recorded by Kim Dodsworth for a CD.
This is one episode:
Frankly, I’m ambivalent to blackberry. It’s an opportunist plant that seeds and grows in any nook and cranny it can find. At the same time I have to admire its ability to thrive in poor soil, drought and heat. Some of my most unpleasant moments are when I’m trying to dig it out or cut it away. As if this plant is the plaintive in an unwinnable lawsuit, or an Indian beggar desperate for help, it latches onto my clothes to dig its thorns into my hands, arms, sometimes even my face.
Bull-ants, those smart insects, find it expedient to nest beside blackberry roots where the soil is looser. They stay cunningly hidden until one false move on my part threatens them, and then their soldiers scuttle up my legs and into my boots. Oh, the indescribable agony of a bull-ant bite and the unbearable swelling and itching that always follows.
But there is also happiness standing in front of a blackberry patch in late summer when the boughs are illuminated by dark red berries ready for plucking, and our fingers and mouths are scarlet stained with sweet fruit. A good season means blackberry pies, blackberry jam, frozen packets of blackberry, and even blackberry cordial liberally laced with brandy.
Birds love blackberry even more than us humans and we end up in a tussle as to who gets to them first. Of course the birds have the upper hand as they fly above the bushes to spy out the best berries while we find it hard to reach the innermost branches.
When this village was almost unknown, when most houses were fibro and only inhabited in summer, blackberry was allowed to grow unheeded on surrounding horse paddocks. Droppings those horses left behind nourished the ground, and thus when birds evacuated their seeds and these seeds took root, the result was the most succulent fruit I have ever eaten. Maybe this proves that even out of droppings, good things can result. Maybe when things are low, when we’re feel truly despondent, or ‘in the shits’ maybe we can hope for some serendipitous happening.
We authors are forced to be self-motivated, Because I had just completed the Young Adult fantasy novel ‘Ferdie & Miranda’, this loosely based on Shakepeare’s ‘The Tempest’, I have set myself the task of writing more blogs. When I starting blogging, I had promised myself to produce at least one a fortnight, but have not kept to my word.
Three and some years ago I had an accident that prevented me from driving. In some ways I sorely missed the independence driving a car gives, though several people kept insisting that battling heavy traffic and negotiating difficult parking didn’t fit my primary skills.
This acknowledged, and even though I have returned to using a car, I find that I am quite happy with other forms of transport and in this way I can feel virtuous about reducing my carbon footprint.
Of course I am fortunate. Close to where I live are four separate tram lines plus several bus routes. They can take me to city and out the other side. It’s less easy from here to cross the suburbs in another direction. For any interested reader, I live in Melbourne Australia, a city that sprawls into endless suburbia.
Given my recent non-driving experiences, I am rapidly finding that a city which depends on public transport is a far nicer, friendlier place. Sure, it’s annoying to have to wait in bad weather for trams and buses running late, usually due to some reason that’s not their fault. Or those vehicles that are so crowded, I am in intimate proximity to total strangers…. not that this matters as they are usually too busy to notice me as they text, email or play games.
Yet every so often, there are surprising rewards. I have made several new friends by talking to strangers. Conversely I watched a man abuse another over his mobile and by the violence of his language, terrify all the passengers. I have felt sorry for the elderly when they are not given a seat, and watched kids behave badly, sometimes very badly.
Also, I am aware that tram and bus drivers have become a different breed. When I was a kid tramming to school, our tram conductor was known by every child as ‘Tonguey’. This poor fellow had the unfortunate habit of rolling his tongue with an open mouth so we saw the purple muscles and tendons that supported it. Perhaps we wouldn’t have laughed quite so much, if he didn’t so openly hate kids.
But all is different now. We have lost our conductors and are now left to the merciless Myki card, which often doesn’t work and which no visitor understands… or is even meant to. Once trammies and conductors were seen as ‘working class’. It’s different now. Because all transport is computerised, drivers need tertiary qualifications to successfully navigate traffic. Yesterday my tram was driven by a young sweetly spoken woman who, in a previous age would surely have held a ‘very important job’.
Then the odd taxi I indulge myself in. In this city they are mostly driven by Indians. Thus I have been able to learn a lot about their lives. Many tell me this is the only job they can find. I have been driven by lawyers, doctors and I.T. specialists. It all makes for interesting conversations. Apart from their misery at not finding work in their chosen professions, they mourn the lack of extended family and perceive the rest of us as raising utterly spoilt children, pointing out that one day we will rue this.
So what I am suggesting is that more of us discard our cars and take to a more convivial form of getting to a required destination, particularly if one lives in an area where public transport is available, which unfortunately is not always the case.
‘BODY AND SOUL: LILBET’S ROMANCE. was originally published as hard copy in 2003. Set in 1938 Melbourne, it is the story of how disabled Lilbet sets about keeping her family by her side. It is now out as a ebook on Amazon etc etc but with only the title ‘LILBET’S ROMANCE’. Here are both covers, the old and the new.
I get a great number of comments that ask for other sites that talk about ‘writing matters’. Unfortunately, I don’t prowl the web enough to impart any information. Mostly, I’m too busy writing. All I can do is send readers to other authors’ websites. But here are some points that might be of interest. I compiled these from a talk Penguin’s publisher and author Jane Godwin gave wearing both hats.
- Every new book ultimately reflect both reader and publisher’s taste.
- The book is the result of a relationship between creators and publisher.
- A schedule must be established between author and illustrator.
- People have very different ways of reading.
- Books need to be inventive and take risks.
- Publishers and creators can’t control everything, no matter how hard they try.
- Both creators and publishers should enjoy the process.
- Know your market: education, bookshops, discount stores etc.?
- Never become too elated at the end of a project, always think it could be better.
- The writer and the publisher wear different hats.
- A book can be published in many different ways.
- No matter what the future holds, there will always be a place for paper books.
- Writing and illustrating is always hard. Use all your experience in your work.
- Constructive criticism can be helpful. Mistakes will still happen.
- Writing what you don’t know encourages research and imagination.
- Character is everything. Without convincing characters a book will fail.
- It is important to find your own voice.
- Don’t be obsessed by markets.
- Don’t see readers as all the same.
- Keep an idea or character in your head even when you are not creating.
Meanwhile I have completed the first draft of a fantasy ‘take’ on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and am waiting on my friendly reader to come back and tell me what doesn’t work. I’m sure there will be something!!!!
Here is a little about my latest book to be published by www. fivesenseseducation.com.au
“Cassie Georgiana Odysseos has the potential to become an Olympic swimmer. However, after her parents separate, her training is interrupted when she and her little brother Timmy are sent to live with elderly Mike and Peg Calypso in Ithaca, a small country town without a training pool. Asked to deliver an important message to the underwater city of Neptunia, Cassie must use all her strength, strategy and spirit to survive a marathon swim. But can she overcome King Neptune’s terrifying obstacles? “
This tory weaves two ideas together:
1. The plight of children when their parents separate
2. Some of the mythical characters in Homer’s epic “Odyssey”
I loved writing this book. Hopefully, some youngers will also enjoy reading it.
Because I have the word ‘memoir’ logged into Google, most days I receive an enormous number of sites adveritising other memoirs. When I started ‘Mentoring Your Memoir’, my major aim was to fill grandchildren – and subsequent generations – with what life was like in the mid 20th Century for some Australian women. Then, as I realised how many of these events turned up in my books and short stories, I inserted those pieces to demonstrate how they were fictionalised and then turned the concept into a ‘how-to write’ for others who didn’t quite know where to start, much less continue.
Anyway, from having believed that only ‘seniors’ would be interested, I was amazed at how many younger people had stories to relate, and how many different directions they took. But how many people will want to read memoir from unknowns? Whereas movie, music amd sport stars’s bios are published every day, I hate to think how disappointed many folk will be. Will they use the ebook as another way to publish?
This leads me to my latest venture – publishing my 3 adult Grevillea Murder Mysteries as ebooks. In this I am aided by Sylvia Blair who runs an excellent company calle BookPod with her husband Michael. So much is new in the publishing business, we authors have to become entrepeneurial.
My mantra for anyone wanting to enter this business is that there are three distinct areas that need concentration:
1.Writing(this also means lots and lots of rewriting)
2. Finding a suitable publisher. (This can take years)
3. Marketing.(The area I find most difficult.)
My generation grew up with the axiom that it’s ‘bad form’ to push oneself. That’s entirely negated by having to market one’s own books. I do admire those younger writers who never have to overcome their initial dislike of self promotion. Maybe writing this blog will help me overcome this.
As for this week’s reading: again I am transfixed by the ‘Alex Rider’ series. I suspect Anthony Horowitz first read every James Bond before he started writing. A cliffhanger on every page. So different from another adult novel I began. The major character in ‘Below the Styx’ is pompous and unlikeable. A whole book about him reminds me that I have only a fixed number of reading years left. Is this unfair? If anyone coming across this blog has read this book I’d love to be contradicted.
In a curious way, the birth of a book reminds me of the birth of a child, and the death of a book, the death of a relative or friend. Some two years I contacted the small publishing arm of ‘Anzac’ or ADCC with the ms of a junior text called ‘Gallipoli Medals’. This publishing arm, amongst many other activities, was run by Diana (Di) Burke, a one-woman maelstrom. She promised to have “Gallipoli Medals” out by the end of the year. Somehow or other that year stretched into two. What I didn’t know at that time was that Di was suffering with cancer, but was then in remission.
Di had hoped to have five books out for the end of 2010. This date was then extended to mid February when the books would be launched at Government House. Then those inconvenient Queensland floods intervened. Somehow there were more pressing issues for Governors to worry about than books. In the meantime Di finally succumbed to her desease. Though she was still bravely fighting to stay alive, as she had so many things she still wanted to do, very sadly, she died.
Now we five authors must wait until the end of the year when her husband Arthur takes on the mammoth task of issuing those books. This will be an unenviable task for someone who hasn’t done this before and we only hope that we can help in any way possible. Meanwhile, with no books to sell or promote, I have removed ‘Gallipoli Medals’ from my website. As I hinted earlier in this piece, we authors have little power over the birth of a book and none over a death. We will all miss Di no end for her incredible enthusiasm and wining personality.
ps Though I have been off line for a few days I’m happy to be back. I can see that writing a blog could become addictive.
This am I attended the launch of Edel Wignell’s latest story picture book abut the music that accompanies our unofficial national anthem ‘Watzing Matilda’.
‘Christina’s Matilda’, is illustrated by Eliziabth Botte, and published a style that fits its historical theme. This story picture book would be a great asset in any home or school library. (please see Edel’s wevsite for more details of where and how to buy a copy). A group of beautifully behaved Year 6’s sang W.M. for us and our premier Ted Baillieu spoke about his family he is Christina’s great-great nephew. His great-great-grandmother was Margaret, the youngest one in a group photo. This meant the media (Channel 10 and the ABC) were in full attendance. So if you happen to read this blog today, keep an eye on the news.
I also woke to something like 30 ‘call to arms’, Angela’s Sunde’s idea of making one hour available every Monday @ 10.00 am only for writing. Within all the excited responses to her Facebook call, I learnt a lot about what other writers do. We have a large number of teachers -as expected, and quite a few young mums. Others were too busy in ‘proper-paid’ jobs to even consider the idea. A very few do this already. Guess I fit into the last category as a writerholic. Well, it’s either that or Meal on Wheels.
For some time now I have refused to blog. Now I’m eating my words, an apt comment since my first entry has been about using food when writing for a young audience.
I promise anyone who comes across this ramble that I won’t write about what I’m cooking for dinner, or any problems I encounter in the supermarket. However, using a blog seems a great way to talk about the latest book(s) I am working on and what I’m reading. Right now on my bedside table is a pile that includes John le Carre’s latest “Our Kind of Traitor”, that old master still writes very well though he does go on and on, and a collection of long short stories by Daphne Du Maurier “Don’t look now and Other Stories”.
These stories have travelled well, though the final story ‘The Breakthrough’, isn’tr quite as good. Comforting to know that even the best authors can fail. Right now I am working on the last of my culinary murder series “UnFair Coverups” and hopefully all three will soon appear as ebooks.