This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

A Country on Fire.

This post is a little different from what I may usually write because what has been happening lately here in Australia is far from normal. I’ve been trying to be upbeat on social media through all of this, but sometimes it’s hard. Given the subject matter, it is not an easy one for me to write, so I’ll keep it as brief as possible.

So far, the New Year hasn’t exactly been a happy one for me, and fellow Australians. As you may already know, Australia is on fire; the worst in our history and it has been truly terrifying.

Fires have been happening since about August (our winter) of last year and now that we’re in the middle of summer, every new day poses a new threat. I live in country New South Wales and thankfully nowhere near the fires, but we have been getting a lot of smoke and like many Australians, remain ever vigilant.

The news and images have been horrific; parts of the country and animals destroyed that may never be the same again. The South Coast of NSW, where I frequented during my childhood holidays; the Blue Mountains where I once lived; Jenolan Caves where I’ve been a regular visitor over the years; Kangaroo Valley where my family and I stayed for my 20th wedding anniversary; a rainforest we visited up north a few years back that had never seen fire. It makes me wonder how much of my State, let alone my country will be left after this.

Australia and its environment play a large influence on my writing and I’ve seen the effect it has had on my fellow Australian writers; some unable to write because of it. For me, being a Highly Sensitive Writer, it finally came to a head one day last week where I had to take a step back from everything and give myself some space. Thankfully, I felt much better afterward.

Through all of this though, there is hope; the kindness and generosity of strangers, both here and overseas, the sheer bravery of our firefighters, and in more recent days, cooler conditions. When this is all finally over, I hope our firefighters receive the recognition they deserve and we as a country can enable change and move forward.

How does tragedy affect your writing? Does your environment play an important role in your stories? How has 2020 been for you so far?

Images courtesy Pixabay

Inspiration, Writing

Using Cemeteries for Writing Inspiration.

local cemeteryGrowing up in suburban Sydney, I lived near Rookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere. Generations of my mother’s family have been buried there and we would make regular visits. Graves and cemeteries had therefore become second nature; so when I spent a quiet, misty morning some years ago in winter at my local cemetery, I found it to be quite peaceful.

I’ve always been fascinated by death and the thought of an afterlife. It could explain my interest in ghosts and other spooky subjects. I found walking alone amongst the graves intriguing. Each and every one of them had a story to tell. I was surrounded by history; some dating as far back as the 1880s. I was surprised by the number of smaller graves – one child died the day it was born, either still-born or it was too late to be christened. One grave was of a twelve year old girl; another girl dying at eighteen. My curiosity aroused the writer within me. What happened to these children to die so young? How did they die? Who were they?oldgrave

Some years ago, while visiting relations on their property, I encountered an old grave of a six year old boy. Apparently he had drowned in a nearby creek during a flood and straight away all sorts of questions came into my head. The writer within me thought of the many hardships encountered by our pioneering women and this idea became the inspiration behind my first bush poem.

I entered that bush poem in a competition, without success. Now I have dusted it off and begun to breathe new life into it (don’t throw anything out remember 😉 ). It had been suggested to me before that the poem could become a short story and I am currently trying to work this into either a long short story or novella. I am having fun using Pinterest to help with inspiration for setting, characters and undertaking some research.

So next time you’re struggling for a bit of inspiration, try your local cemetery. I’m sure the residents won’t mind you telling everyone their story.

What unexpected places have you found inspiration for your writing? Are you comfortable around cemeteries? What are you currently working on?

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Inspiration, This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

A Special Place.

A Special PlaceAs a child, my family and I would make regular trips down the south coast of New South Wales. I enjoyed being outside, and despite my fair skin, would spend many hours under the hot, Australian sun.

Back then, the caravan park in which we stayed was basic in its facilities. Toilets were little more than a hole in the ground. We were thankful for electricity, but we cooked on a gas stove until we eventually ‘upgraded’ and installed an old fashioned fuel stove outside. To have a hot shower, one needed to be quick; one needed to place a certain amount of money into a machine to get a hot shower that lasted five minutes. You needed to keep your eye on the clock and have a steady supply of loose change.

Campers could camp anywhere, and our caravan was perfectly situated directly opposite the beach. It was not uncommon to spend the morning at the beach, go back ‘home’ when you were hungry and then back to the beach again.

To break this monotony, my sisters and I would go for walks with our mother, either exploring rock pools or go on bush walks. It was here that I discovered the wonders of the Australian bush. One regular spot we would visit was a magical place for me. The trees were so tall and closely compacted, that it allowed very little sunlight to filter through. Images of Hansel and Gretel or strange beasts lurking further amongst the shadows entered my mind. We would always stop at one particular place and turn back, yet I always wondered what lay beyond in the distance, where the darkness seemed to go on indefinitely. The atmosphere and the silence fueled my imagination and I was always disappointed to turn back towards civilisation.

On the drive back to our true home in suburban Sydney, we would pass acres of farmland, and I could never decide where I wanted to live; country, bush or beach. I have since lived in the bush of the Blue Mountains and currently reside in the country (my last home the beach?), but there has always been the certainty that being out with nature is my special place. As a writer I enjoy the silence, being alone with my thoughts and my muse. Over the years I have discovered that setting and sense of place is important to my stories. These days, whenever I need to feel inspired, I just have to walk out my back door.

Do you have a special place? Do you enjoy the outdoors; maybe even ‘roughing it’? If you’re a writer, what do you do to find your ‘muse’? What do you prefer – the bush, the beach or the country?

Image by Debbie Johansson