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

Postcards from Australia · Research

The Three Sisters & Their Legend.

The setting for some of my stories is based within the Blue Mountains, a National Park, west of Sydney.  I lived there for a number of years with my young family before moving to our current location in the country.  The Australian bush is vast and home to many mysteries, making it an ideal setting for stories.

The Three Sisters are a favourite tourist destination within the Blue Mountains, a unique rock formation, at Echo Point, Katoomba.  People have been known to climb them, but due to their cultural significance to Aborigines, some restrictions have taken place.  Women would give birth in a cave near Echo Point while men would watch the third sister for a sign that the birth had occurred.  It is believed that this third sister is sacred.

When I was a child, I loved reading the story of The Three Sisters.  My copy was a Little Golden Book, which I still have to this day.  This week, I thought I’d share with you this legend.  It is a story of family, love, loss, magic and monsters.

Once, a wise medicine man named Tyawan, was good at imitating the lyre bird and it was rumoured that he could change himself into one if he wanted by using his magic shin-bone.  He had three daughters, named Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo.

One day as he left the girls alone while he hunted, a rock fell over a cliff, waking a bunyip from his 100 year sleep.   Seeing the girls, the bunyip went after them.  Tyawan arrived back in time to point his magic shin-bone at the girls and turned them into stone.  The bunyip chased Tyawan, who turned himself into a lyre-bird, but in his efforts to get away, his magic shin-bone became lost.

The bunyip returned to his cave, but to this day, Tyawan continues to search for his magic shin-bone to turn himself and his three daughters into human form once again.

What was your favourite book to read when you were a child? Do you have a favourite legend? Have you ever visited a place that you only ever read about?

Image of the Three Sisters, Katoomba by Debbie Johansson