Writer’s Work

After attending the Writer’s Workshop this month provided by the Peninsula Writers Club and facilitated by author Kate Mildenhall, I have been quietly contemplating… and not much actual writing.

Group picture – Peninsula Writer’s Club – 7 August 2022

The workshop on Pitching and Publishing was useful, but more so were the exercises and discussions with all of the writers in the room. It was interesting to hear about the progress of other writer’s projects, successes, and not so successful experiences.

I felt energised after the event and came home to prepare my own Annual Writing Work Plan. I am great at writing plans: work plans, project plans, communication plans, staff development plans, implementation plans. And I am happy with the personal creative writing plan that I prepared for myself.

I now have a year’s worth of relevant resources to work through in order to expand and deepen this skill of creative writing. I will list some of them below for reference.

Kate Mildenhall was an excellent facilitator for this workshop and her former career in the teaching profession was evident. I had already read and enjoyed her historical fiction Skylarking and after this workshop read The Mother Fault. I confessed to her that I could see many similarities between her novel Skylarking and my work-in-progress. We both had identified Anne of Green Gables as a story that was of a similar strain to our own works. So, yes, similarities, but totally different tales.

My own story sits idle. But I now have an idea about how to develop my story further. The ideas sit inside my head, as the main story did for years before I downloaded it from my brain through my fingers onto paper and computer and wove it into a comprehensible narrative. I am at the point where I need to sit and get these new ideas onto ‘paper’. I will need to prepare a storyboard like I did for the main part of the story, and then plot the scenes and weave the new scenes into the other part of the story that I have already completed. So, while the creative ideas continue to percolate in my head, I write lists of things to do, and read books about writing.

Here are some resources (in no particular order) that I have incorporated into my Annual Writing Work Plan (some I have read and listened to already*):

BOOKS ABOUT WRITING

  • Save the Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody*                                                  
  • The Artists Way by Julia Cameron*
  • The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron*                                                        
  • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark *                            
  • Use Your Words: A Myth-Busting, No-Fear Approach to Writing by Catherine Deveny       
  • Everything I Know About Writing by Annie Dillard                                                                              
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert*                                
  • Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg*                               
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg*                                                   
  • Searching for The Secret River by Kate Grenville                                 
  • Ten Things About Writing: Build Your Story One Word at A Time by Joanne Harris *
  • Night Fishing by Vicki Hastrich                                   
  • On Writing by Stephen King                                                        
  • Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work, Keep Going by Austin Kleon                                              
  • The Writer Laid Bare by Lee Koffman                                                     
  • Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott                                                          
  • The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy                                                          
  • Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum                                          
  • Writing Your Life by Patti Miller*                                                              
  • How to be an Artist by Jerry Saltz                                                              
  • A Swim in the Pond in the Rain by George Saunders                                                         
  • The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr                                                 
  • The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp                                                           
  • The Little Red Writing Book by Mark Tredinnick
  • The Luminous Solution by Charlotte Wood                                          
  • The Writer’s Room by Charlotte Wood                                                   
  • How Fiction Works by James Wood         

PODCASTS

  • Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert*
  • The First Time by Katherine Collette and Kate Mildenhall
  • The Garret: Writers on Writing by Astrid Edwards             
  • The Writers Room by Charlotte Wood
  • Ruts and Routines by Madeline Dore
  • How to Fail by Elizabeth Day
  • Keeping a Notebook by Nina LaCour
  • Writer’s Routine by Dan Simpson
  • Between the Covers: Conversations with Writers by David Naimon
  • So, You Want to Be a Writer by Valerie Khoo and Vic Writers Centre
  • First Draft: A Dialogue on Writing by Mitzi Rapkin
  • James and Ashley Stay at Home by James Watson and Ashley Blunt          
  • The Screenwriting Life by Meg LeFauve and Lorien McKenna       
  • Dead & Buried by Carly Godden and Lee Hooper*

SOME OTHER RESOURCES

Photograph of Fishermen

I love this photograph of a group of fishermen standing on a pier.

Lobster fishermen attending to their wicker pots at an unnamed port, western Victoria, ca late 1800’s

I stumbled upon it while doing research for my story, and I became obsessed with it. The man standing in the centre fits the image in my head of the father of my main character. So, I have included the photo in a private “illustrated” version of my tale.

For correct citation purposes I tried to locate the image again, but all searches failed. I posted the photo on the Facebook group “I love Portland” asking if anyone knew of it.

Successful crowdsourcing revealed it is a photo included in a book published in 2011, written by Alasdair McGregor, and titled A Nation in the Making; Australia at the Dawn of the Modern Era. The photo gallery from the book is currently posted on the Australian Geographic website. The inscription reads, “Lobster fishermen attending to their wicker pots at an unnamed port, western Victoria, ca late 1800’s”.

The interest on Facebook was more than I had anticipated, and some went on to say that several of the men were ancestors of theirs, and that this photo was taken because of the union activity involving the crayfish fishermen. It is definitely Portland, Victoria, Australia and probably taken during the 1890’s.

I still love this photo: the snapshot of times past, the clothes and physiques of the fishermen, the strong confidence in their stance, and the masterful arrangement of the portrait. Also, the improbability of such a photo taken at that time and place. I wonder who the photographer of this gorgeous image was.

For me, it links me to that time and place, strengthens my respect, and provides inspiration and validation for my fictional story.

Finishing the Zero Draft

With reluctance and humility, I set down the zero draft of my story.

It is the story about a teenage girl growing up in Portland and Cape Bridgewater during the years of drought and World War 1. It is a family story about hardship and poverty. At this stage I have just over 21,000 words in 21 chapters and 65 pages. So, it is short; too short?!

I have enjoyed the creative process of letting the story unfold. I have felt the emotions of my hero, lived in the era, understood the hardship, and asked the questions as they arose in my hero’s mind.

The story still needs: time to sit and set, to be fully edited, more emotion, more detail, more prose, more relationship, more revelations, more words, more wordsmithing.

Of course, it falls short of my high expectations, trying to follow in the footsteps of classic Australian novelists. But despite years of writing this and that, it is my first real attempt at writing a “book”.

While I wait for my story to cook, I will study the works of other authors and see what devices they use to embellish, evoke, and portray.

Zero Draft

Melding into my Zero Draft I enjoy the gentle ebb and flow of the story unfolding. Just five chapters in, still setting the scene, I visit the world of my hero like a time travelling tourist. It is nostalgic even though I have never lived in this time or place.

Farm at the Cape. Copy of original painting by unknown artist, c. 1895

Helping this beginner writer to navigate my way I use the wisdom and assistance of the Writers’ HQ in the UK. They offer short online courses and this year I have done the Balance Your Writing Life Challenge and now I am completing Editing 101 in readiness for when I do eventually finish the Zero Draft.

I have also read Save The Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody and have applied the Beat Sheet to my plot, providing me with a more detailed understanding of my hero’s journey.

I feel freed to hear the quote by Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

With no real deadline I have the luxury to enjoy the process as it unfolds. I do not aim to meet a certain number of words per day or sit at my desk at a certain time for a specific number of days. I find that if I try to force the creative process, I write uninspiring third-grade drivel.

What works well for me is to linger in the moment of the story, let it fill my soul, dream, and imagine. And I am discovering that when I take this gentle and unhurried approach, when I wake in the morning the details are revealed to me, and I have to get up, go to my desk, and write it down before it fades away.

And this is the very process of creativity that I am dwelling in and loving.

However, I know my hero is about to meet some life-changing and heart-breaking challenges.

Those Adverbs!

I hesitate at the edge, procrastinating, fearful about plunging into the deep, the real work of writing a book. I am surrounded by experts, published authors, stories already told.

But here I am at the precipice, ready to go deep into the story.

“Everyone has a book in them.” ~ Stan Smith (my father)

The preparation is done, and no more time to dally.

Writers desk at the ready

I have not been writing in this blog for a while.

  • First there was the travel adventure around Australia where I concentrated my efforts on a bit of travel writing through Mick & Sue’s Aussie Adventure.
  • Then last year I completed the family story and printed that tome for family.
  • During February I have been trying to get my head to the task. I’m not sure that taking part in #FebFlourish on Instagram helped at all, except to add to my procrastination.

So, my plan now is to:

  • Assign blocks of time for this writing adventure.
  • Go over my notes.
  • Do a bit more planning so I have a structure to write into.
  • Aim for a number of words per session goal.
  • Just start writing and try to get this first draft down.
  • And maybe I should do the online courses offered by WritersHQ.UK
    • Balance Your Writing Life that starts in March
    • Editing 101 that starts in April

Ancestors Arrivals in Australia

Our ancestors arrived in ships during the 1800’s and early 1900’s. They came from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and the United States of America, hoping for a better life in the new colony of Australia.

During these past months of lockdown in Victoria Australia I have continued to research and compile the family history for myself and my husband.

As Caucasian Anglo’s we knew our ancestry originates in the United Kingdom. The first ship I was aware of was the Hampshire that brought my grandfather and family to Australia in 1887. Although he was just a toddler at that time, he remembered the name of the ship and told me many times when he was alive, and I was a girl.

He ignited my curiosity that has stayed aflame all of my life. So began my family history research journey.

As I delved further into each branch of the family tree, I discovered more ships that brought our ancestors to Australia. Here is a list of those ships and the ancestors that sailed on them:

  1. 1819 Prince Regent departed London 17/9/1819 Plymouth to Sydney. Richard Roberts was convicted at Old Bailey for stealing one coat to the value of 5 shillings belonging to William Payton. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Occupation noted as ‘Whitesmith’.
  2. 1826 Sir Charles Forbes departed from Plymouth to Van Diemen’s Land. Hannah Holland was convicted in Stafford for larceny of cloth and 4 shawls. Transported for 7 years. She was a member of the “Pottery Gang of Thieves”. The ship departed on 31/8/1826. Hannah gave birth to a daughter Mary Ann Plant while on board the ship. On 6/1/1827 they were hospitalised in Hobart Town. The baby died on 17/1/1827.
  3. 1827 Asia I London to Van Diemen’s Land. John Wesley was convicted for burglary at Nottingham on 15/3/1827. He was sentenced to life and transportation as a 19-year-old.
  4. 1829 Lord Melville II departs London on 5/1/1829 and arrives in Port Jackson 6/5/1829 with 170 convicts Dublin Ireland. John Higgins from Dublin, Ireland, was convicted on 5/11/1827 at Lancaster Quarter Sessions for a sentence of 14 years.
  5. 1837 Adam Lodge departed from Londonderry Ireland to Sydney arrived on 13/7/1837. James Morrow was a 12-year-old boy from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and travelled with his parents Joseph Morrow and Phoebe (nee Jamieson), and one other sibling.
  6. 1838 Palmyra England to Sydney 26/9/1838. On board were John Parker 38 (carpenter) and wife, Hannah Parker 38, and children Tryphena 11, Jane 15, Miriam 9, Keziah 5, another 3, and Mahala 1. They were from Brede, Sussex, England.
  7. 1841 Helen departs Liverpool on 4/4/1841 and arrives in Port Jackson on 21/7/1841. On board were Jonathan Weir (34-year-old carpenter) and Ellen Weir (29) with 7-year-old daughter Eliza.
  8. 1842 Robert Benn departed Greenock Scotland 20/9/1841 and arrived in Melbourne on 26/1/1842. Nathaniel Simpson travelled with wife Dorothea and daughter Ann and son William. They were from Downpatrick, Ireland.
  9. 1842 Arab London 7/11/1841 to New Norfolk Tasmania 31/3/1842 George Burt was 17 years of age travelling with his father, mother, and five siblings. They were from Walton, Somerset, England. They then travelled aboard the Shamrock to Melbourne on19/4/1849.
  10. 1844 Elizabeth departs Liverpool on 3/10/1843 and arrives at Port Jackson on 20/1/1844. Aboard was Maria Morrow with her family, father George, mother Elizabeth, and siblings. They were from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
  11. 1848 Marchioness of Douglas departed from Greenock Scotland and arrived in Melbourne on 27/1/1848. James Fleming was 37 and arrived with his wife Margaret 34, and sons Peter 9, William 5, and James an infant. They were from Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
  12. 1848 Aurora Plymouth to Geelong 7/12/1848. On board was William Hartley a 22-year-old laborer emigrating from Devon, England.
  13. 1851 Stebonheath Plymouth to Geelong arriving 16/12/1851. Mary Kerr was a 16-year-old girl travelling with her sister Flora who was 14 years old. They were from Inverness, Scotland.
  14. 1852 approx. Unknown ship. Henry Bentley was about 22 years of age when he travelled to Australia. He came alone leaving behind his family in Kent, England. It is not known the ship he arrived on or the exact date.
  15. 1853 Bride Plymouth to Melbourne 17/5/1853. Catherine Fitzgerald was a 23-year-old domestic servant from Tipperary, Ireland, and one of the many single young Irish women who came to Australia to become a bride. She married Henry Bentley soon after arriving in Melbourne.
  16. 1853 Helen Lindsay Plymouth to Melbourne arriving 17/7/1853. Edwin Hammond arrived with wife Elizabeth (25), son Edwin (3) and daughter Sophia (1). They were from Chichester, Sussex, England.
  17. 1853 Wilhelmsburg Hamburg to Melbourne arriving 24/8/1853. Aboard was the 29-year-old single man John Backmann from Stralsund, Germany.
  18. 1854 Ameer London to Melbourne 2/2/1854. William Catchpole was aboard travelling as an 18-year-old single man leaving his hometown at Aldgate, London, England.
  19. 1855 Shand Plymouth to Portland, Victoria 20/1/1855. Thomas Smith (a tailor) arrived with wife Sarah and five children from Gloucester, England.
  20. 1855 Epsom Plymouth to Geelong arrived 27/4/1855. On board was Mary Ellen Mullins (20-year-old) and Judith Mullins (22-year-old). Mary was the daughter of Patrick Mullins and Mary Higgins, and she was born in 1835 in Galway, Ireland.
  21. 1856 Ocean Chief departed Liverpool on 8/10/1855 and arrived in Melbourne on 25/1/1856. On board was the 20-year-old Edward Harris from Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England.
  22. 1857 Admiral Boxer arrived in Geelong on 9/3/1857 having departed from Liverpool. On board was the 26-year-old housemaid from Gloucester, England, Harriet Bushell.
  23. 1857 Beejapore London to Sydney 19/3/1857. Alexander Black arrived alone as a 23-year-old man. He left behind his parents and siblings in Kinross, Scotland.
  24. 1858 Parsee arrives in Melbourne on 14/5/1858. Matilda Colee arrives with her younger children, to meet up with her husband Henry who had arrived six years earlier. They were from Shoreditch, Middlesex, England.
  25. 1861 Prince of Wales London to Melbourne, 23/8/1861. George Newman 27-year-old arrived with Henry 62 (trader), brother James 20, and sister Sarah 24. They were from London, England.
  26. 1864 Champion of the Seas departed England 4/8/1864 and arrived in Melbourne 15/11/1864. 45-year-old Daniel O’Connor was aboard with his wife Mary 38, and children, Mary 22, Cornelius 21, Michael 17, Ellen 16, Kate 14, Hannah 12, Bridget 10, Daniel 8, and Patrick 6. They were from Cork, Ireland.
  27. 1871 Star of the Mersey Calcutta to Melbourne 25/6/1871. Aboard was the 37-year-old Henry Colee, son of Matilda and Henry Colee who had arrived earlier. They were from Shoreditch, Middlesex, England.
  28. 1887 Hampshire Portsmouth to Fremantle. John McKinna and wife Jane McKinna travel with six children to Fremantle. Then in 1888 they travel aboard the South Australian from Fremantle to Melbourne 6/2/1888. They left behind extended family in Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, Scotland.
  29. 1908 Marama Vancouver to Honolulu then to Sydney. Arthur Gregory Duncalfe arrives with wife Beatrice. They left behind extended family in Spokane, Washington, United States of America.

These ships that brought our ancestors to Australia form just part of the story. From these arrivals I document the families as they settle here in Australia and become Australians. I feel humbled by these stories that show courage and tenacity. They left behind difficult circumstances, only to have to toil harder in a harsh developing colony.

Finally, after many years of gathering stories, photographs, and documents, I have finished compiling the Bentley-Smith family history. It is 280 pages in length listing as many facts that I could corroborate. I hope it is a lasting legacy for family members. But I will keep on looking for that ship that brought Henry Bentley to Australia.

Lockdown Life

Since we have returned to “normal” life, after our adventures, we have been in lockdown with the rest of Melbourne and Victoria. My husband misses his weekly golf games with his mates and looks forward to when he can do that again. I am quite happy and occupied at home. We are both fully vaccinated.

Images during lockdown life 2021

These are some of the things I have been doing:

  • Family History Research

After decades of saving bits of information, stories, and photographs, I am finally compiling it all and see an end in sight. A bonus has been the remote access to the Ancestry Database. This has allowed me to fill in lots of gaps and extend my tree.

So far, I have found 22 ships that our ancestors arrived on, mostly from England, Ireland, and Scotland, one American, and one German. Three convicts on my side and one convict on my husband’s side.

Some of the ships my ancestors arrived on emigrating to Australia

I have one mystery that I cannot solve, and he is a key ancestor. I have found him in England and found him in Australia, but I don’t know when he arrived exactly somewhere between 1851 and August 1853. Perhaps there is a major misspelling somewhere that has not translated well into the digital files.

The excellent course I completed online through Future Learn has added a richer dimension to my research. I know what I am doing. Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree, Future Learn UK.

  • Exercise
    • Walking within the five-kilometre restriction. This can include a solid upward walk with views of the bay. Logging these on Strava gives an added interest.
    • Cycling along the foreshore track now and then.
    • Unfortunately swimming at the local pool is not allowed at the moment. We look forward to when we can go back there regularly.
  • Creating
    • I finished an oil painting that I had on my easel for too long. Marg’s elephant at Salvia Court. And started a new painting.
    • Cooking lots of yummy food that we then have to share between the two of us. Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Pie, Apricot Sour Cream Tart. Practicing for when our family can get together once again.
    • I practice playing my piano occasionally.
  • Media consumption
    • Reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes. His interpretation of those early years offers only stories of flawed humans, on all sides of the equation, trying to survive on this Earth. There are no heroes in this tale.

Stories from Mick & Sue’s Aussie Adventure

Mick and I set out on our exploration of Australia in December 2019 and visited all states except for the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania. During this time when the pandemic caused havoc around the world, we hopped borders when we could. After seventeen months living in our caravan we were ready to head home.

Here are the stories from our adventure.

2020 Year in Review – The Year of the Virus

The year of 2020 was great for me and my husband! Despite it being The Year of the Virus, we were able to do what we set out to do. It was to be our Gap Year and a year to travel Australia with our home-on-wheels.

In 2019 we sold our house, bought a caravan, left our jobs, and put all of our possessions into storage.

Our loose plan was to do the Big Lap of Australia in a figure of 8 route. First travelling west to Western Australia (WA), then north up the west coast to Broome, then east across to Darwin, then south down through the centre, to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia (SA), then home to the Mornington Peninsula for Christmas with the family. Then up the east coast into New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD).

Trip Plan A

So, although not quite retirement age, we decided the time was right. We wanted to be able to do all of those epic walks before we are too old.

We set off at the beginning of December in 2019. Pre-pandemic we had a nice time exploring the coastline from Melbourne to Perth, as well as the southern Goldfields of WA. In March 2020 we were in the desert of WA north of Perth when the first lockdown occurred, and the borders were closed. We dashed back across the Nullarbor Plain, back to regional Victoria where we spent three months parked on a relative’s farm still living in our caravan.

So, Plan A was scrapped, and Plan B became a creative exercise in random serendipity. We went where we could, crossing borders when allowed, staying put when there were no options. We went to places we had not planned to go.

The Northern Tip of Australia – Cape York Peninsula QLD

We explored, camped, swam, walked, watched wildlife, snorkeled, went out to the Great Barrier Reef, and watched sunsets, sunrises, and stars. It was hot and we loved it. We lived in shorts and t-shirts and thongs. We drank beer, made new friends, and didn’t have to wear a mask until we returned to Victoria in December. We were lucky and we knew it.

I read less because I was travelling, exploring, walking, taking photos, sketching, and writing the travel blog. The books I did read were random and not worth mentioning, chosen from caravan parks, book exchanges, op shops, or an eBook borrowed from my local library then downloaded onto my iPad. I did buy a couple of books from book shops.

I was happy that my travel articles were regularly picked up by the online newsletter Camping News. And this validated my writing pursuit that I hope I can develop into a professional job.

Of course, we missed our family and friends and felt very sympathetic during the long hard second lockdown in Melbourne and Victoria.

Trip Plan B – Actual trip 2020

We spent 373 days travelling 41,175 kilometres of Australia. We stayed in 80 caravan parks, 20 of which were free camps. We visited every state except for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

We had a great adventure in 2020.

Searching for Phosphorescence

Phosphorescence by Julia Baird explores ideas around the things that can lift us when life gets us down.

She begins poetically with the enchanting existence of phosphorescence in the natural world. I loved her descriptions of lit-up underwater creatures and this drew me in.

Julia goes on to talk about people who seek the deeper beauty that exists in this world: storm-chasers, divers, forest bathers, silence seekers, tree huggers, cloud appreciators. I relate to these ideas as here she validates my own deeper yearnings and life pursuits.

With my smartphone handy I enjoyed looking up more information about the people and ideas Julia mentions: Nick Moir, Robert Hoge, and others.

Julia touches on feminism and her own indecision about using her hard-earned title of ‘Dr.’. Her ideas on ‘lookism’ I appreciate and needs more exploration generally.

My interest waned a little when she discusses religion but given where she was in her own precarious battle with cancer, I understand.

Returning to the initial ideas of searching for phosphorescence in the underwater world was a nice way to close the book and reignited my own sense of wonder.