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Posts tagged ‘life’

Gill Thompson and her joined-up writing

Today I’m speaking with Gill Thompson. Gill has spent most of her career lecturing in English at sixth form level, but her hankering to write fiction has never gone away. She enrolled in and completed a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, and says it was the best thing she ever did.

Gill understands both ends of the writing process: the planning and editing required to produce a text, and the reading and analysis it takes to appreciate it. She says she is now finally fully joined up! The writers among you will find her website full of wonderful writing tips, and the readers will be very interested in her wonderful historical novel The Oceans Between Us about the post-WWII child migrant process. So relevant in today’s context of the movement of people seeking refuge and safety, and with a foot firmly in both the UK’s and Australian social history.

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The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson

Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Gill! It’s lovely to have you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

That’s a difficult one! My book is about a child migrant from Britain to Australia just after World War Two. I don’t have any personal connections with that story (I’m old, but not that old!) – and in fact I agonised for quite some time about whether it was my place to tell it – but the support I received from ex migrants, and from The Child Migrants Trust, the charity that reunites parents and children, gave me the encouragement to go ahead. The fact that many people have written in their reviews of the book that they are grateful to have found out about this event makes me feel I’ve done the right thing.

My only common ground with the novel is that it is about a mother separated from her son. A few years ago, our son set off on what we now call his ‘gap decade’ (!) as he found a way to combine work and travelling. He is now settled in Bucharest where he met the girl of his dreams and they are getting married next month. I am happy for him, but I know how my character Molly feels at being separated from her child. It’s really hard! I certainly think I wrote those scenes from the heart.

Separation, especially for an unknown time, is really hard! What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

I submitted three chapters from the novel as my dissertation for the Creative Writing M.A I undertook in order to help me write the best book possible. I remember describing a scene from that section that I was particularly proud of to my husband. Instead of giving me the approval I desired, he pointed out that I had missed an essential part of the plot. We argued about it for ages. I went away and sulked, then reluctantly conceded he had a point and finally, begrudgingly, I  rewrote it. To this day, that scene, which features my protagonist Molly acknowledging that her son Jack must have died in the bomb blast that destroyed their home, is one of my favourites. It was clearly right to put it in. I’m not going to tell my husband that though!

Oooh, a marital secret, how exciting :-). If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

What an interesting question! (Don’t people always say that when they don’t know the answer?!) I think it would have to be an indigenous Australian girl called Rosie. Whilst I was researching the story of the child migrants, many of whom were falsely told they were orphans in order to lure them to Australia, I came across an eerily parallel account of the ‘Stolen Generation.’ These were Aboriginal children, taken from their parents as part of the White Australia policy. In my story, Jack and Rosie meet and bond through their common experience of loss. Having seen Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play Our Country’s Good, (based on the Thomas Keneally novel of the same name) and read Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, I’d become fascinated by the rich spiritual life of indigenous Australians, particularly their belief in the power and role of dreams. I’ve tried to convey this through my characterisation of Rosie who sometimes has supernatural insights. Of all my characters I think she would have understood the slender line between reality and fantasy and wouldn’t feel threatened by being told she was fictitious.

That’s a really great answer – and it actually makes Rosie more real to me! But more about you: can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

I love the novels of the late Helen Dunmore. She had such skill at writing compelling human stories against the backdrop of historical events. I wouldn’t place myself in the same league as her but she is definitely a big influence. I read quite a lot of Tim Winton’s books when I was researching my story as I think he conveys the landscape and atmosphere of Western Australia so well. My central character, Molly, loses her memory so I read a few stories about memory loss such as ‘Pieces of Light’ by Charles Fernyhough and ‘Briefing for a Descent into Hell’ by Doris Lessing. I also love Maggie O’Farrell’s dexterity with words and the way she gets inside people’s minds so convincingly. Finally, Anne Tyler has an amazing ability to convey huge life issues within seemingly inconsequential events. I can only dream about writing as well as any of these authors, but they have certainly given me something to aspire to.

Ah, we have a lot of reading tastes in common! Lovely. Now, take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Ten years ago my parents had both recently died and my husband was in the middle of a decade of ill health which he was seemingly unable to recover from and which doctors were baffled by. I was trying to care for him whilst supporting our family with my job as a teacher. I’d wanted to write since I was very young but life always got in the way. My father had written text books on Photography but always had a secret ambition to write a novel. I think he passed that on to me! Although he died in 2001, I was able to enrol on my Creative Writing M.A with some of the money he left me. It was hard at times, with Paul so ill, but I managed to scrape through it, and my novel ‘The Oceans Between Us’ started to evolve.

Eventually Paul recovered and I had the space to give the manuscript more of my attention. It took me nine years before it was published but I am so glad I stuck at it. I often wish I could travel back to 2009, when life felt so bleak, and tell my former self that my dream of writing a novel really would come true, and that life really would get better. I wish my father had known how my writing aspirations would end up.

That’s a great story, and I have some similar experiences and feelings. What’s next for you in the world of writing?

I have now written a second novel, ‘The Child on Platform One,’ about a mother and daughter separated by war, which comes out next March. It’s gone through two rounds of edits so I just have the proof reading to do and then it’s finished. To be honest, I don’t have a single idea for book three at the moment. I think the creative well has run dry! I am going to give myself the summer off. We have our son’s wedding to prepare for and my daughter and her husband are having an extension built so I have a feeling they will be bringing our two adorable granddaughters to stay with us on and off through July and August so I will have plenty to keep me busy. I am hoping inspiration will strike by the autumn though so that I can get writing again. I think I would miss it if I didn’t.

Oh, yes, I do hope there’s more to come! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

I am currently obsessed by Eva, the protagonist of my second novel. She is a musical prodigy living in Prague during the late 1930’s. Later, when she is taken into a concentration camp, she uses her musical talents to mount a defence against the Nazis. I don’t have a musical bone in my body but I am fascinated by the power of creativity to triumph over adversity.

What a great creation, and a good choice. Thank you so much Gill for sharing with me today on Last Word of the Week.

Gill’s important links:

Website: http://www.wordkindling.co.uk

Twitter: @wordkindling

Spoodle Wolf – writers and their dogs

Dogs rock.

I love them and their big hearts. That’s why they feature so much in my writing (like my beloved Mashtuk in the Pale series).

I’m keen to get hold of a new book to be released next month – The Wisdom of Wolves by Elli H. Radinger. It looks fascinating. The byline is ‘what wolves can teach us about being human.’ We cretainly need that!

This is a recent picture of my writing companion Aeryn. When she thinks I’ve done enough at the keyboard, she stands up and puts both front paws in my lap.

I’m sure my patronus is the wolf – what’s yours?

Newsletter coming soon!

Fabulous news! In 2019, I’ll be starting my very own newsletter – a monthly digest of interviews, book reviews, event notices and flash fiction. Stay tuned for more information!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ll be looking for contributors too. If you have some short-short fiction that would like an airing, keep an eye open for my submission process.

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Photo by Martinus on Pexels.com

This is SO exciting! I can’t wait to get started.

Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2019.

Seven carry-on travel must-haves

Packing for long-haul flights has become quite a regular task for me. That’s what happens when you live in Australia and love so many things in the northern hemisphere! Real winter! Fjords! Paris! The British Museum! The Acropolis! … I won’t go on.

Here I’d like to share my list of 10 must-haves for long journeys, with links to my particular favourites. Plane, train, ship – these accessories will make the travel easier!

  1. Books. I really cannot go anywhere without a book. Without a few books. For me, some will be on devices, others will be in hard copy. It’s hard to go past Odyssey Books for something with adventure, intelligence and style!

    Puzzle/colouring in book. Ditto – I get twitchy if I’m out of range of my pencils and pens. I’m not addicted to sudoku or anything in particular, but I love a good crossword and an interesting picture to colour in.

     

    Writing implements. Pens, pencils, little book, laptop, USB. I must write, pretty much everyday.

  2. Hand lotion. Have you ever noticed how much thinking happens when you rub perfumed cream into your skin? It’s very restful and allows your imagination to dance.

    Noise-cancelling headphones. Expensive, I know, but these are wonderful. They completely cut out the horrid white noise of the plane and allow you to focus on the movie or music of your choice. Travel is very different since I found these!

  3. Flat shoes. I usually take an extra pair of shoes in my hand luggage. Then, depending on which way I’m travelling (keeping in mind that when I’m swapping between hemispheres, I’m also swapping seasons). So I might get on wearing boots and change into flats for the trip, or wear flats for the trip and change into boots on arrival.
  4. Scarf/shawl. See #6. I’m often changing seasons in one flight, and then of course there’s the complete mystery of air-conditioning. Too hot, too cold? Your scarf/shawl will do the trick.

Last Word of the Week: Jeannie Wycherley

Blessed with a wildly overactive imagination, English author Jeannie Wycherley is chatting with me today. Jeannie lives in Devon with her husband and the fur-kids, three beloved dogs who are spoilt rotten (something I totally understand). Jeannie writes stories that are dark, suspenseful, horror-filled … and sometimes just plain weird in a wonderful kind of way.

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LWOTW: It’s so lovely to meet you, Jeannie! Tell us, when did you write your first story?

Jeannie: I suppose like most writers I began in school. I loved writing, but you know what careers officers are like. They put me off. Instead I followed an academic path – right through to a PhD in history (which I loved doing, don’t get me wrong) – and worked in education for a long time. I ended up burnt out, on anti-depressants and receiving counselling for my struggle with work. Turned out I was just doing the wrong job and needed something more creative.

I started to write again in my early-forties and fell in love with it. It’s a rare day indeed where I don’t now do something related to my writing. My first success was an erotic story entered into a competition. I forget what it was called but it won. I was hooked!

Thanks, Jeannie, that really is a marvellous story and a bit of a reminder to those of us who have put off writing to do something more mainstream! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

Where would we be without any of those things? For as long as I can remember I have lived inside my imagination, a rich and colourful tapestry of weirdness for sure. I dwell there, with the characters I meet in other people’s work and the ones I conjure up myself. On long journeys I settle down for a good day-dream and put those characters in my head to work in different situations. My mind is a magical place, preferable to day-to-day reality sometimes!

Dreams are extremely important on a number of levels. I have my own dreams, as in my ambitions, driving me forward as a writer. I would love more people to delve into my stories. I’m sure there’s something for everyone. My ultimate dream is to write full time and support myself and my husband through sales, but at the moment it’s a balancing act.

I use my own nocturnal dreams as a starting point for stories. I recently wrote a love story (my first one as I usually write dark fantasy and horror) that came straight out of a dream. I awoke having experienced this coherent exploration of my feelings towards growing older, and feeling regret about things I miss from my younger years – a youthful body, the excitement of music and life and dancing, the first flush of true love etc. I really badly needed to write this up, and it became Keepers of the Flame. It’s a story I’m proud of, although a huge step away from what I normally write.

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As for planning, well … I am a planner, and all my work is plotted. I find it makes writing easier, although there is room for manoeuvre within the story if things strike me of course. Sometimes characters – and events – can take me completely by surprise. I love it when that happens.

Yes, that’s brilliant, isn’t it? What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

At the time of writing, the highlight is probably the publication of my debut novel Crone (2017). Sometimes I flip through my own copy and I think, ‘Did I really write that?’ Hahaha! It’s won a few awards that I’m proud of. A Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, and an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion.

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But by the time this piece goes out, it will definitely be The Municipality of Lost Souls. The characters and the setting have me totally hooked and I can’t wait to unleash it. It’s a Victorian Gothic ghost story set where I live on the East Devon (UK) coast – think Jamaica Inn meets The Walking Dead but with ghosts rather than zombies. It’s special and due out in Spring 2019.

Jamaica Inn meets The Walking Dead? Now I’m scared! Congrats on the new publications too. What are you most busy with at the moment?

I am hugely busy! I’ve just launched a new series called The Wonky Inn Books. The first novel, The Wonkiest Witch launched on Halloween, along with the Christmas special, The Witch Who Killed Christmas. These are designed to be lighter than my normal fare – they are clean and cozy witch mysteries.

I’m having such fun putting this series together! Book 2, The Ghosts of Wonky Inn and Book 3, Weird Wedding at Wonky Inn are both written and will be out before the end of the year, with two more to follow in 2019.

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I’m currently writing Book 4 and plotting Book 5. At any one time I seem to have a book being edited, one being formatted, one plotting, one being written and one in marketing. There’s nowhere near enough hours in the day!

That sounds intriguing. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Bum on seat. End of.

Oh yes!And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

My inspiration is drawn from the landscape, and I am so lucky to live where I do, where the forest meets the sea. My favourite colour is green.

 

Jeannie’s Links:

Amazon author page: http://author.to/JeannieWycherley

Website: https://www.jeanniewycherley.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeanniewycherley/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thecushionlady

 

Last Word of the Week: Paula Martin

Today I’m thrilled to interview Paula Martin, a British author whose contemporary romances have great characters, intrigue, mystery, and fabulous settings such as Connemara in Ireland. That’s one of my favourite places in the whole world. I’m interested to hear about Paula’s writing journey.

LWOTW: Welcome, Paula, good to meet you. When did you write your first story?

Paula: Probably when I was about seven or eight. I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember (including cheesy romances for my friends to read when I was in my teens). In 1968, when I was in my twenties, I had my first acceptance of a short story by a magazine, and my first novel was also accepted and published by the first publisher I submitted it to. How lucky was that?

LWOTW: I think luck was only a small factor! But it is the stuff of dreams, I agree. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

We all need dreams, in some form or another, but we also have to accept that not all our dreams will come true – like reaching the #1 spot in the Amazon rankings, for example, which is probably my ‘wildest’ dream!

Imagination, however, is boundless, and can take us wherever we want to go. My imagination takes me on an emotional journey with all my characters, who become as real to me as any real-life friends. I can also re-visit some of my favourite places in my imagination while I write my stories, such as London’s West End theatre world, the English Lake District, Paris, New York, Egypt, and Ireland.

As for planning, this is where I am a contradiction. In real life, I tend to plan everything beforehand; in my writing, I am a basically a pantser. I have a vague idea about where my story is (or should be) going, but my characters take over and tell me their story.

LWOTW: That’s an interesting refelction on your writing processes. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

I can’t pinpoint any one highlight, as there have been so many. Obviously my very first acceptance by a ‘big’ publisher (Mills and Boon), when I was in my twenties, was one of them. Equally, after a long non-writing period, an acceptance by a publisher in 2010, restored my faith in myself as a writer.

Since then, and ten books later, there have been so many different highlights. Knowing people are buying and enjoying my books is wonderful, and a good review can make my day. Another highlight has been making some wonderful writing friends, both online and in ‘real life’.

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LWOTW: What are you most busy with at the moment?

I’m busy promoting my ‘Mist Na Mara’ series. The first four books were originally published between 2014 and 2017, and sold steadily during those years. However, my publisher closed in the middle of 2017, and the books were offline for several months before being republished, so I lost the momentum of sales, and am now trying to promote them again. The fifth book in the series was published earlier this year.

All the books in the series are stand alone novels, with different heroes and heroines, but are linked by their setting at my imaginary Mist Na Mara House in the beautiful Connemara area in the west of Ireland. I didn’t set out to write a series, but somehow, one thing led to another!

At the same time, I’m writing the sixth in the series (as yet untitled), which is a reunion story following the acrimonious break-up several years earlier between the main characters.

LWOTW: You certainly have a lot on your plate. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Never say ‘That’ll do.’ Never be satisfied with less than your best, and keep trying to improve on your best.

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Blue, the colour of the sky and the sea.

Paula Martin

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Paula!

Paula’s links:

Website: http://paulamartinromances.webs.com

Blog: http://heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulamartinromances

Amazon author page: http://author.to/MistNaMara

Last Word of the Week: Felicity Banks

This week we are being totally charmed by the gorgeous Felicity Banks, the Australian author who channels the Antipodean Queen (how cool is that?) among other things. Felicity is also published by the impressive Odyssey Books.

Last Word of the Week: Welcome, Felicity. Can you tell us when  you wrote your first story?

Felicity: I can remember attempting my first novel when I was seven or so, during an idle afternoon at my grandparents’ house. It was about a family of cats, and the big drama was that Pamela (the mother) had gained weight. What unimaginable horror!

Then the amazing twist was that she wasn’t overweight after all. She was having kittens. There is no greater possible end to a story than brand new kittens.

LWOTW: A happy outcome indeed. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

It seems I was born to plan out my stories before I write them, given that I was outlining novels at age seven. Sometimes I write out pages and pages of character notes, maps, and so on. Most of the time I have about an A4 handwritten page of notes when I start writing a novel and if I’m having trouble with a scene I might write out another page of notes just for that scene. Sometimes things change dramatically partway through the story, and I’m fine with that. Once I had a weird dream and then woke up and started writing a novel that afternoon.

Imagining things is easy; real life is hard.

LWOTW: We’re with you there. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

It took me a long, long time to get published—fifteen years after finishing my first novel. At around the same time as my first novel was published, I discovered the world of interactive fiction (like “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, but usually digital), and nowadays my writing is actually in demand. That is absolutely amazing, and I love it.

I really enjoy going to conferences and fairs, especially meeting people who’ve read my books and come back for more.

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LWOTW: That must be very affirming. What are you most busy with at the moment?

Trying to actually do the writing I’m meant to be doing! Which is precisely why I’m here, doing other things.

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LWOTW: Well, we’re glad you took the time out to talk with us. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t! The average full-time writer in Australia earns only $12,000 per year.

But if you’re the type of person who thrives on being told not to do something, then the long years of rejection will be perfect for you. Or you can just write for fun (and if you get paid, great). That’s what I do.

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And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Green.

Thanks for speaking with us!

You can find out more about Felicity’s steampunk fantasy books here.

Felicity’s interactive writing can be found under the name Felicity Banks at the site here – but beware, it’s addictive!

Felicity’s latest book is a middle grade novel called The Monster Apprentice and features monsters AND pirates. You can find Felicity’s various pirate tales (some for children, some not) here.

Last Word of the Week: Patricia Leslie

This week, I’m very excited to speak with Patricia Leslie, who writes urban fantasy that blurs the edges of reality with a dashing mix of action and history. You might know her books Keeper of the Way, The Ouroboros Key, and A Single Light. If not yet, pop them on your TBR list 🙂

Last Word of the Week: When did you write your first story, Patricia?

Patricia: I remember loving the physical action of writing before I could form letters so probably not long after I started school. I was an enthusiastic creative writer all through school. Writing was my way of sharing the words I couldn’t articulate (I was very shy), making sense of all the ideas in my head, and planning. I’ve “always” written whether it be stories and silly poems, notes on books I’ve read, quotes, or plans for world domination – it has all come from the scratch of a pen on paper.

A good session of writing is exhilarating and I miss it when I’m caught up in the minutiae of a writer’s life – not to mention family and work life on top of that! Some days, it’s all I can do to raise the remote control to change the channel on the television and others I race home and spend hours on my iPad or with my notebook, writing and writing and writing.

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LWOTW: Interesting! Tell us, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

I have used some of my dreams (and nightmares) in my novels and short stories. One story I wrote called “Forward” is entirely based on a good/bad dream based on Whisper Magic, possession, and Fate. I’ve mentioned in other interviews that I’ve always been a committed day-dreamer and have concocted whole worlds, characters, and magics in my head. I use my downtime (usually right before I go to sleep) to imagine scenarios in the hope I’ll go on to dream about them. More often than not though my dreams are all about processing things that are happening in my life or feelings or anticipations.

Planning: I’m a list-maker so naturally I also plan, but once I start writing I just write. Some pieces are put aside until they are ready to fit into the overarching plan and some change the plan completely. Flexibility is the key to avoid inhibiting the flow of creativity.

LWOTW: I’m with you on the flexibility thing. And what’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

  1. Receiving a notification from Lending Rights Australia that I’m about to receive a payment! I do enjoy monetary surprises!
  2. But before that, there are two amazing moments: winning first place in a short story competition on my birthday and receiving my first publishing contract (which was also my scariest moment).

LWOTW: Prizes, birthdays and publishing contracts. How divine! What are you most busy with at the moment?

Promoting my latest novel, Keeper of the Way, which is Book 1 of Crossing the Line, and researching/writing books 2 & 3.

I’ve been updating my website, reinvigorating my previously sparse newsletter, writing lots of guest posts, and contacting book bloggers about reviews. As well, I’ve been organising speaking opportunities. Next on my To Do list is following up with bookshops.

LWOTW: Good luck! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Never give up

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

A light aqua/turquoise/green kind of hue

Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing on Last Word of the Week.

 

You can find Patricia at https://www.patricialeslie.net/

Patricia Leslie’s books are available through all the usual online outlets

Two points about Truth in Fiction

I’ve just been reading on of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City novels – the first I’ve read, and the last of the series. And there was a TV series too. I know, I’m well behind. But here a a couple of writerly things to note:

POINT ONE: The book I read was Book Eight (Mary Ann in Autumn). While I was aware – vaguely – of this series, I’d never read any of the novels. (I will now.) However, I had absolutely NO trouble following the story, keeping on top of the characters’ relationships with each other, or accepting their back stories, no matter how light the mention. This book stood alone. How did this happen?

I think it’s because the links are there. Maupin’s technique was to introduce a new (to me) character at the end of each chapter, and then pick up that character’s story in the next chapter. The continuity of scene and time/space (ie the realism of the San Francisco of the 2000s) connected every character’s story line to the others. As a writer of fantastical and historical stories, I appreciated Maupin’s mastery here. Complete consistency of time and space is necessary for the story to feel ‘true’. World building is essential, even when writing modern realist novels.

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POINT TWO: Life wisdom can jump out of any story line. If a particular life truth happens to gel with the reader’s current or recent life experience, then that reader is hooked into the truth value of the story.

In my case, it was a line about dementia:

“Ray had Alzheimer’s these days … which rendered him foggy but jolly, a nicer person than his former ornery self.”

Now, I’ve read SO much about dementia since my mother was diagnosed with an invasive brain tumour, and nowhere else have I found an echo of the situation that now faces us. Our prickly, argumentative, one-up-woman-who-knows-everything has become sweet and gentle and positive and welcoming. Mum is a whole other story, but that sentence in Maupin’s book was the first time I had felt affirmed in my family experience of dementia.

Truth in fiction. It’s one of the reasons we read, one of the reasons we write.

Something to Say: Emilie Collyer

Something to Say is an occasional blog series showcasing authors and other creative types who have upcoming launches or events. STS #1 is thrilled to welcome Melbourne author and playwright Emilie Collyer, who has some news to share with us.

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STS: Welcome, Emilie. What project are you talking about today?

My play Contest that is opening at Northcote Town Hall as part of Darebin Arts Speakeasy on 25 July. Directed by Prue Clark, we have a fabulous all-female team of performers and creatives.

Read all about it at darebinarts.com.au/contest

STS: Congratulations, Emilie! Is there one aspect of Contest that you relate to most – a favourite character, scene, effect? Can you tell us more about that?

Contest uses netball as a lens through which to ask the broad question: ‘How to be a woman’. The impetus came from two things. Firstly, as an adult, attending my stepdaughter’s club netball games when she was a child and the sense I had walking into that space with the other adult women – did I belong, would I be accepted? Just like back at school. That emotional see-saw of how we do and don’t fit into groups has such potency, no matter what age we are. I started researching netball and was fascinated to find it had been adapted from basketball in the late 19th century as a more ‘appropriate’ sport for women (no contact, being delineated into certain parts of the court, no running with the ball). So what started as an activity to control women’s bodies now lives on as a fiercely competitive female space. I love this contradiction.

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I also love the responses I got from women when I said I was writing a piece about netball. Nearly everyone had a visceral reaction: they loved netball or hated it. The second impetus was that I wanted to write a piece where we saw different kinds of women being highly physical on stage. Women whose bodies we don’t often see in this context. The actors in this piece are in their 40s and 50s. One of the characters has a chronic illness and one of our actors is a wheelchair user. We are working with choreographers to create a movement score along with the text of the play which is new and exciting territory for me. The piece is definitely about endurance, in all kinds of contexts. This is probably the aspect I relate to the most, that circles back to that initial question and what it takes to forge out a place and identity as a woman.

STS: That sounds awesome and very creative. What do you think drives you to pursue your creativity?

My urge to create stems from an intersection of deeply personal existentialism and the rough justice of social structures. So the obsessions and frailties and dark recesses of my own being on the one hand, and things that infuriate or perplex me about the world at large on the other. While I also write prose and poetry, I think this is why theatre suits me so much. Theatre is a very socio-political form that is great for investigating and interrogating cultural structures. I write to nut through problems and externalise my neuroses (so they don’t eat me from the inside). In my writing for the stage, I am particularly interested in theatre as a site of potential transformation. I suspect some of this stems from a Christian (Lutheran) upbringing, attending church from a very young age and having that sense of ritual, cosmic mystery, dread and personal sacrifice as part of my psyche.

STS: Many writers have described their processes using analogies – the famous Hemingway one, for example, in which he says that writing is simply a matter of sitting in front of the typewriter and staring at a blank page until you start to sweat blood. Others speak of stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?

I look and listen for words and situations that strike me with a delicious or terrible incongruity. My plays will often be born from a single image or moment I have heard about or imagined. I then (usually slowly and very painstakingly) build a world around that to create a whole piece that can hold that moment. For example, my past play Dream Home was born from the words: ‘We’re going up.’ It was an exploration of suburban ambition, dreaming and terror via the lens of home renovation. People often describe my works as psychic spaces or dreamscapes. But they are always also grounded in character, relationship, situation and often humour.

STS: That’s great. Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?

Tenacious. Wonderer. Excavator. Multifarious. Verbose (see above).

Emilie Collyer, thank you so much for having Something to Say.

 

You can find Emilie at her website, betweenthecracks.net and on Twitter and Insta @EmilieCollyer

To book for her upcoming play Contest, go to http://www.darebinarts.com.au/whats-on/contest-written-by-emilie-collyer

 

IMAGE CREDITS:

Emilie’s author photo by Ross Daniels

All Contest images are of Emily Tomlins by Sarah Walker