On this day my life changed forever

Ama Dablam, Nepal

Ama Dablam, Everest region, Nepal

March 26th, 2004

On this day thirteen years ago my life changed forever.

That sounds a little dramatic, but it’s true. For the previous 35 years – in another life – I had been a primary (elementary) school teacher. Eight of those years I enjoyed being a teacher librarian; I loved buying books and using the school’s money and not mine. I loved the relationship I had with the students in my classes over the years. I still keep contact with many of them, either on Facebook or in the town where I live. It’s great to see them developing as adults and to see their own children growing up.

What happened to change my life?

On that momentous day in March 2004, I clearly remember hearing a voice inside my head saying, ‘You’ve left your classroom for the last time.’ Now, I must clarify that I am a Christian and believe that God ‘speaks’ to us in many ways, but my experience of His audible voice has been very infrequent. I can really only recall one other occasion. During the first few months of 2004, I had been seriously struggling with illness. Teaching became an almost impossible struggle. On this day, March 26th, I had endured a meeting arranged for me with a counsellor. It was not easy acknowledging that I needed some serious help.

More struggles

The voice was right. That was my last day of teaching in a primary school. I was granted some sick-leave by my doctor – I had plenty in reserve – and took several months off while I recovered. The process was long and emotional; I won’t bore you with the details. I didn’t want to give up a calling to teach, something I loved doing but a task which had become so hard in the face of my illness.

Release

As my health improved, I was able to consult my financial planner. She looked at my situation with great compassion and understanding, just as my doctor and counsellor had done. She asked whether I would rather teach for a few more years to build up my superannuation, or cut loose and get better. ‘Do you want the extra money, or do you want your health?’

It was a no-brainer, really. especially when she told me that to teach for several more years as I had planned would only increase my super payout by a few dollars per week – $15 was the figure, I think.

I resigned forthwith.

And that’s when my life changed forever.

Life after teaching

For many months I struggled with coming to terms with my sudden retirement. It took me a long time to adjust to not fronting up at school every morning. It took me a while to get over my illness. One thing is certain: during the winter months that year, when the rain was pouring down outside, and the wind was howling around our home, and I was reading a good book in front of our fire, I did NOT miss venturing out to supervise the children during after-school bus duty. I didn’t miss it at all.

Alhambra Castle, Granada, Spain

Alhambra Castle, Granada, Spain

Travel adventures

Over the subsequent years, I have experienced many wonderful times. Some of this has related to travel. I have been free to enjoy the delights of Thailand, Nepal (see the photo above of Ama Dablam, just a few miles from Everest), enigmatic Ethiopia, mesmerising Morocco and scintillating Spain. My wife and I have also travelled extensively in Australia in that time. We are planning more travel in the coming years. I have written about many of my adventures on my travel site called Trevor’s Travels.

Writing

After I had recovered sufficiently from my ill-health, I set about establishing my second career as a writer. I had always been a writer, but my writing was confined to weekends and school holiday periods. In the 1990s I actually published six books; two teacher curriculum books with four accompanying student workbooks, all of them sadly now out of print.

On my son’s encouragement, I started writing three blogs, this one you are now reading, plus Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels. I would love it if you visited them and left some comments. Both sites feature hundreds of photos of Australian birds and scenery shots of places we have visited. In total, with these three sites and two other sites I write for, I have published nearly 5000 articles since retiring. I feel tired just typing that!

During my retirement, I have also written several – as yet unpublished – novels and picture book texts, along with dozens of articles, short stories and poems. (Click on the sidebar to read some of my poems and stories.) Nearly 100 of these stories and poems have been published in a range of newspapers, journals and magazines.

Masters Degree

Not content with just writing all of these blog posts, novels, stories and poems, a few years ago I also completed my degree. I now have a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. You can read about that process here. This has led to some lecturing and speaking at conferences. What I learned during this course has equipped me to tackle some earlier novels I wrote back in the 1990s. I am now in the process of rewriting them. Stayed tuned; I hope to publish these very soon.

What’s missing?

On occasions, people ask me if I ever miss teaching. It’s a very valid question, especially in the light of a lifetime – 35 years – in the classroom. The short answer is ‘no’. I do not miss the long hours of preparation, marking and professional reading required. I do not miss the unending staff meetings and the politics of the staff-room. I do not miss the parents who make life hard for teachers to do their job; thankfully I experienced very few of them.

I do miss the children. I do miss seeing children develop their skills, especially children like Jennifer. She astounded me with the progress she made under my care and guidance.

I do miss building relationships with children and seeing them go on successfully in life. I actually keep a list of successful former students, following their careers.

And above all, I miss the fact that they all used to laugh at my ‘dad jokes’. Now my longsuffering wife is generally my only audience, though my 8-year-old grandson thinks I am hilarious.

What next?

It’s time to roll out a list of what I hope to do in the coming years:

  • Many more blog posts here on this site, and the other sites I mentioned above.
  • Continue on a wide-ranging reading programme, something all writers should do.
  • Rewrite and publish as eBooks my novels, collections of stories and poems.
  • Publish as eBooks several non-fiction books as spin-offs from my blogs.
  • Write more novels; I have ideas for at least six more. Coming up with ideas is easy; writing the books is hard.
  • Continue to travel here in Australia as health and finances allow.

Mmm… looks like I have a busy time ahead.

Good reading,

Good writing.

Trevor

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Crested Pigeon

Crested Pigeon

On writing one’s memoirs

Image result for pictures of memoirs

Confusion

In beginning to write on this topic, I must admit to something of a dilemma and a little confusion. I am quite clear about what an autobiography is, as well as a biography and I have read quite a few in each of those categories. What, therefore, is one’s memoirs? And what should one cover when writing one’s memoirs?

Does it cover every aspect of one’s life – no, that has to be a biography. Biographies cover life to death events – and everything in between, often in chronological order. What I am working on is less than everything I have ever done, or the major events anyway. Many of the mundane happenings in my life are of little or no interest to anyone, even my closest family members. I suspect it would be very boring, except for the odd exciting and interesting event.

A special request

Several months ago my eight-year-old grandson was asking me a whole range of questions about when I was young. This probably came from discussions he had in class at school. We have frequent and long conversations on the phone every few days. Because he lives in Sydney, about 1400 kilometres away (or two days’ drive), this is our main means of keeping in touch and getting to know one another. He has been asking plenty of questions about my early days. It was his interest which motivated me to start recording some of my experiences as a child, and as a young person growing up.

Family interest

While the things I am including in my memoirs are of interest primarily to my grandson, there is also the potential for other family members to be interested in reading such a work. I know that my daughter and my son have both expressed an interest, but my five year old granddaughter is probably not there yet. She has too many other things filling her head. She only started school a few weeks ago. There would also be some of my nephews and nieces who might also be interested, and possibly even my brothers. Beyond that, a few odd friends may have a little interest – but they would have to be quite ‘odd’ indeed.

What to include?

The beauty of memoirs, as opposed to an autobiography, is the subject matter which is included. Biographical writing tends to cover the whole range of events in one’s life, with a special emphasis on the major influences and achievements. In memoirs, however, one can ignore some of the otherwise significant periods of a life, and instead focus on some of the minor snippets, incidents and insights which have become memorable to the subject and have somehow had a profound influence on them. Memoirs can be more of a series of isolated snapshots, rather than a broad, panoramic movie. They are reflections and reminiscences rather than all inclusive biographical records.

While have read a few memoirs, biographies and autobiographies in my time, it is a genre I have not really delved into in depth. I recently came across a wonderful resource, a list of the 100 Must Read Memoirs. I am pleased that I have read several of the titles on this list, I have seen the movie of at least one of them, and several others are on my yet-to-read pile of books.

Recommendations

Please feel free to recommend any memoirs, autobiographies or biographers in the comments. I am always looking for more titles to add to that rapidly growing Must Read list, and to that mighty Waiting-to-be-read pile.

Good reading. Happy, productive writing.

Trevor

Further Reading:

Writing prompt – peaceful places

Peaceful garden in the grounds of the fistula hospital in Addis Ababa

In the bustle and hustle of modern day life, peaceful settings to do our writing is sometimes an elusive thing. Over the centuries many writers have sought refuge in gardens, both private and public. I certainly find that the peaceful environment can be conducive to writing in the generation of new ideas, the consolidation and development of existing ideas or even as places to actually write new material.

In today’s photo I’ve shown a very peaceful garden in the grounds of the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to have a tour of the hospital when we were in Ethiopia a few years ago. You can read about our experience on my travel site here.

The women who come to this hospital have suffered terribly because of this horrible condition. A simple operation usually solves the problem and their lives are transformed. The peaceful hospital facilities, including the wonderfully kept gardens, are a vital part of their rehabilitation and healing. It was amazingly serene in these gardens considering the noise, smell and turmoil of life outside of the hospital grounds.

Writing prompts:

  1. Write about a garden you know well, and explain how it impacts your writing.
  2. Visit a favourite garden, take pencil and notepaper and record your feelings, or even write a poem about what you see.
  3. Visit a well-kept garden – private or public – and take a camera to record what you see. Use some of the photos to inspire your writing.

Good writing.

Peaceful garden in the grounds of the fistula hospital in Addis Ababa

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary

 

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This site, Trevor’s Writing, is celebrating its 11th Anniversary today.

It hardly seems like eleven years, but time flies when you are having fun. The start of this blog was soon after I retired from 35 years of teaching. (You can read more about me here and here)

Loyal readers – I salute you

Over the years I have been adding various articles here about writing, reading, publishing and many other things along the way. Sometimes I have posted regularly every few days; at other times I have gone weeks and sometimes months between posts. To anyone who has remained a regular reader – I salute you. Such patience and loyalty should be rewarded, but sadly, all I have to offer you are promises.

Works in progress

Over recent days and weeks, I have been working on a short novel for children. I hope to publish this soon, first as an eBook and then as a print book. Stay tuned. I have many more plans to self- publish many of my works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. As a side project, I am also adding occasional entries to my memoirs. At this point, I am not sure if this will be a limited publication for family and friends only, or more widely available. We will see how it turns out.

Works still to come

I have plans for many more posts here on this site, as well as plenty of self-published eBooks and print on demand books. I can see an exciting future ahead, so stay with me. Over the last 25 years, I have written well over three million words, a good proportion of those words are on my blog sites. In addition to blogging, however, I have many unpublished works – novels, short stories, poems, articles and plays. Many of these I plan to polish, edit and publish, with a little rewriting as needed. I also have a half dozen picture book texts waiting to be sent off to traditional publishers.

Imagination

On top of all of the above writing, rewriting, editing, proofreading and so on, my fertile imagination won’t just stop. It keeps on coming up with great ideas to write about. Several ideas for novels have been bubbling away in my subconscious for months – some even years. Somehow, they must get written and out there for the world to enjoy.

Meanwhile…

I will keep the posts coming on a wide variety of topics, from publishing and writing hints, story ideas, writing prompts, poems, short fiction, book and film reviews and more.

Newsletter

Go to the sidebar or below the comments to sign up for my regular newsletter. It has been so regular, in fact, that issue #1 still hasn’t been written. (Sigh – that’s another thing I plan to write.)

Why not stop by and leave a comment or two?

Good reading, Good writing,

Trevor

Further reading:

  • Archives – over a thousand articles on this site – and counting.
  • Short story starters – these are always very popular with my readers; they are designed to start you off with your stories.
  • Poetry – read samples of my poetry
  • Short fiction – read some of my short fiction
  • Trevor’s Birding – my blog about Australian birds
  • Trevor’s Travels – my blog about our travels in Australia, Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain.

Book review: Return to Me by Lynn Austin

Return to Me (#01 in The Restoration Chronicles Series)

Return To Me by Lynn Austin (Restoration Chronicles #1)

This was the first of Lynn Austin’s books I have read. It is the first of her trilogy in the Restoration Chronicles. Having read the first one, I am sure I will read the following two in the series. I am particularly interested in the third book which features the life of Nehemiah, one of my favourite people of the Bible. The book of Nehemiah is one of my favourites in all of the Bible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will probably read more of her works in the future. This book is a fictional account of the first group of Jews to return to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. It is very true to the historical Biblical account.

The main character of the story is Zechariah. The plot follows his early life growing up in Babylon with all of the hardships endured there, including the pressures to conform to the social moralities of the Babylonian culture and religion, including astrology. The sudden change on the part of King Cyrus is greeted with great joy by the Jews in captivity, and plans are immediately made for them to return to Jerusalem to begin life anew in their home country. The author cleverly portrays the family conflicts which arise, with families being torn apart, some remaining in Babylon, with others leaving for the long journey home.

The reader is given an in-depth impression of the physical hardships endured on the journey and the subsequent struggles to establish themselves in Jerusalem and in the surrounding countryside. The author never shirks from also drawing out in depth the spiritual pressures placed upon this band of people, especially the constant exposure to the paganism and astrology of the neighbouring Samaritans. The stark contrasts between the Jewish faith and the faith of other people living near Jerusalem is explored in many ways in the novel.

Zechariah features prominently in this account. Towards the end of the story, we see him as the prophet whose book we read in the Old Testament. The author strongly portrays a young Zechariah in the early stages of his developing spirituality, and how he has a growing awareness of his special relationship with God. Austin never strays from showing the internal spiritual struggles of Zechariah, as well as his grandfather and mentor, Iddo.

I only have one little criticism: the frequent changes of point of view can take a little getting used to, but overall, this is a very well written and enjoyable account. The novel has one enduring strength: by being written as fiction, the author can draw each character in compelling and intriguing depth, while never losing sight of the facts of the historical foundations of the narrative.

Highly recommended.