Christmas greetings to all of my readers.
I have gone on an interesting journey with my writing this year and many of my loyal readers have travelled with me.
Significant writing achievements this year include:
- Having several short stories, poems and articles published.
- Winning first prize in a poetry competition.
- Completing the course work for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing.
- Writing a novel for children as a part of my MA.
While these are very satisfying, they pale a little when compared to becoming a grandfather for the first time during the year. Today I will be spending my first Christmas with my wonderful grandson. He thinks I am wonderful too, which is a bonus.
May you all have a wonderful, blessed, peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.
Writing from your childhood experiences
Last week I enjoyed reading the collection of inter-connected short stories called The Turning written by award winning West Australian author Tim Winton. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it was all I had hoped it to be. I’ll review it on these pages soon.
One of the most obvious strengths of the collection of stories is how Winton has drawn extensively on his childhood experiences growing up in rural Western Australia. This sense of time and place is powerful, and it set me to thinking and reminiscing about my own childhood. I grew up on a farm in the Murray Mallee districts of South Australia. the more I thought about it the more the memories came surging back. Some good, others I’d rather forget.
I was supposed to be on holiday last week, but there are times when the writer in me just cannot switch off. I actually wrote several stories and made notes for another one, all based on childhood experiences. At this stage I am too close to the stories to know whether they will stand alone as unique stories in their own right, or they will become a part of a much bigger work.
Drawing on childhood experiences is something all writers can do.
‘Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who has survived beyond the age of twelve has enough fictional material for the rest of her life.’ (John Dufresne in The lie that tells the truth)
What I have done with these memories of my childhood is to take a real incident – and fictionalise it. I changed the names – to protect the guilty – and often twisted or totally changed the events to suit the drama of the story. I distinctly remember a classmate breaking his arm while we were playing football. His reaction astonished me. I changed this incident to a broken arm during a cricket match. That’s the beauty of fiction: you can change or make up whatever you like. The stories read almost like a memoir – but much of the content is fiction. I’ve drawn on just one incident – the broken arm, for example – and let my imagination soar.
- Cast your mind back to your primary (elementary) school days.
- Think of one incident that sticks vividly in your memory.
- Write down exactly what happened – or as accurately as you can remember.
- Now rewrite it in a fiction form, bringing in imaginary characters, new incidents, a different ending – just let your imagination have free rein.
Taking a break from writing
It has been a few weeks since I last posted an article here.
I am taking a short break from writing before getting back to full steam again in the New Year. Everyone needs a break from their normal activities, a time to relax, do things differently or just slow down for a while. Writers are no different. It is an intensive occupation and never taking a break can has serious long term implications for both physical health and writing freshness.
I had neglected jobs around the house and garden for so long this year that I just had to attend to some serious tasks which took me away from my desk. We are at the height of summer and the bushfire danger time here in South Australia. We live on a 5 acre block and the good winter/spring rains had resulted in some serious weed growth. This required some dedicated time on the ride-on mower.
Then my family demanded ten days away. This was a good opportunity to relax by the pool with a series of good books I had be putting aside for such an occasion. I relaxed so much that they inspired me to write three short stories while on holiday. Sometimes the creative juices just have to flow. We also had an early extended family Christmas get together last Sunday. This was a great time of food and fellowship. It was also great over recent days to spend time getting to know my only grandson, now aged 14 months. Because my son lives in Sydney we don’t get this opportunity very often – and you can’t give hugs via a web cam.
In the meantime – good writing – and take time to relax over Christmas.