Archive for the 'Adelaide Writers’ Week' Category

In love with your writing

Adelaide Writers’  Week 2010

On a number of posts over the last few weeks I have written about the writers who were speakers at this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week (click here to read more).  I have also written about some of the things Australian writer Tom Keneally had to say. Here is another quote:

“I am still in a marriage with one book when I fall in love with another story.” Tom Keneally, 2010 Adelaide Writers’ Week

I know that feeling well.

I start off all enthusiastically on my work in progress. I marry myself to The Story. I do everything possible to please her, pamper her and see her grow in beauty. I am head over heels in love with her demands, spending long hours wooing her, meeting her every need and seeing that nothing gets in the way of our delightful nuptial bliss.

Then unexpectedly, with no warning sirens blaring, another Story comes mincing seductively along the path, knocks provocatively on the door of my heart and whoosh…. I am carried off in flights of imagination, falling madly in love with this New Story. Something has triggered my heart into believing that this New Story is the Love of My Life.

Practical help

In this situation I know I have to remain faithful to the original story. I need to keep focussed on what I am doing to the exclusion of all else. A very practical way of dealing with this new distraction is to spend a few minutes jotting down the salient points of the new story. File it away – in such a way that it is easy to locate  again in the future. Then forget all about it. She will sulk, she might whine and carry on for a few hours but eventually she will settle down and bide her time until she can take her rightful place in your life.

Good writing.

Some thoughts about writing from Tom Keneally

Adelaide Writer’s Week 2010

I had the privilege of hearing Australian writer Tom Keneally speak several times during this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week. On each occasion he was in fine form and proved to be not only a brilliant speaker, but also funny and instructive – often at the same time.

I didn’t take many notes during the week but preferred to just sit, listen and soak up the wonderful atmosphere while listening to such a fine parade of great writers. I did take a few notes for one of Tom’s talks.

“I am the one who needs my books – the world goes on perfectly well without them. I am no longer under the delusion that the world needs my books.” Tom Keneally, Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010

This is a sober reminder about the world and about books. He is perfectly right, of course. The world will continue functioning as it does without that novel or short story or poem you are slaving over. It will make no difference at all if that piece of writing is never published.

Tom is also wrong

At the same time, I believe that Tom is also wrong. The world may not need that novel, non-fiction book, sonnet or article, but there is surely someone out there – perhaps only one person, or a handful of people – whose lives can be changed, influenced or even enhanced by what you write. This is why we must, as writers entrusted with divine words, always strive to write the very best we possibly can.

Our writing can – and should – make a difference.

Good writing.

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Inspiration and writing

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

From where for you draw your inspiration as a writer?

I guess there are as many answers to that question as there are writers! It always intrigues me when writers say that they don’t know what to write about. I rarely have that problem. I can see ideas for writing all around: in the every day events of life, in the experiences of life, in the environment, in the fascinating people we come into contact with daily, in the newspapers, in things we read, in films, television programmes and so on and so on.  So writers just need to open their eyes to the whole world of ideas for writing out there just waiting for a poem, a story, an article or an essay to be written.

In recent weeks I have written about my impressions of attending this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week held as a part of the current Festival of Arts. During one of the sessions I couldn’t find a seat in the big marquee, so I sat in the shade of one of the beautiful trees which are a feature of the Women’s Pioneer Memorial Gardens where the sessions were held. It was a lovely day: bright sunshine, not too hot, gentle breeze and wonderful speakers to enlighten and entertain us.

I looked up into the trees above.


I just had to take several photos to share with you here. I will use these photos, and the wonderful setting, as inspiration for some writing. The only problem now is to decide whether I write an article, a short story, a poem – perhaps a beautiful sonnet – or a blog post about those lovely trees, the sunshine filtering softly through the leaves, the birds singing overhead in the branches or some other response.

Be inspired – and use that for good writing.

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens

Writers and the inner critic

One of the international speakers at the recent Adelaide Writers Week was crime and historical fiction writer Sarah Dunant.  I managed to catch her talks several times. I didn’t take too many notes but I did record one significant statement she made.

Writers: tell the inner critic on your shoulder: “Leave the room, close the door and I’ll invite you back in when I’ve written and we’ll analyse it together.” Sarah Dunant 2010

The inner critic plagues many writers. Sometimes it is like a demon sitting there so belligerently that the writer is frozen by inaction.  Feelings of not being able to write creep in, along with their cousins telling the writer that he or she will never be a good writer. ‘You’re only deluding yourself,’ they cry. Try something sensible, like bomb disposal or rocket science. Go become something easier like a brain surgeon.

Self doubt and  self criticism is common. Writers need to shrug them off and just write. Get down the story, let it take on a momentum of its own and just get it written – no matter how rough it seems.

Then when the first draft is finished, invite the critic back into the process and go through your writing  meticulously, mercilessly and ruthlessly until the writing is so polished that it sparkles  like a well-cut diamond.

Good writing.

Sarah Dunant at Adelaide Writers Week 2010

Sarah Dunant at Adelaide Writers Week 2010

Cate Kennedy at Adelaide Writers’ Week

Novelist Cate Kennedy at Adelaide Writers Week 2010

Novelist Cate Kennedy at Adelaide Writers Week 2010

Novelist and short story writer Cate Kennedy was one of the Australian speakers at this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week.

Cate is a novelist, poet and short story writer who has already achieved a significant body of work, wide recognition and a number of major awards, including winning The Age short story competition on two occasions. She is the author of the novel The world beneath and the poetry collections Joyflight and Signs of other fires. She also spoke at length about the inspiration for and the experiences which contributed to her travel memoir called Sing and don’t cry: a Mexican journal. This resulted from working in Mexico for two and half years during which time her yearning for Australia set her writing in earnest. Her collection of short stories called Dark roots was short listed for several literary awards in an era when writers are told that short stories do not sell.

I found her talk very interesting, especially on the way she goes about her writing.  She claims that story telling is in her blood and has been especially inherited from her grandfather who told her many stories in her formative years. One particular anecdote about him had the audience laughing. Her grandfather and a good friend – both in their 80s – worked out a mathematical formula which would enable them – at a calculated speed – to drive from one side of the Adelaide CBD to the other without having to stop at traffic lights. Somewhere their calculations went awry and they ended up crashing and in trouble with the law. It sounds dry and humourless told here, but Cate’s skill as a story teller enlivened the crowd listening to her.

She encouraged the writers present to have fun with their writing. ‘Write what you enjoy reading,’ she said. ‘Draw on your life experiences. Write the best you possibly can and you will get published.’

Good advice.

Good writing everyone.

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