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.

Reflections on an old story

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

Memory lane

I have been having a trip down memory lane in recent days. I have been typing up an old story I wrote many years ago. In fact, the only copy I appear to have is a typed copy with 1989 on the title page. I was shocked to realise that this story was written nearly 28 years ago. It has languished ever since as one or two copies stored in boxes in our garage. The copy I am using was printed on an old dot-matrix printer. Remember those old clunkers?

Early computers

This story, called Magpie Farm (hence the photo of an Australian Magpies above and below), was typed on either a borrowed Commodore 64 computer or on the Amigo 500 I bought around that time. I can’t remember. I think that it was written during a school holiday break; I was a classroom teacher at the time. Those old computers were wonderful, and I learned so many things about the digital world from them. I still have the old Amiga – in working condition too, though I only fire it up every five years or so. Sadly, the old Amiga discs are not compatible with today’s PCs, hence the need to retype this story.

First novel

I am sure that this was my first attempt at writing a novel for children. At just under 10,000 words it is probably better described as a chapter book. I have since written several more novels for children, of varying lengths and subject matter. I am planning to prepare these for publication sometime this year. They will initially be in eBook format with print on demand paper copies also available.

Background to Magpie Farm

As I type up this story, I recognise many incidents from real life. The main character is a young boy who is afraid of magpies. Some Australian Magpies are notorious for their tendency to swoop people during the breeding season. The boy’s family move to a small farm and he is horrified that there are magpies on the farm. Some of the incidents I have included in the story are drawn directly from my own family’s experiences. A few years before writing this story, we also bought some acreage, though five acres (two hectares) can hardly be called a “farm”. We did have some sheep for a while; I’m not sure if that qualifies it as being a farm.

A problem

I have a serious problem with the story. Several problems, actually.

It is terrible.

Honestly – it needs some serious editing, rewriting and restructuring. The problem is that I have decided to be very strong as I type it up. I tend to edit as I type. This applies to most of my writing these days. The first draft is often very close to the final draft. I rewrite, edit, proofread and so on as I go. Not always, but usually that is my preferred writing style. This time I decided to be very strong and resist all urges to stop and rewrite, edit or change anything. Those steps will come later.

Why is it terrible?

As I type, I find myself wincing often. How could I have written such terrible prose? The dialogue between characters is not all that bad, but the rest of it is quite naive – almost childish. This shows up three basic things:

  • I have certainly progressed a long, long way as a writer in the intervening years.
  • There is much good material in the story which can be vastly improved.
  • I now know what is wrong with the story and the writing, and how to fix it; that comes with experience and heaps of writing practice (over 3 million words later, and counting).

Where to now?

I still have a few chapters to type up. Then I will spend a week or two rewriting whole slabs of the text to bring it up to publishable standards. Later will come the proofreading and copy editing stages before I send my baby out into the world. After that, I have two other longer novels written several years later and they will both need the same treatment.

Is it all worth it?

If the story as it stands now is so terrible in my own eyes, is it worth pursuing and putting in all that work? I believe so. I take this attitude, not because it was my first serious attempt at a novel, but because of feedback from readers.

  • At the time I printed out a number of copies and handed them out to friends. They all commented how good it was, and how much they enjoyed it.
  • I also read it to several classes I was teaching at the time of writing. I still have contact with many former students who remember the story well.
  • I was asked recently by one former student if I had published this story. He added that it had a profound, positive effect on him. It inspired him to become a writer. He has published some of his writing, he has participated successfully in performance poetry events, and he wrote and performed in a musical which was showcased last week at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. This festival is regarded worldwide as second only to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
  • Wow! I love feedback like that.

Stay tuned

I plan to publish this chapter book (novel?) in the near future, so stay tuned. The launch will be announced on this site, and it will be available through this site.

Good reading. Good writing.

Trevor

Further reading:

  • Trevor’s Birding – check out another blog of mine where I also write regularly about Australian birds. I showcase many of my bird photos on that site.
Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

 

Book Review: The Little Desert by Colin Thiele

The Little Desert by Colin Thiele and Jocelyn Burt H/C D/J 1975

Book Review: The Little Desert.

Text by Colin Thiele.

Photographs by Jocelyn Burt.

Published by Rigby Limited, Adelaide, 1975.

The Little Desert

This is a region in western Victoria, Australia. It is about midway between Melbourne and Adelaide, being about 350km from either city (about 4 hours travel time). It was in earlier times suggested as an area that needed to be cleared from native vegetation and turned into farming land. In the early 1970s, there was a concerted effort made by conservationists to preserve this unique piece of the Australian landscape. Eventually, it was declared a national park and today it is still one of Australia’s most beautiful places to visit.

Not your typical desert

The area known as the Little Desert is not your typical desert. It only has this title due to the soil type. It is very sandy and lacking in essential nutrients, so it would have been very unsuitable for farming without vast amounts of fertiliser. The ‘desert’ as it has always been, and continues to be, is an area rich in plant life. With over 600 species of plants, it is a magnet for botanists, photographers and nature lovers. It also boasts a rich range of native birds and animal species. Most of the national park is covered in mallee trees. Also present in large numbers are smaller shrubby plants and even a range of beautiful native orchids. In the eastern part of the park, one can see larger eucalypt trees, notably along the Wimmera River which flows through this area.

Poetic prose

Colin Thiele’s beautiful book on this area covers some of the history of the conservation efforts to save this little gem in the Australian landscape. He also describes, in evocative prose, the hidden beauties of this landscape, from the dainty Spider Orchid to the enigmatic Malleefowl, an amazing bird found in the park tending to its enormous nesting mound of sand and rotting vegetation which acts as an incubator to hatch their eggs. Much of  Thiele’s prose is closer to poetry, and it is no surprise that he is also known as one of Australia’s leading poets. I will review one of his collections of poetry in a few day’s time.

Photography

Thiele’s wonderful prose is accompanied by equally wonderful photographs by Jocelyn Burt. She has provided photos for several of his other books. The photos cover the flowers and other botanical marvels, as well as some of the many species of birds resident in this area. Every double-page spread in this volume has a photo on the right with Thiele’s text on the left; each one complements the other.

My visits to the desert

Even though this beautiful part of Australia is only a few hour’s drive from my home, it saddens me to write that I can only ever recall visiting the Little Desert on three occasions, once to camp in our old tent, now decommissioned due to a leaking roof, and the other times were fleeting half-day visits. I must correct that oversight soon.

Further reading: