Last night I attended the monthly meeting of my writers’ group. This group used to meet at my university in Adelaide, but this is no longer suitable because most of the participants no longer work or study there. Instead, we meet in a comfortable church hall in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. It’s a 35 minute drive for me, somewhat shorter than the previous 50-55 minutes, depending on traffic.
Last month we were set a writing task for this meeting. Six of the group had prepared stories to share last night, but these readings and the subsequent critiquing session was postponed. Our leader, Mark, has experienced a tragedy only 36 hours before. His son, a talented writer in his own right, an occasional participant in our meetings, had suddenly died. It was a good opportunity for Mark to unload on a group of supportive friends and fellow writers. Normal proceedings were suspended and he just talked and talked about what he was feeling, and the circumstances leading up to his son’s death.
After an hour, he left the meeting. We had some other short stories and poems prepared to read, leftover from the previous month. It wasn’t how we planned the meeting to go, but in the process of letting Mark talk – and show his feelings – we not only helped him, but also helped each of us come to terms with the tragedy.
I also believe it has further strengthened an already very strong bond between us as a group.
During our visit to the capital of Morocco we stopped briefly at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat. This was one of many beautiful buildings we saw during our tour.
Just before we went inside, I took several photos of some Moroccan women talking. They were attired in what I assume was the standard of dress in that area.
- What is their story?
- Why have they come to visit the mausoleum?
- What did Mohammed V mean to them?
- Why is the little boy fascinated by me taking a photo of them?
- Write a poem from the point of view of the curious little boy.
- Write a short story from your point of view with a focus on the death of someone you admire, triggered by visiting this memorial.
- Let your imagination fly in any direction as a result of seeing these photos.
I don’t get home to the farm where I grew up often enough. It’s only about a two hour drive in the country from where I now live, but I find life gets far too busy at times. A few weeks ago, however, I did have an opportunity to visit my brother on a day trip. Sure, it was only a few hours but pleasant all the same. Sadly I didn’t have time to visit the farm where I grew up, and where my nephew now lives.
While visiting my brother he showed me some photos I can’t ever remember seeing. These photos were originally on slides but John had converted them to digital images and could show them to me on his television. Many of the photos were of John’s pride and joy: his tractors. He thinks he has a photo of every tractor he ever owned – except one.
While this was interesting, what really grabbed my attention was that several of the shots showed me aged between eight and fourteen. It triggered in my mind a desire to focus a little more on writing about my childhood days. Here is a largely untapped resource of experiences that I can use in my writing. It is a deep well of interesting and colourful incidents that can only enhance my writing.
A word of caution is needed. Approaching a topic like this in a dry, journalistic way would be of interest to no-one. Except perhaps immediate family. A more creative method is required if you are interest a broader readership. This is not a problem if you are only recording your experiences as part of your family heritage.
If you do desire a wider audience for these stories, why not try rewriting your life experiences as a child (or an adult for that matter) as fiction? Take that incident with the bull when you raided a neighbour’s paddock while picking mushrooms and turn it into an exciting escapade, complete with other characters who may or may not have been a part of the original story. Turning fact into fiction can release those creative juices and you will never know where the story will end up. It will surely be a more interesting read than a dry narrative account of the facts.
You never know: one or more of these stories might end up being the text for a children’s picture book, or included in a magazine or anthology.
Studio Journal has been publishing poetry, short stories and book reviews for over 30 years. I’ve been a subscriber for at least 20 of them and thoroughly enjoy reading every story, poem and review. Studio is published quarterly and usually runs to 36 pages (A5 size) packed with literary gemstones.
Because it is essentially a compact journal, competition to be published in it is intense. I’ve only managed to get one story published in this journal, but I should be fair to myself as I really haven’t bombarded the editors with submissions. The submissions do not have to focus on spiritual topics, though some do. On the web page is says:
Studio is a quarterly journal publishing poetry and prose of literary merit, offering a venue for previously published, new and aspiring writers, and developing a sense of community among christians writing.
I highly recommend this fine journal. More information, including submission guidelines, can be found on the Studio website here.
This blog about writing is four years old.
Cue: the sound of wild cheering, strains of “Happy Birthday” and the popping of corks drifting through cyberspace.
[Editors note: corks popping? Why wasn’t I invited??]
Yes folks, this blog about writing is now officially 4 years old today. It has crawled, stumbled and staggered across the pages of literary endeavour over the last four years trying to say something significant – and sometimes just trying to say something.
At times I’ve shared some of my short stories, at other times I’ve published here a few samples of my poetry. Over the last two years I’ve shared my struggles, joys and frustrations while trying to complete my Master of Arts in Creative Writing, including the trials of trying to write a novel for my thesis paper.
This blog continues to grow and prosper – well, grow a little each day. Still waiting for the prosper bit. I try to post every day but often it can be several days between posts as the other demands of my writing life take up time and energy.
Thank you to all of my faithful readers.
Special thanks to all of you who have made the effort to leave a comment. I’d by mighty chuffed if you left a comment wishing the blog a Happy Birthday.
A extra special thanks to my son Sim’ who does all of the background technical stuff keeping this blog going.