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Category Archives: Life

Author – ity

Sunset at ByronThe weather wasn’t the only thing superb about the Byron Writers Festival last week. As usual, I learnt a bucket load. In my first session,  we were reminded that the word “author” stems from the word “authority”. Stories written with authority stand out.

Weak apologetic writing leaves readers unconvinced.

Peter Carey concurred. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, quoting his mother’s advice when he’d failed University. She simply told him; “worse things happen at sea”. But Peter did warn that writers shouldn’t be published until they are fully cooked. This should instil hope into those waiting for their turn on top of the slush pile. Keep writing. Your prose is like a good lamb shank. Time cooking will make it perfect.

IMG_0826Other wonderful tips came from Children’s and YA writers Libby Gleeson, Leigh Hobbs and Melina Marchetta. Libby said “Don’t ever ask kids for advice on your story. Rather, develop the idea in your head yourself”. Leigh Hobbs confirmed this, adding that you most definitely shouldn’t ask kids how to end your story. Melina said that getting the voice and the tone of a story right is harder than the actual story itself and all three agree that you should write what you want to write, not just what’s popular, or by trying to plan for a wider cultural context. Write what you’re interested in. These authors also said they never stopped editing. Even when their books are on the shelves, they can always see improvements.

Humble words from some of Australia’s greats.

Breakfast at The Byron Beach Cafe

Breakfast at The Byron Beach Cafe

And finally, a new author whose biography inspires, Fiona Johnson said, “when you get stuck, just remember the reason you’re writing. Keep the story close to you.” 

I’m already looking forward to next year. Breakfast at the Byron Bay Beach Café, whales breaching just offshore, a host of talented writers to aspire to. Not to mention the beautiful weather.

Stay Connected

Apple trees

Apple trees in Stanthorpe.

On a recent weekend getaway to Stanthorpe, I met the type of people I’d forgotten existed. People not afraid to get their hands dirty. People who’d decided to reconnect.

Whether that meant making jams or building stone walls, baking the most delicious apple pies or making beautiful candles or soaps, these people were connected. Connected to nature. Connected to themselves. Connected to each other.

That’s what connected them to me.

Driving around Stanthorpe reminded me of Sunday drives as a kid. We’d stop to pick strawberries, apples, peaches and plums, far more than we could eat, but we’d have so much fun we couldn’t limit ourselves to just a few bags. And who could resist a few stolen bites along the way? In the South of France a few years ago, we just had to stop in the cherry fields to munch on fresh cherries straight from the tree. Fruit full of sunshine. Same again in Stanthorpe. At Sutton’s Apple farm, we picked apples, many of them knobbly and bruised, but fresh, as nature intended.

Apple Pie

Delicious home made apple pie from Sutton’s.

I wonder if part of our modern malaise doesn’t come from feeling disconnected. These days we rush into Woolies, Coles or Aldi – time poor as we are – and grab up our pre-packaged food with no real connection to where it came from. We watch cooking and gardening programs without ever really getting the dirt between our own toes.

The pleasure of connecting with nature doesn’t diminish in adulthood.

Sam with Fry and dogs

Me with Fry and our dogs. Photo credit: Sarah Laing

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Alfie and Felix: the goats.

Everyone has a different way of feeling connected. A girlfriend, feeling blue after a move interstate, cheered herself by making juice from fresh oranges picked from a backyard tree. Walking dogs, riding horses, spending time outdoors all appeal to me. My menagerie helps me connect. It’s hard not to smile hanging out with gentle goats or clucking chooks.

Dirt. Fresh air. Nature. That’s what makes me feel connected.

We all need a way to stay in touch with Mother Nature. Whether that’s growing parsley in a pot on the front deck, or wading through puddles in the park, it’s important to stay connected.