While researching for my last post, I opened a file I had not touched in a while. It contained several drafts and assignments for a travel writing paper I had completed through a New Zealand university. I opened each in turn, quite pleased at the diligent student I had been. But something intrigued me about one assignment in particular.
I was scrolling through a number of essays I hadn’t looked at for a while and came across this one, which I wrote after visiting my elderly mother a few years before her death. This is not a series of amusing anecdotes, no embellishments of a personality, or extolling of one’s virtues; just a story of a daughter visiting her mother and the impact of becoming a stranger to the woman who had given her life. Continue reading
In an earlier post I talked about how some stories start; namely the ‘fictional memoir’ as I called it then, a novel-length story about my much-loved father. I so wished to keep going with this project, but I was stuck – call it procrastination, writer’s block, or what you want – but I was desperate to keep the promise to my daughter to write about the grandfather she never knew. So how did I break this writing drought? Continue reading
Setting the scene: The staffroom of an English teaching school in Japan. It is morning. A young Scots teacher is fiddling with papers. It is a matter of minutes before our classes start when an Australian male colleague enters. “You are looking very kempt this morning,” I say, pointing to the tie. This is so far from his usual ruffled appearance, I am shocked – almost to the core.
Whangaparapara Harbour, Great Barrier
In New Zealand we may not be able to provide the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, or the vast wilderness you’d find in Yosemite. We have no bears, coyotes, bison, or alligators, no rattle-snakes, or cobras; in fact no snakes at all. We can hike through our native reserves unworried by strange rustlings or rattles, knowing that the only thing that’ll eat us is a sandfly (and they’re not deadly). Most tourists head south to the ski-fields and fiords, and it is terrific down there, don’t get me wrong, but it is wise not to forget the north, as here you’ll find hundreds of splendid beaches and islands you may never have heard of before. Continue reading
Varenna on Lake Como, is a town I adore, so when my daughter and I began planning a trip to Europe, I booked us into a small apartment there. I had often spoken of my love for the place, and one area in particular. It was day three of our five day stay. We’d taken the ferry to many places, including Bellagio, Cernobbio, Lenno and Tremezzo. We had shopped, eaten, and walked part of the old Roman road. Lake Como is fabulous and I was happy, except we hadn’t yet visited the castle.
If you have been following my blogs you will know that reading and writing take up a fair chunk of my life. My passion for the written word started early, as I was read to as a pre-schooler, and once I could read, I couldn’t stop. I became a keen visitor to the Upper Hutt public library taking home many books at a time. As a teen I was fortunate to read some excellent writers of short fiction. Two that resonate with me today are Janet Frame, one of our (New Zealand’s) most respected authors, and Britain’s Doris Lessing. I have read so many other authors since I have lost count. It is not these lauded authors I wish to speak about however, but what makes a story stand out for me, and why I can remember it, months or even years later.
Lara and I, and other bag-totting lookalikes, stepped off the water taxi at Venezia Lucia Station. All eyes lifted to the arrivals screen. What! The sleeper train to Paris had been cancelled. “Information Office,” I shouted and a mob ran with us the length of the platform.
“It says cancelled. But it’s not,” the official snorted, making a shooing action as if we were flies. “Keep watching the screen.” And thank you too, I muttered.
Try holding two shoulder bags, nailing a big case with a foot while nibbling pizza from a paper bag and holding your eyes on a screen. “It’s arriving,” a backpacker yelled an hour later, and we stampeded down the platform like fleeing refugees.
Writing hands by Karen [CC-BY 2.0]
Who needs critique groups? Only people who don’t believe they need to learn more about the elements of writing, and think they already know how to create good authentic language. Or, they may think they are experts on grammar, or point of view, pace, structure, etc. Now, it is not as if we go about with the elements of writing as a list to draw down as we write, but when starting out on this writing path, it is good to check on our progress once in a while. Complacency can trip us up.
Art class week three: A personal disaster. I thought one way, the tutor thought another, although I believed I was following the brief; which was to think about a character, an object and a setting, in readiness for a triptych we were about to set in action. First, we would work in monotone, and focus on a character. I hadn’t brought along any images but had an idea of what I’d like to create – something that would fit nicely with the memoir I was writing; the most likely character being my dad, and the object, his wonderful (travelling library) truck.
‘Forget any story, and just draw,’ I was told. A character could be animal, not sure about
vegetable or mineral. As try as I might that morning, I could NOT unstick my ‘story’ from my head, and surprise, surprise, as hard as I tried to sketch other ‘characters’ from varying perspectives, my work became more abysmal by the hour. I produced a sheet of caricatures, which failed to make anyone laugh. The best part of the session, was the cup of coffee. Home James (Vivienne in this case) and don’t let it get you down. Continue reading