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Posts tagged ‘Grenfell’

First Monday Mentoring Oct 2018 – how lucky we are to be writers

Over the last two First Monday blogs I’ve explored some of the challenges facing writers today. Yes, they are many. Big publishers are amalgamating at a rate of knots. Soon we’ll be down to perhaps three. Rather than taking on new authors, the remaining publishers already prefer to mine their backlists for books they can rely on to sell.

Will we even have a publishing industry any more, or will every person who is so inclined write and publish their own books? This is already happening with Indie publishing. All you need is a manuscript and the money to produce the book yourself or hire qualified people to do the technical stuff for you.

As writers this is our current reality. But there are other aspects to writing that I want to focus on here.  Why we feel driven to share the stories buzzing around in our brains. Why writers who have made significant fortunes – J.K.Rowling, Stephen King, James Paterson and the like – still feel the need to share their stories.

Is it because writers can’t not write?

Maybe we’ll go back to our beginnings. Instead of going into print or ebooks, will we collect followers around whatever passes for a camp fire and revive the oral traditions of storytelling?

Mixed media is very much a thing now. Writers are combining with designers, musicians, painters to bring stories out in very different forms. They are ephemeral but they offer both creator and recipient – is it accurate to call them readers anymore? – the satisfaction of going from Once upon a time, to…and they lived happily ever after.

That may be enough for many storytellers. As a child who thought everybody wrote stories, I printed my own on flimsy paper with illustrations done in pencil. When I was at school in Grenfell NSW I wrote my first book in pencil in an exercise book in response to a class assignment. I may have been the only one in the class who actually produced a book. It was a complete story with a beginning, middle and end and a few very poor illustrations. That book somehow survived the years and now lives among my papers in the State Library of NSW.

Reading it again before sending it to its new home, I was surprised how my writing voice had survived intact. I used a lot of big words I wouldn’t use now, not so much showing off as exploring the sheer joy of language. Back then I’d had no thought of making a living as a writer. I didn’t know what a writer was, and thought everybody made up stories.

Maybe we’ll come full circle back to those innocent times and tell stories for the joy of sharing them. Here are five reasons why we’re lucky to be writers:

  1. We never have a dull moment. Standing in a supermarket line or bank queue, we can free our minds to explore possible stories or solve plot points. Our bodies may be in the doctor’s waiting room, but our minds are away in our invented worlds so that when our turn finally comes, it’s an unwelcome interruption to our thoughts.
  2. Our feelings have somewhere to go. In my indoor bowls group, if they spoil my team’s carefully placed shots, they’re used to being told I will put them in a book and kill them. I haven’t done so yet, but there’s always a first time.
  3. Writers never retire. Even if we develop some physical infirmity, as long as our brains function, we can still write. Stories can be told to someone or recorded via a dictation program or other clever gadget. I dream of the time when I can attach something to my forehead and the words will stream direct onto a screen. Such systems exist for people with disabilities. Properly refined, I’m sure they will serve our purpose in the near future.
  4. Our writing touches other people. This may be the most precious gift of all. We can move people to laughter or tears. We can make them ponder life’s mysteries, or discover invented worlds that become as real to them as to us. Hogwarts, Narnia, Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street, the Star Trek universe, all were born in a writer’s imagination.
  5. What we do is a mystery, even to ourselves. One minute we’re daydreaming, the next we’re scribbling or typing frantically, trying to keep up with our thoughts. We’re often asked where we get ideas, yet none of us really knows. On my wall I have a copy of a Rembrandt painting called The Apostle Matthew Inspired by the Angel. Pen in hand, he sits stroking his beard and staring into space while an angel whispers in his ear. Whispering ideas? It’s as good an answer as we may ever get.

What gives you joy in writing? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your post can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,


On Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

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A writer? No, an Australian writer

Sometime between the stone age and the getting-stoned age of the 60s, my family got off the ship, Fairstar, legs wobbly after six weeks sailing from England, and took a look at our new country. I was with my parents, Arthur and Elizabeth Newsum, older sister Maureen and baby sister, Leigh in very English coats with velvet collars and Mary Jane shoes we’d soon swap for shorts t-shirts and thongs. Well maybe not thongs. I suspect English toes separate in the wrong places for thongs.

Our parents had about ten pounds ($20 today) to their name. No home. No jobs. I was grown up before I understood how terrifying that must have been. Three kids and no idea what the future held.

When you're new, it can take a while to fit in.

When you’re new, it can take a while to fit in.

In England Dad had sold insurance door to door. He tried that here but the doors were simply too far apart. He trained with Fosseys as a store manager, his work taking us to alien places called Grenfell and Orange where the spiders were bigger than we were.

If you’d told me that years later I’d return to Grenfell as their Australia Day Ambassador, having sold 29 million of my books worldwide, or that Maureen would have an OAM for her work with kids who have cancer, I’d have told you to pull the other one. But in Australia anything’s possible. Migrants can go from zero to hero in a blink. You don’t need to be born rich or special. You might even end up running the country. Ask Julia Gillard.

Our old house in Grenfell had burned down. Now where do we put the plaque? The upside was meeting people who remembered our family, including a boy mum had earmarked as husband material for me. Gay had a different meaning then.

This year I’m Australia Day Ambassador to Bathurst where I’ll give the Australia Day address, thank our indigenous people for letting us share their land, present awards and tell the community what we already know: despite heatwaves, droughts, flooding rains and even giant spiders, this is still the best country on earth.

On my first trip back to England as an adult, my mother asked if I held it against her for bringing us here. Are you kidding? True, I burst into tears when the plane landed at Heathrow. But that was only my DNA catching me in unexpected ways. The real sense of belonging hit me when we flew into Mascot after dark and the cabin lights were dimmed so we could enjoy the carpet of light unfolding beneath our wings. That was home.

I was the first Australian citizen in our family, unless you count my late husband who became Aussified, as he called it, in Darwin in the 50s in between crocodile hunting expeditions. I’ve been everywhere from Thursday Island to Kakadu, across the Nullarbor and to Cradle Mountain in Tassie. Purely as research for my books of course. I never tire of exploring Australia and sharing her wonders with my readers around the world. Her beauty and her terrors, she’s my wide brown land now.

Do you read or write about Australian backgrounds? Where is home to you?



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A version of this article was first published in The Hoopla online, January 2012.

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