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Posts tagged ‘Susan Sackett’

First Monday Mentoring for March 2015 – what passions drive your writing?

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring for March.

As most of the world knows by now, the American actor, Leonard Nimoy, died on Friday. By early Saturday morning Australian time, the hashtag #RIPLeonardNimoy was one of the top trending topics on Twitter and Facebook, and his likeness dominated the world media on and offline.

Even if you aren’t a Star Trek fan, you probably recognized him as Mr. Spock, the logical, pointed-eared Vulcan from Star Trek’s original series which premiered in the 1960s. After Trek, Nimoy starred in series including Mission Impossible and In Search of, and was also a notable stage performer, director, poet, photographer, philanthropist and family man.

Nimoy's last live convention appearance. Photo by Maria Jose Tenuto, used with thanks.

Nimoy’s last live convention appearance. Photo by Maria Jose Tenuto, used with thanks.

I knew him only slightly from my long involvement with the show when I helped organize conventions for fans, fund-raising to bring people from the show to Australia. Some, I’m still friends with today.

Writing eventually took me away from active fandom but my passion for Star Trek remained part of my life in many ways.

When I set up Australia’s first conference on romance writing, I brought Susan Sackett out to talk about the US market. The author of many Hollywood-related books, she co-wrote episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation and worked with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, for many years.

A younger me with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry

A younger me with Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry

I considered Gene Roddenberry one of my writing mentors. The technique he used to create the character of Mr. Spock is one I still use and share with the writers I mentor. Gene said he drew a line down the centre of a page, writing his questions for Spock on the left-hand side and the character’s “answers” on the right.

He said the answers may seem forced at first, but if you persevere, the character starts speaking back to you, often surprising you with insights you didn’t know were lurking deep in your subconscious.

When I talked with him about writing for Star Trek, Gene recommended creating my own characters and their universe rather than limiting my options to Paramount Studio’s requirements. It was many years before I fully took this advice, creating my alien Beacons and a series of books starting with Birthright (Corvallis Press, USA).
Even then, Star Trek hovered around the Beacons, challenging me to create my own technology and “world” – not easy considering Trek has a fifty-year head start, showcasing technology which was unheard-of back then, but is commonplace today.

Technology was far from Star Trek’s only appeal for me. At heart I value the show’s inclusiveness and sense of wonder. The stories seek to understand and celebrate our differences, shown most clearly in the character of Mr. Spock. The message is – whoever you are is OK; women can be anything; alienness is to be understood not feared. I’m glad to say that we Trekkies appreciate this spirit even more 50 years on.

Previously I’ve blogged here about how William Shatner, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, inspires my personal and professional life with his energy, enthusiasm and resilience into his eighties.

In my non-fiction book, The Idea Factory, (Allen & Unwin, Australia), I quote Leonard Nimoy on what he called the “goodies box” that actors – and I believe, writers – all have.

“You come into town with your box of goodies…that is you, and you start to use it and sell it and eventually the box of goodies gets used up, and then you must go back to something else to fill up the box with new goodies.”
Nimoy was describing the need for creative people to soak up input from as many sources as possible. Also called absorption trips, they can range from travelling, reading and watching movies, to meeting people outside your normal circle, whatever gives you fresh material to write about.

What is your passion? What fills your creative goodies box? Is it Star Trek or something completely different? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. They’re moderated to avoid spam, but if you want your comment to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone else.

Vale Leonard Nimoy. And as Spock might say, live long and prosper in your creative work.

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Why we need a National Year of Reading more than a Year of Writing

“Nearly half the population struggles without the literacy skills to meet the most basic demands of everyday life and work. There are 46% of Australians who can’t read newspapers; follow a recipe; make sense of timetables, or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.”

This sobering quote comes from the website devoted to the 2012 National Year of Reading officially launched on February 14. The website is here

I am proud to be a Friend of the National Year of Reading and will do as much as I can to promote all forms of reading for everybody including promoting the cause of reading at workshops, during my tenure as Established Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writing Centre in Perth, and in regional NSW through our library network and local writing groups.

But why a Year of Reading? Why not a Year of Writing?

Unless we have readers, writers have no one to write for. I believe writing – like all communication – needs a sender and a receiver. Until the writing (the message) is received/read by a reader, the transaction isn’t complete. The reader doesn’t have to receive the message exactly as the writer sends it. They are free to add their own interpretation to the words. For me, that makes the process much richer. But to have the words disappearing into the ether like a shout echoing down an empty valley, would feel like my job is only half done.

Among the goals which the National Year of Reading has identified are three key ones:

  • For all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and a catalyst for well-being;
  • To promote a reading culture in every home; and
  • To establish an aspirational goal for families, of parents and caregivers sharing books with their children every day

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where reading was taken for granted. Reading was never seen as idle or wasted time. It was our entertainment. It was also education but we didn’t know that then. Reading was just fun.  Among my earliest memories are my father reading to my older sister and me in our cots, his inventive voices bringing the stories to life. Later when we moved to Australia, to a town without television (I know, shock! horror!) he read aloud the story of Sam Small, the Flying Yorkshireman, in the dialect of his youth. Unless you’re born to it, Yorkshire dialect is almost incomprehensible on paper. Read aloud it made perfect sense. Many years later in an astonishing coincidence my writer friend, Susan Sackett, told me that her boss, Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek universe, was adapting The Flying Yorkshireman as a film script. I wish I’d kept Susan’s letters from that time because this detail is never mentioned in his official biographies.

Reading has many different appeals.

So we grew up with a reading culture and learned a life skill that added to our well-being. Two of the boxes ticked. If I can help to pass that joy along to families and caregivers who haven’t grown up with reading as an everyday activity, I’ll help tick the third box, and be a true friend of the National Year of Reading.

Did you grow up in a reading culture? What can you do to share that pleasure among your circle? How can you help spread the message of the National Year of Reading 2012?


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