Writer's Shoes

I feel estranged from my little girl. For this last week, I have diverged from my life as a mother into my other life…I have not only studied this week, but I have also attended a Life Line interview to become a telephone counsellor, a fiction workshop with MJ Hyland,  I spent today at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival and my husband and I went out to a movie…on our own to see the final Harry Potter instalmentAll with the help of our wonderful Granny Annie.

For those of you who also love to write, I want to share some of my experiences from the fiction workshop and from the festival. I am fortunate to live near Byron Bay and have access to this great event once a year.

Doing the workshop with MJ Hyland made me realise that I have never really been given any writing tuition. I don’t know what syntax is, or exactly what passive voice means. Apart from one class in Year 5, I have never formally been taught grammar. I have learnt to structure an essay simply through osmosis, and have applied the same learning technique to creative writing. All I know about the structure of a story has come from reading books.

We were asked to send a 1000 word piece to Maria (MJ Hyland) by email, and she and all the other class members would critique it. Usually, my short stories are received very positively by friends and the writer’s workshop I attend regularly in Bangalow. I was certainly flattered by Maria’s use of the word ‘talent’ when describing my work…for she was ferocious when it came to dishing out criticism. If I was getting a little concerned, all was relieved when she then ripped into me for using stuffy high diction, amorphic adjectives, over summarising and words like “Hellish” instead of explaining what was so hellish about the situation. She told me I need to trust my writing style, and trust my narrative, and then I would have a good story. Above all else, avoid clichés.

The workshop was fantastic (amorphic adjective). For the first time, someone gave me straightforward advice about how to improve as a writer. And she’s a famous author.

At the festival today, I went armed with pen and paper, instead of nappies, and got as much from every session as humanly possible. I saw MJ Hyland speak again, Fiona McKintosh, Paul Kelly, Stephanie Dowrick, Bob Carr, Wendy Harmer, Benjamin Law, Richard Glover, Kate Vietch, and many others. From every session I took something, whether it was how the author plots their narrative, constructs their character, finds inspiration, investigates the dark side, utilises comedy or overcomes writer’s block. I learnt I need to read more (I don’t read at all) and if I want to be a writer…surprise surprise…I need to write more. My brain is fried banana this evening, but I am full to the brim with inspiration and excitement about all the possibilities that can come when these little fingers begin tap tap tapping away at the key board.

We live in an age when there is so much more to being a stay-at-home mum. Life is rich, and full of interest. Mummies have talent, skills, run businesses…They might not clean as much as they used to, but somehow still manage to be caring attentive mummies. Full to the brim.

[Note} You may have noticed a significant drop in blogging activity recently. The ability to sit down at a computer to write waxes and wanes. For the next week particularly, my blogging will certainly be waning, as two Psychology assignments and their impending due date have reared their heads, and any time spent blogging (as is my addiction) will be accompanied by extreme guilt. Stand by.