Plumbline

“I was half way through my MA thesis, or so I thought …”
In this new post from her own blog, Elwood Writer Margaret recounts the first sighting of her plumbline.

WRITINGS AND MUSINGS OF MARGARET MCCAFFREY

I was half way through my MA thesis, or so I thought, when my teacher asked: “Margaret, what is your plumbline?” I had no idea – a) what my plumbline was, or b) what a plumbline was.

I knew I wanted to write about my torn relationship with my veteran father who’d died in 1976. But what was my narrative arc, apart from a chronological journey to recover our failed relationship?

What was my plumbline?

One weekend I attended a workshop on ‘Plot’. The teacher explained that plot is different to story. Plot is why something happens. To paraphrase E.M. Forster: story is, “The king died. The queen died.” But plot is, ‘The King died. The queen died of a broken heart.” This happened because that happened.

How did plotting help my story?

I had written about seeingJack’s Daughters”, a play in 1983 about five children and…

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Playful Arrangements | from Roomers #59

From Barry’s website, Playful Arrangements, a short piece of fiction that originally appeared in issue #59 of Roomers magazine:

BARRY LEE THOMPSON

He’s up with the birds, usually. Before them, even. Reeling at the shock of cold water splashes on pasty skin. This is always where the day starts: staring out into the sky, into the depths of dark yard silence. Waiting for light to peel over the edges. In this way, he considers the things done the day before, and how these activities might easily become those for the day ahead. He could visit once again the strangers who live by the bridge. He could stare along the river’s reach, towards the lumbering shipyards, and at the fishermen dotting the rocks. Or instead he could sit home, thinking. All alone. Thinking forwards and backwards. Circling around all the things that have to be done, and then all the things that could be done, but in the end not doing any of them.

It was the Sunday of the long weekend. The…

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The Good Mentor

Margaret talks about writing mentorship in The Good Mentor, the latest blog post on her website. “That person, who for one part of our journey at least, is right for us.”

WRITINGS AND MUSINGS OF MARGARET MCCAFFREY

It’s said that writing can’t be taught. But why not? Tobias Wolff taught George Saunders at Syracuse University, and look where that got George. All the way to the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2017.

Saunders speaks admiringly of Tobias, who once warned him not to lose “the magic.” Early in his career, George’s fiction did wander off track. But Wolff and other mentors brought him back.

People study law, accountancy or medicine. So why not writing? We all need at least one mentor in our lives. My friend Barry found his mentor as he sought to submit his manuscript for publication. It was just right for him.

In 201I, I applied for a memoir-writing workshop at the Norman Mailer Center, Provincetown, PA. It happened that my teacher was the daughter of an ex-serviceman, as was I. Unlike my father, hers was a well-known war novelist who tutored his…

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The Writing Group

“Before each meeting my body tightens in anticipation of the group’s critical response to my work. But the result is always worth the self-inflicted pain. Knowing an audience awaits, makes me sharpen my work.”
On some of the benefits of membership of a writing group, from Margaret’s blog.
margaretmccaffrey.net

WRITINGS AND MUSINGS OF MARGARET MCCAFFREY

It is said that you can’t teach writing. Maybe not. But writers, I believe, can sure help themselves.

Since 2008 I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of Elwood Writers (EW), a group that meets fortnightly in Melbourne’s inner city. I read on one member’s blog that our group is one of the most important assets to her writing.

This goes for me too.

Each EW member is allocated a 30-minute time slot to do with as he/she chooses. There’s an extra half hour for general discussion and rants. We circulate our work – a maximum of 1500 words – by email prior to the meeting. Mostly we devote our segment to the piece we have pre-sent.

Before each meeting my body tightens in anticipation of the groups’ critical response to my work. But the result is always worth the self-inflicted pain. Knowing an audience awaits, makes me sharpen…

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TONGUE | from Roomers #62

Here’s a short story from Barry that was originally published in Roomers magazine #62 earlier this year. It’s called “Tongue”.

BARRY LEE THOMPSON

1978, a birthday party. One of those once in a blue moon family dos where a local hall gets hired, there’s catering, a DJ. The adults end up drunk and misty. Someone overdoes it, creates a spectacle. There’s a fight. No blood’s spilled, but there’s harsh words, someone gets upset, there’s tears and the gin gets blamed. And so on. That kind of a night.

I spent most of it watching Tommy and trying to pretend otherwise. I’d always thought of me and him as the same age, nearly, but since the last time he’d become old enough to drink and smoke and that was ages away for me. He danced a lot towards the end. Swaying, tie loose, long legs. The combination was unbearable.

Then the goodbyes. My eyes stinging from the late hour and the cigarette smoke. Nancy came over for a hug. Dad’s sister, so Aunty I…

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The Power of the Mic

“The idea of reading in rowdy bars in small-town America was nerve-wracking to me as a student there. But once on stage I adopted a persona, and one that I quite liked.”
On the transformative powers of the microphone, from Elwood Writer Margaret McCaffrey’s blog:

WRITINGS AND MUSINGS OF MARGARET MCCAFFREY

In September Elwood Writers recorded our Fathers’ Day stories for Vision Radio Australia (VAR).

I accompanied Barry to the studio for his reading of ‘Phase’, a story about a young man whose relationship with his father deepens and evolves as he explores his sexuality.

While Barry read, presenter, Tim McQueen, edited on the other side of the soundproof glass panel. Barry has a mellifluous voice and it was thrilling to hear his coming of age tale lift of the page and take on a new life. (‘Phase’ is humorous in parts and I had to keep from laughing.)

Singers– whether on stage or in the studio – know the power of the microphone. The amplification of voice carries their music to a wider audience – freeing them to become the song.

The same goes for the spoken word.  The Open Mic forum lets you focus on the true…

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Fathers Day Broadcast

On Friday 1st and Sunday 3rd September, Vision Australia Radio presented a special Fathers Day edition of its Cover To Cover literary program, featuring the work of Elwood Writers. If you missed the program, there’s now an opportunity to hear the podcast at your leisure here.

We hope you enjoy the stories. We welcome feedback, so if you have any thoughts you’d like to share, please voice them in the comments field below.

Happy listening! from Elwood  Writers.