Margaret McCaffrey’s “January in Harlem” was longlisted for the 2018 Fish Short Memoir Prize, an annual international writing contest run by Fish Publishing in Ireland. The event attracted 780 entries and was judged by Marti Leimbach.
‘What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.’
It was another lively session at Elwood Writers, especially with world events as they are. We discussed the group goals for 2017, including our planned soiree in August where we will read from our own work. As the group prepares to attend Adelaide Writers’ Week in March, we looked at the possibility of designing individual business cards that reflect our status as members of Elwood Writers.
In the past fortnight, Margaret attended Lee Kofman’s Introduction to Memoir: Telling the Emotional Truth. Lee reminded the class that memoir is always about memory, it is always told from your point of view, and is not so much about what happens to you as it is about ‘what you make of it’. She emphasized that the narrator must always be specific in their writing, that is give details. When asked about the importance of telling the emotional truth in memoir, she said, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson: ‘Books that don’t do any harm don’t give any pleasure.’
In the workshopping sessions, Margaret read a piece from her memoir that is currently ‘placeless’ (as Lee would say) in her narrative, but important to it. Jennifer is preparing her first contribution to a short-story writing online class that she has enrolled in. Her story is most topical and we await the class feedback. Barry read a piece of fiction he intends submitting to a literary journal. Helen presented a new poem written ‘off the cuff’ in a poetry class she attended. We look forward to hearing more about this at our next session.
Elwood Writers meets every fortnight. The week before a meeting we circulate any material we’d like to discuss. Meetings typically begin with general business, mostly discussions about writing issues or what we’ve been reading. We use this time to discuss activities and plans for the group in the year ahead. Margaret is our time-keeper. After the general discussion we divide up the remaining time equally between the four of us. This usually leaves about half an hour for each member to have the floor to discuss their circulated piece or anything else they nominate.
At the 17th January meeting, much of the general discussion focussed on the use of social media for writers. Jennifer had just been to Patrick Lenton’s Creating an Author Platform seminar at Writers Victoria. She came away from that with the view that if you don’t already use Twitter it’s not especially important for a writer to start doing so. She said that the seminar reinforced the importance of maintaining some kind of online presence, and highlighted the benefits of Facebook author/writer pages.
We agreed to have a fuller discussion of future online strategies for the group when we meet at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival in March. There was also mention of the next Cover to Cover radio program we’ve been commissioned to develop for Vision Australia Radio for Fathers Day later this year.
Helen read the latest draft of a new poem she has been working on. Jennifer read a re-working of the opening of her novel-length story. Barry read a new short story he’s developing from a piece written a few years ago. Margaret outlined a section from her work-in-progress that she will circulate for discussion at the next meeting.
We’re thrilled to share the podcast of the special Mother’s Day edition of Cover To Cover from Vision Australia Radio. The entire program featured work from the Elwood Writers. And thanks to Tim McQueen and Vision Australia Radio, we were given the exciting opportunity to read our own work on the air.
Here’s the podcast link:
We’d love to hear what you think of the program. Let us know in the comments section below. Happy listening!
It’s all about mothers on Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. as Cover To Cover on Vision Australia Radio features writing from the Elwood Writers for a special Mother’s Day edition of the program. What better way is there to spend an autumn evening? So turn on and tune in, then settle back and lose yourself in an hour of storytelling. We’re especially thrilled that for this program some of us will be reading our own pieces on the air.
There’s a handy frequency-finder drop-down menu here, and the program can be live streamed here. Don’t forget that VAR now broadcasts in Perth too. Details here.
For Melbourne listeners, the Vision Australia digital radio service is on your digital radio under ‘VAR Digital’. Or you can listen in at 1179AM.
The program will be repeated on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Or, you can listen to the podcast as soon as it’s available on the Vision Australia Radio home page, here. If you’re listening in Adelaide, Cover To Cover airs once-weekly at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays.
We hope you can join us.
Thank you for listening.
Don’t forget to tune in to Vision Australia Radio for this year’s Mother’s Day edition of Cover To Cover. The program is currently in production, and will feature the work of the Elwood Writers. We’re very excited to bring you a taste of what to expect from the literary line-up:
Jennifer Bryce was prompted to write her short story ‘The First Day’ when she read her 97 year-old mother’s autobiography. In it her mother describes ‘the overwhelming sense of responsibility’ when she brought the new-born Jennifer home from hospital. In this story, Jennifer imagines her mother’s feelings at that time.
For this special Mother’s Day program, Helen McDonald explores the darker intensities of the mothering experience through poetry and creative non-fiction with her pieces ‘Forbidden’ and ‘The Lake’.
The post-war decades of the fifties and sixties were hailed as the boom times. But what was life really like for a young mother of five, married to an injured ex-serviceman who’d spent four years in a German prisoner-of-war camp? Find out in Margaret McCaffrey’s story ‘My Mother, Lawre’.
In Barry Lee Thompson’s story ‘So Much Lemonade’, a small family picnics on the clifftops at a secluded coastal spot. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it. But will anyone be smiling when the rug’s unfurled? The event is explored through the eyes of the young son.
You can catch the program on Friday 6 May at 8:00 p.m. or listen to the re-run on Mother’s Day on Sunday 8 May at 1:30 p.m.
The festival experience in Adelaide becomes richer with each visit. This year, I felt an initial restlessness during the events. I wanted to be away from the authors talking about their work, and to get in front of my own writing. To put my hands inside my manuscript and pull the guts out of it. To lay it all out, examine it closely, and put it back together again. This reaction, far from a complaint, is rather desirable. I’m travelling to Ubud next week to work on my manuscript, and I can be confident the trip will be one of industry and production.
A highlight of Writers’ Week: The Crow on Wednesday morning at the west stage. Max Porter, author of Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, converses with Jonathan Bate about the life and work of Ted Hughes. In the soothing dapples of soft early sunlight we listen, rapt, to the disembodied voice of Hughes reading his work aloud in Adelaide forty years ago. Eerie and beautiful, this presence of the poet. Afterwards, I decide that I want this to be the taste that stays with me, and so leave the garden setting for the final time this year.
A similarly affecting experience on Thursday at the Art Gallery. A series of photographic images by William Yang chronicles his friend Allan’s demise from AIDS between 1988 and 1990. Each image is accompanied by Yang’s handwritten narrative. An unexpected punch arrives with the final photograph, of Allan in 1980. His vibrant and healthful face stares out. Ten years later, he’d be dead. Grateful to be alone, I search the image for a long time, looking for some communication between it and the fate of its subject.
The poignancy of Yang’s work is sharpened by the shade of an incident a few days’ earlier in the dorm at the youth hostel. Vivid anti-gay sentiments were a valuable reminder that we can’t be complacent; that, despite whatever ultimately happens with marriage equality in Australia, fear translates into hate in some minds. The hostel interaction is, however, a timely gift, prompting me to consider my short-story collection in a stark and vigorous light. Now on to Indonesia. There’s work to do.
Melbourne’s Star Weekly features a piece about Barry‘s Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize win in its print and online editions. The article gives a mention to the Elwood Writers, and you can read it here.