Fathers Day

Elwood Writers are going to be on the radio again! This time it’s for Fathers Day 2017: Jenny, Barry, Margaret, and Helen will be shining a light onto many facets of fatherhood through a selection of their literary work, including pieces of poetry, fiction and memoir. Their stories will be broadcast on the Cover To Cover program, Vision Australia Radio on Friday 1st September at 8:00 p.m., and repeated on Sunday 3rd September at 1:30 p.m.

Tune in!
There’s a handy frequency-finder here and the program can be live streamed around the world here. VAR broadcasts in Perth too. Details here. For Melbourne listeners, the Vision Australia digital radio service is on your radio under ‘VAR Digital’. Or if you’ve got an old school wireless you can listen in at 1179AM.

Jewels of San Fedele

Margaret is pleased to be a contributor to the anthology ‘Jewels of San Fedele’, which comprises the work of 14 women who attended a writing retreat in Italy, 2016. The ‘experiential’ classes were designed to have students deepen their work. Margaret’s two stories are excerpts from a memoir in progress.

‘Jewels of San Fedele’ is edited by D Ferrara and Patricia Florio, and is available from Amazon at the following link:

Jennifer’s Impressions of Adelaide Writers’ Week 2017

What will I take away this year from Adelaide Writers’ Week? One of the visiting writers, Ian McGuire, when asked why he writes, quoted John Cheever: ‘I write as a way of making sense of my life’. Yes, I thought, that’s what I try to do.

I spent quite a lot of time not attending the talks on the banks of the River Torrens. It seemed better to savour a few things than to come away crammed with a confusion of wisdom. This allowed time to attend some of the concurrently running Adelaide Festival: plays, concerts and two excellent interviews/panel discussions on The Secret River and Richard III, conducted by David Marr.

Adelaide writers week

I attended (and years ago had read) Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, I had recently read Hannah Kent’s The Good People and Zoë Morrison’s Music and Freedom and I have become particularly interested in how writers might use a little-known historical incident as the starting-point for a piece of fiction – most of the sessions I attended related to this interest.

Armando Lucas Correa uses the story of the ship, St Louis, which, just before World War II transported Jewish families from Nazi journey to find a safe haven. But they were turned away from Cuba, Correa’s home country, from New York – with its vibrant Jewish community – and other places, to have to return to Europe, to countries such as the Netherlands, which were later occupied. Many of those Jewish families seeking asylum ended up in Nazi concentration camps. Correa has created a young girl on that ship, who happens to be the same age as his own daughter, and he tells the story of those families through the eyes of the young fictitious Hannah.

Glaswegian Graeme Macrae Burnet found intriguing documents when he was researching his family history: medical reports and court transcripts of a murder trial in 1869. A seventeen-year-old youth wrote a lucid confession to three violent crimes. Why?  The context is a remote crofting community where stoicism and violence may have been the only way to respond to feudal conditions and grinding poverty. One of the characters sums up what is explored in Macrae Burnet’s book: ‘One man can no more see into the mind of another than he can see inside a stone’. The book, His Bloody Project, was short listed for the Man Booker award.

Hannah Kent found a short newspaper article one day when she was undertaking some other research. In the early 19th century, in Ireland, a woman was tried but ultimately pardoned for a drowning murder because she believed that she was dealing with a changeling – a child brought by the fairies and substituted for another child. This led to Kent’s book, The Good People. Kent spent 6 weeks in Ireland, going to the place where her story is set, walking through the muddy fields, learning some of the expressions used in the isolated communities of that time. From a brief newspaper article a vivid depiction has unfolded of a life governed not only by faith in God but, with poverty so grim that a doctor can’t be afforded, with spirits and superstition.

Ian McGuire studied the journals of surgeons on whaling ships to inform his book about mid 19th century whaling in the Arctic region, The North Water. The book is a thriller, but not a ‘whodunnit’—we know from the first chapter that Henry Drax committed murder. There is an abundance of smells, suggesting that Drax is like an animal, moving through a world of smells as animals do. He is also animal-like in that he lives in the present moment, with no sense of consequences. McGuire grew up in Hull, where the book is set – it has changed greatly since those whaling days, but his familiarity with the town helped him to recreate it in an early 19th century context.

Although it is set in the past, the interviewer did not dwell on this aspect of Zoë Morrison’s Music and Freedom. There was greater interest in her treatment of domestic violence, which indeed is a central theme of her book. Zoë said that her main character ‘just appeared on the page’ one day when she was doing a writing exercise. Presumably her vivid accounts of performing a Rachmaninov concerto come from personal experience, as Zoë is an accomplished pianist.

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Two other sessions that I particularly enjoyed were Caroline Baum’s discussion of her recently published memoir, Only, and Paula Byrne’s discussion of research into the life of Jane Austen. Caroline, an experienced journalist, mentioned how refreshing she finds it to write in the first person – something that is pretty much taboo for journalistic reporting. I was hooked when she read from her prologue, using the metaphor of a triangle as the situation of an only child – there are pointy ends, things don’t mesh together. Caroline mentioned that a life of privilege can in many ways be a handicap for a writer. Now she has had to tackle the fact that her mother doesn’t agree with all that she’s written, and grapple with the possible fallacy of memory – we think we remember something accurately – but is it accurate?

Paula Byrne has written several biographies of Jane Austen. From her talk I got further insight into Austen’s genius. Byrne said, ‘nothing Jane Austen does is an accident’. For example, the way characters play the piano has a purpose. The Real Jane Austen is organised around objects: each chapter begins by focusing on an object, such as a cashmere shawl. Byrne stressed that as a young woman Jane Austen was playful and naughty – not the demure young lady that the Victorians described, and Byrne emphasised Jane Austen’s independence and feminism – her female characters think for themselves, they don’t defer to men. Byrne is sure that Jane Austen could have married – in fact she turned down one poor man pretty much on the day of the wedding. She may have been anxious about childbirth, or she may have realised that as a married woman she would have less freedom to write.

Elizabeth Harrower

Something quite different, though, was the opportunity to hear Elizabeth Harrower. How exciting that today we could see this 89-year-old writer, right there on the stage in Adelaide, and feel connection with the Australian literary canon. Harrower had attended the first Adelaide Writers’ Week in 1960. She used to have long phone conversations with Patrick White! She is a survivor of the generation of Patrick White and Christina Stead. Being there reminded me of musicians who, through their venerable teachers, have links to Liszt or Beethoven. After tremendous success as a young writer in the 1950s and ’60s, Harrower stopped writing when a manuscript was rejected by a publisher – she locked it away in a library and it was retrieved only recently by Michael Heyward of Text Publishing, who was her sensitive and intelligent interviewer on this occasion. In some ways we writers of today may feel that things were easier in the 1960s with so much less competition, but there also wasn’t support. It seems that back then there was no one to tell Elizabeth that she was right to think her writing good and that she should have persisted and not given up with the ‘rejection’. Fortunately, Text Publishing came along 50 years later.

ELWOOD WRITERS MEETING 14TH JANUARY 2017

Another spirited meeting of the Elwood Writers this week. Inevitably, domestic and world political affairs loomed over the general discussions again. It seems we’ve entered a new age of anxiety. Before our collective blood pressure soared too high, we made teas and coffees and got down to literary business.

Barry proposed sharpening up the structure of the group’s workshopping sessions. In place of an informal general discussion about a particular piece of writing we agreed to try a more targeted approach where we each have five minutes to deliver individual feedback. This new format will allow us to focus during meetings on the more salient or urgent responses to a piece of work. So that nothing is overlooked, all comments and observations will continue to be captured within the marked up documents that return to the writer of the piece under consideration.

In this week’s workshop sessions, Helen talked about a book she’s recently acquired, Contemporary Australian Poetry (Puncher & Wattmann). Her poetry library is growing. She has approached the form in a somewhat unconventional way, beginning to write it before studying it closely. But that may prove to be an advantage. Margaret shared a piece of work that was conceived during a writing workshop she attended last year. Barry shared the first 2000 words of a reworking of one of the stories from his linked collection. He’s been experimenting with blocks of second person narration in the piece, and was keen to see if this was working. Finally we were introduced to a new character from Jenny’s novel when she presented a recently developed section from the work.

We’re going to return to second person narration/point of view in a future meeting for a fuller discussion of its features and applications.

Radio Times

On Vision Australia Radio later this week, 2 programs featuring the work of the Elwood Writers will be rebroadcast for the Best Of Cover To Cover:

Mothers can be heard again on Thursday 29 December at 12:00 p.m.
Starting Over can be heard again on Friday 30 December at 12:00 p.m.

Timings might vary depending on location. Check out the program guides here:
http://radio.visionaustralia.org/program-guides

Get some snacks in, turn the lights down low, put your feet up, and be soothed as you listen to a selection of stories, including poetry, memoir, and fiction, at your radio or online device. Network and listening information can be found at this link:
http://radio.visionaustralia.org/our-networks

Stories on the Wireless.

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.

Elwood Writers

Lit on the Radio

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.