The ocean helps me remember 4


Jane remembers the feel, the physicality of ocean, her own history with it, and its relationship to all of us.

The ocean helps me remember to breathe. That might sound odd, especially if you’ve ever been caught underwater, the astounding pressure of water above, the inconsequential grains of sand below. It is the rhythm of the tide, rolling in, pulling out, relentless and seemingly without end. It reminds me of days spent in blinding sunshine, water eddying and eroding moated castles built with care a distance away from the ocean’s edge, but there’s the trick. There is no singular defined limit of an ocean, no perfectly marked boundary. Just as no breath is quite the same as the next.  

How I love to look at the horizon, that very slight curve far off in the distance that makes me realise the transitory nature of existence, how the ocean goes far beyond what I can see. The sheer scope of it. The hidden depths, the dangers and delights contained within. It reminds me of boat trips, fishing expeditions, even plane trips. How being perched up in a seat, high above the ground with a bird’s eye view didn’t make the ocean less magnificent. If anything it made it more so.

It makes me think of long journeys, centuries ago, across oceans melding into one another, no clearly defined frontiers, just endless blue horizons with occasional interruptions of land. It reminds me of journeys taken by boat, the vague sense of unease as moorings are left behind and we chase the horizon. The relief as land finally comes into view, the toss and tumble of the ocean’s passage soon becomes a memory.




The ocean helps me remember 3


The ocean helps Raewyn remember childhood holidays at the beach.

The ocean helps me remember endless days of childhood freedom.

Long summers at the campground just across the bitumen from the beach. At first in the blue bubble caravan, later in the bigger tan one with the striped annex. Being the eldest I was allowed to sleep out there on the canvas stretcher with the grey steel frame. This was Ohope in the seventies. Not crowded at all, with families of kids from all over who had the similar beach dream. Come evening, the bikes, scooters, and roller skates, and later skateboards, came out to play and the gaggle of all-age kids formed a tribe.

My mother always ensured we had these two weeks at the beach, mostly to get my father off the farm, but for our good as well. They both loved the beach. Dad was a one for body surfing, or blowing up the long blue lilo and thundering in on the huge swells that were common in those summers.

Mum’s joy was endless reading on a low fold-up beach chair in the breeze under the beach umbrella, its white tassels beating a wild, windy dance.

“Make sure you don’t drift, keep in line with the umbrella”, was always the instruction whenever we entered the surf. It was easy to allow the tow to take you sideways as you beat an endless path in and out of the broiling shore-bound waves.

I am grateful to have become a life-long lover of the endless summer beach and the deep, quiet blue ocean. The ocean helps me remember my childhood self.


The ocean helps me remember 2


The narrator in Richard’s piece associates the ocean with quite different memories, and we sense a political context here.

The heat is worse than usual, and the flies are relentless in their search for moisture, swarming at my eyes and nose and mouth.

This track I have chosen goes through the stink of the piles of garbage that have built up over the years, so the flies are inevitable. But that, I hope, makes the path a safe one, and I trudge on, drawn by a distant susurration.

I hear voices ahead – loud, arguing voices – and I slip off the track and crouch in the bushes.  The beer-fuelled argument stutters along the track towards the camp from which I have come, and I am thankful they have found something to argue about.  I glimpse a bottle being waved about, and can see that at least two of the four men have bush knives strapped to their waists.

When they are gone, I resume my trek towards that soft sound. It grows louder as I creep through the last trees and out onto the gritty beach.  There is no one in sight, so I can walk to the edge of the beach and let the tepid salt water surge around my ankles.  While sea-birds wheel and dive beyond the reef, as I stand, searching the blue expanse.

The Ocean helps me remember where I came from, and where I hoped to go, before they put me on this island, in that camp.


The ocean helps me remember…

Recently our writing group considered the thought-starter “The ocean helps me remember.” We decided to blog the interestingly different responses to those five words.

Therese’s response is poetic, philosophical.


They say that life began in the ocean, floating around in the Earth’s own amniotic fluid, so the ocean is where everything came from. We can all trace our ancestry back and back and back through time to some unicellular organism whose whole world was water, that eternal blue, sinking down into the black depths.

Perhaps everything is held there, all of evolutionary history, so I imagine the ocean as a place filled with memories. My own as well. All of the world’s memories mingling with flashing schools of sardines and echoing with whale song.

It is not often that I get to stand by the ocean, living inland as I do, but once or twice a year I hear the call, and I cannot help but respond, as if the whales themselves are summoning me. Their song can travel vast distances underwater; but on land, I think the ears of the heart can hear them just as well, can feel the deep vibrations of their sea voices. They call, and I go, finding some quiet corner of a beach where I can be with myself, and no one else.

The smell of salt water and rotting seaweed, the sound of gulls. It all reminds me of summers past, childhood holidays. Sitting on the beach shivering after taking a dip only to be wrapped in a towel baked warm by the sun. Sand stuck to my shins. Fruity ice blocks and fish and chips.

But these are only skin memories, some moving deeper, into flesh, being powerfully felt in the body; but most light on the surface, shallow. What I want is bone memory, and the ocean gives me that, transferring stories, histories, as if by osmosis. When I wade out into the water, and I feel the pull of the waves around my ankles, the push and suck of the tide, the gentle swish of seaweed against my leg, something deeper comes. Bone memory. Ocean memory. Something so ancient it cannot be put into words.


Author in Focus – Julian Leatherdale

Saturday 24th October, 2.00 to 4.00pm at Katoomba Library

Palace of Tears Cover croppedCatch a glimpse inside the writing and storylines of Julian Leatherdale’s intriguing and acclaimed new novel, Palace of Tears, set in the Blue Mountains’ famous Hydro Majestic Hotel. This is an author talk featuring a historic photo display and will be followed by afternoon tea.

pf 830 pc edThis historic photo from the BMCLibrary’s image collection pictures Mark Foy, founder of the Hydro Majestic hotel, standing center back, wearing his wife’s hat and dress with wig. Fancy dress parties were all the rage in the Hydro’s heyday. Palace of Tears fictionalises Mark Foy as hotelier Adam Fox and the Hydro as the Palace at Meadow Springs, and weaves them into a dazzling story of family, passion, secrets and vengeance, woven through the hardships of both World Wars.

Find out more about the book and see our historic photos. Tickets $10 available in person from Megalong Bookshop or Katoomba Library. Or call 4784 1302 to book and 4780 5750 for information. Limited spaces available.

Elizabeth Gilbert: your elusive creative genius

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love and other titles. Her TED talk Your elusive genius was filmed in 2009 and since has attracted 10,103,709 views (at time of writing).

In Your elusive genius, Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

This TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, has been recommended by one of our subscribers.

St Albans Writers’ Festival, 18-20 September 2015



St Albans Writers’ Festival is a new Australian literary festival celebrating writers, books and writing of all styles, genres and forms, based in the small and picturesque village of St Albans. The landscape of the Hawkesbury with its diverse population of farmers, artists, writers, tree-changers and weekenders provides a unique and stimulating setting to meet writers, discuss books and debate ideas. This intimate festival – places are limited to about 350 – happens over two days and two evenings, starting on Friday 18th September with drinks and nibbles at the Festival Centre.

Writers include Kate Grenville, Hugh Mackay, Jane Caro, Michael Robotham and many other established and emerging writers.

The program and other details are available here:

Please contact contact the Festival via this email if you have any queries:

Packing an Emotional Punch – the art of Romance part 1.



Firstly I just want to say it’s so great to see when I’m planning my blog entries and I go to borrow books/writing resources, I find myself having to wait in a hold queue! Keep borrowing, folks! These are fantastic, FREE resources. 🙂

Anyways, skittering back to the entry…

A couple of entries ago I delved into Mystery writing. Today I’ll be tackling another of our most popular genres. Romance! People tend to fall into two groups when it comes to reading romance. You get those who love a good, juicy love triangle or Cinderella story, or you get those who see the word romance and cringe and roll their eyes (which, in a nutshell describes the difference between a Twilight fan and a not-so-much-a-fan-of-Twilight).

Still though, the romance genre makes up a HUGE portion of the market so there is money to be made in the genre. However, regardless of whether it is sparkling vampires or brooding billionaires, there is an art to getting that romance right.

A common rejection point for editors in the romance field, according to Valerie Parv, is lack of emotional depth. But what does that even mean?

“I should have suspected something was wrong when the first time I was seriously kissed I was told to ‘put some feeling into it’,” writes Valerie in her book Heart and Craft. “Unbeknown to me, I was writing about emotions without feeling them inside myself.”

You know the depth in a romance novel is truly great when you can you can take the reader on that emotional journey along with the character. “When we cry with a fictional heroine, we release some of our stored-up sorrow,” states Valerie. “The same with joy. We may come away from the experience feeling emotionally wrung-out , but also cleansed and liberated – which tells us that emotion on the page is there to evoke emotion in the reader.” But how does one achieve of depth of emotion in their romance?

“First, you have to make readers care about your characters,” states Valerie. “This means… the author must know them as people.” A good way in achieving this is making the reader feel as though this story is about them. “This character is the reader’s gateway into the romance. […] You do this by immersing the reader into the character’s emotional responses to what’s happening in the story. At every step of the story, you need to ask yourself how the viewpoint character feels about what’s happening.” Valerie then brings out the need to dig deep for those feelings. And don’t hold back on utilising the five senses; sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. They are all vital in fully immersing the reader into the page.

And if that isn’t enough, the late Frank Brennan stated once on the topic, “Put in as much emotion as you think you need and then double it.”

“You want the reader to be so caught up in the emotional struggle that she flips to the back of the book to reassure herself the heroine makes it safely to the end.” So grab a box of tissues and get cracking on working on those feelings. 🙂

This is just one of several important elements in getting the art right. In a future entry, I will delve into some of the juicy stuff like making your character believably suffer through her trials, and, of course, the knack for creating that sizzling chemistry between the heroine and her hunky love interest.

Happy Writing. 🙂


Source: Heart and Craft by Valerie Parv.

Travel Writing



So I was shelving books at Springwood and I came across this gem of a writer’s guide. “Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing’ by Don George and I couldn’t resist picking it up. I think it is universally acknowledge that Travel Writing is one of those jobs that sounds pretty spectacular, especially for the adventurous writer. Some of my favourite reads that I’ve picked up from the library have been in the Travel Writing genre including the better known ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ by Frances Mayes, and one of my personal favourites ‘Absolutely Faking it’ by Tiana Templeman.

But what does it take to be a travel writer?

“Being a travel writer is not all play and bungalows, Parisian cafes and safari sunsets,” states Don. “It’s hard work… That doesn’t mean that it’s beyond your reach. The world is travel writing is open to everyone.”

“But what constitutes good travel writing?” Don answers in a simple and concise paragraph (which also happens to be my favourite paragraph in the whole book): “In one word, it is place. Successful travel stories bring a particular place to life through a combination of factual information and vividly rendered descriptive details and anecdotes, characters and dialogue. Such stories transport the reader and convey a rich sense of the author’s experience in that place…”

He then goes on to list a handful of goals in order to achieve your maximum potential in travel writing. “The goals of travel writing are to present an accurate and compelling evocation and assessment of a place, to bring that place and the writer’s experience to life so vividly that the reader is transported there, and to enhance the reader’s understanding of the world… In some cases, a secondary goal is to present the essential information the reader needs to visit that place and duplicate the author’s experience.”

What are the publishing options in Travel Writing? Don lists five publishing areas that travel writers most common inhabit: Newspapers, Magazines, The Internet (aka blogging), Travel Literature and Guide books (like the ones Lonely planet publishes).

So, fellow creative writers, next time you’re thinking of that Caribbean cruise or that African Safari, why not have a go at writing about it? 🙂

-Happy Writing. 🙂


Source: Lonely Planet’s guide to Travel Writing (expert advice from the world’s leading travel publisher) by Don George.


Why Setting is Important


Setting is vital to any story. It creates the story’s backdrop and includes elements such as the mood of the story, historical context… right down to how the story people talk and what they believe in. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that creating a good setting for your piece of work does involve a bit of technique.

In the first chapter of his book simply titled, ‘Setting’, Jack M Bickham covers six vital contributions to creating a good setting.

“Writers generally recognise that good handling of a proper setting can ‘decorate’ a story. Thus enhancing its colour and general appeal as well as making it more convincing,” states Jack. “Less often realised, however, are the following additional contributions setting can make.”


  1. Intensification of reader involvement: “Reader involvement may be intensified by proper handling of setting because physical, sensory descriptions of the story world allow the reader to experience those surroundings through his own imagination – as if he were ‘really there’… Vivid, evocative physical description of setting can transport the reader into the story’s universe.”
  2. Enhancement of story unity: “A story line may involve complex developments affecting a wide variety of characters,” states Jack. “A consistent setting can provide an unchanging backdrop against which even otherwise unrelated story developments or characters will be seen as related simply because they are taking place on the same stage… Setting can provide a unifying background scenery.”
  3. Tightening of plot structure and/or intensification of suspense: “Plot and suspense can be advanced and complicated by setting,” States Jack. “Your descriptions of the subtly changing scenery… [shows] how the story is advancing towards its ultimate conclusion. If the reader knows that hostile Indians await in the mountain pass ahead, your repetitive mention of the mountains will become a drumbeat of suspense.”
  4. Motivation or explanation of character: “Character is significantly linked to setting,” states Jack. “The seafaring whaling world of Moby Dick, for example, is crucial to an understanding of Captain Ahab and his mad quest for the white whale. Outside of the specialised setting, Melville defines, Ahab’s obsession makes no sense at all.”
  5. Clarification of Theme: “Theme can also be affected by setting,” states Jack. “The setting can become a central symbol or metaphor, not only unifying other aspects of the story but illuminating its central idea. When Huck and Tom step onto their raft and set out down the Mississippi, their voyage becomes a story of life in microcosm. The river setting, so rich in religious and American symbolism, becomes more than a river, Huck’s journey finally becoming a voyage into manhood – and life.”
  6. Excitement of the writer’s own imagination: “The writer’s imagination can benefit from setting research,” states Jack. “Very often, researching factual information for a story, or visiting an actual site to experience it physically, will fire her imagination in unexpected ways.”

The book goes on to cover each point more in depth, but it just goes to show, as Jack himself mentions, “Your handling of setting may be more vital to your fiction project than you had previously suspected.”


Happy Writing!


Source: Setting by Jack M Bickham