Out of the comfort zone 3

My way of tackling this difficult prompt, says Therese, was to write about a perspective that I passionately disagree with—the idea that we as humans are meant to take control of nature, and shape the world to suit us. Genetic modification is a particularly disturbing area, with the capacity to do irreversible damage to the Earth. I must point out that not all scientists think like this. But the scary thing is that some do.



Sarah was used to criticism. Whether from greenies or religious types, she’d learnt to ignore it and get on with the job. She pulled the latex gloves over her hands and snapped the rubber tight at the wrists. Then she looked down into the microscope and adjusted the knobs, seeing her specimen blur and then come into crisp focus. Looking up again she removed another glass slide from the box and dropped a circle of cloudy liquid onto it with a pipette.

Lab work could be tedious sometimes, but when there were results, real advancements, then all the hard work became worth it. What was true was this: Genes were building blocks, which could be altered or manipulated, in order to build new things. Sarah was a genetic engineer, an explorer of new and exciting scientific territory. She considered it her duty to do this research, to test things, to come to understand genes and their uses. Whether it was a new pest-resistant strain of wheat, or a breed of cattle that would produce better meat, faster, well, it was all part of her service to humanity.

In fact, it was ironic that the people who objected to what she did on religious grounds accused her of playing God, because didn’t they understand the upshots? She was working for their benefit, making God’s plans manifest, in a better, more controlled, faster way. Giving evolution a bit of a kick up the backside.

She looked down into the microscope again, moved one slide out and slotted another in. What she did was all for the greater good. No exasperating protestors were going to keep her from her work, her duty, her motivation in life.

‘The purpose of science is to understand nature, so that we can increase our dominance over it, and control it.’ That’s what one of her university professors had said, back when she was a student. One of his scientific idols, Francis Bacon, had said something to that effect. It was so inspiring!

So Sarah had dedicated her life to that aim. To understanding genetics, so that genes could eventually be controlled, made to perform certain functions. Surely a strain of wheat that resists all known pests is the ultimate strain of wheat. A logical progression from the imperfect, chaotic creations of nature, to the prefect, controlled creations of humanity.

Someone had broken in to the lab the previous month. Six month’s worth of samples had been destroyed, and the modified seedlings in the plant nursery, the whole place trashed. It had been such an expense replacing the equipment, improving the security, but now the lab was shiny and new, a pleasing sterile smell wafting up from the brand new lino.

Sarah looked up from her work and got to her feet, stretching out her cramped spine. She walked over to the window and looked out across the car park. Weeds sprouted out from the gaps between the concrete, and along the edges, and she frowned.

‘I’ll find a way to control you,’ she said. ‘Just you wait and see.’

Out of the comfort zone 2


Richard’s take on writing about an unfamiliar subject is called

In Another Man’s Shoes

Edward hurried along the uneven paving stones towards the arched wooden door. He could see Mrs Tompkins and Miss Bray waiting where the morning sum warmed the angle between the stone wall and its flying buttress.

Edward fossicked in his trouser pocket for his key ring, and had to snatch to stop his robes from sliding off his other arm. He didn’t need the ostentatiously neutral looks the two women hurled at him to know that he was late.

“Morning ladies; lovely morning, isn’t it? Too nice to be inside”

He regretted saying it before the last syllable had passed his lips. Mrs Tompkins’s eyes narrowed.  The corners of Miss Bray’s mouth turned downwards.

“Good Morning Father” was all the reply he got as he fumbled at the lock. The key went home and he turned it.  The old wooden door seemed stiffer on its hinges than ever.

A bump from his shoulder set it moving. He stood, feeling his ears burn, as two bundles of flowers were carried past him.  Both women had their noses ever so slightly in the air and Miss Bray’s eyes had swept across him, lingering briefly on the shirt he knew was not tucked in properly, and the too loosely knotted tie.

He slipped into the vestry as the two old ladies began placing the flowers. They were silent at the altar, but by the time they reached the middle pews, low murmurings were drifting back to him.

Father Jenkins had owned this church for almost four decades, and was now buried in the adjacent graveyard. Edward felt certain that more than a few of his dour, aging congregation would happily sign up if the Devil offered to swap the old priest for the new.

By rights, he should have had a few years as an assistant curate to an experienced minister at some larger church. He was finding out the hard way that Honours in Divinities and Theology did little to prepare a young priest for pastoral work.

“Hallooo?” The round tones of Eric the organist echoed through a space meant for hundreds.  Edward wondered if there would even be dozens to hear Eric’s heavy handed renditions of the ancient hymns and psalms.

Not so ancient, Edward supposed, to someone as grey and antique as Eric. He gave himself a mental rap over the knuckles.  How could he entertain such thoughts when he was about to present a sermon charity?  And Eric at least brought a few extra bums on pews, a couple of them quite shapely – how did that man produce such pretty daughters?  Edward ordered himself to take a longer penance after the service was over, and waited for the organist to shuffle through his papers.

Which raised another question, would Eric have managed to pick the right music for this week’s readings and lessons, or would he be a month out, again? And, would asking to preview the music selection result in another dose of last night’s whisky fumes?  Edward wondered how he would tell the difference between the whisky fumes of last night, and this morning, if such were to be the case.

Writers Group’s ghost stories

ghost stories

Our writing group meets once a month. On alternate meetings, someone throws a prompt or two into the ring, and we all write to it for 20 to 30 minutes. We then read our work to the group.

Truly interesting things happen when you do this. There is no time to second-guess yourself: your subconscious mind and your experience throw up something and you begin writing to it, not knowing if there is a shape to what you write, knowing nothing but the first thought you put down.

Recently we wrote to the prompt stated below and five of us offer you the resulting writing.

Most of our offerings here remain short, though rounded off. Richard’s story, the last one, grew to short-story length.

Write a story about a ghost 

In order to avoid writing something clichéd or overly traditional, there are two rules: 

  1. You must not use the following words: pale, white, sheet, spirit, or fluttering. 
  2. You must use at least five of the following ten words: button, farm, clouds, ears, footprint, satchel, corner, ducks, flag, bilberries (words taken from Thursbitch by Alan Garner)

Click on the images to read the stories.

Martha say

Ghost story Alison

Ghost Story Raewyn


A single step

A gift of stories

The members of one of the writers’ groups meeting monthly at Katoomba Library have decided to share with you some of their writing. We hope you will enjoy their short stories.

Story Thumbnails

Richard is an itinerant gardener who neither fishes nor writes as much as he would like. The story is set in those long moments of falling from a position of pride.


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Jane is a scribbler who loves words and likes to write short stories with twists and turns. Her contribution is based on one of the prompts at writing sessions, and it has a seasonal message of sorts.


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Kaye believes choosing words is a bit like making jewellery where the arrangement of different shapes and colours aims to produce the desired effect. Threading ideas together is always a challenge.


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Therese started working creatively with words and story less than two years ago, and likes to think her work is a jumble of fairytale, magic realism and nature-based themes. The “Solitary Woman” is particularly special for being the first story that she wrote, as well as showcasing one guise of a well-loved archetypal character—the healer–herbalist–witch–wild woman—whom she hopes to write more about in the future.


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Could Alison have written this piece because her son and his wife have just had their first child? Obviously! But also because small intimate moments are the stuff of which real life is made.