Beginning, Middle or End…

FB Post MOS

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write’ (Terry Pratchett)

Creative Writing Help is at Hand! If you are having trouble getting started, finding your story or even finding a great ending, then consider our dynamic all-day Mountains of Stories Creative Writing Workshop on Sat, 17 June at Springwood Library with Carla Billinghurst and Cymbeline Buhler. Just $25, bookable at any Library branch. Age 16+

Carla and Cymbeline have extensive experience in writing and theatre and they bring a creative, hands-on approach to developing storylines and stimulating writing techniques. Both have a background in theatre and theatre direction and both have written and been published, with works spanning novels, plays, theatrical manuscripts, poems, short stories and articles. They have many years’ involvement in presenting and tutoring workshops and have worked with organisations such as the NSW Writers Centre, School of Playback Theatre (New York), Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, (Melbourne), ‘Searching for Songlines’: Migrant Oral History project – Western Edge, and the Olvar Wood Writers Centre. They have been presenting sold-out writing workshops for Blue Mountains Library since 2015.

 

Advertisements

A familiar scent 1

 

freesias2

Our writers’ group wrote our responses to this prompt: “There was a familiar scent in the air…”

Always interesting to see individual impressions of a subject.

Jane

There was a familiar scent in the air. Annie paused, momentarily struck. It was the soft, sweet scent of freesias, a fragrance of her grandmother’s garden on a warm spring day and not something that she expected to smell in hospital in the depths of winter. She cast a look around the room but there was just one other woman resting opposite her. She was snoring softly and hadn’t woken when Annie had been wheeled into the corner.

Annie leaned forward, thinking that perhaps it was just a floral scent being worn by one of the nursing staff. But there was no-one in sight and all that she could smell now was the brazen note of antiseptic, strong enough to singe nasal hair and cover most of the bodily odours in the ward. She sighed and closed her eyes. It might have been the effect of the medication or a delayed impact of the anaesthetic but as she closed her eyes, suddenly drowsy, she could smell it again.

Annie let her mind wander back to when life was simple and relatively pain-free, when her school holidays were spent at her grandparents’ house and days passed by playing in the wonderland that was their garden.

The freesias were planted in a neat row along the driveway, forming a fragrant guard of honour along the entrance. There were several garden beds at the front and back of the property, and Annie could picture the native trees marching along one fence line, bristling with banksia men and their fierce brown faces. The front garden was encircled by camellias, their blooms both large and small providing a colourful carpet of petals as the seasons changed. A large macadamia tree stood sentry over the driveway, its barbed leaves protecting the tough nuts. Bright bottle brushes and grevilleas tempted the birds, honeyeaters dancing swiftly about when the shrubs were in bloom.

The steep back garden had been terraced in part to grow vegetables. Crisp beans grew against the back fence, sharing a space with colourful sweet peas in spring. Parsley grew in pots, and Annie had loved to pluck and lightly crush the curling herb between her fingers. Large cabbages grew in winter, their dark green and purple leaves encasing the heavy hearts of the vegetables. The cumquat tree had enchanted her; the zesty skin of the carefully harvested small fruit later transformed into jam. A gum tree towered high above the clothes line, a favourite podium for the magpies to sing their beautiful songs.

            Annie walked herself around the garden again, taking slow steps to enjoy the multicoloured freesia blooms, almost too heavy for their stems. She walked over to the camellias, marvelling at the marbling of pinks and whites and reds on the petals, such a contrast to the glossy emerald leaves. She reached out and felt once more the soft and comforting warmth of her grandmother’s hands as the scent of freesias surrounded her.

A familiar scent 2

cliff2

Alison:

There was a familiar scent in the air. Those trees, in blossom now, were rare. She had only ever seen them here. Their tight little white flowers appeared once a year, for a short time. She breathed deeply, standing there beside the four-wheel-drive. A peppery scent, it was. With a hint of floral sweetness. She had no idea what a botanist would call them, but she knew them as beloved friends, waiting to greet her at the end of a long day’s drive.

The light would soon be gone, and she had to make camp. But she couldn’t resist wandering over to the grove of trees huddling together near a dry creek bed, breaking off a couple of twigs in blossom, and sticking them in an empty lemonade bottle, and adding a dash of water from her canvas waterbag. She placed the bottle on the bonnet of her car, then set about making camp. Not really much to do. Pitch the small tent and throw her Thermarest and sleeping bag inside. Attach the fridge and stove to gas bottles. Find a flat spot for her table and chair. She could be here for days, so it was worth being comfortable.

Tired now, she leaned against the car, and came away daubed with red dust. The cliff she was here for sat fifty metres away. It took her breath away. Its steep sandstone walls reared up out of the quiet scrub, its veins of claystone just visible now in the late afternoon light, like spidery calligraphy against the stronger reds and yellows. Out of habit she scanned the surface for handholds, footholds, a way up. She had climbed here before, but not for a long time. Not since… well, a long time.

She thought of the ropes and carabiners neatly packed in plastic boxes. She thought of her climbing shoes, and where they had taken her. Up The Breadknife, once. That was hard. But it was good. That was with Ben, when he was still…

She breathed out impatiently and put her camp kettle on the stove to make a cup of tea. She had to get past that.  She would never climb again if she couldn’t get past that terrible, terrible day. Get back on the horse, that’s what people said.

She drank her tea, and found it was dark. The stars blazed overhead in a clear sky. Tomorrow she and that cliff would talk. She didn’t want to think about it now because a twisting pain started up in her belly when she did. But tomorrow. She would climb it tomorrow.

A familiar scent 3

baking

Richard:

There was a familiar scent in the air…….  and Harry stopped to take it in.  He sniffed, and raised a dampened finger, trying to determine the direction it was coming from.

The soft breeze – just a whisper, really, – was coming from the other side of the narrow street.  Harry wondered if it was coming from the house with the open door.

His morning walk had taken him into an older part of the town, away from the ‘better’ parts – the streets with views, or river frontages.  The houses here were old, narrow, and often unpainted, workmen’s cottages.  They reminded him so much of another city’s poorer quarter, almost 70 years ago.

So did the smell.  It came again, in a complex weave.  He tried to tease apart its components, and, in his mind, was back there, by the kitchen door, watching and hoping for some titbit.  His grandmother, the shortest person in the room, seemed the largest, as she directed the activities of his mother and all his aunts.

The things that came out of that kitchen were marvellous, and the scents drifting past his nose were calling him back there – the roasting meat, the cooking onions, the warm aroma of bread and pastry that had been set out to cool, and, there, he had it at last, the mystery components – pumpkin pie, nutmeg, and cooked apples.

A car stopped in front of the house.  Two adults, uttering warnings about good behaviour, ushered four children from the car towards the house.  There was shouting and laughter as they ran for the front gate.  The last child, a skinny, tousle-haired boy, looked across at Harry, and smiled – and Harry felt young again.

Creative Writing Workshop

Do you have an unfinished book in you just yearning to be set free? Our all-day creative writing workshop with Carla Billinghurst and Cymbeline Buhler may just help you to make it real. Their hands-on style encourages generation of storylines and stimulates imaginative approaches to writing.

flying book
Carla and Cymbeline have presented workshops at the Library since 2015 and their work has been extremely popular with participants: ‘Fabulous – have done lots of other writing workshops. This is the best’; and, ‘This was a very fun workshop – it flowed nicely to develop the processes and explore different tools that I will definitely use’.

Make it happen for just $25, (age 16+), Katoomba Library, Sat 8 April, 10am to 3pm, book and pay at any Blue Mountains Library branch.

 

Celebrating Women After 50!

Hot on the heels of International Women’s Day join us to meet Julie Ankers author of Feisty, Fabulous and 50+, a collection of ‘warts and all’ stories from women navigating their way tJulie Ankers1hrough their 50s and beyond! A compelling celebration of the laughs and lives of 21 fantastic females two of whom – Kerry Chater and Jenny Mosher – are Blue Mountains locals and will join Julie in conversation!

The featured stories are inspirational, frank and uplifting as each woman tackles her own set of challenges – from financial security to discrimination to life-threatening illnesses – all recounted with humour, insight and self-deprecation and demonstrating the under-stated strength and resilience of these fabulous women.

Book Cover Bigger ImageJulie will share their journeys with you in this FREE event. Bookings are essential, please call or visit any Library branch. Call 4780 5750 for more information. Books will be for sale.

Presented as part of Seniors Festival 2017 – Katoomba Library, Thursday 23 March, 2pm – a FREE event.

Creative Writing Workshop

There are only a few places left for (and only one week to go before) our Saturday 4th March Mountains of Stories writing workshop with Ingle Knight at Springwood Hub (10am-3pm).

Ingle’s will be the first  of six workshops for 2017 in this very popular series hosted by Blue Mountains Library.

Ingle will focus on the writing process; the generation of ideas, use of language and how to construct narrative. His lengthy experience has been in theatre, narrative fiction and script writing and he has also worked as a professional actor and a lecturer and tutor in scriptwriting, creative writing, drama studies and film studies with numerous universities and colleges. In 2010 he was Visiting Scholar at John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.

Places in all 2107 MOS workshops are limited and bookings for all are now open, so do get in early to book your space. Cost is $25. Book and pay at any library branch or call 4780 5750 for more dates and information. Minimum age 16 years+.

The ocean helps me remember 5

surfer1

The character in Alison’s piece has trouble remembering anything at all – but the ocean takes her back to where she needs to be.

I don’t remember anything much these days. Life has become a kind of haze, where nothing starts or ends, it just suddenly is – then, is not. People loom into my view – my eyesight is not so good now – they give me food, or a drink, or pills… and then they fade away, and as often as not I feel sleepy and close my eyes for a bit. This woman in a blue cardy came to see me, said she was my niece. Well, she might have been and she might not, how can you tell? Truth has become a thing that bends and fades round the edges.

I still remember my lovely boy Connor though. Connor comes to visit me a lot. And sometimes he pops me in a wheelchair and makes a joke about me being behind the wheel of the Jaguar, and don’t go too fast Mum, the cops’ll be booking you for speeding. He wheels me out to the garden and we have a lovely chat out under the trees. He tells me all sorts of things I don’t remember now – but he’s such a lovely boy. He’s so kind.

 It’s daytime. We’ve had lunch. And now I see Connor striding into my room.

“Off to the beach we go, Mum. Are you ready?”

I look startled.

“I told you yesterday, Mum, I’m taking you down to Bronte for a bit of a look at the sea. You used to be a swimmer, Mum, real fast. And a surfer.”

Some pictures drifted through my muzzy head. Water foaming up around me, getting up my nose. An ice cream on a stick, with chocolate to lick off the outside. My pink bubble swimmers.

And my arms slicing through the water, strong and brown.

“I swam?” I say.

“Mum, you were a champ. Remember?”

And, weirdly, I do remember.

 

The ocean helps me remember 4

boat-leaving2

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

caravan

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.