Many moons ago when I was teaching at UWA, I heard a creative writing lecturer talk about how writers often find themselves ‘worrying at a particular knot’. Maybe they’re writing all kinds of different things, but somewhere in the midst of each of them, if you look deeply enough, or from the right angle, you’ll find some version of this one theme or concern.
The writer, of course, doesn’t always know this. Slightly fewer moons ago, when I was easing out of teaching at UWA, I had a student say to me, “It’s interesting how so many of your poems are sort of about containment.”
And I said Huh?
And she said, “You know … how you’re always talking about borders and margins, inside and outside, about edges and stuff like that.”
And I said, No I’m not … am I?
And then she showed me. And lo and behold, I was. And still am. At least in my poetry.
There are similar knots in my work for young people, one of which I became aware of recently because it features in both The Penguins Are Coming! and DUCK! Continue reading
… would be the name of my book launch, if I was having one. Which I’m not, even though Frané Lessac is standing by to dress up as anything I so choose.
Despite the allure of Frané in a duck costume or a penguin outfit, or possibly both in rapid succession like the quick-change artist she definitely is, I won’t be having an actual launch event this time, but two books will nonetheless be launched onto an unsuspecting picture-book-reading public.
One book about a duck. The other about penguins.
I told you a bit about the first one recently. I told you a bit about the second eight years ago, at which time I was also launching-but-not-launching my very first duck book. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun. Continue reading
Hello, it’s me. Yes indeed, I am alive. I just haven’t posted here in a long time because I’ve been writing. Which is a good thing.
The thing that I have been writing is a middle-grade novel, which is also a good thing. And hopefully a good book. It is approximately two years overdue, which is a less good thing, and also why I have not been posting here.
Because when your long-suffering publisher is patiently waiting for you to deliver a long-overdue book, it feels odd to be spending time rambling in a bloggy way. However, I am back to bloggy-rambling because my publisher is no longer suffering, at least not at my hands. This is for two reasons:
i) Long-overdue book is now done!
ii) In the process of working on long-overdue book, I got an idea for another book and that book is about to be published! Continue reading
… there was a small rhinoceros.
It hung on the wall of an art gallery in Subiaco, all the way back in 1997. It was part of an exhibition entitled Three Narrative Artists.
And it looked like this:
[“Intrepid Journey” by Sue Templeton]
It was right near the entrance, and when I walked in on opening night, it stopped me in my tracks. There was something about the image I found intrinsically appealing. Or perhaps it was the combination of image and title – the word “intrepid” together with the rhinoceros and the boat.
It stayed with me, as things sometimes do unexpectedly. That’s something I love – that you never quite know what’s going to catch the light for someone. It isn’t always what you’d expect. In this case, it was a small rhinoceros.
But here’s where it gets interesting, because many years passed. Many, many years. And I guess my memory isn’t as good as I thought it was. Because when I thought about the rhino, I saw it as a tiny thing in a tiny boat on a very very wide and vast blue ocean. And I remembered the title as being simply “Intrepid”. I told myself it was the perfect marriage of that single-word title and the image that lent it appeal for me. Except that it wasn’t a single-word title and it also wasn’t a vast open ocean. In fact, looking at it now I’m not even sure it’s an ocean. Maybe it’s a desert. Maybe it’s a lava field. Maybe it’s the surface of the moon. Continue reading
I recently received a question from a reader that stopped me in my tracks. When I was writing A Single Stone, she asked, did I know about children mining mica in India? She included a link to a newspaper article entitled, “India’s mica mines: The shameful truth behind mineral makeup’s shimmer” In reply, I said two things: Wow and I had no idea. In A Single Stone, young girls tunnel deep into mountains to harvest a mineral called mica. I chose to use this real-world mineral name for a few simple reasons:
- Since childhood, I have thought of it as fool’s gold – bright and shiny but essentially valueless
- It forms flakes and sheets
- I liked the way the word sounded
It’s possible that some of these reasons are more compelling than others. Although I gave my mineral a real name, for the purposes of the narrative I invested it with some fictional properties. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I didn’t just invent something entirely fictional, as I did for some other elements in the story. Not having done so, there was now this unexpected real-world connection, about which I felt a little uneasy.
Once, there was a girl called Meg. She was a reader and a collector of fragments – pithy observations, random snippets of stuff. She liked scribbling things down, twisting words about, but she was not a writer.
One day she was driving with her four-year-old daughter and her daughter’s same-aged friend, “E”, in the back. She was driving E home after a sleepover and she started messing about, being silly. Is this where I turn, E? Or the next corner? Wait … are we on the right street? Oh, no! I think we’re lost!
Because everyone knows that four-year-olds love whimsical play. But E rolled his eyes and said, in a world-weary tone, “You know where my house is.”
Meg thought it was a shame for a four-year-old to be world-weary, so she tried again, with this: “Well, I know where it was yesterday, but who’s to say where it will be today?” Continue reading
Yes, I know he isn’t exactly Mr Curly. That would be like saying I’m Ruby, or Cassie, or possibly even Max.
But last weekend at the Perth Writers Festival, I met the maker of Mr Curly and of many things duckish and otherly delightful – Michael Leunig. I’ve made no secret of the fact that the original inspiration for Duck for a Day came from an interview Leunig did with Andrew Denton, but beyond that, I’ve been a long-time fan of Leunig’s work, which my father shared with me from a very early age. The corkboard above this very desk is dotted with tattered Leunig cartoons, snipped from newspapers here and there over the years.
When I talk to school groups, I sometimes show pages from my notebooks, or bits and pieces of paper where I’ve jotted down story ideas. And in doing so, I often make the point that neat handwriting is a very good thing. Because sometimes – quite often, really – when I come later to read what it is that I’ve written down, I find that I can’t, that the idea I remember as being so very brilliant is in fact a meaningless series of squiggles. Or I get to the shops and discover I can’t decipher half the items on my list.
But sometimes things work the other way. Sometimes having terrible handwriting leads, accidentally, to all sorts of surprising connections. In poetry workshops, I’m always talking about making words jostle up against words they wouldn’t normally hang around with. And sometimes this is what happens when I try to make sense of my own writing.
Note to self: always always always have a notebook by your bed.
Still, at least I had a pen. And a hand. There are three different story ideas on this hand. All I need now is the time to write them, right after I finish this rewrite, and the next one, and the next two novels in the queue, and that grant application, and this editing project, and the academic semester.
Hmm. Must sleep less, write more. Preferably not on hands, though.