Osborne-Crawley, L (2015) 'Author, academic, entrepreneur - now a Stella Prize winner. Meet Emily Bitto' Womens Agenda (link accessed 25/4/2015)
My book group read last year's Stella Prize winning book 'The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka', and we all became quite interested in the Stella Prize concept. This year's winner, Emily Bitto, is the topic of the following article - it's worth a read. Now to access and read her book!
Osborne-Crawley, L (2015) 'Author, academic, entrepreneur - now a Stella Prize winner. Meet Emily Bitto' Womens Agenda (link accessed 25/4/2015)
This isn’t about a romantic relationship with a happy ending. It’s about a romantic relationship which failed. It’s about a relationship out of which the friendship element has survived and retained its integrity despite irregular contact and the protectiveness of the passionate person who became his adored wife.
It’s also about the people who surround a relationship, about having the respect and strength to value each other’s connectedness through links to these people, it’s about the way in which this can sustain and keep strong even the finest filament of friendship.
We met through friends while studying at Monash University in 1968 – I was studying Economics and Politics on a teaching studentship which entailed my completing the Diploma of Education after my degree then teaching for at least three years in the country before marrying. He was studying Zoology.
Two high school friends were studying Zoology with him and I often visited their lab. One was an enormously warm person who had wonderful skills in connecting people and managing group events such as camping at Wilson’s Promontory. Our friendship group grew and gathered often, enjoying just being together, sometimes playing cards in the ‘Science Caf’, or at the Notting Hill pub or on camping trips whenever we had the opportunity.
We gradually came together as a couple. I could write about our sensitively established then increasingly lusty romantic life, about the impact of geographical separation as I taught in the country for three years, about relationship highs and lows as I struggled to overcome trust issues (he once asked ‘why can’t we have the pleasure without the pain?’), but this is now so long in the past. It just failed.
We separated as saddened friends. We did not fight verbally or physically, there was nothing to be bitter about – we were just sad. We had a shared friendship network and had both enjoyed each other’s families. We had shared many life events together as brothers and sisters reached adulthood, married and had children; as beloved grandparents aged.
My wonderfully eccentric uncle, a farmer in the Tiger Hills area outside Benalla, became a father figure to him. We visited my uncle often while we were together, and when our relationship ended, I felt so strongly that just because we were breaking up, this didn’t mean that he must stop visiting my uncle. I told him.
His mother, a warm and loving nurse with an adventurous spirit, had become a friend to me. Tentatively at first, I visited her and it was so clear that we had a happy time together that we kept in touch and would often take holiday breaks together.
He married. I continued teaching, travelled and had the odd affair or two
For over 35 years we had regular news of one another and very occasionally happened upon one another – either physically or on the phone. This was always a respectful connecting up – perhaps with some defensive humour – yet it always moved me. Our parents aged. Brothers and sisters moved from first to second marriages, became grandparents. We retired. We always had news of one another.
We met up briefly at my uncle’s funeral where he was a pallbearer. He still stays at the farm on Tiger Hill at times. My sister and her husband live there and told him that just because our uncle has passed away, he doesn’t need to stop visiting the farm. They have become close friends.
I was having cancer treatment when his mother died, but I shared with him the ‘eulogy’ to his mother I wrote as I couldn’t be at her funeral. He now has a copy for the records he is collecting of her life. He sent me a copy of her funeral service.
Most recently, we met up again while he was staying at my uncle’s farm. I took my little grandnephews over to see him - he intrigued them by peeling them each a fresh orange in a continuous circle and then helped them to get oranges from the tree. Reconnecting immediately – as with all good friends we always have lots to talk about, even if our meetings are rare--we once again caught up quickly on the news, laughed together and bid each other good bye with good wishes.
How would our relationship be described? In the early years his mother would describe me to her friends as his ‘girlfriend from university’, but then as years passed would introduce me as his ‘friend from university’.
I recently introduced him to my grandnephews as my ‘friend from university’.
He is now and will always be - my ‘friend from university’.
I learnt many years ago that the subconscious mind was part of my academic writing process. If I read the suggested reading for an essay, followed up a few 'leads' which interested me in the process, started writing and improving drafts then "slept on them" (sometimes literally!)...when I woke up and started writing again something would have shifted, some deeper layer of understanding was available to me.
Over time I began to factor time for my unconscious to work into my writing day - during one of my academic iterations my writing process involved staying at my sister's beach house at Phillip Island, having breakfast out; then reading, writing and writing some more; with regular spells involving long walks on either the quiet Woolamai beach looking towards San Remo or the wilder Woolamai and neighbouring surf beaches. This recipe always worked - it was enjoyable and brings back warm memories of that stage in my life. I did this for a number of years. Sadly (for me), my sister and her husband sold the beach house, but I guess, like them, I'd moved on.
The Guardian recently featured an article about the subconscious mind and the creative writing process which resonated with me. Although the article doesn't answer the question it asks in the precise, evidence based, scientific way it seemed to suggest it might, the two novelists 'case studied', Mark Haddon and Michelle Paver, reflect thoughtfully on the possible role of their unconscious in the writing process in a way which those interested in writing might find interesting.
Seager, Charlotte (2015) 'How the subconscious mind shapes the creative writing process' The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/apr/07/subconscious-mind-creative-writing-mark-haddon-michelle-paver
Australian writer Cate Kennedy is connected to Benalla and District... I occasionally see her about, often in a café reading a book, possibly between appointments as I understand she lives out of town.
I first heard about Cate from a friend when living in the Daylesford area in the 1990's - my friend told me about a new librarian in the little library in the town who had just moved into the district and was running wonderful programs for the kids. Not long after I moved to Benalla in 1998 according to my friend it seemed that Cate had moved to Benalla as well. I've followed her writing since then, applauding from a distance her increasing success and profile.
I've come across to recent interview with Cate which are memoir related--Cate's memoir that is.
One, an interview with Cate on 'In conversation with Richard Fidler' on Radio National, March 15. I sometimes catch and always enjoy Richard's interviews when I can't sleep and try to track the podcasts. I must have been able to sleep on March 15, so have just listened to her conversation with Richard at the Adelaide Writer's Festival in which she 'stories' about her time as a trailing spouse in Vanuatu last year. I had wondered if she was away as I hadn't seen her about for a time. So now I've feel that I've caught up with her! Thank you, Richard!
The other interview was an extract from Rachel Power's book 'Motherhood and Creativity' in what I perceive as an horrifically named journal which I find hard to write as a link. I worked in social work for some time; I feel a profound rush of sadness every time there is a hint in a media story that a mother may have killed a child or children, perhaps as part of post natal depression. I berate and have been known to complain formally when advertising appears to condone sexual abuse or road rage. Why ever would a journal be called 'Kill Your Darlings'? Why would it have 10.5K followers on Twitter? I can't bring myself to follow them, even though the writing and writers they support appear to be worth supporting. Perhaps the title is a phrase writers use at some stage of the writing or publishing process. I'm sorry - but for whatever reason they have chosen to use it - I'm not in the inner circule; I don't know and I don't approve. I don't mind 'The Lifted Brow' at all - another contemporary publication, a sibling of KYD (finally an acronym that's a bit easier to put on paper).
As you can tell, I'm a bit distracted.... I really enjoyed reading the KYD interview in which Cate reflects on her experience of motherhood and the writing process and if I see her in a café in Benalla, as with the interview with Richard about her time in Vanuatu, I will feel that I have shared her experience of this stage of her life in some way.
I'm popping this link here for future reference. From The Economist, it's a review of a memoir, one I think would be good to share with the group at some stage during 'News of writing'. I've also saved it in case the link is removed... http://www.economist.com/node/21647592/print
I have a Twitter feed. I'm on Facebook too, but as I don't have lots of family, don't have children living overseas or interstate, I'm not as engaged with Facebook. Twitter suits me and even though I'm not on it daily, sometimes even monthly, I like to know it's there. I like to tap into ideas from the eclectic collection of interest areas and minds I 'follow'.
I've just retweeted and favourited a 'Brainpickings' tweet written by the wonderful intellectual Maria Popova, whose tweets always take me off for awhile to matters cultural rather than current events. It links to a thought provoking article about writing.... about the impact of perfectionism and much more. The article itself, including its links to many authors on the writing process in a section at the end, will be dipped into over time. I'm adding it to the side menu....
Popova, M (2013) 'Ann Lamott on Writing and why perfectionism kills creativity ' Brainpickings http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/11/22/bird-by-bird-anne-lamott/ (accessed 11/4/2015)
The book group I belong to will be discussing 'Elephant Bill' on Tuesday evening - it's Saturday morning and I still have a way to go to finish it!
Reading Elephant Bill has caused me to reflect on my experience of elephants. Earliest memories are of the elephants from the circuses which came to the new suburb of Clayton when I was little. my parents had received a war service loan and had built a home there in the late 1940's. It was surrounded by paddocks, and the area where the Clayton Town Hall now stands was a paddock with a large pine tree at the front - this was where my earliest memories of elephants seem to be set, though later I remember them being located to a paddock on which Woolworths now stands in the street behind the main shopping centre.
The circus came to Clayton at least annually, and as I moved there when I was two or three, I remember going many times. I suspect Mum loved the circus too!
My older brother John and I adored the elephants. I was particularly fascinated by them and can picture them looming quietly as they grazed in the paddock behind the big tent. Of course, they were hobbled.... reading Elephant Bill has reminded me of this.
There's a family story that early one evening John and I took off to the circus on our own, and Mum, desperately worried, found as looking at the elephants. (We didn't have to go far - we lived about ten houses 'up Clayton Road', though the now Clayton Town Hall field was across the road!) I suspect we 'got into trouble' which may have affected my memory, though somewhere in its recesses there is an adventure involving going to see the elephants when the circus came to town. If ever I went, or go, to the zoo, the elephant enclosure is always one at which I could sit for hours.
There was a break in 'My life with elephants' ...until I travelled to Malaya in the mid 1970's - John was stationed with the RAAF there - and also Thailand, where friends Tim and Geraldine were with the diplomatic service. In both settings we would go out into the countryside at weekends. I can still remember the 'rush of joy and elation' I would feel as working elephants emerged out of the vegetation, magnificent and powerful, surrounded by keepers and agricultural workers. I haven't been to Burma, but somehow this experience made the book resonate with me.
Over recent years, I do revisit elephants as I drive past circus tents in country towns, more often than not imagining that they are there. If there is a documentary on television about elephants I will always watch it to learn more about them, and invariably find myself crying at stages and being in wonderment at the role of the mothers and aunties so well described in Elephant Bill. Not so long ago Phillip Adams did a wonderful interview about the history of the elephant on which Disney apparently based 'Jumbo' (which I'm sure engaged me as a child); and then just yesterday that 'Elephant Bill' himself was used as a consultant by .... circus owners as they attempted to retire an elephant, at the time in musth, from their circus.
I still have much to read of 'Elephant Bill'... and am looking forward to it!
'Elephant Bill' Penguin Books
Stroud, Peter 2002 'Elephants in Captivity', Perpective ABC Radio National. Transcript accessed 4 April 2015 at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/perspective/peter-stroud/3511258
Adams, Phillip etc 2014 'Jumbo the Elephant', Late Night Live. Podcast accessed 4 April 2015 at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/jumbo-the-elephant/5375760
As I look through the stories I've written since setting up the memoir writing group some years ago, it seems quite a number of my stories reflect on my experience of aging!
Coping with Criticism (ie editing!)
Hannie Rayson memoir interview video link
The subconscious mind and the creative writing process
Writing Historical Fiction
Image--copyright Mary Leunig; owned by Beverley Lee; permission to use Mary Leunig.