5 WAYS TO BUILD NARRATIVE DRIVE IN MEMOIR

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John Gardner once said, “Structure is the primary concern of the writer.” The more I write and edit other people’s writing, the more I agree with him. It’s not the story itself but how the writer chooses to arrange story elements that keeps the reader turning pages.32533._SY475_

This is easier when writing fiction than when dealing with the real-life constraints of memoir, but here are a few ideas to help you keep your memoir readers up at night in a page turning frenzy.

Before we start there are a couple of issues you need to consider. First of all

  1. What are you writing?

If you’re intention is to record your entire life history then you’re writing an autobiography, not a memoir. What’s the difference? A memoir is a focused selection of life events around a particular theme or time in your life.

  1. Who is your audience?

Are you writing just for family and friends, or people who shared these experiences with you? If so, then you can really write whatever you like and they’ll still read it.

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However, if you believe your story has a wider appeal, that you have a story of interest to the general reading public then you’re going to have to work a whole lot harder at building narrative drive to hook them in and keep them reading right till the end. If you’re not a famous sports star or a glamorous movie queen, then selling your memoir to a publisher is going to be tricky. You need to make sure you have a compelling narrative that grabs them right from the start. But how?

Reading by Lamplight by James Whistler

Reading by Lamplight by James Whistler

5 WAYS TO BUILD NARRATIVE DRIVE IN MEMOIR

  1. Write down all your key plot points.

An easy way of thinking about this is to call them Heart Clutching Moments as Elizabeth Sims does in her Writers Digest Article

Think of the moments in your memoir that have most emotional impact – the parts where your hand goes to your heart. Key emotional turning points – remember to include some happy moments as well as those of drama or trauma. Write down a list of as many of these as you can think of.  Put big circles around the most important and a star next to the most emotional, most moving, heartbreaking moment. That is your climax.fullsizeoutput_5b2

  1. Find your central quest or question?

Delve deep into what your story is really about. Ask yourself, “What is this story about?” Then again, “What is this story really about?” Ask yourself those two questions seven times. Famous non-fiction writing teacher Robin Hemley developed this method for finding the heart of your story.heart with eye

Once you have your answer then formulate a question or quest. In memoir it might be something like this “Will Mary ever find the daughter she gave up for adoption in 1965?” or “Will innocent Bob survive his time in jail?” Or “Will Sarah find a cure for her mysterious illness and be well again?”

You get the idea. What is your central question?

  1. Find your Hope and Fear around this question.

In order to keep the reader highly engaged in your story, every scene and chapter needs to move them between hoping that YES – your central quest/ion will have a happy ending (that’s your hope) and NO! – the very worst will happen (that’s your fear).

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For example

HOPE: Mary will find her adopted daughter who will want to see her and they will lovingly reunite.

FEAR: Mary won’t ever be able to find her daughter no matter how hard she tries or how close she gets. OR Mary will find her daughter who won’t want to have anything to do with her.

HOPE: Bob will study and be freed from his wrongful imprisonment and go on to be a lawyer advocating for those still in jail.

FEAR: Bob will be brutalised in jail. All his appeals will fail, and he will die, sad and alone, in the electric chair.

Oh dear – poor Bob!

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What is your Hope and Fear?

  1. What is your HOOK?

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Your hook is what sets up your question and the connected hope and fear right at the start of your memoir. Look at your list of Heart Clutching Moments and find one which will be best to draw your reader into your story. It doesn’t have to be what chronologically happened first. The power of writing is that you get to play around with the order of events to create most suspense and impact. It doesn’t have to be the whole event, just a snippet of it. Then once you’ve set up your question and what is at stake you can go back and fill in the background.

For example

Mary gives birth to a precious baby girl and gets to hold her, but only for a few minutes. Then she is spirited away and a weeping Mary signs away her rights as mother.

Bob is eating his last meal on death row, the priest beside him giving comfort. He starts down the long hallway in chains.

  1. Arrange your key plot points

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Look at that HCM list and arrange them after your hook. You can list them chronologically but make sure there is movement between your hope and fear in each one. Build to your most impactful moment as your climax. And make sure that you have some kind of satisfying conclusion – even if it’s sad.

For example

Mary gives birth etc

Mary at the graveside of her husband who she never told about her secret child – now she is free to look for her.

Mary tells her son about her search. Son says, “She won’t want to see you.”

Mary finds old papers and begins search.

Mary finds orphanage but records were lost.

Mary finds alternate clues – her daughter has been searching for her

Mary gets sick – she may die before she finds her daughter – search intensifies.

Mary finds an address – in the same state!

Mary’s son kicks up stink – why are you doing this? It’s too stressful! You’re sick!

Mary makes a tentative phone call – gets her daughter’s husband

Mary’s illness worsens.

Mary’s daughter arrives on her doorstep and they reunite tearfully and joyfully.

Mary’s son reacts badly.

Mary’s daughter is a doctor and heals Mary and all family is happy and harmonious!

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Now real life isn’t usually so orderly, nor does it have neat closed off endings, but for the purpose of your memoir you’re going to have to find a satisfying point to stop where the main quest or question has been resolved.

These exercises can be done after you’ve already completed a draft or even better, before you start the big job of writing it. If you can write to a structure that is already moving between hope and fear, then your job is halfway done.

Of course all of this is applicable to fiction writing as well – just easier to do because you can invent events and keep that movement between hope and fear with a flick of your pen.

GOOD LUCK!

writing on retreat!

If you’d like to learn more about memoir writing or just make a start on telling some of your life stories, then my next retreat in Highfields west of Brisbane is now open for enrolments. Come and join a like-minded group of women and get writing! See here for all the details.

What is your memoir’s central question? What is the hope and fear? Need help working it out? Ask away!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

5 FREE Presents to Give Yourself this Christmas!

Merry Xmas

Happy Christmas to you all! Yes tis the season to be merry and give thanks for the craziness this year has been. Amid all the frenzied buying and giving that accompanies the festive season, I thought it would be a good idea to treat ourselves to some things all writers really need.

So here you are – 5 Gifts to give yourself – all of them you can get for FREE!

Presents

1. A BOOK! – Writers love to read and it’s important that we all support each other by buying and borrowing books to help keep the publishing and bookselling industry alive and thriving. Besides what’s better to do than to laze a day away tucked up with a good read? My favourite books by Australian authors this year have been Melissa Lucashenko‘s Too Much Lip, Trent Dalton‘s Boy Swallows Universe, Favel Parrett’s There is Still Love, Amanda O’ Callaghan’s This Taste for Silence and I’m very keen to get my hands on Amanda Neihaus‘s The Breeding Season. I also really learnt a lot from Joanna Penn‘s book Business for Authors. How to Be an Author Entrepreneur.  Joanna has a number of practical guides on building a writing career worth checking out. Always good to invest in books about the craft and business of writing as well as feeding our creative side with quality works of fiction. And some just for fun too. Oh, and of course if you’re into social history – Bjelke Blues is a cracking good read 🙂  Need it to be free – LIBRARY! Best place I know to walk in feeling poor and come out feeling very rich indeed with armfuls of books, movies and other treasures.

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2. AN EXPERIENCE – Any experience that makes your heart sing will do the trick. Dance with a friend and twirl your skirts. Sing some Xmas carols along with Bing. Go for a swim somewhere beautiful in nature, or a long walk in a snowy forest if you’re somewhere cold. Roll on the floor. Move your body. Visit the city and stare at all the lights till your eyes go funny. Laugh – catch up with old friends and have a giggle. Watch a funny movie and let yourself go. Sit by a river or with your back against a tree. Lie in the sun and feel the earth moving beneath you. Go outside at night somewhere away from city lights and look up at the stars – the very best Xmas decorations. Treat yourself to your favourite food – it’s Xmas – if we can’t feast a little then, when can we? Let go, have fun. Be silly!

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3. TIME TO WRITE – Escape the festive madness, find somewhere quiet and write something just for fun, because it’s what we love to do. Play around with words. Stake a claim on a period of time each day which is just yours for whatever creative play you’d like to do. Remember we write because it gives us pleasure. Take the pressure off and just muck around on the page. Remember why you started this crazy writing adventure in the first place. It’s not all about publication (though of course that’s very nice) but about the fun of entering that creative zone and losing time because we’re so wrapped up in the story we’re creating.

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Dorothea Lange: Dyanna lying on her back in the grass circa 1961

4. PERMISSION TO DO NOTHING! – Yes, I mean it. Absolutely nothing. Stare into space. Stay in bed. Forget the housework. Forget the deadlines. Send the children, partner etc elsewhere at least for a few hours – then do NOTHING! This is trickier than it sounds. But staying still, watching clouds, listening to the sounds around you, you’ll start to really slow down. And don’t we all need that? Soon enough we’ll be running around like headless chickens again, but if at all possible make this Doing of Nothing a part of every week. Remember Sunday? It used to be a day when all work stopped. Everyone, all at the same time, slowed down and did very little. I miss it. This doing of nothing is something I’m really trying to embrace for the year ahead. It’s where dreams and story ideas come from.

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5. LOVE – or at least some Sincere Affection! Be your own best friend, your own affectionate partner. Treat yourself with loving kindness. Speak to yourself gently and with encouragement. This writing gig is hard. You need a healthy sense of self-worth to cope with the inevitable rejections we face on the road to success. When you catch yourself speaking harshly to yourself, just ask, “Would I talk to my best friend like that? What would I say instead?” and tell yourself that. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you’re “up yourself” as we say here in Australia, it just means you want yourself to be happy and free from fear and harm. From that start we can learn to love the world!

I hope you found something on the list that feels possible and made you smile.

Here’s a little Xmas gift from me to you, also for free – my Xmas short story  “Mrs Sunshine”. It was first published in Best Australian Short Stories 2014 (Black Inc). I hope you enjoy it.

And if you’d really like to treat yourself this Christmas then book into my next Relax and Write Retreat – March 27 – 29 2020 among the big trees and birds north of Toowoomba.

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Happy Christmas from my backyard to yours. Have a wonderful holiday season. I hope it’s filled with joy and love.

Lots of love

Edwina xx

Relax and Write in the Mountains 2020!

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I’m thrilled to announce a special introductory and memoir writing retreat at Camp Koojarewon in Highfields north of Toowoomba.

Is your creative spirit crying out for a little TLC? Always wanted to write but don’t know where to start? Need to reboot your writing mojo and be inspired to tackle that project you’ve been thinking about forever? Come along and regain your love of writing and life at the next Relax and Write Retreat

From 2pm FRIDAY 27 MARCH – 2 pm 29 MARCH 2020

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Join like-minded women in a fun and supportive environment discovering just how much some deep relaxation can ignite your imagination and get you writing again. Relax and unwind with gentle morning yoga sessions and get writing with innovative workshops to help move those stories out of your head and onto the page.

“I feel transformed, as a writer and as a human being.”

Bianca Millroy – participant NANOWRIMO retreat 2019

 The program includes two yoga sessions, four inspiring writing workshops covering the basics, plus advice on editing and submitting your work. Two nights basic dorm accommodation plus delicious vegetarian meals, morning and afternoon teas and a special dance night are included.

“The fully-catered retreat environment was comfortable and stress-free. Edwina and her team create an atmosphere that encourages, motivates and inspires.”

Gay Liddington – participant NANOWRIMO retreat 2019

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Maria, Kathy and Jude – triple retreaters!

Connect with other creative women in a beautiful, peaceful location, be inspired by practical, informative workshops, stretch and relax with yoga and release your inner-goddess dancing under the stars. No more putting your dreams on hold. Treat yourself to this special weekend nurturing your writing spirit. You deserve it!

RETREAT PROGRAM All activities are optional

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FRIDAY 27 MARCH 2020

ARRIVAL from 3 pm

5 pm – Meet and Greet

6:00 –  DINNER

6:45 – 8:30 WORKSHOP 1– Your Stories

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SATURDAY 28 MARCH

7:15am – 8:30 – Gentle morning yoga and breathing

8:30 – BREAKFAST

10:00am – 12:30 pm – WORKSHOP 2 – Writing from start to finish – developing a plot and a plan

12.30 pm – LUNCH

1 – 4:00 – FREETIME and FEEDBACK SESSIONS

4 – 6:00 pm – WORKSHOP 3 – Character and Dialogue

6:00 pm – DINNER

7:00– 8:30 pm – DANCING and chatting around the bonfire

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SUNDAY 29 MARCH

7:15 – 8:30am – Gentle morning yoga and breathing

8:30 – BREAKFAST

10:00 – 12:30 – WORKSHOP 4 – Where and how to submit work, goal setting, questions and collage

12:30 – LUNCH

1:30- 2pm DEPARTURES

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Editorial feedback sessions with Edwina available on request $50 extra for those needing advice on a project.

FEEDBACK DETAILS – email Edwina your first 10 pages plus your synopsis at least 2 weeks prior to retreat for full edit/advice plus 20 minutes meeting time. Massages will also be available at extra cost.

COST for the weekend of writing, fun and feasting, including accommodation, all meals, 2 yoga sessions, 4 creative writing workshops and a dance night. Transport not included.

 $400 all inclusive!

EARLY BIRD $360 -Pay $200 deposit before 30 January 2020

PAY YOUR DEPOSIT HERE

then Drop Me a Line to let me know you’ve done so and I’ll secure a spot for you.

OR contact me to pay by Direct Deposit: preferred : )

Contact me any time for more info or with questions. edwinashaw@icloud.com

A very few single rooms are available for those with special needs at slightly extra cost. Contact Edwina.

Remember – as Heidi said “I knew the mountains would make her well!”

Heidi

Creative Recovery or How to Reboot your Writing Mojo

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Bjelke Blues has been going great guns and I’m thrilled about that. We even scored a review in The Weekend Australian!

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Review of Bjelke Blues, Weekend Australian 9/10 November 2019

Thanks to everyone who’s been buying copies. It’s been a huge year’s work, collecting and editing the work of 44 other people, then promoting and marketing the book as well. On top of it all, I caught the dreaded lurgy which drained the very last of my own creative energy.

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But I had a screenplay to write. Due at the end of the month. I sat down at the computer and searched my brain, my heart, but I had nothing left to give. I was done! An empty well without a drop of inspiration. I’d pumped myself dry.

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Most creative people experience patches like this. Some call it writers block. Others, burn out or exhaustion. I run retreats helping other people to find their creative selves, but in the meantime I’d lost my own.

How was I going to find it again?

Luckily I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Hope they’ll work for you too.

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  1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – regular readers of my site will know that this is the book that started me writing. It’s still the first place I turn when I need to reboot my writing mojo. Working my way through the exercises slowly but surely ideas started to flow again. My favourite affirmation this time around is “Through the use of a few simple tools my creativity will flourish.”

 

  1. Take the pressure off. When I start thinking about my writing tasks as hard work then I know I’m in trouble. Writing is fun! I love it because I get to muck around in my imagination, make stuff up and play. So get that “life is a serious business” frown off your face and lighten up!
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Put on your happy face!

  1. Get into nature. Take your journal and a pen and just sit with your back against a tree or look out to the sea or listen to the birds a while, then write down everything you see, feel, hear, smell, taste. Free write for no other reason than to record that one moment in time.
The Reader Crowned with Flowers, or Virgil's Muse, 1845 Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

The Reader Crowned with Flowers, or Virgil’s Muse, 1845 Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

  1. Buy yourself a treat. It’s best of course if it’s something to do with your writing/art form like a new book on writing, a novel you’ve always wanted to read, a new set of colouring pencils or a recorder, but any treat will work just as well. I bought myself a mattress topper. I love it so much I think I’ll marry it!
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    I love my mattress topper!

     

  2. Do something you don’t usually do. Paint a picture, climb a mountain, go for a swim. I played the piano. I had lessons for years as a child but these days I rarely play. The other day I sat down and learnt a new piece. It made me feel very happy.
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Happiness

  1. Give yourself some proper time off to do NOTHING. Yes, I mean nothing. For some of us that’s really hard to do. Luckily for me, I was babysitting my brother’s kids in Dubbo and my internet wasn’t working so time off was forced upon me. I read. A lot. Talked to the kids. Went for walks. And guess what? Ideas for my screenplay started to flow in like magic.
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Like magic!

  1. Give yourself permission to write absolute crap (or do a shitty painting- whatever). Then sit down and get stuck in.

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If you’ve completely pumped yourself dry it will take a bit of time to fill your well to a point where you’re ready to produce again. Be gentle with yourself. Gentle is my new favourite word – the world right now needs a whole lot of gentleness.

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My secret writer’s block buster is meditation! Those or you who’ve attended my workshops will know how helpful some brain clearing and positive visualisation can be for rebooting your creative mojo. At my latest retreat my friend Maria recorded my guided meditation for busting through the inner critic and building creative confidence. Try the guided meditation and see how it can free up your writing. Let me know how you go.

I got my screenplay done and it wasn’t even crap. Once I started writing it was great fun to do.

Good luck with your own reboot. What are your favourite tricks, techniques to help unblock? I’d love to hear about them.

Happy writing – or just lying around dreaming 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina  xx

Bjelke Blues Launch and Upcoming Events

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Bjelke Blues is now officially launched and out in the world! One minute I was making cheese platters, the next we had a full house of excited punters and it was time to start introducing my contributors to read from their pieces.

We had wonderful stories, starting with proud Murri woman, Angelina Hurley who told us about what it was like growing up black in Brisbane during those years, escaping the police, her cousin up a tree in the wasteland that is now South Bank Parklands.angelina-bb-launch-best.jpeg

Nicky Peelgrane read from her hilarious piece ‘Sleeping with Joh’ about growing up in a National party householdNicky with front row of crowd BBL

Renowned UQ agitator, Dan O’Neill, spoke about the Springbok tour and UQ’s part in encouraging activism. And read a bit from Joh’s own autobiography – Don’t You Worry About That!

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Artist Jeanelle Hurst spoke about a police mate who saved her from being arrested only to be hounded from the force and persecuted for years.jeanelle-speech-bb-launch.jpeg

Warren Ward made us laugh and then shake our heads with his story about being a ‘casual inserter’. warrens-speech-bb-launch.jpeg

Paul Richards filled us in on the true horror of the legal situation for Aboriginal and Islander people during those dreadful years.paul Richards speech BBL

Anne Jones talked about the rise of punk as a reaction to Joh’s repressive tactics.

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Then the wonderful Nick Earls read us his story about his encounter with Russ Hinze at the races.

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Esteemed historian Raymond Evans officially launched the collection with a great speech, bringing the importance of history like this into the here and now.

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‘As young people in that era we marched in the buoyant hope of creating a better world. Young people today are marching again into the face of heavy-handed policing and hostile public opinion, in the desperate hope of saving it,’ he said.

‘We were completely right back then. We were 100% on the right side of history —and we still are right when we stand up and say: “NO TO ADANI! NO, NO TO ADANI!”—as the high school students today chant —just as we once so gamely chanted: “NO, NO TO JOH”’

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An electric buzz ran through the room as people shared their march, raid and bust stories. We laughed and shook our heads in dismay. Then I gathered all the contributing writers who were able to make it to the launch onto the stage for a photo. So many of us, we could hardly all fit into the shot!

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Before I knew it, the lights were all back on and it was pack up time. Books were sold, old friends were reunited and a good night was had by all. The publisher at AndAlso Books , Matthew Wengert, and I were exhausted but very happy and would like to thank all the contributors and everyone who came along to help us launch Bjelke Blues.

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We had our first radio interview last week on Murri Radio 98.9 with Boe Spearim on his Let’s Talk Program.

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Listen in to the podcast with radio host, screenwriter and academic Angelina Hurley, One of the founders of the Aboriginal and Islander Legal service Paul Richards, and me. It’s a lively conversation!

Join the conversation by coming along to one of our UPCOMING EVENTS

Brisbane Writers Festival Panel – Sunday 8 September 2 pm BOOK TICKETS 

AVID Reader Bookstore – Panel of Readers – Tuesday 24 September 6 pm RSVP

and Books@Stones presents– Bjelke Blues Discussion Panel on Wednesday October 16 at Lady Marmalade in Stones Corner. More details as they come to hand. I can tell you that ex Go-Between John Willsteed will be joining us for that one!

Bjelke Blues has come at just the right time as we again gear up to fight for what we believe in, with many old activists preparing to join the school kids at their march for the environment on Friday the 20th of September in Brisbane.

It’s time – and just quietly – a lot of fun 🙂

Get your copy of Bjelke Blues at your nearest independent bookstore or HERE direct from AndAlso Books.

Independent bookstores so far stocking Bjelke Blues

Avid Reader, West End

Books @ Stones, Stones Corner

Mary Ryan’s, New Farm

Folio Books, Brisbane CBD

Riverbend Books, Bulimba

State Library of Queensland —Library Shop

Brisbane Writers Festival (5–8 September 2019)

Queensland Museum —Museum Shop

Readings, Hawthorn (Melbourne)

Mary Ryan’s (Milton)

Museum of Brisbane Shop

QAGOMA Shop

Better Read Than Dead Newtown (Sydney)

If your local store hasn’t got a copy send them to AndAlso Books!

Thanks so much for your support of this important collection of stories from the not so distant past.

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

BJELKE BLUES

 

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My new book Bjelke Blues  – Stories of Repression and Resistance in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s QLD 1968 – 1987 (ANDALSO BOOKS 2019) is about to be released. 45 stories essays and memoirs collected and edited by – guess who? Wonderful stories by wonderful writers including a foreword by Matt Condon, stories by Nick Earls and Miles Franklin winner Melissa Lucashenko, historian Raymond Evans, comedian Mandy Nolan, Indigenous activists Sam Watson and Bob Weatherall, UQ agitator Dan O’Neill, musician John Willsteed and many, many more.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen – a hill-billy peanut farmer whose formal education finished when he was 12 – ruled my home state of Queensland from 1968 to 1987. For me and for all of my generation that meant that for us growing up he was some sort of weird king – the ruler of the ‘country’ of Queensland he called his own. Several times he tried to secede Queensland from Australia to make it his own kingdom. He would have loved that.

For almost 20 years he stayed in power, despite receiving only 20% or so of the vote through a notorious gerrymander. He drew electoral boundaries around left-leaning areas in wiggly jigsaw-patterns around the state. Funding went first to areas that voted for his party, then to the other members of his right-wing coalition, leaving next to nothing for Left wing Labor electorates. He used the police force as his own personal army giving them unprecedented powers to enter properties under the infamous Health Act. Bjelke used taxpayers’ money to fund his personal vendettas through the law courts. He once sued every member of the opposition party for defamation. Heard enough yet?

And through all of this obvious corruption – I won’t go into the rape of the environment, jobs for mates, and the police and government corruption that eventually brought about his downfall – through all of this, he appeared on television every night with his peanut-shaped head and blotchy skin, smiling crookedly, bewildering and amusing journalists with his own special brand of obfuscating banter. Remind you of anyone in power now? ‘Don’t you worry about that!’

Every night, just like Trump, Joh provided sound grabs that the media loved, and infuriated others. Still today though, many older people maintain a fondness for Joh, and believe he knew nothing about all the corruption and wrongdoing, the bribes. This is despite Joh narrowly escaping jail time on a technicality for his part in the corrupt activities of his government. Well-meaning people like my mother, who say, ‘Oh but darling he did a lot of good things too.’

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I first started to doubt the God King of Queensland in my early teens when he referred to a female journalist as “girly”. How I hated that word! Then he told her not “to worry her pretty little head about that.” My blood boiled. In Australia’s other states and in other countries too, Joh was seen as a laughable buffoon, a joke. But life under Joh was no laughing matter.

In my mid-teens as a baby punk, life under Joh was downright dangerous. In the early 80s, Brisbane city streets were completely empty after six at night – eerily empty. A ghost town. The only cars were police wagons that cruised the city blocks slowly like fat lazy sharks waiting to be fed. Waiting for someone who didn’t fit their idea of normal to step out of a bus – blacks, punks, hippies, greenies, queers, women. We all copped it. It was part of an average night out to be pulled over and interrogated just for looking different. You didn’t have to do anything wrong. They didn’t need an excuse. They were Joh’s personal army and their power was never questioned.

 

We learnt to never carry ID, to give false names and most of all not to be cheeky. It was hard though – Joh’s police were mostly so very stupid that most of the time they didn’t realise you were taunting them. But if they twigged – watch out! Queensland police were famous for late night bashings, especially of black people and gays. They’d take gay men up to Mt Coo-tha, bash them senseless then leave them for dead. They took young black people on long drives out to the edge of the city and left them there to find their own way home. They raided punk venues and gay clubs; batons raised. Hated hippies with a passion. Police bashings were so common they went unreported most of the time. Besides, who were we going to report them to – the police?

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Drug busts became a weapon in Joh’s hands – a way of terrifying and controlling young people and the ‘intellectual Nancies’ he hated. The workers, the strikers, the students. Whoever he didn’t like. Under the Health Act your house could be raided at any time, turned upside down (read my story about getting busted here) and drugs planted. Drug offences carried heavy penalties for miniscule amounts, including jail – in Boggo Rd one of Australia’s most notorious prisons at the time.

Joh’s violent tactics against outsiders created a mass exodus to the south with some of our best and brightest intellects and creators leaving, never to return. Escaping Joh and his police thugs.

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It was a dangerous time to be young and different, but a whole lot of good came out of those years too. Our fight against a common enemy united many disparate groups that aren’t so united now and weren’t then elsewhere either. ‘Women, Workers, Blacks Unite!’ was one of the old street march chants. Queers and punks and artists and hippies and students too. Anyone who didn’t fit Joh’s fascist ideal of Christian youth was a target. Just being a university student was enough to brand you a troublemaker and a deserved victim of police raids. We all had files with our names on them. We were watched. Notes were taken. They knew where we lived. But still, even when it became illegal to gather in groups larger than three, we gathered to protest.

The University of Queensland was a centre for opposition to Joh’s repressive policies and through the leadership of people like Dan O Neill and Sam Watson (both contributors to Bjelke Blues) generations of young Queenslanders were politicised and radicalised. We all learnt what it was like to be branded “other” and joined forces with our “other” brothers and sisters. As Sam Watson says in his essay ‘An Equal and Opposite Force’ in Bjelke Blues:

Joh was a tyrant, and he was a criminal. He personified all that we were fighting against. But I’ll at least acknowledge, in that old basic physics formulae about every force being balanced by an equal or countering force, that perhaps if we had have come up against a lighter, less extreme political opponent, we may not have developed into the sort of freedom fighters we have become.

Help!Joh big

Through his oppression, Joh created formidable opponents.

Forced underground, our art, theatre and music became radical, unique, and ended up influencing the world. We marched together side by side, punks and hippies, black and white, women and men, straight and gay, unionists, labourers and students, ladies in hats and gloves, priests and university lecturers. We marched side by side even after Joh banned marches and arrested protestors in their hundreds. We stuck together. “The people united will never be defeated!”

Joh gave us a common enemy that bonded us more than any benevolent supporter could have done. He created a close-knit family of outsiders and politicised us all. We certainly knew we were alive as we linked arms and faced off against the sea of blue shirts coming at us in waves, batons raised.

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And today as Trump echoes and amplifies many of Joh’s worst traits there are lessons to be learnt here.

The people united will never be defeated!

79-mayday after the march-02-f-Tim Gruchy

For more information of what it was like living in Queensland during the Bjelke-Petersen regime read the book!

Available in all good independent bookstores after August 23. Request it from your local store if they don’t have it. Available for pre-order here

Bjelke Blues  – Stories of Repression and Resistance in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s QLD 1968 – 1987

Come along to the launch on August 23 at Kurilpa Hall West End 6 pm start. RSVP to attend.

Or

Join us at our special panel event at the Brisbane Writers Festival, Sunday September 8, 2 pm

Or

If you can’t make those, don’t worry we have another night full of speakers and fun at the wonderful Avid Reader Bookstore in West End on September 24, 6pm start.

If you’d like to learn more about the downfall of Joh’s government and the police and government corruption that was finally exposed, I highly recommend Matt Condon’s marvellous trilogy Three Crooked Kings, 2013, Jacks and Jokers, 2014,All Fall Down, 2015 and his latest about the criminal underbelly that thrived under Joh The Night Dragon, 2019

Matt wrote the foreword for Bjelke Blues and knows more about the dark hidden history of the Joh era than anyone.

Hope to see you at one of our events. A launch in Sydney is also on the cards.

Do come and say hello!

Edwina xx

 

SELF EDITING 101 – Putting on your critic’s hat :)

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So, you’ve been diligently working away on your story and you think it’s just about done. You’ll either think it’s a work of heartbreaking genius or the worst tripe you’ve ever read or written, or if you’re lucky somewhere in between those two extremes. But now what?

Creating new work and redrafting it use different sets of skills. For first drafts we have to show our inner critics the door in order to get anything done at all. Our imaginations need free reign to be as silly or as serious or off track as they need to be.

But then, once we’ve created the bulk of our draft – the chunk of stone our beautiful masterpiece will be sculpted from — the wonderful work of rewriting begins.

First drafts are only the beginning. The real fun starts at rewriting.

Let your new piece rest for a week or two (move onto something else). Then put on your critic’s hat!

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Yes! It’s time to get serious!

First of all is what professionals call THE STRUCTURAL EDIT.

Basically what that means is

THE BIG STUFF!elephant

 

  • Find the HEART of your story (what is the story really about?) and shape the next draft around it. Go deeper into this heart if you can.
  • Think about the STRUCTURE of your story – have you started and ended in the right place. Does it build in a satisfying way? Are you moving the reader between hope and fear?
  • HOOK – have you set up a hook within the first couple of paragraphs?
  • Is your story compelling?
  • Does your story reach a CLIMAX? Is it at the right place – almost at the end?
  • Write a list of all your SCENES – is there any repetition? Do all scenes need to be there? In each scene – get in late and get out early.
  • Check whether you’re writing in scenes, not just telling the story. SHOW mostly, TELL a little bit.
  • What is at STAKE? It must feel vital to the protagonist even if it’s something small.
  • Is there enough CONFLICT? And/or SURPRISE?
  • Your MAIN CHARACTER – Do they make efforts to achieve their goals? Do they ACT in some way? How has their CURSE or CALLING affected them? Do they show both good and bad? How have they CHANGED through the story?3 faces of eve
  • Other characters – have you developed the important ones fully?
  • DIALOGUE – have you included dialogue in your scenes to bring them to life?
  • Does your dialogue demonstrate character and further plot? WARNING – do not use dialogue for info dumps or to relate what happened in a scene we’ve already read.
  • SETTING – have you made the most of your settings to create mood, develop character and reflect emotion, hidden meanings? Specific sensory details?
  • POV and VOICE – have you chosen the right character to focus on? Would it be better from someone else or in 3rd/1stperson?
  • CUT irrelevant passages of description that don’t further the forward movement of your piece. CUT anything that isn’t moving the story forward.

“If you are writing without moving toward an ending, you are probably just piling up information and- it’s all but a dead certainty – being a bore.” Stephen Koch

Office Worker with Mountain of Paperwork

Then, once the big job of the structural edit is done it’s time for the line edit – or in other words –

CHECK THE NITTY GRITTY TOO! 

  • Reshuffle the order of paragraphs so the story makes more sense.
  • Cut any repetition – of words or ideas.
  • Correct any spelling or grammatical errors – read aloud to catch them.
  • Check that your sentences are meaning what you want them to say. Are they clear and easy to follow?
  • Cut almost all adjectives and adverbs and unnecessary speech tags.
  • Use specific nouns and strong verbs instead.
  • In dialogue, sometimes use a character’s actions beside their speech instead of speech tags.
  • Have characters speaking at cross purposes.
  • Do you finish with a strong image or memorable moment? Try ending sooner.

“You should aim for an effect similar to that of the final bars of a symphony. Hearing those, you as a listener know that this is the conclusion, that the work is finished.” H.R.F. Keating

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Once you’ve done all that, and a close proof reading as well for any spelling or grammatical errors, typos or formatting issues, then it’s time to get feedback from someone else, preferably another writer or an editor who’ll help you pin point things you may have missed.

Hope that helps!

If you’ve got a manuscript well under way and would like some advice on how to progress it further towards publication standard, come along to the next RELAX AND WRITE RETREAT! November 8 – 10 at Burleigh Heads QLD. This retreat has two streams one for Nanowrimo folk writing up a storm, the other for those with work almost completed looking for some feedback and help redrafting. See HERE for more details and HERE to secure your place.

And if you’d just like to get in touch, would like to get more info or sign up to my email list for lots of hints and tips and writing opportunities then CONTACT ME!

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Let me know how you go with your rewriting. Which do you prefer, first drafts or rewriting? I used to love first drafts much more but now I’m a fan of the fun of rewriting too 🙂

Take care and happy writing!

lots of love

Edwina