I’m back! And what a wonderful retreat it was. Above is a photo of the beautiful beach where I wandered and thought about my characters, and other things, every morning and evening. Ah, it was heavenly!
So – here’s a rundown:
1 cabin in the woods by the sea
2 tubs of zinc cream
40 000 new freckles
I special kangaroo friend
I Wanda the Wonga pigeon
100s of other beautiful birds
5 new human friends
1 fully completed screenplay manuscript!!!
Yes, I worked hard and got it done. 125 pages – hopefully not all crap!
It’s now being read by my fabulous mentor Stephen Lance.
Thank you Screen QLD!!
It all equals one very happy writer 🙂
Wishing you all 2 weeks retreat of your own.
Lots of love, Ed xx
YAY! Tomorrow I’m off on writing retreat – just me this time. I’m heading five hours south to a beautiful secluded beach and an air-conditioned cabin where I can focus exclusively on my screenplay. My office here at home is a corner of the living room which these days at least has a screen around it. Through most of summer it’s almost impossible to work here though because it’s so hot that my brain turns into some sort of south east Asian hot pot stew, even with a fan blowing straight on me and all of my papers.
Time away on retreat – this time I have a full glorious two weeks (thank you Screen Queensland!) – makes all the difference when you have a big project to tackle. Time alone with just you and the work enables you to immerse yourself in the world of the story you are creating without distractions and everyday responsibilities. Everything else slides away and you become just a conduit for the work you are creating – a little crazed perhaps- but focused and productive. Well, I hope so anyway.
My days will go something like this – an early morning walk, swim and yoga on the beach, then home for breakfast and writing. More writing. Lunch then a break for breathing and sivasana (or maybe just a nap!). Another beach trip for extra swimming and an explore, then home for more writing. Writing. Writing. Dinner. Then some relax and wind down time so I’ll be able to sleep without my head buzzing with the story – though my dreams will most probably be filled with it.
Four years ago around this time of year, I spent a wonderful two weeks at Varuna the Writers House in the Blue Mountains writing the first draft of the novel that this screenplay is now so very loosely based upon. In two weeks I wrote over 60 000 words, so I’m hopeful that my fortnight at the beach now will result in the same frenzied output and I’ll be bringing back a completed screenplay.
It’s going to be a grand adventure!
Wish me luck!!
See you when I get home 🙂 xx
Interested in a writing retreat of your own? There are still a few place left in the next Relax and Write Retreat – click HERE for more details.
The horse that threw me
I’ve been writing a long time now. In 2002 when my children were small, I first dedicated time each day to a creative writing practice and used to spend naptime typing in a fury to complete a novel.
Since then my beautiful babies have grown into young adults and I’ve written another five full length manuscripts, one of which has been published.
Not for want of trying.
Much as I try to convince myself that rejections hurt less over time, it’s a lie and I know it.
The elephant hide I’ve tried so hard to develop has worn as thin as an old cotton sheet in places, tearing at the slightest tug. I’ve tried to chuck it all in, get a normal job like other people. But that hasn’t exactly gone to plan either.
I want to write. I still want to write. It’s how I make sense of the world. How my brain works best, what I enjoy most, get most satisfaction from, what I’m best at.
And so today, I’m dragging out the last half-baked rewrite of “Dear Madman” and seeing what I can salvage. If I can figure out how to give it the voice and form it longs for.
I’m scared of that horse, it’s big and fiery-eyed and stomping its hoofs. But I’m getting back on, goddamn it! I’m going to cling to its mane as it bucks and twists; it won’t throw me again. I’m going to ride it, as fast as I can, as far as I can, wind in my hair
Here’s a great blog post on Jane Friedman’s site by US writer, Benjamin Vogt about digging deep to find the richness of your family stories.
In it he talks about how recent research is discovering how the emotional lives of our ancestors, the life events that shaped them and their psychological traits, can be passed on from generation to generation.
This is exactly the reason I am writing “Dear Madman”, a story that springs from the tragic murder of my grandmother’s sister as a child in rural South East Queensland. I researched not only my own family history, but also that of the man who killed her, discovering that there are indeed many sides to every story and most importantly – that if we wish to protect our children from the imprint of such trauma we need to understand and forgive the perpetrators of crimes, not for their sake but for ours.
Laidley Corn Day
I learned that, more than the horrific crime itself, it was my family’s inability to forgive the madman and God for allowing such a thing to happen, that had the most impact on future generations. On me. When I learned that my Great Aunt had never again entered a church after the death of her sister, I understood that feeling deep in my being. However, I’ve learned enough now to know that distrust and anger at Life only hurts ourselves. The madman found his own way to forgiveness and a kind of peace, my ancestors unforgiveness imprisoned them forever.
And so, back to work on it!
Warwick early days
When my Madman was fifteen he came to work for a farmer called Armstrong in Warwick when homesteads looked much like this. It was workers like my Madman who did all the hard work of clearing and fencing, earning only enough to keep them in food, tobacco and booze to ease their aching muscles.
Young boys of nine were put to work alongside the grown men, sleeping in the barns beside the animals.
When I was doing the research for this book I was astounded by how many men were in prison for sexual offenses against animals. It was easy to imagine the fate that befell the boys who fell in their paths. Boys that kept their secrets and took them to the grave.
South Brisbane Cemetery
I have spent many hours walking through this cemetery by the river near my home. It is filled with beautiful old fig, fir and gum trees, and birds. But mostly it is filled with stories. Every gravestone tells a tale, not only of woe, but of the life that was led. Little Tommy who was killed on his way home from school. Poor Jane who died giving birth to her thirteenth baby. The family who lost child after child before they reached their first birthdays. Men lost at sea. Grandmothers remembered for their love.
And then there is the grave of alleged bush ranger, Patrick Kenniff, whose execution invigorated the movement to abolish the death penalty.
This movement grew in strength, and in 1922 Queensland became the first state in the British Empire to abolish the death penalty. A few years ago, a plaque commemorating the men and one woman who lost their lives to the gallows in nearby Boggo Rd. Gaol was erected.
Grave of Executed Prisoners
Recently, as I wrote Dear Madman, this plaque began to bother me. I have always been fiercely against the death penalty, but writing this book lead me to question that belief. The issue is not as simple as I once thought. Perhaps sometimes the death penalty is a relief, not only for the family of the victims, but for the perpetrators themselves. In Belgium this year, a convicted serial rapist successfully fought to have the right to end his life through euthanasia.
What bothers me most though, is that the executed have a plaque commemorating them, often with flowers placed upon it, while the graves of their victims are gone. They are not remembered with a shiny new plaque, but have disappeared into history, forgotten.
the not so jolly swagman
Does this swagman look happy to you? Look at his eyes.
My dear Madman, one of the central characters in my latest novel, was a swagman, traveling from place to place with everything he owned rolled up in a blanket on his back, his billy tied to his belt. He wasn’t on a happy-go-lucky camping trip. He was looking for work and a roof over his head – even if it was only the barn where the animals slept.
It was a hard life for many of those who helped establish Australia’s agriculture, the back-breaking work of clearing land and making it usable for crops. In the mid 1800s in Queensland, once the supply of convict labour was gone, many paupers and illiterate farmhands were imported from England on assisted passage tickets on ships to provide this labour. No free tickets home though.
For a lucky few, it was a golden ticket to prosperity. But for many, like this fellow and my character, it was only poverty in a hotter climate.
Poverty, hard work and madness.