Category Archives: Writing

Retracing the Footsteps of Our Cycling Champion.

On Thursday, I caught the train to Marrickville in Sydney’s Inner West to retrace the footsteps (or should I say wheels tracks) of world cycling champion Cecil Walker, who was my grandfather-in-law’s first cousin. Although I’ve read countless newspaper articles about his career, I also wanted to walk the streets where he walked and cycled to get a sense of the man in his own environment when he was still a fish in his own pond before he leaped into the  big pond of American cycling at the Newark Velodrome.

While reading about his wins was exciting, I’m much more interested in finding out about his early, formative years and what it took to reach the top. How did he do it? Was it just hard work or was he superhuman in some way? I was curious, and this is the sort of insight which could be very helpful to our kids. After all, it’s one thing for a random stranger to be your hero. It’s quite another when someone inspirational shares at least some of your DNA. I thought it could be a mighty encouragement.

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Herbert William Brooker, Geoff’s Grandfather with his bike in Tasmania. He seems to look quite a lot like like his cousin, Cecil Walker. 

This is the Cecil Walker I particularly wanted to share with my teenage kids, so they understand that success doesn’t arrive on a silver platter. That it takes hours and hours of grueling hard work, talent, strategy, a solid dose of rat cunning and the X factor to boot whatever that might be. That’s not to overwhelm and discourage them, but its easy for kids to look at adults and not realize what it took to get there. They might not become world champion cyclists but hopefully they won’t end up face down in the mud unable to face another defeat either (Me too!!).

William Joseph Cecil Walker was born in 1898 in Marrickville to parents Catherine O’Maley and Joseph Elezer Walker. His father had a grocery store on the corner of Victoria and Sydenham Roads, Marrickville. Cecil was working in his father’s store and went from making deliveries on his bike to joining the the Marrickville Cycling Club. After a shaky start, success followed success and while he was expected to compete in the 1920 Paris Olympics, he turned professional and left for USA in 1920.

Cecil Walker Maddison Square Gardens

In an interview in 1939, he reflected:

“WHILE I was as keen as a new razor to get a break in the bike racing game in America, I must confess that the main reason for my deciding on a trip to the land of skyscrapers was to escape becoming a “hand” in my dad’s grocery store at Marrickville, Sydney. It was a big gamble. With such mighty Aussies as Alf Goullet, Reg McNamara, Alf Grenda and Frank Corry already holding high places in America, and a brilliant collection of home and European anklers on hand to meet the demands of the cycling fans there, the market of peddling wares seemed very much glutted. However, I figured that if I was eventually to go back to go back to weighing up sugar and butter I would have the satisfaction of knowing that at least I made a valiant attempt to escape such a fate.1.”

Marrickville Station

By the time the train pulled into Marrickville Station, it was early afternoon. As you may be aware, I love going on random walking tours with my camera where I aim for a general direction and follow the lens where it leads. Today, I was aiming to find the location of the grocery store, even though it’s been knocked down. However, I wanted to walk around the block and when I checked out the map, I noticed there was a park across the road. I also wanted to walk along the Cook’s River. Lastly, I’d left a message for a school friend hoping we could shift our friendship out of Facebook and back into the real world. So, even though my trip was rather unstructured, surely something would pan out!!

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More wisdom on the walls of Marrickville than from the mouths of our politicians.

However, as I exited Marrickville Station, the street didn’t look right. I’ve driven through Marrickville before and I’d expected a busy road with loads of multicultural eateries. This wasn’t it. I figured that if I went left I’d end up at the river and if I went right, I’d find the grocery store. However, I didn’t factor in my inimitable capacity for getting lost. Well, not exactly being lost, but not being where I intended to be either. Indeed, I’d got right off the grid.

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These gorgeous pooches from Australia Street Stained Glass eventually posed for the camera.

So, as much as walking around on foot is the best way to explore a place, I was mighty grateful when my friend responded and rescued me from my misguided wanderings in her 4WD. Then, as we’re heading for a cafe, I finally see a familiar site. It’s spot where the grocery store once stood. I recognized it from Google Earth. 

Above: The Henson, Marrickville.

After we stopped off at a cafe for a late lunch, we picked up my friend’s dog and headed off to Beaman Park, which runs alongside the Cook’s River and is actually in the adjacent suburb of Earlwood.

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By this stage, I had no idea where I was. You know how it is when you’re sitting in the passenger seat nodding your head. However, my friend was doing a superb job of taking care of Paddington Bear and showing me around pointing out how these seemingly disparate bits of Marrickville fitted together.

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That was how I found myself deposited at Sydenham Station to make my way home. By this stage it was dark and a large, all but full moon was rising above the tracks and into the night sky.

It had been a wonderful day, even if it went to prove one of my favourite quotes:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” 

John Lennon & Allen Saunders 

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sources

  1. Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), Saturday 21 January 1939, page 8

O- Optimism…A-Z Challenge

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

– Oscar Wilde

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of Motivational Quotes for writers. We’re moving quickly through the alphabet and now we’re already up to O. The word for today is Optimism, which I believe is an important ingredient for getting that book project finished. After all, if you don’t believe you’re good enough and have what it takes to get through to the end, why get started at all? You’d be much better off staying in your day job.

Here’s a few more quotes I came across:

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an

optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

– Winston Churchill

 

“Life is too short to spend your precious time trying to

convince a person who wants to live in gloom and doom

otherwise. Give lifting that person your best shot, but

don’t hang around long enough for his or her bad

attitude to pull you down. Instead, surround yourself

with optimistic people.”

– Zig Ziglar

However, how do we retain our optimism in the face of repeated knock backs and defeats?

  1. Believe in yourself.
  2. Break the task down into smaller, more achievable chunks.
  3. Take some classes and skill up.
  4. Ask someone we trust for advice.
  5. Keep thinking laterally and looking for the opportunity. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
  6. Keep writing. Set yourself a daily word limit to reach or a length of time to write. I don’t do this but I’ve read this recommendation a lot.
  7. Read some books, watch some people. Open your eyes and ears and constantly be on the look out for new ideas, observations, details which could help a story along down the track.
  8. Keep a small notebook for ideas with you.

I hope this encourages you all to feel more optimistic and positive about your writing and now we all just need to get out there and do it!

Do you have anything else to add? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

N-Never Give Up: Motivational Quotes.

“Never Never give up.”

– Winston Churchill.

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of Motivation Quotes for writers as part of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

The timing of this quote is pure coincidence. However, yesterday when this should’ve gone up, the world watched on in abject horror as those blazing orange flames engulfed historic Notre Dame Cathedral. As I and millions like me, watched on in shock and abject horror, the fire department fought that blaze with everything they had and more and they managed to salvage more of the cathedral than I ever thought was possible. Confirmation…never give up!

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.

Some come from ahead and some come from behind.

But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my

troubles are going to have troubles with me!”

― Dr. Seuss

All too often, we hear the most incredible stories of overcoming illness, disability, terrible accidents and even going as far as conquering Everest, the mighty mountain herself.

However, I also somewhat disagree with Winston Churchill. While never giving up might be good political rhetoric, sometimes we need to give up, walk away and try something else. Perhaps, devoting a year or so to writing that book, isn’t worth the investment either in time or money. We need to be strategic, and try to see the bigger picture and no be so focused on the goal that there is no plan B.

With this in mind, I’ve included the following quotes:

“Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed

vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined.

Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or

adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but

flexible with your plan.”

John C. Maxwell

“Throwing your heart into something is great, but

when any one thing becomes all that you stand for,

you’re vulnerable to an identity crisis when you pivot

to a Plan B.”

― Reid Hoffman, The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

 

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

Mike Tyson

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

L: Life…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back my series of Motivational Quotes for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, which is geared towards writers and creatives working on their “big thing” Today, we’re up to the letter L and I could resist this favourite quote:

Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making

other plans.”

Allen Saunders & John Lennon*

A few years ago, I came across this fabulous quote when our local Baker extraordinaire, Flaming Ron from the Bremen Patisserie wrote it down for me on a bit of paper while I was probably buying an almond croissant. Although Ron Bruns is famous for producing the world’s hottest meat pie, the Flaming Ron, he is also an unsung philosopher. By the way, just to put you in the picture, Ron and his Bremen Patisserie are located just North of Sydney, Australia and just down from the beach. However, Ron is the real deal and now calls Australia home.

What I love about this quote, is how it emphasizes the unpredictability of life. That we can have the best laid plans of mice and men, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get sideswiped, scuttled or choose to go somewhere else.  Moreover, it also touches on the economic realities faced by most creatives. You’d like to be writing full time and making a viable living, but you find yourself needing some kind of “proper job” to pay the bills “while you’re busy making other plans”.

Anyway, it’s the end of a busy weekend and I’m feeling rather pooped and brain dread so I’m going to head off.

Best wishes,

Rowena

* The lyrics of “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” contain the famous Lennon quote “Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making other plans.” However, the expression of this sentiment can be traced back to a 1957 Reader’s Digest article, which attributes it to Allen Saunders.

K- Know Your Characters…A-Z Challenge

“You never really understand a person until you

consider things from his point of view… Until you

climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird 

 

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of Motivations Quotes for Writers and Creatives working on a big project, especially writing a book. This is my theme for the 2019 Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re up to K, which must be around halfway. So, I can let out a loud cheer for getting this far, because I almost didn’t take part this year as I’m deeply immersed in working on my book.

I have a background in sales and one of the things they really used to hammer into us, was to know your product. As writers, we also need to know our product in addition to our craft and that includes knowing your characters and knowing them well.

One of the tools I’ve used on and off has been the Proust Questionnaire. The Proust Questionnaire was originally a parlor game, which was popularized although not devised by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist. Proust believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. As writers, asking our characters these questions can help us develop more interesting, dynamic and effective characters in our work.

If you’re interested in checking out the Proust Questionnaire, you can explore the Vanity Fair version Here.

Here are a few other quotes I found about developing characters:

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” 
― Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” 
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” 
― Samuel Smiles, Happy Homes and the Hearts That Make Them

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make you’re brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.” 
― John Green

Lastly, while I was trawling around the Internet in search of quotes, I came across this fabulous quote about knowledge, which kind of touches on developing our characters but I feel also adds an important quality to our writing:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

After all, if we really care about our characters and their wellbeing and what’s happening to them, that will draw the reader inside that vision which is what great writing is all about. It’s not just about us fulfilling our ambitions. Indeed, for the person paying good money for your book and not someone else’s, you don’t factor into the equation.

Do you have any tips for developing characters? What works for you? 

Thank you for joining on this journey through the alphabet and I hope you are feeling encouraged psychologically while hopefully also taking some action steps.

Best wishes,

Rowena

J: Journey…

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for writers and creatives working on large projects, such as writing a book. This is series is part of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge where we write our way through the alphabet to a theme. Today, we’ve reached the Letter J and I’ve chosen a quote which focuses on the journey. No doubt, you probably know it, but it’s always good to be reminded:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

Over the last few years, the word “journey” has been seriously over-used and has lost a lot of its magic. However, just because the word is tired, doesn’t mean that the nature of a journey has changed what with its changes of scenery, challenges, ups and downs and inherent movement from a beginning, through the middle and to the end. Of course, this progression could well be chopped and changed around when it comes to writing about it. However, one of the important things about a journey is that it needs to be lived.

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I’m always intrigued whenever I see these snail markings squiggling through the local rock pools. Well, it actually looks like the limpets in the photograph have made that journey.  

The quote from Lao Tzu is one of my all time favourites, and I often remind myself that the hardest part about achieving anything is usually getting started and taking that first step. Somehow, it seems to get easier once you’re actually moving, gain momentum and are on your way.

This quote is also a reminder not to let the enormity of what lies ahead, defeat you. Just get started putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there eventually.

Keep Going!

Obviously, to reach your destination you also need to keep going long after you’ve taken that initial step. After all, we’re talking about a journey of a thousand miles. That’s a long journey. It’s not a journey of one step and you’re already there to reach out and grab hold of your prize.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can get out of that one simple sentence?!!

Very great wisdom indeed!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

I – Inspiration: Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 10 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may be aware, my theme this year is Motivational Quotes and these are geared towards people like myself who are working on their first book and getting it published one way or another. Obviously, it’s a long road from INSPIRATION to PUBLICATION!

Today, it was a toss up whether to choose inspiration or imagination. While there is much common ground, there is a distinction. In the end, I had Roald Dahl representing   Imagination:

“There is no life I know to compare with pure

imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly

wish to be.”

Roald Dahl

 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole

world around you because the greatest secrets are

always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who

don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

― Roald Dahl

However, when it came to INSPIRATION, there was Jonathon Livingstone Seagull:

“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the

fishing boats, there’s reason to live!

We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find

ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence

and skill. We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”

― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

It was a done deal. Inspiration it is!

Personally, I don’t have any trouble finding inspiration or with being inspired. That after all is the initial spark which gets the fire going. It’s keeping that spark alight once I’m further down the track, where I struggle.

I am starting to understand that process better now. While they say slow and steady wins the race and that you need to pace yourself, I find that it’s more a case of making quick and easy progress at the start and a lot more effort is required as you progress through your project and that you could well have less return as well, especially if you’re talking about pure word count. Understanding that process is helping me overcome some of the doubts which sets in when the going gets tough.

Just another thought…. much of what I read about getting that book done and dusted talks about word limits. Stuff like write 1000 words a day. However, what you don’t hear, is that not all words are created equal. Perhaps, one day you might only write one word, but that word will change everything. Perhaps, not only just for yourself, but also for your readers.

I am currently writing a compilation of biographical short-fiction built around our combined gene pool of persons past. With this, I’m not as concerned about word length finding an angle. Something which will touch and inspire people. I want to put my finger on the pulse if that makes sense. So, instead of generating thousands and thousands of words, I’m immersing myself in research plucking the story out piece by piece like a restorer and yet hopefully infusing that spark which will bring these people back to life. This is a spark which all of our characters need in order to engage our readers, who are after all, our audience.

What inspires me most about these characters is when they overcome adversity in some way and that’s what I want to share. That we are not alone. Not the only ones who have ever been through trials and tribulations, been in the wrong place at the wrong time. These is something universal about being human and that is very much part of and the inspiration behind what I write. I want to help others, and I also want writing somehow help me put bread and butter on the table because none of us can survive on air. We need an income.

So, what inspires you and your writing? What do you do when your inspiration wanes? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena