Category Archives: Writing

Ghosts on the Run…Friday Fictioneers 7th June, 2019.

When the Ledoux Family rented out their home in Antibes, they had no idea a couple of famous ghosts would move in along with their heads.

Louis and Marie-Antoinette had evacuated Notre Dame toute de Suite after accidentally sparking the fire which almost turned their beloved Lady into a pile of ash.

Of course, it wasn’t Versailles. However, they loved the beach and their new found freedom. Louis could barely keep his hands off his beloved Queen in her alluring bikini, although didn’t like wearing budgie smugglers* at all!

“Mon Cherie, nobody would ever think to look for us here.”

…..

Don’t ask me where the inspiration for my take on today’s prompt came from, except to say that I was quite taken by the stairs at the front and floating to the top. Stairs like that are not kind to me. By the way, Budgie smugglers is an Australian slang term for men’s tight-fitting Speedo-style swimwear and the term received a lot of press thanks to our former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who was often photographed wearing them. He is a volunteer lifesaver.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s prompt was provided by C.E. Ayr. Thanks, C.E.

We’d love you to join us. Every week, Rochelle posts a photo prompt and we respond in 100 words or less and I’ve been quite amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish in so few words. Makes me ponder the need for the novel.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Gull On the Run.

“To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by

knowing that you have already arrived.”

― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull wasn’t in the mood for mindfulness, meditation or even having some kind of a chat down at the beach this morning. Usually, he’s quite happy to pose philosophically and even stands statue-still for the camera as though he’s had a bit of modeling experience. However, this morning he was either out to carpe diem seize the day or might’ve been late for an important date further down the beach. On the other hand, perhaps, he was simply trying to raise his heart rate after absorbing more of my physio’s wisdom than I (who was slowly wondering along the beach absorbing life through the lens).

ruffled gull

You’ll also notice that a bit of a breeze was ruffling his feathers. It was a brisk 17°C down there today, which might have some of you leaping for joy shouting “Summer!” However, that’s considered cold here. That said, over the last couple of days the weather’s been awful with temperatures around 9°C, chilling winds and rain. Of course, these near blizzard conditions forced many frost-bitten locals to rug up and stay home, especially of the teenage variety. So, with the sun back out and the mercury rising, the whingeing Aussies were back out singing the Alleluia Chorus.

“Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect. –

And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at

the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t

have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”

― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Gull Portrait

I’m pleased I snatched a few moments away from my research to get outside and stretch my wings. I’ve lost myself somewhere in between the lines over the last couple of months and am slowly recalibrating myself for a marathon, not a sprint, on the book project. Darn it. I want to get something finished. Published. Done and dusted. Grr. Could I possibly write a book about trying to write a book? Would it take off? I’m getting desperate.

However, in the meantime, it’s good for the soul to get out there, inhale the ocean air and the beauty all around me and return to the present for a bit. After all, I’m sure it’s quite possible to get buried alive in the past and that doesn’t sound good.

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Thought I’d better show you the bigger picture. Ocean Beach on a beautiful day.

What do you do to relax and unwind while working on a bit writing or creative project? After all, all writing and no unwinding makes for a wrung-out soul. Indeed, we do have our casualties.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 2nd June, 2019.

Welcome Back for Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hope you like your banana cake served up with a side serve of chewed up tennis ball and a pair of beady-eyed dogs glaring at you to throw the ball. I also offer apologies for the other dog, Lady, who’ll be glaring at your cake and looking like she’s posing for Vogue Magazine with those puppy dog eyes.

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I’m sorry I missed you all last weekend. Last Saturday, I drove our daughter up to Newcastle for the regional school aerobics championships. This was the first time I’ve seen our daughter competing, and I was getting my head around it all. There were similarities with the dance and the dance eisteddfods she’s done, and yet this was new territory. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of jazz dance and the sort of aerobics I used to do too many moons ago. However, these girls had speed, agility and nose-breaking high kicks which placed it in a different league. That’s where the similarities with the dance ended. The girls were wearing white Reeboks instead of dance shoes and were referred to as “athletes”. Their team came first, which means they’re off to State. That’s all very exciting, although I am wondering how any child of mine could even make it into the school team. When I was at uni, I wrote an article entitled “Unco Aerobics”. In keeping with my poor sense of direction, I ended up facing the class instead of the front.

While we were in Newcastle, we headed off to The Junction, which is quite an upmarket, arty part of Newcastle. That could also read “expensive”. However, Mum’s cousin and her husband owned a Mexican restaurant down there called Munchos which was a real institution in Newcastle. Unfortunately, she passed away and Mum’s aunt and uncle passed away before that and so Newcastle has this sense of making a pilgrimage and this now focuses on the family restaurant, Talulah, where I found an old, dying piano out on the footpath this time and it really spoke to me about all these family members who have passed and all the times we had together.  I still remember Mum’s uncle returning from a spear fishing trip with a lobster when I was a child and how he drove this very shiny red and black taxi which lived in the garage under the house. What happened to all of that? How can entire worlds just disappear like that and why do I feel like the last one left standing when I’m not. Surely, I’m not the only one who feels like they’re living among the dead, not in a morbid way but with the memories which quite concrete. Something I can touch. Someone I can hold and still feel their vibrant laughter.

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Anyway, on this visit we ended up having afternoon tea at the cafe across the road as I was wanting cake. I needed cake after that dreadful getting lost driving to Newcastle experience and you can’t keep pouring yourself into your kids as a parent without refueling yourself. Moreover, I make no apologies for turning to food to do that. I had a variation of Creme Brulee and Miss was hungry too. So, there went the budget enhanced by a few superb finds at the local Red Cross Opportunity Shop.  It’s okay. We could survive on dry Vegemite toast. However, our teenage son disagreed.

Speaking of our son, he placed at the school athletics carnival last week. He was in the 400 metres relay which came in second. This came as a complete surprise. Our kids have never come home with a ribbon before and while our son does a lot of long-distance hiking with scouts, he’s on the computer every waking minute he’s not at school or in an arranged activity. So, it was a bit of a surprise to find out there’s a hidden athlete in there somewhere. I did ask him if he was off to zone and his reply was priceless: “Hope not!” His enthusiasm was clearly underwhelming.

I’m still beavering away on my research and book project. However, while I’ve made some enormous leaps forward, I can’t help feeling that I’ve headed backward. That perhaps if I’d written this story at the start with the little I had, I’d have my story done and dusted by now instead of feeling lost in a research wilderness. Have you ever felt like that? I’m sure the story I write once I finally put pen to paper will be a much more textured and complex tale than something I’d have rushed off. However, I was hoping to be further down the track.

By the way, my concept is to write a series of short biographical stories about a few of our stand-out ancestors. It was supposed to be fairly straight-forward because I’ve already researched the bulk of them. However, I decided to launch off with our first arrivals in Australia and that came down to Richard Keep on Geoff’s side who arrived in Sydney in 1808 and John Paton who arrived in 1818 on mine. Unfortunately, being right back at the beginning of our Australian story, they’re the ones I knew least. So, there’s been a lot of hard work and trying to get my feet into where they’ve come from, their crimes, the voyage to Australia, their time here and their legacies. That’s a lot to cover and then condense into a short story or two. However, I am making progress and I’m loving the journey along the way. An added bonus with John Paton has been the infusion of Scotland’s national poet, Robbie Burns who was living just down the road in his parents’ day and it also turns out that his first illegitimate child (he had a few) was with his mother’s servant by the name of Elizabeth Paton. I haven’t found a connection yet and our Patons were landholders. However, the plot has thickened. Indeed, that’s part of the problem. It’s become so thick I can barely move.

Have you been doing much reading lately? I’ve been reading Fled by Australian authorMeg Keneally and am really loving it. Meg Keneally is the daughter of legendary Australian author, Thomas Keneally who is best known for his story of Oscar Schindler, Schindler’s Ark. Father and daughter have been collaborating on the Monserrat Series and this is Meg’s first solo novel and she has another on the way.

Fled tells the story of Jenny Trelawney…”Highway robber. Convict. Runaway. Mother. She will do anything for freedom, but at what cost?

Jenny Trelawney is no ordinary thief. Forced by poverty to live in the forest, she becomes a successful highwaywoman – until her luck runs out.

Transported to Britain’s furthest colony, Jenny must tackle new challenges and growing responsibilities. And when famine hits the new colony, Jenny becomes convinced that those she most cares about will not survive. She becomes the leader in a grand plot of escape, but is survival any more certain in a small open boat on an unknown ocean?”

Meg Keneally’s debut solo novel is an epic historical adventure based on the extraordinary life of convict Mary Bryant. I heard Meg discuss the novel recently at the Sydney Writers’ Festival where she explained her decision to fictionalize the story as she felt it wasn’t right to put her own words and opinions onto the real Mary Bryant. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of history, and I gripping sea voyage.

Anyway, it’s now almost Monday night and I’m chomping on my dinner while I try to polish this off. It’s one of the advantages of living a day ahead of some of you folk.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to come along and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

 

Reference:

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/popular-fiction/Fled-Meg-Keneally-9781760680275

 

 

Thursday Doors – Carriageworks, Sydney.

Welcome Back to Another Thursday Doors after quite a lengthy breather, while I grapple with the heavy research load which has seriously exceeded expectations on the book project.

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So, may I offer my humble apologies. Our visit to Carriageworks, Sydney is a bit overdue. I was there a few weeks ago for the Sydney Writers’ Festival and I took advantage of the trip to photograph a few doors and that’s what I was doing when a strange robotic voice started  chiming: “Evacuate” in a tone which sounded all too much like the Dalek’s “Exterminate”. That must’ve been a false alarm, but they evacuated the entire building, disrupting our sacred sessions and emptying about a thousand dazed and confused people onto the footpath. Apparently, there was one woman who refused to leave her session: “I’ve paid for this.” A lot of good that’s going to be when you’re dead…not that I’m catastrophising. When I’m told to get out, I get out. You can ask questions later.

Old Carriageworks

A Historic look at the Everleigh Carriage Workshops

Carriageworks started out as the Everleigh Carriage Workshops which were built  between 1880 and 1889. This was where train carriages for Sydney’s rail network were built and maintained, including the Royal Carriages constructed specifically for the Governor General of Australia and visiting Royalty, the first electric carriage, and the first air-conditioned train in Australia. From 1973 productivity at the site declined due to its inefficient older buildings, restrictive union practices and increased privatization of carriage construction and the site was closed in 1988.  In June 2002, the NSW Ministry for the Arts completed the purchase of the Carriage and Blacksmith Workshops at the Eveleigh Rail Yards site. Soon after, a construction project on the site commenced under the name of Carriageworks. Adaptive reuse of the workshop site began in 2003 with the housing of numerous contemporary arts practitioners, and Carriageworks was officially opened in 2007.

Everywhere you look you experience the building’s railway past. The buildings are massive and clearly big enough to park a few trains and there’s still track in situ just in case you had any doubts about the building’s past life. My husband’s a train nerd and our son was also smitten when he was young. So, we’ve been to quite a few railway sites over the years and caught a few steam trains as well. However, probably what struck me most was the sense of all those people who worked there over the years and an entire way of life which has moved on. I lived in the area in 1988 while I was at Sydney University and I do have a vague memory of hundreds, maybe a thousand workers spilling onto the streets. Or, perhaps I’m just making it up. Sometimes, when you wind back the clock, your recollections wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. That’s where you’re better off becoming a creative writer or yarn spinner than a historian or eye witness.

Door 3

This door had my immediate attention. What don’t they want us to see??

 

 

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This is what we writers aspire to…entry into the writers’ lounge. I actually made it inside once when my aunt presented a paper. 

My apologies because although the site itself was quite interesting, the doors weren’t weren’t the sort to set your heart racing and fill your head with rapturous poetry. However, the doors do form part of the overall structure which is intriguing and particularly appealing to anyone interested in industrial architecture.

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You have to be pretty short to peer through this keyhole. 

This is another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. While you might not have thought much about doors before, you’d be amazed at how they can launch a story and I really enjoy connecting with people from around the world and sharing where we live and where we’ve been.

Best wishes,

Rowena

“Ma-Ma!” Friday Fictioneers.

Jane was reliving her fifth birthday party for her shrink in grueling slow motion. Mummy had made her the Dolly Varden Cake, a miniature replica of herself. They played pass the parcel, drop the hanky and as they sang Happy Birthday, Jane smiled for the camera. She’s never forgotten the last time she smiled and was truly happy. There was  just pin the tail on the donkey before everyone went home. Her mother tied the scarf over her eyes. Turned her around three times, and she stuck on the tail. When she took off the scarf, her mother was gone.

…..

100 words.

It’s great to be back again this week. I’m researching and writing a book which I thought was going to be a lot more straight-forward that it’s turned. I guess that must be a common scenario writing non-fiction where you have no control over your characters. However, the stories are exceeding my wildest dreams. Just need to get it on paper.

BTW in case you’re interested in the goings on of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, here’s a link.

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. Every week, we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s photo was kindly provided by © J Hardy Carroll.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Walking Through the Lens…I mean the Park.

Welcome to the Mt Penang Parklands, North of Sydney and about 20 minutes drive up the hill from my place.

I ended up here by default today after dropping my daughter off at a dance audition callback next door. It was such glorious, sunny Autumn day, that I packed my camera and headed off to the park for a walk. Of course, with that combination I was hardly expecting to raise my heart rate or even get close to 1000 steps. However, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?!!

Since the majority of you live overseas, I thought I’d better give you a quick rundown on Autumn in the “Australian bush”, as we call it. The majority of Australian trees aren’t deciduous, which means we don’t have the intensity of Autumn colours that you get in some parts overseas. Indeed, the bush stays pretty much the same shade of green all year round. In many ways, that’s a shame. After all, Autumn leaves are nature’s stained-glass windows and they’re absolutely magnificent, glowing in their splendor against a bright blue sky. Yet, we Aussies are proud as punch of our gum trees with their distinctive scent of Eucalyptus. Indeed, the gum tree is one of our greatest Australians. For so many of us who have travelled, it has always meant home.

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While there weren’t any Autumn leaves in the park itself, there were some liquid amber and plane trees on the walk there, which soon captivated the lens. They’re so beautiful and a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour. I also love watching individual leaves dangle from the very edge of a twig, as their brilliant, desiccated colours  flicker in the wind before drifting in a captivating twirl down to earth. I picked up a handful and brought them home. Of course, it’s not the same as seeing them outside in the sun, but now I have a touch of Autumn at home.

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Despite being dazzled by the Autumn colours, I was soon struck by the lone gum tree featured at the start of this post. Somehow, as it drew me into its orbit, time slowed right down and the big, wide world slipped away as I spotted a black ant making it’s way up the trunk. Like all teeny black ants, it seemed overly ambitious trying to make its way up to the top, which must have been the ant equivalent of climbing Everest. Moreover, since this tree was covered in bumps or some kind of “tree pox” after a rugged invasion by bugs, it would be a particularly rugged journey for an ant. I don’t know whether it was just me, but none of that registered from a distance, and it was only once I’d moved in closer, that its story became manifest. By the way, this bumpy surface is by no means typical of gum trees. This tree has had a exceptionly bad run. Indeed, it would be well within its rights to ask: “Why me?”

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It’s funny how I fell for this quirky looking gum tree when the pond clearly takes centre stage.When I came here for a previous dance event, I’m sure there were flowering water lilies floating on the pond. I’d been researching Monet at the time and with a good dose of imagination, I could almost feel myself walking through Monet’s garden, especially when I closed my eyes.

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However, when I went there today, the vegetation had died back and was looking unsightly, neglected and was literally begging to be pulled out.  Indeed, it looked like the gardener had gone off on an extended “smoko”and I could’ve pull them out myself given half a chance. However, when I got up close, it turned out these dead-looking plants were actually habitat. Indeed, there were five Dusky Moorhens (a species of water bird) in there. Goes to show how we need to view the environment through fresh eyes, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who would’ve destroyed their home due to my own misguided perceptions of beauty. Well, as they say, you learn something new every day.

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Anyway, that’s enough about trees. Let’s talk about flowers.

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Banksia Integrifolia

While there weren’t a lot of flowers in the parklands, there were some remarkable beauties. There were two different species of Banksia. There was Banksia Integrifolia with its huge, leathery green leaves and cone-shaped flower and also Banksia Spinulosa, whose flowers look like glowing, golden candlesticks.

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Banksia Spinulosa

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the names of the other flowers. So, that’s enough of trying to name stupid flowers. These can be the “red” and “yellow” flowers. I don’t know why somehow else didn’t come up with that? Genius!

After all of this, what more could I ask for?

 

Well, on a different tangent entirely, the Chrysler Car Club was having a day out and there was a fascinating line up of vehicular temptation…dare I say lust?!! It was also rather quirky seeing all these old classics out en masse and I loved it. Retro is my middle name.

My favourite was a hot red Plymouth named after the Steven King horror movie classic: Christine. That car was hot! Hot! Hot! I definitely had a severe case of red car envy. That said, if I see that car lurking in the local streets, I’m out of here. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Well, that about covers my trip to the Mt Penang Parklands. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Have you been on any photographic walks lately? Where did you end up? I’d love to hear from you and please leave your links in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Our daughter’s audition callback went well and she will be appearing in Swan Lake later this year.

 

 

 

 

My Sydney Writers’ Festival 2019

Ring the brass bell!!! Yesterday, I went to the Sydney Writers’ Festival, which has long been my “me day” where I liberate myself from all other responsibilities and earthly shackles and return to my tribe.

That said, I must confess that I missed the last two years and wasn’t all that bothered about it at the time. I get frequent lung infections, and I suspect this was the greatest indication that I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. However, I made some adjustments. Now,  my energy levels have soared I’m swinging from the chandeliers again and going gang busters working on my book. Indeed, I’m back.

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While Sydney Writers sounds like  lot of fun, maximizing your experience takes a fair bit of organization. Moreover, for me that’s compounded by my disabilities, chronic health issues and also sorting out the kids.

Traditionally, the nitty gritty all began when the program appears as an insert in the Sydney Morning Herald. This arrives on a Saturday morning and you spread the program out across the kitchen table pen in hand while your drinking coffee and spilling your breakfast all over it. I always start off with a quick scan to see who’s on. Of course, there are the big name events, some years they appeal but just as often, they’re not my cup of tea. I’m usually there as a writer more than a reader and I’m not into political stuff. I mainly used to attend some of the workshops they put on, but I’m not sure if they’re available anymore. In the past, I’ve done workshops with some of Australia’s most successful writers including Jackie French of Diary of a Wombat fame and  Andy Griffiths who writes the Treehouse Books with  Terry Denton. I felt incredibly blessed and the cost was very reasonable.

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After you’ve identified what’s on, the next step is to choose which day or days you’re going to go and personally I try to squeeze as much as I can into that day. However, you still need to factor in those much needed meal and toilet stops and especially in my case, allow plenty of time for getting lost. I should know by now that I always set out in the diametrically opposed direction. Yet, strangely I still trust my gut and my folly continues.

It seems strange that a writers’ festival which conjures up visions of imagination, creativity and striving towards your writing dreams, requires so much left-brain thinking just to find your seat. However, finishing a book for publication is much the same.

My Sydney Writers’ experience is also impacted by my disabilities. My disabilities which can be quite invisible and unobtrusive of an ordinary day, but add travel, crowds, an unfamiliar environment and extensive walking and they come into play and can totally flare up like an enraged zit. There’s this cognitive and physical load and the more aware I am of how these come into play, the more I can prepare around it and have a better experience. I always use my walking stick in such situations and I have a companion card, which entitles me to a free companion. I often find some curly issues crops up and it’s helpful to have that person on hand. This year, I realized that I was needing to pick my tickets up from the box office and with queuing being difficult, I rang the night before and spoke with Emily who had my tickets waiting at the desk and I could just get a volunteer to pick them up for me instead. She also helped me with a few other issues and I really appreciated her understanding and compassion. It helped me feel more empowered and on top of things, rather than overwhelmed and incapable.

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So, yesterday Thursday 2nd May was my day at the Sydney Writers’ Festival for 2019. I’d initially flagged yesterday because I’d wanted to see Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s Ark and his daughter, Meg was talking about her first solo novel, Fled . They both write historical fiction and this is the genre I’m heading towards with my book project so my interest was also personal and as a writer, as well as a reader. I attended a literary lunch at Pearl Beach a few years ago when Tom and Meg were promoting the first book of their Monserrat Series. Tom also writes about Irish History and wrote a very helpful book called Three Famines, which really helped me get my head around the Irish Famine, which affected many of my ancestors.

However, when I went back to book my tickets, I also noticed that crossword guru David Astle was speaking about his latest book Rewording the Brain. While this book was heavily weighted towards cryptic crosswords which are totally above my pay grade, given that I have hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), I’m interested in serious neurological research and discussions. Indeed, in the past I’ve seen Dr Norman Doidge who wrote The Brain’s Way of Healing Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing. So, after a very difficult choice, I went with David Astle.  Lastly, I was thrilled to find that Graeme Simsion author of the The Rosie Project which has evolved into a hilarious gripping series was talking about the final book The Rosie Result. Don Tillman, the lovable main character of the series,  has become a poster boy for the Autism community so life “on the spectrum” also featured during the session, which tied in very well with the morning’s session and my brain was nicely enriched by the time I arrived home.

Carriageworks

Before I touch on these sessions in more detail, I’d like to walk you around the venue because that’s a bit of a talking point as well. While the Sydney Writers as I know it, was at Walsh Bay on Sydney Harbour last year it moved to Carriageworks in Redfern, which is the refurbished Eveleigh Railway Workshops, which were constructed 1880-1889. By the 1900s several thousands worked here, building and maintaining locomotive engines and carriages for the expanding rail network. These are signs of its railway past everywhere, including the train tracks out the front.

David Astle, Rewording the Brain

Rowena & David Astle

We’re now heading into our first session with David Astle, Rewording the Brain. I’d actually planned ahead and had bought all three books the day before from my local bookshop and thanks to some late night swatting and the train trip, I’d managed to get through about a quarter of the book. Phew! This session was not one to go into half mast, especially when cryptic crosswords have personally remained forever true to name. Moreover, despite being something of a word smith myself, even I noticed the lexicon in this session was rather learned. Indeed, a dictionary might’ve been in order. However, at least they didn’t bring out the dreaded match sticks. These puzzles appear in the book swearing at me. Indeed, for seasoned crossword puzzlers David’s initials on a Puzzle” D.A. have often inspired terror. Even I had to think, which is a good thing and no doubt primed my brain for the day ahead.

Rewording the Brain addresses how crossword puzzles, and cryptic crosswords  in particular, help boost the power and agility of your brain. Recent studies have shown that puzzle-solving and wordplay are among the most effective ways to boost the power and agility of your brain. A cryptic crossword a day can help keep memory loss at bay.
Why? The answer lies in the art of teasing out a clue, a discipline that calls for logic, interpretation, intuition and deduction as well as the ability to filter nuance and connotation. All these challenges and more are found in the cryptic crossword. And all are invaluable in increasing your brainpower and improving your memory and cognitive capacity 1.

I can only live in hope. I took down pages of notes and before I knew it I was talking to DA himself as we walked towards the book signings.

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In addition to priming up my brain, I also had secret business. Yesterday, was also a close friend’s 50th Birthday. However, this was no ordinary, extraordinary birthday. Dr Kirsten Harley has been living with Motor Neurone Disease for about 6 years ago and crunch time came in December when her wishes to be resusitated were swung into action.  Kirsten had major surgery and has spent the last 5-6 months in intensive care at Macquarie University Hospital and will be heading home soon. Kirsten loves crosswords and while she’s asked family and friends to do 50 of something in honour of her birthday, I decided to do one thing. I thought I’d ask David Astle crossword guru to write her a birthday message. I also wanted to get a photo of David and I for the blog and as I was getting ready at the head of the queue my phone went rogue and I was struggling to get the password in and everything was backfiring. However, David kindly obliged and made my day. Well, that was until my next session began.

Well, before I was off to see Meg Keneally, I decided to cruise around actual carriageworks building and view it through the lens. That’s through my Nikon SLR…my third eye.

Evacuate…My Plans Go Off Script.

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However, my visions were suddenly disturbed by a robotic announcement to “evacuate”. It seemed like the scene of a movie and having not been in an office environment for some time, I’ve missed out on the joy of fire drills, false alarms but have become well-versed in terrorist attacks. In hindsight, there were no explosions, sounds of bullets, screams etc which would signal serious trouble, but I was taking the evacuation seriously, especially as the entire building was evacuated and sessions interrupted. I asked a volunteer about the cause, because the nature of the cause would determine my response but all too quickly a fire engine came and went and sessions were resumed.

Meg Keneally – Fled

Next, I was off to see Meg Keneally who was discussing her first solo novel: Fled. I am very keen to approach Meg as an author in her own right without leaving her in the shadow of her famous and very talented father, Tom. Yet, at the same time, she also grew up under his wing and Dad was not only a story writer, but also a storyteller. Meg spoke about going on an extended family road trip in the US when she was six or seven. “We were van-schooled and part of that was Dad constantly spinning yarns, and one of those was about Mary Bryant.” Not surprisingly, I’ll wait til I’ve read the book to review it. However, I just wanted to mention that I ran into Meg as her father was doing book signings next to David Astle. She was very down to earth and approachable and thoroughly lovely.

Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Result

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Looks like we had quite a spark, but a spark of what?

Now, we’re onto an old pal of mine, Graeme Simsion author of the Rosie Series. Graeme is no stranger at Beyond the Flow, even if I am a stranger to him. You see, with almost 3000 views, my post asking: Who Is Don Tillman?…The Rosie Project Uncovered. is my most viewed post by a country mile.

Anyway, as I arrive for our session, I spot Graeme Simsion chatting with the audience and said a big hello as though he was my long-lost best friend. After all, the Rosie Project keeps popping up in my list of favourite posts and my stats often include a couple of views. It’s always there like a good friend. So, he looks at me with a rather searching expression, and asks if he knows me because clearly, I know him! That’s when I say we went out for dinner. Or, was it more along the lines of I went to dinner with you and after I recovered from my awkwardness managed to mention Mandy from Book Bazaar who organized for him to speak over dinner. I’m not usually one to gush over celebrities, but I was really looking forward to meeting him. I’d not only loved the first two books in the series, they were very personal and approachable and drew me right inside the mind and life of Don Tillman to such an extent that I had to ask: Was Graeme Simsion actually Don? After all, the book was written in the first person and I found it really hard to divorce the author from his creation.

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However, that was then and this is now. We’re now up to the Rosie Result where Rosie and Don’s son, Hudson, is now eleven and in Grade 6 at school. This is the last year of primary school here in Australia. Hudson is struggling particularly after they move back to Australia and the teacher has a chat suggesting they get him assessed. He might be on the Autism Spectrum.

Much of this talk addressed the issues Simsion faced writing about a character, indeed, a family on the Autism Spectrum. Through this process, he decided to have himself assessed. This was quite a confronting process and what concerned him most about being diagnosed, was the people would think he didn’t care. Now, he didn’t say that with the voice of a robot, but rather a cry from the heart calling out to be accepted, understood and not written off without giving him a chance. Put the ruler on the page and emphatically cross Graeme Simpsion out. It really helped me realize how careful we have to be with all human beings and to treasure people for the complex creations which we are, without being blinded by what Google does or doesn’t day.He also addressed the issue of whether kids can grow out of Autism, which is said to be a lifelong condition and he was strongly on the side of making our communities more diverse and inclusive than making Autistic people change. That said, all of us go through a socialization process growing up and science has also discovered a lot about neuroplasticity and it seems on one hand we’re telling people on the Autism Spectrum that they can’t change and we’re telling everyone else how you can rewire your brain both in good and negative ways.

By the way, when I opened up the book on the train heading home, he’d written: “Be Yourself”. I know he probably wrote that in everybody’s book, but it really struck me in the heart in such a profound and emotional way. He obviously has a lot of interaction with the Autism community, but this is very true for me too. I was born with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain which was undiagnosed but not entirely inactive until I was 25. I’ve had a shunt put in and it’s made a huge difference but there are still residual quirks and I doubt I was ever going to be a regular sort anyway. “I’m creative”.

Lastly, as the session drew to a close we had question time and I stuck up my hand. After working on my series of Motivational Quotes for writers writing a book, I wanted to ask him for advice for someone writing their first novel. He basically said you have approach it like a neurosurgeon. I thought that was quite funny, because I’ve actually had brain surgery and have been on the receiving end of that.

Have you been to the Sydney Writers’ Festival? Who did you see? Or, perhaps you’ve been to a writers’ festival closer to home? How was it? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin Continue reading