Tag Archives: memoir

Weekend Coffee Share December 17, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I’m being a lousy hostess. So, if you’re thirsty or hungry,  you’ll need to head out to the kitchen and DIY. By the way, while you’re up, would you mind getting me a cup of decaf tea please? Pretty please!!!

I’ve locked myself in the lounge room with the air-conditioning on having a lazy Saturday. I need one.

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Sunbaking inside enjoying the air-conditioning.

How many sleeps is it now before Christmas? I have no idea. After all, it’s barely registering that it’s Saturday. I’ll blame the heat, but I’m totally incapable of performing such mental gymnastics: 25 – 17= 8. Eight sleeps…that’s better than I thought.Just a quick question: If I don’t go to sleep, does that mean Christmas will never come? I’m not sure.

I guess I should buy myself an Advent Calendar. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about mental arithmetic. Mind you, it couldn’t be a chocolate one. In this heat, it would go into an instant meltdown. Let’s just say I’ve had enough meltdowns lately.

So,I could also visit Santa’s Countdown Clock.

Anyway, not being much of a number-cruncher, I countdown towards Christmas the same way I give directions… pick out landmarks and hope no one gets lost.

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School Carols.

For us, the landmarks to Christmas include: the end of year dance concert, the school carols night, the end of school and then there’s Church Christmas Eve. Somewhere along the way, there’s also checking out Christmas lights, making the Christmas Cake and wrapping presents. Sneaking in a few siestas isn’t a bad idea either!

Anyway, yesterday was the last day of school. Both my kids changed schools at the end of last year, yet I found myself back at their old school. A few of our friends had kids in the graduating class and I went to see them off.

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It’s a school tradition for the rest of the school and teachers to create a human tunnel for the graduating Year 6 kids to walk through. It’s a rather intense and emotional time for the entire school…smiles, tears and that sense of being in the departure lounge at the airport. I should also add that it gets quite challenging for the ginormous Year 6’s need to crawl through the tiny arches constructed by the kindergarten kids.

While most of these kids will end up together at the local high school, the transition from primary to high school is momentous…a huge leap along the pathway from childhood to growing up. Although they’re taller, their first day at high school feels a lot like their very first day at school all over again, except Mum isn’t allowed to cry this time. No tears allowed.

For better or worse, the end of the year is also a check list…especially Christmas.There’s barely been a tick in mine.  Actually, I haven’t even written the list yet, which could explain a bit. Significantly, I haven’t made my Christmas cake yet. This is a Christmas tradition deemed so important in the past, that when I had three days’ notice that I was having chemo 3 years ago, I HAD to make my Christmas cake. It seems that when I’m not under the pressure of dying, that making my Christmas cake hasn’t fallen onto the back burner. That’s along with writing and posting Christmas cards, wrapping presents and removing the excavation piles from where we squeezed in the Christmas Tree.

As you can see, we are buried deep in the depths of Christmas chaos and won’t be emerging any time soon.

Yet, at least we’ve managed to put up the Christmas Tree and decorate it. We have a real tree every year and this is the first year it’s been at ground level since we had the kids. Miss took over the decorating this year, introducing me to a new form of Christmas madness…CDOCD or Christmas Decoration Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My usual hodgepodge of decorations made and bought throughout my lifetime was banned. Let’s just say I watched the proceedings.

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In addition to all the Christmas hoopla and end of school stuff, we also found out that our daughter has been accepted into Dance Team at the dance school. This isn’t just an honour and recognition of her dance abilities. It’s also a huge commitment and responsibility. That begins with arriving on time and not only being able to find your dance shoes, but also putting them on your feet. This seemingly simple process is harder than you think.

Jon & Geoff sailing

Geoff and Mister sailing.

Our son has also graduated from his Level 3 sailing course and starts racing in January. I know he’s going into his second year of high school, but it  still seems so grown up. Well, considering he’s about to overtake Grandma, he’s not so little any more.

Maybe, I’m the one who needs to grow up but that’s not to say there’s still a long way to go.

Mind you, growth should be a life long journey and I certainly haven’t stopped growing yet (and I’m not just referring to my Christmas waistline either).

By the way, although I’m not ready for Christmas, I have been doing plenty of writing. I have been working away on my Paris memoir. In addition to typing up excerpts from my diaries at the time, I’ve been reworking poetry I wrote at the time, writing new poems and short stories and being very productive. There was:

Poem:Slide Night- Dumped In Paris.

Poem:Welcome to the Yellow House.

Paris Syndrome – Disillusioned By the City of Lights.

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Photo: c Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again, writing All for Love. It’s the story of an Australian war bride living in a US town.

How are plans going for your celebrations? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster.

xx  Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share December 4, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Would you prefer coffee, tea or something else?

Can you believe it’s December already? I sure can’t. Well I sort of can because all that end of year madness is already in full swing. Aside from buying presents, I haven’t even thought about Christmas.

school-spec-amelia

Rather, the end of the year is also concert season. Last week, our daughter performed at NSW Schools Spectacular in Sydney and next weekend, is the dance concert. Miss does jazz, modern and ballet so that’s three costume changes. Today, there was a rehearsal and tomorrow is photo call. Well, there’s photo call after she does a guest appearance at her friend’s birthday party. I know she’s doing too much and it is exhausting, but I want her to have a balanced life. Friends are important.

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I have some exciting news this week. I’m finally making progress on the book writing front. For many, many years now I’ve been reworking and reworking books in my head and I can see the words cascading like a fountain without sticking to the page. For me, the trouble has been knowing where to start. How to start. Moreover, just when I’ve got in the groove and the flow is well and truly flowing, there’s been some significant catastrophe which at the very least, has blocked the flow or redirected it. Finishing a book is not that easy, especially when you can’t get started.

So, I’m thrilled to have a plan and even though I’m back to my usual “research mode”, I’m making headway. I can see a structure, a plan, a purpose.  Even better, I can feel it all coming together.

That’s why I’m fessing up here. I need to make myself accountable. Commit to this course of action in paper and ink…even if it is more a case of tapping away on my laptop.

Anyway, I’ve spent much of this week trying to immerse myself in Paris to reawaken all those slumbering brain cells of mine. I need the to take me back to the past to lead me into the future. Fortunately, I have photos, diaries, letters from the trip as well as the world wide web at my disposal. I guess you could say it’s now been redefined as “material”.

You might like to check out some of my Paris posts:

Poem: Amnesia Paris 92.

Writing Memoir: Paris Encore.

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

I am continuing to read  Tim Harford’s:  Messy: How to be Creative in A Tidy-Minded World. I’m now about halfway through and am going to try to keep going with it while throwing myself into Paris and that writing. I find it hard to split myself up like that, especially when I’m already juggling the family and the house. Well, I’m not exactly juggling the house. I think I dropped it on its head awhile back and it’s never recovered. Besides, I’d much rather write.

I’ve had another go at Friday Fictioneers. The prompt this week depicted a camping scene. My effort is called The Camping Virgins. I should point out that the title refers to first time campers…nothing more, nothing less.

The rest of the week feels like a blur. I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

How was your week? Good, I hope.

This has been another contribution to Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

“The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay, I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café.”

-Oscar Hammerstein II

If a mighty caffeine hit is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. I’m inviting you to join me on an almighty cafe crawl through Paris’s left bank, as I desperately try to find the cafe where I used to hang out back in the Summer of 1992.

By the way, I apologise if our tour darts and criss-crosses all over the place. This is a virtual tour and you’ll find me curled up in my ink-stained writer’s chair inconveniently parked in Australia.  So, the dots could well be scattered all over the map.

“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.”

-Allen Ginsberg

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m desperately trying to find the cafe I hung out at with my friends in Paris.

cafe-st-michel

Our cafe located somewhere near St Michel.

So, after much preambling, you’re invited to join me on a cafe crawl through the Left Bank. By the way, I can’t help wondering whether we’re being joined by the ghosts of creatives past…Hemingway, Cézanne, Picasso, Braque and Jim Morrison. Who knows?

Our first stop is La Palette at 43 Rue Seine on the corner of Rue Jacques Callot in St Germain. It has a large terrace overlooking Rue Jacques- Callot. The restaurant’s façade and the interior of the second salon, are registered as historic monuments. The second salon has a larger back room with dining tables, and is stylishly decorated with ceramics from the 1930s-40s. Meanwhile, the bistro is traditionally a gathering place for Fine Arts students, nearby gallery owners and artists. La Pallete was frequented by Cézanne, Picasso,  Braque and later by Ernest Hemingway and Jim Morrison. Today’s celebrities include Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts.

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Our second Stop is Les Deux Magots. Its outdoor terrace is apparently a great spot to soak up the atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From there, you can also see the historic Saint Germain des Pres Church and Abbey. The nave and bell tower date back to 1014 AD, while its foundations date back to 543 AD. So, definitely worth checking out.

Les Deux Magots was founded in 1812 at 23 Rue de Buci and in 1873, it moved to Place St-Germain-des-Prés. In 1885, the shop gave way to an alcohol-serving café, which took on the name.

The Café started playing an important role in Parisian cultural life and Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, to name a few, were regulars at the café. In 1933, the cafe launched its Prix des Deux Magots award. This is a major french litarary award presented to new works, which are generally more off-beat and less conventional than the more mainstream Prix Goncourt.

Les Deux Magots has also been frequented by numerous famous artists including: Elsa Triolet, Louis Aragon, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Prévert, Hemingway and others, the café hosted Surrealists under the aegis of André Breton, and Existentialists around Sartre and Beauvoir.

Our next stops are going to be a lot quicker…

3) Cafe Dauphine 17 Rue Dauphine

4) The Luxenbourg  4, Place Edmond Rostand

5) Cafe Le Depart 1, Place Saint-Michel 75005, Paris

6) Cafe de Flore  172, Boulevard Saint-Germain

7) Cafe Le Buci  52, rue Dauphine 75006 PARIS

Finally, I stumbled across Cafe Conti at 1 Rue de Buci. Finally, this could be it. I have emailed the details to a friend, hoping he can see or remember something I can not. 

By this stage, Geoff is also home from work and I’m handing him the photo album and the laptop to help playing spot the difference. Did my photo match the image? We couldn’t be sure and in the end, all we had was eye-strain.

In a way, I hope it is. However, because it closed this year, I’d rather it was somewhere else. I’ve always wanted to go back and enjoy another cheap cafe au lait watching the crowds pass by. I’m sure my friends are still sitting there, looking exactly as they did 24 years ago.  After all, haven’t you ever noticed how memory does that. It freezes moments in time for eternity.

By the  way, speaking of Cafe Conti, it’s recent claim to fame is its dog. Or, perhaps I should be saying that the dog is famous. His name is Orson and he’s an exceptionally cute Cairn Terrier. You can read about his travels here: Orson Paris dog and there’s also an exceptionally cute video.

So, that ends our rather exhilarating yet exhausting cafe crawl of Paris’s Left Bank. I hope none of you objected to me appropriating Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, also known as The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum and transporting it from Arles to Paris. For me, it’s the ultimate French cafe scene. I had to use it.

Do you have a favourite cafe in Paris? Please share. I love a good story served up with a coffee and a French pastry is an extra special bonus.

Thank you for joining me!

xx Rowena

 

Iced Coffee + Heat Wave …Weekend Coffee Share.

If we were having coffee today, you’d be asking for extra ice with your iced coffee or tea. You’d even thank me for pouring ice down your back or offering an ice-filled bath!

Indeed, temperatures shot up to 43° C or 109.4° F and it was so hot, that my eyes actually burned. Desperately seeking relief, I evacuated to an air-conditioned oasis…printing photos out at K-mart. It was my husband’s birthday and due to the heat, I put off making a cake and we went out for dinner to an air-conditioned venue. While we have air-conditioning at home, we don’t like the financial aftershock. Much better to use someone else’s!

Happy Birthday, Geoff!

Happy Birthday, Geoff!

So, how are you? How was your week?

If we were having coffee, I’d have to tell you that I’m feeling better this week. That’s not to say that I’m fine but at least, I’m not feeling shell-shocked anymore after last week’s damaging hailstorm and events in Paris https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/weekend-coffee-share-paris-and-the-week-that-was/.

You might enjoy reading I post I wrote about recovering from the storm, especially after the physical damage has been fixed but the emotional scars remain: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/recovery-after-the-storm/.

I also really enjoyed this post from Diana at Part-Time Monster who had a very “interesting” bath during a storm: http://parttimemonster.com/2015/11/18/how-to-take-a-bath-when-its-storming-in-20-easy-ish-steps/

A week after the Paris attacks, I’m not quite sure what’s what. Stories about the survivors and the dead, have been truly chilling. I felt such empathy for the victims. I celebrated my 22nd birthday in Paris and been in their shoes walking those streets. Hung out in Parisian cafes drinking cafe cremes. I felt numb. Yet, Monday morning still came around again and the routine started up again without me. I had to really slap myself. Reality check. It really annoys, even grieves me, that life callously moves forward without so much as a glance over its shoulder. Doesn’t shed a tear.

However, if we’re not to remain victims and if we’re going to be prepared for the inevitable terrorist attacks to come, lying face down in the mud isn’t an option. Indeed, the Parisians took to the streets singing “La Marseillaise“. They’re not going to sit back and let the terrorists win!

By the way, I just thought I’d Google to words of that and it’s no wonder the Parisians are singing it with such gusto. It’s more than just a national anthem. It’s a call to arms: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Marseillaise 

With the horrors of last week, I completely forgot to mention our good news. Our daughter has been accepted into what’s known as an Opportunity Class for her last 2 years of Primary school. These classes are for high achieving students and they need to sit an entry test. It’s going to be quite a commute but she’s really keen to go.

For all of you taking part in Nano, how are you going?

Although I’m not doing it, all the talk of word counts has got me going.  Although storm damage to the office stonkered progress on the Book Project, I participated in a flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch writing about the incredible connection of holding hands https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/flash-fiction-11th-nov-2015/

I’ve also completely  re-written a manuscript for a kid’s book I wrote about 5 years ago and am really pleased with the results. The original was way too long and this version is well under 1000 words. It’s currently “stewing”, allows all those creative juices to penetrate the page and mature.

However, I must also confess that I have a lot of “stews” experiencing total neglect and it wouldn’t surprise me if the dogs have even eaten a few. Leaving stew unattended around here is a very risky business. Indeed, we’ve lost a couple of meat pies lately.

I've taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

I’ve taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

Moving forward to next week, Monday morning I’m getting stuck back into the book project. I’m aiming for Monday because, as everyone knows, everything starts on a Monday…diets, exercise. No more pressing the snooze button on more fronts than I’d dare to mention!

Little Miss in front of our Morris Minor.

Little Miss in front of our Morris Minor.

Next week, Miss will be performing in a huge, multi-school choir as part of School Spectacular to be held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. It’s a huge deal to be a part of this and so exciting. I don’t even know if we’ll even be able to spot her on stage but it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. We’ll definitely be needing our binoculars.

Happy Birthday Dddy/Geoff!

Happy Birthday Daddy/Geoff!

If we were having coffee, I would also tell you that today was my husband’s birthday. He’s been away at a conference for work this week and it’s been great to have him back. His main present has been a memory book. Both Geoff’s parents had passed away before we were married and so the children have never met their grandparents but are very close to my parents so I wanted to even things up a bit. This is one of those store-bought pre-printed books with headings and spaces for memories and photographs. Rather than having it all written out and finished, I’ve made a pretty good start and plan to get Geoff and his sisters to contribute. This is one instance where you really do need to know what you’re writing about.

I've taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

I’ve taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

It’s now Saturday and thank goodness the heat has eased and we’ve had a blessed cool change. Rain is threatening and there are strong winds, roaring like  a rough surf. Took the dogs for a walk along the beach today and chatted with a friend. Needed that.

I hope that you’ve all had a good week and that somehow your faith in humanity has somehow been restored. That there have been some uplifting moments as we as a global community try to live with the lurking shadows of terrorism and try to reach some kind of solution.That will no doubt be requiring some kind of super-strength cup of coffee but we need to have faith and we need to keep trying. Never give up!

Meanwhile, our prayers go out to those affected by terrorist attacks in Mali yesterday.

Go on check out the other coffee share posts over on Diana’s Blog Part-Time Monster and join the linky yourself!

Love & God Bless!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Writing Memoir: Unpacking the Past.

While being November, there’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about NaNoWriMo and many have leaped onboard the Nano juggernaut. How many words have been written. How people are progressing towards their target. Or, if things aren’t progressing as hoped, there are tips, words of encouragement and probably even a stiff drink or caffeine hit as well.

Being the sort who’s usually easy lead astray, I almost jumped onboard the NaNoWriMo juggernaut myself. However, thankfully I recognised a distraction for what it was and kept walking. I am quite proud of myself because I usually lap up such distractions and wake up in a different universe before I realise just how far off course I’ve ended up.

However, even though November in Sydney is a lousy time of year to embark on any kind of lengthy writing project, after almost ten years of fiddy faddling around with the Book Project, I am finally making headway. I bought myself a set of multicoloured cards and a file box, a box of black pens and a packet of multi-coloured pens and the research process is well and truly underway. Of course, buying the pre-requisite stationery is an important precursor to writing. However, I’ve also progressed to typing up excerpts from my Paris journal, revisiting Paris through Google Earth and getting in touch with people I met.I’ve even been re-working poems and writing new ones.

The Book Project is on. It’s definitely on!!

However, I always knew writing this story wasn’t going to be easy.

Of course, writing any great story isn’t usually easy. It’s exhilarating but there’s usually at least some kind of hard work involved…or much angst. As much as angst hurts and even destroys, it also does wonders for my creative juices…just like some huge, salivating slobber-dog eyeing off a bone. (Remember Beethoven: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShFd7rYSTkE)

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

At the moment, I am immersing myself in the Paris part of the story. While in some ways Paris might sound a bit clichéd and what hasn’t been written about Paris? However, I was an Australian in Paris and this story is going to land in Australia and even criss-cross the Nullarbor a few times between Sydney and Perth and even head North up to Geraldton. So, it’s not your classic Paris story at all!!

George and I at Nature's Window, Kalbarri North of Perth in 2002.

George and I at Nature’s Window, Kalbarri North of Perth in 2002.

I know I’m sitting on a great story. That’s not a point of pride or showing off. It is an adventure where the landscape reflects an inner journey searching for all those answers that we look for in our twenties yet through a distorted perspective. I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus, or fluid in the brain, which was an absolute time bomb ticking in my head which ultimately exploded. Yes, it wasn’t pretty either!

However, brain surgery, family friends, my faith and much reading and soul searching brought me to a place of healing. Not perfection but healing…an important distinction!

My husband and I met in the aftermath of that catastrophe and he loved me and accepted me (well, most of the time) for who I was. It was as close to an unconditional love as you could find and we’ve been through immense struggles, argued, almost fallen apart but we’re still together. We’re still walking together…along with our kids and the two dogs.

Our Wedding Day

Our Wedding Day

One of the troubles I’ve had with writing the parts of my story before meeting my husband, is that they do not involve him. That’s awkward in itself because like most of us, I’ve shut the door on all of that and we don’t talk about it. We don’t need to. However, through writing a memoir, it’s inevitable that a lot of this other stuff is going to dug up and even if it didn’t involve sex, there were intimate emotional attachments and these also encroach on what we have. After all, a marriage isn’t just about sexual fidelity. It’s also about sharing yourself, your heart and soul and grey matter.

When writing a memoir, there can potentially be a very broad cast of what might be minor characters in my story yet they’re still the protagonist in their own life. They don’t need to end up being a character at all. They’re just hiding under a rock and no doubt want to stay there in peace.

I need to respect other people’s privacy and also their need to have their integrity left in tact. They need to be able to walk down the street and feel good about themselves no matter what someone might have written about them. That’s even when it’s tempting to wield the pen, when you can’t use a sword. A bit of poetic justice might feel justified but writing a book is a responsibility. I am carrying all these people on my shoulders through what I say and also what I don’t say.

It’s no wonder I haven’t told this story before.

However, it’s a story that needs to be told. Too many of these motivational speakers and writers out there are selling false dreams. That if you want something bad enough, you can make anything happen. That’s just not true and it makes people feel like losers when they can’t pull of such miracles for themselves. Indeed, when they find out they’re only human!

I have had some incredibly dark moments along the road and these happen. People, especially young people, need to be equipped to get through and learn the incredible lessons these moments give us rather than avoiding the struggle or giving up but I also believe they often need a helping hand.

I’ve also got to be honest and say that I want to make it as a successful writer. I want that book published with my name on the spine and I want a bit of credibility. At the moment, I’m a gunna-do and that is even worse than being stuck in a real job.

Hey, Ive just written  1,074 words about getting started. I wonder if that counts towards the word count? Actually, I think it reads like a Mission Statement. A rather long one but something to keep me going.I’m going to need to remember why I am doing this and the hours mount up.

Any thoughts or suggestions? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

PS: I’m excited!

In Pursuit of Character: The Proust Questionnaire

Although I’ve spent many years trying to refine and improve my own character, attempting of course, to become more virtuous, this journey is more about the pursuit of character development. How to develop complex and meaningful characters in our writing.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Helen Keller

Or, in the case of the Book Project, creating myself as a character which is authentic and yet will inevitably end up being some kind of fiction.

I'm a veteran journal writer.

I’m a veteran journal writer.

I dipped my toe into these incredibly deep waters as I wrote about myself on my train trip to Sydney, trying to view myself through the eyes of the other passengers, who are of course, complete strangers:

Me, Myself & I: Writing A Complex Character Profile https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/me-myself-i-writing-a-complex-character-profile/

This proved quite useful but was obviously very superficial and based on how I looked, my actions.

I mean, perhaps this said a lot more about me than I’d like to believe. After all, as we’re observing others, we feel quite invisible and yet we could equally be the subjects of their study. They could indeed be writing about us. Did you ever think of that?

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
Henry Ford

The train trip home proved more insightful, confirming indeed that I was protagonist and antagonist rolled into one, as my creative diversions made me late for my medical appointment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/surry-hills-to-gore-hill-sydney-a-hill-climbing-odyssey/

To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.
P. G. Wodehouse

Anyway, some time ago, I heard about the Proust Questionnaire and decided to work my way through this in the same way I worked the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge…one set topic per day and by the end of the month, I had knocked over quite a lot of writing. I was rather surprised…and impressed. If you had asked me to write that many words in a month, I would’ve balked. Of course, all those words came at a price and I was viewed as something of a ghost on the home front that month but I was thrilled to pull it off. After all, it showed me that I was truly capable of writing longer works (and indeed completing the book project if only I could get started!).

Writing to a set topic everyday was quite a change for me. After all, I have unwittingly always been a “panster”, not a planner when I write. I’d never heard much about terms like “protagonist”, “antagonist”. I just had my thesaurus. Besides, if you are a good story teller, these things are what makes a good story, whether you give them formal titles or not.

BUT…

While all this creative spontaneity might work for a shorter work, I am thinking that more planning and structure is required to pull of the Book Project. Much of the book concerns what happened but I am wanting to fully develop the text by having fully developed characters and a strong sense of place as well. These have turned out to be much more complex than I thought because how I see myself is no doubt quite different to how others see me. Moreover, each different observer, has their own viewpoint and perspective. While it is very tempting at this point to say it’s all just too hard and to just create a fiction, I am going to persevere.

writer at work...Perisher 2012.

writer at work…Perisher 2012.

Indeed, it has become something of a challenge.

After all, anybody can make up a character. It’s quite another thing to capture what is in a way that strangers can fully understand. Strangers who, by the way, live all around the world and might not quite appreciate some Australianisms.

“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”
― Henry David Thoreau

In order to pursue character development further, I have decided to turn to the Proust Questionnaire like so many other writers have done before me. Author Marcel Proust didn’t actually invent this questionnaire. Rather, such questionnaires were popular in the day and his friend Antoinette asked him this list of questions. It was a way of getting to know your friends and your self better, which translates well into developing the back story for your characters across a range of creative pursuits such as writing, painting acting.

Here’s the list as it appeared at The Writing Practice: http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

There are 35 questions, which makes it roughly one question every day for just over a month. It might take me a few days to tackle the more challenging questions, while on other days, I might make it through a few. While I do want to get through this in a disciplined and focused manner, I don’t want to rush it and gloss over the weightier issues just to adhere to a schedule. I am doing this to learn, create, extend and understand myself better, which could well benefit from a better focus on the clock but won’t be governed by it…if that makes sense.

My shadow in Surry Hills

My shadow in Surry Hills

I now invite you to join me on this journey either writing about yourself as a character or to answer the questions through the eyes of a character you are working on. Feel free to respond in the comments section or to write your own posts, which can be linked through in the comments as well.

So, Who are you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WseRJMQf1U

This is going to be a very intriguing and challenging journey.

xx Rowena

PS I recommend you read this post by Ula at Broccoli Addict: 5 Questions Before You Write Your First Draft https://broccoliaddict.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/5-questions-before-you-write-the-first-draft/

Funny Friday: An Afternoon With Australian Actor-Author William McInnes

Last Friday, I was booked into an author talk with two-times Logie-winning Australian actor and author, William McInnes. However, after a huge day on Thursday, I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d make it. There was the trip down to Sydney and the emotionally confronting brain MRI but 5 minutes before my MRI, I also heard the dreadful news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away. Having survived brain surgery myself in the past, his death was pretty confronting. I wasn’t in good shape after all of this and more in the mood for deep hibernation. Yet, I was particularly keen to meet William McInnes and hear his story. There are many, many layers to this man.

Exhausted, sombre and dazed, I arrived at Woy Woy Library and sat in the front row where I could literally reach out and touch him. This was a delightfully small and intimate venue where you’re really up close and personal with the author. I was in seventh heaven!! Here I was inhaling the same air as William McInnes for a precious few hours and you never know quite what impact that will have. If you’ve heard his wild and wacky stories, you’ll know what I mean.

Fisherman's Wharf, Woy Woy, North of Sydney. The pelican perch on the roof waiting for fish from any possible source.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy, North of Sydney. The pelican perch on the roof waiting for fish from any possible source.

Fisherman's Wharf, Woy Woy.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy.

If you’re not Australian, you might not realise that Woy Woy is a bit of an unlikely location for an author talk of any sort let alone by a two-times Logie-winning actor and best-selling author. Although Graeme Simsion author of the Rosie Project recently spoke up here, Woy Woy is better known as being home to Spike Milligan’s Mum, having the best fish & chips and for its flocks of hungry, aggressive pelicans self-educated in the fine art of food theft. They’ll snatch your bag of fish & chips straight out of your hand without so much as an apology. That said, there has been quite an influx of refugees from Sydney and Woy Woy is becoming more eclectic.

It is no understatement that McInnes literally burst into the room converting this humble space into a stage…his stage. This man has presence…serious presence. There was gag after gag after gag.

William McInnes in uniform in the hit Australian TV series Blue Heelers.

William McInnes in uniform in the hit Australian TV series Blue Heelers.

After watching McInnes for years on the hit TV cop series, Blue Heelers, I at least thought I knew how he looked. However, the man who entered the room didn’t match up. His reddish hair was grey. He was exceptionally tall and he was casually dressed. I think I’m used to seeing him in uniform. Police uniform, that is. While he cracked jokes about his middle-aged spread, he still has the physique of the male lead and has been cast opposite glamorous beauties including actresses Sigrid Thornton and Claudia Karvan.

Actor and author William McInnes.

Actor and author William McInnes.

McInnes was there to promote his new book Holidays. I was there not only because of his professional credentials but also because he has publicly spoken and written about his wife, Sarah Watts’ heroic battle with breast cancer, which finally claimed her life around 3 years ago. They co-wrote a book: Worse Things Happen At Sea. I haven’t read this book yet because I needed a bit of a laugh after the last few weeks. Instead, I’m reading: A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby. I was told this book was hilarious, as is McInnes.

Indeed, I found him too funny. We all know about the clown and the tear and I’ve noticed in my own writing that the worse it gets, the funnier I become. When someone is exceptionally funny, I think you’re almost obligated to look for the scar tissue. More than likely, it won’t even be concealed beneath the surface. You’ll see it. Hear it. Even feel its pulse.

However, according to his wife, McInnes has always had a gift for comedy and after seeing him in action, I have no doubt that he’d even do well in that bear pit of stand-up.

While some author talks can get a little dry, McInnes rolled off tale after hilarious tale about his childhood growing up in Queensland’s Redcliffe, a popular beach suburb and on various family holidays. Much of this humour revolves around his father who makes your average embarrassing Dad look like a boring pussy cat.

1970s Barber shop: home of the short back and sides.

1970s Barber shop: home of the short back and sides.

One of my favourite stories was about when he went to get a haircut which, of course, turned out to be no ordinary haircut. If you lived through the 70s, you’ll know that the generational gap wasn’t just about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It was also about hair. Usually his mum gave him a haircut but she was busy so she sent him down to the local barber’s with the presumption that he’d return with the usual mandatory, short back and sides. However, it transpired that the barber shop had recently been re-birthed as a unisex hair salon, a new and intriguing development back in the 1970s when getting your haircut was like going to the toilet. There was the men’s, the ladies’ and nothing in between. Definitely no fraternization!

Anyway, McInnes goes into the salon and spots this hot girl he’d seen at the local rollerskating rink. At this point, all sense and reason evaporate and he’s putty in her precious, manicured hands. “Would you like a perm?” She asks. Being a little naive and nothing of a fashion plate, McInnes didn’t know what a perm was but swooning in her orbit, he agrees. Looking something like Goldilocks, with fear and trepidation, he headed home.

Now, you can just imagine how his father, who is renowned for his colourful vernacular, responds to this development. A WWII ex-serviceman, he was far from impressed. He tells him: “When I was your age, I was jumping out of planes chasing Germans”. The kids at school screamed: “Let’s get Horshack” (a character from this his 1970s series Welcome Back Cotter with an afro) There was also a hilarious run in with one of his school priests which I can’t even begin to relate. A bloke having a perm was beyond the pale! The whole experience was even too weird for McInnes. He soon shaved it off and his Dad was happy: “That’s a real man’s haircut”.

His memoir: A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby is full of such stories. The funniest I’ve come across so far, relates about  when he needed to go to the toilet on the way to his football match. They pulled into the service station and Dad reminds him to watch his mouth. After all, back in the day, it wasn’t polite to say you needed to go to the toilet. Oh no! Like many families, they used a swag of euphemisms instead. Out of respect to his mother’s sensitivities, at home they called it: “going goggers”, which in the great tradition of Australian speech, was abbreviated to: “I go gogg goggs.” You can just imagine why the poor petrol station attendant was so confused! He continues:

“Dad must have seen me having trouble from the lime-green ute and flung open the door. He tried to make things clearer. “For Christ’s sake…the boy wants to go goggers.. Goggers…gog…gogs…”

Still no comprehension from the attendant… ‘Listen, chief, the boy has to back out a mullet…Oh, Jesus wept, he wants to strangle one’…Still the attendant stared, …I whispered, ‘I have to poo. Can I use your toilet, please?’My father poked me with a finger. The attendant gave me a key. Dad growled. ‘Don’t let your mother hear you talk like that.”[1]

Let me reassure you that this is not how the average Australian speaks. We usually ask for “the throne” although we’re quite capable of using the word “toilet” in public these days. After all, it’s only natural!

As you can imagine, after all these laughs, I was not longer feeling lugubrious and had cheered up. Humour really does work magic.

While it really is impossible to separate William McInnes actor and author from the William McInnes husband and father who lost his wife,  this journey requires further work and consideration. I don’t want to do a rush job but give their story the time it deserves. It is a journey that our family is potentially walking although I seem to have more lives than a proverbial cat. I seem to be doing pretty well.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

xx Rowena

[1] McInnes, William; A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby, Hodder Australia, Sydney, 2006 pp 38-39.