Month: July 2015

Why I write – a response

This post is inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Mind blog. He put out a flash fiction challenge to write about “why I write?”

Here’s my story of “Why I write”.

I was a kid into books. I love stories. I love to be lost in books and transported by words. But I used to think storytellers were other people. Not me. They were artists. Artistic, high lit, tortured poetic wordsmiths. When I dashed down some words on a page, they were plain old crap.

It took years to learn lesson#1.

The first draft of anything is shit – Ernest Hemingway

So I hid the shit in a drawer and went back to watching TV.

But the desire still ate away at me. Whenever I thought about my life goals – writing a book was always number one with a bullet. So I’d enrol in some writing courses. I’d dabble but never had the confidence to take myself seriously.

I’d get discouraged and distracted.

Then I found Nanowrimo. Nanowrimo helped me churn out three or four unfinished lumpy novels. I proved to myself I could sit down and write 50,000 words in a month but they didn’t work. They didn’t resonate with me. My urban fantasy felt too cheesy. When I tried to write crime, my skin crawled when I tried to get inside the heads of serial killers or murderers. I was an imposter, none of it felt truly like me.

So I put it away again and went back to post-grad study.

Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try – Yoda

I started to get all angsty, mid life crisis riddled. My life circumstances changed and I had a bit of time on my hands. I imagined dying tomorrow with this one ambition left unfulfilled. It would be my one regret.

So I sat down and did it.

This time, it’s war – Aliens (1987)

Now I realise I need it. Practising every day, I’m learning the craft and improving. I read and learn from others. I’m prepared. I know it’s a bumpy ride of “I suck. I rock.” I know that the vomit draft is the easy part, the hard part is the six months of Revise. Delete. Rewrite. Repeat. I know the odds are stacked against me, there are millions of books published every day competing for readers. I know all this and I do it anyway. Cos I love it and it makes me happy.

That’s why I write.

Michael Whelan’s Yours Truly

Top 5 Influential Childhood books – Anne of Green Gables

The next book in my series of revisiting childhood favourites is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

Ah the memories…when I opened the first few pages of Anne of Green Gables, I was transported back to Grade 5 and my small primary school library in Launceston, Tasmania where I first borrowed this book. All the iconic phrases made me smile; the puffed sleeves, the alabaster brow, kindred spirits, bosom friends. I can see why people travel to Prince Edward Island today to see where Anne lived.

If you haven’t read or seen Anne of Green Gables, basically it’s the story of an eleven year old orphan* who is mistakenly sent to live with a gruff brother and sister in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The brother and sister really wanted a boy to help with the farm work but instead Anne arrives, filled with wild imaginative romantic notions and who cannot stop talking.

Reading Anne of Green Gables again was an absolute joy. I had forgotten what a wonderful character she is, so quirky and irrepressible. Despite her terrible childhood prior to moving to Avonlea, Anne is optimistic. An uneducated orphan, she built a fertile imagination to cope. But Anne is not all sunshine and lollipops, she’s feisty and stubborn. She stands up for herself and others if she feels she is being mistreated. There is no doubting why this is an absolute classic, Anne is such an endearing character who leaps off the page.

The novel travels through Anne’s life from aged eleven to over sixteen. Anne doesn’t just flounce about the countryside for 300 pages. We see Anne mature, and to some extent, conform. Towards the end of the book, where Anne buckles down to study hard for her examinations, I missed the quirky, nutty, overly emotive Anne. She makes tough decisions in the end, particularly hard decisions for a sixteen year old. Compared to the Blyton boarding school books where the characters are of similar ages, Anne grows up and makes adult decisions, unlike the protected girls from St.Clare’s.

Side note – Were 17 year olds really teaching school in Canada in the early 20th century?

Like Blyton, there are very few men in Anne of Green Gables too. Only the man-of-few-words Matthew and her number one rival, Gilbert Blythe. Anne is surrounded by strong, opinionated and capable women.

From a structural perspective, I wondered whether this book was originally a serial. The structure is very episodic, with 10 page self-contained chapters, perfect for a quick 15-20 minute read before bed or perhaps designed for reading to children. The structure reminded me of a TV series with the “story of the week” with its beginning, middle and end, plus a thin thread of overarching story. I’m now inspired to try this structure myself… one day. I’ve already got 5 novels in the works at the moment, in various stages from Draft#7 at 100k words to a paragraph of jotted thoughts. Maybe in 2018?

All in all, Anne of Green Gables stands up as a wonderful read and truly worthy of its classic status.

What’s next? Get ready for the real side of blossoming womanhood. It’s time for bras and periods with Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.

Do you have fond memories of Anne with an e?


*What’s with orphans in childhood literature? I’m sure there’s a million PhD theses on this topic.

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