Thursday, December 3, 2009

November wrap-up

I'm a few days late but here I am.
Over the weekend, I flew up to the Word Writer's Fair which was held in Brisbane. I conducted a couple of the workshops which were running all day; one on jump-starting the imagination and the other on creating lovable characters. About 60 people attended the Fair, there were trading stalls, I made new contact with several people and had a good time.

I also attended a few workshops myself. The first was by Andrew Lansdown, whose new book of nature poetry, Birds in Mind, has just been published. From Andrew, I found out that I'm far more 'poetic' than I thought I was. He explained that the job of a poet is to make connections between the subject of a poem and something else that on the surface seems entirely unrelated. Of course, we all know this sort of thing as similes and metaphors. Poets rely on these devices to illuminate their work. But as he spoke I realised that it's just the same for prose writers. It's easy to assume that because we don't write actual poetry, we don't have the same sort of creativity that they do. But writers of fiction and non-fiction alike use similes, metaphors, symbolism and other similar literary devices all the time. Just yesterday as I was typing away at my new manuscript, I mentioned that one of the female characters carried her heaviness of heart like an X-ray apron, or something of the sort. Most prose authors do. OK, so we may not be Shakespeares but I think we should still think of ourselves as creative as poets, my friends.

I also attended the workshop of Janelle Dyer, the author of "Yellow Zone," a novel concerning the end-times predicted in scripture. Hers was on characters too. When I found out that she and I had chosen the same topic, I initially felt a bit regretful. But I needn't have worried because we handled it in totally different ways. I like to run workshops a bit like a stand-up comedian. I find it easiest to give a spiel which includes one-liners and jokes here and there to raise a laugh. Then I have one or two short exercises at the end. Not so with Jan. Her workshop involved group participation from the start. Sheets of butcher's paper were flying around and she had us brainstorming in groups with our black textas. She'd prepared many hand-outs while I relied more on participants paying attention, adding their observations and taking notes. There is nothing superior or inferior about either way. The difference of presenters just adds to the freshness of the day.

That's the impression I came home with. We really should celebrate our differences. At the Writer's Fair, we were all people who consider that we've been given the same creative gift of working with words on paper. But our ways of expressing it were as diverse as possible. God surely uses the personalities, life experiences and passions of each individual to shine. The price of the registration included a free book of the registrants choice. There were five newly published works to choose from.

1) My "A Design of Gold" which anyone who follows this newsletter/blog would know is a contemporary drama/romance novel. I love these.
2) "Birds in Mind"; those wonderful nature poems by Andrew Lansdown which I've mentioned.
3) "Climbing Mountains", a non-fiction biography by Stacey Charbachi, who discovered a breast lump when she was eight months pregnant with her second child, which turned out to be cancer. It's a candid and warm description about her journey back to health and wholeness.
4) "Nerrilee's World", a lovely picture book about a little mermaid, which was written by my editor, Anne Hamilton, and illustrated by Sandra Templeton. Nerrilee is an Aussie mermaid for sure, when you read about all the sea creatures and plants around her home.
5) "Even Before you were Born", a collection of different people's reflections on pregnancy and birth. This is a diversity within one cover, including art, poetry, reflections and stories. I wrote a story for it, about when my oldest son was born.

So what a mixed assortment of great reads from people all using our creative gifts. I flew back home to Adelaide at 5.30am, feeling glad that I came.