Category Archives: cathartic or retraumatised

And the Winner is…

Helen Luxton has won a copy of Something Missing and Pickle to Pie. Her name was drawn after my workshop last week on Life/Memoir Writing at the Hastings Library.

Over twenty writers attended, all with fascinating projects. On a table, near the books for sale, was a list. It stated that if you subscribe to my website http://www.glenicewhitting.com you had a chance of winning a copy of my latest novel, Something Missing. I felt that a copy of Pickle to Pie would also be helpful to Helen.

Life Writing

Life writing is considered an all-encompassing term. This genre involves the recording of personal memories and experiences. Life writing includes not just biography and autobiography but also Memoir

Autobiography is ‘I’ writing (writing the self)_It is ‘mystory

Memoir (from the Latin, meaning memory) is a subclass of autobiography. It is an autobiographical account of someone’s life. However, the focus is on the events a person remembers rather than the self. (The writer remembers passages of dialogue from the past)_it is ‘ourstory’

Biography is writing her/his story_it is ‘theirstory‘.

Below is an outline about what we managed to cover in a brief time. 

Life Writing/Memoir Workshop 31/7/2018

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Every family has fascinating stories and even secrets. The stories of ordinary family life must be told. Finding the best way to tell these stories can be a fascinating journey and the chance to create a valuable resource for your descendants. However we all want to write an account that is memorable, engaging and not boring.

What about the family’s murky secrets? Don’t shy away from these stories. They can be healing to you  and helpful to the reader as they provide the opportunity of insights: such as a marriage taking its last breaths, the death of a child etc

How can we do justice to intriguing ancestors?

Should my story turn into fiction? How much dramatising is acceptable?

Who is my reader? What kind of publication is appropriate?

 Self publishing where I pay for everything myself?

Self publishing: using Busybird or Lou Lou.  (you still pay)

 Small press publisher. They pay, but what about Marketing?

 Traditional Big Publisher: such a Pan McMillan etc. Pitch it to them on Fridays and Mondays.

Do I need a professional editor? —Yes, Yes, Yes:

I had an American editor to check for any mistakes for the American section of Something Missing. She said a campervan was called a pullalong camper. An English editor provided by MadeGlobal Publishing asked What is a Doona? I changed it to continental quilt.

Structure: Make a W.A.I.N  (Where Am I Now?  —

Write the first draft without any thought. Knock that writing citic off your shoulder: lose control. Forget about grammar, spelling and being nice and polite.

Take Risks 

 Free writing:  Don’t stop writing for at least 15 mins. Write anything that comes into your head. Get messy, and leave it for the adult writer to clean up later when revising your book.

Join a Writer’s Group & the Victorian Writers in the Wheelers Centre in Melbourne

Read everything you can lay your hands on. Hazel Edward’s has written a very good book titled ‘Non Boring’ Family History’. This is a practical guide for those wanting to shape their family research into a readable family history.

Happy Writing and have FUN

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Magical Moments: Part One

It was a Magical Moment when I heard that Pickle to Pie is being republishing by Ilura Press on Amazon.com and they will have it as a print on demand book. It will be available in this form from their website and at bookdepository.com

My second book Something Missing is available at Fishpond.com.au with free delivery

                               

It was indeed a Magical Moment when Chloe Trindall from the Godfrey street Memoir Writing Group had a short story published in the Women Who Write Melbourne anthology A New Beginning

Women Who Write, Melbourne is a supportive networking group for Melbourne women writers. They are open to writers of all ages, levels of experience and all genres.
The Facebook page is for members to engage with one another, keep up to date with what’s happening in the group and the writing community.
Every month they hold meetings in the Melbourne CBD and post details on their  Facebook page as well as any additional events they organise.

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I loved reading the excellent short stories by very talented authors. There is something for everyone in this anthology

The day of the book launch was portrayed as having the worst, most violent weather ever imagined and as I donned my ski jacket and armed myself with a scarf and brolly I wondered if I was crazy to catch the train and tram to Lu Lu’s cafe and gallery in North Melbourne for this book launch. But I was determined to go come hell or high water.

  

We had a wonderful time listening to extracts of prose and poetry. Unfortunately, because of the weather we all had to cram into the cafe section instead of being outside in one of the best courtyards in Melbourne

Why don’t you join this amazing group of writers on Facebook?

Twitter/Instagram @womenwritemelb

On Sunday it was the Christmas gathering of the Hysterical Melbourne Historical Writers

We met at the Vic restaurant under the spire of the Arts Centre. It was great to be able to swap stories and publishing experiences. Many thanks must go to Celia for organising these get-togethers.

Walking over the bridge near the Hamer Hall I was delighted to see the Christmas Tree in Federation Square.

Hamer Hall was also decorated in festive attire.

Godfrey Street Community House also had a Christmas get-together to thank Carol for years of tireless service. We will miss her so much but know it is time for her to be able to do the many things she wants to do. Many thanks Carol for all your kindness and support

Christmas is always a busy time spent catching up with family and friends and I love every minute of this silly season.

The Victorian Writer

I’m delighted to be able to share an article about my writing journey published on page 22 of the The Victorian Writer magazine.

Anyone who wants to know what is happening in the writing world looks forward to this magazine. I believe they have 3500 members who delight in reading the articles and love the ‘competitions and opportunities’ page.

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Beyond Academia

Writers often dream of being published and getting their work ‘out there’. I am no exception. My second novel has just been published but it has been a long road to publication. This manuscript has had at least three reincarnations with a change of title each time. Each version has its own merit and has taught me something valuable about the craft of writing. The novel, ‘Something Missing’ began life as ‘Hens Lay, People Lie’: my artefact for my PhD at Swinburne University.

I had just completed my Masters of Creative Writing at Melbourne Uni when my first novel, Pickle to Pie co-won the Ilura Press International Fiction Quest. This meant a cash advance, plus publication and I was beside myself with excitement.

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Pickle to Pie was the story of a boy, a great-hearted German Grossmutter and a man caught between two worlds. It was a record of my father’s life. In his late eighties he would sit for hours telling me, or whoever would listen, the stories of his early life, the first child born in Australia to his family of German immigrants.

I had promised myself, if Pickle to Pie was ever published that I would give up my day job. Hairdressing had always augmented the family income through good times and bad. After the book launch I stuck to my promise, sold the salon and walked away to a life of poverty. I knew I was not a J K Rowling, but I was happy.

I had often toyed with the idea of studying for my PhD but never dreamt it could happen. However, to be awarded an APA scholarship meant the opportunity to study at Swinburne University. I grabbed it with both hands. With the help of two supervisors I could learn the craft of writing and understand all the rules. I would then know why I was breaking them. I decided to do what so many writers do. I chose to write something close to my heart. Something entirely different. This time it would be based on my thirty-five year pen-friendship with an older American poet, a story about two women, a life changing pen-friendship and the lies they tell each other. I wrote in my journal, ‘I am writing an epistolary, autoethnographic novel grounded in both feminism and post modernist paradigms with the aim of revealing women’s hidden stories in the hope of instigating social change. I believe this embedded story of the journey of self discovery and friendship will carry with it the possibility of nothing less than the restoration of faith in human kind.’

What lofty aims, but here was a chance to use our letters, interspersed with text, to explore the influence this elderly poet had on a young woman who left school at fourteen to become a hairdresser: a woman who unconsciously yearned for the education given to her brother and denied to her. My journey into epistolary fiction using letter, diary and journal extracts, plus snippets of poetry, had begun.

I began work using an older American woman’s voice in first person narration; an elderly Australian woman in second person; and the young Australian mum in third person. The story would have embedded dialogue, following author, Debra Adelaide’s example, where only the formatting and actions of the characters, rather than dialogue marks, reveal to the reader who is speaking at that time. The elderly Australian woman would reveal the pitfalls and joys of writing a novel in a humorous, tongue in cheek, vein.

For four years I am caught up in a world where my mind kept bouncing backwards and forwards between my creative writing of this novel and the formal academic exegesis.

Friends warned me that I would have a meltdown post PhD, but I was convinced that would not happen to me. I was too strong, too resilient. That sort of breakdown only happened to other people. The wail of the ambulance soon bought me back to earth with a thud. I asked my adult son what section of hospital I was in. He replied, ‘The resuscitation room, Mum.’ Two weeks later, just home from hospital and feeling weak and tired, I had resigned myself to missing my already paid for graduation ceremony. My son hired a wheelchair, determined I would make it.

There were only three PhD degrees awarded that night. I waited in the wings for all the BA’s, Masters and double degrees to be awarded before my son wheeled me over to join the queue waiting for their turn to hear their name called and to climb the stairs to the stage. Determined to walk under my own steam, doubts filled my mind. What if I couldn’t manage the stairs? What if I fainted, collapsed, or worse still, threw up when the chancellor, in all his finery handed me my much sort after certificate. What if…
To leave my wheelchair and walk on stage wearing the hired floppy Tudor bonnet and colourful gown was a highlight in my life. I had an overwhelming feeling of achievement and self worth that no one could take away from me. Afterwards, I thankfully joined my peers on the stage and proudly marched out with the academic procession only to flop into the wheelchair waiting by the door.

The mature aged student journey from VCE to PhD had required passion, dogged determination and guts, but it had also been the most exciting, exhilarating time in my life. I knew I would miss it and all the friends I’d made along the way.

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Using my recently gained title of Dr Glenice Whitting I sent my edited and, according to me, perfect manuscript out to publishers and waited for the offers to come rolling in. Nothing happened. Slowly, relentlessly, one after the other a stream of rejections arrived. ‘Thank you for sending Hens Lay People Lie, however…’

I was caught in a catch-22 situation. To get a publisher I needed an agent but to get an agent I needed a publisher. I also took a long hard look at what I’d written, and following the suggestions of American author/editor, Cindy Vallar, I inserted quotation marks to all the dialogue and renamed the manuscript ‘What Time is it There?’ Still the rejections arrived. It was ‘too academic’ too many voices, too literary, too hard to read and so on. Had I, over the years of study, begun to sound as if I’d swallowed a dictionary? I knew I had to, once again, rewrite the manuscript. It took a huge leap of faith to take it from literary fiction into popular fiction.

The third reincarnation is the one that is being published. It was an invaluable lesson. To be a writer I had to be myself and write the way I really wanted to write, from the heart. I took out the overarching second person narrating character, made both Maggie and Diane third person narration, threw in a handful of suspense and Voilà …’Something Missing’ was born. It had gone beyond academia, beyond epistolarity into what is now called, popular fiction. I was over the moon with excitement the day I received the email that Tim Ridgway and Melanie V Taylor of MadeGlobal Publishing. They loved the story and would I sign the contract?

It is every writer’s dream to hold their book in their hands. It gives them a chance to thank all the people who have helped along the way. There have been so many people I could list who have patiently and painstakingly worked with me through all three versions. However, there is an indescribable joy in being able to finally thank them formally, via the acknowledgment page, in the soon to be published last reincarnation of the manuscript, ‘Something Missing’.

When academic friends say, ‘Congratulations on getting ‘Hens Lay, People Lie’ published’ I simply smile and reply with a heartfelt ‘Thank you’.
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Glenice Whitting left school at fourteen to become an apprentice hairdresser. Her journey as a mature –aged student took her from VCE to PhD in creative writing. Her debut novel Pickle to Pie won awards and was published by Ilura Press. Her latest novel, Something Missing was launched at Swinburne University in December and is now available via MadeGlobal in London or at Amazon.com.

Connect with Glenice on her website or on Facebook at Writers and their Journey

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‘Something Missing’ available at www.madeglobal.com & www.glenicewhitting.com

Sally Morgan: My Place and False Heritage

Some books go straight to your heart and inspire you to work harder, try harder.

Lisa Hill’s Reviews from Indigenous Literature Week at wordpress ANZ Litlovers 2016 | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog made me think about the book that gave me the confidence to embrace creative writing. It was Sally Morgan’s My Place;  the story of being part of an Aboriginal family who, due to the shame attached to being aboriginal in Australia, ensured that Sally grew up believing the family came from India.

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My ancestry was German, but until I was in my twenties I believed our family came from Belgium. When my father  died I couldn’t sleep. Every night was spent sitting at my computer trying to recapture in words so many of the stories he had told me (after he turned eighty) about his life as the first child of German immigrants born in Australia. Stories I felt could be lost forever if I didn’t commit them to paper..now. But the fear was always there. Would I be a good enough writer? Would the family understand? Would anyone be offended? How truthful could I be?

It was then that I read My Place and it struck a chord.

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If Sally Morgan could write in a down to earth manner the story of her aboriginal family life and denial of ancestry, well, so could I. With renewed confidence, and after many years, Pickle to Pie was finally born.

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Synopsis of Sally Morgan’s My Place. This is a story of a young Aboriginal girl growing up to false heritage and not knowing where she is from. Recounts of several of Morgan’s family members are told. The story setting revolves around Morgan’s own hometown, Perth, Western Australia, and also Corunna Downs. Morgan has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. She faces many challenges, such as fitting in at school, getting good marks for acceptance in University, and living life without her father.

Looking at the views and experiences of three generations of indigenous Australians, this autobiography unearths political and societal issues contained within Australia’s indigenous culture. Sally Morgan traveled to her grandmother’s birthplace, starting a search for information about her family. She uncovers that she is not white but aborigine–information that was kept a secret because of the stigma of society. This moving account is a classic of Australian literature that finally frees the tongues of the author’s mother and grandmother, allowing them to tell their own stories.

About The Author

Sally Morgan is an experienced author and photographer. She has written more than 250 titles for both children and adults. Her main interest is in the natural world and environmental issues, but she writes on all science and geography topics. A former teacher and chief examiner for A level biology, she is now a full time writer, When not writing, she helps out on her organic farm in Somerset.

Reviews from Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ Litlovers 2016 | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

A Wintry Sunday in Melbourne

A dull overcast sky, drops of rain and wind straight off the glaciers of Antarctica didn’t stop me from catching a train for the hour trip from Carrum to Melbourne. Arriving at Flinders Street station I caught a tram to Melbourne University and walked to the La Mama Courthouse Theater in Carlton, Victoria Australia.

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Tucked in my pocket was a Mother’s Day present from Jason, Karen, Tahlia and Caxton. Two tickets to see the 4pm Sunday performance of Bijou: A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction. A one woman play by Chrissie Shaw set in a French cabaret after world war two.Kathy, myself and others sat in chairs around small tables on which, strategically placed was a candle, a half filled glass with an obvious lipstick stain and some feathers on a stand. Tiered seats rose behind us but we were part of the performance, a cabaret audience on the floor-level stage.

We are in a cafe-bar in Paris 1933. A wine, a chat, the music plays…Chrissie Shaw enters from a side door and instantly command our attention. She is a ravaged figure in faded finery and fake pearls. The evening takes an unexpected turn. Madame Bijou, former queen of the Demi-Monde, (the term refers to a group of people who live hedonistic lifestyles, usually in a flagrant and conspicuous manner) unleashes a string of intimate, colourful memories, taking us backwards in time to the shadows of her youth

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This intriguing cabaret gave us a glimpse into the private, sensual world of a riveting ageing Parisienne who tells her life stories of seduction, survival and revealing intrigues accompanied by music and songs by Satie, Weill, Hollander, Bruant and others sensitively accompanied on the piano by Alan Hicks. The songs introduce the year and set the scene for for the aging Madam Bijou’s memories and stories.

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We came away having run a gauntlet of emotions from dismay at the tragic revelation that, as a child, Bijou witnessed the death of her father, sadness for the loss of innocence when she was groomed and seduced at fifteen by a person in a position of trust, laughter at the silliness of her many conquests, and amazement at how she survived in France during and after war had ravaged the country and the world.

La Mama is a favourite haunt of mine and I’ve seen many community plays written and produced by Ray Mooney of Holmesglen TAFE play writing class. The theatre is nationally and internationally acknowledged as a crucible for cutting edge contemporary theatre since 1967. Valued by artists and audiences alike, La Mama is treasured for its continued advocacy of those seeking to explore beyond mainstream theatre.  A not-for- profit association it is essentially a playwright’s theatre, a place where new ideas, new ways of expression can be tried out, a place where you can hear what people are thinking and feeling.

We had dinner in an old Italian restaurant and I could not resist recounting tales of times spent in Lygon Street Carlton during my Masters Degree days at Melbourne Uni. It was so much fun to revisit old haunts, such as book shops, coffee shops and devour a steaming bowl of pasta with a glass of red on a cold wintry night when our breath fogged the windows.

It does the heart and soul good to take a holiday and visit the theatre for an evening of make believe.

Barb Biggs: The Accidental Renovator. A review

A Paris Story

How do you accidentally buy a Paris apartment?

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This is a smart, snazzy, witty story set in the romantic city of Paris. As I expected, I am really enjoying reading Barbara Biggs’ latest book The Accidental Renovator. It is a sassy, ironic, exuberant book that holds your interest from start to finish. Smart, funny and written about the real world in a way that will make you sit up and take notice.

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Barbara Biggs is also author of In Moral Danger, The Road Home and Chat Room. At 14 Barbara’s grandmother sold her to a pedophile; at 16 she was in a psyche hospital; at 18 she was a prostitute in Japan; at 19 she escaped Cambodia weeks before it fell to the Khmer Rouge; at 21 she caused national headlines and received death threats; at 30 she became a journalist. By 40 Barbara was a property millionaire. Just imagine her life in the years following. So how did Aussie Barb end up writing about renovating an apartment in Paris?


Incorrigible romantic, writer and renovator Barbara Biggs thought she knew about sex and real estate. Then she went to Paris. The self-described ‘foot-in-mouth Aussie chick’ can’t help ‘just looking’ at apartments for sale. Big mistake. She speaks little French, knows no one in Paris and has never thought of living there. But when the agent assures her the owner will insist on the asking price, she makes a low offer ‘just for fun’. It is accepted—and her life goes haywire. Biggs smuggles in a handsome Australian builder to renovate the apartment.
But he doesn’t speak French, doesn’t have any tools, and when the budding romance goes sour he vanishes and Barbara’s dream renovation becomes a nightmare. Undeterred, she joins the Lazy Pigs Millionaires’ Club and is soon lunching in grand chateaux, partying until dawn and learning about continental men in the nicest possible way. Then she writes about it.

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Imagine my surprise on reading the fist page of The Accidental Renovator to see, ‘I’d come to visit my French friend Lucy in Nancy, a university town three hours east of Paris.’ I was immediately back in Novel Writing Class, along with Barb and Lucy Mushita in the Professional Writing and Editing Course at Holmesglen TAFE. At that time Barb  was busy writing  In Moral Danger. Later, Lucy published her novel Chinongwa and I launched Pickle to Pie.

In Moral Danger

Biggs’ first book was a 2003 autobiography about her life up to the age of 22. The book tells of her sexual abuse from the age of 14 by a well-known criminal barrister. It explains the damaging after effects following her abuse, including time spent in a psychiatric hospital, escaping Cambodia weeks before it fell to the Khmer Rouge and being a prostitute in Japan. It also describes how she attempted suicide four times, received death threats and caused national headlines – all before the age of 22.

In Moral Danger   The Road Home: What Price Redemption?      Product Details

The Accidental Renovator shows how far Barb has come, not only in her life but as a writer. Both Lucy and I wish Barb good health, joy and every success.

Writing Healing Life Stories

For writers, writing is how they make sense of their world.

There is a long human tradition of writing to make sense of events that effect the self. Writing can be a way to heal the emotional and physical wounds that are an inevitable part of life

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Some people use writing as a way to work through emotional issues by privately writing of grief in personal journals and diaries. Others write and publish memoirs such as the heart-rending Paula (1995), in which Chilean writer Isabel Allende interweaves autobiographical fragments into a letter to her dying twenty-eight year old daughter. Two recent memoirs about coping with the loss of a loved one are Megan O’Rouke’s The Long Goodbye (2011), about mourning her mother and Joyce Carol Oates’s A Widow’s Story (2011).

The most touching of all is perhaps Sandra Arnold’s Sing No Sad Song: losing a daughter to cancer (2011). These books add to a growing sub-genre that includes Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking (2005), a memoir of her husband’s death, daughter’s illness, and the wife and mother’s efforts to make sense of a time when nothing made sense. In her latest book, Blue Nights (2011), Didion mourns the loss of her family, youth and ability to write. David Rieffs’ Swimming in a Sea of Death (2008) is a loving tribute to his mother, the writer Susan Sontag, and her final battle with cancer. In a similar vein, Anne Roiphe’s Epilogue (2008), explores late-life widowhood.

This mourning of mothers, daughters, sons, husbands and friends shows the reader that their experience is not unique. They are not alone.

Last year I ran workshops concentrating on teaching the craft of writing and discovered that many students were recording their own traumatic stories. They wanted to make sense of their lives and hoped sharing their experiences would help others. The stories were far reaching and covered how life threatening illnesses, drug addiction etc. changed the lives, not only of the person involved, but also the extended family.

For this reason I’ve decided the 2015 workshops beginning in April at the Living Now Wellbeing Centre, Studio 7/14 Hartnett Drive Seaford will focus on the writing of Healing Life Stories.  The ten week course begins Tuesday April 14th until June 16th (10am -12noon).  If interested ring 97724566

Writing can heal your life. It allows us to find our creativity, write our stories, become more whole and expand our horizons.

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Random notes jotted into an exercise book helps us to sort the tangled web that is our lives. My début novel, Pickle to Pie began in this way. Ostensibly I was writing my father’s story, but after the book was published, I realized it was my way of dealing with my hidden German heritage.

small final pickle coverBefore I was born, because of the ill feeling towards German people after two disastrous world wars, my Australian born father renounced his German ancestry. He also changed the family name by deed poll from Schlessinger to Sterling. When I was seven I found an old photo album in the bottom of a wardrobe and asked my father why the sombre groups of people looked different. He hesitated then replied that in 1885 his grandparents migrated (not from Germany) from Belgium. I didn’t meet my German grandmother until I was twelve and by then knew not to ask questions. The feeling of release once the story of my father’s life was published was incredible. I finally understood the whispered background to my childhood and could let go of the past.

Recently completing my second book, ‘Hens Lay, People Lie’ I now see that I’ve done it again. Written a story that explores my life journey. This book has moved beyond my childhood to enable me to make sense of my adult life. However, when I was three quarters of the way through writing the manuscript about two women, two countries and a life altering pen-friendship, my penfriend died and I was grieving. I found myself trying to writing while mourning. At first I couldn’t write, until I realised how much words like regret, love, loss, guilt, memory and remorse have power over our lives.

Hélène Cixous, a French feminist philosopher, claims that, ‘Words are the doors to all other worlds. At a certain moment for the person who has lost everything, be it a being or country, language becomes the country. One enters the country of languages’ Cixous 1992: 19).

cixous 2When Cixous was eleven, her father died. She describes this event as having a formative influence on her as a writer. Loss and the need for consolation became key motivating forces in her writing life. Her advice to those struggling with trauma in their lives is, “We should write as we dream; we should try and write, we should all do it for ourselves, it’s very healthy, because it’s the only place where we never lie.

IS TRAUMA WRITING CATHARTIC, OR IS THE WRITER RETRAUMATISED?

If the writer revisits painful emotions there is extensive literature about the risk of slipping into depression (Kammerer & Mazelis 2006; Stone 2004; Wurtzel 1999). Joy Livingwell, online columnist for the Neuro Linguistic Programming website, for example, warns of the danger inherent in reliving grief when she advocates that it is essential for the person involved ‘to get the useful life lessons from less-than-positive memories, without getting upset or re-traumatized’.

Therefore, if writing can be cathartic, it can also be dangerous. To avoid the danger of slipping into depression, writers need as safe space. A journal can be such a safe emotional space; a gap between reality and imagination where feelings and emotions can be intuited, articulated or performed. A space to write. Yet, there is the constant danger of being brought undone by your own words: stabbed by your stories, bowled over by both understanding and misunderstanding. Terry Williams writes: ‘Words are always a gamble, words can be like splinters of cut glass’. Writers attending the 2015 Healing Life Stories workshops will explore this aspect of trauma writing and learn how to protect themselves.

I’ve found writing can take you places you’ve never been before; some good, some bad. However, for me, writing about my life has been an uplifting experience. It has enabled me to let go of the past and move on with anticipation to the next exciting stage of my life journey.

You can write your healing stories about yourself or someone else important in your life  either for your own benefit or with the aim of helping others. When writing the story of my father’s turbulent life,  I found myself writing with passion and compassion. Above my computer is a quote by Australia’s famous author Bryce Courtenay 

‘There is no greater tribute than to lovingly record a life.’

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