Tag Archives: books

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

Asylum Seekers and Refugees Recipe Book

Asylum seekers and refugees have a wealth of culture and many recipes to share.

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They also need all the help they can get and many ethical people are finding ways and means to promote their cause. Ilura Press have published Every Bite Takes You Home and Lisa Hill’s wordpress post at ANZlitlovers is a review of the book Breaking the Boundaries, Australian activists tell their stories,

Breaking the Boundaries

Edited by Yvonne Allen and Joy Noble the book, Lisa’s blog, and Every Bite Takes You Home are an interesting exploration of the refugee crisis and all cast a positive light on the asylum seekers/refugees debate.

Last  Wednesday I went with Mairi Neil to the Kathleen Syme Library in Carlton, Victoria, Australia to help Ilura Press celebrate their publication of their fabulous story/recipe book. I was delighted to see that all profits go directly to assist asylum seekers and refugees via the organisations, Stand Up, ONDRU, and Foundation House .

Every Bite Takes You Home invites us to share in the journeys of sixteen remarkable asylum seekers who have found a home in Australia. Each person’s unique story, blended with the memories of their favourite recipes and traditions, reminds us that food can unite us all, generating acceptance and understanding across diverse cultures and societies.

David Manne – Executive Director RILC said, “These are intimate accounts of remarkable resilience, courage, and survival—giving a powerful voice to those who have so often been rendered voiceless in our community.”
Sabina Hofman and Christopher Lappis of Ilura Press are the most ethical people I have ever known. What an amazing experience it was to have them publish my novel, Pickle to Pie. They produced a high quality book I was proud to hold in my hand. They have carried on their tradition of quality and attention to detail in Every Bite Takes You Home . Any home owner would be proud to have it grace their coffee table. 

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The authors of this beautiful book are Gaye Weeden & Hayley Smorgon with photography by Peter Tarasiuk & Mark Roper

“All the elements combine: the stories, the portraits, the photos of food, the recipes, the layout and design, to produce a book of heart and soul.”
Arnold Zable – Author; President of International PEN Melbourne.

 

All author and publisher profit from the sales of the book will be donated to STAND UP, ONDRU, and FOUNDATION HOUSE to directly assist asylum seekers and refugees.
 

After tasting some of the recipes last Wednesday I can’t wait to try some on my family. Australia has gained so much from the influx of people from different countries and the result has been the inclusion into our menus of many culinary delights from many nations, ie  Italian, Greek, Egyptian, Asian to name a few. In my youth it was meat and three vegetables at most meals and spaghetti came in a tin. Now fresh pasta, ravioli, rissotto and spaghetti bolognaise, along with many exotic Asian dishes are regular favorites at the family dinner table.    Let’s celebrate our Australian cultural diversity and welcome asylum seekers and refugees with open arms.

PURCHASE A$62 (HARDCOVER)

Friendships Between People Who Love The Same Books

There are no faster or firmer friendships than those between people who love the same books (Irving Stone)

My cousin Julie is part of my life, part of me.

For many years we have shared the trials, tribulations and joys of our lives, including books, quotations and inspirational verses. I pass on to her any that I enjoy and she does the same for me. Recently we have exchanged the Desiderata , The Rosie Project, Cleo, Tumbledown Manor and the complete book of Great Australian Women.  Last month she moved into assisted care and had to clear her unit.

She has passed on to me her most treasured books; prizes awarded when she attended Fintona Girls’ School many years ago. Books by Jane Austin, RD Blackmore and George Eliot. With love I have placed these new additions to my book ‘family’ amongst fellow companions and I will care for them, love them but most of all enjoy them and think of her whenever I do. They are here in my safekeeping. Hers to visit or take home whenever she likes. However, later they will be passed on with love to whoever needs them at that time and I will be guided as to who that is when that time comes

Julie used to teach piano and music is part of her life. When feeling blue, listening to classical CD’s always sooths her soul. Books to me are like her music to her. They are my Bach and Beethoven. Old friends who comfort, exhilarate and transport me into so many different worlds. I don’t sit and read line by line like Julie. I dip in, flick through, but always find what I need at that particular time. My books are not worthy tomes, they are about everyday life and are dog eared, preloved, tatty, often garage sale gleaned and anyone searching for first editions lined up in library neatness will be disappointed. I make no apology. From the crayon scrawled Dr Suesse to the thesis written in longhand on aboriginal children in schools during the last century thrown out by an uncaring family, to precious school awards, they are my treasures.

Often I find scraps of paper buried between the pages, such as ‘Live more in your heart and less in your head’ or ‘There are two dominant energies, love and fear and love conquers all’. Boring to some but often photocopied and sent with love to uplift others. These days I also find many inspirational verses on Facebook and love to see people sharing these treasures.

FRIENDS

Through laughter and light

And the dark soul of night.

Deep rooted as a tree.

Our mothers were cousins. They whispered together and walked hand in hand. Every Sunday, side by side, their voices soared in harmony. Handbags hanging, they linked arms and, with heads close together, magpie chattered, oblivious to the world. They laughed, cried, told jokes, criticised their husbands and praised their babies.

Julie was eight when I arrived.

Julie’s parents had elegant Christmas parties. I admired ruby glass from afar and ate jelly cakes and lamingtons, never spilling a crumb. Julie played Beethoven on the grand piano. I saw her wear dresses that with a tuck would be mine.

Julie went to college, studied at the Conservatorium and sang in the Sun Aria.  She whispered of love. Her family disapproved but she married her ‘commoner’. I saw her look of defiance and the family’s look of defeat.

We  met weekly in the Botanic Gardens where we laughed, cried, told jokes, and tended our babies.

The battered doll is bruised to the core

Convinced no one will love her any more.

 Julie grabbed her music, called a taxi and fled to a flat.

Julie lies quietly in the hospital bed.  ‘The cancer operation will be a success,’ she says.  I lie beside her, our heads touching. We sip Chardonnay in elegant glasses hoping the nurses will leave us alone. We talk for hours until the late bell tolls and I train home filled with courage.

Julie is fighting. She has chemotherapy, loses her hair. We sit in cheery waiting rooms amongst smiling faces beaming love to anyone near.  Life seems precious and eggshell fragile as we talk with others of hopes and plans.  ‘I will beat this,’ she says.  ‘I will be well.’ Seeing her confidence I also believe.

Julie cuts her hair, rents and laughs at her family. “They tell me I must save for my old age,” she says.  She travels to Assisi convinced she is cured.  Sits six hours on top of her luggage at Calcutta station talking to soldiers.  Lives in an Ashram where she silently peels vegetables, takes cold showers, swirls in dervishes.  She lives in her tracksuit. “But where is the love,” she cries as she travels to England, Austria, America and Italy. “Where is the peace in the world?”

Julie is happy. She sits in Yoga lotus when we talk on the phone.

Meditates in her special place, mentally cleansing her body and soul.  I see her graduate as a Yoga teacher, write a book Love and Light and help others through cancer and HIV Aids.

One night, we light a candle, sit cross-legged on the floor our hearts soaring with symphonies and talk about Chin Maya, Satyananda yoga, her Swami, our angels, our chakras, our energy. “Live now,” she cries.  We discuss  life, love, miracles and healing and…

Through love and light

Soul mates set free.

Deep rooted as a tree.

‘What does she mean to you’  is asked of me