I love it when a book truly takes you out of yourself and gives you a glimpse of life from someone else’s perspective. This month I’ve read two such books – ‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’ by Jane Harrison and ‘talk under water’ by Kathryn Lomer.
I closed both books with a sense of slight disorientation; suddenly acutely aware of, for one example, the lack of Aboriginal faces on our television screens* (Becoming Kirrali Lewis); and just how much we rely on sound in our everyday life (talk under water).
‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’ is a fantastic novel about a young woman discovering the truth about her identity. An Aboriginal girl adopted by a white family, Kirrali has no desire to look for her birth mother – the woman gave her up, after all, plus she already has a fantastic family, who have taught her all she needs to know about her own culture.
But then she starts studying law. At uni she meets all sorts of other people, including Erin who teaches her that some Aboriginal women were forced to give up there babies right up until the 60’s and 70’s. This leads to a lot of searching and plenty of surprises as Kirrali learns that there’s a whole lot more to being Aboriginal than what they say on television.
‘talk under water’ by Kathryn Lomer gives some insight into yet another under-represented culture – the Deaf. Will’s parents have seperated, and his dad has torn him away from his home-town of Kettering to escape to NSW. Following the facebook page of his hero – Jessica Watson, who circumnavigated the globe solo at age 16 – he sees a post from Summer – also of Kettering. He sends a message, and Summer replies, and the two begin a friendship. But then Will gets the best news ever – he and his dad are moving back to Kettering! Summer does not seem so enthusiastic and when Will turns up on her doorstep he discovers why – Summer is deaf, and she never mentioned it once.
Though their friendship hits a rocky start things soon improve and Will learns quite a lot about the Deaf community and communicating in sign-language, but in the process he also learns a lot about himself.
These were both fantastic books to read, and I highly recommend them both!
*to be completely honest, we don’t have a television – maybe a kind reader can reply and tell me I’m misled on this one (we can always hope, right?)? But what I based my comment on is my children’s DVD collection. I cannot think of a single Aboriginal character in any of them.
So this weekend the Tasmanian Readers and Writers Festival was held in my home state. It has been so rare to have such an event here (though I’m pleased to see that more such events in recent times), and even rarer for me to be able to get to them (in fact, the only other festival I’ve been to was the Festival of Golden Words, held in Beaconsfield in March 2014).
While I was unable to attend the whole festival, I did have a fantastic day-and-a-bit – starting with opening night, which was a conversation between authors Cate Kennedy and Kathryn Lomer. I have to admit I had not heard of either author before but the conversation between the two was fantastic and so inspiring. My favourite quote from the night was “Nothing is wasted on a writer”, Kathryn Lomer explained where she first heard this (from another author friend?) but I’m afraid I can’t remember who.
There was also the comment that writers become a magnet for happy accidents. That is, as a writer you decide on something to write about, and all of a sudden things that are relevant to the story appear from out of the blue. I completely agree with that, and have a blog post-in-progress discussing this very idea – perhaps it’s time I got on to finishing that one!
I came away with signed copies of both Cate and Kathryn’s latest books, and I’m looking forward to getting started on those.
The following day I attended Cate’s Masterclass: “The Essence of Great Stories”. Cate was so energetic and enthusiastic – and I loved what she had to say about the art of writing, about giving the reader the barest minimum necessary and trusting them to make the connections. There was so much she shared over the five hours, but here are just a few of my notes:
- Approach writing with a sense of quiet, curious joy
- Storytelling was/is oral and collective
- Always question yourself!
- Be specific!
- Redraft with the reader’s emotional experience in mind
- Read like a thief
- The best story is the one we are uncomfortable writing.
- Every honest word you write makes you a better writer.
I’ve come away with so much to think about, and today, finally, after at least a fortnight (or more) of procrastinating, I’ve got back to my novel, and I’ve looked at it with fresh eyes, and I’ve re-written the first scene. It feels better… hopefully it will still feel better when I look at it again tomorrow…