#AWW2017 Review – The Spare Room by Kathryn Lomer

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A couple of years ago I saw Kathryn Lomer in conversation with Cate Kennedy, a fantastic conversation about writing that encouraged me to buy at least one book by each of these fantastic authors. I bought ‘talk under water’ by Kathryn, and loved it, so I was really looking forward to reading this one, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Spare Room is a beautiful story. Nineteen year old Akira has ben sent to Australia by his very stern, (an as Akira puts it himself) ‘very Japanese’ father.  The plan is that Akira will learn English and will then be able to take over the international arm of his father’s company. But Akira has desires and plans of his own, and his time in Australia shows him that he can have a life outside of his father’s plans.

But there is another story here too. Akira has lost his closest friend, Satoshi, who could not take the pressure of his own father’s expectations. In Australia, there is something off about Akira’s host family. As time goes on Akira learns that they too have suffered their own loss, and to begin with at least, Akira’s presence is not helping the situation.

I love the way Kathryn expresses the struggle of learning a foreign language:

“You often want to say something entirely different but you are limited to the vocabulary you know and you have to try and construct something from the little that you have. A bit like trying to make a salad when you only have braising vegetables, or trying to build a boat using nails. You get kind of warped into the shape of the words you know. There is a big gap between what you think and what you say. It would be a long time before I felt that the real me, the one with ideas and opinions and funny stories to tell, could find his way out again. For a while that person was trapped inside a new language.”

(Sometimes I feel this way with English too… except English is my first language.)

This is a lovely story, of how complete strangers can help each other heal, and how facing our fears often helps us overcome them.

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Tamar Valley Writers Festival 2016

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Last weekend was the Tamar Valley Writers Festival – two days (well, for me – there were other events on other days too), of non-stop panels and book-signings and networking!

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while now, may remember that around this time two years ago I attended the Festival of Golden Words, in Beaconsfield, Tasmania. This is that festival – rebranded, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the name change.

Unfortunately I missed the opening of the festival, arriving just in time for the second time slot of the day, with two talks of interest to decide between. With three sessions for each time slot, there were a few clashes over the weekend, which make it hard to decide what session to attend!

The first couple of sessions of the day (Saturday) were sparsely attended, and I worried that the festival wasn’t going to draw the same crowds as the first time around, (a big concern as this is the closest writers festival to me, and I want to be sure it continues!) but by the third session of the day there was standing room only in the sessions I attended, and the atmosphere was bustling, though some of the panelists seemed to lack confidence speaking to such large groups. Sunday continued on much the same as far as attendance was concerned, though the panelists seemed to be much more comfortable and relaxed, with more banter occurring between panelists.

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Petrarch’s Bookshop was in attendance, and with authors signing their books I spent up…

There were some fascinating discussions, and so much to think about – I ended up with seven pages of sometimes-barely-readable scrawl in my notebook! I won’t retype the whole seven pages here – just a few snippets from the weekend.

  • In ‘Mosaic Australia: words and cultural voices’, Ellen van Neerven (author of Heat and Light, which I read just recently – look out for my review soon!) commented on the use of the word ‘myth’ in regard to Aboriginal stories, for these stories are real and current for the Aboriginal people, and are held in the land itself.
  • In ‘Lost Voices: recreating historic characters’, Historian Michael Cathcart stated he was interested in confronting the mythologies of the past, that ‘they are not us’, and his interests lie in the differences between now and then. He said it was useful to look at the strangeness of the past, that we find the story in the difference.
  • In ‘Questions and Lessons from our History’, someone (my apologies – I didn’t jot down who!) commented on how stories from history are never actually finished, there are always ongoing discoveries. When asked about choosing the stories of ‘minor players’ of history, Steve Harris, author of Solomon’s Noose (a story about a hangman in Hobart during colonial times and now added to my TBR list!) commented that unless we acknowledge our own stories of the past – good and bad, we can never expect anyone else to.
  • ‘The Rich Tapestry: diversity in life and literature’, introduced me to Erin Gough, who spoke of her experiences growing up as a gay teen, and the lack of gay characters in any of the books she read. ‘We read to find our place in the world’, she said, and she wanted to write stories for teens today, so they can see themselves reflected back in fiction. (Seeing yourself in fiction is so important on so many levels and there’s a website ‘Visibility Fiction’ which promotes diversity in fiction – not just regarding sexual identity, but also colour, and disability, and any other way people may be different from each other).
  • Historian Patsy Cameron gave me goosebumps in ‘First Voices: Our Indigneous past’, when she spoke of trekking to a cave where thousands of years ago her ancestors left their hand prints on the walls. And later, in the session entitled ‘Our Island Home: issues in Tasmanian history’, my views on the past were re-arranged yet again (it’s happened quite a lot over the course of my research for my current WIP), when Patsy commented that she sees the war between the Tasmanian Aborigines and the white settlers as the ‘White War’, not as it is more commonly known, the ‘Black War’, because it was the whites that caused the war, not the original inhabitants of the land.

I’ve come away from the festival with so much to think about, not only from the panels and discussion, but from personal conversations with people – friends and acquaintances and those I only just met.

I have no doubt what-so-ever that my novel will be much stronger from the changes I’m making, due to what I learnt over the two days, and I’m so inspired and encouraged to continue with my writing.

Looking forward to the next one!

 

A Sustainable Dream is up!

And it’s up! For those of you who caught my post last Sunday and want to read more, or if you’ve only just come across this today and you like stories about self-sufficiency, and overcoming odds to follow your dreams, check out narratorAustralia!

http://www.narratoraustralia.com/2013/05/a-sustainable-dream-heather-jensen.html

6 Sentence Sunday – A Sustainable Dream

I am so excited to announce that one of my favourite stories has been accepted for publication at narratorAustralia. It will be available on their website (http://www.narratoraustralia.com/) on 19th May 2013 (next Sunday!) narratorAustralia publishes writing and poetry by authors residing in Australia – everyday there is something new to check out!

A Sustainable Dream was written for a competition: Todorov’s Equilibrium. Tzvetan Todorov is a philospher who argues that all stories follow a structure – the story starts with the characters in a place of calm and equilibrium. This happy lifestyle is turned upside down by an event, and the characters then have to fight their way back to a place of equilibrium again, though slightly different to the first.

Without any further babbling – here are the first 6 sentences of ‘A Sustainable Dream’.

Kayla took her coffee to the veranda and sat back in the old rocking chair, looking out as she did to survey the landscape. The scene before her was one she had imagined so often: lush gardens; trees laden with fruit; vines, canes and bushes overloaded with berries; a forest of colour as vegetables grew to abundance. Tiny blue wrens and robins with their bright red breast flew from tree to tree; wattle birds fed on the cyclamen and higher above a flock of black cockatoos screeched their way across the sky. Beyond towered the mountains, their colour ever changing with the seasons and the light.

The beauty of it all still caught Kayla, the realisation of a life’s dream. She had worked so hard to have her own slice of heaven; juggling two jobs while James was raised by his teachers during the day and her parents most other times.

 

To read more: check out narratorAustralia next Sunday!

 

Six Sentence Sunday – Published Stories Series #1

I thought I’d start a series for Six Sentence Sunday of the  first six lines from the stories I’ve had published this year.

The first is from Ermaline’s Feast. This story received an honorary mention in Five Stop Story’s April Competition

As her wings shifted ever so slightly, the great beast turned, heading for the sun. Ermaline looked down on the people miles below and wondered that something so small and insignificant could be so tasty. Damn shame they fight back, she thought, wincing at the fresh scar on her side that had blistered from the heat of their torches. It was a bad burn, and not for the first time did she wonder why she was not fire proof outside as well as in. But it would heal, and she would be back, these humans were too good to resist.

***

It was a month before Ermaline had the chance to return to the village.

Want to read more? Check out the rest of the story here – http://www.fivestopstory.com/read/story.php?storyId=2539

The Next Big Thing – Blog Hop

Wow! I’ve just been tagged in my very first blog hop!!  Thanks so much to LaVerne Clark for tagging me!

LaVerne writes Romance and has two brilliant e-books published. You can find more information about her and her books at her blog: http://www.laverneclark.blogspot.com.au/

 

There are blog hop rules:

****Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you

**** Post the rules for the blog hop

****Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog

****Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

 

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?  Red Sky

Where did the idea come from for the book?  I had committed to participate in Camp Nano, in June of this year, and was desperately searching for something to write about. There was a red sky one night, and the old phrase “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” came to me, and instantly I had a flash of inspiration – a group of characters and their history, and a vague idea of where they were headed.

What genre does your book fall under?  Fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Honestly I have not even thought that far ahead? That will need some more thought…
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  One sentence synopsis… haven’t written one yet, so lets see what I come up with: How about. “As the only female Pirate Captain in the whole of the nine seas Morgan has had more struggles than most, but can she cope when weakling James is thrust into her crew as they set off in search of the Greybeard’s legendary treasure – their most dangerous adventure yet?” Does that make it sound like a children’s book? It’s not supposed to be a children’s book…
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I’m not sure I’m confident enough to self-publish just yet. This story is aimed for a novella competition coming up very soon, otherwise I will find somewhere else to submit it…

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  19 days to write just over 50,000 words.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  I’m no good at comparing my work with others.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? Another tricky question! The inspiration just struck me, a few days before Nano started in June. I had been dreaming about mermaids a lot before hand, and knew my story should be about the sea, so when the pirate story idea came I knew I had to run with it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  The story features not only pirates and treasure, but also mermaids and to a lesser degree, magic.

 Thanks LaVerne for tagging me! 😀

Now – this is the point where I am supposed to tag 5 other bloggers – but most of the bloggers I know have already been tagged!! If you would like to join in let me know and I’ll tag you here! It’s a lot of fun!