Reading and Writing Books

August 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Mental Health, Reading, Writing, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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the-author-and-the-reader-know-each-other-madeleine-lengle

I have written a whole series of posts about my reading through my life. But I am not just a reader. For the last eight years, I have also been a writer.

Read and write a lot -S.King quote

I write in a variety of genres, both fiction and non-fiction. If you want to improve your craft, you read about it as well as practising it. I write teen novels, children’s stories, memoir, biography, family history, articles, and even poetry.

Book genres

There are lots of great books on all aspects of writing available in both print and electronic format. I have quite a number in both formats. Among them are:
Writing Craft: – Kate Grenville: The Writing Book.
– Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones; and Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.
Memoir: – Patti Miller: The Memoir Book; Writing Your Life,
– Denis Ledoux: Turning Memories Into Memoirs
– – Ann Patchett: The Getaway Car – A Practical Memoir

The Memoir Book

Because I write memoir, I read memoir. Mostly, they are Australian. The first I ever read was Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles. C.J. Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously was a good one too, then A.B. Facey’s A Fortunate Life. I also read Frank McCourt’s two memoirs, among others.

Kate Grenville’s novel, The Secret River, I enjoyed, and then followed it up with her memoir about the writing of it, The Search for the Secret River. The latest I read was Patti Miller’s The Mind of a Thief, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are several other memoirs I’ve read whose titles and authors escape me at present.

Over the Top with Jim

Because I write memoir, biography and historical novels (as mine are), there is lots of research to be done. Two memoirs by Hugh Lunn have been helpful in reminding me about growing up in 1950s and 1960s Australia – Over the Top With Jim was the first, as was his Lost for Words, about Australian idiom of the time. –I have also read memoirs by people who lived in Lancashire mill towns at the time I was little, and my parents’ generation before that. Two good ones were William Woodruff’s The Road to Nab End and W.R. Mitchell’s By gum, life were sparse!

Total Teen Fiction

I also write Teen/Young Adult novels. Because I do, I enjoy reading them – indeed, I would be silly if I didn’t. I find that many teen/YA novels are more real than most of those written for adults. They – even the fantasy stories – mostly deal with issues that have relevance, depth and guts.

Ben's Challenge look inside

I recently read two teen novels that I came across at a print book sale, and I still have a couple more of them to read. The quality of the first two is high, and I expect the rest to be also. I’d recommend anyone to have a look at this genre. A lot of good stuff is being written – often much better than that being written for adults. Jesse Blackadder’s two books are on my To Be Read list also.

Stay Last Dog Blackadder

Children’s and Young Adult books I have read in the last couple of years include:
Morris Gleitzman’s trilogy: Once; Then; and Now
JK Rowling: The Harry Potter series
Witi Ihimaera: The Whale Rider
Marilyn Halvorson: Let It Go
Jackie French: Pennies for Hitler

Pennies For Hitler

Ebooks for Children and Young Adults
C.S. Lakin: Time Sniffers (Shadow World 1) I rated 5 stars.
Aida Brassington: Between Seasons
Amy Kathleen Ryan: Shadow Falls
Kristah Price (from New Zealand)’s Where the Moths Dance

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Being a writer, I know how difficult it is to get your work out to the reading public. So I like to support local writers. Wherever I can, I attend book launches and author talks. I usually come away with signed copies of their books that I have purchased.
Some of these local authors and their books are
– Jaye Ford’s psychological thrillers: Beyond Fear; Scared Yet?; and Blood Secret.
– Kaz Delaney’s Y.A. paranormal novels Dead Actually and Almost Dead.
– Lachlan Ness’s stories of his time as a Presbyterian minister, the first of which is A Kangaroo Loose in the Top Paddock.
– Debbie Robson’s historical novel, Tomaree
.
– Victoria Norton’s short stories, purple emerald gold.
– Pam Garfoot and Elizabeth Conway’s Making Them Real: Finding a Queensland Past.

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There are always more books than anyone can find, let alone read. However, within the limits of reason, I am doing the best I can.

Books -imprisoned souls

Are you a reader? What are your favourite genres?

© Linda Visman

Keeping a Journal 4: Why A Journal Is Important for Me

August 20, 2014 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Culture, Experiences, Mental Health, Writing and Life | 8 Comments

Writing a journal

Journal writing is an important part of my life. Not many days go by without my writing something – whether it’s a short note or, as it usually is, several pages.

So what makes keeping a journal so important to me?

Writing in my journal makes me feel like I have a friend I can talk to, a friend that doesn’t judge me but accepts me as I am.

I am writing to and for myself – nobody else. So my journal is – or should be – a safe repository for my innermost thoughts. I can write freely and without censorship – or censure – from anyone else.

writing journal

I must write. It is a compulsion that has grown over the years. Now, I don’t feel right if a day goes by without my having written something.

I work through my angst in my journal. Instead of writing an email to someone or making a phone call or saying something face to face that I will later be sorry for, I set it down in my journal. Once I have worked through it, I have settled down and I have a better idea what to do – if anything. Much, if not all of the stress has been worked out on the page.

Journal, cup, glasses

I can use my journal to make a more rational decision about something.By writing the reasons for and against, I can see why I should or shouldn’t do something. I can work out my thoughts much more clearly, because I am not arguing against a person, but just assessing the pros and cons of a situation without anyone trying to persuade me one way or the other

Keeping a journal makes me face myself. By writing my thoughts, needs and desires, I can see more of who I am. I can see when, how and why something gets to me. I can see what my real motivations are, what I really think about people and their actions.

Keeping track of your life

To record my life – like many, I want to be here when I am gone. To do that, I have to make a mark somehow. If my boxes of journals survive – or if only one of them does, and any of them are read by someone – then I will still be around.

I write the first thoughts I have about a poem or a short story, and will sometimes even draft a whole poem in my journal. From there, I take it to the computer and work on it.

What form does my journal take?

Back in 1990, I moved to a remote area in Central Australia to teach at a small indigenous community. At that time, there was no telephone communication with the outside world, and the mail plane came only once a week, on Friday afternoon.

Bundles of letters

Because I was living and working in a completely new environment and had a lot to learn to adapt to it, I had little time to keep a journal. It usually happens, even now, that when I am most involved in interesting activities and places, I have less time to write about them. This was the case back then. Because I couldn’t phone my kids or my parents, I wrote to them. Then I photocopied the letters and pasted them into my journal. They provide an invaluable record of the first eighteen months of my ten years in Central Australia. But when the telephone came to that remote area, the letters stopped, and because I was still working 12-14 hours a day, the record of my time there stopped.

Nowadays, even though I prefer to write my thought by hand, using pen and a notebook, -and I still do write that way when I am putting down my first thoughts on a creative writing project, nowadays I write most of my journal on my computer.

Journal, laptop, book

I want my words to last, so I still have this strange attachment to the (literally) printed word. I see print as more likely to survive that any electronic records, so I still use a notebook – A4 size, 120-240s – and I write in the book by hand at times when I can’t use the computer. But I have also adapted what I did in that first year and a half in the Northern Territory. I print out my typed journal entries and paste them into the notebook. I also print and paste all my blog entries, and may even print out emails, letters and other items which interest me enough to keep.

Journal bundle

My current journal is number 45 of the set I began about the time I married my second husband in 2005. That makes about five journals filled per year. The older editions repose in three plastic tubs with lids, and I am afraid I will soon run out of storage.

Keep calm -write journal

Do you journal regularly? Why is it important to you? What form do your journals take?

(c) Linda Visman

Reading: From Print to Digital

August 14, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Culture, Mental Health, Psychology, Reading, Society, War and Conflict | 11 Comments
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kindle-book-shelf

When I reached my sixties, I was reading lots of murder mysteries, forensic crime and dark thrillers, depending on my mood. I have read just about all of the books by Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, and some of Sue Grafton’s alphabet crime series, a couple of Richard North Patterson, and lots of others. Raymond Khoury’s thriller, The Sign, was particularly good.

I have gone back to the past a few times and to more literary novels. A couple were Australian authors. I enjoyed Eleanor Dark’s Slow Dawning (written in the 1930s), and Ruth Park’s Playing Beattie Bow (written in the 1960s), as well as Park’s two-part memoir. I also read Ken Follett’s World Without End, set in the Middle Ages.

I even tried to read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but I gave up on it about half way through. I did, however, relish the style and language of Paul Morgan’s The Pelagius Book. Then there are the novels of Tim Winton, Alex Miller and Khaleid Hosseini – wonderful writers!

Lady Chatterley

Now, well into my sixties, I read more post-apocalypse novels than I ever did, and even quite a bit of fantasy. I didn’t really get into those until the last few years, and I was wondering why recently. I decided that the state of society and the world these days – the violence, destruction, intolerance and hatred – have caused me to need an escape.

Destruction

The end of the world as we know it now seems to be a just outcome for those who have caused such pain and misery to so many innocent people. Unfortunately, many more innocent people would dies. However, post apocalypse times are when the resilient and resourceful have their chance to survive, even if it is against terrible odds. Perhaps it is a hope I have that the better aspects of mankind will finally prevail against the worst.

The same goes for fantasy. In other worlds, heroes – male and/or female – battle the evil forces that would destroy them. In the end there is victory for the good – even if it does come at the end of a series of three or four books!

LordofTheRings

I loved JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and even watched the movies – which I thought extremely well done (and I am not a movie-goer). I have tried Stephen King again and got through Under the Dome and The Stand. I have the complete Harry Potter books in a boxed set (I haven’t seen the movies though), and have found several good fantasy authors on Amazon Kindle. There are lots of fantasy series out there which are quite well written, as well as being great stories.

Two series by Edward W. Robinson – The Breakers and The Cycle of Arawn are good. The Muirwood series by Jeff Wheeler really got me in, as did Aaron Pogue’s trilogy, The Dragonprince’s Legacy. I also really enjoyed Michael G. Manning’s Mageborn series. I recently read Jason Mott’s The Returned, which, I believe was made into a telemovie. All of these I obtained as e-books.

MuirwoodTrilogy

My Kindle has led me into a whole new range and variety of reading. E-books are cheaper than print, and because of that, I have been able to sample a whole new range of authors and genres. Either I would never have come across these in print, or the price would have put me off.

kindle_look_insideYes, there is a lot of rubbish out there, but if you check the synopsis, reviews, and the success of the author, you can usually tell which will be of a reasonable standard. And if you can read a sample, you will get a good idea of the quality of the writing.

Some of the new authors I have come across through accessing e-books on my Kindle, apart from those I have already mentioned, include:
Fantasy & Post-apocalypse: Anna Elliott, Robert Clive Parnell, Peg Brantley, Erica Liodice, Julie Morrigan, Lori Brighton, R.T. Kaelin, M.R. Mathias, Jodi McIsaac, Erica Stevens, Katie W. Stewart, Kevin Bohacz.
Thrillers: Michael R. Hicks, Robert Ellis, Barry Friedman, Tom Lowe.

Lee Goldberg The Walk

Whodunits & Murder Mysteries: Kathleen Backus, Jeffrey Siger, Camilla Chafer, L.L. Bartlett, Debra Mares, Andy Straker, Lee Goldberg, Terri Reid, James Hankins, T.R.Ragan, Edie Claire.
Real life novels: Melissa F. Miller, Othello Back, Helen Ginger.
Young Adult: Aida Brassington.
Writing: Chris Thrall.
Memoir: Joy deKok, Cynthia Harrison
Of course, I have come across a lot more than these, but I decided just to share the ones I liked best.

Kindle

My Kindle goes with me whenever I travel. That is another of its great advantages. I can carry a hundred books in the space and weight it would take for only one slim printed volume. However, I will never give up on printed books. If you saw our bookshelves you would see that! There is something about them that is more evocative of worlds and more personal than an e-reader can ever be.

Talking about Books

Have you made the transition from print to electronic books? Do you use both, or do you stick mainly with one medium?

© Linda Visman

In Our Winter Garden

August 10, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Australia, Gardens, Mental Health, Nature, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
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Our Garden sign

It was a lovely sunny August day, winter here in Australia. I had been picking up the small dead branches that occasionally fall from the eucalypts in the wind. I break up the branches, and either put them in the green waste bin to be mulched by the Council, or give them to a neighbour who has a wood burning heater.

Before that, I had helped the MOTH (Man of the House) to fix part of a wire side fence that had been threatening to fall over. Our yard is mostly open, as we don’t like to feel enclosed – just a paling fence up the back, and an open wire fence along one side to keep the neighbour’s dog in. Most of it is hidden by bushes and trees. The other two sides are not fenced at all.

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Our yard is almost all Australian native species of trees and shrubs, a habitat we are preserving for local wildlife such as birds, lizards and any other species that care to make their home here. Yes, even spiders, centipedes and snakes!

I love walking around it to see how everything is progressing. That day, I took a few photos as well.

This ‘Happy Wanderer’ self-sowed at the base of a Spotted Gum, and is growing up into another self-sown native sapling. It is a variety of Hardenbergia, like the one above, which we bought from a nursery.

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Our Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) has grown well since we put it in as a small sapling three years ago. It is three times my height now.

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The group of plants below really took off last summer. On the left is one of two cycads we planted some years ago. They are an ancient variety of plant, but I don’t know which species it is.

Behind it are ponytail palms (Beaucarnea species). I have only just discovered that they are native to Mexico! In the right front is a Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus), native to S-W Western Australia. Behind that is a Banksia, and on the far right is a Christmas Bush. Two Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea) once called Blackboys, have been overtaken by the cycads in front of them. They are pretty slow growing.

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Part of our garden has seen an invasion by a foreigner. This plant was probably introduced as an exotic ‘air plant’, but has recently escaped and can be found in many local yards. What we call ‘Old Man’s Beard’, comes from the U.S. Pacific Coast. Because it only hangs from trees and is not a parasite, it has been allowed to grow everywhere.

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From one small piece that blew into our garden 3-4 years ago, it is now well established. It makes this part of the front garden seem very eerie, especially on a dull day of misty rain. The ‘beard’ hangs from the branches of a Pepper tree, two Bottlebrush (Callistamon), and a Tibouchina.

I love our garden. It is a place I can go to when I am stressed and need to feel the soothing power of nature.

The wattle among the Spotted Gums

The wattle among the Spotted Gums

Do you have a garden? What does a garden mean to you? If you don’t have one, would you like to?

© Linda Visman

Keeping a Journal 3: Why Would You?

August 6, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Posted in Culture, Experiences, Mental Health, Philosophy, Writing, Writing and Life | 6 Comments
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journal

My entries in this series on keeping a journal so far are: What Is A Journal? and My Journal.
What I’d like to consider now is the question, ‘why would you keep a journal?”

Many folk have no inclination at all to keep a journal. They either see no value in it for themselves, or they dislike writing down their thoughts, perhaps for others to see. I thought I would do an internet search on not keeping a journal.

After the first ten pages of entries, I gave up. Every site that came up in those ten pages was on articles that advised people to keep a journal, the benefits of keeping a journal, the types of journals you can keep, and how to go about keeping a journal. There were none about why not to keep one.

Famous Folks Montage why journal

Because there are lots of articles and blog posts that talk about why it is a good idea to keep a journal, I thought I would go through a dozen or so of them and compile a summary of the reasons so many people feel this is a good thing to do.

Here are the top twenty reasons that most writers agree upon (not necessarily in order) that anyone should keep a journal.

10-reasons-to-keep-a-fitness-journal

To Help You Remember: Most people cannot remember what they did or where they were on a particular day. They cannot bring to mind names and places from the past. However, if they have written it down somewhere accessible, like a journal, reading what they wrote many years before can bring an event alive again.

Stress Release: Writing down your gripes and grievances can get them out of your system in a way that doesn’t involve putting others offside.

Clarify Your Thinking: writing provides a method of working through issues that is open and free from the criticisms of others.

Gain Insight Into Yourself: to know yourself; what makes you tick; what you like and dislike; what presses your buttons;

clare-josa-10-reasos-gratitude-journal

Solve Problems More Effectively: Writing down the pros and cons of an issue, or writing down possible solutions, can lead you to a solution more easily and effectively than simply stewing over it.

Give Direction and Focus: Keeping a journal is a good way to work out what your goals are – both short and long term.

Keep You On Track; Provide Encouragement: Once you have identified your direction and goals, you can keep a record of how you are going at attaining them, or how you may need to change either your direction or your methods.

Create a Writing Habit: Writers, especially, can gain benefit from simply writing every day, or at least regularly. This habit can be extended to your creative writing, giving you discipline you may not otherwise have developed. Writing regularly will also improve the quality of your writing, and help you refine your writing voice.

Writing in a journal

Safe Environment: Journal writing is a judgement-free zone. You can be just who you are and write about the things that are important to you. You do not have to worry about anyone saying : “Yes, but…”, or “What a stupid idea!” You can even write nonsense if you like.

Write About our Life: You can jot down what happens in your day-to-day life, even though it may seem trivial at the time. They may eventually become something more than you expected. You come back to these jottings at any time – to see what has changed, how and how it has changed or not. You can use your journal as a basis for stories – memoir, family history, social history.

from-journal-to-memoir

Enhance Your Creativity: A journal is the perfect place to free-write. Through free-writing, you often come up with ideas and inspiration that your more regimented or stressed self would have blocked off. Those ideas can then incubate and become something wonderful.

Find Your Strengths and Weaknesses, Your Skills and Resources: By doing things, you find out what you can do. By pushing your limits, you can see what you are capable of doing that you hadn’t realised. Your journal helps you to clarify these strengths – or weaknesses.

12 benefits of journaling

Mental Health Benefits: Writing about the things that worry you, or working through your decisions on paper can apparently have positive effects on your health by reducing the physical effects of stress on your body. Journaling can also help you to face your fears and to work out ways of facing them.

Encourages Positive Thinking: You can keep a Gratitude Journal that will help you focus on the positives in your life.

Journaling Through Divorce

Source Material: As well as being material for use in life writing, your journal can be a great source of material for your other writing: poetry; short stories; characters; plots; themes; etc.

Record Your Dreams: Your journal can record your literal dreams and/or your life’s hopes and dreams.

Philosophising: In a journal, you can bring up any topic, question or dilemma that comes to you. Then you can write about it – either just your own thoughts, or the thoughts of others after doing research.

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A Practical Resource: If you keep a work or professional journal, you can record information that may be useful or relevant to you in the future. It is an investment in your professional development.

Spiritual Journey: You can keep a journal specific to your own spiritual journey, working through your doubts, identifying your beliefs and recording those quotes or readings that have helped you along the way.

Track Specific Aspects of Your Life: There are many kinds of journal you can keep. I have seen over twenty types listed in various places. These can help you to keep tabs on specific activities. Some of these might be inspiration, diet and exercise, gratitude, writing, memories, arts and crafts – painting, photography, drawing, scrapbooking, cooking, etc.

writing journal

Do you keep a journal? How does it help you?

© Linda Visman

A Walk in the Watagans

August 2, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Posted in Australia, Nature, Tourism, Travel, Writing and Life | 11 Comments
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As it was a lovely winter’s day last week, we went for a drive into the nearby Watagans National Park. We wanted to go for one of the bush walks we’d heard about but not yet seen.

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We settled on the Boarding House Dam rainforest walk. There was little traffic on the road into the park – not surprising, as it was unsealed, rain-scoured and rough. We loved it!

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We also loved the walk. It usually takes twenty minutes, but we took an hour as there was so much to see, hear and enjoy.

The Watagans are part of the Great Dividing Range, which runs north to south along the whole eastern coast of Australia. Historically, the Watagans were an important logging area. Timber-getting (cedar) began there in the 1820s.

The boarding house area was originally the longest-serving and largest logging camp in the area. No buildings remain, but the name recalls its history. The roads into the Watagans originated from the routes the bullock wagons took to bring out the logs. The adjoining Watagan State Forest is still managed for logging today, but all flora and fauna in the National Park are protected.

Stumps of large trees remain, and you can see the cuts where tree-fellers inserted boards on which they stood to cut down the tree.

The first notch for wedging in a board for the wood-cutter to stand on is above my head.

The first notch for wedging in a board for the wood-cutter to stand on is above my head.

The dam is a small one, a weir really. It was built to ensure a supply of water for bushfires after the ravages of a major fire in the summer of 1939-40.

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Below the weir, rock ‘tanks’ have formed – naturally it seems. The ‘tanks’, almost perfectly round, range in diameter from a couple of feet to the largest which is probably six feet (two metres) across.

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At the end of the walk, I sat by the dam and wrote down some of what was there.
Here are some of the sights and sounds and smells of the walk.

- At least two different kinds of frogs in the dam. It is becoming rare to hear frogs in most places nowadays.
– Finches twitter and flutter about in the trees.
– I love to hear the call of the male whip-bird. It’s even better when I hear the answering female.
– Water flows over the dam wall and gurgles between the rocks in the creek below.
– I hear a currawong call out in the open forest.

The creek below the dam.

The creek below the dam.

We loved the walk through the rainforest. It is a place where you wouldn’t be surprised to encounter fantastical animals – gnomes, bunyips, even trolls.

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- The cold mountain air is clean, clear and invigorating.
– Fallen trees, rocks, trees trunks and ledges are all covered with thick, green moss.
– Elkhorn ferns grow on trees, logs, and even on rocks.
– The smell is a combination of damp wood and soil, and rotting vegetation, and is not at all unpleasant.

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The pathway is part natural track through the bush, and part board-edged to prevent erosion. In two places, small wooden bridges cross the creek. Some of the reinforcing wood and the bridge supports are also covered in moss. The man-made all fits unobtrusively with the natural environment.

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- The sound of our feet on the pathway is a dull, hollow thud.
– A 160-metre rock wall is a focal point of the walk. It is perpetually in shade and is almost completely covered by moss. Its name is, prosaically, The Mossy Wall.

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We took lots of photos, but the light was quite poor. We didn’t have the right cameras and equipment to get the best results. However, they are good enough, and the walk itself is etched on our minds. We hope we can take visitors to see it in the future.

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Is there a place you have found where you love to walk?

© Linda Visman

Keeping a Journal 2: My Journal

July 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Experiences, Mental Health, Writing and Life | 10 Comments
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myjournal

Although the word ‘journal’ comes from the French word for ‘day’ (jour), I see it also as relating to the word ‘journey’.

The journals I have been keeping on and off for the last forty or fifty years are both a diary of events and a journal of my personal experiences, and much more than either of them. They are a record of my journey through life to this point.

Journey -journal

Journaling has been part of my life for more years than I care to remember. I first wrote a ‘diary’ before I reached my teens. Then, it was the usual childish notes on nothing, in a tiny, lockable, shiny diary I got for a birthday.

Pink diary

As I grew up, I periodically wrote my thoughts in notebooks left over from school. There was nothing much to them either. Nothing of the teenage angst one goes through; nothing of the day-to-day coping in our family’s difficult circumstances. I don’t think I really knew what a diary was for in those days.

A few years after I married, I did begin to keep a record of what I was doing and some of my thoughts on life. However, my then husband saw nothing of mine as sacred. He found and read it, and didn’t like some of the things I’d written. He even showed his mother, who was visiting at the time, and they both confronted me about a couple of my entries.

quote-if-you-must-keep-a-journal-for-purposes-of-sanity-adopt-an-illegible-hand-r-bryan-love-284531

After that, I knew I couldn’t have the privacy of writing my own thoughts. So I didn’t write anything at all for a long time.

Then came the time he legally had to stay away from me for several months. They were times of stress and anxiety; fear and anger. But with him out of the house, I allowed myself the luxury of putting down my thought and feelings again. It was a way of working through several huge issues I faced at the time, including trying to work out how I could keep our children but not have him.

Writing is therapy

One day, I discovered that he had been coming into the house when I was out. He was apparently searching for something he could use against me. Even though I had hidden my journal under my mattress, he found it. I discovered that when he stood outside the window one day, yelling at me and waving a couple of pages he’d torn from it.

I was gutted. I felt like I had been raped. Even though I couldn’t remember exactly what I had written on those pages, I knew they were my deepest feelings; thoughts that I hadn’t shared with anyone because they were an intimate reflection of the very vulnerable me that I was at the time.

Quotation-Jonathan-Franzen

After I moved away, I felt much more secure in writing down my thoughts. My new partner respected my privacy and never violated it the whole twenty years we were together. My second husband also believes I am entitled to privacy in my writing. The gift they have both given me allows me to sort through my thoughts & feelings without fear.

If you keep or have kept a diary/journal, has its sanctity been violated? How did/would you feel about that?

© Linda Visman

Reading for Pleasure Again

July 22, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Posted in Australia, Mental Health, Reading | 2 Comments
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My Forties and Early Fifties

This is my fifth article on my love of reading. My earlier posts can be found here, here, here and here.

I didn’t read as much once I went back to working, firstly at odd jobs and then as a casual supply teacher. For the next fifteen years I was busy with my new partner, making a new life and earning a living. We lived in Dubbo NSW for six years, and then went to the Northern Territory. There we both gained permanent positions teaching with the Department of Education.

Ampilatwatja, community, shown from the air, is here twice the size as it was in the early 1990s

Ampilatwatja, community, shown from the air, is here twice the size as it was in the early 1990s

There, along with 3-4-hour drives into Alice Springs over mostly dirt roads, bush excursions and overnight camping in our swags, I read when I could fit it into my 12-14-hour working days. I loved my work and the people in the remote indigenous community schools where we were sent. However, it could be emotionally and physically draining, and reading way one way of revitalising my energies.

Second-hand Bookshops: We stayed in the Northern Territory through the 1990s. During those years, when we made trips into Alice Springs, we both found new authors as we browsed the second-hand bookshops. We would take a bag full of books with us on the 330 km drive back to Ampilatwatja (for 4.5 years) and, later, 130km to Hermannsburg (for over four years). We would also bring books from other places in NSW after visiting our families in school holidays.

The Potato Factory

I really enjoyed Bryce Courtenay’s African stories The Power of One and Whitethorn. His The Potato Factory, set in London and Tasmania in the days of transportation to Australia, was good too, but not so much its follow-ups. I read several others of his books, but found some of them too rambling.

I love anything to do with humans in pre-historic times, so I quickly became taken with Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series, especially the first few. They are set in the Neolithic era; with a detailed background on climate, foods, art and possible cultural and religious beliefs. The first in the series is The Clan of the Cave Bear, which I believe was turned into a rather poor B grade movie. The book deserved much better treatment!

Clan of the Cave Bear

From there, my partner and I discovered the People of the Earth novels of Kathleen O’Neal Gear & Michael Gear set in pre-European America. The first of the series was People of the Wolf, with lots more following. We devoured each one as we found them. I collected all the Gear and Auel books, and I have read both series at least three times so far. Whenever I get another of the books, I re-read the previous ones first to re-establish the characters, context and story, before delving into the new one.

People of the Wolf

I have read most of James A. Michener’s epic books, many of which take you from pre-history to modern times in a particular location. For some reason didn’t particularly like his Pacific island titles, but my favourites were The Source and Alaska.

the-source -james-a-michener

In mid-1998, due to health problems, we sadly had to leave the NT. I then had lots of time for reading and I took full advantage of it. I continued with the several book series I have already mentioned, plus crime and murder mysteries and forensic investigation novels. I had discovered Dean Koontz whilst I was in the N.T. and I read most of the books he’d written before about 2002 – I could only afford used copies. However, I didn’t take to Stephen King, and only read a few of his novels.

Dean Koontz Lightning

I loved Edward Rutherford’s Sarum, but it is only recently that I have acquired copies of two of his other titles, London and Dublin. I have yet to read them.

Sarum -Rutherford

As some of my time was taken up writing my family history, I had plenty of research to do. This included reading books and on-line sources about England in general, and Lancashire in particular, in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as local histories of my birth town, Oswaldtwistle.

My reading tastes have widened through the years, and I am always on the lookout for other authors and other genres to add to my eclectic library.

Lost in a book somewhere

Have your reading tastes changed as you aged or found new books? Are your interests the same as they were, say twenty years ago?

© Linda Visman

Keeping a Journal 1: What is a Journal?

July 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Writing and Life | 4 Comments
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My Journal- child's

Often the words ‘diary’ and ‘journal’ are used interchangeably. It is confusing at times to know exactly what a person may be referring to when they say “I must put that in my diary/journal’.

Are they going to put in the date of an event for future reference, or are they going to write some thoughts about it? Will they reflect on it or just record it? There is actually a slight difference between the two terms.

Appointment diary

Etomology (from Wikipedia):
The word diary comes from the Latin diarium (“daily allowance,” from dies “day”). The word journal comes from the same root (diurnus “of the day”) through Old French jurnal (modern French for day is jour).
The earliest use of the word to mean a book in which a daily record was written was in Ben Jonson’s comedy Volpone in 1605.

This is how oxforddictionaries.com defines them:
Diary: 1. A book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences.
2. British A book with spaces for each day of the year in which one notes appointments or information.
Journal: A daily record of news and events of a personal nature; a diary: [while abroad he had kept a journal]

And another online dictionary defines ‘journal’ as:
a. A personal record of occurrences, experiences, and reflections kept on a regular basis; a diary.

Journal 01

When I look at definitions – and here I am only referring to the personal forms and not such writings as The Wall Street Journal – I see that a journal is a diary. It is simply a less formal and more specialised kind of diary. It may be kept on a daily basis or less regularly.

So, if we say we are writing something in our diary, we are basically referring to the generic form. If we say we are writing in our journal, then we are writing in a diary of a certain type.

Now let’s confuse the issue of a ‘journal’ a bit more. Many people see personal journals as having many forms, depending on what they are used for. One blogger about journals sees at least fifteen types. I did a quick list of the types I could think of in a minute or two, and this is what I came up with:

dream-journal

Gratitude journal

Gratitude journal

- Daily thoughts journal

Travel Journal

Travel Journal


– Dream journal
– Travel journal
– Reading and/or reviewing journal
– Gratitude journal
– Personal development journal
– Project journal
– Nature journal
– Meditation journal
– Planning journal
– Creativity journal
– Writing journal
– Art journal

Art Journal

Art Journal

I am sure there are other varieties of journal that people keep. The journals may have few words in them – or even none. They may consist entirely of drawings and sketches, graphs, or photos of places the journalist has been (though the last is usually called a photo album).

They may simply be lists, jottings of points to remember, quotations of others, ideas to be followed up, places to go. Or they could consist of thoughts and feelings, memories, hopes or frustrations, spilled out on pages and pages of text.

Journals can be about anything

Journals can be about anything

Journals could be just one of the above or a combination of any or all of them. The main thing about a journal is that it reflects the writer, whether on the surface or the depths, depending on what they share with their ‘Dear diary/journal’.

Notebook

Have you ever kept a diary? Do you have a journal now? If so, what kind of journal is it? Do you keep more than one?

© Linda Visman

Reading To Escape

July 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Family History, History, Mental Health, Reading | 6 Comments
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This is the fourth in the series of posts about my reading life.

Quotation-Barbara-Kingsolver-life-reading-to escape

Reading in My Twenties and Thirties:
As a young mother in my twenties and early thirties, I had five wonderful sons, who were a joy to me. However I was in an unhappy marriage and reading provided a wonderful escape. I would find an author that I liked and borrow or buy every one of their books I could find.

My then husband didn’t like that I read a lot, and he once ripped up a lot of my books. However, that didn’t stop me from reading, even when I took on a librarianship course by correspondence (we lived in country areas).

Beau Geste PCWrenI read the complete set of Agatha Christie books; the Leslie Charteris books about The Saint; P.C. Wren’s three books about the French Foreign Legion: Beau Geste, Beau Sabreuer and Beau Ideal; Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel books, and all the Hornblower books by C.S.Forester. I read adventure books by the likes of Alistair Maclean and Hammond Innes. I owned the complete set of Nevil Shute’s books including A Town Like Alice.

After finding a couple of books by Dennis Wheatley at my parents’ place, I became hooked on both his thrillers, historical novels and his novels of the occult.Launching of Roger Brook Wheatley

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Wheatley’s novels:
Wheatley mainly wrote adventure novels, with many books in a series of linked works. Background themes included the French Revolution (the Roger Brook series), Satanism (the Duke de Richleau series), World War II (the Gregory Sallust series) and espionage (the Julian Day novels). Over time, each of his major series would include at least one book pitting the hero against some manifestation of the supernatural. He came to be considered an authority on this, satanism, the practice of exorcism, and black magic, to all of which he was hostile.
Needless to say, I found and devoured them all.

Dragonwyck AnyaSetonAlong with such adventure books, I also read escapist historical romances. Most of the authors were, of course, women, including Georgette Heyer, Anya Seton and Victoria Holt. I occasionally ventured into more risqué novels like those about the slave plantations in the American South, but I wasn’t comfortable reading them. I must be an old stodge!

Then there were the science fiction. I loved all the books the books by John Wyndham, both his novels and short stories. Parts of them come back to me even now, forty years later. I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and I owned and read all the H.G. Wells books. I got into what we now call post-apocalypse novels: 1984, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World and, later on, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker.

war-and-peaceI tackled Leo Tolstoy’s massive War and Peace and got through it all – I even liked it! Then I read Theodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which I enjoyed, as well as Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

It is amazing how many books one can read in a few years. There are so many that come to mind, of which I have only mentioned a few. I haven’t even mentioned all the other historical novels I read. These were set in a wide variety of times and places: the Egyptian, Roman and Greek empires; the Middle Ages in England and France; in Scotland, Africa or Australia.

So many books, so many authors I haven’t yet referred to. There is Xavier Herbert’s Capricornia; Leonard Cottrell’s historical novels set around North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean; Mary Renault’s Cretan books, Mary Stewart’s novels of the court of King Arthur; Wilbur Smith’s African novels; Nigel Trantor, Irwin Shaw.

Lust for Life -Irving StoneI loved the books by Irving Stone, an American writer known for his biographical novels of famous historical personalities. Those I read included Lust for Life about Vincent van Gogh, The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo, The Passions of the Mind, about Sigmund Freud, and The Origin, based on the life of Charles Darwin.

In my thirties, I took to religion as another means of coping with depression. During this time, I read a lot of books set in the early years of Christianity. Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur; Taylor Caldwell’s Dear and Glorious Physician, and others. I also devoured many books about living the Christian life and about Christians’ experiences of that life: A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall, and several others that she wrote, as well as books by Corrie ten Boom, and lots of others.

dear-glorious-physician

All of these books only take me to my mid-thirties. That’s when I met someone who changed my life completely. I divorced my husband and went back to work.

Quotation Irving Stone-books cure illness

Do you find reading to be an escape from the pressures and problems of life?

© Linda Visman

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