Writing and the Arts

July 25, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Poetry, Writing | 16 Comments
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At the June meeting of the Lake Macquarie Fellowship of Australian Writers, our guest presenter was Jan Dean, who is well known in the Hunter region. Jan is an award winning poet, and a former art teacher who loves to combine these major passions. She is a member of Poetry in the Pub, and was its first female president. Jan introduced the LakeMac group to a few new ways of looking at writing, particularly in regard to the crossover between poetry and art.

 

Firstly, we were introduced to the concept of surrealism in art, poetry, drama, etc. Surrealism concerns the unconscious or subconscious mind – “the plausible impossible”. We saw a picture of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and discussed the elements of surrealism within it. Jan shared two surrealist poems: Antonin Artaud’s “Dark Poet’ and Arthur Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat”. She also read a poem she wrote based on a surrealist painting, and these gave us an idea of what kind of writing to which we could stretch ourselves.

 

The Persistence of Memory (1931) Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” 1931

 

Many of the group had not heard the term “ekphrasis”, i.e. writing stimulated by a piece of art, as in the poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats. Jan talked about how important it is to research the piece of art to get details correct. She read excerpts from her poem “Artemesia Reflects” (which is published in Paint Peels, Graffiti Sings, a pocketbook from Flying Islands Books, Macau). Artemesia Gentileschi was reputedly the first female artist to exist solely on the proceeds of her painting.

 

Jan pointed out that any piece of art – visual, auditory, performance – can provide stimulus for writing. She then gave us an exercise to do which involved linking surrealism and ekphrasis.

 

We each looked at a different, ordinary picture. Jan asked us to insert something grotesque into it that shouldn’t be there. We were to use the changed picture as a prompt to write a poem. My picture was of a woman and a man seated on opposite sides of a table. The woman’s face is sad, her arms rest on the table and she holds a disposable coffee cup in both hands. Her eyes are half-focused on the man, but his gaze is downwards, towards the cup. My insertion was a green emanation that rose from the cup and swirled around between the couple, touching neither.

 

The surreal aspect we gave to the picture was a great way to expand our understanding of any piece of art and how we could write about it. This is what I wrote about my picture:

Words, sickly, pastel-pale, swirl in the air.

Blue reaches for yellow, yellow for blue

trying to connect but,

unable to bridge the distance between them,

become absorbed into

amorphous green misunderstanding.

 

Surrealist overtones can be included when we write about still life pictures as well as any other. Jan gave us an exercise that showed how to put incongruous words together to create dream-like images that we can use in our writing. She introduced us to asemic writing too, images made up of meaningless words, beyond semantics, but which can stimulate the emotions.

Asemic-writing-necronomicon     Asemic writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of asemic writing

 

To complete the session, Jan reminded us of the Queensland Poetry Festival and encouraged us to enter its associated writing competition, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award.

 

I left the session with my mind buzzing, words and images swirling, and a determination to use at least some of the writing techniques Jan shared with us. Perhaps I will even have a go at that ekphrasis competition.

 

Crazy, irrational things happen all the time in Surrealist literature. (Unknown origin)

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A Review of Thursday’s Child

March 1, 2018 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Australia, book review, Catholicism, Culture, discrimination, Family, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Social mores, Writing and Life | 4 Comments
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Review of Thursday’s Child by Jan Mitchell

27.02.2018

 

Local writer, Linda Visman moved to Wangi Wangi in the early 2000s and joined the Lake Macquarie branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers in 2005, where she was encouraged to continue writing poetry and short stories. Later she decided to tackle a novel set in the place where she grew up. Some of her poems and stories have been published in this magazine

Like her first novel (Ben’s Challenge), Thursday’s Child is an historical novel set in the NSW Illawarra region. Both novels have young teenagers as their protagonists, struggling against the norms of their era, the late 1950s – early 1960s.

Victoria, or Tori as she likes to be called, is a bright schoolgirl not quite fifteen when the novel opens. Events during the next year change Tori’s life for ever. She moves from being a totally dependent child, to a young woman who has developed a degree of confidence in her ability to influence her own life.

During her year of growing up, Tori struggles against the rulings of her church and her society. She rails against the norms that place men in a position over women and their bodies, at the men who make all the rules and hold all the power. She fights for the choices she believes should be her birthright. Like her creator, Tori is a post-war child at the beginning of a social revolution – one which sees a new wave of feminism and sexual freedom emerging in the western world.

Thursday’s Child is an engaging story with a likeable heroine. It is suitable for teenagers who want to understand the norms and values of the early 1960s and also for adults who want to reminisce about times past. It is also worth a look for young men to see how their actions influence women’s lives – a marvellous starting point for moral discussion, because the gender issues raised in Thursday’s Child continue to beset us today, albeit in a more subtle manner.

Thursdays’ Child is available from Amazon books either as a printed book or in Kindle version. Go to http://www.amazon.com.au, or for the United States, http://www.amazon.com.

 

Book Cover Preview on CreateSpace

 

Linda Visman

 

Wednesday Photo Challenge – Unusual

July 21, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, History, Photography, Special Occasions | 5 Comments
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Something unusual, or at least unusual to me. That is the topic of this week’s Wednesday Photo Challenge. I had a quick look through my photos and found my writers’ group Christmas party from last year.

The function was held in the common room of a retirement village – that is itself is probably unusual. But an item they have in that room is one that many people, especially young people, have never seen, and may not have even heard of.

It was a pianola, and it gave us a lot of fun and laughs whilst we early birds waited for everyone else to arrive.

A pianola is a piano with a special ability. Rolls of heavy paper are punched with the notes of particular tunes and can be inserted in a section above the keyboard. Then someone plays it by pumping a foot pedal. The quicker one pedals, the faster the music plays. The strip can be seen and often has the words to the tune alongside the punched holes, so that people around the pianola can sing it.

 

Pianola 01

Here is my husband loading one of the punched rolls into the pianola, while a friend checks what tune is held on another boxed roll.

 

 

Pianola 02

Several members of our group and their partners enjoy a singalong whilst my husband pumps the pedals.

 

Pianolas used to be popular entertainment for get-togethers of family and friends and other social events in the days before TV. They were aimed mainly at people who couldn’t actually play the piano, or who didn’t play well enough to accompany the songs that were popular at the time.

 

Have you seen, played, or even owned a pianola?

 

 

Entertaining ourselves in the 1950s and early 1960s (1)

March 23, 2015 at 11:22 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, History, Leisure activities, Memoir | 16 Comments
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Apart from the little ride-on horse I have mentioned before, and my older brother and sister’s trike, I cannot remember any play activities in England. However we did often go for walks in the countryside, over the local moors.

My sisters played with dolls, but I was never interested in them like they were. Dad had made gollywogs for my younger sister and me from fabric blanks he got when he worked in the weaving mill in Oswaldtwistle. Mine came with me to Australia, and I have a photo of me holding it, taken at the caravan at Reed Park, Dapto.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Making My Own Wild West

I was a real tomboy and wanted to be an explorer, a cowboy or an Indian. Inside certain cereal packets were small plastic toys to collect. For me, the best of these were the cowboys and Indians and horses for them to ride. The packets also had cut-out wild west buildings on the back that fit together. You could collect these and make your own town. It was mostly me who played with them.

CowboyAndIndianFigures

I often made bows out of the shrubs and thin branches that grew around the place, and string. My arrows I made from a green weed that grew long straight stalks and dried off in summer after seeding. Though light, they made fairly reasonable (straight at least) arrows. I made my quivers for the arrows out of newspaper.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

I loved the poem “Hiawatha”, which I’d read in an issue of our NSW Education Department school magazine when I was about nine. The poem mentioned the type of wood, ash, that Hiawatha used to make his wonderful bow with, and I decided to make a bow for myself just like Hiawatha had. I asked my brother Peter if there were ash trees around. He laughed and said, “You’ve been reading ‘Hiawatha’, haven’t you?” I was embarrassed and denied it. He said “Anyway that’s America. We don’t have those trees here”. I was very disappointed.

It was rare for us to have ‘real’ toy guns. We would make a pretend gun from a dolly peg, a matchbox and an elastic band. Mum used dolly pegs for hanging the clothes on the line (no spring pegs then). Sometimes if the clothing was too thick, the peg would split; leaving the top part and one ‘leg’. We would use this broken peg and, with a doubled rubber band, fix a matchbox, sitting upward and end-on to it. The head of the peg became the handle of the gun, and the matchbox was the barrel. If you fitted a half-match with the rubber band stretched around it, between the box and the peg and then depressed the matchbox with your finger as if firing a gun, the match stick would fly off like a (slow) bullet. Mum would find that more of her pegs than she thought had suddenly lost one leg!

Gun& Holster set 1950s

A gun and holster set from the 1950s

As many kids did, we made rifles from odd bits of wood that had the right approximate shape. One Christmas, when I was about eight, I received a cowboy set – chaps, vest and a gun-belt with a toy pistol. It was just what I wanted, and I thought it was great – except that my skirt would get in the way of the chaps, as we girls weren’t allowed to wear pants then. My younger sister got a cowgirl outfit, so we played together sometimes, but I thought she was too girly most of the time.

(c) Linda Visman

Building Rooms as the Family Grows

March 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, Family, Family History, Gratitude, History, Memoir, Migration | 3 Comments
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I have been away, and set this post to be published on Monday the 9th March. It didn’t work for some reason. Now I am back home, here it is.

 

 

monday-memoir-badge

 

By the end of 1957, we’d been out of our four-berth caravan for about a year, and were living in the tiny three-roomed cottage Dad had bought and set up on our block of land. He had also built an extra room onto the back of it during that time, a bedroom for us four kids. At last Mum and Dad could have their own bedroom. But it was to be for only for a short time.

Mum’s brother and family had come from England to Adelaide in South Australia . My uncle visited us from there about 1957, and decided there was plenty of work for him in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and that he would leave his job in Adelaide and bring his family there. They would move in with us until they had a place of their own.

So Dad again had to get busy building a small two-roomed ‘garage’ next to our little cottage. Its front room served as a very basic kitchen, the back one as a bedroom, into which Aunty and Uncle moved with their young daughter. Their older son joined us four kids in the new bedroom. By that time, our total household amounted to ten people – and Mum was pregnant with twins.

This sharing of limited resources with extended family was not an unusual situation for the times. In the late 1940s and especially in the 1950s, Australia’s population grew very quickly, due to both post-war immigration and the baby boom. A great many migrants began their lives (once they had left the migrant camps to which many had come) with the purchase of a block of land and very little else. From there, they would build their own ‘garage’ that would house their family until they earned enough to build their own house.

When I say ‘build their own garage/house’, I mean that literally – many, if not most, did indeed build with their own hands. They couldn’t afford the cost of having it built by someone else. The 1950s was a time of great energy and enthusiasm, a reaction to the horrors of six years of war, a grasping of the freedom European migrants were offered in a new land. It was a time of economic growth, when most people were willing to put up with hard work, long hours and difficult living conditions in order to make a better life for themselves and their family than they would have had in post-war Europe.

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

Post war migrants arriving in Australia

In mid-1958, after a difficult birth where Mum came close to losing her life, our baby brother joined the family. His twin sister had, unfortunately, died at birth. It was about then, with their only two children in Australia, that Mum’s parents decided they would come too. When Grandma and Granddad arrived in late 1958, Mum and Dad moved out of their newly regained bedroom so her parents could have it, and went back to the night-and-day in the lounge room.

Dad was busy building rooms again. The kitchen, which in 2014 still had its original small cupboards, would be extended to a new outer door, and the little L-shaped cottage would become a rectangle, with two more bedrooms filling in the space. 1958 was a year of high rainfall in New South Wales and Dad was often rained off the building projects he worked on as builder’s labourer and concreter. During those down times, Dad worked on our house. He says he did more work on our house in those days than he did on his regular work, even in the rain.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Late 1958. The last two bedrooms are still under construction. My lovely grandmother stands at the doorway. On the grass are me (second from right) and my two sisters and our baby brother, with our two cousins. My older brother isn’t in the photo.

Granddad had never helped my parents with a penny the whole time they were with us. Grandma slipped a few pounds to Mum from time to time when she could. She also gave us grandkids a shilling a week pocket money. We thought it a fortune, as we’d never had our own money before. In 1959 I think it was, my uncle bought a block of land close to the railway station with finance from Granddad. Granddad also helped to finance the building of a house there. Once it was completed, my uncle, aunt and cousins, and my grandparents too, moved in. At last, our family of seven had our home to ourselves.

For us kids, life was pretty good back then. We didn’t have much in the way of toys and possessions, but we had fresh air, plenty of room to play, lots of interesting places to investigate, and few worries, apart from our schooling and household chores. However, when I see the burdens my parents carried, I realise how difficult it must have been for them. I also believe it made us all stronger, both individually and as a family. Our parents gave us five kids a good start in many ways and we had much to be grateful for.

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – Week 50

December 25, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Posted in Culture, Family, Family History, Gardens, Gratitude, Leisure activities | 6 Comments
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 Share Your World blog badge

 

Many thanks again to Cee, for the questions for this week’s Share Your World.

Do you have a signature dish? If not is there one in your family?

This is a good question for Christmas time, as the only signature dish I have only makes an appearance at Christmas and New Year. It is a trifle, made with sponge cake, jelly, custard, whipped cream and topped with strawberries. When I go to Christmas shared dinners, that is what I take, and it is always very well received.

The trifle recipe is an old family favourite, and is made differently to all the other trifle desserts I have seen. My sisters and I learned it from Mum, who learned it from her mother, though I don’t know how far back from there it goes. Still, a hundred years is a pretty good family tradition.

Do you have a favorite board game?

I haven’t played board games for many years. However if I were to play one, it would be Scrabble, as I love any word games.

Is there a household chore that you enjoy?

Not so much inside the house, I’m afraid. However, I love mowing the lawns and keeping the yard tidy, as well as building anything needed there.

What is one thing you will never care about?

Being rich and famous. What’s the point, when it leads to the loss of your soul!?

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week – Being able to at least deliver the Christmas gifts for my grandchildren in Queensland in an aborted visit (caused by my getting sick). Also, spending time with hubby as we travelled to and from there.

This coming week – relaxing for a few days at home before my second eldest son and his family come for a visit from Queensland.

(c) Linda Visman

Well Heeled

October 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Culture, Health, History, Psychology, Society | 9 Comments
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Sexy high heels

My mother wore high heels. After all, she was a product of the 1920s and 30s when they became popular. If a woman dressed up – and a working woman only dressed up when she were going somewhere special – she would wear high heels, and stockings if she could get them.

High heels were said to elongate the legs and make them more attractive, and who didn’t want to be attractive! Mum wasn’t tall –just five feet, and Dad was half an inch under six feet so, for her, the higher the heels the better.

Mum loved dancing and, in their courting days and after their marriage in 1941, when he was home on leave from the R.A.F. (it was wartime), Dad took her out to every dance in the district, where they danced up a storm. Dad often said that they would be the last dancers on the floor and the band would beg them to stop so they could rest. How on earth, I have often wondered, did Mum dance, and for so long, in high heels. But she only wore heels for special occasions, and that was not even once a week.

1930s heels

I only wore heels for a short time, and then not very high ones. I started about 18, but stopped at 21when I was expecting the first of my five children. I found ‘flatties’ to be much more comfortable for carrying babies around.

Over the decades, I have noted the continuing attraction for wearing high heel, especially by younger women. The ante has been upped (literally) even higher since I was young. Not only have the heels got higher, but the weight of the shoes has also increased. I don’t think Mum would have been able to drag herself around in what young women wear today, let alone dance at top speed for hours in them!

Platform shoes

About thirty years ago, the medical fraternity finally realised that wearing high heels, especially frequently and for prolonged periods, could cause quite serious problems. This can be as simple as falling and injuring oneself while wearing them, resulting in strained or broken ankles. However, more serious long-term damage can be caused by the habit of wearing high heels.

Posture changes inherent in wearing shoes that place the heels above the toes can result in considerable damage:

    • Hips, shoulders, back and spine are thrown out of alignment;
    • Muscle spasms can occur due to the extra pressure caused by posture changes;
    • Increased pressure on the knees often leads to arthritis in that joint;
    • muscles in the calf become shortened, leading to pain there and in the feet;
    • the Achilles tendon can become permanently shortened, leading to tendonitis;
    • toes, cramped into tight shoes, become misshapen and cannot be straightened even when wearing flat shoes..

This 3-D scan shows up some of the problems. Here’s a set of pictures that gives a good indication.

High heel damage

I have often wondered why women are willing to risk such injuries just for the sake of fashion or of looking sexy. But I suppose that is just the way of it; peer pressure; advertising pressure; a desire to have the latest in fashion. There is no desire to look to the future – just as is the case with young men and their testosterone-induced risk taking. The belief that ‘it will never happen to me’.

Oh how glad I am that I never became a slave to fashion. I’ll stick to my sensible shoes, thanks.

Sensible shoes

What do you think of high heels? Would you let your adolescents – as I have seen – wear them and risk permanent damage?

Young girl in heels

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – 2014 Week 40

October 7, 2014 at 12:11 am | Posted in Australia, Culture, Family, Gardens, Nature, Reading, Writing | 12 Comments
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Share Your World blog badge

Every week, Cee, at Share Your World, posts a few questions for us to answer. This is a great way of getting to know others, and to let others know about our own world. Here are my answers to Cee’s latest Share Your World Questions.

You’re given $500,000 dollars tax free (any currency), what do you spend it on? 

I would give each of our eight children $50,000 to reduce their mortgages or, for one, to buy his own place at last. The rest I would use to pay off our own mortgage and to pay for us to visit the countries of our birth for the first time since we left them over 60 years ago.

What’s the finest education?

I must say that, of all the formal education I have received – primary (elementary) and high school, Teachers’ College diploma, a university degree and graduate diploma – nothing can compare to the education I have received from life itself. To be open to what is around you, to observe and learn to understand the world, its people and yourself grants you an education that is second to none.

What kind of art is your favorite? Why?

Although many people will say it is not an art, my favourite is writing. I have always loved reading. I love the worlds and the characters and the situations that are created by writers, and I have become one of them myself.

I believe that those who cannot be impressed by how words can be put together in artistic, creative and meaningful ways to create works of wonder and beauty – and even horror and violence – are missing a piece of what it means to be human.

Is there something that you memorized long ago and still remember?

When I was in primary school, I learned a poem that expresses much of what our country (Australia) is. That poem is “My Country” by Dorothea McKellar (1885-1968) when she was in England, and homesick for her own country. It was first published in 1908. It compares the softness of the English countryside with the starkness of the Australian. I love the poem, as I have seen so much of what it expresses.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Through the last week, I spent quite a bit of time in the garden. It is spring here in Australia, and there are so many plants and trees blooming that there is a riot of colour all around us. The blossoms also bring the birdlife, and I enjoy listening to them warble, twitter and even shriek through the trees that surround us.

In the week ahead, I will be spending plenty of hours with my writing group, being stimulated in my word-production, helping others with their writing, and hopefully letting non-members know what we can do to assist them if they want to write.

Campfire Magic

September 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Experiences, History, Nature, Philosophy, Society | 9 Comments
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I wrote this a couple of evenings ago as my husband and I camped by a creek in the Border Ranges between NSW and Queensland.

IMG_0638 IMG_0639

There is something primitive about sitting by a campfire in the wilderness. That’s where I am tonight, and the experience takes me back to several different pasts.

I imagine the ancients huddling close to a fire they have only recently tamed, building it high to keep away the fearsome and ferocious predators that would otherwise prey on them.

I feel their awe as they gaze into the roaring flames that hungrily eat up the branches tossed into them. I feel their fear of that hunger if it should escape. How easy is it to imagine their veneration of this awesome power, a magical force which they have managed to harness for their own protection.

Campfire 01

What were their thoughts as they later stared into its dying embers, watching the occasional flicker of a flame as it flickered and died? Did they wish they had collected more fuel to feed the fire? Or were they relaxed enough to ponder their own next meal, the mate they would lie with, or how the hunt had gone that day?

A campfire from a less distant past also comes to mind. One set up by a river or in the bush, or by a huge monolith in an isolated southern continent. Images of the wondrous vault of the sky, undimmed by any city lights, filled with uncountable stars. Thoughts of indigenous people sitting by their clan fire. I see them as self-sufficient and self-reliant, yet filled with awe as they contemplate the unknown and create their Dreamtime origins.

Later, I see the early European explorers by their campfire, uncertain of what is out in the darkness, yet eager for discovery of what is to them a new and unclaimed land.

Campfire 03

It’s not just the far distant past I see in my campfire this night, as I remember my own experiences in isolated Central Australia, knowing that I could walk hundreds of miles in any direction and not meet another human being.

I also wonder how many children today and in the future will experience the thrill of their own campfire. Will they ever feel the thrill of the unknown, the fear even, of a night far from home. Far from their electric lights, TVs and computers, from the comfort of their soft beds and the security of their four solid walls?

It is sad that so many of them will miss out on that more primitive experience of life. That they will never see a campfire flare and flame, as the darkness presses against their frail light, then flicker and die to embers. What a loss that is.?

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – Week 36

September 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Posted in Culture, Society, Writing and Life | 3 Comments

Here are my responses to Cee’s questions for week 36 of Share Your World

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Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?
I usually read fiction, and my tastes are pretty wide, but I love looking through picture books of historical photos. I like to see people in them mainly, and imagine myself in those times, in that life. It’s probably the reason I like to look at cemetery headstones. I also love well-written memoirs and biographies – more those of ordinary rather than famous people.

What is your biggest fear or phobia? (no photos please)
I don’t have any phobias, thank goodness. My greatest fear is that my grandchildren and their children’s world will be an extremely difficult one.

What is your favourite cheese?
I love almost any kind of cows’ milk cheese – apart from the really smelly ones; the blue vein types. My favourites range from the soft camembert, through tasty cheddar to extra-strong tasty cheddars. I also love fetta cheese with its strong tangy flavour – tastes best eaten with dark olives.

What is your favourite month of the year?
I don’t have a particular month which is a favourite. Every month has its own attractions, including winter. However, I do love the months from September to November, when it is spring in Australia and before the really hot months. That is where we are now, wattles in golden bloom, happy wanderer creeping through the grass and over wire fences, tiny purple and yellow flowers.

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
I am thankful to see the writing critique groups I initiated 6-7 years ago are going strong. It is wonderful to see the development in their writing skills, and to have a part in helping them achieve that.

I am looking forward to travelling interstate to see some of my kids and their families. It is hard when they live so far away, so a trip to see them – and our beautiful country – is always a treat.

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