The Eve of Destruction

August 29, 2019 at 2:57 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Culture, Destroying nature, divisions in society, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, History, Politics, Religion, Social Responsibility, War and Conflict, Ways of Living, Writing | 12 Comments
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It is after 2.30am and I cannot sleep. I am energised. I have realised that the book I thought I was going to write is a nothing story. I have another tale to tell, from another perspective. I had thought Tori (the main character of my second novel, “Thursday’s Child”) was going to be the MC of my third novel too, but she will be a secondary character. She has had her time and done well, but it is up to another now to take the story forward.

 

Meet Gemma Henderson. She is the 71-year-old me of 2019 in the body of a 17-year-old girl in 1965 (as I was then). She is the activist I wanted to be. She is the idealist who wants to stop wars because they are so damned stupid. She is the one who wants to raise all people to be equal. She is the one who sees the folly of toeing the political line of the times, the futility of consumerism and the falsity of the world the politicians offer.

 

She is the one who believes that women are every bit as good and as intelligent as, and even more caring than the men who seem to want  nothing but to destroy – destroy the youth in wars, destroy the marginalised, destroy the prospect of beauty with the horror of war and capitalism, destroy the world with their greed for money and power.

 

Gemma is a warrior; an Amazon; a young woman who wants to change the world. She is an fierce idealist who will brook no barriers to her desire to improve the world, to take it out of the hands of war-mongering, greedy men and bring it back to Mother Earth, to the Nurturer, the Carer.

 

She will be the main character in the third of my YA historical novels. She is the sister, the daughter, and the prospective mother of future generations. The world, its ordinary people and its creatures are her passion, and although the odds are stacked high against her, she is willing to fight for what she believes is right.

 

She is what I wish I could have been when I had the energy of youth. She is what I would have perhaps become had I not been bogged down in conformity to a dead, corrupted Catholic religion. She is what I wish I could be now, but age, health and energy are lacking in this older body. I cannot be her in the way I want to be, but I can be her in the days of my youth, the 1960s, when our country was about to go “all the way with LBJ”.

 

I did march against the Vietnam War once when I was at Sydney University in 1966, but I was bound by the ties I had to my family, church and the belief that women were not meant to be a force for good in the world outside of their nurturing role within the family; that they were not supposed to take a stand in a world that looked to the so-called heroics of war and the destruction of others for the meaning and justification for existence.

 

I wanted to be a force for peace, even then. When I thought of all the young men who’d died in the two world wars, in Malaya, in Korea, and then what we were doing all again in Vietnam, I remember crying to my mum, saying that this should not be happening. If older men want to fight then it should be they who go out and put their bodies on the line – not young men in the flower of their youth.

 

Yes, I know I am using a cliché there, but it really does mean something. Those young men – boys, really – were only budding,  their whole life was ahead of them. They had barely bloomed when they were sent to suffer the horrors of war; a war that had no real justification beyond greed, nationalism and military might, and fear of the different. Maybe it’s because I am a woman who has borne five sons that I feel this way. But even then, years before I bore more than the weight of “womanly expectations”, I felt the same way.

 

Tonight, I cannot sleep because I believe I can see the world more clearly than those who supposedly rule it. They can only see their immediate future, the rewards of power, privilege & wealth that they will receive at the expense of those who will bear the brunt of their ambitions. I want to show that the world has not changed, no matter how much we want it to.

 

People are still ruled by fear, a fear that is fostered and capitalised on by political bosses. Back in the 1960s, it was “The Domino Effect” – that China would take over South-East Asia, and that Australia would be next on their list. Today, it is the fear that Muslims are taking over the world, or again, that the Chinese will be our masters if we don’t oppose them. Why do so many always believe the lies they are told, the Goebbelsesque indoctrinisation, based on fear, that is pushed by those who want us to allow them the power to rule us; that we are lost if we do not oppose everyone who looks, prays or eats differently to how we do?

 

Well, anyway, I am energised by my new project in a way I haven’t been for years. The wishy-washy story I was going to tell has been flushed away in a tide of anger at the world of then and now, at those who would take us to the brink of total destruction, just for their own greed. I won’t just sit down and let them do it. I will be a Greta Thunberg of the 1960s. I will be Gemma Henderson.  

 

(c) Linda Visman

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Trying to Keep Warm – a memoir scrap

June 4, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Posted in 1950s, 1960s, Australia, England, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Migration, Ways of Living | 14 Comments
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Before we came from England to Australia in 1954, we lived in a two-up, two-down in a row of terrace houses. These were built of stone, which made for quite good insulation in a Lancashire winter. We also had piped gas heating, an upgrade from the original coal fireplace. We could keep warm there, as well as dry the washing on rails that could be lowered to load then raised to get the benefit of the heat below the ceiling.

Our clothing and footwear were also designed to keep out the cold when we went outdoors in the ice and snow and the cold wind and rain. Although we girls had to wear dresses, I remember also wearing button-up soft leather leggings, woollen coats, gloves and socks and leather shoes.

In Australia, we lived for a couple of years in a tiny caravan before graduating to a tiny three-roomed cottage that Dad gradually added more rooms to. The cottage was constructed of asbestos fibro and weatherboard. It, like the caravan, was not insulated from either hot or cold.

Linda Confirmation.1958-350

Me on my confirmation day outside our house, 1958

For the first year or two, we didn’t have to wear heavy clothing for winter and we were rarely cold. However, as we acclimatized to the milder climate, we started to feel the cold of winter much more. We no longer had the thick jumpers, coats and leggings we had worn in England, nor did we have the warm gas heating we’d been used to there. Even more,  the wooden floorboards and the lack of insulation in the thin walls and ceilings allowed the cold to penetrate into every part of our home. It was darned cold, and there was nowhere to put in a coal or wood stove.

My parents did purchase a Fyreside kerosene heater, the name of which implied more heat than it actually produced. In the back of the heater, under the cover, was a thick glass bottle with a wire handle to lift it out with. You had to fill the bottle with kerosene from a tin you’d get filled up at the petrol station. You had to put the bottle in upside down, so that the kero would feed through to wick at the front of the heater You’d light the wick, then place the round piece with the coil in it on top. The coil would heat up and glow red. The heat thus generated would be reflected into the room by the shiny metal reflector behind the coil. All that was in theory of course.

The smell of the kerosene itself was bad enough, but once it was lit, the heater often generated smoke and fumes that would either make you feel ill or make your eyes sting. I’m sure it couldn’t have been very healthy, especially in an enclosed space. If the kerosene ran out and the wick went out, you had to wait until the heater cooled before re-filling the bottle (if you had some kero on hand), by which time the any warmth had been sucked out of the air.

Fyreside heater 1950-60s crop

The living room where the heater sat and kitchen were open to each other, so the area (even though not large) was too much to heat and anyway, much of the heat went up to the ceiling which had no insulation. The only way to feel any warmth was to stand right in front of it – and then it would burn your legs, but leave the rest of you cold. But there were at least six of us, and sometimes up to twelve people living in the house, so the kids didn’t get to stand that close. We still had to wear warm clothing and even coats inside.

The heater always had to be turned off at night, and any heat it had generated hadn’t reached our closed-off bedroom. I remember many a time going to bed with only two old, thin wool ex-army blankets and no upper sheet to cover me. I would shiver and never seem able to get warm. My brother and two sisters were the same. Then we would find anything we could to cover ourselves more – usually there was only our not-very-thick coat. We got used to being cold. Eventually, Mum could afford chenille bedspreads for us all.

I suppose the heater did make a difference, enough at least to stop us freezing, but I remember having chilblains on my toes for most of every winter. These heaters couldn’t be called safe, and caused quite a few house fires if left burning without supervision or if drying clothes were too close to the heater. Mum was always scared that would happen, so she only lit it when absolutely necessary.

With the cost of electric heating, these kero heaters were the cheapest source of warmth available at the time. Many people my age now recall them and their smell with a mixture of horror and nostalgia.

 

What kind of heating did you have when you were growing up?

 

(c) Linda Visman

 

 

A Sixteen-year-old’s response to “Thursday’s Child”

September 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Australia, book reviews, discrimination, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Reading, Social mores, Writing and Life | 7 Comments
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I had a great chat with my friend and her granddaughter, yesterday. We talked about my novel, “Thursday’s Child” which Natasha, who is in Year 10 high school, had recently read, along with my first novel, “Ben’s Challenge”.  Natasha told me what she thought were the issues raised throughout “Thursday’s Child”. We discussed the conditions most girls and women faced back in early 1960s and compared them with what they face today.

Natasha had written her thoughts on the book before we met, in the form of a review , and she said I could share it on my blog. I am really pleased to present the thoughts of a reader from the demographic my book is targeted at. Thank you Tasha.

 

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Review of “Thursday’s Child” by Natasha Ireland

 

Thursday’s Child, by Linda Visman. Is a story of a teenage girl named Tori who faces many challenges around education and having to be brought up with a family on the poverty line. The biggest challenge she faces is the consequence of a violent incident which she experiences at the beginning of the story. Visman exposes her central character to many valuable lessons that come through the hardship that is face by Tori and how she is able to overcome this towards the end of the story.

 

Tori has many different people who influence her life in good and bad ways. The story shows how the men in her life have not impacted her life in a good way as life in the 1960s was tough for Tori ue to sexism and inequality towards women. Even her own father shows her no sympathy despite her terrible dilemma. He doesn’t care about what Tori wants or how important her education will be for her future. Tori’s mother says to her, “It’s not fair at all. But that’s what the law says. The man makes the decisions and we have to abide by ‘em”.

 

Tori’s treatment helps women of our generation now to understand how far women have come from those days and how many more opportunities we can have. Although this issue is still continued in certain countries, women over time will work to dismiss this issue for good.

 

The story will help boys to understand how difficult life was and can still be for women. This could explain many terrible issues women face and help them to respect us more equally.

 

Rape, abuse and unwanted pregnancy are a few of the major disadvantages of women in Tori’s time. However, Visman wants the reader to see how much of an independent and tough woman Tori becomes through the story after the stressful events that have taken place in her life. Increasingly empowered, she continues to do anything she can to do what is right for her and does not surrender to the force of the men in her life.

 

The protagonist is a bright and intelligent girl who is trapped in the reality of her times. She recognises her escape is through her education. She is a remarkable role model for self-determination and courage.

 

Natasha Ireland, Year 10.

 

Love this review of “Thursday’s Child”

August 30, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Reflections, role model, Social mores, Social Responsibility, Writing, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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I am honoured to receive this wonderful review from a reader. Thank you Janet.

Dear Linda,

I’ve just finished reading “Thursday’s Child” and found it a fine piece of writing.

These days I have two simple criteria with regard to novels. I ask:
1. Did I care what happens to the people in the story?
2. Does the author present the story without me being aware of her techniques?

On both these criteria, your book gets a large tick.

I cared very much what happened to all the characters. Of course, Tori is the main focus, but her parents, her siblings, Adele, Gwen feel like real people with their own strengths and weaknesses, their own needs. I even cared about Grizzly, wondering if he continued as he began, or whether his encounters with Tori and Dad change him.

Your story kept me engaged, not wanting to rush ahead because what was happening in each moment mattered, but also keen to know how things would turn out. You write with skill, but, as I read, I was not aware of that. In other words, you, the writer kept yourself “out of the way”. That said, I do think a strength of your writing lies in the natural feel of the dialogue.

One aside: I remember that earth tremor in the early 1960s! I was living in Campbelltown at the time, and all the cups rattled in the cupboard!

At the library session on “Thursday’s Child” there was some discussion about the negative references to God and the church; people thought church schools would not allow their children to read such a book. Well, any church school that bans this book would also have to ban large parts of the bible, including the words from Psalm 22 that the gospel writer attributes to Jesus on the cross: My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?” The psalm adds the words: “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” which express well Tori’s feelings, albeit in more literary language.

Actually there are many ethical/moral questions in your story, which could be explored fruitfully in a classroom: male violence and rape, abortion (legal or illegal?) and what support should be given to young mothers.

One moral issue that impresses me is that of vengeful violence. Questions that arise include: Does revenge work for the one who has been violated? Does punishment convince the perpetrator? Then there is the dilemma of whether or not to involve the police, with all the problems that entails, and whether personal vengeance is justified.

I suppose what I am saying is that it is many years since I worked in schools, public and Catholic, and primary school rather than secondary, but in those days I felt more free to discuss thorny issues in the Catholic school than I had in the public ones.
I will give the book to my niece who has a fifteen-year old daughter. I will be very interested to hear their responses.

So, Linda, in summary, congratulations.

Kind wishes,

Janet

 

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

 

I Suppose It’s What You’re Used To

February 8, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Publishing, Writing and Life | 15 Comments
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I was so happy when my novel, Thursday’s Child, became available on Kindle on the first of February. At last, all the effort and angst of writing it had taken on a certain reality. People could buy it and read it and, hopefully, let me and others know that they liked it. I know it was a real pleasure to see it download onto my own Kindle device.

However, it was when the printed books arrived, on the day after it appeared on Kindle, that I felt the reality of my book’s publication. There is nothing like holding your own work in your hands, feeling the weight of it, turning the pages and seeing the words printed on real pages. That is when I jumped about in excitement, my book raised in my hand, and my husband hugged me in congratulation.

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I am au fait with several types of technology, and have hundreds of books on my Kindle that I have really enjoyed reading. I know that many of my readers will also read my book on their electronic device. But, to me, born and growing up when all of this technology was almost unthinkable, it is the solidity of the printed word that makes it all real.

I have already had one Kindle reader enthusiastically tell me that my novel is “brilliantly written”. Wow, who can’t love that (thanks Janet)! Now I am waiting for the first reader of the paperback version to let me know what they think of my second literary child – Thursday’s Child.

If you have read my novel, or if you intend to read it, I would love to have you tell me your thoughts on it.

The electronic version of Thursday’s Child is available here

 

Linda Visman

Thursday’s Child is now available!

February 1, 2018 at 9:59 am | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Publishing, Society, Writing | 7 Comments
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Today, my novel for Young Adults,Thursday’s Child, is ready for download. If you have already ordered it on Kindle it will automatically download.

If not, you can order your copy now and get yourself or someone else who loves a coming-of-age story a great read. It is available on Kindle here, and as a print-on-demand book here.

If you don’t have a Kindle, there is an app on Amazon that allows you to read it on any platform.

Back cover

Settle in for a great story.

 

Linda Visman

‎How I came to write Thursday’s Child

January 29, 2018 at 7:30 am | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Promotion, Writing | 4 Comments
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pexels-photo-204511.jpeg

 

Many people who liked my first Young Adult novel, Ben’s Challenge, requested that I write a follow-up to it. They wanted to know what happened to the characters after the book ended. So, when I finally got around to writing a second novel, I began it as a sequel to my first, expecting Ben to carry the story along.

I was a couple of months and fifteen chapters into the story when I realized it wasn’t working. The situation, theme, characters, plot couldn’t be played out with Ben there. I’d had a strong new character called Jessie in that aborted manuscript and she made me very aware that she had her own story to tell. I had to completely start over so it could be told.

I didn’t know much about Jessie at first, or what her story was. I just knew that she was a bright, ambitious girl from a large but poor Irish Catholic family. I knew what the opening chapter would be about, but even as the new chapters grew in number, I didn’t really know where it was heading. I also discovered I had given my character the wrong name. She wasn’t Jessie; she was Victoria – Tori Delaney.

From that point, Tori quickly showed me that she was quite happy to let my fingers be the instruments to tell her story, but that she would be telling it herself. And that is how I ended up with Thursday’s Child.

 

© Linda Visman

Writing Young Adults Novels That Break the Age Barrier

January 25, 2018 at 7:30 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Society, Ways of Living, Writing, Writing and Life | 4 Comments
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Here is a comment that was made on my blog post, Tori’s Book Review

I’m writing a book for YAs that might extend the age of readers into their early twenties. I could use some tips on YA writing. Any suggestions.  Christine

 

I’m not sure I can give Christine, or anyone for that matter, much in the way of tips on writing a book for young adults (say 14 to 30 and beyond). What I will do is write briefly about my own approach to writing them and hope that will help.

Like Christine, I want my book’s readership to extend beyond teenagers to adults of all ages. One way I try to do this is by being as real as I can be. My current novel, Thursday’s Child, deals with a couple of difficult issues, issues that have always been a part of growing up, of finding our place in society, and of dealing with the bad things that happen as well as the good..

For me, the characters are paramount. Readers are looking for characters they can identify with – even when they live in a different time, as mine do. Teens, and adults too, have similar desires, needs, hopes and ambitions for their lives, as well as similar obstacles to overcome to achieve them. Each person will see and approach them from their own perspective, but the basic issues remain: among these, are love and loss; fairness and tolerance; acceptance and understanding; freedom and equality to pursue one’s goals.

I don’t write comedy or fantasy or satire. I write about the world as it is, or as it was at the time of which I am writing. I find that a character and an issue come together for me and then I write that character’s story. All the characters begin to ‘speak to me’ in such a way that I can do that.

I think authenticity is of major importance in writing for anyone, not just young adults. You must be true to and honest with your characters, your themes and your future readers. For me, authenticity comes when I draw from my own knowledge, experience and understanding of the world and of people to create a person of flesh and blood and everything else that goes with it. I want that character to live an authentic life with authentic experiences. When I am writing, I am living my character, I am there and I bring (in this case) her into the reality of her world. I may not have experienced exactly what she goes through, but I have lived and observed life more than enough to be able to write it.

If, in our writing, we create real characters in real situations, with real problems they have to deal with and joys they can experience, then I think that book  we write, although primarily aimed at young adults, will resonate with older readers too.

My first novel, Ben’s Challenge, was written for twelve to sixteen-year-olds, but I have received many comments from readers of ten to ninety years of age about how much they loved it.

Christine, I hope you can get a similar response to your writing. It is possible, so go for it.

 

If you wish to purchase Thursday’s Child on Kindle, click here to pre-order. It will be available for download on the 1st of February. If you’d like to read Ben’s Challenge, click on the cover photo at the side.

 

© Linda Visman

Thursday’s Child – Picnic at the Waterfall

January 22, 2018 at 7:30 am | Posted in Australia, Birds, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, household chores, Nature, Promotion, Reading, Writing | 6 Comments
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I am writing a few blog posts to introduce the main character in Thursday’s Child, my new Young Adult novel, which is set in 1960-61 Australia. Victoria Delaney (Tori) is fourteen, in her second year of high school. She wants to become a teacher one day, but events conspire against her.

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From Tori’s Diary

Thursday, 8th September 1960

We had such a lovely day today. I am so tired I can hardly write. It’s only a few days until we go back to school for the last term before Christmas, so we wanted to do something special. We got Mam to let us go to the falls for a picnic! The four of us – me, Carol, Mickey & Frankie set off after we’d done our morning chores. Danny’s only a baby, so he stayed home with Mam.

We followed the road, then a track, and after about four miles, we came to the creek. It wasn’t hot, but it was sunny, even through the trees and we were glad to get there. The water was so clear and cold to drink, wash our faces and bathe our bare feet in. Mam had made us promise not to go in swimming, so I had to watch Mickey so he didn’t.

We played around on the rocks and paddled where the water was shallow just out from the falls. How lovely the rock wall is where the water flows over into the waterhole! I’m no good at geology, but I could tell that lots of different layers sat on top of each other. The water had made them smooth and dark, and where the sun shone, the rock glistened and the water sparkled.

Mickey kept his eyes and ears open for birds all the time, and told us each time he heard or saw a different one. There are so many! Honeyeaters, red wattlebirds and a couple of different finches are the ones I remember. Frankie followed Mickey everywhere, as he usually does, and one time he slipped off a rock into the water. Thank goodness it wasn’t deep. He grazed his leg & got wet, but he was dry by the time we got home.

Carol and I wandered around, sometimes together and sometimes in different directions, but we all stayed close to the waterhole. I was hoping to see a platypus, but we must have scared them away. We did see a water dragon, and when we were walking back home, we saw a couple of wallabies – I think its wallabies in the mountains, not kangaroos, as they live in flatter country. Some of the wildflowers were out too and the golden wattles along the roadsides were still in flower.

We ate our jam sandwiches and boiled eggs for lunch and drank from the creek. We loved it so much that we didn’t want to leave, but we’d also promised Mam we’d be back in time to do our evening chores. I have to help with making dinner, and there are the chooks to feed, eggs to collect, Danny to look after, wood to chop for the stove. We got home in time, so Mam was happy, and even with the five-mile walk back, we were too.

 

If you wish to purchase Thursday’s Child on Kindle, click here to pre-order. It will be available for download on the 1st of February.

© Linda Visman

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