Archive for the What I’m writing now Category

Sneak Peak

Posted in Uncategorized, What I'm writing now with tags , , on August 3, 2009 by belindajeffrey

Here’s the opening paragraph of my new book.

When Tom was grown he would say he had been born three times.

Once to his mother, once to his Pa, and last to the river.

Like he couldn’t make it in life until he’d earnt each piece of himself.

One letter at a time.

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The business of writing

Posted in What I'm writing now with tags , , on February 18, 2009 by belindajeffrey

It’s a tricky thing trying to manage a ‘normal’ existence – what ever that really is – and the business of writing. Well it is for me. I survive the real world by taking on contracts and casual work. Some of it comes in intense bursts and some of it consists of jobs that continue all the time but require a few hours here and there. It works well on paper, but sometimes it all comes at once. And there’s the issue of keeping it all ‘managed’ in my head. I enjoy the work I do, and the time I spend with my kids. They still love me to sit with them and colour in or build lego, or just chat. But it often means that when I have some writing time, my head’s reeling from what I’ve been doing before. I’m trying to draw trees that resemble something like a tree while conversing with my son,and in the back of my head, I’m trying to nut out what my next scene looks like and how my character, Chang, would smoke a fish in 1938 somewhere in Chinatown, so that when I sit down to write, I have something to go with.

Some days I long for mental space more than time to write.

Zen and the art of writing

Posted in What I'm writing now with tags , , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by belindajeffrey

I was running a training course the other day and we were telling stories about strange occurrences of chance and synchronicity. One of the women said,

Oh you must read the book, ‘The Sercret Life of Inanimate Objects.’ 

I was immediately captivated by the title. I knew then I had to find and read the book (I often respond intuitively to books I simply must read), but she went on to tell one of the stories mentioned in the book about a woman standing in the water fingering her much loved wedding band. She drops the ring in the water and looses it. Some years later she and her husband are in a restaurant and order a whole fish. Inside the fish is her wedding ring. 

What’s more strange and freaky to me – other than the story itself – is that the book I am writing at the moment is steeped in the mythology of the fish and I have been stuck at a point in the story, having no knowledge of how to get from where I am, to the next known point some way towards the end. All of a sudden, this story acted like a spark in my mind. I felt tingles and my creative subconscious opened up and a whole heap of ideas flooded into my mind (but I still had to teach for the rest of the day instead of rushing home to write).

But wait, there’s more!

The next morning, I woke up feeling tremedously excited about the next section of my book. I logged onto the internet and went searching for the book, ‘The Secret Life Of Inanimate Objects’. What I found on the cover of the book blew me away.

I have a friend, Katherine – writer and play-write – who has been talking about her uncle for some time. I knew his name, but I didn’t know anything else about him, other than he was a great writer and amazing man. I remember Katherine preparing her guest room for him to come and stay at some point. I remember him dying last year, and I have been following Katherine’s blog about her journey to know more about him. And there on the cover of the book I looked up on the internet, was his name. Llyal Watson. Katherine’s unlce, is the author of the book. Follow the links on this website to her blog.

It’s strange, too, because my book is also about synchronistic events. The way that things line up underneath our awareness.

Sometimes life is truly stranger than fiction.

Picture This…

Posted in What I'm writing now with tags , on January 10, 2009 by belindajeffrey

 My characters – Sam and his three gangster cronies – have just arrived at the Woolloomoolloo Finger wharf to meet the Chinese ratter, Chang. It’s Sydney, 1938 and I wanted this scene to capture quite a lot. From the feel of the wharf at night, the sights, sounds and smells of Industrial Sydney to memories of the rat plague of 1900. What I mostly wanted was to find a way to convey the dirt and filth and struggle that my characters lived with. I had such a clear sense of what I wanted this scene to do, yet every time I put words on the paper, they just didn’t cut it. So I went searching for pictures.

lxoo-city-of-shadows 

When I found this picture, I could see my characters getting out of their car and walking down the street to the wharf.

awloo_wharvesx

Now I could see the wharf and imagine my ratter, Chang, pushing his punt with a bamboo pole through the pylons. I could imagine what the water smelt like and what he would see underneath the wharf.

sutton-forest-butchery-761-george-street-sydney-1900plague-kitchen

And with these pictures, I could sense the filth and squalor that so many people lived with. I could believe that rats would be swarming houses and streets.

Sometimes we writers need pictures and images and music and emotions and tactile stimuli to enter the fictional worlds of our books. These pictures are from the NSW State Archives. Some scenes rush onto the page perfectly (well, almost). This scene took me weeks to get it just right. Here’s a snippet.

The rat traps work like this. A cage of lashed wire is lowered into the water with a piece of fish meat secured on string inside. Rats sniff out the meat and swim through a small opening hoping for an easy meal. And then they’re stuck. They can hold their breath for a while—they’ve a talent for it—but eventually even they succumb to the need for air, and drown. It’s an advantageous death for Chang because this way there’s no damage to their fur, which is naturally lush and water resistant, pay a pretty penny. So Chang can skin them, dry them on racks and they’re perfect. You like, you buy. Canadian otter pelt. No better, you buy. It’s easy work for Chang. He sets the pots, strings them around the wharf, and paddles through the night like a watchmen. He’s the city’s ritual superstition. Nineteen hundred is not so long ago. Everyone remembers.