Archive for writing process

Alain de Botton

Posted in Authors and books with tags , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by belindajeffrey

Ok, so I’m still posting from my old site, but not for long. Just waiting for the website wires and dentrites to realign themselves – within the day.

I came across this article about International author and philosopher, Alain de Botton, who is now writer in residence at London’s Heathrow Airport – which is such a cool idea. Ok, so his book is about Airports and travel but I love the idea of writing in a public space. The act of observation and interaction while writing. It’s such a different process than sitting at one’s desk in isolation and relying upon the concerted efforts of the inner mind.

I find that my mind opens up differently in a public space. Not just about what is going on around me, but it allows a different kind of ‘free association.’ In the act of distracting myself with who is walking by, what they are wearing, how they dress, what they say and what philosophical ideas this might trigger in my own mind, my subconscious is momentarily freed from the direct act of attention. My writing is fresher and more original. It is more organic and less cognitive. It’s a great part of my daily writing practice. I wonder if I can squeeze Brisbane Airport into my current novel set in 1956 on the Murray River in South Australia. Better let my subconscious percolate on that one.

I ran Alain’s event when he came to Brisbane and we sat 1200 people and I turned away hundreds of eager fans. After listening to this man’s presentation, I can see why he’s so popular. You can view his Brisbane gig on my youtube channel.



Still in the Water

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2009 by belindajeffrey

A while ago I posted a blog about debut authors – there’s quite a few of us in Brisbane at the moment. 

Here’s the Courier Mail article that appeared in the paper on the weekend.

Queensland writers break out with debut novels

It can be difficult when you’re an aspiring writer, wondering whether anything you write will ultimately break through the slush piles. I entered a novel into the Premier’s Literary Awards a few years ago. Krissy Kneen was shortlisted. Karen Foxlee won. I was so disappointed that my novel didn’t make the list and wondered if I’d ever make it. And I remember being in awe of those two women.I’ve since read ‘The Anatomy Of Wings’ and Krissy Kneen’s ‘Swallow The Sound’ – and I can’t wait to read her memoir. These women are superb writers. And here we all are in the paper together.

The path to publication – and, indeed, the process of writing itself – is not linear. Sometimes it seems round about and upside down.  

If you’re a writer trying to break through, take heart. It can happen. Just keep writing.

Finished Book

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 27, 2009 by belindajeffrey

It’s done.

On thursday night, I received a copy of my first book and I felt like a brand new Mum.

Look, I’ve got a book!

 I’ve seen every word and every page too many times to remember. I’ve seen the cover and the inset pages. Everything. But seeing it all together, as a complete book, is moving. I keep picking it up, looking at it, 

Did I really write this?

I don’t know why I’m so passionate about books and why I have to write them. Lots of them. Why does one person spend their lifetime perfecting the skill of cricket, or engineering, or painting, or writing? And why passion is so important?

Its been a few years now that I’ve known I want to be a writer. Not a person who writes one book, but a writer. I want to do this always. And that means getting up every day ( or most days), sitting at the computer and tapping out my thoughts. It doesn’t stop with a published book in my hands. If anything, having that book on my desk is an incentive to work harder. 

Brown Skin Blue will be launched in the first week of June and, while I have the occasional thought/worry about sales figures, my more immediate concern is finishing my next book. I want to have a completed draft by the time Brown Skin Blue goes on sale.

I had better get writing…

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.


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


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.


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.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2009 by belindajeffrey

On New Year’s Eve, I was in Armidale with my family. We were tucked up inside our little campervan at the Pembroke Caravan Park where it was hot enough during the day to swim in the pool and cold enough at night to snuggle up under a quilt. Perfect, in my opinion.

We’d been on a driving trip from Brisi to Dubbo with friends to take the children to the zoo. The day we went biking the 15km around the Western Plains Zoo, the temperature hovered around 33degrees with humidity that was, well, bloody high, and apparently record crowds. My husband had a rotten cold/flu and spent the entire time sneezing and blowing his nose. I’m not that good with heat. Or bikes. Most of the animals were too hot to be bothered emerging from the water or shady corners. My kids are the kind to say ‘oh yeah, there it is, let’s go’. Still, I’m glad we went. But our friends loved every minute of it. 

In Armidale, at Pembroke Caravan Park, the owners invited us all to a NYE BBQ beside the pool. There was quite a turn out. My kids were swimming in the pool while I drank Banrock Station white Shiraz ( highly recommended) and spoke to a lady about all things from retirement to Tim Winton. On the later point we shared a mutual affection. The condition to attending the BBQ was to be prepared to share a story and I thought, well, given I’m a writer, that should be ok. But I spent most of the salad and sausage course hoping I wouldn’t be called upon to say anything. The lady I was talking to disappeared every few minutes to have a cigarette, really, this is my only vice, she said each time before departing, which made our conversation – which I was quite enjoying – rather disjointed. I listened to the conversations all around me. Oldies, mostly, discussing their medical ailments, really, you have diabetes, too. Which kind? There was the man in the corner, red-faced and sweating explaining the virtues of different caravan park amenity blocks, really, the quality ranges from the adequate to the plain inconsiderate. Imagine a man my size (picture a happy walrus on two legs, here) trying to squeeze into a cubicle fit for a child, or trying to get my entire body wet with a showerhead so clogged only one stream of water works and that shoots out in an unpredictable squirt. Dessert concluded  and the owner of the park stood and thanked everyone for coming. Story time. I was happily distracted watching one son in the pool and the other on the playground and hoped to avoid being asked. I needn’t have worried. Person after person volunteered telling us all about themselves, where they had come from and, while they came from such diverse places as Germany, Perth, New Zealand and ‘up the road from Glenn Innes’, they all concluded their sharing by saying how much they appreciated the BBQ. One bloke, close to tears, told about how he’d been on the road for years and wouldn’t go back to a fixed way of living for anything, when I’m dead, the misses can kick me out the door on the way to the next town. I’ve got a van full of cards from friends I have made in parks. You won’t find communities like this staying in motels, I  can tell you that. There were three votes of thanks offered to the owners of the park that night, and three rounds of applause. Not because any of the people who stood and said, ‘I think we should show our appreciation’ thought any of the other two were inadequate, but that hearing isn’t always that good by the time you’re old enough to take off around Australia and two rounds of applause and cheers simply  weren’t noticed. 

I found myself soaking up every inch of my experiences this holiday. The way that tree branches vary in colour from reds and oranges to the most glowing whites. The way the leaves from some trees are silver and shimmer as though they are a colony of a thousand, miniature insects. The sense of an endless road. The feeling of the caravan bumping along behind us. The worry of whether we’d double checked the tow ball. The surprising arrival of lavender and sunflowers and daisies. The feeling of heat and tiredness and dogged determination to finish the bike trail at the zoo. The way anger rushed up inside me every time my kids decided to belt into each other in the back seat or the way some people love what others loathe. The relief of cold water, the feeling of cold wind on my face. The words that people say, the way they look and think and interact. And, yes, stories. Too many, too important, too fragile to share, yet.