books, Everyday Inspiration

Everyday Inspiration: 10 Books Which Stayed With Me

The actual challenge for today is to write a list addressing what I like or what I’ve learned.  I think this list of books covers both.

  1. ‘Jane Eyre’, Charlotte Bronte
    This book was one of the first adult novels I read as a child.  Jane’s independent spirit and attraction to the inner person and ideas rather than possessions and glamour struck a chord within me.
  2. ‘Dracula’, Bram Stoker
    As a teenager, the concept of vampires seemed attractive, and despite my better judgement, films or books with a vampire as a character do still attract my attention. However, I haven’t come across anything I would rank above the original novel.
  3. ‘The White Hotel’,  D. M. Thomas
    This was a set text for a creative writing course I completed. It’s difficult to put into words how powerfully written this novel is, and the way poetry, metaphor and first hand accounts retell the same story, revealing more in each telling.  I won’t write about the plot for those who haven’t read it.  I can only urge everyone to read this marvelous book.  For me, it changed the possibilities for my own writing.
  4. ‘Atonement’, Ian McEwan
    The interplay of our actions on those in our lives, the possibility of what might have happened and what did happen are explored deftly in this novel and it took some time for me to disengage from the strongly formed characters.
  5. ’84 Charring Cross Road’, Helene Hanff 
    A simple telling of two people exchanging letters about books in the midst of World War II is much more than this. Humanity, compassion, friendship, family  and the love of books – the texture, the cut of the page, the typeface, the story.  A beautiful read.
  6. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, Margaret Atwood
    I’m not a science fiction fan, and tend to avoid novels dealing with an imagined future. However, Atwood’s novel is so embedded in our world with just a few changes, and such dramatic impacts on a woman who has no choice but to adapt. Compelling read with ‘what if’s’ that stay in the mind.
  7. ‘1984’, George Orwell
    Another set text. This time for a politics class where we examined language. We also discussed the fact that every incident in the novel (ostensibly happening in the future) was based on incidents that Orwell had witnessed or researched from various countries involved in World War II.  So it is both real and imagined, this novel.  For me, the use of language is what stays with me.
  8.  ‘Akhenaten’ Dorothy Porter
    I could have selected a number of Porter’s verse novels to include in this list, but ‘Akhenaten’ is the one I love most.  I was fortunate to see Dorothy Porter read a number of times, including poems from this book.  Her voice and her expressions as she reads are in my mind when I re-read the poetry. She is sadly missed.
  9. Unreliable Truth- on Memoir and Memory’, Maureen Murdoch
    One of a number of texts I read while completing my Masters degree, this book explores the concept of emotional truth.  At the same time I was reading a series of short essays on memoir edited by William Zinsner called ‘Inventing the Truth’.  Together, these books made me realise that even if we want to write exactly what happened to us, it is a fiction.  We can’t write every single thing from every single second so we edit. How we recall events is always going to be different from how other people recall them.  All we can tell is our own truth in our own way.
  10. ‘A Room of One’s Own’, Virginia Woolf
    I debated between this book and any number of other feminist books which have left an imprint on me.  I chose this one because Woolf also writes novels and essays. She is a keen observer, including reflections about writing.  Also, before we can create anything, we need the space and the time to do so, and it is such a fundamental principle.

Reviewing this list, I see that I have omitted some of my favourite writers, so it could have been two or three times longer.  Perhaps part two will eventuate soon.

Which books have left a lasting impression on you?  Leave me a comment and tell me.  I’m interested to know what has touched you.


Everyday Inspiration, On Writing

Everyday Inspiration: Why I Write

“I write because…” seems a daunting way to begin a blog post.  It’s too definitive and I’ve always been more reflective – skipping between thoughts or compulsions.  Trying to pin down something specific often makes it disappear, so I tend to sneak up on the idea I want to capture.  Confronting it head-on rarely works.

Often I get caught up in context. The lead-up to why I’m pouring myself onto the page often comes at the expense of the event itself.  Sometimes I run out of energy before I get to the punchline. What I do know is that I have always had the urge to write, and that I can express myself more clearly in writing than in speech.

‘I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.’ Flannery O’Connor 

If I look back through my poetry, short stories, personal essays and non-fiction, the common thread is that each piece attempts to capture a moment in time. Passion, anger, illumination and confusion are repeating themes, along with flashes of revelation or self-understanding.  That well-known  Flannery O’Connor quote “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” makes me laugh with recognition.  Reading back through old journal entries I am still surprised by some of the thoughts which were captured through free associative writing with a set time limit of thirty minutes.  That’s just long enough to lose myself in the flow of ideas from brain, through my arm and hand, to the pen on the page.  The rhythm of the action takes over and the inner critic falls asleep. The buzzer to stop writing always seems to happen just at the point where I have written down something I never consciously knew.

I write to explore too – What am I feeling? How did this eventuate?  How do our world views differ?  Psychology, history, philosophy and politics slip in from time to time as well.  In many ways I am no different to other writers in that I want to understand the world around me and the relationships within it.  Non-fiction and poetry are my two natural genres.  My attempts at fiction are thinly disguised autobiography.  Not because I want to share my life story. but more because I am trying to find truth in a sea of ambiguity.

So, perhaps I write because I want to understand who I am and how I came to be like this.

Daily Challenge, Reflections

The Shifting Shadow

A shadow is misshapen reality. Elongated or shortened by the angle of the sun, familiar objects appear distorted, muted, hidden. As the sun shifts, so does the shadow, and we see the world anew. Perhaps the colours are brighter than we remember or, lit from a different angle, we see the cracks that had escaped our attention.  Sometimes, the shifting light can reveal a beauty we never imagined.

My shadow was breast cancer.After the initial plunge into darkness, I found the sun moved swiftly.  People reached out, treatment wasn’t as bad as I had imagined, and I had time to reflect.  I felt uplifted and embraced. This was Spring 2013 and I took up the camera to photograph the nature around me.  We live on a property with some natural bushland, so I began by photographing wild flowers, trees and birds. The more I looked, the more signs of life I found. Life full of colour, intricate detail and beauty in tiny forms.

Two years later, healthy and trying to get back into work, I realise the shadow of cancer allowed me time to venture on a creative journey I would otherwise not have begun. As the sun moves through the sky I see the myriad artworks in nature awaiting capture through my lens.

Barely 5cm high, with petals just 2mm across, this tiny Parsons Bands Orchid emerges from the shadowy forest floor. Beauty encapsulated in a tiny form.