In this post, Rashida Murphy and Karen Overman, part of the wonderful group of Western Australian women writers I featured here two years ago in the series ‘The Next Wave’, talk about what has happened in their creative lives since then.
In 2014, when I was featured in the ‘Next Wave’ series, I had a manuscript entitled ‘The Historian’s Daughter’. I also had a year to go before I submitted that manuscript as part of a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University. In August 2016, The Historian’s Daughter was published by UWA Publishing. Since then, my life has traversed uncharted waters. As a novelist I have appeared at two regional writers festivals and been invited to the Perth Writers Festival in 2017. I have judged writing competitions and just finished a stint as a guest editor of the journal Westerly (‘New Creative’ issue). I am to be a Writer-In-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre next year. All of these events seem designed to make me pinch myself (which I do, frequently, and my husband no longer appears concerned when I yell, Ouch!).
Life as a published writer has unexpected moments of grace. Like the time I walked into a bookshop in Fremantle and the wonderful manager recognised me and told me my book was ‘selling well.’ And the time, in a library, a woman came up and said her friend had recommended she buy my book. Friends and strangers have posted positive reviews of The Historian’s Daughter, and it has been sighted and photographed in India, America, England and Canada, in addition to various cities in Australia. And I find myself answering questions about writing as if I know something. In truth, I’m terrified. Proud of my novel, yes, but terrified that I’ll find out it’s been a big mistake and this will all go away in a puff of smoke. This feeling is sometimes referred to as The Imposter Syndrome, a malaise many writers suffer from, apparently.
So where to, next? I’ve started writing my next novel and I expect it to change so many times that I won’t try to describe it in a sentence. Yes, it has women with foreign names who wear flowing skirts and have completely non-exotic childhoods. (I write fiction, after all).
Next year, I expect to wander around, lost for days, waiting for someone to find me and take me home. We are moving south of the river. As a northerner, this thought flummoxes me and feeds into my directional dyslexia. They say change is good for the soul, don’t they? I’m hoping ‘they’ are right. At the very least, expect some entertaining stories about those strange people who live south of the river, eat bananas and keep goannas as pets. Now I really must ring my kids (all of whom live south) and assure them it’s an advantage to live close to us again. It doesn’t matter how far they run, we’ll find them.
So what have I been up to since last we met?
‘The Blue Moment’ manuscript sits percolating in a drawer with its sisters (I shall return soon to this manuscript to ‘prune’ and feed anon), and work upon another manuscript has been embarked upon. This most recent will form part of a trilogy.
In the interim I have been travelling lots—Finland, Norway, Ireland and soon a return to Russia and China. On these travels my mind becomes a net scooping up little bits of shimmer-and-gravity along the way.
Oh, and I have been blogging. Some pieces of shimmer make it into these blogs. On one occasion a piece of gravity did, too, in a blog addressing the hysteria (and unkindness?) being displayed towards the Muslim community in Australia. I say Australia, but its argument could be applied to the wider world.
I think I poked a bit of a hornet’s nest. Apart from being kindly informed that I was ‘a piece of s**t’, and then hearing from another dear reader, ‘I hope you die in a terrorist bomb blast’ (I’m hoping I don’t get one of these readers in the Christmas Kringle…)—it gained an audience from all over the world. At last count it had attracted almost 23,000 shares. It also confirmed my deep-seated feeling that if my larger work ever attracts a substantial readership, I hope this doesn’t occur until at least three minutes after I’ve popped my clogs!
Did this brief moment of notoriety make me want to crawl back into my shell?
Did it make me want to court greater notoriety?
Did it make me want to moderate my opinions?
Not really. (Well, perhaps momentarily after the first few death threats, but when the hundreds of messages of affirmation began streaming into my Facebook Messenger in-box from all over the world…no, no rescinding of opinions at all.)
Most importantly, it reaffirmed my belief in the power of the word. And, especially for someone like me who eschews public speaking, the power of the written word.
The effect of the blog drove home to me how important—in my life, and perhaps in yours—it is to think deeply about what is occurring in the world that surrounds us: the beautiful things, the ugly things, the unfairnesses and the actions that make us as fine as we can aspire to be. These are all worth applying the best of one’s mind to, and perhaps even to take the further step of writing down the fruits of such thought.
On 19 November 1863, Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address said, The world will little note, nor long remember what is said here—and he couldn’t have been more wrong. The world remembers every word of his address, firstly, because what he said was fine; he stated his nation shall have a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But, most significantly, his thoughts live on because he Wrote. Them. Down.
The power of the written word cannot be underestimated. So, as a mantra to myself, and as an exhortation and encouragement to my fellow writers on Amanda’s generous-spirited blog, keep writing.
Keep thinking, deeply.
And, keep writing!