Monthly Archives: January 2010

Guest Slot: “Shaping the Writer” by Annie Evett

Last year I was fortunate to come across that diverse and stimulating, not to mention inspiring, writers’ site Write Anything. Our mutual love of nature, and writers’ efforts to capture its large and small wonders, brought me into contact with writer Annie Evett from that site. It greatly pleases me this month to have Annie’s account of growing up in the Australian bush and its profound influence on her as a writer. All our childhood experiences are unique. But some are more unique than others! Over to you, Annie ….

Although I dislike the pigeon holing of genre based writing, it would appear from readers’ feedback, that my writing success lies within my descriptive narrative; specifically that of a setting. Anne contacted me a little while back to ask if I might write on whether one’s earliest memories of environment influence one’s main style of writing.

In particular she was interested in my experience within the bush and my love of nature writing. Noticing minute detail is important to a writer building a realistic and believable character or scene – and to country folk relying on specific information in order to diagnose sick animals, fix machinery or identify an area in danger of bushfire.  The latter are skills which seem to be ingrained from an early age.

Rural life taught me the zen of chicken taming, the aikido of sheep handling, the philosophy of cattle herding and the oneness felt between a rider and horse on a long dusty road. With our modern society bent on cotton padding every bump, growing up in the bush taught me to take and make risks, be proactive, inventive and constantly seek answers both from within and outside. Valuable lessons for any writer.

Nature writing binds characters to the natural wealth and expanse of the wilderness with words of respect, admiration, and empathy.  It marries up the divorce between nature in the plastic world and  reminds us in every phrase, that nature has its eventual dominant place. Growing up as I did, instilled this belief deeply within my soul.

 

Annie - contemplative mode

Annie - contemplative mode

The eldest of six children, born to a shearer and housemaid who subsequently set themselves up within the fine wool industry, I lived my first seventeen years within the Australian bush on a mixed produce property . My primary school had up to twenty students enrolled; the nearest town boasted a population of nearly five thousand people.  Despite only living half an hour to town, modern living and experiences such as going to the movies or having a milkshake (in fact any sort of fast food) was something I didn’t indulge until I left home and went to University in the big smoke (our capital city). I believe this extended innocence has given me the opportunity to look at situations with unsullied eyes and the ability to twist things to a different perspective.

Daily childhood experiences involving the stark reality of drought, flood and bushfires, the brutal honesty of the cycle of life and the truth in death  colour my writing.

Memories cutting deeply into my psyche include droughts where the piles of carcasses grew daily. Bullets were too expensive to waste on the dying; so children were sent to cut throats and drag bodies behind utes. (Ed: a type of pickup truck) Memories, too,  of bushfires devastating vast expanses of land, native animals and farm equipment – caused by the careless flick of a cigarette from a passing car, or the malicious act of bored teenagers from town. It is through these eyes I am able to ‘cut to the bone’ of a story, revealing its inner strengths without being distracted by sidelines or flattery.

 

Seasonal chore aged 5 - Annie plucks turkey

My childhood days would start with a seasonal chore, such as fruit or vegetable harvesting, mustering animals or milking with the children saved only by the need to get changed and catch a battered bus to go to school. Far from thinking this was a prison camp, in no way would I change a single memory or experience. Indeed, I would wish a similar childhood for my own children.

Imagine a wondrous childhood where over three thousand acres of land lay to be explored on horseback? Where it was safe to leave after breakfast and not come home till dark? Where at anytime your pet list included a half dozen chickens, up to twenty motherless lambs or calves, horses, ducks, goats and dogs?

My first paid job was as a roustabout for a shearing team when I was thirteen. Here, I met some of the outback’s true characters; a deeper appreciation for humour, regardless of the situation, was born. I feel privileged that my parents pulled us all out of school (just before my final year exams) so that we could go droving for a month. I joined the likes of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson on horseback; those were hours of staring at the moving masses of animals ahead, and the great silent expanses of the open road. You cannot but be provoked to poetry, music or creative writing when surrounded by the palette of moving scenery and blissful solitude.

I was unaware that stories of my childhood sounded straight from a film set, naively believing that the majority of people understood the fine balance we humans hold with the land, animals and the gift we call life.  Folk from the bush tend to be quieter, more reserved; but in no way should that be perceived as less intelligent. With the stillness and quiet comes a deeper understanding of and connection to the fragility of life – of the inner sanctuary of strength of character, and appreciation of friendship and community bonds.

As writers, our anthropocentrism runs deep. Blinded by the politics and theatrics of human relationships, we forget that a piece can be just as interesting without the people, as dramatic simply by utilising the environment and the landscape. Caught by the busyness and artificiality of their surroundings, many writers forget to indulge in the quiet inner space, or of the peace which can be attained by noticing the delicate details etched in any leaf, blade of grass or flower. I feel blessed to have been exposed to the harshness of the outback life, now able to harness the solitude and imagery it has gifted me as a writer.

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Annie Evett

Annie Evett

Annie writes a weekly column for Write Anything  (http://writeanything.wordpress.com ) and Type A Mom (http://www.typeamom.net/mom-types/suburban-moms.html) , is coauthor of an online adventure series Captain Juan (http://www.captainjuan.com) and has written a survival guide for parents – Reclaim Sex After Birth. (http://reclaimsexafterbirth.com) Continue your discovery of her writing at her site ( http://annieevett.com)

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1100 words copyright Annie Evett/ Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


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Favourite Quotes: Max Planck on scientific truths

“A new scientific truth does not triumph

by convincing its opponents and making

them see the light, but rather because its

opponents eventually die.

Max Planck

(April 23, 1858 – October 4, 1947)

Nobel Prize-winning German physicist

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As I slowly emerge from the post-Festive fug, my only resolution for 2010 is to embark on some re-reads of a few of the books which have made the most powerful impression on me in the last few years. One of these is undoubtedly Peter Russell’s “From Science to God”, from which (p17) the above quote is taken. The book is “…the story of Peter Russell’s lifelong exploration into the nature of consciousness – how he went from being a convinced atheist, studying mathematics and physics, to realising a profound personal synthesis of the mystical and scientific.”

I have had a lifelong interest in science. But my capacity to understand its paradigms is seriously handicapped by having done Classics instead of science at school – not that reading Homer in the original Greek wasn’t great fun! Thus people like Russell, who can clarify and inspire without being patronising to the scientifically uneducated like me, are a great gift to the world! If you want to find out more about Peter Russell, his website is : www.peterussell.com

Preparing for 2010/11: Prometheus unbound?

Astrology is a double-edged art.

It bestows the inestimably joyful gift of awareness that we are all woven into some vast, meaningful pattern – in which the tiniest of individual threads ( you, me….) is a key part of the weave. It contributes a significant lens to the many through which we limited humans  attempt to expand our vision and comprehension of both the collective and individual patterns of life on this tiny, precious planet of ours.

Astrology can also raise fear and apprehension: it provides very accurate timings so that we can know exactly when certain energy patterns are coming to their peak. But our attempts at predicting precisely how those energies will manifest – both collectively and individually – have ranged historically from considerable accuracy to being way off the mark. As a critic wryly observed not long ago, if astrologers could consistently predict accurately they would all be millionaires by now.

The myth of Prometheus, who stole the gods’ fire in order to use it for humanity’s enlightenment and was savagely punished for his hubris, is a salutary one to contemplate as we think of astrology’s double edge. Fire warms us, lights up the dark, protects us – but it can also burn the hand that bears it. All illuminating knowledge, everything which takes humans a step forward into the light, also casts a dark shadow.

And here we are, as another year and decade begins, contemplating one of the astrological calendar’s most dynamic and exciting cycles. The fourteen-year cycle of Jupiter and Uranus, which last took place at 5-6 degrees of Aquarius in February 1997, is coming to an end. The new one zaps zero degrees Aries with its lightning bolt in June 2010.

 

Prometheus

Prometheus

And the myth of Prometheus, powerfully connected to the planet Uranus,

becomes once again startlingly relevant.

Now read on….