Welcome to the blogspot of Melbourne writer, Elizabeth Jane

Welcome to the blogspot of Melbourne writer, Elizabeth Jane

Monday, April 21, 2008


Today we started workshopping at TAFE. I was asked to go first. It was a sort of a Liz the guinea pig sort of thing (not really , it only felt like it).

I am no stranger to workshopping but this involved twenty three people, who I barely know, and it was kind of scary.I had lots of favourable comments. That's because the lecturer made everyone say at least one good thing. The more noteworthy ones were: A good sense of period; strong opening sentence; good descriptions; powerful and evocative similies; good establishment of character and relationship; wanted to read more; and my favourite: some of the lines were so good I wished I had written them.

Then came the suggestions for improvements.

You will be glad to know, I am recovering.

Actually, they were not too bad and on the whole very insightful. I will take them all on board, especially the ones about Bridie's needs and wants being expressed more powerfully.I came home and debriefed to Carine(Yes, she is here again). But ... I would have to say at this point my gut is still churning. It will be like that until I get a chance to make changes. That is the thing about writing. The creative tension is like elastic. You are stretched ... and stretched ... and stretched ... until you finally give birth and then, it starts all over again.

It is soooo hard writing a novel.

My lecturer's final comment was: "overall a good start which could be made even better."

There goes my weekend again.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dog Training

Liz is back at dog training. Personally I don't think she needs re training. She has just the right sort of oh-never-mind, attitude that is perfect for dog ownership.

If Liz says sit, and I drop, she chuckles and tells me I am sweet.

If I run through the door when I am not supposed to she growls, but I can tell by her smile she does not mean it.

At dog training they talk about consistency. I would say Liz's consistency is 100%, for a marshmallow recipe.

At dog training, on the other hand, they are pedantic!

They want me to sit in the perfect position.

To go into a drop with my head still in the perfect position.

They make me sit, only to give me the stand command.

They do a check command and I roll over, but they forget to tickle my tummy.

I come home with quite a headache.

To make things worse, Liz has started practicing in between lessons. She gets the halter out and makes me stay in a drop while she is writing. It is very frightening. There is a strong possibility she could forget about me ... forever. Just ask Andrew. He knows what that is like to be forgotten by a writer in a flush of creativity.

Last week I came home from dog training and there was a box sitting just where my sleeping mat usually is. I thought, here goes. I am being asked to jump through hoops again. Being an obedient hound, and not wanting to let Liz down because, quite frankly, she is a failure when it comes to dog training, I climbed into the box. It wasn't very comfortable, but neither is the perfect position.

I am not sure why, but the family all laughed at me.

A better response would have been: Good dog Biskit

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The great TAFE race ...

The competition is on folks! It will be a fight to the death between my new friend Paula and me. She got full marks for her first TAFE assignment (bitch!). But I got full marks for the second assignment (yeah me!) That’s what you do, by the way, when you have four kids, live in the eastern suburbs and are too old to win the Vogel award. You vie for TAFE marks. It is a kind of an, I am getting old, I-must-be-good-at-something, mid life crisis kind of thing. At least it is for me. I can’ speak for Paula. But just for the record my bet is on Paula to win because she has a Law degree.

Anyway, Paula suggested I put my assignment on my blog for the edification of mankind. I will, just because I can, but I warn you it is a detailed outline of my novel plot so if you don’t want to know what happens, give it a miss. If you are a publisher, however, wanting to sign me up for a multi million dollar contract so I can live in a castle next to JK Rowling, please feel free to read.

It came with pretty pictures because we have been studying classic Three Act story models. I learned how to do all the coloured lines and comment boxes at work. It is how I demonstrate catalogue search skills to school kids. but I can't get blogger to accept the format, so if you are a library wanting to offer me a lucrative position demonstrating catalogue skills to school kids, sorry, no go, I already work for the Premier library service in Melbourne.I can't upload the pictures in their curent format, however.

Project Outline for Chrysalis

It is the year 1841. Thirteen-year-old Bridie Stewart is travelling to Port Phillip in emigrant vessel, the Gloriana. The ship’s steerage accommodation is noisy and claustrophobic: a jumble of laughter, idiosyncratic personality and petty conflict. Bridie shares a bunk and rostered duties with the orphaned girl Annie Bowles. She watches her stepfather, Alf Bustle (Alfie), flounder in his role as steerage cleaner while her mother, Mary, who is expecting, becomes increasingly morose and inactive. Cut off from the world for months-at-a-time, their journey is a chrysalis from which no one will emerge unchanged.

For Bridie, the most enthralling aspect of the journey is her friendship with Rhys Bevan and his pregnant wife Siân. The Bevans are storytellers. The poetry of ancient myth, as told by Rhys for the amusement of his fellow travellers, infuses Bridie’s affection for the couple with a sense of wonder. Siân’s use of an ancient healing stone adds enchantment to the narrative. Their friendship touches a deep chord in Bridie and alleviates some of the loneliness she has experienced since her father died of alcohol related illness.

The Bevan’s young lives hold secrets. Bridie learns that Rhys is estranged from his father and that a crippling fear of enclosed spaces caused him to flee his Welsh mining village. She also becomes aware of Siân’s shameful, illegitimate birth. The bardic tradition of Welsh folklore sets their stories in a mythological context. It also provides a framework for Bridie to grapple with the tragic loss of her own father. At Rhys’ gentle insistence she begins to accept the presence of a new stepfather in her life.

Bridie and her friends are not the only ones wrestling with their past. As Alf seeks to establish himself in the eyes of the surgeon, he is dogged by an insecurity reaching back to his own childhood and the harsh treatment he received at the hands of his father. Annie has lived with her aunt since her father died. Now her aunt has arranged for her to emigrate. Annie’s face is deeply pock marked. She fears she will never find employment or a marriage partner. But she is good with children and finds courage in making herself useful. Doctor Roberts, the ship’s surgeon has left gambling debts and a failed marriage behind him on England’s shores. Rhys recognises Doctor Roberts from one of his droving journeys and knows of the surgeon’s involvement in the illegal anatomy market. As the journey unfolds, Rhys realises Siân will give birth before they reach Port Phillip. He asks Annie to stay with Siân during her confinement because he does not trust the surgeon.

In a storm of the southern coast of Australia, Mary and Siân go into labour. Annie is present during Mary’s labour but is dismissed hurriedly once the baby is born. In Annie’s absence Siân dies. One baby survives. Only Doctor Roberts and Mary know the true fate of Siân’s baby (although Annie suspects it), for it has been swapped with the dead child Mary was carrying. In a wave of guilt and self reproach, Rhys begins to drink heavily. Without Siân, he is unable to manage the fear that threatens to overwhelm him. Rhys’ drunkenness is a like reoccurring nightmare to Bridie. Lonely and confused she turns to her stepfather for support. With his help she is finally able to confront the painful circumstances of her father’s death.

At its deepest level, the novel is modelled on an abiding theme of Welsh folklore — the lost child. A child who is secreted away, found and restored to its destiny at a later date. The mystical elements of the story, as seen through Bridie’s youthful eyes, bring depth to the novel’s exploration of struggle and loss. This is the first book in a proposed trilogy of novels that follow the various paths of these characters during the early days of the Port Phillip District. The trilogy will culminate in Rhys’ reunion with his son and his marriage to Bridie.

Dates for the Gloriana’s fictitious voyage have been chosen specifically. The vessel enters Port Phillip Bay on January 1st 1842, just before the temporary cessation of Government assisted emigration. Its inhabitants are plunged into the economic recession that was occurring in Port Phillip at that time. The historical framework (independent of characters) has its own story arc.

The story is told in shifting Point of View with five main voices. Bridie is the main protagonist and I am still trying to get a firm handle on her dilemma. Rhys’ arc is a tragic arc (in the first book). I am trying to make his and Bridie’s arcs converge so that in the final scenes Bridie faces the truth about her father and from her newly matured perspective gives Rhys a glimmer of hope that will enable him to go forward.

Note: I attach two diagrams. The first one demonstrates the overall convergence of the main character’s story arcs. The second one is an attempt to plot Bridie’s arc in detail. I have been working on the other characters’ needs, wants and flaws but I have not included them as I am already over the word limit.

Wants: her Dad back (but he is dead). She also wants her mother to remember her father kindly instead if always showing a preference for Alf.
Needs: to let go of her Dad and to accept the presence of a new stepfather in her life. Before she can do this she needs to be sure that her Dad actually loved her.
Flaw: she has idealised her father rather than face the painful truth about his death. She tries to recreate her father in Rhys.

I will try and put the pictures on seperately.