I am on a five week university break, and I am taking the time to take a big, bunch of deep breaths for starters, because finally I finished the first year of my degree (third time is the charm!) and it was so great, and I did so well, and partly because I can start really processing the grief of losing my grandfather, a fact that has consumed all of this year with sadness, pain and dread. I still look to his photo each day and wonder how it can be that I will never see that face in the flesh again, or hear his voice. On the weekend, I planted Easter Daisies from his vegetable garden into my garden, and put up a little ceramic knick knack that always hung in the alcove where my grandparent’s stove was, in my kitchen.
It is spring. Part of what i love about living in Victoria is watching that heady unfurling of the seasons. The sun shines, the flowers bloom, the garden springs to life.
My children remind me daily of how good life is, and that life goes on. My lovely sister-in-law Karen Deen published her first book, a romance novel called Love’s Wall! You can take a look here.
I have almost finished the second draft of my own book, She Sells Sunshine. I plan on well and truly finishing it (the draft) during my uni break. The first thing that I did during this process was gut the first three chapters, which were the very chapters that I submitted for the Richell Prize, back when I really had no idea what i was doing, and wondered if I could possibly finish a single chapter. Without those original chapters, rusty as they were, I could not have written the rest of the book, but I think that I have learned a lot since then, about what was actually going to happen in the plot, for instance, but also about the craft of writing, and re-writing. To be honest, the manuscript still has a lot of work left before I will be happy with it, but when I am, I am planning on sending it to a novel feedback service either through Kill Your Darlings, who will take a look and tell you what works and what doesn’t, or to the wonderful Anna Spargo-Ryan, who wrote The Paper House and more recently The Gulf, and who has started up a similar service. In short, I want to be truly sure of myself before I think of foisting my work on these esteemed women! I’m not sure how long this will take. It could be a long time, as I am planning on returning to full time study at university next year, but I am also impatient, as I have an idea for a second book, as well as a host of other, smaller writing projects.
If you have hung around this long, then you might be interested in reading this small excerpt from She Sells Sunshine. The book has several entwined threads, a fairy tale without a set time period, and originally two other storylines, set in 2015 and 1953. One of the creative decisions that I made for the second draft was to rip out a story that had been told to another character via exposition in the first draft, and replace it with an additional story line, set in 1939. This is part of that. Hope you like it (it still needs work too).
P.S. I am planning on putting in the effort to be a bit more present here at the sands, somehow, between everything else, so thanks for hanging around!
Sargent Bloom handed her a cup of tea, which she refused. Clara could see that he was annoyed at her rejection of what he perceived to be a largesse of kindness. He frowned and put the cup down on the counter behind him, before turning back to her.
‘So you say that you had a baby? But no one except your family knows that you were ever with child?’ He looked down at the scuffed notebook in his hand, tapping the end of his pencil on a front tooth, before continuing, ‘there were no medical personnel present at the birth of this,’ a small space left hanging on the air between the words, ‘this baby, and no one registered it.’ He paused again, sighing heavily. ‘Oh, and no one else has seen the infant. This is all as you say, correct?’ She stared up at him, disbelieving the heavy, condescending tone of his voice, the direction that his summation was unmistakably heading.
‘Why would I lie? Yes, I had a baby, three days ago. Her name is Margaret,’ her voice began to shake, ‘Please, I’ll do anything! Call my sister-in-law, if you don’t believe me, but help me find my Maggie!’ She stood and paced the small distance inside the foyer, her head pounding. Bloom shook his head sadly. He stepped back over to the counter, picked up the slip of paper that Constable Clarke had handed him, and read the scrawled writing there. He sighed again, and turned back to face Clara,
‘The thing is, Miss,’ the deliberate space lingering between the words again, ‘Gilbert. My constable has already called Gorleston and spoken to your brother and your sister-in-law. They both say that there is no baby. They also say that you have not been yourself since your fiance died some months ago.’
‘No!’ She sank back into the chair, her fingers raking through her hair, as she stared at the ground. Suddenly realising that this image of her played into Ed’s ruse, she forced herself to stop, smoothed her hair and straightened up, taking a couple of deep breaths. She stared soberly at Bloom,
‘They’re lying. I can prove it. Any doctor can examine me and tell you that I birthed a baby a few days ago!’ Bloom shook his head wearily, scratching furiously at a red spot under his chin.
‘Miss! You’ve wasted enough police time. Even if you could prove that, what exactly do you think that it would really prove, that you had a bastard? If that turned out to be the case, then I would first be looking at you for sinister motives. I would ask what you had done with this,’ he rolled his eyes, ‘baby.’
She stared at him incredulously, rising again, and circling him,
‘Why then would I ever come straight to you? This is madness, Sargent!’ He gave her a little shove that sent her back hard into the chair, and poked a threatening finger in her face, admonishing her in a sing song voice,
‘You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Missy.’ His voice slowed discernibly, the finger wagging slowly, an inch from her nose. ‘You’ve gone mad. You’re hysterical, aren’t you? I pity you, I do, and that is why I won’t be calling the doctor to examine you.’ He withdrew his finger, and called out loudly, ’ Constable Clarke!’ The other policeman on duty, a pudgy, short statured man with a moustache, emerged from the bowels of the station, adjusting the waistband of his ill fitting pants as he walked.
‘Yep, Sarge?’ He smiled greasily at Clara and shook his head slowly from side to side, his eyes levelled at her breasts, as he listened to Bloom’s directive.
‘Call Ed Gilbert and tell him to come and get this poor wretch home before we have to call the hospital down in Geelong to come and lock her up properly,’ Clarke smacked his lips and nodded, turning to wink at Clara, who stared at him in open-mouthed disbelief. He walked slowly back down the hallway from which he had come, his shoes echoing loudly with each step.
Clara moaned and tried to stand, to run for a third time into the night, but Bloom grabbed her upper arm in a steely grip and escorted her, struggling to a cell out the back, past the open office door, through which she could hear Clarke speaking to someone on the telephone.
‘You can’t do this! Please, please don’t do this! Let me go.’
He shoved her roughly into the cell, clanged the door closed and turned his back on her. She sank to the floor, pressing her clenched fists against her closed eyes. He muttered the words quietly, but she heard them anyway,
‘Should have drunk that cup of tea, I reckon.’
(P.P.S. Clara says #Metoo)