Writing About Trauma – Maree Giles talks about how trauma can be both cathartic and painful.
Out now in the Spring 2016 edition
THE QUERCY LOCAL SHORT STORY COMPETITION 2016 WINNERS ANNOUNCED
Congratulations to the winner of the Quercy Local Magazine Short Story Competition 2016, Catherine Gorman from Dorking, Surrey. The winning story can be read online. I am pleased that the winner is a woman, as female writers are sadly still grossly under-represented in publishing and writing competitions. The judging process was done anonymously so I had no idea of each entrant’s gender or identity. All the stories were a pleasure to read, so it was hard to choose the three winners. What appealed to me about Catherine’s story was the sting in the tail at the end. I love a good twist in a story, something that takes you by surprise, and Catherine’s story certainly achieves just that.
It was so much fun being involved in the competition and giving the winners feedback. That is one of the many gratifying aspects of being a writer: sharing what I’ve learned over 43 years.
Many thanks to all those who entered, and also to Anna at The Quercy Local for inviting me to be judge. It is really important that magazines like The Quercy Local offer opportunities to writers to have their work published. Writers create in isolation and need feedback and support. There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing your work in print.
Congratulations to all the winners!
A few months ago the Editor of the Quercy Local contacted me to ask if I’d like to judge a new short story competition. Of course I said yes! I love writing competitions. When I won first prize in the ARVON/SHE/LITTLE,BROWN Short Story Competition, it kick-started my writing career. Winning a writing competition is a great feeling! It gives you a real boost to see your story in print. After all, that’s what any serious writer really wants.
Writing competitions help writers focus their ideas, and working to a deadline also helps you make brave decisions. Making decisions is part of a writer’s job. Decisions about characters, dialogue, punctuation, word choice, plotting, setting, names, what to keep and what to discard, and last but not least, genre. Writing a story is like painting a picture or building a complex jigsaw puzzle. Piece by piece, layer by layer, detail upon detail, the whole thing comes together.
The short story form is especially tricky. So much to say with a limited word count. But the short story helps a writer make friends with the editing pen and the delete button like nothing else. And a real writer, one who is brave and bold, confident and honest, should not be coy about cutting out the flab. For writing is about re-writing and cutting, adding and subtracting.
First drafts were invented so that writers have the chance to get it all down before it is lost. The real work begins when you sit back and read the first draft from start to finish. You see the problems clearly. Then you read it again and take notes. Then and only then, can you start re-writing. This is when the problem of telling not showing should become obvious. So many writers make this mistake. And many more get away with it and are published. Personally I think all books need a balance between the two. Literary novels tend towards more telling than showing. The difference between the two is easy to spot: telling reads like a list of facts; showing dramatises facts using precise word choice, strong dialogue and characterisation, and showing is at its best in scenes. Scenes have all of the above and more. Think of a scene the same way a playwright might: you have a setting, characters dressed in interesting clothes that give the audience a clue about their social status and in some cases their emotional state, and more. You have dialogue that also helps the audience understand the character and who he or she is. You have conflict, and when you have conflict you have drama. Showing is a dramatised scene with people interacting. But you can describe a view dramatically too, using strong verbs and precise nouns and unusual adjectives – though the latter should be used sparingly. Nouns and verbs are a writer’s best friends. Beware the over-use of adverbs. And corny speech tags like “she opined” or “he drawled.” Even worse is putting the two together as in: “she opined loudly” or “he droned sadly” or “she said angrily.” He said, she said are invisible. They give dialogue room to breathe and make itself known through careful word choice. If a character is angry or sad, show this through the words they speak in their dialogue.
Finally, if you want to be a successful writer, be prepared to be judged! This is one of the hardest lessons a new writer must learn. You cannot afford to be precious about the words you write. You have to be open to criticism and be willing to learn from the fresh eyes of the reader, the editor, or the judge.
Best of luck to the entrants of this exciting new short story competition in The Quercy Local. I look forward to reading the entries!
A powerful and shocking novel inspired by the author’s time at the infamous Parramatta Girls’ Home, Sydney, Australia in 1970.
Drawn from experiences in Parramatta Girls’ Home in the seventies, Girl 43 is a story that could have come straight from today’s headlines, about the shocking treatment of innocent children and teens by people in the very institutions that were supposed to protect them.
Girl 43 was originally published by Little,Brown, London under the title Invisible Thread, and will be published by Hachette Australia on June 24th. To see a preview of the new cover and pre-order click here for Amazon Kindle.
THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS – 60 MINUTES AUSTRALIA – 15TH mAY, 2014
PARRAMATTA GIRLS Riverside Theatre, Parramatta – 3rd -17th May, 2014
Inside the dungeon at Parramatta Girls’ Home – Daily Telegraph, 7th March, 2014
A former Parramatta girl talks about her long wait for the truth to come out – ABC Radio PM, February 28th, 2014
‘State-sanctioned rape’ at Parramatta Girls’ Home – Sydney Morning Herald, February 26th, 2014
Parramatta Girls’ Home victims still feel they are not being heard – ABC AM, March 1st, 2014
Our innocence was lost at PGH – Daily Telegraph, March 7th, 2014
ROYAL COMMISSION INTO INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSES TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
It has been a long time coming but this week former Parramatta and Hay girls appeared before the Royal Commission to read their statements about abuse at both institutions. Unfortunately I was not able to attend to read my own statement as I am in France.
Here are links to the Commission’s website with full transcripts of their submissions and media reports:
Thought for the Day:
Ignoring someone is the easiest and most polite way to say “F@%k You!” It is the way of the coward. Therefore I define ‘ignoring others’ as ‘silent cursing’.
We are often compelled to ignore others because they are irritating demonstrators of nonsense and futilities, yet we have to admit to ourselves that by not enlightening them, we are cowards. We might defend our ‘silent curse’ with excuses such as ‘I am a seeker of peace’, ‘I am not a confronter’, ‘I prefer to please people instead of upset them with my personal opinions’, ‘I would rather bite my tongue before instigating arguments with people’, but still, during honest and objective introspection we have to admit that we are, when ignoring others, nothing but ignorant cowards.
THE PARISOT LITERARY FESTIVAL – A RESOUNDING SUCCESS
On a rainy Saturday morning at the Parisot Literary Festival in south-west France. I kicked off the day’s events with a presentation about my first novel, Invisible Thread, aka Girl 43. It was heartening to see so many people turn up on such a wet, cold day. I’m sure they would have preferred to hear a talk on how to write romantic fiction or children’s books, so I’m grateful to those who made the effort and came along. Invisible Thread is an important story about yet another slice of Australia’s dark and shameful human rights history.
Less than a week before the event I came across a short film of Australia’s first ever outdoor music festival, Pilgrimage for Pop, held in January 1970 at Ourimbah, a small farming community on the New South Wales north coast. I also put together a collection of photographs shown on a large screen behind me. I couldn’t see the photos but I’m told it was an effective way to communicate the reality and atmosphere contained within the story in my novel. Someone who read the book recently commented that ‘it’s not everyone’s cup of tea’. It’s a shame to diminish the importance of this real-life tragedy, one that affected thousands of lives, but I do understand it is a challenging and confronting book. That was the point of writing it, to make people aware of what happened, so that history does not repeat itself. Watch the film about the Pop Festival, and visit the parragirls website to see photographs of where Ellen, the protagonist in the book, is sent when she defies her parents.
READING HELPS US UNDERSTAND & EMPATHIZE WITH OTHERS.
I have always believed this to be true, and for that reason I’m suspicious and wary of people who don’t read. Now it has been confirmed by scientists: people who read develop better social skills.
THE PARRAMATTA FEMALE FACTORY Memory Project
PARISOT LITERARY FESTIVAL SOUTH-WEST FRANCE OCTOBER 2013
September 10th, 2013
I am delighted to be giving a talk about my first novel, Invisible Thread at the Parisot Literary Festival in south-west France this October. The talk will include a reading from the novel, and from my collection of poetry based on events in the book.
Click here for details of all the guest speakers at the festival, which promises to be an exciting weekend.
AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S WEEKLY CANCEL FICTION
October 25th, 2012
I have just heard news that the Australian Women’s Weekly, who were champions of fiction, have dropped their fiction section in the magazine. I have written the following letter to them, and am sure all readers and fellow writers will agree with my feelings about this. If you do, and you have five minutes to spare, please send them a message asking for a ‘Fiction Comeback’! Here’s what I wrote:
This is disappointing news as so many people are interested in fiction in Australia these days, and many choose writing as a career.
When I left Australia more than 30 years ago there was no such thing as a ‘Writers’ Festival’ or a ‘Writers’ Centre’ – now they are everywhere, from Darwin to Tasmania and everywhere in-between. Many Australian universities now offer creative writing degrees and courses, and are thriving.
It is incomprehensible that the top women’s magazine in Australia has dropped their fiction pages – a decision which I believe deserves a serious rethink.
Even Woman’s Day magazine, where I was Home Editor, still publish fiction, with Julie Redlitch overseeing and choosing stories. Julie does a brilliant job at making sure short fiction reaches a wide audience.
Such a shame AWW is now just another generic women’s mag full of ads and celebrity stories, with the odd ‘human interest’ story thrown into the mix.
Anne Lamott summed it up perfectly when she said, “Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
I hope AWW will discuss this issue at a future editorial meeting and reinstate fiction, giving it the important position it deserves, closer to the front of the magazine, not at the back, like an afterthought, and with a reading campaign to give it the boost and exposure it deserves. This is a seriously flawed error of judgement no doubt from somewhere on high, and it should be challenged and debated by Australian writers and readers.
June 30th, 2011
Please sign the petition to save the historic Parramatta Precinct site
My beautiful, talented daughter Lucille Bethell has started her own blog with poetry and other musings. I know I’m biased but I think she’s a born writer. . . here’s the link to her blog: Unsuccessful Graduate
Please take a moment to sign the petition to save the BBC World Service from savage government cuts. This is a vital service for war-torn and poverty-stricken countries. The British government must not get away with this one!
I flew to Canberra this month, courtesy of the Museum of Australia, to give a talk about Parramatta Girls’ Home and the Hay Institution for Girls. The talk was behind closed doors purely for the staff and curators, who are putting together an exhibition about the Forgotten Australians, which will open in November in Canberra, and from there will go to other Museums around Australia. They were thrilled that I agreed to talk about my experience as a Parramatta girl. Had they asked me ten years ago I may have said no. Back then I still kept it all a secret as I felt ashamed. But now it is the staff at the former girls’ Home and the government who feel ashamed. How strange are the twists and turns of history and social conscience. I was pleased to be able to bring the old place to life a bit with photographs I took when I visited the Parramatta Precinct a few years ago, and I also pulled no punches about what took place there. During the question and answer session, a member of staff wanted to know why there were so many sadistic officers at PGH. I replied that most large institutions, including ordinary schools, hospitals and prisons, tend to attract a few bullies. I think it’sbecause they are able to get away with things that may not go undetected in a more open environment where staff behaviour is more closely monitored. PGH had more than its fair share of bullies, because the system nurtured a culture of violence and fear.
I wanted to thank the Museum for inviting me. It was an honour to meet the curators and staff. I am right behind the exhibition and their efforts to bring to the public the stories of so many broken lives that were dragged through a deeply flawed system, and thrown out the other end to pick up the pieces, in many cases, without any help.
Read my article about censorship at Parramatta Girls’ Home and the Forgotten Australians in the latest issue of Sydney PEN Magazine. You will find the article on page 12 of the online PDF version of the magazine.
International PEN, the worldwide association of writers, emphasises the role of literature in mutual understanding and world culture; and promotes literature in various ways, including opposing restraints on freedom of expression and working to promote literacy itself. Today International PEN has 144 centres in 102 countries across the globe, and is a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes murdered because of the words they write.
Sydney PEN, an affiliate of PEN International, is an association of Australian writers and readers, publishers and human rights activists. There is also an affiliate PEN centre in Melbourne.
The article discusses my own experience inside Parramatta Girls’ Home. Several poems I wrote about life inside the Home were confiscated. The officer who took them tore them up in front of my face.
The article is timely as it coincides with the 1st anniversary of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s national apology to the 500,000 Forgotten Australians who experienced life inside the ‘care’ system. To mark the event groups of Forgotten Australians gathered at Parliament House in Canberra on November 16th. On the same day SBS Televisison broadcast an hour-long documentary. Read more in the Canberra Times.
A competition for creative writers
A few years ago, Kingston University Press ran a high-profile life-writing competition which was featured in the Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere. They are proud to announce a new creative writing competition which seeks out work related to the British armed forces and the experience of service in all its guises.
It is a real privilege to be invited to be one of the judges in the competition, and I look forward to reading the entries.
Forces Stories and Poems – Lives touched by service – new writing
Kingston University Press announces a competition to celebrate the 125th anniversary of The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, the organisation that cares for those who serve or have served in Britain’s armed forces, and supports their families. The general theme is “service life and work”.
The competition is open to anyone over 18 who has been touched by service in any way, whether as a participant, a family member or as an observer. There are many stories to be told – by civilians who have worked with the armed forces as well as by service personnel, their relations and friends.
Closing Date: Friday 17th December 2010
Entry Fee: £3 per item
Prizes: 1st £500, 2nd £250, 3rd £150, runner-ups £25; consideration for publication online or in print form
Each entry to be a maximum 2,500 words of prose or 40 lines of poetry
You may submit multiple entries, provided each is accompanied by its £3 entry fee
Current serving members of the armed forces should check that they have the permission of their commanding officer to enter
Prize winners will be contacted early in 2011 and results posted on this site
The judges will be looking for work that catches their attention, engages the reader’s imagination and entertains.
This literature will begin to create a social document of public interest. Kingston University Press (KUP) will consider publication of selected contributions online or in print form, and will investigate the creation of an archive.
The judges will be award-winning writers and will include Creative Writing staff from Kingston University.
Profit from this initiative will support SSAFA Forces Help (registered charity number 210760) which last year helped over 50,000 people.
The judging panel
The Judging Panel of the KUP/SSAFA New Writing competition includes award-winning authors and commentators.
Vahni Capildeo is a poet and memoirist who has worked as a creative writing professional at the Universities of Sheffield and Leeds and as a lexicographer at the Oxford English Dictionary after a DPhil from Oxford and a Cambridge Research Fellowship. Books include No Traveller Returns, Person Animal Figure (Guardian Poetry Book of the Year), Undraining Sea (Forward Prize Highly Commended individual poem) and Dark & Unaccustomed Words (forthcoming 2010). Poetry and prose have been anthologised in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse (OUP) In the Telling, See How I Land (HeavenTree), Identity Parade (Bloodaxe), Iain Sinclair’s London: City of Disappearances and in Jeanne Mason and Lisa Allen-Agostini’s Trinidad Noir. A Contributing Editor for the Caribbean Review of Books, Vahni also acts as co-editor of TOWN, a public arts initiative linking global practitioners via the Internet.
Maree Giles is an Australian-born author and critic. Her fiction has won the She/Arvon Short Story competition and been shortlisted in the Ian St James Awards. Her three novels are Invisible Thread, Under the Green Moon and The Past is a Secret Country, all published by Virago Press. Maree acted as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Kingston University London from 2009-2010. She has taught and performed at many festivals including the Byron Bay and Sydney Writers’ Festivals and her work has been broadcast on BBC radio and on the World Service. She is currently working on her fourth novel and supervises MA in Creative Writing dissertations.
Alison Baverstock has a very broad experience of the publishing industry, having been both publisher and author. She is the author of what is often described as the ‘bible of book marketing’ – How to Market Books – as well as several titles on writing. Course Leader for the MA in Publishing at Kingston University, she is a regular commentator in the media on issues to do with the publishing industry, reading and writing. In 2007 she received the Pandora Award, for a significant contribution to the publishing industry by a woman. She has been a service wife for 26 years and she and her husband have four children.
Roger Kirkpatrick is a social campaigner with a distinguished publishing career. He has been enterprise manager at Shaw Trust, the national charity that helps people with disabilities find employment; managing director of Berlitz Publishing and marketing director of the Random House publishing group as well as a member of England’s Library and Information Services Council. He held a fellowship at Stanford University before becoming a publisher and grew up on RAF bases, his father and grandfathers being members of the armed services.
Siobhan Campbell, Course Director of the MA/MFA in Creative Writing is the founder of the Military Writing Network at KUL and a contributor of poetry on conflict to Wasafiri Magazine and War, Literature and the Arts. A member of the working group emerging from the CRAASH conference, The Culture of Reconstruction: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Aftermath of Crisis, Siobhan uses creative writing to work with advocates for peace and reconciliation as well as veterans of conflict situations. Books include Cross-Talk (Seren Press) which includes the Forward Anthology sonnet ‘Warrenpoint’, set in Northern Ireland.
Enter the competition
To enter by post
There is no special entry form; write or type each entry on one side of A4 white paper; put the title on every page and number your pages. Do not show the author’s name or any other identifying marks on submitted work. No staples.
Add a covering note with your full name, address, email address (if you have one) and the title(s) of your entry.
Enclose your cheque, postal order or money order, made out to “KUP Ltd” with the entrant’s name easily identifiable (for instance written on the back), to the value of your total number of entries.
Send the lot, in an envelope stamped with sufficient postage, to:
Forces Stories & Poems Competition
Main Building Room 310
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2EE
Postal entries acknowledged only on supply of a stamped, return-addressed envelope. Entries are not returned.
To enter by email
In the body of the email give your full name, address and title(s) of your entry.
Attach each entry as a Word (.doc) document or in Rich Text Format (.rtf) file. Put the title on every page. Do not show the author’s name on submitted work. Number the pages.
Send email plus attachment(s) to: KupWritingComp@hotmail.co.uk1
Pay entry fee(s) within 10 days by posting a pound sterling cheque, postal order or money order made out to “KUP Ltd”, to the value of the total number of entries, with entrant’s name easily identifiable (for instance written on the back), to the Forces Stories & Poems Competition at the address given in full above.
Emailed entries will be acknowledged by email though no correspondence will be entered into. Payment must be received by closing (midnight, 17th December 2010) to ensure entry to the competition.
Terms and Conditions
Entry to the competition implies acceptance of these terms and conditions, failure to comply with which will result in disqualification:
The competition is open to people over 18 years of age except that employees and agents of Kingston University Press, their immediate families and anyone connected with the competition are not eligible to enter.
Current serving members of the British armed forces should get their commanding officer’s permission before entering.
Each entry to be a maximum 2,500 words of prose or 40 lines of poetry; in English; the entrant’s original work and not previously awarded a prize or published; not containing names or identifying elements of any person, or copyright material belonging to a third party; no alterations after submission.
There is no limit to the number of entries submitted with entry fees.
Entry fees to be paid by pound sterling cheque, postal order or money order made out to “KUP Ltd”, with entrant’s name easily identifiable (for instance written on the back).
The judges’ decision is final and no individual correspondence will be entered into.
Proof of sending is not proof of receipt by KUP.
KUP is free to use competition entries in publicity materials. As regards consideration of entries for publication online or in print form by KUP Ltd or another reputable publisher, or in an online forum: any such publication subject to a separate agreement with the author. Copyright remains with the author.
KUP reserves the right to modify the competition if it believes the competition is not capable of being conducted as specified, or in the event of a virus, computer bug, unauthorised human intervention or other cause beyond KUP’s reasonable control that could affect the administration, security or normal course of the competition. Neither KUP nor its affiliated organisations are responsible for losses or delays caused by events beyond their control.
Save where it has been negligent, KUP will not be responsible for damage, loss or injury resulting from participation in the competition, or for technical, hardware or software failures; lost, faulty or unavailable network connections, or other difficulties that may limit or prohibit people’s ability to participate in the competition.
Conditions subject to change.
The competition is governed by English law.