Thursday, October 21, 2010

All the news that's fit to print

I've spent the last few days reading the editions of the Cutler family's local newspaper from the years 1914 and 1915. It's been amazing. I've learned so much. Do *you* know about the National Library of Australia's digitisation project? They're digitising and uploading every edition of every major Australian newspaper (and some not so major) from 1803 to 1954, and it's incredible- the digitised records are even searchable. Find the link here.

The most amazing article I came across in my reading was one from October of 1915, which described the first homecoming celebration held at the port of Fremantle for soldiers returning wounded from Gallipoli. My attention was caught immediately, since Len's one of those, and the articles were heartbreaking in what they did and didn't say. Troops had been returning for a couple of months, but nobody had greeted them. Finally it was decided that this didn't fit with the public spirit of supporting the soldiers, so it was arranged to put on a bit of pomp and ceremony for the arrivals from then on.

But only the walking wounded received this reception. The article celebrates the fact that the much-vaunted first boatload of injured were mostly home for a three-month furlough, not permanent repatriation, with minor wounds to arms, chests and heads.

The smaller paragraphs at the end of the article reveal that under cover of night, later the same evening, another ship was docked, and offloaded from that were the more severe cases who required stretchers and ambulances, and didn't get the same fanfare.

I'm trying to decide which of three moments will have the most impact on Len in my story. Does he come home on a boat that isn't met by anyone? Does he arrive to pomp, cheer and celebration, to which I'm certain he'd react bitterly? Or does he arrive home under cover of darkness, to a country unwilling to face the truth of what's happening to their finest young men? One way or the other, he'll think about each of these, but I'm just twitching to write his return scene now. For me, it sums up everything about the war- Australia's optimism being gradually battered, with the need quickly developing to hide the extent of the devastation from those at home, even as the returned soldiers and their families must adjust to the new reality of what it means to have been chewed up and spat out by war.

It's the reason I'm writing this book.

Anyway. Following the classic style of 1914 newspapers, I'm posting a few unrelated snippets of random stuff today.


I sat in my car today and wrote on my laptop for half an hour. I felt like a crazy person. At least a couple of the other ladies on this blog have done the car writing thing before, but I never quite understood how it would work. Then today, when I was kicked out of my house with the toddler for five hours while a termite treatment was put in, I found myself with a sleeping child and nowhere to go. So, I went to a local lake, parked under a shady tree, and pulled out the laptop I had so cleverly brought. 500 words later and I finally understood- sitting in a car you can't leave, you are your own captive audience. It's just like being on a plane, as I talked about back here. And oh, boy, did I get some good stuff.

I had a nice little scene I finished yesterday where 16-year-old Kit helps Len warm up for his football grand final. Not *that* kind of warm-up- he shows her a few tricks with the ball, they talk, they flirt, she forgives him some of the mean things he's done, and sparks fly. The scene was good, but it was slightly two-dimensional. It contributed to the reader's understanding of these two people and what was important to them, and it built the sexual tension between them nicely. But it didn't link into the overarching story quite enough.

Sitting in the car today, it hit me immediately what I had to do. They needed to talk more. Tease each other. And the conversation had to tie into the broader theme. I found the perfect conversation, too. Len has been selected to represent the state in a football championship, but he's not going to go. Why? Because he's the eldest, and he can't let his dad down at shearing time by being absent. Kit encourages him to go for his dream. He unintentionally insults her by saying she wouldn't understand the needs of the farm, being just a girl. It sets up so many things- soon, Len's dad will betray his loyalty by handing control of the farm to his younger brother Bill, thus creating the jealous, angry Len we all know and love. Kit's encouragement is going to be reversed in two years when he decides his new dream is to join the Army, thus finalising the conflict that breaks the two of them apart. And after the war, when Len comes home disabled by his amputated leg, it's going to be Kit who takes the main role in running the farm, thus proving once and for all that he was wrong to think of her as anything but capable.


Like almost all the ladies on this blog, I've joined up to NaNoWriMo. I wasn't planning to, since I already wrote more than 40,000 words this month (more on that in a minute) and if I write 50,000 words next month I'll quite possibly die from over-exertion.

But hey, peer pressure is a strong thing- and even stronger motivation is the fact that if I get 50,000 words next month, I should finish this novel. I know exactly where I'm going, now. Not far to get there in the scheme of things.

Add me as a buddy- I promise to be enthusiastic and to make you work damned hard to beat me at word count. Mwahaha. I'm ClaireGregory.


Speaking of my massive word count this month, most of that (31,000 in total) came from the Constantinople House Party over at CompuServe. Yikes! And I thought the 24,000 I got from the last party was insane.

This time around, most of my wordage came, as mentioned last week, from kidnapping Our Susan's main character Nathan and using him in terribly nefarious ways. Susan and I have always had strong similarities between our stories, characters and even writing styles, and when it comes to house parties we're a natural fit together. Every single party has seen Nathan and Len beat the crud out of each other, and recent ones also saw Nathan vying for the attention of older Bill's lady love Meredith.

I had intended to retire poor Len from house parties, because I've taken him through the wringer and back and I thought I'd exhausted him. But with the big changes in my storyline, it made sense to bring him back, and with him Kit, who for the first time in house party history appeared alive (she's always been ghostly in previous ones).

Well. Along came Susan on the first day and whapped me with a challenge- Nathan and Len had a bet on who could kiss Kit first. Yes, and she's *neither* of their girl.

Shenanigans ensued from there, occasionally blowing up into rollicking Indiana Jones-style adventure, occasionally slowing down into amazing romantic encounters. It was a delight from start to finish to be working with someone as talented as Susan, and I think it exemplifies what we can all get from NaNoWriMo by encouraging each other and working together- seeing other people write great stuff inspires you to do the same. If everyone's cranking at the same pace (here's fingers crossed for the lot of us) we should all get dragged along.


Lastly, every year my workplace Christmas party has a theme. Last year it was 80s bad taste, and the taste was indeed very bad. This year, I didn't mind the theme that had been decided- that everyone should wear something from the year they were born- but there was a collective groan around the office because we're a young workplace, and fully half or more of the staff were born in the 80s or the late 70s. Nobody wants to repeat last year!

So, genius that I am, I suggested we should all flip our year of birth, and wear something from *that* year. Great idea, popular, looks like happening- only what do you get when you flip around my year of birth? You land on 1918.

Eek! Suddenly I'm presented with an idea that tickles me a little- I've been researching what Kit would have worn for a good few months, so I've got ideas. But then I have to wear it myself! And in Australian summertime, too- 1918 was a time for long sleeves and skirts. Double eek.

I think I'm excited about it, though. In fact I think I might need to hold myself back from getting a little too into the whole thing.

Also I wonder if there's a best-dressed prize...

So, that's all the news that's fit to print for this week. Back again with more in our next edition ;)


  1. It's sad to think that any returning soldier is not thanked or appreciated for his service. Off hand, knowing how much Len wanted to join up (was it for patriotic reasons?) he'd feel some betrayal there at his unnoticed homecoming.

    I have the same thing to consider in my wip. America did not exactly welcome home the VN vets with open arms and parades.

  2. Susan- agreed, completely. Australia was even worse with Vietnam vets because much of the country was actively, vocally opposed to the war, and took it out on the people who served.

    Yes, Len felt the burn of patriotism, and joined up in the wave of national enthusiasm. There was so much pomp and ceremony surrounding the signing up process- and then nothing when they came home injured. It must have felt really bitter to those first returnees.

  3. Lovely long post Claire. Using Nathan in nefarious ways, huh? I'm glad you guys did, it made for great reading!
    I hope you put up photos of your 1918 outfit!
    As for Len unintentionally insulting Kit... he keeps doing that throughout their relationship, doesn't he? Poor guy.
    Say, are you going to write all three versions of Len's homecoming while you work it out? I'd like to see that :-)