It feels strange to finally send off a story to publishers – especially a story that I can link to Geoffrey Rush (in an odd way). This manuscript is something I’ve worked on for many years – part of me fears for its future, part of me rejoices in the fact it’s now on its own, under the glare of lights. And the eyes of editors. (I blogged about this story four years ago – you’ll need to read through the original one to see the ending though).
FEBRUARY 10 2010 Several weeks ago, I completed the final re-write of my Australian Society of Authors Mentorship novel, Sweet Adversity. It has been a fantastic experience – from learning more on the craft of writing from my mentor, Sally Rippin, to researching the Great Depression in Australia, to putting the final polish to a story that inched its way into my life like a stray child.
Mostly, it has been a labour of love over seven years. But there have also been times when the manuscript annoyed the hell out of me. Then it sat in the naughty chair in the corner, out of sight, out of mind. When the plotting got too difficult, I let other stories slip into its place as the ‘Work-in-Progress’. It sat there on the shelf, glaring at me for months, but then offering possibilities of plot-solving and pushing the characters further than I had before.
It tantalised me every time I saw an article about Shakespeare, or recognised a quote from one of his plays (you may have guessed from the title, it owes more than a little allegiance to The Bard). Like Macbeth, the cockatiel in my story, Shakespeare’s magical mixture of spoken aloud words in his Plays have also captivated me.
My subversion to William Shakespeare happened when I was a student at a country high school in regional Queensland in the late 1960s. One day, a troupe of travelling Shakespearean actors arrived in town on the train. We students sat on hard seats under that hot, tin roof – pesky and smelly and ready to dismiss it as a waste of time when the actors began The Merchant of Venice. By the end of Act 1 you could have heard a pin drop on the bare boards of the Town Hall. I found out years later that one of those actors was the young Geoffrey Rush.
There is another reason I was determined to complete this story with its travelling actors and Shakespearean-quoting cockatiel and a runaway girl. I have a family link to that mostly unknown part of Australian history – the travelling actors who brought live drama to outback towns.
Three generations ago, Lavinia Margaret McAlpine, and her father, Daniel travelled through northern New South Wales in the late 1880s, in an acting troupe. They didn’t confine themselves to Shakespeare – they also put on plays by demand. Like Ten Nights on a Bar-Room Floor. Maybe it was the local chapter of the Anti-Alcohol Society who paid them to do this play?
There are other hand-me-down stories of Lavinia’s life – and a couple of them have inspired events in my story. I could tell you more, but it will have to wait – for the day Sweet Adversity finally meets a publisher who will fall in love with it.
FEBRUARY 26 2014 The Sweet Adversity work-in-progress was awarded a SCBWI International Work-of-Outstanding-Promise grant in September 2013. I’m using the money to travel to the National Library in Canberra to continue research in the best place in Australia to find out more of the Great Depression’s affect upon children.
I’ll never give up on this story. I owe it to the indomitable Lavinia Margaret McAlpine and Geoffrey Rush not to.