Week One – May Gibbs, Creative Time Fellowship
It’s the beginning of the second week of my Creative Time May Gibbs Fellowship in Brisbane and I feel as though I’m living in three time zones – the present, in which I’m a little homesick, my own past and the World War II years, the time in which the book is set.
So far I’ve completed a draft of the first chapter – that’s some 3000 words. The main small triumph of this week has been establishing my character’s voice. The research involved in the setting has required work in the State Library – I’ve looked at one and a half years of Truth newspaper and read a book on the war years. I’ve also been constantly messaging my mother, on whose story this book is loosely based.
I find it peculiarly difficult to give myself permission to change the facts and circumstances of my mother’s story. It’s odd, because I have no problem using bits of my own life as the starting inspiration for novels and stories to the point where I sometimes can’t remember myself what actually happened. But my mother’s story? I’m having to fight the facts – ‘but that won’t fit my timeline’ I wail while a little voice in my head mutters with an audible eye roll, ‘well change when it happened…’
That’s my first challenge. My second is to depict the era with sufficient, telling detail. The details I love (Swami satin pyjamas , elastic shirring from front to side seams, tie back, finished with French satin and lace motifs. Available in Sky, Apple Green and Blush, 15’6) are not necessarily appropriate to my character.
In the meantime, I’m becoming my grandmother – I feel it in my bones. I smile in a slightly anxious manner at shop assistants. I lean forward confidingly as I explain to the young woman at the front desk that I can’t actually work the DVD player in my apartment. I even call her ‘a young woman’ to myself. This morning I put lipstick on before I went out. I normally forget lipstick unless it’s a special occasion. My grandmother died when I was two years old, so clearly something in my genetic make-up is taking over. This would be frightening except that it could be useful….