A Year Away From Writing

 

 

I love books. I love writing.  In fact, I can confidently state that books and writing are my passion. Sadly, I’m not a gifted writer. I don’t possess any special talent with words. There’s no magic formula to my success. The only reason I’m published, is thanks to hard work and dogged determination. Period!! All my manuscripts go through multiple drafts, edits and re-writes. My one consolation is that I get better the more I practice. I still labour over words, but at least I’m making head-ways.

I write migrant stories. In Australia, 70% of us are either first or second generation migrants. I’m a migrant. I have a migrant heart. At age 12 my family fled Iran. We arrived in Australia in 1982. My first book, Under a Starless Sky was the account of my family’s journey. Over the years we sponsored other family members (including Senator Sam Dastyari‘s).

I’m forever fascinated as to why people uproot from the land of their ancestors to travel (sometimes at great risks to their lives) to another corner of the world to start a new life.  Every migrant arrives carrying a story. I believe it’s through the sharing of such stories that we can build empathy, build bridges and mend relationships. And for me, there’s no better way to share our stories than the written language; through each character’s unique voice and story arc.

I set a new challenge with every manuscript to do something different. Whilst Under a Starless Sky and The Russian Tapestry were inspired by our family history, my latest manuscript, The Family Ties (working title) is the story of three generation of women and the secret that has torn at the fabric of their lives. The key to to this secret is in a small wooden box dating to events in Ukraine during WWII.

Unfortunately in recent months, due to financial reasons (my writing doesn’t generate enough income to pay the bills) I’ve had to return to full-time work. Being away from home for long stretches, coupled with juggling day-to-day running of the house has meant I can’t devote a regular time to writing. (Those who advocate you only need 10-30 minutes a day, I’m here to tell you, that’s bollocks!)

I’ve tried to fit in the writing. I’m an early riser and my day generally starts around 5:00 am. But since I’ve started full-time work, my writing has played second fiddle to everything else I have to get done in a day. As a result, there are long stretches between writing, making it disjointed and incoherent.

After weeks stressing, pushing to stay on course, making myself and everyone around me miserable, I decided the best think I can do for myself is to take a sabbatical from my manuscript in exchange for concentrating on resuscitating my bank account. It doesn’t mean I give up completely on writing. I still plan to keep this blog and a diary. Incidentally, the week I decided to take my sabbatical, I received news that the German edition of The Russian Tapestry has gone into it’s third reprint!!

Still the decision to put away my manuscript does not come without pain. I worry over losing the ground I’ve gained with my writing. I debate whether I’ll go back to it, or if I’ll ever be published again. But in the end, I rationalise the stress and pressure I’m putting myself under is not worth it.  It’s not going to help me achieve to be the best writer I can be. In a few months I’ll sit down with my husband to reassess where we’re at and make decisions accordingly.

So for now, I’m shelving my manuscript. But before I do, I want to share with you a little taste of what’s to come.

Below is an excerpt from my current manuscript, The Family Ties. This is the opening…hope you like it.

I stand on the lip of the quarry. Below me, the gaping hole is half full. A merciless wind whips at my body, making it hard to keep my balance. On the loudspeakers Wagner has replaced Beethoven. The men on the other side of the quarry are bolstered by it. I’m told Wagner is a favourite of their leader. One of the men moves his arms like a conductor, causing some to cheer. But not all.

She slips her hand in mine. Her palm, too small to take my whole hand, grips the first two fingers. In her free hand, she holds the flower I’ve given her. It was meant as a distraction, a source of comfort in the face of the horror going on around us. That was some time ago. Yet she continues to hold the flower despite its wilting form.

‘Look how big the moon is, Mama.’

Even at such a time, she’s still a child, seized by the wonder of the world, seeing only the remarkable. Scooping her in my arms, I hold her tight against me. Her face is pale, yet calm. I press her closer, inhaling her scent. Her small mouth breathes warm air next to my ear.

I want her to be the last thing I know. I hold on to the warmth of her, the rapid knocking of her heart, like a small caged bird. I wonder how I can deceive her during these last few minutes we have left together. Shelter her from the knowledge of what’s to come.

The order is sounded and the men take their position. She turns her head. I’m too slow to stop her looking down into the quarry.

The music stops unexpectedly. And in the sudden silence, I hear her say.

‘Mama,’ her paw lifts to cover my eyes, ‘Don’t look that way. It will upset you to see what’s down there.’

What did you think? I love hearing from readers. Be sure to leave your comments (praise, criticism, experiences) in the section below.

Till next time, Happy Reading!!

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