News from the Writing Zone

So after weeks of stifling heat, many days over 40 Celsius (104 F), ravaging bushfires, impenetrable smoke, unavoidable dust and ash inhalation causing nausea and headaches, constant obsessive anxiety looking at bushfire maps and a state of acute mourning for the losses, especially the wildlife, we now have buckets of rain, floods, drinking-water fears and blackouts. But there you are, dear friends, this is Australia and here we are and we love it (even though a lot of people have been talking about migrating to New Zealand).

The first sign of the Ruined Castle fire near Katoomba, 3 December 2019: it burnt out 40,000 hectares over the next seven weeks and was not put out finally until 5th February 2020. Photo A. Hamilton.

So as you might gather this was not great for the writing. In fact, I stopped writing altogether. Even my red daily diaries, which I have been assiduously adding to for over two years now, still rest untouched on the bookcase. I wanted to write about how this summer felt, but I just couldn’t. It was too awful, too terrifying yet somehow also familiar. We have been told for years now that the world will end in a conflagration, well here it was and it was right on our doorstep.

The red skies, the relentless approach, flames leaping, everything alight

You have to start asking why you would write at all. If the world is perilously close to a terminal phase, what good is writing? What good are books? If you saw that movie The Day After Tomorrow that scene in the New York Public Library will no doubt be burnished into your synapses: the brave survivors holed up inside tearing up the entire contents of the library, all the world’s books which could at least keep them warm. One old guy was trying to keep the Gutenberg Bible intact, as I recall, but the rest of it was just good for fuel.

What books are really good for … The Day After Tomrrow.

My writing associate Obelia is now completely convinced that are now only a couple of decades left. She stopped writing as well.

But time passes and in spite of doubts and fears I really have to produce the books I have been working on for so long now. In the next couple of months I have plans to see at least two or maybe three of the front-runners hit the deck. The two volumes of short stories and the memoir are pretty much ready to go. So stand by for some more advance notice: covers are done and all that remains is the playing with Vellum which I hope will allow me to pull them all together very quickly.

Another thing I have done over this horror summer is read a number of very interesting memoirs (loosely identified) and I am going to write a little about them, not so much reviews as reflections on the thoughts and feelings they created as I read them in this heightened state of alarm and anxiety, pushing me once again up against the complex questions about what memoir writing really is and can do, and where is the Real in writing.

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