Dylan woke with jackhammers pounding in his head and a tongue so furry it felt like it needed waxing. "Last time," he croaked, rolling onto his back and resolving to quit drinking again or, at least, to stop bingeing. He stared up at the low ceiling of his studio apartment and replayed the office drinks.
At the end of March 2023, Sumitra from the Twitter #WritingCommunity announced a #30Words30Days challenge. During April, Sumitra and Writing Dani would tweet daily prompt words at 8 am and invite writers to share a 30-word story inspired by the prompt. "No prizes, just for the joy of writing together!"
Mum's up first, though she doesn't like looking at her reflection nowadays. She splashes her face and turns away from me with a towel. Over her shoulder, I watch Mum gaze out the bathroom window. And when she turns back, Mum's wearing her pained expression again, like she's failed to solve the riddle of life.
As a regular swimmer, I set birthday challenges to match my age in laps from 55 in 2017 to 57 in 2019. (Let's skip 2020!) Then, after tearing both shoulders, I read 59 chapters in 2021 and 60 in 2022. But I wanted to do something different when I turned 61 on 30 March this year. So I wrote a 61-word story.
Two disclosures. Firstly, I've known Ashley Kalagian Blunt for several years, from her work at Writing NSW and conversations on social media about our writing projects. Secondly, I am not a big reader of crime fiction. But I know it's a popular genre, and after binge-reading Dark Mode, I can see why.
Jennifer swivelled her chair away from the laptop and stared at the lights receding into the distance beyond the high-rise office window. Her eyes had welled up reading Stephen's unexpected emailed demand, and she reached for a tissue to dab at the tears. "Twenty years," Jennifer exhaled softly, wiping her eyes.
Kristel Thornell's novel, The Sirens Sing (HarperCollins 2022), is divided into two parts. The first part is set in the NSW Blue Mountains in the mid-1990s and features a lovestruck teenager. And the second part relocates the reader to Sydney's Inner West in the mid-1970s and is his mother's love story.
I stare at the blank screen. The words aren't flowing onto the keyboard. Should I enter a working title? Or perhaps outline my plot and characters? Writer's block. Help! I tweet the writing community. "Take a break," is the first response. "We've all been there," reassures a published writer.
In 2019, approaching the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I found a timely book in a secondhand bookshop: The Berlin Wall, 13 August 1961 – 9 November 1989 by Frederick Taylor. The book inspired me to write about my contrasting visits to Berlin as a backpacker in 1987 and 1995.
Henry Rollins said, "A great way to learn about your country is to leave it." I learned a lot about Australia while overseas from 1987 to 1996. Books like Alice Nannup's When The Pelican Laughed helped my education. And from her memoir, I learned about the Stolen Generation and a connection with my Nan.
The writer John Banville observed, "Memory is imagination, and imagination is memory. I don't think we remember the past, we imagine it." I have vivid memories of my early childhood (I believe they're memories, not imagination), which is why the #5YearOldSelfie challenge on social media caught my eye.
To help overcome writer's block and start writing the first sentences of A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway is said to have reminded himself: “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Over the summer holidays, I caught an ABC Science Show podcast, The Year in Tech. Science reporter, Ariel Bogle, discussed with her editor, Jonathan Webb, tech stories which had caught her eye in 2017. She opened with an audio clip from the Ex Machina movie that instantly spiked my interest.