Anne here, bringing you a very short post. I'm away from home at the moment and sitting in a hotel room, having eaten take-away Thai food while watching old reruns of Friends and Seinfeld. I drove up today to Wodonga, a town on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, about four hours drive north-east from Melbourne.
I'm here to conduct a one-day writing workshop called Write That Novel, and I'm looking forward to it. I always find these things both a challenge and also inspirational: a challenge because I have no idea who will be in the class, but going on previous experience I expect there will be some people who are complete beginners, and others who've written several complete novels. And I won't know who I've got until the class has started and they've introduced themselves.
The challenge then is to provide information and activities that will help the beginners get started—and not intimidate them or overwhelm them with too much instruction— but that will also interest and hopefully stimulate those with more writing experience.
The unknown aspect of the class is also a source of inspiration. You never know what's going to happen — there can be wonderful chemistry in a class, as people brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other. And sometimes the writing pieces people produce in the class can blow me away. So I'm looking forward to it.
I spent my earliest years in and around Wodonga. We left to go to Scotland when I was eight. You know you're in the country when you get adverts for agricultural machinery on the TV, but in fact the town has grown so much it's unrecognizable to me. It's now part of a "twin town" with Albury, the city on the other side of the Murray River, which is the border between the states.
Driving north from Melbourne, you pass over the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, and once you do, you're in a different geographical region. The weather changes almost instantly — I left home in gloomy damp drizzle, and over the hills hit brilliant sunshine and hot, dry land. Around Melbourne, where it was been wet for weeks, the country is lush and green. Here it is bone dry.
The colors of the land at this time of year are beige and brown and grey and olive. To me it's beautiful, as this is the country that I imprinted on as a child — the photo on the left is how it used to be —but now the bones of the land are showing stark and grim. You can't help but be aware of drought and the ever-present threat of fire.
You drive through a forest and the trees all have black trunks, masses of new green leaves, and the undergrowth is sparse — a reminder that a bushfire passed through there last season, or possibly two summers ago. I wish now I'd stopped to take some photos to show you, but I didn't because I was in a hurry to get here. Isn't that always the way?
It was a feature of my childhood — so often Mum would lament that we had passed some lovely spot that she would have loved to stop and look at or explore, "but DWS" — Dad Wouldn't Stop. Seems I've inherited his foot on the accelerator. Still, tomorrow after the class, I plan to revisit some old haunts. Even though I was quite young when we left here, I have so many vivid memories.
What about you? Do you have strong memories of the place you spent your earliest years in? I'd love to hear about your own special place in the world.