Monday, February 28, 2011

my efforts to continue to write Birthright

Excuse number one was that I had returned to school and my energies were sucked away by the needs of my students and my daughters. As it should be.

Excuse number two was that I was too tired to write because of the above. Anyone who teachers and/or is a parent understands this.

Excuse number three is because I have been knocked sideways and been consumed by the coverage of the reportage of the Christchurch earthquake 22nd Feb 2011 12:51pm.

I was born in Christchurch (chch). As a young woman, I worked in chch for two years. I rode its streets and spent many hours in the CBD and the outter suburbs.

I have friends and relatives and acquaintances who live in the city of my birth. I visit chch regularly. And, I am beyond comprehension that the iconic buildings I rode past every day for months/years have been destroyed. The streets I walked down just a year ago are covered in rubble. The cafes, the cathedral, the tram line - all currently just rubble.

I once went to the Pyne Gould Guinness building for a job when I thought I wanted to be a stock agent. Back in the eightess, I was laughed out of the building because I was a girl and how could a girl be a stock and station agent? Wrong attitude but good advice for me cos it lead me to university and to fulfilling my dream of being an English teacher.

Though I am currently writing in world that does not have flush toilets, electricity, telephone, water, good roads, easy access to food, (11th C Scotland) the wake up call is still there because though I can turn on the shower and expect hot water to flow out of the shower head, I have begun to appreciate the struggles of my 21Cth comrades.

I have been in a place where water and sewage was restricted and so lived for 6 weeks of not flushing and saving water; I have lived for 3 weeks with the threat of power outage.

But, I have never lived in a place where the very terra firma in not firm.

I try to understand how it might be for those who try to rest and sleep. Perhaps I can appreciate it a bit more than others that I am a very light sleeper and my husband snores and the cats prowl around the house inside and out and it is me who gets up and grumps at my husband, probably seven or eight times during the night.

I get up in the morning never, ever having a good night's sleep. The other night, I felt many of the CHCH after shocks - such is my sensitivity.

Last night, hubby made up a bed in the spare room but the cats kept me awake. WAhhhhh.

As a child, from age 5-13 we many times relied on long drops as our sewage. I HATED this as it was one of my jobs to carry the sewage of our families' waste to the dump site. As a child, sometimes, we had no power. And, no phone, and sometimes, no food other than the basics. Thankfully, we had the land to provide us with meat and fruit.

Reliability of the availability of the above was never guaranteed nor taken for granted especially when my step father was involved in a fatal accident (his 12 year old son died - my step brother whom we all loved).

Anyway, if you want to know more, you can read some of my other publications.

For now, I have to mentally turn my face away from the place of my birth to focus on my children (who are grieving for the loss of life) and my students (who have also experienced loss) and my novel. Callous as it might seem, I have to keep going while I have running water, waste water working and electricity. Who knows how long I can depend on such privilege?

As to Birthright, I am trying to keep writing but life is seriously getting in the way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Tuesday

Still trying to gather together my thoughts.
Written some stuff.
Not ready to share.
Lost some ex students.
Family members alive.
Friends and family lost everything.
Have nothing at this time to add.
In a nutshell:
Dammit and crap and o man....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A glimpse into my writer world

I have been quietly sobbing for the past hour while I work on a chapter. There are tissues. There are sympathetic family members but my heart is hurting as hard as it has when REAL people die or suffer.

Am I sick? Is there somthing wrong with me?

I figure that it doesn't matter (Tania wipes a stray tear from her left cheek) whether you are in 11th or 21st Centuary - sad, bad stuff happens to people we love.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

You know you're a real writer when...

When we were looking for a new house, I always checked out the bookshelves. The house that we eventually bought had two books penned by me. It was a sign.

Every week the Sunday Star Times features a family and one of their rooms. I always look at the bookshelves. Not long ago, I spotted 'Kids Behaving Bravely' and 'Limelight' in one photo.

Recently, I was at a book launch and a friend introduced me to her companion.
'Have you met my friend, Tania Roxborogh?' she asked.
'No,' the companion replied shaking my hand. 'But I have read you.'

My husband, who works for Hewlett Packard, is also completing a degree part time in Community and Family Studies aka a Social Work degree. Yesterday, he went down to The Univeristy of Otago to do 'course confirmation' and had to have his papers signed off by the head of department, Dr Peter Walker.
Dr. Walker: is your wife Tania Roxborogh?
My husband: yes
Dr Walker's face lights up: I've read the first book and am half way through the second book and am loving it.

He then told the hubby he plans to hand the books onto a collegue of his who is a 'bit of a Scotophile'.

Today, I was having lunch during the school Sports Day and a member of staff (she's Scottish) said. 'Oh, I haven't told you. We went around to the in-laws over the summer and they had your book on their shelf. They showed it to me and raved. I hadn't told them I taught with you but I did then and they were very impressed.'

Sigh the small scrapes of validation the reading world throws at us taste like banquets

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The real life of a New Zealand writer

Apart from MM and JC and some others, most NZ writers have to WORK as well as write. Most of my writer friends are family peeps: they have children (other family members) to care for. Oh, and bills to pay and taxes. And expenses.

If I were a full time writer (and the income to allow me to be so), I would be so much more generous with my time. I would write ten times more that what I do now, I would walk the dogs from the local SPCA, help out at the hospice down the road and spend more time talking with the old postie who walks the local Green MP's dog.

But, none of this is true for me cos I have to work to earn a crust so I can help provide for my family.

Still, I am a teacher who is a stickler for deadlines and I am despeartely trying to meet my deadline for Birthright. Unfortunatley my characters are being quite rebellious and I'm doing the old author/character wrestling act.

I. Will. [grrr] Win.

This is what I have come to understand this past year: the great writers were writers. They got on with it. Period.

Wahh but I love being a teacher [writer-Tania whacks teacher-Tania and tries to drive her from the room but Tania's ex-students flood in and tackle the writer-Tania so she is swamped and in the end the game in lost to... neither. A truce is declared]

Being a 'writer and' enriches me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

we writers really should stop moaning but...

In the voice of the youngest child from Despicable Me who cries: it's so FLAAFFY!! The intensity of the emotion of the writing process is so well expressed: it's so HARRRDD!!

I told my students today why writing a book was worse that being pregnant and giving birth - even worse than suffering through their teenage years. They laughed. Yes, dear reader. These sweet young 13 year old girls actually laughed at my pain. But, we must forgive them. What would they know of rejection and realisation that what one has conceived and born is actually a monster? What would they know that something they created, others could spurn? Would laugh, hysterically, at? No, they are the innocent.

So it is that they tittered quietly because, being sensitive creatures they understood that their almost world famous English teacher was trying to be entertaining, it was prudent to respond in such a way.

But, a ha! I caught a 'momentary acknowledgement of recognition of shared experience’ (Helen Brown’s Tramping in The Rain). There are writers amongst my group. Nationally recognised and awarded writers already (though they are only 12 and 13).

We smiled at each other while the rest of the class tittered. They did not. They knew and understood.

We are going to have a great year.

Meanwhile, back in 11th C I have begun to move things along and I have characters huffing and puffing with anxiety and concern. As they should be. They think things are bad now, well just wait to see what I have in store ha ha whaaa ha ha hahahahaha.

Okay, yeah, that waas over the top. Sorry Flea.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I feel guilty...

...because I've had a lovely week getting to know the students in my new classes and spending time with my family and frankly I've little emotional energy left for my other family who are probably all standing around in their respective 11thC homes waiting for me to continue the story.

Which reminds me a British TV series I watched as a kid. The main character, a girl, had (I think) polio and couldn't walk and she was staying upstairs in a house opposite a lighthouse. She drew. And her drawings came to life. Something about the rocks and there was a boy and it was thrilling and terrifying and I wish i could remember the name of it. If anyone remembers it, let me know! The upshot of remembering this is the power of the creator which I have resting on my heart.

Anyway, unfortunately for me, the writer, this 'interruption' has happened at a painful part in the story (see previous post). I'm having such a good time with my students and my family and the new books which have arrived for review that I really don't want to go home (home to my writer self presently means Scotland, 11th C).

Thankfully, I have readers who accost me in the supermarket, in the playground, via email as well as (ahem) my contract with the publisher that I cannot delay the inevitable: to finish writing Birthright.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

When someone has to die

For the author, this is a really, really hard moment. I believe that no one should die unless it is critical to the development of the plot and/or the development of the main character(s). Knocking off someone just to 'tell' the reader not to get too close to anyone is just, well, cruel. Hedwig did not have to die at all in my humble opinion!

But, often we writers are faced with the necessary demise of a character we are truly fond of and, quite frankly, we DO waver at that point in our writing where we end it all for him or her. Why? Because we are human and these characters are as real to us as some of the people we know. Sometimes, they feel more real and special than the actual bodies which occupy our towns, streets.

I have been faced this week with the truth that I have to kill off a character who I adore. My eldest and one of the babes, in reaction to the foreseen event, reacted in such a way which gave me pause: maybe I should keep this character alive for longer. So I sent out a query to the babes and my agent and a couple of others who have vested interest in this trilogy. Should I keep [her/him] alive for longer?

The response was 50/50. Though they all adore the character whose demise we are discussing, as one responded: I think the fact that readers say they love [****] and will miss [her/him] doesn’t make a reason to keep [her/him]. [The character] has a dramatic part to play in the story – and that’s actually dying at a pivotal moment – if [he/she] stays on it has to be for more important reasons than not wanting to disappoint readers – ie. [he/she has something heroic to do, or worthy to do, or treacherous to do…

It occurred to me that ‘the story’s the thing’ and I have to do what must be done even though I will cry. I just wish I could make happy endings for every beloved character but I can’t. Tis life I guess.

So, above aforementioned character is, currently, having a chapter carefully constructed, which has [her/his] death at the critical moment. Wahhh!

For this story to go where it needs to go, this loved character has to die.

Sorry and I will weep when I finish writing the character’s demise but that is the way it should be.