Have you been watching Anzac Girls on ABC? I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a good mini-series. Based on the book The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees, it’s a story focussing on the role that Australian nurses played in the war. I love learning about history through reading books and novels. And I’m obsessed with some areas of Australian history – right down to what people used to eat and what they wore.
I occasionally get fascinated by certain historic buildings and, before long, you can barely tear me away from the library as I devour all I can find about every tenant the building has had since it was built. I end up writing all sorts of stories – some totally factual, others completely products of my imagination – about the former residents and how they may have interacted. A kind of weird, historic Melrose Place really. (Okay, I’ve just shared a little too much about my secret pastime!)
The way we can research and gather information has changed dramatically in the last few years. While I do love hanging out in the hushed tones of the library, there are now many more efficient options available to discover more about Australian history – especially if you’re writing about it (in any genre).
In fact, the genre is so big right now, we’ve created a new half-day course –Writing Australian History – giving writers valuable information on how to bring the past to life, and presented by one of Australia’s foremost historical authors, Pamela Freeman! Are you excited? Because I am.
But now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the library to invent some gossip about dead people.
Have a historic week!
What our graduates are saying
Aspiring writers aren’t always wordy when describing our courses:
Last week our crazy question asker used the term “very unique” and in doing so, succeeded in waking up the interwebs. An ABSOLUTE catastrophe! Let’s take a look…
Q: Well, wasn’t that a great Q&A last week? All “reality show” themed and that. A: Oh, thanks. Um, who are those other people? Q: Other people? I don’t know what you’re talking about. A: They’re standing right behind you, all holding brickbats. Q: Oh, right, THOSE people. Well, I’ve gathered them all here as we had some similar feedback – namely about your use of the term “very unique”. A: Ah. I see. Well, take a seat everyone. Yes, we did have a few people asking us about that. It’s that old chestnut, “modifying an absolute” – when the word you’re using doesn’t need any further embellishment, because it is not open to interpretation. Q: Yes, that’s the one. So, “very unique” isn’t acceptable then? A: To the purists (which seems to be everyone assembled here), and to lovers of logic, something cannot be more unique than something else, because the definition of unique is “one of a kind”. It is either unique or it isn’t. There are no “degrees” of uniqueness. Q: Well yes, that’s what we’ve always been taught. A: And you’re right. In non-conversational contexts (e.g. a novel, newspaper story, etc), you’d want to dust off the barge pole and steer well clear of modified absolutes like “more unique”, “completely destroyed” or “most quintessential”. However, in casual conversation, it’s something that is all too common. Q: Yes, but that doesn’t make it right. A: No, it doesn’t. But that’s the English language for you. It may not be “proper” to say these things, but modifying absolutes has crept into everyday usage more and more in recent times. In the case of “unique”, this started being watered down more than 150 years ago, often used when “unusual” or “uncommon” would have been better. As a result, modifying “unique” is now reluctantly acceptable in certain contexts. Q: Contexts like a chatty Q&A I suppose? A: Well, precisely. Well put. Thank you all for coming, mind that step on the way out. Okay… yes, thanks for reading. Goodbye. Q: Oh, just one more question… A: Who are you? Columbo? Q: I have no idea who that is but I will Google it later. I just wanted to ask about where you referred to Sydney with “their festival” instead of “its festival” – shouldn’t collective nouns be singular? A: Yes, collective nouns like city names, band names, business names etc should be singular. Good spotting! Q: And you also said “neither are incorrect” when referring to each individual festival. Shouldn’t this be “neither is incorrect”? A: Right again, you got us! Although, conversationally “neither are” is generally acceptable (especially when “neither is” just sounds wrong), but in that example, technically it should have been the singular. We were clearly in festival plural mode! And we would have got away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids! (By the way, “if it weren’t” is the correct subjunctive here, although again “if it wasn’t” is commonly used.) Q: We’ll call it 2-1 to us this week. A: Fair enough. Always happy to oblige!
Got a Q&A topic you’d like us to tackle in our own unique way? Send us an email!
Podcast: Episode 28
Val and Al discuss stunning writing studios, a ridiculously priced comic book, extreme reading, and how to keep track of your ideas. They also talk to doctor-turned-bestselling author Nick Earls about how to write “funny”, persistence in publishing, and writing what you know!
Quite possibly the easiest competition in the world to enter, involving two clicks and one word, it’s probably not surprising we got so many entries! And among the various words, some common themes appeared – “block/blocked”, “diligence/persistence”, “perfection/perfectionism”.
The suggestion “#FFS” was probably the most honest, we liked the double play on “deadlines” and Serah decided it made a good ad for “Specsavers”. David thought sending us a Google image of chocolates would help. It did not.
In fact, there were so many good ones, and we did have two books on offer, that we’ve decided to award a winner and a runner up! Our winner is Glynis S from QLD for adding a well-placed T to come up with “LITTERATURE“. Clever! You’ve just won the choice of either Switching Suits by Julie Braithwaite or We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride – Glynis, we’ll email you to ask which you’d like. And whichever you DON’T select, we’re giving to our runner up, Pippa M of VIC, who summed it up pretty well we thought, with simply “Monday“. (Yep, the life of a writer…) Nice! Congrats Glynis and Pippa…and thanks everyone for all your HARD WORK (hee hee) entering this one!
On the blog this week: Turn your blog into a book
In honour of Father’s Day last week, take a look at what stay-at-home dad Clint Greagen had to say about turning his blog into a book – and do it yourself with his four slabs of advice (none of which involve listening to loud ‘80s music in a Tarago…)
If you’ve been “pouring over the Sunday papers” lately, then all you would have ended up with was soggy pages. That’s because the saying is in fact to “pore” – a verb meaning to study closely or be absorbed in something (derived from “peer”). Of course, it’s the unrelated noun “pore” (from “porous”) that is better known, doing its own absorbing on the skin.
FYI: Today is September 11
If you’d read that headline 14 years ago, it would have been a simple announcement of a date. But since 2001, this particular date (also known as “9/11”) carries extra weight following the events that took place in New York and surrounds on that day. In fact, no other date on the calendar is quite so synonymous with a modern event.
“Tsunami” is another interesting one. Before 2004’s global disaster, it was a rare word. But since then, everyone knows what it means and it has even expanded its repertoire to include non-watery definitions too (such as in this email’s subject heading).
Plan Ahead: It’s a crime
Crime and Thriller Writing with L.A. Larkin
Want to be a part of the most prolific genre on the planet? Keen to discover how to create suspense, plot twists and characters that readers will care about (even after you’ve killed them off)?
This course shows you how, tapping into what makes this genre unique and exploring the successful methods to crafting gripping and memorable storytelling where no seat edges are safe!
“No matter how well progressed you think you are with your writing, there is always something valuable to learn, and the thriller course really lays it all out for you in both a practical and inspiring way. My ideas really developed on this course.” – Kerry Rogerson
It’s been a while since we did one of these, and last time you were all pretty clever with your answers. So, again, we will give you the picture and in fewer than 30 words we want you to describe this beach scene from your own (imaginary) novel. Use names, places, times, get descriptive, use any point of view, etc. We are simply after something memorable (isn’t every reader?).
Your reward for being one of our FIVE favourites will be a DVD copy of The Invisible Woman directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens, and co-starring Felicity Jones and Kristen Scott Thomas! (We originally got one DVD, but we asked “please sir, can we have some more?”) We’ll publish the winners next week.
Entries in by 11:44pm Monday 15 September, by replying to this email and changing the email subject to SCENE. Don’t forget to include your postal address so we can mail your prize. Good luck!
Webpick: Google it
No, we aren’t suggesting “Google” is this week’s webpick (we figure you may have heard of that one), but you might not have bookmarked Google Books – where you can search specifically through books and magazines and even create your own library!
But most addictive of all is their “ngram” word usage chart – where you can compare words to see their trends in usage over the past century or more.
You’ll find it here. But it could be addictive. You have been warned.
The final word:
(noun) The string of typographical symbols comic strips use to indicate profanity. For example: #@$%*! So if you think it’s #@$%* time that you did a short course in writing, scroll down and enrol in one today!
Upcoming course dates
Online course: Creative Writing Stage 1 with Cathie Tasker/Pamela Freeman – NEW DATE Week beginning Monday 15 September 2014 for five weeks
Online course: Writing Picture Books with Cathie Tasker Week beginning Monday 15 September 2014 for five weeks
Online course: Travel Writing with Julietta Jameson Week beginning Monday 15 September 2014 for five weeks
All of the plays posted on "The Brainpan" are the original work of the blog's main author, Randy Ford, and may not be reproduced, in any form, without the author's permission. You may reach the author at email@example.com.