Capturing the castle

I’ve now been back in Australia for longer than I was away on my recent research trip and have established a rhythm of writing, work and play. The challenge for me as a writer is to keep past experience fresh and uppermost in my mind and to prevent (or at least reduce) the dampening effect of time. I’ve spent many days categorising, backing up and enjoying the thousands of photographs taken. I’m posting trip photos and manuscript mini updates over on my facebook page if you’d like to take a peek.

This week I’m finishing an article about one of the locations I visited. The photographs I took on location are proving invaluable in mentally transporting me back to the picturesque episcopal castle. I’ll be including some of the best shots in the article to share the experience with readers. Out of necessity I had to be jack of all trades on the trip: location scout, navigator, driver, photographer, translator, porter, and writer. This was not the optimal approach and there were many shots I just couldn’t take because I didn’t have my photography partner (or even a willing assistant) with me. For someone of my build, lugging a lot of camera equipment around every single day is not practical. On the days when I had to rest my shoulders, I was still seeing crucial objects, buildings, and landscapes and needing to document them. So I did the best I could given the circumstances!

A camera phone image, while not nearly as detailed or effective in capturing ambience, is still helpful in triggering memory. The picture below brings a still sharper image into my mind and, if I concentrate, I can hear the sounds of the dining room and remember the tastes that I enjoyed there:

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I am glad that I took most of the photographs on the digital SLR. I’ll be sharing those images with you in future posts. I’m developing my photographic skills and I have a number of people in my life who are much better at consistently taking good photos. I would have liked to pack them into my suitcase, so to speak, however our timing (and finances!) just didn’t line up for this trip.

Travelling solo did have an advantage: you could wake, move, and sleep according to your own flow. Rising early, before the morning light, allowed me to capture the impressive nature of the castle’s curtain wall without disturbing a soul.

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I was happy with that shot.

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Postcard from London (MMXV)

This is my last night based in London. I’m squeezing in one more session of archival research before I return to Sydney. To borrow from De Flores: “I’m up to my chin in heaven.”

Today began in Bloomsbury with breakfast, a walk and my first “flat white” order of the trip (which served as a reminder of how soon I’ll be back in Australia). I got so engrossed in the manuscript I was working on at the British Library that I missed my window for lunch. Fortunately I had purchased a cinnamon scroll with that morning coffee. After taking care of errands, I hopped in a taxi and made it to Shakespeare’s Globe just as the doors were about to close on the performance I had a ticket to. I only managed a bite of the scroll before darkness silenced the audience.
I completely forgot my hunger for the duration of The Changeling.
As I moved across the bridge towards St Paul’s snow flakes glided down and a chill entered with each breath. I should have switched my brogues for boots and wished that the lace beaded sleeveless top beneath the trench coat I picked up in Paris was thermal.
Stepping from tube to platform hunger returned. I noticed a mother and daughter walking towards me. The young girl held her mother’s hand reluctantly and outstretched the other. As we passed she ran her mauve mitted hand over the body and buckle of the navy handbag I had done the same thing to before buying it from a boutique near the Campo de’ Fiori.
Travel is reaching out to experience the world.

 

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This journey is almost at an end. Another is only just beginning.

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Postcard from Paris (MMXV)

I’m about to take a fast train across the channel and leave my beloved Paris. Research here has progressed well (more on that later). There’s been time for a handful of gastronomic indulgences: bread, cheese, and frites; chocolate and soufflé.

 

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Soufflé with a hint of Grand Marnier.

The taste of tome fraîche folded into mashed potato, the sight of curls of foliage in an illuminated manuscript, the feel of a fifteenth century wooden handrail as I climbed a staircase into the past; these memories and more board this train with me.

 

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Postcard from Rome (MMXV)

Buon Anno!

I’ve spent an intense and unforgettable few weeks researching in the “Eternal” city of Rome. I’ve devoured mountains of pasta and enjoyed the company of new friends. I feel fortunate to have had another chance to explore Rome’s cultural riches.

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Arrivederci, Roma!

I’m off to the next city on this non-stop itinerary. I’ll be sure to write more once I’m home.

May we all make the most of 2015,

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The first leaf

Welcome to my Chronicle.

I hope you enjoy the following glimpses into the research and writing towards my first historical novel. Here are some tidbits about me:

– I have a soft spot for craftsmanship including (but not limited to) woodwork, metalwork, period embroidery, and of course the craft of writing. I don’t claim to be any good at any craft other than the latter.

– I adore fine stationery. I was the person who wrote to their foreign penpal on delicate paper rather than chat with them online. I am the person who already has the next journal to seamlessly move to once the pages of the current (embossed) journal are full of ink.

– I have experienced as much of life as possible. In hindsight I’ve been filing away compelling characters, locations, humorous incidents and foreign experiences in the recesses of my mind for years. I’ve had ample opportunity to observe blossoming relationships and family dramas while working in retail during the senior years of high school and then in hospitality as an undergraduate. The banter at the barista’s bench, the scenes playing out beyond the waiter’s tray and the machinations of the corridors of corporations are all grist for a writer.

– I maintain my Russian Caravan tea habit through freelance copywriting, research and teaching.

This is not a diary. That, dear reader, is somewhere on my bedside table (typically two or three deep beneath volumes of fiction and non-fiction). This chronicle will chart inspiration, tastes, and other writing related experiences.

How I came to be a writer

I have been writing stories and poems for as long as I can remember being able to write. Children are naturally creative and collaborative: one of my oldest and dearest friends – our relationship dates back to kindergarten – recently reminded me of the story and accompanying illustrations that we created together. All she had to say was, “Do you remember the story about the horses?” for decades old images of both the experience of writing and the content to return to my mind’s eye.

Early inspiration during childhood encounters with relative's ponies.

Early inspiration gained during childhood encounters with relatives’ ponies.

It’s probably no surprise then that I have a three-drafts-in manuscript for a children’s novel filed in a storage box, the colour of which is reminiscent of Tiffany Blue (but sadly not from that house of sparkle), beneath my small collection of wedding guest appropriate gowns.

Writing has been and continues to be many things to me: a pleasure, an escape, and a way of making sense of the world.

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Occupations considered for “when I grow up”: nurse, doctor, archaeologist, architect, pilot …

While other writers seem to have known their calling from a very early age, I must confess that I did not think of myself as a ‘writer’ (with the associated intention to be published and paid) until quite recently. At least five other people arrived at that perception years before I did. I must now publicly thank those people.

I won’t wait until I finally submit my manuscript, or sign my first contract with a publisher, or see the cover art and swoon. I won’t wait because I only have control over that first goal of submission and these people deserve recognition now. In chronological order, my father, my late grandmother, my high school English teacher, my husband and the stranger who wrote to me back in 2008 requesting permission to publish writing of mine published in a University journal which I dashed off as an undergraduate: from the deepest pockets of my soul, I thank you all for believing in me and actively encouraging me to put my work “out there”.

I have set myself the chocolate fuelled task of submitting my first manuscript for adults by the stroke of midnight on Thursday 31 December 2015. Every spare moment – when I’m not working at one of my day jobs – will be related to meeting this deadline.

As the curtains close on 2014, I’m recharging, researching, and looking forward to writing approximately 130,000 words in 2015.

Happy reading,

Chenoa

Postscript: Hearty thanks to those readers receiving this via email. Many of you have been subscribed for years to my former wordpress site (I take great lengths to avoid the “b” word which rhymes with log but has none of that word’s outdoorsy charm)! I learned so much during those experimental years of writing and virtual connections. Your continued support means a lot to me.