Sunday, May 15, 2011


Yet another week has flown by. A week where I was laid low by the 'flu. I did however manage to attend the Dunedin Writer's Workshop on Wednesday evening. A red letter day: my first meeting as the new president and my good friend Ruth as the new secretary. Nervous as we were, it was an enjoyable time.  

Our exercise for the evening was on developing characters. First we filled in a questionnaire for a new character, then we wrote that character into a scene. There were some interesting scenarios read out at the end.

I created a character - Mary - who sold flowers at Covent Garden, London, in Victorian times. It was fun, and she has captivated my muse. There may be more of Mary to come. I think Shaw's Pygmalion had just a little influence on my character - though there isn't a Henry Higgins in sight! Just a young butcher boy with an ailing younger sister.

Now for an update on my Catlins novel as promised. It has been one of those stories that is quite bothersome. Nobody does what they are told and writing it has been a real struggle. I decided to move the location, but then I still battled with it. So yesterday I consigned it to the scrapheap. Having purged the horrid story from my mind I lay down for a nap (I'm battling 'flu, remember) and bingo! A totally revised and workable plot dropped like a great weight into my lap!

The main characters will remain the same. The back story will be tinkered with. The plot and all its conflicts are brand new, however, the ending will still look the same. There is one sub-plot to be wrought and another to be streamlined, but I'm confident it will now fall into place.

Unfortunetly I still have no title, but I can't refer to it as my Catlins novel any longer. It is now set in Strath Taieri. A wonderful combination of Scottish and Maori names. The Taieri River meanders through a wide shallow valley- a strath, an hour's drive inland from Dunedin. In typical Central Otago country, brown grass and golden tussock is broken up with protrusions of crumbling schist rock.

The summers there are hot and dry and the winters bitterly cold. I used to holiday in this area as a child and I've always loved the solitude of the place, the sense of being millions of miles from anywhere. There's something magical about the rocks: they take on the shapes of animals, mythical beasts or strange turreted castles.

The small township of Middlemarch is positioned in the centre of the valley: a cute little railway station where the rail trail begins, two stores, two cafes, a museum, a handful of houses and the odd church. I drove up that way a few weeks ago for a poke around and to capture the landscape on camera. It feels like the right place to set my story.


  1. Always good to read about the progress of your novel, Sue. I do appreciate it very much especially from a fine writer such as yourself. My story’s out looking for a publisher so I’m in two minds about posting anything further about it. Hope you are flu-free now and that your week ahead will be a productive one.

  2. Joanne - fingers and toes crossed for your book! An exciting, but nerve wracking time I'm sure!

  3. Just the right kind of landscape for a historical tale Sue - I love that area too. So glad you were inspired anew.

  4. Yay! Love when the Muse decides to give you an early Christmas. :)

  5. Both PDJ and I had a wonderful time on Wednesday. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing exercise and am delighted with the way my character turned out.

    Thanks for putting your hand up and doing so well.

    PM Jenks