Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sketching "The Gift" - Part One.

This past weekend I took my family up to the city for a family day at the Art Gallery of South Australia where we took in an exhibition called "Desert Country" which featured some stunning examples of Aboriginal Australian artwork that simply has to be seen to be believed. We also stopped by the Museum and wandered around the bio-diversity exhibit which features a wonderful collection of South Australian wildlife displays and interactive companions which kept our four year old boy in particular, thoroughly fascinating for a good couple of hours. My 1 year old daughter was similarly fascinated by it all and she spent the bulk of the time just pointing at everything and saying "Da" to everything. It was really great.

While we were there, I took the opportunity to wander up North Terrace a little further and conduct a reconnaissance, if you will, of the University precinct. Specifically, I was interested in The Elder Conservatory of Music. It is here that some of the critical events of my new novel take place and I wanted to get a pictorial study of the grounds as well as the conservatory building itself. I wanted to get a feel for the place - what it feels like to be there - and I wanted also to scope out possible locations for where certain events will take place.

Elder Hall, the centerpiece of the Elder Conservatory of Music in Adelaide.

As one of Australia’s oldest and most distinguished tertiary music schools, the Elder Conservatorium plays a leading role in the country’s musical landscape.  Its origins can be traced back to the foundation of the Adelaide College of Music in 1883. The Conservatorium has close links with other educational and professional bodies within South Australia and across the nation, maintaining strong connections also with important institutions in the UK, USA, Canada, Asia and Europe.  Graduates hold positions of national and international influence as performers, composers, educators, scholars and administrators.

The lawn in front of Elder Hall is a beautiful place to just sit and take in all the loveliness of the University precinct.

Bonython Hall, a grand building that sits on the eastern flank of Elder Hall.

Already, as a result of the photos I have taken, I am refining and thinking about certain scenes which take place that are critical plot points in the novel - where my central protagonist, 8 year old Ruby Crammond, an undiscovered violin virtuoso, is discovered in quite an unusual way. I have chosen the place where Ruby hides herself away and listens to the weekly rehearsal of a prominent Adelaide string quartet, playing the battered violin that had once belonged to her grandmother and dreaming of a life away from her situation of abject poverty.

A window just like any other, but it is a portal to a world away from the one Ruby Crammond resides in now. 

The rock in the foreground sits just a little way from the window in the previous picture. Perhaps the perfect little hiding place for an undiscovered virtuoso.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of this process. It allows my mind to think about the story and it helps me to develop the story, the specifics of the story. I've tweeted this past week that I've been stuck in somewhat of a rut. I think that it's partly exhaustion because of the time of year - what with Christmas coming up, the prospect of a well earned holiday on the horizon and also because I have been working hard on promoting "The Hambledown Dream".  When I have sat down to write, I have kinda locked up and have been unable to put anything much of value down on paper. So, to be able to get out there and immerse myself in the very environments that I hope to portray in this new novel, is an invaluable thing to do. 

I imagine that I won't get much pure writing accomplished in the next few weeks. Which is not to say that I won't be doing anything book related. I'll be doing a lot of brainstorming and developing instead - and allowing myself to actually enjoy Christmas.

Which is not something, I normally do.

But I have two kids now, for whom the magic of Christmas is an all consuming thing, so my steadfast cynicism towards the season is taking a severe battering.

Anyway, I have a renewed enthusiasm for a lot of things lately. I am hoping that all of these will bare fruit as I continue on this crazy journey that has come to define who I am - an author.

Conversing with giants. Ruby will come to regard this fellow as a kind of imaginary friend.




  1. It's amazing what actually visiting a place can do to shape your story. I think you can do a lot of research and still get probably similar results, but to see a place in person makes you feel so connected. I'm so excited about this story for you! I can't wait to meet Ruby. I hope you enjoy this holiday season, though. I'm going to do my best to do the same. You only get so many years before the kids are grown and gone.

  2. Thank you Cee. I'm a kinda hands on researcher, I've decided (I didn't realize that until now). Being in a place - an environment really helps to unlock ideas and I've been able to make a lot of notes about really subtle things which I'm hoping will add to the tableaux.

    In the meantime...

    It's an incredibly demanding time of year and the pressure that I feel I'm under is huge. Working on a contract basis as I do means that my working week can change on a twenty cent piece and, when you're trying to ensure that you have enough money to give your children that quintessential summer Christmas as well as ensuring you have enough to take some time off, the cabin fever can mount up.

    We went upto our favorite tree farm in the Adelaide Hills last week and cut our tree, brought it home and decorated it - which the children just loved and our holiday to Kangaroo Island is booked and paid for now too - so there's a huge sense of excitment there.

    For me - all I want for Christmas is a chair, a beer and a notepad and pencil. A view over Pelican Lagoon and some jazz on the stereo system. Then I will write...just write.