A Beautiful Moment in China

A Beautiful Moment in China
Yes, I look weathered; it had been a long climb. But I was about to reach the Buddhist temple outside of Shao Xing.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Hunting Ground for Today’s Writer: Religion & Spirituality

Did your mother teach you never to discuss sex, politics or religion in public?  Well, of course these days the first is a commonplace topic for conversation, mass media, movies and fiction books.  The second is probably broached more tentatively in everyday chatter – unless you belong to one of the more unusual circles that thrive on it – but there is a huge supply of political stories in mass media and fiction books.

And religion?  I think we still don’t raise religion readily in conversations unless we know others present will be comfortable with what we have in mind.  But I also think that there is a great deal we want to say.  Perhaps we feel we don’t have the right language to verbalise it without causing unwanted ructions.  And perhaps that’s why, over the last five or six years, print and films dealing with religion and spirituality in the form of fiction have proliferated.  The context of fiction allows us to consider and share the unspoken concerns seething in our minds.  So writers are increasingly hunting for themes and ideas of a religious or spiritual type.

Now, if you are not averse to reading a little non-fiction of that sort, why not dip into some of my writing on the great Australian website On Line Opinion?  My latest article has just been published: A Way Forward for Christianity.  It tries to give a picture of a powerful surge of change now affecting the Christian churches, all coming from within their own communities.  You can read it here.  And if you’d like to look at any more of my articles published there, just scroll down to the bottom of the page for the links.

Returning to why so many people like to read fiction on religious or spiritual themes, I recently came across an interesting piece on the blog of an outstanding Australian writer, Rosanne Dingli.  (Read it here, in the archives for March 2011.)

And did you know that Rosanne’s latest novel deals largely with religious matters?  It’s called According to Luke, and it’s a page-turner.  The story is based on a lot of thorough research into the history and theology of the Roman Catholic Church as well as religious art.  Through the author’s usual flair for creating a sense of place, the reader is drawn into the European cities and towns where the story happens.  With taut suspense writing, fascinating ideas and a romantic sub-plot Rosanne has produced an excellent read.  (See her website here for more information.)

Religion and spirituality will continue to provide countless ideas for writers for a long time to come.  I find the whole area utterly absorbing.  And I'd be very interested to know your thoughts about it.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

What is the best environment for a writer?

I live in a wonderful place called Bridgetown, in the southwest of Western Australia.  Its population is about 4 000, and so by Australian standards you would have to call it a small community.  I often wonder what my Chinese friends would call it:  when I lived as a teacher in their country some years ago they said their town, Shao Xing, was a very small town – with 140 000 residents!

Our rural setting – beautiful vistas, neither aircraft roaring nor road traffic snarling, various parrots of many colours feeding in the backyard – is ideal for me.  Of course, there is a little apprehension now and then in summer, when the possibility of bushfires is at the back of everyone’s mind, but that’s far outweighed by all the blessings of living here.  I can immerse myself in writing and music-making so much more easily here than I could in the bustling cities where I formerly lived.  And yet again I think of China: in spite of all of the super-abundance of humanity, its clamour and incessant movement, plenty of great writing emerges from its people.

The really unusual (I’m tempted to say unique) things about Bridgetown is that, while small and rural, it also has a wealth of features normally associated with much bigger towns.  There are several excellent cafes and four hotels, each with its own style of food.  A wide variety of events in visual and performing arts stretches throughout every year.  And it seems that almost every residence houses an artist or musician to boot!

So it will come as no surprise for you to learn that we have at least one writers’ festival each year.  The latest – Words in the Valley – finished just hours ago.  It’s so stimulating and informative to spend a day or two with fellow writers, whether they have dozens of publications and prizes under their belts or are just feeling their way.

I was particularly inspired by a workshop led by Andrew Lansdown, another Western Australian.  (See his website at http://andrewlansdown.com/)  His fiction has been engrossing people all over this country and overseas for many years, but he is perhaps even more admired for his poetry.  His focus on ways of using imagery and form in poetry lit a small bonfire of enthusiasm in me for a type of writing I more or less discarded long ago.  I had to write poems again!

And so when that workshop ended I came home and immediately sat on the deck, overlooking the dreamy valley in the late, gentle sunshine of June, and wrote my first poem in more than ten years.  As happens every day at 6:oo p.m. and at noon, the many bells of Bridgetown rang their sweet contemplation across hills and through valleys, and I thought I must be one of the luckiest people in the world to live here.

I’ll close by sharing with you the little tanka that appeared on my paper.

Day slides off smooth sky.
Unguarded, night fingers forth.
Whither now the world?
Light denies what dark reveals.
Now hindered eye lets ear heal.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Show Hits the Road!

Friends, welcome to my blog.

As you can see I'm only laying the foundations, but I intend to work hard to have everything in place so that your future visits will be rewarded.

I hope you can be patient for a little while.  It shouldn't be long.