Writing on, and about, an island

Archive for the ‘Tasmania’ Category

The Titanic Conspiracy Theory

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on April 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

The connecting ‘thread’ through my Tasmanian-based crime novel is a pretty contentious conspiracy theory surrounding the Titanic…

The ‘switching’ of the Titanic

As the theory goes, the Titanic didn’t go down on 15 April 1912—it was her sister, Olympic. The Olympic was scrapped in 1935; now, the Titanic lies buried so deep there’s no technology capable of unearthing it.

The propellers are the only thing that can prove the ‘switch’ theory, as they are branded with serial numbers: the real Titanic’s number is 401; the real Olympic, 400…

This conspiracy theory has provided me with a very juicy plot device. Imagine the implications if this conspiracy theory was proved!

Strangely, despite the fact that I’ve based my crime book around the conspiracy theory, I don’t have an obsessive interest in the Titanic – just the ‘regular’ level of curiosity and empathy. As a writer, I’m drawn to the pathos in what is an enduring human tragedy.

 

Monday Morning Inspiration for Creatives #3

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on April 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

It’s 10.45am on Easter Monday, and I’m sitting in the living-room of my Tasmanian house – with the wood-fire going already… Autumn has hit suddenly. Fortunately, autumn was made for Tasmania. Cold, sunny days; red-golden poplars; excellent local apples…

Anyway, this Brian Pickings post on short stories was well-timed – particularly because I’ve started working on a bunch of very short stories for a new online writing project I’m really excited about.

I particularly like tip number 5:

Start as close to the end as possible.

Full-length novels are hard to write (you’ve got to be built for stamina). Short stories are equally hard, but for different reasons (you’ve got to be built for speed).

PS: Speaking of stamina and speed, I’m putting the final touches on my author site to be ready for the launch next weekend (15 April).

What Title Should I Choose for My Crime Novel?

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on April 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I’m about 10 days away from launching my dedicated author site (CarmenCromer.com). Exciting but scary.

Although I’ll be launching with a free chapter (with the full book to follow later), I’ll still need to upload a ‘coming soon’ banner and the book cover.

Little problem…

I’m still undecided on the title of the book.

I started with Tinderbox, as that’s where it’s mainly set. And ‘tinderbox’ is a noun that pretty well describes the plot…

However, there are oodles of books out there already titled Tinderbox.

I have two other options I’m considering.

COLD ISLAND

UNDERCURRENT

Do either grab you?

There will probably be three cover images to choose from (choose your favourite when you buy). Like this…

All three of my covers will have this sort of feel…

(Stinson Beach, CA Sunset 6:34pm © Eric Cahan)

As background, here’s my (short) synopsis…

It’s 15 April 2012. And the Tasmanian coastal town of Tinderbox is still sleeping when an expert diver plunges into the dark waters off its shore. Within minutes, she is dead; carbon dioxide the silent killer.

The creepy, lonely death of the diver sparks a disturbing journey for Berlin-born academic, Cattis Cull—one that takes her deep into a conspiracy theory surrounding the greatest maritime mystery the world has known: the century-old Titanic tragedy.

Cattis’ unravelling of the crime takes place against a backdrop of political corruption, the contested Tasmanian wilderness, and an undercurrent of menace that began with slaughtered aborigines and cannibalistic convicts… and continues to this day.

Will curiosity kill Cattis? 

Having read the synopsis, do either of those potential titles make sense?

Why Keeping a Notebook by Your Bed Can Change Your Life

In Books, Career, Tasmania, Writing on March 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Following on neatly from my post on my midnight light-bulb moment, this article by award-winning Tasmanian author Rohan Wilson – “Winning the Vogel Can Change Your Life” – illustrates beautifully how, no matter what time inspiration strikes, you should heed it.

I’ve interviewed Rohan, and his success couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. He’s also a very talented writer – but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s made his own luck.

 

Where Writers Write

In Books, Career, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on March 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

I’m very interested in the daily schedules of writers. I’m very interested in the routine within writers’ mornings. And I’m VERY interested in where writers write. The below image is of super-successful Tasmanian writer Katherine Scholes‘ writing desk and view. I know Katherine through my family, and she lives in a beautiful boat-like house on the edge of the beach in the same beautiful seaside suburb as me (her view’s a little better than mine). Her career and approach to writing always inspires me to keep going…

Image: from author Fiona Palmer‘s site.

Twenty-First Century Ideas for Tasmania

In Books, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on February 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I believe passionately in a new way of thinking and (more importantly) doing for Tasmania. For far too long, this island of huge potential has been held back by those who seek to maintain mediocrity – for what purpose, I can only begin to fathom. It makes me immensely angry.

There’s that thing called critical mass, though. And I feel we’re nearing it.

For example:

I was in the surf at North Bruny this past weekend (seeking relief from startling 40-degree heat; bushfires on the horizon) – and a few metres away from me, doing the same, was Dr Natasha Cica: fellow shack owner, talented author of Pedder Dreaming, former lawyer and current Director of the Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society at UTAS.

In that moment, I felt grateful for the intelligence that can be found in Tasmania. Dr Cica is one of 12 ‘thought leaders’ who have received a 2012 Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship worth $160,000 over two years. She was selected with regard to two intellectual superhero-style criteria: outstanding talent and exceptional courage. Cool indeed.

Later that day, at North Bruny’s boat-inspired Jetty Cafe, I picked up a copy of the 2011 SALON/SOUTH: Twenty-First Century Ideas for Tasmania report. Natasha Cica has been instrumental in the SALON/SOUTH series; in its second successful year.

SALON/SOUTH brings thought leaders together to workshop new ideas and directions around ‘culture’, ‘community’ and ‘capital’ – all in the desire to create positive change for our challenging island environment.

As an example – and I can’t believe this is even an issue in 2012 – how about Tasmanian leaders investigate the idea of making Grade 12 the end of compulsory schooling, not Grade 10? Our education stats are improving, but still woefully inadequate on the world stage.

So, for the amateur thought leaders out there…

If you believe in thinking outside the lines, challenging the status quo, and looking forward – regardless of where you live – I recommend you read the report. And be inspired to create change.

Crafting a Creative Tasmanian Life

In Career, Freelance, Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania on February 14, 2012 at 11:28 am

How to succeed as a creative in Tasmania? Get creative with how you present your message…

Recently, I worked on a story for House & Garden, featuring some good mates – Nick and Kerry – who’ve moved to Tasmania to renovate a minimalist-in-a-cool-Danish-way, 1960s weatherboard cottage. They love their food, so I love them.

They also live in a totally out-of-the-way place: in the beautiful, sleepy village of Middleton. Yet their careers are not suffering. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Nick’s a sought-after blacksmith and Kerry’s a talented creative director, and they both enjoy an amazing country lifestyle while maintaining their impressive creative careers. Kerry divides her time between their farm and Melbourne’s CBD for work, and Nick spends his days in his forge (on their 23-acre property on the banks of the D’Entrecasteaux).

They’ve also launched a blog, The Tassie Menagerie, which documents life on the farm, and how they juggle creative pursuits with herding ducks…

While their current arrangement seems idyllic to most, they are aiming even higher. Their goal is to live sustainably and independently – not just in terms of producing their own food, but also in working where and how they choose.

They say their move to Tasmania has enhanced their creativity – has given them a real point of difference in their work (which their clients are noticing).

To me, they are an example of how you can have your Tasmanian lifestyle while not compromising on the quality of your creativity. How you can use Tasmania as your USP (unique selling point).

To do the same, you have to:

1. Be flexible in how you deliver your message and product (think laterally);

2. Make sure you’re visible online (blog, website, guest posts…); and

3. Keep speaking to your audience as if they are global (not just local).

Too many freelance or independent creatives in Tasmania make the mistake of thinking and acting insular, of feeling they can’t compete with interstate and international creatives.

Clearly that’s not true – and it always pays to check out what other successful creatives are achieving. Be inspired and informed.

(Pics by Kerry and Nick, of their farm and forge)

So, You’re a Writer and You Want to Move to Tasmania?

In Career, Freelance, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on February 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

Longing for a Tasmanian seachange, treechange or farmchange (for those agrarian types)? Ah yes, the dreamy life of the Tasmanian writer, tapping away at a laptop in a cool little café on the docks, or on their deck under the eucalypts and the big island sky, free from the stresses of the modern world…

I understand this picture: I almost live this reality every day, and I still dream of it.

There’s no doubt that Tasmania tempts creatives with an enviable and affordable lifestyle, inspiring landscapes, some of Australia’s best produce, the world’s cleanest air and water, and a strong artistic community. We grow and nourish some of the world’s best writers. It’s also a wonderful place to have a family…

BUT.

It is also challenging place to be a writer (whether for love or money). It is not impossible to be a successful writer in Tasmania, but my experience has shown it to be a very different kettle of Devils to what working as a writer in Sydney is like.

If you’re keen, here are a couple of things you’ll need to think long and hard about.

Where to live

If you need beach, peace, coast, bush, space and solitude, you’re spoilt for choice. Raging nightlife and up-to-the-minute trends – hmm, not so much…

Of course, whatever your taste, I can’t tell you where you should live. I will happily recommend certain areas (and unrecommend others), because I know this island pretty bloody well.

However, there is one unifying fact: Tasmania does not yet have the internet capabilities of the ‘mainland’. And the places that writers generally love most – out-of-the-way havens – are the least covered by the web.

We will presumably eventually catch up with everyone else, but there’s no getting away from the fact that, although I live 10km and 10 minutes from the capital of Hobart, my broadband connection drops out on a regular basis. I had to swap phone carriers when I first moved, as the service was so sketchy I couldn’t carry on professional phone calls.

In another example, I’d pack my bags tomorrow and move to one of our family shacks, but there’s no WiFi at either… and oh, how I love WiFi!

How to work

Since moving to Tasmania, I’ve had to reassess my work style. The way I move between jobs. The way I (yuk) network. The way I charge for my work and chase payment.

In Sydney, I was spoilt for choice in where I worked and what I did – so many magazines, newspapers, book publishing houses, websites, PR companies… should I be a columnist this year, or a book editor???

Tasmania has three ‘newspapers’ (I hesitate to call them that), a couple of indie book publishers, and about three magazines (only one of which I would recommend).

Work for any of these, and you will get paid a fraction of what you receive elsewhere. Which is fine if you’ve downsized your lifestyle and you’re not fussed about money – but a bit of a slap in the face if you’re an established professional and expect to be paid as such.

(Try not to make the same mistake I made on moving here, which was to get myself into a situation of having to work so hard, that I couldn’t enjoy the lifestyle that Tasmania should have offered me.)

It’s also unfortunate to have to say this, but certain individuals and businesses in Tasmania suffer from a debilitating chip on the shoulder. There’s an inverse snobbery directed towards outsiders; it didn’t matter that I’d grown up here – the fact I lived and worked in Sydney meant that I wasn’t one of ‘them’.

The usual methods of breaking through barriers don’t work here – and I might as well have not had a CV at all, so irrelevant was my mainland work – and it’s taken three years to crack the tough nut of Tasmania.

How to succeed

My advice – to begin with – is to maintain your big town connections and, as far as possible, continue to get work from those sources. Perhaps position yourself as an expert in a niche area (moving to Tasmania???)… I would also advise getting a regular gig/s that bring in regular money (for example, editing for academic purposes).

Although I currently receive a full-time income as an advertising copywriter in a very cool Tasmanian agency, I also run a freelance business consulting for Tassie clients, and I take on regular editing and writing work for national magazines (such as House & Garden), book publishers (Murdoch Books and HarperCollins, for example) and local newspapers (a weekly column on houses and interiors for The Mercury).

All of this, of course, is quite draining.

Which is why, if you want to move to Tasmania, I’d suggest thinking laterally about your writing career (which you should always be doing, anyway). Don’t stop looking at ways you can work smarter, not harder. Be open to things – and you can turn your move to the twigs into new opportunities.

So…

This year, I am finding ways to not have to be physically present with clients in order to pass on my knowledge/advice to them.

This year, I am finding ways I don’t have to be restricted to earning by the word, the hour or the job.

This year, I am finding ways in which my work no longer has such a short shelf life, and can be more sustainable.

If I’m living in Tasmania, I want to make darn sure I can enjoy the lifestyle, while  not compromising on my ambition.

Live Like a Pauper. Write Like a King

In Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania, Writing on February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Living frugally is perhaps the most liberating thing any writer can do. I have come to realise that my success as a writer (by success I mean the amount and quality of personal writing I do) is directly related to how simple I make my life. To how many distractions I remove.

Not so long ago, extreme frugality was forced on me. However, now that it’s no longer a necessity, I can’t let frugality go. The more I live like a pauper, the more my writing flourishes.

Why?

In the short-term…

  • I socialise less – freeing up time for talking, thinking, discovering and creating
  • I cook mostly homemade meals –  see above
  • I buy less alcohol – self-explanatory!
  • I walk and run – not paying for exercise leaves me with valuable thinking time, and essential ‘running writing’
  • I catch the bus – no car equals more time for writing and reading
  • I clear more clutter – whittling down my wardrobe by half means I’m spending far less time managing it

In the long-term…

I’m not having to fund things I don’t need, so I don’t have to work so hard to make ever-more money. Not being consumed by distracting/draining money-making projects has massively freed up my time and energy for personal writing…

It’s a wake-up call when you realise one new pair of shoes is worth about half a day’s work. That’s half a day I can reclaim in writing – if I choose not to buy the shoes.

So, it’s a choice.

In 12 years in Sydney – when I was childless, free of major responsibilities and had plenty of disposable income – I made a few halfhearted attempts at writing the novel I’d always wanted to write.

Since moving to Tasmania and simplifying my life, I’ve written a full-length novel (in 3 months), entered a short story in a national crime-writing competition (and won an award), and am well on the way to publishing several non-fiction guides (funded by the money I’m saving by not spending).

If you want to be a writer, choose minimalism, simplicity and frugality – and you’ll find the focus, discipline and freedom you need to be successful.

Cliffs. Coast. Cloudy Bay

In Island Life, Tasmania, Travel on February 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I am perhaps very un-Tasmanian in the fact I don’t like the bush. Actually, it terrifies me – in a 1967-bushfire/Blair Witch kind of way. The bush makes me claustrophobic; there is nothing relaxing about that closeness of tall, dark trees. And I grew up in the bush – which, to many, is the idyllic childhood.

No, my Tasmanian island ideal involves great stretches of coastline. Ocean. High cliffs. Seagrasses… Which is why I love Cloudy Bay, on the Southern-most tip of Bruny Island.

This Cloudy Bay beauty is currently for sale, for $1.5 million.

Cloudy Bay is spartan, windswept, and wide. I stood on the sands of it only a few weeks ago, in a storm, and it was everything that is best about Tasmania – the mist was swirling over Cape Bruny, the rain was pelting my face and the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean was almost indistinguishable from the big sky.

(This view is what someone inside that glass house would see.)

As I stood there, a lone 4WD exited the gravel road, onto the beach. I watched it drive to the far, far end of the beach, where it turned off, up to a half-hidden shack – one of only a handful of buildings on this lonely beach.

I think Richard Flanagan lives somewhere around Cloudy Bay. His shack is where my favourite author, Ian McEwan, finished off one of his books. If you’re a writer, Cloudy Bay is certainly one of the moodiest, most-inspiring places you could ever work from.

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