What a wonderful and varied response we had to our sixth challenge and the question “Who Do You Think You Are?” Our writing community is going from strength to strength! We learn from each other and gain so much from reading the entries to the challenge.
Some people are affirmed writers and know their trade, for others it’s a hobby or they are just starting out.
Wherever you are coming from, it’s a wonderful creative spirit which unites us. It was very enjoyable to read your stories and get a glimpse into what makes you tick.
Surfing the Australian waves with Jenny Sheehan was a real buzz and her vivid descriptions made us feel like we were right there with her.
Leone Flemons wrote a reflective piece that was short but encompassed a breakthrough moment in self realization, showing inner strength in overcoming doubt and fears and becoming her own person.
Sandra Faase, on the other hand, took us on a nightwalk. She explained her addiction to this new experience which provided her with not only exercise but a meditative salve for her soul afterwork. It prompted considerations regarding the times we are living through as she looked around, observing sights and sounds.
Felicity Pulman showed us just how a true writer feels their characters under the skin, lives and breathes them and brings them to life on the page for us all to admire.
We loved Danielle Cobley´s smorgasbord of contradictions and how she was able to find her compass, which guided her to her true self.
We hope you have enjoyed the stories as much as we have!
The weatherman stares out from the television at my brother and me.
“A low over the Tasman is generating large seas and strong westerly winds”. A warning for weekend boating enthusiasts and fishermen. We whoop and whistle, because we are neither.
The next morning, I side-step sleeveless, vinyl records scattered on the floor in front of the bookcase. My older sister had her friends over again. Oversized black binoculars sit upright on the second shelf above the record player, proud like a family heirloom.
I press the large lens against the kitchen window, just in time to see Jimmy in his red and white board shorts, paddle in front of a peaking wave. He was supposed to wake me.
I run down the hallway into my bedroom, disrobing as I go. Underneath is the swimming costume I’d worn instead of pyjamas. In the wardrobe, hanging alongside a school uniform and not much else, is my wetsuit. I shimmy into it like a moth reversing into a cocoon. My pink surfboard leans against the wall, fitted with a leg rope, wrapped three times around the tail. A beach towel on the floor, their colours clash.
Past my parent’s bedroom to the front door, the surfboard bangs against the walls and door frames, hopefully not waking the sore heads still asleep.
Jimmy’s rusty bike is still laying in the front yard and mine is not where I left it. Oh Jimmy! I swing a leg over the middle bar, cursing the boys’ bike without brakes and pedal with fury, aimed at my brother.
Forty-five years have gone, and I happily celebrate, zipping up a black wetsuit, more times than I’ve zipped into a black dress. Years of saltwater submersion under a scorching Australian sun, makes me look a lot older than I am and I don’t care.
The fury appears again, directed at my aging capabilities as I fight currents, rips, fear and pride.
I taste salt on my tongue and smell brine from the dolphin’s breath. As the breaking wave peels off into the distance, I feel the gap closing between animal and human. I want to scream, “how lucky are we”, as the unstoppable high flows through my body.
Who do I think I am?
I know, I am a surfer.
Q: Who do you think you are?
A: I’m not quite sure!
In this life I am a wife, mother, grandmother, child-minder, gardener, and domestic goddess.
I’m also a keen surfer, snorkeler, bush walker and regenerator, and an avid reader. But I am also a writer, and my ‘real’ life is unknown to anyone – unless they read my books.
In my time I have been a 12-year-old boy trying to solve a family mystery, and also a ghost from the Quarantine Station in Manly trying to find peace.
I have been Elaine of Astolat, aka ‘the Lady of Shalott’, negotiating the dangerous magic of King Arthur’s court while desperately trying to win the love of Sir Lancelot. I have also been her counterpart, Callie, negotiating those same problems in Camelot while facing difficulties and tragedies of her own in modern-day Australia.
I have even been the much-maligned Morgana le Fay. I know ‘Camelot’ and Glastonbury and Tintagel for I have walked the Arthurian trail. I have been a commandant’s daughter on Norfolk Island, falling into love and into danger.
I have been a poor, homeless young girl adrift in medieval England in the grip of civil war and uncertain loyalties, and with only my knowledge of herbs and healing to sustain me. Going in search of my unknown father, I hoped that, with his help, I’d be able to avenge my mother’s death. And so I moved from my ruined cottage in the forest to a farm and then an abbey, avoiding a killer while following clues and solving crimes and mysteries along the way. Forced to flee, I joined a group of pilgrims, but left their company after our leader was slain at Stonehenge. Finding refuge in a tavern in Winchester, I brewed ale and withstood a siege as I found out more about my unknown father – dangerous knowledge that led me into the heart of the treacherous royal court, while a king and an empress fought each other for the right to rule.
Unless I can walk in the footsteps of my characters, to see what they would have seen, hear their voices, dream their dreams and live their lives, I cannot write about them. And so I am all of these people – and none of them. But their lives are sometimes more real to me than whoever I am and whatever I call myself.
I’ve taken up night walking. Why, you might ask, as did a colleague when I showed him some photos of distant harbour lights through the black limbs of trees with a dark purple backdrop. Well, because I’ve been working from home in a pandemic lockdown, in Winter. By the time I clock out of my computer, it’s dark, and I need to stretch my aching limbs. So into the night I go.
It’s getting lighter now when I clock off with Spring just around the corner; but I’m still night walking, later and later. I can’t stop. There’s something peculiarly addictive about it. Isn’t it dangerous, asked another colleague when I shared another night snap. No, I quipped, the most immediate threat in my neighbourhood is being struck by a Land Rover Discovery. I didn’t qualify that such encounters are more likely dependent on which way I go, north or south of the main road. The high road or the low.
It’s more furtive and voyeuristic than day walking where everything is laid out in blaring obviousness. Near empty buses with tepid interior lights roar by as I set off, their few, if any, passengers masked and forlorn. The thrum of the main road settles into a meek hum and fades as I go further and further into the side streets.
I see people through their windows, glowing in the light of their computer screens. They can’t see or hear me. It’s not that I linger to watch them. I’m just walking by briskly. I can smell meals: curries, spitting frying pans of animal fat. I smell smokers on their porches and balconies – sometimes see their blinking cigarettes.
I hear snippets of conversations, kids screaming, televisions blurting, the news threatening into the night air, music playing, young people laughing... I am just walking by. Patting a mewing cat here and there. The harbour lights no longer visible. Breathing in the brisk still air. Bookending a dull day.
Feeling strangely invigorated by the fleeting bits of others’ lives. Life has never been like this.
I am a smorgasbord of contradictions. I feel young, I feel old. I am selfless, I am selfish. I am independent, I am dependant. I give, I take. I am floating, I am drowning. I am not who I want to be, yet I am more than I hoped I would be. I am a Swiss army knife in the wilderness of my life. Flick: I am a mother; flick: a wife; flick: a daughter; a sister; a friend yet I am lost, I have no compass. I have a map, I see the significant landmarks, but do not know which way to turn. I cannot find north; I cannot find me.
A light flickers in the distance, catching my attention, pulling me toward it. I tentatively make my way magnetised by its inexplicable pull. It steadies, it soothes, it calms. My compass: an open book, empty of words, its bright blank pages illuminate me.
Who do I think I am? I am a writer. This is me.
Pushing yourself to be something you aren't, the faux-pas, gauche, tactless remarks, putting your foot in it, losing your shopping list,
on and on it goes.
But it's O.K. now, no more heavies, hiding your heart in shame, no more the prima donna in the blame game, because you're not someone's perfect dream, as little by little you'd lost self-esteem.
You're somebody big's imperfect child, you may even be quite a bit wild. Who is in charge here, Leone?
Who is the Boss? He doesn't see me as a total loss, but as somebody special.
Never written before?
Started writing but never finished?
A published author who likes a quick challenge?
This Spill the Beans Challenge is just for you!
How does it work?
Let the words "Who do you think you are? inspire you to write a poem a paragraph or page (400 word limit). Email to email@example.com. Then read what you and others have written here on our website.
Time to join our writing community by taking a challenge or becoming a member.
We'd love to welcome you to the 'Beans'
Catherine Wilson, STONE Real Estate (Mona Vale and North Narrabeen) is funding the publication of our book of your stories and poems. Watch out for Jane Cameron's post about how you can join in.