Writing A Memoir
From a young age it had been my ambition to write a book, but I never anticipated that it would be a memoir. I am constantly encouraging people to record their story, but it saddens me when people make the comment that their life isn’t interesting enough to write about. Not true. Every person’s life is worth recording, especially for future generations. It is important to leave a legacy.
Leaving my comfortable life in the Riverina in southern NSW, in 1969 I embarked on a whole new adventure as a new wife, at 22 years of age, to live on an undeveloped cattle station in North Queensland. I knew that I had the story I would write……one day.
That day finally arrived, many years later.
Where do I start?
How do I start?
Having no telephone for eighteen years I wrote a weekly letter to both our families. which had been saved and returned to me, plus I had yearly diaries covering this time. I set about filing the boxes of relevant material into some sort of timeline. It was a chaotic time, with letters, books, pieces of paper scattered all over the floor of an upstairs office. It was a jumbled mess and not particularly enjoyable for one who likes tidiness and order in her life and home! Several weeks passed with little progress, until finally I looked in glee at neat piles of old letters in order and diaries stacked in their correct years. The fog in my brain cleared and I was finally able to sit at the computer and begin my memoir.
Firstly, a cup of tea, then I began to read letters and diary entries from the beginning of 1969. Hours slipped by as I enjoyed a lovely trip down memory lane. I felt guilty when my husband enquired about my first day of serious writing. I sensed his disapproval at my unproductive day. I was disappointed in myself. I knew I had to have structure and focus and plan my day.
Many months later I was still struggling to ‘fit in’ my writing. Housework, the phone, friends, cooking, gardening all took priority. I felt writing was an indulgence.
Then, by chance I met Donald Macdonald, an author, actor, playwright who expressed interest in helping me with my memoir. I was inspired and excited to have this guiding hand. We worked closely, communicating daily with plenty of highs and lows as I learnt to accept his feedback, constructive criticism and editing. I had complete trust in his expertise and am forever grateful for his guidance.
After twelve months of hard work, I held a very lengthy printed manuscript in my hands.
It was an amazing feeling. I had relived a wonderful time in my life. I had written from the heart, a true and honest version of that time. I felt fantastic.
What to do now?
It was fate that led me to Ocean Reeve, (who was with InHouse Publishing at the time).
It was a relief to have the guidance and support offered by Independent Publishing. The cover was designed, further editing and all too soon I was holding a copy of my first book. The feeling was euphoric.
Writing a memoir was an extremely rewarding experience. Recording my personal achievements of living in a remote part of our great country with only a two-way radio for communication with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, some five hundred kilometres away, building a home, home schooling and being an offsider with the outside workings of the cattle station as it developed, made me look back on this exciting and challenging eighteen years of my life. I felt pretty good about myself! I knew it was a story that had to be shared. My memoir reflected the lives of many other women at the time. It was not just about ME.
I realised how this period of my life had changed a self-indulgent young woman into the strong, empathetic and capable person that I am today.
This book ‘Back of Beyond’ has sold over 12,000 copies. Proof that people love to read true stories.
Now I was spurred on to write a second memoir, a prequel to “Back of Beyond,’ another exciting and memorable period of my life.
‘Innocent Nurses Abroad’ tells of the friendships formed during nursing training in 1964-1967, followed by the adventures of four close, innocent, nurses travelling abroad to England, Europe and beyond. Once again, I had letters and diaries to guide me through the sequence of events, the challenges, the threatening situations and the good times enjoyed by the girls whilst living and working in London and travelling on a temperamental old school bus called ‘Dennis’.
This was an easy memoir to write and I flew through it, because I was structured, focused and prioritised writing as my ‘work’. ‘Innocent Nurses Abroad’ was published in April 2020 by Ocean Reeve Publishing.
Both my memoirs are a record of a different era of travelling, nursing, and pioneering in the outback. These books are a legacy for my family and future generations. The world is forever changing and with the lack of handwritten letters and diaries, emails will be deleted and hence memories of our current way of life will disappear.
Let’s not allow this to happen! I urge my readers to record their memoirs in whatever form they are comfortable with. A notebook beside the bed to jot down an event, a recording on the phone, handwritten notes if your writing is more legible than mine! The future generations will thank you.
Until next time.
Stay well, (start writing!)