The Blog & I
Thanks for finding your way to WritingCompanion. I started my blog to share information about writing and support others who want writing to be part of their creative life.
Writing can be done nearly anywhere, at any time, and at any skill level. George Harrison carried a ukulele on his travels so he could always play music. How much easier to carry paper and pen or electronic device and capture your thoughts, explore your world, or simply let your imagination run free.
I’ve been involved in writing and reading for most of my life. My love of literature led me to study it at university. During a long education career, I taught writing, literature and communication subjects. I am currently working on a creative nonfiction project and writing short fiction.
My current writing project began with an old book and the unusual opportunity to drop off the edge of the world. The book, which I’ve hung onto through various moves and changes in my life, is H.D. Thoreau’s 1854 account, Walden, or Life in the Woods. Some of its themes—nature, the good life, individuality, simplicity—are still topical. Following his example, I left my normal routine to discover more about myself and life. My drop-out spot was a tiny island off the south coast of Tasmania. I was removed from much of what we take for granted in a modern society: I had no Internet connectivity, no mobile phone coverage, no grocery stores or other shops, no medical or other basic services, no vehicles or highways, no TV or radio. I had a house, once the home of the island’s assistant lighthouse keeper. The island population was four humans and a half-million mutton-birds that had flown in to lay eggs and raise their chicks.
Short fiction interests me because of its challenges. I think of it as walking a tightrope, with little room for mistakes. Writing fiction is an enjoyable change from the research articles, educational materials, and a book on workplace writing, undertaken during my academic career.
Writing education relies partly on being a serious reader. I am that. For practical writing advice, inspiration, and insights, I rely on short courses, talks, articles, books, and blog posts. My formal education includes a BA literature & German, MA in literature, Graduate Diploma in communication management, and PhD in text linguistics.
And more . . .
Background Born and raised in America’s heartland, but Australia has long been my home. These two cultures—sometimes so similar, sometimes so very different—shape my life, values, and my writing.
Career Mostly in education, where I took on different roles—manager, writer, editor, teacher, trainer, and course developer. My research and teaching covered written communication (creative writing, document design, workplace writing), computer-based learning, and cultural issues.
Earlier jobs included managing a bookshop, starting a storefront school for expelled teens, tutoring near-illiterate young adults, providing services for people with chronic mental illness, operating a ride in an amusement park, and trying, unsuccessfully, to learn how to waitress. I am mining some of these early experiences in my short fiction.
Varuna The National Writers’ House Varuna supports committed writers, through residencies, workshops, and mentoring opportunities. It hosts the annual Varuna-Sydney Writers’ Festival, which showcases local, Australian and international writers. I currently chair its board of directors.
Personal interests Travel, meditation, camping and nature walks, yoga, photography.
Reading Mainly short stories, novels, and creative nonfiction. Favourite authors include Flannery O’Connor, Tim Winton, Joyce Carol Oates, Geraldine Brooks, Kate Grenville, J. M. Coetzee, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Alice Munro, Ian McEwan.
Email marsha dot s dot durham at gmail dot com