Wed 11 Jan 12
NMIT Bachelor of Writing and Publishing student Jan Robinson received a ‘Highly Commended’ award for her short story ‘Bedtime Stories’ in the inaugural Odyssey House Victoria short story competition that attracted 59 entries.
Jan wrote and workshopped her story as part of her Writing Fiction class in Semester 1 2011.
We were lucky enough to interview Jan for an insider peek into her inspiration and future projects:
1) How did you come to study Writing and Publishing at NMIT?
I was a 59 year old burnt-out psychiatric nurse who had left my profession, my boys had grown into men and I wanted to follow my passion. All my life I had written and wanted to pursue my dreams. I figured it was never too late and I love learning, so I did a Graduate Certificate at CAE in 2010 to get a taste of the writer’s and student’s life and fell in love. I wanted to go onto to higher education, do a Bachelor, then a Masters and one day a PhD. I applied to NMIT, it was local, it sounded interesting and it was new. I got in and was able to do mainly second year subjects in 2011, the best of which was the writing subjects taught by the inspirational Alice Robinson (no relation!).
2) Where do you find your inspiration for your stories?
The inspiration for any story comes from lots of places. Thoughts, observation, conversations, little bits of drama or daily life floating about waiting for a writer to sneak up on them and take them away to their little writing place and form them into something that is waiting to be told…..we are all thieves and titbit collectors, us writers and I have notebooks filled with ideas or thoughts or a word or phrase which might trigger something.
For ‘Bedtime Stories’ my inspiration came from a conversation with a man who is an alcoholic and he talked about reading to his child in bed at night. I wondered what effect his drinking had on the child. Then I added in the fears children have and one I had as a child of ‘the big bad wolf’, mixed it all up then made it much, much darker by adding in the sexual abuse thread towards the end. In my previous work I had seen a lot of people who had suffered from childhood sexual abuse, usually instigated by a male relative, and so I tried to write the story in the voice of the little girl and intimate her powerlessness and confusion when her beloved daddy becomes ‘a big bad wolf’.
3) How long did it take to write your award winning story?
The story went through a number of re-drafts. It was workshopped in our writing class, where the class reads the story and then gives feedback, some of which is very useful and some which you can choose to disregard. Then I re-wrote it and it was handed in to my writing teacher who made her comments and graded it. I then re-wrote it again. Then I went over it with a proofreading eye to make sure all the grammar was correct, got a couple of trusted readers to read it, tweaked it a bit and finally it was ready. You sort of know when a story is as ‘well done’ as you can make it. It probably took, all up, with all my other writing about two months.
4) What other writing projects are you working on?
I also submitted a piece to ‘Inscribe’ the NMIT and City of Darebin publication which came out in December 2010 and was accepted for publication. It was a non-fiction article called ‘Infectious Feverish Imaginings’ and was about my current meanderings around NMIT Fairfield and the memories of the past when the grounds were ‘Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital’ and both my father and son had been patients there.
I am currently working on a memoir which is about 10,000 words in and describes the time when my elder son was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of twenty-one. This took place nearly a decade ago and the trauma and repercussions of this time have echoed in our lives for many years. It is also a story that many people and their families can relate to. The memoir will also go on to include some of my memories of working as a psychiatric nurse for thirty one years – the good, the bad and the ugly and funny! I have a long way to go yet!
Other than that I try my hand at short stories and enter competitions when I can. The Odyssey House short story competition was the first one I had ever entered and to be ‘highly commended’ has given me great motivation and joy.
5) What advice would you give to people interested in studying Writing and Publishing?
My advice to people interested in studying Writing and Publishing is to say this: Get some life experience, love writing, love learning, be tech-savvy for the publication subjects (I’m not that good at this!!), talk to other students who are doing the course, work hard, contribute in class and if it is your passion, do it!