First draft is…done


I can hardly believe it, but, yes, dear reader, it’s true. I’ve finished the complete first draft of my novel.

As soon as I finished I sent it to my supervisor and made a hard copy for myself. Then I tidied the house, made lunch for my daughter and her friend, cooked dinner for later that evening, cleaned out the kitty litter tray, had a cup of tea and then taught my first music student for the day.

Now that is how to live the creative life, let me tell you.

There will be many more drafts, of course, and no doubt I will read it again soon – after an appropriate amount of time has passed – and feel like using it to line the kitty litter tray, but for now I’m going to enjoy the feeling of having done something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do.

Now I’m waiting to hear what my supervisor has to say. Depending on what that is I may never get up the courage to show it to another living person.

At least the cat will be happy.

Elsie eye





Supervision via proxy

Are you living on the other side of the world from your university and your supervisors?

Or do you just find it hard to maintain your motivation when you’re not face-to-face with your supervisor?

Do you find it a bit lonely with only the cat for company and critique?

Is your internet connection letting you down so you can’t log into to all those wonderful support sites  you’ve find?

Well, your worries are over. I present to you…your very own proxy supervisors!

proxy supervisors

Stand them on  your desk, sit them on a pile of books, make them lean against that cold cup of tea that lives perennially on your desk. No matter what time of day or night, they will be there for you.

If you feel tempted to get up and do something else, one glance at their little faces and you will know what they’re thinking: Is that all you’re going to do? Didn’t you just get started? Are you sure using social media really counts as proper use of your time? Hey, can I have some of that cold tea?

Closer to home

Well, here I am. After twenty-four hours in a plane (and the whole of the third series of Downton Abbey), I’m in Brisbane, Australia with my family.

Four hours in Dubai airport starts to prepare us by way of lots of fellow tired Australians trailing around, their accents distinct and very hard to miss.

We’re here to spend time with our families and friends, but I’m also going to meet my supervisor for the first time after my first two weeks flying solo in Phd-land. It’s a bit like a blind date, or being set up by an acquaintance who thinks we’d be a good match.

I’m also going to trawl every library and bookshop I can find. I’ll be reading books and researching journals, newspapers, archives, etc, but I imagine I’ll also spend a considerable amount of time just revelling in the sight of so many books in English – what a luxury! If you see someone sniffing the stacks and stroking the spines it’s probably me.

It’s quite strange to be in the same country (same state, even) as the setting for my novel, and it’s making me realise that, living in Switzerland, I have a distance from everything that provides a very particular focus, a little bit like looking through the wrong end of a telescope; everything is small but concentrated.

This is, of course, in addition to the distance provided by time. Whether it be a mere thirty or so years (think flares, long hair and The Dark Side of the Moon), ninety years (my mind is still full of Downton Abbey; poor Mary!) or a hundred and thirty years, as in the case of my novel, there is something about the gap between then and now that allows for full immersion.

But now that I’m so close, geographically speaking, to my protagonists, things seem a little diffused. Throw in my own childhood memories that lie in wait at every corner, in every face that I search for familiar features and time, too, is not what it was. Past, present and future (in the form of my young daughter) start to loop and curl, in danger of becoming indistinct.

How must it be for my mother, seeing my features in those of my daughter, reliving her early years of motherhood with each laugh and twirl, perhaps also thinking back on her own childhood (in Far North Queensland, the setting for my novel) and also on what the future might hold.

Perhaps it’s just the jetlag talking, but it seems to me that writing historical fiction is never just writing about the past.