Wendy Blaxland – Interview with CKT

Wendy Blaxland

Q. What are five words that best describe you?

Passionate, persistent, curious, energetic, optimistic.

Q. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story?

Becoming mesmerised by an amazing story and wanting to share it with others.

Q. Do you road test your ideas before you start your story?

Yes and no. I write down my powerful ideas without anything getting in the way. But after that, the ideas need to be developed to test for any weaknesses. That’s when I ask people I trust to see what they think.

Q. Are you a plotter or a panster? (Plotter =Plotting out your manuscript before you write it./Panster = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)

I’m definitely a plotter, outlining the general plot structure, and getting to know my characters as well as possible. But what’s wonderful is how the story takes shape under your fingers as you write and it changes. Characters insist on their own life and strange things happen…Sometimes I reach a road block and need a helping hand from someone with a different perspective to navigate round them. Good editors are superb!

Q. What is a typical writing day for you?

Every day is different, depending on what needs to be done in my writing and the rest of my life! My ideal writing day begins with something physical (often housework) – to wake my mind through my body. Then I swim in our wonderful pool with its resident water dragons in an ever-changing garden. Often a poem will develop while I’m swimming so I write it first, a great warm up because every word in a poem counts. Fabulous training for any longer writing. And poems insist on being read aloud, like any writing. It helps me spot mistakes. Answering emails can also be a good writing warm-up (or, ahem, a distraction).

Then it’s time to focus on the latest project. I set my alarm for an hour’s work, but often work through it. Cups of herb tea, lunch preferably with a human or feline member of the family and then back to it. Gardening or housework breaks are great to get the energy flowing again. Late afternoon, a short walk outside, or a half hour meditation. Our two cats Persephone and Bianca are fabulous reminders of the need to eat, drink – and move.

Dinner – time to be with those I love. News or a good show. Then I’m back for another session writing, or perhaps I’ll wait till everyone else has gone to bed and then power on in the quiet darkness, with books calling and the ideas and words flowing.

Always rewriting, then forging ahead again. Oh, the deep pleasure and exquisite pain of writing, polishing the words till they are diamond-bright and the characters, plot, pace all feel right. Can’t be without it. It’s how I make sense of the world, how I reach out to others.

Q. Tell us a little about your publishing experience.

I began by publishing poetry and then reviews of other people’s work for major newspapers. Next I began writing plays which my mother directed at Marian Street Theatre for Young People, now the longest running children’s theatre in Australia. I became an academic in English literature, then drama, while writing articles for magazines and newspapers worldwide, then moved into writing for children while working as an editor. When my children began to learn to read I started publishing early readers, then longer fiction and non-fiction, both stand-alones and in series.

Now I have over 100 books published, over 20 plays, numbers of poems and articles.

And though I still write for MSTYP, four years ago one of my daughters and I began a theatre production company, Blaxland and Daughter, to mount a play about an important part of our family history.

From this one play which performed for three years to over 15,000 people, we now have four plays planned for 2016. Three of these are historically based plays for primary schools and family audiences, travelling round NSW to theatres and historic venues. The other is an adaptation of that inspired nonsense Alice in Wonderland. My first picture book came out in 2014, to my utter joy. I love the way words and pictures work together to become something magical. It is the same with plays, such a collaborative story-telling form where everyone is important – including the audience.

Q. If you could invite one author, dead or alive to dinner who would it be?

Shakespeare, of course. He wrote plays and poetry both to keep alive but also to express himself. Can I sneak in Chekhov to meet Shakespeare please? And just add Berthold Brecht to make it really exciting/? No, make my guest the Sufi mystic poet Rumi. And what about the women? Add in Emily Dickinson, Germaine Greer, Nikki Gemmell, Jane Austen, Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Grenville – so many brilliant women whose work I can’t wait to read too…

Q. What’s next from Wendy Blaxland?

Look out for my four plays in 2016: Alice in WonderlandPioneers in PetticoatsGOLD  and Matilda Fish and the Bushranger . I am working hard on a collection of poems, several literary non-fiction texts and more picture books too.

Wendy’s website: wendyblaxland.com.au

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