I’m starting a new series on my blog, in which I invite writers into the attic to share their stories of what it’s like to be a writer. To kickstart the series, I’m thrilled to welcome: Marlish Glorie.
(If Marlish’s story inspires you to be a guest in my attic and write your story, you’ll find more details at the end of this post.)
Marlish is a writer, writing teacher and mentor. She lives in Western Australia, and has worked as a nurse, environmentalist, art dealer and playwright. Marlish’s first novel, ‘The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street‘, was published by Fremantle Press in 2009, and her second novel, ‘Sea Dog Hotel‘, was self-published in 2013. She is currently looking for an agent for her third novel.
Out of 900 entries, Marlish’s short story, Machine Man, was Highly Commended in The Hope Prize Short Story Competition (for which the adjudicators were Cate Blanchett, Kate Grenville and Quentin Bryce, no less!) and will be published in an anthology by Simon & Schuster later this year. She conducts regular writing workshops at the Fremantle Arts Centre.
Looking Back, Going Forward: Being a Writer at Sixty
When I was born in November of 1955, there were no books in my family. You see, when my parents migrated out here from Holland in 1951, they had next-to-nothing. They had some plans concerning their immediate future here in Western Australia, and that was all. There were no books in my family because there was neither the money nor the time for book reading. In fact, within thirty-six hours of landing in Fremantle, Dad was working as a brickies’ labourer.
A year later my parents and four older siblings were living in a shed Dad had built in Queens Park. In subsequent years, Dad set up his own business in Welshpool while building a new asbestos house next to the shed, and he was often away for weeks at a time working in the bush, making water-storage tanks for farmers. Mum was busy with childrearing and housework; she had seven children in less than ten years.
We did have one book though, the Bible. And when I was ten years’ old we got our second book, a telephone directory. Really, we kids didn’t have much. Critically though, what all of us kids did have was space, no television, and loads of free time in which to pretend. Everything we uttered was preceded by “let’s pretend.” And pretend we did: The woodheap was where castles were built, the ditches around our neighbourhood were where we became fearless warriors, and on the deserted streets we raced one another because we were famous athletes.
School was difficult for me though. I could barely read or write. In grade four my teacher had me standing in front of the class every morning as punishment for being unable to spell; followed by afternoons spent standing at the back of the class for being unable to read.
But when I was twelve-years of age, there was a seismic shift. Dad’s business prospered, and Mum got a car and suddenly we were being driven to Bentley library to take out as many books as we liked. My reading took off. And at the age of fourteen while in high school I was taught how to type and inadvertently was finally able to piece the alphabet together. Things were looking up.
Often, I think of my life not as a writer but as a reader.
Often, I think of my life not as a writer but as a reader. Reading has given me the much-needed tools to be able to write a novel. And I’ve had a busy life where I’ve been able to engage with many people, so there’s much to draw from.
Now at the age of sixty, I love writing and reading, and couldn’t imagine not doing these things. I’m proud that I’ve reached my current level of literacy. The fact that a short story of mine was recently awarded a “highly commended” in an Australia-wide competition is simply staggering when I think about how appalling I used to be at writing.
The one thing I do find hard about being a writer is the solitude. I spend hours alone every week reading or writing, rarely socialising with people, living inside my head. But there’s no way around it, and I’ve come to accept it, sort of!
I do think that so much of writing is about confidence. It’s a confidence that comes from knowing about the English language and how crafting a story is about the process and understanding what that process is—i.e., writing draft after endless draft. I’ve never felt more confident about my writing than I do right now, so that’s nice. Of course, the pay is lousy, and being married to an artist means that life if often financially precarious. There have been tough times, but I do feel like we’ve made it and we’re in good health. Sure, we don’t travel overseas or go out to restaurants and such like, but it’s a very small price to pay. Besides, I’m not one for restaurants, I always feel uncomfortable in them. I cannot be waited on. I’m too impatient!
In many ways I was raised for the life of a writer, as it’s an uneasy life. My parents’ lives were tough, and it taught me an invaluable lesson, that life was about work and not skirting responsibility. Not that I see myself as a workaholic, more that I’m uncomfortable with extravagance or luxury so that sitting alone in my dungeon for days without end, tapping away at my keyboard, suits me to the ground.
However I’d like to add here, that being a writer in Perth is terrific as the writing community is tight-knit one and highly supportive, and my writing life would definitely be the poorer without that unwavering support.
My early life wasn’t a bookish one, but it certainly did lay the foundations for being a writer. My life wasn’t corrupted by television or a sedentary lifestyle. Instead, it was enriched by a deafening disorderliness that included my parents, seven rowdy siblings, a myriad of friends, welcoming neighbours, strangers, religion, adversity, sport, wide open spaces and the gift of being able to pretend.
If you’d like to be a guest in my attic, let me know via the Contact page, as I’d love to hear your story. The invitation is open to writers of all ages, genders, experience, nationalities, and backgrounds.
I envision the posts being 600-1200 words in length, but that’s not set in stone.
I love personal writing that digs beyond the superficial (Marlish’s essay above is a perfect example), but only write what you are comfortable sharing. I’d love to hear not only about your inspirations and goals, but also your battles and hardships. If you’d prefer a Q&A, I can send some questions to ponder.
I’d also need a photo, a concise bio, and a link to your website and publications.
If I publish your essay, I’ll send a $20 gift voucher from Booktopia (or Amazon if you’re overseas).
Please drop me a line via the Contact page if you’re interested in writing something for this series—I’d love to hear from you!