Athenapallas's Blog

July 31, 2010

DESERT WRITERS AND FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS OF WRITING

Filed under: Modern Athenas,Novel in Progress — athenapallas @ 8:38 pm
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 In the West Macdonnell Ranges of Central Australia our writing guru Jan Cornall taught us these 4 noble truths:

  1. WRITERS WRITE
  2. WRITING IS A PROCESS
  3. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOUR WRITING WILL BE UNTIL THE END OF THE PROCESS
  4. IF WRITING IS YOUR PRACTICE THE ONLY WAY TO FAIL IS NOT TO WRITE.*

At the finale to this wonderful week of learning, writing,                      

Desert Writers Walking

exploring country, listening to the stories of traditional owners  

and visiting  secret women’s  places,  

we presented our work at  the Desert Writers’  Festival of Hermannsburg .   

While it was good to realise that as writers we cannot fail and that the process is the truth,  

the power of our group experience combined with the talent of  eight extraordinary women to produce some wonderful examples of writing in a variety of genres including film script, biography, poetry, haiku, memoir, short story and novel. 

Athena was  asked to present a short precis of her latest                  

Desert Writers Listening

work in progress, Digging Up the Dead   as  well as to read 

 a scene she wrote under the  mesmerizing influence 

of her desert writing experience. 

But  be warned, as noble truth no 3 asserts, 

this may bear no resemblance to the finished work! 

Digging Up the Dead

Athena Pallas, nicknamed Pal,  is a very unusual Diviner  who is summoned  in 1992 to Yungaburra, a small mining town  in Queensland, by David the mine geologist. After the death of Gary, the blast engineer  in the open cut coal mine, and with the coal running out on top, the mine bosses decide to go underground to extract the rest of the coal left in 1972 when a gigantic underground explosion sealed the mine entombing 12 miners. Alice,  Gary’s girlfriend and the  daughter of George  one of the entombed miners joins Naomi, an Aboriginal elder concerned by  the mine’s desecration of sacred burial places, to help Athena  find out where and how the miners died and to stop the re-opening of the mine.  David, Alice and Naomi have a secret ally who is funding Athena’s assignment and gradually other townspeople like Stan the wily newspaper editor and  Edgar the enigmatic Mining  Warden are drawn into the events that follow. 

Mysterious signs and happenings lead Athena  to think she may be the mortal manifestation of Pallas Athena, 

Desert Writers Climbing

the Warrior Goddess of Ancient Greece, or

that  someone or something is trying to drive her crazy. 

In any event she will need all of the powers of this goddess

as well as those of ancestral Aboriginal spirits 

 to complete her mission and defeat the mine…….. 

As  the plot thickens Athena has a vision of herself at the Gateway to the Underworld where she engages in mortal combat to save George and learn from him what really happened underground in 1972. 

……An enormous roar came from the depths of the tunnel like the explosion George had described but I knew that this was no mine explosion because although loud it did not bucket us with a fiery gaseous wind.  

However I knew we were in trouble when Cerberus the guardian dog  of the Underworld sprung into our presence and sat defiantly on his haunches in front of  us. 

Up close he was a terrifying sight. With three huge heads all with vicious white teeth he reminded me of  the jagged jaws of the continuous mining machines that tore out and swallowed the coal before spitting it into the shuttle cars.  

Here the similarity ended for I could see  the end of his serpent’s tail between his legs and there were innumerable snakes attached to his body.            

Nicholas Guarding Desert Writers

The snakes and his tail were deadly 

if you were foolish enough to  touch them. 

I threw my aegis shield over George to try 

and protect him from the pernicious poison I knew the Dog had in store for us if I defied him and tried to enter the Underworld. 

Cerberus seemed to be able to read my thoughts for suddenly there was a swishing sound and movement of the air in front of me. One of the Dog’s heads moved towards the sound and then the head flung itself towards us. 

I grabbed my shield to stop it before I realised it was detached from its mighty body as if it had been decapitated by an invisible sword. The hideous head fell useless at my feet, but I knew that even a two-headed Cerberus was a formidable opponent. 

Before I could think of a plan, his whip like serpent’s tail flashed out from between his legs and caught me on the side of my head. Without my helmet I would have been showered with the most toxic substance known to the gods-capable of immobilizing whole armies let alone  one woman, albeit the Warrior Goddess and daughter of Zeus. 

Recovering from this close encounter with Cerberus’  tail I lost sight of his heads for a moment and he leapt towards me with all his remaining teeth bared. I cried out: 

‘Zeus, don’t leave me, I have much to do in mortal realms. I must return above.”  

As I yelled these word another decapitated head hurtled towards me………. to be continued maybe …..

The audience clapped enthusiastically when she finished reading this scene but now the writer is left with the task of working out what on earth this means both  for Athena and the story! 

She will keep you posted maybe…… if she survives… 

*From One Continuous Mistake, The Four Noble Truths of Writing by Gail Sher

3 Comments »

  1. “If you’re in control, you’re driving too slow.”
    Mario Andretti, world champion racing driver

    Comment by mysterion — August 6, 2010 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

  2. This quote which I have heard before seemed at first too mysterious in this context but then I read the story of Athena’s battle with Cerberus again and I think I get it in relation to the mysterious nature of the writing process somewhat akin to Noble Truth no 3 -You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process. Thank you.

    Comment by athenapallas — August 6, 2010 @ 7:01 pm | Reply

  3. Like the plot … keep at it!

    Comment by beachblogger — August 16, 2010 @ 6:10 pm | Reply


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