Writing with a View

A few weeks ago, my online writing group, Write on Wednesday, set the task of sitting under a tree to write. Not only was it inspiring to be unleashed from the laptop, it was actually wonderfully calming. There was a breeze ruffling through the leaves, the sun seeping through the overhanging branches of the Moreton Bay Fig and the gentle slapping of water against the harbour’s stone wall. So, inspired by the great outdoors I’ve found 10 places that are great for writing at. Water features in all of my chosen spots, it’s hard to get away from in Sydney. Water can soothing, dramatic, lulling or noisy, but never boring .I love watching the play of light across water, the shadows of clouds skidding through the sky, the people, vessels and animal life associated with it.

I hope that where ever you are, this will encourage you to find some great outdoor venues and experiment with  some al fresco writing.

I’ve written about Wendy Whitely’s garden before. It’s a magical spot, nestled into Lavender Bay.  It combines great physical beauty with an artistic aesthetic. Grab a coffee from a local cafe and head into this oasis of lush quietness.

  • Into the Garden
  • One of several sculptures

Bondi – Bronte Walk. Amazing views up and down the coastline, but you need to pick your moment here. It can be very busy with local joggers, walkers and tourists. It also hosts the Sculpture by the Sea every November, which is well worth a visit. Cafes at Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte. Also, great bar at Icebergs, Bondi!

Sculpture by the Sea

Looking south along the walk

Bible Garden is another tucked away garden, but on the Northern Beaches at Palm Beach. This is a great spot during the week, always quiet. And if you’re Muse didn’t make it through the Bilgola Bends, there’s a bible in a Tupperware container you can turn to. No amenities, but plenty in Palm Beach or Avalon.

Along Palm Beach to Barrrenjoey

The Bible Garden

Centennial Park is Sydney’s equivalent of Hyde Park, London or Central Park, New York. At the Woolhara end of Oxford Street, it has open parklands, ponds, a fantastic playground and kiosk/cafe. It has large playing fields for football, a horse-riding track, walking/jogging track and you can also hire a bike. It’s always busy, but there are plenty of quiet spots you can retreat to.

One of the many ponds

The Duck Pond

The Botanic Gardens, alongside the Opera House and curving around Farm Cove, are fantastic anytime of year. Also close to the Art Gallery of NSW, which happens to be one of my favourite places in Sydney. Note of warning – don’t sit under the fruit bats. They are noisy, smelly and poo on people’s heads.

The Tropical Glasshouse

Waterlily Pond

Lillian Fraser Garden in Pennant Hills has only a trickle of a stream running through it, but it’s like a fairy dell. It’s small and has a quaint, English Cottage garden feel to it. Always peaceful but unfortunately, no amenities.

Lillian Fraser Garden

If you need  a setting for a ghost story, Cockatoo Island could be just the place for you. Situated off Balmain, it was originally a prison. It was also the location for a children’s Reformatory and eventually became the site for shipbuilding. Apart from the seagulls, it’s quiet during the week, but weekends, particularly in summer can be very busy. And if you’re up for it, you can go camping there.

through the old barracks window

These beautifully positioned benches look out onto ...


Balmain is my local community. It’s a peninsula jutting into the harbour and has plenty of foreshore parks and reserves. The houses are a mix of terraces, sandstone villas and cottages and weatherboards, lining the narrow streets and lanes. It has some great cafes and restaurants, two independent bookstores and some great shops. If you’re coming on a warm day, bring your cozzie and have a dip in the Dawn Fraser Pool, a tidal pool surrounded by a boardwalk overlooking Cockatoo Island.

Balmain East Wharf

The Little Marionette - my pick for coffee

Lane Cove National River Park is on Sydney’s North Shore and winds along the banks of the gentle Lane Cove River. There are parts of this park that are really quite densely bushy and  other areas that are more open with grassy picnic areas. But the river gives it a different attitude from the harbour or beach, quieter, more introspective. Take a picnic and when you’ve finished writing, hire a row boat.

Lane Cove National Park

The Boat Shed

Nielsen Park is another of my favourite Sydney spots. I’m not a fan of big surf so this harbourside beach is perfect. It offers a rolling swell that you can float over, sand to lie on, shady trees to recover under when the sun is too fierce and a great kiosk. It’s a fantastic spot to eavesdrop on conversations. But do not attempt to go here on summer weekends, it’s as packed as a thin strip of Mediterranean sand. Weekdays are perfect and it’s pretty good in winter too.

Nielsen Park on a winter morning

Across the harbour to Manly

I’d love to hear about your outdoor writing spots.

Write on Wednesday – The One Liner

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises – there isn’t a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment. You can grab the button for Write On Wednesdays from my sidebar.

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 13 – A Great One Liner…This week you need to come up with one good line to describe a part of your day. It can be ‘real life’ or fiction. But it must tell us ‘who did what’. It has to be an amazing line, like a tiny little paper plane that must travel a big distance (figuratively speaking) with only a few folds … Every word in that line must earn its place, or be cut as excess baggage. Let’s get thinking about each sentence as though every word counts, like working one group of muscles to show how much weight they can carry.
This week’s exercise is courtesy of Karen who can be found at the wonderful the rhythm method.
I know that Gill likes to read about how other writers approach the exercise, so I have taken a copy of my scrawling to show how I progressed towards the end result. It doesn’t, of course, show the trips to the kitchen for tea, the shower (very fruitful thinking time), nor the staring blankly out my window at the pink peach blossom  and the frangipani coming into leaf. I always write by hand first, I like the flow and connection between the physical act of writing and  the stirring of ideas.

Waiting for the Flow...

Last night, by complete coincidence, I came across this passage in the Landscape of Farewell, by Alex Miller –
‘When I took up my pen, however, I was scarcely able to compose the simplest of sentences. I wrote a sentence then crossed it out and sat a while, then wrote another and looked at it. But it too made little sense to me and I crossed it out also. There was a stubborn silence in me that refused to yield up my emotions and my thoughts in words. My subject was closed to me.’
How apt. And how reassuring that a writer of Alex Miller’s calibre has bad moments on his way to producing great beauty.
 I did cheat. This is not from my day, it is a piece of fiction, but it helps me get to know what’s going on in Carol’s day. And so to my sentence. It’s hard to tell a story in one sentence, I’m not yet adept enough to do it in a short, concise manner, but after all my scrawling, here it is.
Carol’s grandchild was plucked from her tender cradling by the mother’s mother, a polite smirk of condescension pressing her coral tainted lips as she re-established order in the nest.
Thank-you everyone for your generous and thoughtful comments last week. I really appreciated it.
And as always, thank-you to Gill at inkpaperpen.

A Masterclass with Kerri Sackville…It’s Write On Wednesday

Today’s exercise (thanks to WoW regular, Jodi!) is from writer, Kerri Sackville, Kerri is the author behind When My Husband Does The Dishes and she is also a regular contributor at Mamamia. Kerri has kindly agreed to provide us with an exercise in Life Writing. I hope you all enjoy it.

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises – there isn’t a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment. You can grab the button for Write On Wednesdays from my sidebar.

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 12 – The Fight. Kerri says:  I am a writer of non-fiction (for now, anyway). In my book ‘When My Husband Does The Dishes…’, I wrote a memoir of marriage and motherhood in as honest way as I knew how. In interviews, I was constantly asked how I felt about revealing so much about myself, and how I knew where to draw the line. I always answered the same way. Every single thing I wrote in that book was 100% true, because without my truth, I had nothing to offer. However, the book didn’t represent 100% of the truth, just as my blog doesn’t represent 100% of the truth. There are personal details of my life, my husbands life and my kids’ lives that I will never reveal, because we all need to to keep something for ourselves. And that’s the key to writing good non-fiction – or one of the keys. You have to be honest, because without honesty, your work won’t speak to people. You have to be fearless, because restraint in writing can be perceived. But that doesn’t mean that you have to bare your entire soul. Choose what you want to share, choose what is relevant to your story. But make sure that what you choose to share is real, and true. 

The exercise today is to write a story from your life. And remember: it has to be 100% true, but it doesn’t have to be 100% of the truth. There’s a difference. The keywords are: The Fight

There you have it! Let’s keep to last week’s brief and take our time with the exercise. Happy Writing!
I have never attempted Life Writing or Memoir before, so that was a challenge in itself. I also decided to go with the first thought I had from the prompt – The Fight. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, so to speak, as this is from a time in my life – 16yrs ago, that I rarely speak about and have certainly never written about.

Please leave a comment – especially if it doesn’t work for you. It’s good to get constructive criticism (not an outpouring of a negativity, I do have feelings!). And of course the strokes of praise are always welcome too.

She’d been upfront from our first meeting. I’d sat in her chambers, book-lined, a panelled glass window opening onto the late-Autumn grey of a London square. This could be my future. An old world, claustrophobic, overcast, cold, closing in on me and my two daughters. I longed for a new world of broad skies, warmth and love.

‘Do you know what you’ll do if you lose? My barrister had asked, her finger stroking the inside of a wrist, hidden by the impeccably severe black suit she was wearing.

I would go on, I’d thought. There is no other choice. But the nausea rushed up from my stomach, filling my throat. A sob lurched out as the tears, usually kept so tightly restrained, coursed down my cheeks.

She pushed the box of tissues towards me and discreetly made unnecessary notes.

The Courts of Justice in London are marbled halls echoing with a swaggering trepidation. Stone steps are smoothed and curved from the countless numbers who’d made their way to plead their case, to have their future revealed in a swish of silk. But here was a certainty and  preciseness not offered by  a pack of tarot cards.

The courtroom was intimidating. Even in the Family Court I would give my evidence from the dark wood of the witness box, be cross-examined by my ex-husband’s barrister. But first I took my place on the hard, high-backed bench that offered no comfort. A pew for a congregation of sinners. The Judge presided from on high, his half-moon glasses perilously perched on the end of his nose.

It was more like a hanging, drawing and quartering than a hearing. I’d spent the winter being slowly strangled by the waiting, the not knowing, the lack of control. And now I’d been released from that torture only to have the entrails of my marriage held up for me and the jeering onlookers to wonder at.

It was the worst of betrayals. My ex-husband took his turn in the witness box and described our marriage as never being happy. Implying I had somehow tricked him into being with me, having two children, making a home together. I was irrational, irresponsible, delusional, unable to care for my children. I was heartless for wanting to remove my daughters from their father and return to my home and family in Australia. His mother had sat at her Georgian table in her Gentleman’s residence and penned a letter of elegant venom. If I was unsupported, she claimed, I only had myself to blame.

A failed wife. As dreadful a mother as you could find. But no, my ex-husband didn’t want custody of our children, he didn’t want that responsibility. Ten years in England was not long enough. He wanted me to serve life.

The square beyond the panelled glass window was greening as the early spring bulbs speared through the earth. The white blossoms drifted on the breeze like a late flurry of snow. It was lunchtime. My daughters would be playing by the willow tree in the school playground. Laughing, running, free.

My barrister sat forward, her hands together on the desk, a steady gaze held mine, ‘I have to tell you, I don’t think we will win. Your ex-husband has put up a very strong case.’

It was like being told of my own death.

A hand on a navy blue bible, I promised to tell the truth, but there is very little I remember saying. All I could think was, I can’t go home. I’m trapped. My barrister had a strategy. Unlike my ex-husband, we didn’t indulge in a personal attack, her approach was for me to explain what my life in Australia had been, how it would be for my daughters. The more I talked of Sydney, my family, home, the more I cried. Without them I had no anchor, no safe harbour to protect me from life’s buffeting.

Finally, the Judge gently asked me if I would return to Australia without my children?


My ex-husband’s lawyer summed up his case, backed up with numerous precedents of other Australian women who had not been ‘Given Leave to remove their children from the Jurisdiction’. I was just another case. One more to notch up for the English ex-husbands’ lawyers.

As the Judge handed down his decision, a few phrases filtered through. ‘It will be easier for Ms Smart to re-partner.’ ‘The children will be part of a loving, caring, extended family’ The searing pain of loss slowly waned.

‘I knew we’d won when the Judge said he was struck by your vulnerability,’ my barrister said, smiling. ‘I’m sorry I scared you at lunch, but you’d been so composed all morning. We needed to see your distress, feel that vulnerability.’

The cat had toyed with her mouse. She smiled the victor’s smile, wished me well and left for her chambers, to meet with the next ex-wife.

I stood numb, dazed in the marble hall. My ex-husband was slouched on a bench, rolling a cigarette. All that should never have been said, had used all the words we had left for each other. I headed out onto the London street and let the high tide of peak hour pick me up in it’s quick flow and carry me towards my children.

Write on Wednesday – on Thursday

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Feel free to get creative with the writing exercises – there isn’t a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment. You can grab the button for Write On Wednesdays from the sidebar at inkpaperpen blogspot.

Write On Wednesdays Exercise 9 – Think with Character. Choose a character from your writing posts. You can still do this exercise if you are new to WoW – select a character from another piece of your writing or simply work through the exercise from scratch.   Now, think about the character in regards to their: gender, age, occupation, physical appearance and mood at this moment. Is your character in the city, the country, inside or outside? Do they live in rich or poor surroundings? Alone or with others? Answer all, some or one of these questions. Now, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words about your character that come into your head. Stop when the buzzer rings. This may be one week where you feel you need to throw the timer and take your time. Do whatever works for you. You may also like to consider: Complexion, Style of dress, Hair colour/style, Speaking voice and likely vocabulary, Strengths/Weaknesses, Mannerisms
I’m sorry I missed last week, but it’s been a very difficult last couple of weeks. My post The Long Last Goodbye will explain most of it and perhaps also the setting of this piece, but it definitely suits Carol.

The Wake

Carol pulled her skirt down. Now that the sex was finished she felt exposed. Sitting on the bathroom bench, her knickers still on the floor, the black lace pooled on the grey slate. She adjusted her bra back over her breasts and buttoned her blouse as she heard the zip of his fly. A sharp, final gesture followed by the emphatic buckling of his belt. He didn’t look back as he left.

She hadn’t meant it to happen like this. Definitely not in Ginny’s en-suite after Terry’s funeral. She’d had something more romantic in mind when she made the decision on the ferry. Carol wasn’t even sure what she was deciding upon that night coming home from work. Maybe it was the way the ferry pitched on the harbour swell, like the rocking of hips.
Or the young couple in front of her, whose hands and tongues explored each others’ without care for the long-married, bored commuters who had stashed away memories of new love in an old trunk, locked away in an attic, not to be disturbed.
Carol just wanted something. More than a text message about whether it was to be the Thai or Indian take-away for dinner. And whose turn it was to walk the dog, choose the DVD, collect the dry-cleaning.She’d been wanting Rob Lowe, shirtless, like he was on the cover of Vanity Fair. Instead, she’d had the paunchy husband of a woman she’d last seen years ago at a school concert. On the day of her best friend’s husband’s funeral.
‘What the fuck’s wrong with me? I should be serving up sandwiches, not extra- marital nookie.’
Carol slipped off the bench and scooped up her knickers, quickly stepping into them. She smoothed down her skirt and checked herself in the mirror. Her eyes went straight to the grey hairs seeping through the black. It’d only been ten days since she last dyed it. She sighed in annoyance and opened a drawer looking for a comb. Instead, it was neatly arranged with razors, aftershave, haemorrhoid cream, nail clippers and male deodorant. Terry’s drawer, neat to the bitter end. But the toiletries couldn’t mask the unseemly cancer that had eaten through his bowel to his liver.
Carol closed the drawer and left the en-suite, shutting the door on her guilt. Only to be confronted by the immaculately made bed. The pale mauve sheets, the gold comforter, the floral cushions that Ginny had embroidered and arranged so carefully. Her own bed was a tangle of sheets, ignored in the rush to leave the house.
Carol lay down on one side of the bed, her hand resting on the emptiness next to her as she tried to imagine the loss Ginny must be feeling. She pinched her nostrils tightly, scrunched her face against the tears and sobs that rushed to escape. To her shame, it was not for Ginny, but for her own pain and loneliness. A boredom that was like a death itself. A death that was a relief, perhaps, for those who’d never really lived.

I took a little more than my five minutes, but I wanted to see where Carol was heading. Still not sure!