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Dealing with loss: writing grief

Dealing with grief and loss in writing is something that many writers will experience at some point in their career. But how they write with it varies greatly. Christopher Currie, Caroline Overington and Chris Womersley shared their experiences of writing grief with audiences at this year’s Byron Bay Writers’ Festival.

Each author focussed on grief and loss in different ways in their current book releases. Christopher Currie’s debut novel, The Ottoman Motel, deals with loss from the perspective of a child who wakes in a strange town to find his parents have vanished. Caroline Overington’s second novel, I Came To Say Goodbye, is told from the point of view of a grandfather, writing a letter to a court judge, pleading for the return of his grandson after he was taken into care. Chris Womersley second novel, Bereft, is set after the Great War. Womersley writes about a soldier who was run out of town after his is accused of murdering his younger sister.  After the war, he tries to return to his hometown with the help of a young orphan who seems to know too much about the crime.

Session chair Annette Marfording raised questions about the motivation behind using loss as a theme within their novels, setting the book in certain areas (my home town of Yamba even got a mention), and whether they can stand to read while writing.

Womersley, when asked how the characters were developed, replied in a traditional writer’s method. Evasively.

“Well, that’s a secret,” he said, laughter ringing through his voice. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

Caroline Overington taught the audience to be careful when using songs as their inspiration.

“I was listening to Bob Dylan, and I thought I heard him say ‘I come to say goodbye’, and I thought that would be a great title!” she nervously explained. “But when I asked for permission to use it from his producers, they had never heard of it. It turns out he actually said ‘I can’t save the dying’.”

Christopher Currie, when trying to describe his new book to the audience to get us interested, completely drew a blank.

“You’d think because it was my book, I might know what it is about,” he countered before remembering.

It was a deep topic, and something that isn’t easy to write, but these authors made it fun for the audience by sharing their woes with us.

Amelia Turner, Southern Cross University Media student

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