Releasing the caged bird

For 10 years or more, an idea for a novel has been floating around in my consciousness.
It’s a story I wholeheartedly believe should be told; a story I’m convinced would delight and captivate a certain type of reader; and a story that, at the core of my being, I know I must tell.

Inspired by events from my childhood, both troublesome and triumphant, the story I long to write is a celebration of growing up in an isolated, blue-collar suburb on the southern outskirts of Perth. An acknowledgement of the joys and challenges of life in a single-parent family in the 1970s, when money was scarce but my kindly, hard-working mother ensured love was freely and abundantly available.

Mine was an almost idyllic childhood, filled with days spent roaming the bush with a bunch of mates, riding the streets on a gleaming red Malvern Star with a flowered seat, sissy bar and colourful ribbons streaming from the handlebars, or conjuring backyard games with nothing more than imagination and whatever we found lying around.

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I loved my red Malvern Star with the flowered seat and sissy bar.

Mum was stricter than many of my friends’ parents, but as long as we were home when the streetlights came on, we had a degree of freedom unknown to kids these days.

For 10 years or more, I’ve contemplated actually writing this novel. I’ve told family, friends, old family friends and even complete strangers on planes and trains that I’m going to write this novel.

I have spent countless hours writing lists of possible scenes based on actual events, attempting to find ways to turn meaningful memories into a story. A story that prompts readers to reflect on their own childhood with nostalgic delight, and one that leads me to write another story, and another, and another…

But for 10 years or more, a nagging, negative voice also floating around in my consciousness has kept telling me that writing fiction – not just any old fiction, but quality fiction that somebody will want to publish — was simply beyond me.

Until one of my daughters reminded me of a quote from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by revered American author, poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou: ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’

I’m ready to open the door of my cage.

Originally published as The Neophite Novelist column in Good Reading.


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