I attended a writing workshop with a difference a couple of weeks ago. It was held in an art gallery where a series of artworks painted by Judith Laws were hung. The writing project was to creatively write to a painting of your choice with what history you knew of the events and your interpretation. Numerous books and newspaper articles were available for our perusal. Two works of fiction, including Patrick White’s Fringe of Leaves, portrayed the events from a man’s perspective and with a different interpretation to that shown by the paintings.
This suited me down to the ground. I enjoy art and combining it with writing, another passion, I immersed myself in the world of Eliza Fraser. She was a woman who set sail with her husband on May 15th 1836. The boat hit the reef and sank off Rockhampton a week later. She gave birth in the long-boat and the baby drowned. They eventually hit land on what is now known as Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand island. The aboriginals gave her a baby to look after and expected her to do women’s work. The Captain went with the men. There is speculation that he contravened tribal law and was fatally speared; to warn and not kill as it is believed that a healthy man would have survived the injuries inflicted. He died observed by his wife. TheK’Gari tribe believed that they were ghosts of dead ancestors come back which is why the aborigines accepted them so easily. On the 16th August John Graham, an ex-convict, rescued her. By mid October she was in Sydney raising funds for her fatherless children. Secretly she marries another sea-captain but continues in her pursuit of money. When found out everyone begins to question her tale of the ship wreck. She disappears from sight.
When looking at the art works we were advised to firstly record what we saw. Secondly record what the picture makes you think and finally what it makes you feel. From there we started writing our creative piece drawing on the information we had gleaned from the painting we had chosen but also our own world experience and any item of interest on the table of books and articles of the period. By the end of the afternoon we each had a piece of a couple of thousand words.
She was a bad omen, the men said when she came on board heavy with child. She’d left her children to look after the ill captain, her husband. Their ship sunk, holed by coral. She gave birth in the long-boat. The baby cried. She saw it drown. She saw her husband speared and watched him slowly die. She felt alone despite the goodness of the aboriginal women. She longed to join their chatter. She ran into the bush to get away, encountering the corroboree of near naked men. She stared, horrified by her attraction. Her husband and child just dead.
A week later at the opening of the exhibition we performed promenade theatre where the audience moved from painting to painting and we each read our response to Judith’s wonderful works of art.
This has been written in response to Charli’s prompt for this weeks 99 word flash fiction where we were given the prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has an expectation met or missed. It can be an implied expectation to your reader, or a character’s expectation for an outcome. Think of how expectations can direct a story.