99 Word Flash fiction: Eliza Fraser

painting  - Judith Laws photo © irene waters 2014

painting – Judith Laws
photo © irene waters 2014

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.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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14 Responses to 99 Word Flash fiction: Eliza Fraser

  1. bkpyett says:

    Irene, I was thrilled to read your post, reminding me of ‘Fringe of Leaves’, that I read so long ago. I also was intrigued with Judith Laws name popping up, as I knew someone by this name in Canberra some time ago. Sounds a great workshop to have attended. (My surname would have been Starr, if Judy is still about to ask!) 🙂

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  2. Charli Mills says:

    I can tell that you “felt” this story. First of all, what a fabulous writing workshop–art, history, words, oh my! Second, I’m so delighted that after spending time with this painting, woman and story that you could distill it into 99 words. It’s a strong piece of writing and goes so well with the painting!

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  3. M-R says:

    What a super thing to have been involved in, Irene ! – wonderful !
    Do I have your birthday yet ???

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  4. Annecdotist says:

    Interesting story, Irene, in both the blog and flash fiction telling. You really brought the character to life.

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  5. Sherri says:

    Absolutely fascinating read this Irene, from the painting (and I can’t stop looking at it, very deep and quite frightening, ghostly actually), to the story of Eliza Fraser, your account of your interesting time at the writing workshop and all the way to your fantastic flash at the end. Loved the way you ended the flash with her ‘horrified attraction’ in the face of her devastating losses. Things definitely didn’t work out as she expected did they? I would love to know what happened to her after she disappeared from sight. You can tell you have me totally hooked with this one my friend, great stuff 🙂

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    • Glad it captured you the way it did me. Just putting yourself in her position leaving three children behind when pregnant to sail with sick sea captain who had a habit of wrecking ships. Most mothers would stay with the children and opt for a bit of safety (at least another woman’s presence) with an impending birth. And that is just to start. Oh Sherri we could walk with Eliza all day and still be discussing it. 🙂

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      • Sherri says:

        Oh yes we could Irene…absolutely fascinating this story…love how much you know about it and how you can really get inside the nitty gritty of the real story behind the main story…the psychology of it all. I lap it up 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Expectations « Carrot Ranch Communications

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