Aussie Yarns - Dave Goddard

Stories about Australia

Month: August 2015

Talk About Touching Fun

We’ve just finished a brief tour into part of the Avon Valley and Goomalling about the novels. Thanks so much to those who came and the people in the libraries at Toodyay and Northam and the CRC in Goomalling for all their assistance. We reckon it was very successful.IMAG0220

Goomalling was interesting for Karen and me, because I was principal of the District High School, as it was then, in 1986. What was particularly touching for both of us, because we both worked on it, was to see a community newspaper we started through the Participation and Equity Program (PEP) continuing as a fortnightly production. It’s called The Endeavour (the word endeavour was and is the motto of the school) and as much as us being touched, it’s a tribute to the communal spirit and resilience of rural people. So much of what we, city, people take for granted only happens in rural areas through voluntarism and the community newspaper is one example. So, too, is the effort by the Goomalling people to work with the Dowerin Field Day, yet take time out to come and see us. And Northam and Toodyay exhibit similar communal spirit in how events are arranged and conducted. For example, the Avon Valley Writer’s Festival takes place in Toodyay on the 19th and 20th September involving both Toodyay and Northam (as well as York, we believe).

There is so much to commend in country life and voluntarism is just one aspect. But good on you mobs for all you do so cheerfully and so willingly.

Time and a Toll

One of the more difficult aspects of following the production mode that I’m in for fiction is generating publicity. Sure, writing a novel takes its time and there’s a toll on energy. And when you go from writing to production, with all the editing, proofing and developing copy in the size and style you want, there’s more time and a toll. At least I have Karen to assist with the editing and proofing, for which I’m eternally grateful, because I am the world’s worst at proofing my own work. Appalling would be a polite description.

Then comes a range of ideas to promote the novels, starting with a launch, moving to publicity through news outlets and radio stations, and visiting various places to present on both novels. They each, again, take time and a toll. Sometimes there’s a sense total frustration and I ask myself, “Is anyone listening or reading?” For example, I have written to ten radio stations in Perth. Only one replied (720 ABC) and suggested I sent the information I’d forwarded to administration to four producers of programs at the station. I appreciated the response, but haven’t heard from any of the four producers, or any other station apart from 101.7 FM (see below).

Now I know radio stations must receive heaps of emails, twitters, letters, texts etc and I may not be “news”. A lot of people are doing what I am so why would a radio station respond to me. I guess my logic is that radio stations are in an area known as “communications”, and from my perspective, they are only partly communicating. Putting out information is part of communication, but listening, making sense of it, assessing value and responding are other parts. Perhaps we are at the point where information overload is causing us to become “givers of information” and forego such things as listening, making sense, assessing value and responding. Or, if we are to be able to do anything other than give information, it has to be on Twitter and done in less than 140 characters.

Now, having said all that, am I depressed and do I want to quit? No. It’s a challenge. It’s a bit like Avon Valley Football Association dreaming one day of defeating the Dockers or Eagles, but isn’t dreaming good fun. Will I keep going? Of course. I have stories to tell that I think are worth hearing, and as I long as I believe it, I’ll plug on. And along the way, I have had some successes with publicity: not huge, but they are successes in my view, with articles in Southern Gazette,  Great Southern Herald, Joondalup Arts in Focus and, hopefully the Avon Valley Advocate, the possibility of a review in the West Australian, and an invite from Tony Howes to appear on 101.7 FM on Saturday 29th August about both novels. Maybe you’d like to listen in at close to 11.00 am.

The WILUNA Solution article

Thanks to Talei Howell-Price for this article which is from Joondalup Arts in Focus

Artist in Focus
Dave Goddard Railway Yards The July issue of Arts in Focus features:Name: David Goddard
Country: Australia
Birth Place: Narrogin, Western Australia
Medium: LiteratureCan you tell us a little bit about your most recent work and what is coming up? My most recent novel is called The WILUNA Solution. It, like the previous novel, Hiding Place, draws on experiences through the people I’ve met and worked with and the places I’ve been. I went to Wiluna in 2010 to work with the school on community engagement. As I did, I learned much of the history of the town, both the Aboriginal (Martu – pronounced Mardu) and the non-Aboriginal histories. Each of my novels is my attempt to present Aboriginal cultures and peoples in a positive light from a non-Indigenous perspective. I’ve done this because of the positive experiences I have had in coming to know and work with Aboriginal people. There are two stories currently for sale and one soon to be published: Hiding Place (published 2013) set in and around Alice Springs; The WILUNA Solution (to be launched July 2015) set in Kalgoorlie and in and around Wiluna; and Turn on a Light (aiming to publish late 2015) set in a fictional Aboriginal community to the north-west of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, near Ora Banda.

What is your favourite medium and why… My favourite art form is music. I am keen on music from the sixties and seventies, involving people like Gordon Lightfoot, the Seekers, Jimmy Buffett, Neil Diamond and Jim Croce for example, among many others. I spent time as a performer (twelve-string guitar and singing), working in taverns and night clubs in Perth as well as touring in Asia with a West Australian group called the Iron State Trio which won the inaugural Perth’s New Faces. In later years, through experiences with my sons’ music, I have come to appreciate heavy metal, progressive rock, and the divergent formats of even these genres as well as easy listening as a complete contrast.

Do you think you influenced your children to pursue a career in the arts? Let me start with the fact that Karen, the boys’ mother, is a speech and drama teacher, a producer of plays, a good adapter of stories for performances by young people, an accomplished pianist and a former physical education teacher. My background was as a physical education teacher who happened to teach himself the guitar, and later a researcher who learned to write formal reports. Karen and I believe the greatest influences we have had over the careers that Paul and Drew have undertaken (Paul as an actor and voice-over specialist and Drew as a drummer, guitarist and member of ARIA award winning progressive rock group Karnivool) are:

  1. The context of their childhoods, which involved all the things Karen and I loved: sport, music, and drama. It seemed natural for the two of them to pursue careers in one of those areas.
  2. Our acceptance of the directions they took and our encouragement of them to keep going.

As I live and Learn

It’s fascinating to sit aside from the pace of life and reflect. I recently began to work again on my fourth novel, “Life on a Ferris Wheel”, which has been in draft form for about four years. I came across a section in it which ran to about six pages, in which I tried to give my version of the history of Indigenous and Aboriginal connections with non-Aboriginal people, the consequences and why. It is now down to just over a page. Isn’t it mind-stretching, yet very understandable, how time plays such an important role in learning. It’s been my privilege to live long enough to learn how to say complex things simply. Or rather, I hope that is the case. Those who read may disagree. Whatever the case, I’m so grateful.

The conversation is between a non-Aboriginal researcher whom I’ll call Tim  and an Aboriginal man from the Pilbara who I’ve named Shep.

“In some places in Australia, language groups are extinct or they barely survive. The causes are probably genocide, intended or unintended assimilation, cultural desecration or all three.” Shep didn’t lookup.

Tim focussed on him. “What’s your definition of assimilation, and what do you mean by intended and unintended?”

“I define it as making blackfellas be like whitefellas. Well, let’s start by the law forcing us into live in compounds to keep farmers, station-owners or townspeople happy. Then came taking caste kids from black mothers or getting us to renounce our Aboriginality if we wanted to live in towns or go to schools. That’s what I meant by intended assimilation. But there were, and still are, four more insidious assimilation strategies: religion, schooling, the legal system and capitalism. Even laws passed since the 1960s, as well the 1967 referendum, which were all supposed to help us, really didn’t. Assimilation keeps happening, kardiyas don’t even know they’re doing it and it keeps damaging us.

“For all their good intentions, and the protection they gave, Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and so on saw us as heathens to be saved through conversion to Christianity. That dragged a lot of us from our religion, which is our lore.” He spelled the word. “Then there’s what you call education and I call schooling. Our kids were originally barred from the schooling system, until laws were changed and it became compulsory. But enforcing schooling ignored two things: that schooling is all whitefella values and ways of knowing and doing, and the values and learning that are part of my culture were ignored.

“Then there’s your law,” he spelled the word again. “It divides us with land claims, creates conflict and often ignores our values and lore.”

“And last, there’s the belief that the panacea to all our ills is employment, without any consideration of what that means to our traditional ways.

“If I’m struggling with all of that, it’s little wonder that our kids are totally confused. They have to try to live in two worlds, and that’s a hard thing to do. I know because it’s been my life. I feel for our kids because I understand why they seem so lost and angry. They don’t who they are, where they’ve come from, or where they’re going to.”

Tim struggled to come to terms with the information even as he picked up his ringing phone.

The Story of my Short Stories

I have always been interested in writing fiction. I just never had the framework nor made the time. But I was motivated maybe a decade ago when a friend and colleague who heard some of my stories about working with Aboriginal peoples suggested I write them down before I forgot them. I tried doing that but each story felt uncomfortable. It was like painting a tree with no surrounding landscape: where was each rooted? So I started to write novels to provide the landscape. The first of these was  a story called “Life on a Ferris Wheel”, set in the Pilbara mainly around the years 1999 to 2002. I finished the story in 2010, but for a number of reasons, it has never seen the light of day. It is apparently termed creative non-fiction: taking an event and using fictional characters to retell that event.

About a month and a half ago, for reasons I can’t define, I went back to it, and started to re-edit and re-shape. As I did, a number of the stories stood up as little entities that were rooted as far as I could tell in a white person’s experiences with Aboriginal cultures. In other words, that was my landscape: I just didn’t realise it at the time.

Whether people of a literary background would class them as short stories may be debatable. I don’t see myself as one of those people so my definition may be at odds with theirs. All I did was to select small sections of narrative from “Life on a Ferris Wheel” that seemed to have a message and created a mood.

For those seeking more of a definition than I have offered, here is a useful summary from Audiences crave meaning. In the case of the short story, they want an Author to respect them by sampling just enough of that greater picture that they get the idea that there could be something greater at work here, some intelligence that more closely resembles their own. Audiences leave insulted when there is no attempt at crafting something worthwhile. If Authors wish their short stories to become cherished works they would do well to investigate how to apply the mind’s problem-solving process through Character, Plot, Theme and Genre.

As I have said, whether readers will see that in what I have described as my Short Stories is up for debate and comment. But I’m comfortable with where I am at the moment, and looking forward to completing and publishing “Life on a Ferris Wheel”.