from the editor's desk

Writing ‘Everything Ends in Samba’

Ana Brawls

With the support of the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, and in partnership with the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ CentreWesterly delivered our seventh Writers’ Development Program in 2023. Three talented emerging writers were offered professional guidance and support in developing their work for publication in Westerly. Now, we are delighted to showcase their reflections on the Program here on the Editor’s Desk. If you are intrigued, you can read the feature showcasing their writing in our second issue from 2023, Westerly 68.2. Order your copy here, or subscribe here!

Should my writing fulfill a cause? A dream? Should it appease an unspecific, unsatisfied audience? Or should I allow creativity to roam free and see where it takes me?

In these enquiries there is awakening, and agency. I sense a liminal moment too—due, in part, to creative freedom. This revelation makes me realise how many constraints I had self-imposed previously. The only question that matters is: what do I want the reader to feel?

First, the idea

I spent the past few months pondering the notion of sacrifice, both individual and collective. This wasn’t a conscious pondering; more like an organic development of enquiry and discovery.

Sacrifice is not easy to understand.

You know your sacrifice, filled with hard choices and compromises. I know mine. Our collective sacrifice is less clear, almost not thought of. What price should we pay for comfort? For safety? For the plenitude of everything we desire?

The first few drafts of ‘Everything Ends in Samba’ were a process of discovery. This is a pattern of my creative process. The world of the story came first. Fast, and almost fully formed. Thanks, in part, not only to an article discussing the World Health Organisation’s controversial classification known as MG2A (Old Age) (Conway), but also, to a conversation with my husband about retirement and the aging population.

Don’t you think it uncanny how a character becomes something other than electric currents, transforming into what we call creation? I didn’t choose to follow a male character; the story couldn’t have happened any other way. In part, I used what I knew, but his life was already laid out, even what he was sacrificing.   

Then, rewrite

There is plenty exposition before I get to the action. I tend to remind myself these rumblings might not make the final edit. Which is fine; perfect, actually. I appreciate the importance of letting go. I can write freely and later return to the page with a critical eye; looking for what stands out. This method of discussion and enquiry into an idea through exposition was a deep, personal realisation into my creative process.

During the many rewrites, I put words aside that made me feel or understand something new. In the most part, they are words I think beautiful, regardless of their meaning.

Serendipity | Grotesque | Supplication | Departure | Sacrifice | Bork | Vellichor | Freedom (Liberdade) and the unique Saudade present in most of my writings.

Lastly, the lessons

This story went through many versions; its first draft had almost 5,000 words. Once, I even rewrote it in first person, trying to hear the main character’s voice more closely.

Only during later edits, I realised how much this piece honours my heritage. My late father was a lathe operator his entire life. Then there are the beautiful small towns in the Sao Paulo countryside, dotted with colonial buildings and old traditions.

Editing your own work is difficult. Oftentimes, I am too close, too familiar to find what’s missing, or to remove the unnecessary. Author Simone Lazaroo held my hand through these early stages, and Josephine Taylor helped to sharpen the writing.

While at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, I learnt the benefits of a whiteboard. The practise of sitting still, looking at it, pondering, was a revelation in my creative process. I was aware of the benefits of visual stimulation in developing a story. I don’t follow a strict writing practice; there is no detailed character/plot spreadsheets on my computer. Still, the whiteboard gave me permission to play with forms and ideas, while allowing me to lay out steps without muddling my creative flow with too much structure.

David Bowie once said that his goal wasn’t necessarily just expressing his work, but also contributing to the culture he was living in (Jones np). Paraphrasing Bowie, my deepest desire is to contribute—in the case of my fiction, to the ever-evolving literary landscape. In its entirety, I hope whatever I create becomes spinifex in the desert, enduring anything and sustaining all kinds of life.

Finally: it wouldn’t be right to reflect and look back on these past few months with joy if I didn’t acknowledge those who made this program possible—and not only the supporting bodies, for whose support I am thankful. I feel immense gratitude towards the people who are passionate enough and kind enough to see possibility where there might be none, forever and ever and a bit more. Thank you Dr Daniel Juckes, Dr Catherine Noske and Dr Josephine Taylor for your words of encouragement, for your companionship and for your kind honesty.

Much of my work is created on Wadandi and Pibelmen Boodja, where I gratefully live and write. The ancestors of the Wadandi and Pibelman peoples and their descendants are the traditional owners of this Country. 

Works Cited

Conway, Josh. ‘Debate Rages on the Inclusion of Old Age in the ICD-11’, Lifespan.io, January 10 (2022). Sourced at: https://www.lifespan.io/news/debate-rages-on-the-inclusion-of-old-age-in-the-icd-11/.

Jones, Dylan. ‘We’ll Miss You, David Bowie’, GQ, January 11 (2016). Sourced at: https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/david-bowie-ziggy-stardust-2002-heroes-interview-photos-1.

Ana Brawls is a librarian, originally from Brazil. Her work explores family traditions, myths, belonging and the human condition through alternative realities. Her poems and short stories have been published by the Centre for Stories, Bangalore Review and Australian Poetry Journal.

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