I’m delighted to be here at Falls Creek, a stunning spot in the Victorian High Country, for the next month, as an artist in residence.
Falls Creek is best known as an alpine resort – skiing in winter, hiking and mountain biking and fishing in ‘the green season’. It also has an arts and culture program, which includes offering artists the chance to stay here for a month and make art.
So here I am.
I’ve been here for a few days already, walking each day and writing a lot. My project while I’m here is a series of short stories called (at the moment), The Adventures of the Bushranger Captain Lightning And That Other Girl.
I wrote the first story, ‘Boots and the Bushranger’, as a one-off for Clandestine Press’s And Then … adventure anthology (Volume 2 is out any day now, so you’ll be able to read it). But the two main characters, Boots and Jessie, made me laugh so much that I wrote another one. And then I planned a whole series.
They are set in the 1850s Gold Rush, and begin in Castlemaine and end in the Ovens and Buckland Valleys, just below the mountains here. Or maybe on the mountain. Or maybe in Melbourne. I don’t know yet.
They’re historical adventure/crime stories for young adults, planned in a series, in tribute to the heroines of early detective stories, like Hilda Wade and Miss Cayley – Sherlock Holmes’s lesser known peers.
So the last few days I’ve been plotting and mapping and scribbling and typing. And walking.
I like to walk in the mornings anyway, but it’s a hell of a lot more scenic here than pounding the suburban streets at home. And I don’t have to rush off anywhere, so I can walk for an hour or longer if I want.
I’m not just walking, of course. I walk and think and plot.
And I look. At the ground, at the birds, at the trees and shrubs. I breathe. It’s wildflower time here, and the air smells of honey.
I look at the ancient folds of the land, and the old cattlemen’s huts and the distant valleys.
I wonder about the people who came up here, summer after summer, for countless generations, to meet, hold ceremonies, and feast on the Bogong moths. What a journey it must have been. And the people who came after, with cattle and horses, and eventually cars and skis.
I listen. You can hear snow melt streams trickling all through the hillsides. And currawongs. And magpies. And wind through tussock grass.
It’s all research. I never know what will end up in the stories.
I breathe it in and write it out.