Robyn is a freelance journalist and short-story writer living in Auckland. She has just published her first book on Amazon, 95 Bushels to the Acre. Robyn has been a working journalist for some forty years on newspapers and for magazines both in New Zealand and overseas. When she’s not writing up other people’s dramas, heartbreaks and highlights as a journo, she’s busy creating her own, as a newcomer to fiction writing.
What began as one tentative story idea for her course turned into something quite different as she wrote her way up and over this exciting learning curve. Robyn’s story has a Kiwi flavour, but its themes are universal. Its inspiration is in the grain fields of Irwell, South Canterbury where her father grew up and where he loved to go bird-nesting. There’s a thread of her mother’s favourite red cardigan in there for good measure too.
According to Robyn…
Swapping hats has been the easy part; diving into research with creative intent the fun part. Trying to sort out her scribbled story ideas, observations and themes threatened to derail all that until I discovered the New Zealand Institute of Business Studies’ ‘Writing Fiction for Beginners’ course.
This course has been an excellent introduction to creative writing for me, on the back of my continuing career as a freelance journalist. I came into this course assuming nothing, eager to learn everything and to be challenged with an entirely new form of writing. I came with one theme for a story and a wild array of disparate ideas, but with any clue as to how to weave any, or all, of it together. Beyond that, I didn’t think I had anything to write about, so there was plenty of empty
All that changed one assignment at a time. We teased out observations, reflections and experiences that I would never have thought of as the fodder for new stories or the basis of new characters. Learning to write in a style that is the complete opposite of journalistic writing was a big challenge. That has also made it doubly rewarding. It reminds me daily that self-belief needs to be cherished and self-doubt acknowledged and then gently sent packing.
I have become more mindful, more observant and more productive. I try to write creatively every day, even if it is just a couple of paragraphs towards a story or the scribblings of a new idea. I read every day, which I used to think I never had time to do. Right now, it is New Zealand fiction and short stories, but I’ve been tempted to explore other genres which are piled on my desk.
What is not to praise about this course? The structure of the tutorials has been excellent and I still regularly refer to tutorial content as I work. The staff and tutors have been accessible and supportive. The Student Forum is a superb platform for knowledge, discussion and camaraderie among students and tutors. The NZIBS newsletters are always welcome in my Inbox for their informative, inspirational content.
Hats off to my tutor Tina Shaw for her encouragement and excellent constructive criticism that has taught me so much. Kathy Swailes, an NZIBS student/graduate was generous with her knowledge as she proofread my copy. Being able to tap into the skills of other students helps us all.
I remember feeling a little sad when I saw the word ‘End’ written on the final page of Tutorial 5B. I like to think of it as ‘Just the Beginning’. Thank you for all of it.
95 BUSHELS TO THE ACRE
Young Meredith loves the birds that live on her grandparents’ farm in Irwell, South Canterbury. But her grandpa William wants them gone for good; he has a record harvest for the year 1928 in his sights. And her Nan? She’s too busy fretting about a lost heirloom to give more than a passing nod to pesky birds, golden barley fields and the activities of local bird-nesting boys. This is a tale of love and the power of one shilling and sixpence.
Robyn’s story has a Kiwi flavour, but its themes are universal. Its inspiration is in the grain fields of Irwell, South Canterbury where her father grew up and where he loved to go bird-nesting. There’s a thread of her mother’s favourite red cardigan in there for good measure too. Then it’s time for reading – anything and everything among the growing pile of fiction and short stories on her desk.