Category Archives: Writing

The Writing Life

With Tasmania behind me, I was headed next for Canberra. But I thought I’d interrupt the flow of the tale to insert links to a few guest posts I was invited to submit to other blogs.

The first one is about why writing longhand is not merely a virtue, but a useful tool in the writer’s arsenal.

The second is about why one needs to look things up. Of course, the real reason is so people don’t simply dismiss your writing because of the errors. But here are some examples.

And finally, here’s one on delighting in writing.

Hope those of you who are writers find something useful and/or encouraging in these.

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Talking About Pursuing Dreams

I was interviewed this last weekend on the Passions and Possibilities radio show. As is so often the case these days, the live show was recorded and is now available online as a podcast.

In this interview, while there is some discussion of my motivation for going to Australia, much of the conversation centers around practical steps for pursuing dreams, as well as tricks for staying motivated.

Passions and Possibilities Interview

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Filed under Australia, Book, Podcasts, Travel, Writing

Edit Ruthlessly

If you listened to the podcast of The Writing Show where I talked about nonfiction writing, you’ll know that one of my Five Rules is to edit ruthlessly. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may also remember that in the May 2, 2007 post I mentioned that the hardest editing for me to do is getting rid of really “nice little stories” that have nothing to do with what I’m writing. I fall in love with moments or vignettes or images that derail the tale, but as much as I hate to get rid of them, I know they must go.

HOWEVER, one of the happy things about this blog is getting to resurrect some of those axed passages—because I really did love the moments they reflect, even though they didn’t belong in the book. One day in Melbourne, while riding back to Sue’s place on the tram (streetcar), one such little vignette unfolded, and while I still have no doubt it had to come out, I’m pleased that I can share the excised passage with you now.

On the tram there was the most adorable little boy—adorable not so much because of his appearance, but more because of his behavior. He was dressed in blue corduroy pants and a light blue shirt that was too big, but had the cuffs rolled up enough so the sleeves were the right length. In one hand he had his schoolbooks, in the other he clenched a $2 note to pay his tram fare. He could barely see over the conductor’s ticket table, so all you saw was tousled blond hair and blue eyes fringed with long, blond lashes.

He said, “Excuse me,” twice to the conductor, who was busy trying to close up his books and change maker because his shift ended at the next stop. Because he was ignoring the little boy, I finally said, “Why don’t you just sit down—it doesn’t look like the man wants your money.” At this, the conductor looked up at me and blinked, looked down at the little boy (about 7 or 8 years old, I’d guess), then grinned and said, “Yeah, go ahead. You can sit down.” The little boy looked at me as if I’d performed magic, and came and sat next to me.

He had a great quality of gentleness about him, and a smile that spread across his face like sunlight. At the next stop, a woman got on the tram with a baby in a stroller. The little boy watched the baby with the most beautiful and loving curiosity, looking up at me now and again to make certain I was sharing in this unspeakable delight. I was sorry when my stop was reached and I had to leave him behind. I wish I could let his mother know how wonderful I thought her son was.


Filed under Australia, Book, Podcasts, Writing

Talking About Writing

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Paula B. on “The Writing Show.” We talked about nonfiction writing, as I’ve not only done a great deal of it, but I’ve also taught it to a few people. If you’re interested in hearing a little about the world of publishing, my “Five Rules of Nonfiction Writing,” or horror stories from the front lines, you can visit “The Writing Show” and listen to the interview.

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Good Press

It’s exciting to see one’s book begin to get noticed. I’ve gotten a couple of very good reviews lately, and next week, I’m going to be interviewed on blog talk radio! (Yeah, I know — it’s not exactly Oprah, but it’s a start.)

The blog talk radio interview will take place next Tuesday, October 14, at 5 pm Central Daylight Time (United States). But the great thing about blog radio is that the interview just stays there as a podcast, so you don’t have to catch it when the interview takes place. Here’s the link to the site where the interview will take place and where the podcast will be “stored” afterwards.

I hope some of you will listen to me chat with Becky Cortino about my book, my life, and my adventures. (And wish me luck—I’m new to this.)

On top of that, I received a most excellent review of my book today at Good Reads:

5 stars to: Waltzing Australia by Cynthia Clampitt
bookshelves: outdoor-adventure
recommended for: Anyone who has a dream
status: Read in October, 2008

Cynthia’s book wasn’t at all what I expected when I first picked it up. I thought it would be a nice, light travelogue of some time she spent in Australia. Boy, was I surprised.

First, this was no travelogue – it’s an intense love story between an American city-dweller and the vast continent of Australia. It starts with an infatuation from afar, and develops over the course of five months into a deep life-long love and respect.

Along the way, we are close witnesses to Cynthia’s discovery of large cities, small towns, and hundreds of miles of outback. Each new experience is described in gorgeous detail from the joy of feeding flocks of wild parrots to the agony of sleeping on a bus. Each page is overflowing with adventures, and we get to meet each city, animal, plant, and person along with Cynthia as if we’re right there with her.

“Waltzing Australia” is deeply emotional and personal. It’s an inspirational read about a strong woman living out the dream of a lifetime, and we are very fortunate that she decided to take us all along.

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Filed under Australia, Book, Podcasts, Travel, Writing

Check Out My Other Blog

I had originally thought that this blog would be all I’d need—that I’d share other travels and interests here. However, this is pretty clearly a travel blog, with most of it’s focus on Australia, so I decided to start another blog for my equally serious food interests. That blog is The World’s Fare.

The original idea was that The World’s Fare would be a book—the history of the 100 most important foods in the world. This would be followed up by other food histories—less important foods, key processes (cooking, curing, distilling, etc.), and almost universal forms foods take (pies, noodles, dumplings, stews). But after two years, my agent has given up on placing the book—I don’t have a show on the Food Network, so publishers aren’t interested. So I’ve decided to share everything that would have gone into that entire series of books on my new blog, but also add tales of my more food-oriented travel. Food history, international travel, and exotic recipes all seem to fit comfortably under the title originally planned for my book—so welcome to The World’s Fare.

Of course, I want you to keep coming back here, as well. I’ll still be adding more photos and information about Australia. (I’m less than one-fifth of the way through the book, as far as illustrating my adventures—and then I’ll start on the three return trips.) I just thought you might like to know that there are further adventures on my second site.


Filed under Food, History, Recipes, Travel, Writing

North Woods

At the beginning of my book, I mention that even during my corporate days, I found solace in writing. Even in the midst of the corporate whirl, “I would dash off poems filled with bits of dreams and memories and burdened with longing for beauty and a different life.” Elsewhere I speak of fond memories of an outdoor life that also made their ways into poems. So I thought I’d share one of those poems—as a break from the added info and photos. I think that “North Woods” is a good example of the type of verse I was churning out in those moments when the corporate world overwhelmed me and I tried to remember what it was like to be somewhere beautiful.

North Woods

I think back to the summers of my youth,
When I would spend my nights beneath the trees.
The smell of earth and pine and last year’s leaves
Would fill my soul with peace. The evening breeze

Would rise and run its fingers through my hair,
The cool, sweet, forest-scented air would wrap
Around me; now I wish it had not let
Me go. I listened to the water lap

The shore, the nighttime creatures prowl, the leaves
And branches overhead murmur and sigh
And dance across the face of heaven. All
These sounds, combined, became my lullaby.

At last, I’d sleep, when I could wake no more,
And, cradled by the forest, I would dream
Until first light. The lake, like glass at dawn,
And silver like the sunless sky, no seam

Or ripple on its perfect mirror, doubled
The forest. At the sun’s touch, mist would rise
And drift across water and wood alike,
All white, the semblance of a dream. The cries

Of morning’s birds would break into my thoughts,
And I would rise and slip into the lake,
Letting the cold, clean water clear my mind;
Exulting, racing, free, fully awake,

And fully part of that wild beauty that
Surrounded me. I’d watch the sunlight play
Across the water to the forest’s edge
Where green and shadow merged with dappled day.

It was so long ago. But not too long.
I have not changed so much. I can and will
Go back someday. I must. I pray. I knew
Just what I wanted then. I want it still.

©Cynthia Clampitt

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Filed under Nature, Poetry, Travel, Writing

The Baby on the Train

One of the hardest aspects of writing, for me at least, is cutting things out that don’t really belong, that don’t truly advance the story, or that simply interrupt the flow. However, as William Zinsser noted in his classic book On Writing Well, “Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn’t be there.” And “Clutter is the enemy.”

While working on my book, I found it difficult at times to eliminate little vignettes that seemed to underscore for me how charming the people were that I met as I traveled through Australia or bits of trivia that I found interesting but that didn’t contribute to the narrative. But I couldn’t include everything—at least not and have the book be fewer than 2,000 pages!

So I spent a lot of time uncluttering my book. It flows much more smoothly now, and I think it’s a much better work for the discipline. But perhaps this blog is a place to salvage a few of those edited bits—kind of like the “bonus tracks” on a DVD of a carefully edited movie.

The following little vignette is from Queensland. I was taking the scenic (though once utilitarian) train from Kuranda to Cairns, a trip that zig-zags down cliff faces, past waterfalls and rainforest and through numerous tunnels. It is a gorgeous ride, and the time passed all the more pleasantly because of a charming couple from Sydney.

On the train, the seats are set up facing each other, all on one side of the car. I sat by a window and was soon joined by a young couple with their two children. The younger of the children, around one year old, was in a stroller, which they turned to face the window. As we approached a tunnel, the father snapped his fingers, and everything went dark. “All gone,” he said to the delighted infant, who obviously had no doubt that his daddy was capable of such magic. The older boy, aged four or five, was overjoyed to assist in the game, and leaned just far enough out the window to let daddy know when daylight was coming—which of course reappeared with another snap of the fingers. The baby was wild with excitement, gurgling, laughing, clapping his hands, and pawing daddy’s leg. This happened at each of the 15 tunnels, which kept baby very happy for the whole trip (much to mother’s relief, as the milk bottle was empty). Between tunnels, we admired the scenery, and chatted.

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Looking Back/Arrival

Until my book gets released, I’ll share excerpts from the book here. Once it’s out, I’ll start sharing photos and then, in time, move on to other topics and destinations. For now, here is an excerpt from the first pages of Waltzing Australia.

I pull a battered loose-leaf binder off the shelf. It bulges with lined notebook paper—hundreds of pages, some dirty or torn, all hand written with an exhilaration that I can still feel when I think back to the early days of the dream. It is the record of the first step. I had known that it would take a drastic step to get me headed in the right direction, to cut me free from what I had always done. But I had underestimated how much it would change me. It seems long ago—and yesterday. The road that has led me to where I am today has been long, but I know that it is the right road—and for me, Australia was the beginning of that road. Settling down to read and remember, I turn to the first page. . .

Wednesday, August 17
Sitting at a small desk in a small hotel room, I gaze at my surroundings and wonder out loud what I’ve gotten myself into. I think of all the studying and work that went into getting me here and try to imagine where it will lead. As I organize pens, writing paper, and the few books I thought worth bringing, I think of all the work that will be needed to justify having come. Starting from scratch is not easy—but then, nothing important is.
There are so many dreams tied up in this: starting over; writing; Australia; finding out what I can do, what I need, and maybe who I am. The prospects are both wonderful and frightening.

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Filed under Australia, Book, Travel, Writing

There must be a reason

This blog will, I hope, accomplish many things. I plan to use it to share photographs to accompany the stories in my book, Waltzing Australia (due out May 2007), and I would like to relate adventures from other trips to Australia, following the one that is the subject of the book.

I also hope to share other travel and adventures, from cooking lessons in Mexico to camel riding in Morocco, from dining in London to cruising through markets in Ecuador. Because I am also a food writer and culinary historian, there is every likelihood that you’ll run into a few recipes here, as well.

I’ll wait until the book is out to start including photos. And don’t worry—I’ll make certain you know when the book is out.

Perhaps I’ll start with the back cover “blurb,” and then over the weeks until the book comes out, offer “nibbles” from the book.

The Blurb:

Does a sensible, successful woman in her mid-30s walk away from money, security, career just to make a dream come true? Absolutely. But why Australia?

Nobel laureate Patrick White had called Australia a subtle country of secret colors, where “it is possible more easily to discard the inessential and to attempt the infinite.” That was exactly what the author wanted. She circled and crossed the continent, covering nearly 20,000 miles, discovering Australia, rediscovering herself.

And as she traveled, she wrote, recording her adventures and her growing love for the “sunburnt country.” Waltzing Australia is about Australia’s history, legends and art, both European and Aboriginal, about the beauty, the challenge, the people, the cities, the land. And it is about paying the price to make dreams come true.

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Filed under Australia, Book, Travel, Writing