Lorraine Marwood’s Leave Taking…


Lorraine Marwood talks about the inspiration behind her new novel Leave Taking

It’s always hard to pin down the precise way inspiration forms, but I can isolate some emotional factors. For me a tone, an atmosphere and emotional stake has to occur to begin the writing process. I had written the opening verses of Leave Taking some years before, when we indeed left our farm and moved to regional Bendigo. But the story petered out and was left shut in its own little notebook.

Fast forward ten years (at least) and I am recovering from a year of treatment for breast cancer. My life has changed. But I know I desperately want to get back to writing. I am taking up a May Gibbs Literature Trust Fellowship in Brisbane in 2016, for a completely different writing project, but like I always do, I take a few extra projects.

From out of my bookcase comes this little exercise book. I reread the start of Leave Taking. I connect with Toby and know there is an extra grief he is grappling with besides leaving his childhood farm. And it has to do with cancer.

Toby and I know about cancer, its physical and emotional effects, how it changes the people in our everyday world, how it changes the outlook on our everyday world.

I wrote Leave Taking during that residency. It was a healing process and I wanted other people, mainly children, to be offered hope through walking with Toby on his leave taking journey. We don’t have a defined pathway for grief and sadly children are not immune to grief. So Leave Taking shows us the tumult of emotions a boy like Toby goes through as he says goodbye to the farm where he and his sister Leah loved to play, help and learn. The reactions to cancer Toby faced were the reactions I faced. It was a book I had to write.

Of course an excellent publisher and editor gently suggested that Toby and his world could be fleshed out more and Leave Taking grew in length, until the culmination of the clearing sale and bonfire. Toby also grew in emotional knowledge and strength until he was as ready as he ever could be to take his leave and move to a new location with his family.

So no piece of writing is ever wasted, it might wait a season until it comes to maturity. And a verse novel is a perfect medium for Toby’s story.

Lorraine Marwood

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