Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Writers On Wednesday: Lorraine Cobcroft

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, I have put my usual five questions to Lorraine Cobcroft, a talented Australian writer, and author of the children's novel The Pencil Case ...



Tell us a bit about yourself …

I'm mother to three wonderful children; have five grandchildren who are the light of my life; am blessed to have been happily married for over 43 years to the love of my life; and am now happily semi-retired after working in an astonishing variety of jobs but mostly as a technical, business and ghost writer. I now spend my time writing, editing, doing pre-publishing work, reviewing books, mentoring writers, writing courseware for writers, running a writer's community at www.rainbowriter.com, and supporting fights against injustice and destruction of the environment.

I've been fortunate to experience more diversity in my life than most people ever see; travelling both in Australia and abroad; and living in an army camp, three foreign countries, small country towns and rural villages, on farms, and in major cities. In addition to writing, I've worked as everything from CEO of a public technology company to ironing lady, fast food kiosk cook, school tuck-shop manager, receptionist, architectural draftsman, nurse's aide, paralegal, and bookkeeper.

In the autumn of my life, I'm lucky to live in a bush and beach paradise and to have freedom to write for my own pleasure and satisfaction, and to read all the wonderful books I had too little time to enjoy during a busy working life.

Apart from writing, I love people, travel, reading, sewing, art and music. I am a country girl, born in New England, NSW, and though I spent 30 years in the city, I love the Aussie bush. One of my greatest pleasures is caravanning in the outback.

I write, now, to ''nudge the world a little'' - to hopefully inspire questioning of what we too often blindly accept as truth; aid understanding of other lives, cultures and challenges; and drive social reform that will make the world a better place for all.  I believe the pen is the most powerful weapon we have to wage war on injustice, and writers have an obligation to use it well.

I think today's writer is incredibly fortunate to have access to the support and friendship of an international community of writers, editors, artists, and publishers, and I've been richly blessed. I've made dozens of wonderful friends from all over the world who help and support me on my journey. I enjoy supporting them in return.

Tell us about your most recently published, or about to be published, book?

The Pencil Case is a slightly fictionalized biography of a stolen child; a fifth-generation native-born white Australian taken from his family at age 7 and kept apart from loved ones, abused and deprived; effectively incarcerated - in his view - for 18 years. The after-effects of incarceration lasted a lifetime.
The story was written to dispel a popular myth, supported for political reasons, that ''The Stolen Generation'' were all Aboriginals taken because of race. My research indicates that there were some 96,000 whites taken in the same way - generally because of poverty. And that number doesn't include forced adoptions in infancy or British migrants.

The removal of these children was a social crime committed for economic gain by bureaucrats and the churches that ran the institutions that housed them. I wrote the book to expose a truth widely denied, and to protest a cruel injustice that has never been properly acknowledged and will almost certainly never be redressed. I've been branded a racist, a liar and a fraud for writing this story. But I am none of those. The truth of the tale is conclusively provable. I have the deepest sympathy for Aboriginals. I know the pain of loss of family and culture better than most. I share it. But their story has been distorted and manipulated for economic, political and social gain - mostly by greedy whites and mixed bloods who steal from Aboriginals and deny them their moral entitlements and their pride, and incite hatred against them.

The story follows Paul Wilson from the happy bush home of a war veteran, to an institution where Paul suffers deprivation and abuse, to foster homes, another institution, an army training school for boys, and through an eventful adult life desperately searching for identity, love, a sense of belonging, and self-respect. It explores the long-term psychological effects and practical challenges faced by victims, their partners and their offspring as a consequence of trauma, family separation, and the absence of love in childhood.

Readers say it's a story you will read between tears and fits of rage. Many have said they had to pause at times and gather strength to read on. But it's a story of personal courage and victory over adversity; of human kindness, charity, and dedication to a cause. It's a story that will reassure you of the enormous strength of the human spirit and the power of family love.

You can read the first two chapters free at http://www.rainbowriter.com/ThePencilCase.php (Scroll down and click the Preview Link to the right of the cover image).

I welcome requests for a coupon for free download from anyone seriously interested in reviewing it.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

It was 1976. I was twenty-five and had just delivered my third child, a beautiful daughter. I was keen to stay at home and spend as much time as I could with my children while they were young. I read an article promoting women's liberation, and branding stay-at-home mums ''mindless cabbages, tied to the kitchen sink''. I was incensed, and I wrote a response titled ''Time for an International Motherhood Year''. I showed it to my husband, then buried it in my bottom drawer. I had been writing for a hobby for years, but never had the courage to submit anything for publication - other than to the school newspaper, which didn't count as a 'publication' in my view.

I was in the garden on Easter Saturday, covered in mud, when the phone rang. I cursed because I had to run across cream-coloured carpet to answer it. A voice said ''I'm deputy editor with Australian Woman's Day. We'd like a photograph and some personal information about you please. We want to publish your article in our special Mothers' Day edition.'' I was speechless. I thought the speaker was insane. The article hadn't left my bottom drawer, to the best of my knowledge.

Actually, my husband had submitted it without my knowledge. It was printed and paid the princely sum of $70 (a tidy reward back then!) What delighted me far more than the cheque was that I received a veritable flood of supportive responses and thank you letters from women Australia-wide. Thousands wrote to me. There were some lovely letters amongst them.

I wonder how many women today would endorse a call for greater support for women to stay at home and be just ''mum'' during their children's formative years? 

 As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

It's difficult to say because several works qualify, according to different criteria. I was very proud to be able to gift the proceeds of Melanie's Easter Gift to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Foundation. I was proud of my success with my programming courseware because it qualified me as a successful technical writer. I am fiercely proud of The Pencil Case because of what it has achieved for victims of a serious social wrong, and because it demonstrated that it is possible to ''nudge the world a little'' - to make a difference in society by speaking out against deception, cruelty, and injustice.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

Right now, I'm working on a couple of informational books, a family saga (narrative non-fiction based on research into the history of my family - being written primarily so my descendants will have access to information about their heritage), and a novel titled Mortgaged Goods, about a woman who suffers psychological damage in early childhood, feeling unwanted, then struggles to love her own disabled child, torn between a successful career and material comfort, and a feeling of obligation to care for her offspring. Can she abandon her child and enjoy ''the perfect life'': career success, money, travel, and freedom?  Will she ever experience ''normal'' maternal instincts and come to love her son?

Do you have a favourite place to write?

My office. We moved into a new home in August, and it has a magnificent sunny office overlooking a koala sanctuary and beautiful bushland. I also like to take my Neo to the beach or to pretty picnic spots in the bush, or just out to our outdoor living room where there are lovely sea breezes and bushland views. We live in paradise!  It's an amazing spot. Sadly, I don't think developers and their buddies on local Councils will allow it to stay that way for long. We are already engaged in a battle to stop a seriously unwelcome development wiping out a major koala breeding ground. (Anyone concerned to save koalas and other native wildlife from extinction might want to sign our petition at http://t.co/ocLsi0Edxg)

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

I love printed books - the feel of them and the warm, welcoming look a filled bookshelf gives a home. But I prefer to read eBooks now, because I find them easier on my eyes and far more convenient. They are wonderful when we are travelling. Being able to take thousands of books with me without taking up space or adding weight is an amazing benefit both on flights and when caravanning.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

Oh, that's not a fair question. There are a million books that everybody should read, and it's almost impossible to choose one over another. The bible, perhaps. But the Koran and other religious texts are of similar importance. What matters, I think, is that people read a wide variety of books, keep an open mind, and respect the ideas, opinions, beliefs and traditions of people of all cultures. You don't have to agree or approve, but try to walk a mile in the shoes of others and gain some understanding of their life journeys and the challenges they face.

Of course, readers should also read ''Changing Seasons'', an Anthology by Fairfield Writers Group (Brisbane) that I edited and published and that contains four of my short stories. It was launched on Sept 28, 2013, and it's a great read.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

Adelaide (and surrounds) is one of the few places I haven't explored nearly enough. I was going there two years ago but family tragedy forced me to abandon plans for a major trip. I hope to go next year, and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope my readers there will welcome me warmly. And I hope they will work to maintain the unique character of one of Australia's most beautiful cities. Try not to let greedy developers spoil. From the little I have seen of it, Adelaide is a very special place.

Awesome Links:

(Anthologies including some of Lorraine's short stories will go on sale here soon)


Thank you, all, for your interest in me and for taking time to read this interview. Contact me at writer@rainbowriter.com to follow up or request a book review or other services