My writing journey commenced when I took early retirement from teaching and started writing my memoirs in the year 2000. I first wrote in the third person, but as I grew more courageous, I changed the manuscript to the first person. Impatient for recognition, I foolishly sent the memoir off to the big publishers, one after the other.
We learn from our mistakes, and after I’d faced rejection after rejection, I put my manuscript aside and concentrated on writing my husband’s life. I wrote from his point of view. Here again, I made another error and after just one rejection, I sent it away to a subsidy publisher.
I trembled with excitement on seeing my work in print. We drove to Portland, Victoria to launch my book, as this is where the major portion of the book was set.
I had a radio interview in Brisbane and full-page write-ups in two local newspapers. I did an author-talk in the Portland library.
The book-launch proved a success. All our friends turned up and bought books, but the profits failed to cover the cost of publication.
Looking back now, although the book brought me much joy and gratification, I should have worked on my manuscript more before presenting it to a traditional publisher.
All this was a learning experience. I finally did what I should have done earlier. I joined a writing group. It helped me overcome my bashfulness and taught me how to accept criticism. In fact, I was so impressed by what I’d learned that I joined several other critique groups – some as far away as Bundaberg.
I live around Brisbane, but I could send in my work for critiquing, and it was critiqued at meetings. Great!
Besides this, I attended several writing workshops and masterclasses. Bundy’s Write Fests are always a source of getting to know people and of acquiring more knowledge.
Once, when attending James Frenkel’s Writing Masterclass, at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, he advised me to first make my name by penning short stories. I love writing novels and short-stories are not my forte.
Upon consideration of his advice, however, I used excerpts of my manuscripts and converted them into short stories. The result? Two of them were published in the Carindale Writers’ Seasons’ anthology, and my short story, ‘Hunger’, was selected for publication in the 2013 Redlitzer anthology.
The following year, I won Omega Writers’ Inc. Narrative Hook competition, and ‘June’s Death’, another excerpt from my memoir, See No Evil: story of a war child, was published in the nation-wide Grieve anthology. My short story, ‘Love at First Sight’, has also been Longlisted in the Lane Cove Literary Award Competition.
My memoir See No Evil: story of a war child was shortlisted in the Barnardo Great Aussie Book Competition of 2014.
I’ve started a blog.
https://hazelmbarker.wordpress.com/ and opened a Facebook account.
I write each morning, and encourage beginners like me to take heart and avoid the mistakes I’ve made.
Authors’ Blurb: ‘Triumph’ is the gripping true story of Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini who, after a plane crash, endured forty-seven treacherous days on the Pacific Ocean only to be captured by the Japanese Navy. As a prisoner of war for over two years, Louis suffered vicious atrocities at the hands of a brutal guard, yet was able to maintain his unrelenting, steadfast spirit. Through a Billy Graham crusade after the war, Zamperini found the power to overcome the horrific evils of war and forgive through the power of his relationship with Jesus Christ. Louie’s unforgettable story is a testimony of a person’s ability to triumph over any evil, inspiring every reader to hope and live life to the full.
Review by Hazel Barker: Triumph is the re-working of two best-sellers – Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and Louis Zamperini’s Devil at My Heels, but the authors’ main emphasis is on the protagonist’s conversion. The themes are suffering and endurance; the message, hope and forgiveness.
The first four chapters of the book dwell on Louie the petty thief from the age of 7 – 14. With the help of his brother Pete, he changes from a delinquent to an athlete in the next four chapters. In chapter 9, war breaks out. He is drafted into the air force as a bombardier, and starts flying missions over the Pacific.
His plane crashes when searching for lost airmen over the ocean and his trauma commences. Zamperini’s sufferings as a Japanese prisoner of war are not unusual. What is extraordinary is that he is singled out for torture by his sadistic jailor, ‘the Bird.’ His sufferings are the sum of all the inhumane methods heaped upon Japanese prisoners of war. Apart from the daily beatings, he was subjected to biological experiments, made to perform degrading acts like walking through an overflowing latrine and then made to lick the bottom of his boots clean. Another psychological torture was showing him letters from home, then burning them before he could read them.
The last four chapters of the book are about the aftermath of the war and his tortures. Zamperini’s constant nightmares lead him to the conclusion that his only way of ending them is by killing ‘the Bird.’
Triumph is a great story written in a narrative style with clarity and conciseness. The scene of the attack by Zeros on the B-24 bomber Super Man is vivid and exciting. By the end of the fray, the plane was too badly damaged to repair. It would never fly again.
The book should be stocked in all school libraries. Fast-paced and easy to read with a young Olympic hero, who never gives up, it will appeal to young adults. Triumph especially interested me because many of my friends have relatives who had been imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese. The book left me dissatisfied in the end, however, as I needed to know whether ‘the Bird’ lived to face justice. Was he caught and tried for his offences against Allied prisoners of war? It was not until I saw the movie, Unbroken that my question was answered.
This is an excerpt from an e-mail I received from Barnardos early this year. It is in regard to my manuscript See No Evil: story of a war child.
I just wanted to let you know that your manuscript has not been successful in the great Aussie book prize. Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. We have only just received the news.
The judges were very impressed with your work. You made the final short list and I wish you all the very best with it.