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Barcaldine Fires up Inspiration

By Roz Pulley

Article courtesy of The Cairns Post

Angela Murphy

Stepping outside the comfort zone has paid off for teacher turned writer Angela Murphy, already tasting success in the world of words.

Cairns writer Angela Murphy is convinced that when the mood takes you, good things could lead to even greater creativity. In July of 2002, she headed down to Barcaldine in Central Queensland for the launch of a new book - Songs of the Unsung Heroes - in which her poetic tribute to the Australian working woman is featured.

So stoked was she by the blazing Barcaldine sunset that Angela wrote a short story about a country woman whose age and health have forced her to leave the land and move to the city. The 2,700-word tale, Goodbye Sunset has turned out to be a triumph. It has just won the short story category in the biennial Queensland Rural Women’s Network Cultural Competition. Angela says it was rewarding just to be short listed and thrilling to win.

But for someone who gave up the security of a permanent job at the Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE to dedicate herself to writing, it meant even more. “ When you get something like this, then you realise that you’re going in the right direction. I fell very encouraged.”

Angela says her winning sorry was heavily inspired by the blood red sunsets and sweeping horizons of Barcaldine. Anecdotal gems from her childhood also played a part, as did the knowledge that older people feel an acute sense of loss when their independence is threatened.

Goodbye Sunset is a monologue in which the central character - a widow whose children have all left home and whose only company is a blue cattle dog - sits on a backyard swing and casts back over her life as the afternoon sun disappears.

“ She ‘s saying goodbye to the sun, to the life, to her independence,” says Angela. “When I went to Barcaldine, what really impressed me was that huge sky. The first night we were there the sunset was just spectacular. The whole sky was scarlet and the railway tracks running to Longreach were running red. So that became the backdrop to the story.”

Angela said her trip to Brisbane for the rural women’s conference - where her win was announced - was made possible through a “regional quick response grant” from the Commonwealth Government’s Regional Arts fund, managed in Queensland by the Queensland Arts Council.

“The funding is there to help regional writers and artists access professional development. Grants of up to $1000 can be made available at 48 hours notice if the funding is urgently required.”

Angela says she has been writing since high school, but only became serious about it earlier in 2002 when she took long service leave from TAFE, where she had been a disability integration officer and developed curriculum resources for the disability sector. “When I went back to TAFE in July, I realised I was going back to something I’d done for 10 years. I had a great time there but it was time to move on.”

Angela has now built herself a writing studio, attended play writing workshops, successfully ventured into travel writing and plans to concentrate on two draft novels - possibly turning one into a play. She also wants to add to her two existing degrees with a Master of Letters in Creative Writing “to keep me on task and give me some direction”.

“I’ll be looking at techniques involved in all the genres. I’m very passionate about my writing now and really enjoy what I’m doing. There’s a bit of that theory that when you do follow what you want to do and you’re passionate about it, you get rewards for your effort. I put a lot of energy into writing - mental energy and emotional energy - but I get a lot of enjoyment from it.”



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