Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Zealand: Exercises in Description

Have you ever seriously tried to write in a genre that isn't your usual pursuit?

Recently, I've been flexing my non-fiction muscle that I never knew I had. Strangely enough my editor has always told me description is my strength in fiction, but I didn't realise that describing my surrounds in a non-fictional way would be such an asset to my novel-writing. I think writers of fiction and non-fiction can learn a lot from each other's disciplines, just by giving it a go.

For me, it was easy to describe a part of New Zealand in a way I've never done before. It's a beautiful place to live, and it would be a shame to leave all this unwritten.

I was on a plane trip a few months ago when the notion took me to describe a forest park I used to frequent a lot when I lived closer to it. So I pulled out my notebook and typed in a frenzy for an hour or so. Two days later I took another look, decided it was ready, and submitted it to a few literary journals. I didn't expect anything to come of it, being fairly raw and me a novice at the form.

You can imagine my surprise when it was accepted at the Milo Review and published just a few weeks later! It has encouraged me that my skills are transferable between genres and that trying something different can be really great for fiction.

And the piece itself? Here's an excerpt:

It’s verdant all year round, a thousand shades of green, a thousand kinds of leaf. A thousand birds to sing my path. The forest is an anomaly perched among suburbs and swimming-pools, a larger-than-life park of untouched nature, as this whole land was before the cities came. Narrow paths wind through its dark depths, sometimes helped here and there by a section of boardwalk or wooden-stepped riser.

I enter at the top, from the side of a highway. Very soon there are steps, or a steep descent on which I’ve been known to scrape my knees, and the sounds of the city are gone: swallowed up in vivid greenery and the splash of a tiny creek that tumbles down a gully.

You can read the full article at The Milo Review.

There are also a few pictures at my website: http://www.gracebridges.kiwi/nonfiction


  1. Your editor is right about your talent for description.

  2. Well written, Grace. I'd love to visit your forest!

  3. That forest sounds so inviting, Grace! And I agree with you that it's good to write across genres and flex our writing muscles a bit in this way.

  4. Bravo, Grace! Sounds like a genuine Kiwi oasis.