After I wrote ‘Burning the Green,’ a colleague came up to me in the corridor, gently slapped my arm and said, ‘There’re some naughty bits in that story.’
Last week, my mum came to stay with me in Townsville. Sitting in my garden in the shade of the umbrella, the pink oleander flowers clustered behind us, Mum said, ‘You probably should think more about your reputation in this town.’ She was talking about my dating habits, and spoke out of genuine concern; I’m a newly single woman living on my own, my closest relative over one thousand kilometres away. But my immediate response was, ‘Have you read my writing?’, which silenced her because, as the best mothers do, she had.
Image: Oleander by Himanshu Sarpotder
Now ‘Burning the Green,’ originally published in Issue Eleven of Tincture Journal, is available for free here. This looseness–the story on display for all to see, giving herself away for nothing–may concern my mum. But I think readers are able to untangle fiction and imagination from the author’s own life. And, as a writer of mostly historical fiction, I’m suspicious of the true/false binaries such a concern raises. Fiction is always about something in the real world. Its truth comes not so much a direct relationship to some actual person or event, but in the questions it raises about what it’s like to be a human being in a particular place and time. And, if the reader is sensitive–and I think most readers are–they will think about how such ideas inform their own lives, something that certainly happens in book clubs, as I discuss in an article in The Conversation.
To me, ‘Burning the Green’ is about a woman who is repressing her emotions and sexuality, and who is constrained and disconnected from her son, her husband, and from the stranger at railway station because of it. So it seems to be a story that asks readers to consider the generosity of their emotions, and their capacity to connect. A perfect story to be gifted freely.
Thank you to the team at Tincture Journal for their time editing and promoting ‘Burning the Green,’ particularly Daniel Young.