Melinda Tognini is a Writing the Dream contributor. She is particularly passionate about telling ‘invisible’ stories – those stories absent from or sidelined in the dominant narratives of our history – and empowering others to find their voice. Visit her website here.
What are you working on now? Describe it in 15-20 words or less.
I’m currently writing the story of someone seeking asylum, and who has spent the past three years in immigration detention.
Where did your desire to write come from?
I grew up in a family that valued books and imagination. My parents read to me from a very early age and it seemed a natural progression to begin creating my own stories. My year 6 teacher, Mr Antoniazzi was a creative writing enthusiast, which inspired me, too. I still have my journal from my year in his class.
What do you think about the phrase ‘write what you know’?
I admire authors who write spec fic and create whole worlds from nothing. I find it easier to write about places I can physically experience, and engage all my senses to add the finer, specific details.
Saying that, I would never have written about war widows if I’d stuck to what I knew. I had very little understanding about war widows before I started writing Many Hearts, One Voice, so it was all about researching what I did not know. I did, however, find others who had experienced the grief of losing their partner, as well as life in post-war Perth, so I guess I’ve been writing what they know.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Getting started. I have a tendency to procrastinate. When my kids were babies and I’d be tempted to take a nap when they did, I’d ‘trick’ myself into writing by telling myself I only had to do it for ten minutes.
More recently, I’ve been using the ‘pomodoro’ technique which involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and focusing on one writing task until the alarm sounds, then taking a 5-minute break. Repeat. Not only has it improved my ability to focus, it’s helping me to resist checking email and social media when I should be working.
What would you like your Facebook Page status to say in 2018?
Changing the world, one story at a time.
What inspires you in life?
I’m inspired by the people who have trusted me with their stories. I’ve heard tales of hardship, trauma, and loss, but those same stories are also ones of courage, resilience and generosity.
I also learn a great deal from the students I mentor through not-for-profit organisation, 12 Buckets. Words of wisdom from 11 year olds include ‘There are no mistakes in art’ and ‘Journals are for adventures’.
What is your favourite quote?
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
What is the best book-to-movie you’ve ever seen, and why? And the worst?
I watched the film adaptation of The Help by Kathryn Stockett before I’d finished reading it. Although the story was compelling, I wasn’t sure I’d bother reading the final chapters once I knew how it ended; however, the film was so gripping that I went home to see how closely it matched the book.
I expected more from the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, due to fond memories of watching the television series as a child.
What’s the last thing that made you laugh?
The current series of Rake.
In a letter to your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give?
Be yourself, rather than who you think others want you to be. Pursue your passions, not the expectations of others.
Persevere. It’s a long, winding road, but it will be worth it. And don’t be afraid of detours; nothing you do or experience is wasted.
Take interest in other people’s stories, especially your grandmother’s. Dare to ask questions and dig deeper before the details are lost forever.