Tasmania – more than just devils

Before we stepped off the plane in Hobart, all we knew about Tasmania was that the Tasmanian Devil made its home there.

Tasmania is located about 150 miles across the Bass Strait from Melbourne, Australia.  To its west is the Indian Ocean and to its east is the Pacific Ocean.  It is about 225 miles from north to south and generally about 190 miles from east to west, and has a population of just over half a million.

The British settled it in 1803 and in the first 50 years, over 75,000 convicts were transported to Taz.  One of the first places we visited was Port Arthur, just 35 miles from Hobart, and site of one of the most famous prisons in Australia. devil-mailbox

motor-mailboxWe then headed into the interior, a thinly populated, but gorgeous area.  On one forty mile stretch, the residents hold a contest each year to see who can make the most interesting mail boxes.  There were rocket ships, cartoon characters, tractors, animals – some quite large, other smaller, but every design interesting and different.

taz-devilBeyond that, we found a preserve and research center for Tasmanian Devils.  Here we were told about the Devils and why they are now listed as an endangered species.  We were even allowed to pet one, but cautioned to keep our hands away from its head.  They have extremely strong jaws and can easily crush the leg bone of a kangaroo.  A finger would hardly be a challenge.

A relatively small island, Tasmania is the most mountainous state in Australia.  Mount Ossa is over a mile high.  These mountains spawn many rivers.  While we viewed Taz as more like the U.S., say, sixty years ago, that does not describe their production of electricity.  They generate all of their electricity needs by hydro plants on the rivers, and even sell a large amount of electricity to mainland Australia.  One river supports seven generating plants before the water reaches the ocean.

Quite by accident, we came across “The Wall in the Wilderness.” Here, well-known Artist Greg Duncan is carving a stunning sculpture out of Huron pine.  We found the Tax-waterfallartist when we left the visitor’s gallery to explore a back room.  He was working on another 3-D panel there and was gracious enough to visit with us and explain what he was attempting with this project.   When finished, the sculpture will portray Tasmanian history from the indigenous people to pioneers, to lumber men, farmers, miners, and hydro workers. It will stand ten feet high and 300 feet long.  At the time we visited, it was perhaps 150 feet long.  In fact, he said he was going to have to stop the carving and extend his studio to accommodate the rest of the wall.

We made our way to Strahan on the west coast and made arrangements to take a float plane into the wilderness of the southwest part of Tasmania. Over one third of the entire island of Taxmania lies in reserves here, and there are no roads or settlements in this area.

Earlene and I and the pilot took off and circled out over large fish farms in the Indian Ocean.  Then we headed in-land. It is truly a pristine wilderness, with inspiring, untouched forests, and the white water Franklin River.  After awhile, we were tracking another magnificent river, cutting between mist-covered mountains and dense rain-forest.  We began to descend into the thousand-foot deep Gordon River Gorge and slowly settled down on the river.

As the pilot taxied over to the bank, a small dock came into view.  He hopped out and tied the plane up and we deplaned.  A short walk through the rain-forestfloat-plane took us to a magnificent waterfall.  The only noise was the falling water. No boom-boxes, no cars, no people. Enchanting.  Eventually, we walked back to the dock, got in the plane, and the pilot – standing on the dock, untied the plane.  The swift current quickly began to sweep the plane away from the dock.  What we would do it the pilot didn’t manage to get in before we drifted away from the dock?  Earlene could fly the plane, but could she take off from a rushing river?  But, he managed to catch a strut, swing on to the pontoon and climb into the cockpit.  Obviously, he’d done this before. It was a magical trip.

Our entire Tasmania visit was captivating.   If you get to Australia, allot ample time for Tasmania. We spent a week there, and would have enjoyed a month.

Feel free to “share” or “like” this page.  Thank you.

Callan’s website

Over My Dead Body     http://amzn.to/1BmYQ0Q

James R. Callan’s author page on Amazon  


We’ve gone through the Greatest Generation (as defined by Tom Brokaw), the Boomer Generation, Generation X,  Generation Y,  Millennials, Generation We, and others.

At this point, I think we’re in the Now Generation.  And a growing trend is to abbreviate everything.  Well, almost.  Happy Hour seems to be growing rather than shrinking, ranging from two hours to six hours.  I’m not including the places that say Happy Hour is Every Hour. Probably no place has a happy hour that is only one hour.

I see LOL often  and don’t know whether that means Lot of Luck, Lots of Love, Laughing Out Loud, or Leave out Louie.  Of course, it can be clarified by adding to it, as in LOL-ROF, which I am told means Laughing Out Loud – Rolling on Floor.

A biffie in the abbreviated world is App, which I am going to guess is short for Application.  And there is an App for everything.  If you can’t find an App for what needs to be done, you just haven’t looked enough.  BTW (by the way), a California woman is suing her former company claiming she was fired for deleting an app from her phone, one the company had told her must be there 24/7 (24 hours a day, seven days a week).

Abbreviating comes in handy if you are txtng or Tweeting. Tweets limit you to 140 characters total for a message. As a result, neither of my sisters Tweet. But people love tweets. They are so “now.” And they can be used to convey every little detail of your day.  But only in 140 character bites.

We do need a new dictionary, though, that defines all the abbreviations.  OMDB could mean “Old Money Does Buy.” Or maybe, “On My Dedicated Blog.”  Or Over My cover-OverMyDeadBody Dead Body.” That’s the name of my book that released this week. It’s a contemporary mystery, or maybe a CM.  Of course, CM could stand for Christian Mystery, and Over My Dead Body could be considered a Christian Mystery since the man who ultimately solves the crime is a minister.

I guess, in light of this trend to shorten things, I’ll just STI (stop this insanity).

(No need to type anything. Just click on “Like” and “Share” below.  Or click on the cover to find out more about this new mystery.)

A Window into a Life

Today’s guest is Eileen Obser.  She has been teaching creativeObser - cropped writing courses for twenty years. Her stories and personal essays have been published in a number of major newspapers and national magazines, including Newsday, and Ms. Magazine. Her memoir, Only You, covering her teenage years, was Published by Oak Tree Press last year.  She lives and teaches on the east end of Long Island, in East Hampton, New York.  Okay, Eileen.  You’re on.

I am delighted to be Jim’s guest blogger this week and wish to write here about memoirs.

As a memoirist, and as a teacher of memoir and personal essay for over 20 years, I find so much pleasure in my work. My adult writing students, ages 18–90, constantly surprise me and often, themselves, at memories of the past that they can summon up during our workshops. Whether tapping into happy or unpleasant scenes from their childhoods or later on, sharing these reminisces brings them a great deal of satisfaction.  Revealing traumatic experiences can often cause a calming effect or lead to a path of healing.  I’m thinking now of powerful, well-known memoirs such as The Liar’s Club, The Glass Castle, and Angela’s Ashes, to name just a few, whose authors were able to rise above the sufferings of their youth.

Frank McCourt, in the famously quoted second paragraph of his book, writes,  “When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I survived at all.” Of his miserable Irish upbringing, we read, “You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.” And, “It’s lovely to know the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.”

While I encourage students to read these and many other memoirs, I don’t expect them to write whole books or best sellers. Nor do I push them to go down so deep into the tragic parts of their lives if it could cause them harm now, in the present.

My own memoir, Only You, set in my teenage years and encompassing, obser -View 1 Only You Oak Tree coverreally, the first 20 years of my life, was written over many years, starting when I was in my late 40s. I went as deeply as I felt comfortable, satisfying my need and desire to reveal myself, without exaggerating or exhibiting self-pity. Again, it was a slow process. As I grew older, the painful memories, along with the happy ones, became more understandable. I could be much more objective in relating them to the reader.

I’m very pleased that my family, and friends from the teenage years, have read the book and complimented me for writing it, for capturing so many memories this way. Not one person faulted me for “overdoing” it, or for hurting anyone’s feelings with the story.

Certain students make me proud because they are indeed taking it slow and writing strong memoirs that they share in our workshops. “Keep going,” I tell them – we all tell them. Let us know more. And so they continue, fulfilling their needs to write and, at the same time, to communicate their life experiences with us, their readers and colleagues.

A quote from William Zinsser, the author of On Writing Well and Writing about Your Life, among other books: “Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It’s not; it’s a deliberate construction.”

And from Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird and, most recently, Small Victories): “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

What’s your story, I wonder? And have you started writing it?

Eileen’s website: www.eileenobser.com

See Only You on amazon.com

Follow  Eileen on Facebook

 JIM:  If you want to share a particular memory from your early life, feel free to put it in a comment.   AND, don’t forget to “like” or “Share” this page.  Thanks.


Christian Writer Tackles Dark Issues


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 Today, I’m interviewing Deborah Piccurelli, a winner in a contest the The Christian Authors Show and listed in the book, 50 Great Writers You Should be Reading. I’ve got lots of questions, so let’s get started. Jim:  You write stories … Continue reading

News Flash: Romance is Not the Number One Genre


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  Today’s blog is a guest piece from a real authority in the business.  Dan Case most likely had the first on-line newsletter.  He has been the editor of Writing for Dollars for many years.  He is also the owner … Continue reading

Lessons Learned

A few years ago, my wife and I were in Oklahoma to remodel a house we owned on some acreage.  After looking at it, we decided there was a lot of work to be done.   For one thing, there was an enormous room and we decided that it could be converted into two good sized bedrooms.  We also needed to remodel one of the bathrooms and completely redo the kitchen – new cabinets, new hot water heater, and on and on.

We had come up from Texas with as many tools as we could get in our small pickup.  We spent so much time at Home Depot that summer that we became good friends with one of the associates there.  He and his wife have visited us in Texas and we have visited them in their home in Oklahoma.

The house is in a thinly populated area, so there were few close neighbors.  We were more than a little surprised when a man just walked into the house and started watching our efforts.  After awhile, he made a couple of suggestions on how we might accomplish a task more easily.

After hanging around for nearly an hour, he asked,  “Are you staying here at night?”

It was clear no one was staying in this house at night. There was no furniture, and it was certainly not fit for sleeping. I said, no, we were staying in a nearby motel.

He looked around at our tools and asked, “Do you just leave your tools here at night?”

This gave me pause. Why did he want to know about our tools?  Finally I said we locked the place up when we left.  I tried to make it sound like it was secure. Don’t even think about breaking in.

He acknowledged my statement, turned around and disappeared.

My wife and I didn’t know what to think.  I didn’t have many expensive tools here. We had come up in a small Ranger pickup, so space didn’t allow for much, and certainly nothing large.  Still, there were several power tools that would be a little expensive to replace.

About thirty minutes later, he walked in again.  “My name is Gary. If you will really lock things up tight, I’ve got some power tools that will make your job easier.”  He produced a nail gun with various attachments for heavy work or trim work. He offered other tools to make the installation of door hardware easier, faster, and more professionally done.

He said he only lived a half a mile away, but wouldn’t always be around to either deliver or take back the tools, so he would leave them in my care.

Over the next few weeks, he popped in frequently, always with some sound advice and frequently pitching in and helping.  And when we were ready to paint the outside, he provided a professional paint sprayer and hoses, after giving me instructions on how to use and clean the equipment.

As with the man from the Home Depot, we became friends with Gary. And to this day, he remains a good friend.

We learned a lot during the renovation.  And one valuable lesson was that good friends are all around just waiting for you to be a friend.





I Wish I Had a Different Father


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Christine Lindsay was born in Ireland, but now makes her home in British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada with her husband and their frown family. She tells us some of the motivation behind her historical series. What on … Continue reading