Travel has inspired many authors over the centuries from W. Somerset Maugham to Bruce Chatwin. I haven’t traveled on the grand scale of Maugham or Chatwin, but I've toted a suitcase enough times to inspire a story and a poem or two. An example is my novella, On the Far Bluff, which is based upon a journey I made to Australia in 1993. That journey was pretty remarkable in many ways but most significantly for taking me to a remote town called Laura, and the Ang-gnarra aboriginal community in North Queensland. There I worked as a volunteer, first in the Ang-gnarra community office and then as part of their aboriginal festival that took place every two years in July. The United Nations had declared that year as the Year of Indigenous Peoples, so visitors from around the world traversed the rugged, outback roads or flew in on the mail plane to attend.
Even though I took many photos and kept a journal, my experiences there were so vivid it wasn't hard to recall them in rough draft form when I returned to the United States. But like many writing inspirations, experience interpretations can evolve as the author evolves. Some experiences do not ripen until we get older and we ripen a bit more ourselves. We can then look back on an experience or source of inspiration from a different vantage point.
It took a few more drafts and several years before I finished On the Far Bluff. But the crocodiles, wombats, billabongs, bluff spirits and the ancient messages are still there as seen through the eyes of Anna Doucette, my main character. Like Maugham’s India of the 1930’s and Chatwin’s Patagonia of the 1970’s the beauty and mystery of North Queensland, Australia, as it existed in 1993, does live on.
Bluff. Photo by Catherine Kigerl. © 1993
Catherine Kigerl is a college instructor in the Humanities and resides with her husband in Washington State.