A Writer's Process: Karen Lethlean

Karen was a runner-up in the Wild Words Writing Competition which closed in December 2015.

Karen was a runner-up in the Wild Words Writing Competition which closed in December 2015.


The process of creating the story Black, Red and Yellow began with a snippet I encountered while reading the work of a Sri Lankan writer, Roshi Fernando (author of Homesick).

Like trinkets a bower bird might collect the sense of remembering a trip back to a homeland stuck in my brain. But I had to find a way to make this piece mine. So after a recent trip to the Northern Territory the mesh of inland Australia was laid across those initial thoughts.

I was continually worried about the thought that my ideas belonged to Roshi Fernando.

So I needed to understand that while that trinket I first saw was written by someone else, I was not copying her, but instead using something glimpsed in a new and original manner.

A good analogy here would be that of a seamstress; she sees a design somewhere, goes out and buys unique fabric, puts the piece together and comes up with her own creation.

Being a writer means reading widely and I cannot help but be intrigued by things others have written. I am constantly making notes, putting little snippets away, and looking back later to find I cannot recall where they came from but that a tiny few words can later become an entire new story.

Working in a multi-cultural school, being aware and very interested in indigenous cultures did help the writing of Black, Red and Yellow.  I have long harboured the desire to find some Noongar blood somewhere in my family tree, so my curiosity is endless.

I also wanted to try and deal with the way children are often stereotyped, no matter what their cultural or racial group.

So giving Jenny a voice about the way she sees others and how she feels treated seemed to work. Even though with the ending and my title I cannot help but wonder if I have in fact stereotyped Jenny into becoming an artist in her adult life. Such are the concerns of a writer!

Having a very supportive husband, who settles my worries, who tirelessly does the housework and allows me time to hit the keyboard (even though I have installed a writing rule that when the lap-top needs re-charging I finish for the day) is a wonderful help to being about to work creatively.