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“Hi, my name is Claire Corbett and I’ll be reading from my novel When We Have Wings.
Peri stepped up to the edge of the cliff. She must let go. She must be prepared to die.
A gust of air rushed over the cliff. She staggered a step, unfurled her wings and ran forward. As she leapt off the cliff, she knew she’d done it at the wrong moment. Dropping as if she’d been shot, she beat her wings hard, harder, harder than she ever had in Flight Gym.
The downbeats slowed her plunge.
Where was the ridgelift, rising air compressed against the side of the cliff—and warmed by the thermal collector of the rock face—which should be rushing upwards and taking her with it?
Where, where was it?
The wind fell away from Peri like a scream.
Breathe in the rhythm of Flight.
Strength began to flow back into her flight muscles, the pain subsiding with the warmth of her effort.
Breathe in, wing upstroke, breathe out, wing downbeat, breathe in, wings up and angled so the wing surface is smaller, breathe out, wings down.
Down is the power stroke.
Down and down and down.
Down with a big wing and recover with a small wing. Down with a big wing and recover with a small wing. The mantra of Flight Gym.
It’s like rowing through the air, said Havoc. You’ve got to angle the upstroke like a rower ‘feathers’ his blade. Down with a big wing and recover with a small wing.
At last. There was the ridgelift, catch it, board it, like a wave rising under you from the sea, don’t miss it, don’t let it rush past and drop you, don’t let it blow you back over the top of the ridge into the danger zone of lurking rotors and low lift.
Peri was in the proper rhythm. And now the ridgelift was rising faster and pulling her with it and it was even better than her dreams of flying as a child; instead of flapping her arms, all that effort, now she was beating her wings and they were bearing her up. Higher and higher she was rising and the lift was rising, speeding and delirious as an express train and she was past the height of the cliff edge and rising fast, there was no ceiling, no limit to joy, the sphere of crystal endless on every side, no boundary, oh yes, this was new, and she was so high now she could soar, angling her wings just so, the study of eagle and albatross paying off, their manoeuvres starting to become second nature—although she still had to think about it, that’s why it was so dangerous, it wasn’t knitted into her muscles yet, but she felt it all begin to mesh together seamlessly, like dance steps, don’t think about it too hard, let it flow, but precisely, the angle of the wing, the curve of her body.
Oh my god, exulted Peri. I am flying!
ABOUT CLAIRE CORBETT:
Claire Corbett was born in Canada and moved to Australia as a child. She studied Communications at UTS and crewed on feature films, including Sweetie and The Piano. She lived in Paris for six months where she did some work as an artists’ model.
She taught Communications at UTS and then became a government policy advisor in the NSW Cabinet Office. She was a senior policy adviser on water and genetically modified organisms for the EPA and child and family health for NSW Health.
“I had a mentorship with Amanda Lohrey at Varuna in 2000. I began writing When We Have Wings during that mentorship.” Claire Corbett
Articles in OzArts, Rolling Stone and Cinema Papers.
Short stories and essays:
Cutting it Fine: Notes on The Piano in the Editing Room (essay), RePublica Issue 1, Angus & Robertson, 1994
Fixating (short story), Picador New Writing 3, ed. Drusilla Modjeska, Beth Yahp, Pan Macmillan, 1995
When We Had Wings (short story, source story for novel When We Have Wings), RePublica, Issue 4, Angus & Robertson, 1996 (can be read on my website)
When We Had Wings broadcast on ABC Radio National
Inferno in Civic (short story), Splash: Stories for Hot Summer Days, Penguin, 1998 (reprinted in Sydney Morning Herald)
Cutting it Fine: Notes on The Piano in the Editing Room (reprinted), Southern Screen Classics: 1 Approaches to The Piano, John Libbey & Company, 1999
When We Have Wings, Allen & Unwin, 2011
Twitter name: @ccorbettauthor
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