The Birth of Issy Jinarmo
When COVID struck, three inventive women from far-flung parts of the country let their creativity run away with them. Jill Baggett, Narelle Noppert and Maureen Kelly OAM share the story behind the birth of their pen name, Issy Jinarmo, a project that kept them sane in isolation and has since proven to be so much more. To these women, collaboration means connection, curiosity and creativity - three of the very values that Mona seeks to inspire!
2020 was nearly half way done and dusted and the novelty was fast wearing off. I’d enjoyed the quiet time at first but enough was enough.
Creative writing had kept me entertained, stories, plays and an occasional poem had flown off my pen, but now I’d run out of ideas. Enter Narelle, from the Fellowship of Australian Writers.
I’d only met Narelle once, many years before at a writing event. We live hundreds of kilometres apart. I’d recently been working with her, remotely by phone and email, on a project the Fellowship was running, gathering stories by senior citizens to publish in annual anthologies.
During one of our phone conversations discussing this project she mentioned Never Ending Stories. One thing led to another and she fatefully suggested, ‘Why don’t we try one?”
So we did.
'Jane’s Story' began with a young woman leaving her home in hurried circumstance after her husband’s untimely death. We took turns writing about 400 to 1000 words and sending the story back and forth by email. I kept trying to send Jane into more and more dangerous places and Narelle kept rescuing her; Narelle can find the nice side of the most heinous villain, I soon realised. It became my challenge to harden her up. After nearly 8,000 words and some hair raising adventures, our first story was done.
Enter Maureen. I’d only met Maureen once as well, at a Fellowship luncheon a few years before. Narelle sent our story to her, while also working with her on another project. Maureen lives thousands of kilometres away in another state. She was keen to join in and our writing duo became a trio.
We need a pen name as our stories grew and we decided to start entering them in competitions and magazines. We decided Issy was an interesting name and then if we combined the first letters of our own Christian names we had Jinarmo; thus, Issy Jinarmo was born and what a life she has!
2020 was no longer a boring year, there was now no time to be bored and wonder what to do to fill in time. Issy’s adventurous characters kept us on our toes.
Narelle stopped worrying about her creations and became hardened to their spirit of adventure and their knack of getting themselves into trouble.
Maureen brought so many unexpected twists and turns with her interpretations of people and events that, in fact, I was the one starting to feel concern for my characters as I created them and sent them off into the hands of not one, but two other people!
We have no word limits, we just keep taking turns till one of us feels the story is done and writes a finale. We reverse the order of turns each new story, so sometimes I follow on from Narelle’s turn and send to Maureen and vice versa.
In our first story writing as a trio Maureen created Detective Inspector Mark Whitehead. Mark has kept popping up at regular intervals ever since, and has become a larger than life character for us. I feel I know him and hopefully our readers feel the same.
Our readers? Oh yes, Issy has been published several times in magazines and anthologies, on the Internet and in print.
I must go and check my emails now, our latest story might just be back there!
The 2020 Pandemic leading to lockdown, and Delta 2021, was something none of had us had prepared for. Hitting the road running, we were forced into a new way of life; a life that brought the best and worst out in people and events.
A chance suggestion to a distant friend, Jill, that we write a joint story was received with great enthusiasm and it didn’t take long before we were up and running. Before we knew it a 7,700 word story had been completed, 'Jane’s Story'.
With our second story, 'Jenny’s Story', we invited a friend, Maureen, to join us. The collaboration of our trio writing worked perfectly. The intrigue of waiting for the story to do the rounds, coming back with unexpected twists and turns, was exciting. Having mostly written memoirs previously, my imagination was forced out of its comfort zone. I became less kind, and more adventurous with our characters.
I often spent days pondering how to get our characters, who had, by then, become like real people, out of predicaments and scraps. With one of our characters thrown into a mine, my creativity worked overtime until I used my experience with colloquiums and created outback characters who, by chance, passed by as our hero was calling out for help. The old timers language and skills added to the rescue of our hero.
Hitchhiking adventures, kidnapping, murder, local hoods doing burnouts, as well as bikies, crooks and damsels in distress became ordinary for our characters. Eventually I knew I could create outcomes for anything that was thrown at me.
I was proud when I was able to ‘do-in’ a villain or two after Jill had told me I was too nice. No more nice-girl, I was on my way to real adventure and loving the ride; waiting in anticipation for any new story or situation I had found myself (alias, our character) in, but confidently knowing I would create a solution, twist or turn and often leaving a cliffhanger for the next in line.
Trio writing had become a highlight of the lockdown for me and my friends. It kept my spirit up, nurtured my creative juices and honed my writing skills. This simple start has taken the three of us on a fantastic journey of discovery. We have become the closest of friends with our both enjoyment and sense of adventure reaching new heights.
Six weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic became widespread in Australia, I moved 2,500 kilometres from New South Wales to my new home in an over Fifty-Fives’ village in South Australia. My only contact with the outside world was speaking to my new neighbours when I put out or collected my garbage bin each week and a regular ‘drive-by only’ visit from my son and his family, my grandsons waving and chatting to me from a distance through the sunroof of their car!
My saviour during that time and since has been writing with two NSW friends who had begun writing continuous stories a few weeks before I arrived in South Australia. How lucky was I when they invited me to join them? My connection through writing with them was my lifeline to the outside world at a time when I had no opportunity to make new acquaintances.
The furthering of our ‘writing’ friendship has been and still is, for me, the most amazing experience. Our stories always require a certain amount of research; living underground, mine shafts, running a vineyard, travelling around Australia and overseas to name a few and we have created some terrific characters and some unsavoury ones, too!
Our favourite, a police officer, Detective Inspector Mark Whitehead, is a character we often bring back into our storyline. We have followed Mark Whitehead’s career and personal life within these stories. When we first met Mark he was unmarried but Issy Jinarmo found him a wife and he now has a two-year old son, Joel, who featured in one of our latest stories. We have a lot more in store for Mark and his family in the future!
We have been published in an anthology celebrating International Women’s Day and another story – a ghost story – has been picked up for publication in a forthcoming anthology.
Throughout the COVID pandemic writing together has provided us with an even greater love of writing. We cannot wait to see what each other does either with the theme or the characters. The anticipation and excitement we derive waiting for its return is immense.
As members of the Fellowship of Australian Writers NSW Inc, we have publicised our joint writing adventure to fellow members, encouraging them to get together with other authors and write, as we are doing. The theme of a story can keep our brain occupied as we retire for the night and is with us when we wake up. For me, personally, housework can wait! Meals can wait as I type away and the satisfaction when my 600-800 words have been sent off is unbelievable.
Each story takes over my life at a time when all around there is bad news or deaths, patients in ICU, loneliness, loss of income and, sadly, mental health problems. Keeping my mind occupied allows me no time to be sad and sorry for myself.
The stories written with my two friends have given me a reason to get up each day, have a chat or visual link-up with them, and care about them – the pandemic may have taken away a lot but writing has given me a lot too.
Left to right: Maureen Kelly OAM, Jill Baggett, Narelle Noppert.