The hidden secrets of writing with Sally Ann Carter

 In The secrets behind the practice of good writing, Tips for Writers

I love this extract from Sally Ann Carter’s memoir, Just Kidding: Life, Love and Laughter at Zeekoegat Farm (Write-On Publishing) because it shows so much about her as a character, and because it always makes me laugh.

Sal attended our Creative Writing Course and many subsequent workshops, and has long been a member of our Mentoring programme, and a loved member of our community.

We saw this story develop from an idea to a published book, which I have chosen to showcase in this blog series on the books of our community.

I was having difficulty falling asleep.  David was snoring gently on my right and Luvit chasing rabbits in her dreams on my left, whimpering softly.  Mojo was having problems with fleas on the floor next to me, scratching continuously, and the wolfhounds were farting loudly. I was just about to drift off when a cow’s moaning bellow could be heard not far from our bedroom window.

Swinging my legs over Luvit, I headed for the window and could just make out the shape of one of the cows next to the fence.  She threw back her head and let out another long wail. It felt as if a hand was squeezing my innards, I was convinced she was in terrible pain.

I went back to the bed and shook David. ‘One of the cows is in trouble.’

He opened a sleepy eye. ‘You’ve been dreaming, I don’t hear anything.’ His head dropped onto the pillow and the snores began again.  I went back to the window and could just make out her pacing up and down the fence and once again she mooed loudly.

I shook David again. ‘Please come with me to have a look at her,’ I pleaded.

‘Don’t be ridiculous, woman. It can wait until the morning. Go back to sleep,’ He turned his back towards me and curled up.

I lay rigid, staring at the ceiling until another mournful bellow sliced through the night.

‘We can’t just leave it, it might be in great pain,’ I whined.

I could hear the rising frustration in David’s voice. ‘OH for heaven’s sake, it’s probably just being social. You‘re over-reacting, go to sleep.’

‘If you won’t come with me, I’ll go on my own.’ I climbed out of bed.

‘Really, you are too much,’ he mumbled as he pushed back the bedclothes. We slipped on shoes and the eager dogs followed us outside.  The moon had appeared from behind a cloud and we could see an animal straining against the fence.

‘I’m sure it’s in pain – should I ring the vet?’ I asked anxiously and then in the distance I heard a long throaty call. It was coming from the neighbour’s farm.  Immediately the cow in front of me pricked up her ears, threw back her head and answered.

‘You stupid old thing.’ David said, not unkindly ‘She’s calling to a bull on Olivier’s farm, and he’s answering.  She must be in season, that’s why she calling for him.  As you can see, there’s nothing at all wrong with her.  Now can we go back to bed?’


The incident was a wake-up call for David to find a bull for his ladies. Our large, friendly neighbour to the north, Fanie, owned an Aberdeen Angus bull and David made a deal with him to use his bull in exchange for allowing him to plant butternuts on a portion of our land.

The bull was a short stocky fellow and David expressed his concern to Fanie that he might not be tall enough to mount the cows. Fanie retorted that his legs might be short but the vital equipment needed to make the calf was not.  The girls didn’t mind at all that he was a short-arse and crowded around him, flirting outrageously, rubbing up against him and pushing each other aside a side to get closer to him.  He, I should think, was in seventh heaven.

The timing is perfect, which is the reason we laugh. Sal has written a full scene, with dialogue recreated, to the best of her ability, from her memory of the moment. She has built up the tension by raising our expectations. We worry with her, wonder what the matter is, become desperate to know. The tension builds and builds … and then collapses into anti-climax, which is where the humour lies.

Writing tips:

  • Humour is all about timing. Set up our expectations: make us worry. Lead us to expect one outcome, hold us there, lay it on a bit more … then pay it off in anti-climax, by deflating the tension.
  • Recreate dialogue realistically, from your memory of the situation.
  • It doesn’t matter how anyone else might remember the scene. This is your memoir, your story. Recreate it according to your own memory of it.


We are sure you will want to read more after this extract. Buy the book here.

If you want support and inspiration on your own memoir writing journey, join our Monthly Memoir Workshops.


Read our previous Hidden Secrets of Writing blogs

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