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In the Aftermath

Yesterday we watched Donald Trump claim victory in the US Presidential election. It felt like a day the world will never forget. My friends and family were shocked, exchanging a flurry of emails and texts, and on Facebook and Twitter many others I know did the same. We were flayed. So if we’re all the way over here, mostly middle class, mostly white, how do marginalised Americans feel? How do people of colour feel in America right now? What about people who are LBGTQIA, how are they coping? And Mexican Americans, what emotions are they experiencing? How do Muslims in America feel right now, to be vilified in the way they have been by this man, to have been branded as terrorists purely for their religious beliefs? How do women who have been sexually assaulted feel now that this man, who has been caught on tape boasting of his ability to get away with sexual assault, has been elected to the highest political position in the land? I don’t know what they’re feeling but I’m guessing it’s not good. I think I’d be scared and angry and betrayed – not so much by Donald Trump but by the people all around me who voted him in.

So now that this has happened, what next? It seems like many of us have needed time to process this information – to let the result sink in, to despair for a humanity that would vote for this man, to cry or swear or roar with anger. And I’m talking Australians here, so again I can only try to imagine the distress many in the USA are going through. But after this acknowledgement of pain, what next?

I guess we have to go on. We have to look to the future, and each do what we can to combat racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments. We have to treat each other with love and kindness, and that includes all the people who voted for Trump. Here in Australia, we have elected members of parliament who have racist and xenophobic platforms, and we still don’t have laws that allow gay marriage. So we have a lot of work to do right here.

I might have fears but I don’t want to be fearful. I want to stay open to others, open to possibilities, open to love. And yes, I’m aware it’s a hell of a lot easier for me than for many others. So that being the case, I better work harder.

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Taking stock in November

Do you have Novemberitis? It’s a thing, really. I reckon it’s a thing. In November, you can start to get restless because really you’re running out of time for whatever goal you were hoping to achieve this year (to finally make peace with your mother, to stop hating kale, to get that three-book deal). You can see December looming and you know it’s going to whizz by and then bloody hell … what happened to 2016?

Some of us will have had successes. Some of us will have had nothing but discouragement. Some of us will have had small victories. The fact is, we’re all trying hard.

And for writers, that’s really what counts. The main thing is the writing, the doing, the learning, the improving. The getting published bit feels so vitally important, but really it’s the process that matters most of all. So if all that happened this year was that you wrote and re-wrote and edited and maybe submitted, plus you ran a household or a sales team, fed the cat and phoned your sister and ate some steamed greens now and then – well surely that’s a successful year. And success feeds on success.

Writing seems to me to be a constant apprenticeship; to write is to be forever learning. So every day spent writing pays off, adds to the next day. Nothing is wasted, not even the words we throw away.

I have a mild case of Novemberitis but I know the best remedy. #amwriting 🙂

 

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Taking Rejection like a Boss

I am the Rejection Queen! Watch me laugh in the face of defeat!

Actually, I don’t consider receiving a rejection letter to be a defeat. Not anymore. I don’t love rejection emails, but they don’t ruffle me like they used to. When I first started submitting stories to magazines, anthologies and competitions (four years ago, almost to the day), every ‘it’s not for us’ email stung. I cried once or twice, wondering if I’d ever get anywhere with writing. Over the next year or two I had a couple of positive replies, the occasional writing ‘win’, but so few and far between! Still, as time went on, rejection emails affected me less and less. I grew a thicker skin and began to believe in myself, just a little.

These days, I read the email and move on. Mostly I feel neutral, like I do when I’m cleaning my teeth. Sometimes I sigh, but that’s about it. I’ve decided it’s simply a numbers game. Write, re-write, polish, send out. Write, re-write, polish, send out. I don’t wait for replies on anything – I just go on to the next project. (Or sometimes I bake. There are times when cake is needed first.) I figure spending time mourning a story not accepted just gets in the way of finding the next possible placement for that piece, or blocks the writing of a fresh, new story.

I just counted them up, and since my very first submission, I have sent out 89 pieces (many of these are repeat submissions). I try to have at least ten stories out at any one time. Currently I have twelve pieces out there in the big, wide world, so I’m happy with that. I figure all I can do is write the best work I can and send it to well-suited homes. The rest is in the lap of the writing gods.

I’m hoping for some good news soon. I’m ready for an acceptance email or a competition win. But if nothing happens, if the next writing mail is a rejection, I’ll pull on my big girl panties, adjust my Rejection Queen tiara, (make a quick red velvet cake) and take it like a boss.

*Feel free to leave a comment … I wrote this in the hope that other writers might feel less alone, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.*

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Big award for female writers

I stumbled across this today – an award with a huge prize ($50,000 US) available to women authors with a short story, novel or screenplay that ‘gives an insight into the lives of women’. The deadline is June 8, so you have a little time (and the shortlist comes out June 22).

Got something you could submit? Here’s the link.

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Stories and a poem

I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, soaking them in. Helen Simpson, Cate Kennedy, Angela Carter. Christos Tsolkas, George Saunders. Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore. Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond Carver. Sometimes I am almost breathless at the end of a piece, and I have to get up and move and shake myself. These writers blow my mind.

I’ve also been reading a bit of poetry, in a small volume I bought myself a couple of years ago, Penguin’s Poems for Life. And although I’ve read this particular poem before, and no doubt you’ve seen it too, when I read it today I had that breathless feeling again. It’s by Raymond Carver, written when he knew he was dying of lung cancer.

***

 

Late Fragment

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

 

***

 

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Redemption

So, it seems I’m a terrible blogger. No post for over a year – abysmal. But here I am, just checking in. Trying to redeem myself.

It’s a funny thing about redemption – that seems to be the theme of so many of my stories. I’m attracted to the idea that no matter what mistakes we make, despite how we mess up and do the wrong thing as we muddle through life, there is always the potential for change. There is always hope, no matter how small.

This applies to writing as well as people, I think. I wrote a really bad story last year (so bad it frightened me. I’m not being dramatic, it actually terrified me how bad it was. I had trouble continuing to write). But because I am finally learning that to create a good story, you must write a whole lot of awfulness (or middling-ness, at best), then revise, edit, change, fix … because I am finally realising that only weird genius writers actually write stuff fully-formed, I let it rest. I let the smelly, messy, bulging bag of manure just sit there in the corner. I pretended I didn’t even know it was mine, and I wrote some other bits and pieces to console myself. Finally, I opened the bag of excrement that was my story, and kind of gently poked around (with gloves on, of course), and found something in there that wasn’t poo! It smelt a bit and took me awhile to separate from the poo, but it wasn’t actual poo. Let’s just say it was grass, or a stick. Not a diamond that’s for sure.

Anyway I took that tiny section, and stretched it out; I cleaned it and brushed it, and lo! it is not too bad. I’m not saying it’s going to win any accolades, but it’s got some redeeming features. I like it.

So to any other newbie writers out there – I say don’t be afraid of the poo. Keep all your dodgy, smelly stories, and come back to them. There will be something good there, no matter how small.

And now I must go. There’s another sack waiting to be opened.

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What I Have Learnt From Quitting my Sensible Job and Writing Made-Up Stories All Year

1) Change is terrifying

2) Change is good

3) To become better as a writer it’s important to read plenty of good writing and to write a lot.

4) It’s not hard to read but writing is hard. Suck it up, do it anyway.

5) Some jobs (like my previous job) give you status, ego stroking and a daily sense of making a difference. Writing isn’t like that.

6) Learning something new (writing and surgical assisting in my case) when you’re not a young thing is bruising. You feel five years old again. People treat you like the imbecile that you seem to be. Suck it up, do it anyway. (My nurse friend told me “Now you know how I get treated every day”. Gulp.)

7) Supportive family and friends are an absolute blessing.

8) I’m braver than I thought.

9) Persistence really does pay. I’m getting a story published (in The Suburban Review) this month, and I’m so happy, and grateful for the opportunity. I honestly didn’t believe I’d be published by now. So I guess sending stuff off, even when you feel terrified at the thought of others reading your imperfect work, is the only way to get your work read.

10) I love making up stories.

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A neglected garden

I haven’t taken to blogging a second time around (obviously). Last time I blogged, which was from 2005-2010, I had an anonymous blog. That was incredibly freeing. I wrote whatever I wanted about anything I wanted. I used nicknames only, never posted photos showing faces, and I was honest and open, without fear of ‘the wrong person’ reading my words (whoever that might be. At the time, mainly people who might roll their eyes and say she is SUCH a drama queen – or something equally unkind/true).

Blogging under my own name is not so much fun. I feel really self-conscious and stilted. So I’ve been working away, doing a ton of writing, but none of it here. Very unsociable I know. This blog has wilted and become overgrown with weeds.

I’m happy to accept that blogging as a writer isn’t going to be my thing, but I’ll leave this blog up as a way for anyone to get in contact, should the need arise. And I’ll go take a wander around the many thriving gardens.

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Countdown

It’s all happening. In less than two weeks, I will walk away from my life as a clinician. Instead I’ll be doing some part-time work in a more simple medical job that will keep some income coming in, but that won’t occupy my mind all hours of the night and day.

I’m terrified and excited, both at once. I have no idea how the whole writing world works, and I have a steep learning curve ahead of me. I’m reading and writing as much as I can. I hope to do some study in creative writing down the track. I’d be grateful for any words of wisdom from other writers! What are your top tips for a writer starting out?

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Getting out of my own way

Hello, and welcome!

This isn’t my first blog, but it’s my first blog as a writer trying to get serious about the whole business of writing – which is what this post is about. If you’re a writer, too (and let’s face it, most bloggers either are writers, or should be writers!), maybe you can relate.

I think I’m getting too serious here. Overthinking the entire process until all I can think to write about is – well, nothing really. Because when I do consider an idea, a sneery voice winds down my ear canal and echoes in my head, “Bor-ring!”. I’m finished before I begin.

When I first started writing bits and pieces, squeezed in around the rest of my life, I never stopped to consider if my stories were good or not. I just tapped them out. They were pretty bad in general, but they had some kernels of good in them, and I loved the feeling of expressing myself. Slowly I began to learn about writing, took some classes, learnt to edit. I realised I had some ability, and began to believe in myself. So I’ve cleared space in my life for writing, with a big shake-up of my work hours, and I’m ready to give writing my all. Yet here I sit, staring at the cursor, fighting a rising sense of panic that I’ll never write another short story.

A friend gave me a book of Buddhist quotes, and one attributed to Buddha reads ‘The mind is everything. What we think, we become.’ I understand how powerful our thoughts can be, and I know that to work well, to succeed, to achieve anything in life, the right mindset is essential. I need to calm down, remember the joy of writing just for the story. I need to get out of my own way.

So, here I go …

 

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