This year is about to end and in some ways I feel like it has only just begun. So much has been packed into the year and time has slipped away. It’s really easy to only focus on the things that haven’t been completed and the things that went wrong, but I need to also remember all the things that went right.
This year I had some poetry and an essay published in Shaping the Fractured Self: poetry of chronic illness and pain. I bravely volunteered to read one of my poems at the launch at the DAX Centre in Melbourne. Up until the moment I read it out loud, I wondered how on earth I managed to have words of mine sit alongside such accomplished Australian poets. The feedback I received from the audience, and since from members of the public, was overwhelming. It has been absolutely heartwarming to hear people say that I was telling their story and that I had put their chronic pain into words. My own chronic pain (migraines and neck and shoulder pain) continue, but I refuse to let them take control of my life. Many of the other poems and essays within this anthology remind me that it is important to live life to the full, but to also know when to shut the door, and take some time for self-care. There is a wonderful review of this anthology by Kevin Brophy in The Conversation.
Family life has been full of ups and downs. I now have a man-child (18 year old) who has very successfully completed his final year of schooling in my house. I couldn’t be more proud of his achievements especially considering the battles that he has fought along the way. I am continually reminded with my three boys that we need to respect their sensitivity and fragility – something that is not commonly talked about when discussing boys. My job as their mum has been one of providing firm guidelines and love, and bolstering them up when all seems lost. It is exhausting, and at times this year I have wondered if I had the strength to go on, but my heart bursts with love and pride for them. They are incredible humans.
I have often thought of a line that I had to write about when I was in my Year 12 all those years ago: no [hu]man is an island. I know that I would still be in foetal position if it were not for the love and support from my very good friends, and for the care from my medical team (psychologist, osteopath, neurologist and GP). I am a tenacious person and find it incredibly difficult to ask for help, but thankfully I have some strong willed friends who find ways to help me without me having to ask.
One of these groups of friends is my writing group who continue to challenge and encourage me. I have been fortunate to go away with them three times this year and it has not only provided me with the break that I needed from home life, but it has also provided me with a nurturing writing space. This year I have completed another draft of my young adult climate change fiction and am two thirds of the way through the first draft of my next manuscript, which is a biofiction based on my First Fleet convict ancestor, Ann Sandlin. I have fallen for Ann and have really enjoyed writing a story based on her difficult life. This in turn has influenced much of my reading. I have read some wonderful books (mostly written by Australian women) that are set in early white Australia.
I also took a leap with running my first WordPress workshop at the Kensington Neighbourhood House, and then two more out in Ringwood as part of their BizWeek workshops. It was great to meeting all of the participants and assisting them with getting the most our of their WordPress sites.
I am really proud of what I have produced this year for my workplace (even if I have nearly put myself out of a job…). It’s been great to be able to use the skills I gained from my time in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. The extra day I took on at work over these last 15 months has enable me to put into place a number of comms tools that will assist the school in future promotion and administration.
I have been overjoyed to see some of my friends’ books published this year: Wimmera by Mark Brandi, Hello, Goodbye by Emily Brewin, The Way Back by Kylie Ladd and Wilder Country by Mark Smith.
Other books I have read this year and would highly recommend are: The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley, Storyland by Catherine McKinnon, From the Wreck by Jane Rawson, Talking To My Country by Stan Grant, Carousel by Brendan Richie, Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh, Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (oh, what a brilliant writer), Enemy by Ruth Clare, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, The Burial by Courtney Collins, The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis, Elemental by Amanda Curtin, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain and Not Forgetting the Whale by John Ironmonger.
So, on to 2018…
After feeling like I have bolted through the last six months to here, I am only at the early stages of working out what 2018 will look like, but here is a sketchy start.
My job has been pared back down to two days a week due to budget cuts, so I am keen to make sure that this day is not lost in the humdrum of parenting.I’m really looking forward to facilitating the Kensington Neighbourhood House writing group once a month, in addition to the Caroline Springs Library writing group, which I ran this year. It has been an absolute joy to get to know the keen writers out at Caroline Springs, and to hear their writing improve over that time. I am sure that there will be more in store for me work wise, so I am keeping my mind open to these possibilities.
I plan to finish the first draft of my biofiction in the early part of the year. I’m also aiming to get some short stories published and try my hand at an essay. My young adult manuscript needs to find a home. I am going to put some more energy in find a place for it and will start on its sequel.
This is probably the most important thing that I have learnt over the last few years. I need to keep working on this. As I speak, I am in far too much pain. My shoulders are so bad that I can no longer lift my right arm above shoulder height. My plan is to improve my health to the point where this no longer happens. Reading and writing are a major part of my self-care so there will be more of this. The other thing that needs to happen is more sleep (put up your hand if you are about my age, are female, and are majorly sleep deprived). This is sadly such a common thing, but I’m thinking about how I can improve this.
Thank you all for reading my blog, and for encouraging and supporting me along the way. This writing gig is a lonely and often fraught business where the most negative voice is your own. Your words of support are brilliant.
And finally my summer reading list (which I may or may make my way through): Girt by David Hunt, The Writer’s Room by Charlotte Wood, Taboo by Kim Scott, The Passage of Love by Alex Miller, I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrel, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
There are so many great books that were published this year that I still haven’t read, and I’m sure next year there will be even more. Here’s to more time to read! Have a safe and happy holiday and I’ll be back here in February.