Did I unravel my year by not setting goals?

Goal setting, or not

When I began 2022, I neglected to do the one thing I have done many years in a row. I didn’t spend my break while camping over New Years creating icons mapping out my goals for the year ahead. I planned to. Folks I camp with every year were expecting me to. I had my 2022 diary with me. Instead the days passed at Harrietville without me doing much other than reading and catching up with my friends. In all honesty, I was worn out after the previous two years living with coronavirus and three years working a double job. So, I rested until half of our gang tested positive with COVID and set about packing up to go home. When our mates left, my husband and I decided to stay another night. I thought that I might my planning then, but I didn’t.

January passed without my goal planning until I was in the thick of the year with schools returning to face-to-face learning every single day along with the school undergoing a major renovation, which felt like a lot after the previous two years. As the year passed, the rejections banked up, the mood swirled, the days loomed. I began to wonder if I had somehow cursed my year by not giving it the time and attention that I normally gave each year. Now, I am a realist at best and generally don’t get into all the woo woo of things but I think there is something in this.

By choosing to take the time to reflect on the year past (what worked and what did not, what to celebrate and what to grieve) and to take the time to think about what I want from the year ahead (and what it may offer me, what I may put in front of myself), I set myself up well for the year ahead. When I don’t (like at the beginning of this year), I am adrift. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I have set in place this year that I am super proud of and excited about. It’s just that I feel I have spend this year looking over my shoulder trying to remember what was good and whether this is the direction I wanted to be heading toward.

Mid year crisis/career change

Toward the end of Term 2 when Melbourne schools had the longest face-to-face teaching since 2019, I felt that the world around me was too sharp, prickly, and I was at odds with it all. I was sitting at home after work one evening when I started crying. Unstoppable, unprompted crying. This continued until my husband came home, surprised to find me in this state. I was tired. My job, the covid years, life, had worn me down. I was tired from being in a constant state of exposure to covid. I had covid in May and hadn’t fully recovered from it. I kept getting sick, coughing, losing my voice. My migraines were out of control. He reminded me that the term was nearly done and I could rest as much as I needed over the two-week break, but he could also see that I needed more than this. He reminded me that I did not need to keep doing this job, that we no longer had kids at school and, anyway, they didn’t need me during the holidays anymore and that I usually spent the majority of the holidays recovering. Again, he said, You don’t need to keep doing this job. There are other jobs you can do that you will love.

I know (and he knows) I don’t need his permission but it helped to hear it from him. He also asked me if I was having a midlife crisis, which I doubt he will ask again.

Putting in my resignation was tough, especially as I had such strong relationships with the students and staff, but was the best decision I have made in a long time. While I love/d the school and the school community, it was time to pass the baton onto someone else, and time for me to look for something else.

I left at the start of October to give myself the rest of the year to recover, refresh, recharge. To go slow enough to see and hear the world around me.

2022 stats (in lieu of my goals page)

I love stats, so if this is not your thing, skim past.

  • 46 books read
  • 1 full new draft completed on The Needleworker’s Daughter
  • 9 agents approached
  • 2 short stories written
  • 2 writing retreats attended
  • 1 house renovation completed with my own office
  • 1 garden redesigned with 50 (estimate) new plants dug in and 200 (or more) seeds flung into the garden
  • 1 career plan executed
    • 9 job interviews attended
    • 2 job offers
    • 1 job accepted
    • 1 course enrolled in
  • 1 kid graduated from uni
  • 1 dog struggling with blindness and deafness and old age
  • 1 existential crisis (not helped when my improv team called themselves Existential Crisis)
    • Countless shoulders cried on
  • 3 levels of improvised comedy completed (with countless barrels of laughter executed)
  • 1 family member died
  • 1 glorious road trip that reminded me how good it is to detox from everything
  • 5 website posts
  • 1 new newsletter platform – find it here and subscribe! (Don’t mind my shameless self-promotion)
  • 7 newsletters

The things that kept me grounded this year were my friends and family. I don’t know if I would have survived this year without them.

2023 goals and plans (and other exciting things)

I don’t have my 2023 goals and plans sorted, but I am committing to goal setting while camping so you’ll hear these when I’m back. I do know a few things that I will be doing next year: I start a new job early in January, I will begin a coaching course, I will continue the quest for an agent and a publisher for The Needleworker’s Daughter and I will complete at least one draft of my new manuscript. Other than that, watch this space.

Something I learnt this year was to lean into the day to see what it has to hold and to cherish the moments it presents.

See you in the new year.

x Meg

The week that felt like a month

Sunset at Green Lake

Last week, my husband and I took some time out from home life for a little road trip. Our favourite kind of holiday is one where we are out exploring some of what Australia (or the world) has to offer. We like to go places we have not been to before. Usually, we travel slowly. This is our preference as it gives us time to absorb the place, see how people live, and discover the feel of the place. Last week, we did not go slow. Instead, we traversed three states, travelled through flooded lands and through deserts. It was truly wonderful to not only spend eight days with him but to also see places we had not seen before. The upside of the floods is the abundant plant, bug and bird life we saw. The mosquitoes and flies were too much, but the birds and dragonflies were spectacular.

We left home with only one idea of where we were going: Cameron’s Corner Store. Cameron Corner is the corner of New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. I had worked out that we could get there in three days, stopping at Sea Lake (Victoria) and Broken Hill (NSW) on the way.

At Sea Lake, we stayed at the Royal Hotel Sea Lake, a place we have stayed before and one I highly recommend. I met a few seasonal workers who were helping with the harvest and pouring concrete for new silos. We heard from them how the recent hailstorm had ruined so many fields of crops. There was lots of evidence of the rains and floods besides the road leading to Sea Lake and from there to Broken Hill. When we passed through Ouyen, we stopped for a coffee and heard locals talking about how the rains had also ruined many of the roads.

Broken Hill was quiet and hot when we rolled into town in the late afternoon. We decided that as we had a long day ahead, we would stay in accommodation rather than pack up the tent in the morning. I opted for an out-of-town option as I’m never excited about a motel in a town. We stayed at the Broken Hill Outback Resort, which sounds fancier than it was; however, it did give Matt an opportunity to top up the transmission oil in the Land Cruiser while I did some work on the laptop before chatting with some other travellers about their trip. After dinner we enjoyed a drink at the resort’s bar: a Broken Hill Red Gum and Quandong gin and tonic for me, which made me wonder if there is a town that is not making its own gin now. Amazingly, as I was buying it the distiller came to the bar and had a chat with me about the gin.

The roads so far had been pretty easy. Bitumen all the way with some potholes, but nothing remarkable. We expected that the road, the Silver City Highway, from Broken Hill to Tibooburra would be dirt but this was also bitumen. There were, however, not many other cars on this road. The only stop on the way to Tibooburra was at Packsaddle, a roadhouse that reminded us of the ones on the Nullabor. We were one of the few passersby at the shop that day and we took the opportunity to get a coffee and take a break while admiring the decor. Packsaddle Roadhouse is a place locals can see the Royal Flying Doctor when they visit.

At Tiboorburra, about 335 km north of Broken Hill, we stopped for lunch in Pioneer Park after having a chat with Mavis Lorraine Jackson, the owner of the Tiboorburra Roadhouse owner and third-generation Tiboorburrian. While we didn’t stay there, we did meet a family who had stayed at the Granites Motel and enjoyed the experience.

From there we turned into the Sturt National Park. The Sturt National Park has some interesting work within it to protect the native wildlife as part of the Wild Deserts Program. The program has created one of the largest, feral-animal-free areas in Australia within Sturt National Park, eradicating every last rabbit, cat and fox from two 2000-hectare feral-proof fenced exclosures. There are gates that we passed through that let off a loud alarm to help protect the animals from ferals. While there are camping grounds in the park, we decided to continue on the Cameron’s Corner Store, a decision that in hindsight wasn’t the better choice for us.

When we reached the South Australian border, we found the dingo fence that runs east to southwest along the eastern third of Australia and along the western and northern boundary of Sturt National Park. It was originally built in the 1880s to keep dingoes away from sheep flocks and the southern part of the country. It is 5,614km making it the world’s longest fence.

It blew my mind that in only three days of travelling, we were somewhere so remote and so far from home in so many ways. The station that sits on Cameron Corner, Omicron Station (yes, it is really called that), manages the Cameron’s Corner Store that is a box-ticking place for many Australian travellers. I am not sure what I was expecting, but it was more basic than that. When we arrived we were the only people there and the station owner’s daughter Kate had a good chat with us about the station and how good the rain has been for the cattle. It was late in the season for travellers as it was getting too hot and they were doing a clean up of the store. A couple of other travellers arrived later along with more seasonal workers. It was great to get there and the photos at sunset are a great reminder of the beauty of the open skies.

Our original plan had been that we would stay there for three nights and then come back the way we came. But as we began our trip, I took up my role as Chief Navigator with my Hema map spread open on my lap and looked at how close we were to other places I wanted to see. I was glad we had made that decision that night as I couldn’t imagine spending another night there. It was windy and hot and exposed. (There is also no coverage there, for anyone curious about this. Coverage is generally restricted to towns when you get far enough away from the main city centres.)

We made the decision that night to go on further to Innamincka via the dirt roads through QLD and return home via Arkaoola. An unexpected surprise on the next day’s travel was finding the Burke and Wills’s Dig Tree. The day’s driving was long and through land where we did not see a single car or truck for hundreds of kilometres. We finally reached the turnoff to ‘Adventure Way’ where we saw the only other traveller that day, a German who was filming himself. He said the road to the Dig Tree was too rough, so he was not going there. There is nothing more interesting to Matt than the idea of a road that is too rough, and we were so close to it, I wanted to see the site.

We ate lunch battling the flies while seeing the place that they died. Given that they had also travelled from Melbourne, it seemed extraordinary that they made it this far on foot, and then onto the Gulf of Carpentaria and back only to die here. The only survivor from the forward party survived because the local Aboriginal people took care of him.

Innamincka was a true blessing. It was super hot when we got there (around 40 degrees) and the people who run the Trading Post were also in the end-of-season clean up mode. They said we could came down at the Town Common, which is on Cooper Creek and that we might see some turtles there.

The Cooper Creek Turtle is endemic to the area. They were super curious animals due to tourists normally feeding them, which we didn’t do. That didn’t stop us staring at them for hours hoping they would climb out to see us. All in all, we counted 12 curious turtles. We also saw pelicans, corellas, and many other birds. I hadn’t known that pelicans spent time in places so far from the ocean.

The next day, we began our drive southward. The Sturt Highway was empty other than road trains. It was here we had our only issue with the car when the corregations rattled a hose from the fuel pump. An easy fix. Matt indulged me by stopping whenever I saw a flower I was curious about.

The drive to Arkaroola was long, but with the heat, we were happier to be in the car than sitting around outside. Arkaroola also had the end-of-season feel with shelves emptied out and dried up creek beds. We had a lovely quiet campspot in the creek bed that night and were visited by emus in the morning. We decided that this was a place worth coming back to in the cooler season.

Our drive on the last two days took us back into the flooded areas of South Australia and Victoria. We camped overnight at the Red Banks Conservation Park just out of Burra and had to fight the flies to get to our dinner while vowing that we would come back to see more of it, then on our last night camped by Green Lakes Recreation Reserve where we were graced with a million dragonflies, families of ducks, flies and mosquitoes after having a yarn with Ken who caretakes the place for half the year.

While we were only travelling for eight days, it felt like so much longer. It’s been good to have the time to explore our beautiful country again and we are already looking at where we will go next. It was great to spend time together without the normal distratctions, a detox if you like from our connected lives. It was also good to see how it is for the farmers, how the weather has affected them. A good chance to spend some money in towns that are hanging on by a thread. A great chance to chat with people, to gather stories. Time to go to sleep with the sunset, wake with the sunrise. Time to breathe with nature.

So many times we referred back to the year we travelled Australia with our kids, a year not unlike this one where rain fell in enormous amounts at the wrong times of year. A year where we disconnected from the busyness of home-city lifeand reconnected with each other.

Leaning into the windy day

Apple blossom on my new tree

It’s a blizzard here today…despite it nearly being the end of spring! The completely bonkers weather reminds everyone that climate change is real, not a figment of our imagination. We have had rain, hail, gale force winds…and a little sunshine.

Today I have had to lean into what it brought me rather than my to-do list. I woke with a migraine and a crick neck and was running on half empty.

My husband has been away for the last week for work and arrived home after flight delays at 2am this morning. His work gave him the day off to rest and I took the chance to spend time with him and plan next week’s road trip.

From inside the house I could see the trees I purchased on the weekend being blown over yet couldn’t face the 60km gale force winds to plant them.

Finally the sun came out and the winds died down a little. Now, as part of my big changes to my garden to grow more food, my two apple trees and my pear tree are in the ground.

May the wind die off tomorrow and the sun shine.

Not doing the thing

I’m in a liminal space after finishing work a month ago with no plans to work until next year. There’s a sense of discomfort in liminal spaces.

This book I Didn’t Do The Thing Today by Madeleine Dore (of Extraordinary Routines), has been sitting on my bedside table for about the same amount of time. When I picked it up this morning, I realised how relevant it is for me.

I, like so many others, judge my time on my productivity. My lists. My checkboxes. When I see the unchecked boxes at the end of the day, I transfer them to the next day.

But what would happen if I let some of them go? Let them come to the surface when my mind is ready for them?

It’s questions like this that Dore raises in her book. I’m only up to chapter 5 but already have multiple tabs on pages, words, sentences underlined.

“Attend to the day,” she says, which was also something I took from the wonderful podcast recommended to me by my sister Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management with Oliver Burkeman.

Lean into the day and what it holds. Be surprised by it and allow the surprises to feed the soul.

Sitting in discomfort

Discomfort is never a great place to be, but life is teaching me that it is also okay to sit with it. The school holidays are about to end and while the first week felt full of things that I wanted to do, this week I have felt like I have concrete boots on and am unable to get anything done that I had planned to do. Maybe it’s also a bit of a combination end-of-holidays blues and an overachiever to-do list. I know that last week, I relaxed into the week and enjoyed the lack of deadlines that it held. This week, I’ve felt time and life press in on me.

Poor Bella with the cone of shame

My desk is covered in books, papers, ink bottles, headphones, pens and pencils. I’m surrounded by a bunch of half-finished things not only on my desk but also throughout the house. External things have pressed on me with a breakup of two young people very close to my heart, a farewell of a young man only at the start of his adult life, a friend and neighbour’s dog being hit by a car moments after speaking to me, a neighbour hitting my car at the supermarket, an abscess on my dog’s foot rendering her incapacitated and stuck with a cone on her head for a week, trying to find accommodation for my son in a country town and for us our impending renovations and a few days and nights with high level migraine attacks. They have been things that all on their own would have been okay, but the accumulation of them feels heavy. They’ve reminded me of the times that I’ve lived with a high level of stress while managing others through very difficult periods of serious mental ill-health episodes. It’s the contrary feelings of the fast-heart beating thinking of others’ struggle mixed with a malaise that is hard to shake.

I know that if I go to the gym, I will feel better but when I am too overtired from the migraine attacks that have kept me awake or from the dog who can’t understand why she has a cone on her head and wants a drink but keeps tipping the bowl over. So I don’t. Instead I wander around picking up things then getting distracted and starting something else. It reminds me of when the kids were little and I struggled through days and nights with migraine attacks, lack of sleep and the feeling that these tough days would never end.

But they do end. Bad times end. Discomfort ends.

As I remind my friends who are going through tough times, or supporting others going through tough times (which also equates to going through tough times), the sun always rises again. In the most difficult times that I’ve been though (and there have been many over the years), I have learnt to sit with this discomfort. That the discomfort ends. That I can help myself out of it. That the sun will rise again tomorrow. There are a few things that I have done in the past that have helped and I know they’ll help again. Maybe they’ll help you.

Golden Bokeh

Tiny golden moments

  1. Find three tiny little things that were good, golden, each day. They don’t need to be big at all.
  2. Write them on a piece of paper.
  3. Put the piece of paper in a jar.
  4. Refer back to them any time you think there is nothing okay.

There is always something that is good in each day, even if it is that the air was fresh, or the water hydrated you. It helps to turn the thinking away from the negative. This process saved me when I wasn’t sure if my son was going to survive many years ago. Today, for instance, my tiny golden moments would be that I had fun writing a new scene, that I joined the Writers Victoria Live Write session and stayed on to chat with others after the half hour and that the sunset was beautiful.

Music! Sweet, sweet music

Many years ago when I was young and had no idea what was ahead of me, I sat in a room with a bunch of other musical people who were all there to audition for places in the Music Therapy program at Melbourne Uni. I had studied music during my VCE and was the only student in my school studying music in my final year. I loved music: playing it and listening to it. I also loved the idea of helping people. Music Therapy seemed to be a wonderful combination of these two ideas. In that waiting room, though, I realised that I didn’t have the same level of passion as the other students there. It seemed to me (as a young seventeen-year-old) that they had what it took, that their whole worlds were music. I didn’t wait around for my name to be called for the audition so I will never know if I did have what it took. I guess I didn’t believe in myself enough back then. Fast forward to when my mum was dying. One of the services offered to her was music therapy. I sat with her that day the therapist came. Together, Mum and I listened to the beautiful music that the woman played for her and as I held Mum’s hand, I felt her relax. That’s the power of music.

Over the years I have often used music to shift a mood. It acts like magic. Music is powerful. I love how I can be in a flat mood but when I put something upbeat on, it lifts me.

Move it!

I won’t be the first person to say that exercise helps lift mood, change feelings. I may be in the minority to say, however, to say that it also helps me shift a migraine attack. It is often the very last thing I want to do when I have a migraine attack, especially when it is a particularly forceful one. Exercise also can bring a migraine attack on for me, or if I am on the edge with a migraine and then exercise, it can bring on a diabolical one that is really hard to shift. But if I gently exercise with a migraine attack by going for a quiet walk, or moving my legs on the bike with no resistance, it can help shift it.

I pretty much never get excited about going to the gym, but I know when I’ve been I feel powerful and want to go back and do it all over again. I vow that I’m going to do it on a regular basis…then forget that euphoria that exercise has brought on and start finding excuses about why I don’t want to go. . I know I’m not the only one or we’d all be fit beans. I think I’m getting closer to the remembering though. Some little hacks I use are having my gym bag ready to go at all times and planning for it so that I get there.

How do you pull yourself from a state of malaise or from feeling overwhelmed?

Creativity, Play and Rest

Hello!! I have stumbled back to my blog like a stranger. It was doing a round of submissions that sent me back here as I needed to remind myself of my publishing background. Writing that out seems ridiculous. I know what I’ve had published—and what isn’t—but I’ve been so long into my current manuscript that I have neglected doing any updates here.

Where have I been? What have I been doing?

Since my last post, I have written eight Tinyletter newsletters that have included all sorts of things like poetry, having a knee operation, coping with the lockdown blues and some other things. While it’s been good to have a bit more interaction with these newsletters, it does make it look like nothing is happening here. (Side note: please sign up for my newsletters here where I might write more stuff)

Trust me, stuff is still happening in my writing and creative life.

I am still writing. At the end of May, I finished the seventh draft of my manuscript that has had many names during its various iterations but is now going under the name of Before, After, Now. It’s historical fiction based on my ancestor who was sent to Australia in 1787 for stealing a pot, a kettle and an iron. Her husband of the time pointed his finger at her in the court and said, it was her. Doesn’t take much imagination to guess at what kind of person would do that to his wife and, in turn, his one-year-old son who died on the ship before it even left Portsmouth Harbour. She had a wretched life and the work I have had to do to get the story to its current state other than all the research I have done over the last six years is to work out why each of the things I know about her happened. Why was her daughter in the first orphanage in Sydney? Why did she work for a short time as a cook in the orphanage? Why did the father of her daughter leave the colony and never return? Why did she never take his name, did she never give her daughter his name? Why did she die where she did, when she did?

The current iteration of the manuscript feels (for now) like the one that is right. It has three points of view: Ann, her daughter Elizabeth and the narrator. Finding my way into Elizabeth and her view of the world really opened up the story for me, and hopefully for the reader. Soon, it will go on its merry way to have a manuscript assessment when I will find out the truth about the manuscript.

This is The Most Scary Moment for me with it. To this point, no one else has read it in its entirety and while it is easy and less sick-making to keep it like this, it will never get published without someone else’s eyes on it.

When I first finished this draft I felt like I was cast out into a rubber tube in the middle of the ocean. I was so used to my routine of getting up every morning at 5.45 am to work on the manuscript, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Initially, I took the time to sleep in as I was very tired. It took a lot of out of me finishing this manuscript. Then I resumed my early mornings and did yoga.

Now it’s school holidays, I’m back at my computer doing writing admin, cleaning up my files, writing a synopsis and chapter summaries and looking at what else is going on in the writing submission world. This week I wrote a new short story and edited another and it felt great to play with new words.


‘If you don’t know how to play, then you will not be creative.”

John Cleese

John Cleese outlines what he sees as the five factors of creativity (the below is from the Brainpickings post about this):

  1. Space (“You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.”)
  2. Time (“It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.”)
  3. Time (“Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.)
  4. Confidence (“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”)
  5. Humour (“The main evolutionary significance of humour is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”)

I’ve learnt over time that it’s great for my creativity to do things that put me out of my comfort zone. Years ago when I felt like writing was difficult I took up learning jazz piano. While I am still not a piano player, it was the impetus that I needed to get back into writing after I’d learnt that it was okay to be terrible at something but to still have a go. So when my friend Katherine Collette (author of the very funny The Helpline and another book that will be published next year—watch this space…) told me a few months ago she’d enrolled in an improv course, I was interested. I knew it would be difficult coming off the deep editorial stage of manuscript I’ve lived with for the last six years to try to write anything else. I’m now six weeks into the course (if we ignore the three weeks intermission when we couldn’t do much due to yet another COVID-19 moment) and it has been a brilliant thing to add to my life. I spend three hours laughing a week while I get to make stuff up on the spot and learn that it’s okay to fail! What a brilliant thing for all of us to learn! It’s given me the energy I need for the new story I’m working on that is all fresh words and needs no editor’s eye on it. It’s the moment in writing when anything and everything is possible. It’s a wonderful playful stage of writing when I learn who’s who and what’s what and where’s where. Write it all out and delete it later (after I’ve saved it as Draft Zero). It’s also given me more confidence standing up in front of strangers and talking. Last night I put my name in the Jam Jar and bravely stepped onto the stage when my name was called and Made Stuff Up! On the spot. While I was nervous to start, my nerves fell away as I immersed myself in the experience. And I laughed. A lot. Laughter is so great for the soul.

My rough drawing of Little Red Riding Hood’s map

A couple of weeks ago I did a Queensland Writers Centre online workshop on map making with Kathleen Jennings. It was such a wonderful, playful and fun session that reminded me how much I love drawing and illustration. I have been playing with this since and again, it reminds me that playing helps awaken creativity. I’m amazed (but probably shouldn’t be) at how much energy playing gives me. It’s been so much fun drawing badly and allowing that to be okay.


On the last day of last term when we were all desiccated shells of ourselves, our principal sent all the staff something about rest that resonated with me. She talked about the research and work of Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith where she establishes the seven types of rest: physical, sensory, mental, emotional, creative, social and spiritual.

“We have a very limited view of what rest is. We think of rest as the cessation of activity—just stopping. But it’s actually practising restorative activites.”

Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith
Image from https://advice.theshineapp.com/articles/the-7-types-of-rest-you-need-to-actually-feel-recharged/

I hope you can find time to rest, play, read or write. I’d love to hear from you to hear how this lands with you. Please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

On exhaustion, writing and other things

I have been absent from here a great deal this year, which was to be expected with starting work full time for the first time since 1997 (yes, you read that right!), but I haven’t slipped away completely. It has certainly been a juggle working, writing and managing the family, and I’m hoping that the next term is a little easier to manage.

I started the school year with a marked-up draft of my convict woman story after spending 10 hours reading it aloud (something I have never done before and was certainly a great experience — even if I was left with no voice and an ulcer on my tongue). Each morning before I started work at 8 am, I spent at least 30 minutes editing. It took me a couple of weeks to settle into the practice (i.e. where to do it), but in the end, I found a room at work where no one would disturb me. I set the goal of Easter to have it ready to send to an agent, and on the first Tuesday of the school holidays (nine days before Easter), I sent it off (hooray!). I may never hear from her, but it felt great to have hit that goal. I was also very excited to see that I received an Honourable Mention for my story, Murder by Biscuit, in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge earlier this year. This was a short story that had to be completed with eight days. Everyone involved was given three things: a genre, an action and a character. Mine was: a mystery, a medical diagnosis and a prisoner. It was a lot of fun to write even as an unfamiliar genre.

My workplace

Workwise, I embraced my new role as Resource Centre (library) Manager and Communications and Marketing Manager for a secondary school. I set goals to put the library into order, order new books and connect with the school librarian community. It felt great at the end of Term 1 to see the shelves ordered, have new books arrive and to attend my first conference with other school librarians. I made it a priority to get books in that are on the Inky Awards lists from the last couple of years, and to make sure there are plenty of diverse voices, and Australian voices. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the excitement on the student’s faces as they borrow the books.

I attended a few book launches (The Rip by Mark Brandi, The Result Result by Graeme Simsion and Small Blessings by Emily Brewin). It was wonderful to celebrate my friends who are all wonderful writers. It was even better to read these books. If you haven’t read them yet, go grab a copy and read them.

Book launches!

I also attended a wonderful masterclass in climate change writing, run by Jane Rawson and James Bradley. There were loads of great conversations that day, despite only having had a few hours sleep after my middle boy’s eighteen birthday party.

I finished the first term of school in a state of sheer exhaustion hoping that I could spend the two weeks break resting and recovering before heading back into another ten weeks work. Life, however, doesn’t always work that way. Instead, I spent the first week taking my husband from here to there to find out why he had been experiencing excruciating pain and swelling in his foot for two weeks. I didn’t in those two weeks after the negative result on the first x-ray and the first blood test that showed up with high white blood cell counts, or in the week while we waited to hear the results from the blood tests, bone scans and ultrasounds. My mind wandered to the terrible as all I have ever known of strange and unknown things like this was fatal.


Waiting to hear why his foot hurt so much

The doctors scratched their heads and talked of gout (then crossed it off), rheumatism, and then nothing as time ticked by. Nothing was the worst. When the doctor greeted us to tell us the results of all the tests, he said he had bad news. I braced myself. I had been mentally preparing myself for this. For a life without my love by my side. For single parenting. For caring. Two stress fractures, the doctor said. I laughed. That! That’s not bad news, I said. And it truly isn’t. It will heal. He will be okay. So far from where my mind had gone. But I am still exhausted. He is still in loads of pain two weeks into wearing his moon boot, and I am now back at work without any rest. It’s going to be a long eight weeks.

Now onto my goals for the next term. I’m in that strange in-between-project writing period. I’m writing submissions for unpublished manuscript programs, writing ugly first words of short stories and trying to reconnect with my writing mates. Trying not to lose confidence in the words. In a few weeks, I’ll be off to my twice-yearly writing retreat with my incredible writing pals (Kate Mildenhall, Emily Brewin, Katherine Collette, Kim Sigley, Nicky Heaney and Venita Munir) so be prepared for some writing retreat spam.  I’m trying to get a better work-life balance so that I am not working an extra hour or more every day by setting alarms to get me out of there, and paring back my goals for the library so that they are more realistic. I’m also hoping to work out how to juggle the multiple roles that I carry there. With my home life, I need to get better at being a little more shiny rather than absorbent so that I don’t take on everything that my family need, instead, allow them to see that they need to do these things themselves. The eternal quest.

I stand for tolerance

Yesterday, on a day when most of the world took in the terrible news about the massacre in New Zealand, a neighbour decided to leave an intolerant note on the windscreen of a car parked in front of our house.

As we finished our dinner we heard an elderly Egyptian woman calling to us from outside. She waved a piece of paper as she cried ‘Sorry’ over and again. We went outside and asked her what had happened. She explained that this note had been stuck to her windscreen and she was dreadfully sorry to have inconvenienced us.

We stopped her to explain that this was not our doing. This was not from us. That we would not do that.

She left the piece of paper with us and left, I hope, reassured that not everyone in our street thinks in the way that the letter represented.

I, however, have been left with a sadness that people around me are so small minded to be this angry and rude about a car space. That people can intimidate others in this way. That people can be so intolerant of others.

If we want tolerance, we need to practise this at home, in our streets and in our communities. Even if it means taking a breath and driving around the block for a car park. Even if it means being a little uncomfortable.

I stand for tolerance.


An image of the note left on a stranger’s car. It reads: “You have parked in the middle of 2 spots. Just like parking is tight at your church, parking is tight in our street. Pls think of others when parking. If you can’t park your car in a single spot, pls get lessons.”

Circuit breakers

In front of you is an elephant, a mountain. It is enormous and there is no way you can see around it, or see how you can climb it, but you know that the only way forwards is over the top to get to the other side. The notion of working out how to get to the other side is overwhelming and saps you of all your energies. So instead of tackling this mountain, you crawl back into bed, you cover your head and pretend that this task is not there, that it will deal with itself. When you look back out, it is still there, waiting for you to start. The cycle goes on, and on until you make a decision about how to tackle the mountain.

Sometimes in life there are these moments where I am completely overwhelmed by the number of things that I need to do, and the people who rely on me to get these things done. When I was doing some solo hiking a couple of years ago, walking up those hot and dusty paths that seemed to go on forever became a metaphor on how I needed to approach these things: one step at a time. This is all well and good, and those words are etched in my brain. I have no problem fishing them back out when my list of to-dos is longer than any piece of paper could contain. However, translating this into actually getting on with it can a be another issue.

A few of weeks ago I had more things to do than I had time. Everything seemed to be pulling at me and it was paralysing me. But I couldn’t afford to be paralysed as people were relying on me (a manuscript needed its copy edit completed, lessons needed to be written, family needed support, words needed to written, words needed to be read, relationships needed to nurtured), so on one of these days when my body had melted into the couch and I just wanted to pull the plug on the phone and on people needing me, I realised that I still had some control of my situation. I just needed some circuit breakers. Past conversations with my psychologist sprang to mind about stopping the spiral down to a very unhealthy place, which is where I was heading. I need to find things to help stop me from any more negative thinking, and to help me see a way out of the depths.

I came up with a list on things that I could do that would pop a little more energy into all these moments – mood changers. I think of them as circuit breakers. They include things like a walk, putting some music on, changing clothes, having something to eat or drink, changing where I’m sitting (or standing), picking some flowers, putting some essential oils in the diffuser or breaking my tasks down to smaller chunks. This has been probably the most useful thing for me. I sit down once a week and make note of what I have achieved over the last week, what’s ahead for the next week, what ‘blockers’ are in my way, and how I will get around them. Then each evening I think about the next day and break the tasks into sizeable chunks trying to keep it realistic. Add a little self compassion in there as well to allow me to not get everything done, and I am in a better place mentally.

There is something wonderful about ticking some things off the list, and reminding myself that I am making my way over the mountain – even if it is slow.

And that’s a wrap

My 2017-2018 summer reading pile

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.

Publishing highlights

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.