Writing critique

You will not believe the weakness that just arose in me.

The fear. The unbridled dread.

Creeping, creeping. Slowly up through my body. Heat swarming over my face. Sickness dropping in my stomach.

I felt damp.

I felt hot.

I couldn’t. But I wanted to. But I then I couldn’t.

And my finger was held poised, over the button of my laptop, waiting, waiting, hesitating on every sharp intake of breath, to open up…

THE FILE.

The file, of writing criticism.

The file, from the tutor of my online writing course, that contained her very specific and educated, observations and critique of the first 3000 words of my novel.

I held my breath as I quickly ran over her comments. Click here. Click there.

Let out a short rush of air. No don’t relax yet.

Hold on some more. Yep I expected that.

Oh crap. Why didn’t I pick that up?

Okay… okay…

Last comments…

WHOOSH!

Out the air came tumbling. Like an earth embankment crumbling to the ground, and the water in the dam before it rushing forward in furious pressure.

That wasn’t so bad.

Oh wait. There is still audio feedback to be listened to.

Breathe in…

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

 

 

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I never wanted to use the hyphen (-) for a murdered woman again

I attended La Trobe University in Bundoora.

From the years of 2002 to 2005. A couple of my high school friends went there too, however we were all varied in our fields of study.

One such friend and I, though interests apart, chose a general subject to study that saw us come together once a week.

Anthropology. 2 hours a week in the late evening, we would often drive in and then drive back home, taking turns at the driver’s seat, and then once the 2 hours were up, made our long walk over to ‘one’ of the car parks.

There were A LOT of car parks. Back in those years, there were about 8. You had to walk some distance through the buildings and grounds and amidst tall trees and bushes of varying greenery to get there…

But there was nothing to be scared of. I remember even when daylight savings ended, and our walk to the car park was amidst black night, our biggest concern was whether spiders had already set up their webs, and so we walked hands outstretched hoping to God we wouldn’t feel something unsightly crawling on our skins.

The only time I was attacked there, was in broad daylight. It was while walking to a tutorial when something whizzed past my head so quickly and so close, that it stirred the hair on my head. Damn bird.

They were the lethal ones.

Not people. Never ever did I feel unsafe from people.

Days after the fatal assault on Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe, who was involved with the university on an exchange programme and never made it back to her apartment on Tuesday night, and Melbourne and the rest of the country is still left reeling.

Not necessarily because this has never been done before. More, because it continues to.

The feeling of déjà vu is chilling. Only 7 months earlier, a vigil was planned for Eurydice Dixon, who was raped and murdered in Carlton North. Thousands turned up to the silent protest to stand for a woman who was taken unfairly, and also, again so close to home. But that wasn’t the beginning either.

2012 saw the nation horrified at the sudden disappearance of Brunswick woman Jill Meagher. Even before the #metoo movement sparked a chord, 10,000 people marched Sydney Road in protest that once again, a woman could not walk home 5 minutes without being assaulted, raped and killed.

And not even that is the beginning.

Because the problem isn’t with all men. No, far from it. It is the underlying culture that men grow up in, the “boys will be boys,” under-handed sexism, and superior gender that prevails and dominates our everyday life, that is the REAL problem.

It is also the underlying culture that women have to put up with. The cat calls, leers and unwanted attention. The keeping keys on you at all times. Looking over your shoulder. Going out in pairs.

Calling someone as you walk alone.

This is the very act that Aiia did as she walked home for the last time earlier this week. So fearful was she over the 5 minute walk from her regular number 86 tram stop to her apartment, that she would call her sister. To imagine the fear that she held, subdued from her physical space, existing only in her mind, to turn into a full-blown living horror as her sister heard the phone fall, some voices, and then nothing… I can’t even imagine.

I don’t want to. But I remember walking those grounds. I remember the Uni, and how dark everything was at night. I shudder.

As females we message our friends, partners, and family when we get home. Aiia didn’t get to message anyone that night. Her body was found strewn and badly battered, to the point where police are still keeping a tight lid on the horrific details of that night.

“But she shouldn’t have been alone at night,’ my Dad said yesterday as we were talking about it.

And therein lies the problem.

Not with my Dad. The problem isn’t with all of the men in my life, or your life, or even most of the men around us. Because most of the men don’t go around sexually assaulting and then killing people.

But some men DO go around imposing unwanted advances on girls that are alone.

And some men DO go around letting off jeers and whistles and making filthy remarks when a woman walks by.

And sometimes, its these actions that escalate to stuff of full-blown nightmares.

Sadly, females are contributing to this. I say this with hesitation, because as soon as I told my Dad it was not right that Aiia (and every other woman) wasn’t allowed to walk home safely at night, I added

“But, I would never walk alone, and I would never let baby girl do it either.”

We as women, are adding to the dialogue, by saying it is not safe.

The culture remains, and that is the problem.

We aren’t teaching our boys to not rape.

But we are teaching our girls to not walk at night.

Jill Meagher

Eurydice Dixon

Aiia Maasarwe

PLUS so many more before them. Plus those that are not murdered, but are left with permanent life-time bruises and scars that will horrify their minds for as long as they are alive.

How many more names have to be added to this list before a conscious effort is made to change the way men and women are taught, raised, expected to perform, and excused? How many more hyphens have to appear until repeated sexual offenders, are not put back on the streets to walk amongst everyday people, and given umpteen chances to strike again? (as was the case in the man who murdered Jill Meagher).

You will notice I have not named perpetrators. They are not people. They are inhumane monsters who deserve no name, no voice, no life. Theirs should be taken away, just like those they consciously and with evil effort decided to take.

All that is left now is the memories of those girls, all the could-have beens, should-have beens, and the questions over whether any of this, is leading to change, a conscious effort, anything good, at all.

 

R.I.P Aiia Maasarwe. Unknown-2019.

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Photo by Zoran Kokanovic at Unsplash

 

Your passion and your loved ones may not hold hands

Hey writers.

Not ‘aspiring’ writers, or ‘published’ writers, ‘wannabe’ writers or ‘successful’ writers…

Just, writers.

I have something I need to share. It’s important.

No doubt it is something we all, as ‘writers’ of the world, have had to face.

Many will be facing it right now.

And if you haven’t already, you’ll be sure to come across it in your writing life.

At some stage, you would have told some of your loved ones, be it your friends or family, that you wish to write.

You want to write. You do, write.

Even if they have already known it for most of your life, even if it is an assumed thing, writing being your background passion and all… no doubt there will have been a moment where you have said out loud “I am doing this.”

I AM GOING TO TRY MAKE A LIFE OUT OF IT.

You are nervous. You are excited. Hell, maybe even like me, you hold off telling most people out of intense fear of their reaction, and only share your personal news with a total of 10 people over a 5 year period.

And when you share that news with your nearest and dearest…

Excited in the prospect of them being sooo happy in you having discovered your life’s purpose, and have chosen to share something so intimate with them…

Relieved to have released a deep-seeded fear…

What do they do?

NOTHING. You tell them, and –

(crickets chirping).

Yup.

There is something you need to realise on this writing journey. And more widely, something everyone needs to realise as they go through life and discover what it is that drives them crazy-happy with a passionate fury.

It is a thing I myself have had to wrap my head around and come to terms with.

The people you love, may not necessarily love your hobby.

They may actually, not think very much of it.

They won’t hate it. But, it might be something of ‘meh.’

Just, MEH.

This can come across as seriously disappointing, especially for someone like me, who has held off on expressing this hobby and passion of mine, to loved and near and dear ones, for years and years and years simply out of fear.

And then, when the moment came… often I realised, it was a bigger thing for me, than it was for them.

And that is ok.

There may be a whole bevy of reasons why your loved ones and your passion aren’t immediate besties… or for that fact, EVER AFTER besties.

Your loved ones may be really busy.

Your loved ones may not know much about your passion.

Your loved ones may find it suddenly difficult to comprehend your sudden discovery at said-passion, and this in turn may highlight some difficult and unanswerable questions for them… those being, what are their passions? What are they doing in their life?

How are they turning their flame on in the routine of life?

Humans are a fascinating and extremely complex breed, and so you can be assured that all of the possible answers will not even begin to fill the paragraphs of this post.

You will notice I have not mentioned a fairly common reason for lack of excitement at the realisation of your passions… and that is jealousy. I have omitted it because real loved ones will not be jealous. They may exude mixed feelings, because of the sudden need to reflect on their own lives. But they will not be envious. They will not see red simply at your long and topsy-turvy journey to getting to your own pre-determined successful, “I’ve made it” destination.

Jealous people are shit people. They are not your loves ones. Keep them at arms length.

They can go f%*k themselves. You need a strong and supportive circle, so get rid of that crap immediately.

Safe to say, you will realise very quickly and easily, who YOUR circle is.

And as is my case, I’ve realised that my circle don’t necessarily have to start a book club for me.

And why should they? I am the only star in my life… as they are the solo star in theirs.

We all have different shit going on. We need to look humbly around us and realise that.

It’s not personal.

It’s just, LIFE.

Your loved ones and your hobby don’t need to get along. They don’t need to go on long walks together. They don’t need to watch a movie. They don’t need to see each other, scream out in delight and exclaim “it’s been so long since I saw you!” before enveloping one another in a giant hug.

As long as they nod some kind of acknowledgement to each other when they pass… that’s cool.

That’s to be accepted.

Our passion isn’t necessarily anyone else’s. And whether you have held off for 5, 10 or 20 years to tell anyone, it won’t be anymore impressive than if you decided yesterday during brekkie you wanted to be a writer after finding 7 grammatical errors in the local paper.

You need to let go of the idea that your loved ones will be as excited for you, as you are excited for you.

In many cases, this won’t be the fact.

And that’s normal.

We can still love our hobbies…. and we can still love our friends…

But we’ll just make sure we see them on alternating weekends 😉

(Note the below is idealistic, yet highly unrealistic!)

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Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

 

 

Unannounced Cake in a Nanny State

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Photo by Lorene Farrugia on Unsplash

Something unbelievable happened today when we picked up baby girl from kinder. And it was so unexpectedly liberating, innocent and reminiscent of when I grew up as a child, that when I realised what it was, only then did I truly recognise that in this day and age, this was a thing to be noticed.

Baby girl, along with all of the kids in the class, was eating… chocolate cake.

All of them. They were on the floor, cross-legged, some of them asking for spoons so as to not get their fingers dirty (ahem my daughter), smears of brown sponge smeared across their faces, as happy as Larry’s and Lassie’s that it was someone’s birthday.

But more profoundly shocking of the fact they were eating chocolate cake at the end of their kinder session was that…

… wait for it…

The teachers had not informed the parents about it.

(Dum da dum dum!)

And I couldn’t have been happier about it.

I grew up in a time where my Mum was able to bake a whole damn cake and bring it into class, and as the birthday girl I was a God-damn legend. You could hand out lollies, share snacks, and no one batted an eyelid.

I ain’t talking allergies here. No I totally get it if you have some. I had an allergy myself growing up, so I am not putting down the fact that there are some kids that can’t eat certain foods.

I am talking about the fact that we live in a precious nanny state, where every little thing has to be recorded, and every little thing needs asking, permission, and a written personalised autographed hand slip.

For God’s sake.

I have TWO prime examples I came across just in the last year, and I’m only one year young into this whole ‘schooling’ thing too. I came to pick baby girl up one day, and the teacher informed me that she had hurt herself – the poor thing had poled herself climbing down on an A-frame. Ouch. She had been checked out and all appeared fine, but because of this I had to fill out an incident report.

An incident report. I scraped my knee in grade 3 and was sure I could see my bone, there was NO INCIDENT report then.

A second example. A letter taped to the door at kinder last year informed parents that Christmas songs may feature in some of the end of year activities with the children… however if anyone opposed, they would not be included.

Hold up…. WHAT?!?!

Do you see what these two examples represent? A nanny state that is afraid of offending others or getting things so wrong so as to make themselves vulnerable to lawsuit…

Seriously, is this the world we are living in???

When did we start needing permission to eat dessert? To have fun? To sing a freaking Christmas carol???

NO, don’t get me started on Christmas songs. DO NOT touch Christmas festivities. If they don’t let my daughter sing Jingle Bells, I am gonna get violent on their arses.

I can only imagine what lies in store for me for the many decades worth of school years ahead of us, but my hope is that this general wide-spread stupidity dumbs itself down enough so that people stop tip-toeing around each other, and start living with freedom and happiness and trust, so that if anyone DOES want chocolate cake…

They should damn well get it.

Sure, the cake did kinda ruin baby girl’s lunchtime meal… but I was so happy I hadn’t been asked, I didn’t even care.

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Photo by Becca Tarter on Unsplash