A roller-coaster ride.

Early in the week I attended the funeral of an old friend. It reminded me of the old movie, “Goodbye, Mr Chips”. He’d been a teacher and had just retired at the end of last year. He was one of those wonderful educators who poured his life into his work and into his students, which explains the number of young people who attended his service. They loved him and so they should. He’d wanted to make a difference and he achieved that beyond measure. Inspiring stuff. As I listened to the accolades and noted his accomplishments I was challenged: what have I done to make a difference? What have I achieved? What will they find to say about me when I’ve kicked the bucket? (That’s right: it’s all about me!) The Old Boy and I made a hasty retreat, before the majority of the mourners had left their seats to put a sprig of rosemary on the coffin. Quite frankly we’ve been to just too many of these events, lately. But, on the way out a friend told me that my writing was an inspiration to him. He doesn’t know it but that made me cry. You see, I’d been wondering in the past few weeks – yet again – if I was wasting my time writing and trying to get published. It was as if God himself said, ‘Don’t give up.’ Then, a couple of days ago I received a call from Australian e-book Publishers (www.australianebookpublisher.com.au). I had submitted to them earlier this year. They telephoned me (I’m so impressed) to see if I would consider their offer and I said, yes. Okay, it’s not a proper paper book. Yes, it’s an e-book. Yes, I’m aware of my previous comments on “real” versus “techno” books. But, you can’t say I’m not flexible. It may be coincidence but I’m choosing to see the hand of the Big Guy in the timing of this.  Beast-speaker  is the story of two friends who are kidnapped and taken to a foreign city, to become child-soldiers. Their captors regularly capture children from other places to stock their army. One friend has the ability to converse with animals and, when he is sent to work in the stables, he makes friends with the resident camels and dragons. The other lad becomes a Patrol Leader and constantly fights to retain his humanity in an environment designed to reduce him to a killing machine. Both boys must find a way to deal with their suffering and to not let it break them. It’s Book One in a trilogy and now that it’s going to be published I can finally allow myself to write the other two books. What does this have to do with my friend’s funeral?  He loved literature, history, the theatre and so many other things that I, also, love. We even had the same birth date. He was an inspiration to me. I’d love to be an inspiration to others. He would have been the first to encourage me to persevere, so it seems fitting that it was at his farewell that I was so encouraged to ‘soldier on’. It’s been a strange week: three funerals in five days, a word of encouragement, a book deal, the American government pulls itself and the rest of the world back from the brink, and our current PM showed his troglodyte tendencies by repealing Carbon pricing in this country while bushfires raged near Sydney. What a roller-coaster ride! (I’ll let you know when and where you can get my book but I’m told it’ll be out before Christmas. Doin’ the happy dance: point the toes, wave the arms, wiggle the...

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Nobel Prize. Whacko!

Congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for literature. Well done, that lady. Now I confess: I’ve never heard of her. I gather she’s an elderly Canadian who writes short stories about life on the Canadian plains. Sounds intriguing. I’m a little stunned that someone has won the prize for short stories. Okay, I know Hemingway got it for his short stories (or was it the Booker Prize? He definitely won something for them) and I’m a bit of a fan of his. He knew how to distil the essence of the story into the barest possible number of words, so that one sentence was worth someone else’s paragraph. As I’ve never read any of Ms Munro’s work, I have no idea how she goes about it but it must be pretty good. The thing is – short stories?!! How did she get them published? It’s common knowledge in the literary world that if you want to get a collection of short stories published you have to either establish yourself as a popular (and therefore marketable) author, first: eg Stephen King. Or, you have to be recognised as a ‘literary’ author of the highest quality, who has won bucket-loads of prizes and therefore may also be marketable: eg Paul Coelho. Or, you either get them published through academic circles, or you self-publish. I wonder which one of these is Ms Munro. Kudos to her, I say. Thanks to her shining example a plethora of beginner writers will plunge themselves into the world of short story writing. There are still some magazines/journals who buy them, so they may even manage to sell some. I’ve done it, so it’s not impossible. Then, clutching their portfolio in their sweaty little hands, they can approach a publishing house or two or many, which will (after a 6 – 8 months wait) tell them it doesn’t suit their list/ they’re not publishing anthologies at this time/ we hope you find a home for them. Then, if they’re not completely devastated, they could try to scrape together the cash to invest in themselves and trot off to Office Works, to print up copies for their family and friends. Do I sound bitter? Anyway, once again, cheers and huzzahs for Alice Munro. It’s a wonderful achievement and it’s nice to see someone unexpected win it. (I say that with all sincerity. Seriously.) But, meanwhile, I still long for the day when someone who writes about dragons will win the prize. There was a time I would have said that was impossible but – hey – Monsanto (world-wide killer of bees and experts in GMO foods) has been nominated for the Prize for Agriculture, so anything is possible....

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Family

House clean: check. Laundry done: check. House and Wonder dog sitter organised: check. Wonder dog bathed: check. Food sorted: mostly check. Bags packed: not yet, but soon. Okay I think I’m almost ready for a long weekend holiday with the family. You heard right: the Old Boy, the kids, the grandkids and I are all off  on a holiday in an old (no longer in production) copper-mining town near the sea.  The only ones left behind will be the dogs, cats and bird. Some of us will feel guilty about leaving them behind and the rest couldn’t care less. An old mining town? you say. That’s a strange choice. That’s where you’d be wrong. It has everything our family likes. There are old ruins; an abandoned mine (that’s for the boys); a lovely white sand beach; an old-fashioned sweet shop (not just for the children); antiques and jewellery shops (for the girls); a bakery that sells Cornish pasties; a pub for Saturday night dinner, and a house big enough to take us all. Should be fun, as long as the Old Boy’s snoring doesn’t keep us awake. The plan is to make some good, happy, relaxed family memories together. Today, as I prepare to have fun with my children and grandchildren, I’m thinking of my sister and her children in Darwin, as they attend the funeral of her son and their brother, my nephew. They, too, are staying together in a house big enough for all of them. One nephew and his wife have flown back from San Francisco; one nephew and his sister have flown up from Melbourne and the other nephew, the bereaved mother and another one of my sisters have flown up from Adelaide. They are finding comfort and strength by being family together. I am the youngest of four daughters. I used to share a bedroom with the bereaved mother (who is 5 years older than me). She teased me mercilessly. But one day, when I was about 7 or 8 years old, someone had teased me all day and was still doing it as I was walking home in tears. Suddenly, this sister came racing up on her bicycle and sent the kid packing. I stared at her in shock. Why had she come to my rescue? You’re my sister, she said. No one gets to tease you except me. She then walked me home, which was another shock as she usually didn’t want to be seen dead with me. That’s family. I told my children, when they were teenagers, that friends may come and go, but your family will always be there. We might not always get on. We have differing political, religious and sporting allegiances. BUT, when it comes to the crunch, none of that matters. We’re family. I’ve been blessed to grow up in such a family. If the family you grew up with was not a happy one, then I hope you can make a new one that resonates with love, encouragement, respect, hope and faith. The world is in desperate need of more of that....

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