Work that Workshop

This afternoon I’m taking a workshop at a “Festival of Words”. I’ve only had a few days to prepare for it (3 and a half to be precise – Thursday was already taken with something else) because I’m a “fill-in”. My friend was scheduled to take it but, at the last minute, she had to be somewhere else and so she passed the baton on to me. When she first asked me, I was excited. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, so I thought, “FABULOUS!” In my initial excitement I thought the workshop was for beginners on the basic things you need to know and do, when beginning your writing “career”. This is a subject I’d led other workshops on, so I thought it would be a piece of cake. It took a whole day and a half for me to realise my mistake; valuable time gone straight down the toilet. Turns out it’s about creating memorable characters and scenes. Oh. Flipping. Heck. (Note to self: Pay better attention!) Now it’s the morning of the day and I’m feeling a bit queasy. I’m sure I don’t have enough material to fill in an hour and a half. I’ve got some writing exercises for the group to do, to break up the monotony of listening to me, but even so I don’t think they’ll stretch the time enough. There’s so much one can say about developing characters, and writing scenes that work and are interesting while moving the story forward, so why can’t I think of them?!!!!  I so want to give the attendees value for their money. There’s one good thing about preparing for this thing: it’s made me rethink my current projects. Hopefully this will mean I’ll do a better job with them. On the down side, I had to keep telling my brain to focus on the job at hand instead of wandering the corridors of Seddon, or traipsing along behind John Sage while he searches for the missing Rainbird family. My brain is spinning in all sorts of directions, most of them not helpful. I guess it’s because it’s been such a short preparation time. Or, it could be because I’m a bit ditzy. (There’s a certain amount of evidence in that theory’s favour.) On the plus side, there’s always the possibility that at the last minute, while I’m talking, fresh ideas will suddenly spin into view. It’s happened before. The Festival will be well under way by the time I get there, so here’s hoping the people in my workshop have imbibed a few happy beverages over lunch and are feeling...

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I’m grateful

Today, I am grateful I have a nice home with a functioning heater and a warm quilt on my bed. Outside the house the sky is grey, the air is chilly, the wind is gusty and we’ve already had rain all night and now a dash of hail this morning. (For those who are concerned, Mrs Golden Orb spider survived the hail.) All my joints are screaming and my arthritic-riddled and disc-slipped back is being a right old bastard. (Sorry for the language but that’s just how it is.) A small crowd of winter enthusiasts are up on Mount Lofty, urging the heavens to send some snow. Whenever a flake drifts down, the crowd cheer, high-five and snap photos on their phones. (I use the term “mount” very loosely. Most of my non-Aussie readers would say, “hill”. “Lofty” is just laughable. I have no idea whether the person, who named the hill at the back of our city, Mount Lofty, was being intentionally ironic but it wouldn’t surprise me. It was an Englishman and they’re a race that’s known for their comedians.) Meanwhile, I’m snug inside with a big mug of tea to keep me warm and painkillers to keep me sane. My kids are old enough now that I no longer have to sit out in the freezing cold to cheer them on as they play netball and/or football. I don’t have to join the parental huddle, under an almost useless umbrella, wishing I’d had the foresight to buy some decent boots. I don’t have to go out with the council workers to remove fallen trees off the roads, or people’s roofs, or cars. I don’t have to go out with the paramedics, or police, to car crashes, caused by people not handling the wet conditions. (Rain is a rarity, here.) I don’t have to get wet, or cold, or both, unless I choose to do it. (And, why the heck would I do that?!!) Elsewhere there are homeless people wondering where they can find shelter for the night. There are families living in cars. There are men, sleeping under bridges. There are teenagers, hoping they can find a doorway or covered corner that will keep them dry. My heart goes out to them. I thank God for all the volunteer organisations that are providing shelter or, at the least, warm bedding for these people. May every homeless person find a home, soon. Yes, today, I realise how blessed I am and I’m grateful. Update: it’s raining again.    ...

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Farewell Phil Walsh

I was going to write about something happy, and maybe even a little inspiring, today but then yesterday happened. Yesterday, like everyone else in my state and, indeed, in most parts of Australia, I woke up to the news that Phil Walsh, the coach of my AFL (Australian Football League) team the Crows, had been murdered. Like everyone else, at first I thought it was an horrendously bad practical joke. It wasn’t. Then we heard that his son had been the one who wielded the knife. How could this happen? we ask ourselves. What could drive a son to do this to his dad? Rumours are spreading like wildfire. After all, my city is still small enough to have small town reactions to these things. Everyone feels as though they know the victim (the price of having a high profile) and everyone feels as though they are part of the drama. Everyone thinks they’re smart enough to know. However, at this stage the police are not offering any theories and they’re the ones in the thick of things, so I’m going to wait to hear what they have to say. People are calling this a case of Domestic Violence, because it happened in the family home. However, I hesitate to call it that. To me, DV conjures a scenario of consistent abuse by one spouse on another – usually a man abusing his wife, but occasionally a wife abusing a man – or the consistent abuse of children, or a combination of those things. I’m holding judgement on the Walsh case until all the facts are in. So far, what we have is a case of patricide:  the killing of a parent. It may even yet be manslaughter, not murder. We don’t know. What we do know is that the death of this man has affected a plethora of people across our nation. He came from a large family (one of 7 children). He was involved as a player in three different clubs in two different states, and then as a coach in four other clubs in three different states. He was a coach for both of the two AFL teams in my city, so all the football public in this football-obsessed state feel as though they’ve lost a mate. Rival teams are united in their grief and shock. In our footy-mad culture, that’s a minor miracle right there. Meanwhile my thoughts and prayers are with his wife, lying injured and shocked in hospital; his daughter flying home from an overseas holiday having lost a dad and overwhelmed by her brother’s actions, and his son, now facing a lifetime of living with the knowledge that in his anger he has killed his father. The wider family also need our prayers: Phil’s siblings, his wife’s siblings, aunties, uncles, cousins… And, the football team need our prayers: young men who looked up to Phil as a father figure and are now bereft of his wisdom, encouragement and leadership. It’s a sad time in my town right now and in many other places across our  nation. Yes, there are many cases of domestic violence on a regular basis, and we should be doing all we can to eradicate that. This case, if it is one, doesn’t overshadow those. Yes, around the world, there are thousands of people dying horrendous deaths every day, and each life lost is a terrible tragedy. But, right now, Phil Walsh has been killed, his family torn apart and, because of his high profile, the grief, the sense of loss, is felt in homes across the nation. What can we learn from this? 1. Life is precious, fragile and too quickly gone, so treasure each moment. 2. We all need to keep a better balance in our life: work is not as important as family; people are more precious than things. 3. Let’s all be kinder to each other.  Just because a person is successful and seems to have a great life, doesn’t mean they’re not struggling with some sort of personal, private difficulty. 4. No one is perfect.  ...

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