Health, Gender and Writing

Hi everyone, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything of value and I apologise for any silence this year. It has not been a particularly positive year for me, but at the same time being one of me busting through walls left and right, like Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. Going forward, I believe what I’m about to explain will be of great importance to my career as an author, but primarily as a human being.

Health

Health:Krusty

Alright let’s begin with probably the most important event of 2019 for myself, my family, and all those close to me. In March of this year I woke up one morning with a muffled ear. I could hear, but sound was not perfect. It was annoying in the way it pisses me off when I snag my headphones on a draw whilst i’m cooking. Given the long-term poor weather at the time, I ignored it as best I could, assuming it was to do with air pressure or humidity.

SteamedHams

Fast forward to the week after my birthday and I come home from work with one side of my body feeling really tingly. No loss of sensation and no numbness, just tingly. Immediately I thought I’d injured my neck or spine and two days later when I woke up realising it hadn’t gone away, I entered emergency at Cairns Hospital. Instead of the hours of waiting, I was rushed into a bed as my symptoms were indicative of a brain injury/condition. The following events took place over 4 or 5 days, those being MRI’s, Spinal Tap (I’m only ever calling it this), blood cultures, stool samples, cognitive tests, CT scans and perhaps some other things I’m forgetting.

Sad:HappyFaceGif

Over a few days I was presented with a few likelihoods. The first and most pressing was an infection in the brain, and whilst this was tested for, it was unlikely as I don’t use intravenous drugs and I only ever play safely with others. Second was Cancer which of course is a terrifying prospect. It would have required a brain biopsy in Townsville and the usual list of Anti-Cancer treatments. The third was Multiple Sclerosis. This seemed unlikely at the time as whilst my symptoms were suggestive of this, it was inconsistent according to the Doctors I spoke with and was only a possibility to consider.

The final day, and now the Neurosurgeon comes to visit. I’m told that I have MS. I am now one of the apparently many people in my bloodline to be a part of this elite group and that’s all there is to it. I am now on treatment, infusions once a month of a drug called Tysabri (look it up it’s pretty cool). But for those who don’t know much about me, or haven’t yet read my book, only five and a bit years ago, I was not planning on sticking around. My mental health was at rock bottom. Thanks to a new and now dear friend I managed to pick up the pieces of my life and sow together something worth living for. Hearing that despite that choice, that now my body was slowly falling apart is pretty heavy, and it was probably the worst day of my life so far. But what was worse was knowing that the first person I had to call first, to let her know what my condition was, was too much to bare considering everything I’d done to make a life for myself.

Spongebob:Wellshit

But now you’re probably crying or something and wondering what I’ll do to survive?! Well actually I’ve got a huge fucking motivation to get busy now. Since my time in hospital I’ve begun university, studying English in a Bachelor of Arts. I’ve begun a Pole Dancing class that I will provide photos of when I git gud. I’m even making big plans in my personal life to help tear down those horrible walls that have kept me so afraid for so long. I’m a far cry from the person that graduated Highschool in 2007.

Zena:I WIN

Writing

Writing:Shining

All that said, one can understand that I’ve had some trouble finding time to write. Lucy, my second novel, has been in the works since just before my book launch in 2018. Whilst I had made great progress by the time I checked into hospital, I suddenly became unable to write, or to find the energy to sit down and focus on what makes me happy. Medical check-ups, infusions, study, finding a place to live, all these things have taken priority over my writing for a long time now. But I wanted to make it clear that Lucy is still on her way, and all I ask is that people understand that above all else, my health will now take absolute priority. No exceptions.

I do however look very much forward to finishing the book as it’s been a blast to write. A note to Juliette Lachemeier, my editor, and Gloria Webb my Publisher, I apologise for not saying sooner what has kept me so quiet. I hope that sooner rather than later you’ll get a chance to help bring Lucy to the world. Assuming you like it, I suppose.

Gender

Alright, final topic and then we can all go for lunch. I don’t often post personal information about myself, and since 2016 it has been for good reason. That said a keen eye probably already figured this one out anyways so, better to just bite the bullet and level with you. Since the aforementioned year, I’ve been on hormone therapy and have been transitioning… bleh, this sucks. I sound like a Youtube confession. I’m fucking Transgender k? I’ve been slowly letting people in on the fact I would like to be called Zoe going forward.

TransOwl

Why Zoe? Cause it’s fucking short and I’ll probably only forget it a few times. I generally like to remain fairly androgynous and can seem quite reserved in how I act with you, so I understand that it may seem a little strange at first, especially with poorly how gender is portrayed in mainstream media. If for some reason my voice bothers you, imagine how much it bothers me to sound like i’ve been chain smoking since the Roman Empire. If you are unsure about something, or feel that your initial response to this declaration of mine is negative, perhaps talk to me and learn something. I only bite when asked 😉 . Unlike what many religious folk say, knowledge is a of great value and can improve your life.

I do realise there are people in my life who will probably want nothing to do with me after hearing this, and to them I say…

Beautiful Time Gif

To those who have stuck with me, especially Sarah Warnes, Michael Bethurem, and Courtney Lunnon. You’ve been extremely kind to me over the years and I owe you all a pizza for your efforts toward being accepting of me and helping me when I asked, even if it was a burden. I truly am indebted to you all.

Transformers:GroupHug.gif

So that’s all I had to say I guess. One final thing is that, if you’re keen for a deeper dive into my transition, I’d suggest keeping an eye out for a possible piece I contributed to a certain someone for their potential book that I may potentially be included in.

Homer:Story

Anyway, thanks in advance for using my preferred name, though if you get it wrong a few times that’s ok, we all make mistakes. Oh, and keep an eye out for photos of my attempts to pole dance. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

PoleFail

 

Ciao!

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Writers Festival

It has been… a little while since writing anything substantial here, so my apologies for that. With so much of my focus on my next novel, as well as co authoring another seperate story, it’s been difficult to find the time to even bother with my blog. But I do think the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival is a nice way to dive back in.

Writers Festival, Me And Juliette
FIRST STAGE FROSTBITE.

Friday the 10th of August 2018 was the first day of the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival and for many months I’d been trying to figure out what the hell it really was. I bought some tickets a few days prior and wandered into the Hilton Cairns having only a few images from previous years to work with. I was so unsure in fact that I didn’t even see the sign on the way in pointing to the designated Festival entrance, and instead sat in the Hilton foyer until the event i’d bought tickets to began. And… if we can all ignore the fact that I forgot to show my tickets to the staff over all three days, that would be great…. Oops.

Writers Festival, Jane Caro
JANE CARO

First up, a Luncheon with Jane Caro, a face i’d seen on television many a time but knew fairly little about. With my trusty Editor, Juliette Lachemeier, helping me appear less lost than I was, we took our seats ready for… whatever it was we were there for. Despite this being in Cairns, and despite the sun being out and as ultraviolet as it could be, I regret not taking my jumper. From the moment we took our seats until returning to the Hilton, a constant sea breeze took up residence in our Luncheon balcony/wind tunnel. When Jane did take to the mic however, my frostbite was a distant memory as she leapt straight into her work as not only a writer, editor, and dynamic addition to several morning news shows. Her novel that she edited, Unbreakable, a collection of women detailing their experiences from sexual assault, domestic violence, racism, miscarriage and depression, definitely held the spotlight. But that wasn’t the only issue that Jane charged head first into, as talk of #metoo and the dead weights of the likes of John Howard, Alan Jones and Tony Abbott (not surprisingly at all, a lot of women hate these men) also had us laughing and sympathising with Jane and the women she was representing in her work. A heavy, but captivating start to the festival, thanks Jane ^_^

Day two and i’m on my own, but no less excited for my midday sessions of an interview with Julian Burnside, as well as a follow up discussion on whether our democracy is working, which included Julian Burnside again, but also Richard Fidler and Anna Broinowski. Both sessions focused on topics like our Borders and outright abuse of those that leave their homes in search of a new one in Australia, only to be placed in detention off shore and treated like cattle. Not forgetting of course the role of Media in modern politics and how ineffectively our current democratic system is at working for the people, not the powerful. Clearly neither sessions brought particularly good news, though a decent exposure to the mornings headlines and political spin would show that to even the most apathetic consumer of current events. Instead it did show that on many different sides of politics, there is common ground and that basic human rights are being trampled regardless of your place on the spectrum, and that clearly those in power right now are far more interested in listening to themselves, other politicians, or donors from fossil fuel industries. A downer for sure, but not without its rays of hope.

After these sessions were over I managed to stop off at the bookshop that was being run

Writers Festival, My Book!
MY BOOK!!!!!

just inside the main doors of the festival. I’d been informed about it for some time and had assumed it was really just for the events presenters to show off their own work and sign copies for the masses. What I didn’t expect was to walk inside and actually see my own novel, Born Again, in amongst the other books. It’s almost hit me that i’m an author, maybe after my next novel it’ll finally catch on. Following this I stopped in to listen to a brief chat on the similarities and or difference of Pauline Hanson and Bob Katter. To be honest, I arrived expecting a bit of a laugh, and whilst I wasn’t disappointed, it is clear to me now more than ever, than the worst of these two people is surmountable, if only the side of empathy and justice wereable to get its message across better, as these two Queensland politicians seem to say very little to maximum  a devastating effect. Something to think about.

My third and final day at the writers festival was far more focused on my own interests as an author, with a segment straight up on Non Fiction writing with Richard Fidler and Ashley Hay. Despite the focus on Non Fiction, the topic swirled around at times to my own field of Fiction and it was remarkable the similarities they both hold, despite their focus on far different fields. Next up was Jane Caro again speaking on her trilogy following Queen Elizabeth 1 and her process of writing such a renowned, powerful and undoubtably intelligent woman. I can’t say whether or not I have or will write female characters as effectively as I hoped that I can, but it is encouraging that now when I do, I have such a deep well of information to draw from that can scour over the female characters that I do write, to help me make them the most effective, diverse and forward thinking as they can be. It truly is an exciting time to be a writer!

Back after morning tea and I’m back with Jane Caro yet again to speak about writing for young adults, though this time she is joined by Fiona Bell and Lyndell Sellars. Once again an intriguing discussion, and one i’m familiar with as an author now. It is difficult to catch a young persons attention, especially when the activity of reading a book is still considered such a dull, boring, sissy thing to be doing, predominantly among males. Not to mention our current climate in which knowledge and facts are considered dismissible. But at least when I looked around at the other attendees I saw people of all age groups, young and old. On the Friday, students from both high and primary school were attending different events and seemed actively engaged with not only reading but with a hope to bring reading and writing to a far wider audience with poetry and music.

 

Writers Festival, Manal - Reap
MANAL’S BOOK – REAP

Speaking of which, my last session of the day. In one of the smaller rooms, a young woman named Manal Younus held her Power of Language and Storytelling. After brief introductions, Manal broke into three seperate poems that she had written and memorised, that detailed different stages of her own life. Often times young people are considered lazy, ineffective, drains on society that just want and never give back. They clearly haven’t met Manal, who’s passion for her work far outstrips many of our current politicians in dedication, despite their insistence to the contrary. It was almost perfect really to have started my time at the festival listening to the elder members of society (and still highly relevant of course) discuss what they’ve learnt over the years, to then come to its end with someone younger than me exuding such a love for her stories who will no doubt become our future of storytelling.

As a first timer at the festival I was impressed with just how much of a crowd it drew in. My suspicions at first were that each hall would be barely half full with only the most dedicated bothering to attend, but I was severely mistaken, with nearly every session full to the brim. I’m not really one for chit chat, as anyone who’s met me knows, I’m a person of few words, but spending my time listening to the insight and experience of those that have come before was riveting and empowering. Each and every session provided me with either knew knowledge, or the assurance that maybe I wasn’t insane, and maybe I am capable of this career path I hope to follow. No greater examples of this are, as i’m waiting for Manal to start her session, a woman, sitting next to me, Amanda, compliments my tattoos, one on each hand. I explain their significance to me and she actually knows what they are! We get to talking and as we return to the halls of the Festival, she asks to see my book, then buys it and asks me to sign it! I can’t really believe my luck, but then it happens again, with Avril, a woman i’d met at a workshop run by the cairns group Arts Nexus.

Writers Festival, Me
FESTIVAL SELFIES

The Cairns Tropical Writers Festival has been something of an afterthought in my mind for months, with my focus being on my own work and little interest in events such as these. But now that it’s been and gone, I regret not buying tickets sooner and dismissing it so easily. I am an author, and this really is my domain, whether I have the confidence to call myself such or not. Maybe I won’t live up to the heights of those that I admire, but reading, writing, art and craft, these things are what help me keep going and hearing people like Jane, or Manal show such an enthusiasm for their work, only makes me want to do the same for people like Amanda and Avril, to show that I do care about my work and want to be the best that I can be. I’ll be thirty years old by the time the next festival comes along, and hopefully with two more stories in people hands by then. I appreciate the company Juliette, and it was a pleasure to see you working the bookshop Dot, and to everyone who made the event as enjoyable as it was, Thank You.

Book Launch and Thanks

Gloria,Me,Juliette3
Juliette Lachemeier, David Hull, Gloria Webb

I can’t say that I get particularly nervous anymore during public speaking. Not after Sexpo where just outside and occasionally walking past my talk are three naked women painted gold with glitter all over their bodies, as well as a man who paints portraits with his penis.

And so, come Sunday the 21st of January 2018, I was mostly prepared for what I had planned for roughly a month. Instead of detailing the events of the day, i’d instead just like to thank everyone who attended, or made the launch possible. My parents, along with my aunt Kathryn Gallagher, pulled out all the stops for providing catering and comfort to my attendees. Thank you to Gloria Webb for working with me on bringing the book out into the open for a wider audience to see and for allowing me to be as open as I can be in reaching my readers. Thank you to Juliette Lachemeier who has been my trainer standing at the edge of the ring, always there with effective advice to help focus my words after they leave the beehive of my mind. Thank you to my sister for her… well prepared speech and for accepting the gig when perhaps sitting in the corner quietly inside of a box would have been preferable.

To everyone who was able to make it to the launch, without you it would have been me on my own, talking to empty space, but in the end I was able to share my story with so many people and even meet some of you to discuss my work and plans for the future. Many people were unable to attend sadly, including my cover designer James O’Brien, however their help has been just as valuable in bringing this book to life and I can’t thank them enough for their efforts.

And, lastly, to someone I won’t name but is one of the main reasons I still live. Our friendship has been bizarre, to put it lightly, however without you and your support, my life would have continued on with little to no reason to keep going. Our lives are extremely nuanced and rarely does one thing change the course of history, but you’ve played the most important role yet and it needs to be said. Even if our lives take us on seperate paths, I’ll always treasure our friendship and I only hope for the best for you.

Thank you.

Born Again and Sexpo!

In early 2017, when I was still in the fledgling stages of having my novel Born Again edited, I took a little trip all the way over to Perth Western Australia. The idea was to check out this whacky event called Sexpo, but also for a little break from daily life, as writing had already begun to take a certain toll on my mind. However, what I ended up discovering was the home of some of the most bizarre, compassionate, educated and expressive beings i’d come across to date. After only a few minutes of traversing the stalls and attractions i’d found a home away from home, a place where people were open about their truest and most tightly protected selves. Each stall, whether it was for pleasure or education, was willing to stop and chat to discuss most anything considered too taboo for the regular Joe.

Within half an hour I stumbled across a stall run by International Author, Frankie Banks. I was still unpublished myself, but meeting someone in my own field amongst the cacophony of the expo was completely unexpected. A brief chat about each of our projects and a purchase of her book Sharks and Lovers and I was headed home with a newfound sense of direction, as well as someone to finally connect with as a writer.

Fast forward through to about September, as I am on the cusp of releasing my novel, came an invitation to join Frankie at Sexpo Melbourne to chat with her in one of the S.H.A.R.E seminars. These talks are specifically dedicated to education, story telling and exposure to some of the more intimate and empowering aspects of our natural human sexualities. Given my own attempts within my novel to address some of the best and worst aspects of human sexuality, I couldn’t help but take up the opportunity and prepare for yet another trip, this time with me as a member of the refuge i’d found not even a year earlier.

 

Scared shitless with my book and paperwork underarm, I strode through the doors of Sexpo once again. After a quick detour to watch Isabelle Deltore (the very same Isabelle Deltore that i’d had leap into my arms upside down for a photo in Perth) perform onstage plus grab a quick photo, it was my turn to pic up a microphone and talk about Born Again. My hands trembling from lack of energy and my ears blasted from the din of the centre stage, I not only managed to form coherent sentences, but I could see the heads bobbing along as I spoke of the impacts of not only depression, but the restrictions we all live under by those in positions of power. My talk done, and a man approaches me, eager to discuss what he’d just heard. He tells me of his niece, a beautiful, kind hearted girl who suffered from anorexia and depression, who ultimately took her own life. He opens his wallet to show me a fading photograph of his niece, clearly within reach whenever his sense of loss gets too great. I discuss my own struggles his niece and I shared, watching on as his eyes tear up and all he can do is shake away the same thoughts that no doubt plague him everyday.

We shake hands, say our goodbyes, and I’ll likely never see this man again. However, upon reuniting with Frankie and taking a photograph of me and my novel, I can’t help but think about this man over and over again. He admitted that he hadn’t been to Sexpo before, and I begin to look around at the many other guests of the event, equally burdened by abuse, loss, or a need to understand something about themselves that weighs on their conscience. I think about the words of people outside as I waited to gain entry through the archway, “What the hell goes on in there?” One lady remarks to her distracted husband as she pushes her child along in a stroller, her husbands eyes fixated on a passing exotic dancer, destined for the Laporium inside the venue.

What starts out as a day for me and my book, quickly morphs into something far more urgent and perhaps farfetched. It isn’t about me getting a wad of cash for piecing together a fun tale, it’s about how that story impacts those that read it. It isn’t just about healing for myself, it’s about using what I know and have experienced to prevent others from similar fates or to help heal them when it’s too late.

Whether you’re stripping off your Stormtrooper attire to a crowd of onlookers or a simple writer sharing a piece of your mind, we can all tear away at the odious fabric of modern culture that leaves Sexpo as a boxed in, hidden domain for the most repulsively labelled, depraved. We can all bring it out into the open, turn our world into one that doesn’t allow others to slip away. A world that encourages inclusivity, knowledge and encourages us to all be the real us, not sheep good only for providing for those that give nothing back.

Frankie&Me

I can’t thank Frankie Banks enough for an amazing opportunity. I can’t express strongly enough my despair at one mans loss and his efforts to understand why. I think of the hilarity of the idea of myself being ambushed by a naked woman for a photograph. But most of all, I think of what a remarkable twist my life has experienced since 2014 when I saw nearly no reason to live, or eat, or get out of bed to try either. If the last three years are any indicator, I eagerly await the life ahead of me, one I intend to make the best of for myself and those that need a helping hand.

My novel Born Again, is now officially available for purchase at: http://www.jabirupublishing.com.au/fiction/…. or via Amazon for a copy when you’re on the go.

For those interested, Sharks and Lovers is available here: http://frankiebanks.com/sharks-lovers-novels/

And for anyone interested in attending Sexpo and unlearning the drivel that has been plastered upon us in western culture: https://www.sexpo.com.au/

 

Born Again and Cover Design.

Only a few weeks ago I managed to post my first novel, Born Again, in its digital form. With all the positive feedback so far, one highlight for many has been the cover art for the book. It is fair to say I made a concerted effort to allow my novel to stand out, not just regarding the content within but visually, I needed the cover to steal your attention and pull you in.

The individual responsible for this artistic effort is James D. O’Brien, a friend of a friend I met in early 2017 who was more than happy to put his skills to use for me. After a few months of back and forth the final design was set in stone for you, my readers, to enjoy. For those with a craving for more of James’ work, click below and check out his Instagram containing a wealth of his contributions to human creativity.

Thanks again James!

https://www.instagram.com/j.doberman/

 

Born Again

It has been a monumental pain in the arse and a milestone in my life, but herein lies my first official novel “Born Again” in digital form. A book derived from some of the most painful and empowering moments of my own life.

The story follows Dane, a boy in his last years of high school, as he struggles against suicide and finding a place in the world that seems to not want, or have any interest in him. Before Dane makes the irreversible decision to leave it all behind, a timely intervention by Addison provides Dane with not only a renewed and resilient sense of self, but also somewhere to seek comfort and safety with Addison and her friends Sandra and Pearce, each with their own tortured past.

But it’s not for me to tell you the entire story, go have a read! I hope that your time spent with Dane is an enjoyable one, because it has been for me and I hope it will be for a long time to come.