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.

Reflections and thoughts

I always remember waking up at about 6:OOam on a Saturday morning, creeping out of my bedroom and into the lounge, switching on the television, and with barely any sound feasting my eyes on the T.V show Rage. Music video after music video with all kinds of Metallica, Rockafella Skank from Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk and their mind bending yet addictive Around the World. Then, at some point during my early morning binges, two particular clips would always surface. One, a song from a time before I was born, refashioned into a new, twisted beast intended to shock. The second, an aggressive rallying cry to the others, the trash, the unwanted and weird.

Rage Logo

As a child these aggressive images did little to shock, but instead fostered what your typical do-gooder would lament, I wanted more. Each weekend I would attempt to sneak away from my bed to feast my eyes on these horrifying and gorgeous displays of art, without having a clue what art truly was. As time passed I would see it more and more, until another clip began to make the rounds, something even more disturbing, unimaginable, yet completely enthralling to me. What seems a man, but with those lumps on his chest, that’s… confusing. I begin to see the man from the video clips on the tv, only rarely but he’s there. Media moves slowly still but afterwards all I see are stunned news anchors who shake their heads, make an apparently hilarious quip and move on to the weather.

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“I’m not a slave to a God that doesn’t exist, I’m not a slave to a world that doesn’t give a shit!” I had these words screamed at me through headphones as I pretended to complete my I.T assessment during class. The words terrified me. Years had passed with me stuck in a Catholic system, reading Bible passages ad nauseam to the point i’ve read the damn thing several times over (never once impressed). Having to be lectured on morality from staff members that, as I later found out, were unfaithful to their spouses or creeps to the young girls in uniforms clearly designed by a man to go clear in wet or humid conditions. Words like these triggered a genuine fear, an isolation, a pit in my stomach as I lost one tether after another to a world that already had my future planned out for me, that would suck me dry of whatever it needed along with all those around me.

Mephistopheles of L.A

Both inside and outside of the classroom music was a constant. Always something in need of listening to, of experiencing. Lessons about geometry? Blow it out your arse and let me listen to this song. If I have a memory of being in a classroom it’s likely related to a piece of music, or being told to put my music away. A teacher once pronounced to the class at the beginning of the lesson that music would no longer be allowed in his classroom as some of the Rock and Roll the kids enjoyed bred violence. At the end of that day, he proceeded to coach a game where teen boys crash into each other head on, and throw each other to the ground whilst chasing a little leather ball. I laugh when I return home to see one of the video clips that had been circling my grade, how adorable. I can’t say I was sorry or sad to leave, however life beyond school proved to be even worse.

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The worst part about depression is the loneliness. But when your enemy is inside your own head what is there to do? If a wild dog ran at your and tried to maul you, there’s always a chance of knocking its lights out or having someone come to your aid, but not with mental illness. So many times you’ll see gifs, quotes, comic strips, books, depicting the moments when someone just doesn’t get what’s wrong with you, or trying to cheer you up with a cheesy quote from a Facebook post they’ve shared recently. For me, music was the only part that remained during these times as well. Early morning trips to work or the local swimming pool, my head drowning with emotion, fresh from a sleepless night, my hands trembling with rage, fear, anxiety, all could be quelled with a few songs from a few people exorcising their own demons out loud.

HeartShapedGlasses

I still wake up even now, covered in sweat, muscles cramping, heart pounding, head a blur and everything i’ve done that I can remember flashing through my head. All the pain and abuse, what i’ve wrought on others in my attempts to avoid the vortex swirling below. It still happens and it still requires hearing a certain voice, even if just for a short while. Sometimes my admiration I think can be confused for idolisation, but it’s far from that, and far less vapid. And when a simple journey into a news agent with my sister turns into her buying me a seemingly meaningless gift that she knows will provide me the joy that she knows I get from his work, I can’t help but be humbled, grateful and feel a little bit stronger.

M.M

In time it seems possible that he’ll become someone’s #metoo and ruin all the work he’s done for individualism and freedom of expression. Should that time come to pass the right thing will be to let go, but for now my wall reminds me that that kid back in the 90’s…

…he did ok… and there’s plenty more to come yet…

Thanks Sarah. It means a lot.

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.