The Year of the Horse was always going to be a wild year. I knew that from the outset but I was of the mind that with the reins in my hands, with firm goals, I would have some control over the wild energy.
The less than salubrious energy began with the arrival of my Lady Godiva necklace. She’d broken from the locket. In fact, when I looked closer she was only glued on. Barely held together and not crafted to make the journey. I should have taken it as an omen and done something radical to transmute the energy. By the time October rolled around and I finally replaced it with a jade horse, so much had already broken me. And the jade medallion lasted less than three weeks before it sawed through the leather strap (enough said!)
We all know how wonderful hindsight is. How we could have, should have, would have done it better if only we’d know.
BEYOND THE BREAKS
I don’t want to focus on the bad though. I have tried hard to keep the challenges of the year off the public radar to give me the space to deal with them in my own time and space, with the help of those I chose to confide in (my Furious Lovelies, Helen and Stacey, I would never ever have survived without you). When I sat down this afternoon to do a tarot spread to try and pick through what gifts 2015 managed to bestow, it was clear, there had been gifts some of which I could speak of here and others that I could not, so I will refrain from speaking of any of them.
What I can share is (what I thought was a small) list of things the Year of Audaciousness brought my way. Each in their own way asked me to be a little (or a lot) brave and bold. To take risks.
- I returned to the QWC for the second year to deliver my editing and critiquing seminar. This year people turned up on the day in the hope that there would be no shows.
- I taught two new courses: Intro To Short Stories (through a new partnership between QWC and the Brisbane City Libraries) and ‘Beyond Crossing the ‘i-s’ and dotting the ‘t-s’, my first corporate gig focusing on peer review and technical editing.
- I wrote poetry throughout the year (sporadically but with intent).
- I completed Post-It Note Poetry in February but compliments of a less than stable life at the time and breaks from social media I don’t have the combined efforts of my work.
- I took the mic at SpeedPoets for the first time in April (and won to my absolutely gobsmacking surprise!). From then on I became as regular as I could, fighting back the overwhelming tide of depression and anxiety in my every day life to take the mic.
- I took the mic for the Call Back finals in November where I performed Paper Mache, Body Warmth for Beginners and An Open Letter… I didn’t win but I made sure I did my best and I’m really looking forward to being part of the SpeedPoets community in the coming year. Having the finals at the end of the year kept me trying to write poetry.
- I wrote a dedicated collection of flash fiction, ‘No Need To Reply’
- I self published ‘No Need to Reply’ when it did not place in the original competition, and then only one of the stories placed upon the first round of submissions, that I would honour the collection as a whole and the time and effort that had gone in it, to self publish.
- ‘No Need to Reply’ is the first publishing project to break even and some. The chapbooks outstripped the electronic sales about 5:1 which surprised me. This included busting the mockers and finishing a book cover with a friend from high school – something we didn’t quite manage with the paper version of Elyora that never quite made it.
- I accidentally spawned the #6in6 challenge, on the back of the original rejection of ‘No Need to Reply’ and wrote 19,000 words in 6 weeks on 6 different stories.
- The Magic Puppies (an online writing group) grew out of the original accountability post on Facebook about the #6in6 challenge. There are now 31 members and the original #6in6 challenge amassed an incredible combined word total and many of those stories have gone on to find homes with publishers. I had not planned on becoming a ‘group Mum’ but I relished the chance to support and encourage creative from a diverse group of people. Especially watching one of my oldest friends, Kim submerge into this accidental tribe.
- I was blessed to have champions of my work behind the scenes, from people within and beyond the writing circle I consider more family and less a loose professional configuration of like minded people. People who believed in me, even when I could not believe in myself.
- I collaborated with Clare Jansen to write the interconnected story ‘Twenty Four’ – this broke all my rules of how and who you collaborate with and it was a brilliant experience.
- I wrote three articles for The Writers Bloc (who are awesome – they pay their contributors). The Practical Guide to Beta read made their most read list which was humbling.
- I subbed stories to pro markets for the first time. I found the submission process brutal, especially as I was struggling with depression. But it was motivating and I have no regrets at the insights which came out of it.
- I wrote magical realism for the first time – best exponents of these efforts: ‘At Arm’s Length’, ‘Womb-of’Mine’ and ‘Poms and their Bombs’. Then discovered it’s a hard market to crack. But that’s okay, because
- I made my first pro sale, to the Lane of Unusual Traders (the only market I desperately wanted to succeed in). ‘Womb-Of-Mine’ is an unsettling exploration of the power of women and their fertility in what will be my first published example of #birthpunk. It will appear sometime in 2015.
- ‘Ambrosia’ was published in ‘Vine Leaves’ and racked up the honour of my first published poem.
- ‘Paper Mache’ followed many months later taking the honour of first print publication in ‘No Need to Reply’.
- My cricket story, ‘First to a Hundred’ found a home with Daniel Young at Tincture. It was a relief to see that it went somewhere, to editors, who loved it as much as I did.
- I flew to Melbourne to attend Continuum for the first time, and had more firsts staying in the Con hotel, and rooming with Stacey and Helen. I shied away from putting my hand up only for one panel (to do with story telling outside the box) and it was a good thing. I spent most of my time without a voice (or attempting to cough up both lungs) which made all that bar chatter incredibly interesting. I came home and spent another 8 weeks with a voice who belonged to a two pack a day smoker.
- My social glue was maintained by Furious Drinks once a month at The Fox. I went even when the idea of being near other people made me cry. It was my life line out of the hungry maw of suburban obscurity.
- I spawned my first brand publishing project in more than three years. Later this year ‘My Heart is an Echo Chamber’ will come out – a sequel to ‘Not Need to Reply’ written by eight people close to my heart. Each story is a reply to one in ‘No Need to Reply.’
- I returned to ‘work’ after two years rest I stepped up late in the year, to guide the Literary Mix Tapes Film Project to (almost) completion.This included a serious honing of my skills as a story editor, as much as it was remembering how a script is formatted. It also meant I was included (by proxy) in my first ever film shoot.
- After five years of promises ‘this would be the year I finished my first birthpunk novella’ – I did it. On the 31st January, just before midnight I put the final words down on ‘Encursion’. It came in at 40K. It’s a solid first draft and I’m ready to tidy it up and get a second draft off to beta readers sooner rather than later. I can see how the second will shape up and from that the third and so forth. At the moment I have enough characters and narrative lines to write eight novellas in this world.
INTO THE FOLD
Sometimes its a long (very long) time between brushes with serendipity. So long that you forget the magic and wonder when it arrives. November hustled Nic Holland front and centre into my writing life and while he refuses to accept he took me under his wing, adopting me as his writing partner (which was honestly a bloody joke for the first two months – given I spent most writing sessions knitting instead of writing!) he pestered me consistently enough for me to park myself at my desk and write every day through January. Without Nic ‘Encursion’ would still be a 16K pipe dream on my hard drive’. And then in December, Linda Brucesmith quietly took a seat beside me, a seat I am sure has been waiting for her for some time. Our first coffee date lasted three and a half hours and it could have been twice as long.
There were long dinners and shorter coffees with Rob who has come to assume the position of extended family rather than friend. There were email threads with Stacey and Helen, sleep overs, game nights, life lines, dates by the river and all the things that best friends are and better than because these two wonderful women take me as I am and there is something liberating in being accepted for yourself. There were unexpected coffee dates with Clwedd; Melbourne adventures with Sean and Brisbane adventures with Jason; beers with Ben and the gang; beers and babysitting with Tom; brain storming sessions with Emily, along with a liberal dash of interior wall paint and Rowena returned from London to keep me company in the dark hours. There was Whispers with Nicky and the other part of the gang, NatCon planning meetings with Damon and Aimée, Angela was always at the end of FaceBook when needed, Alex and Paul always turned up at just the right time, Rus continued to inspire me from the other side of the world and Adam remained at my side despite the fact Piper’s Reach ended up on the back burner for both of us. And there were my Owlish-Elven sistas Kim and Cat who kept me entertained and sane through the festive season; Kevin, who kept pushing me to see my positive place in the world and Lois initiated me into the arcane pleasure of building worlds, when we weren’t building stories or growing ideas or doing any of the other half a dozen things we do when we get together.
THE VIEW FROM HERE
It’s also easy to feel like you’ve done nothing all year when your actual achievements deviate from what you set out to do. It’s why it might be self indulgent to write a list like the one. But essential in the bigger scheme of things.
It is easy to focus on only the terrible things and I could compile as impressive a list, but I don’t want to. My cards today reminded me that I’ve had significant shifts in belief and head space in the last 13 months. While the nagging fear I will disappear, swallowed by suburbia, never quite goes away, I no longer feel trapped here. I can take the changes in circumstances that have come with homeschooling and make them mine. I can reap advantages and rewards. I can shift boundaries so I don’t feel imprisoned. I can make my life my own. The past is gone and the future is impatiently waiting.
Rather than see myself as escaping a bad situation I can see myself emerging from it, not necessarily stronger, but tougher. As the final lines of the final tarot card said today:
… its time to move on. You’ll need help. Ask for it. Be brave. Be decisive. Feel the winds of change and gaze into a fresh future.