This weekend and last I achieved one of my ultimate theatre goals as an actor, singer, and not-quite-a-dancer in Monty Python’s Spamalot! The Musical.
A lot of people have done an incredible amount of work, both on stage and off, to bring the show to life and make it run smoothly and professionally.
It’s a really, really funny show. By the time our cast was done with it, it was non-stop hilarity and good times for the duration of each performance. To be honest, that was pretty much the order of every rehearsal, too,
Sure, there have been moments of frustration and, occasionally, despair for some of us. More than anything, though, it has been fun. It’s fair to say that however many tears may have been shed in tiredness or anxiety, a hundred times more have been borne of laughter.
From our first read-through of the script to taking our bows of the final night, we have laughed together, learned from one another, inspired and encouraged each other.
From the final week of January to the second week of May, the cast members have grown from acquaintances into friends. Those with whom I have worked most closely have begun to feel like family. It’s fair to say that they understand my love for theatre and performance more than most members of my family, and it seems they have fully accepted my own individual brand of weirdness and subversive humour. I have found my theatre tribe.
Today, dismantling the absolutely amazing sets and cleaning the theatre felt kind of surreal. Yesterday I had tears because I didn’t want it to be over. Today, tears threatened again as reality set in: the show really is done.
My heart is heavy, and even though my Fibromyalgia-plagued body and permanently rather dodgy spine are expressing a strong and well-earned sense of relief, I regret nothing.
At the end of it all, I am blessed to count these amazing people as my friends, and to be able to say “see you next time!” with every confidence that there will be another show and we will be keen to do it all again.
All photos in this post are by Joel Barker aka Sir Bedevere, and have been used with permission.
It is easy for an Indie author to become discouraged by the challenges that come from various sources. It’s a tough gig sometimes, especially for someone who is new to the world of self-publishing.
So how do we develop and maintain a thriving and motivated Indie author community that we all want to be part of?
These are the key behaviours we need to adopt and make regular habits:
Encourage each otherRead each other’s work
Give honest, constructive feedbackHelp each other achieve excellence
Share each other’s work and social media posts
Be professional about every phase of the writing, editing, publishing and marketing process.
Be free and liberal with sharing insights, experience and knowledge that will help those who are new to our community.
How do I know these things work?
The more time you spend in the community, the clearer the divide between those who do them and those who don’t.
Those Indies who already do these things consistently demonstrate that they are are the most engaged, motivated and productive authors. They are positive and proactive.
Most significantly, they express joy in doing these things. You can’t fake or manufacture that.
Those who don’t support others are more likely to express jealousy and resentment in response to the success of others. They are more likely to be critical and competitive.
And those who adopt the “success at any cost” will be far more likely to turn to less ethical avenues of advancement. It is from this small, murky pool that those willing to cheat the system will emerge.
All in all, that doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me. I want my books to sell because they are good, not because I am pretending to be something I am not.
Phoenix Project is a new and very exciting series of community events coming to my home town of Cobden, Victoria.
Phoenix Project really is the perfect name. Almost a year ago, Cobden, Camperdown, Terang, and much of the surrounding area was either destroyed or threatened by bushfires. Homes and livestock were lost – but miraculously, no lives. Our town, and those others nearby, emerged covered in soot and smelling of smoke, but determined to recover and keep on going as we always have done before.
That’s something I’ve had to do in my own life, too. I’ve been through some pretty tough seasons when it felt like my life was burning down around me. Yet I’ve emerged, covered in soot, and smelling of smoke and… you get the idea. As I observed last night, I’m a bit of a phoenix myself.
There’s no doubt the fires were an absolutely awful experience for everyone involved. But we got through it.
And those hard times in my life – I’ve come out braver and stronger than I’ve ever been. Well – mentally and emotionally, at least. My spine would tell you a different story.
I was very privileged to be one of the featured artists on the opening night of The Phoenix Project, alongside outstanding blues musician Alister Turril and Josh and Yas, spoken word artists from lowercase poetry in Geelong.
I shared some of the poems from ‘Smoke and Shadows’ that I wrote during and after the St Patrick’s Day fires, followed by some of my fantasy style poems because I didn’t want my bracket to be too heavy or confronting for a largely local audience.
The poems I shared all focused one way or another on the idea of resilience, and getting through the trials of life stronger and wiser than on the way in.
It was a great night. The music was cool, the poetry was powerful and thought-provoking, and the tone of the evening was 100% positive.
Phoenix Project continues this weekend with a great lineup of musicians and artists to feed the soul of everyone who comes along.
I want to acknowledge my people: the ones who always encourage, who support me in everything I do, who get excited about my victories and achievements and commiseratewith me in my disappointments.
It’s more than simply liking me, or my work, or thinking I am good at what I do: they believe in me. That is a peculiar kind of magic that cannot be worked by the insincere or the doubters.
These people are incredibly rare, yet I am blessed enough to have more than a handful of them in my life: my husband, my best friends, my Indie Fabs author posse and a select few other friends and fellow authors.
Some may think it is only natural that my husband would support me, but it’s a luxury that not all creatives enjoy. The same goes for friends and families. As I mentioned in my post the other day, some people just don’t like it when you do something out of the ordinary.
In fact, it’s the apparent apathy or disdain of the many that makes the support and encouragement of the few so powerful.
It’s important to me that I am openly and honestly thankful to each member of my tribe. I would likely have given up long ago without them. An integral part of who I am would be lying dormant, and life would be less colourful and interesting. Just the thought of that is awful.
So, to each one of those magical people: thank you. I value and appreciate you. I love you. And I believe in you, too.
I love tulips. They are lovely and graceful, and so colourful!
My goodness, though, they’re delicate. It doesn’t take much to make a tulip wilt and bend its head to the ground. One might be tempted to think that a flower that needs to have its bulb frozen during winter in order to bloom might be a little more resilient… but apparently not.
I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the people in my circles— not all, but a hefty percentage of them— are like tulips. As long as the environment suits them, they are fine, but when they are unhappy for some reason, they just don’t cope. It doesn’t take much to upset the balance: just do something they find confronting. The more brave and nonconformist the act, the stronger the effect.
Don’t get me wrong: I do like most of the people in my circles.
What I don’t like is having to kowtow to their apparent discomfort about certain things that matter to me, when they demonstrate zero tolerance to who and what I am.
I am weary of having to live with the perpetual awareness that many people I know don’t mind me being an author as long as I never mention it. Some wouldn’t mind my multiple ear piercings either if I grew my hair longer to cover them. Others don’t mind my tattoos as long as my clothes hide them. They feign politeness when I talk about the theatre company I’m in or the musicals I direct at school, but very few of them have ever bought a ticket and come to see a show. And let’s not even start on how they feel about my political views.
And yes. Those very different things get exactly the same reaction from a lot of people.
It’s ridiculous, and I’m over it.
I am not less than them. I do not matter less than they do. My feelings, thoughts, passions and pursuits matter just as much as theirs do. I am as worthy of their interest and respect as they are of mine.
And I am very proud of my poetry and my stories… and of my shows. I’m rather fond of my tattoos and piercings too, for that matter.
What I write happens to be pretty darned good: all those reviews my books receive from strangers are proof of that. Why should I hide my work under a cloak of secrecy when they can freely discuss being a builder, a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker?
Nobody looks at them with thinly veiled suspicion. Nobody questions if what they build or make is any good. Nobody asks how much money they make per job. Nobody asks if their kids are real, or if they are any good. They are all quite free and welcome to talk about their kids in front of me even though I don’t have any, and I certainly don’t respond as though they are trying to sell me a child.
So, no more tiptoeing around. I won’t be shoving a book in their face at every opportunity — that’s not me — but I’m not going to allow others to pretend they don’t exist, either. They don’t have to read my work, but they will know that I expect their respect and acknowledgment.
I will not allow other people to treat me as less than I am.
I will not allow them to suppress my thoughts and feelings. I will call people out on double standards. I will refuse to be made to feel small. I will be as diplomatic and gentle as I can, but I will assert myself.
And if they insist, I will know they are not really my people, and were never really in my circle.
I know some people make a big deal of it, but that tends to diminish over the years when a couple have been together for a long time.
As half of one of those couples, I decided to create some attractive yet practical greetings that might come in handy for couples like us. In the interests of quality assurance, these have been road-tested on my husband, who laughed a bit.
You’re welcome to use any or all of these in order to win favor with your beloved, or just for a bit of fun.
Sometimes I wonder what people think when I say I write poetry.
Cute little greeting card verses? No.
Lofty, unintelligible, old-fashioned rhymes about flowers and oil paintings? No.
Trite rhymes that talk about love and sunshine? No.
I have to admit, I’m very tired of the “That’s nice, dear!” kind of responses.
I’m also more than weary of the sensation that I have to just about stand under a red light on a dimly lit street to get people to take my poetry seriously.
I’m not talking about my readers here. I’m talking about people I interact with in my daily life, be they co-workers, acquaintances, family members or friends. Other than a very small number of individuals within those circles – for whose support I am ever grateful – it feels like most people in my life prefer to pretend I’ve never written a word.
I know they’re not my main audience. I don’t expect them all to love everything I write. In all honesty, most of them have never even picked any of my work up to read it.
The question remains, though: Why aren’t they more willing to support me? Do I mean so little them that what matters to me is of no value, either?
I have commented on numerous occasions that there is a part of my soul in every poem. My poems speak my pain, my love, my joy, my life lessons, my resolutions, my fears, my anger, my insomnia, my restlessness and my contentment. Some of them are the very essence of my desperation to survive and my will to live. Some of them could only be more “life and death” if they were actually written in my blood.
Do people not understand the bravery that it takes for an author to put their words on paper and unveil them in front of the whole world? That kind of vulnerability is, quite honestly, terrifying.
I experience this far more profoundly with my poetry than I do with my fiction. It’s far more personal, and it’s definitely more revealing of what’s in my own heart and mind than any of the stories I write. That’s why I am so committed to crafting each poem to say exactly what I want it to, in a way that is beautiful to read, and with careful attention to the music and structure of each poem. If I’m putting my soul out there for other people to read, it’s going to be the best that I can make it.
My readers tell me that my poems encourage and move them. The ultimate satisfaction as a poet is knowing that my words matter to the people who read them. They get it. And thank God they do, or else I’d be feeling more dejected than ever.
The other weirdly encouraging thing is that this isn’t something that only I experience. These are thoughts and feelings that are remarkably common among the writing community, and I have come to learn that they are common to all creative people, whatever medium they work in.
It’s why I am so thankful for my community of fellow authors and poets and other creative people who encourage and celebrate one another’s creativity and the courage that goes with it.
It’s why I am doubly grateful for my “additional family” that are known as the Indie Fabs – they’re my posse, my constant encouragers, and my soft place to fall when things are hard.
It’s why I am doubly grateful for those few family members and friends who support everything I do, read everything I create, and cheer me on relentlessly.
It’s not overstating things to say that I am still here because of my writing, and I am still writing because of them.
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I posted recently about needing to write some positive poetry to balance the number of dark and melancholy poems that I’ve written, so that my next collection isn’t entirely moody, angry and defiant.
On Wednesday evening, between a meeting and a theatre company rehearsal, I grabbed some dinner and headed to one of my favourite spots – the beach. It was an unseasonally mild evening for early May— still 24 celcius when I got there— so I took off my shoes and grounded myself in nature with some deep breaths and my bare feet on the earth. It felt so good to find quietness and solitude there, just the sea, a few gulls and me.
While I sat on the foreshore and pondered the scene before me as evening fell, the beginnings of a poem came to me. Now that it’s finished, I’m pretty happy with it. I love the sensuous, joyful feel of a lovers’ reunion, and I think I’ve captured the moment well.
Consider me encouraged.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to encourage or inspire me with ideas, whether as a comment or in a private message. It means a lot to me that you would do that, and that you’re interested enough in my writing to help me in that way.
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Only on rare occasions am I ever tempted to feel as though I might just get on top of things.
Other days, like today, I realise yet again just how little most people value me, or anything I do.
Seriously, universe, what am I doing wrong?
I work hard, I’m a loyal friend, and I care more about people than most of them will ever realise. It’s true that I don’t come in the smallest package with the sleekest, glossiest wrapping, but if I’m given the choice of someone who “fits an image” or someone who will both help me and defend me or die trying, I know which person I’d pick to have on my team. I’m not perfect, but who is?
So, tonight I’ve spent a few hours trying to think through and process how I feel and why, In that process, the words of one of my own poems came back to me. I wrote ‘Cold Shoulder’ on a previous occasion when other people’s behaviour left me feeling a similar way.
Many years I’ve lived on the Cold Shoulder An inhospitable, stony place – Where there’s little but frosty silence, No allowance for comfort or grace.
The chill wind of indifference Cuts the air without making a sound, Skittering icy flakes of apathy And leaves’ skeletons over the ground.
A fine specimen of resilience, I’m a fine diamond in the rough, A survivor of hostile conditions Where life is invariably tough.
I suffer no delusions of love – For that loss I have frequently wept; But knowing I don’t matter at all Is the hardest of truths to accept.
Weary of relentless erosion, I implore the stone lords for reprieve, But there is no reward for devotion To those in whom you don’t believe.
Let them preach not to me of salvation When they hold all the power in their hands To inflict such complete desolation – One could never meet all their demands.
So I remain here on the Shoulder In this treacherous, heartless place: Although frigid, this landscape is honest, And each rock only has the one face.
This is not new territory for me. I have survived every other “kick in the head”, and I’ll survive this one, because I refuse to lay down, shut up and die. And I’ll make all seven people who do actually care about me proud in the process… again.
It does make me wonder, though, why I fall into that same trap of assuming that anyone else ever actually tries to see my worth, or cares about it.
Apparently, I never learn.
Today is ANZAC Day: the day on which Australians and New Zealanders stop to commemorate and reflect on the sacrifice of all those who served our countries – very often side by side – in World War I, and ever since.
113 years after the ANZAC forces stormed the beaches and clambered up the cliffs at Gallipoli, we stand in sombre silence and remember the enormous losses of life suffered on that day, and every other day, during major conflicts like the two World Wars. Every year, attendance at dawn services, ANZAC Day marches, and commemoration ceremonies around Australia grows, even though all the soldiers who fought in World War I, and many who fought in World War II, have passed away.
Peter Rock, the MC at this morning’s ceremony at the cenotaph in my local town, made a profound observation in the early moments of his opening speech: “Those who are surprised by the fact that ANZAC Day commemorations continue to draw record attendance understand very little of our national character.” He went on to speak about how and why we remember those who fought and sacrificed themselves for our freedom. Their bravery is renowned, but so is their commitment despite adversity, their mateship, and their love for their country. He’s absolutely right – those are qualities that have indeed become part of our national character. Our freedom and our mateship are the rewards of their courage and service.
That’s something my town has been reminded of in recent weeks. This time, our enemy was fire, and our battle was fought with water and fire retardant foam, not with bullets and mortars. Those who faced the danger and fought to keep the rest of us safe did so knowing they were putting themselves at risk, but that didn’t stop them. Behind the fire front, they were supported by others who worked tirelessly to supply and feed them, but also to care for those who had to flee from the fires, and for all those who were traumatised by them in various ways. Of course, it’s a very different scale to what was experienced by the soldiers who went to war, but the selflessness and the determination to serve and protect is the same.
Thankfully, no lives were lost in that particular war, although there were numerous casualties in terms of homes and livelihoods. It has been relentless and exhausting, yet our community has come together yet again to help, support, and defend. People may have lost their houses, but they are not homeless: we are their home, and we will make sure they have what they need to start over and keep going. In true Aussie fashion, our local community has been incredibly generous, as have many people from beyond the local area. There really is no better place to live.
Today’s ceremony was, as always, very well attended. Representatives from service groups, churches, local government organisations, school students and professional organisations laid wreaths in memory of the fallen. Families stood together, some wearing medals that belonged to fathers, uncles, or grandparents who served in the military and have since passed on. The flags of both Australia and New Zealand were flown at half mast until after the minute of silent reflection, and the national anthems of both countries were sung. Tears – whether of sorrow for the fallen, of thankfulness for the freedom we enjoy, of patriotic pride, or a combination of all those factors – were shed.
This afternoon, there’s a big concert being held on the local football ground, not just to raise funds for fire relief, but also to give some joy and celebration back to a community that has done some really hard yards over the past six weeks. Talents from both the local area and further afield will be performing. Local businesses are providing catering, entertainment, and every other service that’s needed.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that the locals are going to turn out in force to support that concert, and each other, because that’s what we do. We stick together in times of trouble, and we cheer each other on in our victories. In doing that on ANZAC Day, we will continue to remember the lessons we learned from the ANZACS and all our other diggers.
At the going down of the sun, just as we did in the morning, we WILL remember them.