Guess who got nominated again for Top Female Author 2019?
I did, that’s who!
‘Smoke and Shadows’ has been nominated in the Poetry category – the same one in which Nova won in 2017.
It’s fair to say I am excited!
It couldn’t have come at a better time. The crazy busy pace and emotional demands of the last three weeks and the stress I have been under because of things outside my control have really worn me down, and while I’ve enjoyed the release of ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’, I haven’t really given my books or my writing the attention they deserve at all the past month or so. I’ve started a number of poems lately, but haven’t finished any of them… yet.
It’s really nice to know someone loved my book enough to nominated it. I love it, and I’m proud of it for so many reasons – but that is no guarantee that anyone else is going to. The reviews have been good, though, so I have reason to hope that others will enjoy reading it, too.
It’s also very timely reminder that there are things which transcend those times of stress and exhaustion in our lives that seem to take over and leave no time or energy for anything else.
Of course, we know that, but sometimes we forget to keep that thought in our mind. It’s amazing the difference a little bit of encouragement and support can make.
Winners are announced on July 8th. I’ll be sure to let you know if I win!
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 remember as a child going to visit friends of my parents’ for dinner, and being served a dessert called Ambrosia. I had never heard of it before, and I remember being amazed by how sweet and delightful it was. The sensation of wanting more when the little dish set before me was empty is still a very clear memory.
When I was a bit older and started reading about history, I discovered that ambrosia was a mythical substance that, having been brought to the Ancient Greek Gods by doves, became their food of choice, along with their favoured drink, nectar. Ambrosia and nectar may have even originally been the same thing, but Homer and Sappho both distinguish between them. Given that they were present in Ancient Greece and I was not. their authority on the matter is something I am willing to accept.
Ambrosia was understood to be fragrant, powerful and reserved for the gods, who adored it because of its healing and cleansing powers, and because it took years off their physical ages. It filled them with passion and made them desirable. Little wonder, then, that they wanted to keep it for themselves!
In time, ‘ambrosia’ was a term that became popular among the Romans as any delightful essence or concoction of food or drink, and then may have given rise to the idea of “the elixir of life” that people have been searching for ever since.
It was the concept of drinking something that resulted in passion that lasted for eternity that caused me to write my poem Ambrosia about the power of a lover’s effect on one’s life and soul. I wanted to capture that heady, addictive feeling between lovers that makes them believe nothing and nobody else matters, and that their love transcends time, place and physical limitations.
Anyone who has experienced those feelings will relate. Anyone who has landed hard on their posterior after doing something stupid for love will probably relate, but may also mutter uncharitable things about love and romance under their breath. Those who haven’t experienced it may scoff.
Yet the feelings and experiences described in the poem do exist, and they are what the celebration of Valentine’s Day has come to be all about: it’s the kind of love that everyone wants to find and experience, although it’s fair to say that not everyone does.
We must remember, after all, that the legend of Valentines Day was never about flowers, candlelight dinners and fairy-tale, kissy-face wedding proposals: it began with a man being executed for something he believed in.
At any rate, I wrote Ambrosia in honour of the love of my life who, after many years together, still hasn’t driven me to drink. I have, however, been known to do take a risk or two for the love of him from time to time, so it’s an appropriate poem to share on Valentine’s Day.
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Ambrosia is publshed in my book, Smoke and Shadows.
I will readily confess to being a little overwhelmed right now.
‘Smoke and Shadows’ has a little orange flag beside the title on Amazon US, declaring that it is the #1 New Release in Women’s Poetry. While I know it won’t last terribly long, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a. real and b. not a cruel joke.
It was a strange mix of surprise, pride, excitement and humility that hit me when I signed into my browser after a few days away from home and that popped up.
It also comes up when anyone clicks on ‘Hot New Releases’ and scrolls through the various genres. That’s a pretty neat trick!
I know that I have worked hard to ensure it’s a great collection, and I am incredibly proud of these poems, but I know that it couldn’t have happened without readers being willing to give my work a try, nor without the support and encouragement of those who help with tricky things like marketing and promotion. I couldn’t have done any of it without those key individuals in my life who remind me regularly that I can do this, that my work is good, and that there is no reason why I should not deserve success.
To each of those people: thank you for helping me achieve this honour, as fleeting as it may be. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your contribution to my achievements so far.
Of course, it all depends on how one defines success. Some people might consider dollars in the bank as a sign that they’ve made it. Some might look at whether or not they can quit their day job and just write. Some might want to achieve “celebrity” status. Others focus on book sales, page reads, and their ongoing rankings in various lists and stores.
I won’t deny that any or all of those things would be nice, and I absolutely do hope that people will buy, read and hopefully enjoy my books, but for me, the ultimate success as a poet is when someone tells me that my poetry is relatable, that it moved them or made them cry, or that it helped them to put a painful experience behind them. One of my favourite comments about my book Leaf came from a young woman who told me, “I read your poems, and I knew I wasn’t alone in this world. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to know someone else understands what I think and feel.” That has never left me, and never fails to spur me on. The fact that people connect and relate to my work in that powerfully emotional way is how I measure my success as a poet.
So, I don’t need that little orange flag to show that I’m successful. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to have it, and I’m going to take pride in it. And I might brag about it just a little… because I know it won’t last long. And in all honesty… I’m going to tell everyone I know, just because I can.
One of the questions authors are often asked is “What do you write?”
I used to simply answer “poetry”. Then I turned my hand to horror, so my tagline became “Poetry with soul and horror with none”. Then I wrote a couple of fantasy novellas for the Once Upon A Time Anthology.
As my 11th book hits the stores, it’s fair to say now that I am a multi-genre author. While my poetry and horror only occasionally converge, they certainly did so most effectively in A Poet’s Curse.
‘Smoke and Shadows’, though, really is a genuine multitasker when it comes to genre. It’s much more than “just poetry”.
In the pages of this book, you will find:
Whatever genre you prefer to read, you will find ‘Smoke and Shadows’ a refreshing change of perspective.
I’m really proud of this book, and I hope you enjoy my work.