Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Yay! My sampler has been published!

I have been remiss - and my publisher is not at all happy with me. Oh dear!

In my defence, I have been extraordinarily busy - more on that soon.


I have been so excited to get this one out. This is - as the cover says - a sampler of my family flashes, which I wrote for the PhD artifact. I am still working on the larger project, which will be a novel containing the remainder of the flashes I wrote in the past 3.5 years - with a number of added flashes aimed at bringing the existing work together. Obviously, these aren't germane to the larger project. 

This is where you can buy the book, there are three options; soft cover, hard cover, and hard cover with a dust jacket (for those people who love classics). Please feel free to spread the word because, you know, I'm a really good writer (hey, seriously, you keep coming back to this blog and my life is not that exciting, so you know I'm a good writer - make sure you tell everyone how great I am).

The flashes are based on family stories from my own family - they're quite true (though obviously embellish because I wasn't present at any of the events which led to these stories). Personally, I love reading family stories - I am a bit of a voyeur in that sense. I believe every family has a novel in it - and flashes are a great ways to access those stories in bite sized, and manageable, pieces. In my research, I was looking at a thing called 'narrative identity' and the idea behind this theory is that people form their identity through stories, both in the stories they keep about themselves, and the stories they reject.

A really good way to learn about a person is to ask them to tell a story about themselves. Most people will have some sort of anecdote about themselves and these anecdotes can be very revealing. They can tell you if the person is optimistic or pessimistic. You can tell if they are self-deprecating or keen to impress. You can tell if they tend to be humorous or more serious.

So, extrapolating from this idea, the stories most commonly repeated in families about their members can reveal a lot about the culture of a family. The great thing about an anthology of flashes is that they are very short stories. They're great to read in those short spaces of time - on the train, while waiting for the kids to come out of class, on the loo (c'mon, you know you do this - well, most of you do). More than this - in a collection of flashes about a family, means even if you read the flashes out of order, you will still get the overarching 'feel' for the family culture. Basically, it's win/win!

So, there you go! Follow the link, buy the book, pass the word on, and let me know what you think. If you like it - great! If you hate it, I'd love to hear your critique so I can improve my writing - though I'm pretty confident you'll love the book (or I wouldn't be asking you to invest in it).

P.S. The photo is of Reykjavik - which means at least some of the characters will have lived in one of the houses visible in the photo (trust me, Reykjavik isn't that big).



Saturday, March 11, 2017

Green Ladies v. Equal Pay for Women...


Unless you were on some sort of transcendental journey of self-exploration or on a technology free kick - and seriously, who has time for either of those these days? - you wouldn't have missed the fact that a couple of days ago was International Women's Day. This is a day which had to be created so great swaths of women could be treated on equal footing with men around the world. Now, I don't subscribe to the 'every woman is oppressed by the patriarchy' point of view. I believe if you don't actually feel oppressed, then you aren't, and that no one else has the right to insist that you are, only because they themselves feel disempowered. I see many empowered women in cultures which might otherwise be considered by outsiders to be oppressive, but in many ways are less oppressive than far more prosperous or educated populations (assuming prosperity is about money and education is about literacy and numeracy).

On International Women's Day in Australia, there erupted quite a debate about women's equal rights. Unfortunately, it seemed mostly in relation to the validity of spending thousands of dollars on swapping pedestrian lights which feature a figurine with a head, arms, and legs with a figure featuring a torso shape which might indicate a dress - you know, representing women. Mind you, some suggest it could be the cape of a caped crusader, or a man in a kilt, or a person of any sex in a lab coat.

Now setting aside the stereotyping of women wearing dresses rather than pants, we have to ask ourselves, was this money well spent? I mean, is this really going to help women attain equality? Or even help them rise above current, truly oppressive circumstances such as domestic abuse or homelessness. Is a woman living on the streets of Melbourne who doesn't have the money to supply herself with tampons at the beginning of every cycle really going to feel understood or supported. As she sits on the footpath outside of a train station, sheltering from blistering heat, or freezing rain is she really going to feel comforted by the sight of little green ladies telling people when it's safe to cross the road?

Well, will she?

No, I doubt very much that she will.

So, who does feel comforted by this street light revolution? 

I'm glad you asked! I'll tell you who feels comforted by this. Middle class, financially secure do-gooders with too much time on their hands. Wannabe cerebral warriors. People who have never actually spent any time with homeless women or women living under imminent threat to their own lives or those of their children. That's who. They like to think of these 'victories' as 'the first baby steps towards equality', but what this actually represents is the lack of will to really step outside their comfort zone. 

There is always a lot of celebration of women who achieved great things in history on International Women's Day. The suffragette movement is always up there. Few people really consider what that movement really was about. Yes, it was about getting the vote for women, but why did they want the vote in the first place? Well, it was because they were sick to death of watching their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons go off to war and be killed. They were sick of losing their loved ones and they wanted a voice to ensure that didn't keep happening. And what were they willing to do to gain that voice? Well, anything, actually. They were literally willing to die, themselves. 

Let's talk about the women who featured in the Civil Rights movement in the US? Rosa Parks who, one day. decided she no longer wanted to sit at the back of the bus. Or the little girl who was the first black student in an all white primary school and had to be escorted by security guards through crowds of aggressive and derogatory parents - her name was Ruby Bridges. These were women and girls willing to risk their very lives. Not just sit back congratulating themselves for changing ten street lights.

Many Australians were unimpressed by the 'grand feat' of changing a few street lights to the tune of thousands of dollars. Quite frankly, Rosie Batty did more than that for women in Australia, just by talking, out loud, in public, without the safety of crowds and without placards.

Below is a link to an article which pretty much slams the excitement over little green lady figures for drawing attention away from a very important and revealing result of a survey about the perception of women by Australians. It is very depressing, but certainly, an attitude which will not be changed by ten street lights featuring 'women'

The Junkee article highlighting the inanity of the green lady pedestrian light changes in Melbourne in the light of a study released the same day about seriously scary stats on Australian attitudes towards women, which was overshadowed by the green lady debacle. This is the part I want you to note:

Yesterday, the same day the traffic light initiative was announced, polling firm Ipsos released their findings from an international survey of 18,000 people’s attitudes to gender equality in 24 countries around the world. They found that two in 10 Australian respondents believe men are “more capable of working, earning money, being educated and teaching than women” and, more frightening, one in seven Australian respondents agreed with the statement “women are inferior to men”.
Hello! This should have been the leading discussion all over social media and the news. This is something people need to be talking about and doing something about. And no, I really don't believe this is caused by the 'unconscious bias' male crossing light figures may or may not create.

Another article with examples of the Australian public being completely underwhelmed by this tokenistic gesture. At least some Australians believe there are far greater immediate matters of concern.

More than anything the green lady 'achievement' only serves to trivialise inequality experienced by many women. It's like, 'Oh, we have green lady lights, now. That'll keep people happy for another year, and also, they'll like us more.'

WRONG!

Meanwhile in Iceland - a world first makes real change for women - equal pay legislation!

Gosh, I'm bursting with pride to be able to call myself Icelandic. I woke my sons up this morning and told each of them in turn, 'Today you can be proud to be an Icelander, because today Icelanders came together to make sure everyone in their country gets equal pay!'

Okay, so the boys might need a few years to understand the significance of that accomplishment, but one day, they may also take for granted that no wage gap is acceptable.

So, green ladies or pay equality for women... It's a hard one, I know... They're both such amazing signs of progress, hey?

To all the Australians who are demanding MORE than just a few little green ladies. To the Australians who want equal participation in parliament, more money for the homeless, or better direct (not subtle, subconscious, let's hope people get the gist) language about the equality of all the sexes, races, abilities.. GO YOU!!!

To those who think little green ladies are just peachy keen... Grow a brain... Or maybe, go talk to a homeless woman and find out what she really needs.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Hope...


How cool is my kid? So cool, that's how cool he is. It is amazing to watch him come into his own. I have great hope of him realising his dreams because he is so dedicated to his music - and he has tons of talent to go with that dedication

Another thing I have hope of as of today, is finally having work in my chosen field; teaching. I have worked so hard for so long, and so much of that effort seems to have gone unrecognised, and certainly under-utilised. I've studied for 25 years and had so much hope of the PhD being an avenue for networking and building my skills, but the predatory attitude of the University (getting people in and out asap so as to reap Government income), meant I was never offered the same opportunities my able bodied peers were offered, despite having proven capable of the work.

But today, I received words of great encouragement from the facilitator of the pre-employment course I'm doing right now. She had already identified my strengths and the issues I needed to over come to gain employment... Surprise, surprise, the obstacle I need to overcome is experience. I can't believe how many years I've wasted chasing prestigious qualifications that were leading no where.

So, I have hope, Now it is up to me to make the most of the opportunities stretching out ahead of me.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Walking the walk...

You know, I keep meaning to keep this blog completely up to date. And then life happens and when I do think of blogging I'm wiped out. Anyway, this last week has been full on with activity so first up, I thought I'd give you a brief overview of my week, which will lead into the main point of this post (just so you don't all think I'm just rambling on as per usual - you know, like right now).

Monday:

This was a very busy day. I actually managed to triple book my day. I usually have braille on Monday afternoons, but as well as that I'd made an appointment with Vision Australia Kensington's volunteer co-ordinator to submit the police check and working with children card applications. Then, on top of that, I accidentally promised to attend a monthly meeting of women at Guide Dogs Victoria support group for women. I'd been wanting to join this group for a couple of months, so when I got a call from the co-ordinator, I promised to come along before checking my diary (I'm getting better at keeping a diary, but still need to work on reviewing it, oops). Anyway, I decided to drop the braille lesson for the week because this was the thing I knew I'd be messing with least of all. As it turned out the tutor emailed me before I was able to get in touch with her to ask if we could move the lesson to Tuesday because she had another project on the Monday, wonderfully convenient for me. So, at 11am I went to GDV in Kew, and then at 2pm I went to the meeting at Kensington.

Tuesday:

I took myself off to Vision Australia Kensington again for braille. Though the class only lasts an hour, it takes over and hour to get there, and then another hour and a bit to get home again. I left home at 9.30am and didn't get home until 5.30pm. If that math doesn't seem to add up, it's because there were major problems with the public transport. On the upside, I met a lovely co-client from VA, and also had a lovely member of the public show me to the new platform I needed at Richmond - he was wearing a high vis jacket because he was a bike rider. There was also another dog handler on the platform though I didn't talk to him -it was just good to see other handlers around. I'm seeing more and more of them now that I have Harlem because he always lets me know when there's another dog around.

Wednesday:

In the morning I did some compilation of the sampler I'm having published. It'll be sixteen flashes in a little volume - I'll be posting about it here VERY SOON with a link to where you can order you own print copy. Then it turned out the high school photos were due the following day and we hadn't gotten Luey's hair cut yet - his hair was half way down his shoulder blades. He had had a terrible cut from the last el-cheapo place we took him to, so I wanted to take him somewhere he had a hope of an experienced hairdresser. It turns out there is a salon nearby that only charges about $10 more than we've usually paid in the past. So, I booked him in and we picked him up for the period he usually has private study and got the job done. He was very happy, and now it's just below his shoulders but in the long layer style he likes. Later in the afternoon we had the parent-teacher meeting with Ari's teacher. She seems very impressed by him. She read us a story he'd written which was pretty good, actually. I was surprised, not least of all because just six months ago he couldn't organise his thoughts enough to compose a logical plot.

Thursday:

An instructor from GDV came out to make an assessment of Harlem and I working together. Aaron the instructor was standing in for Justin, my regular instructor, who is going to Asia. Aaron was very happy with our progress and will be following up further in April.

Friday:

I attended a focus group at GDV and don't have a lot to say about that except I was able to chat to another couple of handlers, which is always good.

Yesterday:

Took Harlem off to see his puppy raiser down in Doveton. Spent a lovely couple of hours with this lady. She reminds me so much of another friend I have who used to be my dorm mum when I was 10. Harlem was beside himself. He hadn't been to her house in well over a year. As soon as he got into the driveway of the court, he started pulling at his lead. I let him guide me right to her house (I knew where it was, but let him take the lead). They lady at another grown puppy she's been puppy raising there, and Ruby and Harlem went for broke racing around the house. I haven't seen him so excited ever before, I think. He's the sort of dog who would love another dog in the house. That isn't feasible at the moment, but maybe in the future.

So, that brings us to today. Harlem has had a fabulous week getting out and working every day. He adores working. Going out for a walk is fun, too, but he loves working more, I think. He seems most relaxed after working.

There was some excitement at school on Friday. I got an sms at about 2.30pm from the high school saying the 'lock down' had been lifted. This was the first I heard about the lock down, so I immediately called Luey, who answered his phone with, 'I'm okay.' A lot of parents must have been calling their kids in a panic It seems some students upset a neighbour who came out and yelled at them and they thought he had a gun in his hand. Turns out it was a vacuum nozzle. Still, apparently there were alarms, and police, and choppers. The primary school is adjacent to the high school, so it also went into lock down. We didn't even know that until we turned up to assembly to see Ari receive an award.

Okay.



The point of this post...

I'm a big believer in contributing to the community. Always have been - probably because of a very long, deep connection with the Salvation Army as a junior soldier, soldier, and ultimately officer's brat. Of course, I left the Salvos decades ago, but the drive to help in the community never left me.

During the early 00s, I volunteered in the parenting community I belonged to, first as a play group co-ordinator and then later as President of the incorporated organisation. Later, I volunteered as Secretary of the Mature Age Student Club at Deakin, and while I honestly feel that as well intentioned as we were, we weren't offering that much to the community (though a helluva a sight more than previous or subsequent committees, as the numbers and roll over budget reflected).

For some time now, I've felt that if my skills and energy could not be used in the paid workforce, then I have a moral obligation (according to my values and moral code) to offer those skills and energy to the community free of charge. I certainly have encouraged others to do this, arguing that volunteering doesn't take that much time, just the will to do it.

Now it's time to walk the walk. So, as you can see above, I've been signing up to volunteer. I'm going to be on the books with Guide Dogs and with Vision Australia. At the moment, both want me in their community education program. This involves presenting the organisations to the community - schools, workplaces, and the corporate sector.

I'm still unsure about 'conflict of interest'. I know Seeing Eye Dogs apparently have no issue with it - though I haven't had that confirmed by the specific co-ordinator in charge, but Guide Dogs might. I have to check. If this is the case, then I want to promote Guide Dog in relation to fundraising for guide dogs, but volunteer with Vision Australia in some other capacity, perhaps peer support, or mentoring.

I've submitted the paper work for VA, but have yet to do so for GDV. I'm very excited to be doing this work. I really feel like I can actually use my teaching and communication skills to help real people, in real imminent need, in the community.

Another way I'm now walking the walk, is to get my writing out there. So, as I've mentioned before I have Hidden coming out in April through Morning Star publishers (under the Stone Table imprint). As well as this, I've put together a sampler of flashes, which are being published by a boutique publisher Orbie Publishing. I'm also co-writing a peer reviewed journal article, and continuing the writing of the book I started as the article for the PhD. I'm reviving my writer's blog at The Untamed Voice (which has been neglected for about four years now - and now that I think about it, it really needs a make-over).

It feels great to be DOING something, not just thinking about doing it or talking about doing it.

I realised yesterday that I'm feel so much happier. I'm looking forward to getting up, getting out, and doing things. I feel inspired again. I feel energetic again. It had been so long since I felt this way - felt like there wasn't a indigestible lump of anxiety in my chest - that I had forgotten what it felt like.

Tomorrow, I start a three week pre-employment course, at the end of which I'm hoping to have much more confidence than I have at the moment about applying for jobs (it wouldn't take much to have much more confidence, ha!). So, this week of non-stop activity was a good warmer-upper.

Teenagers and the failing parent...