I’m blog hopping…

writingdesk

I’ve been tagged by my lovely writing friend, Sheryl Gwyther, to participate in an ongoing blog hop. I answer the questions, and then I tag two more people to carry the torch forward…here goes…

what are you working on at the moment?

Currently I am participating in a writing course online, to get my writing muscle flexed and working again. I’ve been dabbling in paint and ink for the past few years and I’ve missed writing – so I searched for an online course to give me the flexibility to turn out work around my current schedule. I was searching for a course that resonated with me. I found it in Sarah Selecky’s Story is a State of Mind e-course. www.sarahselecky.com

Writing and I have a tumultuous relationship. We break up regularly but always find our way back to each other. I think it’s our destiny to end up together. I hope so.

I started the blog “My story starts here” to hold me publicly accountable for completing the exercises and committing to a writing practice. So far so good – I’m loving being back in the saddle again.

how do you think your work differs from that of other writers/illustrators in your genre?

I think everyone’s work is unique referenced by their own collective experiences. The beauty is in recognising yourself in other people’s words. I hope my strength lies in my ability to pull at heart strings. I love writing about things that move me. Hopefully, by way of that deeper human connection, my words move others as well. As far as illustration goes, I think my style is fairly unique and happy. A whimsical carefree expression of life as I know it.

why do you write/illustrate what you write?

I write because it moves me. It helps me make sense of behaviours and motivations in the world around me. I write because, as I have found out over the course of many writing break ups, I can’t not write. Writing is intrinsic to my mental and spiritual health. It makes me happy.

what’s your writing/illustrating process, and how does it work?

My writing process is currently being reinvented as I work my way through this course. It has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about my relationship with writing. Developing a “relationship” with writing has made all the difference to me. I never saw it that way before. It was always something I had to wrangle into my day. Sarah’s course has changed the way I think about it.  I hold a greater respect for my craft now. I am taking care of it. Nurturing it daily by turning up to the page. Pushing through the resistance but also learning to be gentle and not beat myself up over stuff. I’m learning to let go of the ridiculous expectations that are probably the biggest forms of non productive fiction that reside in my head.

I also use meditation before I write. To reset my compass and drop myself into the zone. It snaps all the pesky connections to the real world nagging – must do the shopping, must walk the dog, must hang the clothes out, need petrol, did I pay that bill?  etc and allows my brain to take a big deep breath as it shifts into its creative space.

The entire process of writing is magical and I am so grateful that I am drawn toward this beautiful craft. I think all writers should give thanks to their respective writing gods. It’s so easy to whinge and whine about how hard the process is but within that process, you can create magic. You transport people to other lands. You offer them new worlds and experiences,. You can agitate a cauldron of emotion inside people and make them question their deepest being. Through simple words. You can change lives. What a gift. What’s not to be grateful for?

doggyhill

My illustration process is pretty laid back. I love doing loose sketchy cartoony kind of illustrations, so the fun factor is always high for me. It’s really lovely to be able to flip from words to pictures and back again. I also do work as a graphic designer, which often brings together the two components of writing and illustration beautifully, producing an entirely different medium again. I’m a lover of watercolour. It has a mind of it’s own. I often feel there is a quantum side of art that takes over. When you let go of trying to control things, It often produces the best results. Everything moves to where it is meant to be. I think there is a good life lesson to learn in that. Let go and trust. Everything lands where it is meant to.

A letter to my little dog…

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     It’s March 24th, and I am sitting here writing to you, Little Dog. It’s the eve of a major milestone. If I were to turn the clock back ten years ago to this day, you wouldn’t be here. I’d be sitting alone in a house full of fear and bad memories. I would have spotted you a week ago, rolling about in that pet shop window. I would have passed you twice in one week. Contemplating. They say three times is a charm and the third time I saw you,  you charmed me. I am still besotted.  I went for a haircut that day. I came home with you. A tiny bundle of uncertainty. I’m not sure who was more frightened.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

   Slowly, your presence chased out the bad memories and the lessons began. You taught me the hard stuff the fun way. And my days  filled with sunshine and light. Everyday, I see in you  qualities I hope will develop in me; courage and joy, fun and patience, determination and loyalty. Above all, though, unconditional love. If your love were currency, there’d be no poverty left in this world. Because in you, it is endless. And I am grateful for you. So I just wanted to say thank you, Little Dog. For all the cuddles, and fun and joy and laughs, tears and love we have shared over the past ten years.  I pray for many more mornings where I wake to your beautiful face staring down at me, where a gentle paw nudges me from sleep. I am so glad you picked me. I am so glad we fell in love.

Happy anniversary, baby…you are my Earth Angel

Eternally yours,

xo

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A technicoloured dream coat…

Another word was delivered by a friend last week to fuell another blog post. The word was “sandal”, inspired by the first week of Spring. The word should evoke a sense of  oncoming summer but my memory butts against the iconic summer scene of sandals and sand and all things beach like. Instead, my memory seeks the shape of a shoe and I am thrown backward in time.

I’m in my mid twenties, working as a Paeds E.D nurse. The ambulance phone has just gone off and I feel the surge of adrenaline shoot under my skin as a warm flush of fear. A child in full cardiopulmonary arrest is on its way in. ETA – two minutes.

Children, for the most part, are resilient things. But when breath and heartbeat fail them simultaneously, the road ahead is very unsure.  As we man our stations, we hear the approaching siren. I still recall being stuck in that tiny window before the drama began to unfold. Standing in the resus bay, priming I.V lines with saline, grabbing bag and mask, ripping plastic covers from front line drugs designed to haul human life  from death. I remember the sick knot of fear  twining itself every larger the closer the ambulance came. This was adrenaline sports at its best.

They were  working on him as they brought him in. He was small, under seven. After a two hour battle, we lost him. Too soon. and too, too young. I recall the doctor’s face as he left us to go to the parents, to deliver the news that no one could really fathom. I stayed behind with my colleagues to do our best to clean him up, make him resemble the child that the parents last saw only hours ago.

I slip into “deal with it” mode. The steely coat we nurses wear when things go horribly wrong and we have to cope. It’s the coat that holds our ache inside. The coat that shouts to the world that “everything will be OK. We’ve got it under control.” But it’s nothing more than a technicolor dream coat. On the inside, part of us is dying too as we witness the loss of such a tiny thing.

I spy the little guy’s shoe, and it is the shoe that snags me and causes me to unravel. I pick it up from where it has fallen upon the floor during the mayhem. Its laces are still tied and I imagine the mother in the next room, who I can now hear wailing, tying her son’s shoes that morning. For the last time. I stand beside his lifeless body with this small shoe in my hand and a million questions snaking through my head. Where is God in any of this, I wonder? How can any of this serve any purpose? The answers don’t come and all I am left with is a shoe and not a clue how I will face this boy’s parents in the next few minutes when they come to begin their goodbyes.

Photo courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Blue

The muse has slowly been waking. She’s slept in a ball at my feet for the past year. One more thing to trip over. But of late, she’s offered up a little inspiration as I have dabbled back in the world of words once again. I’ve asked a few friends for some topics to blog about. Tonight, came the topic of Blue.

There is a stretch of beach in Forster, NSW – an inlet, really. When I hear the word “Blue” this is the scene that comes to mind. I am on rock beside my father, and before us, an ocean of blue stretches into a crease on the horizon. We sit; he has not long turned 70. I am in my late 30’s. It is mid afternoon. The day, like the tide, is running from us.

 We tell each other how much we love each other. A rare moment. Growing up, I was never that close to him. Could barely reach him. He held me at bay with a stern and controlling hand. But in that moment there on the beach, the years peel away like old paint from a wall. A new slate reveals itself and on it we declare unconditional love for each other.

 I remember the grief bundled in the back of my throat. I struggled to swallow back the bitter years we had silently endured, to arrive in this moment of tenderness. In among that knot of sadness were a million questions. How much time did we have left together? Had we wasted too much already? Did we both have the courage to pick the bones of this father / daughter relationship that had somehow lost its bearings?

 It’s hard being brave when questions like these fall at your feet. It’s difficult to push the boundaries that eventually become the safe space between you. But gradually, we summon the courage. We navigate the fear.  And we hope to last long enough to out live the answers.

 It was the last time we declared our love to each other, face to face. He died suddenly a year or so later. Fell from my life like an autumn leaf from a tree, leaving me open to the  grief that comes calling when a loved one dies before you are ready.

 I try to think of all the other things that remind me of blue but today, I can’t get past that stretch of beach, past my father’s blues eyes twinkling back at me. Or past that moment we shared that has now woven itself into memory. Blue. It’s been that kind of day.  

“Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Read all about it!

The Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature is just around the corner! It runs from September 3rd to 14th and you can read all about it at http://ipswichkidslitfest.blogspot.com/

The lovely Sheryl Gwyther is hosting the blog and keeping us all up to speed. The line up for the festival is great and I’m hoping to get the chance to head up at some point. Failing that, two of my good friends will be hanging around. Paige Turner and Tatty Rat will be frolicking about on the blog. Keep an eye out for them and if you see them at the festival – say Hi from me. 

Dust

It’s been a lifetime since I’ve blogged. So much has come and gone, it’s hard to find a place to start. And what to say? It seems this space has filled with dust. As some would know, a while ago I packed away my world of words into a box. Tied the box with string and slipped it all away into an empty drawer. I needed space away from writing and so instead, I started to explore the world of colour, paints and water coloured paper.

As a little girl, I would doodle all day long. I could slip into another world, spending hours with my new found friends who danced upon the page. Drawing filled my life with a special kind of happiness. From around the age of nine, I watched my mother’s health decline. With countless trips to hospital, the life I once had known and loved soon crumbled. It was hard to understand it all. My bags were packed and I was fostered to an older aunt. My paints and paper stayed behind. I missed them. They had been the one thing that I knew would never fail me.

When my mother died, I started writing stories. Not the kind the teachers sent you home to write. More the kind that filled the cracks that had suddenly appeared around my mother’s death. At eleven, I couldn’t make a scrap of sense trying to live a life without her. Eventually, I moved back home where I tried to edge my way back into an odd shaped world . My paints and paper sat beneath a timeless veil of dust while the weight of grief sat heavy in my heart. My world had lost its ballast and I lost the will to blow the dust away. Painting pictures couldn’t resurrect her. She was never coming back. But somehow as I processed all the sadness, I found that words could fill the void. The magic of a story could bring her to the room where we could paint the world together. That has never left me.

So it’s odd that I’m here decades later, drawing breath to blow the dust of time away. I’ve had some help. Some well timed words cracked the drawer wide open. I’m writing once again. My aim will be to weave my words and art together in whatever way I can to send a message out into the world. I hope it finds its way.

Inspiration in a Dress