When being a writer is no longer fiction

20170905_140449Spring is here – in theory. And August is finally over. Its my least favourite month of the year. Now that September has arrived, the weather might still scream winter but there are strong signs of new beginnings.

Post-bookshop, I’m finally getting back on my feet. I’m still in debt, but not as severe, and I’ve almost caught up with mortgage arrears.

There is a mountain of books on my dining room table, which I really need to clear. Now that I’ve mastered the set up of a basic eCommerce site, I am selling the leftover books at discounted prices. Shipping is set for Australia, but if you send me an enquiry I can give a quote for overseas shipping (note: it won’t be cheap).

If you were wondering – yes, that is a photo of me. For those that know me offline, you’d know how much I hate photos of myself. So this is a very rare photo. But this week I had to bite the bullet, do a quick read up on ‘how to take selfies for the middle-aged & ugly’, and then just do it! Because I had an opinion piece accepted by Al Jazeera, and they insisted on a bio photo. So the choice was to run and hide (like I usually do when the word ‘photo’ is mentioned), or to just do it. This time, I made the choice not to hide.

Talking about being published, I’ve had a piece published on the Indigenous X site. It’s about ongoing administration issues with government funding for First Peoples in Australia. This article was updated and republished on Independent Australia as Not ‘Closing the Gap’: Nigel Scullion and Indigenous Funding Failure .

Seems like I’ve become an accidental journo. Later this month I have a reporting assignment at the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association’s conference. In addition to being a great Indigenous-led organisation, its their 20th year, so I am really looking forward to their conference.

The conference reporting I am doing is in collaboration with Croakey news services. The first conference I reported on was for First Peoples Disability Network in June. I wrote two pieces on that event, including a conference wrap up, as well as tweeting and live video interviews.

I’ve had some consultancy and freelance writing work post-bookshop, but its not resulting in enough income to support a household. So I’ve started applying for jobs. I’ve had a couple of interviews, but not landed a job as yet. Looks like I need to keep promoting my consultancy services.

I recently started managing the newsletter, blog/website  and twitter account (@FNAWN_) for First Nations Australia Writers Network. FNAWN is a great organisation, and I’m pleased to be contributing to their growth.

And time for the really exciting news – last week I discovered that I had made the long-list for the 2017 Richell Prize! This was such an unexpected surprise. I entered the first three chapters of my work-in-progress, Where The Fruit Falls. The prize includes mentoring, to help shape a draft into a manuscript that is hopefully publishable.

The Richell Prize is presented by Hachette Australia, in memory of Matt Richell who passed away suddenly in 2014. Partners in this prize include The Guardian and Emerging Writers Festival. The short-list will be announced early October, and the prize winner in November. I’m not expecting to make it to the next stage, but that won’t stop me from feeling very pleased to have got this far.

And it gives me renewed inspiration to finish this manuscript. Its been put on hold for far too long, due to sorry business, family responsibilities, financial crises and, in general, the ups and downs of now being a member of the sandwich generation.

Anyway – onwards and upwards. And, now that spring is in the air, perhaps I can even dare to dream of getting back on a motorbike…….

Support me to keep writing
If you like what you read on this site, please consider supporting me to keep on writing. There’s a PayPal button on this page (see top right-hand corner. Or drop-down box on some hand-held devices)

Or buy some leftover stock from my ex-bookshop – all heavily discounted.

And I am also on Patreon

You can also find me on
twitter @1KarenWyld

Instagram @meanderingwyld

I have patrons for my writing!

The last couple of weeks I’ve been peeking through the growing pile of debts, at my computer screen – reading arts grants, job pages, and other sources of potential income. And, as usual, spending too much time procrastinating on Twitter.

As is often the case for me, it was on Twitter that a potential solution was found. A means of managing the practicalities of living AND pursue my long-time dreams of writing. Another artist I follow on Twitter, Alysha Herrmann, was promoting her page on somethings called Patreon. What is this……

Curious, I did some research: starting with a read of the official blurb on the Patreon site. Ah, another crowdfunding platform. This one is aimed at linking arts patrons/supporters with creators. So they can do what they do best – create! There is a choice of per project, similar to other crowdfunding platforms, or monthly contributions, which sounded a bit different.

I’ve read a lot about crowdfunding, but have not gone there before. Some sites and projects are great, some not so. So I did some more looking into Patreon. I searched for reviews exposing the darkside of Patreon. Scam or not? And other than people saying how hard it is to attract patrons, supporters or backers, I didn’t find anything too worrying.

Having self-published my debut novel, I know it takes nerves of steel to promote yourself as an indie. But I’ve also learnt a fair few social media skills along the way. Why not give it a whirl? Nothing to loose, and perhaps something to gain.

First up, the platform is really easy to use. Very similar in usability to Google+ or Yammer. Setting up a creator profile takes about the same amount of time and skills as designing a WordPress blog. My newbie tip: have at least basic skills or find someone to help you.

The most time consuming part is what to say. So do some thinking about your goals, rewards, creator needs, and capabilities before you start. It will make it easier. Look at accounts by artists/writers/designers similar to you – what are they wanting, what are they offering, what tone do they use?

Patreon recommends using videos to attract sponsors, but that’s not my thing. I have a morbid dislike of putting my image and voice out there. Many introvert creators are the same. So I had to make sure my written words could do a good job of promoting me. Luckily, I’m a writer so could manage this without too much stress.

Setting up the financial side of a creator account was fairly easy for me as I already had a PayPal account, and had my financial details nearby. I’ve been selling my book online for three years, so the USA tax forms weren’t daunting. It was great that they have the form ready to fill in electronically. Many other US-based platforms don’t give users as much help and information.

Links to commence promoting my page was not too difficult for me, again because of my experience as an indie author. I already have a fairly strong author platform (i.e. social media presence) so it was fairly simple to link these accounts.

Coming up with goals, rewards, background, intended use of funds etc wasn’t too daunting for me, as I’ve years of experience working in project management, grants writing, research and policy. All I needed was to downplay the corporate speak, don’t overshare, and write a clear plan for potential backers. I’ll go back and tweak these sections, once I get the hang of crowdfunding.

So I set up my creator account, wrote embarrassing things about myself, invented some rewards, and clicked the launch button. Simply by posting on Twitter, I had three patrons within the hour, and reached six by the next morning. For a newbie, and having peeked at other accounts, I think that’s a promising start. I still have to do a proper launch, but its a good start.

And something that surprised me – although very grateful to my first patrons, I didn’t suffer from my normal feelings of not being worthy, guilt of taking other peoples’money or other forms of self-doubt. This is an important milestone for me. And a massive step to overcoming my dislike of being too visible – as well as my fear of success.

If interested, my Patreon site is here. I just used my real name to make it easier for people to search for me, as I read that Patreon’s search engine is one of its weaker points.

Feedback is welcomed. I see typos every time I look at the page. So its still a work-in-progress. I won’t mind if you point out more typos.

Would you like to support me to develop my career as a writer, but the thought of monthly payments put you off? You still can. Simply use the PayPal button on here (ie WordPress blog) > over there in the right-hand sidebar (not visible on mobile devices). I also have a PayPal button on my Wyld Words bookshop website, for people who’ve expressed an interest in helping me keep another local bookshop from closing.  I love book lovers   🙂

Okay – time for me to get back to being a bookseller / writer.

Such as it was…..

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Here is another snippet of what I’m currently editing. Its some years past the previous piece I shared. Its from a work-in-progress, which will hopefully become my second novel, called Where The Fruit Falls. Its a rough draft, but I hope you enjoy the read.

As the last plutonium-loaded cloud settled over the red sands in the south-west, many miles away three strangers emerged from a sister-desert; seeking rest from a road seldom travelled. Even though they had entered town cloaked in dawn’s light, news of their arrival had spread before the last rooster finished crowing. This flurry of curiosity was not because it was unusual on the gibber plains for people to suddenly emerge from out of nowhere; others have arrived in such a manner. Nor was it unusual to see strangers, even though the town was in the middle of nowhere; as the train, in passing, often spewed out adventurers, government officials, wayfarers, those of a missionary-bend, and other lost souls. And it was not the shock of seeing a young woman unaccompanied by a man; for strong, independent women were a familiar sight in the desert terrain. No, the inquisitive stares behind curtains and the gossip that raced at the speed of wild-fire was fuelled by the peculiar guise of the two girls that walked alongside the woman. For even in this era of fast-tracked social change, it was still unheard of for one of her kind, for the woman’s bloodline was unmistakable, to be travelling unaccompanied with a white girl.
And such a pretty little girl, a precious rose – many would add to their recounting of the tale. Obviously cared for, loved dearly, despite the marks of a long trek clinging to her clothes – others would remark to their neighbours later that day. Such flawless, milky skin – sighed many behind sun-withered hands. And what eyes, they pronounced, like precious opals – they all pronounced. Even though, in all reality, her eyes were more akin to a less precious but equally enchanting gemstone: malachite.
Once they could tear their attention from this child, they took in the other girl; reluctantly at first. They openly appraised this child, and not with kindness in their eyes or truth in their hearts. This other one, wearing the trials of the road so well, brazenly strode into town; or so they thought. With the steadied gaze of a sun-browned cameleer from days long gone, this girl kept her bright blue eyes focused on the road, ignoring the crescendo of disapproval. Clearly she hasn’t been taught her place in the world – some muttered. She needs to be knocked down a peg or two – grumbled others. Such arrogance, but what can we expect from the likes of them – verbalised a few. Giving them the vote will ruin this country, mark my words – others predicted.

That last comment drifted down the street, carried by the wind, towards the town’s edge, where it floated over the unseen boundary and fluttered around a gathering of makeshift homes. Those still trying to catch a few moments more of sleep tried to shoo the words away with the flick of a hand, not at all concerned about being bitten in exposed places. Others took a broom to the nonsensical declaration, sweeping the air until that unwanted opinion was encouraged to move on. As smiles of redemption began to brighten sun-toughened faces, they soon realised that there was now an unpleasant smell in the air. One by one, the fringe dwellers gathered outside, trying to locate the source of such a rank odour. An old man caught the eye of another, and then another, and another, Until soon they were walking away from the town, carrying only the essentials. They hadn’t needed a second whiff, for they had smelt this unpleasant odour many times before. Younger kin, refusing to follow, instead walked closer to the main part of town, allowing curiosity to be their guide.
Standing unseen, in the shadows cast by the rising sun, they saw the town-dwellers staring at a trio of travellers. The new spectators were also taken aback by what they saw, even if their comments were vastly different than those already dying in the dust or floating off on the air. For rather than seeing what was different, they had immediately noticed the similarities. Eventually, everyone began to see. It’s something in the bone structure, some thought – such high cheeks. No, it was the way they both moved, the way they hold themselves, certain aura. They could see that those girls had shared secrets, for they speak in a clandestine language only known by twins. Those young ones were the mirror images of polar opposites.
Never before had the townsfolk seen such non-identical twins; one white and the other brown. Only the fringe dwellers could see the truth of the matter, even though it was so very obvious: both girls were in fact black.

While all this was unfolding, the woman kept moving, oblivious and quite accustomed to the astonished stares and whispers of strangers. As she walked down the main street, such as it was, the woman took no notice of fingers clasping at almost-closed curtains, nor did she acknowledge the slack-jawed affliction that her progenies left in their wake. Steadfastly she walked up to the veranda of the general store, such as it was, dropped her bags and shook the red dirt from her skirt. Leaving the uncanny twins sitting on a pile of road-worn bags, she walked into the store, with her head held high enough for trouble to find her.
A short time later, the three of them turned a rusty key in a dusty lock, entered a pre-loved shack and set to turning it into a home; such as it was.

Did you hear….?

Did you hear the news?

They found…
A pile of discarded clothes.
An old drunk.
A crumpled bird.
A boy.

Did you hear he took….
A bike.
A pack of smokes.
A jumbuck.
An orange.

They hunted him down….
In a ute.
On horseback.
On foot.
On Facebook.

He was killed…
In revenge.
By accident.
In blind-rage.
With hate.

Its his fault…
He shouldn’t have stolen.
He shouldn’t play hookey.
He shouldn’t be black.
He shouldn’t be.

They arrested…
Your neighbour.
Your friend.
Your father.
Your son.

The boy’s family is…
Grieving.
His family is grieving.

Where did you get that idea from?

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Front cover of When Rosa Came Home. Image by Ukraine artist Natalia Maroz (www.maroz.com.au)

I’ve been a bit neglectful of my blog this year. I could tell you that I’ve been on interstate-trips for the day-job, dealing with grief & loss and family issues, travelling overseas, busy marketing my first novel, and just busy with life in general. All of this would be true, but none are valid excuses for not writing regular posts. It’s not for want of ideas. Inspiration for blog posts are everywhere. I write at least two posts everyday – in my mind. Actually writing the words is the problem. Not sure why I’ve been avoiding my blog, but its time to stop. Pick a topic, sit down and just do it. After all, that’s what writers do.

Inside the Writer’s Mind
Over the years, I’ve been curious about the writer:reader relationship. Specifically, the interest that some readers have in what inspires the writing process. This is most obvious at Writers/Readers events, such as the recent Adelaide Writers Week I attended. Audiences happily sit at the feet of some writers, hanging on their every word. And when it comes to question time, inevitability the discussion turns to: where did you get the idea for your book? What inspires you to write? Is it about you/people you know/real events?

Being a writer myself, and now being able to call myself a published author, this always makes me smile. There is no magical formula to writing. We aren’t actually opening up a vein and spilling out life-force all over the pages. The hideous antagonist isn’t created as sneaky revenge on those who have crossed out paths. Nor is the amazing protagonist a desired version of ourselves. A lightening bolt of inspiration did not hit us. And we aren’t aided through writer’s block by an otherworldly muse. Really, it’s not that interesting. Or is it?

Catching Butterflies
Ideas for novels, blog posts, short stories and other forms of writing are everywhere. Day and night, inspiration can be found in many places. They flutter around us in everyday situations. Some are just a blur, as they rush past on the wind. Others float gracefully, trying to catch the writer’s attention. Whilst others sit on a shoulder, patiently waiting. Seeing them is not the hard part. Neither is catching them. Keeping them alive, until the story is written, is the hardest part. For when we work on one piece, especially something as long-term as a novel, we can easily get distracted by all the pretty things fluttering around us.

A Gardener is Needed
Rather than spending our time butterfly hunting, perhaps a more beneficial approach would be gardening. Whilst catching butterflies is possible without any devotion to developing skills, for all that is needed is a keen eye and a swift hand, gardening requires at least some basic knowledge, hard work and lots of patience. So lets switch metaphors: an idea for a story is like a seed. Seeds are common, they are easy to find. Their hidden beauty is not obvious, but each seed contains something far greater than itself. And they generally have a long shelf-life – there is no need to rush.

The difference between someone who notices potential seeds for stories and a writer is that the latter devotes the time and resources to plant and nurture those seeds. Seeing seeds isn’t special, it isn’t an ability that very few possess. Being disciplined and driven to sit at a computer for hours, weeks and years so that you can water, feed and shine on that bloody seed is where the dividing line between writer and non-writer lies. And being committed to learning the tricks of the trade, the rules of grammar, structure of stories and other must-have skills and knowledge is what separates the pot plant owners from fully fledged gardeners. 

The Seeds
I would hazard a guess and say that the average writer has countless seeds lying around. Some are carefully guarded, awaiting the right time to plant. Some are tucked away in a drawer, and may or may not be planted. While others are already in soil, being nurtured until they bloom. I do all three. I have ideas for stories everywhere, in different stages of growth or dormancy. Where I get these ideas from differs from story to story. As does the process of growing them, but that is best left for another post. Instead, I’ll explain where I got the inspiration for some of the stories I have written or currently working on.

The Chocolate Box
Recently I published my first novel, When Rosa Came HomeI work full-time, so producing this book took many late nights over many months. Over the last two years, I have been working on a number of manuscripts and short stories. I have three manuscripts in different stages of editing, and concepts for four more – all waiting their turn to be nurtured. Rosa was the one I chose to go first. Not because it was the ‘best of the bunch’, but because it was one that I most enjoyed writing. Amongst the agony of countless edits, I enjoyed creating that story and spending time with the characters; whilst breaking a few of the ‘modern’ writing rules and blending genres. At every stage in its development, ideas for plot, characters, dialogue and hooks came from many sources. Mostly when I wasn’t working on the manuscript, like when I was driving or trying to sleep.

The actual seed for the book came from one image. I have a vivid imagination, and sometimes it feels so strong that it’s as if I can actually see an image. This one was simple: I ‘saw’ a withered hand reach into a drawers of a tall boy dresser and pull out a flat wooden box. I had the sense that this person was going to open the box, and share the contents with someone. Many months later, I recalled that image and started to ask questions: What is in that box? Who holds that box, and why? Weeks later, the seed sprouted, and I sat down to write. First I recorded the image, and from there another image, and then another. I don’t plot, and I don’t write in a linear path. Instead I take an idea, write it out, and add another and another. Sometimes this includes jumping from one bit of the emerging story, to another; changing, deleting, rearranging, adding as I go.

About three years after I had that vision of an elderly hand reaching for a wooden box, a novel was born. The actual scene of the man and the chocolate box is minuscule in the whole novel, and its omission would not alter the overall story. It’s not a crucial scene at all. Its whole purpose was to inspire me. It was a seed from which a story bloomed; after many months of hard work and dedication to finish.

The Unspoken Fruit
The manuscript I am working on now is already over 75,000 words, and will hopefully be finished mid-year. I have learnt that I can’t forecast completion time, because life gets hectic sometimes and unexpected things do occur. Also, I often hop from manuscript to manuscript, working on whichever is ‘calling me’ the loudest. The one I am writing at the moment is called Where the Fruit FallsIt is a quite a bit more serious than my first novel, and has not always been as fun to write. Mainly because it explores darker times in Australian post-colonial history. Its style of writing, or genre, is magic realism. I chose this type of writing as it’s a non-confronting way to write about socio-political issues in fiction. Magic realism also lends itself to indigenous ways of storytelling, and has the ability to incorporate the conflict between timeless cultures in changing worlds.

The inspiration for this story comes from a song: Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday. One of the many unforeseen benefits of technology that has enabled people and news to travel around the globe at a greater speed than ever before, is the increased connectivity and solidarity of peoples that have experienced oppression and other atrocities – both in the past and in the present time. The words of Strange Fruit are powerful, and even though they speak of a horrible era for African-Americans, I immediately felt a connection. Like many colonised nations, Australia’s first nations peoples have experienced the violence associated with occupation of invaders. In earlier decades, there were many instances of massacres, public hangings and other forms of ‘allowable’ murder. Later there were other forms of government driven harm, oppression and deprivation of human rights, such as forced removal from homelands, segregation, incarceration on missions, unpaid labouring and removal of children.

All of this came into my thoughts as I listen to that song. Powerful words, strong images of grief and loss, and the dark side of humanity. At first I painted my thoughts, producing a contemporary piece using dot painting techniques. My paintings are for me, I don’t display or sell them. They are just another way for me to voice thoughts and tell stories, just like my weaving and writing. Eventually I had other images, which I wrote down, until a story emerged. This story will eventually be published. Using magic realism techniques, with non-identical Aboriginal twins as the protagonists, Where the Fruit Falls confronts the social injustices, racism and ethnicity-based inequality found in Australia during the 50’s- 70’s, and the ongoing clash of cultures and world-views.

The Underwater Grave
Another manuscript I have on the go was inspired by ‘place’. There is a small rural town near me that has a large reservoir. Up until the late 60’s, where that water now lays was a town called Lovely Valley. The old stone buildings were dismantled, and every thing and person relocated for the sake of the dam. There are a lot of urban myths about Lovely Valley, including reports of hearing the old church bells ring during times of water scarcity. These tales are not true, proven false by archaeological research and dives. Still, it is intriguing. So I started writing Lovely Valley, a modern gothic tale. Compete with mysterious deaths, dark secrets and a ghostly woman of the lake.

Gardening while the Sun Still Shines
I have many other examples of where I have found inspiration and ideas for writing, most of which are based on thoughts, places, images and dreams. However, none of this matters in the least if I don’t find the time and discipline to sit down and flesh the ideas out, to nurture them until they are a fully fledged story. That is the hardest part.

When daydreaming, I imagine myself on a stage far from home, with a sea of faces in front of me. Unlike the seeds that I tend until they are novels, I know that this image may not come to fruition, despite how much energy and time I devote to my writing. Making it in this industry is not mappable – talent and hard work is often not enough to get you to the desired destination. Still, there is no harm in dreaming. I wonder if my imagined audience will get around to asking me about where I get my ideas? And if so, could I possibly make it sound interesting?

It just came to me – I know why readers ask writers where they get the ideas or inspiration from. Not because they yearn to know some heavily guarded secret, or to discover what makes writers different from them. It is more banal than that. They ask those questions because the answers are so much more interesting than the other questions, the ones that new writers might ask: how do you write? You see the act of writing, locked away in front of a computer, and the endless solidarity moments of editing, are simply boring. Discussing that part of producing a book would drain the magic out of any story. Maintaining the illusions of the writer and the creative journey is the better alternative.

I won’t disillusion anyone, then. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a garden to tend to.

  

Farewell my travelling companion

Recycled suitcase from Its Just-Junk (justjunk123.wordpress.com)

She went quickly and painlessly; leaving me in an embarrassing predicament.

Arriving at the baggage claim late, I was greeted by the sight of my old suitcase going around the carousal; with a massive hole in its side, exposing my unmentionables. Thankfully, everyone else had already claimed their bags and departed. Checking that nothing valuable had fallen out, I was left with the dilemma of toting my fatally wounded bag to my car, in the far off land known as Long-Term Parking. My attempts at getting a lift to my car fell on deaf ears, but the airline did kindly offer to repair the bag. I declined. I knew it was time for us to part ways, for me to say a fond farewell and thank my travelling companion for the good times we have shared.

I remember the day I brought that bag, just over 14 years ago. It was a turning point in my life, a time when things were just about to take a turn for the better. Having never flown before, I was selected by the local Council to attend a conference in Sydney; due to being active in my local community and in recognition of my potential. Struggling on a single parents pension, travel had not been a priority. I didn’t even own a suitcase. Luckily I found a nice one in a bargain shop. A pretty purple bag with wheels at the affordable price of $AUS20. Taking that first flight, I felt a little bit posh. And a quite fearful, as I had never been away from my children for that long before.

That first trip was fun, and I was very inspired by the speakers at the conference. The joy of conferences would eventually wear off, years later, but that first one was as if I was in a whole new world. On that trip I also learnt a valuable lesson: never stay up all night meeting locals at the local before sitting on a plane for 2 hours. That was the closest I have even come to testing how liquid proof those bags were that are provided in the seat pouch.

My cheap bag has journeyed with me to many memorable places. Soon after that trip I re-entered full-time employment, and 6 years later became a mortgagee. With a bit more of a cash flow, I was able to take the family on holidays. At first the bag accompanied us to budget holidays, and the occasional splurge on a beachside cottage for a quick getaway. A few years back, we all flew together for the very first time, enjoying a family holiday in Queensland. They then outgrew family holidays, but that bag and I kept on travelling.

Together we have shared holidays with friends, mostly short escapes to Yorke Peninsula, where the beaches are ideal for fun and fishing. The bag and I went with a friend to Port Augusta, to the Yarnballa Festival, where we danced to the music of some top Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bands. Then we went along a muddy track, 100 kms north of Broken Hill, to dance under the stars far away from city lights, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the handover of the Mutawintji national park to the traditional owners.

Having found someone who enjoyed travel like the bag and I did, we ventured overseas. The bag bounced around in the back of a hire car, as we drove through Independent Samoa, searching for cheap accommodation when the sun started to set.

After that, I started working in jobs where travel was common. At first it was South Australian based, and I toted that bag to many regional and rural cities; from Mount Gambier in the east, to Port Lincoln in the west, and north into remote Cooper Pedy, Oonadatta and through the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (Aboriginal) Lands. Over the years, that bag has been to every capital city in Australia – at least once. Sometimes my suitcase with wheels has looked out-of-place, especially when I’ve taken it to remote locations, where a canvas bag or backpack would have been a better option. Even though it was showing its age, I kept on using it; as I am loyal.

Until vanity set in. The last two years, my jobs have involved interstate trips, mostly to capital cities. And my ageing, purple bag was beginning to look somewhat cheap. So a few months back  I splurged on a fancy looking black-patterned bag. With not just two wheels, this one has four. It’s a nice feeling walking beside this fancy piece of luggage. Although, on its second outing, it was ripped coming back from Alice Springs. I didn’t see the damage until I got home, so missed the opportunity to report it to the airline. With another trip looming, I patched it up myself. No longer in pristine condition, the new bag and I have already done quite a few trips together. It has been my bag of choice. Until last week.

Only going for a few nights, I felt the need to travel a bit lighter than what I have become accustomed to with my new bag. So I took the purple one out from under my bed, and off we went to Brisbane. I didn’t even feel embarrassed to be pulling my old bag behind me; not after all the good times we have shared. When its inside were revealed through that gaping hole on the return trip, I felt a small sadness. Though even I knew it was time to let go; there was no sense in prolonging life with a repair job. My travelling companion will never be the same, no matter how much thread or glue is used.

It now sits at home, waiting for me to decide on its final resting place. Meanwhile, the new bag and I are getting to know each other a bit better in tropical Darwin. Life goes on. The old purple bag was from my yesteryear; when I was that overburden young hopeful; struggling with children, study, work, lack of finances, cheap rentals and all the other challenges life had thrown at me. This new black bag belongs to my now; a person with less responsibilities and more hope. And it will travel with me into the future, to wherever the road leads us.

Rest in peace my old travelling companion. You will always be fondly remembered.

Airing Dirty Laundry

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Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let’s talk about Lateral Violence

Lateral (or horizontal) violence rears its ugly head in many places and guises. You may not have called it by name before, but most likely you have felt or seen the damage it leaves in its wake.

Lateral violence is where negative and destructive behaviour between individuals occurs across groups of people with a commonality, as opposed to coming from ‘above’. It’s when people in similar circumstances and environments turn on each other, rather than address the problems. And it happens more often than what you may expect.

  • Workplace and Community Groups / Committeesmany, if not all, would have experienced unhealthy workplaces and/or community groups; the ones where moral is low, conditions poor and things are just not feeling right. Under unfavourable conditions, or in toxic environments, people can turn on their colleagues. There are probably four main drivers that can lead to lateral violence in these situations: 1) Lack of Leadership 2) Changing Group Culture 3) Inefficient Management Structures/Governance and/or 4) Poor Communication.
  • Families – competition, misunderstandings and low emotional intelligence can lead to lateral violence in families. If not addressed, whole families can be torn apart.
  • Peoples and Nations – this is too huge to cover respectfully here, but briefly: war, conflict, colonisation, oppression, slavery, widespread poverty, and other types of human rights infringements can turn people on each other, as opposed to the perpetrators. In simple terms, it’s a mentality of dog eat dog; being forced to fight over meagre bones to survive.

For example, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced lateral violence. The cause of such behaviour can be linked to the massive change post-colonisation, including: dispossession/loss of land; restrictions on movement and incarceration (from missions/reserves to prisons); forced removal of children; loss of sovereign rights; racism; world-view bias; loss of traditional food sources; food insecurity; equity and access barriers; changes to law and social structures; and reduced decision-making.

All of the above lead to inter-generational issues, impacting on the social-emotional well-being of individuals, families and communities. Poor health, suicide, poverty, unemployment, homelessness are all legacies of colonisation, and side-effects of systemic racism, power & privilege and inflexible world-views. Navigating new social structures, where the goal posts feel as if they are constantly being changed, can contribute to lateral violence.

Some people say it’s best not to air dirty laundry in public. And I usually agree with that sentiment. Drawing attention to internal issues raises fears of funding cuts, or changes in who manages programs and services. Even if problems arise, its important that communities manage their own services and programs, especially where these have been proven to be effective; such as community controlled health. Supplying resources and other supports for communities to build capacity and achieve their own aspirations is the best strategy, as a paternalistic approach can contribute to generational disadvantage.

Let’s have the tough conversations, but let’s talk about lateral violence in a way that does not lay blame. What do I mean?

Know the origins of Lateral Violence and Take Action

I have personally experienced lateral violence and, I must confess, I have expressed lateral violence towards others. If I am to walk the talk, then its important that I address my own behaviour and thinking. Easier said than done.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I would like to put forward the below suggestions (some of which I have been attempting to adopt/learn):

  • start a conversation – in your workplace, with your family, with the person showing signs of lateral violence.
  • choose not to participate – familiarise yourself with the signs/behaviours of lateral violence (bullying, with-holding information, excluding, gossiping, cronyism, bias, etc) and first address them in yourself.
  • extend a hand – ask people ‘how they’re tracking’, be there for others.
  • look beyond the surface – understand why a person / group is behaving in a negative or destructive manner, things are not always what they seem.
  • acknowledge where the problem comes from, and be a change-maker – for example, understand the ongoing impact of colonisation and instead practice decolonisation.
  • recognise yourself in others – awaken to yourself, show compassion, know thy own faults.
  • deep listening – put down that phone, stop thinking of your to-do list, and really listen to people.
  • support re-culturalisation – be strong in your own culture, heritage and identity; and respect others’ rights to their own sense of identity.
  • find your collective voice – advocate, learn how to speak up in a constructive not destructive way.
  • learn about lateral love – created by Uncle Brian Butler, this concept is spreading world-wide (see the below links)
  • we all deserve a share of the pie and there is enough to go around.

Each drop of water contributes to the ocean of change 

We are each a drop of water, all coming from the same source. It is a fallacy that we are of many races; there is only one human race. Our difference is in ethnicity and sense of identity; in our place of origin and our sense belonging to where we live; our culture, world-views and values. We are all diverse, but still of the same race. It’s all part of the great duality – just like a drop of water is unique but, at the same time, is just like all the other drops. All drops return to the clouds, pools, rivers, gutters and puddles – to mix with the other drops, to become part of a whole.

Eventually, every drop once again finds its way to the great ocean.

 

Read what Brian Butler and friends have to say about Lateral Love:

Lateral Love Australiahttp://tinyurl.com/laterallove

Brian Butler’s Bloghttp://tinyurl.com/brianbutler

Find out more about Lateral Violence:

Audio explanation by Richard Franklin (via ABC Radio Mildura) – http://tinyurl.com/myzvner

Lateral Violence and First Nations Australians (Human Rights Commission) – http://tinyurl.com/m7d5aey

Fact Sheet (and video links) by Native Women’s Association of Canada – http://tinyurl.com/lvdvknt

Lateral Violence in the Workplace (nursing) – http://tinyurl.com/lowa953

Timeless Voice

For my third contribution to Zoe Brook’s Magic Realism Blog-hop I am keeping it simple.
However, in the true tradition of magic realism, 
simple isn’t always what it appears to be.

You may have already read my views on how literature can be used as a subtle vehicle for carrying tough messages – if not, read this previous post: http://tinyurl.com/politicsoflit

And perhaps you already know how passionate I am about magic realism; which I am, for many reasons. Mostly, because it’s a very suitable genre for presenting a balanced account of massive social and political upheaval; and giving a voice to those that have known the loss and injustice that accompany these moments in time (for more, read this previous post – http://tinyurl.com/magicrealism ).

There is no need to go into further detail here, instead I offer you a micro-film……

…but first
I have downloaded this film under Youtube standard licencing; and wish to acknowledge Curtis Taylor, the film-maker. Curtis, whom I have never met, is a young Martu man from Western Australia. I urge you to visit the following link, to learn more about Curtis Taylor and his work – http://www.youtube.com/watch? =UW2FPcWWmfE#

There are a number of reasons why I like this film, and why I think it suits this week’s blog-hop. Firstly, I feel a certain connection to this story, and the land it is filmed on; as I am a Martu descendent. I have never visited Country, nor do I speak language, and I have hundreds of relatives that I will never get to meet. It’s complicated. An unfortunate legacy of colonisation and the introduced world-views of the conquerors.

(In respect to cultural protocol, I am restricted in what I can comment on. The inclusion of this film is only for the purpose of demonstrating forms of story that you may not have been aware of. And to demonstrate my views that magic realism is, more than anything, Storytelling.)

Now, lets watch the video (approx 1.45 mins)

Warning: viewers should be aware that these videos include names and images of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal people.

Nyiru, A Short Film by Curtis Taylor

 

 

I ask you to watch it again,  but first….
You need get into that certain frame-of-mind; you know the one. That moment when you let go of the outside world, ready to be taken faraway by the storyteller; through whatever medium they are using. Its simple: open your mind, let go of judgements, and listen deeply.

Back again?
There are a few things you may now be thinking, such as: What stunning Country!

Also, did you notice how, within the simplicity of this story, there is much complexity? Not only can that duality be found within traditional storytelling, but it’s a core element of magic realism. As I have stated before, magic realism has a lot of similarities with traditional storytelling; especially when the writer is from cultures that have a long relationship with storytelling, the ones that continue to value story.

Did you notice how seamless the blending of the physical world (what mainstream world-views see as the ‘rational’, what is ‘real’) and other, often unseen, elements of life that are accepted as real by many indigenous peoples globally? There is no separation, there are just layers. Like in magic realism.

There is also the multi-layered purpose of story that can be found within this telling of Wati Nyiru’s encounter with the Minyipurru (seven sisters). For example, this story explains geographical features in a way that cannot be studied in a classroom, or seen on a GPS. Instead, it presents both a map to travel with, and a ‘map’ to direct a person through life. Storytelling that is passed down through the generations, or lore, serves many purposes: directions to places, guidance in life, shared enjoyment/entertainment, knowledge, survival skills, law, social norms, histories, genealogy and more. Similarly, magic realism is multi-layered; more than just a story.

I hope that you enjoyed Curtis Taylor’s short film.

And that you have found the magic realism blog-hop interesting.

Please see links to the other Magic Realism Blog-hoppers at http://tinyurl.com/MRbloghop

Dragon’s Breath

Little Patch of Scrub (July 23, 2009) by Dave Clarke, Bush Philosopher

Little Patch of Scrub (July 23, 2009) by Dave Clarke, Bush Philosopher (taken near Clare, South Australia)

As the day drew closer, I found myself having those moments, where I asked myself: What have I done? 

Like all things done on a whim, signing up to participate in a magic realism blog-hop seemed harmless at the time, but the closer I got to 22 of July, the more nervous I became.

I will admit upfront, I am not an expert on magic realism, or any other genre. I do enjoy writing and reading magic realism literature. Although I am slightly choosy with what works I deem fit within this distinctly unique style of writing. I have previously expressed my thoughts on the core elements of magic realism in a previous blog post, which resulted in some interesting discussion (http://wp.me/p37mgG-cf). 

However, for the next few days I will strive to put aside my narrow view of magic realism. Instead, I am entering the magic realism blog-hop with an open-mind, eager to learn more and keen to enter into discussions with fellow readers, writers and bloggers.

 Why Magic Realism?

 It would be fair to say that my writing is erratic. None of my short stories or novels-in-progress are consistent in style, technique or genre. As I am still finding my voice, I think that its ok to experiment. Enjoying life as a creative person, I hope that I never lose the desire to experiment, to push the boundaries, to express and bring to life what is not easily seen. Which is probably why I find magic realism appealing: it creatively pushes boundaries.

As someone who has a strong political streak, especially in regards to rights for indigenous peoples, magic realism is a perfect way for me to explore inequity and injustice in a manner that is more digestible for mainstream readers. I am not alone in this, as writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Ben Okri, Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison have used magic realism to depict sweeping social change, political unrest and unsavoury moments in history.

As an Australian writer of Aboriginal descent, magic realism feels like a comfortable fit. And I am really pleased to be joining this blog-hop, even if I am still nervous. I intend to contribute a couple of posts over the next few days; what I will contribute is still undetermined.

To start off, I offer a snippet of a work-in-progress, which I feel has strong magic realism elements. Please note that this manuscript is still in first draft stage, so the below is still a bit on the rough side.

In the tradition of magic realism, where the fruit falls weaves a big tale, interjected with whimsical asides and musings on a nation’s history; while using ordinary lives to explore vital themes of identity, place and belonging.

This novel (expected release early 2014) sets ordinary people against Australia’s beautifully wild terrain, amidst a backdrop of post-colonisation and social transformation. There are strong themes of identity, belonging, place and family within where the fruit falls; told through the eyes of a young Aboriginal woman and her daughters.

Magic realism melds respectfully to indigenous models of storytelling; where the arcane is often accepted as natural, and time has a different meaning. Magic realism is reminiscent of songlines: cautionary tales with transcendent qualities, inspired by the many unseen and seen beings found within earth, waters and heavens.

In the below scene, ‘magic’ and reality is blended to:

  • create a rapid transition out of childhood
  • connect the generations; explore family legacies
  • describe the relationship of trust between the sisters
  • make reference to a well-known world event; one symbolises social-technological change

Characters in this extract are:

  • Victoria and Gracie – identical twins
  • Kathleen – young Aboriginal woman; mother of Victoria and Gracie
  • Iris – frail woman who Kathleen has been employed to care for (in exchange for food and use of the workers cottage)
  • The Man – Iris’ husband, a renown artist

I have titled this post Dragon’s Breath because that is what I have always called mists. Growing up on a farm, watching the fog fill dips in paddocks and small gullies, to then roll up the hill towards the house, I could never just watch. I had to enter the Dragon’s Breath, even if it was cold and moist, even if I was slightly scared. I’m not sure where the term came from, I have a feeling that it was either said or inspired by my paternal great-grandfather. Migrating from Ireland as a young man, and having had many wild adventures, in his later years my great-grandfather instilled in me the value of a good story-told well. As you will see when reading this extract, I have drawn slightly on these memories.

Extract from where the fruit falls

The afternoon sun peeked out from between the heavy clouds and penetrated the half-drawn bedroom curtains. Cocooned under a bright patchwork quilt, Iris could feel the sun’s warmth as it crept across her bed.  Despite the spreading warmth, this light from afar, Iris was tired of winter. Tired of the way that it got into her bones, made them feel like screaming. She called out for Kathleen, needing help to sit awhile on the veranda. Even though Iris had shrunk even more the last few months, as if she was retracting from the winter’s wind, Kathleen still needed Victoria’s help to lift the old woman. Together, they gently carried her outside, trying not to cause too much more pain. After placing Iris in the worn rocking chair, Kathleen sat down, a pile of clothes to be darned in a basket at her feet.

As Kathleen mended a small hole in the toe of a sock, Iris’ fingers twitched slightly at the sound of the needle. Her fingers remembered the motion, in and out, in and out; the rhythm of metal piercing cloth. Iris thought back, seeing in her mind all those patchwork quilts that she had created over the years; many of which were now scattered around the globe, being cherished by others. For her husband was not the only artist in the house. Iris was renowned for her quilts, which were works of art, not mere bed-linen. Now, all that she had of those works were her memories, and a fading quilt in her bedroom. Which was used to conceal her sometimes unsightly sick-bed, and to cover the ever-shrinking Iris.

With great effort, Iris pulled a thin rug up past her knees and studied the scene before her: thick mist concealing the paddocks, closing her in.  She felt uncomfortable, as if something was not quite right.  Fog always made her feel uneasy but today there was something more.  Wickedness lay in wait, concealed in the mist; that she was sure of.  Although she was not sure who it waited for.

Victoria had also noticed the mist but not the foreboding presence.

Without any hesitation, she ran inside, ‘Gracie, come and see this.’

Kathleen frowned as the front door slammed shut, having more than once instructed her daughters not to be too unruly when up at the house, out of respect for Iris.  However Iris rejoiced in secrecy, barely concealing a smile. For Victoria’s wildness always reminded Iris of her own girlhood. And as memories were all that Iris had left to enjoy, prompts were always welcomed.

Victoria soon rushed back outside, dragging a reluctant sister. Kathleen looked up, wondering when Victoria would mature a bit, stop all this rushing around.

Straightening the sleeve of her jumper, Grace said, ‘What is it? Come on, show me, it’s too cold to be outside.’

Her reluctance quickly vanished when she looked up, out past the veranda. At the mist that crept towards the house, after having already swallowed their small shack.

Victoria took her sister’s hand, ‘Let’s go.’

Gracie pulled her hand free, ‘No. I can see it from here.’

Victoria looked disappointed, but not defeated.  She knew that she could talk her sister around, Gracie always followed her sister, no matter the risks.

Iris caught Victoria’s eye, ‘Don’t be going out there, girl.  It’s not safe.’

Victoria paused, considering the old woman, thinking on her words. She then turned to her mother, torn between her need for adventure and, out of respect for Iris, the good sense to follow a word of caution.

‘It’s ok.  Go and play,’ said Kathleen with a smile.

Iris sat up, eyes widened, ‘It’s not safe out there. She should be content with watching it from here.’

Kathleen put down her darning, and considered the mist for a moment. Victoria waited, prepared to defy them both. Whilst Gracie stood in the doorway, hoping that her sister would change her mind.

Turning to Iris, Kathleen said, ‘It will be alright. My grandmother taught me about this type of mist, about the breath of dragons. They were common in the land of my grandmother’s people. These girls have the blood of those ancestors running through their veins, nothing in that mist can harm them.’

Victoria glanced at Gracie, eyes shining with excitement at that one word: dragons. Gracie refused to meet her eyes, she was well aware of her sister’s attraction to adventure. All those years on the road had not taught Victoria the folly of seeking the unknown. Gracie thought back to that time when she, herself, had acted against her better judgement. And remembered the chain of events that her decision had created, the loss that others will continue to bear because of her. She reached her arm out, and rubbed her left leg; the moist air seemed to aggravate the soreness that Gracie always carried, a physical reminder of that best-forgotten escapade. Now, Gracie appreciated the quieter life, the one that they had so recently found. She was not interested in any of Victoria’s wild ideas.

‘Real live dragons?’ Victoria asked.

Kathleen said, ‘You will have to find out for yourself.’

Victoria looked at Gracie, who shook her head.

‘Come on, there is nothing to be afraid of. Mother wouldn’t let us go in there if it was dangerous. Anyway, you know I will always protect you,’ pleaded Victoria

Gracie stepped backwards, letting the screen door close; placing a barrier between herself and the moment that she would give in.

Victoria walked over to the door and leaned her face on the mesh. Gracie could feel warm breath on her face. The sisters stood, face to face, neither willing to cave in, neither willing to say yes to the other’s needs.

‘That’s a good girl,’ said Iris. ‘Don’t go listening to your foolish sister. Stay here, where it is safe.’

Gracie blinked, just once and Victoria knew who had won this particular standoff. Despite the fear of what may lay beyond, in the mist, Gracie was not going to let someone get away with calling her sister foolish. Victoria opened the door, and took Gracie by the hand. With a wary glance at their mother, Gracie allowed herself to be led towards the mist.

Kathleen smiled lovingly at her shy, little mouse. Soon replaced by feelings of pride for Victoria, who always evoked memories of Kathleen’s own childhood. This adventurous streak had missed one generation, for Kathleen’s own mother was a home-body, just like Gracie was. Kathleen’s grandmother, she was different, much more like Victoria. Picking up the holey sock, Kathleen was soon lost in recollections of her grandmother’s stories; colourful tales from a faraway place, from another time.

As they ventured into the mist, Gracie was determined to not let go of Victoria’s hand. Droplets of water clung to Gracie’s skin and hair, but they didn’t make her feel cold. On the outside, beyond the veil, sounds had stopped. It was as if they had stepped over a threshold, in to a different place.  The girls walked cautiously, unable to see too far ahead.  Gracie concentrated on where she placed each foot, looking intently at the ground for obstacles that might trip her.  While Veronica looked brazenly around her, not wanting to miss anything that lurked, obscured within the thick fog.

Victoria stopped suddenly, squeezing Gracie’s hand, ‘Can you see it?’

Gracie lifted her head, her heart beating faster, little puffs of smoke accumulating in front of her. ‘Look. My breathing makes smoke, just like a dragon.’

‘There’s the real thing,’ said Victoria, pointing to her right.

Gracie looked, fearful of what she would see. She saw nothing.

‘Can’t you see it?’

She shook her head, glad for once that she didn’t see the same as her sister.

Veronica explained, ‘It’s more like a snake than a dragon. I can see how people would get confused, though. She’s so large, frightening even. Also beautiful.’

Gracie pulled her sister’s hand, ‘Let’s go, I don’t like it in here.’

‘Ok, come on then.’

As they wandered through the thickening fog, taking each step with care, far away a man was taking leaps of abandonment. As hundreds of thousands gathered around small boxed-screens, the man in the bubble-suit jumped over craters, unaware that the world held its collective breath in astonishment. It would be many years later that the sisters would hear of that first lunar adventure. Or saw their first small screen. In the meantime, they would have to emerge from the mist.

The first thing they noticed when they approached the veranda was the man, dressed in black. He sat in a straight-backed chair, shoulders hunched, bottle in hand. They had never seen him there before. Behind him stood their mother, who held a finger to her lips. Quietly they stepped up onto the veranda, knowing something was wrong.

Hearing a noise, the sisters looked over at the empty rocking chair, just in time to see it make one last movement. Silently, Kathleen led them to the workers shack, where she helped them to select more fitting clothes. Soon clad in black, they were told to stay away from the house, to play quietly; out of respect.

Want more?

A few months ago, I posted another extract from where the fruit falls (  https://karenwyld.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/the-unseen-ocean ) that also contain a touch of magic realism. In this prologue, I use elements of magic realism to assist the reader to slip into the right frame of thinking, before the story starts. Much like the act of sitting around a fire/kitchen table, where many stories of old were told.

Without reading the rest of the book, it would be easy to mistake this extract for fantasy, but it’s not. It’s very much set in this world, a long-time ago, in a time remembered by fewer and fewer people. The prologue describes this time, and reminds the reader that First Nations peoples have been around for a very long time, they have witnessed many changes, have had to endure much hardships; and they have survived, as they will continue to survive.

The Other Hoppers

I encourage you all to check out the post from the other writers/bloggers participating in this week’s magic realism blog-hop. You can find their links on Zoe Brooks’ blog (http://magic-realism-books.blogspot.com.au/) or at the bottom of this post.
Zoe has been reading and reviewing magic realism books for the past year, and is hosting the blog-hop.

http://magic-realism-books.blogspot.com/2013/07/what-is-magic-realism.html

http://kirstyfoxbooks.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/night-logic/

https://karenwyld.wordpress.com/sporadic-musings/ 

http://zoebrooks.blogspot.com/2013/07/magic-realism-or-fantasy.html

http://leighpod.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/flying-high-with-magic-realism-2/

http://www.tadcrawford.com/blog-2/

http://hearth-myth.blogspot.com/2013/07/urban-fantasy-and-magic-realism-matter.html

http://muriellerites.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/serendipity-down-the-rabbit-hole-by-rebecca-davies/

http://joelseath.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/real-magic-and-the-mythkeepers-of-the-world/

http://allonymbooks.com/2013/07/22/facts-and-fiction-historical-magical-realism-evie-woolmores-blog-for-the-magic-realism-blog-hop/

http://edieramer.com/2013/07/22/magical-realism-blog-hop-giveaways/

http://curatedbookshelves.blogspot.com/2013/07/white-is-for-witching.html

http://christinelockebooks.blogspot.com/2013/07/magic-realism-by-christine-locke.html

http://susanbishopcrispell.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/every-little-thing-i-read-is-magic/

http://jordanrosenfeld.net/everyday-magical-realism/

WildLife DownUnder

Having just returned from a few days in Perth, I should be writing a post to add to my ‘Rooms with a View’ travelogue. It was an interesting trip, mostly of a personal nature, so I’m not sure what I should share. In the meantime, let me tell you a little more about my neighbourhood; an area I have called home for 25 years.

I dislike stereotypes as much (or even more) than the next person, but sometimes they are accurate. For example, lets examine some of the common stereotypes of living in Australia:

Kangaroos bouncing down every street
How ridiculous, right? Well actually, sometimes they do bounce down our streets. I live 52 kilometres from the central business district of Adelaide (which is the capital city of South Australia). My neighbourhood is a place by the sea, where suburbia meets country. As a fringe dweller, I get the perks of both worlds; including sharing the neighbourhood with wildlife.
For example, I just dropped my daughter off after Sunday family dinner, and as usual had to drive carefully. Firstly, because of the huge ‘puddle’ that appears after a downpour, causing one of the local washpools to overflow on her road. Sometimes I plow through, but tonight it was blocked off so I had to detour around that patch of road. Even though my daughter lives less than a kilometre from my house, on the way it’s not unusual to see a lone kangaroo (or a mob of them) right in the middle of a darkened road.
And living close to Aldinga Scrub means that I have encountered many furred, feathered and scaled visitors at my place: owls, snakes, echidnas, micro-bats, lizards and other beasties.

You’ll get eaten by a shark
Until a few years ago, my local beach held the unpleasant record of the most people taken (and yes, eaten) by a shark, from a suburban South Australian beach. Even now, it’s not unusual for the warning siren to go off a few times a day in the warmer months. Over the years I have developed respect for mortality and safety, so if I do go snorkelling or swimming, I now keep an eye out for fins. It’s the Great Whites I most dread bumping in to. Although I also need to keep an eye out for stingrays (who are related to sharks, believe it or not).
Sharing the water with a dolphin pod, or watching a whale pass by, are entirely different happenings – this truly has to be experienced to be believed!

Koalas in the backyard
In the hills it’s a common occurrence to see koalas in a backyard tree. When its hot, they climb down in search of water. Not in my neighbourhood though, we are more likely to catch an echidna digging up our gardens. Although I have seen a few koalas on the side of the expressway, on my way to work.

Redbacks on the toilet seat
We get all sorts of creepy crawlies, including spiders. And many of these are highly toxic, so it pays to keep an eye out, especially when gardening. The Redback is one of the most poisonous and likes to hide in dark places. Thankfully, getting bitten when visiting the toilet has become rare, now that we have indoor plumbing.
When we were kids, my brother bred Redbacks for pets. I remember the time he took them to school for show-and-tell. Sadly, they all escaped that day; causing a bit of a stir.

Watch out for snakes
Yes, do keep an eye out for these guys. Snakes are a common sight where I live, including some of the world’s most deadliest. Watching where I tread has become second nature, although I can remember a few times that I got a bit too close for comfort to a Tiger snake, Red-belly Black or Brown snake.
In my current place I have had a few snakes visit over the years, so I need to keep an eye out for them; for the sake of the dog and chickens.

Wild pets
I remember fondly the wildlife I have shared a home with. Growing up on a farm, with a mother who had a natural talent for looking after sick animals, we had interesting pets, such as: an echidna, hairy-nosed wombat, kangaroos, a hawk, heaps of lizards, and a crow. My brother even had a baby diamond-head snake in a large jar, until mum found out!
Some of our domestic animals were pretty wild, as well. Like a bantam rooster who hid every morning, waiting to attack us on the way to school. We would race each other to the car, so as not to be the one who was pecked.
And a donkey who liked to just stop at random,bucking people off. We warned everyone before they got on Pepe, but at least one person got a broken arm. And our two horses, Spike and Arabella,were just as fond as throwing off their riders unexpectedly. Life on a farm certainly toughens up a kid.

Where is your next holiday?
Don’t let the number of deadly beasties put you off. Australia is a great place to live, and to visit. And if you do come to Australia, to the Downunder, watch out for those koalas – they are not as cute and cuddly as they look!

Gif downloaded from the WordPress Blog ‘Thank God its Friday’ on 30 June 2013 – http://tgisfriday.com/kangaroo-playing-banjo/

Kangajo_banjo_TGIF