Hexenhaus_COVER_FINAL

Hexenhaus – countdown

We are coming into the home stretch. I can now reveal the front cover of my new novel to you. Thank-you so very much to Kate Forsyth for her lovely endorsement. Nicole Hayes (One True Thing) also has some great words of support for the back cover…but for that, you must wait.

Here’s a little taste of what Hexenhaus is all about –

“A powerful historical novel about three young women caught in the hysteria of their own times.”

In 1628, Veronica Junius flees to the woods of Bamberg, Germany, with her small brother after their parents are condemned as witches by the notoriously sadistic Hexenbischof, and are burnt at the stake.

At the dawn of the eighteenth century, Katherine Campbell, a Scottish maid, is drawn into political dissidence with the Jacobites. She is falsely accused of causing the demonic possession of the eleven-year-old daughter of the manor house. Will Katherine pay the ultimate price for her beliefs?

In the present day, Paisley Muller-McLeod, a senior student in an Australian town, lives with her single mother, a practicing Wiccan who runs a New Age shop. When hateful gossip begins to singe her mother, Paisley must navigate her way through the burning torches of small-town prejudice.

Three women, separated by a span of 400 years, find themselves weathering similar crises, all linked to the hysteria that fans an accusation of ‘witch-craft’. Has anything really changed?

The paperback will be available in Australian bookstores on October 31st, published by UQP (University of Queensland Press). It will also be available in e-book format.

Details of the various book launches will be finalised shortly.

Put Hexenhaus on your Christmas shopping list! Everyone knows someone who will love this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Literary Gestational Blues

There is nothing more exciting for a writer than getting that call that tells you a manuscript has made it through the treacherous fertilization process – the acquisitions meeting at a publishing house. Before that time your dream of a book is just that – a dream. You may have the words down and you may have an interested editor but they have to come together and get the endorsement, the fusion, that only a positive vote in the boardroom can provide. The development and arrival of a new book are often likened to the human birth process. While defying all odds to get there, books keep arriving on the shelves. It seems like a smooth factory, a literary conveyor belt, seamless and ceaseless. But if you were to go deep within the body of the publishing industry you would see just how difficult it is for an embryonic seed of story to become a full-blown book with a cover, spine and lots of leaves. For every one that succeeds, thousands fall by the way side, forgotten, discarded, delegated to that cavernous bottom drawer or Amazon kindle.

When I got that call about my upcoming novel ‘Hexenhaus’ I swore and cried, almost like when I’d found out I’d been pregnant in real life. I was full of hope, great expectations and fear. Would it all be okay, would I like the cover, would anyone read it? Because some books, like kids, become disappointments. I jest. No kid, of course, ever becomes a disappointment. Every single one is adorable in their own way. Adolph Hitler’s mother probably liked him. Charles Manson probably made sweet gurgling noises as he suckled from his beloved mother….Not disappointments so much as …some books just don’t make a lot of friends. You know what I’m saying? But when I got the call that I was going to have a new book, I was ecstatic, relieved and overjoyed.

Nine months is a walk in the park. This gestation will take fifteen months from that phone call to delivery. You get the call, you pop the champagne and then the early boredom sets in while nothing, nothing, nothing seems to happen. It took about six weeks for the contracts to be finalised and signed because one person or another involved in the process went on leave, got sick or spent more time tending to more fertile writers’ needs. No bitterness, none. When I’m selling like J.K. Rowling I’m sure things will move more quickly. High hopes! Then I waited, no belly-swelling except for the endless chocolate biscuits and more champagne. Thumbs twirled until they nearly became unscrewed.

Then a month later I got structural edits….big sweeping changes like the order of stories. My book tells the stories of three young women’s adventures through real-life tortures at the hands of witch-hunters. This is, I am sure, much more painful and terrifying than being pulled apart by the hands of editors. At this point your characters put on more flesh and your words get snipped away so that the narrative doesn’t get lost in the detail. All good. Getting smoother. This is where you hear the words ‘story arc’ a lot.

Three or four months after that I started copy edits. This is a big book with a lot of subject matter (and torture and hedgehogs). It was a daunting copy edit made more difficult by my challenging relationship with technology. My new editor was patient and diligent with a wonderful eye for getting my baby into the best health possible for her upcoming ordeal (exposure to the harsh elements of readership). In many ways an editor is like a fairy godmother, turning bits of pumpkin into crystal.

A cover arrived fresh from the designer and with a tweak here and there, we had Hexenhaus looking good. This is like seeing a 3-D ultrasound photo of your baby. It’s very exciting.

Then came the first pages and the proof-reading. It’s amazing how inept an eye can be and even after multiple reads I would find something I’d missed. Done and dusted and ready for the type-setter….

That’s where I am at now. Awaiting a nice endorsement from a peer/literary idol…that doesn’t say….’what a load of codswollop’. Thinking about book launches (baby showers?) Getting invited to writer’s festivals for next year (that’s exciting…they are like those baby pagents where you parade your baby about in public….hmmm…not really). Starting to tell everyone and anyone that I am having a book…a book…a book….on October 31st. People are getting sick of hearing this but I DON”T CARE!

I am already thinking about her sibling and I already have a name. Victorieux. Instead of a book about three witches, this one will be about three warrior girls. You know you are impatient when you are planning your next child while still awaiting the one in your belly (publisher’s office).

I am bristling with excitement. Hexenhaus is wriggling and writhing and cannot wait to get into the fresh air of bookshops with the smell of lovely, woody untouched pages on her breath. I feel her pulsing with longing to be held by gentle, loving reader’s hands, who fall asleep at night with her resting on their chests.

It is a long, fretful, finicky time, this book-cooking caper. But it is labour of love, a magical and miraculous journey.

Write a book. Find the perfect publishing partner. It’s not easy but neither is true love. Nurture your baby and that moment when you hold her in your hands for the first time will be like no other feeling. I can’t wait to hold Hexenhaus. I feel like crying just thinking about it. Soon, my darling, soon.

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That time I was a pin cushion…

Donating blood is one of the most important things you can do as a member of the human community. It is the gift of life to a stranger and what could be more wonderful than that? My husband has done it and because it was one of my fifty 2016 challenges, yesterday I fronted up to the vampire van and signed up to hand over my pound of flesh….or a 400ml sack of blood as the case may be.

I wasn’t nervous. Needles don’t phase me. Given the choice between a Tim Tam and a needle, I would always go the biscuit but I’m not one of those people with hypodermic phobia and the sight of blood fascinates me rather than the opposite. I am a fan of Tarantino films. I wanted to be a vampire as a child and also briefly considered being a surgeon so blood and I…we go way back…we are tight…we have no problems with one another.

So after checking my general health, ticking all the boxes to say that I hadn’t had a threesome with a mad cow in Timbuktu any time recently or shot up green caterpillar juice with junkie Oompa Loompas in Loompaland in the last three months, I was good to go.

The whole thing was like plugging into headphones. Lie back, insert mosquito-thin needle into arm, squeeze squishy ball and make small talk with the other people being drained. We chatted about the weather (cold), the mushy brains associated with pregnancy (smushy peas) and general chit-chat. Time went on (minutes). I was cool and chilled out and relaxed thinking this is a piece of cake while thinking about the actual piece of cake I would get as a reward for my altruism.

And then…the nurse-woman-vampire looked at me weirdly and asked if I was alright. A bit dizzy I said. And then……a lot dizzy, a lot cold and a lot passing out.

My blood pressure dropped to something silly and they whipped out the needle and put me in the shock position, lying back with my legs in the air. Feeling somewhat foolish, I waited for the nausea and light-headedness to pass. It took a while.

This happens sometimes apparently.

I hope to be able to try again in a few months. I hope they sapped enough out of me to save the lives of a couple of small people (as I didn’t fill the whole bag).

Giving blood is a worthwhile thing to do. Do it. Just be aware that even if you are fine with it…sometimes…your body isn’t.

I have fifty challenges for this year. I’ve done the silent meditation retreat and now the blood donation (kind of ) and next I’ll be volunteering in a soup kitchen. I may not be totally brilliant yet at being a generous community-member or enlightened person….but at least I’m trying, eh?

 

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WINTER MAGIC

Once a year in Katoomba in the beautiful Blue Mountains behind Sydney, the place transforms into something out of a Harry Potter novel. On the Saturday nearest to the shortest day of the year (winter solstice) the locals and thousands of eager visitors dress up in the spirit of the festival and descend upon the small township.

This year was even better than last. It is becoming an annual family tradition for us to attend. The streets were filled with a diverse and crazy mob of dressed up loonies and it made my heart glad. Just to prove that the place is magic on that day, the rain and wind that had been pestering the mountain since early morning, cleared and parted, warming to an unseasonably sunny and mild day, perfect for the massive, musical, vibrant street parade full of music and dancing, drums and horns.

The highlight of the parade for me was the zany and very pink-themed LGBT mob who carried flags bearing the word ORLANDO. As they passed we hooted and applauded and it was heartening to see the crowd so supportive. There were tears of grief and sadness but also tears of joy that we could all come together and cheer as we were reminded of the incredible global support and sympathy extended to that community in the wake of the tragedy.

Many, later that afternoon, descended upon the (allegedly) haunted historic hotel, The Carrington, and it really was incredible to see the bizarre characters lining up at the bar. That scene from Star Wars was happening in front of my eyes.

There were spectacular fireworks displayed over the top of the Carrington at nightfall and it was hard not to believe that you were at a party thrown by Jay Gatsby.

Then came the Fractured Fairy-tale Ball, a sumptuous feast enjoyed beneath a canopy of chandeliers and mock forest in the beautiful dining room. The entertainment provided by the Porcelain Dolls, a dance troupe, was the crowning glory of the entire festival and embodied the zany, sexy, bizarre theme of the day. We were entertained with a circus/burlesque version of an Alice in Wonderland that made the diners feel that they had indeed fallen down the rabbit hole.

One fellow at a table near me was dressed in full body white paint and a furry white g-string with a glow-in-the-dark unicorn horn. Where else would you find someone sitting on a baroque chair at a $150 a head ball, basically in the nude? This is why I love this festival.

I cannot wait for next year. Bring on the winter crazies. I love you all. For the shortest day of the year we sure packed in a lot of fun.

pretzel

THAT TIME I WAS A PRETZEL

My son once observed that I vacuum like a possum on speed. This is a keen observation because I should point out that I have ADHD. While life might be more manageable with medication, I do without and just skate through life like a runaway train.

What might pose the greatest challenge to someone like me? How about a ten day silent meditation retreat? I know I’m sometimes a complete masochist but even I couldn’t come up with such a torturous idea…. except that I did. I turned a significant age and while my peers were off on mid-life crisis P&O Cruises, I decided to do a boot camp of the mind. What could possibly go wrong?

This is me. I wake up each morning before the sun and leap out of bed freaking out because the clock is ticking and I am running out of time to write my next book, go on that diet, win an Academy Award and change the world. The expression take a chill pill was invented specifically for me. I am the least calm human I know. I am a walking cyclone and it unnerves my fairly relaxed family. I am go-go-go and yet when I turned ‘that age’ I decided that I wanted to learn how to …..just stop. I wanted to learn how to be still. So when I read about a ten day retreat teaching Vipassana meditation, I knew I’d found my sabbatical. The retreat closest to me was in the Blue Mountains (they are scattered all over the globe) and I promptly booked in for the ordeal…I mean enlightenment.

I talk a lot. A. Lot. So most people thought the idea of me being silent for ten days was a complete joke. I would show them. My teenage son said that if I lasted the ten days he would book in and do a retreat as well. He was that sure I would fail. Challenge on!

The place rested on the escarpment in one of the most beautiful Australian bush-settings you can imagine. A hundred of us signed up and after our first hour of meditation we were banished into a state of silence, forbidden eye contact with others, no reading materials, writing materials, any form of technology and no dinner. Listen to me! No dinner except for two pieces of fruit but they were half pieces so technically one piece of fruit. No coffee. No wine. No meat. No touching. No laughter. No words. Nada. Nothing. And the wake up bell calling us to the meditation hall came at 4.15 a.m. each day, early even for me.

So for ten days I got up in the cold dark, trying not to be crushed by a stampede of kangaroos on my way to the hall where I sat like a garden statue and contemplated the true reality of existence by realising that everything is impermanent except the pain you feel in your hips during long bouts of meditation because that hell is endless let me tell you! Eleven hours a day of sitting like a human pretzel, contorted on a cushion on the floor, eyes shut, concentrating on the space beneath your nostrils taught me pretty quickly that anything that I have ever complained about in the comfort of my own home was trivial by comparison.

Stillness? Silence? I was inwardly screaming, chanting four letter words, sneaking glances from between crocodile slits of eyes, at the others, liking one girl’s snazzy pants, hating on the hippiest poser with the perfect posture. I itched and sneezed and coughed while others around me farted and faintly snored.

Back in my basic but comfortable room, I began reading my shampoo bottle label from sheer boredom. I was truly more alone with myself than I have ever been in my life and it was unnerving.

The not speaking was the easiest part and actually quite liberating. I came to see that so much speech is just idle chatter. My bones were taking a beating from all the floor-sitting but the lack of stimulation was hardest. Tears came on day four. By day six however, I was looking better, feeling better, slowing down and feeling that elusive thing that I never feel….I felt relaxed. The vego lunches were delicious. I was sleeping well. I started to get it. Life. The blinkers were off.

And I survived. Did I become a Jedi mind warrior? Now, now, baby steps. I may not be enlightened yet but my knee-jerk reactions to life have become less violent and my ten days as a pretzel taught me that I control time, not the other way around. I also learned that ditching dinner is an awesome way to drop kilos. Now it’s time for the teenager to go get some shut-up!

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THE RHYTHM AND PATTERN OF WORDS

At the end of the first panel of the very first ever Rock & Roll Writers Festival in Australia (Brisbane), the very wonderful author, Nicole Hayes, told us, from the audience, that she learned the pattern and rhythm of words as a young girl, by listening to the lyrics of Don Walker‘s songs. This pretty much summed up why we had all gathered, on this humid, sticky-frickin’ hot weekend at the Brightside in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. The audience and the speakers were all there to celebrate the primal, healing, exciting and passionate rhythm and pattern that we find in words; in novels, music memoirs, song lyrics and the critics’ examination of them. Words have power and my golly god we had some fun talking, lots and lots of talking; having blistering, hilarious and emotional conversations about the words that swirl in and about rock & roll – from the songs to the memoirs to the reviews and commentaries.

The inaugural Rock and Roll Writers Festival was in one word – a triumph (‘a’ doesn’t count as a word does it?) It was a glorious celebration and jollification of diversity in music and the literature which surrounds it. The two day festival buzzed and crackled with a vibrant and sexy energy, in true rock & roll form!

In the sultry hub of Fortitude Valley (a character in itself), tucked away in the the very chill, very funked-up Brightside Hotel, a collection of ragamuffin writers, musicians, performers and commentators joined together to create a weekend long party to revel in what we love most – the rhythm and pattern of words.

After a pointed but warm welcome to country by Bob Weatherall (yes Australia – we can do better!) the festival opened with My Back Pages, led by Sean Sennett, which produced some fascinating banter between rock-writing veteran, Chris Salewicz, the absolute legend, Ritchie Yorke and musician Don Walker, who would later teach me about the Oxford comma. (I have clearly grown up because as a young groupie I’d be snorting cocaine and undressing rock-stars….now I’m having conversations with them about punctuation!)

The day was warm, the sky was blue but man oh man there were a lot of cool cats roaming the venue.

The highlight of Day One for me was the Freakin’ and Peakin’ panel which examined the cliche of drugs and alcohol in rock n roll. Do they help or hinder the creative process? Well jeeez…that was always gonna open a can of worms but who would have thought those worms would be so outrageously entertaining!?? Geoff Corbett led the discussion (some reviewer called him wizened…I would opt for wise in a super cool guru Yoda sort of way). On the panel we had spunky Jake Stone, who is now kick-boxing away his demons; the irrepressibly  hilarious wookie, BC Michaels ( BTW BC, I watched the punching bong clip last night and …well…I’m equal parts disturbed and impressed); Andrew McMillen who wrote a great book on the subject and looked eerily like my son (I actually did a double-take) and Jenny Valentish (I’m her greatest fan said in a really stalky, creepy voice). This panel took a delicate subject and rattled the crap out of it. It was everything a rock & roll panel should be. Awesome.

We all got a bit rowdy out the back in caravan/green room world, but please forgive us Joe and Leanne as we were all just…. well…extremely excited to be there. There were birthdays to sing about (the lovely Kate Hennessey and the above mentioned Chris), cake to eat, complimentary booze to drink and the occasional cigar to smoke. The vibe was electric and when the didgeridoo came out….well…there was no holding us back. It was there… backstage…..in the beer-soaked sunny afternoon of Day One, that some of the more unspeakable/not-for-public-consumption stories got told. But what happens at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival stays at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival. I traded some gems with Mandy Nolan, Don Walker, doco man, Justin, Jenny, Jake, BC and Geoff. Some of the greatest conversations I had were with the amazing volunteers.

We partied late into the night at the Black Bear Lodge where we were entertained by three of our amazingly talented panelists – Deborah Conway, Jess Ribeiro and Jackie Marshall. Just wow. Their performances were so powerful they made me wanna cry with joyous abandon. The champagne flowed. Kate Hennessey sampled some birthday Kraken. Sally Breen and I fell a bit in love. And then I also fell a bit in love with Jess R. And then Tammy Lee Rock and …..so on and so forth. By the end of Saturday night pretty much everyone loved everyone else and that, my friends, is a good thing!

My panel on Sunday explored the pleasure and pain that comes with the lust and sex that is wrapped up with music. Led by the one and only Bec Mac, we careened like mad people through our conversation, taking the mickey out of each other, sharing…well oversharing like nobody’s business, reading soft porn to the audience…stuff like that. My boobs seemed to try to steal the show…they do that….and Jackie Marshall owned the stage in the world’s sexiest MuMu, delivering the very strong and important message that ”everyone deserves a root!” Along with Nicole Hayes and Ben McLeay (aka Thomas Violence) we titillated the crowd with our bawdy silliness/deeply astute observations on human sexuality.

In History Never Repeats – Leanne Kelly deftly led a great conversation with Clinton Walker (who told me he thinks I’m a bit weird), Andrew Stafford (one of my new favourite people) and Chris Salewicz (who after a few Monkey’s Shoulders later in the afternoon, began to remind me of a young Robert de Niro). This panel looked at how music reacts to social change and upheaval. It was Sunday. I was sober. This sounded like the most intelligent and eloquent panel but that was probably because I was so focused and attentive and…sober. I also loved listening to Noel Mengel, Bernard Zuel, Kate Hennessy and Dave Faulkner and many others.

I am so grateful to have been invited to this special, unique and exciting festival and I’m sure it will go from strength to strength. I have made some wonderful new friends and laughed more than I have for a long time. My face hurts.

Being a writer is mostly a lonely business but the first weekend in April, 2016….made it all worth while.

LONG LIVE THE ROCK & ROLL WRITERS FESTIVAL. LEANNE AND JOE – I SALUTE YOU!!

groupie-paris-1983

Words and Music by….

So I am back, having had an extended break from blogging. I went on a Vipassana meditation retreat for eleven days. During that time I could not speak, make eye contact, read or write. All I could do was sleep, eat (pretty much only once a day) and meditate, cross-legged,  for over ten hours a day. Needless to say, this all messed with my head. This was probably a good thing as my head needed messing with. But it threw my writing out of whack a bit…. all that thinking about nothing…well not nothing….there was stillness, silence and a few loose thoughts but anyways….

NOW….I am off on a long-week-end of adventure and mayhem…I mean work and important writy business. Tomorrow I go to Newcastle, a place that is literally up the road but a city I have never ever been to or if I have I don’t remember it…at all. A new place. How exciting. I have had a short story shortlisted on the longest shortlist I have ever seen. My story THUNDERSTRUCK will be included in the Newcastle Short Story Anthology being launched tomorrow night after the winners are announced. Every finalist gets a spot in the anthology so I look forward to reading all of the 32 awesome stories. My piece is a graphic and pretty confronting piece about domestic violence. I don’t want to give a spoiler, but it doesn’t end well.

Then early, oh so early, on Saturday morning I fly to Brisbane for some real excitement. THE ROCK & ROLL WRITERS FESTIVAL IS HERE. Yes…it is a happening thing and it’s happening this weekend (April 2 and 3).

I will catch up with my imaginary friend Jenny Valentish (Cherry Bomb and millions of other great essays and bits and bobs) in the actual flesh after months of being virtual colleagues. I have friends and family coming along and hope to meet a whole lot more.

The program looks amazing. Panels of exciting people (and me) will regale audiences with lascivious tales of rock & roll madness, play some tunes, sign some books and CDs and boobs or whatever needs to be signed….etc. I will indubitably overshare and make a fool of myself but that’s okay because it’s what I do best and this is an over 18 festival so fuck it…I’ll say whatever pops into my head. Hell, it’s a rock festival…On Saturday night I’ll chuck the tele out the window of the hotel and sing on the rooftop in my skin-coloured spanx!

No. I won’t….. I don’t think I will .

The other panelists I can’t wait to listen to include writers like Nicole Hayes; my daughter is about to read her young adult book One True Thing; Andrew Stafford, author of Pig City, a book with an actual cult following and Noel Mengel whose novel RPM pipped mine at the post at the QLD Premier’s Literary Awards back in 2010.

Musicians coming along to share words of wisdom on the marriage/sordid affair between literature and music include Don Walker (Cold Chisel ohmygawd), Dave Faulkner (Hoodoo Gurus Like Wow – Wipeout!) and some great spunky funkies like Jess Ribeiro, Jake Stone and BC Michaels.

I’m an old washed up groupie….I now just go to my kids awful eisteddfods and talent shows at school, so it will be a nice change to be back around a bunch of interesting people who can actually play music and whatnot instead of squealing recorders! I pulled out my rock chick tie and thought about dressing up in the old school uniform…but we’re all politically correct apparently these days, so the rock n roll school girl groupie thing…. well we’ll leave her back in the eighties where she belongs….. unless we don’t.

It will be a whole decadent ….I mean informative and stimulating interactive play of words, lyrics, poetry, performance and a feast for the senses; a weekend of discussion, laughter, nostalgia and bristling energy.

If you are anywhere near Brisbane this week-end you would be pretty damn silly not to grab a ticket and get your groove on down to Fortitude Valley! The venue is THE BRIGHTSIDE. It has beer and stuff.

If you come along I will sign your boobs or whatevs. That’s a promise.

You can read the full program, see all the speakers and link to BUY YOUR TICKET here…

http://www.rockandrollwritersfestival.com/

 

The above picture… may or may not be a groupie about to read A Catcher in the Rye! 

Brook-Rushton_Terrigal-Reflections

Forgiveness

My last blog went viral. It just goes to show the power of words and indeed the power of social media. I was angry. I was outraged. A valued member of my community was racially bashed and we all felt it like a punch to the guts. It winded me with sorrow. Outrage is like a fire and it certainly fanned up a lot of angry responses.

But today’s blog is about something that probably won’t go viral because it isn’t about rage, it’s about forgiveness. The word itself viral suggests sickness. Certainly my blog was about a sickness, the disease of racism. Subjects that expose the ugly, the sick, the evil, they tend to spread like wildfire. Golly gosh, human beings love outrage. But the subject of forgiveness is about healing. And that’s the lesson I’ve learned through this awful local attack on good people.

Paul Shin has forgiven the boy who attacked him. That right there is the story. That right there is the diamond in this coal mine. A middle-aged Korean man was bashed, racially abused and had to cradle and comfort his wife who was also injured in the attack. Paul Shin has forgiven the boy who did this to them. I am tearing up and emotional just writing that.

They say forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free and the prisoner is the person doing the forgiving. After months of being targeted by unknown local arseholes, Paul Shin has set himself free by forgiving his seventeen year old attacker. He has said that the boy is at a crossroads in life and can take a good way or the dark way and he has encouraged the boy to take the good path in life.

Until you understand remorse you can’t really grasp true forgiveness. To have done the wrong thing and to have been forgiven is truly humbling. Remorse does not equal saying the word sorry. It must involve amends. Forgiveness is way harder to master than saying sorry.

I hope the boy involved in this crime (yes crime….not silly childish behaviour) understands the incredible gift Paul has given him. It is quite possibly the greatest gift he will ever receive. I hope with all my heart he doesn’t squander it. I hope his mother reinforces this with her son.

The local police officer quoted in my blog has now acknowledged there was a racial element to the assault which he finds disturbing and he sees Paul Shin’s acceptance of the boy’s apology as an incredible gesture of forgiveness. It is an incredible gesture and one we can all learn from – the community, the police, the media and the youths involved.

A racial assault on an innocent couple is more than just a mistake; it is a gaping cavern of awfulness. Paul’s forgiveness for that act is above all else showing that boy how to be a real and good and awe-inspiring man. Please, please, please young man, take heed, learn, be humbled, embrace your victim’s generosity of spirit and take it into the rest of your life.

The ball’s in your court kiddo. Grow up. Be a good man. Be like Paul.

 

Photo credit Brooke Rushton

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little shop

Something Rotten in the Town of Terrigal

Let me introduce you to Paul and Isabella Shin, Korean-born proprietors of The Little Shop in Terrigal. These people are the reason many locals stop by for a coffee anytime, every time they pass by. Paul greets his customers with an unforgettably wide smile and a genuine enthusiasm for their company. This welcoming sense of joy is why the locals refer to the store as The Happiest Little Shop in Terrigal, nay, in all of the Central Coast. Paul greets my children of a morning, on their way to school, with the mantra ‘have good study’ and it sets the tone for their day.

On the first day of the Australia Day long weekend, Paul and his wife were viciously attacked outside their shop. This came after months of persistent vandalism and abuse levelled at Paul and Isabella’s shop that had become so bad they reached out and asked for police and community assistance. This happy couple were hiding their terror behind smiles and finally just over a week ago, they were confronted by their worst fears. Fists. In their faces!

There was talk that the attack was racially motivated. This sickened and disgusted all of the Shin’s loyal customers and made the locals question the values of the kids who had been responsible for the attack. It made a lot of people very, very angry.

When we heard that Paul, in the wake of the attack was selling his business, it made a lot of people very, very sad. When we heard that Paul had decided, after talking with the mother and school principal of the boy responsible for the attack, to drop all charges and forgive the boy, we were inspired and very, very humbled by his unfathomable generosity of heart.

And then this!

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/mother-of-boy-who-bashed-a-koreanborn-shop-owner-says-her-son-is-deeply-sorry-for-his-actions/news-story/40abb5d78bc4f0cd492eed3a4bcf6ce2

The Daily Telegraph and the local Express Advocate printed the worst piece of newsprint I have ever had the misfortune of reading. I can’t tell if the writer, Matt Taylor, was being ironic or genuinely believed the stuff he was writing but the gist of it goes……the police are now PRAISING the boy responsible for the attack and the boy’s mother because she made him apologise to Paul for racially abusing him and bashing him. Yes, you read that right. It gets worse and becomes the most racist piece of enabling rubbish I’ve ever read and it makes me ashamed to listen to one of our local policemen being quoted in the piece, saying ‘When you look at this matter, it wasn’t a racially motivated attack as such. It was children doing the wrong thing who then used racially inappropriate language.’ Excuse me!? Earlier in the same piece the mother of the main boy in the attack admits that her seventeen year old son (a mere child, according to the cop), told Paul to f* off you Asian as he hit Paul. I bought a bottle of water from Paul yesterday and ten days after the attack he is still sporting a black eye! I’m sorry but in anyone’s language, a seventeen year old punching a middle-aged Korean man in the face while calling him a f*ing Asian IS RACIST! To have the boy’s mother, the police and the media suggesting otherwise lets this kid off the hook, enables his behaviour and screams of trivialising racism in this community. And I won’t have it. Terrigal won’t have it.

The article panders vomitously to the attacker and his mother and no-where talks of the terror, the nightmares, the post-traumatic shock of Paul and his wife who are having to sell their store, their livelihood!

It gets worse.

The mother is quoted as saying her son had ‘manned up’ and apologised to Paul. Newsflash. Real men do not have to apologise for bashing a defenceless man while hurling racist insults at him. Real men do not put a middle-aged woman in hospital with injuries caused, according to the mother, when Isabella tried to step in to help her husband so that the boy accidentally elbowed her. She wasn’t merely elbowed. She was hurt so badly and was in such a state of shock that she was hospitalised. How dare this news article trivialise it as a consequence of Isabella walking into the boy’s elbow! What is wrong with the world when the police further trivialise this matter saying that the boys did not act with racial intent but because they were idiots and they were merely acting out of stupidity. The mother says her son realises how ‘silly’ his behaviour was.

I beg to differ, unnamed mother and Commander Superintendent Daniel Sullivan! Bashing a man and hurting women while calling them f*ing Asians is not silly, stupid or idiotic. It is evil.

‘It’s not good that it happened, but it’s a very good lesson for him in not what to do.’

That’s the mother again in the article, being given a voice to wash over her son’s behaviour and nowhere in the article does it even once speak of the lesson learned by Paul and Isabella Shin. I wonder what that lesson might be. The fact that they are selling the business speaks volumes.

This morning Paul has invited the community to a sausage sizzle to thank them for their outpouring of shock and support in the wake of the attack. Hundreds of people will be going to show their support to the happiest, most welcoming friends from The Little Shop. They will be very sorely missed.

What has sickened the community almost as much as the actual attack is the story in the local paper that focuses on the tears of a seventeen year old boy who was forced to apologise.

I wonder if the boy will be ‘manning’ the barbeque!

 

I will add that the journalist, Matt Taylor wrote a much more palatable piece one week earlier that I have been made aware of. To my mind this second piece undoes the good of the first. A journalist must never ASSUME a prior readership for anchoring a piece. The first article calls the attack racist…the second quotes the mother of the main perpetrator and the police as saying that it is not at all a racist attack. This has confused local readers. Does the mother have the right to the microphone? Hmmmm. The MAIN offender is seventeen. I’m not sure he still needs Mum  to go bat for him although as a mother of four sons I can really understand the protective, defensive instinct.

As a mother I understand the maternal instinct to defend your boys and see them in the best light. But I heard nothing of shame or the mother’s concern for how the Shin’s are coping and the remorse for them having to sell up and move in that article I critiqued and I guess that’s why most people found it offensive!

UPDATE

At the request of the writer of the piece I will ask you to read this first article of his and yes, it is a fine piece, but it should have been left there.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/koreanborn-shop-owners-bashed-in-racially-motivated-latenight-attack-at-terrigal/news-story/e9871617051020f6ec47f042d4528718

I wish the writer, Matt Taylor, Mr Shin and Mrs Shin, and even the boys responsible and their families a long and happy, non-violent life……it starts with being willing to admit that sometimes you get it wrong.

Namaste Nik.x

frustrated-writers

A Year of Words

I’ve been wondering what this blog will be all about. What theme will it embrace? I’ve talked(rambled) about some witchy business and the rock books I liked in my first two blog entries. No theme there. So I’ve decided (after reading someone else’s) to make this blog about my year as a writer.

Writing has very little to do with words and lots to do with the spaces between the words.

I’ve been writing since I was four. Most of the things I’ve written have been self-indulgent garrulous weeds that spread across countless pages but were not meant for a greater audience. The dream of course for those who are drawn to writing, is to be PUBLISHED. In newsprint, magazine or better still…..a book.

I have decided (of course this is largely out of my hands) that 2016 will be my breakthrough year as a writer. God knows I’ve done the apprenticeship, put in the hours and now it’s time to make a splash.

It’s already the end of January and here is where I sit.

I have a young adult novel being published this year by UQP. This is very, very exciting. It is exciting because I can feel in me waters that THIS one, this epic tale of three women, spanning 400 years, all accused of witch-craft, THIS one, will make waves. This book knocked on my heart and demanded to be written. I have just been assigned my editor and I love her to pieces and this is the first time I have edited a book with someone I already knew. We will weave a spell into ”Hexenhaus” and when the hurly-burlys done….it will bewitch all its readers.

In addition to this exciting venture I have entered a cart-load of short stories into various competitions – The Newcastle Short Story Comp, The Hope Prize, the Josephine Ulrick prize, Elizabeth Jolley and will continue to fling them at whatever comps arise through the year.

I also have a manuscript, a romantic sort of drama thing, that my agent has sent out into the marketplace. It is fishing for a beloved home. This one, about grief, mothers and sharks, is a story so very close to my heart and I am in that awful waiting place – that sitting by the phone, waiting for the cute boy to call thing. Purgatory. My agent liked it. Dad liked it. Zeus liked it. I liked it. But will a publisher like it? Will it get its moment in the sun? I believe in it. And that’s a start. But as my guru davidji always tells me – ” I have control over my actions but not the fruit of my actions” and therefore I must release it to the wind and wait for a gust, a slipstream, a sirocco. I must be still. And wait. Patiently. I DON’T DO PATIENCE VERY WELL AT ALL!

I am off on a ten day Buddhist meditation camp soon where I will be silent and have no contact with others, not even eye contact. No reading. No writing. Nothing but the stillness of my own mind. That will drive me fricking bonkers but I have decided to write a book about it next. A book about ten days of absolute silence with my own thoughts, memories, hopes and dreams. Who knows what demons and flighty sprites might visit me there? My son lives on a property near the retreat so I always have the option of escaping and running away to his place….but I won’t. It is my challenge (coinciding with a significant birthday ending in a 0) and I intend to rock it and find bloody enlightenment!

The first writing comp that I entered has just announced their winner and it wasn’t me. Thanks for nothing! First strike. Writing is like playing the lottery. Sure, the odds are better. But it’s still as much luck as skill. Judges, publishers, readers. You can’t please all of them, all of the time. And there are many, many amazing writers out there that I have to compete with. It’s a dog eat dog world. Grrrrr.

Back to the drawing board…..finishing off a young adult murder mystery that I plan to enter into the Text Prize. See ya next time.