Poetry and travel

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For the last thirty days I have been participating in the NaPoWriMo challenge. I have undertaken this challenge the last few years, and have found it valuable if not always easy.

This year I followed the prompts for each day, all except for the final day as I’m up in Sydney visiting a friend and didn’t have access to the poetry books at home to do a cento. Also, a cento seemed like a lot of work choosing lines from other poems to collate into a new one.

It has been strange travelling in this COVID-conscious world. The daily case numbers in Sydney are comparable to Melbourne, but mask wearing up here is much less common than at home. I guess we’re all still a bit traumatised after our two long lockdowns.

It was strange thinking about getting on a plane to come up here, but once I was there waiting to board it seemed normal. Most people were masked in the terminal, maybe 75%, and they were very clear on the plane that masks were mandatory. It was fully booked, so I wasn’t used to being so close to so many people, but I coped.

I’ve written a few good poems as part of this year’s NaPoWriMo challenge, and a few that might not make the cut. I’m sure you’ll see a few on this blog in the coming months and maybe in the next poetry chapbook I release (no dates for that, it’s still in the concept phase).

I hope you’re all doing well in the change of seasons; the weather has been varied to say the least. At least up here in Sydney I don’t need to worry so much whether I have a jacket and umbrella with me.

I sing a song

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I sing a song to pass the time
all the hours from waking to sleep

I sing a song of seduction
to flirt and flutter when speaking is too hard

I sing a song to comfort myself
for company through the lonely stretches

I sing a song of righteous indignation
for courage to challenge injustice in the world

I sing a song of lament
for everything lost and dying

I sing a song of exhaustion
for every time I fought the same battles

I sing a song of solidarity
for all my siblings in all our struggles

I will sing a song of new beginnings
and promise, to a new world we create together.

Endings and Beginnings

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April is my poetry writing month, as I undertake the Na/GloPoWriMo a month-long poetry challenge initiated by Maureen Thorson on the model of NaNoWriMo. Each day Maureen presents a prompt, relating to content, or form, or sometimes both.

I have written poetry since I was an angsty teen, some of my previous work still exists on my old website, as well as in my chapbook, Smells Like Teen Angst, but I often don’t make time for it, outside of April. I’m a member of a poetry workshop/collective, and I have been workshopping poems from last year’s NaPoWriMo all the way up to the start of this year’s challenge.

I’m heading out to the northwest of Melbourne to a writers’ retreat on the weekend. I’m looking forward to the stimulation and to the potential networking opportunities. I hope that I can get value from the content, as I haven’t worked with the organisers before. If nothing else, I will try to enjoy a weekend in the country. Maybe they will have a big bath that I can relax in, or a piano.

In my life outside of writing, I’ve resigned from my day job and will be starting a new day job after Easter. I’ve been working for the same organisation for almost six years, and it feels very strange preparing to leave it now. A lot has changed over that time; I’ve had three different managers, and we’ve been moved around departments a number of times, but a lot has stayed the same too. I won’t go into too many details, but I’m both excited and a little nervous about the new role. It’s with a similar organisation doing a similar job, hopefully with some more seniority.

Many of my colleagues have expressed their gratitude for the work I do, a couple have said I can’t leave, which I assume means something similar. The relationships I’ve forged with the people there have been the highlight, and one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay on so long. I’m sorry to leave the organisation, there will be a bit of messiness in the transition to a new person in my role, but I hope they’ll be able to structure things in a way that benefits everyone.

April seems to be a time for beginnings and endings. Closing one door allows another to open, I’m feeling pumped to find out what’s on the other side of this one. I might even be inspired to put up one of my daily poems too.

Smells Like Teen Angst

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In honour of the release of my two new novels next Monday I’ve dug through one of my first websites for the dreadful poetry of my teens.

I have created a chapbook featuring a collection of ten of my best (or worst) poems.

You can download a copy of the new collection here.

Be warned, these poems are exactly the level of ‘good’ you would expect from a goth teen.

I hope you’ve all preordered your ebook copies of my two new Barrett novels, Sins of the Father and The Mother’s Fault, print copies will be available from next week.

Why would you do that?

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TL;DR don’t touch people you don’t know.

This is a story of something that happened to me today. A cautionary tale. It has left me quite shaken and I want to share the experience with the world for two reasons: if you are the recipient of this kind of behaviour, know that you are not obliged to be okay with it. More importantly, if you do this sort of thing, please take some time to rethink your choices.

I am currently single, as a result I am on several dating apps, with mixed success. I had been chatting to a fellow, Joe (not his real name), for a few weeks on and off. He suggested we meet for lunch, and I suggested a cute pub/cafe in Brunswick Street.

I arrived first and sat at a table outside in the shade. I sent him a message on the app to say that I had a table and would see him shortly.

Hands come across my vision – someone behind me is covering my eyes and I’m startled. A face comes into my view from behind my left shoulder, the face of Joe.

I’m literally speechless. I don’t know Joe from a bar of soap and he decided to surprise me from behind before we’d even said hello. Even now, typing this, my cortisol and adrenaline are spiking.

Once I recover my ability to speak, I say that wasn’t okay. That sneaking up on someone is really threatening. That I need a moment to process. He says he’s sorry, and feels like a bit of an idiot. What I want to say is ‘good, so you should’, but I keep that to myself.

For a brief moment, I considered laughing it off but I felt nauseous and shakey. My eyes were darting around looking for threats. I’m sure all the colour drained from my face. I had to be true to my experience and I was incredibly unsettled. I did not want to be anywhere near this person, and any romantic notions were gone. I say I’m going to have to reschedule and leave. As I walk away my legs are jelly. My heart is pounding and I am both frightened and furious.

I do not, for a moment, believe Joe had bad intentions. I’m sure he thought this would be a funny meet cute, and that, like a romantic comedy, I would giggle and think it was great. But I didn’t.

What I learned from this interaction is that Joe thinks his need to ‘make an entrance’ or ‘seem spontaneous’ trumps my right to feel safe, and my right to bodily autonomy. That he has no concept of personal space or why it might be important.

And then there’s the fact he put his hands on my face IN A PANDEMIC. We are all social distancing, and avoiding hugs so get you can certainly your germy hands off me!

It took me fifteen minutes, pacing around Fitzroy, on the phone to a friend to calm down enough to have eat (since I fled the place I was supposed to have lunch). My hands still shook around the chopsticks.

I don’t think this person will take the time to consider how his actions affected me. He has sent a message since which reads as though he’s chalking it up to ‘not a good match’, which is definitely true, but not the whole story. I’m fucking furious that Joe has upset me in this way, and that he doesn’t appear to have any idea that he is at fault. I hope he reads this and is ashamed enough to change his behaviour in future. Not cool Joe. So not cool.

Barrett Women Series: Pre-order your ebook Now

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This is just a quick update. My new novels will be available in exactly one month from today and I can now share links to the ebooks for pre-order.

Book 1: Sins of the Father universal link, or Amazon link.

Book 2: The Mother’s Faulth universal link or Amazon link.

Paperback copies are still in progress, but will also be available from 28 Feburary 2022.

Barrett Women Series: Cover Reveal

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I’m very excited to share with you the cover art for my two new novels: Sins of the Father, and The Mother’s Fault.

These novels follow two generations of Barrett Women: Janine and Chloe. They can be read in any order, or individually.

A reader discretion warning is in place both novels, they each deal with dark themes. Unlike my previous releases, these are not romance novels, and deal largely with dysfunctional romantic and familial relationships.

Massive thank you to Charmaine who does my covers, you are a wizard at interpreting what I want and make it into an image.

Every choice can change you for better. Or worse.

Sins of the Father

Janine Barrett is like every other fifteen-year-old—she knows it all. When her father passes away, and she’s stuck with her vindictive mother, and a shameful secret; it’s time to break out on her own.

But surviving life as an adult—juggling schoolwork, a household, and a boyfriend—is a lot harder than she thought. And that’s only the beginning.

What will she sacrifice to have it all and prove her mother wrong?

Follow Janine’s journey as she grows up from a naïve, rebellious teen in 1980s Melbourne.

The Mother’s Fault

Chloe Barrett had a tough childhood, but she’s determined not to let it limit her future. She’s got a good job, a couple of close friends, and a decent boyfriend.  

She pulled herself up out of a dark childhood with an unreliable mother and her unpredictable boyfriends, but has Chloe done enough to overcome her brutal childhood and become a happy, fulfilled adult?  

Follow Chloe as she tries to work out if she’s managed to catch the right kind of man this time and build her perfect life, in spite of her mother’s faults.  

Both titles will be ready for purchase on 28 February 2022, pre-order links to follow.

Welcome to 2022!

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Here we are again, the first day of a new year, 2022. I am hesitant to say I’m feeling optimistic, since the plague is still with us, and travel seems like it’s not really on the cards yet, but perhaps we will be able to do more stuff this year.

I don’t usually make new years’ resolutions, anecdotal evidence suggests that resolutions last about three weeks, if that, so having goals seems to be better in terms of being consistent. I’ve set goals for the coming year for a few years running now, it seems to work better.

My goals for 2022 are similar to my previous annual goals, but let’s call it consistency rather than unoriginality:

  • Publish two manuscripts (titles and covers coming soon)
  • Finish manuscript for Singular Focus 2 (working title)
  • NaPoWriMo 2022 (April)
  • NaNoWriMo 2022 (November)
  • Keep up the blog
  • Painting projects, including a proposal for a mural in my apartment building hallway
  • Wasted Monday performances*
  • Piano open mic performance*

The last two, as with last year, are dependent on things being open for performances, but fingers crossed we should be able to get a couple of performances in somewhere.

I would like to spend a bit less time watching TV, more time reading and doing my various projects. Habits are the best predictors of future behaviour, so if I can get into the habit of doing a bit more than rewatching crime procedurals, that’d be good.

I’ll keep working on my garden, it’s looking pretty good these days. I have some berry bushes that produce pretty well and I’ve planted a couple of tomatoes that I hopefully won’t kill before they fruit too.

There was talk we wouldn’t get a proper summer here because of La Niña but the last couple of days have been hot and sunny, so perhaps those predictions were wrong. Outdoor gatherings of a few people seem to be the way to go these days, perhaps coffee outside at a cafe or two. So I will wish you all a very Happy New Year; may 2022 be kind to you and be full of joy and just enough challenge to keep things interesting, but not enough to make you miserable.

Another year over…

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Each year I do a little wrap up post about the last twelve months and how they’ve gone for me. 2020 was, as I’m sure it was for many of you, a shit show. 2021 started out hopeful, I went back to working in the office sometimes, I saw a couple of Melbourne Comedy Festival shows and a few band nights and gigs around town.

I even managed to get through the year without testing positive for COVID which is nice; I’m not sure I’ll be able to say the same for next year. Our case numbers are in the thousands per day, but with over 90% of the population vaccinated, it seems hopeful that we’ll be able to stay open even with new variants.

I set my expectations pretty low, after 2020 I wanted to feel confident I would tick some of them off, even if there was another long lockdown. Turns out I was right to be sceptical that our freedom would last; from May until October, we were all stuck inside again and we’re only allowed out now because of high vaccination rates.

My goals for 2021 are as follows:

  • Publish Singular Focus
  • Finish manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2020
  • NaPoWriMo 2021 (April)
  • NaNoWriMo 2021 (November)
  • Keep up the blog
  • Paint more murals
  • Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)*
  • Wasted Monday performances*

I achieved all my goals, except for the Fringe Show. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I would have done a show this year even without lockdown. There is a lot of joy in putting on a Fringe show, but an enormous amount of work. I’m focussing my energy on my writing, music, and doing some painting as well. I have three murals in my apartment now and have moved on to smaller boards that can be kept or given away to friends.

I took up piano lessons late in 2020, online only at the time since we were still in lockdown then. After a little over a year, I’m enjoying playing and tinkering on the piano. I might even build a repertoire so I can do some open mic nights with the keyboard – although the keyboard’s pretty massive so transporting it will be a pain. My piano teacher has organised two small concerts in 2021 with her adult students, and I have really enjoyed having an audience again, as well as being able to play two or three gigs with Wasted Monday when we were allowed.

Five people pose, each giving a peace sign with both hands and smiling broadly.
Piano concert crew: Jaya, Andrew, me, Mizuki (teacher) and Ben, November 2021.

My work that can be done at home has been pretty consistent, I have drafted about 80k of a new novel, and I have two novels that will be ready for publication in 2021 (stay turned for title and cover reveals).

Though I did a 30k goal for NaNoWriMo, I’m counting it. It’s been a tough year and my writing practice is pretty solid, so I don’t need to rely on November to make up the lion’s share of my first draft output.

My ankle, which was smashed when I was struck by a car in January 2020, is largely recovered, though there is some long-term damage and it’s never going to be back to the way it was. The biggest issue I have nowadays is chronic back pain, likely a secondary injury from the ankle problem. I find it hard to work when I’m in pain, a sentiment I’m sure many of you share.

I’m pleased to say my relationships–with friends, family and work colleagues–have remained solid for the duration, I am so grateful to have so many fantastic people around me. Even when we couldn’t see anyone in real life, I knew you were all there, at the end of the phone or over text.

My grandmother passed in September, she was 94, so had a good run. The funeral was weird, because we were in lockdown and had only two people in the chapel, and a few more watching online. Most other things have ticked along, in some cases limped along during lockdown, but have largely survived. I feel hopeful that 2022 will be enjoyable, possibly going out of the house more often, perhaps I’ll even be able to have a holiday outside of Victoria.

I wish you all health, happiness, relaxation and fulfilment, for the next year and beyond. The next post will include my new year goals.

Whamageddon and other adventures

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Some of you will be familiar with the game ‘Whamageddon‘. The challenge is to get through from 1 December until midnight 24 December without hearing Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’. There is no prize, I honestly think it’s impossible to do but it’s kind of fun to tell people when you hear it and you’re out.

I went out on 6 December when an artist played ‘Last Christmas’ at a life drawing session where I was modelling. Since our lockdown has been lifted I’ve had a couple of modelling jobs, it’s lovely to get back out there and see the works generated in collaboration with the artists. Melbourne’s case numbers are still sitting up around the thousand per day mark, but we’re almost entirely back to pre-COVID numbers at restaurants and bars and other venues.

I have been running around the last few weeks attending various end of year gatherings and Christmas parties, all the social groups I’ve been missing during the long winter months are desperate to catch up before Christmas, which is lovely, but after so long in my apartment not seeing anyone it’s taken some adjusting.

I have two weeks off over the weird Christmas/New Year’s period, in which I hope to do some day trips and potter around meeting people for coffee or a meal out. Time feels like it’s been moving in a very odd way – both slowly and way too fast. How is it less than a week until Christmas?

I have two books I’m planning to release together early-ish in the new year, they don’t have covers yet and I haven’t completely settled on the titles yet so I can’t tell you anything about them. I’m going through final edits on them at the moment.

I hope you are all able to take some time to spend with loved ones (either virtually or in person) this festive season, and if you can, take a break from the world. Go slowly, read books in bed with a cup of tea, or binge that thing on that streaming service you’ve been meaning to get to. I’ll be back to post my end of year wrap up and my new year goals in the next few weeks.