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Category Archives: Parenting

And that’s why it’s called fiction

Grab yourself a copy please. Just .99c to help me feed my child!

Yesterday I took another tentative step in the direction of e-book self-publishing and put a collection of two short stories out there into the ether. At present, they’re only on Smashwords and you can check the collection out here. My intention is to put them up on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing too.

One of these stories, the eponymous Cage Life, has been published before under the title Still Life by [untitled] magazine here in Australia. When it was released, published in print in a slim volume with a garish illustrated cover, I passed copies around to several people to inspire them to admire me (it didn’t work!) although several lovely people even coughed up for a copy.

The story is written in first person from the point-of-view of a young wife and mother and, without giving too much away, starts off charting her carefree, drug-taking university years and spirals into tragedy. My intention was to explore the gamut of a woman’s feelings about liberation and love. How often women feel trapped by their own choices, how often we overlook the signs of love and mistake them for something else, and often we inadvertently fail to prioritise the most important things in life, even while simultaneously trying to put everyone and everything else above ourselves. But when the book came out, so many times the reaction from those who don’t know me well—or well enough to realise that I am begrudgingly unmarried (yes, I know! Talk to my hesitant loving partner and baby daddy folks) and my daughter is just 15 weeks old despite the story being written more than two years ago now—is, “It’s so sad. It’s not based on real life is it?”

My answer is, that it is fiction. I made it up. As a writer I am an incurable liar and I make shit up all the time. It’s what I do. So while it is entirely fictitious, it is, of course, based on real life. The events that take place in my character’s life are in part based on some of the experiences I have had. “The Cow” couch in the story, for instance, really did exist. Some of my best ideas were formed perching on its “furry flanks.” But now I get my inspiration the old-fashioned way (read: wine, or insomnia). I did, at some point, have an ex who was a lawyer and I did live in the “Dolls House.”

Having said that, the “crux” of the story, the tragedy that unfolds, thankfully never happened to me or to anyone I know and love, although such tragedies happen to families around the world every day. I suppose the story is a cautionary tale of just how easy it is to lose sight of the important things for just a few seconds in the midst of a busy life. Sometimes I need to remember that. Sometimes we all do. But hopefully it is a lesson none of us ever have to learn in such a painful and pointless way.

As for the second story … well I hope no one ever mistakes me for an 80-year-old!

 

 

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The power of connection

Even writing can't compete with this little wonder.

Yesterday several people read this fledgling blog and shared my “Indie publishing: perspectives on abundance” post with others. I was thrilled, and it got me thinking about the power of words and how we use them to connect both thoughts and relationships.

Words have so many purposes, but, for me, the real reason for writing, and the true power of words, comes in connection. If I can make a reader relate to my words and connect with them, to the extent that they feel something, be it joy, wonder, nostalgia, humour, surprise or fright, then I am satisfied. Generally speaking, I’d prefer my readers felt, joy, wonder or humour than anger, disgust or disdain, but when writing fiction I know it is my job to make them experience the gamut of emotions so they can live vicariously through my characters and empathize with them. It is harder, in my experience, to coax a tear than it is to conjure up a smile, so making a reader connect enough that they will cry for a character, or for a concept, is a talent indeed.

Yesterday I read a post by Cheryl Shireman that made me weep. It untapped a well of emotion in me partly because of its subject matter, and partly because it was so beautifully, honestly written. It made me stop and think about my life and how my desire to fit so much into every day, and to connect with others through my writing and through social networking, may have been compromising the one connection I hold most dear: my relationship with my baby daughter.

Sure, I do most of my work when she is sweetly sleeping, her little lips drawn up into a slightly parted cupid’s bow, tiny eyelashes shadowing a flushed cheek, and dainty little baby snores floating up from her port-a-cot at my feet, but at other times, times when I’m balancing her on my shoulder while I blog, or jiggling her bouncer with one foot while I edit, I feel guilty about multitasking. I feel guilty for being out there in the world (however virtually) when in truth my world is right here gazing adoringly at me. Right now.

Sometimes, even if I need just two minutes to finish an email, I force myself to stop. I step away from the laptop, and I devote my attention to a little heart that needs a hug.  My writing will always be there, but she will not always be this tiny, this vulnerable or this much “mine.” The world, with it’s many connections, will one day take her away from me. Perhaps not far—maybe just to playgroup, to school, to ballet, to pajama parties, to university, to a nearby suburb, to another city … but maybe to Europe, to Africa, or to America. God forbid circumstances ever lead her to places where I cannot follow. Who knows where her connections will one day take her, but for now her major point of connection is me.

I know my success as an author, as an editor, even as a friend, comes through making those external connections, but my success as a mother comes from putting this, dearest of all connections, above all others. So while I’m thankful that the internet allows me an untold number of ways to connect with others worldwide, I also know that each thread can unravel to another, and then another, until it seems almost impossible to escape the labyrinthine web even when there are other things to do or the one hour I’ve allotted for networking has slipped away.

Online connections are all well and good, but to maintain a real connection with his or her audience, a writer needs to spend time in the real world. Time sipping coffee. Time chatting with friends. Time helping an old man at the post office struggle with a large box, and time wondering what it holds. Time sleeping. Time reading. Time cuddling babies. Time making babies. And, most importantly, time writing. How else can a writer really connect with the minds of his or her readers?

For that reason, for the next week I’m checking my facebook, twitter and forums for strictly half an hour each morning so I can concentrate on two of my most important connections: my family, and my writing.