why do you howl?
asked the forest to the wind
constant and incessantly
it never seems to end
With a clatter
and a snap
so brash and erupt
We air our concerns
yet you do not give up
We said – “lead like us”
showed you how to change
mentored and monitored
but still you stay the same
like a volatile ghost
why don’t you conform?
nor tone down?
why are you permanently
scarred with a frown?
spent an eon together
now my habit, once my friend
but I fear our toxic timing
is nearing to an end
Convinced myself without you
too weak to cope
too useless, too reliant
But in my lonely travels
made my way back to the sea
across the plains and mountains
brought me back to me
They whispered ever slowly
inner within-ness it did stir
they whispered ever softly
we remember who you were
take our salty wake up
take our comforting air
take our earthly courage
for you we truly care
whilst high upon the cloud tops
as I floated all alone
wispy bliss so peaceful
could not hear you moan
noise makers too
not as abrupt
but I hear what you do
none of that is happening
what rubbish you do speak
more nonsensical censoring
such madness your tongue leaks
always angry, always belligerent
always looking for someone to blame
Our ruptures exist because of you
and your same will forever be insane…
I am more than this
Your noise proves
you know it
actions reek of fear
disdain does show it
i move you
i shake you up
’tis me who sets you free
i give you life
i give you growth
none is possible
then we ask you again
why do you howl?
with a temper
Impossible to live a life
impossible to thrive
smothered and snuffed
existing – un-alive
morphed into another
a self I barely know
uptight and irritable
because I cannot go
I cannot be a truth
the one you see invisible
the one you find intolerable
the one you think so critical
you cannot see your cliche
through your very trees
nothing will ever be enough
I can be enough for me.
I howl for I am unlimited
my story wide and vast
like the flower fields
and the oceans
I awaken to all at last.
So I will howl a new tune
to forgive and to yield
and shift as the sun so brightly
in the light of one who is healed.
I suppose it wouldn’t really be a true writers journey if I just posted the failed attempts without the emotion that comes with that failure.
I swore at the beginning of the year I was going to pack in the competition thing. While they are great for lesson learning, skill building and thick skin development – they defo have their down sides.
I invest probably far too much time in the entries and it takes away from my real writing. Plus it’s supremely shit for my nerves and even shitter for the confidence. But, it’s also super unrealistic and very all the eggs in all the unlikely baskets pinned up on the far too many hopes board for me to handle in a rational/non nervous-nelly-nut-case manner.
Truthfully – the disappointment can be a suck-fest – especially as you enter more, grow more and begin to believe your work isn’t half bad. It’s even worse if your initial feedback is nothing but praise and sunshine and wow’s and you’ve got a chance – vibes. When you receive that level of boosty positivity it’s pretty deflating to not place in a pool of just over a hundred.
We attended an author talk recently with a VERY successful young author who has gone gang busters with his first book. He’s won a tonne of prestigious awards and ironically was one of the judges involved in the competition most of our writers group entered.
He made a point of mentioning he entered this same comp many times and not once did his work place. He actually sounded a bit pissed about it. There was a bit of a “Fck you, look at me now” tone. It was funny, but also a relief. If people at the top can’t crack the winning formula, maybe I’m not such a dull storytelling dummy after all.
Different judges, different styles, different academic levels, different likes/interests, different trends, and all the miscellaneous and mysterious criteria to succeed – can be dissected, hypothesised and conspirisised (totally a word) – but I think I’d rather not know and let it go. Try again, or move on.
RANDOM OVERTHINKING INTERMISSION (BRACE YOURSELF…)
After I entered and bombed at a major comp last year I was invited (as were all the other entrants I presume) to be a possible judge for this year. I scoffed (super appreciatively) when I saw it. Was this a joke? How can a random – who only very recently returned to the writing journey she abandoned nearly two decades ago as an unpublished, unskilled, uneducated dabbler – even be considered for an invite, let alone judge another’s work? Though I doubt I’d have been accepted, it left me pondering things a little.
I may have broken my brain a bit..
As I said – competitions do my head in (I also did warn you to brace yourself).
No point being bitter or bogged down on bombing out and everything is a learning curve, no matter how tricky and awkward it can be to swallow.
BUT – feedback would be massively helpful. I’d pay an entry fee if it meant you would get some tips on why you bombed, or even the thing that all unsuccessful entrants want to hear – it was good – there were just so many excellent entries this year. Shit, I’d even settle for your story was great, but others were better.
Then there’s the possibility that mine was simply just crap – which while I think I’d be fine hearing – I’d probably melt into a sad old sorry puddle of goo. 🙂
Here is my most recent bomber. Please forgive the formatting, WordPress don’t seem to care for indents etc and it’s too long for me to fiddle with.
The walls are higher. It looks like a prison. A medieval monstrosity smack-bang in the middle of suburbia. Nerd’s wet dream. The full moon shines on broken glass cemented into the limestone. Old school. Clever. They do that now, the smart ones. Source ideas from the past. Some work. Most fail. Great minds are scarce and the redevelopment shows. Everything returned to a primitive state soon after the fall. All except the safe zones and this safe zone stands like the same privileged, polished turd it always was. Now it’s just a fortified one. Synthetic, stifling, everything we ran from and here we are running back. Willingly. It was a hard pill for my son to swallow.
“You hate Hiilville.”
“We need supplies and information.”
“You said safe zones are traps,” Card pressed and any other time I would have praised his bullshit-sniffing skills. Only sixteen and keener street-smarts than a middle-aged man on the run.
“If we’re going to Dad, we’ve gotta make a move.”
“Yeah, but now? We’re safe here. We should at least wait until spring.”
“Love, we’re too vulnerable. Beasts are heading inland and Brae is getting bigger and louder. Just her gurgling echoes outside the cave. I nearly smothered her when a herd passed last week.”
“What’s to say that won’t happen out there?”
“Once we reach the coast, there’ll be less of them. Easier to kill.”
“There’s a thousand kilometres between us and Dad and we don’t even know how far south the beasts got.” Card gnaws his pinky. He never used to bite his nails. It started the day we saw the parachutes. Hundreds of pods falling from the sky, beasts clawing their way out and slaughtering anything living. The army took one down and hacked into its collar chip. GMO monsters designed by whoever caused the fall – created to locate resources for some sort of invasion. Now their mess roams free defaulting to hunt and breed. Card spits a bit of nail.
“That’s what we’ll suss out at Hiilville. In and out, I promise. It’ll be good for you. Sleep in an actual bed, have a warm wash. We’re all a bit on the nose.”
“I don’t remember what a real bed feels like. It’ll be a tease.”
“You won’t be saying that after a full night’s sleep on one. Cardie, it’ll be okay,” I lie, lovingly. He skulks like a typical teen. I peck his cheek and tousle his hair.
“I’ll go if you’ll stop petting me like a pug.”
“Deal,” I agree. A few years ago I would have followed up with a jab at the knee, or the weak spot on his neck, but we can’t risk it. I wonder if his old tickle places still exist, or if I’ll ever hear him laugh again. The beasts don’t give a shit about family moments, or joy, or anything other than gorging flesh. Card was right to worry. We were safe in the cave. Plenty water, plenty hunting. But we had to go. Back to their father. Back to my husband. Home.
We’re at the edge of the Hiilville clearing. Card ignites the lighter and they send out a Vator. Most of these places have a pulley system – a passenger barge carrying weary survivors safely to the sanctuary borders. This thing is more like a shark cage poorly balancing on a rotten piece of plywood. Someone’s jimmied a few trolley wheels to the base. They cling for dear life, shunting violently over every divot on what was formerly a highway. The giant wall and overgrown bushland act like a subwoofer – funnelling the sound far and wide. The beasts can hear a beetle fart from twenty klicks away, so rolling on a rickety piece of shit navigated by fools in the middle of a sound vortex – is not ideal.
We climb in. Card pulls the buckled gate behind him.
“Awesome. The latch is munted.”
“This thing’s seen a few hits. Doubt it will protect us from much anyway.”
The process is hideously slow and the loose gate makes more noise than the entire contraption.
“This is bullshit. They might as well strap a siren to us. Amateurs.”
“Just have the lighter ready. If they come, we’ll fire this up,” I say, holding the poorly wrapped bundle of dried leaves, our only defence. My backpack is stuffed with them.
A bright glow shines from the entrance. These people really are clueless. A converted shipping container that once lured home buyers to the latest and greatest land packages is lit up like a casino. Typical. Even in a crap storm they’re showy. I forgot how much I loathed this place. Good for one thing – smooth roads. Weekend bog laps with a blaring stereo and a six-pack of Wild Turkey.
“Over there.” Card points to armed guards in the shadows. “Where’d they get the guns?”
“Fake, or unloaded. Remember what we talked about.”
“You’ve been drilling me for six hours.”
“Take Brae and keep moving. I said I got it.”
“Good kid. One more thing. Take this. Open it if things…”
“Go to shit? You’re seriously doing this now?”
“Don’t swear,” I pinch his cheek and slip a note into his jacket pocket. The cage rises like a dodgy chair lift at a carnival.
“Come on! We’re bait up here,” I call to the guards aiming their odd rifles. They swing in time with the cage. It’s comical. “I don’t know why they bother, guns don’t work anymore,” I whisper as we’re shunted onto a platform.
“Citizens. I am Officer Creat. You are entering Sanctuary Safe Zone 551. Are you carrying any weapons?”
“What would be the point?” I mutter. They look confused. Morons.
“No,” Card yells impatiently.
“Proceed slowly,” the voice orders as the guards pat us down like terrorists. It’s hard to take any of it seriously.
“Single file to the Decon unit.”
“The air isn’t contaminated.”
“Single file,” the voice repeats.
“Can I hold my baby?”
“All children are to be placed in the centre of the Decon unit.”
“There is no harm. You may go first,” the voice softens a little.
I feel like a toddler in an adult-sized chair. Something sprays over me. Just air. They sure put on a performance. I nod at Card who tenderly places Brae on the frame. Her burst is brief. I smirk. The face of the voice stares at me. He looks too civilian for the military. Probably from here. Probably never left. Why would he? These were the first places they protected. He seems the type. Boat on the front lawn, Bunnings barbeque in his alfresco kitchen. Probably paid someone to install it.
“Accountant. Doubt my book balancing talents will be of any use,” I lie. He cocks a brow.
“You would be surprised what skills are useful. I was formerly a historian.”
“Broken glass is your handy work?”
“Amongst other things,” he replies smugly, pen clicking against a fold-out table. It’s a good one. Probably bought it brand new. One of those clueless yuppies who swans through camping stores with a loaded trolley and no idea how to use any of it. Bet he had all the top gear.
“Any food, water, supplies?” Clean, smooth hands. Nup. Never camped in his life. More a state-of-the-art caravan man. On display next to the boat for the whole neighbourhood to envy.
“We’ve got water, some salted roo and…”
“What are these?” A guard holds up a bundle.
“What?” he questions like I’m about to launch a cult.
“Keeps the bugs away,” I say convincingly.
“Useless,” Officer Creat responds, rolling his eyes.
The guard hands the backpack to Card minus a multi-tool and a mallet. I don’t bother protesting.
“Any others with you?”
“How long on the outside?”
“Since the fall.”
“That whole time?”
“Where have you travelled from?”
“Could you be more specific?”
“East. We won’t be staying long,” I test. He strokes his chin. I sense the vacant expressions of the guards boring into my back.
“Generally, people seek asylum here to escape what’s out there. No one ever actually leaves.”
“Is that because they have no choice?”
“Everyone who enters Hiilville has a choice and they all choose life.”
“Sounds like a shit campaign for community control,” I mumble, immediately regretting it as the guards step closer. The officer seems amused. I doubt he’s been challenged for a while. Card shields us from my reckless stupidity.
“Sir, we mean no trouble. We’re grateful to be here,” he says like a bona fide peacekeeper as Brae’s plump hand reaches for the table. She releases a long, mischievous giggle. It echoes off the cold, corrugated walls like an opera – the type that bring burly men to tears. Officer Creat nods to the guards who lower their toys. They look like rusty pistols from a museum. He motions for my hand and inks my thumb. The sensation is strange. It’s been so long since I felt the touch of another man. He repeats the process with Card and then Brae. I freeze. This will be the first record of her. Hubby will be pissed. The officer takes each tiny digit and gently pats them on the ink. I lament for our Baby Anon, until I see her clean hands.
“I’m curious how the three of you made it here unscathed.”
“Happy to share with you,” Card continues, but my eyes are glued to the inkless paper. “But, we need to get this one to bed, bub too.” Clever boy. Humour.
“Of course. Private Enkor. Ensuite housing. Know of any?”
“House Kingfisher has an unoccupied ensuite, Sir.”
“Ah, the Sotherton’s. Unfortunate for them, good news for you. Sally will be keen to get her hands on your little one. Private Enkor will escort you.”
“Thank you,” Card extends his arm towards Officer Creat and the guards again reach for their guns. “At ease. Forgive us, boy. It’s been a while.” He shakes Card’s hand. “Welcome to Hiilville.”
I sent this in an email to my writing group peers. A year ago I would never have dreamed of suggesting, let alone actually pressing send on something this elaborate and wordy. This is the wonderful privilege of being a member of a group that builds each other up – with minimal expectations and zero judgement. I’m proud to be a part of it.
I also hope they don’t mind me recording parts of our journey on here.
To the WRITERS GROUP I still cannot believe I am a part of,
The podcast world for the unitiated is a rabbit hole that may have us taking on something that reflects other styles and not our own. I think our niche is simple:
Pros of our group:
This group is not just about the writing.
Here are some elements that drive me insane as a podcast listener:
Even podcasts that are done super professionally with great formatting and sound quality can undo themselves (in my ears) if there are too many people hosting. Whether scripted or in conversation – it can distract from the content because there’s no visual and your brain can’t help but focus on deciphering who is actually speaking. 2 is fine, but even 3 can be frustrating to listen to.
(But without dimming yourself or the content down) Regarding the writing world – not everyone is in the know and one of the BIGGEST walls in my writing journey has always been the expectation that everyone knows industry jargon, who’s who/what etc – and feeling like an inadequate dummy when I didn’t.
The most wonderful thing about our group is how gentle and patient everyone is when explaining things – without making anyone feel like ninnies. They’re actually really good at putting non-knowing numpties at ease. We need to tappy tap tap into that! (The world does not need another podcast catering to those-in-the-knowers.)
My podcast listening time is limited and PRECIOUS. If a podcast has too long an introduction, or the list of credentials of hosts and guests goes on for longer than 30 seconds, or things sound too self-servy – I’m out. Same if I have to fast forward to the actual content I subscribed for, or if it becomes too over-sharey with opinions, or full of itself – solo or collectively – wrong answer. Gone. I know it’s ruthless, but time wasting is the enemy! If we save the dreamy, contemplative creative thinking for the workshops and approach the podcast more like manic Mum’s on the run, or even better – millennial’s – the content will be tighter, relevant, entertaining and the production fast-paced and shmick.
(Personal taste thing) I like a more structured style – either interview with defined Q&A (Joanna Penn) or a more informative, almost documentary style, like the podcast – What’s her name or The Exploress. There is another podcast of similar ilk I really like, however I struggle to listen to as the audio is terrible and they tend to tangent a bit too much.
A semi-scripted style would keep us focused, on target and hopefully produce interesting content and an overall better experience for the listener.
What’s been created is truly unique. What I adore about Inklings is the lack of pretension, presumptions and bullshit. There is no mould to fit except a love of writing, a joyful spirit and an acceptance of fellow writers no matter their skill set, personality, nationality, age, credentials, history, or where they’re at on their writing journey, or life journey.
is what sets us apart from so many others and why I come back week after week. It’s not about the race to get published, or focusing just on the individual successes – but nurturing each other whatever the goals each of us has, if any. A space that shelves superficial shit and focuses on learning, polishing, brainstorming, sharing, supporting, growing – our skills, the group and one another. We truly are a powerful force because we’ve naturally progressed to a stage where we shift, generate and evolve as one. Even when half the group is absent, they are still there, still represented, still part of our collective.
Much like the things I’m writing – what I want to read – the podcast can be exactly that. What would you want to listen to regarding writing? Not another group basking, or another bloody How To – rather – celebrating the potential glory of those wanting to follow their writing passion, or brightening someone’s day with our story and stories. With nothing to gain. No expectations. No monetary exchange. No notoriety. No clickiness. Just a group of extraordinary women, writing and sharing extraordinary things for all the misfits writers out there who don’t fit a mould. Just. Like. Us.
Many years ago I ordered one of my first online print books about wayward mothers losing their minds and getting up to mischief. I couldn’t believe such a novel existed. It was as if it was written for me.
When I got my sweet delivery I was so excited to wrap my chompers around every word. Which I did with utter glee… until rather abruptly, I didn’t.
What I found wasn’t what I expected. I had been elated at the prospect of the hilarity and familiarity that only a book based on everything I loved, loathed and lived – would surely bring. Alas, twas not the case.
The book WAS funny AF. However, and rather sadly, I never finished it. One reason was a pair of gate crashing squatters (a pre-schooler and toddler) consuming most of my waking and non-waking hours. I couldn’t even read movie subtitles without being interrupted a gazillion times by shit, tit, shlop, vom… the list goes on. Why I thought I’d be able to read in any medium at any time of day still is one of the GOAT jokes of them all.
Randomly, something other than my sweet little spawners was keeping me from eagerly reaching for that paperback. It was the
I realise how ridiculous rejecting a book I actively sought for that very reason – sounds, especially someone who can’t speak three sentences without slipping the f-bomb in at least eighteen times.
The problem for me was the swearing took over the tale. From memory and wherever I got up to – the book was a memoirish perspective on being a modern Mum, dealing with kids etc and the strong camaraderie and bond this woman had with her fellow boozing besties. She was basically living my life.
I was by no means quick to push the book aside and when I did – I was seriously pissed off with myself (on a side note and in support of a ridiculously successful woman and fellow writing sista – I will make it my mission to read the rest of it hopefully sometime in the next decade).
Writing – at that point in my life – had long been abandoned and was not remotely on the radar other than a few poorly written reviews.
However, when the vile bile of So You Are… Pregnant! spewed out of me in it’s raw infancy – every second word was FUCK. When I finally did a read-through of the first draft I had that same feeling as I had with the sweary, rejectorino potty-mouth book – but wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy worse.
(Disclaimer: the following is my personal response to ME – no one else.)
I felt cheap, but worse I felt like a great big dummy. That old saying I’ve poo pooed most of my life rung loudly – excessive swearing = a lack of intelligence.
Even though I knew what I was writing was raw, real and relatable, the sweary overuse was a little too loose.
The more I read, the more inarticulate, lazy and just plain old stupid I felt. To me – when I first write something (especially these posts) I write like I talk when I’m with close friends who would be concerned if I didn’t swear.
So, I had a decision to make. Leave it in – or try to communicate with a less ca-ca mouthed approach. The first thing I did was this to every fuck I could find –
Yes. I know it makes no bloody difference, but visually it kind of softens the aesthetic blow – for me at least.
Then I either removed/replaced, or did what I should of done as a professional writer from the start: got creative.
Even now on the 4578th edit – I’m finding myself cringing at the overuse and much is being culled. I hope it makes a difference to the reading experience.
BUT – many have been left. This is probably one of the best pros of self-publishing. Because sometimes nothing quite says it like a good old string of fCk’s.
FCkitty – fCk – fCky – fCking oath.
Sorry Nan x