I’ve been very slack about keeping up my blog (the last post was over a year ago. Did anybody even notice? Only me? Lol).. Anyway, the views I express on my posts are my own and are not affiliated with any organisation with which I happen to hold membership. I’ll probably make a few punctuation mistakes because this blog is one of my creative playgrounds and I’m trying to win the battle against my perfectionism. Anyway, lets move on! A lot has happened in 18 months and digression plays a key part. I wanted to provide an update for you, my 10 dear loyal fans. If you’re reading this, you’re one of them, so thanks.
First, I’m still a university student, ploughing through my Masters. I’ve submitted a request to upgrade to a PhD in light of some (in my opinion) quite fascinating fresh findings so I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed because honestly, I bloody love researching and I also adore behaving like an (academic) hermit. I mean, I’m not actually alone that much but I’m certainly not spending my days with 1000 other people like I used to. I do however live with four other adult-size people.
Where was I? Oh yes, end of last year I got diagnosed with A.D.H.D. It’s honestly such amazing news so don’t go sighing with sympathy. And no, it’s not just something little boys who can’t sit still in class have. Girls have it too, in undiagnosed droves. And even though I spent a decade working in schools I never recognised my own freaking great redwood for the branch-waving saplings in front of me. I mean, I was the teacher so I got to move around and didn’t have to try and sit still for a whole 70 minutes 4 x a day. After 40-plus years I finally have a framework for understanding why I am either a tornado or a couch potato and never anything in-between. Turns out my sensitivity to noise, my queue rage, my chronic anxiety, my deep feelings, my mental zoning in and out of conversations (and my nodding to pretend I am not zoning in and out of conversations) and unwillingness to tear myself away from my special interest du jour are actually tell-tale traits of this neurobiological difference (I say pooh to calling it a 'disorder'). I like these things about myself – OK, maybe I need to work on the queue rage and the anxiety could dial it down a little. Since finding out about the ADHD, though, my anxiety really has plummeted. I now know why I lose ALL THE STUFF ALL THE TIME. I have paid plenty of ADHD tax with hours of confounded circling on the spot trying to remember where my keys and wallet are. Turns out my working memory is a bit patchy but happily my long-term memory is on par with an elephant’s. If I read it and I like it, it’s going to stick, like probably forever. Then, heads up, I'll tell you all I know about the subject whether you like it or not. Getting a Bujo has helped with the absentmindedness (thanks to the friend who put me on to this!). I’m one of the estimated 1 million Australians living with ‘a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes’ as world-renowned psychiatrist and fellow ADHDer Dr Ned Hallowell so aptly puts it.
Girls like me want to fit in and boy do we try. It’s called masking and I’d say the masks we wear in public are even more ornate than those fantastical designs tourists can pick up in Venice. I’m usually running late because I’ve tried to pack three too many extra tasks into my day. Sometimes I splutter out explanations because I've got four different ones lined up in my head. I have a million systems for staying organised and yet I struggle to stay organised. Check out the work of Jessica McCabe and Lou Brown (ADHD advocates) if you want to know more.
Funnily enough, a few years ago I had a poem accepted for Femagogy magazine. One verse is as follows:
In my class there’s a boy
who behaves like a tongue-lolling pup.
He’s bounding about and chasing his tail,
Until the other kids shout, ‘Shut up.’
Turns out the 'boy' I was writing about was myself and I didn't even know it. I mean I was a more a daydreamer than a kid with a case of the zoomies, but having been the owner of a Labrador Retriever for 12 years I can honestly say, these kind of pups are my totem animal, my kindred spirit and were the inspiration behind the metaphor. Now I know that I have ADHD, I can better understand where some of these pups/kids heads might be at. So any teachers reading, if you’ve got a kid in your class who constantly jiggles his leg or twirls her hair around her finger or chews their pen lids, my personal advice is DON’T MAKE THEM STOP. Disclaimer: One of my students did accidentally swallow their two-inch plastic pen lid once so do stay alert and be ready to step in to perform CPR in necessary. Happily, three days later the student reported to me that the lid had successfully reappeared… I don't know if they had ADHD.
OK, what’s this all really got to do with me living my best life? I don't think I'm full of character flaws anymore. My brain just works differently and its actually pretty cool. For the first time I have stopped trying to fit into the neurotypical way of structuring my life. I need Projects with a capital P to keep my interest fired up. But if I take on too many because a) I have a hard time saying no and b) hey look, shiny new thing, I’ll get overwhelmed. Now I know why and I can put steps in place to nip it in the bud earlier (mostly).
Part of what I love about conducting a research project is that I can fit in my need to fidget around it. Though I thought it a long shot, I backed myself and applied for a scholarship while ignoring the little voice in my head who questioned ‘who is going to actually pay someone like me to write? Well, gosh darn it, I won it, thank you very much! When I clicked on the congratulatory email, I slid sideways in my chair. I felt like I’d won the lotto. Somebody else thinks what I am doing research-wise is important.
In other news I’ve got two author talks coming up in the city in July. Here in Brisbane Square Library and here in Ashgrove. I’ll be talking about my novel The Branded Ones. Themes are homelessness, addiction, teen peer pressure and post-natal mental health. But really, at its core it’s a love story (I loved Trent Dalton’s Love Stories that he gleaned from people in the very same city in which my own novel is set). My story is about people just trying to heal through connection so that they can thrive. To be clear, I published my book first so I didn’t copy Trent. He didn’t copy me either because he’s famous and I’m definitely not so he probably has no idea who I am or that I have written a book. We do have Bracken Ridge in common, so perhaps that's something. Anyway, I hope some of you S.E. Queensland locals can come along for one of my talks. I’d love to see your friendly faces there.
Thank you to my friends and family members, colleagues and Uni supervisors, well-adjusted or currently feeling otherwise. I am also pinching myself at the thought that I have recently managed, after a two-and-a-half-year separation, to wrap my arms around a few of my New Zealanders. For those I missed, I’m coming back soon so get in line (if you don’t have ADHD you probably won’t feel any rage at having to queue. If you do, well, you may want to check this article out 😉).
I kept meaning to post a few blogs in 2020 but… I just didn’t want to use the C-word.
In teaching, I have heard another C-word spoken often as part of ordinary teen vernacular. It pings back and forth around school like a tennis ball over a net. By the end of the first class of each week I have usually stopped being jolted by the sound of it and started to think about the term objectively, and then nonsensically. How is it that four letters arranged in a certain way have such capacity to shock? They sum up frustration and anger so succinctly, that’s why. You can use it as a noun, a verb and an adjective, and also as a teachable moment. Once, when an adolescent lobbed it across the classroom at their BFF during one of my lessons, I immediately stopped to address it.
‘Do you know what that word means?’
He didn’t, which was absolutely fantastic.
I won't lie. These past two months have been amazing. A string of friends and family have made their way across the ditch or up from the south, visits that always make my heart sing, and me start acting like a tourist. As well, after a long list of writing rejections, some of those literary seeds I wrote about back in April have bloody well begun to take over the garden!
I stayed true to my promise to consistently keep writing and submitting - amongst all the teaching - despite an apparent lack of progress. I also thought it wouldn't hurt to share some personality in my queries instead of staying petrified about saying the wrong thing (after reading and re-reading the darn thing ten times to make sure it was error free and professional sounding enough). Turns out editors, agents and publishers are just like you and me, people going about getting their work done. Some of them don't actually seem to mind a little back and forth banter. When I applied the same perspective to my writing, that is, it's essentially a marketable product rather than a gold leaf sliver of my soul, the fear of rejection lost its sting. I'm even grateful for some of those rejections because on closer inspection it was clear the story in question needed more drafting, so I did.
My family and I took a quick day trip up to Noosa yesterday to catch up with some of our holidaying Kiwi friends. The place was packed but we had a great time checking out the beach, the surf club and the farmers’ market with them.
A cold virus descended mid-week, plaguing me with both a high temperature and a feeling of dread. There was no way in hell I was missing the Brisbane Writers Festival on Saturday! To make absolutely sure nothing was going to stand in my way, and to safe guard colleagues from the worst of my germs, of course, I tucked myself into bed for a day of complete rest on Thursday and again after my half-day at work on Friday. By Saturday morning, the danger of coughing up an actual lung had subsided and I armed myself with paracetamol, swathes of tissues and a large bottle of water. My friend, Louise, who is just as excited about books and hanging out in libraries also came along to listen to authors discuss the creative processes behind their words.
Back in April, I wrote about throwing literary seeds to the wind in the hope a few might germinate into something fruitful. This month I am excited to share that Quadrant Magazine, Australia’s ‘longest running literary journal’ (since 1956), has published my 3000 word story ‘Indicate, Mate’. While the magazine is available to over 6000 annual print subscribers, the website also receives around 1 million hits a year. I am absolutely thrilled to receive this opportunity to be so widely distributed. Quadrant also has an app and in the last week of each month readers can download single copies of current and past issues for about the same price as a cup of coffee.
This year I have set myself a challenge to write in whichever genre I am teaching at the time. If the class is studying the elements of narrative then I create short stories (my favourite). This term has been particularly challenging though because… well… it’s all about poetry. From experience this seems to be the hardest topic to sell, even more so than analytical expositions!
Because a tantalising hook is important, I begin this unit by sharing an anecdote about the time I signed up to a course at university titled ‘Romantic and Victorian Literature’. Arriving at the first lecture, I found to my dismay Frankenstein and Dracula were not going to be making an appearance. Instead, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ were the guests of honour. Talk about hanging an albatross around my neck! Meanwhile, William Wordsworth waxed lyrical about daffodils and ambling around Tintern Abbey.