Rejection..it’s the ugly side of being a writer.Not only that, it hurts…like a knife stabbed deep in our heart and twisted round and round and round by some sadist who doesn’t care about our fragile self-esteem.
Anyway, as much as we hate it and as much as it hurts, we are not on our own. Indeed, tales abound of very successful authors receiving multitudinous rejections. William Golding published his first novel, Lord of the Flies, after 21 rejections. Beatrix Potter decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit after rejection letters started to pile up. The original run was 250 copies; the book has now sold over 45 million copies. J.K. Rowling, the great literary success story, failed to sell Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 12 different publishers until the daughter of an editor at Bloomsbury Publishing took an interest in it. Harry Potter is now worth at least $15 billion. Stephen King sounds downright proud of the number of times he was rejected as a young writer. In his On Writing, he says he pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. “By the time I was fourteen,” he continues, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
So, when I share my heartfelt angst over my latest rejection, at least I know I’m not alone and I keep some pretty good company.
A few months ago, I entered a local short story competition. I only had a few days to put my entry together and decided to base it on a murder story I’d stumbled across doing my family history research.It’s set in the Sydney Harbour suburb of Balmain, which was historically quite a rough, working class suburb. I still haven’t been able to establish whether I’m related to these people thanks to a very frustrating dead end I’m unable to shift.
Anyway, after waiting several months for the outcome of the competition, the award ceremony was held yesterday and a room full of hopefuls all sat in their seats with great expectations and for most of us, pending disappointment.
However, I wasn’t expecting disappointment or rejection. I was pretty pleased with my entry and thought I was a strong contender. I was sitting in my seat with sweaty palms and almost making myself ill with stress. I wondered whether it would be better to win a Highly Commended just to put me out of my misery. The list of winners was thinning out and someone else’s name was read out instead of my own, I was gutted. Emotionally kicked in the guts.
While many would say my heartbroken angst was an over-reaction, and that I should have taken it as a sign of failure as a writer, but when you’re trying to make it on the international scene and you can’t crack the local market, you’re hardly going to be all smiles doing the happy dance, are you?!!
Well, to be fair to myself, I don’t write short stories and I had to get my entry together in a couple of days. So, I clearly could’ve used more time. Moreover, once I’d got home and looked up characteristics of the short story, I realised that my story actually needed a lot of work, especially when it came to structure. I’m quite the panster (person who writes by the seat of their pants and by contrast isn’t a planner) and a bit of structure and planning could well be added to the mix.
I posted the story today in its original format today and you can read it here: The Secret. I’d really appreciate your feedback. I’ve decided to make quite a few changes so please don’t hold back.
How do you deal with writing rejection?
Personally, I’m trying my best to be pro-active and learn from the experience. Rework it. Not just file it in the waste paper basket out of hurt disgust and despair.
After all, there’s always next year.
PS if you want to see a great image for rejection, click here: http://rejectiondigest.weebly.com/
Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!
If we were having coffee today, you’d be wanting to throw out your slippers and put on your dancing shoes. I spent the afternoon at a my daughter’s somewhat casual mid-year dance concert and we stayed on to the last session to see the teens dance, which totally blew me out of my mind. I didn’t think the human body was capable of such movement without snapping. For someone who lives and breathes inside their head, to see the human body explored and extended in this way was incredible…especially as I battle with a debilitating muscle wasting disease, which has fortunately been in remission for two years and while I’ neither nimble or graceful, I’m walking…and I’m still breathing. These days, I can easily forget how far I’ve come.
How was your week? Hope things went well.
Last Wednesday, I attended a local Authors and Illustrators Forum. This was the second year it was held and I met a great group of writers and illustrators while taking some valuable tips away from the talk. Probably the most important take home for me, was deciding to get my manuscript for “The Quest: Letters To Dead Poets” professionally critiqued. I decided to put it aside to stew after writing it during the A-Z April Challenge and to be perfectly honest, I had to have a break from that phenomenal intensity and get back to the “real world” for a bit. Working towards this professional critique gives me an interim, achievable goal rather than shooting straight towards publishing. This still means I have a lot of work ahead.
Meanwhile, just for something chillaxing, my frustrations with my family history and trying to find where John Gardiner came from continues. I’ve hit some brick walls with my research before but nothing like this. Until I find John Gardiner’s death certificate or possibly his arrival details, I have no idea whether our Gardiner family is English, Irish or Scottish. While this might appear semantic, when you have an Irish Australian identity, it could ruffle a few feathers.
However, as frustrating as it’s been, there is a significant upside of NOT being able to pinpoint our John Gardiner out of the plethora of John Gardiners who were living in 18th Century Sydney. It means all bets are off and as I’ve been trawling through the old newspapers online, any one’s a possibility. I’ve also tried to find other family members with a hope of finding him via the side door. So, I’ve been left to ponder whether we’re related to George Gardiner of Albion Street Surry Hills who tragically hanged himself at work for no known particular reason or his daughter, Florence Young whose husband tragically cut her throat having a mental snap or perhaps even mistaking her for a burglar in the dark, while she was holding their 6 month old daughter, Sadie? There was also John Gardiner, a digger shell shocked during WWI, who stole a coffin and slept rough on Queen Street Brisbane and planned to take it for a sail along the Brisbane River. Apparently, he also stopped off at pubs along Queen Street, placing the coffin on the counter asking: “Where’s the dead man?” He was usually given a few drinks before he moved on. Thank goodness for the Salvos who gave that John Gardiner a home.Terrible to think that we couldn’t look after someone who fought bravely for our country when they returned home.
I’m not sure how much I’ve mentioned that I’m totally addicted to watching Australian Masterchef. We’re now on the homeward strait and we’re down to the last three contestants. You can view past episodes of the show here and if you are much more daring and capable than I, you could even try out the recipes but I’ll wish you good luck. It’s not called Masterchef for nothing and these creations are miracles on a plate. Just spectacular!
While I haven’t even considered trying out the Masterchef recipes myself, the show has definitely helped me lift my gave on the home front. While I might not have crunch, creaminess and acidity in every dish, I’ve definitely been spreading my wings.
Last night, I finally found the courage to try making waffles from scratch and was thrilled with the results. I might have left the butter out of the mix, but they were great and also represented a small triumph over my paralyzing perfectionism. It only took me two years to find the courage to actually try making waffles in my waffle machine. You can click here to read how I went and check out my grandmother’s recipe.
Now the countdown’s on until I have another birthday. Next Saturday, I clock up another year. Hip hip hurray…I think!
How has your week been? Hope you’ve had a great one!
Once upon a time, Nigella Lawson published her hit cookbook: How To Be A Domestic Goddess. The book included her famous Nutella Cake, which I have subsequently tested, crashed and tasted.
Basking in the media spotlight, however, Nigella was oblivious to the troubles brewing on distant shores. That while there was the beauty, there would also be the beast. That her once elegant creation, would erupt with a dangerous avalanche of chocolate ganache and roasted hazelnuts all over a fancy plate. Moreover, that this mighty beast, which should only ever been known as “The Avalanche”, would masquerade around the World Wide Web as Nigella’s Nutella Cake…the very one, yet nothing like the same.
I’m sure she’s not amused!
Naturally, you have to feel sorry for her. It’s all very well when people post their successes and flood social media with stunning, visually scrumptious photographs. However, there’s always that idiot who can’t follow the instructions. Rather than taking responsibility for their horrific screw-ups, they then have the audacity to attach her name to their disaster…”This is Nigella’s Nutella Cake. “
If anyone was within their rights to sue, Nigella has a very, very strong case.
Looks like I’d better watch out!
Please forgive me, Nigella. I have sinned!
Of course, once you publish anything, you have to let your “baby” go. Leave it, for better or worse, in your reader’s hands. That’s the risk you take. Otherwise, all of us writers would simply leave all of our babies locked away in the bottom drawer.
However, when you’re a famous chef or cook and your baby is a recipe book, the risks intensify. Not only will your readers inevitably criticise your work, they could well screw up your recipes and post photographic evidence on every social media platform on the planet. This, of course, is an absolute public relations disaster! Your reputation, your precious reputation is hanging round your ankles along with those wretched undies with the broken elastic, and it’s not your fault!
No doubt, that’s too much for even a Domestic Goddess to bear!
After all, is it her fault that they can’t follow a simple recipe? That they don’t understand that “whisk the meringue” doesn’t mean beat the living daylights out of it, sending it past the Emergency Department and straight to City Morgue. It’s not HER fault that the meringue’s gone flat because you forgot to prepare your ingredients beforehand (a process known as mise en place among chefs) and had to send your nearest and dearest off to the shops to replace the chocolate someone else has thieved from the pantry. AND, it isn’t Nigella’s fault they have a temperamental oven, whose temperatures yoyo up and down like it has a weird tropical fever.
However, when her challenged followers show off their flops, Nigella gets the blame.
That is, as long as they don’ claim “it was an act of God”.
Anyway, after seeing Nigella on Australian Masterchef recently, I was inspired to bake her Nutella Cake. Although I’ve had a few baking disasters in the past, I was quietly confident. The recipe says it’s easy peasy and how could a cake made with a jar of Nutella, possibly go wrong?
You’d be surprised.
Or, on the other hand, maybe not!
Indeed, even for me, this cake was a disaster and I’m actually struggling to find anything I did right.
It all began with beating the egg whites. Or, should I say “whisking” the egg whites. I forgot that I wasn’t making my pavlova. That “whisk” really means is “hand whisk” using one of those big balloon-shaped contraptions you see on Masterchef.
I know that now.
Then, there were the cooking times. We had a lot of trouble trying to work out when the cake was ready. Unfortunately, this was compounded the fact I had to go out while the cake was still in the oven and left its future in my husband’s usually very capable hands. He did what you usually do. Stuck a skewer in the cake until it came out clean. That was until the top started “caramelizing” and he realized he’d missed the moment. However, overcooking it meant I could cut the cake in half to fill it with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Well, that was until the top layer broke into several pieces which I patched up again with my sloppy ooze of milk chocolate ganache. Yes, despite beating and adding icing sugar and butter, the icing never resembled a spreadable consistency.
Time to take a swig of the Frangelico. By the way, Nigella recommends serving a glass of Frangelico with the cake.
I should mention that I used milk chocolate for the ganache as my kids don’t like dark chocolate. They have sensitive taste buds and I suspect they could be supertasters. Supertasters have extra tastebuds on the tongue. That must be it. Surely, it’s not my cooking?!!
As if The Avalanche hadn’t already been through enough, it’s troubles weren’t over yet.
The following day, Geoff found our dog, Lady, her royal scruffiness, with paws up on the table, tail wagging and half the cake missing.
Not good for the cake…or the dog! Chocolate can kill a dog. Thank goodness I didn’t go with the dark chocolate for the ganache! Why can’t that dog tell that eating chocolate is a health hazard? Can’t she read the packaging? What’s wrong with the mutt?!!
So, after all of these compounding mistakes, I was starting to think this cake was just doomed and that Nigella and I were like oil and water. We simply didn’t mix. I was never ever going to be a domestic goddess!
However, my husband had other ideas and said it was worth: “another go”.
This leads me to Round Two, which was certainly a vast improvement but still wasn’t trouble-free thanks to the oven and the fridge.
Have you made any of NIgella’s recipes? I must confess that I’ve never even seen a copy of How To Be A Domestic Goddess and found the recipe online.
Thank you very much for your letter and I apologise for my delayed response.
As you might appreciate, there was quite a backlog of books for me to review and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book again. Not that I wasn’t thrilled to receive your letter.
Knowing how I shun attention on the golf course, I appreciate your reservations about writing to a book critic. I commend you on your courage. However, there’s no red pen here!
In your letter, you asked me why dogs don’t live anywhere near as long as humans. After much research, I have turned to Scottish poet, author and amateur dog breeder, Sir Walter Scott,
“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?”
Sir Walter Scott
By the way, Sir Walter Scott’s most famous and favourite dog was a deerhound, Maida (1816-1824 Named after the Battle of Maida, which took place in 1806, he was a gift from Alexander Macdonell of Glengarry, a friend of Scott, and whose brother led the 78th Highlanders in the battle, a victory for the British against the French in the Napoleonic Wars.
Scott wrote to his son Charles that “Old Maida died suddenly in his straw last week, after a good supper, which, considering his weak state, was rather a deliverance; he is buried below his monument, on which the following epitaph is engraved in Latin [Maidae marmorea dormis sub imagine Maida / Ante fores domini sit tibi terra levis],thus Englished by an eminent hand : –
‘Beneath the sculptured form which late you bore,
Sleep soundly Maida at your master’s door.'”
The monument mentioned is a statue of the dog at the hall door of Scott’s home, Abbotsford House.
Thought you’d appreciate a bit of dog trivia, especially as you are building up quite a dossier about poet’s dogs.
By the way, you might let your father know I’m free for a round of golf. Rather rusty but death is perhaps the ultimate assault on your handicap.
Thought you’d appreciate a bit of dog trivia.
By the way, you might let your father know I’m free for golf. Rather rusty but death is perhaps the ultimate handicap.
Dear Bilbo and Lady,
We have heard you’re working on writing: Dogs The Musical. It’s about time the dog had its day. For far too long, those ratbag cats have been deified and celebrated on stage and screen. Our time has come. Indeed, it’s long overdue!!
Before we proceed any further, please allow us to introduce ourselves and provide something of a Curriculum Vitae. .
Firstly, there’s Flush.I must admit I feel rather sorry for Flush since the invention of the modern flush toilet. “Don’t forget to Flush the toilet!” Quite an insult to such an aristocratic dog. Flush also means red in colour, as when your face is flushed. Flush is a red Spaniel.
While Flush spent his early life out in the countryside, he was adopted by the esteemed poet Miss Barrett of 52 Wimpole Street, London while still an invalid, exchanging a myriad of scents for the stench of eau de cologne. Indeed, it is in his role as Miss Barrett’s dog that Flush gained fame and literary attention. A frequent topic in Miss Barrett’s diaries, she also wrote two poems about her beloved pooch.
Indeed, the story of Flush, attracted the attention of my mistress, novelist Virgina Woolf. She wrote: Flush A Biography, where she wrote about Elizabeth Barrett’s famous love affair with fellow poet Robert Browning which ultimately culminated in their secret marriage on September 12, 1846, at St. Marylebone Parish Church, where they were married. She returned home for a week, keeping the marriage a secret, then fled with Browning along with Flush to Italy.
After that rather lengthy introduction, my name is Pinka. I’m also a Cocker Spaniel and was a gift from poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West to novelist Virginia Woolf in 1926. You could say that I’m their furry love child.
Vita Sackville-West, Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, CH (9 March 1892 – 2 June 1962), was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer. A successful and prolific novelist, poet, and journalist during her lifetime—she was twice awarded the Hawthornden Prize for Imaginative Literature: in 1927 for her pastoral epic, The Land, and in 1933 for her Collected Poems—today she is chiefly remembered for the celebrated garden at Sissinghurst she created with her diplomat husband, Sir Harold Nicolson. She is also remembered as the inspiration for the androgynous protagonist of the historical romp, Orlando: A Biography by her famous friend and admirer, Virginia Woolf, with whom she had an affair. (Wikipaedia)
In 1930, after Virginia Woolf attended Rudolf Besier’s play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, she began to reread Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry and letters. Woolf’s fanciful biography of the Brownings, seen through the lens of their cocker spaniel, was published in 1933, with four drawings by Vanessa Bell. I was was photographed for the dust jacket and frontispiece of the first edition.
Dogs – The Musical
Being literary dogs ourselves, we wanted to offer our whole-hearted support. After many years supporting our humans through the writing process, we feel more than qualified to help. Indeed, knowing how his Mistress’s romance was turned into a play, Flush thought this would make a good springboard for Dogs The Musical. After all, the Brownings weren’t the only ones who found true love in Italy. Flush also met the spotted spaniel as well as quite a few other dogs on the side. Indeed, he became quite a Casanova. Personally, I can’t help wondering just how many descendants Flush has running around those Italian alleyways. He’d even fathered a litter of pups before he was fully grown. Just as well he wasn’t human!
Anyway, it’s our suggestion that dogs the musical be about what it means to be a poet’s dog. Being expected to understand all sorts of human mysteries and emotions which don’t correspond to any canine equivalent. They think in words, while we think in smells. Quite incompatible really.
Here are a few paragraphs we found in Virginia Woolf’s Flush: A Biography.
“And yet sometimes the tie would almost break; there were vast gaps in their understanding. Sometimes they would lie and stare at each other in blank bewilderment. Why, Miss Barrett wondered, did Flush tremble suddenly, and whimper and start and listen? She could hear nothing; she could see nothing; there was nobody in the room with them. She could not guess that Folly, her sister’s little King Charles, had passed the door; or that Catiline, the Cuba bloodhound, had been given a mutton-bone by a footman in the basement. But Flush knew; he heard; he was ravaged by the alternate rages of lust and greed. Then with all her poet’s imagination Miss Barrett could not divine what Wilson’s wet umbrella meant to Flush; what memories it recalled, of forests and parrots and wild trumpeting elephants; nor did she know, when Mr. Kenyon stumbled over the bell-pull, that Flush heard dark men cursing in the mountains; the cry, “Span! Span!” rang in his ears, and it was in some muffled, ancestral rage that he bit him.
Flush was equally at a loss to account for Miss Barrett’s emotions. There she would lie hour after hour passing her hand over a white page with a black stick; and her eyes would suddenly fill with tears; but why? “Ah, my dear Mr. Horne,” she was writing. “And then came the failure in my health . . . and then the enforced exile to Torquay . . . which gave a nightmare to my life for ever, and robbed it of more than I can speak of here; do not speak of that anywhere. Do not speak of that, dear Mr. Horne.” But there was no sound in the room, no smell to make Miss Barrett cry. Then again Miss Barrett, still agitating her stick, burst out laughing. She had drawn “a very neat and characteristic portrait of Flush, humorously made rather like myself,” and she had written under it that it “only fails of being an excellent substitute for mine through being more worthy than I can be counted.” What was there to laugh at in the black smudge that she held out for Flush to look at? He could smell nothing; he could hear nothing. There was nobody in the room with them. The fact was that they could not communicate with words, and it was a fact that led undoubtedly to much misunderstanding. Yet did it not lead also to a peculiar intimacy? “Writing,”–Miss Barrett once exclaimed after a morning’s toil, “writing, writing . . .” After all, she may have thought, do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words? Once at least Miss Barrett seems to have found it so. She was lying, thinking; she had forgotten Flush altogether, and her thoughts were so sad that the tears fell upon the pillow. Then suddenly a hairy head was pressed against her; large bright eyes shone in hers; and she started. Was it Flush, or was it Pan? Was she no longer an invalid in Wimpole Street, but a Greek nymph in some dim grove in Arcady? And did the bearded god himself press his lips to hers? For a moment she was transformed; she was a nymph and Flush was Pan. The sun burnt and love blazed. But suppose Flush had been able to speak–would he not have said something sensible about the potato disease in Ireland?
And yet, had he been able to write as she did?–The question is superfluous happily, for truth compels us to say that in the year 1842-43 Miss Barrett was not a nymph but an invalid; Flush was not a poet but a red cocker spaniel; and Wimpole Street was not Arcady but Wimpole Street.”
Anyway, Bilbo and Lady, we understand that you’ve already received support from Dorothy Parker and that her dog, Misty, is to play a leading role, but we thought you could work her into the story of Flush somehow and the two of you could add an Australian dimension to the story.
Speaking of Dorothy Parker, has she let you out of the dog salon yet? From what we’ve heard, you received heavy duty treatment and Lady had all her scruffiness clipped away and clad in a dainty pink tutu. We can’t wait to hear reports about how she fares on her return to Dog Beach. That said, I doubt you’re allowed to go anywhere near the beach with your new coats!
Anyway, we’ve leave you to consider this further. However, don’t delay. The dog’s day has come!
PS I know Mum has written much about women’s struggles to reach their true potential but what about us dogs? Who is going to rise to our defence and grant us equality and access to beaches and parks off the lead? Moreover, as much as Mum wrote about Judith Shakespeare’s chances of being able to write and appear on stage, what about the plight of Canine Shakespeare? I tell you, not a word!
Sure, I know the likes of Lassie and the Dulux Dog have succeeded but what about chronicling the lives of your garden variety backyard dog, spending their entire day at the gate waiting patiently for their humans to come home? I tell you. There is loyalty! Surely, that has to count for something!!
My brain’s been absolutely scrambled what with swimming through Dead Poet Creek…a thick molasses of words, thoughts and characters. Even when I turned to Roald Dahl for some light entertainment through his Revolting Rhymes, the dark side caught up, dragging me down by the toe.
I never really set out on this journey searching for meaning or anything profound. The muse just popped the idea in my head like a postcard and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was right and revisiting these dead poets is exhilarating yet also deeply challenging. While I thought I knew about poetry and poets, I’ve actually found out I was ignorant. That you can’t just read a couple of poems, relate and feel you know someone. People are much more complex.
The letter I received yesterday from Rudyard Kipling, has thrown me a bit. Not only does it emphasise that I haven’t found an equivalent “girl” poem for my daughter but it’s thrown me into a quandary about his son. After all, he sent me his poem If, which follows on from Hemingway’s poem: Advice To A Son.
How do you choose suitable role models for your kids? Just because the words sound good, is that enough? Or, do they need to walk the talk instead? Live what they say?
I believe so but we’re all human. None of us have got it right! Then again, some crimes are considered “unforgivable”.
This means I’m still no closer to working out what it means to be a man. Or, what it means to be a woman either.
Perhaps, I should’ve just stuck with 10 finger arithmetic and then I’d know all the answers. However, that wouldn’t be any fun!
As I’ve mentioned before, writing these Letters to Dead Poets hasn’t only been about asking the poets the questions I’d like to have answered. As much as I’ve felt totally transformed fully immersing myself in their words, ideas and splendor, the poets are also challenging me through their lives.
Why did Hemingway take his life? How did Jim Morrison end up dead in a bathtub in Paris at 27? Why did Keats die at 25 when so many lesser men live long but comparatively useless lives? How could Roald Dahl write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, his greatest work when he was experiencing such intense, unbearable personal anguish and grief? Does suffering really make the poet, the writer? Without it, would we simply just be: “normal”?
With all these questions, running round and round inside my head and words blowing around like Autumn leaves, I am left wondering, wandering while trying to bake cupcakes with my daughter. The kids are home on school holidays!!
As I said, yesterday I received a not-unexpected letter from Rudyard Kipling. I was pleased to hear from him because under the constraints of this blogging challenge, I’m trying to stick to writing to one poet per letter. Choosing between Keats and Kipling wasn’t easy but for me, there was never any doubt.
Anyway, Kipling sent me a few poems for my kids, especially my son. He’s now 12 years old, recently started high school and is steadily becoming a man. As much as he’s always been growing steadily upwards and learning new things, puberty is something of a metamorphosis where the child goes into a cocoon and emerges an adult. In so many ways, it’s like being forged inside a furnace. As the parent, I suspect that I’ll also end up in the flames and will no doubt emerge frazzled and somehow transformed.
One of the poems Kipling sent me was about his son Jack, who died in World War I. While there is incredible honour and sacrifice in dying for your country, I was intrigued to read that John Kipling had actually been declared medically unfit to serve and his father had pulled strings to get him in. Like his father, Jack was severely short-sighted. Kipling, I discovered, was 200% behind the war effort and fighting for King and country and was writing propaganda. This not does sit well with me and I find it all so difficult to understand. Wasn’t he sending his son to war just like sending a lamb to the slaughter house? Or, was his son that willing to die? He didn’t value his life and was more than willing to be that sacrifice? Or, was that what it meant to be a man? Noble sacrifice?
How much should we as individuals be prepared to sacrifice for our country?
Should we be taking our freedom for granted? Or, should we be prepared to fight to the death in its defense? Do we adequately appreciate what it means to spread our wings and soar through the sky without being shot down or locked up in a cage? Somehow, I was lucky enough to be born in Australia. Although I can struggle with our geographic isolation, being out of the thick of things has also had its strengths…especially in the past.
I’ve never really had to defend a thing aside from the TV. My brother and I fought some pretty fierce battles over who controlled the box but that was about it.
So, I obviously have no idea what it means to lose your freedom, be silenced or what it’s like to live through a war. It’s so easy for me to take that freedom for granted. Forget that’s not a universal thing and that the free need to help liberate the enslaved.
So, I’m in no position to question Kipling about his actions and choices. I’ve never walked in his shoes. Instead, I think I’ll send him a poem I wrote to my son at the end of his first year at school.
Today, I am writing a letter to John Lennon. I am seriously struggling with this. What do you say to one of the greatest, most inspirational men who ever lived about the moment of his death when a crazed gunman shot him in the heart and robbed him of his life? Even though Lennon was a man of peace, wouldn’t he be angry about what happened? Or, has he found the power to forgive? You hear of people forgiving the unforgivable and that forgiveness is enlightened self-interest. That anger and revenge are poisons consuming you body and soul from the inside out. Yet, I know I’d be mad. It’s one thing for someone to steal your car or break into your house but to take away your life and take you away from everyone you love? How do you live, or even die, with that? What stops you from haunting that bastard forever. Making their excuse for a life a living hell?
However, even in death, revenge could consume you. Rob your peace.
I have also wondered what, if anything, John Lennon would say to Hemingway?
Isn’t it a bit freaky that Hemingway shoots himself and Lennon gets shot? The man who shot Lennon is still behind bars and yet Hemingway escaped justice.
It’s a strange world once you lift up the hood. Indeed, perhaps, I should have left things alone.
I’m starting to think that too many questions can be bad for your health.
Do you have any answers or reflections on this mess? It seems to me, that asking more and more questions, only digs a deeper hole!
14th April, 2016.
This afternoon while we were down at the beach with the kids and the dogs, we found a glass bottle. Naturally, we picked it up. Of course, you already know there was a message from Ernest Hemingway inside . How he managed to orchestrate this moment, I don’t know. Call it serendipity, perhaps? Unaccustomed as I am to communicating with the dead, I’m never quite sure what to expect.
Word has spread
you’re waking poets
from the dead.
Not one to miss out
on the fun,
I’ve sent a poem
for your young son.
Advice to A Son
Never trust a white man,
Never kill a Jew,
Never sign a contract,
Never rent a pew.
Don’t enlist in armies;
Nor marry many wives;
Never write for magazines;
Never scratch your hives.
Always put paper on the seat,
Don’t believe in wars,
Keep yourself both clean and neat,
Never marry whores.
Never pay a blackmailer,
Never go to law,
Never trust a publisher,
Or you’ll sleep on straw.
All your friends will leave you
All your friends will die
So lead a clean and wholesome life
And join them in the sky.
When it comes to choosing role models for my son, Hemingway didn’t exactly come to mind. Known as a man’s man and into game fishing and hunting, he was also quite a drinker, had some kind of mental health issues and took his life. My son has written some good poems lately and I’m all for him becoming a writer or poet but as Hemingway wrote:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
So, from where I’m sitting at the moment, Bob the Builder would be a much better choice:
“Bob the Builder
Can we fix it?
Bob the Builder
Yes, we can!”
Not unsurprisingly, I much prefer the idea of him fixing things, than breaking down himself. If only the thrill of writing wasn’t quite so good!
Meanwhile, you might remember the Pollicle Dogs from my correspondence with TS Eliot. As I said, they were also with us down at the beach and weren’t too happy to find another cat poem.
To Crazy Christian
There was a cat named Crazy Christian
Who never lived long enough to screw
He was gay hearted, young and handsome
And all the secrets of life he knew
He would always arrive on time for breakfast
Scamper on your feet and chase the ball
He was faster than any polo pony
He never worried a minute at all
His tail was a plume that scampered with him
He was black as night and as fast as light.
So the bad cats killed him in the fall.
– Ernest Hemingway
Of course, they’ve ended up feeling terribly offended again and I’m needing to keep them under close surveillance. After all, you might recall the rather stinky protest they left on TS Eliot’s doorstep after dark. Of course, I also need to ensure they don’t start chasing Hemingway’s cats! His place would be a veritable smorgasbord!
As if the Pollicle Dogs weren’t trouble enough, now my daughter’s getting offended. Why haven’t any of the poets written a poem for her? Why haven’t I asked what it means to be a woman? Of course, she’s convinced I only ever think about her brother and this is just the latest confirmation. I told her that I was only halfway through but that wasn’t good enough. She wants one now!
Just to complicate things even further, I had quite a mix-up with Hemingway. To be perfectly, honest, I didn’t know Hemingway wrote poetry and strayed across his poems while doing research. I really related to a few of these poems, which seemed to be reading the thoughts of my heart. They were signed EH. The next day, I found out that Hemingway had committed suicide. Shot himself. That really hit me pretty hard to have an epiphany one night and then to find out he shot himself. That swung the mirror right back at me and said: “What does this say about you?” To be perfectly honest, I found that thought very disturbing, particularly as he wasn’t the only poet I admired who took their own life.
However, it turned out these poems weren’t by Ernest Hemingway, after all. EH is Erin Hanson a 20 year old poet living in Melbourne. Phew! What a relief!
So, as you can see, this journey is incredibly enlightening. Wow! I’m loving it, even though I feel like I’m combusting at the same time. So many poets, such little time!
This has been part of my series Letters to Dead Poets for the A-Z Challenge.
Are you doing the A-Z Challenge and how are you finding it?
While being more renowned for being out-of-synch than having perfect timing, it turns out the timing of yesterday’s post sharing my journal-journey with Anne Frank, was absolutely perfect…even uncanny!! You see, tomorrow, marks the 70th anniversary of her very tragic and untimely death in Bergen-Belson, a Nazi concentration camp.It’s almost like she whispered in my ear so I could find out and be a part of a global tribute: #notsilent. Now, I’m spreading the word and encouraging you to get involved too!
The Anne Frank Trust and Penguin Random House (UK publishers of The Diary of A Young Girl) have joined together to mark the 70th anniversary of Anne’s death with a one minute campaign called #notsilent.
Instead of a one minute’s silence to commemorate the end of Anne Frank’s short life, we are invited to read out loud a one minute passage from Anne’s inspirational writing at any time on or after Tuesday 14th April.
There are further details on their web site at: http://www.annefrank.org.uk/what-we-do/notsilent This includes a selection of passages suitable for a one minute reading to choose from. Alternatively, you can choose one yourself, or you can read something you have written about your own life and hopes. You can start or end your reading by explaining why you want to do it.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
How you can get involved
STEP ONE: Select an extract suitable for a one minute reading. This can either be an extract from Anne’s diary, you can download our selection here, or you can choose your own writing. While you read, either alone, in a group, in your classroom, home, work place or public place, we ask you to film yourself and upload it onto a video sharing platform of your choice (Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr etc) ensuring the video is available to view publicly.
STEP TWO: Send us the link to your video, by posting it on to the Anne Frank Trust’s Facebook (Anne Frank Trust UK) or Twitter (@annefranktrust) pages, using the hash tag #notsilent. Alternatively, you can e-mail your video via we transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEP THREE: We also ask you to share your one minute clip throughout your social media to encourage others to join in.
Thank you for participating and honoring Anne Frank’s memory in this way. We will together be #notsilent.
By the way, here’s a link to my post: A Life Saving Journey with Anne Frank: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/a-lifesaving-journey-with-anne-frank/
Thanks to Merril from Yesterday and Today: Merril’s Historical Musings: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/ for spreading the word and now it’s our turn.
Although it’s a bit last minute, please spread the word and pass this on. Anne Frank touched so many hearts in so many different ways and this is an opportunity to keep her light alive. It also provides the living with the opportunity to come together joining hands as a diverse, global community to honour a vibrant life which tragically ended so utterly alone and to stand firm against the spread of racism, discrimination and hate in our contemporary world. After all, Anne Frank has demonstrated that one person really can influence the world and work for for good.
“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”
― Anne Frank
Love and blessings,
Last week, I was absolutely stoked when I found a copy of the New Yorker when I took our daughter to her doctor’s appointment, instead of the usual trashy magazines. For a New Yorker, this would be hardly surprising but when you’re in Sydney, Australia, finding a copy of The New Yorker is a rare treat. It was time to celebrate!
Who hasn’t experienced the joy of being camped at the doctor’s waiting so long you’re putting down roots and all you have is a stack of trashy magazines for entertainment? I’m sure the world over there are those familiar looking piles of trashy magazines, which should have been pulped long before publication. You know the sort of stuff I’m talking about where those flashy, glossy pages are smothered in the latest “Kardashian Krisis” and other celebrity crap. If you’re really lucky, there might also be some token National Geographics but don’t hold your breath!!
Knowing what to expect, I always BYO. Whenever I head down to Sydney for my specialist appointments, I usually take a choice of two books, a handful of pens and a writing pad to capture fleeting threads of inspiration. I must say that on some occasions, I’ve been bunkering down to write what seems like my entire life story, while I wait. It is nothing to wait for 1-2 hours for an appointment and indeed, there is a sign telling you to allow half a day. All this endless interminable waiting is all for a fleeting 15-30 minute appointment. While this might sound pretty dreadful, especially if you are seeing multiple specialists, it is what it is. I see my specialists for free so I’m not complaining. I just come prepared.
However, I can sure pick the newbies turning various shades of red and emitting shots of steam through their beetroot red ears while they openly complain that “being sick is a full time job”. Most of them could well be transferred to Emergency for immediate anger management. That said, being diagnosed with a serious disease is hard enough. Being forced to spend those precious, rapidly ticking away last minutes of your imminently evaporating life in the bland boredom of a doctor’s waiting room staring at white walls camouflaged by fancy prints, is enough to push even the most mild-mannered Clark Kent over the edge!! Trust me! I know!
Of course, nobody includes being stuck in a doctor’s waiting room on their bucket list when they have 24 hours to live! Not on your life!!!
However, all my expectations of waiting room literature were turned around last week when I took our daughter to her specialist appointment. Much to my delighted amazement, I found a copy of The New Yorker on the very top of the pile. Wow! I was thrilled. Indeed, “I had chills. They’re multiplying and I’m losing control…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J01QPxZFlw4
The New Yorker is a rare breed in Australia so I was almost thankful that the doctor was late. I was glued to the pages and really had to peel myself away. Indeed, I was even taking photos of the funnies with my phone and seriously hoping the doctor didn’t catch me in the act. Of course, I was doing this in the name of serious journalism…snapping gourmet morsels to feed my blog!
For a few fantastic moments there, I felt myself being transported over the Pacific Ocean touching down for a refueling stopover in Hawaii to meet Max the Dog and indulge in a bit of Hula. Then, I was on a bit of a stop start journey through LA, New Orleans, Washington and finally touching down in New York in such a manner that I didn’t get my Wonder Woman cape caught on one of those spiky bits on the Statue of Liberty.
I’m in New York and I can even hear Frank Sinatra singing New York New York: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-0nNWOKK2Q
Though still sitting in the waiting room, I’m a real New Yorker or at least a New Yorker with an Australian accent. Well, make that a sedated New Yorker with an Australian accent. Being a rather slow walker who doesn’t wake up before midday without intravenous caffeine infusions, I’d look like a comatose zombie among the fast-paced New Yorkers.
But then the dream shatters…
The door swings open and all my fantasies of New York are put on hold. The doctor is ready and it’s now time to discuss why my daughter doesn’t eat.
Humph! No more New York…New York…New York!
I’ve touched down with a painful thump and it’s time for a brutal reality check!!
New York…LA,Honolulu,Sydney, Wahroonga….Can’t keep the doctor waiting!
The door closes.
Have you ever been to New York and have any stories to tell? I am learning the fine art of living vicariously.