Departing for the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, 16 year old ballerina and proud Ngemba woman, Stella Donovan was asked what inspired her to dance.
“When I was five, I found a jewellery box at the tip with a ballerina twirling around inside. She was deadly and I wanted to dance like her. All me friends and aunties were into netball, but ballet was my thing. I hope to encourage other Aboriginal girls to pursue their dreams.”
Then, the tragic news came through.
Stella had broken her foot moments before she went on, but she wouldn’t let it ground her dreams.
I learn a lot writing these pithy 100 words of fiction. Many of you will know that our daughter is an aspiring ballerina and that things haven’t been easy over the last couple of years with covid and she recently snapped a ligament in her foot, but she’s back on deck again although not about to compete in Switzerland. She has the end of year concert coming up soon and next year will be onto auditions. To add a bit of a twist, I made this ballerina an Indigenous Australian a Ngemba woman from the outback town of Bourke where my Great Great Uncle, Herb Bruhn, was the head of the Bourke Dramatic and Musical Society and put on Cleopatra and Oklahoma under rather challenging circumstances and then had his pianist move away with no replacement. I admire his pluck! Anyway, I was delighted to find out that we have an Indigenous ballerina in the Australian Ballet, Ella Havelka, a Wiradjuri woman from Dubbo with a very encouraging story: What It’s Like To Be The First Indigenous Dancer in the Australian Ballet
Today, I am standing taller after watching Standing Tall, a powerfully inspiring event geared towards bringing out the best in our youth, helping them soar towards their dreams, and ultimately help them resist the notorious pitfalls lurking around. Acknowledging the “challenges” of the past two years, this year’s theme was “Dream Again”, which was very apt.
Okay, I can hear you saying that even in the wildest realms of my imagination, I am not a 16 year old schoolgirl like our inimitable Miss. “Who do you think you are? Go and take a look in the mirror and grow up!”
Well, in my defence, I want to make it clear that I wasn’t just watching Standing Tall for my own benefit. Yet, my motives were not purely altruistic either. I have a heartfelt passion and concern for our young people, especially after the last two years of covid and extended lockdowns. In that time, so many dreams and realities have sunk like stones, seemingly to the very depth of the abyss never to return. Moreover, two weeks ago, I attended a two day course given by Lifeline covering suicide intervention. As a parent of teens, I did this with particular thought to the young people who cross my path, hop in my car or occasionally sleep on our couch. Yet, there’s a space well before despair sets in where the seeds of self-confidence, hope, and hard work can grow and bear fruit. After all, we might never know what a difference a smile or a few words of encouragement can make to someone else’s life. This is where Standing Tall fits in.
Anyway, although covid is still around and has been joined by a nasty flu, the tide has turned and we have new beginnings. In recognition of these renewed hopes, the theme for Stand Tall 2022 is Dream Again, which is good for all of us.
So, I’m going to recommend straight up that after you finish this post, you go straight to the live stream replay. If you know some young people, especially living in Australia, see if you can get them to watch it too. It will be available free online for the next three months. By the way, if you can’t get them to watch it, watch it yourself and try to drop a few of these golden seeds of wisdom and encouragement into conversation.
“Every student has the capacity to make someone else’s experience of school better.”
Hon. Jason Clare, Minister for Education at Standing Tall 2022
Now turning to Standing Tall, each of the speakers encouraged me enormously. As I mentioned earlier, my interest in Standing Tall wasn’t purely altruistic. I’ve been in a state of extended limbo after having chemo to treat my muscle-wasting auto-immune disease. It took me quite a long time to get back on my feet, the family had been through a lot, and I also wasn’t the same person that I was before. I didn’t want to go back. I wasn’t well enough to move forward, and certainly I wasn’t too keen to fast-forward too far ahead either. I didn’t expect to be here. However, thankfully that hasn’t come to pass, and ironically I’ve actually been a lot better since covid came along. I haven’t caught so many chest infections and I haven’t caught covid.
So, to use Facebook parlance, my journey has been “complicated”.
I have also given a few motivational talks myself. I’ve also written numerous posts here on Beyond the Flow touching on things. However, I haven’t written the book, and considering I’m a writer, it becomes more of a sin of omission than for someone else. Yet, at the same time, as my writing lecturer at university, Michael Wilding, used to say: “writing is a thinking process”. So, when those thoughts are incredibly traumatic, it’s no wonder the writing process pauses or even stops.
Now, getting back to Standing Tall, the first speaker, Duku Foré, really hit me right between the eyes. Duku was born in a refugee camp in Uganda and lived there with his family for ten years. His life changed abruptly when his family came to Australia as refugees. However, in many regards Australia wasn’t the promised land. It wasn’t easy starting out in a new country. For many years, he was the only black child in his class and also had a severe speech impediment. He was bullied at school, and also got into trouble himself. Despite all of this, he set out to inspire others through motivational speaking, and at 19 represented Australia at the United Nations. If you would like to hear more about his story, here’s another interview.
“Do something today that your future self would be proud of…”
I’m not going to go into every speaker or I’d be writing for a year. However, I also wanted to mention humanitarian and cancer survivor Michael Crossland. His journey is particularly relevant to me as he has overcome numerous life-threatening health issues, and is still here to tell the tale. Although he’s told this story many times before, he spoke with an emotional rawness as though he was telling his story for the very first time. However, his story wasn’t just about recounting his traumas. Rather, he has made what would be considered extraordinary achievements for the average Joe, and yet he has ongoing, diabolical health issues. How is it so? I don’t know but his mother also has this extraordinary fighting spirit. Grit. Tenacity. Supernatural strength and optimism. Michael is also a humanitarian and has given back, which includes buying a house for his mum. My words feel dreadfully inadequate. So, here’s a direct link to another motivational talk which overlaps with his talk at Standing Tall.
Another speaker I found particularly interesting was model and blogger Harmony Butcher. She spoke the dangers for young people about self-image on social media. Indeed, she wrote this enlightening post about self-image on her blog. As she spoke, she mentioned a statistic that 25% of people feel they need to change some aspect of their appearance to be feel acceptable on social media. Being a bit more mature in years, I found this statistic staggering. Yet, I just realized that I’m guilty of this myself. It’s exceptionally rare for me to have any photos taken of me wearing my glasses, although I wear them all the time. Indeed, although I’ve been posting here at Beyond the Flow for ten years and fairly open, how many of you have seen me in my glasses? Sure, it’s only a small alteration, but so is airbrushing out pimples, freckles or wrinkles. To be fair, this what we do with makeup anyway, and who really puts their real, undoctored physical self out there anyway? Well, let me assure you that aside from the glasses, what you see of me here is what you get. I rarely wear makeup in real or online life, but I’m also currently living the quiet life.
“Some people would do anything to have your bad day.”
I also wanted to share the story of Danny and Leyla Abdullah. On the 1st February, 2020 their lives were shattered and changed forever when a drunk driver mounted the footpath and killed three of their six children: Antony 13, Angelina 12, and Sienna 8, along with their cousin Veronique Sakr 11. The randomness of the accident and that one family would experience such a catastrophic loss, especially due to a drunk driver, was devastating. How could they go on? Understandably, there was strong community outrage towards the driver. Yet, a few days after the accident, Leyla Abdullah publicly forgave him. How could this be? Indeed, in her talk, she emphasized that she forgave the driver before he apologised. Extraordinary. She also said that “forgiveness is a choice. It’s like a muscle. The more you practice it, the better you get.”
Danny and Leila Abdullah didn’t stop there. They have created a national day of forgiveness, i4give Day, to remember the loss of their children and niece, and for everyone to think about someone they can forgive or ask for forgiveness. Forgiving others is critical, releasing our hearts from the toxic poison of hate, resentment and revenge.
The Abdullahs also had a special surprise at Standing Tall. It was their little bundle of joy and hope…their 10 week old baby girl, Selina. Of course, she doesn’t take the place of her lost siblings, but seeing a new life created out of the ashes was so encouraging. Indeed, I was jumping for joy in my chair.
“You can’t silence fear, but you can turn up the volume of hope and faith and drown it out”.”
Next up, was Olympian and long-distance runner, Eloise Wellings, who is also the co-founder of the Love Mercy Foundation. Eloise had some really good things to say, which focused on overcoming setbacks and disappointment, believing in your potential and to keep going. She also mentioned something I’ve observed, and that some young people had developed a culture where it is better not to try than to fail. That they use the term “to be a sweat” to knock down people who apply themselves. When I was at school, the term was “swot”. Eloise was really encouraging and said: “you won’t regret trying.” She also advised focusing on the process rather than the big goal. “Get the next step done.” Talk about good advice, and certainly applies to me and the book project.
Bella Taylor Smith deserves an extra-special mention as she not only spoke but also performed. For those of you who may not know Bella, she won The Voice Australia 2021. Bella has her own story of overcoming adversity and is now touring with Guy Sebastian.
“It’s not what happens to you. It’s who you choose to become”.
Last, but not least, there was 19 year old Alex Noble On Sunday the 21st of October 2018 16 year old Alex Noble was doing what he loved best – playing rugby. As a rising sports star he was training with the Under-17 NSW Rugby Sevens youth selection squad. Tragically he was badly injured on the field, breaking his neck and severely damaging his spinal cord. Since then, Alex has poured all the tenacity and resilience he’d applied to his rugby training into his recovery and has made incredible progress. He has also started the Alex Noble Foundation whose motto is “I fight you fight”. (I’m looking back at my notes now and I see the phrase “We are unbreakable” circled. I know from personal experience what it’s like to experience a gruelling physical setback and barely be able to move myself. However, thanks to a reasonable diagnosis with treatment among other things, I am now doing remarkably well!)
So, what were the take homes from this extraordinary day?
I think the bottom line was that even the most extraordinary dreams are possible if we work hard, persevere, and develop the resilience to be able to bounce back from setbacks. At the same time, we might also have to find a new pathway when our dream sinks, regroup and find another. Secondly, we are not alone in our triumphs or tribulations. When we triumph, think about others around you and pitch in. If you’re at rock bottom, you are not alone. Help is at hand. It is also possible that while you’re at rock bottom, you will meet others who aren’t being reached. So, even in the depths of your own despair, you can offer hope to others. Well, I added that bit, but I know it to be true. This is another of my own observations… we need to keep ourselves in good physical, mental and spiritual shape because we don’t know when adversity is going to hit and the bumps will be less intense if we’re in good shape. As the Scout motto says: “Be prepared!”
I hope this encourages you to check out the live stream so you can absorb and apply their wisdom and zest for an abundant life, and I would personally like to thank everyone who contributed towards the day for having such a big impact on me and my family.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you, especially if you attended Standing Tall or like me tuned into the live stream.
This is my first contribution to a blogshare which is right up my alley: What’s on Your Bookshelf, hosted by Deb, Sue, Donna, and Jo. I could be here for several years and you’d be long gone, if I literally went through every single book on my bookshelf, and the contents of my To-Be-Read Piles around the house could also tie us down for awhile. However, what I’ve actually reading is thankfully a much shorter list. Indeed, I’m currently reading one book.
This rather exclusive solitary read is Jules Sebastian’s Tea & Honesty. It is hard not to introduce Jules Sebastian without mentioning her famous husband musician Guy Sebastian. I don’t like linking women to their famous husbands as though they’re nothing more than an pretty accessory and that they have no world, thoughts or achievements of their own., However, I did buy this book because she was Guy’s wife, and I knew something of their personal journey beyond the music industry. I quick flick through, showed Jules was very much a powerhouse in her own right. Moreover, she shares about being naturally shy, and she is a good listener, an observer, a thinker but in a kind, gentle and encouraging way that’s very refreshing. Moreover, I found out this Jules has a few worlds a knew nothing about. and they lead an interesting and very challenging life at times and she’d have a lot to say. What I didn’t know was that Jules has her own Youtube Channel and a program Tea With Jules: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Y0dEiUcSIClA5KkqywvJA
I’m about halfway through it now, and I’m deliberately reading it slowly to take it all in. I think it’s very timely as many of us face a restart after the last two years. Jules reflects back on interviews and gives really good advice for people starting out and wanting to start a dream from scratch and how to find a way through the jungle and towards success. That’s such an important part of the road to success we don’t often hear about. BTW I wasn’t so keen on the podcasts. I think they’re geared towards a different demographic.
Meanwhile, although this book is still in transit, I’m going to mention it anyway along with the usual way I stumbled across it. The book in question is Irish author Michael Harding’sThe Cloud Where the Birds Rise, with illustrations by Jacob Stack. I stumbled across it a few days ago when I went on a quick trip to Midleton, Cork via Google Earth and of all the places I should come across, I find a bookshop. Of course, I had to check out the books they had on offer and looked up their website. That’s when I saw the book and it was like love at first sight. However, I resisted temptation and decided to do a bit of research before I bought another book into the house. That’s when I came across a podcast where Alan Keane interviewed Michael Harding on The Artists’ Well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrRYg1hvCh0 Now, I was really hooked, and after enjoying this interview so much, I headed off to absorb Michael Harding’s podcasts (@hardingmichael) and I’ll be lucky to find my way out the front door for the next six months. I’m riveted.
So, naturally, I can’t wait for this book to turn up, and I must confess, I bought another one while I was there (to justify the postage of course!): Staring at Lakes. I’ll report back and let you know how they go.
Welcome to Day 10 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may be aware, my theme this year is Motivational Quotes and these are geared towards people like myself who are working on their first book and getting it published one way or another. Obviously, it’s a long road from INSPIRATION to PUBLICATION!
Today, it was a toss up whether to choose inspiration or imagination. While there is much common ground, there is a distinction. In the end, I had Roald Dahl representing Imagination:
“There is no life I know to compare with pure
imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly
wish to be.”
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole
world around you because the greatest secrets are
always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who
don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl
However, when it came to INSPIRATION, there was Jonathon Livingstone Seagull:
“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the
fishing boats, there’s reason to live!
We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find
ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence
and skill. We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”
Personally, I don’t have any trouble finding inspiration or with being inspired. That after all is the initial spark which gets the fire going. It’s keeping that spark alight once I’m further down the track, where I struggle.
I am starting to understand that process better now. While they say slow and steady wins the race and that you need to pace yourself, I find that it’s more a case of making quick and easy progress at the start and a lot more effort is required as you progress through your project and that you could well have less return as well, especially if you’re talking about pure word count. Understanding that process is helping me overcome some of the doubts which sets in when the going gets tough.
Just another thought…. much of what I read about getting that book done and dusted talks about word limits. Stuff like write 1000 words a day. However, what you don’t hear, is that not all words are created equal. Perhaps, one day you might only write one word, but that word will change everything. Perhaps, not only just for yourself, but also for your readers.
I am currently writing a compilation of biographical short-fiction built around our combined gene pool of persons past. With this, I’m not as concerned about word length finding an angle. Something which will touch and inspire people. I want to put my finger on the pulse if that makes sense. So, instead of generating thousands and thousands of words, I’m immersing myself in research plucking the story out piece by piece like a restorer and yet hopefully infusing that spark which will bring these people back to life. This is a spark which all of our characters need in order to engage our readers, who are after all, our audience.
What inspires me most about these characters is when they overcome adversity in some way and that’s what I want to share. That we are not alone. Not the only ones who have ever been through trials and tribulations, been in the wrong place at the wrong time. These is something universal about being human and that is very much part of and the inspiration behind what I write. I want to help others, and I also want writing somehow help me put bread and butter on the table because none of us can survive on air. We need an income.
So, what inspires you and your writing? What do you do when your inspiration wanes? I’d love to hear from you!
Welcome to the latest installment in my Motivational Quotes for Writers and Creatives for the April Blogging A-Z Challenge. While I could’ve addressed failure, instead I decided to focus (There we go. Another F word) on reaching the finish line. What you decide to call your finish line will vary. It might mean completing your first draft before you have it edited. Or, you might see it as the finished product hot off the printing presses with your name and title on the spine and cover. You book is ready for the world, not just for the shelf.
Contrary to my advice in the previous post recommending balance and including exercise as part of your writing routine, I really loved this quote which really is a big part of crossing the finish line:
However, obsession also needs to be harnessed, directed not only towards reaching the finish line, but also towards producing a body of work which is worth finishing. After all, if your writing’s rubbish, the sooner you finish up and even thrown it out, the better. You can start on something else. Not every idea is a winner. As a writer, you should never feel bound to finish everything you start. Writing a book involves significant hard work and sacrifice, and personally it needs to be worthwhile. Not necessarily in a commercial sense, but at least as something you can be personally proud of. Here, I’m not talking about people who are just getting started, but those of us who have done the hard yards and are ready or even long overdue to go for gold.
That’s where this quote from John Frank Tesh (born July 9, 1952) American pianist, composer of pop music, radio host and television presenter comes in:
“The world is full of people who have dreams
of playing at Carnegie Hall, of running a
marathon, and of owning their own business.
The difference between the people who make it
across the finish line and everyone else is one
simple thing: an action plan.”
Having a plan…in my limited experience, this is what has worked for me. Perhaps, you’ve heard the terms “planner” vs “pantser”. You could probably worked out that a pantser writes by the seat of their pants, and has no plan. Let’s the writing find its own way.
This is how I usually write, which brings great spontaneity and raw emotions, but I’ve found it hard to shift across into writing a book. I’ve needed a plan. Perhaps, not a rigid, inflexible plan, but at least some scaffolding to give me a sense of direction. I am currently writing biographical short fiction and working towards a compilation of around 30 stories. I have a list of people I’m exploring and why they’ve been chosen, which provides a focal point. However, beyond that I’m back to my panster ways. I’m currently hopping around the list in no particular order as each of the characters or their place in history, speaks to me. So far, this fusion is working really well and I can really see myself reaching the finish line.
Before I head off, I thought I’d leave you with this quote to stew on:
“The thing about finishing a story is that
finishing is really only the beginning.”
― William Herring
What are your thoughts about that? I’d love to know!
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Just to remind you, my theme for this year’s A-Z April Blogging Challenge is motivational quotes. I am currently hunkered down working away on a collection of biographical short stories and was concerned that the challenge would be a distraction. Howe3ver, I’ve changed my mind and thought that coming up with motivational quotes every day could really boost my efforts and keep me going. After all, I’ve only just started writing up the stories and it’s going to get harder down the track. Of course, the going is always good at the start and it’s fine tuning the stuff at the end where things get really hard. Well, I think it’s how it goes. That’s how it’s been for me in the past. This is why I’ve also decided to go with short stories, even though many of these stories could be a book in their own right. They just didn’t quite seem to have enough oomph to make it to 80,000 words, although perhaps they’ll follow down the track. At this point, I just need to get a book I can be proud and has commercial potential done and dusted. I’m not investing all this time anbd effort into this for no reason. There’s a lot riding on it. I am the gambler who has stacked all their chips on one number and the wheel is spinning.
I guess that’s why I this quote by Helen Keller came to mind and I had to Google to remind myself who wrote it. Naturally, Helen Keller was a great choice because they other word I was considering was ADVERSITY and she covers both.
In case you’re not familiar with Helen Keller’s story, here’s a brief bio:
Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. In 1882, she was stricken by an illness that left her blind and deaf. Beginning in 1887, Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904.
She’s an incredibly encouraging woman and an inspiration to all.
Touching on the featured image, that’s our dearly loved and departed dog Bilbo looking at the “cliffs”, which had developed on our beach after a storm. He’s certainly looking rather circumspect, and not at all likely to jump in for a swim (his idea of a daring adventure). Indeed, most of the time, Bilbo didn’t like getting his paws wet let alone going swimming. His paws were rather precious. That was until his beloved tennis ball started drifting away, in which case, his heart was seriously torn.
Do you have any adventures planned? What is your A for the A-Z Challenge? I’d love to hear from you!