Category Archives: creative writing

Dorothy Hewett Award: Congratulations to Me

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The shortlist for the Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript has been announced and I’m on it. Even I don’t believe it. I write weird fiction, not quite literary, not quite commercial, not quite gritty realism, not quite fantasy. To get shortlisted for such a prestigious prize for my weird fiction has got to be a lifetime highlight. Shout out to my fellow weird fiction writers.

And then to look at the caliber of the other writers on the shortlist I feel like I must be hallucinating.

• The Sorry Tale of the Mignonette by Angela Gardner (Qld) Poetry
• K. the Interpreter by Martin Kovan (NSW) Fiction
• Fish Work by Caitlin Maling (WA) Poetry
• Children of Lovers by Kylie Mirmohamadi (Victoria) Fiction
• The Rabbit Paperweight by Robin Riedstra (NSW) Fiction
• Where the Fruit Falls by Karen Wyld (South Australia) Fiction

Karen Wyld is on the shortlist. Karen Wyld! Where the Fruit Falls was shortlisted for the Ritchell Prize in 2017. That same manuscript was then accepted for the 2018 Hardcopy Program. A manuscript does not get this consistent hit rate for recognition unless it’s exceptional. And yet, there I am, right next to her.

I’m actually sandwiched between Karen Wyld and Kylie Mirmohamadi. Kylie Mirmohamadi is a writer, a university scholar, and the author of The Digital Afterlives of Jane Austen. She is well regarded and an incredibly sophisticated writer. I am honoured to be on the same list.

And then there is Angela Gardner. Winner of a Churchill Fellowship. Winner of an Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Award. Winner of the Bauhinia/Idiom 23 Prize. Published by University of Queensland Press, Meanjin, Poetry Wales. I could go on but you get the idea. She’s a heavy hitter.

Martin Kovan has appeared in publications across the globe. He’s an academic, writer, journalist, poet. Well respected and highly regarded.

Caitlin Maling is a poet and critic. She has received the John Marsden Poetry Prize. Shortlisted for the Judith Wright Poetry Prize. Won the Harri Jones Memorial Prize. She has been published in The Australian, Island Meanjin, Threepenny Review and so much more. Her record speaks for itself.

And then there’s me…. Hi. Don’t really have an impressive array of awards to share. Just more me butting my head against a wall and being rejected.

But enough about me, here’s what the media release has to say about each of our manuscripts. I personally love how they’ve written about mine, and I hope everyone else does too.

The shortlist, copied straight from the press release:


The Sorry Tale of the Mignonette by Angela Gardner (Qld) Poetry
This dramatic verse novel depicts the best and worst aspects of human nature
in extremis. The story of a nineteenth-century sea journey to Australia that goes
badly, its characters are clearly drawn, holding their own through sea shanties,
street ballads and other modes of storytelling from another time.


K. the Interpreter by Martin Kovan (NSW) Fiction
K. the Interpreter is an ambitious novel with echoes of Kafka and Coetzee, set against the backdrop of an inequitable globalised world, and rendered in a lean and efficient prose style. An exploration of the consequences of war,
displacement, racism and religious conflict, it addresses some of the most urgent and intractable issues of our time, registering with particular acuity the ways in which women are apt to become the victims of violent conflict.

Fish Work by Caitlin Maling (WA) Poetry
Fish Work is a suite of poems containing various modes and registers of expression. The collection circles around the theme of the ocean and all of its occupants, alongside a life researching this ecology and closely observing people and place during field work. It is an intriguing exploration of the
multitude of being in the world.


Children of Lovers by Kylie Mirmohamadi (Victoria) Fiction
This novel is an intimate account of yearning for belonging by an adoptee
without a prehistory. It follows a country girl starting university in a city and creating her own community through that yearning. In this narrative, she enters into a migrant community she believes she has an affinity through a bloodline with, and this underpins the dynamic of the novel.


The Rabbit Paperweight by Robin Riedstra (NSW) Fiction
The Rabbit Paperweight is a creative and deeply thoughtful response to the
classic children’s story Alice in Wonderland and the morally dubious life of its author Lewis Carroll. Set in an Australian psychiatric institution, the novel is alert to the trauma that often lies behind madness, drawing the reader’s attention back to the sinister realities that can lurk beneath the seductive
charms of the fantastical.


Where the Fruit Falls by Karen Wyld (South Australia) Fiction
Where the Fruit Falls is a novel that gives voice to three generations of Indigenous women determined to restore broken connections with Country. In richly textured storytelling, this writing celebrates the agency of Indigenous women to traverse ever-present landscapes of colonisation and intergenerational trauma, against a backdrop of remarkable desert and coastal scenes.

Further info copied straight from the press release:

The judges for the 2020 award are Terri-ann White, Director UWA Publishing;
Elfie Shiosaki, Lecturer in the School of Indigenous Studies at The University of Western Australia; and James Ley, author and contributing editor of Sydney
Review of Books.


A ceremony will take place on Friday 21 February 2020 in Perth to announce
the winner of the Award and the winning manuscript will be published in
October 2020.


The Dorothy Hewett Award is open to all writers who have completed a manuscript and are seeking publication. The work must be fiction, narrative nonfiction or poetry, inclusive of hybrid genres such as verse novels or memoir.


The winner receives a cash prize of $10,000, courtesy of Copyright Agency, and
a publishing contract with UWA Publishing.

Sydney Writers Festival Looks to the Buffyverse #SydneyWritersFestival

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Sydney Writers Festival have announced their theme, Lie to Me. And yes, Buffy fans, Michaela Maguire, the festival’s artistic director, has confirmed that this theme has been inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not all lies are malicious and Maguire speaks of how Buffy’s request to Giles, ‘lie to me,’ when she has to stake a former friend,

speaks to the very human feeling of helplessness and the desire to feel as if everything is going to be alright even if you know it will never be the same. Maguire states that this plea to be lied to is “a request for a bedtime story in a world full of monsters.

From Monday the 29th of April through to Sunday 5th of May, Sydney Writers Festival will be exploring all things Lie. Polite lies, filthy lies, lies for self preservation, lies for power and lies to torture. Lies that we tell others and lies that we tell ourselves. Not to mention, lies that those in power tell us to subdue the masses.

Speakers include:

  • Former editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson
  • Daisy Johnson, who was the youngest ever author to be shortlisted for a Man Booker Prize
  • The executive director of the National Book Foundation, Lisa Lucas
  • Dunya Mikhail, who has been awarded the UN Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing
  • Internationally fauned over, Man Booker winner George Saunders
  • Sir Simon Schama, who is a best selling author and documentary presenter
  • And many, MANY, MANY more

Tickets are now on sale and the 2019 program has been released. Go check out the official website to see all the wonderful events. Toni Jordan’s Editing Your Fiction Manuscript workshop looks particularly good, as does Elaine Castillo’s workshop (Re)writing the Canon – Fan Fiction and Other Radical Acts. I believe that Bryan Washington’s On Murakami will definitely be one to blow your library-card socks off, and the best thing is, it’s freeeeeee. Although, my personal favourite event of the festival, is always the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards held at the NSW State Library. Canapes, I love ’em.

For more information, follow:

And yes, I am a volunteer, how can I help?

Writing Teachers I Love #SelfPubIsHere

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Last week for #SelfPubIsHere I spoke about editors that I love, people who make your manuscript glow. But what about before you have a manuscript? Are there people who can help you before you have finished, or before you have even started? The answer is quite simply yes, writing teachers exist. And fortunately we live in a time where there are more and more teachers available to learn from. I’m going to share with you some writing teachers that I love and where to find ones that you’ll love too. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s quality teaching. Not only did I teach for over a decade, including being Acting head of English, Drama coordinator, placed on secondment briefly to the body now absorbed by NESA amongst many other things, BUT I also studied directly with the creators of Quality Teaching and Productive Pedagogy. So trust me, I know teaching, and I say these people are awesome.

Toni Jordan is a truly incredible teacher. The three scenes that are consistently held up as excellent by critique partners of my WIP were all written during Toni Jordan’s Character and Dialogue course held at NSW Writers’ Centre. She is Melbourne based and has lectured at RMIT, presented extensively at The Wheeler Centre, tutors at Writers Victoria, and indeed lots of other places too. You can even get personalised mentoring from Toni through Australian Writers Mentoring Program. She has really strong opinions on structure and dialogue tags and is not afraid to state exactly what they are, which is very useful in a teacher. And although her opinions are strong she is never brutal; think of Toni as the epitome of firm but fair. Find Toni Jordan’s website here. Find her books here. Find Toni’s Robinpedia entry here.

I was lucky enough to do Pamela Freeman’s two day speculative fiction course a few years back. Since then, she has taken me under her wing and allowed me to ask her all sorts of inane questions. She is the kind of teacher who continues on thinking about her students long after the classroom door has closed and the lights have been shut off. She is very much the mother duck of the Australian writing teaching world, but with a truly wicked sense of humour. She has a PhD in writing, she knows her stuff, and she’s quite forward in telling people what she thinks. And you’re in luck, because Pamela is currently supercharging her Advanced Fiction Writing Course at AWC. She is a regular teacher at AWC who also have a mentoring program, teaches occasionally at NSW Writers’ Centre, pops into a couple of Sydney universities, and all around the place really. Find Pamela Freeman’s website here. Pamela gets bonus points for following along on the #SelfPubIsHere twitter storm. Find her books here, and her books as Pamela Hart here.

Kate Forsyth made me tear up my prologue, literally. She didn’t even read it, she just asked me a few questions, didn’t like the sound of my answers so told me to rip it up. Shocking, I know, but… she was absolutely right. Kate is able to get to the core of your writing very quickly and gives crisp advice that will improve your manuscript immeasurably. I don’t go anywhere without her plot arc worksheet. She is a regular teacher at AWC, also teaches at NSW Writers’ Centre, a few universities, and pretty much everywhere else including overseas. Find Kate Forsyth’s website here. Find Kate’s books here. (And I know she’d also love it if you could check out her cooking and books show, Word of Mouth TV.)

A woman that needs no introduction, Anita Heiss. She’s pretty much an icon in Australia. When I was volunteering at one of her panel events at the Sydney Writers’ Festival we had to form a separate line for her signings. She is a really practical teacher who urges writers to listen to their readership. She’s all about knowing what you write. Very thorough in her approach and her preparation is phenomenal. I was lucky enough to do a workshop with her at NSW Writers Centre but she teaches at a lot of other places too. Keep your eyes wide open to see her courses pop up and book quickly. Anita Heiss’s website can be found here. Find Anita’s books here.

Emily Maguire is a very quiet and serene teacher. She is never without an encouraging word for people and always listens to students thoroughly before responding. Emily also provides so many worksheets for you to take home so that you can continue to look back and relearn for years to come. She teaches the hugely popular Year of the Novel course at NSW Writers’ Centre and so you get to learn from Emily all year long. Find Emily Maguire’s website here. Find Emily’s books here.

One of the most exciting speakers I have ever seen is L.A. Larkin. She is very animated, very witty, and above all else, very clever. L.A Larkin mainly teaches in the UK but lucky for us the AWC recently snapped her up to teach crime writing so she’s not just swanning around British universities anymore, we can learn from her in Sydney. You can also find her speaking at a variety of other places, check L.A. Larkin’s website for details here. Find her books here or even here. Find L.A. Larkin’s Robinpedia entry here.

Jan Cornall is the first writing teacher that I ever had (aside from school) and she blew me away. She is a very calm person and has a soothing effect on the soul. Jan utilises short bursts of meditation in her teaching and, despite the fact that I am truly crap at meditating, it really works. She teaches at WEA, NSW Writers’ Centre, pretty much everywhere and runs her own draftbusters course in the Inner West that I cannot recommend highly enough. Find Jan Cornall’s website here. Find Jan’s books here.

I have long testified that Walter “the inconceivably incandescent” Mason is like viagra for the creative soul. This man simply oozes love and passion. To sit by him is to sit in the presence of inspiration. But he doesn’t just sit about being all inspirational, he also gives concrete tasks to do. He really is a spectacular speaker and I urge you to go see him whenever you can. He regularly teaches at WEA, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, NSW Writers’ Centre, Ashfield Library, and pretty much everywhere you can think of. Find Walter Mason’s website here. Find Walter’s books here. Find Walter Mason’s Robinpedia entry here.

Alison Croggon would come close to being the queen of Australian literature. She’s a poet, a spec fic writer, an opera critic, and so much more. You want to know how to write an arts submission? She’ll teach you. You want to know how to write a proper poetry review? She’ll teach you. You want to know how to write a fantasy novel? She’ll teach you. And, like Toni, you can have Alison all to yourself through the Australian Writers Mentoring Program. Find Alison Croggon’s website here. Find Alison’s books here. Bonus, she’s a huge #SelfPubIsHere advocate.

I did a Garth Nix course through ASA waaaaayyyy back in 2014. I rarely see his name crop up on workshops so was eager to attend, I think it pretty much booked out on its first day of advertisement. First up, the food they provide for the ASA courses is fantastic, seriously, if you haven’t done a course there yet… well… do it! Secondly, I was really impressed with how Garth took a different tac than many other teachers. He was explicit on who to pitch to, he was explicit on filling up your creative bank. It was a very informative workshop. He said nice things about my WIP, and as I am a complete saddest I have subsequently changed it from being set in Germany to Australia, from first person to third person from present tense to past tense. Whyyyyy??? Imagine what I would have done with negative feedback or if he’d actually suggested any changes? Burned my laptop and thrown it from the Harbour Bridge? Find Garth Nix’s website here. Find Garth’s books here.

Cass Moriarty is from up above… in Queensland. She is a tireless supporter of writers and somehow manages to write novels, write reviews of ALL the books, teach and be a doting grandmother. I am in awe of this woman and have no idea how she does it all. Her motto is ‘I can adapt’ and she brings that to your manuscript. You can find her floating about up at Queensland Writers Centre where she does workshops and mentoring. Find Cass Moriarty’s website here. Find Cass’s books here. Find Cass Moriarty’s Robinpedia entry here.

Thriller, chiller, and teacher Tania Chandler has been writing and editing for years. Recently, we’ve been lucky enough to see her helm her own workshops. She brings a wealth of experience with her, and is a very dedicated teacher. If you get a chance to get to SPAN Community House Inc. book in for a course with Tania. Find Tania Chandler’s website here. Find her books here. Find Tania Chandler’s Robinpedia entry here.

Aleesah Darlison is here by very special request, my 6 year old daughter’s request to be precise. I have not had the pleasure of learning from Aleesah but my daughter has. Aleesah visited her school last year and my daughter assures me that Aleesah is the best teacher ever, and very qualified. My daughter tells me that Aleesah has written over 100,000 books, and writes 1000 a week, so I’m fairly confident she’ll teach you a lot about time management, and possibly how to create time vortexes. We actually owned quite a few of Aleesah’s books before she went to may daughter’s school so my daughter’s claims are way less exaggerated than you think. Aleesah is a powerhouse. My daughter rarely steers me wrong so in order to keep tabs on the clearly enchanting Aleesah Darlison find her website here. Find Aleesah’s books here. Find Aleesah’s Robinpedia entry here.

And no list could be complete without #SelfPubIsHere rockstar Ellie Marney who teaches both YA and self-publishing workshops.

You can find her slinking around Writers Victoria and plenty of other places too. Just keep those peepers peeled. Find Ellie Marney’s website here. Find Ellie’s books here.

This is a list of general writing teachers that I highly recommend, I will do a blog entry on self-publishing specific courses later on. Now of course there are other fab writing teachers out there and I can’t possibly go learn from every single one of them, so I’d like to hear about who you love. Especially those fab teachers such as Natasha Lester who I hear so much about from WA friends. Which writing teacher really boils your potato?

Find friendly writers organisations here. Just click on “8. What other organisations in Australia support writers?” These places have been created to help you grow. They can and will help you. They have an array of courses and resources.

See #SelfPubIsHere featured in Books+Publishing here.

Also in Australian Self-Publisher here.

Read about my #SelfPubIsHere Festival dream here.

Read the article that kicked #SelfPubIsHere off here.

Read about my experience of being a dyslexic writer here.
Also, cough-cough, find my book at Booktopia or anywhere.

P.S. HAPPY TOWEL DAY!

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: A Quick Update on Writing 

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Those of you who also follow me on Twitter already know that I haven’t been feeling my best. I’m definitely not at my lowest but changing medications to try to get on top of my migraines and RLS has left me feeling subpar.
I know that I’m not that bad because when I get time to sit down and write it still comes readily. Even if I feel like total shit, the moment I open the Scrivener file my fingers start typing. When I am at my lowest I simply can’t access the things needed for writing. I’m just too empty. 
On Friday I was quite teary. My medication had been increased the day before but it takes a couple of weeks before the increase works. And I thought that I was too upset and jittery to write. I looked at the clock and I only had thirty minutes until I had to pick my daughter up from school. This made me more upset. I’d gone a whole day without writing AND I’d had time to do it. It wasn’t because of being too busy with the kids, I just hadn’t. I felt hopeless and like a failure.
And then it hit me, my POV character hits a point where she is utterly shattered and feels like she’s an utter failure. I could write that scene. I use Scrivener so I can write out of order and easily slip it into place. And so I did just that. I opened up my Scrivener file for my WIP and just typed and cried. I did this for 25 minutes. At the end I had 950 words. That’s fast for me. Normally for novel writing it’s around 500 words in that time.
So good news, I’m still no where near my worst and feel much lighter. And maybe that idea might help somebody else? Maybe you’ve been holding off writing because you feel utterly shit? Try writing a scene where the POV character feels the same. They’ll be feeling broken for a different reason than you, but hopefully you can still use the shared feeling to get to the heart of the scene.
Good luck and happy writing.

Read about my thoughts on being a dyslexic writer here.
Read about my thoughts on author branding here.
Buy my shit here.

If you or someone you know has postnatal depression you can find good resources on the following sites:

  1. Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
  2. PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
  3. PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/
  4. Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
  5. Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 

Confession of a Spec Fic Writer: Sometimes We’re Not Clever, We’re Just Plain A-Holes.

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In October of 2012 I started this blog as a budding Spec Fic writer. I wrote Doctor Who Horoscopes, I shared Fantasy excerpts and short stories that I had written. However, in March 2014 I went into a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression. My blog focus shifted but strangely enough I still often identify myself as a Spec Fic writer. For the next couple of years I have Spec Fic slated to come out. A Historical Fantasy this year and a Paranormal Crime next year. As such I am having more Spec Fic focused conversations with fellow writers. We all think we’re pretty clever. We all like playing with reality. We all enjoy coming up with clever tricks…. But sometimes we fail. Sometimes we unintentionally write things that are harmful and bigoted.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of a concept that an ex came up with when we were in our early 20s, about 15 years ago. It was a vampire film (yeah, I used to do short film, I’ve even got an award, I’m quite the Jack) and he was so excited about it because it combined his two great loves, medical science and vampires. He had a medical science degree. He had honours. He was doing his PhD. In short, he knew his stuff. And as he told me his plans I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking interesting.”

His premise was that vampires were a result of a blood mutation and that people with hemophilia were actually descendants from the original vampires. He had way more science behind it than that but that’s about the extent that this aging, arts-degree brain can remember. We hi5ed to good thinking and how solid the science was. We listened to Placebo’s Haemoglobin. We were sooooo cool. But then some thoughts started cropping up…

…. Hang on, are we saying that very real people who exist today are not entirely human? Are we saying that a group of real people are part parasite ready to suck the blood of others? Have we made out that they’re different and savage because of a medical condition? Have we seriously othered them? Oh shit, we had. But aren’t vampires cool? Doesn’t everyone want to be one? No. People who have been systematically excluded already probably don’t want to be further dehumanised.

You know what we ended up doing? We set the idea aside. We decided not to run with it because there were too many issues. Sure the science was interesting, the play of ideas was interesting, but actually putting that dehumanisation of a group of people out into the world was not interesting. It wouldn’t be fun or cool. It would be actively othering and already misunderstood group.

What did we do? We came up with other ideas that didn’t dehumanise a group of marginalised people. Just because and idea seems interesting on the surface doesn’t mean it’s actually a good concept to film or write about. We’re creative people. We can think of more things. We can do better. We can come up with equally exciting concepts with out dehumanising marginalised people. I believe in us. We’re thinkers.

This was 16 years ago and I’m still having similar conversations. Let’s do better. I know we can do it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all fuck up at times, I definitely do, but at least put it on our radar.

My Son Pitched a Novel Idea to Three Writers and Not Me

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Today my youngest child, yes the youngest by a minute twin, child number 3, got my phone and tweeted. He went into a twitter conversation that I was not part of, god knows how he ended up there, and decided to join it. He tweeted the following message:

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So yeah, he tweeted award winning author Margo Lanagan, award winning author Deborah Biancotti, and Elijah who I am not familiar with but assume is a spec fic writer. Thanks Bubba, I already do enough “character building” stuff on my own without you adding to it. However, I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out what he was trying to say:

Hey Deborah, Elijah, and Margo,
Here’s my story idea which is so hot you’ll have to invent a new word like “settrfgaaszz” to describe it. You start with a love story. Like seriously in love, double the amount of kissing you’d normally have but then they get angy, and they’re like I can’t take this shit anymore, I’m not just fed up I’m fucking angry. So then this cow shows up, but the cow is like a metaphor for a bird, but the bird is really symbolic of a sheep dressed as a turtle. The turtle is the important bit. Don’t forget the turtle. Look, I’ll put it in twice so that you don’t forget. Trust me, turtles are going to be big! And then they get swallowed by a whale. Yeah it’s been done before, plenty before, but we’re bringing  it back with turtles! Now this whale is allergic to tomatoes. So in the dead of night he accidentally eats a tomato and spews the angry lovers and the turtle off of the planet Earth. It’s like biblical and Pinocchio and Hitch Hikers all at once. So then they get caught by an anchored monolith in space. A sacred monolithic statue in space. But inside there’s like a whole market and town and stuff. There’s even a statue inside the statue. How meta is that. Their main commerce is love so there’s a few love chapels, love factories, love hospitals. And so they go to the love hospital. Will they or won’t they find a cure? Awesome right? We’ll earn heaps of money on this. You’ll earn 6767% more money than you ever dreamed of. Pounds, Euros, you name it, we’ll earn it. Seriously, I cannot express how much money we’ll get. We’ll be bathing in money. Lots of bathing in money. Bathing and showering in money. All because of love hospitals and statutes within statues!!!

Firstly, I’m obviously impressed that he speaks Indonesia. He’s only two and he speaks twin, some English, and apparently Indonesian. Secondly, I’m slightly guilt ridden that I did not realise this before. Where has my head been at that I didn’t pick that up? No wonder he’s off sending tweets to people, I’m clearly not with it. But thirdly, and mostly, I’m hurt. I’m hurt that he didn’t pitch his idea to me first. Clearly we’ve got a lot of work to do on our relationship.

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Enter The Rani: Part 2 #DoctorWhoFanFic

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DOCTORLIES

Description: As just a baby the Rani and her parents are returned to Gallifrey from Earth in disgrace for becoming too entrenched in Human customs. The Rani’s parents are stripped of their regenerations as punishment and thus begins a life long quest on behalf of the Rani to find out how to restore regenerations without the approval of the High Council of the Time Lords. Along her studies the Rani meets such colourful characters as the Doctor and the Master and sets in motion lifelong friendships and feuds.

 

Find Part 1 HERE

 

Enter The Rani (Part 2)

On my first day at the Prydonian Academy I sat under a silver leafed candonwood tree on the orange grass of the grounds utterly alone. We had finished our inductions and had been cleared for a break before beginning our studies in earnest. I pulled at the stiff scarlet robes swamping my tiny frame and scratched absent mindedly at my neck which was itching due to the hot, stiff collar. The robes were utterly unsuitable for the weather, but that probably only made the Council love them more. Anything ghastly and unnecessary seemed to delight them. It meant that they could be held apart. That they were so above everyone else that they could ignore comfort and temperature. And from us, the young Time Lords at the Prydonian Academy, their successors would surely be chosen. We were the best and brightest that Gallifrey had to offer. Tradition dictated that leaders were to be chosen from our school, and there was nothing that the Council loved more than tradition… Except, perhaps, saving face.

I scowled out at the other children talking in groups. They all seemed so happy. They had it so easy. They gained access to this academy by virtue of their lineage. Me, I had to work for it. I had to excel in every aspect so that my entry couldn’t be denied no matter how great a disgrace my family was. I was miles ahead of those soft children yet they despised me. They thought me lesser. The irony burned me like a forge. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t there to make friends. I was there to gain access to the finest technology and instruction that Gallifrey had to offer. I had no interest in the rituals and traditions of the Council. I only wanted to save my mother. To give her life as she had me. I would play their games only to meet my own ends.

I was so intent on my glaring at the insipid children of the ruling class that I had failed to notice that a shaggy haired boy was sitting in the tree above me until he nearly came toppling down on top of me. He was a shocking sight. Legs flailing above his head, robe almost suffocating his head and all the while he squeaked,

“I’m alright, I’m alright.”

He awkwardly managed to get his head above his feet and his feet onto the ground and tried to sit nonchalantly next to me. I fixed the boy with a contemptuous glare. I wasn’t there to make friends.

“I’m Theta,” the clumsy boy said sticking out a lanky arm with long bony fingers that seemed to jut out oddly. Bits of candorwood twigs still clung to his disheveled robes and a few silver leaves protruded from his scruffy hair.

“I know who you are,” I responded coolly and stared straight ahead. I knew who all of these foolish Time Lords were. Although they treated me with contempt I made it my business to know who they were, who I had to beat, what their weaknesses were, and how I could use them to my advantage. But even had I not been so attentive I still would have known who this gawky boy was. Everybody knew who Theta was.

“You know me?” He stared at me with his deep brown eyes, like pools of curiosity. It was the closest thing I had ever seen to looking into the Untempered Schism.

“Everybody knows you,” I responded evenly. I began looking straight ahead again. I could see all I needed through my periphery vision. I didn’t need to give him the satisfaction of my attention. He had enough from the rest of the world. Our future commander.

“Ah,” he nodded and looked down at his neglected hand and then placed it awkwardly in his lap. “I guess they know of me in the same way everyone knows of you. “Ushas, the human.”

The insult to my birth right that he so casually delivered struck me like a blow. I turned on him in a fury and hissed,

“You’re the human. You’re the one from a tainted loom. I am of full Time Lord blood, born of a proud linage of Time Lords and Ladies. There is no contamination in my blood.”

I stood up and moved to stalk away but the weedy looking boy grabbed hold of my hand and held it with such intensity that I could not move away.

“I am sorry,” he finally said. “I didn’t mean it as an insult. More that the fame of your unusual birth experience proceeds you. You are unique here, an anomaly. As Am I. I thought that perhaps…” His voice trailed off.

“What?” I snapped looking down at him. Seeing at once how lonely and fragile this child was. That he too was an outcast.

“I thought we could be friends,” he stammered.

“I don’t need friends,” I said and shook his hand free of mine. I began walking away when his soft words halted me.

“I do.”

I turned and stared at him. This pathetic figure, covered in leaves, his Prydonian robes, that would have been worn for the first time today, already tattered, and wondered how is it that he could be prophesized to be the future leader of Gallifrey where as I was denied even being humoured with the thought of being on the Council at all. And his birth was just as scandalous as mine, yet he was destined for greatness and his family revered whilst mine was in ruins. I stared at him contemplating exactly how to respond. The best way to cut him down.

“Hey, human,” I heard a voice behind me sneer. I turned, ready to lash out at who had dared insult me. It was a chubby, older boy, with pink cheeks. He looked like the kind of child who sat about eating all day instead of attending to his studies. Even this disgusting behemoth thought to insult me.

“Cousin,” Theta’s voice rang out resigned, “If being human makes me less like you then I would be glad of it. Call me human all you like. I want to be nothing like you. You revolting Slitheen.”

The ginger boys face flushed redder than his hair and he dove on top of Theta, fists thrashing wildly. At this point it dawned on me that although Theta had been destined for greatness, his abnormal birthing journey made him just as much as an outcast as I was. And that a disenfranchised boy, destined for greatness, would be not only easy to manipulate but endlessly useful. So in that moment I made the worst and best decision of my life. To save the scrawny boy from his beating and to make him my ally.

In my training for joining the Academy I had undertaken much physical training. I could lift far heavier loads than my petite frame belied. I easily pick up the chubby ginger boy and tossed him unceremoniously down onto his rump. He groaned uncomfortably, rubbed at his back and shot a look of pure poison at me. I smiled back in return, as sweetly as a schlenk blossom.

“You’re just as big a freak as he is,” he roared at me. “Stupid humans. You shouldn’t even be allowed here. You’ll dilute our bloodlines. My dad says you’ll bring about our ruin, you will.”

“Well perhaps you better stay away than,” I murmured with irritating calm. “You never know what we barbarous humans might do. Why, we’re just as unstable as any dalek.”

“You’re mad,” the chubby boy yelled getting to his feet. “You pair belong together. They should put all of you freaks together then throw you into the Schism.”

“Enough, Cousin.” Theta had gotten to his feet. He spoke with such intensity that the whole Academy grounds stood still. All the children stopped to stare at him as his authority rang across the yard. I looked at him in awe. How could such a scruff suddenly become so commanding? I could see it now, why he was destined to lead. “Go about your business. I have no more time for you.”

Theta’s cousin fled, almost tripping in his haste to be away. I stared at the boy who had become a man in front of me and simply said,

“Friends?”

“I’d like that,” he responded with a warm smile and I could not help but smile back.

“Should we go to class now?” I asked.

“I think so,” Theta responded, “freaks like us can’t afford to be late.”

 

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