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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The shortlist for the Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript has been announced and I’m on it.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.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: I Quit

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On Wednesday I got told that I’m a draining person to speak to and that people avoid talking to me lest they be trapped in a long conversation and need to pack rations to prepare for the journey. It wasn’t from a friend, it was from a person in a position of authority at work. A person I had never met before. In half an hour he found me so irritating that he felt the need to let me know. It sent me into a pretty sad place, but thanks to copious amounts of therapy I’ve got coping strategies to deal with this kind of thing.

Being diagnosed with PND in 2014 and spending 4 weeks in a mums and bubs unit at a psychiatric hospital and the follow up therapy has helped me to deal with not just PND but a whole host of issues life can throw at you. Life can be hard, and I certainly didn’t think of my time there as positive back in 2014, but it has helped me do better and be better. If you need help, don’t be ashamed to seek professional help.

I turned my hard day on Wednesday into an opportunity to seek new job opportunities on Thursday. Today I secured a new job with a higher pay rate. I start on Tuesday. Ten years ago I would have just cried and built a blanket fort. Now I rise up. I’m proud of me. I asked former colleagues to be my referrees. They were all happy to do so. They were happy to do so because they like me, they believe in me, and they don’t think I’m draining. Ten years ago I would have been so demoralized that I wouldn’t have even dared ask them. I would have accepted that one person’s (and possibly a couple of other managers) opinion as factual and I would have fallen into the depths of despair. But now I know my own worth and I know far more people find me competent and engaging than don’t. The angry lies my brain tells me about myself, that I’m not good enough, can now be overcome. Now, I’m not perfect. I still got upset. I didn’t eat for over twenty four hours afterwards because my stomach was so upset. But it was just a little over twenty four hours. And in less than twenty four hours I had taken steps to better my situation. That’s progress.

So, tell me about your progress. What can you give yourself a pat on the back for today? Even if it’s small.

Also, just quietly, next time you’re in a meeting with a boss and it turns to shit, avenge me. Just yawn and say, “Ugh, you’re so draining. You need to work on your communication style.”

If you or someone you know has mental health concerns you can find good resources on the following sites:

Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community http://www.westernmassrlc.org/alternatives-to-suicide and http://www.westernmassrlc.org/hearing-voices

Mercy Care https://www.mercycare.com.au/ats
Blue Knot Foundation https://www.blueknot.org.au
Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au
Head Space https://headspace.org.au
Relationships Australia https://www.relationships.org.au
National LGBTI Health Alliance http://lgbtihealth.org.au
The Children of Parent’s With a Mental Illness http://www.copmi.net.au
Mental Health in Multicultural Australia http://www.mhima.org.au/portals/consumer-carers

Some postnatal depression specific sites are:
Gidget Foundation http://gidgetfoundation.com.au/
PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/
PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/


Find my book on booktopia or everywhere

Read more about Robinpediahere.

Read about my experience of being a dyslexic writer here.

Read about my opinion on author brandinghere.

Don’t Feed Your Kids Before Getting In The Pool, This Has Nothing To Do With Cramps Or Gremlins

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When my twins were newborns they had bad reflux. They were prescribed Losec to help alleviate their pain. We gave them their dose in the evenings as this worked better for us than the mornings. At some point we switched the bath time of the twins and it would happen just before or just after we gave Losec. Suddenly, the likelihood of vomiting up their medication in under 20 minutes increased dramatically, and with reflux kids vomiting is always a possibility. I couldn’t understand why. I spoke to a nurse about it, who asked me a series of questions and then gave a long why-are-people-so-stupid sigh and told me to stop bathing the twins within an hour of giving medication. She wanted an hour bath free either side of administering the losec. The movement from the water was causing movement inside the body because we’re mainly made up of water, so we like to join in. All that vomiting came on after relatively calm jaunts in the bath, imagine how much more movement playing in the pool or swimming lessons inspire?

When I was a kid (Gen X) we were told to never eat one hour before swimming otherwise we would get a stitch and we would DIE!!! Pretty dramatic stuff. Same thing with any exercise, don’t eat an hour before or you’ll get a stitch, and depending on the activity either a death threat or told we wouldn’t be able to play for awhile. And then Gen X became adults, we became our own bosses and decided we could eat whenever the heck we wanted and not be told we can’t play or get threatened with death, because we’re adults gosh darn it and we’ll do as we please. Studies came out disproving the link between cramping and swimming. We cheered. Unfortunately we kind of forgot about the vomit, probably because we don’t really vomit much as adults so we don’t think about eating and exercise until we’re half way through the most intense yoga session of our lives and regretting eating lunch on the way over. (Yes, I did this recently, I didn’t vomit but I felt like it, but mistake, HUGE!) Plus, adult muscles are better developed, our lower esophageal sphincters stronger, so we’re a heck of a lot less likely to vomit because of strenuous exercise or moving water.

Kids aren’t quite as developed as us adults. It’s not such a great idea to smash down a tub of fruit salad straight before leaping into active water play or swimming lessons. All that water swirling about makes all the fluid inside your little one swirl about too, and increases the likelihood that they’ll vomit up big chunks of food into the pool, which stops playtime for not only your little one but also everyone else as pool staff clean out the chunks of food and add extra chemicals to kill the germs.

If your little one has had a vomit in the pool, definitely rethink your feeding strategy, because it could be as simple as too much food, not sufficiently digested, just looking for an escape. Most of the time vomit in the pool will be benign like that. However, sometimes reasons can be serious, so also check to see if they have taken on too much water. This can be a serious issue resulting in fatality. Things to think about are, have you been submerging them repeatedly, or have they been submerging themselves? Is the vomit full of water and frothy? After swimming have they started having difficulty breathing or talking? Are they lethargic? Do they have chest pain? If so, you should take your child to see a doctor immediately to ensure they don’t have water on their lungs. Children’s bodies aren’t quite as developed as adults so it is easier for them to get water on their lungs than adults.

Nobody wants to go through the worry and fear that a child may die from taking on too much water, vomiting being one of the warning signs, so don’t set yourself up for the stress of anxiously watching over them simply due to vomiting because they’ve eaten too much, too soon, before going in the water. Parents worry, I know this because I am a parent with three kids, if your child vomits in the water in the back of your mind you’ll assume the worst, even if you’re putting on a brave face. So please, don’t do this to yourself, to your child, to aquatic centre staff, or other patrons. Don’t increase your risk of vomiting. Avoid feeding your kids close to swim lesson time starting. Try packing an extra snack in their lunch bag that they can eat in the car on the way home before swimming to avoid getting home, bolting food, then running off to swim. Try to book times, easier said than done, that allow a gap between eating and getting in the pool. Pack a snack to give them after they’ve gotten changed out of their swimmers, so that if they are perpetually hungry they know they have something coming and don’t get too grumpy. Because there are few things worse than sitting by your child’s side wondering if they are going to die, particularly if the vomit has nothing to do with taking on too much water and is symptomatic of too much food and not of over submersion and water on the lungs. I implore you, don’t set yourself up for that kind of stress.

Swimming is a skill that saves lives, it is vital that we all learn how to be safe in the water, and I encourage anyone, child or adult, to get swim lessons, because you never know when you might end up in the water. Read more about swimming being a skill that saves lives here, and find out about some good swim centres too.

Grab my book, Postnatal Depression Sucks, here.

Camden Fortnite Has Me Taking a Break.

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On why I’m taking a break from social media-

Trigger warning: assault of a pregnant woman by her partner in front of their child.

Recently in Camden Australia a man assaulted his partner in front of their terrified child, all the while streaming it to his online Fortnite playing mates. Thankfully some of them reported it. I have included a link to an article about it at the bottom of this blog entry, I don’t recommend watching the video in this article. I include it to give context as to why I am taking a break from social media, not as recommended viewing. Hearing that poor little girl screaming daddy, daddy, after he had beaten her mother, and for all I know her also, is sickening. This guy is clearly a fucking arsehole. No doubt. Perpetrators of domestic violence are selfish arseholes. Not saying they can never change and do better, but until then they are aresholes. But what is truly terrifying about this, is how common it is.

This guy had been playing Fortnite for over an hour. Missing dinner with his young child and pregnant partner. His partner was trying to get him to stop playing and eat. The little girl also wanted her daddy, but he wanted to keep playing Fortnite. He wanted it so badly that he beat his pregnant partner in front of their child because he felt that them trying to spend time with him, the people he is supposed to love, was an unwelcome intrusion into his life. Seems shocking, but is it?

How many times have you snapped at your kids that you just wanted to quickly check your email, when you’ve already been down the social media rabbit hole for half an hour without realising? How many times have you gotten frustrated that you need a minute to yourself, when you’ve just sunk an hour online? I know I have. Sure, I haven’t called my husband or kids dogs or beaten them like that guy did. I’m not a complete and utter arsehole like that guy. But I am someone who has felt angry because my kids have wanted me to themselves when I’ve wanted to faff about online.

Here’s the thing, my kids deserve my time. Sure I can’t be at their beck and call every moment, sometimes I need to pee, make food, sleep, go to work etc, but I can do better. I can be more present. Because 60 minutes looking at nothing on social media really gets me no more than 5 minutes looking at nothing on social media. I’m not coming back any more refreshed either.

My kids and myself deserve better than me pouring my self into dead time. I need to break this hideous habit of spending 30 minutes when I think it’s 2, on social media. I know I’m not alone in my struggle, and I know a lot of you will understand.

This video has been the catalyst for me to take a break. So, you won’t be hearing from me until the New Year. I’m off social media to give myself and my kids back my time and energy, because they and I deserve it.

Take care. Have a great holiday period, and I’ll be back chatting with you once I’ve had some distance and will no longer risk falling down that time sucking rabbit hole that is social media. I’m addicted, I need some cold turkey distance. If friends desperately need me, text or email me.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/livestream-of-video-game-films-sydney-man-allegedly-hitting-partner-20181210-p50l9a.html

It’s The Only Sport That If You Don’t Learn It, You’ll Die.

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I recently decided to retrain as a swim instructor. This was a fairly straightforward decision for me. Prior to having kids I taught high school for a decade, and I also have Cert III and IV in Fitness. Swim teaching involves two of my loves, teaching kids and fitness. I also did swimming lessons and squad from 4-16, so I’m pretty comfortable in the water, and really enjoy watching my own children’s swimming lessons. I’m not suddenly going to convert this into a swimming blog but I did have something from my training that I wanted to share with you.

In order to become a swim instructor I enrolled in Austswim’s Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course. This is their base level course to learn the ropes. It involves a two day course, online reading with ten tests, plus twenty hours Industry Training followed by an assessment of your teaching competency. They don’t just do a two day course and throw you into teaching, there’s plenty of support to get you not just competent but confident.

I have enjoyed my entire experience thus far and am only awaiting the final assessment, but one thing really stood out for me. On the first day of the two day course my lecturer, Mehdi Aardin, said that swimming is the only sport that if you don’t train in it you’ll die. Now those weren’t his exact words but they were quite staggering. I immediately thought, I know people who can’t swim and they’re still alive, but then he unpacked the statement further. If you head to a park on your own and kick a football around without ever having trained, you’re probably not going to die. If you decide to go for a jog on your own one day, you’re probably not going to die. If you try to do a long jump on your own without training you won’t get very far, but you probably won’t die. However, should you decide to randomly jump into the deep end of a pool one day, on your own, without any training, you very well could drown. It’s a sobering reality. It’s a skill that saves lives was often repeated by Aardin.

I can’t argue with this, nor do I want to. Learning to swim saves lives. If your child one day wants to go fishing in a boat and falls in, they’ll need to swim. When they enter school they’ll need to swim, aquatics is part of the NSW PDHPE K-10 curriculum. If they want to go to the beach with their friends, they’ll need to swim. If they want to go sailing, they’ll need to swim. If they are going to work near a body of water, then it will be infinitely safer if they know how to swim. If they get stuck in the water for any reason, learning to swim will make them safer. Learning to swim and to be safe in the water isn’t just for if you think your kid will be the next Ian Thorpe, it’s a survival skill.

As I said, I’m not suddenly converting this into a swimming blog, but this message really stuck with me so I wanted to share it with you.

Mehdi Aardin is the coordinator at Badgers Swim School in Milson Point, which caters for babies to champions and is the CEO of Home Swim.

Find council listed Learn to Swim classes for North Sydney here.

Find council listed Learn to Swim classes in City of Sydney with centers at The Domain, Surry Hills, Camperdown, Sydney City, and Ultimo.

Find council listed Learn to Swim classes in the Sydney’s Inner West here.

To find a great swim school in your area Austswim can be a great starting point, find them here.

Read SBS’s most recent article on swimming, research on drowning, and learning to swim here.

See important statistics in regards to drownings in Australia provided by Royal Life Saving Australia here.

I’ll leave you with this SNL clip of the greatest swimming instructor of all time… you better believe I’m searching the storeroom tomorrow for that device.

Grab my book, Postnatal Depression Sucks, here.

Twitter Turns to Geek Culture to Deal with #auspol #libspill

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What do we do when political upheaval makes it clear that we’ve reached the darkest possible timeline? We geek out. Check out these tweets of geekle coping with the Australian government going full Mean Girls-

Read more of my heavy hitting political coverage here.

Rethink Education and Teacher by Gabbie Stroud

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I’m a former High School English teacher, I mention it in passing but don’t blog about it so I understand if people don’t know this about me. Yep, dyslexic and ADHD me has two degrees and taught for over a decade without ever getting assistance or special consideration, shocking I know.

I mention it now because another former teacher, Gabbie Stroud, has a book that came out through Allen & Unwin in June simply entitled Teacher. This is an important memoir about teaching and although her reasons for quitting teaching are not identical to mine they overlap heavily. I urge anyone interested in this area to read it. Fellow teachers, fellow parents, and certainly policy makers.

We’re losing energetic and unique teachers to a crushing system. Students aren’t robots and nor should their teachers be. It’s time we had a serious rethink and revolutionised educational practices in Australia.

We had the opportunity to do something amazing when we introduced the National Curriculum but honestly it fell flat pandering to people who didn’t want to change. It was essentially the same old stuff but with a different label rather than an innovative national approach. Meaningful change can happen, just look to Finland. Since the 1970s they haven’t merely just been tweaking their system but completely tossing out the old ideologies and reinventing what they do.

At the moment we’re still trapped by the idea of making changes without disrupting the system. We’re only interested in making adjustments that keep things essentially the same. It’s time to not only go back to the drawing board but to throw out the drawing board and start over. Look at what kids really need. When their varying needs start. Rethink everything.

It would take a whole societal change, but it is worth it. And I for one have faith in society’s ability to adapt. One day some genius decided to throw out the drawing board in technology and said maybe we don’t need buttons. We seem to have gotten on board with smartphones and tablets pretty well. How much more important are our children?

We can do this. I believe in us.

Find Gabbie Stroud on FB here.

Find Gabbie Stroud’s website here.

Find Gabbie Stroud on Twitter here.