If you’ve reached a stage in your writing career where you submitting your work to publishers you’ve probably noticed that many of them say they welcome or encourage submissions by authors from marginalised communities. Usually it’s only a sentence at the end of the submission instructions. It’s an important sentence.
I am a straight, white, cis woman. While I have experienced racial prejudice I don’t know what it’s like to be judged by the colour of my skin, to not have dolls that look like me, to only see my people represented by stereotypes or in tokenism. I have never had to explain my sexuality to anyone. I’ve never had to argue that my feelings and experiences of my body are real, and that my genitals do not match the person I feel like inside. I’ve never had people from outside of my community take my experiences and, no matter how well intentioned, use them as their own and profit from them.
Publishing is a competitive world. Honestly, getting published is a struggle. But in my mind, letting authors from marginalised groups know that their stories, their experiences and their unique points of view, are not only welcome, they’re desired, is a good thing for everybody. It’s wonderful for readers but it’s also good for writers regardless of their background because it means the playing field is becoming more even, that we are getting closer to equity of opportunity. That if you are a good writer, with a compelling story to tell, regardless of your race or religion or gender or sexuality, there are people out there who want to bring your stories to the world.
And that’s the world I want my children to grow up in.
I am one of those people. One of those people who doesn’t really know what they’re doing, who’s always looking for the thumbs-up or the gold star to tell me I’m on the right track. It’s not that I don’t have internal motivation to follow certain paths, it’s more that I don’t trust that internal pull and therefore look to others to validate that I’m doing the right thing.
This works well when you’re a kid in school because extrinsic motivators are a big part of schooling. It works less well as an adult when so much of life doesn’t have anyone watching over you and telling you you’ve done well or, conversely, you can find just as many people telling you you’re doing wrong as telling you you’re doing right.
For someone like me, that leads to a life lived in doubt and guilt.
Are there really people out there that know what they’re doing? They’re adulting and getting it right? REALLY!?
Are you one of those people. And if so, can you give me some tips?
I was looking at my calendar this morning and I realised that April is a really busy month for God. Easter, Orthodox Easter, Passover and Ramadan are all celebrated in April this year. Perhaps God thought we would need a boost during our Covid-19 isolation?
I personally was brought up Christian, although my faith is…mmm…ever evolving. But I have had the opportunity to join in Ramadan celebrations in the past. And a good friend of mine is converting to Judaism before she marries her fiance, so maybe I’ll get to experience some Jewish celebrations in the future.
Many (many) people have told me that Easter isn’t really happening this year because of the corona virus and the isolation measures we’re all taking. Perhaps, if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you’ve been hearing the same thing about your respective religious celebrations. I totally understand. Things are different this year. Perhaps you’re used to visiting with family or going camping or having a friends around. Perhaps, usually, your faith calls for you to get together with family to cook or make special decorations, or break fast. And this year, we can’t do these things.
If you’re feeling down that things are different this year and you can’t celebrate your faith or traditions the way you usually would, remember that there are things you can do. Make use of digital technology to connect with friends and family. Stay in touch with your church, synagogue or mosque through Facebook. Go old school and ring older friends and family members who may not be comfortable with the internet or social media (try not to find this frustrating).
For many of us religious celebrations are more about tradition than faith. But, for those of us who are believers, take a moment to remember why it is we celebrate during this time. That reason doesn’t change, even if the world circumstances does.
Throughout history people have had to celebrate their faith in difficult circumstances. In fact, around the world there are still many people who can’t practise their faith freely and without fear of persecution. And yet, they find away.
And so can you.
So, enjoy your Easter, Passover or Ramadan. Stay safe.
Anxiety for me is not something new. I’ve mentioned before that I have an anxiety and depression disorder, which I control with cognitive behaviour therapy and medication (I love my medication. For me it has made the world of difference). But in circumstances like we’re in now, anxiety is a pretty universal feeling.
Right now, all I want to do is take everyone I love and put us all in a bubble where nothing can get to us. Possibly a little unrealistic. I said to my (long suffering) husband last night, “We just need to take care of ourselves, and our little boys…and mum and dad, and your mum. And my brothers and sister and their partners. And T1. And your sisters and their families. And Adrienne. And then we’ll be OK.” And he laughed. Because what can you say to that?
Swimming in this anxiety, let’s take a breath. Let’s all try to be our own therapist. You feel anxious, but what are the thoughts that are driving that anxiety. Are those thoughts justified? If so, can you fix the problem right now? If not, let it float for a while. If you can, go do it.
I feel anxious. I’m worried about my children getting sick. Is this justified. Yes and no. Yes, because they have a compromised immune system. No, because children are less likely to develop Covid-19, even if they do contract the virus. So what can I do? I can keep them in isolation for the time being.
I still feel anxious. But, honestly, less so.
And remember, you are not alone. We are all feeling the same way. So try to be calm, be courteous, be compassionate and have courage.
In one of his books Terry Pratchett says a curse for your enemies is ‘May you live in interesting times’. I’m currently away from my beloved bookcase (and my computer) so I can’t tell you which book right now, but we are certainly living in interesting times right now.
In the words of another amazing author, Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC.
Right now, panic is our enemy and common sense and compassion are our friends. In Australia right now fear and panic buying has put everyone in a more tenuous position. Panic, not Covid-19, will be our undoing.
Here are three things that I’m trying to keep top of mind in these ‘interesting times’. Perhaps they can be of use to you.
This is not unprecedented. Within my lifetime there has been zika, swine flu and bird flu. In history there has been Spanish flu and, yes, bubonic plague. We are a long way off painting red Xs on our doors.
Compassion and generousity will not only help others, it will make you feel better. At this stage those in the know are saying that it is the elderly and immune-compromised people who are most at risk. The rest of us may get ill, but we’ll most likely be fine. With that in mind, as you scour the near empty shelves for dinner, remember your elderly neighbour or your friend who’s child has astmah or the homeless person on the corner, and ask if there is anything you can get them, so they can avoid going out and meeting with risk.
You are in control. Of how you think, what you say and how you behave. Fear can make us do and say things we otherwise wouldn’t but while fear may be a reason, it’s not an excuse. Treat those around you, your fellow shoppers, the busy checkout person, the harried medical staff, with care and respect.
I’ve been doing some research on grey whales for a picture book I’m working on. In the book the Little Grey Whale is separated from her pod and ultimately has to find a new family. I don’t know heaps about whales, and even less about grey whales so Google was (as always) my go to.
One of the things I learnt is that, like many whales, grey whales faced extinction due to commercial hunting. However, once they were protected their numbers recovered and are now considered stable. Which shows that we can take action and effect positive change.
There is hope for our world, if we take the actions necessary. They may be small changes in our own lives, or they may be changes put in place by governments and corporations. As long as there are things we can do, it’s not too late to improve our world.
Just look at the grey whale.
If you’re interested in more information, here’s a link:
It’s a wonderful thing when you think you have all of your favourite author’s books and then, just by chance, you find one that you’ve never seen before on a second-hand book stall. It’s pretty close to being one of the best things EVER in the whole world.
When I found a collection of Terry Pratchett’s short stories, A Blink of the Screen, this was me:
They ran all the way from his very early work to Disc World short stories featuring characters from his novels. Fair to say, nothing else got done and the children were completely neglected until I’d read it. I may even have to read it again very soon 😊.
How old were you when you first watched Jurassic Park? The first one, the one that started it all? I’m asking because B2 (who is turning eight this year) is desperate to watch it, but I don’t think he’s old enough. I mean, I know things have moved on a lot, but those raptors are still scary, right?
The movie came out in 1993, so I must have been nine and I don’t believe my parents would have let me watch it at that age. My younger brother would have been seven and is often the case with siblings who are close in age, what’s good for one has to be good for the other, so even if Mum and Dad thought nine was an OK age to watch rampaging dinosaurs (which they didn’t) they certainly wouldn’t have thought it was OK for a seven-year-old.
But what is the right age? I don’t know. When I was teenager our video store was very lax about checking if we were old enough to watch M, MA or even R-rated movies. My friends and I would head down there before a sleep over with the money our parents had given us, rent two or three movies and watch them all night while the parental units slept.
But we don’t have video stores now so what are my kids going to do?
Anyway, as I said B2 is only seven (almost eight, Mum) so right now he is completely at my mercy when it comes to his viewing. And that means a steady diet of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks for the foreseeable future.
Have I mentioned that I’m not into exercise? Or sports? Of any kind? Well, I’m not. But just to show how you can be raised in the exact same family and turn out completely different to your siblings, my older sister is. She is AMAZING.
Last weekend she and her husband did the Cadel Evans ride in Geelong. I think they rode 65km, which makes me feel sick just thinking about it. We saw them both over the finish line. They were wet (it was raining), sweaty and tired but so euphoric. It was almost enough to encourage me to don lycra and take up the sport.
But not quite. 😊
Which is not to say that I don’t like cycling. I do. It reminds me of the freedom of been a kid, coasting down the hills with the breeze in your face, going slower than you can in a car but feeling like you’re going faster. But to do that in a competitive way, even if the competition is with yourself and your own personal best, doesn’t do it for me. I like to keep my head up and survey the scenery, not my bum up and survey the back wheel of the bike in front of me.
I wonder if it’s the endorphins that keep people going back. Or the camaraderie.
All I know is, when she came over the line smiling ear-to-ear she looked beautiful and happy. And isn’t that how you want the people you love most to be?