2015 in review

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It’s been a long time since I last posted. Life’s been a bit crazy, and there just didn’t seem like there was time, or energy to post here. But, as the year draws to a close (only a matter of hours now), it feels appropriate to wrap up 2015.

What a year it has been. I’ve read heaps, written thousands and thousands of words, edited thousands and thousands of words, finished the fourth draft of a manuscript, had two short stories published, worked, cared for my mum in her short time of illness until she died, learnt about true and valuable friendships, watched my first house (which had become Mum’s house) go under the hammer, studied hard, started NaNoWriMo for my second time, and then stopped everything to care for my sick kid. It should come as no surprise to me, or anyone else, that I am exhausted.

I have been astounded by the support of friends and strangers in their encouragement of my writing. The number of people who have stumbled on my blog and read my ramblings have been huge. Thank you. Thank you for reading, and a very special thank you to all those who have commented, interacted with me about what I am writing. It means so much to me. The support I had here by people reading the series I wrote about Mum’s dying process was incredible. Thank you. It helped me to know that my words were helping others. Someone who lives in America wrote to me thanking me for sharing the story as it helped her deal with the death of her father. If my words only helped one person then those words were worth it.

You, my dear readers, came from 47 countries, and over the year there were 9700 views to this website. The series about Mum was the most popular, which doesn’t surprise me as she was important to many people. Again, thank you for reading, and thank you for putting up with my sometimes erratic publishing.

Up until six weeks ago I would have said that watching Mum die this year was the biggest and toughest thing to deal with, and that this was the defining thing for me for 2015. I became an orphan for the first time. I was terrified, hollow. My siblings and I had to work out what the new order looked like, and learn how to be kind to each other without our umbrella watching over us. I had to help my three gorgeous sons manage their grief of their adored granny who had been such an instrumental part of their life. She had lived just down the road for the last thirteen years and the gap she left in our lives was immense.

Then my son got sick, really sick. I had been concerned about him for a little while, but six weeks ago it was confirmed with a stint in the hospital for medical stabilising, and then home for FBT (Family Based Treatment) – the hard work. In the words of the paediatrician, if your son had cancer, what would you do? (Stop everything I said) So, this has a higher mortality than cancer. What are you going to do?

There was no need to answer. It was the moment that everything else became irrelevant.

I know we’ve got a very long hard road ahead of us, but I am learning to focus on the tiny golden moments in each day. He’s doing well. We’re doing okay. We’re so proud of how brave he is facing it each day. It’s been a huge learning curve for all of us, understanding that this is not a willful thing, it’s a mental illness. He didn’t wish for it, or make it happen, the starved, malnourished brain did. And we will get him better. I’m sure of it.

So, the year in review. What does it look like? Books I’ve read, words I’ve written, things I’ve learnt about myself, studies I undertaken.

Books

books read in 2015What can I say other than I love to read. Reading is how I escape and understand the world. This year is perhaps my most well read year in terms of number and variety. Over the year I read 40 books (which according to Goodreads is about 10,277 pages), and I still have four partially read next to my bed.

Standouts

Shortest book: Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber

Longest book: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Least likely book for me to read: Outback Dreams by Rachel Johns

Books I’m still thinking about: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta

Books by friends: Please Don’t Leave Me Here by Tania Chandler

Young Adult books: Grasshopper by Andrew Smith, and Illuminae by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

RMIT Graduate/teacher books (and this is why I study there): Please Don’t Leave Me Here by Tania Chandler, Skin by Ilka Tampke, The Upside of Down by Susan Biggar, Cairo by Chris Womersley, Madness by Kate Richards, Shy by Sian Prior, The Return by Sylvia Kwon, Cracked by Clare Strahan

Books I’m looking forward to in 2016

Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall, and Tania Chandler’s second book, Dead in The Water

Pop over to Goodreads for more about my 2015 reads

Words

One thing I’ve realised about myself is that I write to understand. This is probably not new to many of my friends and readers, but when tricky times needs heaps of understanding, I have written and it has helped. I wrote the series, My Mother’s Journey about my mum dying. Then from there I had a short piece about the after effects, Eggshells, published in the Hunter Writers Centre Grieve Anthology.

Throughout the year I wrote the fourth draft of my manuscript (a story for young adults about a world that’s dried up). I was happy to press save at the end of October and put it to rest. I will take a look at it in the new year and establish what needs to be done for the next draft and get on with that.

A piece, The Bush, was shortlisted with the 2015 Visible Ink and some poetry will be published next year in an anthology.

Another piece of mine, Comatose, was published in the new Clover Press anthology, Frayed. Frayed is a collection of fiction and nonfiction writing that has been written, edited and published by students from the course. It’s also the first publication from PWE’s new publishing arm, Clover Press.

Other stuff

Despite everything, I studied hard. I had to give up the idea of getting HDs in everything as it was stressing me out to much. Then I still ended up with great marks. Go figure. I guess I must love the course. I found out that I’m a pretty good editor, and I like doing it. I hadn’t thought that was where I would do well when I started this course. I made more friends at Uni, many who I know I will stay friends with for a very long time. I have watched a number of them get publishing deals and I am so darned proud of them. The family that is RMIT PWE is such an important part of me now and I’m thankful for the opportunities, knowledge and friendships that I’ve gained along the way. I’m looking forward to next year, which will be my last year there (i’m sure as it draws to a close there’ll be a bunch of sadness too).

I took a trip to Newcastle with my dearest and oldest friend, Jenni, to see The Grieve Project launch. I couldn’t have chosen a better travel companion. She celebrated me and helped me not diminish the achievement of having a story published.

Times have been tough, but I now know that I don’t have to tackle hard times by myself. I have a posse of unreal people (you all know who you are) around me ready to catch me if I fall. That in itself gives me so much strength. Thank you to all those people, and here’s to an awesome 2016 (and thanks for getting all the way to end of this really long post).

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