Asking for, giving and receiving feedback

I have started back teaching the creative writing this year in Caroline Springs and have added in a group in Kensington. While the Kensington group is a new for me as a facilitator, it’s not new for me altogether. It was here that I honed my love of writing when I had only two little children before pursuing it more seriously at RMIT.  It was so lovely to see my Caroline Springs writers again to hear about how their summer has gone, and what they’ve been reading and writing. It was equally lovely to reacquaint myself with some familiar faces in Kensington, and to meet new ones and hear about what everyone’s writing plans are.

I started both of the groups with a session on feedback as this is one of the most crucial things as a writer. Asking for, giving and receiving feedback are a crucial part of being a writer. The more you do it, the better your writing becomes. There was a time when I would hear feedback on my writing from others and it would sting so hard. One of the things about doing it more is that I get better at removing myself from the words and take the feedback on as just that – feedback. However, I (like most creative people) suffer from a terrible case of the imposter syndrome).

The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you.

—Neil Gaiman, author (Address to the University of the Arts Class of 2012)

There are three sides to feedback:

  • asking for feedback
  • giving feedback
  • receiving feedback.

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And that’s a wrap

My 2017-2018 summer reading pile

This year is about to end and in some ways I feel like it has only just begun. So much has been packed into the year and time has slipped away. It’s really easy to only focus on the things that haven’t been completed and the things that went wrong, but I need to also remember all the things that went right.

Publishing highlights

This year I had some poetry and an essay published in Shaping the Fractured Self: poetry of chronic illness and pain. I bravely volunteered to read one of my poems at the launch at the DAX Centre in Melbourne. Up until the moment I read it out loud, I wondered how on earth I managed to have words of mine sit alongside such accomplished Australian poets. The feedback I received from the audience, and since from members of the public, was overwhelming. It has been absolutely heartwarming to hear people say that I was telling their story and that I had put their chronic pain into words. My own chronic pain (migraines and neck and shoulder pain) continue, but I refuse to let them take control of my life. Many of the other poems and essays within this anthology remind me that it is important to live life to the full, but to also know when to shut the door, and take some time for self-care. There is a wonderful review of this anthology by Kevin Brophy in The Conversation. Continue reading

Broken pieces

img_1518This is my view. I’m inside listening to the fire crackle, to the heater fan rising and falling, to the tap on various keyboards of fellow writers. I’m editing, or to be honest I’m staring out the window.

I’m in the umpteenth draft of my young adult manuscript and I’ve made a change (a biggish one) and it feels like I broke it.

This is a good and a bad thing. I needed to do that I could mend it, but the process of mending it is tough and mind bending.

At the moment it feels like my story is something like this wind chime in the picture. One stray piece stuck in a bush on the other side to the body of the chime. It’s a pivotal piece and needs some careful wrangling to get it back in the right place.
Sigh. More staring. More thinking. More wrangling.

On small wins and finding energy

…and self-doubt, ploughing on and remembering what I do.

You know the scenario. Life gets busy, real busy. You open your computer only to realise that there are over 300 unread emails, bills to pay, workshops to prepare for, short stories to edit, manuscripts to work on, manuscripts to edit. So you shut it. Then you worry that maybe you are not a writer after all, which stops you from opening the computer other than to deal with the basic administration for the family.

This year, on top of normal life, I have been juggling daily migraines and care of a child who has spent more time this year in hospital than out. It is easy for this to take away from my writing, and the writing I have done has been intermittent and angry. I am fortunate to have an excellent cheer squad who buoy me on and remind me that I am a writer.

Today I opened my computer and waded through the admin in the hope to find the headspace to write. While I was doing this, a new email arrived announcing the book launch of Shaping the Fractured Self: poetry of chronic illness and pain. It is brilliant to see the cover of the book that I have some poetry in. I am humbled to have an essay and my poems sitting alongside some of Australia’s finest poets.

The book launch is on 11 May, 6-8pm at The DAX Centre in Parkville, VIC and I would be stoked to see you there!

Of course not all great art has its genesis in pain, and not all pain – not even a fraction – leads to the partial consolations of art. But if lancing an abscess is the surest way to healing, can poetry offer that same cleansing of emotional wounds?

Shaping the Fractured Self showcases twenty-eight of Australia’s finest poets who happen to live with chronic illness and pain. The autobiographical short essays, in conjunction with the three poems from each of the poets, capture the body in trauma in its many and varied moods. Because those who live with chronic illness and pain experience shifts in their relationship to it on a yearly, monthly or daily basis, so do the words they use to describe it.

Shaping the Fractured Self gives voice to sufferers, carers, medical practitioners and researchers, building understanding in a community of caring.

Shaping the Fractured Self is available for preorder from UWA Publishing

Letting the dust settle

This morning I woke after a drug induced sleep. Everything ached and my body screamed at me to go back to bed. I dressed, in my gym gear, ate my breakfast and drank my coffee. The chaos of the morning flew out the door one by one, and each with a different approach (slamming door while yelling out ‘Love ya, Mum’, slinking out silently, a kiss then a slammed wire door, and a hug and kiss). I sat at the table for longer than normal, coaxing my body to move, to do what it didn’t want to do. Finally, I tugged on my socks and runners and went to the gym. I always think on these tough days that all I have to do is get there. Once I’m there, I can always stop and go home. Most days I make it all the way through my program. Today I got as far as the last ten minute cycle at which point a sharp pain struck through my ear and temple and I had to stop.

This is all a part of living with chronic migraines. For the last four or so months (I’ve stopped counting), I have been in a constant state of migraine. Sometimes they are not as bad as others, but pain has been a constant companion. Today is my write-from-home day, the day I should be rejoicing and revelling in my fictional world, but instead I feel like I’m pushing crap up hill as I fight my way through the fog and discomfort. The good news is that I am attacking these chronic migraines in a number of ways as I can’t go on like this (anyone who has lived with chronic pain will attest to the depression that comes with it). Continue reading

On the Binns

This short story of mine recently won second prize in the 2016 Reconciliation Writing Competition judged by Jane Harrison, indigenous Australian playwright and novelist, and run by the Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation. It appears in their publication Building Bridges. The story comes from a moment on the Binns Track in the Northern Territory during our 9 month trip around Australia that my family and I did in 2010. Enjoy.

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Me, Aunty Jacko and my second prize for ‘On the Binns’

On the Binns by Meg Dunley

We haven’t seen a soul for days. On these roads, it’s rare to pass another car, and even more rare to see someone walking around. It’s over thirty degrees out there and the sun is bearing down on the earth highlighting the redness of the soil, the blue sky and the grey green trees. The road is soft, dusty. Behind us we leave a cloud of red that lingers in the air longer than the sound of our car and trailer rumbling along. As we turn one of the many curves through the central Australian desert we see him. He’s standing by the side of the road, the way someone stands waiting for a bus. But here there’s no bus-stop and it could be days between cars driving through. Matt pulls up next to him and I wind down the window. He wanders over. Continue reading

Post-study reflections

2016-09-28-05-28-49It’s an incredible time for me right now that feels like a beginning, more than an ending. I’ve just submitted my final piece of assessment of my Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. I should feel relieved, excited. I do, but there is a sense of sadness, and a great deal of reflection. There is also a nervous excitement about the time ahead of me, the unknown.

My last four years have been tremendous in all senses of the word. My life has changed in so many aspects, and lives around me have changed. Mum died, throwing my and my offspring’s worlds into chaos. My kids transitioned from children to teenagers, jumping normal adolescent hurdles, and fumbling through more tricky ones. I wrote a tonne of words and found a stable part-time job in the communications world.

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