Guest Post Links

In the last six months, I’ve popped up as a guest on a couple of writerly blog sites. Just in case you missed my appearances, here are the links:

 

“Generally, my work explores one or two central emotions over a big idea or dilemma. My writing is, above all else, character focused.”

https://kirstydummin.com/2017/06/25/the-writers-room-jodie-how/

 

“If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s persistence. I’m the tortoise who takes one slow step at a time until eventually, I cross the finish line.”

https://louisejallan.com/2017/10/30/jodie-how-writer-or-tortoise/

 

I hope you enjoy these reads :o)

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Letter to a Friend About Mental Illness

Dear Friend,

You’ve often said to me that nobody is normal and we all have our problems. I completely agree – and I appreciate your efforts of trying to make me feel acceptable – but I think that perhaps you don’t really understand.

It’s true that everyone has their issues; we’ve all experienced traumas; we’re all broken. What we share in common are our human natures and the whole range of human emotions. What we are less likely to share in common – diagnosed or not – is mental illness.

Someone who is sad may say they’re depressed when they have no clue what real depression is like. It is not sadness – it’s worse.

Someone who is particular might say they’re OCD about something when they have no real understanding of the brutality of the disorder. In its most destructive form, OCD is oppressive and relentless.

You lack motivation? Sure, everyone does but do you know that tight grip of depression that feels like 20kgs of weight strapped to your feet? You can’t move, no matter how hard you try.

Someone who is feeling stressed from having too much on their plate may not truly know what real sensory overwhelm feels like – that state where your anxious mind meets a barrage of overbearing stimulants. The result is internal chaos.

You say you feel anxious. Everyone experiences anxiety – true – but not everyone understands the extreme stress response that comes in the form of a panic attack. It is truly awful and can be extremely hard to prevent, even after all your best efforts.

Someone whose brain has checked out for the day due to busyness, may not know what real dissociation feels like – that state in which you lose all sense of yourself. In fact, you don’t even know you’ve ‘left’ and so have no idea when you’ll be ‘back’.

Someone who feels lonely for a spell maybe doesn’t understand the feelings of abandonment and despair that you have to deal with as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

These examples are just a few of the ‘not so ordinary’ issues I – and many others – have to deal with, on a regular basis.Whilst BPD, depression and anxiety don’t define who I am, they follow me everywhere. They are more than mere labels, simply because I have to live with them day in and day out. Relief is hard to get.

BPD, depression and anxiety – like all mental illnesses – are serious and can’t be equated with all manner of human nature and human experience. (Did you know that the most common reason why people engage in self-harm or attempt suicide is to escape unbearable emotional pain?)

So sure, no one is normal. Normal doesn’t exist. But one person’s ‘not normal’ is different to another person’s ‘not normal’. And mental illness is the most debilitating ‘not normal’ out there.

So now that you understand the difference between the things we share in common as humans and a few of the symptoms of mental illness, dear friend, please stop comparing me to everyone else and telling me that my suffering is no different.

Perhaps you will never fully understand, and that’s okay, but I’d really appreciate it if you continue to try and as you try, be careful not to dismiss the gravity of mental illness.

Love Jodie x

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7 thoughts on “Letter to a Friend About Mental Illness”

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this Jodie and allowing us a bit of an insight into what you are dealing with day in day out. You’re an amazing woman dealing with so much, and thankfully held by an amazing God.
    Big hugs xx

  2. Beautifully written and thoughtfully explained, Jodie.
    Mental illness is such a widely used term. It’s great that it has become much more acceptable to discuss openly, but the downside is that terms like Depression and OCD can be used flippantly, or without real insight into the deep, chronic suffering they cause in some people. I’m guilty of this at times, unfortunately.
    I hope I haven’t crossed any lines and really appreciate you sharing posts like this. xx

  3. YES! Everyone has hard days, or even hard years, but having a longterm mental illness is something else entirely. Good on you for writing about this. People who have never experienced it are trying to be helpful but what they say can increase our feelings of pain.

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Getting a Grip

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged, mainly due to a lack of vision and direction for my site. I haven’t written much of anything in general, due to poor health on a variety of fronts. I had to loosen my grip on writing for a while in order to ‘cut myself some slack’ and concentrate on getting better. So I guess you could say I found myself in a prolonged writing slump.

When I was rushed to emergency back in July, I left the early stages of my novel and research at home, along with everything else. I haven’t picked up my novel length project again because the thought of committing to such a huge goal remains overwhelming. I couldn’t afford not to do anything either, because hearing ‘critical Jodie’ berate me for not writing was crippling. My lack of progress was also depressing me.

So last month, I got back on the riding bike; it’s been a slow, wobbly ride. I started tinkering with a short story a few times each week and wrote the odd poem. I had to do something but I didn’t really know what to do.

Still in recovery mode and needing to be kind to myself, I started thinking about what I was doing with my writing and where I’d like to go with it in the near future. I wrote a short list of specific writing tasks to carry me through to the end of the year. This downsizing of my viewing panel to a one inch frame (coined by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird) has been helpful. I feel like I can achieve the tasks I’ve set myself; they’re within my ability to grasp.

I needed to encourage myself more than ever. I printed out all my poetry (no matter what state it was in) and put each poem in one of two new display folders. I grew delighted at discovering just how many poems I’d written over the past five years; having a file full of my work made me feel great. Here was proof – I hadn’t been so lazy, after all.

I printed out all my short stories (no matter what stage each was in) and put them in the second display folder, along with notes and feedback with the relevant piece of work. I discovered I’d written loads of words. Now I had all these stories to work with and they felt more real than when they were just saved files on my laptop.

I also printed out all evidence of my writing achievements and filed them to look at as required; the email offering me a place at the KSP Short Story Retreat, the letter which announced I’d won a flash fiction competition, etc.

The third thing I did that helped me find my mojo: I created a work log. In the log I wrote down all the work I’d had published, including online. I also sorted out my writing files (ideas, notes, handouts etc).

The affect all these activities had on my psyche was so helpful. I created a tangible reference of my hard work and threw out all the crap.

So if you’re in a slump like the one I found myself in, I encourage you to make your work tangible. Maybe you’re not in a slump but feel overwhelmed; do what I did and reduce your ‘viewing panel’ by narrowing your goals to a specific list of tasks. Whatever you do, just don’t give up.

 

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14 thoughts on “Getting a Grip”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. In particular, love the sentiment that you left your reader with. Look forward to reading your next post.

  2. So beautifully put!
    Tangible evidence of your hard work and creativity, passion and commitment. Sometimes just holding these things in your hands can make you feel the value and worth that others see in you.
    Thankyou for the encouragement!
    Time to look into my own cupboards…

  3. Well done Jodes! Your strength and determination is inspirational. And what a wonderful way to be able to reflect on your achievements and have a starting point when you feel at a loss on what to work on. Can’t wait to read some more of your work. X

  4. That sounds like quite a clever re-invention of a ‘to-do’ list! I’d never have thought of doing something like that.
    Small steps are still progress. I’m glad you’ve found an approach that works so well.

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KSP WEEKEND

I was given an amazing opportunity, by the Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre (KSP) and Laurie Steed, to join Bindy Prichard and David Allan-Petale at the Short Story Retreat held last March at KSP in Perth. Why? Because the third winning writer of the competition pulled out and a space opened up for me.

I didn’t realise, when I accepted the offer, that I’d have to overcome three challenges if I was to get the most out of the retreat.

Challenge number one was the medical cum political saga I had to deal with the week of the Short Story Retreat. If the medical powers that be hadn’t finally allowed me to swap malfunctioning medical equipment with new equipment, before I was due to leave on the Friday, I wouldn’t have been able to attend KSP. It was a hard week on a number of fronts but thankfully, I left home with working medical equipment in tow.

Challenge number two was overcoming the anxiety of separation from my husband and son for two nights after a stretch of bad depression.

Challenge number three was the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. Maybe because I was initially not offered a place. Maybe because I was the only ‘officially unpublished’ writer in the group. Maybe because I didn’t feel my writing was literary enough. Or maybe just because I’m hypersensitive and often feel unworthy of rewards like this.

Had I earned my place at this KSP Retreat? Apparently I had and boy did I soak up every blessing poured out to me that weekend – just like a crusty sponge.

For the first time, I was privileged to receive one-on-one feedback with an editor. And not just any editor – the one and only Laurie Steed. (What an absolute gem he is, particularly within the WA writing community.) Laurie, who also often climbed to a higher step on his career ladder via ‘lucky opportunities’ that landed in his lap.

The weekend was intense for me, not just mentally, but also emotionally and physically. I had become so unaccustomed to taking so many study sessions in such a short amount of time. By Saturday afternoon I think all I was giving back to Laurie and my peers was a questioning stare with a mouth slightly agape.

We had a lot of fun over meaningful conversations, food preparation in the tiny KSP kitchen and a few too many glasses of red wine. Dave even broke a chair as we watched the sun set from the gorgeous KSP grounds – haha!

By the time Sunday rolled around and we had read our stories in front of a small audience, I felt like I was saying goodbye to family. I was the last to pack up my cabin, hand in my key and as I waved goodbye to KSP, it was with much reluctance and a tear in my eye.

Thank you Laurie, Dave, Bindy and KSP for your wonderful company and this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity. I will never forget it and I’ll never forget you all and everything you gave to me so willingly from hearts of true generosity.

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12 thoughts on “KSP WEEKEND”

  1. Jodie, you are an inspiration. The fact that you continue to get out there and follow your writing dreams after having to deal with so much is a testament to how deserving you are of these opportunities. Enjoy every minute, my friend! x

  2. What an amazing opportunity Jodie! Feeling very envious, but so happy for you. I’m glad you were able to overcome the medical and separation issues, and I would say that the weekend was truly deserved and that in no way are you an imposter 😊

  3. What an awesome opportunity! I’m so glad you are able to overcome your obstacles and make it for the weekend. Sounds like it was a fantastic experience.

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It’s Official – Mystery Mail is Published!

After months of emails flying to and fro between me and Raging Aardvark Press, an ultimatum supplied by me (marinated in a splash of dispirited annoyance) and a fuckload of waiting, the anthology Twisted Tales 2016 is finally here, IN PRINT!

My gut is misbehaving badly today and I woke with the blues. Add to that the frustration of trying to order thirty copies of Twisted Tales from the states and I’m only now sitting back to take in the good news.

I don’t even know how I feel about my first story being properly published, on paper, in an actual book. There’s definitely excitement but I’ve waited so long for this anthology to be published that the actual win feels rather like a lifetime ago.

My emotions are all mixed up with disbelief. I feel disconnected from today’s amazing news. Hopefully, the feeling of joy and a sense of achievement will catch up with me. How should I celebrate?

This morning, I created an author account on Amazon – because now I have a published story to my name. That was a surreal experience. I sure don’t feel like an author yet.

If you’d like a copy of Twisted Tales 2016, you can order it here: https://www.createspace.com/6652118 or here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994525206 .

Or I can send you a copy for $15AUD (I gain no profit) to anywhere in the world. I’ll even sign it for you, if you like.

Thank you, again, for following my writing journey. I can’t wait for you to read Twisted Tales 2016 and tell me what you think of my story, “Mystery Mail”.

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12 thoughts on “It’s Official – Mystery Mail is Published!”

  1. For anyone still waiting for their copy to arrive, I can confirm it’s an excellent story and a great book (although I may be slightly biased) – well worth the investment!

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Review: Crow Shine by Alan Baxter

Atmospheric scenes and constant tension stoke the fire of mystery in this collection of short stories. ‘Aha’ moments are delivered with skill and precision.

Alan Baxter’s work can’t be confined to a single genre, or even a known fusion of genres. His stories are a kaleidoscope of colour; of piercing light and darkest shadow.

In Baxter’s world, fantasy is woven tightly with realism. Dive in and you will be transported to believable scenarios in magical settings. You’ll meet supernatural characters that feel as real as people.

I’ve never encountered such a diverse range of stories written by an author. Baxter’s unclassifiable work enables him to successfully play an unexpected card at any point.

Within the fantasy, I found genuine depth and meaningfulness in each story. Baxter is a masterful short story writer – a true word alchemist with a strong, enthralling voice.

4.5 out of 5 stars for Crow Shine. Thank you, Alan, for drawing me into your ethereal world of dark beauty, where unfamiliar subjects were made accessible to me; the reader.

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Most Twisted Tale 2016

The month of August brought me a pleasant surprise. As I untied the bow on the unexpected gift and peeked inside the box, my heart thudded with equal measures of excitement and disbelief. Could it be?

Earlier this year, I made the goal of getting a piece of my work print published by 2017.

The small Australian publisher, Raging Aardvark Publishing, was running a flash fiction competition called Twisted Tales. I heard about the opportunity from a friend. It dawned on me that a particular story I had on the back burner would fit the bill. So I redrafted it, got feedback from friends and polished it up. I submitted the story just before the competition closed.

I was attached to the story that I entered. It had been living in my subconscious for well over a year, after all. I had an empathy for my mentally unstable female protagonist and wanted to know how this ‘moment in time’ would play out for her. I called the story Mystery Mail.

I was pleased with the finished version of Mystery Mail but I hardly thought it winning material. So when I learned that I’d won both the People’s Choice Award and the Judge’s Choice, I was shocked. I even considered replying to the email of notification with, ‘Are you sure?’

I didn’t feel my story deserved first place. I was invested in Mystery Mail but not the competition (I’d learned early on in the writing game that you really can’t hang all your hopes on getting published or you’ll be nothing but depressed).

Interestingly, I didn’t spend as much time with Carrie as some of my other protagonists and I didn’t spend as much time working on Mystery Mail as I had on other stories.

Holding this surprise box of kudos in my hands, it dawned on me that I’d achieved my goal for the year. What was I going to do now? I thought.

I’m so glad my story was so well received by a publishing house. Mystery Mail has that ‘aha’ moment that I’ve found infinitely hard to achieve in writing a great story.

The 2016 edition of Twisted Tales will be out soon and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hot little hands.

Thank you to everyone who voted for my story and consequently won me the People’s Choice Award. You guys are the best!

 

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Are you a human-being or a human-doing?

You have been created as a human-being, not a human-doing. Your worth is based on everything you are, not on everything you do.

 

It’s not a new year anymore

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy rush of everyday life, isn’t it? During the early part of the year, we tend to dive straight into achieving new goals and zoom along, sometimes at a whirlwind pace.

It’s March now… maybe it’s time to slow down a little and admire the sunflower that opened up just for you in your garden.

Achieving so much is great for the ‘doing’ part of our ego – the part that wants to achieve and feel good for it, the part that wants to please others and be commended.

But while you’re busy constantly doing, what’s happening to the ‘being’ part of yourself? Are you giving it any attention?

 

What am I talking about?

What do I mean by ‘doing’ and ‘being’? We live in such a go-go-go world that we’re always focussed on what’s next on our list of things to do. This is what I refer to as our ‘doing self’. It is purely task orientated.

Our ‘being self’ isn’t focussed on all the doing. ‘Being’ is about resting, loving life, recognising who you are and what you’re like and being okay with that. It is people focussed, not task oriented.

 

Stop

I’ve long battled with ‘doing’ and ‘being’. Having lived many years with a chronic illness, I’ve had to face the challenge of not physically achieving as much as my brain wants me to. Life lessons have impressed upon me that ‘being’ is far more enriching than ‘doing’.

If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to stop doing and just be, most of the time. You might get bored instantly or get fidgety. It takes practice to master, but once you have, your happiness will increase exponentially.

‘Being’ fits in with ideas about mindfulness. I’ll talk about this topic more in future weeks. Meanwhile, I encourage you to find some time to just sit and think. Maybe put some classical music on, maybe enjoy the sound of silence. Perhaps do it at the beach, or maybe on your couch. Maybe meditate (watching your thoughts drift by). You don’t have to do this practice for a long time, to start with.

I truly believe that being you is more important than being busy. Slow down a little, unique soul, you’ve been working hard on all your doing.

 

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7 thoughts on “Are you a human-being or a human-doing?”

  1. I think it is more important because you are worth it. You are not worth what you do. What you do comes after who you are and just “being”. You can’t do something whole heartedly if you haven’t got your whole heart available too hey? #journeyoflife
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  2. I totally agree with you . Sometimes people get so caught up in trivial pursuits that they forget what really matters. It’s a sad truth. I used to be the same before I moved out of the city for simpler life.

  3. I like the idea of human being vs human doing 😉 And you are absolutely right that there is a lot of ego involved in ‘doing’. It’s something that’s elevated in our culture, in a way that being is not. Perhaps it’s all wrapped up in how we view work and worth, too. The idea if you’re not rushing around everywhere that you’re lazy or unmotivated. But you only have one life, and how sad if you don’t stop and spend some time with sunflowers now and then?

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HUH?!

One thing about me is that I don’t look, or act, like the kind of person who is into weird stuff. If anything, I’d say it’s obvious I’m a straight (and fairly ordinary) woman.

When I say weird stuff, I mean it as ‘stuff that doesn’t seem normal to me’; I’m not making a judgement (just in case you’re into some weird stuff).

Countless things that have happened in my life that have absolutely puzzled me. I tell my friends and family and they can’t believe it. They’re like, ‘that stuff actually happens?’

Whenever I get a strange offer or a left-of-field drama in my life, I know that for some reason, this happens to me and not many other people. But I still don’t know why.

In the last four years I’ve had two invitations to be the third person in a ‘threesome’. I’ve also been asked to massage nudists, nude (when I was a beauty therapist). I know of two men whom, if I’d gone along with it, would have had a physical affair with me. This is only a small sample of weird stuff that’s happened to me.

Every time something weird like this pops up, I’m shocked. Maybe that means I’m a prude, but I don’t think so.

I’m sure I don’t go around with a sign on my head saying ‘easy prey’. I’m usually very upfront and dogmatic about my moral standards.

Maybe the naivety that seems embedded in my personality is a magnet for weird things. Or maybe it’s just a random thing.

 

Can you help me feel less weird? Tell me your own strange story!

 

 

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2 thoughts on “HUH?!”

  1. If it helps, I could write a book about weird stuff I witness on my train rides. There’s this one instant I will never forget.

    It was late in the evening, probably around 8pm, and this guy started asking people if they wanted booze. He had these little liquor bottles you drink in one go and went through the whole coach, asking literally everyone he met. After that he tried cigarettes and candies (he eventually found someone who took the latter). His intention was simple. He wanted people to loosen up a bit because they sat their sad-faced and exhausted after a long day of work or whatever it was they were doing in the big city. And he talked the whole time, basically told us his whole life story and how he tried to be happy and cheerful about everything.

    I guess weird stuff happens to all of us. And in the end it’s what fuels us writers and inspires stories 😉

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ON THE ROAD

I’m excited and embarrassed to confess that next week, my husband and I are renting a deluxe motorhome and taking our four-year-old down to Esperance (South of Western Australia) for six nights.

Excited, because we’ve never had a family holiday, never camped in a motor home and never ventured further south than Albany. So it’ll be an adventure. I can’t wait to create fun memories with my favourite boys.

Embarrassed, because it seems like a very Grey Nomad type of thing to do! We’re usually known for our ‘tenting’ style of holiday.

My husband and I have always talked about doing a year-long trip around Australia, when our son is older. I guess this holiday could be a small foretaste of what that might be like.

After this trip, I’m guessing it’ll be hard to lower the camping standards to tenting again. And I’m guessing I’ll want to buy a motorhome.

Do you enjoy road tripping around Oz? Have you been on a long journey with a young child before?

Please share any camping stories you have, I’d love to hear them :o).

 

 

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2 thoughts on “ON THE ROAD”

  1. Good luck! I’m sure once you get the hang of RV’ing with the other grey nomads you’ll get the feel for it. My girlfriend and I did 8,000 miles around the country, no kids but we did have our dog. It was incredible and I’m sure you’ll feel the same ( Once you’re done 😉 )
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Dreaming, Writing and Notions on Life