Upside down Elvis – RIP beautiful boy 🙂
The problem with not posting for so long is that so much can happen between posts… and then you don’t know where to start!
Also I am mildly amused that my previous blog was titled Endless Possibilities. That’s how it felt but it wasn’t to happen this time. That manuscript Ella was rejected by a number of publishers as being too adult for the present YA market in Australia (and it’s too Aussie to be marketed overseas). It’s also too YA to be sold as adult in its present form, so that’s no go either. Back to the bottom drawer for now…
But meanwhile, that news paled in comparison to the devastating bushfires that raged across so many parts of Australia from around June 2019 and didn’t go out entirely until about April in Victoria. The impact on our environment is catastrophic – it’s believed over 1 billion animals have been incinerated… And I’m still unsure that our governments (Federal and State) and our society are prepared to act and change in time to help prevent this happening again. Although there does at last seem to be a lot more support for Aboriginal methods of traditional burning to stop the insane wildfires which were creating their own weather patterns. We can only hope there are enough changes put in place, in time.
Meanwhile my father had became quite ill over Christmas – at nearly 94 this isn’t unexpected but he has done pretty well for many years and it was a shock to have him in hospital for a good six or seven weeks post-Christmas. He was stuck in a small room with no view and very little energy to read or do much more than watch a little TV or manage a few minutes of a crossword. We visited as much as we could but it was very tough on him and Mum.
Then just before Christmas our beautiful little whippet cross Elvis broke the fibia bone in a hind leg, just from twisting to bark at another dog while out walking. A few weeks later he broke the larger tibia in the same leg from just tripping over a rock. Osteoporosis – common in rescue dogs, due to poor nutrition as youngsters. He was 14 and not coping in the heat, and we didn’t want to put him through amputation at that age, only to break another bone…
I still can’t think about his beautiful, funny little face without smiling. How he’d wormed his way into our hearts and took over our king-sized bed, thumping down against us with his tough little body, using those big eyes and long nose to stare wistfully when he wanted something, or to nudge a cat out of the way when feeling daring (he was rightly nervous of the cats). And always so incredibly happy to see us, that whip of a tail beating our legs and the wall. Six months later and we haven’t yet adopted another dog. One day. Just not yet.
Izzie (at back) & Hermie are a great comfort to us 🙂
And meanwhile there’s been the great pandemic. Dad went into hospital not long after Elvis passed, then Covid-19 hit not long after Dad got out of hospital. I’ve been lucky to keep my job, after some nervous moments and going down to one day a week working from home, slowly returning to normal hours but partially from home, and now working entirely from home. It’s been… interesting! As a natural introvert, to be honest, I’ve been relieved by the lack of pressure to visit people or to attend events. I’ve even managed to get some writing done!
But the societal impact is the worst – the effects of isolation on the elderly and homeless, the people in nursing homes without their visitors and activities, people losing their jobs, the awful rise of domestic violence and drug & alcohol abuse with families stuck behind closed doors and under even more pressure… And the environmental impact frightens me, with the rise in takeaway food and coffees (the only way most cafes & restaurants can survive, I get that) and masks and gloves ending up in waterways. Humans really are a walking disaster.
I suspect that footage of animals taking over deserted city parks and roads is treated by most people as cute social media entertainment, not as a dire warning for our species…
And then… Black Lives Matters. People have been crying out for years – centuries – of the injustice and violence enacted against people of colour, and I cannot believe the constant pushback by white people (I am white) who insist it’s ‘all in the past’… Well, you don’t need me to tell you that slavery, servitude, constant oppression, racism and refusal to recognise all those things will make people feel awful about themselves, and angry about their treatment to boot. Stop telling POC to ‘get over it’, stop the casual racism and stop asking POC to explain – read books, watch documentaries and learn history from POC authors and filmakers and their allies. I learn more every day. For Aussies, the book Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe is a great place to start 🙂
But lovely things can happen in the middle of awfulness. In January, on that terrible weekend we had to make the decision about Elvis, I got a message from a friend out of the blue. She’d won a manuscript assessment in the amazing Authors for Fireys bushfire fundraiser and bless her, not having a manuscript herself, asked me if I’d like it. I was blown away and said yes but due to circumstances, could I delay, as the only m/s I had was a middlegrade all about dogs… and I told her what was about to happen.
Of course she agreed to pass on the message to the author, and sympathised, and then I slept for two hours with Elvis on the bed, unable to deal with anything else. But that was the highlight of this year so far – just a really generous act by a friend who knows how tough the publishing industry is (she’s an editor herself) and who wanted to stretch her donation further.
When I touched base with the author who’d donated the assessment, it was a dream match. Hayley Lawrence loves dogs and had at the time an elderly big boy of her own. She’s an experienced YA author with one great novel out (Inside the Tiger) and another due in September, Ruby Tuesday. And she has five young daughters, so lots of experience in reading middlegrade and now writing some herself. She did an amazing job of assessing and editing my first 10,000 words, plus she asked for the synopsis, blurb and tagline, plus our promised one-hour Zoom session somehow turned into four hours! We talked as much about dogs and kids as we did writing, the wonderful Aussie YA community, and the perils and joys of publishing and pitching.
Thank you my friend Luna for your amazing gift which came out of nowhere at a time where I felt like the world was ending (it was certainly burning). And thank you Hayley for being so generous with your time and expertise and being so warm and friendly – you were exactly the same via Zoom as you were on paper!
Even though the fires didn’t burn near our home, the helplessness was awful. Donating money doesn’t feel like doing anything, but we did that (by the time Authors for Fireys came along, I’d run out of money to donate). I felt unable to leave Elvis to do any volunteering, and then Mum & Dad needed our help. In the end, I did what I’ve done in the past and grew seedlings for TreeProject. Six months later these are almost ready to plant – once we get the paperwork to deliver them, because Victoria has gone back into Stage 4 lockdown for Covid and restrictions are tougher than ever.
TreeProject acacia (wattle) seedlings almost ready for planting
This has been one great long babbling post and you’ve done well if you’ve stuck with it til now. I know I’m in a much better position than so many others but also like many, the mental health is taking a battering.
But writing-wise, I’m happy to say I finished my draft of the middle-grade doggy manuscript in time to submit it to a competition and for a residential fellowship. Even if nothing comes of it, it gave me a date to work towards and the satisfaction of finishing. And I love my characters! Writing about dogs made me very happy. Hopefully one day Amelia’s K9 Club may make it into bookshops (you see? Endless possibilities strikes again!)
Until then, my husband and I and the cats miss our canine friends but will keep battling through the pandemic, sharing caring duties for Mum & Dad with my sister and having family Zoom sessions to try to boost their spirits. We all hope for a better second half for 2020 for everyone 🙂