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Lamentations and Reflections

I have given it a few days to sink in. Nelson Mandela died. I cried.

Almost daily we hear of the passing of personalities or influential people. In these days of social media the news spreads fast. When I hear a familiar name, I get sad. Sometimes I am shocked. I don’t always cry.  This time I did.

As a child of 70s and 80s, I remember first hearing about South Africa when the protests and boycotts involving the cricket and rugby. I was in primary school and did not really understand what the fuss was all about. All I knew was that the news was full of pictures of what I thought were armies of police at sports events.

I remember in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Only the year before the Berlin Wall had been torn down. These were miraculous things that I thought I would never see in my lifetime. They changed the way we think. They changed the world. They gave me hope in my fellow human beings.

That is the big picture. Look more closely and it is the changes, at a personal level, that are even more inspiring. History (if it is not rewritten) documents that Nelson Mandela went to prison, convicted for treason.  In his fight to stop anti-apartheid, he felt he had to use armed resistance.

During his time in prison, this man learnt to forgive. He learned peace. We have heard the stories of him teaching both fellow prisoners and his prison guards, to read. We have witnessed his work for a united South Africa. For me, the most inspiring part of his life was the fact that this man chose peace over violence, love over hate. As a result he made so much more of a profound statement. He did not only bring a country and its divided peoples together, he allowed this message to reach the entire world.

When we remember Nelson Mandela, let us not gloss over his past. Let it not be expunged from history. Let it serve as an example of how any person can change their attitude towards their fellow humans. Let him be our example. Let us attempt the same metamorphosis. Then the world would be a better place.

Step 1: Admission

gr4BookweekPrize (2) Gr4bookweekprizeI was first lured into writing at the tender age of  nine (grade 4). I wrote a poem and won the Bookweek prize at my Primary School. (A book: West of Widdershins.) If only it was that easy now.  I was addicted. At first it was a sporadic indulgence culminating in fourteen-year-old teenage angst poetry and a 200 + page SF book at the age of seventeen (grade 12) Note to self: Never tell writers’ groups about long past, possibly teenage angst-ridden writings. They will insist on reading it. (There is no way they will get access to the teenage-angst poetry though.)

For some time I was reformed. I knuckled down and finished my university degree. Though I did not admit it to myself, I lapsed and wrote a variety of background and stories for my passion of (now-called) tabletop roleplaying (you know – with  rulebooks, dice, notebooks etc) I convinced myself that these were research and technical things and not fiction.

cold angel 2_0011Then came work; practicle and scientific and for the good of others’ health. Somewhere along the line, I fell in with a comic book crowd who had scored a government arts grant. I did artwork and inking but secretly I wanted to write something. The grant ran out and I was spared the slippery slope of starting up writing again.

I pretended that the articles I wrote for the (now defunct) Roleplaying magazine Australian Realms, were more non-fiction… with pretty pictures. How could that be considered writing? Nor could the articles I wrote on other passions such as costuming – with articles on Florentine costuming (after all there was a lot of research done for those) or documenting various costumes I had made.

I almost fell into the beckoning maw of memoir writing in 2006. I was discovering things about my past that had been hidden to me. Things about my father that I had been sheltered from. I recently found some of these scratchings and was surprised that they sounded as if they were written by a real writer.

I did not realise I was a writer in primary school.
I hid the book I wrote in highschool.
I did not admit that I was a writer when penning articles for magazines.
I pushed away the ideas and writings for a memoir as I was not ready to face the daemons… quite yet.

It took a series of stressful events, for me to start rediscover the writer within me – she who has been lurking for almost forty years, not wanting to surface for the fear of rejection. This year I have given into the muse. I have uncovered things from my past, I have re-visited issues that have plagued me and I have found a catharsis in  putting my thoughts and words on the page.

Subconsciously I knew that I was a writer. I had kept flirting with it but never quite giving in. It was not a safe career choice, as my mother would say. It was not until I had finished one of my short stories and actually sent it to a competition, that I started the process of admitting to myself that I was a writer.

Even then I was researching the internet to find the definition of a writer, lest I was too presumptuous in using the word; I had always thought I was not allowed to be a writer until I got something published. Only when I had been shortlisted for one of the competitons did I allow myself to use the word. Silly me.  I had been a writer all along.  I write because I must. When I don’t write, I am grumpy (er).

I have these weird and wonderful characters knocking on the inside of my skull, demanding to be given life. When I do write them, they have a life of their own. They have always been there. Now they are allowed to come out and play. I have a couple of novels floating around in my imagination. One has been there since university (I now have one chapter down on paper and much more in my head). The other is forming from my love of steampunk. It is populated with characters that have been trying to find a home; they now have one.

So, here it goes…
Hello. My name is Karen. I am a writer.

Feeding the Beast

There was an excitement in the air.  I woke, gulped down my breakfast, quaffed down my cup of tea (in my new Doctor-Who-TARDIS-exploding-cup – a birthday present) and headed off. Though I had a splitting headache, I was determined not to be stopped. It is less than five minutes to the local library. Today it could not be fast enough. Too early! I had to wait for the doors to open at 10 am. Time passes so slowly when the clock is being watched. Today it clawed its way so painfully slowly that I possibly lost several kilos jumping up and down on the spot.

Finally the doors were unlocked and the crowd strode in hoping for a good spot. It was the first ‘official’ meeting of our new (as yet to be named) speculative fiction writers’ group. I say ‘official’ as it was to be the first of our  meetings where we would share our prose and discuss/critique it. We have had one get together to nut out what would happen in the meetings and discuss our goals. But this was it. The real thing… where we have to share our work…

We band of seven merry writers sat down in a corner of the meeting area of the library (close to the cafe), fortified with various forms of caffeine, and proceeded to read our short stories or novel excerpts to our eager compatriots. This was the first time I had read my work aloud and in public, other than to my family or the cat. To say that I was anxious was an understatement. In truth, I was terrified, stumbling over several words as I proceeded.

I had no need of such dread. My fellow writers were understanding, consoling and supportive. Some were published authors, having experienced this all before. Others were near completion of their initial work, relative newcomers and just wanting to start out with their writing. We are a varied bunch of writers with a wealth of ideas, eclectic tastes and interesting backgrounds. Most of all we have a common love of all things speculative in our fiction.

We meet again next month and I am looking forward to it. We have a name now! (Spec Fic Chic) This seems to be exactly what I need to grow as a writer and learn something new of the craft.