Awful plus Wonderful = Survived 2014

I was dreading 2014.
I was dreading 2014.

I was dreading 2014 when it started.

For Rohan, my six year old with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I was looking at limited childcare and lots of therapy.

Rohan: As cute as he is naughty.
Rohan: As cute as he is naughty.

My mum was very ill with cancer and, as parts of my family are very private, I couldn’t really talk about it with the world, which is hard for a writer.

I was elbows-deep in editing a difficult anthology.

I was just hoping I could cope with the demands of 2014. I didn’t really have any goals besides getting through it, going back to yoga and being more comfortable with who I was.

Dubious selfie.
Dubious selfie.

Because of the stress, I did a lot of ice skating to escape from my problems; round and round, and chilling out. Which inspired a story… which got published. Lol?

Ice skating with Leah who drives my car's girlfriend.
Ice skating with Leah who drives my car’s girlfriend.

There was plenty of positive also, thanks to my double life as a literary wannabe, and my wonderful friends who listened to me whinge and accepted my weirdness and seemed to understand, and help me however they could. [Thank you wonderful friends.]

music mummy friends 1
Gold Coast Music-Mummy friends.
wstacey
With Stacey
kirsty
My sister, Kirsty. (Everyone thinks that, anyway.)
furies
My other sisters, the Furies, Stacey and Jodi.
wben
Ben (my final sister).
rowena ben and stacey
With Rowena, Ben and Stacey

I had a great trip to Melbourne for Natcon, and a few days before that I hung out in Melbourne enjoying the solitude and quiet a mummy almost never gets. I saw art [the Italian Masters of the Spanish Court, my chubby sisters!] and drove the Great Ocean Road. Little breaks like that keep me afloat…

I’ve had lots of fun times getting to know more local writers and hangin’ with my besties Jodi, Stacey, Ben and Kirsty.

The highlights of my writing were:

  • Winning a Ditmar with the Galactic Chat team! Doing more (not that many, sorry Sean) interviews for Galactic Chat, including interviewing Ken MacLeod (so nice!), Rebecca Fraser, Sue Wright and LynC (all so nice!).
  • Doing interviews for the Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot.
  • Having three stories accepted for publication (and maybe a fourth which is in edits.)
  • Seeing “Blood on the Ice” published in Subtropical Suspense Black Beacon Books.
  • Seeing Quindrebel up on Mirror Dance Fantasy online (So pretty!)
  • Working with Sue Wright at Tiny Owl on “Twire”, coming out in Unfettered
  • Working with Mitchel Ackhurst on “Hard”.
  • Writing about 90,000 words. Surprised myself. Maybe I added it up wrong.
  • Sharing critiques with the brilliant Magic Puppies including Stacey who went way beyond the call of duty to edit the fuck out of my 11,000 word story “Helheim.”
  • Sending out about 35 submissions. Getting about 30 rejections – some are still in the pipeline!
  • Finishing about 12 stories.

I was surprised to tally up my writing and see that many words. So, I did do some writing. I didn’t think I’d written that much, but I guess it came about because the Magic Puppies are high output machines, and I’m driven to the escape of writing thanks to my sweet little monster child, and my mum’s illness.

Mum

After a lot of suffering, Mum passed away in October. It was very sad, but with where she was with her cancer (quit smoking, people!) I was relieved that her suffering ended. I have no belief in Heaven or anything beyond this world. That makes dealing with someone dying a bit harder, I think. You have to accept that their life is complete, that you’ll never see them again, that they’re not watching over you, etcetera.

mum3
Making Faces.
mum2
Jazz and Mum.

There’s a kind of beauty to that though: to see life as one finite package. This is all you get. Do your best with it.

I’ve noticed that after someone dies, how you see them changes. I guess everyone deals with grief differently, but I found that a lot of things that seemed a bit bad became funnier, easier to forgive.

Be warned, if you’re a writer, when it comes to writing the eulogy, they look straight at you.

And I even got to write it on my birthday. Life just likes to torture me, right, so I have angst to write about, and the desperation to escape into fiction.

This was Mum’s eulogy.

Mum's selfie. Portrait.
Mum’s selfie. Portrait.

Loola Stubbs was a confident and strong willed woman who loved a drink and to dance the night away. She was a creative and emotional person, and a brilliant painter. Her soulful nature shone through in her artwork – from her stormy sea-scapes to the dignified portraits of people she admired.

Her love of painting the sea, and the sea itself, originated in her love of Sydney’s coastal surrounds, and her homeland Greece where she lived as a child on the small island of Scopelos. She emigrated from Greece at the age of seven, with her mother, Helen, and grandmother, Mahi. It was surely a frightening voyage: a long journey by ship to arrive in Australia and live in the large city of Sydney, when she didn’t speak a word of English.

However, she learned quickly, studied hard and thrived, winning a scholarship to art school. She went on to a career as an artist who hung in the Archibald, and an art teacher at PLC Pymble and PLC Croydon, and later, Mount Saint Patrick, Murwillumbah, where she helped students with both their artwork and any personal problems they brought to her.

Loola encouraged her students to feel free to express themselves though their artwork and to experiment without fear of failure. While some students went on to careers in visual art in major cities, Loola couldn’t walk down the street in Murwillumbah without bumping into an ex-student or two. They would recount pleasant memories of art lessons with ‘Stubbsy’ as she was known.

Loola will be remembered by many as a gifted artist, a hard worker, and a passionate and honest person who bought real feeling into everything she did. She was not one to gloss over the truth.

Those who she loved, she loved fiercely, and it was a brave soul who crossed her – and at their peril. She was very proud of her Scorpio’s scorpion sting.

All of Loola’s friends and family loved her deeply.

Her family are grateful for the care she provided and all the delicious meals she cooked, especially her unusual desert creations. [Like the Davros cake – which we didn’t mention at the funeral, but it looked a lot like Davros].

They are grateful for the fun she brought to their lives – the Greek music and Flamenco dancing they shared with her.

Her family members: Don, Paul, Helen; Kat and Brian; Jasmine, Rohan and Zachary; will remember her smiles with love in their hearts.

 ~

So that was Mum. And I kind of love that she and her mother came to this country with nothing, and in debt, yet made a successful life for themselves. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer new immigrants and refugees the same opportunities.

Mum taught me a lot of things. Not to be scared of art, and by art I mean anything. But also, that you can always do better, and you should never stop trying to do better.

What I most regret, for her life, is that she stopped doing what she loved – she stopped painting. The cost of giving up her passion and dreams were alcoholism and depression; though maybe they made her give up as well, it’s a negative sort of cycle.

My take home message was it doesn’t matter if it feels like no-one appreciates your art, just keep doing it because you’re an artist, even if you’re never exactly happy with what you’re making. Also that all art has value because it will evoke a reaction in someone, and even if your art isn’t great, it might inspire someone else to make something great.

So… 2014 was exhausting.

Orienting Rohan to prep has been hard too; as is having one child in, one child out, of a private school. But prep is looking good. Maybe I’m seeing a sort of light at the end of the tunnel for what have been really hard years of ASD and ADHD behaviour from my little monster. Maybe. And Jasmine is going to be dancing her way through 2015.

For the first time in nine years I might be able to spend a couple of days a week writing, if Rohan settles into prep okay and they don’t lose him every day. He is more of a Houdini than Houdini was. You can’t imagine it until you’ve seen it. Small, wiry, flexible. He might be an X-Man.

Oh, also I got a lovely knew car who I love. TXA, my Baby Racer, the Rocket. She’s a lesbian Golf R dating Leah’s car… at least last I heard. They might have broken up. She could be polyamorous with a penchant for Audi S4s.

TXA, Racer, Rocket.
TXA, Racer, Rocket.

 

I’m kinda spoilt by the man who makes paella. Apparently real Spanish people don’t mix seafood and landfood in paella, but this is Australia! We eat everything all at once!

Paella!
Paella!

New Exciting Stuff in 2015

There is exciting stuff! SOMETHING IS COMING. I’ve volunteered as treasurer for an exciting upcoming speculative fiction event in Queensland! What could it be!? That hasn’t been officially announced yet…

I’m also helping out with a new Gold Coast Novel Writers Crit Group, which is kinda funny considering that my novels are, um… a bit shit.

I’m kind of chuffed that I’m in the headspace to feel like I can make goals for 2015! Rather than merely trying to cope with everyday life. Loosely, my goals are to write another better novel length work, improve my current novellas/novels and resubmit, get fitter, keep everyone at home happy; to help the kids be happy and grow into good people.

And nurture my friendships. Friends: I love you. Thank you for everything! Thank you for putting up with me.

I wish everyone all the best for 2015.

 meandro

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10 thoughts on “Awful plus Wonderful = Survived 2014

  1. Thank you for sharing your year with us all so openly and honestly Helen – friends accepting of weirdness is so very important and I’m glad you have them. My Dad has just been diagnosed with cancer and I have a feeling my 2015 will resemble your 2014 in that respect. So I hope 2015 will be a better one for you, especially for Rohan and everything else important I’m your life.

    😀

  2. Losing a parent is hell. I’m so sorry, Helen. It’s like a constant, ongoing, atmospheric re-entry. {{{hugs}}}

    Also, on a happier note — “real” Spanish paella most certainly includes land-meat in the form of chorizo, so you’ve been doing right all along.

  3. I am sorry about your mum Helen. It must have been very tough to divide your focus on the other things in life that needed doing. And I hope you’re travelling ok. I’m around very early Aussie time if you ever want to talk.

    Well done on the writing front. I’m really glad that I got to share a byline with you this year, and especially enjoyed Blood on the Ice. It has been great getting to know you virtually as well.

    I hope 2015’s seas are smoother sailing with challenges that make you an even better writer.

  4. Helen you are an inspiration. One of the few “real” people we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We wish you and the family the very best for 2015

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