Yesterday was my mother's funeral and as I grapple with insomnia (even though I took a sleeping pill) I found this article I wrote for SBS Voices had been published online. In the article I share the seminal moment a teacher changed my life and other authors like Vikki Petraitis, Alice Pung and Emily Gale share their stories of teachers that impacted them. (Also what is it with life that things converge. That this article is published on the day of my mother's funeral and when I'm grasping for peace, and this gives me the pathway by telling me to write it out.)
I have some really sad news to share. Today is a really hard day. This morning my brother discovered my mother Fatima in her home. Her body had to be taken by the coroner as they need to determine cause of death. It might have been a heart attack or a stroke. When her body is released we will plan her funeral. This has been a hard year. Eleven months ago, on the 27 December, my stepfather committed suicide. I am in shock and still struggling to process this heartbreak. I will miss my mother forever and I can't believe she is gone.
It’s so humbling and joyful when I hear from readers. It’s especially sweet at the moment as I’ve been exhausted and in a funk and haven’t written in a month. #thingsnobodyknowsbutme
Feeling on a high. Just survived my first conference presentation at a La Trobe conference, completing my milestone for my PhD in Creative Writing. Undertaking this PhD I want to push myself and experience everything that I can as a student. Doing this conference presentation was incredibly intimidating.
I had prepared my speech about my research about Srebrenica as a setting and the historical war landscape that was the backdrop to my novel and practiced it a few times. I thought about creating a PPT but thought this might lead to some technical difficulties that would throw me off my game and wasn’t sure what to put in the presentation.
I showed up today and spent the morning watching presentations by Cinema Studies students who created incredible presentations with visuals and beautiful colours, my heart sinking with each one. In the break I hot-footed it to the library and created a PPT, embedding quotes and photos of the books that they were from, visuals of people from Srebrenica and the city itself to immerse the viewers in this world.
As my session approached the nerves developed and I regretted signing up to present like this. I was nervous about how I would run the PPT slides with my speech and how it would gel. Finally it was my turn. I presented. The slides worked and the speech. I, of course went over time, and had to quickly end it.
Here are some photos. I’m including the one where I cover my face with my speech-a sin I tell my students off for and they will find it hilarious to see me doing it.
#phd #phdlife #academia
I am appearing at Brunswick Bound this Friday. To register for this free event please lick here.
On the first Friday night of each month, Brunswick Bound Upstairs hosts a night of local author readings.
It's your chance to discover a new author and for authors to discover new audiences.
In October, the event will feature authors Amra Pajalić (Things Nobody Knows But Me), A. S. Patrić (The Butcherbird Stories) and Gerii Pleitez (On The Sunday, She Created God).
Each author will read from their work and there will be a short Q&A afterwards.
Light refreshments will be served at the event.
Amra Pajalić is a Melbourne-based author of Bosnian background. Her debut novel The Good Daughter (Text Publishing, 2009) won the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Civic Choice Award. Amra has appeared on panels at conferences and literary festivals including at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne Writers Festival, Williamstown Literary Festival, Reading Matters Conference Panel, and the VicTESOL Conference. She was funded by Artists in Schools to be an Artist in Residence in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in high schools, and in 2014 received funding from Creative Victoria to be mentored by Alice Pung to work on her memoir. She works as a high school teacher and is completing a PhD in Creative Writing at La Trobe University.
A. S. Patrić is a bookseller and teacher of creative writing. He is the author of two short story collections, Las Vegas for Vegans and The Rattler & other stories, and a novella called Bruno Kramzer. His debut novel Black Rock White City was published to critical acclaim in 2015 and won the Miles Franklin Award in 2016. His second novel Atlantic Black will be published in November 2017 and a new collection of stories The Butcherbird Stories will be out in 2018. Alec lives in bayside Melbourne with his wife and two daughters.
Gerii Pleitez is a fearless new literary voice. Her debut book On The Sunday, She Created God is a transgressive coming of age story that is both brutal and beautiful. A punk, postfeminist, punch in the face. Gerii's visceral poetic imagery strikes at the heart of what it is to be young, to desire and to want purpose in a world which if often without. She is also the founder of Kara Sevda Press, Australia's first publisher dedicated to illuminating the voices of local women of colour. The imprint is the cutting edge of modern literature and publishing; underground, digitally distinct and iconoclastic in it's ethos. On The Sunday, She Created God was the first book released on the imprint and will be folowed by a journal publication featuring work from women of colour to be released in 2020.
Check out the Brunswick Bound blog to read our First Chapters Q&A with each of these authors and our website for other First Chapters event details.
We acknowledge that the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation are the traditional owners and storytellers of the land on which we meet, share stories, learn and read together.
The past month or so I haven't been able to do much writing. Was feeling very tired, had a few viruses and some emotional trauma that really ground me down. School holidays have been a much needed oasis to recalibrate and get back to my writing life.
I have been working on a novel for the second year now. The working title is Silver City and it is about a 14 year-old girl and her life in the city of Srebrenica during the Balkan War.
I have written about 10 chapters that were synthesising the research I had undertaken reading first-person accounts from Srebrenica. Each chapter was in a sense stand-alone, with no continuity. Character names were changing, character arcs were changing. I was getting to the point where I had no clarity about what I had written and what I needed to write.
It was time to take stock. I paused with writing and wrote a synopsis, figuring out the story arc and what I was aiming for. I have been using this resource to write a synopsis and have found it so helpful with all of my books.
Now for the hard part: to go back to the beginning and undertake revision, joining this chapters into a narrative that read like a book.
This is what I've been doing for the past week. Every day I have been revising for two hours or more. Today I finished revising chapter 6. So I now have six chapters, a proper extract that is readable like a book. Total word count so far is 29,010.
I'm feeling quite content with my progress so far. Hopefully in the second week of holidays I’ll complete revision for all the chapters I have and then can focus on finishing my draft.
I'm feeling such a sense of relief and accomplishment at my progress.
If you're wondering what my novel is about here's a blurb:
"Seka Torlak is like any other regular 14 year-old-girl: she has her first crush, falls in love, and struggles with making new friends after her best friend moves away. What makes her unique is it all happens during the Balkan War while her city of Srebrenica is under siege and she faces starvation, shelling, and sniper attacks."
And if you want to read some an an extract of my work in progress published in The Bronzeville Bee click here.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful novel that explores the reality of being a young adult with migrant parents and cultural bias about mental illness. Anna knows that something is not right with her Mum. She lies in bed for weeks at a time and experiences uncontrollable rage at others, but Anna has no words to deal with it. She struggles to be a good sister to her younger siblings and a good daughter, not leaving much time to be herself. When she meets Rory she gets an inkling of what a regular teenage life is like but as her mother's condition worsens all is put under threat.
Chim writes so beautifully about the reality of being caught between two cultures as Anna tries to be the good daughter and sister, and the misunderstandings of mental illness in migrant communities. The shame and embarrassment that makes it a taboo subject and means that treatment is harder to come by.
Chim doesn't take the easy way out in displaying the reality of mental illness and its toll on the sufferer and the family. The last pages of this book made me cry. I absolutely adore this book and it is such a great addition to the loveozya cannon. It needs to be taught in schools to demystify mental illness and open up conversations with young people.
I also love the way she depicts relationships between young people and validates the relationship between Rory and Anna as real and true. Rory is a beautiful character and their love story was so tender and heart-felt. But where this book shines the most is in the way she writes about families and she has created such real characters in Baba, Anna's father who is working so hard to provide for his family, Lily-her younger sister who is so smart and full of ambition, and her younger artistic-loving brother Michael. Their struggles and interactions ring so true, there is so much love, even when there is so much pain. A beautiful book and a spellbinding read.
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It's been four months since the publication of my memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me. Writing this book was my life's work, getting it published was my legacy, and honouring my mother's life as a Bi Polar sufferer was my dream. Taking a moment to reflect on the amazing reception this book has received, which is even sweeter in light of the fact that this baby clocked up five rejections before finding a publisher. Living out my motto "try, try, try again."
So excited to have my short story Fragments published online today by Bronzeville Bee. This is an extract of my current work in progress set in Srebrenica during the Balkan War.
This is novel I'm also completing for my PhD and it's been so challenging and hard to write, but I'm committed to bringing this story to light and sharing the plight of those in Srebrenica, and the massacre in which over 8,000 men and boys were killed.
#srebrenica #Balkans #Bosnia #BosniaandHerzegovina
Writing is so amazing. We spend years working on a book, revising, editing and then finally get out into the world and then it's unbelievable to get a response from readers. To see it reflected in their eyes. When my debut young adult novel was published it kind of disappeared into ether. Thankfully I was shortlisted and won a prize so I knew that people were reading it.
This time around I'm getting readers emailing me after reading my book and it's such a buzz. In the past week I've had messages from male readers and they have both connected with the stories of my father and stepfather which is so special and so interesting. Writing this book I always thought of it as a book about the women in my family, and yet the men have had interesting stories too.
The first message was from a first generation male from Bangladesh who could relate to my father's struggles as a migrant acclimating to a new culture.
"I have been reading your memoir for last few days, and it's highly disturbing and shocking to see our own reflections in someone else's life. What a migrant family can go through in their search for a 'so called' better life is unimaginable. Thanks for writing such a memoir, without which I would have thought that it's only me and my children who are going through this."Things nobody knows but me" is an apt name, for I thought that whatever I am going through is very unique and applies only to me. I am sure you'd be relieved to know that those things are known to many others like me and other migrants, especially from some not-so-fortunate parts of the world."
The second one was from a father who could relate to my stepfather's struggle to be both a disciplinarian and a playmate.
"Heard an interview with Amra on radio national a week or two ago, and then, being suitably impressed, borrowed “Things nobody knows...” from the local library. Really well written, and enjoying totally her storytelling. Interesting how reading Mills and Boon improved her English vocabulary exponentially, and had to stop and consider the very good sentence about Izet on p.167..”He lacked the insight to see that he could not be both our playmate and our parent: to be one he had to relinquish the other”. How very true. I had to learn that one too as a father. Well done Amra!"
I never thought I would want to write a memoir again but after the death of my stepfather I thought there was the need for a story about men and how they process depression and sadness through anger. And reading these two messages is giving me an indication that there might be a market for such a memoir.
I am an author, reader and teacher. My memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me about being parented by a Bi Polar mother from a Non-English Speaking Background was published by Transit Lounge in 2019. Read more about it here.
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