Short Story Publication: The Diving Tower – The School Magazine

Earlier this year I sold a story to The School Magazine. The New South Wales Department of Education releases 10 issues a year to public school students, catering for all reading levels through different titles aimed at stages.

My story, The Diving Tower, was released in Touchdown. It is appropriate story as we come into the summer season in Australia as it is about a young boy, Zeke, who wants to conquer his fear of the diving tower at his local pool. I will say Zeke is a braver boy than I ever was.

It is beautifully illustrated by Australian artist, David Legge.

You can read a digital copy of the story HERE.

If you are a primary school teacher, there are a range of resources you can access to accompany the story created by The School Magazine. For specific activities to accompany The Diving Tower, click HERE.

A teacher friend of mine sent me a picture of the magazine at his school, and I was very chuffed to see kids still draw all over the cover of magazines.

Speaking About Yourself Is Harder Than You Think

A little bit of self-promotion. I do not like being in front of the camera. Being in front of the classroom is fine. Trying to sound like I know what I am talking about is difficult on a good day. Trying to sound knowledgeable in front of the camera to talk about what I do as a teacher is treacherous terrain.
My school is highlighting the work of their teachers, and I was picked on for the creative writing class I am teaching this year, a new initiative, and the WestWords Living Stories win from earlier this year.
But, yes, this is what I believe in as a creative person for my students.

In the piece I am wearing my “I Should Be Writing” badge, and a badge from one of my favourite bands, We Lost The Sea. It’s my intention to wear band merch whenever I can if doing writing stuff to promote my favourite bands.

My next aim is to become better at public speaking.

You can find the link HERE. Sorry, it goes to LinkedIn.

WestWords Living Stories Things Unsaid – WINNER

Last Monday 18 July, WestWords held the launch for Living Stories Things Unsaid, and announced the major prize winners.

I was able to attend, and came away as the grand prize winner for the 18+ category for my story, We Three Kings.

Westwords have released a FREE digital copy of the book containing all the winners and highly commended pieces from the thirteen Local Government Areas with the judges’ comments.

The link to read my story, and all the other stories and poems, is here: Living Stories Things Unsaid.

I am looking forward to reading all the entries, especially the younger writers who I hope will continue their pursuit of the craft because it will be awesome to see their writing journey into the future.

WestWords Living Stories Win

* GOOD NEWS KLAXON *
That’s my name down there on the bottom of the picture telling me I have won the 18+ category of WestWords Living Stories competition.
Last year I was also the winner for my local government area and backing it up with a win this year is amazing.

The next step is all the winners of each category are judged for the grand prize which will be announced in July. What is extra cool, and perhaps a little daunting, is other winners in my category are also part of the WestWords Academy I am participating in this year (all judging was blind so no one knew we were a part of the Academy or indeed if we had submitted). The chat was a flurry of messages yesterday when the announcements were made. I am hoping to meet them in real life at the book launch. I loved reading the stories in last year’s collection as there were amazing pieces written by people from all ages, and I am looking forward to reading the winners and highly commended stories and poetry this year.

I really loved what I had written, and was completely satisfied that if it didn’t place or anything, it was a piece I truly believed in and gave it everything I could. However, it did win, and it made for a lovely surprise (when you submit a piece for a competition, or any publication, you have all hope and no hope simultaneously) after what has been a brutally exhausting term at school.

The announcements were being released as I was teaching my writers’ class so I was able to share the good news with them when it happened (after I had messaged my wife and told her).

You can see all the winners’ names HERE.

Defining Progress in the Year of Relentless

My chosen word for the year was #relentless.

It was a word chosen to keep my focus on writing and submitting. On that scale, it has been successful. I have written, I have submitted, I have received rejections. I have had a story sold to appear later in the year in The School Magazine. I have been accepted to a local writers’ Academy where we meet monthly to discuss the business and practical aspects of writing. And the year is only half done.

In saying that, it has also been a year of relentlessness in other ways. The best way of describing it would be “Unexpected items in the bagging area.” It has taken its toll mentally and emotionally.

This afternoon, I took stock of where I was at with some old projects, added in potential new stories and lined them up in my notebook. I need lists; it keeps me accountable.

This is how I choose to define progress in the year of relentless: I am continuing to write and work on new projects, submitting when I can, and looking for new opportunities to get help, wisdom, knowledge and advice. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.

I am curious to see what happens in the remainder of the year, and when I look back over 2022, what lessons will I have learned? And that is, perhaps, the more important part of this creative journey.

Word for the Year 2022

Welcome to The Drum and Page.

If my desk was named like an English pub, it would be The Drum and Page. My writing collaborator, Jodi, calls her place, The Dog And Book. Therefore I am renaming my work space like an English pub even though I live in Australia. It simply sounds better. What would your creative space be called?

I digress but this initial tangent leads me to my WORD OF THE YEAR.

Each year I choose a word to help guide and direct me. They are written on a Post It Note and stuck to the wall above my desk. Last year I had two words: “limitless” and “breakthrough.” I found success in these two words in the release of my chapbook, Mount Pleasant, in February, and winning a local writing competition about the middle of the year. I kept writing and drawing, sifting through the what was to see what would be.

This year, the word is RELENTLESS.

It will take a year to explore the nuances of this word and what it means for me. And that will be an awfully grand adventure.

It’s a word to apply to my creative life through writing and drawing, and will have application to the spiritual, emotional/mental, and physical aspects of my life. I don’t know what the final outcome will be at the end of 2022. I may have made no progress other than developing my creative practice. I may have opportunities to explore because I asked about a collaboration, or I put in an application for a writing mentorship, or I submitted work for publication and only received rejections. I don’t know. But I will be relentless in my pursuit of this creative life.

Grace and peace be upon you all from the desk of The Drum and Page.

Flash Fiction – The Tennis Court

There’s always a tennis court around the corner, the white lines faded and cracked. The net hangs in a lopsided grin as you walk past. The dog at your heels moves to your other side, putting you between it and the tennis court. You’ve never seen anyone play on it.

As you walk beyond the base line you think you hear the sound of a ball struck. You turn and there’s no one there on court. A tennis ball rolls out of the shadows and into the back corner of the court, resting against the cyclone fencing wire.

What Do You Do When You Get to the End of the Toilet Roll?

What do you do when you get to the end of the toilet roll?

A year is a toilet roll, and as this calendar year comes to an end, we tend to reflect on success, failures, the times that fell through as easy as a loose stool; the events we bit down hard on and pushed; the thoughts we had amounting to nothing more than sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This laboured metaphor for the end of the year is fitting as this time of year is awash with Best Of lists, retrospective summaries, highlight reels and statistics. The interim period of December 1 until Christmas Eve is like looking at the roll of toilet paper on the holder and wondering how much is left and how long it will last, and if you’ll get through.

We mark our seasons and cycles in different ways. I am not one to successfully mark transitions and the ascension of seasons and new beginnings. I try to. I set out projects and works I’d like to complete but I am useless at developing plans and goals. Creating positive habits is hard.

I do know what I have, and have not, achieved this year. In the wash up of this year I can point to many reasons why I have not succeeded, some personal, some professional, some within my control and some out of my control. And all of these have had their impact in my growth as a writer and a creative.

What Am I Pleased With This Year?

These make me feel quite chuffed and are impetus for future growth next year. I have ideas, thoughts, hastily scribbled plans, fluid deadlines that need to be made fixed, unfinished projects to either abandon or complete.

And yet, there is fear.

Fear I can’t finish the projects I want to. Fear of what will happen outside of my control that can derail my progress. Fear of being average and beige and wasting my time. Fear is the largest obstacle I need to overcome.

Creativity is a discipline: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. You train yourself like an athlete or musician to overcome fear. And when one cycle ends, you think about the incremental progress you have made, and how you have changed, developed, adapted, improved throughout the cycle.

So, what do you do when you get to the end of the toilet roll? You dispose of the waste, put a new roll on, and start anew.

What’s Cooking in the Story Kitchen?

What’s cooking in my story kitchen?

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and I have never participated (reasons) but this year I am going to try something a little different.

I have plans for a new novella so I will be spending November doing *gestures vaguely* something towards this WIP.

I have organised my rough notes in a free online writing app, The Quill, so tomorrow I can have a look over it all and begin to arrange the pieces.

The biggest challenge will be reducing the broad scope of ideas into a focused concept with delineated characters and something to say.

To Make Contact With Mystery

An article I was reading (A Very Particular Risk: Aimee Bender on Jane Campion and Kazuo Ishiguro) helped me to reflect on how I create and construct my characters, and to think about what how these individuals are represented to my readers. It was a specific phrase in the article, “to make contact with mystery,” that prompted this reflection.

The world space I inhabit in my writing is the suburban, the contemporary, the plebian and mundane, and in that world space, I look for the mystery of the life of the person I am writing about.

When I am writing I want to know who they are and what formed them. I then ask how this knowledge informs the moment I am exploring in a current work in progress. It allows me to consider who they are, the language they choose to connect with other characters, what they hide or reveal. I question how the rest of their life may play out based on this knowledge, to consider for the work in progress what will change, if anything. Can they change themselves or are they destined to become part of a repeating pattern where the returns do not diminish but exponentially affect the future generations?

This is the mystery I come into contact with, and it is my hope that the reader will also come into contact with the same mystery. The unnamed characters in “Mount Pleasant” were created from that sense of mystery, to find a point of contact for the reader to identify with the character whether it was in the sense of identity found in a school uniform, or making sense of who you are as the main financial source for the family, or the ripple of domestic abuse.

A reader sent me a message to tell me of their favourite story, “Time Away,” and how it resonated with him. It was the relatability of the moment for him, seeing perhaps himself in the story. He made contact with the mystery.

Characters in stories are representations of real life. Dramatic constructions used as a puppet to examine the mysteries of life, to somehow make sense of ourselves and the world around us.

And in all of this, what dignity do I give my characters? I believe there is a dignity in their humanity, regardless of what they have done, or who they have become. We all have our pasts. As do my characters. What they were, who they were, becomes for me a question of who are they now, and what do they become?

It has given me pause to think over the current short story I am working on, and what I want my reader to take away from the story.

We read to make contact with the mystery of the lives of imaginary characters but in whom we see parts of ourselves and it helps us unlock a little more of the mystery of who we are.

Mount Pleasant – The JAR Writers Collective

Other titles from The JAR Writers Collective

Shades of Paradox

Her First Reality, Darkness

Fossil Five