Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Princess Saves Herself in This One

I guess I disappeared off the face of the blogosphere again for a while there. It's been a rough year for the most part. Processing the loss of my mum did a real number on me, and I can't say I've been in a great headspace in those months. 

Do you know how hard it is to work in private health insurance after losing a family member following a major surgery and a lengthy hospital stay? In case the work wasn't emotionally taxing enough, try doing it when at least once every day, at least one customer will tick at least one of the following boxes: 
  • They're having the same surgery she had
  • They're staying at the same hospital she had her surgery in
  • They're staying at the hospital she died in
  • They have one of the health conditions she had
  • They have the same birthday

The first deceased member call I received after returning to work was from the daughter of someone who had passed away the same week as my mum.

I think it was pretty reasonable for me not to be able to handle working there. I told my team leader I couldn't do it anymore and she offered to switch me to part time indefinitely. I guess that was better than being unemployed. It helped. It made it just that little bit easier not being there every single day. But I knew it was time to move on. 

To further confirm that for me, all of the team leaders I loved moved on to new roles. When the last one I really liked left, I was heartbroken. I try to be happy for them all, because I knew they were moving on to better things. Then, as if the universe knew I needed an out, I got a phonecall from a friend. Said friend was one of my minions fellow editors on the student magazine back at uni. His workplace had a sales/admin job opening and he just wanted to let me know in case I wanted to apply—he knew I hated the private health insurance call centre. 

Now, the idea of working in sales had terrified me up until that point, but I made up my mind that I had to take this chance to get out of the call centre. 

And I did. Interview one week. New job the next week. And you know what? I actually really love this new job. It's so refreshing to have a change of scenery and to be working with a small company (like, less than 10 employees). I don't hate going to work every day. It isn't emotionally taxing to take a phonecall. It gives me space from my mourning. It has made everything a lot easier to deal with. I notice myself feeling drastically better. I'm lucky my friend thought of me when the job came up and I needed an out. But I'm so glad that I decided to actually give it a shot. 

Which brings me to today. I went to my local Dymocks with a friend and a book caught my eye: The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace. It was a story told in prose and poetry of the author growing up, experiencing traumatic things, having a bad relationship with her mother, losing her mother unexpectedly (along with other family members) but ultimately ... well, the title is pretty indicative of the ending, eh? 

It was so simply written, yet the prose were beautiful. A little cliche at times, but so is life. The pages said things that hit me hard, like the part where she finds the last book her mother was reading before she died and realises that her mother will never get to finish that book. I did that too when I unpacked my mum's hospital bag and it wrecked me. Lovelace wrote about anger and trauma and it made me want to cry, but then she'd write something that would make me want to laugh. It was an awesome combination of writing grief and trauma and angry feminism (all things that are relevant to me in various aspects of my life right now) and it was exactly what I needed. It was validating to say the least. 

I think I have ranted and rambled enough here for the moment. Let's see how long it takes me to make another post. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Official website!

Last week, I finished setting up my official website for freelance editing. I'm pretty excited. I set up a custom domain name and fiddled around with the design template until I was happy with the way it looked. And now it's live! Check it out:

I'm hoping other people like it as much as I do. Setting up this freelance gig has been a really healthy distraction from the terrible end to 2017, while I try to push myself back into a normal routine. In other words, I've put a lot of effort into this and I think it will pay off.

The most exciting part of all has been working with my first client. Her novella is amazing and we are having a great time fine-tuning the structure and content.

I'll keep things short and leave it at that for now. I hope everyone out there in the blogosphere is doing well with their writing, revising, editing, new years resolutions ... And whatever other goals you are currently pursuing.

Peace out!
- Bonnee.

Monday, January 22, 2018

When it Rains it Pours

Whoever made up that saying, 'When it rains, it pours' ... Well, they weren't kidding. 2017 ended with a crash and a whimper, but for context let me take you back ... 

My mum had been struggling with her health all year. She'd had weeks off work with bronchitis, she'd had a weight loss surgery in August, found out she had chronic liver failure, she'd developed serious lymphadima in her legs, and gone into hospital with a cellulitis infection. We didn't think it could get much worse. But it did.

My mother was admitted to hospital in mid November because she suddenly experienced acute multiple organ failure. She spent four weeks in Intensive Care with some of the most wonderful, kind and compassionate doctors in the world. She passed away peacefully in her sleep two weeks before Christmas.

My sister and I organised a funeral and we spent a very solemn Christmas with our aunties.

It still doesn't feel real. But then it hits me all at once.

I was hoping for 2018 to be better but do far the odds are not in my favour. The only good thing that's come of this is that I found a healthy distraction from the sorrow. I set myself up for freelance editing--something I'd mentioned to my mum early last year and she'd been nagging me to hurry up and do it ever since.

So that has been a crappy few months. I'm hoping everyone else's Christmas / New Year / Holiday Season was better.

I'm going to try and be more active here again and hopefully I'll think of something more uplifting for my next post.

Much love,

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Click Save

I made myself soooooo mad this week by being an absolute dumbarse. Now I must share this frustration with you.

I got a good couple of lines of poetry stuck in my brain one night and saved it in the notes on my phone so that I wouldn't forget. So far, so good.

At work the next day, there was a bit of idle time between calls so I thought I'd have a crack at making something from the two lines I'd thought of. Now, for some dumb reason Google Docs, Drive and Gmail got blocked at my work a couple of months back even though all the contractors like me have a work email THROUGH GMAIL. Anyway, I'm used to using Google Docs if I'm writing in a browser, but I had to find something else to use since it was blocked at work. I ended up settling on Calmly Writer, which I kinda love.

I put together a couple of stanzas I was happy with (I won't say it was good, I'm sure it was terrible). And then the phones got busy so I minimised the browser and forgot about it. Then at the end of my shift, I closed the browser out of habit ...

Without saving the damn poetry.

I realised my mistake, but alas, it was too late. This app does not auto-save like Google Docs. My (terrible) poetry was gone. 

In memory of writing lost, please share your saving failures and tales of writing long gone.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review: 'Ida' by Alison Evans

I'm trying to get back into reading things. I seem to 'stop reading for a long time' too often, and I really need to cut that out. The book I've finished most recently is actually by someone I went to uni with. Ida is the debut novel of the wonderful Alison Evans, who I initially met in my first year of uni (I believe they were doing Honours at that point) at an open mic reading night and then never saw again ... until later that same year, when we started talking on the NaNoWriMo forums, which lead to messaging each other privately to continue our discussion, not realising that we'd met previously until we'd been talking for a week or two.

Ida was a roller-coaster to read. In terms of genre, it is best described as queer sci-fi YA/New Adult. Admittedly, I haven't experienced much queer literature before, and I haven't been a sci-fi reader until recently. So this book was refreshing to say the least. The main character, Ida, has the power to go back in time ... or so she thinks. She uses this power to get herself out of sticky or confronting scenarios, make different choices to achieve different outcomes, and does it almost automatically in certain situations. But she's starting to notice that her powers aren't quite what she thought they were, and she isn't as alone in her abilities as she first believed. But the excessive use of her powers has started having drastic repercussions, and they need to be remedied before it's too late. 

I really loved the way the book was written, especially the description of each time Ida uses her powers. The setting had me smiling to myself the whole time; the book is set in the Dandenong Ranges area, where I love to go for bushwalks in real life. It also includes a trip into Melbourne city and the National Gallery of Victoria. I haven't really read anything set so close to home and the familiarity was really enjoyable the whole way through. It also made me realise that what little reading I do does not include enough books by Australian authors, which is something I want to fix. 

Something else I really loved about the book was the natural incorporation of diversity. I felt it was a very accurate representation of the Melbourne-diversity that I know and love, especially in terms of race, gender identity and sexuality. I loved that these points of diversity were so masterfully woven into the text, rather than treating it like a big deal that the main character is bisexual or that her love interest is genderqueer. I love that this book wasn't about their diversity. It was about the things going on in the lives of these characters, just like with any other book. I love that Ida normalises that idea and I wish more books did. 

Ida was a perfect balance of funny, serious, and a little bit scary. Although my favourite quote was about the main character being able to emotionally relate to a lemon, I promise that while it made me laugh, it was also VERY STRESSFUL because I was really worried about the fate of the characters. So if you're in the mood for a book by an Australian author, full of suspense, spookiness, and great characters, look for Ida by Alison Evans. 

That's me for now. What have you been reading lately?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mother! Rantview

I recently went to a cinema screening of the film Mother! directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem and I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT IT.

It was an interesting film to watch. I saw it with another writer friend on a whim and my only knowledge of the film was a short trailer I'd seen the week before. Conceptually, it was phenomenal. I get why a lot of mainstream movie-goers wouldn't like it; it's very out there and seems to have been promoted as a thriller without an art house-style disclaimer. But for me, a writer with a literary theory fetish, it was intriguing.

Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who has rebuilt the wreckage of her lover's house from the literal ashes. Her lover, played by Javier Bardem, is a poet caught in the clutches of severe writers block. Easy for my friend and I to relate to at the start. They seem to occupy a fragile paradise, but one night a man knocks on their door claiming he thought it was a bed and breakfast. The audience sees a glimmer of how fucked up the dynamics between these characters is when the poet invites this stranger to stay without consulting his partner and despite her very obvious discomfort.

After a strange night, the stranger's wife shows up. She's a nosey bitch to say the least, presumptuous and disrespectful towards Jennifer Lawrence's character in an almost deliberate fashion. Things get messier quickly after she arrives, with she and her husband entering the poet's study in secret and accidentally breaking something very precious. Then it escalates. Like, their kids suddenly show up and someone is murdered kind of escalating. And my god does it enter the territory of surrealism after that.

I don't want to just give a recap of the film. It was good and I think it's worth watching. What I want to do is explain the feelings I had about it. First, that I loved it. The acting was great. The cinematography was exceptional. It was thematically complex and engaging. On the surface, it was a film about a couple who had their fragile paradise disturbed by strangers and the burdens they brought. It was about the tension that created and the way that played on their relationship and the poet's writers block. Deeper down, we get a subtext about the idea of the writer as The Creator. We get a feel of the writer's ego when the poet overcomes his writers block and creates something beautiful. But he is also the dictator and the supposedly higher being of the world of the film.

And this is the part that really got to me. The film was sensational. I really enjoyed it. For the most part. But it got under my skin for one reason. Throughout the film, it was painfully obvious that the poet held a complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of Jennifer Lawrence's character. As did every other character. But the way the poet treated her ... with such disregard, such carelessness, and such undeserving entitlement ... that was sickening. And it got worse and worse as the film went on.

The part that really got to me was when they were arguing and she challenged him, 'You can't even fuck me', after enduring endless criticism from the strangers who stayed with them about not having children. It got to me because in response he pins her again a wall and starts passionately kissing her. And her initial response was to push him away. She didn't want him to get intimate with her at that point. She was angry and had every right to be. But then the anger melts away, after her attempts at resistance prove futile. The anger melts away and they make love.

This pisses me off. A lot. Because not only is it a cliche, it is also a cliche that promotes sexual violence. I'm sick of seeing films and tv shows and reading books where someone starts making out with someone against their will, and then it turns it into a steamy, beautiful moment of love. It's not romantic. It's fucking abusive. And it validates the same type of underhanded abuse that gets played out in the real world. 

Mother! was impressive and enthralling in it's thematic content, acting, and cinematic direction. And I can deal with being labelled one of those arseholes who likes art house films. It was a weird film, but I liked it. But I cannot get past this shortcoming. I cannot get past the idea that there is no redemption, no saving grace following the excessive violence and disrespect towards Jennifer Lawrence's character, but a feeble illusion of one I could see right through. It did nothing for me. And others can argue as much as they want that 'oh, it was making a point about the patriarchy' and 'but it was an allegory about how people treat the earth' and 'there was a biblical subtext'. There was also an inherently violent, sexist subtext. And while it did not portray it in a positive light, it also offered no solution. It did not overcome the problem it highlighted.

People describe it as 'confronting' and then justify it using the subtext about creative people and egos and the way people treat mother earth. But this excuses nothing. It doesn't make this behaviour okay, even in a film. It's aweful. And I do not have to be okay with it just because it was otherwise a good movie.

I apologise for this rant, especially for anyone who hasn't seen the film yet. I needed to get some rage off my chest.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A long way to the top

I've been pretty down the last few months (by which I mean, since 2017 began). Between toxic people in my life and the struggles of securing a job in the arts industry when you've just graduated, it's been a tough time. I've reached out for help, and kicked myself into gear to try to get out of the slump. Slowly, it's been working. I managed to remove some of the more toxic people from my day to day life and I started to find some validity in my job, even if it isn't in my preferred industry. But some bigger things needed to change, so I got thinking, and I've made some bigger decisions.

I chose to take a break from university. I withdrew from the one unit I was enrolled in a week before the census date so that it wouldn't affect my academic record. I can take this break for up to twelve months, but to be perfectly honest ... I have no intention of completing the Masters I am enrolled in. Although half of it was credited on account of my Honours degree, it was still going to take me two years to complete what was left at the pace I was going. Frankly, it seems to be a repeat of my undergrad, with perhaps a little extra detail and longer essays. In the long run, I don't think the stress or the student debt is worthwhile unless I'm taking away something more. After my twelve month intermission, I might do a course transfer into communications or marketing--IF I choose to continue study. Masters was never part of my plan, so I am not upset at the idea of dropping it altogether. It doesn't feel like quitting. It isn't. It just wasn't supposed to be from the start and maybe that's okay. I guess the only reason I didn't outright withdraw from the course was because I can still work on the student magazine as long as I keep my place in a course, even if I'm not enrolled in a unit.

I started teaching myself a little bit of design. I've never been able to get the hang of Adobe programs like Photoshop or InDesign, so I thought I'd try something a little more basic. I created a free account with Canva online and I've been experimenting with magazine designs using some of their pre-made templates and articles saved on my laptop from editing with WORDLY. Just for practice, of course, until I get the hang of it. One of my friends who is a bit of a designer herself gave me some really positive feedback on the attempt I showed her. We might start a little zine together, just for fun. I'm hoping that with a bit of practice using Canva, I'll be able to upgrade to InDesign and actually be able to include it as a skill on my resume; it's something a lot of the jobs I've been looking at want from their applicants.

I also intend to apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number) really soon, so that I can start freelance editing, and maybe freelance writing. I don't really know how that will go, considering how competitive and small the industry is in Australia. But hopefully, with a few testimonials and a domain name, I'll be able to get the idea off the ground. I know it's going to be an uphill battle, but I'd rather try and try and try than sit back and let myself be miserable at a call centre forever.

And of course, I need to start looking for a job in my field, at least until I can get freelancing to work for me (and I know there's no guarantee that will happen). Because, again, I have to try to make my dreams come true rather than sit back and let myself be miserable at a call centre forever.

Granted, the call centre isn't so bad when I put aside the fact that it's not the industry I did a degree to end up in, and I feel like I've gotten a really good grip on what I'm doing there recently. I've had a lot of good feedback from the members who call in, especially for cover reviews and hospital enquiries. Private health insurance is complicated, but I'm being told that I'm good at explaining how it all works and being thorough in the information I give. It still makes me feel pretty good when they take a moment to genuinely thank me at the end of a long call. It makes it worthwhile to endure all the people who call up just to yell at someone for no real reason ... I only wish the pay was a little more substantial.

How do you deal with the struggles of making it as a writer or editor? What decisions did you have to make to try and make things work?