Prayers For

Prayers For

Prayers For

Prayers For

The singing whale, oblivious to our wonder
the ones left behind
the little ones whose world has gone
the books no-one will get to read
the weary moon wary of the spotlight
the snug earth around the buried bones
those who have nowhere to go
the tiny country hated from all sides
the gun that wanted to be a plough
the arm blown off from the elbow in the shelter
the snake that dreamed of being a butterfly
the soldier who just wants to be a yoga teacher
the things we see but do not learn from
the clouds that hold no grudges
the tiny ones buried in the rubble
the ladybug whose house is on fire and children are gone
teeth and rings that survive death
the stretcher hauling the hurt
those who came to dance and never will again
the wives and mothers who wait for news
the story of sorrow, reinvested
the mending wall and the folded wings
the desperate truth and the secret chord
the boy asking, ‘Safta, how did Ima die?’
the grandmother who cannot answer
those who knew it was over and texted ‘I love you, I’m sorry’
the ship we wait to come and carry us home
the hands that pick the fruit now
the bitter, bitten apple
the weddings that will never be
baby bear whose porridge, chair and bed were ransacked by a white girl
the righteous among us
those to whom we subcontract our violence so we can be pacifists
the orange balloons that stand for the babies taken
the terrible things that still lie ahead
those that will never forgive us
those we will never forgive no matter how we try
those left out of the story
the friends who are friends no more
the starving and homeless no-one will shelter
Chicken Little who wanted to stop the sky from falling
the sky that fell – how could a chicken stop it?
the boy who returned from a run to find his whole family slain
those betrayed by God
the sisters who stayed silent
the mothers who still don’t know when the night will end
the day before it was too late
the narrow bridge we walk
the holy among us still
the unreturned
those who even now, pour beauty back into the world
the poets stitching words to the wounds.
the dead that want us to live because they cannot anymore.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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How to Avoid Valentine’s Day Disappointment

How to Avoid Valentine’s Day Disappointment

How to Avoid Valentine’s Day Disappointment

If you’re into Valentine’s Day, I hope it’s going well for you.

I can’t say the day has ever been anything but a spectacular disappointment.

And not because I haven’t been well loved by good people.

See, when I was nine, my father painted this poster for me.

What chance did anyone have, really?

During an early Wuthering Heights obsessed phase, I submitted a complaint to a lover about the quality of his romantic gestures which were not ‘mad and moonly,’ (thanks e e cummings for that igniting phrase). I sighed that all I wanted was to be loved like Heathcliff loved Cathy  – was that so much to ask?  He drew back. ‘So you’d like someone manipulative and cruel. Preferably with PTSD?’

At least someone in the relationship was seeing things clearly.

Long before we were married, Zed, told me I shouldn’t expect flowers. As far as he’s concerned romance is just a capitalist marketing strategy by the florists, chocolatiers and candle-makers and he’s not falling for it. He goes for practical in the gifts department. Which is romantic in its own way.

So I buy my own flowers. And let me tell you I am never disappointed. I always get just what I want: blended roses, pink peonies, parrot tulips. I never have to put up with the messiness of lilies which are spitefully poisonous to cats, nor the morbid attempts of a carnation to coax joy.

But I get that Valentine’s Day can make those of us without romantic love in our lives feel bereft, somehow unworthy. Exclusion is part of its allure. That’s if we buy into its narrative.

Which Joan Armatrading didn’t. She reminds us, ‘there is more than one kind.’ And maybe she meant friendships. Parental love. Filial affection. Adoration of a pet, a place, the ocean – all the ways in which we connect and feel alive because of it.

 

 

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Love is a way of being in the world.

It begins with our own gaze. It is impossible to wholeheartedly love outwardly if we do not love within.

When it comes to writing, we must always write from a place of self-compassion. Not judgement or self-loathing. If we do not have soft eyes for our failures and shortcomings, how can we ever hold the brokenness of others without hurting them with the hidden blade of our unarticulated criticism?

We teach others how to love us, by how kind we are to ourselves. We role model what we are willing to tolerate by the yeses and no’s we say inwardly.

 

Love is yes, to all the worlds that exist in and through us.

Generosity, forgiveness and self-sacrifice for the sake of others are admirable qualities, sure. But if they don’t flow from the great love we have for ourselves, from what unsustainable diminishing motherlode are they sourced? The need for approval? Fear of rejection? Desperation to be liked?

We all know how to break our own hearts more unrecoverably than anyone else can ever hurt us – by all the promises we don’t keep, plans we delay and voices inside we shush; by ghosting ourselves and diminishing our dreams.

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day and you’re 65, or 75 and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy, creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart.
Don’t let this happen.

Anne Lamott

 

And so, to those of you who have put off that writing retreat, that book you’re going to write someday, that longing to put words on a page, come join me in August in Mystery Bay for some real romance. Where you get to love you. All of you. Not just the pretty bits.

MYSTERY BAY WRITING RETREAT

(Kefalonia details are being finalized – the cost will be approximately double that of Mystery Bay).
 
Just 10 spots. And me beside you as a guide, witness, mentor and writing coach. I will offer unconditional psychosocial accompaniment to help you stay open to whatever turns up on the path – grief, joy, heartache, bafflement, anger, fear.
 

Maybe then we can speak about what true love is.

Valentines Shmalentines.

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A Loveline to Celebrate the Thread That Has Woven You Here

A Loveline to Celebrate the Thread That Has Woven You Here

A Loveline to Celebrate the Thread That Has Woven You Here

 

Today is my first birthday without my mother.

I don’t know quite what that means.

She began me and now I am finished in all the ways I know myself as her child.

She was always a quiet force of devotion, gravity and governance and in the months since she left, I have had to seek these strengths within. Without her, I am all alone inside myself. No-one and nothing stands between me and the winds and waves of life.

Today I am 55 – two years older than my father’s mother Chaya was when she died. She’d been living with cardiac failure for five incapacitating years, her great gentle heart collapsing ventricle by ventricle when her sister, brother in law and nephew were killed in the concentration camps.

It’s no good,’ she told my father from her hospital bed. Since thirteen, he has carried the burden of that mantra as heavy as any cross. It has been my task to unshoulder it so my children don’t become sherpas of that darkness.

My father needed her to leave him with a blessing. But terrified and literally heartbroken, knowing she was going to die, she could find no ‘good’ to balance the ‘no good.’

In this year of grieving, I have wondered if it’s possible to hold onto beneficence, even in times of agony and hopelessness.

Yeats’ poem, ‘My Fiftieth Year’ offers illumination:

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.”

To bless others, we must first feel blessed.

 

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

If we relegate this to circumstance, we are at the mercy of outside forces, prisoners of situation, reliant on fairy godmothers and other such fickle tricksters. We wait, like Rapunzel in the tower for someone to come save us with hope or at least an escape route.

We have more power than that.

‘Being blessed’ is, I believe, a narrative choice. It is a love story we tell about our lives.

It’s how we unpick our ‘dharma,’ or our true calling from the muddle of our experiences and discern the ways we have lived in service to Life – beyond the transactions of hand-to-mouth, nine-to-five, quid pro quo. The ways in which have we handed over and passed on all we have, all we know, all we are capable of, is the deep story of who we are. Not what we do. Not what we earn. Not our roles, genders, achievements or failures.

There is a bright vein that pulses through circumstances, of how life has woven itself through you.

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford

Here is my loveline:

 

And here is a template for you to build your own:

How to turn this exercise into a blessing:

  • Come to it as a ritual (set aside time, light a candle, put on music, lenghten your outbreath, summon deep insight);
  • Pick a theme (creativity, relationships, music, writing, belonging, homes);
  • Build the loveline through years and time with words and images;
  • Remember what you have forgotten – the mistakes, losses and pain as well as the ‘successes’;
  • Give your loveline a name, like The Making of a Mermaid; Thirty Ways I Let Go; Who I Became Because of Chocolate;
  • Pass the template on to others.

If this inspires you to want to explore your loveline with greater attention, my course 7 Tricks to Writing Your Story is a perfect vehicle for this. And just for the month of September, I’ve lowered it to $54.45 which is 55% off the usual cost of the course with the voucher code JOIS55 – to make this an easy gift to give yourself.

May the thread that has woven you here, find you.

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The Joy of Midlife

The Joy of Midlife

The Joy of Midlife

Nearby is the country they call life
You will know it by its seriousness.
— Rilke

 

A certain age arrives where you believe yourself to be post-surprises. With enough been-there-done-that lodged in your bones, you may find yourself saying out loud, ‘Nothing could shock me.’

But the relief came as a surprise. When I turned 50, my kids were young adults, the vigil of my mothering had finally come to an end and I was still alive. If I died, no-one could rightfully mourn, ‘she died so young.’ At best, they might sob, ‘She died so middle-aged.’ It felt like both an existential and generational victory given how many women in my ancestral family died young.

But more than that, it was a giddy, unexpected liberation that was only the gateway to an ever-expanding sense of freedom I had no idea lay just beyond the trenches of mothering.

I’d always romanticized freedom, assuming it was either, like youth, wasted on those without a prefrontal cortex, or on men who left their wives and kids in the intoxicated fog of a midlife crisis. During the long sacrificial years of hands-on parenting, I’d quietly mourned that the days of wanton partying, shagging and shirking were well behind me, and all that was left was relentless responsibility and respectability and where the hell was the fun in that?

The eight kilos that had climbed onboard with menopause and settled in the apron of my midriff, seemed a minor mortification. So, I’d buy bigger clothes. Suddenly, hours opened up like startling blooms, where once was an endless landscape of (dermatologist, dentist, basketball, guitar) arrangements and appointments (none of which were for me). What would I do with such bounty? And why had midlife been kept such a secret? It struck me that knowing your fifties would be your #bestdecadeever might have come in handy as an incentive to get through the quagmire of the previous three.

I had spent my twenties steering myself towards motherhood like a moth to a flame. Every choice was shaped by the goal: find a man, make babies. Motherhood lay before me, an unconquered territory. That was hardly freedom. It was conscription.

In motherhood, I melted into the lives of other people where I became a blur of a person. I clocked up thousands of decisions about the well-being of others entrusted to my care. I wounded my heart worrying about whether they were the right ones, causing my husband to once remark, ‘Don’t beat yourself up, just because it’s your fault.’ The neurosis crippled me. There is no liberation in watching your children struggle when you’d pay good money to suffer instead of them but are powerless to swap places.

Who knew that at midlife, we come to know true freedom for the first time?

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

We no longer fret about expiry dates (being left on the shelf or our biological clock). We either met Mr or Ms Right (or several versions of them) or we didn’t. We know – or should by now – that romantic love is a commercially funded and loaded business that sets traps for young women (maybe we were that young woman not so long ago).

We either had babies or we did not. We stop waiting for someone to come and save us, and find we are strong and smart enough to do it ourselves. We cease bitching about our skin/hair/weight because our sister/girlfriend/colleague didn’t make it past forty.

Once we’ve buried people we love, some of whom should have outlived us, (as if ‘should’ has anything to do with dying), we become less cavalier about every moment; and more fastidious about how and with whom we spend them.

We understand time is running out and behave with a sudden-bowel-movement urgency around things that matter.

A woman at this stage of her life is wildly untethered. She’s a terrifying creature if one is fixated on control and containment. She becomes a ‘termagant’ – a term I only just learned: a ‘violent, overbearing, turbulent, brawling, quarrelsome woman; a virago, a shrew.’ In midlife, women shrug off marriages, switch careers, go back to university, start businesses. We stop owing anyone our patience, civility or decency.

Vagueness, a not-sure-what-do-you-think? people-pleasing personality trait lest we not be liked by the average so-and-so, vanishes. Everything blurry clicks into sharp focus, like a lens in those optometry frames which turns an O into a D.

Questions we have delayed for too long nestle in the pistil of our decision-making: where would I like to live, now that ‘near the best schools’ is irrelevant? Do I want to eat meat, since I don’t have to cook for a teenage son? Do I need a television set? A husband? A car? A bra?

Perhaps we find ourselves in our petrification at the rising tide of age, lining up for Botox, facelifts and liposuction, so as not to become invisible. But invisible to whom? We become ever more evident to ourselves as our Emersonian beauty ‘steals inwards.’ Invisibility is and has always been a superpower. Midlife gives us a free pass into our own blessed autonomy.

Behind us lies the rubble and blah-blah of all our successes and failures. We finally have the freedom to leap beyond self-recrimination and bless the work we did even if it did not yield the results we hoped for. We can choose (the zenith of all freedoms) to forgive ourselves for all the mistakes we promised we would never make, and chuckle at the hubris of thinking we could control the outcome.

Then we can toss our greying hair in an insouciant manner unbecoming for a woman our age as we head out in the direction of our ‘at-long-last’ dreams.

We survived our early lives thinking it was our only chance at happiness.

In midlife, we get another go at it. 

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 13 books, her latest is Unbecoming (Lusaris, 2020). www.joannefedler.com

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There’s an Octopus in the Room

There’s an Octopus in the Room

There’s an Octopus in the Room

‘We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.’
– Mary Oliver

In a week’s time, I will get to live my dream.

Over four days, I’ll sit in what is called in the industry, a ‘writers’ room’ with five smart, talented women and we will discuss how to turn my book, Things Without A Name, into a television series.

If my book makes it to the screen, it has to do something useful in the world. It has to make up for my failures on the front lines. And I hear Ru Paul’s words to his queens on stage, ‘Don’t f#@% it up.’

But it’s also the knowledge that here it is – the moment I have worked all my life for. I feel the heft of responsibility to the stories of so many women at my back.

I’m afraid that somehow this tender story will be ‘commercialized’ to make it palatable to viewers.

Years ago, when I insisted on the inclusion of the appendix which hits the reader hard with the realities of violence against women, my publisher was worried it would make ‘readers uncomfortable.’

‘Good,’ I’d said. ‘Isn’t that the point?’

‘Uncomfortable doesn’t sell,’ she’d responded.

***

I get up early on a Sunday morning. I like to get down to the ocean for my swim before the crowds descend.

‘Seriously?’ I mutter as I paw through the garbage my family has been too distracted or lazy to sort out during their nighttime forays into the fridge. I pull the soft plastics out and put them in the bag above the fridge. I wash out the hard plastics and tins and put them in the recycling. I pull out the banana peels and other food scraps and put them where they belong – in the compost under the sink. ‘How many bloody times do I have to tell you…?’

But telling people how to behave is not how you get them to care enough to act accordingly. I know this. How many times do I have to know this before I’ll figure out a different way to inspire a change of behavior?

***

Since I’ve become an ocean swimmer, I will watch anything about the ocean. So I settle down on my couch and begin the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher, a South African production about a man, Craig Foster, who forms a relationship with an octopus over the span of a year.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Things Without A Name is the best of my thirteen books – so when it was met with mediocre sales (and embarrassingly poor ones in Germany, the country in which some of my books have been bestsellers), I’ve often wondered if perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps the book means so much to me because I care so much about the issue – ‘the issue’ of violence against women and children. I spent six years as a woman’s rights advocate in South Africa in my mid-twenties. I set up a legal advocacy centre to end violence against women; I sat on a Law Commission which drafted the Domestic Violence Act. I ran workshops to educate police, prosecutors, magistrates, even judges on unconscious sexism and racism. I was, I guess you could say, an expert in this area once. Those were, without doubt, the worst years of my life.

Then, when my daughter was 18 months old, someone I love deeply was gang-raped. I suppose in a story, this is what has to happen – what you fear the most is what you must encounter on your journey, so you have a chance to meet it anew and transform yadda yadda yadda.

What it did was catapult my husband and I from our beautiful rental home in Rondebosch beneath Lion’s Head in Cape Town to another rental in Sydney with two small children before I could grab hold of my heart long enough to still it. Within three years, my life in South Africa became a backstory, replete with its imprinting wounds, holding the world that had formed me, the sky under which I’d been born, the earth on which I’d taken my first steps, the people who make me a person, you know – the kind of whole person you are when you’re not half gone.

It took five years of grief and not knowing what I would make of myself in this bizarre, beautiful, terribly repressed country with a racist history that rivals South Africa’s, for me to settle down to writing, which had always been a hobby, something I did on the side. It seemed benign and healing enough an occupation after the horrors I’d witnessed firsthand, the ones I needed to forget enough so I could be a semi-sane mother.

In my narratives, I could control what happened. People you loved wouldn’t get raped. Or murdered. You could write about love; friendship; the mundane stresses of motherhood. And so I did.

Until, one day, seven years into our immigration, the words of a woman sitting opposite me at my desk at POWA, resurfaced, the way a submerged object – even a body – will rise, eventually. Her sister had been stabbed to death with a pair of scissors. Forgive me for inserting this image into your mind, but those were the facts. The line I wrote was ‘There are not many useful things you can say to someone whose sister has been stabbed to death with a pair of scissors.’

And then Things Without A Name poured out of me, a long wail of sadness, grief and, surprisingly, hope.

***

I’ve always longed for an encounter with the divine. I don’t even know what I mean by this, to be honest. It has nothing to do with patriarchal religion which makes me ornery, verging on the irascible. I’ve been a self-help junkie, immersing myself in meditation, philosophy, mysticism and Sounds true podcasts over many decades. At one point I noticed I was hoping for an angel to appear at the foot of my bed to tell me that my friend Emma who died so tragically and so young, is very much still around. Or for a voice to speak into my ear that my dreams about my cat Tanaka mean that her spirit lingers over the cat bowl. Or that my Bobba Chaya who died when my dad was thirteen watches over me when I sleep.

I’ve grown out of that, thankfully.

These days, I go down to the ocean.

‘I ask for permission to enter and safe passage while I’m in.’

This is my morning prayer before I step into the water. I wait for the cold to bite me and I sink myself into its embrace. The moment you put your face in and you feel the water on your eyelids, is sublime. It takes a full two minutes for your body to register it is not in shock and then, as my husband wrote to me in a birthday card, ‘she is made of the sea.’

***

I am sobbing.

My husband looks up at me. ‘You watching that thing about the octopus? Didn’t realise it was a tearjerker.’

‘It’s not sad… it’s just… beautiful, look,’ I say, showing him my iPad screen where Craig is holding this octopus in his arms. ‘She’s caressing him.’

***

Things Without A Name is about Faith Roberts, who at 34, has given up on love. She works, as I once did, at a women’s crisis centre. Her best friend Josh, died when he was 16 of cystic fibrosis. Faith and Josh share a love for nature. Faith loves spiders. Josh sits with dying creatures, just to be with them. Neither of them fears insects or animals – only people. Faith meets Caleb, a vet. The violent men in the book are offset by men who are tender, gentle souls.

The book, I realise now, is not just about violence against women. It’s also about the way humans interact with the natural world. As I think about the writers’ room, I know that I want whatever we do in that room to evoke the same emotion I felt watching My Octopus Teacher.

The line that sticks with me most of all is Craig saying that bringing his son to the water is teaching him ‘gentleness.’

Imagine if all fathers taught their sons that this is the way to be a man.

***

The problem advocates of any social issue face is we tackle the issue head on. We shine a spotlight on cruelty to animals, refugees, women, children, the homeless, the disabled… and we say ‘THIS IS BAD. STOP THESE TERRIBLE BEHAVIOURS.’

No-one likes to be told how to behave.

Ask my family.

When I was a women’s rights advocate, I quickly understood that the language of advocacy and the words we used to draw attention to violence against women and children, did not achieve what we hoped – to end violence and change men’s behaviour.

One of my biggest breakthrough moments coincided with crippling cynicism – when I understood that the language of cost-to-business and ‘financial damage as a result of domestic abuse’ was what got the attention of CEOs. I have grappled, oh how I’ve grappled with the question of how to make people care.

But I realize now that that is not the right question.

The question is how do we get people to feel?

***

My Octopus Teacher is filled with astonishing footage as well as a mesmerizing soundtrack. When I am done, I feel light inside. My boundaries are soft. I recognize in it what I have never been able to achieve in all my years as an advocate. It is the highest form of activism, it is not shouty, condemnatory, blaming or shaming. It doesn’t tell us how to behave. This is what art is supposed to do. It makes you want to be a better version of yourself. It exposes you to the possibility that you are part of some greater family from which you have been exiled in consciousness and it invites you back in.

When an octopus hunts prey, it often fails when it lurches straight at it. Strategy is a patient game. The octopus watches and waits, surrounding the crab or other unsuspecting creature before closing its tentacles around it. I want to learn from an octopus to come side-on, corral peoples’ hearts and souls, trusting they will draw their own humane conclusions.

I’m not saying we don’t need advocates. Of course, we do. They are the voice of our consciousness. They raise a cry on behalf of humanity. They name the things we fail to. They give voice to silent suffering. They hold our collective grief, especially the grief we are dissociated from; the grief we will not acknowledge which is the consequence of our mindless, greedy, selfish, consumerist behaviours on this planet.

I once was one of them. But it is an exhausting, lonely, nightmarish podium on which to stand for too long and eventually ones’ legs give way. We burn out, become exhausted and disillusioned with humanity – these are all built into the job description.

I’ve done my time there. I’ve had my heart butchered, my soul excoriated and my spirit dismembered, just like that octopus had her tentacle torn off by the shark.

I thought I was done.

But octopus tentacles grow back.

***

‘How did you get your book optioned for the screen?’ a friend asks me. ‘Did someone just read the book and approach you?’

I laughed even though the answer hurt.

In October last year, a friend of mine was brutally raped and tortured over many hours. I set up a GoFundme campaign to help raise money for her medical costs and recovery. Then some weeks later, Hannah Clarke and her children were murdered when her ex-husband set them alight.

I heard a voice say, ‘You’re not done yet with this issue. Take this story and find a way to tell it to more people.’

You could say I had an encounter with the divine.

***

So I made a list of every person I knew in movies and television and reached out to them.

I posted out many copies of my book.

I set up meetings.

I spoke about Hannah Clarke. The zeitgeist. #MeToo.

It happened quickly and without fuss. Bunya Productions optioned it for the screen.

Then I really got a fright.

That voice inside me said, ‘Now what, Fedler? Here it is, the opportunity you’ve asked for, a greater platform on which to tell this story.’

And so as I prepare myself for four days in a writers’ room to discuss the characters, plot and how to bring the story into peoples’ living rooms and hearts, I am taking my octopus teacher with me as my compass.

I only hope that whatever we create together in that room will resonate with the delicacy, soulfulness and brilliant beauty of one man’s love song to an ocean creature.

I see it, all the connections. That little octopus with her tentacle torn off by the pyjama shark is women’s bodies. The human is the male psyche.

And I wept to witness that wild, precious creature caressing the hand and chest of a gentle man who would do her no harm.

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