Artist-in-Reticence

Artist-in-Reticence

Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris was there as well, with a scratchy voice in my inner ear like Gollum’s. “This is mine,” it muttered desperately and with uncharacteristic arrogance.

I was so disquieted by this side of myself that I quickly began turning inward. I started to question why I had applied for the residency and whether I deserved it. Who was I to represent an entire movement, shaking free from the societal norms of silence regarding infertility? What was I doing masquerading as a writer with ideas and skills to pass onto others? How could I have thought that my proposed programs would even appeal to the public, let alone connect them in any meaningful way to their own writing? Where had I found the audacity to even apply?

I spiraled. I sunk rapidly into self-doubt, and the inner critic I have spent the last year learning to dismiss crept up behind me, sunk her fingers into the flesh of my upper arms, and held on, hissing countless shortcomings against the back of my neck.

I spent the next three weeks flip-flopping. Some days I found myself grateful and looking forward to the residency. Other times, I couldn’t find reprieve from tension headaches and aching shoulders. I carefully programmed and diligently carried out preparations. I interrogated my motives and challenged my integrity.

The one thing I didn’t do was write.

.

About Jennifer

Jennifer wrote her first poem at the age of six, and she has been involved in the world of words as an editor, a blogger, and an article writer.  She is published in and shortlisted for a growing number of local, national, and international electronic and print publications, regularly reads at literary events, co-runs a writing group, and actively pursues educational opportunities to further develop her craft.  Most recently she had an essay, titled Bairnlorn, appear in the Globe & Mail, placed first in the My City, My Words poetry contest, and wrote and handcrafted two board books for her son.

You can follow Jennifer on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or Pinterest.

I had allowed the denigrator inside to stay my hand – to leave my pen capped upon the table, my laptop still beneath a pile of disheveled papers. I was disappointed in my paralyzed state and worried of what it could mean for my forthcoming residency. So when a friend pointed out an opportunity to craft a story for a contest with a quickly approaching deadline, I chose to dismiss the snicker within and to embrace my competency and creativity.

I wrote. I edited. I reworked and polished. By the time I was done, I was proud of the piece I submitted, and – more importantly – I had reconnected to my belief in myself and in what I know I can accomplish as a writer. More to the point, I had gotten out of my own way.

There is a danger in too much analysis. Being someone who has elected to pursue a passion founded in looking and thinking deeply, I recognize the irony in these words. But if all we do is examine, prod and second-guess, we will never get to the work. Silencing the voices – be they unabashedly prideful or shriveling in their timidity – allows us to get what we must onto the page.

I know the cacophony of conflicting thoughts will return. Again and again, I will have to face the introspective noise of my mind. It is inevitable. However, I chose how finely I tune into the din and how I counter its effect. This time, I was able to prevail because of a deadline. Now and then, it takes breaking down my goals. It could involve the skills of a good listener or the bend in a familiar forest path. It may require the soft, arching back of a cat beneath my hand, the scent of Nag Champa as I meditate, or the sweetened bitterness of a caramel latte. The key could be space or perspective or focus.

Mostly, it is simply about getting myself into the chair, in front of my screen or notebook, fingers poised.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event (18-22 March) in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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People with Passion Interview with Xanti Bootcov

People with Passion Interview with Xanti Bootcov

‘I’m terrible at spelling and my grammar is horrible,’ Xanti said to me. ‘I think I am even dyslexic. But I have a story I need to write, and I need your help.’

It has taken two and a half years of dedicated commitment, but finally, today, Joanne Fedler Media is proud to be publishing her book, But They Look So Happy, about Xanti’s experience of adopting two six-year-old boys from a Mexican orphanage. This book means so much to me because it’s the first book Joanne Fedler Media has nurtured from inception to publication. 

Xanti Bootcov - But They Look So HappyWhen they adopted their boys, Xanti and her husband knew their sons had suffered untold abuse and neglect, but they believed that love would heal all wounds. Life didn’t turn out that way. This is a heart-wrenching journey into one family’s experience of adoption as two adopted boys struggle to become part of a caring family and Xanti faces the fact that her love will forever be unrequited.

It is a heroic memoir, in which Xanti learns to value everything she gave even in the face of rejection, and will make you think about what it means to be a ‘mother’ in a completely new way.

 

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS WONDERFUL NEW AUTHOR
BY BUYING A COPY OF HER BOOK

Why She’s Fabulous

 

Xanti was born in the late ’60s and grew up in South Africa. As a little girl, she found out how powerful writing could be when her first-grade teacher asked the class to write an essay. She learned that it wasn’t a good idea to write about having a teacher who shouted all the time. It took her another forty-five years to show her writing to anyone.
 
Xanti - But They Look So Happy
She started travelling at the age of fourteen and has lived in seven countries. She learned something new from each, which has added to her eclectic lifestyle. She’s been through earthquakes, volcano eruptions and a couple of fires. But her life changed completely after she witnessed the realities of abandonment and abuse in a Mexican orphanage, and that’s when she adopted her two sons. Her experiences as an adoptive mother have shaped her view on parenting, childhood and everything else that matters.
 

Xanti is fascinated by the human psyche and longs to understand the reasons we do the things we do and it’s this perspective she applies to writing her memoir. Xanti is no ordinary person, no stereotypical ‘mother.’ She is a gypsy-hippie-lover-of-all-creatures and has a unique voice that permeates this wrenching, and honest account of her efforts to be a mother to her two boys. 

Here’s my People with Passion interview with Xanti:

If you want to learn more about Xanti, you can visit her website at www.xantibootcov.com or check out her Facebook page.

 

When Xanti and her husband adopted two six-year-old boys from a Mexican orphanage, they knew their sons had suffered untold abuse and neglect. But they couldn’t leave them where they were. Xanti believed love would heal all wounds. She was wrong. This is a heart-wrenching journey into one family’s experience of adoption as two adopted boys struggle to become part of a caring family and a mother faces the fact that her love will forever be unrequited. This is a heroic memoir by a debut author who learns to value everything she gave even in the face of rejection.

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How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

How to Stop the Great Unravelling at Midlife

We have two lives,
and the second one begins when you realise you only have one.
– 
Mario de Andrade

You will wake up one day and without looking at your iPhone, you’ll know that you are running out of time.

This bolt of insight will have less to do with your age in chronological time than with the state of your heart. If you’ve been on the run all your life from the truth, that somewhere ‘out there’ is your last day, your last breath, this will come as something of a nasty shock, as if you’d just worked seven years for one bride, and only now discovered you’ve been tricked into marrying another. Or that the terms you thought you’d agreed to have been unilaterally changed and you now want a refund, because who in their right minds would agree to that?

You may want to throttle the teenager, turn your back on the husband, drop the career you’ve been so carefully climbing the ladder towards, never cook another meal again, sell everything, find a younger lover, walk the El Camino, learn to scuba dive, paint, build a tiny house and work out who the hell you are now that nests are emptying and your ovaries have said, “I’m outta here.’

Brene Brown talks about this as the ‘great unravelling.’ It may turn up in our lives as depression (is it just menopause?), anxiety (menopause again?), contemplating divorce or a career change (surely that can’t be menopause??), joylessness (definitely menopause), having an affair (seriously, if not now, when?), resentment at events long-past, late-onset-lesbianism or bisexuality (OMG, that’s an option??) unhappiness for no reason, feelings of irrational rage, disappointment (in ourselves, our relationships, our lay-byed dreams), emptiness, wanting to leave it all behind, directionless-ness.

In the middle of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark wood
where the true way was wholly lost.
– Dante

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?

The deepest questions of identity re-emerge to destabilize us just when we thought we had it all together.

Who are you?
Where did you come from?
Why are you here?

Seriously, after all we’ve been through?

Trust me, you are not alone.

In midlife, a seismic shift occurs between our past and whatever future lies ahead. Our ego-structures no longer work (who am I, again?), and we have to return to the labor of self-definition once more. We may have lost a parent or two. Our kids may have left home, or we realise we’re never going to have those kids we meant to have. The tummy pouch doesn’t help. The insomnia makes everything worse. We feel confined and belittled – by a stagnant relationship, stultifying routine or past failures and mistakes. Even our successes aren’t benign – we look back and are filled with sorrow at how many doors we never opened while we chased our goal of becoming an ‘expert’ or ‘specialist.’ It seemed like a good idea at the time – having something to ‘fall back on.’

We question why we were so quick to say ‘I do,’ ‘I’ll take that promotion,’ ‘sure, let’s have another kid.’ The roles and expectations we’ve been in service to no longer fit who we’ve become. Everything is too tight or too loose. We’ve outworn our responsibilities, graduated from our histories and outgrown the version of ourselves we’ve spent so long chasing.

We wonder, not just a little, what life has been suppressed inside us to get us to where we are.

And goddamit, we always wanted to write a book.

Dear soul, this is it.

This is where your second life begins.

Now is the moment to go back to retrieve what we left behind in our past as too painful or shameful. Here is when we arrange a meeting with those we swore we’d never forgive (that meeting may even be with ourselves). We divest ourselves of what is unnecessary – yes, it’s taken just this long for us to know the difference between what is and isn’t serving us.

Geoffrey Davis’s exquisite poem ‘What I Mean When I Say Farmhouse,’ takes him back to a memory as a boy, as loneliness and his parents’ unlived lives shadow his childhood. He ends the poem with:

             I want to jar the tenderness of seasons,
to crawl deep into the moment. I’ve come

             to write less fear into the boy running
through the half-dark. I’ve come for the boy.

At this midlife moment, our job is to go back for the parts of ourselves that we left behind and ‘write less fear, betrayal, suffering, pain, trauma’ into our stories. We integrate the place where the suffering began, with who we have become. We take the power of who we are now and lend it to the part of ourselves that was most powerless.

And in that meeting, something magical happens.

I want to create the perfect environment for this meeting and so I’ve created a transformational live event in Sydney from 18-22 March 2019. It’s the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough for 20 people who are ready to write into these stories.

Please come join me.

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People with Passion Interview with Tanya Savva

People with Passion Interview with Tanya Savva

‘I love this part the best,’ I said to my husband this morning.

I had just finished nominating Tanya Savva’s new book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo for the NSW Premier Literary Awards.

There’s something deeply happy-making about helping other people reach their dreams. I never could see myself in pompoms and a miniskirt, but I love being someone’s cheerleader.

Since word has gotten out that we’re now PUBLISHING BOOKS (like for real), we’ve had a steady flow of submissions from aspiring authors. I’ll always consider a manuscript, no matter where it comes from, but what makes Joanne Fedler Media different is that I created it to publish the writers I’ve mentored. I wanted to promise them certainty of outcome – that if they finish their books, they won’t have to search for an agent, or languish in slush piles. We will publish them. And we’ll pile all our love and energy into getting their books into the world.

See for me, a book is not just about a great story, or beautiful writing or even what’s ‘commercially viable.’  It’s a chunk of the person who wrote it – their soulful bits. It’s a pop-up of their consciousness, a hologram of their values, and beliefs. Someone could write like Liane Moriarty but if she’s a bitch, I wouldn’t be interested. Prose like Toni Morrison only impresses me if the writer isn’t a princess. I don’t want to have to deal with a diva. Man, life is too short.

I love books because I love the people who write them (just listen to the humility, intelligence and sensitivity of a writer like George Saunders to appreciate the magnificence of Lincoln in the Bardo). Publishing is about the relationships I get to form with writers, and about sharing their growth and transformation as they become authors, and we learn to become better publishers.

I want to know the person behind the book. What do they love? What have they lost? What does this book mean to them?

That’s why we interview our authors on my People With Passion series. You can watch my interview with Tanya below. What has it been like to raise a blind child? Why did she write this book? What does she hope the book will do for others? These are some of my questions to her. Warning: tissues may be required.

Tanya is in my Masterclass where she is writing a memoir about raising a child with special needs as a single mother, and the choices she’s made to live aligned with her soul purpose, in the face of adversity. She is passionate about empowering women who care for others to create inner freedom and joy no matter their circumstances and runs carer retreats for mothers with children with special needs.

Mackenzie is a magical and confident imp of a girl who continues to triumph through challenges she has faced since birth. She is an exceptional storyteller, horse rider and piano player, and creates joy and laughter wherever she goes with her cheeky and hilarious disposition. A true creative spirit, she shares her unique vision of the world with all those whose lives she touches.

To follow Tanya and Mackenzie’s journey, visit www.tanyasavva.com


If you order your copy now, you will receive a limited edition of The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo in this gorgeous packaging, signed by the author. As a special bonus, you will also receive a link to the audio version of the book spoken by Mackenzie. 

How can you resist?

(What better Christmas or Channukah gift can you think of for a child in your life?)

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What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What sort of people do we want to be?
What sort of people do we want to raise?

The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo.

I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book imprint of Joanne Fedler Media if only to publish this gem of a book.

Tanya’s life changed when her daughter Mackenzie was born blind and with a range of other physical challenges. As a single mother, she knew there was more to working herself to exhaustion and not having enough time to spend with her daughter.

‘I know she deserved so much more,’ Tanya says.

In 2016 she decided to turn her life around. She packed up their lives, bought a caravan and for five months took Mackenzie all around Queensland, Australia, where they had all kinds of adventures. During this time, Tanya kept a leather-bound journal to capture their experiences and document Mackenzie’s reactions to everything she ‘saw.’

One night she wrote the book from start to finish and found a wonderful artist, Emma Stuart to do the illustrations.

The book asks us to imagine seeing a dolphin, walking through a rainforest, flying in a helicopter and swimming in the ocean without the use of our eyes.

As Kenzie-Moo delights in the sounds and sensations around her, she invites us to explore the world in ways we’ve never experienced before.

‘Next time you’re on an adventure, close your eyes to see.
Sense the world a little differently. Maybe you’ll see it just like me.’

Tanya and Mackenzie

This book is everything a book should be:

It has been written by a remarkable woman about a remarkable child; it’s a testament to the kind of love that makes this world bearable and ridiculously beautiful in the face of overwhelming challenge; and it holds a message that reminds us – no matter our age – to grab life with both hands and do that thing we’ve been wanting to do but have been putting off.

“My daughter isn’t an excuse for why I can’t follow my heart’s desires – she is the reason for why I should.”
Tanya Savva

The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo 5

Please help me to make this book a HUGE success and support this extraordinary mother-daughter duo.

You can do that NOW by purchasing copies of a limited hard-cover edition, signed by Tanya and beautifully packaged (they make outstanding Christmas and Channukah gifts, so you can stock up).

And if the story and illustrations aren’t enough to melt your heart, you will also receive a link to the audio version of the book spoken by Mackenzie (trust me, this kid is something else).

Tanya is in my Masterclass where she is writing a memoir about raising a child with special needs as a single mother, and the choices she’s made to live aligned with her soul purpose, in the face of adversity. She is passionate about empowering women who care for others to create inner freedom and joy no matter their circumstances and runs carer retreats for mothers with children with special needs.

Mackenzie is a magical and confident imp of a girl who continues to triumph through challenges she has faced since birth. She is an exceptional storyteller, horse rider and piano player, and creates joy and laughter wherever she goes with her cheeky and hilarious disposition. A true creative spirit, she shares her unique vision of the world with all those whose lives she touches.

To follow Tanya and Mackenzie’s journey, visit www.tanyasavva.com


If you order your copy now, you will receive a limited edition of The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo in this gorgeous packaging, signed by the author. As a special bonus, you will also receive a link to the audio version of the book spoken by Mackenzie. 

How can you resist?

(What better Christmas or Channukah gift can you think of for a child in your life?)

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What sort of people do we want to be? What sort of people do we want to raise? The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo. I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book...

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How to Love Time with Every Passing Birthday

How to Love Time with Every Passing Birthday

How to Love Time with Every Passing Birthday

We’re all just walking each other home.

– Ram Dass

 

It’s funny how much we fret about nonsense in the light of Ram Dass’s insight, isn’t it? How different would we behave if we lived each day with that as our premise?

So when the 31st August comes around, I don’t sigh, ‘Oh God, another year…’ and get all coy when people ask me my age.

Let me tell you, I’m happy to eat cake once a year, blow out a gazillion candles and get fussed over by family and friends.

Of course, it’s the job of birthdays to remind us of that ‘cottage of darkness’ (to quote Mary Oliver) that we’re all heading towards. But I’m tired of bemoaning the relentless ticking over of the clock, scheduling of calendars, passing of weeks, months and years and becoming bitchy and depressed about the bodily decrepitude that accompanies it. Sequential time (or ‘chronos‘) is only one limited way of Hourglassunderstanding our lives.

There’s another (far more upbeat) way to think about time – ‘kairos.’ It’s an Ancient Greek word meaning ‘the right, critical or opportune moment.’ It celebrates time vertically as opposed to horizontally. You know those moments – the ones that resonate beyond the period they occupy, the ones that ‘stay’ in and with us, even as days move relentlessly through us (that first kiss in the rain; when you heard your daughter sing for the first time; the time he held the moon in his hand for you; the moment you realised, ‘he loves me…’)

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?

Birthdays can be tiresome expressions of more time passing, or we can tune into them as timeless, blessed outposts marking our journey home. The best way I know how is to ritualize these days by waking to see the sun rise, dunking my shivery bones in the ocean and giving money to causes I care about. I drop all work. I let the day have me all to itself.

Birthdays pull me into the confessional of big soul questions like: Is my life meaningful? Am I happy? Are my relationships fulfilling? Why am I doing what I’m doing? And, if I died now, would my basket of regrets be empty or full? (If we don’t ask them on our birthdays, when do we ask them?)

Sunrise

This year’s birthday prep (which involved a vision board, journalling and a life-scan) clarified for me that I want to:

  • stop buying stuff
  • lie still and flirt with the sky (both the clouds and stars)
  • make love more often, maybe even every day
  • remember what my heart is for and let it do its thing
  • listen to what is calling to me through the noise of email and to-do lists
  • love my body more and more and more, blessed jiggle of flesh
  • do silly things – jigsaw puzzles, indoor rock climbing, vegetable pickling, aerial yoga, kayaking, dancing in my socks and singing One Republic’s ‘I Lived’ as if I were onstage
  • write, and write and write and write (at least one beautiful sentence each day).

Kazantzakis wrote: ‘leave nothing for death to take, nothing but a few bones.’ I love that. We’re here to ‘own every second that this world could give,’ (that’s from ‘I Lived’). As we do this big walk together, let’s try to skid more slowly from hour to hour, to be patient with the surprise we are becoming as we sink more deeply into the discovery of who we’re here to be.

Here’s a little writing exercise if you’re up for it – to nudge you into a bit of a love affair with ‘kairos.’

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