Right Turn

Right Turn

‘Right Turn’
From the book The Turning
I chose bona fides
and other Latin terms you find
in law books
for it was easier, they claimed
to fall back on
precedent and stare decisis
than a line Tennyson wrote
that’s etched in your soul.
I turned left at logic
not right at longing;
opted for laboratories
over labyrinths
became encased in cases
tried to stifle stories
heed the judgements
of reasonable men
with careful opinions
and supportive wives.
But my shadow withered
grew taut in torts
without the cry
of darkened hearts
and birds that do not sing.
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?

In law there was no name
for the quiet snuffing
that numbed my core –
not even in Latin.
The poets called it
‘the divided self ’
it was all there
in The Hollow Men –
‘The horror! The horror!’
I did not want to be Ophelia
even in a robe and wig
there was no honour
in being called ‘your honour’
when the mirror
crack’d from side to side
and I wished that I
were dead.
And so
I freed my anchor
turned my ship
cargo-ed with
all that is born only to die
and found my way back
by the stars and their light
and the sound of the song
in the books
I would write.

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What Your Reader Doesn’t Want to See

I’m a novice writer. But I’m an experienced reader, as most writers (novice or not) tend to be. As I sink my teeth into yet another book, I find myself frustrated with the writing, but intrigued by the content. The author had a clear vision of what the story meant to her, but a somewhat murky view of how a reader might perceive her penned words. I’m starting to believe a well written book with nothing to say is far more gripping than an interesting story told in a self-important or confusing manner.

I have enough grey hair and laughter lines to remember the classic ‘80s comedy, Three Men & a Baby, with Tom Selleck cradling baby Mary while reading a bedtime story.

“The champ caught Smith with a savage left hook… that sent the challenger crashing into the ropes. Smith, his left eye swollen, and the cut above his right eye now much more bloody, countered with a barrage of vicious body blows.”

“What are you reading her?”

“It doesn’t matter what I read, it’s the tone you use. She doesn’t understand the words, anyway. Now, where were we? The champ began the fourth round like a man possessed, going straight for his opponent’s body.”

If four-month-old baby Mary can be mesmerised with big style and small content (and Tom Selleck’s beautiful blue eyes), I can too.

We have a vision of how our story will go (well – I do…) but, when it gets to the nitty gritty of putting fingers to keyboard, visions can get lost in a flurry of ego. Just because it’s written down, doesn’t mean an audience has to read it. For writing to extend beyond me, I have to envision the reader’s needs.

.

About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

As a novice writer I’m not in a position to state what to do for successful writing. But just as politicians learned over millennia, and drum into us with negative campaigning, it’s easy to know what not to do. As I lurch my way through another memoir, here are a few things I’m learning not to write:

  • Exclamation marks! They’re so annoying!!
  • Presumed fact. Belief isn’t fact. Back it up or acknowledge it’s a personal belief. This is a fact.
  • Half-truths. It’s difficult to develop empathy for a character claiming everyone is wrong and they are right. With only one side of the story, I instinctively distrust the assumption of innocence. What aren’t you telling me? Be vulnerable – tell me the whole story.
  • 1+1=3 Whatever the scenario (fact or fiction), give me the numbers and I’ll finish the sum. Our lives are unique – to us. Our stories are relatable – to everyone. Grief. Love. Fear. We all experience them in one way or another. I haven’t grieved the loss of a marriage, but I have grieved the loss of a career. Show me grief in the guise of divorce, and I’ll see the sum of your despair.
  • Tyipng erorrs. It’s hard to proofread you’re own work, and even with countless professional eyes on the the manuscript, typos slip through. But if there’s more then one per page, ewe need better professionals. Excesive speling, gramattical, & structurall, erors disturb the most forgiving of reeders.

For 36 years I taught eager (and disinterested) young people to play the flute. As years went by, I discovered how much more we learn from mistakes than we ever do from successes. I want to raise my standards as a writer and continue to hone my craft, and paying attention to both what works and what doesn’t is helping me do that.

I want to see the villain’s face crumble. Hear the soldier singing. I need to touch the warm flesh of young lovers, taste the salty tears, and smell the charred remains. Whatever vision you have for the story burning inside you, make it one we can all see. Remember your reader. Because then, much like baby Mary staring adoringly into Tom Selleck’s eyes, your story will find an audience.

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When I was two, I almost went blind in my right eye.

A close friend of my mother`s had noticed that my left eye was not tracking properly. It was turning out so that it appeared misaligned, and so a trip to the eye doctor`s was quickly arranged. I was examined and assessed and eventually given the diagnosis of constant extropia, also known as lazy eye.

Rather than attempt to saddle such a young patient with glasses, the optometrist opted to cover my working orb with a bandage to force my left eye to perform. For at least a couple of months I toddled more than most toddlers might as I explored my world with half of my sight literally under wraps. I have no memory of this experience but, with a son of my own so similarly aged, I can closely estimate how frustrating this must have been for both me and my parents.

Eventually, though, the professionals realized that they had made a mistake. In covering my good eye in the endeavor to exercise my poor one, the former had ceased to work. The gauze and tape had performed their task too well, and the perfect vision I had known in my right eye had been overturned by mandatory inertia. The doctor was alarmed by the severe inactivity upon re-exposing it, and he ceased the flawed experiment to try and remedy the eye`s unresponsiveness.

I was given thick glasses with a strong prescriptive lens on the left side and wire hooks curling out the arms and around my ears. My right eye reclaimed its dominion. And bandages were reserved for scraped knees.

Life returned to normal. For a time.

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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.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 a board book for her son.

She also tells terrible jokes.

When I was in the car one morning, being driven to my first grade class, I composed my first poem. It was a four-line ode to the sun and it was the inaugural beautiful hint at how writing might become a part of my life.

The next evidence, though, was not so sweet.

Four-eyes. Bookworm. Typing these terms of mockery still cover my irises with liquid pain. For all of elementary school, through surgery for my lazy eye when I was ten, and up until a couple of years after the procedure when I was finally told I no longer needed glasses, I was teased in such a way. I had been gifted with a mother who worked in the municipal library and whose vocation compelled her to share her love of reading with her children. So with plastic frames often perched atop a nose firmly stuck in a book, my childhood destiny was written.

But amongst the traumas of pre-pubescent bullying, I can still find ways to be grateful. Without those trying, formative years, I would not have become discerning in my selection of close friends. I learned a great deal about how to read people and understand the nuances of expressions, words and even emotions. My people watching skills surely developed while I pumped my legs alone on the swing, and my ability to gain solace with my own thoughts and company must have had their foundation in the field`s perimeter of gravel and dirt, over which my two feet carried me on countless recesses.

These are the skills upon which I began to create my authorship, both as a girl who contributed a couple of articles to the school newspaper and as a young person trying to write a happy ending for her life. Those glasses, the names, and the way my vision had to adapt and then adapt again – all of it means something. Each flicker of experience has contributed to who I am now, and to how I am able to share parts of myself on the page.

I am thankful my eyesight was not permanently marred by an optometrist’s misguided efforts to help. More so, I am grateful for the opportunity to remember how we can’t cover up what is working and concentrate solely on what is dysfunctional. Too often we focus on the negative, but in doing so we rob ourselves of examining a full life. I, for one, want to explore the width, depth and height of who I am and what I have been through with a writer’s vision: with eyes wide open and lifted toward the shifting colours of an infuriating, peaceful, grieving, joyous, confusing and insightful horizon.

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Holy shit. I need glasses.

Like clockwork, the switch for my blurry vision gene was flicked on the day I turned forty. I’m not sure why I was surprised. I’m the one who, for decades, was prepared for my period every fourth Tuesday at ten o’clock. Some women know the day or week to expect them, but if it got to half past ten, I’d convince myself I was pregnant.

‘It’s ten o’clock Tuesday,’ I’d whisper to Amanda as I passed her desk.

She often replied with a wink.

It was bizarre that my vision of life was becoming a whole lot clearer around the same time that my eyesight turned from crystal to frosted. What I had finally realised was that, as a perfectionist, my outlook was constantly clouded. Clouded by dreams. Such illusions projected an unattainable future, which accidently put my life on hold. I was forever waiting for the day when ‘everything would be sorted’ before taking action to start my ‘proper life.’ ‘That’s when the fun will begin,’ I kept telling myself.  

Every little girl has a grown-up wish.

‘I’m going to be an actress, or a newsreader like Jana Wendt. And by the time I’m thirty, I’ll be married to a handsome prince and we’ll have two or three children.’

My reality was a tad different. I had suffered from Stockholm Syndrome for many years in unfulfilling jobs. I had settled for relationships with emotionally unstable or abusive men, and I had almost certainly missed any chance to have my own children.

Through my delusion, I held on to faith. My gut told me over and over that it would ‘all work out’. Who knows how long I would have kept floundering if I hadn’t received my wake-up call. The shock of my dad’s premature death, when I was thirty-six, shook the madness out of me and ignited my search for meaning. Before this, I was proud to strive for perfection. Proud to put other’s needs before my own. Innocent to the massive consequences.

For the first time, I challenged the fantasy I had accepted as my reality.

I looked closely at the vision that had been hijacked by other people’s agenda’s. My vision. What vision did ‘I’ have for my life? My outlook was inherited. I’d never asked the question.

‘Good girls do what they’re told,’ I’d heard.

Although my focus shifted inwards, my search for purpose expanded. Instead of being paralysed by fear and how the big scary world affected me, I began to explore. I had a poster on the wall, staring at me throughout my university days. A little girl with outstretched arms and the quote, ‘je vue vivre’ (I want to live). The desire was always within me, but I was too scared to put it into action. Now there was no option.

.

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Not only did I want to live, I wanted to connect and contribute. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to find my place. My habitual future thinking had stopped me from taking even a tiny step forward. I had to learn to live in the ‘now’ instead of attempting to control months and years ahead. A time not even guaranteed. I zoomed right in, through the tiny hole in a kaleidoscope. As I watched the colours dancing around, life became more lighthearted and I became more playful. More myself. Finally, alive and in the moment. Viewing the world through younger eyes, with older ones.

Writing has played a major role in reaching some of those buried parts of myself. Once it was another old dream that had been dismissed. Like a balloon, I was pulled back by the string, when my natural tendency was to rise and be free. But writing is now a healthy part of my day, as essential as sleeping and breathing.

I’m not using other people’s words when I write. They’re all mine. I have the freedom to use my words with no reaction or response. The intense processing has helped me to zoom in on the truth, smashing through the layers that I thought were there to protect me. My therapy on the page. A tool I have used to reframe so much of my life.

Like how lucky I am to have changed my focus. To have opened my eyes to new possibilities. Otherwise I may have missed him. I finally did marry at forty-three. I never doubted we would find each other, but what I could not have predicted was that my handsome prince would also be a fifty year-old grandfather. Little girls don’t wish for that. But I had adjusted my vision.

The blurriness of life is often what brings the clarity.

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