Skip to content

Shadow Selves

June 14, 2017


Today I returned to an old favourite text, Susan Wooldridge Goldsmith’s inspirational poemcrazy:


The psychologist Carl Jung suggested that when we’re about seven we separate from and then bury or repress whatever parts of us don’t seem to be acceptable in the world around us. According to Jung, these unacceptable parts become our shadow … To become more fully who we are, it’s a good idea to invite our shadow to speak now and then.

Find a quiet place, sit down, shut your eyes and ask your shadow to appear … Begin a conversation with your shadow. If you’re willing, invite him or her to become part of your life … Ask what your shadow needs from you to have a positive role in your world. Where can you meet? What would your shadow like you to do together? … Let your shadow write a poem.

My reason for choosing this exercise was that my own ‘shadow’ visited me the previous morning; while I lay in bed still half-dreaming a character sprang fully-formed into my mind. I got up and wrote page after page about her.

The experience reminded me of another classic inspirational book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Like Wooldridge, Cameron advocates writing as a  ‘pathway to a strong and clear sense of self’. Here she describes her daily practice of ‘morning pages’, three pages of stream-of-conscious journal-writing  – a practice which I’ve recently taken up again after a long lag: 

Living in a small adobe house … I sat at the wooden table looking north to Taos mountain and I wrote … the mountain dominated my view and my morning pages as well. What did it – or anything – mean? I asked page after page, morning after morning. No answer. And then, one wet morning, a character named Johnny came strolling into my pages. Without planning to, I was writing a novel. The morning pages had shown me a way.

I don’t know whether I’ll use my new character in a novel, or anywhere else, but today during my class I wrote a poem that distills her essence. 


my shadow knows

My shadow sings
like Patti Smith in a gritty
thrash-pop band. Like me,
she’s a brunette, but she
bleaches her choppy bob
platinum, then lets the dark
roots grow. She eats bloody
steaks, smokes Marlboro
Reds and drinks Wild Turkey.

My shadow has a tattoo of an eagle
on her right shoulder. She loves
rollercoasters and dreams
of one day

My shadow drives a cherry
1984 Holden Commodore.
She can read a map
and change a tyre.
She never went to uni
but she can read between
the city streets.

She never needs
to fill a silence
with nervous chatter.
Instead she leans back
in her chair, blowing smoke rings, and lets
people come to her. My shadow knows
how to walk in stilleto boots
without stumbling. She knows
how to ask right out
for what she wants
without apology
and straightaway
get it.










June 4, 2017

Recently I took my paint swatches into class again. It’s always a popular exercise. I recommend going into your local hardware store and starting your own collection, as it’s almost impossible not to be inspired by the creative colour names.  


Purplicious is my my favourite flavour of bubblegum, mostly because of the pretty wrapper. I’ve been collecting them for ages. When I have enough I’m gonna wallpaper my room with them. I haven’t told Mum, but I’ve already started gluing them to the wall, in the far corner behind my bedside table.

Whenever we go to the shops I ask her for another packet of Purplicious gum.
“You haven’t finished the last packet,” she says today in Kmart.
“But I’ve only got one piece left.”
“Simone, I said no. You’ll rot your teeth will that stuff.”
Kmart has to be the most boring shop in the world. Mum makes me wait for ages while she tries on bras. I used to kill time in the toy section but I’m too big now and I’d be embarrassed if anyone from school saw me there. Instead I head to the makeup section and muck around with the testers while a security guard gives me the evil eye. There’s an greeny-yellow eyeshadow I really like called Cintrino, but Mum won’t buy if for me because she says I’m still too young for makeup. I cover my eyelids with it, then go all the way to my eyebrows. I look older, like maybe fifteen or sixteen. I check out the lipsticks and find a black one. Black lipstick. Awesome. Now I look like an alien, a teenage alien. I’m just about to wipe it all off again when Mum comes out an catches me.
I wait for her to go ballistic, but instead she just kind of crumples. “What am I going to do with you?” she sighs, and gets a tissue out of her bag, spits on it and starts scrubbing my face, pressing down hard.
“Ow,” I say, but I say it softly. This is a hundred times more embarrassing than being seen in the toy section.
“Don’t you know how many germs there are in those testers?” she says.
I want to point out that there are probably at least that many germs in the saliva she’s rubbing all over my face, but I’m not gonna push my luck.

She’s quiet on the drive home. It’s not her dormant-volcano quiet, when she stews over something I’ve done and plans my punishment. It’s more like the quiet just after Dad left, when she went around doing all her regular things but in this kind of trance, and if I spoke she’d blink and ask me to repeat it. I never knew what to do then and I still don’t, and I feel bad that I’ve tipped her back into sleepwalker mode but I don’t want to make things worse so I just lay low.
To cheer myself up I think about the secret corner of my room with the purplicious bubblegum-wrapper wallpaper. I know if I asked Mum for permission she’d say no, so what I’m gonna do is, when I’ve covered the space behind my bedside table and my bed I’m going to show her how pretty it is, and then maybe she’ll let me finish the wall. I just want one thing to be all bright and shiny, like the whole world used to be when I was younger and we were all together.

Keep Me In Mind needs you!

March 29, 2017

As you may know, I’m making a short film: Keep Me In Mind: a comedy about lost love, second chances and minor accidents, starring Joel Famularo , Jeni Bezuidenhout and Lara Deam.

We shot 90% of it late last year, but recently I’ve been planning a pickup shoot, to get the scenes and shots we need to complete the film.

I now realise it was a mistake to schedule a shoot without first securing finances. Put it down to inexperience – this is my first time doing any of this.

Our first shoot was funded by crowdsourcing, and by a launch party for a trailer we made prior to the film shoot proper:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was counting on a second wave of donors to our crowdfunding campaign, as people were extremely generous the first time around. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. So I’ve made the decision to postpone the pickup shoot for the time being.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story. From now on, for as long as it takes, I’ll be exploring every avenue to find the remaining $2,500 we need to complete the film.

If you would like to help get this show back on the road, please contribute here, and check out our donation rewards while you’re there. If you can’t afford to chip in, please check out our Facebook page and share the link.

Thank you.

(Child)Freedom Song

March 20, 2017

Two weeks ago, inspired by Nick Hornby’s book of essays 31 Songs, I got my writing class to each write down a favourite song. At home I downloaded them all, and then last week I got everyone to write about their songs: what they liked about them, and if they associated the songs with any particular memories. We all read out our responses, and after each one I’d play the track. It turned out to be a very special class, and reminded me how much our musical tastes say about who we are and where we’ve come from.  

31 Songs Cover_Nick Hornby

Here is my response, somewhat expanded:

Impractical Art – The Singer and the Songwriter

I first heard this song on the parenting podcast The Longest Shortest Time. It’s a fascinating program, which makes a point of appealing to a wide range of listeners, including those without children.

On this episode, My Best Friend’s Baby, host Hillary Frank interviewed Rachel Garcia, the childfree singer from The Singer and the Songwriter, and her best friend who has a small child, about the effect of the baby’s arrival on their friendship.

It was a delightful conversation: insightful, funny and moving. But the moment that really transfixed me was when Frank quoted and then played Garcia’s song ‘Impractical Art’: All my friends are having babies / But I just want a dog. It spoke so directly to my own experience*.

I’m at an age now  where more and more of my friends have small children, and while we still manage to see each other, I’m always conscious of the chasm that now separates our life experience.

People choose to remain childfree for many and various reasons, but in my case, it’s always been about having maximum freedom to make art, without distractions or heavy responsibilities. As I approach middle age, I watch many of my friends achieve a level of financial prosperity, even getting mortgages, while I, after twenty years of writing, am just as broke as I was at age twenty-two.

Of course I’m not the only one in this position. I’d encountered these sentiments plenty of times in books and articles, but never before in music.

The arrangement is very simple: Thu Tran’s plucked guitar, then a gentle swell of violins. On the line Time is on my side, Garcia’s rich, sweet voice soars and then trills downwards into a minor key, reflecting her oscillation between hope and doubt, self-confidence and uncertainty.

I paused the podcast, went to iTunes and downloaded The Singer and the Songwriter’s entire oeuvre. For a few weeks I played it around the house, letting the tunes grow on me, without listening closely to the words. (I’m like this with new music; I need time for the melodies to sink in.)

Then one Saturday, I put on their music while painting a wall – an activity that allows plenty of time for concentration – and found myself chuckling at the clever wordplay and self-deprecating wit present in all their lyrics. That was the day I truly fell in love with the band, when they went from being a pleasant background sound to an integral part of my collection and identity.

At this point, it would be impossible for me to choose a favourite Singer and the Songwriter song. But ‘Impractical Art’ will always be special to me, because I heard it first, and because it fulfills a need I didn’t know I had – an anthem for all the struggling artists eschewing parenthood to give our songs and plays and novels and poems and paintings a better chance at being born.

* with the caveat that instead of a dog, I want more cats. When singing along I usually make this alteration.

S and the S_image


Dialogue Exercises for Writers

November 15, 2016

1) Character Through Dialogue

It’s dialogue that gives your cast their voices, and is crucial in defining their characters – only what people do tells us more about what they’re like, and talk is sneaky: what people say often conveys their character to others in ways of which they – the speakers – are completely unaware…

-Stephen King, On Writing


Using this picture, write a scene where each character unconsciously reveals something about her true feelings/attitudes to the other.


2) Subtext

When we humans speak, we are not merely communicating information but attempting to make an impression and achieve a goal. And sometimes we are hoping to prevent the listener from noticing what we are not saying, which is often not merely distracting but, we fear, as audible as what we are saying. As a result, dialogue usually contains as much or even more subtext than it does text. More is going on under the surface than on it…

– Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer


Using this picture, write a scene in which the true situation between the characters is revealed in what they don’t say.


3) Inattention

In life, it’s rare that we truly are able to listen and find someone who will listen to us. And yet it’s unusual to find the more common phenomenon – inattention – appearing on the page. Generally, in fiction, one character speaks, and the other listens, and, having listened and understood, replies.

– Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer


Write a scene in which these characters are talking past each other – each following his/her own train of thought while ignoring or oblivious to the other’s.


4) Just for fun


Write a scene featuring a conversation between these two characters, which alludes to the reason they’re sitting on railroad tracks without ever stating it outright.

Love: The Ultimate Game-Changer

November 13, 2016

First appeared as ‘Love Is a Footy Field’ in The Big Issue #520, September 2016


I’ve always hated sport. As a bookish, clumsy child I dreaded PE lessons, which always involved me stuffing up and being mocked or yelled at by my classmates. At home, the only sport on telly was cricket, which my father followed. Its soothing commentary and lulls of gentle background noise formed a benign backdrop to long, lazy summer afternoons. This did not diminish my terror of being forced to play cricket at school; like all sports, it was a theatre of cruelty where my inadequacies were displayed before all my peers while I squirmed in humiliation.

During adolescence, I somehow picked up the sour-grapes attitude popular among arty intellectuals, that all sport is stupid and anyone who follows sport is stupid. This comforting snobbery carried me through my twenties and well into my thirties. It was easier to maintain in my home town of Sydney than in famously football-mad Melbourne, where I now live and where nearly all my brainy, bohemian friends follow AFL. Then I moved in with my boyfriend – now husband – whom I regarded as pretty much perfect in all respects but one. Yep, you guessed it.

Soccer – sorry, football – is his main passion, but he also enjoys AFL and cricket, and will watch tennis if nothing else is on. As you can imagine, this required a fair bit of adjustment on my part. At first, I couldn’t resist making snide comments during whatever match my husband was trying to enjoy, despite the hurt I could see this caused him. I used to watch his reaction when his team scored a goal with the bemused look Billy Crystal gave Meg Ryan during the fake-orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. When the ball hits the back of the net he leaps to his feet, arms windmilling wildly, crying “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

I had an insight into this behaviour one night in 2010, when Megan Washington won two ARIA awards (bear with me here). I love Megan Washington: her incredible songwriting talent, her unique voice, her fabulous personal style, her self-deprecating humour. Watching the awards ceremony, where she performed an amazing song-and-dance routine atop a piano, I felt an odd sense of pride and ownership; I was one of the fans who’d bought her album and helped put her on that stage. As the Best Breakthrough Artist nominees’ names were announced, I sat on the edge of my seat, my fingers crossed. And when Washington won, I threw myself backwards onto the couch, legs madly cycling in the air, crying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Whether your heroes are musical or sporting, moments like this are a chance to identify with the achievements of people whose careers you follow and admire. This emotion is most powerful in a group context; I now understand that the feeling my husband gets cheering his team with other supporters at a match is the same feeling I get from singing along with Washington and fellow fans at a gig.

Since this mellowing in my attitude, life at home has become more harmonious. I no longer feel the need to roll my eyes when my husband switches to sport on TV, although I will occasionally make snoring noises if it goes on too long. I still post amusing anti-sport memes and videos on my Facebook page. But for the most part, I’ve accepted that sport is now a part of my world.

The night the Socceroos won the Asian Cup against South Korea, I watched the game at a pub with my husband and a big group of friends. I was there more for the nachos than the match, but as it went on I grew more and more involved. It was a close game, and the tension in the room was infectious. When Australia scored its first goal, the pub crowd erupted in joy: cheering, leaping to their feet, hugging each other, high-fiving. Throughout the action replays, I wasn’t watching the screen. I was watching my husband’s beaming face.

When you love someone, what’s important to them becomes important to you. I used to regard his soccer fandom as a regrettable flaw, the admission fee for living with a kind, smart, funny man who cooks, reads and dances (not all at the same time). But now I realise his delight in sport is part of the package, a vital facet of the enthusiastic, positive person I adore. I doubt I’ll ever enjoy sport for its own sake, but I’ll never stop enjoying his enjoyment.


I’m making a movie!

November 2, 2016


Keep Me In Mind is a short comedy about lost love, second chances, and minor accidents.

Musician Martin is down on his luck: his band has split and his girlfriend Emily has dumped him. One day their paths cross unexpectedly, and dramatically. Will they rekindle their attraction? Will Martin win Emily back? And will he ever play the guitar again?

Check out our trailer at our crowdfunding site, and get regular production updates on Facebook @KeepMeInMindthemovie.