My 2017 in review

fireworks

As I type this, it’s just after 9pm on New Year’s Eve. There are plenty of places I could be, but I opted to go out to dinner with my family, then head home for a quiet one. New Year’s Eve often brings back unpleasant memories for me, and while I’m sometimes able to brave the hoards of drunken revellers and have a good time in spite of those memories, part of effective self-care is knowing when it might be too overwhelming to handle. This year was one of those times.

Nevertheless, 2017 wasn’t actually that bad for me now that I think about it.

Writing highlights

In February, my short story “Aiden’s Flowers” was published in Issue 1 of Flash Fiction Magazine. It’s now available from Amazon in both eBook and print. You can buy Issue 1 alone or get the book bundle featuring Issues 1, 2 and 3. If you do purchase a copy, it would be awesome if you could also take the time to leave a short, honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. 🙂 (You don’t have to, obviously… it would just be a nice thing to do for everyone involved in the publication.)

I wrote four theatre reviews and one film review for Perth Walkabout over the course of the year:

Between my various commitments, I didn’t end up pitching my first manuscript (I didn’t want to half-arse my pitch to an agent or publisher) or working on the second as much as I wanted to, but hopefully I’ll pull my finger out in 2018.

Personal milestones

I finished my Diploma of Library and Information Services in 2017, which means I’m now qualified to be a library technician.

In July, I had a four-hour tattoo session on my ribs to get a black and grey koi fish and some coloured cherry blossoms down my side. It was probably my most painful tattoo, but only by a little; it wasn’t unbearable or anything like that. However, it’ll probably be my last for a while because I want to start donating blood next year, and you can’t if you’ve been tattooed in the last six months.

I sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” in front of a live audience in October, which was my first ever non-karaoke performance but hopefully not my last. I was very scared. But on reflection, I think it’s less scary than public speaking and not that much scarier than regular speaking. 😛 (Your mileage my vary, of course. I also practised the hell out of that one song so I knew on some level that I was prepared.)

In November, I attended the Perth premiere of The Disaster Artist and met Greg Sestero. For the unitiated, there’s a movie called The Room, which has been dubbed “the best worst movie ever made” and “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” but has attracted a cult following around the world. Greg, who played Mark in The Room, wrote a book called The Disaster Artist about the making of this infamous movie, as well as his friendship with its mysterious star/director/writer/producer Tommy Wiseau, and their struggles to make it in Hollywood. The Disaster Artist book has now been made into a movie starring James and Dave Franco; James Franco also directed it.

I also reaffirmed my commitment to teetotalism. I’ve never been a big drinker, but I’ve gone through phases where I’d have one or two when I went out with friends. I’ve now cut back to zero and intend to keep it that way. I’m trying to be healthier in general, and while my sugar binges are probably more of an issue than the occasional drink, not drinking alcohol is easy for me, so it made sense to start there. The only reason I ever drank was to fit in, and I no longer care what people think because I no longer care about people.

(Just kidding. I threw that in there to hopefully get a laugh out of anyone who might actually be reading this. 😉 But seriously, your life gets so much better if you’re able to let go of the constant need for others’ approval.)

Other highlights

Other highlights (for me, anyway) of 2017 include:

  • The release of the polarising latest instalment of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi. I liked it, but I’m still trying to figure out where it ranks for me.
  • The release of the similarly polarising Star Trek: Discovery, the first Trek TV series since Enterprise was cancelled in 2005. I wish they hadn’t completely redesigned the Klingons for no discernible reason (unless it gets explained when the new episodes premiere in 2018?) but overall, I’m enjoying it.
  • Seeing some awesome concerts, including Bruce Springsteen (for the 7th, 8th and 9th times) and my favourite Aussie band, 1927 (for the 17th, 18th and 19th times).
  • My friends (and others) in same-sex relationships finally being able to have legally recognised marriages in Australia. (But it came with a lot of vilification and heartache.)

So all in all, a pretty good year for me personally, but I know it was awful for many others. It’s now almost 11pm, so here’s to a happy 2018. I’ll see in the new year with this song by one of my favourite bands…

New Year’s Day – Bon Jovi:

10 thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi film poster

Unlike in the last two years, when I attended midnight screenings of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, I didn’t see Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi until 2pm on opening day. But I decided to continue my tradition of posting 10 (hopefully spoiler-free) thoughts on the movie (some of which, admittedly, aren’t actually about the movie itself).

Disney could be making Star Wars movies every year until the end of time, so I don’t know if I’ll still be doing these posts a decade from now, but obviously I am this year because you’re reading it. So without further ado, here are 10 thoughts I had while watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi film poster
Star Wars: The Last Jedi film poster (LucasFilm Ltd.)
  1. I asked for a regular Coke but this feels like an extra large super size or something. The movie is 2.5 hours long so I’m going to have to ration this because there’s no way I’m leaving my seat to take a bathroom break.
  2. Leia… I’m getting emotional just looking at her. RIP Carrie Fisher. Nice touch giving Lieutenant Connix a couple of little buns.
  3. YAAAASSSS! Asian representation! Welcome to the galaxy, Rose Tico. Also, great surname (Tico, like Tico Torres, the drummer for Bon Jovi.)
  4. Luke Skywalker sure got grumpy and cynical in his old age, but it makes sense here. Rey is like a young Luke.
  5. Thanks Artoo, now I have something in my eye.
  6. People ragged on George Lucas for the Ewoks and Gungans, but at least both of those served a purpose to the story beyond making puppy dog eyes at Chewbacca. I have no issue with the porgs; there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be birds on Ahch-To. I’m just saying.
  7. AHH I DIDN’T KNOW HE WOULD BE IN THIS MOVIE!
  8. The Force Awakens was basically A New Hope, and The Last Jedi takes a darker turn like The Empire Strikes Back.
  9. Kylo Ren is way cooler this time around. Not as cool as his grandfather, but cool enough. I’m liking Hux more too.
  10. Oh man. I haven’t cried this much in a Star Wars movie since… well, ever.

The Last Jedi official trailer:

Since U Been Gone live vocal cover version

When I’m not writing, I love to sing. I rarely do this in front of people, but a little over two weeks ago, I took on Kelly Clarkson’s song “Since U Been Gone”… in front of actual people. I was beyond nervous, but managed to get through it.

Here’s the video. I know where I went wrong, so try to be gentle. 😉

Thanks to Gareth at VocalTech for the guidance, endless patience, and encouragement. 🙂

10,000 review on Perth Walkabout

Perth Walkabout logo

I reviewed 10,000 — presented by by the Perth Theatre Trust and Umbrella Works Inc. as part of the Subiaco Theatre Festival — for Perth Walkabout:

In 10,000, we are introduced to Edie and AJ through the characters they are playing in a video game. The game, which AJ bought when he and Edie first got together, acts as a metaphor for their troubled relationship. 10 years on, they are married with a three-year-old daughter, but Edie has recently moved out. A keen gamer, AJ hopes to repair their marriage by sharing one of his passions with his sceptical wife. But before long, the lines between reality and the game’s science fiction adventure world become blurred, and Edie and AJ find themselves fighting for their very survival.

Read the full review on Perth Walkabout.

Enoch Arden review on Perth Walkabout

Perth Walkabout logo

I reviewed Enoch Arden, performed by John Bell and Simon Tedeschi, for Perth Walkabout:

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I headed into His Majesty’s Theatre on June 14 for Perth Theatre Trust’s one-night-only presentation of Enoch Arden. The night began with acclaimed classical pianist Simon Tedeschi introducing the show, setting the mood by performing two pieces by Schubert and Brahms, before award-winning actor and Bell Shakespeare founder John Bell entered the stage.

Read the full review on Perth Walkabout.

The Lighthouse Girl review on Perth Walkabout

Perth Walkabout logo

I reviewed Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of The Lighthouse Girl for Perth Walkabout:

As I waited for the Perth premiere of The Lighthouse Girl to begin, I felt like I was on a boat drifting towards an island, with the sound of waves crashing around the intimate theatre, the rocky landscape on the stage in front of me, and even the way my chair shook as the audience walked down the steps to find their seats.

Adapted by Hellie Turner from Dianne Wolfer’s award-winning books, The Lighthouse Girl and The Light Horse Boy, the play is set during the outbreak of World War I. Fay lives an isolated existence on Breaksea Island, south-east of Albany, with her father and old Joe. Fay’s father is Breaksea’s lighthouse keeper; her mother died several months earlier, and her only other companions are her donkey and her diary. Meanwhile, in country Victoria, best friends Charlie and Jim lie about their age to enlist as soldiers, anticipating a great overseas adventure together.

Read the full review at Perth Walkabout.

Let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why

Clay gets Hannah's tapes

Let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why.

I mean, there’s a good chance you already are. It became one of Netflix’s most popular original series shortly after its debut on March 31, but soon also became its most polarising. Supporters of the show say it starts important conversations about difficult topics including suicide and bullying. Those against the show say it does this in a dangerous and/or inaccurate way.

Spoilers ahead.

What is 13 Reasons Why?

Clay gets Hannah's tapes
Clay gets Hannah’s tapes. (Anonymous Content/Paramount Television/Netflix).
The basic premise of 13 Reasons Why is this: Hannah Baker has taken her own life, but before she did, she recorded 13 tapes detailing the 13 reasons why she killed herself. Each of these tapes is addressed to a person at her school. Hannah intended for the tapes to be passed along, in order, to each of these people. As we watch the series, the tapes are in the hands of fellow student Clay Jensen.

The show is based on Jay Asher’s debut novel Thirteen Reasons Why, which was released in 2007 and already had a cult following. However, the series differs from the book in a number of ways, including the characters’ back stories and the method by which Hannah ends her life. (It’s far more graphic in the series.)

Is 13 Reasons Why dangerous?

Many experts, including Australian youth mental health organisation headspace, have issued warnings about 13 Reasons Why amid reports that counselling services have received a spate of calls directly related to the show.

Here are some of the arguments as to why the show is potentially harmful:

  • It graphically depicts suicide and rape, possibly leading to suicide contagion.
  • It romanticises suicide and presents the idea of suicide as a revenge tactic.
  • It places the blame for Hannah’s suicide on others, and does not specifically address Hannah’s mental health.
  • It discourages viewers from seeking help; the only time Hannah reaches out to someone is when she goes to the school counsellor, Mr Porter, who is unable to do anything because she sets him up to fail.
  • It does not tell viewers where they can get help if they are triggered by its content.

Kati Morton, a therapist and YouTuber, details her concerns about 13 Reasons Why in this video:

My personal thoughts on 13 Reasons Why

I liked 13 Reasons Why for the most part, but one of my friends felt it was a horrific representation. Both of us have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts. The first time I wanted to die was when I was about Hannah’s age, but as my friend and I demonstrate, I cannot claim to be able to speak for anyone else who has gone through it.

I’m wary of the fans who are borderline evangelical about the show and think everyone needs to watch it. Even though I was hooked on the series, it did bring up some unpleasant memories for me. At one point I was curled up on my bed and needed a good cry and some sleep before I could watch the rest. But teenage me also felt understood, and adult me found that comforting.

I didn’t feel like it romanticised suicide — seeing the brutal way in which Hannah ends her life and how it impacted on her parents did the opposite for me, which I believe was one of the reasons why the show changed the way she died. I also didn’t think Hannah killed herself just to get back at everyone; rather, she felt hopeless, like she couldn’t do anything right and had not one friend left in the world. And frankly, I could relate to her.

Maybe it’s over-simplistic to say that what the subjects of Hannah’s tapes did or didn’t do caused her to come to the conclusion that she had to die. Just like it’s over-simplistic to say that X, Y and Z made me suicidal. But there were things that happened to me, that piled up until life became overwhelming and seemingly unbearable. And like Hannah, I felt completely alone. So while saying “these people killed Hannah” might be an oversimplification, to suggest that external influences played no part in how she felt (and how I felt) is also inaccurate. We could all treat each other a little better because you don’t know what someone is going through. Yes, Hannah made her own choice to kill herself, and if I’d done the same it would’ve been my choice, not anyone else’s. But bullies and rapists make a choice too, and sometimes their choices have consequences like what we see in this series.

Things turned out okay for me. I eventually got a diagnosis, some therapy and a prescription. Hannah never did. Maybe she would have if she’d talked to her parents or a professional, but we’ll never know. I do think avenues for help could have been made more obvious within the show, in the same way that news stories in Australia include numbers for relevant organisations, such as Lifeline. Perhaps they could’ve inserted a news ticker at the bottom of the screen, for instance. The 13reasonswhy.info website provides crisis lines for different countries, but you kind of have to go looking for it.

I believe 13 Reasons Why does have value, but there’s no such thing as a show for everyone, and some people are safer avoiding it.

Have you seen 13 Reasons Why? What do you think of it?

UPDATE: Netflix has since announced that they’ll be adding extra trigger warnings and have “strengthened the messaging and resource language” for the most graphic episodes.

Aiden’s Flowers in Flash Fiction Magazine

Flash Fiction Magazine - issue 1 cover

I have news! My story “Aiden’s Flowers” appears in issue 1 of Flash Fiction Magazine, which is out now. It features 50 bite-sized stories from 50 authors around the world, and you can get it from Amazon.

This what you can expect (from the product description):

Stories that won’t waste your time.

This enthralling anthology of flash fiction features very short stories ranging from a paragraph to one or two pages. Flash Fiction Magazine has compiled a sterling collection of exceptional contemporary examples of this unique fictional form covering a wide range of ideas and genres, from literary to romantic to humorous to horrifying.

Exploring the last moments before a death, the heartache of unrequited love, the sweet high of revenge, or the sad truth about human obsolescence, these brief tales touch briefly but profoundly on who we are, the ways we commit, the ways we move on, the ways we get by—sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, sometimes deeply emotional, and always remarkable.

“Aiden’s Flowers” is told from the point of view of a mother who’s lost her partner in tragic circumstances. Although I’ve never been a parent, I tried to imagine what it would be like in this situation.

Flash Fiction Magazine is available from Amazon. Click here to get issue 1 of Flash Fiction Magazine from Amazon.

Feel free to give me feedback (on my story and the issue as a whole) and/or leave an honest customer review at the point of purchase. I’m sure it would mean a lot, not only to me, but to the other authors whose work appears in the magazine. 🙂

You can also check out my author page on Amazon, which includes a poetry chapbook and a flash fiction collection I self-published a few years ago. I mostly did it so that I’d have some idea of what to do if I decided to go down that route for a novel, but they’re also a pretty good reflection of who I was as a writer back then.

Jasper Jones review on Perth Walkabout

Perth Walkabout logo

I reviewed the Jasper Jones movie for Perth Walkabout:

The film adaptation of Jasper Jones had a lot to live up to. Craig Silvey’s award-winning novel is a much-loved modern classic that has been described as “an Australian To Kill a Mockingbird”. I went into the preview screening of the film with some apprehension about how it would stack up against the book, but in the end, I needn’t have worried.

Read the full review.