I reviewed Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of Coma Land for Perth Walkabout:
In the space between life and death lies Coma Land, a snowy purgatory that lonely child genius Boon wakes up in at the beginning of the play.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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:
Kati Morton, a therapist and YouTuber, details her concerns about 13 Reasons Why in this video:
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.
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, iBooks, and other e-retailers. 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. 🙂
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.
I had just woken up in my hotel room in Sydney when I heard the news that Carrie Fisher had died, four days after she stopped breathing on a flight from London to Los Angeles. While 2016 saw the passing of many iconic figures, this one probably hit me the hardest.
Like most of the world, I first saw Carrie as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.
But the hilariously honest way in which Carrie wrote and talked about her battles with addiction and bipolar disorder made me admire her all the more. So I got her likeness tattooed on me in February 2015, and I’ll treasure that for the rest of my life.
I want to cry but I'm in shock. Some people know I have Leonard Nimoy's Spock tattooed on one leg and Princess Leia on the other leg and now they're both gone? But in addition to being a kickass self-rescuing princess, Carrie Fisher was a brilliantly funny and honest writer who promoted mental health awareness, and all of those things were part of why I wanted a permanent reminder of her on me. Thanks @jessicaholmestattoo for making it happen almost 2 years ago. 🌟 #ripcarriefisher👰 #carriefisher #princessleia #starwars #tattoo #tribute
If you spend half as much time online as I do, you’ll know that 2016 was widely dubbed the “worst year ever”, in part due to the deaths of so many beloved famous people. I was fortunate enough to see Prince live at Perth Arena early in the year — which would turn out to be just eight weeks before he died. No photos or recording devices were allowed, so I can’t show you anything from that concert, but by the time I left the building, he was in my top three live acts of all time.
On a more personal note, someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, but as I write this, they seem to be doing well. So I’m quietly hopeful that 2017 will bring good news for us.
While it’s easy to focus on the negatives, last year had its highlights too. I returned to full-time study with the goal of qualifying as a library technician. And after a few false starts, I began writing what I hope will be my second novel during NaNoWriMo. (I’ve had some rejections for my first novel, but I will keep trying to get it published.)
I also flexed my writing muscle for other websites:
Other highlights included:
In 2017, I hope to keep writing and improving as a writer, as well as continuing my studies. While 2016 wasn’t entirely awful for me (despite the rather dramatic blog title), I know some people who had genuinely horrific years, and I hope for a better 365 days for them too.
Happy New Year.
This morning, I attended a midnight premiere of Rogue One, the first movie in the “standalone” Star Wars Anthology Series. I’m not going to post a proper review because there have already been plenty of those, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come. But like I did for The Force Awakens last year, I’ve decided to post 10 thoughts I had while watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (I’ve tried to keep it spoiler-free, but if you haven’t seen it and are concerned about potential spoilers, please look away now.)
I finished the first draft of my first novel more than a year ago, and have since redrafted it more times than I care to count. I have days where I wonder if it’s any good, but for the most part, I’m proud of it. And I hope you’ll get to read it someday.
But there’s a part of me that’s been wondering if it was all a fluke. I’ve had a couple of false starts attempting to write my second novel, starting new ideas before realising they just weren’t working, or that they were short stories rather than novels. Even though two of my all-time favourite books were written by authors who only wrote one novel, I intend to be more prolific than that.
(In case you’re wondering, the two books I refer to are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I don’t count Go Set a Watchman because it’s a draft of Mockingbird. And Chbosky is still alive, so he may well write another novel.)
Anyway, November means NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) so I thought it was as good a time as any to try to write my second novel again. My final assessments were all due in November (including one week where I had six different things to complete) so I knew I probably wouldn’t get anywhere near the official goal of 50,000 words. And… I was right. I’ve actually only written about 7000 words.
A few years ago, I would’ve considered this an abject failure, particularly as I saw other writers soaring past me. But this year, I feel like I’m on the right track, even though I’ve been moving slowly so far. The novel I started on November 1 drifted in a completely different direction to what I’d planned, until it wasn’t even about the characters I’d started with. However, the new story feels more exciting to write. And I wouldn’t have discovered it if I hadn’t attempted NaNo with my original story.
I do wish I was a faster writer but as always, I am a work in progress. 😉
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year?