On Writing in Australia

Types of Communities

There are all kinds of communities for writers in Australia, I’d reckon, but mostly what I’ve found is either Facebook Groups or actual organisations. My experiences with both are hit-and-miss.


Hits happen when I’m on a FB group that does more than just post memes about how writing makes you crazy or how writers procrastinate. I do like those, and will sometimes even share them on, but it’s not like that advances my writing career in any way.

Some groups will share writing opportunities, short story competitions and whatnot, but it seems rare. Mostly they seem to be about advice or events, really. And by “advice” I mean really, really simple shit. Writer Noobs, for lack of a less-snobby-sounding term. Events can be anything from Meetups to Author Talks at libraries and such.

Which is all pretty good, but I have yet to find one that encompasses all these things. Mostly they tend to be one or the other.


Writer’s organisations can, for the most part, fuck right off. I know that sounds rather surly but I can’t remember the last time one of them sent me an email offering me something of value for free. Sure, they dribble tidbits of “advice” (again, for noobs) in there, but they only community they’re interested in building seems to be the ones that will pay to attend their workshops or online classes.

Which is fine, I suppose, in lieu of Creative Writing Courses at a community college or something, and if you can afford it. But what about those of us that can’t? They’re all easily in the three-figure range for just about anything you’re wanting to do, including being a member. There’s not many options for a tiered scheme.

I was lucky enough to find a Perth-based group called “Out Of The Asylum” and they were only about $40 per year. I can’t remember the competition, but I was entering a short story piece for something and it required that I was a paying member of an official writer’s group in Australia, so I went with the cheapest I could find in OOTA. Awesomely enough, I got to enter their Spilt Ink Competition and I actually took second place!

But the other organisations, especially the big ones, all want too damn much. There’s one here in Perth, the KSP Writer’s Centre, that is always putting out competitions and such, always with a cost for entry, but always limited to members. I can get the Concession rate of $70, but all that really gets me is access to their meetings and whatnot, and the ability to enter (and pay of course) their contests.

The seemingly most-popular national body, the Australian Society of Authors, wants $160/year for an “Associate” membership (and one-off $25 fee) and $215 if you’ve published a book (same sign-up fee). When I initially asked them about a concession rate, they ignored my question and pointed out that I could pay them in monthly instalments if I wanted.

Then, when they published an article about how sad it is that Australian writers don’t make very much money, I wrote them another email that pointed out the hypocrisy of crying about authors not getting paid enough, then not even offering a Pensioner’s rate on their membership page.

It was about six months later that I saw another push for joining up and lo and behold there’s now a message at the bottom of their Membership Page that says to get concession rates you have to ring them. So I rang them and it ended up being only about $15 cheaper.

Why did I have to ring them to find out their concession rates? Why gatekeep that information from concessioners? Odd. Still haven’t figured out how it’s worth it either. Other than saving on competitions, there’s no real benefit unless it’s the thing that they all do: Offer discounts on their stuff. If I’m not going to pay for your workshop or writing class, then I’m not going to pay you for membership.

Australian Writer’s Guild seems to be more about screenwriters and such than anybody else, but that’s alright because they’re still $185 joining fee, plus whatever it is per year for various levels, coming to about $350 a year. Best for pros, is my guess.

The Australian Writer’s Centre is pretty good for their contribution to the community as they hold monthly writing competitions that are free to enter and offer you recognition from around the globe. The prompts are usually highly-entertaining and they give you a weekend to write 500 words, and it’s a heap of fun. Plus a great way to engage with the community. I’ve longlisted a few times, but never made it to the shortlist, though I will keep trying.

Aside from the big ones that focus heavily on pimping their own courses, there’s a few book/author/library-centric newsletters that I’ve found that I just love. The Writing WA newsletter is where I get most of my competition/event news as well as neat articles about local authors. They seem more community-minded than just about anything else I’ve seen out there and will happily pimp big authors or the space opera romance author who’s just self-published her thirteenth book. I’m a huge fan of this group.

Types of Opportunities


If you’re down for entering short stories or are a poet, there’s actually quite a lot. I’m happy to write short stories of any length or genre and submit them just about anywhere I can. While I still don’t quite grok why we had to call it “Flash Fiction” for yet another category, I’m happy to write that one too.

In fact, there were so many comps that I started keeping track of them in a Calendar Plugin here on my own site.


Aside from the short stories that you could write and comps you could take part in just about every month, there are the occasional call-outs for manuscript submissions from publishers as well as a couple of big awards.

The ones I’m keen on entering are usually centred around emerging authors, some of them even marginalised voices, and they often have a hefty cash prize.

The Hungerford is done by Fremantle Press and is $15k I think, as well as the Richell too. Both give an opportunity for those of us that have never gotten anywhere with our manuscripts to get a chance to not only get noticed, but to get published too.

Of course, once you’re published there’s the Miles Franklin and the Ned Kelly’s to enter your book in, but that’s a whole next-level thing and I’m looking forward to having to figure all that out someday.

Types of Writers


Okay, here’s where I start to spout unpopular opinions about the industry. I am never, ever, going to have a cry about how someone else has more opportunity than me because of inclusivity and I refuse to use the word “woke” unless it’s to make fun of people that say it as if it’s a bad thing.

BUT… I’m a white, Western-culture, cis-het, educated, middle-aged male. I’ve got privilege running out my ass, and I have no room to complain, but I’m a decent writer and I’ve written some decent books, and I can’t help but wonder if I’d have been offered a contract by now if I were a BIPOC woman/non-male.

The vast majority of the authors I interact with and/or see being spruiked by both publishers and organisations alike are women, nearly 99% of the agents I’ve found on QueryTracker are women and nearly the entirety of the local writer’s groups here in Perth are women. This seems to be the way of the industry.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. If my writing needs to work just a bit harder to get recognised while people that have bore the brunt of my privilege for thousands of years get a solid crack, then that is as it should be.

BUT… it also means I’ve got slightly fewer opportunities for friends and engagement. Not that I’m actively searching for friendships, but I know that the writers I reach out to or engage with on social media treat me differently because I’m the demographic I am, and I kind of wish that weren’t so.

Class Divide

There’s also the fact that I am poor. We live on Disability/Carer’s Pensions and can’t work, so it becomes a matter of not being able to afford things like editing and cover design for the books I’ve written, or memberships for competitions I wish to enter.

Plus there’s the matter of finding the freedom to actually write!

Not being able to work doesn’t mean life isn’t work enough. With two kids at home and one of them severely Autistic, there’s not a lot of room to find that headspace to crank out novel after novel. If I’m not looking after wife’s issues, she’s looking after mine, and just helping run a household when you’re disabled is already a sizeable portion of your day.

Couple that with the fact that pain is a constant distraction and suddenly you’ve had nearly all your motivation sapped. This shit is hard.

While I wouldn’t swap lives with anyone for anything ever, a part of me does wonder what life would be like if I were the semi-retired, empty-nester wife of a dentist or lawyer or something, where my only “duties” during the day would be to organise the housekeeping service and walk Chester, our Labradoodle and the rest of my day could be spent sipping Chardonnay and writing whatever the blue fuck I wanted.

I try not to be bitter, but I just see too much of this, and I’m envious as fuck. I occasionally see these Fellowships or Mentorships where somebody can get some cash for their writing projects, maybe something to make the load a bit lighter. I even qualify for one as I’m technically disabled, but I just can’t imagine taking away the opportunity from somebody truly deserving.

Yeah, I know. Don’t I think that I’M “truly deserving”? Yeah, I do. But I’ll get up that hill on my own, I reckon. Until somebody comes along and says, “Hey, you’re precisely who I’ve set out to help, so here, have some money, and I’ll sit back and await your brilliant work.”

I mean hell, aren’t we all out for that kind of thing? Like painters and artists-in-residence and such way back in the old days in Italy and shit. Somebody rich benefits from your creativity, so they pay you just to be around and being creative. What a life, what a dream.

Where I Fit In

Right now, I’m pumping out short stories for nearly every competition I can. Wifeage and I figure our already-tight budget can withstand the minor hits it takes every time I enter a comp, so I’m going to spend this year hitting as many as I can.

And yes, there have been times that we have been too broke for me to afford the $15 “reading fee” that most comps have. But if it means an opportunity, a chance at recognition and another feather in my writer’s cap, then it’s got to be worth it, right?

I’m never going to be able to drop the $450 they want for a Writing Class, nor do I really want one right now. Memberships to things are out because of lack of perceived value and most editors want way too much money to do what me and Wifeage can handle 95% of. I have a hard time finding the value there, no matter what the standard advice is.

As with most things, it seems you have to pay to play, and I’m stuck on the outside trying to find a way to DIY my own setup. Most folks wouldn’t bother, I suppose. But then again, as Wife and Offspring keep reminding me, I’m not most folks.

My Writing Projects

I don’t know that I’d call it Writer’s Block, as I don’t necessarily feel blocked, per se. I just don’t really feel like taking part in the act of writing. I have stories, I have ideas, I have details to add to worlds I’ve created and I have ambitions to submit novels and short stories to agencies and organisations, seeking recognition and accolades.

But I just don’t feel like writing. It’s like some of the atrophied muscles in my leg. The bad hip means I just don’t use them, so they’ve withered. If I just walked more, when I DO walk a little more than average those muscles wouldn’t hurt as bad.

‘Course, walking more hurts in the long run and writing doesn’t. Poor analogy.

SEE?! Writing just isn’t working for me the way I want lately.

NOVELS – Finished

I’ve finished three, thus far.

The Council – Book 1 in the series, I impatiently launched it on Amazon under a pen name and have only had a handful of people read it. Those who have liked it though. Then I started submitting it to agents/publishers using QueryTracker and got like, 200 rejections, but Tangled Tree Publishing liked it and wanted a full. They were apparently interested in a deal until they saw I’d already self-published, then regretfully withdrew. Fuck. Lesson learned.

The Unholies – Book 2 in the series, I wrote it rather quickly after the first one and hammered it out in a few weeks. I, for the record, quite like it. But I haven’t heard from anyone else that was supposed to have read it other than one person who loved my first book so much they wrote an entire blog post and called me a genius. This one too, is self-published and sits in obscurity. For now.

Lovemite – I finished the first draft of this one not long ago, but I haven’t worked out the last chapter. I spent a long time trying to get this one right, making sure that all the parts I wanted to hit, hit. Still just a first draft though, and still VERY rough. I admit I was sort of… driven, getting this one done. Sick to shit of living this Life of Poverty, I saw this one as our way out. I was sure that if I could just get it to a reasonably polished shape, then I could get an agent/publisher interested and maybe start making some money off my writing.

Then my brother died. That sort of slowed things a bit. But still. Wifeage tells me that when I spend my evenings playing Playstation instead of writing, I’m in a better mood. I want to get instantly defensive but see her point. I just wanted to finish the book and get it going. Impatience for this life was pushing rather hard.

NOVELS – Unfinished

I’ve started more than I’ve finished, sure, but if I hadn’t I don’t know how I could call myself a writer.

The Caravan – 3rd in the series from above, our heroes venture North of the River after meeting a whole new kind of telepath.

I’m about 4 chapters in on this one but I’ve got the entire thing loosely outlined and I’m really quite excited for it. It’s going to open up some cool things with the main characters and continue to bring to light issues such as gender-inequality, homophobia and xenophobia. Everybody’s still Bi too, so there’ll be more of that. And action, action, action!

No Angel – This is the one I’m currently most excited about. A crime thriller set in Perth, contemporary, with a hitman that’s got some quirks. Quick-witted and smart, he’s also crippled with MS and quietly bisexual. It opens with him killing an inmate in lockup as a favour to a friend and then finding out slowly that it may have been a bad move.

I’ve got about 4 chapters into this one too, but since I kept stalling on the main storyline I’ve recently decided (like, just this morning whilst laying in bed) to scrap the convoluted storyline and go for something simpler. I like it a lot better this way and I think it’ll be a banger.

Jo’s Story – Basically writing a biography for my wife, but changing things like Hollywood does. I’ve got a loose outline but it keeps changing because writing about somebody else’s life and all the shit that goes on in it is HARD.

Angels and Demons – This one is an idea borne from late-night, wine-soaked convos with the Wifeage about classic good guys and bad guys. Basically, a hooker and a hitman take time away from their sinful lives to avenge the victims of sexual abuse from the church (and otherwise).

Hitman’s Dilemma – This one might work better as a short story, but a hitter is working his way through a list of folks in an unnamed city and about halfway in he starts to realise the global significance of what he’s doing. He changes his mind and there are consequences that he didn’t foresee.

The Presenter – This one’s got me excited too. A vigilante finds people that have gotten off because of loopholes or mistakes and then frames them for similar crimes. He sets up crime scenes and “presents” them to the cops. There’s somebody at the top, though, that wants him stopped, possibly because he knows he’s next.

The story is told with alternating viewpoints of The Presenter and a copycat, but with a HUGE twist that I’m not going to reveal here, haha.


I’ve got quite a few, but only a few hits.

Crazy Witch Woman – My first success, this one was “Highly Commended” for the Stringybark Short Story Anthology and was published in it too. I wrote it according to prompts for the call-out, but I also started a collegial/hilarious/charming email convo with the head publisher/judge of the contest and I can’t be 100% certain I got there purely on merit.

That said, Wifeage and Teenage Offspring both liked it. I mean, I liked it too, but I like a lot of my writing and think it’s good. Shit man, what do I know?

The River Doesn’t Care – Actually a memoir of a day spent fishing with my mother and brother, I banged this one out before he died. Like, last year or so. I played with it and edited it for length to enter it in various short story comps and finally edited it to remove any geographically-identifying characteristics. My hope was that I could finesse the setting to be virtually anywhere and enter it into more comps.

It worked, I was able to enter it into the Short Prose (Fiction) comp from an organisation that I recently joined called OOTA. Out Of The Asylum, they are fairly small and in Fremantle, and I only joined because they were the cheapest (and had a Concession/Pensioner discount) and I needed to be a member of an “official organisation” to enter into one of the FAWWA contests.

But yeah, I got an email letting me know I was shortlisted, and that was really cool. Then they said that Brooke Dunnell (The Glass House) was going to judge the finalists and present the award and that was really, really cool. I mistakenly thought that only the shortlisters would be at the AGM when she gave away the prizes, but there were three prizes and five shortlisters. I’ll be honest, when I saw that they were mostly middle-aged women, I figured I wasn’t winning shit.

Not to sound Sour Grapesy, but I pay a LOT of attention to what’s going on in the Author World of stories, books and publishing, and while I am Super Supportive of inclusivity and trying as hard as possible for equality, and I know I reek of White Privilege, but I know that being male works against me in a lot of respects. I’m not quite ready to come out as the “B” in LGBT publicly either* so that doesn’t currently get me any points.

*I now realise that I probably just did. Thank fuck nobody reads this blog.

One More Tea – This one was inspired by the earthquake in Turkiye. I don’t quite know what in particular inspired it other than some of the weird dreams I have sometimes. I’ve worked and reworked this one too, editing for length and for a reasonable amount of geographic ambiguity.

I’ve probably entered this one at least a dozen times in various forms and have received only rejections. I quite like this one and I felt rather feelingsy when reading it, so I’m not sure why nobody’s bit on it yet. I suppose I’ll just keep entering it until somebody tells me what’s wrong with it and I’ll start over.

Tripping – This one was a cool one, sort of Sci-Fi and futuretastic. Too subtle though, too much thinking needed, and I know that’s an issue of mine in that I obscure things too much because I’m so damn clever and the reader ends up not having a clue what’s happening. I really liked this one though and still giggle/goosebump at it.

Last Wishes of One-Armed Mei – This one is actually set in the same universe/time-period as my Sci-Fi series and is a bit of a prequel, told from one of the main character’s POV (Dukan). It was originally for a Sci-Fi group in Canberra’s contest that had some prompts about body-modding and similar elements, so that’s why it has that specifically even though such things don’t necessarily feature in my books in that same universe. At least, not for now. I think they’ll work their way in for Book 3.

I liked this one too. The twist ending, the gender-bending. I thought this one had legs (even if only one arm!) but I have yet to get anything other than rejections for it.

The Second Frog – Another one of my memoirs I co-opted for an international audience. This was from when I was a kid and mom took us to some big mall/games area in Dallas. One of my only “wins” from childhood and something that stuck with me, it might be a better feeling than story, but I liked it and it made me feel lighter when reading it.

We Have Company – Another co-opted memoir of when my dad was out jogging and got sort of protected by this wandering Lab. She was an older girl but she was lovely. There might come a time when I write a longer version, maybe the Real Life version, where I share that we ended up giving her to a friend of mine, and that when he died much too early, it was likely because he’d gone into the raging river to save his dog. It wasn’t the one I gave him, she’d died years previous, but it was the puppy he’d gotten right after that he loved with his whole heart.

Me in the Corner – This 606-word piece was from a few various prompts. It might’ve been for Furious Fiction or something, but I can see I used adverbs like, a lot. And the theme of something not alive, being alive. We were watching The Walking Dead at the time though, and this was heavily inspired by Gabriel and his origin story. I changed it a little bit, of course, and only hinted at the zombies, haha.

All up, this was mostly just a flexing of the muscles, and I’ve only submitted once I think.

The Captain – This is another shorter one, 500 words I think, that was probably for a writing prompt but I think I chose the theme on my own. Just trying to push the social bounds a bit, it’s unapologetically about how the world would feel if the male captain of any sports team, anywhere across the world, was openly gay. Or even if an openly-gay player could ever be a captain.



My Ankle

There’s a bone chip in my ankle, just floating in there, about the size of a 5-cent piece. It’s been there for just over 30 years, and it hurts now and again. I’ve lived more of my life with it there than without.

I didn’t even know about it until years after the incident when I turned it playing roller hockey and since I had health insurance through Uni I got it x-rayed and the student doctor was like, “Damn.” Years later, and the Wifeage reckons we need to get in there and fix this constantly nagging problem. The first thing the Orthodoc says upon seeing new x-rays is, “Well, I can certainly see a multitude of sins…”


Summer of 1993 started with a Senior Kegger for his high school. It was bigger and better than my own, so that’s the one I attended, feeling more at home there than in my hometown. These people hadn’t known me my whole life, and somehow liked me better. He introduced me as his “adopted brother” and told me he loved me like a brother. Everything felt good.

Job opportunities for that summer sucked, but the offerings in the “big” city were always going to be better. When he said that his actual brother and stepbrothers were all off with their various other biological roots for the summer, he offered to have me stay with him in that dingy trailer with him and his dad and stepmom. I was elated.

We searched for jobs together and I searched for them separately. We spent precisely one day working at a car detailing place together, and it sucked so mightily that he refused to go back the next day. I went back out of sheer stubbornness, but then quit at the end of that day. It was depressingly awful.

Then I got a job at a bar downtown, famous for their chicken and beer. I worked the kitchen during the day and was their delivery driver for their expanding delivery menu. I was NOT a good deliveryman, frequently running late because of lack of parking and proliferation of one-way streets in the downtown area. The equipment was sub-standard, only a plastic tub with lid, and I frequently spilled the drinks all over the food. By the time I was backing out of the crowded back lot and crunched my way through another employee’s taillight, the owner/bosses wisely decided to stop offering delivery.

But I kept my job. I was good at kitchen stuff and wasn’t a “stoner fuckhead”. A glowing assessment from one of the owners who would have featured beautifully in one of the shouty and dysfunctional kitchens made for a Gordon Ramsay production. Roger terrified me, but softened when he realised this and I’ll always remember him for that.

It felt good having a job, working and making money. I know the hit one’s pride takes when a day passes without being productive in some sense. I don’t know if that’s what was slowly poisoning our friendship, our brotherhood, but living together was also putting a strain on things. Always a quiet one, he spoke to me less and less as the summer wore on.

By the time we were both planning on going back to the mountain valley of our hometown for the weekend, he was making excuses for why we should take separate rigs. After a while, I spared him that and made my own excuses too. I got the message. Even if his family loved me and I was automatically invited, and expected, at all family functions, I noticed that the invites weren’t always getting through to me.

The end of Summer rolled around and I set my sights on wrapping up my life in Montana, saying my goodbyes and preparing to start my new life at the Big University, far away. I don’t know how much that played into his growing resentment of me either, but I certainly wasn’t treated as a brother anymore. I was a tolerated houseguest.

He had said he loved me like family, but like any and all family I ever knew, the best he ever did was tolerate me. I was never truly loved, I was never celebrated, I was only ever tolerated.

I’d quit my job at the tavern so as to just lay around that last week, leaving my options open before I went back home to pack and then head out for the long drive to Texas. Things improved a bit during this time, possibly because we were both bums, him never finding a job that whole summer, but I don’t really know.

What I know is that i never beat him at anything. Ever. Not since we were both in Kindergarten together. We played a lot of Nintendo games growing up together, card games, board games, you name it. He won all the time, and it was really important to him that he won. I knew that, so when I had chances to go for the throat, I always held back and left him to it. He would even gleefully admit sometimes that he’d cheated. Come to think of it, it wasn’t so important that HE won, so much as I didn’t. It was important to him that I didn’t win.

When we were kids, only learning how to legally hunt, “the boys” would gather and share hunting stories, always bragging about large creatures they’d either seen or been a part of hunting down. None of them had ever personally taken down one as big and as impressive as I had one year, and I finally got to have my time in the spotlight. That lasted about a week and a half until one day he smirked and gleefully told me to shut the fuck up because he’d shot something bigger.

He gave little detail and it seemed like nothing more than blind, stupid luck, but I learned to shut my mouth about the deer I was so proud of. A year or so later when we were out stacking bales at his mom’s ranch I asked if we were near where he shot that trophy buck and he admitted that it never happened. When I remarked that I’d seen the antlers and it was, in fact, bigger than mine, he allowed that it was sunbleached and old and the dog had drug it home from the woods one day.

To him, it wasn’t so important that he brag on a trophy buck, it was that I shut the fuck up. He literally told me that, and I never forgot it.

But as our last summer together was ending, I could feel something in me ending too. My attachment to him. The surrogate brother that I’d chased down and adopted, having nearly zero connection to my own, actual brother, the one that never actually wanted me. The one who resented me and my high test scores and attendance at a big, fancy university so far away. I could feel my wings spreading, on my own steam, and I felt like I was done being forced to sit in his shadow. A place I never wanted, but he always insisted on.

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm and mild day, and instead of just idly cruising the small town nearby and finding absolutely nothing to do, we pumped air into the basketball and headed to the park to shoot some hoops. I’d always been pretty bad at basketball, but I was somewhat eager to see how I’d fare against him now that I’d decided to disregard my designated status.

We shot around a bit, and I was doing really well. I don’t think I was talking shit, but I’m sure there was at least a bit, and then he challenged me to a game. Not only had I never beat him before, I’d never beaten anyone at one-on-one. I hated the actual playing of basketball, I only liked shooting, but I figured fuck it, and took him up on it.

No win-by-2 or any of those rules, we agreed, first one to 10, pure and simple. I took an early lead 2-1, and he punished me for it, going up 4-2. I’d been playing off him a bit, hoping to work in the shots that I’d been making that gorgeous summer afternoon. It worked, a bit, and I was scoring at will. He was trying every trick that he had, and most eventually worked. He was up by a steady margin, even if I’d close it, and at 7-5 I started to push in. I wasn’t giving up. I wasn’t rolling over. I wanted to fight. I wanted to win.

I’d tied it 8-8 but he’d pulled another move out his ass and hit to make it 9-8. One more basket for him and he’d have won, again. But I wouldn’t quit. I tried a move that he’d done earlier, faking a charge and then pulling back to draw a fade shot, and I sunk it. We were tied 9-9. His ball, he made his move, took his shot, and bricked it out of bounds. My ball.

I dribbled, stooped, and gave him a look. I don’t know how many times in my life I’d ever actually had “Eye of the Tiger” but I’m certain I had it in this moment. I was going to give this my all. I faked left, then dribbled right, then drove. He bit on the fake and was off-balance, and I had a step on him. I pushed and fended him off as I drove the basket, leapt higher than I ever had before, and laid the ball gently into the basket.

Still in mid-air, I began to celebrate before the ball had finished going through, and I felt him shove me. A foul, a deliberate, after the fact, foul. The ball was going in, the game was over, the foul was pure spite and meanness and sour grapes and sore losering.

The shove had sent me off-kilter and when I came back down to the blacktop I awkwardly tried to dodge out of the way of the metal pole of the basketball hoop, and my ankle came down at an angle directly into it. I screamed in pain, hobbled once and went headlong into the grass just off the edge of the court.

He knew something was wrong straightaway, of course, and came rushing to me as I writhed in the grass. I don’t remember clearly, but I thought I heard him saying, “I’m sorry” somewhere in-between the “oh shit”s and “oh fuck”s. I could be wrong though. Always strong as a bull, he hefted me in his arms and carried me across the court, the length of the park, and loaded me into the car, then drove me home and hauled me in and onto the couch.

The trailer was modest, with only the one couch though, so while it was good that I could lay there with my leg along the back of it, packed in ice, getting up was an explosion of pain and I had to move eventually so the family could all circle around and watch TV.

I fashioned a crutch of sorts from a broomstick and learned to sort of hop from room to room, eventually taking some of the offered painkillers from his stepmom and going to bed early. The next day I wrapped the ankle as best I could, gave him a hug, hobbled out to my truck, and drove away.

I would work the pedals, even the clutch, all with my left foot, the entire way back to our hometown. My brother was coming up from college to drive back with me, a gesture of some sort, and I was to live in his apartment for the first year. I couldn’t wait to see him and start my new life, but I did feel that the ankle was somewhat of an important matter.

Dad, as is his way, didn’t necessarily see it as that. He looked it over, chided me for playing basketball so aggressively, ignored my plea of “I was fouled, dad, and it was the winning shot” and eventually wrapped it with an Ace Bandage, telling me to keep it iced and elevated.

Which I did. All through the drive to Texas, all through the moving of my stuff into a tiny 2-bedroom apartment, all through orientation of the roommates and bars while missing orientation of the campus and my classes. I shopped around at the sporting goods store and found an ankle brace with stiffened sides and laces all the way up, completely customising the pressure points, and I wore it pretty much every day for the next six weeks. Even after i got heat rash (it was Texas) and was bitten by fire ants at some point and itched like fucking crazy (it really was Texas).

I was wearing it when I borrowed my brother’s loafers and wore my brand-new red t-shirt and chinos to school just like all the other preppy Aggies and stepped awkwardly off a curb and rolled it, needing to lean against the giant oak on some highly-travelled intersection on campus. Nobody stopped, nobody gave me a second’s glance. I don’t know why that place was like that, it just was. They prided themselves on saying “Howdy” to everybody, yet when I saw a scrawny girl double-strapping her enormous backpack and trip on the uneven bricks outside the bookstore, she flailed and landed with a thud in amongst the hurrying throngs, but not one of them stopped. Not even me. I’d been there long enough by then, I guess. I’d been infected.


So here I am, October 2023, a full 30 years after I fucked up my ankle. After HE fucked up my ankle. After he deliberately roughed me into an injury I would pay for, for the rest of my life. After my father’s neglect failed to pick up on the severity of the injury – at one point I remember him telling me that it was just a sprain and I needed to toughen up a bit. He seemed surprised that I’d handled all the other times I’d sprained said ankle with more grace and was complaining of pain so much this time.

Kind of like the time that his nurse was taking the fibreglass cast off my right arm after a Sophomore-year football injury, and as she ran the saw up the inner part of my forearm, I was wincing in pain. She laughed and told me off for playing it up. I said I wasn’t and that it really did hurt. She showed me that it’s not a circular saw, that the round bit only vibrates back and forth, and that it couldn’t actually hurt me. Then she went back to cutting and I went back to wincing. She didn’t stop again, but I could hear her snorts of disapproval and exasperation with me as I turned my head and grimaced in agony.

When the saw stopped, the cast fell completely off my arm and I heard her exclaim that it shouldn’t have done that. She asked me, ME, almost accusatorily, where the inner sleeve was that’s meant to be underneath the cast. What could I do? What could I say? I didn’t put the fucking thing on there, did I? How the hell can I be held responsible for what is or isn’t there? As I turned my arm over and ran my finger along the singed thin and blistering line down the inside of my arm, I noted that she’d hopped up and left the room, and I didn’t see her again that day.

I’m 49 years old and still somehow to be held responsible for the failure to accurately diagnose a broken ankle, from three decades ago. I wear a brace most days, and I pay for it if I don’t. It hurts now, more than it used to, and some days when my hip is acting up too, I can hardly walk.

So, if I’m being honest, fuck you, you assholes. For always resenting me. For barely tolerating me. For bullying me and ignoring me when I am a being deserving of love. Fuck you for breaking my fucking ankle, and fuck you for ignoring it when I came to you for help. I’m paying for that shit now, in spades, and it’s not fair that you’re around to split the bill.


My first Shortlisting

Every year starting around September most of the writer’s groups in the region, if not the country, host all their competitions and events. I forget which one I was entering at the time, but in order to submit I had to prove I was a member of a legit and recognised writer’s association. So I hunted around for the membership prices for pretty much all of them.

Some of them wanted $170 a year. For what?! So I can enter contests? Get the PREMIUM newsletter?

Naturally, any author or member I asked for the value of such things had the same reply: Oh, it’s SO worth it. Besides, it’s not that much money.

To them, I’m sure this is true. I’m willing to bet that none of them ever lived on a Disability Pension. If I’m spending $170 a year on ANYTHING, it better be fkn good.

Well one of them wasn’t that much and, lo and behold, they had Concession rates too (something none of them offered except for one, who only started offering it after I badgered them about it and then didn’t tell me they were now offering it) so I signed up and paid instalments for a $40 membership to OOTA. I also loved the name, “Out Of The Asylum”.

OOTA has the best newsletters, hands down, because they’re literally written like a letter from some writer friend of yours who wants you to know about upcoming events and drops comments about the weather across southwest WA and the joy of grandchildren. SO GOOD.

Then I saw on their newsletter, as well as other places, their Short Story Competition called “Spilt Ink”. Which is an awesome name as well. I typically don’t enter anything that asks for money, because I never have any but also because if I did then I’d end up entering EVERYTHING and go broke pretty quick. But I paid the $12, because we could actually afford that (don’t laugh, there’s things I’ve gone without because we had $5 to last us the weekend) and entered their Short Fiction category.

At first, I chose my entry based on their word count, but then I changed my mind and found a different piece that I had to trim down. For my money, taking your 3000 or 2500-word short story and having to shave it down to 2000 words is a real lesson in how to do more with less. Every writer should have to do that to their stuff. If they did, books would probably be shorter, but WAY better.

Anyway, it was only while entering that I saw it was the “fiction” category and, technically, this particular piece is a memoir. But that was what the 500-word shave was good for too, as I could remove most of the identifying characteristics of the land and region and make it set just about anywhere with a river.

And it worked. It read well and could have been anyone, anywhere. I was pretty happy with it. Nobody at OOTA had to know it was a story from when I was 16 and I wrote it not long after hearing the news that my older brother had died. Wifeage asked what I thought “the rest of the family” would think when they read it, but then I realised that it didn’t matter to me what anyone thinks of the representations in the story.

Because they are My Truth. And if you can’t speak your truth, then you need to change some shit up.

Full Disclosure: I have a folder in my email called “submissions” but it is only named that because I’m too proud to call it “rejections”. Which is 99.99% of the emails in there. ‘Course I DID get asked for a “full” once and that’s in there too. SIGH, if only.

Since nearly all those emails read the same, I wasn’t expecting one of them to start similar to the rest but then tell me how pleased they were to tell me that I was shortlisted in OOTA’s Spilt Ink Competition. Holy balls, was I excited! I ran around the house (limping, with my cane, sure, but limping really fast and excitedly) telling Wifeage and then Teenage Offspring that I’d never received such a high honour as to be shortlisted in ANYTHING before. Hell, even the time I was published in the Stringybark Stories Anthology was only because I was “Highly Commended” and didn’t hit the shortlist there.

So we celebrated with some cookies and I started getting these wonderful emails from this lady at OOTA who told me they’re announcing the winners at their AGM and they’d love me to read some and the judge for the shortlist would be Brooke Dunnell and that got me SUPER excited because she’s one of my absolute favouritest WA authors.

So, holy shit, not only do I get to read my stuff OUT LOUD for the first time ever, because I’m on a shortlist for the first time ever, but I get to meet one of my favourite authors who has judged my stuff? AWESOME.

Then, of course, the anxiety starts to kick in, wondering things like, “I won’t win, of course, but at least I’ll get at least third!” and then the lovely OOTA lady told me that there were five of us and only three prize spots, so then I was certain that I’d get 4th or 5th and a slap on the back. But when she said it’s “bring a plate and quite informal” I said I’d make brownies and bring my wife and kids.

But then the rest of the thoughts sink in. Getting my family to go ANYWHERE is a logistical feat worth of the Army’s Corps of Engineers. Getting anywhere ON TIME is impossible and I have given up on that since the last time we were ever on time during the fabled King’s Park Meetup of 2014. Keeping everyone happy for two hours while listening to various authors drone on about their work wouldn’t be fun either. And I’m mostly talking about myself, not the offspring. They’d likely be fine, heh.

I also had a hard week. Most weeks are hard these days, because most days are hard. When I DO have a “good day” it’s flanked on either side by a bad one, so the cumulative effect is that most weeks are pretty hard. I have trouble walking, sitting, standing or just being anywhere. Hanging out for two hours, standing up for five minutes to read my shit to others, was going to suck unless it was a “good day” and I’m as unable to predict those as the Lotto.

So it would likely be a hard day no matter which way you cut it. Driving for 40 minutes into Nedlands wouldn’t help either. My body’s just not cut out for some of this Life shit anymore. Not until I can get in for the surgery they promised me nearly a year ago now.

I had no way of knowing how to say this though. How to explain things like how even if we got lucky that I could move that day, my mental health is so soured that it’s nearly impossible for me to get up for ANY human interaction, let alone a building full of people I don’t know. Especially when my experience with groups of any genre tends to be that they are mostly not my cup of tea, and I end up not being theirs.

So I lied. I’m sorry lovely lady of OOTA, you are lovely and I feel guilty for lying, but I told her I had COVID and wouldn’t be able to make it to the AGM. I knew I wouldn’t know if it was a “good day” until about an hour after I had to be there, and I didn’t want to stupidly live in denial about it like Homer chasing the barbecue pig down the embankment and into the river. I had to pull the pin early so nobody was depending on me.

Then, on the day, I’ll be completely honest and admit that I forgot the AGM thing was going on. I’d resigned myself to Not Placing and had moved on with making the most of my Saturday. Which included, but was not limited to, figuring out if I could make it to the shops for kale and red wine or not. Spoilers: I didn’t. And I was simply taking a small wander to the kitchen to get smallest offspring a snack when the phone rang.

It was lovely OOTA lady, and she opened with how they had the AGM meeting earlier and she was sorry to inform me that I didn’t win. Which I totally expected. Then she said, “But I’m so pleased to tell you that you got second!” I was so happy that I froze up inside, and proceeded to make only smalltalk about the AGM and the other folk until the OOTA lady told me about one of my favourite authors reading an excerpt of MY work and giving her thoughts and feedback on the writing she’d judged.

Fucking WOW. I had barely hung up as I was on the way outside to tell Wifeage about it. Beautiful thing she is, she couldn’t take the news sitting down and hopped to her feet and announced “Comin’ in!” before wrapping her arms around me. Her warmth, her congratulations, were just about the best thing I could feel. Then we told Teenage Offspring together, and daughter did the same thing! Hopped up and was like, “Comin’ in!” and we had a Congratulatory Cuddle Puddle of Exleys.


So here I am, feeling rejuvenated for my Writing Career. A recognised talent. Prize-winning and published. For as much or as little as that counts, it feels pretty damn good.

The Captain – Short Story

Every month, the Australian Writer’s Centre holds the Furious Fiction contest, where they give a handful of writing prompts, limit you to 500 words and see what you come up with.

I’ve been ‘longlisted’ for the comp before, and this one got me on there again, so I’m happy enough with that.

The prompts for September were:

  • Your story must start and end with the same sentence.
  • Your story must feature something being inflated.
  • Your story must include the words FLAG, FLAME, FLASH and FLATTER.

** The Captain **

Nobody would ever suspect the captain. He’s expected to lead from the front, to make the key plays, to inspire, to encourage, to extract the best from his teammates at all times. To see the truth, they think it would be someone weaker, lesser. Their vision blurred by decades of wilful ignorance.

They’ll never know the strength it took to stay true to one’s heart while playing such a prominent role. Fan’s perception is that such a facet would be easier to spot and wouldn’t last in the most important position. At best, a flash in the pan. At worst, a shameful admission that statistical breakdowns that affect the rest of the globe had somehow touched their beloved sport.

As he pulls the laces tight and breathes in, deep in concentration, he knows who he is. He knows what he’s been through to get here. He’s had to do more than just laugh along with off-colour jokes in the locker room, pretend he’s indoctrinated with the same subtle bigotry running rife through the professional sporting world. He’s had to stare down an old flame, now playing on a rival team, both hiding in plain sight, and try his hardest not to imagine the questions their well-known friendship would bring should the truth come out.

More than just abilities and athletic prowess, it’s taken every bit of smarts to get here and stay here. The politics of being the captain, the bureaucratic bullshit one must wade through on a daily basis. It’s more than just hiding who you are at times, it’s actively trying to be someone else. Someone whose merits should speak for themselves but who must instead also use all their connections, all their nous and canny observations to work the egos of the ultimate decision-makers.

A true leader knows when to compromise, of course, and will compliment to the point just short of sucking up, using flattery to the point just short of being obsequious, in order to maintain their position at the top. Be they a coach or a manager, there’s not a one of them that doesn’t visibly swell as they breathe in the sweet air of their own pitard.

So he’ll lead from the front, and he’ll do it with the spirit of a true leader. One who puts others’ dreams above his own. His teammates stomp up the tunnel and out into glory with stars in their eyes, a flag the ultimate goal for nearly every single one of them. None would ever know that he’s put this paramount above his own, that all he really wants is to finally settle down with someone special, have a quiet wedding, a modest house, hopefully a couple of kids.

Not a single one of them, from the dozens he shares a jersey with to the thousands upon thousands that might soon be chanting his name, would ever know what type of love truly beats in the heart of their leader. Nobody would ever suspect the captain.