Thoughts on Marriage and what it means in Australia

In October, I will celebrate my seventh wedding anniversary. At the same time, Australia will most likely be in the midst of a national voluntary postal vote to potentially decide* whether same sex couples should be recognised in the Australian Marriage Act.

There has been a lot of debate about the topic, for a good many years now. And it’s true, Australia is “behind the trend” when it comes to comparing our laws around marriage equality with other countries.

Seven years ago I was married in a Catholic Church. Not because I am a practicing Catholic, but because I liked the idea of tradition. My parents were married in that same church. I was baptised there too. I was quite young and had a very naïve view of the world. If we’d had a vote back then, I honestly don’t know how I would have responded.

On both sides of the debate, people claim to be ridiculed and to feel too intimidated to share their opinions. In the media, it seems to be skewed to people who say they will vote against allowing same sex marriage into our Marriage Act; they feel that they are being ostracised for this choice. It must feel like a slap in the face for those people who identify as LGBTI+ who have been ostracised for their sexuality since, well, forever.

For the record, I don’t believe that all people who choose to vote “no” must hate gay people. Many of them argue for the traditional values of marriage, which by default excludes same sex couples. But in reality, they are not arguing for traditional marriage as it stands, they are arguing for the idea of traditional marriage. That man and woman will remain loyal to one another until death parts them.

But let’s be honest, the rate of divorce continues to increase in Australia, and the rates of marriage are actually decreasing. More people are choosing to bypass the expensive wedding ceremony and head straight to having mortgages and children together. Because we don’t need to be married for such things to occur. I’m aware that this is an incredibly privileged position to be in, and I’m in no way trying to downplay or trivialise marriage equality. I’m simply trying to point out that the majority of conservative arguments that I’ve heard are redundant.

Some will argue that marriage gives children the best chance at life, to be able to have access to both a mother and father. Who says that same sex couples would disallow that? At the moment, men can donate their sperm and women can buy it to impregnate themselves. Children as a result will be denied their father. I’m not saying that Team No agree with this loophole, just that it exists and nobody had to vote about whether it could or not.

There’s also an assumption that people who marry automatically want children. Again, times are changing and more people are consciously deciding not to have children. Arguing ‘parenting’ in relation to the Marriage Act is far too simplistic and not at all helpful.

Someone on my Facebook posted a video recently with a status that questioned whether anyone who was voting yes had actually read the proposed changes? She questioned whether it would open the gates to allowing paedophilia and incest. Thankfully, she was very quickly shut down. The article she had shared was from Pauline Hanson’s people and was clearly scare mongering. What baffled me more was that this is the same person who once criticised me for sharing a video showing slaughtered calves on a dairy farm, claiming that “most Farmers don’t undertake this practice.” Her argument at the time is no different to my argument now (except that the slaughtering of calves is a common practice in most commercial dairy farms – but that’s an argument for another day).

It’s disappointing to see these sorts of posts floating around, because it influences people, or at the very least, gives them fuel for their already biased arguments. Being gay does not equate, nor open the doors to, incest, paedophilia, or any other extreme and rare case of the like. Nothing else in our existing Marriage Act is set to change except for allowing two people of the same sex to wed. They can’t be underage; they can’t be related. And the assumption that they would want to is downright offensive.

At the end of this voting period, I hope that Australia proves to be an overall forward-thinking and progressive country. I hope that my children and the generations to come will inherit a more open, caring, considerate, compassionate and respectful country in which all people – no matter their race, gender or sexuality – are not only accepted, but welcomed.

I’m voting yes, and I hope you do too.

*In order for the laws to change the Bill has to pass in the Senate. The public vote is being used to gauge the Australian public’s opinion of whether the law should change. Some conservative politicians have said that if the results are overwhelming yes, they will change their vote to yes in the Senate.

A year in review

My baby turned one this week. In some ways, I can hardly believe I am the mother of a one-year-old, and in other ways it feels like this milestone took an age to arrive.

I have no doubt that parenting is one of the hardest and most challenging experiences of ones life, exasperated for me by the fact that I was unwilling to let go of my writing during those tough early months.

I didn’t write every day. Not even every week. I wrote some poems when I felt overwhelmed. I wrote in my journal a heck of a lot. But I didn’t really open my manuscript for fear that I would get immersed in it and my baby would wake up screaming. Which he did. A lot.

I feel like he didn’t sleep for the first 6 months. Certainly not in blocks of any longer than 2 hours overnight, 20 minutes during the day. He only started to figure out the whole sleep thing at 10 months. But it’s only been since 11 months that he’s consistently been sleeping through the night, and sleeping in wonderful long stints of an hour or more during the day. You will never appreciate a sleeping baby more than when you experience a baby who doesn’t quite “get” sleep.

Aside form keeping my son alive, I actually managed to progress my manuscript quite a lot in the past year. Something I didn’t think would be possible when I was in the depths of sleep deprivation.

After receiving such generous and heart warming support on my recent post over on Louise Allan’s Writers in the Attic, I began to reflect on exactly what I have achieved in this past year. Not just in my journey as a parent, but in my journey as a writer.

Though I still have a long way to go, I think it’s important to acknowledge how far I’ve come. And in an effort to do that for myself, I’m sharing my achievements with you all, here.

When my baby was 8 months old, in my sleep deprived state, I took myself off to Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass. This was five intensive days in a room of 15 other fabulous writers, learning to hone our craft, navigate the publishing industry and basically get down to business. I credit Fiona and this masterclass to kicking my butt into gear and really committing myself to this manuscript.

I worked a reworked a synopsis and submitted it and my first three chapters to the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. If you’d asked me 6 months ago how confident I was of my work, I would have told you it would never see the light of day. So to submit to such a popular and prestigious award (even with reservations), goes to show how much my confidence in myself has grown.

On advice from Fiona, I changed the names of my character’s and the working title of my WIP – which resulted in a snowball effect of changes to my entire manuscript. At first, this was incredibly daunting, but in actual fact, it’s returned some of the joy and pleasure back into my rewrites. Everything just seems to fit better.

I sorted out my home office. It may seem small, but for me it’s a really big improvement. In order to feel motivated to write, I need a good space. Something with natural lighting and a decent chair. Though I can (and often do) write anywhere, having a dedicated space makes me feel all that more professional.

I’ve made headway on social media, particularly on Twitter where I get a real sense of what a writing community is all about. I fell out of love with facebook but have since decided to modify my personal page as my writing page. I was going to set up an ‘author’ page, but I bulk at the thought of having another space to manage. So instead, I’m taking Valerie Khoo’s advice and using my personal page as my Facebook writing platform.

I started doing some freelance writing and editing. I don’t want to spread myself too thin, so I’m selective of my clients and the time I can put towards freelancing, but I’m enjoying the diversity of work and the options it may afford me in the future.

I started an interview series with and for my fellow emerging writers: The Writer’s Room.

And I created this blog!

 

Thank you to each and every one of you who have followed along with me on this journey, sent me encouraging words through social media or email, commented on my posts and supported me when I’ve complained or exclaimed about anything and everything going on in my life. Your support and encouragement means the world to me. X

The Writer’s Room: Kylie A Hough

This month I’m pleased to introduce another of my Masterclass alumni, Kylie A Hough. Kylie and I bonded over veganism, historical fiction and red wine during our stint at Masterclass. Having heard snippets of her writing through the course, I’m not lying when I say Kylie is an emerging author to look out for. She has a wonderfully deep writing style and voice, and I know her debut novel will be amazing.

Kylie has been disappearing into books and attempting to write stellar stories since she was a little girl. She was born in Frankston, Victoria but has vivid memories of tropical weekend getaways to the islands off Cairns where she lived from the age of eight to when she left in her sixteenth year. She has kept a diary since she was twelve and in addition to journaling, she writes poetry, short stories, flash fiction, memoir and award-winning academic essays. It was however only in 2016 (after an epiphany that she may not in fact be ‘youthing’, and that maybe twenty-two consecutive years studying random courses at university might be enough), that she began writing the novel that had by this time burned a hole into her cerebrum.

Like most writers, she has had a wide range of unrelated and somewhat peculiar jobs, from Registered Nurse in Alice Springs, to Au Pair in the tiny village of Bubendorf, Switzerland, to hostess in a strip joint in London’s East End. She currently lives in a big house on a tiny man-made island in South-East Queensland with her partner, their two children, a psychotic Moodle and two stinky rodents. Along with writing and researching her first historical commercial fiction novel, she pretends she will get a real job ‘soon’, spends way too much in online bookstores, reads anything going, continues to study English via correspondence, and drives her man bonkers.

Find Kylie on Facebook under K A Hough and on Instagram 

1. First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit?
My writing process constitutes a mish-mash of what I’ve learned from life, friends, teachers, uni, books, practice, courses and the team at The Writers Studio (Sydney based). I adhere fairly strictly to what they say because it works for me. Basically I require and thrive on having steps and rules in place to lead me from draft to draft. The gang have provided a structured outline I can follow which involves coming up with a number of turning points and from the macro level, working inwards and downwards, to a micro level involving steps, sequences and finally, scenes. Had I not started my WIP with my clever tutor, editor Kelly Rigby at TWS, I know I would not have a first and half a second draft already complete. (Asperger’s and all my other mental syndromes are both blessings and curses. Yazzah!)

2. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey? And have you found it useful?

You could say I’ve been training to be a writer from the age of twelve. That’s when I made my first diary entry in a heart speckled, pocket-sized, padlocked book I still have. My little girl likes to read Mummy’s first diary. Other than writing poetry, flash fiction and short stories, I journal and have written a ridiculous number of academic essays for various complete and half finished Bachelor degrees. I’ve taken a variety of short courses with editor Cathie Tasker at Australian Writers’ Centre including Creative Writing Stages 1 and 2 and Writing Picture Books. I’ve attended workshops with published authors Lisa Chaplin on plotting and deep point of view, and Kate Forsyth on planning and plotting. And as you know I recently attended Fiona McIntosh’s signature commercial fiction masterclass. (That’s where I fell in love with your vegan guts!) [Ditto Kye!] And last but certainly not least I am currently working toward a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English with, amongst others, Natalia Tobin (the best lecturer ever!) via UNE online. Oh, and I’m writing my first novel. Did I mention that? The working title is, The Girl in the Photograph. It’s an historical fiction set in post war Paris. I’ve read a bucket load of how-to books too.  I’m interested in life-long learning. Can you tell? If I had to narrow it down, I would say reading in general and what I have gained in person from attending Lisa Chaplin’s and Fiona McIntosh’s courses, and what I’ve gained online from feedback from Kelly Rigby and Natalia Tobin have been the most useful in assisting me on my writing journey. And I can’t not mention Anne Lamott’s, bird by bird and Stephen King’s On Writing, both of which have had a part in inspiring me and building my confidence.

3. Why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it?

Why do I write? I can’t not write. I write to feel my feelings, to give them lips and tongue with which to speak, to acknowledge them as opposed to burying them, to provide them with an escape route onto the big blue ball. It’s therapeutic! That’s a bonus. The primary reason I write though is because I am a writer. I know Grand Master M(a)c told us not to let writing define us, but writing is as much who I am, as something I love to do. I can think of no one thing I love to do more. The joy writing (and having written) brings me is up there with nights nuzzling with my goslings, inhaling baby breath as they laugh, playing kiss chasey in the park as they giggle and grow before my eyes.

4. Who or what influences you in writing?

Everyone I read and have ever read influences my writing. I’ve taken bits and bobs from writers I’ve read as much by osmosis as I have deliberately to arrive at a form and voice that is (I’m told) distinctly my own. I couldn’t tell you what came from whom but I fall in love easily, time and time again, with authors and their works the world over, and each and every one have in some way influenced me.

5. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

My advice to other emerging writers is this: Read every day. Write every day. You are better than you think. You can do it if you want it badly enough. Get up, show up, move, push. Don’t stop until you arrive. And lastly: You’ve got this.

Thanks so much Kylie for coming into the Writer’s Room and sharing your insight!