Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: June, 2016

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REFLECTIONS OF YOU
JENN

I have a very special authorlady Reflector on the blog today – the one and only, the most fabulous, Jenn J McLeod. For those who don’t know Jenn, she is the author of four novels, and her latest, The Other Side of the Season, has just been published.

Apart from writing richly textured stories of family, friends, lovers and small town Australia, Jenn is one of the most generous people I know in the writing business. She’s so supportive of other writers and their work, and she’s been a massive support to me over the last few years. I couldn’t wish for a lovelier confrere.  Even if she’s recently taken to calling me Swiz, after ‘swizzle stick’ because she’s so grown up.

And now here she is, answering our Big Seven questions on life and love…

Who are you and where were you born?

Good question.

I am a gypsy, a blogging, tweeting, facebooking fifty-six year old sea-change champion, and an advocate for dogs, because they can’t speak for themselves (although they do speak to me).

I was born in Manly hospital and spoilt rotten by wonderful parents. So what did I do? I ran away from a perfectly good marriage (well, my family thought it was perfectly good) and started again.

Not sure where I would be or what I’d be doing if I hadn’t been brave enough to go with my heart. I do know I wouldn’t be Jenn J McLeod – a bestselling Aussie author of contemporary women’s fiction (and bloody proud of myself, too!).

 What’s your most treasured childhood memory?

My dad was a hard-working man—a policeman by day and a musician by night. The Don Lewis Trio did weddings, parties, anything!

When I’d wake up the morning after he’d been at a gig, I’d find my bedroom filled with balloons, streamers, party favours and wedding bombonieres—whatever was left after the party was over.

Dads band smiling don

What does home mean for you?

For the last two years it’s meant learning to adapt to life on the road. I am writing my way around Oz in a 24-foot fifth-wheeler caravan. We’d never towed anything bigger than a box trailer before this, so it has been daunting, thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. Hoping the scales will tip to ‘free and easy’ eventually. We feel very vulnerable without the security of four brick walls and a roof. So I’m learning to listen to the seasons and I’m seeing things with fresh eyes. (I’m also learning to read weather forecasts in order to prepare for storms. Not that there’s much we can do. And let me tell you, a hailstorm in a caravan is something else!)

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 What makes you smile?

Dogs! Any dogs. I can be having the worst day until I see a dog and I am filled with joy. I’ve owned two sets of rescue dogs over the last thirty years. Sadly I lost my two little white muses—Strawberry in 2104 and Daiquiri recently. My little one-eyed dude dog was the bravest dog in the world and I both cry and smile at the same time when I picture her face.

The caravan feels very empty right now. But The J and I have decided we need to get to know who we are as a couple without dogs. (Yes, we actually have to talk to each other, rather than the dogs! You’d be surprised how much a dog can factor into the every day.) We’ve also decided, rather than go and get a dog, we’ll wait for a little dog to find us. We know there’ll be one out there when the time’s right. Maybe then we’ll call her Chance, Karma, Destiny, or Serendipity (or maybe Daisy, coz I love saying upsidaisy!)

What was the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?

Patience – and there is no better teacher than the publishing biz!! I’m still learning!

(Oh, and plucking your eyebrows too thin as a teenager will leave you with something akin to two deranged-looking caterpillars when you are older. Take note, young people.)

Who or what is the love of your life?

My partner of 33 years, who is also ‘The J’ in Jenn J McLeod. I ran away from a marriage in 1984 and we travelled the country in a Ford F100 and a tent. In 2014 we hit the road again, but this time with style and comfort (and an en suite!). There would be no Jenn J McLeod Author without The J and I feel blessed every day that I was brave enough to let myself love and be loved in return.

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What does your past, your history and family heritage mean to you?

Wow! I think answering this question taught me something about myself. I didn’t know how to answer this at first, as I’ve never really been family oriented and that made me sound a bit . . . well, indifferent. Of course family is important. I LOVE that ‘Find My Family’ show on the tele and ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, and I know a lot about my own family tree:

  • I know my first settler was a grave planner in Paynham, South Australia (and yes there is a family plot!)
  • I know my grandfather, Clement Lewis, was pretty high up in the South Australian Government (managing the SA War Loans campaign)
  • And I totally LOVE that my Aunty Joy was Joy Richardson—founder of the South Australian Animal Welfare League that still exists today (and will be the benefactor of my $millions in book royalties, once I’m gone!! I kind thought that a nice full-circle thing to do!)

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 Anyway . . .

Late in his teens, my dad moved away from his very strong Methodist family. He worked hard, married, and as a family we lived independently of the South Aussie crew. (Dad used to say we were the black sheep in NSW!!) That, and perhaps having no children myself, is why I’m not particularly family oriented.

But . . .  could this explain why I write the stories I do? Is this ‘family’ thing a bit of an enigma and I secretly have a desire to reconnect and rediscover my own country roots through storytelling? Hmm!!!

I’m not saying family isn’t important in my life. I am fortunate to have people who are loving and accepting, as many others don’t.

Feeling blessed.

Thank you, Jenn, for sharing these glimpses of you with us. What a beautiful, inspiring woman you are.

If you, dear reader, would like to explore more of Jenn’s world, you can find her blog here.

And if you’d like to have a look at Jenn’s new novel The Other Side of the Season, and I heartily suggest you do, you can find it here. By sweet coincidence, this novel has quite a theme of reflections in it, too…

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WHAT HAVE THE POLES EVER DONE FOR US?

This morning I woke up to the news that cards are being dropped into letterboxes in Britain saying, ‘Leave the EU. No more Polish vermin.’

Vermin.

How long will it be before these faceless bigots bring out the arsenic and brickbats to get rid of them? It makes me shiver for all the Polish people have endured over the past century by way of psychotic hatred from their neighbours – Germany and Russia have both had a go at mass extermination.

But really, what the actual freak is this about?

There’s the theory that Poles are simply an easy target because they’re white. It’s not politically correct to attack a person with brown skin these days, but kicking a Pole is somehow fine. That makes a horrible load of sense, sadly.

But it feels personal this time. It seems most of my forebears – all of them white – have at some point in time been referred to as vermin. Of course I grew up with the stories my Irish grandmother told me about her own experiences of the phenomenon – and I wrote all about it in Wild Chicory. The narrator of that tale, Brigid Boszko, just happens to be half Polish, too, her paternal grandparents having immigrated to Sydney after the Second World War.

The Polish in Australia are everywhere, for me. Polish miners worked the diamond drills that excavated dams for one of our many Eighth Wonders of the World – the Snowy Mountains Hydro. Before that, the geologist Pawel Strzelecki named our highest peak after Poland’s greatest national hero – Tadeusz Kosciuszko – and went on to have the Strzelecki Desert named after himself. And then there was my great great grandfather, Benjamin Mier, who played his part in making me.

As for the world, what would it be without Chopin’s Nocturne In E Flat Major, Op.9 No.2? Even if you don’t know the name of this piece of music, you know it like it’s in your bones – listen to it here.

What would the Battle of Britain have been without Polish Squadron 303, those wildly brave men who brought down some 140 enemy Luftwaffe planes, and flew 9900 combat sorties?

Where would the NHS or Medicare be without Marie Sklodowska Curie’s self-sacrificing studies into radioactivity that, with terrible irony, brought us one of our greatest weapons against cancer?

Today’s irony, I suppose, is that the news also tells us there’s been a flood of Brits applying for Irish citizenship. Ouch.

I am sad for Britain but at the same time whatever slim ties I might have had to that land seem to have stretched to even slighter threads. I am happy to be vermin, if that is what I am.

Na zdrowie. Sláinte. Cheers.

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The photograph above was taken on a recent ramble in Kosciuszko National Park.

Want to read Wild Chicory? Go here.

 

 

 

 

 

red flag

COMING TOGETHER AND FALLING APART

Hello. It seems an age since I’ve been here on the blog. A month, actually. I’ve been hunkered down smashing out the first mad draft of a new novel – that Snowy Mountains story I mentioned a couple of months ago – and I finished it just yesterday.

Spies, lies and Cold War treachery, this story wrapped itself around my head and shook me senseless. It took me places I’ve never been before narrative-wise, too, and I’m thrilled to have made it through to the other side.

But today has been another story. While we’ve been blessed here at The Bend with a fabulous fall of snow, a lovely omen for my novel, over the other side of the world, Old Blighty appears to have torn itself asunder in the midsummer sun. I have no particular view on Britain’s exit from the European Union, its pros and cons, and I don’t know the intricacies of the politics, but what has made me sad today is the anger and despair unleashed by the Remainers.

It’s a conundrum, isn’t it, when those who are the loudest champions of democracy are appalled when it doesn’t deliver the result they wanted. There’s been a pretty unedifying display of name-calling from these same left-wing champions decrying all Leavers as ‘idiots’, ‘racists’ and ‘philistines’. Don’t worry, I’ll probably be doing the same thing when the radical-conservative oxymorons sabotage the marriage equality plebiscite here in Australia.

But right now, and more broadly, there’s also been a lot of desperate talk about this event signalling a dangerous shift in the course of history. A backwards shift towards belligerent isolationism, nationalism, fascism. A breaking up of long-held peace in what we think of as the civilised world. That may well be true, too.

It seems to me, though, that there are a few things we can do to try to arrest that slide. First, the tub-thumping middle-class left wing – that is, the traditional representatives of ordinary people – can stop calling ordinary people idiots for being ordinary. The uneducated, the poor, those who can’t afford solar panels and organic produce, can do without being derided by hypocrites deafened by their own clanging self-righteousness. Second, we can start addressing the common enemy: rampant corporate capitalist greed.

Every time we argue and moan among ourselves, the plutocrats grin with their hands in our pockets. A house divided cannot stand, and that is what has happened to the left wing, and to socially responsible democracy. We’d better snap out of it quick, or we might well slip towards a time of greater inequality, violence and grief.

It’s happened before, history repeats and repeats, and it will happen again – unless we decide to stop it. And start asking the question: what do ordinary people really want?

The answers are always pretty simple and familiar. Love. Respect. Dignity. A fair chance. Less shit. I spend my writing life pushing a little barrow spilling with these thoughts, a thousand little red flags of wonder. I will push it until I fall down dead. I’m pushing out a plea tonight to my comrades: now is not the time for feelings of thwarted entitlement and superiority. It’s time to listen.