Month: March 2020

The Upside of Quarantine: How COVID-19 is Making me a Better Writer

The Upside of Quarantine: How COVID-19 is Making me a Better Writer

Having the time to write is an absolute gift for a working writer.

The dishes are done. The washing’s on the line. The homemade soup is simmering on the stove and it’s only 8.13am.

Usually by now, I would be in peak hour traffic. The dishes would be scattered on the kitchen bench, the washing would still be in the machine and homemade soup not even a thought in my mind.

But things are different now. I am quarantined because of COVID-19 and I have nothing but time.

Things have snowballed since last week, when my husband and I returned early from our ill fated trip. We set off for Japan at the time when things were iffy but more or less OK and were called home early with a dire DFAT warning.

We are required to spend fourteen days at home in isolation.

Disappointed but relieved to be back home, I am going to make the most of my time. As a writer with a full time office job, time is an absolute gift.

They say that it’s possible to write and hold down a full time job and many people do but having time and energy to devote to writing makes such a difference. I know I have achieved things in the last week that I could never have done if I had been working.

I have participated in online events during the day, like the live video critique I attended yesterday. I’ve submitted the first chapter of my novel to be critiqued by the group so it’s my turn next week. I joined in a Twitter event I usually miss and was able to follow it as it was happening and take my time to linger over the responses. I check in regularly with a Facebook writers group I’m in, where we support and encourage each. I joined a fun video catch up with some writer friends.

I’m having a go at writing short stories. Short stories are not my thing but I have a couple in the works so I’ll see how I go. I am beta reading an exciting new novel for a critique partner, one that will put me in the right frame of mind for my second novel.

Finally, I am working with my critique group on the final round of edits to my first novel. With a full time job, this project is usually the only thing I have the time and energy to do.

I know there’s a lot going on at the moment and I’ve probably got my head in the sand. But having our heads in the sand is probably the best thing to do if it means we are keeping away from other people.

Before I left for Japan, I resigned from my job and signed up with a temp agency. There is always plenty of temp work in my industry but I don’t know how I’ll go now that everything’s changed.

In the meantime, I choose to live one day at a time. I’m enjoying spending time with my family, writing and engaging with other writers.

I’m in forced quarantine for another week and there’s nothing I can do about it. This gives me the excuse not to make decisions, not to go to work, not to face the outside world.

I know I’m in a state of suspended disbelief and that reality is probably going to hit like a freight train.

But for now, I’m on holiday and I’m going to enjoy every minute.

#amwriting #writerslilfe #writingcommunity #writersinquarantine #6amAusWriters

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 7 comments
Stone Girl by Eleni Hale – Goodreads review by Naomi Lisa Shippen

Stone Girl by Eleni Hale – Goodreads review by Naomi Lisa Shippen

A Disturbing and Powerful Story of Growing up in State Care

Influenced by her experiences of growing up in state care in early 1990’s Victoria, Stone Girl by Eleni Hale is a disturbing read. The story starts with twelve year old Sophie being interviewed at the police station, following the death of her mother from a drug overdose.

Treated like a problem to be managed, rather than a child to be cherished, Sophie is moved through a succession of group homes, many lasting only a few days. The homes are run by social workers doing shifts, where pantries are kept locked and kids come and go without warning or explanation.

To escape the ever present threat of violence in the homes, Sophie decides to run away. Alone on the city streets, she is an easy mark for predators, and soon catches the eye of Elvis wannabe, Milo. He buys her fish and chips and lures her back to his place with the offer of a fizzy drink.

All little girls are told never to accept lollies from strangers, but Sophie has no one else to give her things and make her feel wanted. She accepts the gifts from this stranger and soon learns that adults are not to be trusted.  

Sophie returns to the homes where she learns to survive by keeping her feelings to herself and never truly trusting anyone. She becomes stone girl. For Sophie, everything comes at a price; love, friendship, cigarettes, train fare. She learns to read people’s motivations and weigh the risks, risks that kids with homes and families never have to consider.

For her sixteenth birthday, Sophie is given meth by her dealer boyfriend and a packet of cigarettes by Phil, her latest social worker in a succession of many. Phil tells her that her days in state care are numbered and soon she will be on her own.

This is a wake up call and Sophie knows she has some tough choices to make. Following a dramatic series of events that almost destroy her both emotionally and physically, Sophie finds a new way to live and the chance of a better future.

In her work as a journalist, Hale has attempted to uncover the truth about the broken state system but has been stymied by government secrecy. Also, teenagers are not an easy sell when it comes to raising awareness. Hardened by their experiences, they often present in ways that are socially unacceptable or even threatening.

I hope that Hale’s account of the lived experience of growing up in state care will draw attention to the way that we are failing the vulnerable young people in our society. Stone Girl is a powerful and engrossing novel that gives voice to the young people society tries to ignore. It has certainly changed the way I will look at the kids who hang out on Flinders Street Station.

Posted by naomilisashippen in Goodreads Book Reviews, 0 comments