Today’s thought.

If I say I’m a writer, does that make me one?

I’ve written 2 blog posts in 24 hours, I’m planning a monograph, I write mini fiction, I write grants. I’m a published author. Am I a writer?

A recent opinion article by Australian author Nicki Gemmell talks about “grit”. She talks about an experience she had doing her Masters of Creative Writing, where she noted plenty of participants wrote much better prose than her. But she could kind of tell that they didn’t have the stamina, perseverance or resilience to keep writing that she possessed.

I know what grit is. I have grit because I’ve gritted my teeth and driven myself to the end of the path for certain things, like finishing my tertiary studies. But I don’t have grit in other areas, such as singing. I wonder whether I have the grit for writing.


(I love this image from F*****.com which I’m going to say is a bitch because it doesn’t want you to use an adblocker, so screw you stupid website.)

The image implies grit is gripping, gritty, dirty and hard won. It certainly is. Grit is a difficult thing to master. But when you succeed, it’s like you’ve held on through the dirt and the mud and the piss and the shit, and you’re now allowed to have a really long soaking bath with bath salts, candles and champagne. Hola champagne!

So. Grit. Do I have it for writing? Should I reinvent my identity and travel down a different path? Do I have the luxury of this in 2016? Well, short of getting a lovely paying job, I say hell yeah. Why not.

Grit. You don’t like it in your food, between your toes or in your teeth. But in your soul? It’s the necessary sandpaper to your complacency.



No job.

I STILL haven’t heard about the outcome. On Monday 5.15pm Queensland time (because QLDers don’t want daylight saving) I went for a walk with hubby and the dog, after deciding I hadn’t been offered the job because I hadn’t been called in the morning, as one might expect if one had been successful. This makes the time in Sydney 6.15pm, btw. So we get home at 6pm (7pm Sydney time) and there is a message on the phone at 5.45pm saying to ring back on Wednesday. Dang.

I ring back on Wednesday, three times. A staffer takes the call (not the person I’m supposed to hear from). I leave a message but the staffer informs me the person in question KNOWS I’ve called. Then nothing. I ring again this morning and leave a message. No response. I write an email asking for a response. Nothing so far.

I can only imagine I’ve not got the job because this is not the way you would treat a successful applicant, hey.


(Image: Devastated. Roxy by Roxy)

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, you’d notice it was actually Monday morning here in the Southern hemisphere. This is flying under the radar of east coast USA, which is a cool (possibly frigid and snow-bound) 16 hours behind us. Therefore it’s only Sunday night somewhere in the world. I’ve already had 2 coffees and am very very ready for my third.

I’m dying here a bit. I had my job interview last Friday. It went really really well. Even if I don’t get the job, I’m not sure what more I could have done. I was open, friendly, answered the questions (which were easy and simple) to the best of my ability. I felt comfortable, at ease, poised and prepared. As I may have mentioned last week, I had a coaching which enabled me to get the best out of my elevator pitch, and illuminated my skills and strengths. I now know what I do really well, and I know I’m passionate about research. It has taken me until the last few weeks to work that out.

They have promised to call me today so my sleep has been rather interrupted. I’ve taken off the phone’s mute button; the default position. I’m not altogether sure they’ll ring today as tomorrow is Australia Day and it’s a holiday – there may be a Wednesday phone call instead.

But of course it’s Monday now and do you think I’ve done any meaningful work since I awoke? No, nope, non, nada, nyet. I DID get up and shower but my day has been otherwise characterized by lack of movement. Yet, I have a list of Things To Do. I have a DECRA to complete. I have some private teaching to plan (if I don’t get the job). I have 20 hours of editing work to do. I have a book proposal to finish and a monograph to write.

There’s plenty I could be doing. Dammit.

If we were having coffee I’d be telling you about the great weekend my hubby and I had in Sydney, that shiny, fast paced city. That we saw friends and shows and that I felt quite at home in a town that’s neither like Melbourne nor Brisbane. I’d be telling you about the rain that was a constant of the weekend.

I’d be telling you about a show we saw, ostensibly for children, composed by the brilliant Kate Miller-Heidke, called The Rabbits. It’s an allegorical tale about the 1788 invasion of Australia by the British, and the rape, destruction and desecration of the First Peoples of Australia (and their land) in the name of that abominable Roman concept of Terra Nullius (nobody’s land). It’s done beautifully, simply, and breaks your heart. Because its story is truth.

I’m an inhabitant of this land and have been all my life. My Irish, Scottish and English ancestors came here in the 1850s and worked the land, bred, and experienced both prosperity and privation. Even though for many years I was a single parent, poor and marginalised, I cannot imagine my children being removed from me and my homeland violated. I cannot imagine being part of a race who were so oppressed that the scourge of this oppression continues to this day through poverty, violence, drug and alcohol addiction, serious health problems, unemployment, lack of access to good quality food and water, education, housing, healthcare and legal services. And yet The Rabbits (published in 2000, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan), this simple tale based on a picture book, let me imagine all of this and more.


(Copyright 1998 Shaun Tan. “They came by water”. Oil on canvas)

The book has won numerous awards and the opera (in all honesty it’s the most cross-genre work I’ve seen in forever because it includes operatic conventions, panto, pop, blues, and other elements I haven’t thought of yet, set on a stage) has been beautifully realised by Miller-Heidke. She is a composer of special quality. Trained as an opera singer, she has carved out a great career as a pop singer/song-writer. Her music becomes more sophisticated and beautiful the older she gets, yet it is mainly diatonic, tuneful and easy for the lay person to enjoy. The more educated ear also love her work because it sounds easy but just isn’t. She has that rare gift of eliciting emotion through key changes that a listener won’t understand unless you’ve been trained in it. And even then I cried. I just wanted to weep and weep and weep, but as I was not alone I felt hampered by social niceties, and therefore didn’t. Great art has the capacity to move you in all sorts of ways and this work moved me like few others. Take a look: The Rabbits

If we were having coffee I’d tell you about how good it was seeing an ex-student of mine act and sing beautifully in another show we saw called The Fantasticks. It’s a rather flimsy tale and with sinister undertones not fully realised in the rather meh production, but he was great. My lovely student. Very proud.

If we were having coffee you’d be one of several people I’ve managed to have coffee with over the last few days. The Sydney trip was not just for a job interview; it was an opportunity for rare catch-ups with friends and acquaintances. There was afternoon coffee with E who braved simply appalling traffic to get into the heart of town, a late supper with S who had just done a very awkward singing telegram, and brunch with one of my oldest friends C and his son, who is delightful, precocious and super bright. DH managed to be brave during it all – he’s not a friends-type of person, but he enjoyed the interactions nevertheless.

And if we were having coffee you’d notice I’m a little bit annoyed that the possums got to my herb garden on the back porch. It was only a matter of time, of course. Thus far they’re particularly fond of dill, parsley, and coriander. They’ve nibbled half-heartedly at the sage and won’t touch the rosemary, and aren’t interested in the basil, thyme or the oregano. The saddest bit is they’re not at all worried about the dog, who goes psycho when they arrive on the porch for their evening repast.

So now that we’ve had coffee and I’ve been procrastinating yet again, I’ll leave you with thanks and an invitation to join me again. Maybe not on a Monday morning, but on a lazy Sunday.

Au revoir!

(Weekend coffee share is hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. Why not join in the chat?)




The wheels of change grind slowly…and then they don’t

Feeling slightly bloggy today. That is, I want to be saying something, yet I’ve nothing much to say.

This week is the week of waiting and editing. Waiting for the bathroom to be done (ONLY the electrician is left now); waiting for some editing jobs to come in; waiting for Friday.

Friday is job interview day. I’m asking myself why I’m not walking the dog or doing some shopping but hey, there’s not much to be doing here other than TV watching (now onto season 3 of The Good Wife – a step down from The West Wing because it’s not as complex and just a little bit more melodramatic, but otherwise excellent).

I’m waiting for something to start. And start it has. I’ve just had a phone call from a colleague who may have some project work for me. So for a few weeks at least, if I don’t get the Friday job I now have some editing work, a DECRA grant to prepare, teaching singing to organise (although not much because I’ve been winding it down slightly), a possible project, and 4 singing gigs.

The year is gearing up again. So I really should be planning my research work. For those who care, I have a PhD in music. I have a bunch of stuff to do with this research, even if I don’t have a paid job to go to. I could plan and write my monograph, I could write a couple of research articles. However, as everyone in research knows, writing research articles is like pulling teeth. I get engrossed in it but I hate starting it off. It’s like writing a term paper but much, much harder. Nearly everyone you know hated writing undergraduate term papers. It’s no different just because I’m a grown-up. Luckily everyone I know procrastinates on journal articles, too.

Stooges pulling teeth

Anyway, so. Editing. It’s a thing. Yesterday I wrote a Flash Fiction piece, 130 words long. Today I edited it. Let go, much? It’s better, but not much better. I read it aloud this time. It helps to read stuff out aloud. One gets a feel for scansion, flow, word placement, comma placement, narrative and dramatic tension. I’m no good with grammar rules or poetry / narrative / syntax / phrase rules – I wasn’t taught any memorable English language rules as a child, and as an adult I struggle to retain information like that. I might remember a Kardashian moment, but I won’t remember syllable emphasis. I have to go with intuitive rhythmic/ melodic placement of the spoken word.


Fiction so short is like poetry. Smells, sights, sounds, interactions, and a narrative arc told in 100 words. Brevity is vital, quality is paramount. No passive voice. Very few adjectives. The right word for the right scene, no excess or repetition unless the repetition adds narrative value. Tricky but doable. I’m getting better at it, I think. At least, my eye is sharpening.

So, waiting and editing is my thing this week. And now: to walk the dog.




Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, I’d be asking you: seriously, what do people without employment DO all day? I am so bored I’ve taken to DUSTING THE HOUSE.


(Image from

If we were having coffee you’d notice the house is clean and tidy but not spotless. I hate housework. Keeping the kitchen clean is as about as much as I can manage even on a good day. Never mind washing the floors – vacuuming is something I do only when I’ve reached maximum crunch underfoot. I’m not sure I’ve EVER cleaned the window panes. If we were having coffee I’d ask you if you do the dusting while you’re on the phone to your mother, like I do.


(Image from

So I’m writing in my blog (hello readers), I’m reading fiction novels. I’m reading the news, and opinion pieces, and websites about the next US Presidential campaign because we’re just getting the noisy people here in Australia – Clinton, Ben Carson, Idiots Trump, Cruz and Bush. The most likely Republican nominee Marco Rubio isn’t even getting any traction in Australia, which bothers me because he’s the candidate most likely to put up a fight against Democrat Clinton. I think I’d still prefer a Democrat in the White House thank you, even though Marco Rubio is damned fine looking: Mmm-Mmm! Republican Rubio’s politics are conservative and he likes guns. For those who care, my politics are moderately left-wing and I hate guns. One of the things I’ve noticed about my time with the TV series The West Wing is that I’m much more interested in and knowledgeable about American politics than formerly.

I pay bills, I apply for jobs, I cook, I bake, I watch renovation shows – I know: sad. I play computer games. I visit friends. Perhaps I’ll go back to the gym before I have to quit altogether. I paint when I can stand it. DH and I are doing small house things such as gardening and minor home maintenance. We walk the dog together and go to the movies.


(Image from

But folks, there’s a job-sized hole of about 10 hours in my day I just can’t fill. Every day. I’ve been advised to apply for a DECRA (which is an acronym for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award), which will certainly fill my time for the next 2 months, but it doesn’t pay the bills. DH gets so excited when he sees me thinking again – but I can’t maintain it when I’ve not much to think ABOUT. Saddest of all: I’m not a Stay At Home Mum. My children are adults. So this old blogpost I read just now totally resonates with me but you know something? At least this lady from Mommyish had someone to care for during the day!

If we were having coffee I’d be asking you how the unemployed keep going without going mad. You’d be telling me drily to take a second look at my bloody New Years Resolutions.

At least the coffee is excellent.



This blog is part of a weekly link-up hosted by the lovely Diana over at her blog Part-Time Monster

Check it out and join in!

Today is a good day.

A new day, a new year, a new life, a new something else.

For those who are interested, I left the house. Yes, I have been a little bit agoraphobic. It basically comes down to this: if I leave the house I know I’m going to spend money, so best not.

I had breakfast with a girlfriend. It was good. A delicious Eggs Benny with bacon (that’s an Eggs Benedict for people not in Australia – we insist on shortening every proper noun). Then I went and deposited a cheque, and then I bought more groceries because that’s what I do when I’m about to be seriously broke.

And then I watched the last 5 episodes of the 7th and final season of the West Wing. Who do I love the most? CJ Cregg? Toby Ziegler? Josh Lyman? Donna Moss? Leo McGarry? Sam Seaborn? The completely hunky Matthew Santos? (I’m talking characters here, he’s the even more gorgeous Jimmy Smits in real life). I probably love CJ the most. She’s the woman every strong woman wants to be. Smart, funny, thin and fashionable, driven, in charge. But Josh Lyman. The thinking girl’s hunka hunka burning-up-because-he-never-sleeps love. And we all know he had a six pack under those white shirts (thank goodness they finally started wearing white shirts by the end – grey and green blech at the start). And then there’s Eeyore Toby Ziegler. Soulful, sad, smart, a little bit morally superior, with brown eyes to die for. And Donna Moss, the character who grew the most over 7 seasons and who steadfastly loved her man despite him being an idiot. I loved these characters and I loved the actors and I loved the show and I loved that after Aaron Sorkin left the 5th season the show got a bit meaner and sadder and more difficult. It needed it. Sorkin lives for the soapbox and his characters are well-meaning but a little morally elevated and a touch grandiose. The writers who took over insisted on making the characters more human. It had a remarkably consistent cast, all of whom came back for the final few episodes. It wasn’t perfect TV but it was close enough for me. I shall miss it. That’s no joke – it was 125 hours of TV, 156 episodes. I’m nearly ready to begin The Good Wife, but I’ll need a few weeks of mourning time for my favourite ever TV show.


Perhaps I should start to read The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, now sitting on my bedside table, and begin my Goodreads pledge.

In other news I’ve been sniffing around for work and have been offered a bit of copy-editing to do. It’s boring work but I learn stuff every time I do it, and I don’t have to teach people, so yes, thanks! to that. And I’m about to start gunning for an ARC DECRA. I have interest from a local uni who have offered to sponsor me and give me support to apply. Wow.

Today is a GOOD day.



A personal statement on teaching philosophy

A recent job advertisement asked for a personal statement on teaching philosophy.

This caught my attention, even during my depressive phase when it’s all I can do to get out of bed. In all truth, I try NOT to think about teaching. It’s something I’ve never felt particularly drawn to: I initially taught music because it was quite a time-efficient way to earn money, when I was both a sole parent of 2 kids and a part-time student. But I also dread teaching. I’m a bit of an introvert. Teaching forces me to become extroverted, loud, encouraging, big. I don’t like these things. But in order to carry heft in classroom/choral music teaching (because loud and noise management), one has to be loud, big, encouraging, strong. Also, you have to interact with people. It could be argued that teaching does not require extroversion or volume. But you show me a quiet music teacher and I’ll show you someone who only teaches classical guitar. Or harp. In a private studio.

Anyway. So. I’m required to think about my personal teaching philosophy.

thinking chimp

I’ve never been asked to reflect critically on the history or strategies of teaching, except in a recent job interview (which I buggered up). I’m a bona fide qualified teacher for Grade 5 to tertiary and beyond. I’m pretty sure I was never asked to think about how or why I teach the way I do. I was never asked to think about my personal ontology and subsequent epistemological position. Which, arguably, is needed if you’re going to be teaching other thinks to thunk.

I was also never asked how I learn. Or how others learn. Yet, back in the recesses of my tiny thunking thinker, I’m sure my Graduate Diploma of Education made me do some kind of philosophy of teaching module. Just cannot remember it. Which means it was a useless course because no memory of it. The ONLY thing I remember are De Bono’s hats. Which is really about managing management meetings, not teaching. Even my PhD allowed me to sidestep some of the great theories of edumacation (Dewey et al) to focus on the private singing studio master/apprentice approach.

I’ve been thinking recently about school mottos, vision statements and the like and how my own philosophy of teaching/learning has been shaped by these. There are a few I like. The first motto I like is the school I attended from age 10 – 15. The motto was: Age Quod Agis. We were taught this meant “do what you do, do well”. In other words, if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it really really well. Excellence presumed. Ok. I like this, although it makes making dinner a bit of a challenge. No reheated meat pies for me. Actually, this is hard for girls anyway, because we’re always taught to do everything perfectly, which means job hunting becomes a bit of a challenge – we’re often not prepared to attempt something until we have ALL the skills. And we play down our capacities all the time. So while I love this concept, in reality always striving for excellence can get in the way of actual achievement.

The other motto comes from a school I taught at a while back. I love the simplicity of this vision statement, even as the individual teachers there  (me included) had very little intrinsic respect for such fancy schmancy pedagogical concepts:

developing the whole person through timeless principles of learning –

  • To Know
  • To Do 
  • To Live With
  • To Be

with innovation and wisdom.

What a great statement. To know, to do, to live with, to be, with innovation and wisdom. In those words written by an anonymous someone (possibly a committee but a seriously good one), I see the history of education, of thought, of philosophy. I see metacognition. I see application of knowledge through concrete skill building. I see humanist principles and the development of the whole person within the world’s community. I see looking back at history (wisdom) and looking forward at what is yet to come (innovation). A lovely sentiment, not necessarily well enacted at the school but at least the idea is there.

So, a personal philosophy of teaching, as stated by the job application, surprisingly misses the most important thing here: the learner. There is no philosophy of teaching without the learner. Therefore, my personal philosophy of teaching is this: the learner comes first. Here’s the rest:

If I were to label myself as a teacher it would be this: I’m a caring facilitator. I believe the best learning comes from a learner’s intrinsic desire to understand how or why a thing works or happens. I help learners become independent thinkers and I don’t always give them the answers. I promote a safe space for learning – learners will learn best from their mistakes, so I do not ridicule error. I use encouragement and praise where due, and I aim to be respectful and caring at all times.

For me learning happens best when I am engaged and interested in the material and when the teacher is caring and respectful of my space and my need to be independent, but who understands when I need to ask a question or two. Goal pursuits theorists Deci and Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory had it down pretty well when they wrote about the three main needs of humans for successful goal pursuits: Relationship, competence, autonomy. Good relationships foster good learning, a sense of competence helps to promote more learning, and autonomy – a personal empowerment and sense of self – helps with feelings of self-esteem etc and fosters yet more competence. And the cycle continues. I like to add something about the sense of belonging to a community (my cultural psychology studies inform me of this stuff but so do Lave and Wenger with their Community of Practice), because we are social creatures and need to belong to and identify with a social group. So a good teacher fosters good relationships, helps her students develop competence, and creates a safe, encouraging learning community where autonomy is paramount.

On the down side, I’m not good with stupidity or willful ignorance, insolence, laziness or contempt. From adults and children alike. So don’t put me with someone who either doesn’t care about what they are doing or doesn’t want to be doing the subject at all. Which is why I have so much respect for teachers who have to teach subjects with students who don’t want to be there. And I also respect teachers who work with little children. Ugh.





And another thing…

Crusted in paint dust, every so often I sit myself down to apply for another job or two. None now in my state, but hey, my ex-supervisor sent me one for a really interesting gig in Georgia, USA.

So I’m applying for that, because I want to live in one of those amazing Georgian homes that I see in Country Life. Kind of. It has a TURRET!

georgian home

I always feel better when I have a goal in mind. Today I’m better. One day at a time. Trying not to throw myself a massive pity party but my depression seems to be very attacky and it’s hard to see the light at times.

And another thing: I REALLY REALLY want to go see the new Star Wars movie but I can’t until I’ve finished my painting for the day. Which means I can’t even watch TV or read the paper because spoilers.

And another thing: did I mention my hubby is awesome? I love him heaps. However I need Xmas gift ideas for him because we are in the enviable position of literally not needing anything. He and I are each looking at each other wondering what we can get that will satisfy his and my urge to GIVE stuff, but not be so expensive or cheap that the other person will give the sneery look:

sneering child(photo by makelessnoise)

Seriously, we have no needs and few wants. If we want something we usually just go and buy it. And our current want/need is a bathroom WIR that is being finished as we speak. Given that we are a little tight with funds right now (that job thing I mentioned), and given also that our anniversary is right between Xmas and New Year (way to bulk up the gift giving in one scary week), I suggested he and I go away for a retreat overnight. I need a massage and some pampering and so does he. Maybe we just need a nice pamper experience together.

Hmm. That’s a thought.

Here’s a song for you. The Briar and the Rose by Tom Waits. I love the beautiful brass chorale at the start of this extraordinary rendition. It’s how I feel about my man.