From my four corners of the room

I am honest and truthful

My view is of the kitchen window

The sun casts a shadow of me on the opposite wall

Rain splatters over the window on a cold winter’s day

And leaves turn from green to red and brown as they

fall from the tree outside

In summer, children over the fence bob up and down

as they play on a trampoline

Wrinkles adorn your face

My heart ticks away, but I do not grow old

I stay the same – stately and tall

My arms are shiny gold metal – long and slender

They point to gold numbers on my smooth face

I tell you what time it is every second of the day

You scowl at me when you are running late

Other times you you scowl at me – impatient – wanting me

to hurry up

I turn forward with grace and ignore you

You were once a young woman, now an old maid

Published in tallish…ish Pure Slush Vol. 11 June 2016





In Borneo, the forest is lush and green and the arena is crowded with locals and tourists waiting patiently to see the orangutans. These round-bellied auburn-haired primates we are about to see share 98% human DNA and express emotions the same way that we do. They are also considered to be the most intelligent animals in the world apart from man. Sadly, orangutans are facing extinction because their habitat is being destroyed due to global demand for palm oil.

High humidity makes beads of sweat form on my brow. An earthy smell mixed with something else I don’t recognise makes me sneeze. Several macaques climb up and down the trees. Their beady eyes look left and right. Five macaques climb up a rope, one after the other, and swing from tree to tree.

Lots of mosquitoes
Choose me from the smorgasbord
They drill into my legs

My fingers scratch the small itchy mounds. I drink from my water bottle, but it doesn’t quench my first nor cool me. Thirty minutes has gone by and all of us have our cameras ready. Everyone oohs and ah’s when they see the orangutans walk through the forest one by one to be fed a lunch of sugar bananas on a feeding platform. The orangutans appear shy compared to the macaques. A young orangutan rides on the back of the keeper. The hair on the orangutan’s head is sticking up like he has just got out of bed. He climbs up a vine and swings from a tree with another orangutan. I wonder if it’s his mum.

An orangutan stands below them and swings its arm up and pulls the young orangutan to the ground. They hold hands like humans do and I wish I could stand in the middle of them and hold their hands too. A taller orangutan’s feet curl on the outside edge as he walks over to them.

The three of them climb up a pole, one after the other. Cameras click and everyone laughs as the macaques steal the bananas the keeper has left up against a pole for the orangutans. The keeper shoos the macaques away. The macaques hide behind some shrubs and ferns, watching and waiting, and as soon as the keeper has his back turned they scurry over to the bananas grab as many as they can and run away.

One by one, eight orangutans swing from a vine. Their long auburn hair stands out against the short whitish brown hair of their cousins. They act like we aren’t there. I wonder what it feels like to have so many eyes peering at you all at once. When the show is nearly over, I push my way through the crowd to leave before everyone else does.

Sitting on a fence
A macaque looks dejected
Upstaged once again

Her gaze meets mine and she looks away. A baby macaque drinks from her breast and then sits in front of her. The mother slaps her head and scratches it. I wish she could talk to me. I want to reach out and cradle her and her baby in my arms, but I know I’m not allowed to.

On the way back to the bus, I stop at one of the many tourist shops where I adopt an orangutan for twelve months. I hope that my small contribution helps baby Simba, pictured below, grow up to be strong and healthy and eventually rehoused back into the wild.

After the rain

Long slender body

Rose bows her mottled head

And looks half dead

Aphids dine on her face

She no longer stands with grace

Ants climb her thorny spine

Looking for somewhere to dine

Once bud then bloom

With sweet perfume

Rose is weary – cast aside

Swirling, twirling wind

Rips her mottled flesh apart

Landing all over the backyard

How to write a killer first chapter in a YA novel

At the 2015 Digital Writers’ Festival I listened to the following people give some invaluable advice:

  •  Dr Euan Mitchell, author, editor, publisher and lecturer in professional writing
  • Jane Pearson, senior editor at Text Publishing who has edited numerous books including the A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land, and
  • Paul Collins author of The Jelindel Chronicles and The Quentaris Chronicles

about how to write a killer first chapter in a YA novel. Michelle Coleman was the panel moderator and is a co-founder and administrator at Freshly Squeezed Reads. She asked excellent questions and I am going to share Euan, Jane and Paul’s advice with you here.

Key points to remember

  • The story promise must be in the first chapter.
  • The relationship starts, then foreshadow what’s to come. It doesn’t have to be the first line.
  • You form your opinion on the first page.
  • To look at the finer points, for example, grammar and presentation.
  • You must have a great opening sentence and avoid using second person.
  • Tell your story through suffering, with a sense of humour, the protagonist as being part of a family, or get an emotional connection.
  • There also has to be action and a hook.
  • Don’t use too much description and not enough conflict.
  • You need conflict for tension.
  • Your opening is a promise to the reader of what’s to come but the story has to continue on and be just as good.
  • The inciting incident must commit to the journey.
  • Write freely from the heart and edit later.

There are more options available now for writers. Publishers are critical but they are working out if there are readers for your book. It’s the opinion of the publisher as a reader, but it’s only one step along the way. Put your manuscript away and come back refreshed. Remember you are your own critical reader. Put your energy into the writing and get it to the best you can before you send it out.

What agents and publishers don’t want to see

  1.          protagonists looking in mirrors
  2.          prologues
  3.          trilogies
  4.          infidels
  5.          back stories
  6.          an anti-climax
  7.          too much world building if it’s sci-fi
  8.          long flowery adjectives in a sentence
  9.          mundane events
  10.          character descriptions not working
  11.          chapter 1 as a dream sequence
  12.          cheesy hooks
  13.          internal dialogues
  14.          reflections
  15.          adverbs
  16.          too many characters introduced too quickly
  17.          italicised prologues

An author uses prologues to avoid loading up the first chapter with too much information. If any of the abovementioned things are in your draft delete them. To build tension you need a sense of menace and foreboding or just when everything is fantastic, everything changes. Make sure you do a spell check before you send your work anywhere. Publishers hate spelling mistakes. The story has to have heart and humanity. Look at pace, tone and tightness. Use a well-placed simile and look at the use of metaphor. Good writing is writing that arrests you. I hope this post helps you with your writing. I know it helped me a lot and now I’m back to a complete re-draft of my first chapter.