Rekindling The Desire To Write


The other day, I received an email from a young man who wanted to write – not a book or novel but ‘perhaps for the screen‘. He believed his future was to write stories and present them in a way people understand just ‘not in paper format‘…

Unfortunately, Mordialloc Writers’ Group is no more but his desire to tell stories and write made him seek guidance from other writers.

His request rekindled memories of why I founded the local writers’ group in 1995 and maybe he and several others who have contacted me will be motivated to establish their own support group.

I remember that ache to be with people who understand the desire to write.

I remember wanting to not feel isolated or alone; needing to be with others who understand the fascination with words.

Sometimes I wonder where that eager, passionate writer has gone.

empty beach

It’s Easy to Become Jaded

Over the years, through my involvement with the group and my teaching, I’ve managed to keep writing, but not always, writing what I want – and sometimes not from the heart. There have been periods of avoidance or dissatisfaction with whatever I’ve written. Periods of feeling overwhelmed by the expectations of others.

At times it took a conscious effort to remember and appreciate the sheer joy of stringing words together into a meaningful sentence, a memorable metaphor, a funny rhyme, an interesting character or setting…

When there are workshops to organise, deadlines to meet, lessons to plan, and editing of other people’s writing, the passion and pleasure, spark of imagination and fun are often smothered, spontaneity lost.

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  • I’ve never had ‘making money’ as the main aim or motivation for writing – just as well because few writers ever become wealthy like JK Rowling.
  • My ego has never been so demanding that celebrity status or becoming famous kept me motivated to write.
  • And unlike George Orwell, I have never been so driven that I could neglect family responsibilities or my friends.

However, I do want to be able to respond proudly and without hesitation,  to the questions, ‘What are you?‘ or ‘What do you do?’

I want to respond with, ‘I am a writer.’

I believe I am, and I do – even if not as successful as many others in the field.

laptop and desk

  • I still want to record my own stories and help others record theirs.  Let their voices be heard regardless of whether they have a university degree or dropped out of high school.
  • I want to meet anyone who enjoys playing around with and understanding the power of words, whether it be writing ditties, letters to ‘the editor’, romantic and creative cards, bookmarks, popular or literary short stories, healing personal stories, or the ‘one novel everyone has inside them’.

Mordialloc Writers Group produced nine anthologies between 1997-2016 and gave 66 writers a voice and an opportunity to be a published author. Many have gone on to write novels, poetry collections and memoir.

I have a shelf of class anthologies from paid teaching positions at several places, including the Sandybeach Centre 2002.

Writers gather to workshop
Read their prose, poems, and plays
In the Studio
Tuesday morning
Each week at Sandybeach

Mairi Neil 2002

blue moon rose

The anthologies from classes at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House, Godfrey Street Community House and Longbeach Place, remind me to appreciate the privilege of meeting so many different women and men of varying ages and abilities, all with a desire to write.

I have pages of imaginative, poignant, amusing and serious poems and prose from so many different writers.

What a privilege to share their stories, poems, plays, songs – even an opera – as they delighted in being with like-minded people with a passion for words.

Writing groups and classes bring together people from all walks of life writing what they want to write, but also valuing the techniques and tools of the craft.

Some write as part of a healing process, recovering from accident, illness or grief. Exercising their imagination not just therapy but a glorious release of ideas perhaps not revealed before.

Some write with the aim of helping others recover or learn from their journey, or impart knowledge and ideas they care about.

Some write because at long last they have the time or the courage to nurture their desire to write that novel, or book of poems, or rhymes for children, memoir, autobiography, family history or screenplay for Television, Holywood, or the Web!

Digital technology opening up choices not dreamt about when I first started writing creatively.

The young man who wants to tell stories by writing but not on paper an example of the digital revolution and the future. Maybe he’ll find an online group…

What Am I?
Mairi Neil 2004

I’m a writer.
A phrase with connotations galore –
author, biographer, journalist, poet,
columnist, editor, dramatist, copyist,
novelist, playwright, reporter,
essayist, wordsmith, hack ––
Need I name more?

Writers write!
Unless up against the dreaded block.
They author, communicate, compose, pen,
scratch, sign, autograph, indite,
correspond, create, draft, inscribe,
note, pencil, record, scrawl ––
Scribble frantically around the clock!

The literati boast lucubration at escritoire,
manuscripts cause graphospasm,
and corpus oeuvre fill posterity’s chasm,
from palaeography to grammatology,
stenography preparing bibliography ––
Pseudonyms detected by graphology!

Whether freelance or fabulist using
nom de plumes, ghostwriters or epistolary,
thank goodness people of letters
still continue orthography.

Scriveners scribble in scriptoriums
producing poetry and prose to fascinate,
enlighten, entertain and have their say!
Words that uplift, educate –– or challenge,
even offend –– to promote a cause célèbre!

5 Ways to Rediscover or Retain Writing Mojo & Spirit…

Number 1:

Write something for fun or like me vent your frustration. Form poetry is a good place to start – maybe a limerick or two.

Current Affairs But Who Cares?

Mairi Neil

Barnaby’s no longer Deputy PM
No longer the National’s gem
But tone-deaf Tony
And Bernardi the phoney
Both agree he’s not one of them!

Meanwhile, Malcolm’s losing the polls
Trying to dodge social media trolls
Tony keeps sniping
Ol’ Barnaby’s griping
Mal’s struggling to hold the controls.

Yet, who wants Bill as the boss?
Both the left and the right are cross
Bill tried to be canny
Lying about Adani
Now Labor may face electoral loss.

Aussie politics seems such a joke
Weekly stuff ups by bloke after bloke
Time for the choice
Of a strong female voice
The glass ceiling again must be broke.

Number 2.

Keep a journal or maybe a blog – experiment with poetry, flash fiction, citizen journalism…

Searching for Words and Meaning…
Mairi Neil

In writing class
we explore language
seek living words
lively words
alive words
volume high
sentencing each other
to work it out
or perhaps not
just listen, absorb and be
explore the language
search for words
taught in childhood
read in books
overheard on the train…
volume doesn’t matter
one sentence or two
from me or you
language exploration
job description
happiness prescription
research for a living
search for meaning
out-search a life
my sentence
to teach
writing in class…

Number 3.

Make the time to read a book or see a film, visit an art gallery or a museum – it may inspire you to write a review.

Haiku Book Review by Mairi Neil

Crime and Punishment
Dostoevsky challenges
ethical nightmare

Number 4.

Be creative – sew, knit, garden, paint, take photographs – find pleasure and satisfaction in other projects and free your mind to return to writing.

Number 5.

Dance, listen to music, walk, meditate, enjoy the silence of nature.  Nurture your inner self, the words will come when you are ready and your creative energy returns.

writing quote.jpg

Good luck – and wish me luck too!


Vale – Frank Jones – Thank You For Pausing and Sharing Your Poetry…


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There was joy in the return from my travels, but sadness too when I heard that Frank Jones had passed away on 9th of May, aged 92 years. His funeral held at St Brigid’s Mordialloc on 18th May 2017.

As a longtime member of Mordialloc Writers’ Group, Frank’s poetry and stories have graced eight of our nine anthologies. Another broken link with the group I founded in 1995 and although I am no longer active at Mordialloc workshops, I’m sure there are many Mordi writers who grieve Frank’s passing.


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I was privileged to attend Frank’s family celebration for his 90th, 2015.


Frank celebrated his 90th birthday at our regular Readings By The Bay and was the oldest writer in our last anthology, Kingston My City, contributing a marvellous reflective essay on his 65-year relationship with Mordialloc and the City of Kingston.

A natural born writer, Frank loved poetry – especially ‘bush’ and rhyming poetry – ‘the old -fashioned kind’, he said to me when he first joined the group. He wrote from the heart, a kind compassionate heart.


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From Casting A Line, Mordialloc Writers’ Group  2000.


I’ve never forgotten when he and his wife Joan turned up at the inaugural Readings By The Bay. Frank stood up and recited from memory, a poem he had written to Joan on their wedding day 50 years before! A romantic at heart too.

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Surrounded by friends and family Frank reads at his birthday celebration, held Parkdale Footy Club.

When Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer Frank suffered deeply and was shattered when she died. He, of course, used writing to share their story.  Another poem showing his love for Joan as she struggled with treatment.

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From Up The Creek with a pen! Mordialloc Writers’ Group, 2003.

I lost my partner, John in 2003, and also had a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010. These shared sorrows added a depth to my relationship with Frank I didn’t have with other writers in the group.

Frank and I lived a street apart and sometimes bumped into each other when he walked to U3A, or latterly to his acupuncturist in McDonald Street. He’d often ring me and ask for help editing or to give an opinion on a writing idea, or to share the joy of publication.

My daughters knew who was calling before Frank offered his name – he had a distinctive Aussie twang and spoke at the level you’d expect from someone going deaf.

Mairi, is that you? It’s Frank Jones,’ he boomed.

When Frank had bouts of illness that kept him from workshops or readings, I still included him in any anthology project because he always produced a memorable poem or story.

He was a writer who understood deadlines, listened to and appreciated any feedback. Also that rarity – Frank accepted the editor’s suggestions and decisions. A boon for those who helped edit the anthologies.

Frank referred to me as his ‘writing teacher’ although he never attended any of my classes!

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Eleven O Four, Mordialloc Writers’ Group 2004

Frank used his life experiences to produce interesting and contemporary pieces: –

  • growing up in the country (Kyneton area),
  • serving in WW2 in the RAAF
  • working in the building trade (a brickie)
  • and newsagency business,
  • his love of family,
  • his British heritage
  • love of swimming – he was in the icebreaker club
  • love of golf,
  • his love of dogs, especially a particular pet
  • his determination to continue to learn the craft of writing – he wrote stories, poems and a play
  • his commitment to his Christian Faith and volunteer work for St Vinnie’s
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Casting a Line, Mordialloc Writers’ Group 2000.

A prolific writer, I can remember how proud Frank was when his family collated his poems into a beautiful leather bound volume. He brought it to Sunday Readings to show us.

What a wonderful gift for a writer – your life’s work in a gold-lettered book!

The book was for one of his significant birthdays. Frank said it was after he became an ‘OBE’, ‘over bloody eighty’!

Frank’s honesty and sense of humour will be missed too. I have many photographs of Mordialloc Writers’ events over the 21 years but only the last few years are digital and easy to add to this blog post. Below is a selection from the last five years.

In Mordialloc Writer’ eighth anthology, Off the Rails, 2012, Frank wrote about attending an interstate swimming carnival – he had a pool in his backyard and swam every morning – perhaps a key to his longevity.

To Albury Grand Railway Station

Frank Jones

Hurrah! I proclaim we’re away on the train
Without fanfare or celebration
We glide down the tracks and never look back
As we leave old Spencer Street Station.

Our journey profound, we are Albury bound
In their carnival, we’re listed to swim.
We’ll strive to be best as our bodies protest
Even though we are taut, fit, and trim.

Onwards on time through a mesh of train lines
We view backyards tightly compacted
We wonder amazed, some even quite dazed
By urban plans neatly protracted.

We pay no heed as the train picks up speed
The wheels clattering faster and faster
No one complains as we head for the plains
Where drought is a common disaster.

Soon a voice loud and clear announces
!e cafeteria is ready to serve us
!reading through seats to sample the treats
The swaying train a challenge, if nervous.

Cars on the roads and trucks with their loads
All head for unknown destinations
!e train’s horn blasts every crossing we pass
No cause for great consternation.

Wangaratta and snowfields well passed
Signposted Canberra a further location
The Murray in sight and Wodonga’s delights
We are nearing our destination.

Speed now declines … it’s the end of the line
We’ll get on without hesitation
You won’t read in the papers about our capers
Or the fun of our jubilation.

We savoured the home, of ‘Albury’s Own’
So many sacrificed for this nation
On the hill high, their memorials lie
To overlook Albury’s historic Grand Station.


Albury Railway Station – grand indeed.


Frank wrote from the heart expressing himself in a language he understood and used daily – the best qualifications a poet can have – he was himself!  He didn’t try to emulate another style or be ‘poetic’. His words authentic. Frank Jones, the poet, writer, and raconteur will be missed.

One of the first poems of Frank’s that our group published is one I have never forgotten and is alluded to in the title of this blog post. It is one I mentioned to others when on my recent travels.

I spent a lot of time overseas visiting cemeteries. Not just chasing information about relatives but because I find them fascinating historical records. Discoveries are inspiring and intriguing, headstones holding so many stories.

Sadness too – all those people who have lived and by the state of some graves, are forgotten, or the family line has died.


pause between two dates.
Up The Creek with a pen! Mordialloc Writers’ Group, 2003.


Frank Jones – a rich legacy indeed – thank you!

You will be remembered as more than a pause between two dates.


Frank at Readings By The Bay 2016
Frank enjoying my apple cake at Readings By The Bay – the main reason he attended he’d say with a grin.




Appreciation of Local Writers By Mentone Public Library

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Today, I attended an Author Appreciation event, held annually since 2011 by Mentone Public Library, an anachronism in the modern world of libraries but a valued community asset in existence for over 90 years.

(Along with others in Mordialloc Writers’ Group I helped them celebrate their 90th birthday!)

Julia Reichstein (Media & Events Officer) and Tony Brooker (President), the dynamic volunteer duo keep the library relevant in the 21st century (the books are not computerised and operate on the Dewey system with many bought by request of registered members and therefore perhaps considered dated or not popular). They revived interest in the library by encouraging local authors to speak, promote their books, and talk about their writing process.

This year they promoted seven local authors, including local groups like The Blue Chair Poets and Mordialloc Writers and Glenice Whitting, and Amanda Apthorpeboth in attendance today:

JM Yates, the author of The Vine Bleeds, a story about the consequences and survival of domestic violence returned to receive her appreciation award.


as did Danae Andrea Harwood author of The Writers Runway, who I snapped sitting with ex-mayor and councillor, and longtime Mentone Library and local writers’ supporter, Bill Nixon.

(Bill launched Mordialloc Writers Anthology last year.)


Thirty people, plus the volunteers, not only celebrated a successful year but heard George Ivanoff talk about his latest YA best-selling series and his writing process.

The opportunity to buy signed copies of author books also a popular aspect of the morning.

Before George began his presentation we heard from two talented emerging writers who have presented over the years and let us share in their writing journey from high school:  Joe Bosa and Jessi Hooper.

Murray Thomson MLA introduced the day by suggesting the collective noun for the writers, readers, and historians present may be ‘an exultation’. He quoted classical poet Horace – “My memorial is done: it will outlast bronze” and added that indeed monuments like the pyramids may eventually be reduced to sand but words can last thousands of years.

Murray had researched Jessi and Joe to give the audience a sense of who they were and their inspiration for writing. He asked for their favourite quotes.

Jessi quoted Anne Frank:

Whoever is happy will make others happy too… those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery.

Joe’s quote from George R.R. Martin’s, A Dance with Dragons:

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.

The future of local writing is in great hands!

Jessi read a short prose poem entitled Trapped Under Water and Joe read from a revised manuscript of a fantasy novel written in Year 11 about a magical high school.

When George was introduced to talk about his latest series, including his 100th published book, he commented on how his life has been interwoven with Joe and Jessi (six degrees of separation): Joe attended his old school and Jessi attends the same school as George’s oldest daughter.

Pointing out these connections important, as we learnt later in his presentation!

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George is an entertaining presenter – he engages with his audience, is generous with his writing tips, reads his work with enthusiasm and shares his love of all things literary whether it is children’s books, young adult novels or his fascination with pop culture, particularly Dr Who!

His latest series is about the iconic Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service – books that reflect our country’s history and allow readers to live the adventure.

The RFDS has a rich and vibrant history, starting with the dream of a Presbyterian minister, Reverend John Flynn. Ordained in 1911, Flynn initially worked in rural and remote Australia setting up hostels and bush hospitals for pastoralists, miners, road workers, railwaymen and other settlers. He witnessed the daily struggle of pioneers living in remote areas and his vision was to provide a ‘mantle of safety’ for people of the bush.

On 15 May 1928, his dream became a reality when a long time supporter, H.V. McKay, left a large bequest for ‘an aerial experiment’. This enabled Flynn to open the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service in Cloncurry, Queensland (later to be renamed the Royal Flying Doctor Service).

George was also commissioned to write a factual picture storybook in a historical series Meet …  he had to write about the RFDS in a way to connect with young readers.

We were lucky he had brought that book along too.  He read a snippet to tease us but also to explain how he had to discover a ‘through line’ to connect the beginning and end of the story, a technique he uses for all his writing.

He has the main character, a young boy state at the beginning  about Dr Flynn ‘he saved my life…’ An explanation of Dr Flynn and the historical context follows and the book ends with the child explaining the how and why his life was saved because of the RFDS!


George is an author and stay-at-home dad and in his own words 2016 ‘has been a great productive year’. He has a new series on the horizon and the theme of his talk today was Connection. (I told you all would be revealed!)

Connections with stories, to real life experiences and how his writing comes about. The RFDS series was his publisher’s idea. He had mentioned to Random House that he was interested in doing licence writing – he loves pop culture and has been influenced by X-Files – and he thought of TV and Movies.

However, his publisher did a deal with RFDS for four books. These would be different from George’s usual interactive You Choose Adventure books, which are totally imaginative and not realism.

The RFDS would have to be factually accurate regarding medical matters and locations, involving a lot of research. Fortunately, George and his family had a holiday already planned to drive to Uluru and so he was able to do research along the way. Publishers do not pay for research trips!

The tales of his holiday, research, and inspiration were very entertaining and insightful. We were engrossed – in fact, spellbound – especially of the process of exploring aviation plus medicine and its impact on rural Australians and turning it into an adventure series!


The books each have a main medical ’emergency/adventure’: broken leg plus concussion in one, appendicitis and complications in another, premature birth and a snake bite in the third book and a rare genetic liver condition in the last book.

Too much research and finding out all things medical can be confronting – George confessed how  glad he was not knowing the dangers of a burst appendix when his oldest daughter had appendicitis, but now lives in dread his youngest daughter or even himself will suffer appendicitis!

Meanwhile, the holiday road trip, which turned into a research trip, gave George a lot of storylines and great ideas. He showed us holiday snaps he’d enlarged and explained how he’d been inspired.

RFDS Base Port Augusta.jpg

At Port Augusta in South Australia, he was able to visit the RFDS base at 8.00am on a Sunday. He chatted with staff, sat on a plane, lay on one of the beds, got the feel of being a pilot, doctor, passenger, patient…

He had flown in light aircraft before, knew they had smoother landings and take-offs than jets but these planes had passenger seats replaced by a mini-hospital. The series taught him how valuable it is to experience what you write about like visiting outback locations and sitting on the planes.

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At Leigh Creek, South Australia, George was fascinated by signs and unusual relics from the past. The sign on the male toilet ‘decapitated’, the KISS ice block in the freezer (who knows how long that had been there!), and the chalked sign outside the Leigh Creek Tavern with a quote from Dr Who, “Care for a jellybean?”Even the name of the cafe ‘Open Cut’.

All interesting prompts to trigger story ideas – especially the Dr Who quote – George admitted that one of his writing quirks is to include a Dr Who reference in all his stories. (Now there’s a challenge for pop culture nerds – you have  a hundred books to get through!)

The town has suffered from the closure of the mine and dwindling population and the SA Tourist Association is keen to revive its fortunes. They flew George and his publisher into the town to launch the book at the school.  Inspired by the location, they hope the book will lift the profile of Leigh Creek.

It certainly had the feel of the last place of civilisation, yet ironically, the only part of the town to feature in the book was the airport – a spot George didn’t visit – and it showed. His research of the airport relied on Google maps and he put a vending machine in the storyline where no vending machine exists! Oops!

(He discovered the blooper when they flew in for the book launch!)


The next stop for a location was Farina and George held up more photos, including the inevitable selfie. Farina is a ghost town and the ideal setting for numerous stories. The minute they arrived, George knew a story must be set in the town among deserted, crumbling buildings.

They camped in a nearby campsite but when he explored he had the town to himself. The first building being what is left of the Transcontinental Hotel. In one disintegrating room, the drop into a cellar is dangerous. There are no signs, the town is out of mobile range, deserted – if something happened in this dangerous, isolated place…?

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When his daughters accompanied him, he spent the time saying ‘be careful’as they played chasie in and out crumbling structures. The story came to him of an accident in the town, but not of children being hurt – the book would be too short if an adult was on hand.

Instead, he thought about the adult getting hurt (falling and snapping a leg) and the children having to work out a rescue plan. Story writing is all about tension and building the reader’s anticipation.

The dry ground between the town and campsite baked and cracked – like walking on a sponge. There was an old abandoned car. He loves walking at night and so returned to the town at night and it was oppressively dark because of hardly any moonlight. He included his wander as a scene in the book – a connection with real life again! One of his characters likes to walk at night.


The family continued on their holiday and the plots for the book series continued to form. The notorious Oodnadatta Track attempted without a four wheel drive. Three flat tyres later George knew he had to give characters the experience of flat tyres!

At last, they arrived at Coober Pedy famous for opals and underground homes and hotels. George wanted to set a story in this internationally famous town, especially when he discovered there was a drive-in cinema still operating and nearby in a carpark was an abandoned spaceship, disintegrating but still recognisable and huge!

(In the photo above George is the tiny black figure on the left.)

He discovered the spaceship was a prop left behind several years ago when a sci-fi movie was made. There are a lot of films and TV shows made in and around Coober Pedy, the landscape is interesting and intriguing. One side of the road there are stones with reflective minerals (mica?) embedded that sparkle in the sunlight. On the other side of the road, the soil is dull. It is a town of surprises and contrasts.

George set the book in the drive-in theatre and chose to make the story about a film event rather than opals and mining, which most of the stories set in Coober Pedy are about.

George read an extract, set at night, with characters scared at what seemed to be a haunted drive-in. Inexplicably, the string of Christmas lights behind him started to flash. We laughed – how spooky! Was he channelling the ghost town, Farina, or Coober Pedy?

Jokes aside, the point made by George important for writers – do your own research through experience if you can. Whether history, characters or location, it will enrich your imagination. If he had relied solely on the tourist information available, he would have written another opal mining story.


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The third book is set in WA in a town George visited in the past but his memory is hazy on details so he didn’t make the town a character.

The final book is based on a real-life story about a boy born with a rare genetic disease. The research involved many conversations on the phone with the boy’s father. George allowed him to read the first draft to ensure he’d got facts right.

The boy had to be flown by the RFDS from Adelaide to Melbourne for a life-saving liver transplant. The book focuses on the lightbox treatment the boy needed to stay alive; his exposure to UV rays for 6-8 hours a day up until puberty when that treatment loses its effectiveness and a transplant is the only option.


The through-line linking the beginning and end of this story is a time travel reference. In the beginning, while he is in the lightbox, the son wishes he could time travel like the character in a book from the library. The father mentions this at the end of the story.

In the book about rescue from the ghost town, the family returns at the end to ‘lay ghosts of the accident to rest’.

In another book, the young girl stares into the eyes of the surgeon trying to work out who the eyes belong to and at the beginning of the story there is mention of the colour of eyes.

Links, connections, research hints and then George gave us a glimpse into his next 4 book series where the characters will travel through doorways into other worlds.

An entertaining and enlightening morning.  George Ivanoff  once again gave generously of his time and writing craft practice.

Julia announced that the local author events will resume in May next year – keep a look out on the library’s website – for what I am sure will be a great line-up.

Each year Julia writes and performs an amusing song about the ‘literary’ year. Accompanied by Tony on the ukelele, today was no exception.

Julia also handwrites her author appreciation notes – below is the kind message on mine.


On behalf of local authors, I expressed OUR appreciation – well done Julia and Tony –

here’s to a great 2017!


Let’s Lavish Love on Library Volunteers

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On Thursday, May 12, I spoke at Kingston’s Cheltenham Library Branch at a function for Volunteer Week. This year is also the year of ‘Digital Inclusion’ and the library is keen to support this theme.

Invited by Monique Gielen, a coordinator of the Home Library Service at Kingston Libraries, I was asked to include my journey to online publishing in its various forms and my experiences with the Mordialloc Writers’ Group, as well as my experiences as Kingston’s 2016 Citizen of the Year.

The Home Library Service is run with the generous help of a group of community-minded volunteers, who visit people in their own homes or aged care facilities, bringing their clients library items, conversation and a link to the community. 

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The function for the volunteers included a welcome and thank you by Kingston’s Mayor Cr Tamsin Bearsley, my speech,  a training session on Kingston’s My Community Life website, and a morning tea.

The afternoon designed to recognise the work of the volunteers and create an opportunity for them to engage with each other. There was the added joy of meeting Kingston’s Junior Mayor, Isaac Madafferi and a pupil from Aspendale Gardens Primary, one of six students chosen to spend the day with the Mayor and learn a little about local government services.


Tamsin explained how important volunteering is to many of the services in our community and quoted recent studies that show people who volunteer are healthier and happier than those who don’t. From my experience, the personal benefits of volunteering are indeed substantial and it is fantastic when volunteer contributions to government services and organisations are acknowledged.

And so to my speech an accompanying PowerPoint Presentation – no mean feat to prepare because having a Mac and using keynote I had to make sure it worked as PPP on a PC – always time-consuming and sometimes a hit and miss that there are no glitches. I could do a whole presentation on dramas with technology!

My presentation on the day a little awkward because there was no remote control and the laptop was behind and to the left of me.

However, with a little help from one of the gracious library staff and the fact I had prepared my speech to stand alone, just in case technology failed, I managed to keep everyone engaged  and even received some compliments afterwards.

Big sigh of relief, I’ve survived yet another anxiety producing ‘speaking in public’ event!

What I said and some of the slides I added follow.

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Kingston Library Volunteer Function 2016

Good afternoon and thank you very much for inviting me today and allowing me to share your spotlight – this day is about all of you being thanked for your contribution as library volunteers.

It is safe to say, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been selected as Kingston’s Citizen of the Year and I’ve been asked to mention how that is working out, so I’ll tackle that first.

On the day, I received the phone call from Tamsin, the Mayor, I was at Southland with my daughter. I was told I was Kingston’s Citizen of the Year and immediately understood what ‘overwhelmed’ meant. On the drive home with my daughter, I kept shaking my head. Mostly in disbelief, which in many ways still has a hold of me, despite many people saying things like:  ‘When I read your name, I was so glad.’

‘You deserve it,’ or ‘about time you got recognition.’

Those reactions reminded me of a line from a Rabbie Burns poem written in 1786.

(For those who don’t know who he is, he wrote Auld Lang Syne and My Love is Like a Red Red Rose plus volumes of other poems that have not been turned into songs! He’s Scotland’s most famous bard and one my father recited all the time.)

The line that comes to mind regarding the praise and support I’ve received is one my father often quoted. This is the anglicised final verse which explains the theme of the poem -:

to a louse verse

The poem is To A Louse (in Australia they’re called nits) , which goes to show you can write about anything and be remembered for centuries!

The narrator sitting behind an upper class lady in church notices a louse roving around in her bonnet. The poet chastises the louse for not realising how important his host is, and then reflects that, to a louse, we are all equal prey, and that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we were to see ourselves through each other’s eyes.

An alternative interpretation (and with poetry as you probably learned at school, there is always an alternative interpretation) is that the poet is musing to himself how horrified and humbled the pious woman would be if she were aware she was harbouring a common parasite in her hair.

Well, for me, my reaction at receiving the award was more than disbelief; I was humbled and overcome by the knowledge that someone saw me in a different light as to how I see myself. I don’t think I’m, or my achievements, are particularly remarkable, but I am honoured and thrilled that teaching in community houses is valued, that caring and working within the community as a volunteer is valued, and the contribution of the Mordialloc Writers’ Group is valued.

I am well aware that there are many people who are more deserving (I just have to look around this room) and many others whose reaction would be ‘Who’s Mairi Neil? Why did she get the award?’

However, if it lifts the profile of neighbourhood houses, and of writing and local writers, I’m happy to be humbled, praised, or criticised! So far I’ve been keynote speaker at IWD and here.

I was supposed to speak yesterday at Clarinda but apparently the event was cancelled through lack of interest – so not everyone is tripping over themselves to hear me speak!

The plus side of the award is I get to meet lots of interesting people – as I hope to do again today.

Now I’ll move to a subject I am passionate about – writing.  Writer Anne Lamott said,

anne lamott quote

Libraries are built on books. Schools rely on them and at any given moment there are millions of books on shelves around the world, in homes, in shops and in libraries like this.

Books that share knowledge and experiences of life, that share poetry and prose from every genre imaginable, that entertain, inform, inspire and ignite imagination.

However, as a writer I’m aware that technology has impacted on writing, publishing and reading and I’ll share a little of my journey later, but suffice to say, I personally love the feel of having a book in my hand, and want to not only see my words, but hold them as I read.

An iPad, Kindle, even mobile phone doesn’t do anything for me except make my handbag lighter when I’m travelling. Electronic books are convenient and if video and slide shows are added, they can be more exciting and entertaining than a good old-fashioned print book, but they won’t completely replace them.

You can’t curl up in bed and feel the same relaxation with a kindle. And there’s something magical about having a child on your knee and reading as he or she turns the pages of a picture storybook.

For me communication, learning, community and living – all begin with story.

maya angelou quote

Australia reaps the benefit of the care taken by the original owners of the land, including the Boonerwrung of the KuIin Nation – without a written language their oral histories and knowledge were handed down through yarns, painting, song and dance. Living books.

indigneous literacy .jpg

Their wisdom helping us preserve this land and thousands of years of knowledge. One of the wonderful developments I’ve seen in my 54 years in Australia is the value added by being able to read the thoughts, ideas, and experience from indigenous writers – their stories no longer filtered through non-indigenous eyes.

Please check out the indigenous literary foundation site and the article by our wonderful local book reviewer Lisa Hill of ANZLit Blog fame, a personal friend, and a Mordialloc writer of course!

writing quote.jpg

In our culture, to write well you must read. A book is a friend and a teacher.

As a writer I create characters, places and events with words. As a teacher I share my knowledge and love of words to instil the passion I feel for recording stories, putting pen to paper, believing all voices equal. I want to help people tell their stories in the best possible way by learning the craft of writing.


I was asked to explain what was my motivation for starting the Writers’ Group.
Simply, I need to write – it’s part of my DNA and it is my passion. And I didn’t want to have to travel into the city to meet other writers.

I started the Mordialloc Writers’ Group, wrote and self-published two books of children’s poetry, Small Talk and More Small Talk and volunteered to do many writing ‘jobs’ like performing writing workshops in local schools, libraries and community centres.

I gave workshops during school holidays and started a program combining craft with writing to encourage primary-aged children to write. I ran these programs at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House – self-serving in the beginning because I had two daughters who were at primary school.

My writing profile filtered through various networks and I was approached by the co-ordinator at Mordialloc and one at Sandybeach Centre to teach creative writing to adults (accredited and non-accredited courses).

In between I had been approached by schools, a couple of councils (Port Phillip and Dandenong), the Bayside Gifted Children’s Network and two home-educating groups.  And so started my journey of paid work in the creative writing and teaching field. On the most part not planned – just evolved.


It has been proven that writing can be therapeutic and I’m not going to argue with that! I’ve been through a fair share of grief and illness in my life and I’ve found reading and writing has helped me keep a balanced perspective and a positive attitude. I’ve been inspired by stories from others and comforted.

“Studies show that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory…. Writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioural changes and improve happiness.”

New York Times, “Writing Your Way To Happiness,” Tara Parker-Pope, January 19, 2015


Belonging to a group like the Mordialloc Writers’ certainly helped me with many of the writers being close and supportive friends for two decades. We celebrated the 20th Anniversary in 2015.

Reflecting on our beginnings, I remember how 5 writers met at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House in March 1995, put in $1.00 each to cover the rent and decided to meet fortnightly to workshop writing. We wanted to be able to write and meet locally.

Mordy Writers still meet fortnightly. And although numbers fluctuate membership has increased over the years and when we launched our ninth anthology last year, I know we were envied by other local groups that haven’t lasted.

The Bayside Night Writers and Swag of Tales & Swag of Verse – groups that met and/or produced anthologies no longer meet. Even the successful Bayside Poetry Group is struggling with an ageing membership.

It takes a lot of energy to keep a group vibrant and growing and often there are too few people who are prepared to put in the hours and work necessary to keep groups relevant.


Hosting regular public monthly readings on the last Sunday each month, means we meet other writers not living in the area and local writers who may not be in our group. However, our foundation rules have never changed:

  • As a community based writing group we welcome writers in all genres, whether beginners or advanced.
  • We are non-profit, our sole purpose being to encourage and support writers in their endeavours to publish, or just remain motivated to write regularly.
  • We produce anthologies with any monies received going towards the next book.
  • We encourage the love of literature and the importance of creative writing in our culture promoting the versatility and richness of the English language.
  • Our inclusive group abhors discrimination. Age, nationality, race, gender, religion, ethnic background or writing ability all secondary to the desire to write.

We have enabled over 60 writers to be published, nurturing several successful prize-winners. Glenice Whitting’s unpublished novel was listed for the Premier’s Award in 2004, and as Pickle to Pie it later won the Ilura Prize for fiction. Sue Parritt workshopped her novel with us, published 2014 as Sannah and the Pilgrim with the second novel in her trilogy, Pia and the Skyman, to be launched in 2 weeks.

Many others have been supported and encouraged to publish collections of poetry and prose including: John West, Stan Fensom, Dorothy Plummer, Bob Croker, Fay Lucas, Jeff Lasbury, Bob Lawson, Gregory Hill ( a successful co-writer of two books), and Dom Heraclides. Coral Waight and Steve Davies  have recently published Ebooks.

Plays have been written and performed, one of mine at Kingston’s Write Up Festival. Glenice and Greg were short listed for Varuna scholarships. Writer, Helen Merrick-Andrews developed a publishing business after her involvement in our second anthology.

Readings By The Bay still attracts writers from as varied locations as Frankston and Mt Eliza, Fern Tree Gully and Northcote, Bacchus Marsh and Oakleigh as well as local bay side participants. Several of us are published in other anthologies, online and other media. Alan Ward pursues his love of performance poetry in Germany where he is living for 2 years. Along with other ex-pats he posts his efforts on Youtube.


Because I teach writing at three neighbourhood houses there is a lot of networking, connecting and support with the writing by my students and regular members of the writers’ group. Often attendance at Readings By The Bay is the first public airing writers have of their work and the feedback and social contacts makes confidence soar.

Grants from Kingston Council for professional development enabled the group to host workshops by authors Euan Mitchell and Arnold Zable and as Glenice Whitting and myself both gained a Master’s degree in Writing, it is fair to say any workshopping we do with the group is good value.


Creativity has no boundaries, our members have ranged from 14 to 90 years, for Mordy Writers – it’s not ‘menopausal madness’ – the headline a local paper chose to use from one of my throwaway lines before one book launch!  Rather, it’s unpretentious voices attempting to make sense of and celebrate our social and geographical place in the world through the experience of life ‘bayside’.

Ningla- Ana, This our Land

Indigenous and Immigrant together.


Now to the digital age – Adaptability and Flexibility – the modern writer’s mantra.

New book titles published this year:


The following data on books published displayed on the Worldometers’ counter is based on statistics published by UNESCO

United States (2010) 328,259 (new titles and editions)

United Kingdom (2005) 206,000

Australia (2004) 8,602

TOTAL of all countries providing data: approximately 2,200,000

The impact of technology on writing and publishing began 10-15 years ago – when people started reading online and there has been a steady shift of more and more people “googling” ever since.

For most people the first effect was on newspapers and magazines. Advertisers subsidise these – but when people started reading online and didn’t want to pay for it, many journalists lost their jobs.

Classified ads – brought in 1/3 revenue for printed newspapers – that money is gone and will never come back.

Newspapers won’t die they’ll just diminish – even those available online. Social media will see to that. Unfortunately, this has led to a decay in the quality of journalism. There is no money for investigative research or in some cases proofreading – one of my bug bears.

(Read this excellent review of The Media and the Massacre, by Sonya Voumard by Lisa Hill on the same subject.)

If any of you have seen the movie Spotlight about the journalists on the Boston Globe exposing the sex abuse within the Catholic church and subsequent cover up by the church’s hierarchy, you will realise a story like that is more difficult to research today because there is no money to pay investigative journalists. They even hinted at that in the film.

This is why we need independent public broadcasters like the ABC or we’ll be relying on whistleblowers like Edward Snowden for exposés.

However, competing in the digital world and the 24 hour news cycle is more difficult to maintain quality even for a properly funded ABC.

And yet readers are still there for quality journalism and we’ll bemoan and miss good writing.

And the same thing is happening to books.

Unless you are a well-known author or work in the academic world it is very hard to get published and market and sell books in the digital age. We live in a time where there is access to audiences all over the world – anyone can set up a blog or create a pdf and load it up to Amazon or Create Space or WordPress and call themselves a published author.

But how do you find the good stuff from the thousands on Amazon? How do you know the book is a quality read, whether it has been edited, properly researched and even that it’s the author’s own work?

This is where good library staff, like those in Kingston come into their own along with trusted reviewers!

images-10 copy 3.jpg

Hundreds and thousands of books are loaded up online every year, the competition is fierce and authors like myself must learn to be lay-out and design experts, cover designers and marketers – be up-to-date with the various formats and ever-changing software and hardware. That is a very steep learning curve. Especially for my age group – when I left the paid workforce to start a family I thought I was the bees knees because I had a golfball typewriter!


And like many things you buy online, illustrations can be deceptive and the hype about a book can be just that. Sure we read of successful authors and how much money people make from downloads but reality is if you are a writer in Australia be prepared to have another job as well if you like to eat – especially if you are a  creative writer.

I had to embrace new technology with limited expertise; trust disembodied distant relationships with tutors and students when I did my Master’s degree; adapt lifestyle, extend boundaries, be flexible and most of all, be open to change.

Everywhere I went with workshops and in my teaching I met and still meet writers who don’t understand technology. I’ve learned to never make assumptions about people’s digital knowledge or ability.

Here is a poem I wrote in 2001 after a workshop I did to help the local U3A class put together an anthology – Mavis exists, albeit under a different name.


Mavis wanted to be a writer,
a desire throughout her life
but circumstances meant priorities
of being a mother and a wife.
And then her dream was realised
in her twilight years
Mavis joined U3A
Writing For Pleasure banished fears.
Encouraged to write short stories
and poems inspired from muse
her tutor suggested a computer
was the recording tool to use.
Mavis approached her grandson
an accountant, he knew computing well
being a prolific writer, Mavis had
thoughts of a book to sell.
She sat at her grandson’s computer
set at the program called Excel
and typed her poetry and prose
a line to every cell!
© mairi neil 2001

images-1 copy 2.jpeg

My writing and teaching journey is proving worthwhile, despite constantly feeling ‘screen’ tired with a mind ticking over like a Geiger counter.

The craft of writing is what I enjoy the most; it is my comfort zone and I know this is why I love teaching creative writing because for a few hours a week I share my passion for words, the nuances, the flexibility, the chance to experiment, the fire of imagination.

In my experience, the most difficult aspect of writing is editing and rewriting to ‘get it right’ and it is the aspect too many writers put in the ‘too hard’ basket.

The field of writing is more competitive now than in the past and the proliferation of writing courses, celebrity authors and the need to compete with technological entertainment has had a profound change on the world of wordsmiths.

The U3A writing classes, people living longer and being active, e-publishing, print on demand– a whole range of things will impact on people like me.

But when dealing with publishers, printers, editors and even other writers  I remember the three Ps:–preparedness, politeness and persistence and just like the 70s I know the times are a changing and as a lifelong learner I’m determined to keep up.


When I finished my talk I played a short digital story I made a couple of years ago through the Center of Digital Storytelling in America. Their workshops were online and my introduction to international conferencing and webinars and the amazing possibilities of online teaching and digital storytelling.

It was a reality check on the skills I thought I had but a wonderful experience workshopping with people from countries as diverse as Jamaica, Scotland, Australia and a variety of American States! Many of them giggled when by the third week of checking in at 4.00am I admitted to appearing in my pyjamas – trendy as they were!

No appearing in pyjamas at Cheltenham though!

After the talk it was lovely to meet up with a past student and fellow writer and take a selfie; visit Ancient Greece and look forward to going home and reading the latest history of Mordialloc by local historians Leo Gamble and Graham Whitehead, a delightful thank you gift.

There are some perks in being Citizen of the Year – and the warm welcome and meeting the dedicated staff and volunteers at Cheltenham Library is definitely at the top of the list.

Formatting and Frustration all Free


I could have done with listening to one of Earl Nightingale‘s inspirational speeches over the last couple of days as I tried to upload the already formatted Ebooks of Mordialloc Writers’ latest anthology: Kingston My City.

KingstonmycityFinalCover copy

I wanted to complete the dream (promise) of making the digital version free after our group launched the hard copy on the 14th November.

I had the book formatted for EPUB and MOBI and thought all I had to do was offer it to the local library, or even have it on the city’s website and the promise would be fulfilled, plus I could publish on my blog and the group’s blog and share links.

I’m a lifelong learner but my training in the workforce began with manual typewriters and progressed to an electric golfball typewriter, which I thought amazing.

I never received any formal training on computers let alone digital publishing.

manual typewriterselectric- golfball typewriter


I started blogging a year ago and only know the basics. Trying to publish our digital book, I discovered that WordPress won’t accept file types EPUB and MOBI. A young man I contacted via help and “live chat” was helpful, but he could’t tell me why these files are not accepted.

“Be Prepared” a motto I should have remembered from Girl Guides.

I visited the local library and found the staff extremely helpful, but they use a particular supplier for their ebooks, who in turn has contracts with ebook vendors. The library will happily provide a link to our book, but can’t load it directly onto their system, which is understandable.

And so my disappointment but also learning continued.

What were other possibilities?

I overthink, do too much research, and procrastinate when it comes to writing. Computer decisions also suffer from these flaws!  My confidence is easily shaken or disappears faster than a sinking ship. However, I don’t give up and I usually get there in the end.

I kept telling myself that many writers publish online everyday so decided to load the book onto Amazon and iAuthor with a zero price tag and then let people know through email or blog posts.

It’s embarrassing how many hours this process took. (It didn’t help when the Internet connection kept dropping out or slowing down – something that happens all too frequently now since a less than perfect NBN rollout.)

With the Kindle upload on Amazon I wanted to avoid giving my personal banking details, but ultimately had to because the Group doesn’t have an Amazon Account. Meanwhile, it turned out that it is easier to load the book onto iAuthor at zero price tag than Amazon.

The book is currently listed at $US1.99 on Amazon . It can be reduced to zero for a promotional period, but only if you haven’t listed the book with another site, which I have done! Another stumbling block on my learning curve!

I hope when I investigate further the book can be reduced to zero dollars, but this may have to wait until after New Year.

My blood pressure matched my frustration levels until a quicker and easier way to upload the book using other sites was revealed.


I Googled and discovered this article explaining digital publishing and read about a site similar to Smashwords, that I didn’t know about: DRAFT2DIGITAL.

Within minutes I had the book loaded and available on a host of sites and as each distributor accepts the book they will notify me by email.

The fact I’m not looking for money from the book may have made it harder to publish on Amazon and easier to publish elsewhere, however the process on Draft2Digital was certainly quicker and friendlier and one I’d use again.

They have already emailed me to say the book can be downloaded from:

iBooks and Page Foundry

They will email me as the book appears on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino and 24 Symbols. Some of these online stores I didn’t know existed!

Most sites will guide you through downloading apps to read the book but here is information that may be of use provided by the company that originally formatted our book. Useful for those who don’t own a kindle or unaware you can read ebooks on a computer:

If you have no eReader then first you must install an eReader EXE for viewing your eBook files on your computer. This is free software.

  1. Do you have IPAD or similar device? If YES, then search “iBooks apps”;  add this free app and you will have epub format
  2. KINDLE SOFTWARE (You can get a version for your MAC or PC)  and
  3. Adobe Digital Edition (PC version)
(Run this EXE, when asked email id, skip this information, after installation you will see the icon on your desktop)
(After installation you see “LIBRARY and the Add Item to Library”, click that button and go your location where you located your epub file. Open EPUB file)

KINDLE for PC (PC version)
(Run this EXE, when asked email id, skip this information, after installation you can see icon in your desktop)
After installation then press ENTER any Kindle format : mobi)


No doubt my education will continue because the digital world is here to stay and after 20 years and nine anthologies I believe the future for Mordialloc Writers’ Group and the individual writers will be digital publishing.

We have dipped our collective toe in the water to establish our name, let’s hope we’ll soon be swimming. Enjoy our stories, share them and please let us know if you like them.




Sharing Words That Work

“Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without having to actually show up somewhere.”

Anne Lamott

The Melbourne Writers Festival

At the moment the Melbourne Writers Festival is in full swing and there are plenty of writers showing up to share their writing journey, words of wisdom, promoting their books and ideas, taking part in debates and engaging with each other and audiences.

My daughters and I attended a session with Rob Thomas the creator and executive producer of the popular Veronica Mars television series, movie, and several young adult books. It was a delightful evening as Rob shared inside stories of trying to get his concept and pilot accepted and also the selection of actors, scenes, and storylines.


For all the would-be authors in the audience, it’s always good to hear that a successful character/story eventually finds a home after years of hoping – in Rob’s case Veronica Mars sat in a drawer for 7 years, occasionally being tweaked, but waiting for the ‘right moment’ to be accepted.

A Rob Thomas groupie at MWF 2015
Me being a Rob Thomas groupie at MWF 2015

You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander.”

Anne Lamott

The Mordialloc Writers’ Group

My love of words and writing led me to establish the Mordialloc Writers’ Group in 1995 with the aim of providing a supportive environment, not only for local writers but also for others living beyond the City of Kingston. My dream always to ensure people who joined the group had the opportunity to see their words in print and I know for many members our anthologies are valued for that reason.

Like the moon, Mordialloc Writers’ Group has waxed and waned in membership but still thrives. Members workshop each Tuesday evening fortnight (8-10pm) at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House in a supportive environment where talent is nurtured and constructive criticism  encouraged. Information about current writing opportunities shared with several members achieving writing awards, success in competitions, publication in other anthologies and even publishing contracts.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.”

Anne Lamott

We welcome poets, playwrights, novelists, family historians, children’s writers – anyone interested in creative or factual writing, whether for publication or personal pleasure. The majority of our members are over 50, but we also have younger writers  ensuring the group is representative of the community.

Anthology Number 1 – Writers By the Bay – 15 writers:

Writers By The Bay
Writers By The Bay

The group hosts the public Readings by the Bay at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House at 2pm on the last Sunday of the month where the entertainment is followed by refreshments and interaction with wordsmiths from Frankston to Fern Tree Gully.

Anthology Number 2 – Casting A Line – 17 writers:

Casting A Line
Casting A Line

This year Mordialloc Writers celebrate 20 years and we are producing another collection of current and past members work entitled: Kingston My City. Twenty writers sharing their personal recollections and views of interaction with the City of Kingston – including memories before the amalgamation of suburbs created the entity.

Each published anthology shows a progression and improvement in our writing abilities – this was another challenge to the writers to fill the pages of our ninth anthology . The personal essay is not as demanding as the personal memoir because it can be about almost anything, whereas the memoir tends to discuss past events. However, a memoir is similar to the personal essay, except that  memoir tends to focus more on significant or life-changing events. The personal essay can be a relatively light reflection about what’s going on in life right now.

Anthology Number 3 – Up the Creek with a pen! – 17 writers:

Up the Creek with a Pen
Up the Creek with a Pen

Contributors were asked what Kingston means to them. They don’t all live in Kingston but are connected in some way –– either in the past or present, (birth, residence, schooling, work, regular visitor, holidays, tourist, hobbies, attending workshops, readings, festivals…) Their essays explore this connection free from any need to interpret, analyse or seek the deeper meaning beneath the surface experience of particular events. The variety of subject matter and style of writing is amazing as well as entertaining. There is a cross section of past and present writers associated with Mordialloc Writers’ Group and although all pieces are creative non-fiction, there is also haiku and free verse.

Anthology Number 4 – Eleven o Four – 12 writers:

Eleven O Four
Eleven O Four

Our anthologies have always included poetry and prose, but also articles or memoir. They reflect the community’s history as well as being a record of the times in which we live. There are always new writers who have never been published as well as accomplished authors. Our group prides itself in providing a means for every voice to be heard.

Anthology Number 5 – A Rich Inheritance – 20 writers:

A Rich Inheritance
A Rich Inheritance

Our oldest contributor, Frank Jones is almost 90 and he writes about coming to Mordialloc in the 1950s, our youngest contributor is in her 30s and first time published. She writes about coping with motherhood and how the Maternal & Infant Welfare Services helped her. There are essays about the Eisteddfod, the Town Hall, the Farmers’ Market, U3A, football teams and schools. One of our writer’s has a disability, but she explains what it was like when Patterson Lakes was formed and how improvements make it a desirable location to indulge her love of swimming and bush walking.

Anthology Number 6 – Scandalous Bayside – 20 writers:

Scandalous Bayside
Scandalous Bayside

We are the oldest established writers’ group in Kingston and as such represent a cross section of the community as well as keeping a literary tradition alive. To demonstrate the importance of the written word and to celebrate our language it is important there are examples of the work of local writers for future generations to read.

Many of the writers have published individual work, but it is valuable for the community to see a collection of local writing and appreciate the richness of the literary arts in Kingston. We thank the City of Kingston for giving us grants to help towards the printing costs of our anthologies and appreciating Mordialloc Writers’ contribution to the Arts in Kingston.

Anthology Number 7 – Carnival Caper – 23 writers:

Carnival Caper
Carnival Caper

We will produce an E-book (yes, we are embracing the digital age)  as well as  traditional printed books. The launch, on November 14 at the Allan McLean Hall in Mordialloc will celebrate our 20 years and allow the public to meet the writers and perhaps encourage others to join. We always have a spike in membership after a book launch and it is a good way of raising our profile.

We pride ourselves in making sure each anthology improves on the one before and readers can see the progression, hear from new writers, appreciate the improvement of the craft in longtime members and read work that reflects the community, a range of abilities, skills, and topics. We are a community writing group with a high standard, however, the writing varies from popular genres to more academic pieces.

We decided on using the personal essay style this time, but one submission is in haiku.  We are celebrating as well as promoting a literary tradition and although several of our writers have a language other than English, our anthologies focus on the richness, flexibility, and vibrancy of the English language.

Anthology Number 8 – Off the Rails – 21 writers:

Off The Rails
Off The Rails

Many people have touched our lives and we theirs. Writing is a solitary task, but it is important to stay connected with others and a writing group provides that safe nurturing environment. Camaraderie and mentoring, socialising and networking, improving skills, generating ideas, receiving positive feedback and having fun. Lifelong friendships have been formed and through the public readings, we host people from outside Kingston too. Readings By The Bay enables links with other writing groups such as Bayside Poets, Mornington Writers, Henry Lawson Society, Melbourne Poets et al.

Our creative writing group offers a sense of community, and within this community exists an environment that is not only pleasant but conducive to achieving publication – and to be read and appreciated is the aim of most writers. With new writers in our up-and-coming anthology, we will have helped 65 individual authors see their name in print.


Watch this space for more information closer to our launch date, but please join us on Saturday afternoon on November 14th, 2015 and help make our twentieth anniversary celebrations a day of happy memories!

And remember – please support local writers – wherever they may be!

Marking Milestones in a Memorable Way

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain

The above quote is attributed to Mark Twain, but like all quotes circulating on the Internet, or repeated in books, unless you can go back to the primary source, you have to accept it’s authenticity on face value.

However, the profound and philosophical comment sounds like one we’d expect from Mark Twain. Unless you believe in reincarnation, the day we are born is indeed, the first day of our lives. What we learn, experience and do with our lives should, if we’re lucky, provide the answer to why we are here – unless of course you believe in predestination.

Many people believe they have a purpose in life. When they dedicate themselves to achieving this, their life has meaning and seems richer. Most of us will spend our  lives seeking purpose, trying out different  jobs, careers, relationships, developing talents and abilities to find our niche, and with luck discover a sense of fulfilment leading to contentment and satisfaction.

I may not have the definitive answer to ‘why’ I was born and I don’t believe in preordained destiny, but I do believe in making things happen. Knowledge and time can change ideas and achievements, which then allows me to make informed decisions and design aspects of my life, leading me closer to  answering: Why was I born? What meaning has my life? What legacy will I leave?

We can all find something to be passionate about, something we strive to do well, something we want to share with others. For me, it is writing, coupled with belief in community and driven by a desire for social justice and equity.

Yesterday, as part of the Mordialloc Writers’ Group, I met other people passionate about a local community library, reading, access to knowledge, promoting local writers and retaining local history.

Mentone Public Library, established in 1925, celebrated its 90th Anniversary by having an Open Day, a ceremonial cutting of the anniversary cake, kind positive words from local dignitaries, councillors and politicians and presentations by local community groups. A tiny subscription library may seem an anachronism in today’s digital world and where public libraries are provided by council, but it is a testimony to the dedication of volunteers and local supporters that this library is still going after 90 years.

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Veronica Hahn, Mordialloc and District Historical Society


Dorothy Booth, Friends of Mentone Station and Gardens


Dr Graham Whitehead, City of Kingston historian


Blue Chair Poets (Sarah, Debbie and Yvette)

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Mordialloc Writers’ Group (Mairi, Glenice, Coral, Maureen, Belinda and Steve)

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Two emerging writers from local schools (Joe and Jessi)

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Entertainment by the Mordialloc Ukulele Group and circus performer/musician Shannon McGurgan.

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The founders and volunteers over the years who have kept this library thriving had purpose, passion, and acted upon their ideas!  Yesterday a celebration of community achievement as people shared and appreciated each other’s talents. New friendships were made, networks expanded.

At the end of the delightful day, the hard work of volunteer Julia Reichstein was duly acknowledged. There is usually someone in an organisation that goes ‘above and beyond’ their designated duties, or who is considered ‘a mover and a shaker’, Julia definitely fitted the bill on all counts!

A fitting end to a wonderful event. Mordialloc writers excelled, displaying the varied talents we bring to the group and the community. Our brief was 5 minutes each – a maximum of 750 words – and we made it!!

Some shared their writing journey, others memoir, others imaginative short stories – all entertaining. I explained a little of the history of the group because

I can’t imagine a world without reading or writing; or living in a community without a library. The love of words, the diversity and flexibility of the English language motivate and inspire my writing. I’m thrilled when a poem or story finds a home and a reader enjoys my words.

Happy Birthday Mentone Library!

Writer Anne Lamott said, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world … worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet, or excite you.”

Libraries are built on books. Schools rely on them and at any given moment there are millions of books on shelves around the world, in homes, in shops and in libraries like this. Books that share knowledge and experiences of life, that share poetry and prose from every genre imaginable, that entertain, inform, inspire and ignite imagination.

Communication, learning, community and living – all begin with story.

This community reaps the benefit of the care taken by the original owners of the land, the Boon Wurrung of the KuIin Nation – without a written language their oral histories and knowledge handed down through yarns, painting, song and dance are living books. Their wisdom helping us preserve this land.

But, in our culture, to write well you must read. A book is a friend and teacher. As a writer I create characters, places and events with words. As a teacher I share my knowledge and love of words to instil the passion I feel for recording stories, putting pen to paper, all voices equal.

Like the City of Kingston, the Mordialloc Writers’ Group celebrated their 10th Anniversary in 2005. Reflecting on our beginnings, I remember how 5 writers met at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House in March 1995, put in $1.00 each to cover the rent and decided to meet fortnightly to workshop writing. Mordy Writers still meet fortnightly. And although numbers fluctuate they have increased over the years – as has the rent!

We decided to host regular public monthly readings on the last Sunday each month, but our foundation rules never changed:

  1. As a community based writing group we welcome writers in all genres, whether beginners or advanced.
  2. We are non-profit , our sole purpose being to encourage and support writers in their endeavours to publish, or just remain motivated to write.
  3. We produce regular anthologies, with any monies received going towards the next book. A collection of personal essays, Kingston My City, our ninth anthology, will be launched at our 20th anniversary celebrations later this year.
  4. We encourage the love of literature and the importance of creative writing in our culture.
  5. Our inclusive group abhors discrimination. Age, nationality, race, gender, religion, ethnic background or writing ability secondary to the desire to write.

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We have enabled 60 writers to be published. Several more to be added this year. We’ve nurtured several successful prize-winners. Glenice Whitting’s unpublished novel was listed for the Premier’s Award in 2004, as Pickle to Pie it later won the Ilura Prize for fiction. Sue Parritt workshopped her novel with us, published last year as Sannah and the Pilgrim.

Many others have been supported and encouraged to publish collections of poetry and prose including: John West, Stan Fensom, Dorothy Plummer, Bob Croker,, Fay Lucas, Jeff Lasbury, Bob Lawson, Gregory Hill ( a successful co-writer of two books now), Dom Heraclides and Steve Davies. Maureen Hanna and Coral Waight have books ready to be published and Lisa Hill’s blog promoting Australian and New Zealand literature won an award at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Plays have been written and performed, one of mine at Kingston’s Write Up Festival. Glenice and Greg were short listed for Varuna scholarships. Writer, Helen Merrick-Andrews developed a publishing business after her involvement in our second anthology. Readings By The Bay attracts writers from as varied locations as Frankston and Mt Eliza, Fern Tree Gully and Northcote, Bacchus Marsh and Oakleigh as well as local bayside participants.

Several of us are published regularly in other anthologies, online and other media. Alan Ward pursues his love of performance poetry in Germany where he is living for 2 years. Along with other ex-pats he posts his efforts on Youtube.

Grants from Kingston Council for professional development enabled the group to host workshops by authors Euan Mitchell and Arnold Zable.

Creativity has no boundaries, our members have ranged from 14 to 86 years, for Mordy Writers it’s not menopausal madness – the headline a local paper chose to use from one of my throwaway lines! Rather, it’s unpretentious voices attempting to make sense of and celebrate our social and geographical place in the world through the experience of life ‘bayside’.

Ningla- Ana, This our Land
Indigenous and Immigrant together.

Reality versus Dreams of the Writing Life: Choosing Fulfilment over Finances!

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Kurt Vonnegut

In March 1995, five people sat around a laminated table at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House one Wednesday night at 8pm. We put in a $1.00 each towards the nominal rent, and formed the Mordialloc Writers’ Group. Those first attendees included a singer songwriter, a writer illustrator, a poet, and two short story writers who also presented a community radio writing show. I had arranged the evening and took on the grand title (and job) of coordinator/facilitator, helped tremendously for the first three years by Noelle Franklin who was one of the presenters of the Moorabbin FM writing show Write Now.

The writing show still exists (with a different presenter) as does the writing group, but I’m the only original remaining with the Mordialloc Writers’ Group, although there are several longtime members and others who return for periods to reacquaint with us, like the proverbial boomerang. Such is the writer’s life.

Over the years, the group has remained active because of the commitment and support of people like Glenice Whitting, Maureen Hanna, Barbara Davies, Coral Waight and Steve Davis, not only attending workshop nights, but also hosting Readings by The Bay, our monthly get-togethers to encourage and share writing with the community. I may be the public face and contact person, but Mordialloc Writers is an eclectic, vibrant, active, talented group being renewed all the time by others interested in creative writing!


The group, like the moon, has waxed and waned – some workshop nights 18-20 people crammed around the table with barely time for discussing any piece of writing in depth. Other nights 3-4 writers talked into the night deconstructing each other’s work, sharing personal joys and woes,  solving the problems of family and the world!

Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down.

Neil Gaiman

Over the years we published eight anthologies with the work of over 66 writers  included  – many for the first time. Some went on to publish poetry books and novels, blogs, win writing competitions and awards, write family history and memoir. Some established other writing and poetry groups in nearby and far away suburbs and countries, and participated in successful events and festivals.

This year, we celebrate our 20th Anniversary and are currently compiling an anthology of personal essays around the theme of – Kingston My City.  Some of us will be moving out of the comfort zone of particular genres we’ve grown to love, there will be first time published writers, regular attendees who consider Mordi Writers and writing as part of their life routine( Ilura prizewinner, Glenice Whitting) , and there will be invited guest writers from the Group’s past: Lisa Hill of AnZ Litlovers blog fame, Sue Parritt, Dorothy PlummerHelen Merrick-Andrews, Dom Heraclides, Mari Iwa and Jillian Rhodes.

The title and focus of the book a small tribute to the community and councils that have supported our growth and development over the years.

We’ll also be travelling into unknown territory –publishing an E-book as well as the traditional printed copy. (As the publisher for the last four books this is another steep learning curve embracing the digital age!) At the moment, the book is shaping up to be a great read as fellow writer Glenice Whitting and I edit the submissions. Variety is definitely the spice of life and we all have different perspectives of living in Kingston or have interacted with the city’s services and people in different stages of our lives.


Watch this space for updates:)

Remembering a Wonderful Life, Fleeting but Fulfilling Friendships and the Passing of Time

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.                   Thomas Campbell

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Kahlil Gibran

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven- A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.                          Ecclesiastes 3:2

sun setting Mordi

The second day of the new year, bittersweet for me as I welcomed friends Tanja and Andrea visiting from Europe and farewelled another ‘European’ and former member of Mordialloc Writers’ Group at the celebration of the life of Tonie Corcoran, who died peacefully on December 29th 2014, after a long struggle with vascular dementia, a disease especially cruel to a talented wordsmith and storyteller.

Tonie's Funeral

The quotes above sum up many feelings about Tonie expressed at the celebration of  ‘A Wonderful Life’. I have my own special memories of this engaging lady who attended our writing group for several years (2003-2008) and contributed to two of our anthologies. I also knew Tonie from the Union of Australian Women, and through my friendship with her step-daughter Ann Corcoran, who was a much respected and hard working local member of federal parliament.

The family has given me permission to showcase Tonie’s two delightfully evocative pieces. In our third anthology, Up The Creek, with a pen (2003), Tonie said in her bio:

‘Although at age twelve I self-published The Illustrated Chronicle of a Raindrop’s Amazing Odyssey and sold all nine copies, I never saw myself as a writer. Yet I have left a paper trail of jottings, scribblings, thoughts and sayings, and hundreds of letters, all along the road of my life. Words move me. And save me when the going gets rough. I came to this country from another culture and another language. And also from another time. With my writing I would like to give my Australian children and their children a glimpse into that other world, which is my world and inescapably also theirs.’

Cover of third anthology 2003

Page one of Bootspage two of Boots

One of Tonie’s daughters spoke about her mother’s love of words and stories, expressing gratitude that Tonie had taken the time to join the writer’s group and record some of them. And indeed when I read Tonie’s words again I can hear her voice, picture her sitting around the table in the story circle as we workshop, the memory of a small part of her well-spent life still vivid. The flesh may disappear, but the record of a life in words and pictures remains to be appreciated by current and future generations.

Cover fifth anthologyback cover 5th anthology

page one Gnotuk Avenuepage two and three Gnotuk Avenue

Tonie grew up in Switzerland between the two world wars. She studied and worked in the capital city, Berne, but loved the Alps, where she rock climbed, tramped and skied. In 1950, she came to Australia with her first husband,  and taught languages (German and French) for many years, within the public and private system, at local secondary schools. Her fascination with words went hand-in-hand with a serious interest in Australian culture and an appreciation of the Australian landscape. She believed one could not be understood without the other.

This philosophy contributed to her being an excellent language teacher, exhorting students to immerse themselves in the culture of the language – a method that a granddaughter acknowledged enabled her to be fluent in French and a successful linguist to make her grandmother proud.

As well as leaving behind a large loving blended family and written words, Tonie also leaves an array of looms and craft items from years of spinning, weaving, knitting, and sewing. Tonie so devoted and expert in these crafts that a son reminisced how as a teenager going on one of the many family skiing holidays, he had to draw the line at knitted underpants, but every other item he wore his mother insisted on making!

Toni’s cooking talents also praised, especially cooking seasonal traditional recipes from Europe. A daughter recalled how financially difficult the early days in Australia would have been for new migrants, but not as tough as the life Tonie had experienced during the war years. ‘We had a ration of a quarter of an ounce of butter to last a month,’ Tonie chastised as her daughter put that and more on her morning toast. Any anger from the observation lost as it triggered a story of Tonie’s war years working on a farm in Switzerland, and later in the Alps with refugee French children saved from the German occupation. Stories of a life her children, born in 1950s Australia, only imagined with the magic of Tonie’s words.

Ann recalled  the happiness Tonie had given her father Bob through their 39 years of marriage and the pleasure of witnessing  Tonie’s gardening knowledge  and recognition of rare flowers and herbs – a knowledge she was modest about possessing, but dated back to years studying homeopathy in Switzerland.

A lover of classical music and the opera, the musical tributes her family chose to welcome and farewell and to accompany a slide montage of Tonie’s full and fruitful life included: Suite popular Brazileira by Villa Lobos, Suite for solo Cello no 1 in G by Johann Sebastian Bach, Piano Concerto no 5 – The Emperor by Beethoven, Handel’s Water Music and the glorious Serenade #13 in G by Mozart.

The life given us by nature is short, but the memory of a life well spent is eternal.                                                                                           Cicero

The ceremony was another reminder for us all to record our stories and leave the legacy of words we want people to remember.

A Stroll by the Sea Inspires: A Carousel of Sand, Surf, Shells, Sea Gulls, Sail and Serendipity…

‘Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.’

William Wordsworth

Today, as I walked along the foreshore with my ‘gypsy’ daughter I realised how privileged we are to live in Mordialloc; my home for over 30 years. The bayside setting has inspired me to write poetry, prose, plays, memoir and a mystery novel – alas, the latter still unfinished!

mordy creek december 2014gtoward mordy from parkdale dec 2014

mordy beach near pier december 2014information on mordialloc creek

The Creek and seaside has a long rich history especially before white settlement. Mordialloc Writers’ Group celebrated this in our fifth anthology, A Rich Inheritance, published 2007.

Scan Scan 2

cairn to macdonald in mordy cairn to first white settler of mordialloc

A village-like atmosphere still exists in Mordy although there is a constant struggle against property developers and those who want to replicate St Kilda and even Queensland’s Gold Coast. High rise development would destroy our lovely foreshore. Fortunately, those who value our environment still outnumber those who don’t, plus we have some excellent associations with a long history of  protecting our parks and the beach.

Mordialloc-Beaumaris Conservation League has worked hard since its formation in 1969 and local resident Mary Rimington OAM, a prolific letter-writer to the newspapers and politicians, ensures residents are informed on issues of sustainability and the need to protect  the environment. Now, in her mid 80s, Mary is still a community gem with a caring heart and discerning mind; losing none of her determination to fight for the community in which we live!

mordi pier sign mordi pier view boat on beach

fishing mordi cyclists beach road

Beach Road shadows the foreshore and in the summer, cars, motorbikes, and bicycles, as well as the usual buses, jam the thoroughfare as if it were a major highway. The blare of car horns and occasional angry words punctuate the normal traffic din as people journey to and fro, seeking the fun and enjoyment of warmer weather. On a weekend when cyclists race between Frankston and St Kilda tempers have been known to flare at the behaviour of some dubbed as ‘lycra louts’.

Haiku inspired by the sea…

Birds soaring seawards                                     Deserted barbecues
Tossed by winter thermals                               Empty swings motionless
Aerial ballet                                                          Winter by the sea

The full moon’s glow                                          Late spring afternoon
Suffused across the sea                                     Mordialloc Pier fishing
A mirror of calm                                                  Eskies overflowing

Pelican circling                                                    Quivering palm trees
A well-designed airplane                                   sun sets in Mordialloc
from Mother Nature                                           to chatter of birds

Sunset or sunrise                                                Hot humid evening
The sea a wondrous playground                      Tossing turning breathlessly
For foreshore frolics                                           Longing for sea breeze

The sea melds with sky                                      Saturday sojourns
Dark shore dreams of light caress                   Lycra louts and fitness freaks
And whimsy clouds flee                                     Negotiate roads

Fiery sky aglow                                                   Holidays at last!
Warning to sailors at sea                                  Slippery paths to the sea
Lighthouse their saviour                                  Lead to splashing fun

Cliff top turbulence                                           Water licks boat side
An explosion of feathers                                  Anglers and fish mesmerised
Gulls blown out to sea                                      dinner table delight

Turtles seek refuge                                            Prisoners of war
But the crunch of boot is not                          Glass bottle thrown overboard
The sound of safety                                           Unread message sinks

Pelican perches                                                  Dolphins dance and squeal
Atop electricity pole                                          Fishermen sail into port
Fishing boats bring lunch                                to feeding frenzy

Pelicans leave pier                                             Empty rowing boat
aerial acrobatics                                                 Abandoned on pebbled beach
Sightseers enjoy the show                                Yearning for summer

Gusty gales blow boats                                      The rolling sea soothes
Forceful waves and jagged reefs                      like a mother’s caress
Gnashing angry teeth                                         banishing pain

The walking trail parallel to Beach Road becomes crowded and sometimes dangerous with family cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, parents pushing strollers, keep fit enthusiasts and tourists ambling the track to soak up the beauty of the bay. Although Australia, one of the driest countries on earth is considered a sunburnt country and land of ‘droughts and flooding rains’ most of the population has settled on the coast and can identify with the sea.

Scan copy 2

In 2010, I took part in an amazing project organised by the Red Room Company of Sydney that became Sea Things Online Exhibition. Poets were invited to write about the sea and I took a bundle of submissions from the writer’s group and class at Mordialloc, met with other poets down at the docks and presented the poems to the captain and crew of a huge ship. The poems were put in the Captain’s postbag and freighted all around Australia, added to by other poets wherever the ship docked. The bag eventually opened at a special ceremony in Sydney and poems posted online. A fabulous writing exercise, but also building a sense of community. Down at the docks I met Avril, another poet from Frankston, and we keep bumping into each other at book launches for anthologies where our poems have been included. The experience of being on the bridge of the ship with a view similar to the rooftop of a multi-storey building certainly a day to remember  – and write about!

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For many locals, including me, the beach on a very hot day is better avoided; instead the evening or early morning become favourite times to walk the foreshore, or the cooler days, when a winter breeze chills the air and spasmodic rain enlivens the scent of tea-tree, eucalypts and banksias. In cooler months, the population of Mordialloc returns to normal levels; the sandy shore and paved promenade dotted with only a handful of people – mostly dog walkers tracing their path along the water edge, health fanatics, or tourists visiting locals.

Memories of the beach provide many experiences to use in writing, especially adding the senses: being rocked in the slight waves, walking and getting soaked to the seat of my pants by an expectedly deep wave slapping my ankles trying to drag me seaward, splashing in shallows and feeling the sand shift, grit between my toes, the crunch of shells, the pong of seaweed, the squeal of gulls, the taste of salt, watching a sunset from the pier, and serendipitously running into friends who happen to be enjoying the breathtaking beauty too. We chat and share stories as part of a community, appreciating the feeling of belonging. Life can be unexpectedly kind and beautiful, just when you need it most.


Lying on the beach
waves roll over me,
Life’s pain

the warm waves
caress and massage
malleable me

until colder waves
carve and chip,
with each sharp
intake of breath
a new shape emerges

I am reborn

(published page seventeen Issue 2, Celapene Press, 2005)

mordi sunset 2 mordi sunset