Friday, 24 July 2015

Edit #27

Leaping the abyss into publishing my first book, update in an occasional series
by Siv Parker

A few months back...

Apart from the pain in both eyes unique to checking the edits, the other more pressing demand of getting my first book together was the essential conversation with the family.

"What do you mean, ‘we’re not in it’", they’d asked as we sat - aunties, uncles and cousins - passing heavily laden platters of food around the large round table.

For people who didn’t know much about writing a book, they had a clear idea what should be in mine. Them. They expected to be in it.

I checked the temperature of a party pie, "It’s about blackfellas…and stuff. I didn't want to put anyone on the spot", before putting the whole thing in my mouth.

"We’re blackfellas." Three kinds of cold meats and potato salad was being generously divvied up.

Another made the correction in carefully enunciated syllables, "We are fam-il-y."

They had me there. "Yes, but it’s not really any one person’s story.  And there's stuff in might, put you on the spot."

"Well, are you in it?" accompanied by a careful picking through the salad bowl on the hunt for onion rings and cucumber sliced fancy on the slant.

Was I ever. "Well yes but that’s because my name is on the cover…."  My levity hung limp, a scrap of meat on the line with no fish on the bite.

"When you said you were writing…"

Everyone paused in the Mexican wave of flickering facial expressions and exaggerated eye movements to follow the lead of the most senior at the table, and contribute to the account of what had gotten us to this point.

"When you said….it was about home, well…."


"We just …."

"Assumed", which in my cousin’s country drawl sounded more like ‘exhumed’

"Yes, we exh-u-med….the family would be in it."

Another cousin went in for a zinger, his new boyfriend listening intently to his introduction into family business.

"Is Aunty Evelyn in it?"

Well, I might have been drifting around for a few years but I hadn’t gone mad. "Yeah."  Of course Aunty Evelyn is in it.  Aunty Evelyn is 85 years old. Who wouldn’t include Aunty Evelyn?

"Well then…"

"When do we get to see it?"  All eyes on me as they chewed and ruminated.

If it was anyone else, I’d have told them if you want to see yourself, your ideas, your life, your blackness, in your voice, then you need to write your own book.  I've shed more than a few skins to get my version onto the page.

I threw a dummy pass.  "It’s coming…I’ve been busy working on a TV script."  Oh no.  My response was tossed aside like a well sucked chicken bone.

"Are we in THAT…?"

I took a gulp from my water bottle to wash my explanation down, "Well, it’s about a country town….and the people in it.  I wanted to write about the old ways and growing up on country while some of us can still remember."

A hush descended on the table. A drumstick with a bite taken out of it all but crash landed on a mound of potato salad.  Kids had been running around and climbing on furniture but they sensed something was up. They gathered to hang off the back of occupied chairs and fish for handfuls of food, even though they’d all eaten, but who would waste an under the radar top-up?

After some negotiation because it was not happening any other way – and it was a wake after all - I agreed to 'Edit number 27' of my manuscript, and to insert references to Aunties M, Y and D.

The deal was sealed when my cousin turned to look into the eyes of Young Boy, big and wide above a piece of chicken as big as his face, and said, ‘you better eat all that’.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Where I stand

This is Deadly Blog Post No 2 - part of the Deadly Bloggers Blog Carnival 2015.
For more, follow the @deadlybloggers  updates.
I was reading the newspaper, back in the day when my hot fingered pawing would smudge the print a little on the page.  Those were the days when it was rare to read news from home in the paper.  Not just of my remote bush town, but news from any of the short main street towns with the long Aboriginal names out that way, so I’d consumed half of the piece greedily looking for family references before I choked up on a bitter pill.

The Indigenous bloke heavily quoted in the piece had said that he was best placed to speak his mind on all things political for mob out that way because the majority of my sleepy little town were doped up on antidepressants.

This had been dutifully reported like he’d had a clutch of photocopies of valium and serapax scripts to hand around as evidence.  I rang home so some one could calm me down.

Though sharp as a tack, no one was real fussed, to tell you the truth.
Oh, him. (Sigh) Who cares.
But Aunt, it’s in the paper.
We don’t care, we don’t read it.
They didn’t read it for the next decade as his empire started to build within the media columns. I’d feed this back to an aunt here and an uncle there, and the strongest response I’d get was a slight shrug of the shoulders, as they’d remind me of the need to give other people a little credit for knowing better, and perhaps a half-hearted tooth sucking to soothe me.
We just let him go, nothing to do with us.
It is a fact that what you don’t know, can’t hurt you when it's nothing to do with you.

It is also a fact that when Anita has her baby, or Rikka gets a new job, or Braidon scores a try, or Uncle Allan’s team loses on the weekend, I will know so fast, you’d swear we were telepathic, if you hadn’t cottoned on to how accomplished mob are in using Facebook.

I know that Tash’s son looks just like her, and that Katherine is looking more and more like I remember her mother. I now know I can do a lot more things with Nutella than I ever imagined, and if someone’s going to Tamworth if I’m in need of lift next January, just so long as I am Dubbo when they are ready to pack up to go. 

To an outsider, mob may well look a little disengaged in national issues, as they constantly scroll through faces and yarns and requests for games tokens.  An outsider may have it in mind to bypass them altogether, while they are sharing photos of people long since past, and comments on the weather, and passing on the road conditions and how high the river is, and what fish are biting and who is going to the big town for an operation.  

When it comes down to questions on just what is important to mob out that way, the answers are going to depend on whose asking.  Is it someone who swallowed the serapax story?  Or maybe they don’t know a tall yarn when they hear one?  Or is it someone building an empire out of words?

Mob out that way would tell you the same thing today as what you'd hear tomorrow. That when the only stories you will hear all your life are about country and family - when that connection has never been broken - they will tell you, they have never not been carefully watching what goes on.  

They can tell you where the mission was, where the ration shed was, where the bones are and all the other stories you need to stand tall in this world.  Social media is a useful tool, but these yarns are best had face to face, so everyone can take a good hard look at each other, then stand back and see themselves.

It's the same old song

What caught my attention about the foot tapping, head wagging Motown classic song – It’s the Same Old Song – is discovering that it was recorded in 24 hours.  

From concept to recording to vinyl to first being played on the radio, the Four Tops had another hit song, right on the heels of their number one hit, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).

Motown hit songs – there’s plenty enough for people to have a favourite or two.

I’m convinced without even doing the research, that in 1950s United States, Motown music had a lot to do with white people taking another look, a closer look at Black people.

Which brings me to Prison Songs.

Prison Songs is a multi award winning documentary including Best Direction in a Documentary (Stand Alone) for Kelrick Martin at the 2015 ADG Awards.

Screened earlier this year on SBS, this one hour documentary is now available for download rental for the price of a Motown classic.

The concept: 
“The inmates of Darwin’s Berrimah Prisonare shown in a new light in Australia’s first documentary musical. The inmatesshare their feelings, faults and experiences in the most extraordinary way –through song.”
Prison Songs – Highly recommended. Astonishing achievement.  And memorable songs with the expert guidance of singer/songwriter Shellie Morris. Do yourself a favour.

Video download here
'Prison Songs' Shellie Morris, Casey Bennetto & CAAMA on iTunes here


We need a new song, a new way of examining the over representation of Indigenous people in jail.

There’s research galore

There’s fact checking just in case you doubted the figures on Indigenous child incarceration rates

There’s news stories pretty much every week …

There are campaigns, hashtags, individual effort and collective advocacy... but just who is listening to what feels like the same old song?

DISCLAIMER: I am not associated with any campaigns or crowd funding awareness raising efforts.  We need more voices - I'm not looking to make up the numbers in the choir.

Now it's the same old song
But with a different meaning since you been gone
It's the same, same old song
But with a different meaning (Since you been gone)

And it breaks me up to hear it