‘The Red Dress’ by Suzanne Bowditch

The woman in the dress shop told her mother, Janelle, it fitted perfectly. ‘This is so now you know,’ she’d said, standing next to Rosie in front of the ornate mirror. ‘Red is the colour. Haven’t you seen it on the best catwalks?’

Janelle shrugged, pulling the dress down over Rosie’s knees. A whisper of gauze beneath, to complete the look, scratched the backs of Rosie’s legs. She barely noticed. Instead, the smooth taffeta had felt luxurious on her fingertips, the rich colour flattering on her pale skin.

Please mom?’

Her mother sighed, then nodded. ‘Just remember that it never looks the same worn at home,’ she said, but Rosie had already pulled it off her shoulders.

The ring of the bell had signalled their exit. Rosie’s grin was wide as she stepped outside, the parcel firmly tucked under one arm.

*

Now, in the shade of her bedroom, she wasn’t so sure. The taffeta clung to a bosom that was still as unfamiliar as the smattering of spots across her nose. The dress fitted just below her waist, straining across her stomach; puppy fat and wobbly thighs hidden underneath its folds. Why hadn’t she noticed in the shop? She pulled at the thick unyielding material, supposedly meant to fit across her shoulders in a chic 50s style. Turning sideways, the patterned black and red flowers seemed to mock her, spread as they were across her back and finishing on her bottom. She felt like an overgrown rose garden that had fallen into disrepute.

You look lovely, Rosie.’ Her mother stood in the doorway. ‘It was a good choice after all.’ Janelle’s slim arms were folded across her chest, her jeans snug across slender hips.

For the thousandth time, Rosie cursed her own well-rounded body, a throwback to her grandmother. Why couldn’t she be long-limbed too?

Her younger sister Taylor bounded into the room, plonked herself on Rosie’s bed. Taylor wore a seersucker top and teeny denim shorts over tanned legs that seemed to go on forever. She tucked one limb under the other, like a young gazelle.

You look like a flowerpot!’ she said, giggling. A sprinkle of cute freckles and sparkling blue eyes completed Taylor’s look. Naturally gorgeous.

Rosie turned away, her brown eyes filling up. I can’t show I’m upset; I can’t! she thought, glancing at her reflection for a second time. If the flowerpot look was in vogue, she’d win it, hands down.

Taylor had a point.

That’s enough of that Taylor! Rosie looks beautiful.’ Janelle tapped her watch, encased around a slim wrist. ‘You’d better hurry Rosie, Amber will be waiting. Dad’s downstairs.’

Thanks mom,’ she replied, ignoring the sly giggles behind her.

That was her, ever the trooper. Rosie, the solid one of the family who let everything slide. It was water off a duck’s back.

*

The party was just starting as the car pulled up outside a huge house. Rosie could hear music blasting and the shrieks of laughter from people arriving. Everyone was chatting and having fun. She clambered out behind Amber and smoothed the folds of the dress, annoyed that the netting had caught on the handle of her dad’s car. How she wished she’d chosen to wear the blue dress instead. It had been worn before, an old faithful, but she felt much more comfortable in it.

Amber gave her an excited look, hooked an arm under hers as they walked up the driveway. A couple of giggling girls ran past, dressed in bright colours and flouncy skirts; a flash of skinny legs in pumps.

I’m starting to think that the ’50s were the least flattering time in history!’ Rosie moaned, scraping her pumps over the gravelled driveway.

Come on, you look fine.’ Amber frowned. ‘You know how cool Lily Anderson is, her parties are epic. We were lucky to get an invite.’

It’s okay for you. You look as if you’ve not eaten for a week! Whereas me…’

She sighed, pulling at the shoulder sleeve for the hundredth time.

A dark-haired boy walked past. His head down, hands in pockets, shuffling his feet.

Why was Alex Tomlinson invited?

Hey Amber, get you a soda?’ Blake Magill slid up behind them.

See you later, Rosie,’ Amber giggled, then ran up the driveway.

Great. Now she was truly on her own. She shivered, deciding to turn back. Mom would have fixed popcorn for her and Taylor. She could snuggle into her pyjamas; sorted.

Just at that moment, Alex sidled up. Rosie’s heart sank.

This was turning out to be such an awful night!

Hi Rosie,’ he stammered.

Hi Alex,’ she replied, hoping to sound as offish as she felt. Alex’s eyes looked deep blue, his eyelashes thick and dark. He had on a baseball jacket and sneakers, a vast improvement on the nerdy school tie and sensible lace-ups for a school day. This close, he didn’t look half bad.

Say, why don’t we try that new place down by the pier? I can get my dad to drop us.’ Alex looked encouraged. ‘Then we can take a walk along the beach…. if you want to that is?’

She could see a faint blush spreading across his face. Rosie had to think. Ice cream down the pier, against an awkward party?

*

Alex had kept to his word, and they’d strolled hand in hand along the beach. The wind had ruffled her hair, and she’d felt alive for the first time – ever. He’d dropped her home after.

Now, the red dress hung from the back of her wardrobe. Its ruffles and sequins shone from the street light outside her bedroom window. She remembered how it had hugged her curves, and how she’d looked through Alex’s eyes.

You got me a boyfriend,’ she whispered. Then she turned over and went straight to sleep.


Words by Suzanne Bowditch

Art by Emily Cooke

About the Artist:

49548081_291720338156778_4967218626596700160_nHi, I’m Emily! I’ve loved art ever since I was young and am now starting to take my artwork seriously. I mostly draw digitally, however, I do sometimes prefer paints, fine-liners, and pencils! I usually do a lot of character design but I sometimes branch out by trying different techniques!
At the moment, I just draw whatever I like as well as create some commissions and designs for people, but I aspire to work in the game/entertainment industry so I will be studying to further my work! I am inspired by a lot of the games I play as well as a general love for all things fantasy. I use my art as a way to communicate that love as well as just putting the worlds and characters I create in my head on to paper!
I run the art page Melancholy Socks, which is on Facebook, Tumblr, Deviantart, and Instagram. Check me out!

‘Only Fools Gamble’ By Sasha Pcino

Ricadonna Russo had spent her morning in a state of domesticity. Light reflected off all surfaces like a beacon; and the aroma of caramelised onion blew through the house with the hot zephyr of summer. She sighed as she pulled her gloves off by the fingertips, placing them on the stone counter in the kitchen.

Ricadonna, at thirty-five, had not lost her la bella figura. She was wearing a black A-line dress with lace sleeves and an apron tied over it. Her skin was vibrant, but the faint cobweb of lines round her eyes had become more prominent than a decade ago – as had the laughter lines (though what on earth was there to laugh about?).

Her hands, as rich as cream, reached for the box of birdseed, stored at the bottom of the pantry. She took it outside to feed Banjo, but as soon as she saw the birdcage she gasped. She dropped the box, seed scattering all over the veranda. The cage was empty. Her heartbeat quickened. She looked up at the treetops. The trees swayed from side to side as if they were dancing. Banjo was perched on a branch, close to the clouds, in the eucalyptus tree. The vibrant green-breasted budgerigar tilted his head and looked down at her.

Ricadonna got on her haunches slowly, so she did not startle him, and scooped up a handful of seed off the concrete. She rose to her feet and whistled as she held out her slender arm like a branch, the seed in her cupped hand, in hope the bird would recognise her and fly back. But the bird puffed out its chest, looked at her again and then flew off into the cloudless sky. The uninhabited cage, hanging from the veranda, rattled in the wind.

Ricadonna stood there for a moment, shocked. Banjo, where are you going? Do you know? The telephone rang. She let it finish like a song but it started again. She threw the handful of birdseed on the lawn, wiped the seed shells on her apron, and disappeared inside.

‘Hello,’ she said in a resigned tone; her chirpy ‘telephone’ voice had flown off with the bird.

It was her husband: ‘I’m going to be home late, honey.’

They spoke briefly about how their morning had been and the weather before exchanging goodbyes.

As she hung up the receiver, the computer – set down at the desk in the corner of the living room – pinged not once, but twice. She sat down in the chair, staring at the screen. There was a text message from a woman with the unfamiliar name of Annalise. Her husband had not logged off and the computer was synced to her husband’s smartphone. It read:

Hotel looks gorgeous.’

Then:

‘See you tonight, my darling.’

Suddenly, with the rapidity of a flash of lightning, so many incidents began to make sense: always making phone calls in private; deleting his call history; and the foreign floral fragrance on his shirt a fortnight ago. Ricadonna walked over to the bar, feeling the grit of the seeds, which she had scattered earlier, in her shoes. She poured two fingers of whiskey into a crystal glass, clutching it tightly in her clammy palm. Her father had been a decent man. If he was alive, he would take a gun to her husband’s head. My late husband, she thought. She tested the words: ‘My late husband.’

She tried to think but the heat of the sun coupled with the heat of the moment made a hot murk in her mind. She poured herself two more fingers of whiskey. That would help her think or, at any rate, give her the courage to think. She looked outside at the birdcage and then at the tree where the bird, now flying free, had been perched forty minutes ago. Freedom, she whispered under her breath. Free-dom.

She pulled out her clothes from the wardrobe and scattered them, still on the coat hanger, on the beige bedspread. She didn’t know where she was going. Maybe a hotel, hopefully not the one they were going to, for a couple of nights and then to her mother’s house. Her mother. She would understand. Yes, she would.

On her haunches, she pulled out the old brown suitcase from beneath the bed. It was heavier than she remembered. The last time they had used it was on their anniversary weekend away to Vanuatu. She flicked the latch and opened it. She gasped. There was at least half a million dollars in the case, the wads packed with the efficiency of a well-planned holiday. This changed everything. A lot. She wondered if it was honest money. Probably not. No. Definitely not. People didn’t shove hundreds of thousands of dollars of honesty in an old suitcase beneath a bed. Her husband was a businessman. That breed of man that walks on blurred lines. He had side businesses, hidden in the dark crevices of society, and he conducted most of these businesses from a poker or blackjack table behind the facades of respectable business.

Ricadonna grabbed a holdall and shoved the clothes in it. She untied her apron and flung it on the bed, then heaved the holdall onto her shoulder, picked up the suitcase and walked through the house, looking at everything with the sentimentality that comes with finality, to the dining room.

She set down the luggage on the tiles and tried to pull off her wedding ring, but her fingers had thickened over the last couple of years. She pulled and pulled until the ring flew off and hit the tiles, rolling and then twirling until it lost momentum. She walked over, picked it up and looked at the inscription: R & D. She set it down on the table in the dining room, and scrawled a note, placing it under the ring.

She put the holdall on, picked up the suitcase and opened the front door. The sun’s heat was harsh. She walked to the Flinders Street Railway Station, the suitcase hitting her leg with each step. At the crossing, she wiped her upper lip with her shoulder, then looked left and right before stepping out onto the road. A horn blew. She turned to find a car slamming on the brakes.

She gestured an apology and continued walking, thinking about the three words she had written on the note: ‘Only fools gamble.’


Words by Sasha Pcino

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Profile photoSasha Pcino is an Australian writer who is working on her first novel The Bastard Brians, a family saga set on the east coast of Australia. She has worked as a journalist and a copywriter (for which her work won the Queensland Multimedia Awards in 2014) for almost a decade. She has a Master of Professional Practice (Creative Writing) from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. She has also spent time abroad in Italy, Japan, France, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Self-Publishing Your Poetry (or Other Writing-Related) Book

Let’s be realistic here: the publishing market is tough.

This can make the dream of holding your very own published book (that you’ve spent countless hours toiling over) in your hands a little…disheartening but, hold on. Have you ever considered self-publishing before?

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Listen Leeza, that seems pretty hard, and I’m not sure what to do. I mean, where would I even start?’

Well, the very same thought occurred to me, so I interviewed some successful and experienced authors who have self-published their own books. These authors are all poets, but the same strategies can apply for writers seeking to self-publish other books too.

So, here’s what you need to know about self-publishing:

(The following answers are by published instapoets, who can be found under their respective usernames. They are fantastic, and I would one hundred percent recommend perusing through their pages.)

__

Michaelapoetry

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michaelapoetry’s ‘when he leaves you’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Honestly, I ended up self-publishing because I was too impatient to wait for a publisher. I submitted my proposal to one publisher, but they get so many submissions that their response time is longer than three months. While I was waiting for a response, I ended up writing the entire book. It got to the point where I just wanted it to be in people’s hands, and I knew going with the traditional publishing method as my first route could take months, if not over a year.

Also, fun fact! A lot of self-published poets that I have a lot of respect for went on to be picked up by publishers – Rupi Kaur, K.Y. Robinson, Amanda Lovelace, Dawn Lanuza, Courtney Peppernell, Alison Malee (the list goes on!).

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

Amazon’s Createspace – it’s seriously so easy to use. Once you figure out formatting specifications, all you really need to do is upload your cover and interior files. Createspace also has a ton of forums that are just a Google away – you can answer most of your questions with those which is so helpful!

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

A bunch of fun random things I learned:

  • Make sure you’re using an embedded font. At first, for the italics in my book, I was using a font that didn’t have an italic setting – so I just used the “italic” function in InDesign. InDesign was manipulating the font, which means it wasn’t embedded (technically it didn’t exist). When I printed my first proof, the font didn’t print fully in some places. I switched it all to a real font and we were good to go!

  • Single page book layout.> InDesign defaults to the double page layout (think two pages side by side), which is actually helpful for setup to see how your pages will look – but when you upload to Createspace, you need to have a single page PDF.

  • Just look at other books. If you want your self-published book to look legitimate, look at a ton of different poetry books – how they format their dedication, acknowledgements, headers, page numbers, which pages they leave blank, etc. It’s cool to be original here, but some conventions are standard and add a level of professionalism to your self-published book.

  • Canadians get free ISBNs! This was awesome to learn – you can also get a free ISBN from Createspace, but the legality of who owns what part of your book gets a little foggy with it (honestly, I was never able to figure out if I’d be able to re-publish my book under my own ISBN or under a publisher if I used a Createspace ISBN). If you’re Canadian, you can very easily apply for a free ISBN account here.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I got a professional designer to design my cover. I think that if you want readers to feel that you’ve really put yourself into this book and it’s actually worth buying, you should definitely get a professional to help you out. I know personally I’ve passed on books that used a generic stock image or something that could be found on Google as cover art – not bashing those authors, I just think it’s important to show readers you care enough to invest your own money into the cover that will end up on their shelf.

Marketing? Please explain?

I like to think of marketing as community building, especially on Instagram. As “instapoets”, we’re so lucky to have the Instagram community on our side! My main advice here is, if you don’t care about what anyone is writing or doing, no one will care about what you’re writing or doing. You often see accounts with large followings complain about the Instagram algorithm – but these are the same accounts that follow 100 people, sparsely respond to comments, and barely ever read, like, or comment on other people’s content. Instagram totally gives back what you put into it – I’ve built such an amazing community of writers and readers that I genuinely love connecting with, and to be totally transparent, I’ve been able to grow my Instagram following and engagement because of it.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

I just wrote my own copyright at the front of my book, haha. I did not consult a lawyer. In terms of finances, between the cover and paying for proofs to be shipped to Canada (proofs cost about $3, but shipping is like $25 to Canada), I spent less than $400. I had savings to dip into and am happy to say I made all of that money back through book sales since then!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

Don’t be afraid to do a few $5 boosts on Instagram posts or run some $6 ads (I’ve done both of these things) – it can be a really inexpensive way to remind people of your brand and your book. If you make $3 per book and a $5 ad will help you sell 5 books, you’ve already made $10. Definitely play around with small amounts and make sure you’re calculating ROI [Return on Investment]. There can also be value in just finding a larger audience for your work vs. getting concrete sales. Really think about what’s important to you before starting ads. Also, there are A TON of resources online about Facebook and Instagram ads – get to Googling!

___

Maiapoetry

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maiapoetry’s ‘the fall, the rise’ poetry collection

Why did >you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

Well, I always thought of self-publishing first. I did submit to a couple of publishing houses, but I didn’t want to wait—haha! I wanted to get my work out there, something that I had been working on for so long. I decided to self-publish because, after all of the hard work, I knew it was something I would be proud of. It was something I could say I did for myself. I believe the benefit is the joy you get from knowing you did it all yourself, literally. Of course, I had an artist for my cover, but reaching out to him initially, going over designs, ordering copies of my book to edit, hiring an editor, finalizing the finishing touches, it’s a lot! And it feels good to say I did it all with the help of my artist and editor. That is definitely a priceless feeling.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Create Space to self-publish. 

Any tips of the trade?

Edit, Edit, Edit! Haha, you don’t want to miss anything. Always look at one part of the book at a time. For instance, read through the actual work of the book, but then with fresh eyes go back and check the headers, page numbers, etc. Also, have a friend read it and edit it, or an actual editor. Just proofread until you can’t anymore! But don’t stress yourself out, make it a fun journey.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

My artist designed it for me. He is amazing. I told him what I wanted and boom – there it was coming to life. Now you can always do it yourself if you have the means, but seriously, there is some amazing talent on Instagram—reach out! That’s exactly how I found mine and I am glad that I did.

Marketing? Please explain?

For marketing and promotion, I did some promotion shoots with a photographer prior to the release of the book. I now use those to market my book on my Instagram. Also, reaching out to poetry pages that post other people’s work is beneficial. Just reach out and ask if they do anything for new authors, such as posting work for you, and some definitely will help you out. There are other pages that cost to promote on their Instagram; it all depends what YOU want to do.

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

I have a certain budget I set out this sort of thing. I had an artist and editor I paid for, so it might be more than others who self-published. Once again, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The decision is yours!

___

thetaleofmymind

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thetaleofmymind’s ‘The Tale of My Mind’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I have had a life long interest in writing, and the idea of publishing my own book one day has been a dream of mine since I was a child… I never imagined that it would be something I could achieve myself. In the past nine months or so, I began writing a lot of poetry and realised that I was putting together enough quality content to consider amalgamating it into a collection of sorts. I did extensive research into publishers as I pieced together my manuscript and contacted several, who turned down my approach. I quickly came to realise that as a new author, the best solution moving forwards in the modern age was to self-publish, with so many cost effective solutions available. My plan was to gain enough traction through an Instagram campaign, my book and other techniques that I would have a worthy and proven case in the future, if I were to re-approach publishers.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I made the decision to use Lulu. My main reason for this was cost. Many of the printing agencies I researched required buying an inventory of stock, which was a route I considered. My original plan was to put together a Kickstarter campaign and raise enough money through pre-orders to guarantee sales and lock down a quantity. However, this would have also meant handling every stock item, order and postage myself and would also have placed liability on me for quality and damages, etc. The beauty of Lulu was that I could simply create my ‘Print Ready’ manuscript and artwork online, order a proof copy and then let them handle everything else. Each book is printed to order and shipped directly by Lulu, so the only involvement I have is collecting a small royalty! It’s worked seamlessly up to now.

Any tips of the trade?

My biggest tip would be realising the importance of others. Writing my book was the easy part. Gaining a following, creating the artwork, putting the manuscript together and perhaps most importantly editing are all steps of the process that I owe to family, friends and other incredible authors out there. Without this help, I would never have got my book to market.

Make sure you have a solid plan for what you want to achieve, and stick to it as best you can. This will ensure continuity throughout the journey and make sure that the writing process is as smooth as possible.

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I was very fortunate in this aspect. I decided that my creative talent stopped at writing and that I needed to enlist the help of an artist. I started my search on Instagram and discovered the incredibly talented Rishikant Patra (@doodleophile). I immediately fell in love with his hand drawn, space-esque drawing style and asked for his help. A 17-year-old artist based in India, he immediately jumped at the opportunity and within about 3 weeks he had created artwork better than I could ever have imagined. The results were phenomenal and I would say without question that I owe the initial attraction of my book to him.

Marketing? Please explain?

This is probably the area I have struggled with the most. When I first started writing the book, I created a project-dedicated Instagram account. In the modern world of marketing Instagram is a fantastic tool (particularly with creative projects) and I grew to over 2000 followers in less than 3 months; a figure I was very happy with and continues to grow. Being social media active gave me a great pedestal to demonstrate my potential in a physical, ongoing manner and when the time came to release my book, I had a ready-made platform from which to plug. Unfortunately, my day job is sucking up a lot of time so I haven’t had the opportunity to market the book elsewhere as much as I would have liked, but it is selling steadily and I am gradually putting together a long-term marketing strategy to expand my reach.

What about copyright and the financial side of things?

Copyright was something I managed to put together fairly easily, after a little online research. Making sure my content was protected was a top priority and, fingers crossed, I have everything in place that I need! Financially speaking, Lulu has made this process a walk in the park. My main outlay has been promoted posts on Instagram, but I would certainly say that at this point, my project is profitable!

Advertising? Promotion? What did/do you choose to do?

As previously mentioned, Instagram has been my main port of call for advertising. Using the media platform to hint at book content, showing the creation process through Stories and using promoted posts to expand the reach allowed me to gauge the general reaction towards my project and writing style in real time, which helped me sculpt the book as much as it advertised it! A great way to kill two birds with one stone. The next step is to begin contacting local papers, magazines, and journals to help expand my promotional reach.

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cristinafilomenapoetry

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cristinafilomenapoetry’s ‘Lost’ poetry collection

Why did you decide to self-publish? What are the benefits?

I had no other choice to be honest. This is my first book, I’m a recent graduate working a part time job (and at the time I published I was unemployed) and publishers cost a lot of money. I wanted to get my work out there but I just didn’t have the means to bring it to an actual publisher, so I did some research on different self-publishing platforms and picked the one that made the most sense to me!The biggest benefit of doing it myself as stated above was the fact that it didn’t cost me much at all to get it out there, and I was able to publish EXACTLY what I wanted to publish in the way I wanted to publish it! It was an amazing learning experience doing it all myself too because I was able to experience not only writing but also editing, designing, AND publishing, so I ended up gaining a ton of knowledge on the process of the work that goes into publishing a book that I would have never gained if I had gone through a professional publisher.

What platform/service did you use to self-publish?

I used Ingram Spark, and at the time I thought it was the right choice, but for first timers out there I would recommend a more user-friendly publisher. Ingram Spark is amazing for publishers that are a bit more seasoned and know how the business works, but platforms like CreateSpace and Blurb are amazing for first timers because they’re 100% free and easy to use!

Any tips of the trade?

I’m still a beginner in the field myself, but the one thing I would suggest is start building your following AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. If you’re thinking of writing a book but haven’t started, get that Instagram account going! Start posting examples of your work so by the time you’re ready to make some money off of your writing you have a ton of people that will want to support you in it!

How did you design your cover art? Any tips?

I didn’t design my own cover art! I used a design group called Yonderworldly Premades which (until recently) offered pre-made book covers that you could purchase and have altered to fit the aesthetic and vision of your novel. They were great to work with and I’m very happy I got a professional to do the cover because it’s one of the first things a potential buyer sees. If you have a good looking cover, you’re more likely to make that sale, because unlike the saying, people do judge books by their covers. It says a lot about how serious you take yourself as an author and how your present yourself as a seller.

Marketing? Please explain?

I’ve done all of it myself, and I’ve learned A LOT, but I still have a long way to go! The thing I would recommend for sure is using Instagram to market your book every chance you get. It’s one of the most popular and accessible social media platforms and allows your readers the chance to put a face to your name. It’s also important to brand yourself as a writer and a social presence. What kind of writer are you? What do you want to ultimately achieve by sharing your writing with the world? What kind of aesthetic will people think of when they see your writing? These are all super important questions to think about as you move forward with your marketing. And if you have the means and don’t want to bother with marketing yourself, there are a ton of different options for hiring a social media marketer to take care of it for you!


Interview by Leeza von Alpen (aka leezajaydepoetry)

Main image accompanying article by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

A big THANK YOU to all of the Instapoets who participated in this interview. You can find their profiles, and links to their self-published works, below:

Michaelapoetry

Check out her healing words:

https://www.instagram.com/michaelapoetry/

Buy her book:

http://michaelaangemeer.com/shop

maiapoetry

Check out her raw words:

https://www.instagram.com/maiapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.maiapoetry.com

thetaleofmymind

Check out his deep words:

https://www.instagram.com/thetaleofmymind/

Buy his book:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/daniel-fella/the-tale-of-my-mind-as-told-by-dan-fella/paperback/product-23646924.html

cristinafilomenapoetry

Check out her powerful words:

https://www.instagram.com/cristinafilomenapoetry/

Buy her book:

https://www.cristinafilomenapoetry.com/the-book

 

‘Supplanted’- By Lyndal Phillips

Photographer’s assistant, Annabelle Thwaites, had long considered stealing Sebastian and taking him home. But Derrick, her fiancé, was rather territorialand sure to disapprove.

Sebastian was a superstar revered for his ability to bring dead corners to life. The dramatic height and magnificent scale of his sculptural aesthetic photographed well.

Bloggers were besotted by his whimsy and charm. Influencers posted images of his stick-thin trunk. He was the hero of fashion shoots, store fronts, interiors magazines and show rooms.

Until he wasn’t.

His descent from divine to maligned commenced when he topped the So Hot Right Now list in the July edition of New Idea. A celebrity designer described him as ‘funky’ and that, quite frankly, was the finish.

When plastic versions of him were seen sprouting from faux ceramic pots in Target, the buzzkill was complete. Sebastian was doomed to die next to millennial pink throws, pompom pillows and raw hide rugs.

It was at this point that Annabelle was forced to intervene. As the crew wrapped on Sebastian’s final shoot, she commandeered a props trolley. Taking care to accommodate his broad frame, Annabelle lugged Sebastian into the trolley and together they trundled across the cobblestoned laneway behind the studio.

A little detour, via the hatch of her waiting Daihatsu, was all it took for Annabelle to rescue Sebastian from eternal ignominy in the Phine Photography storeroom.

Derrick arrived home that evening to find his view of the television obscured by a smugly ensconced Sebastian. Unimpressed, he issued an ultimatum.

‘Me or the plant?’

‘He’s a fiddle leaf fig, Derrick,’ she said.

‘Well, whatever he is, I hope he’s worth it.’

 


7Lyndal Phillips is an aspiring writer who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her family.

Lyndal posts book reviews on Instagram @lyndalwrites_reads and on her website www.lyndalwrites.com

Photo accompanying story by Manny Pantoja on Unsplash

‘The Hands of the Dead’- By NM Cunningham

The fluorescent light of the corridor flickers and the unmistakable scent of formaldehyde fills the void. I blink blue, the synaesthesia response I know well. The floor, old speckled linoleum, has streaks of black and tracks of wheels where gurneys transport the deceased from the mortuary to the lab.

There’s a buzz of noise from the twenty students gathering nearby, and a nervous energy permeates the air. A rush of hellos greets me and the chemical odour becomes stronger the closer I am to the door. Everything takes on a blue hue; unconnected senses merging into one, growing stronger with each firing neuron of my brain. I know this feeling; it hits me hard when the surrounding smells make colours in my head. Some people around me I know and some I distinguish only by face but one of them glows a preternatural green with the uplifting scent of oranges. My gut churns with what I know lies beyond the white curtain.

A mobile phone rings, silencing the low talk and the curtain parts and we’re ushered stage left to a preparation room. No one speaks as we place our bags in lockers and don our white gowns, tie our hair back tight and clean our hands. The only sound is of latex pulled taut and bouncing back with a snap.

We are ready, like a choir dressed in white. Our performance judged by the hallowed elders of medical school.

In the lab, the room is surprisingly bright, and the blue brightens across my field of vision to a stark unfiltered white haze. Given there are no windows, no flickering, just pure light, it’s as if we are about to ascend to a higher plane.

We don’t know who’ll they’ll be. We’re given a number and five of us stand around the metal table. When we pull back the sheet, it’s a woman, her face covered with a smaller sheet. In her seventies maybe, or older, her hair soft, wavy, and silvery pale grey.

I stare at her, thinking of my grandmother, but when the sheet pulls back, it reveals an unknown face. I jerk my head back, the unfamiliarity of her features yanking me from my reverie. She is a stranger, her beauty hidden behind soft, fleshy cheeks and colour-drained lips. There’s no real hue to her, only the blue of death remains.

Over the coming weeks we come to know her; the old scar on her left calf muscle, the moles of her back, the puckered skin of a low cut on her abdomen, the trauma of childbirth etched into her womb underneath. The sun-beaten pigment of her neckline and the faraway rheumy stare of her cataract affected eyes. It’s all there, the life she lived in flesh, muscle, sinew, and bone.

Her physical state is like any elder, but it’s not the glassy stare, the gooey internal orange of her gut or the flesh of her heart that sticks with me. It something else, the colour of her no-longer-present.

We’ve dissected every part of her, moved her in reverence from side to side. We greet her like an old friend as our scalpels cut through dead flesh, muscles, and tendons to the sweetbreads of organs in her abdomen. There are days when she’s nothing more than a lump, and other days where I weep for her, longing to know, was she happy? Was she sad? Did she live the life she wanted? What was her scent, her colour? Her favourite book or piece of music?

We are at an end, there is one part of her remaining the final piece in the story of one woman’s life.

It’s the hands that strike me the most, without the pigment effects, I see it clearly. The skin spotted, veined and with calloused where she wore rings, or maybe they bore hard work. I stare at the lines on her palm. Everything is there, yet it took months to get here. Her hands tell me a story, and I feel like an interloper, as though I shouldn’t be there. I wonder whose hands she held, who she nursed and brought to her breast, who she caressed in the throes of passion, whose hand she held when they told her they would soon die.

The hands of the dead tell more than a story of someone’s life: they tell us more about our own perceptions, our own fears about living and dying. I retreat from the post-mortem examination and the blue haze returns with a guilty spark. Her hands tell a story, but it’s not my story to tell.

Our final destination is the pub, our class done, dust to dust. Unlike the lab, it’s dark and dingy with an ambience of stale beer and cigarettes; the familiar, comforting smell of the wasted youth of my peers. There’s a clink of glasses from the neighbouring table. We drink. My synaesthesia returns, and although it takes more than one beer to vanquish the smell from earlier, the red in my vision dominates over the remnant blue.

I stare at my own hands, wondering in death and in the absence of colour, what stories they’ll tell.


Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

Words by NM Cunningham

NM Cunningham is an aspiring writer who lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her family and several spiny leaf stick insects.

A love of science and reading set her on her first career as a research scientist in agricultural science and a love of writing her second – as a science communicator and scientific editor. For her third career she hopes to capitalise on her previous pathways for inspiration and focus on creative fiction.

She currently works as a research scientist in entomology and aspires to weave a love of nature, agriculture and science into her stories.

‘The Cards You’re Dealt’- By Denise Picton

 

When Margaret Rose was sixty-eight years old, she became obsessed with planning her funeral.

Before their regular get-togethers her more generous friends would laugh about her fixation and lay bets about how long it would take her to raise the latest plans when they met. The record for restraint from the time of her arrival was sixteen minutes.

Her less generous friends had taken to joining her only for structured activities like movies and concerts, making it hard for her to speak. Bruce and Shirley Williams admitted to Frank and Judy Baker that on two occasions when she had pulled into their driveway unannounced, they had ducked down in the kitchen below the level of the windows, and stayed in a crouching position until she gave up banging on the door and reversed away. On one occasion, after Margaret had continued to peer through windows, knock on the door and call out their names for over twenty minutes, Shirley’s need to pee had become so acute she had waddled like a duck under sill height to the bathroom, and that night had to take double her usual painkillers for her arthritic knees.

Margaret’s latest plans called for her coffin to be pulled to the cemetery by black horses in a glass hearse, for all the flowers to be pure white, and for all the women in attendance to wear a black veil.

She regularly changed her mind about the person she wanted to lead the service. The current lucky incumbent was Bruce Williams. She provided him with an order of service and her latest choice of music to background the data-show of her life, which ran to twenty-seven minutes. Her current choice was Alison Moyet singing ‘When I am laid in earth’. She said this song made her cry every time she heard it, and she knew it would be a relief to her friends to be encouraged to show their grief in response to a haunting melody.

Margaret asked Bruce for his views on the third version of her memorial booklet. She had printed two hundred copies of each of the first two efforts, all of which had since been taken to the tip. She decided it might be wise to seek feedback before the third attempt went into production. When Bruce asked why she had changed it again, she answered that the first one was too cheerful, she hadn’t liked the shade of grey they’d used in the second, and she realized it now needed to be a booklet of eight pages given the number of photos and client commendations she’d collected about the quality of her work before her retirement.

No-one understood why Margaret Rose was so fixated on her funeral, given she was – as Bruce maintained at the secret non-Margaret gatherings her friends orchestrated every week – as fit as a mallee bull. Shirley thought it was because Margaret had been an event manager for most of her career, and missed having something to organize.

Margaret’s latest idea had been to have an enormous black and white photo of her face printed and cut into a series of large format postcards. There were one hundred and fifty cards in all making up her face. She wrote a guest list to match that number and sent each person on the list a card to keep ready for the day.

On the back was a printed note: ‘Please keep this card in a safe place until Margaret Rose’s parting. Do not use for alternative purposes. Do not bend. Do not trade your card for that of another. Do not use as a coaster for cold or hot drinks. You may upload this card to eBay following the funeral if you do not wish to keep it as a memento. If you sell it, the recommended reserve price is two hundred dollars.’

The Bakers between them had part of her left eye, and the Williams were offered a slice of her lower lip. Margaret had an additional one hundred made in plain black for the extra people she was sure would be keen to attend, and suggested to Bruce that those not on the A-list be placed around the edge of the room to create a border. She gave Bruce a seating plan and explained he would need to put names on the chairs in the order provided so that when he asked for the room to hold their cards above their heads, her face would be complete. She had booked a videographer to stand on the balcony above the choir to record the formation of her face as compiled by her grieving friends.

One Saturday night when the gang met at Paul and Barbie Stewart’s place, Margaret turned up a little late with a white hire van. She rushed in and asked Bruce and Paul to help her out with a box from the back of the vehicle. She said it wasn’t heavy, just too awkward for her. The men brought the box into the centre of the lounge room. Barbie Stewart looked daggers at Paul because the box spoiled the look of her carefully staged lounge room design.

Inside the box lay dozens of black hats, each with a veil attached. Margaret had collected them from sales and op shops for over two years, because she knew that not everyone would have a black hat these days. She asked Bruce if he could make sure the box was at the door of the church along with the mirror she had wrapped carefully and placed in the bottom of the box.

At that point, Shirley rushed out to see to the chops on the BBQ to stop herself from laughing. Barbie asked where Margaret was thinking of storing them. When she said she was hoping the Stewarts would keep them in their garage. Paul, knowing from long and often bitter experience what his wife’s mouth looked like when it was forming the word ‘no’, jumped in and said of course they would.

After Margaret left that night, Shirley and Judy started trying on the hats. They agreed they wouldn’t wear one in a fit.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Margaret Rose died suddenly of a heart attack before she turned sixty-nine. Shirley, who went to Pilates with Margaret’s doctor, reported that it was unexpected. There had been no sign of illness or hints that imminent death might be on the cards.

Bruce put the funeral notice in the papers and rang around Margaret’s friends and neighbours to give them the news. Everyone was shocked.

Bruce found a box in Margaret’s lounge room with name-tags for each chair along with an updated seating plan. He put the box of name-tags under his arm on the morning of the funeral, but Shirley told him not to be ridiculous. Two hundred people wouldn’t turn up, and those who did wouldn’t bring the silly cards with them. Bruce took his along anyway, and Frank pointed to the bulge in his own coat pocket when Bruce asked if he’d brought his card.

The funeral was a small affair. Only twenty people attended. Judy was the only person who put on a black hat. When the time came for Bruce to ask the congregation to lift up their face cards, it was a poor showing, and those who complied felt a little foolish. Barbie Stewart’s snigger was clearly audible. Her head was bare, and her card had been thrown in the rubbish the night it was allocated.

Bruce thanked those who had played their part in the event and made sure he shook hands with the florist, horse wrangler, caterer, and videographer. He asked the lass who made the video what she would do with it, and she told him she had been instructed to send it to Margaret’s accountant.

Some months later, Margaret Rose’s lawyer advised the beneficiaries of her will of their good fortune. Margaret had decided that her sizable estate was to be shared amongst those who held up part of her face at the funeral. A great deal of money was therefore shared between an eyeball, her left nostril, the tip of her right ear and part of the deep crevice that ran between her lips and her jaw.

 


Words by Denise Picton

Image by Malcolm Green on Unsplash

‘This Place’- By Callum J. Jones

This is a place I would rather not be.

It is a muddy place, terribly cold.

Dense fog restricts everything that I see.

I am imprisoned, under lock and key.

Following orders, doing as I’m told.

This is a place I would rather not be.

Death always comes painfully, cold as ice,

Those poor fledging souls, to God they are sold.

Dense fog restricts everything that I see.

Vicious, brutal pain is all I can see,

But my comrades are courageous and bold.

This is a place I would rather not be.

I admit: I want to get up and flee,

But I have to focus on being brave,

This is a place I would rather not be.

Dense fog restricts everything that I see.


Words by Callum J. Jones

Photo by Nursultan Rakysh on Unsplash

IMG_0080Creative, honest, and reliable, Callum J. Jones loves writing fiction and non-fiction. In his spare time, he likes to read, watch movies and TV shows, and go on walks.

You can follow him on Facebook (@callum.j.jones.writer) and Twitter

‘Wild Welsh Woman’- By David Faber

 

A daughter

of far off

primeval,

proletarian

Pontypridd,

unaware of

Mark Twain’s

dictum that

age doesn’t matter

if you don’t mind,

she hated with a

passion like

Dylan Thomas

the idea of aging

with gentle grace;

it went against

the grain of

one who had

seized the day

of youth with

romantic zest

in Swinging London.

She felt depressed

by a volume of

poems on aging,

its joys and ills

distressed her.

But she kept

her figure `til

the day she fell.

Lulled by the

sweet, sedate

rhythms of a

passionate

friendship four

decades long,

I only found out,

after her funeral,

as you do,

just how very

much I had

loved

her.


Words by David Faber

Photo by Henry Paul on Unsplash

‘The Unmade Sky’ – Poems by Ben Adams

the unmade sky

these words

touch on something lightly

like a feather drawn

through tall, dry grass

a figure crouched

on wide and careful feet

teasing their meaning

from between time’s floorboards

forehead resting on fingers interlocked

and listening—

rising to pace the old house

and place rough hands

on a splintered windowsill

seeing dark smudges

where the dust rubs away

to gaze across the grassy yard

over stones, bare dirt and strewn chunks

of rotting wood—

where no fire flickers

in the cool night air

only cinders

and a corrugated side fence

stretching down to the road

lines of iron and asphalt

at the edge of where we gathered

where something rests in the palm

a weightless bird

memories that perch

soft and uncertain as the grey sky

hung above like a rumpled sheet

the unmade sky

whispering something lightly

words lingering in the mind

like the smell of coffee

that no longer floats

through these rooms each morning


one eastern suburbs afternoon, sliding into evening

and one says to another

there are options here

and the other says to one

would you like a drink?

and one says to another

there is class here

and perfectly kept lawns

what’s on the radio?

and the other says to one

have you checked for

fallen lemons?

and the other says to one

is the front door locked

and have the eggs arrived

this morning?

and one says to another

is the wine open?

and the other says to one

have the bins

been emptied yet?


lights in the dark

through the darkness

we trudge

soldiers on a forward action cut-off from reinforcements

like little children lost

among the trees

through darkness we trudge

and seeing lights

in the distance, as if

from some farmhouse or estate

we say, “those are not the ones

   I remember,

that is not the place

   I know.”


Words by Ben Adams
20180911_155304Ben is a writer, servo-clerk, research assistant and festival cash wrangler. His poetry has appeared in a range of print and online publications, including Australian Love Poems and Red Fez at redfez.net/@badbad He also shares poems and photography on Instagram @bts.adams while poems and politics can be found on his Twitter feed @badbadams

 

‘The Family Farm’- By Lewis Woolston

He leaves Ceduna on a hot day, driving east towards Adelaide, his car stuffed with literally everything he owns. Making reasonable time on the thin strip of tar which dignifies itself with the title of Highway, he reaches Wirrulla and pulls into the town.

The railway tracks make his car rattle as he goes over them a little faster than he should. He parks in the main street of the tiny town, one or two little shops in the shadow of the silos, and checks his phone reception. Three bars but no messages, they should have called back by now, he thinks and his already high level of anxiety goes up a notch.

He walks up the main street for a few minutes to stretch his legs. The town is so quiet he can hear traffic back on the highway in one direction and birds in the paddocks in the other . He looks up at the towering silos and wonders how long they’ve been there. Fifty years? It’s a guess but he takes it as gospel for lack of better information. He feels pretty sure that nothing has happened in this town in that time. The one little shop, the falling apart where it stands pub and the dusty Post Office tell him that much. Those silos have stood there like the Australian version of the pyramids over a few hundred people living in the town and literally nothing even remotely exciting has happened.

He idly thinks about the lives the local people must live. He tries to imagine the years and decades of not much happening in this little cluster of buildings surrounded by paddocks and watched over by the silos. He compares this to the chaos of his own life, currently running from Perth and the mess he left there as fast and as far as his limited funds can take him, and thinks that maybe these people have it better than him. Briefly he lets his imagination run wild, he envisions himself settling in this tiny town, finding a job, maybe meeting a local girl and living a long, quiet and happy life. He imagines himself sitting down years from now with his kids grown up and himself telling them the story of how he just happened to stop here and meet their mother.

He shakes his head at his own ridiculous imagination. If he can’t get to Adelaide tonight and if his sister won’t let him stay at her place for a while he is sleeping in his car for the foreseeable future. That’s reality, he grimly thinks to himself, no happy ever after in a little country town for me.

He contemplates his immediate future with soul crushing weariness. He’s sick of drifting through life, he’s sick of running from messes in different parts of the country and more than anything else he’s sick of being broke. Would it be so much to ask for a little stability and prosperity? The silence of the tiny town is neither comfort nor answer.

He gets back in the car and heads out to the highway again. Turns east towards Adelaide and the grim prospects of the future. The road winds a little and patches of scrub break up the otherwise uninterrupted farmland. Dry paddocks of wheat stubble are being slowly grazed by sheep under a sky so blue it almost hurts his eyes.

He tries to keep his mind off his troubles. He had to leave Perth in a hurry so he only has a couple of CDs in the car and he got sick of them somewhere near Norseman. He flicks through the radio until he finds something. It’s the ABC regional radio station, for lack of better options he listens to that for a while. The station is a country one so the news of markets, trade agreements and weather take priority over everything else. He hadn’t known there was so much discussion to be had about beef exports to China but the radio gets almost an hour out of the subject.

He checks his phone and notices that he’s out of range again. I won’t get anything until I get to the next town, he thinks and looks for a distance sign. One appears shortly and tells him that it’s fifty K’s from Poochera. He decides he’ll stop there, have lunch and maybe try calling again. If he has no luck contacting her it’s a night sleeping in the car for him, maybe several nights.

The first he sees of Poochera is the silos standing sentinel over the plains. They should stop bothering to name these little towns and just call them “Silo Town 1” and “Silo Town 2” and so on. It would make it more convenient.

He pulls in at the little roadhouse and tops up with fuel. He pays and then moves the car out of the way so he can sit in the little roadhouse café and make some phone calls while he eats a sandwich. He tries his sister again and finally gets hold of her. Turns out she had got his earlier message but didn’t really want to reply. She doesn’t say that of course, she’s too polite, but he can tell from her voice that she really doesn’t want to be having this conversation.

What is it now?’

Her voice lets him know that this is a burden well beyond anything that could reasonably be expected from a sister.

Well here’s the thing…’ He continues, knowing he isn’t convincing her.

He reassures her that he’ll only need to stay for a couple of days. He tells her his plan is to head back up to the NT. He left there on good terms just over a year ago and he can probably get one of his old jobs back, maybe that gig he had in the mines, if he makes a couple of phone calls. He swears he’ll be no trouble and stay out of her way, all he needs is a couple of nights in her spare room.

She reluctantly agrees and he thanks her profusely. Inwardly he curses her for the privileged selfish bitch she is. Mum and Dad’s favourite who always towed the line and never set a foot wrong. She will hold this over him for years to come and use it as ammo in family arguments whenever it suits her.

The immediate danger is passed. He got out of Perth and over the state border before they could get him. He has a place to stay while he plans his next move. Everything is going to be more or less ok. He repeats this to himself inside his head like a Buddhist meditating.

He sits for a while in the tacky little café and watches the slow drip of highway traffic go past out the window. The rather dull woman at the counter idly restocks the fridge while the TV in the corner has a midday talk show playing.

His mind wanders and he finds himself daydreaming about life in a little town like this. Maybe he could work in this roadhouse. Live like a hermit in this little town. Refuse to ever get involved in anything remotely dodgy again. Grow old and become one of those old men who potter about little towns. He smiles to himself. This latest drama in Perth has made him world weary, he recognises that in himself, once he’s stable again and back earning decent cash he’ll chase action again. Then maybe a year or so from now he’ll find himself doing a runner across the country again. That last thought sobers and depresses him. He gets up and decides to get back on the road.

The woman behind the counter looks up as he leaves and mumbles something vaguely pleasant at him. He pulls out onto the highway and picks up speed as he leaves the little township of Poochera.

A sudden urge to piss makes him pull off the road. He parks in the front gate of a farm, there isn’t a soul in sight so he doesn’t worry about being seen, he relives himself and then pauses to look around. The gate is open and there is a dirt track leading through seemingly endless paddocks. In the distance he can see a house and some sheds, presumably where the farmer and his family live. There is a sign right next to the mailbox at the gate it reads:

Whitby Downs

T.J Whitby and sons

EST 1904

He reads and thinks in the harsh sunlight and empty silence of wheat paddocks. This family have been here since 1904 according to the sign. They have a place, they belong somewhere, they have roots.

He looks back at his car parked in the dust. The boot and backseat are piled high with everything he owns in the world. He will sleep in his sister’s spare room tonight and endure her resentment and probably get a small lecture about what he’s doing with his life in the bargain.

He looks at the sign again. He envies the Whitby family with all his heart. He would do just about anything to trade places with them. But he knows you don’t get to choose. Life gets handed to you on a plate like leftovers at a soup kitchen and you have to eat it and be grateful.

He gets back in the car feeling worse than ever. He still has a long way to go before he reaches Adelaide.

 


Words by Lewis Woolston

Lewis Woolston grew up in small beach bum town in Western Australia. He left as soon as he could and travelled around the country, living in several cities as well as the bush. He spent years working in remote roadhouses mostly on the Nullarbor and in the NT. He currently lives in Alice Springs with his wife and daughter. His short fiction has previously appeared in Flycatcher Magazine.

Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash