In Conversation with Lynette Washington

To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme is a children’s book of poetry by Kristin Martin and Joanne Knott. It is also the first publication of Lynette Washington’s new South Australia-based Glimmer Press publishing house. In the week before the launch of To Rhyme Or Not To Rhyme, I caught up to chat with Lynette about the ins and outs of her huge new venture.

Martin’s manuscript would eventually become To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme, a set of thirty rhyming and another thirty non-rhyming poems aimed at children. The poems are all nature based and are accompanied by the beautiful work of Joanne Knott reading the manuscript, Washington tried to help Martin place the work at more established publishing houses. Impulsively, she promised Martin if no one else would take it, Washington herself would publish the work.

LW: I wasn’t really thinking about what that meant too much! Kristen thought the offer over and came back to Lynette a few days later, wanting to publish with her long-time friend. Well, once I said I’d do it, I had to follow through.

RK: Yeah, well, I suppose publishing someone’s manuscript is not something you can back out lightly.

It’s obvious that Washington loves what she does. It’s clearly a nerve-wracking project but you can hear excitement and passion when she talks about her role as publisher.

LW: Well, you know what it’s like – it means so much to writers to get published and to get acknowledged in that way.  I’ve known Kristen for so long and she’s such a good friend that I knew she would be cool with me finding my way through the process and figuring it out as I went. Although I worked for MidnightSun for years, I was really only involved in certain aspects of the business, so there were parts of publishing that I knew really nothing about. So it was nice to publish my friend’s book as my first book because I knew she’d forgive me any blunders.

RK: It’s kind of like a first pancake, isn’t it? You know how they’re always a bit iffy?

LW: Yeah, that’s so true, you always have to throw out the first pancake.

Given the relatively small size of Adelaide’s publishing community and Glimmer’s infancy, I was curious about the publication’s next steps, beyond To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme.

RK: Is Glimmer primarily interested in children’s books or are you a bit easy either way?

LW: Definitely not just interested in children’s books. I think the next book I publish will be a book for adults, although I don’t know what that will be yet. I’ve also got a particular interest in short stories and stories that really play with genre conventions.

RK: I suppose it makes sense with you being a short story-ist that you would want to publish those things. Short stories are also wonderful to sit and read and just kind of have piece meal.

LW: From your mouth to the world’s ears. I just wish more people thought that because there’s still a bit of reluctance, I think, for the reading public to pick up a short story collection. I would love to see that change. But then, it goes in cycles and there have been eras where short stories have been the preferred norm.

RK: That’s for sure. Charles Dickens seemed to have a good time with it.

LW: Yeah, it worked for him, didn’t it?

Washington’s desire to publish adult fiction next turns us briefly towards MidnightSun, another small SA-based press. Washington worked at the press for a time and some lessons stuck past her tenure at the publishing house.

LW: Anna (Solding) always used to say you publish something that you love and that’s true. When you work for a small publisher you invest a good twelve months or more in a book and unless you really passionately love that book there’s no reason to take it on. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into very little reward financially; there are other rewards of course, but I think you have to fall in love with something in order to take it on. And that’s really what happened with Kristin’s book. It’s so special and I knew that a lot of big publishers would run from something like this; [a project] that’s not going to make anyone lots and lots of money, but should be out there in the world. I guess that’s what I’m looking for: those little projects that should be out there in the world, but maybe other publishers would shy away from.

RK: I think it’s important in Adelaide specifically, because our publishing industry is so small, to have those pushing off places or catch alls for forgotten projects.

LW: Absolutely, and I think little publishing houses are definitely pushing off places for writers. I saw that happen a lot at MidnightSun. A writer would get their first break with them, have some degree of success, and then they’ve got a publication record and when they approached a bigger publisher, they’re more likely to be taken on. It definitely serves that purpose for emerging writers, which is good thing, a really valuable thing.

 

Glimmer Press can be found at their website glimmerpress.com.au, on Facebook as Glimmer Press and on twitter @glimmer_press.

 


Interview by Riana Kinlough

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

‘Infinity Problem’- By Danielle Kate

there’s an infinity problem.

spherical in it’s physical essence yet it is everyone that has a

bitter longing for superficial happiness, tears glisten like glitter

love me, paint me on a golden pedestal worship me as you fall

in endless pits of misery. continuous misery of human inadequacy but

devote your soul to me and take the distorted reflection into your hands

see the reflection of society burning a hole in your mind. eyes dance around you

from your very own hands and you take the knife of plastic, and mimic the

images of a damaged world. paint over me and create your own masterpiece

of an eternal loneliness of perfect imperfection of loss, of failings, of being flawed.

whisper the hated words as you love me, hate me, try to be me.

spin around down the hole of despair of never being satisfied, always wanting more

never being enough – continuous misery.

plaster me on your walls.

stare up and worship me.

 


Words by Danielle Kate

Danielle Kate is a caffeine-dependent life form who occasionally writes and does art. You can catch more of her @daniellekstafford on Instagram.

Photo by Sid Verma on Unsplash

 

‘The Silent Door’- By Dan Cardoza

After grandmother passed away, grandfather, a very stern and dignified gentleman, would routinely join us for our late afternoon supper. Mother would make sure he was not disappointed. The last meal I recall was a braised rabbit, fresh from the butcher shop, complete with a special wine sauce, fennel seed, and a sprig of rosemary, followed by a memorable dessert.

Rarely was there an occasion that demanded the use of the massive brass lion’s head door knocker ––a piece of classic Art Deco elegance. Most guests at our home simply knocked in a staccato, contemporary fashion, more suited for twenty-first-century knuckles. Grandfather, who would not have it any other way, cherished any event that he thought demanded a grand entrance. His hallmark knock became almost legendary.

Every Sunday around 1:00 P.M., we would fox our ears in anticipation of his two heavy-handed thwacks. His knocks upon the lacquered chestnut entrance door resonated in the woody bellow and melody of a stately gavel, complete with a formal Sound Block. We fancied our home in Lombard, a Chicago suburban castle.

We loved his company, his long visits. He was a fascinating man. He would hide envelopes in the family room, while mother and I did dishes in the cramped kitchen. Behind mother’s needlepoint pillows, under the large armed comfy sofa, behind the ornate Vienna Stuchy clock set atop the chunky redwood mantle, just about anywhere, and everywhere. Of course, mother and I never acknowledged that we were aware of his secret gifts until granddad left following super. As soon as the front door closed behind him, I would search for the envelopes as if they were painted spring surprises. The gifts of kindness frequently included fifty dollars, one hundred, it varied. Mother would religiously call him once he returned home to thank him for his graciousness, with her best surprised-daughter voice, and sincere appreciation. The following Sunday would always relent to another troupe encore. But this time, there would be no following, Sunday.

Three, maybe four years after grandmother passed, we noticed that the deep knocker tone faltered. We imagined the sound more abrupt, maybe a little harsh. Mother and I found humor in the transformation, saying grandfather was just impatient to enjoy his pre-dinner coffee and cognac.

Following super, grandfather would begin to shoot questions toward mother, an easy target. This evening would be no different.

The questions I found hurtful, even the ones that seemed to miss the mark. Have you heard from Jim? Maybe there is a reason he left? Why don’t you move closer to the city for improved work opportunities? Mother never answered quickly, sometimes not at all.

During the times of our frequent visits, grandfather invariably picked up dessert, which he would serve himself, usually after finishing his after-dinner coffee concoction. Dessert would be the evening’s crowning event. The last one would be no different. Grandfather’s choices varied. On any occasion, he might present a freshly made key-lime pie, with a hint of bitterness. Once he even brought blood orange grapefruit serving it with a ghost of sugar, never sweet enough for our taste. Following the last shared meal, grandfather brought a sour cream peach pie. He was the only one to savor an extra slice.

It’s been some time since grandfather passed. Mother misses him sometimes.

I will never forget one late winter evening. In the grip an infamous Chicago snowstorm, mother asked if I would do her a favour. Put on my warm parka, go outside and rap the lion’s head knocker, two times in succession, and if I would please do this intermittently for a short while. I never thought to question her.

I enjoyed the snow, under any circumstance, but after a while, my arm grew tired. It was then that I slowly opened the door, and peeked through the glowing crack. Mother’s face was shining brightly in a wash of yellow light thrown by the tall family room lamp. She was fast asleep in her favorite corduroy high back chair, wearing a shallow smile.


Words by Dan Cardoza

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

‘The Day I Stopped Looking at the Stars’- By Cameron Lowe

The day I stopped looking at the stars was the day I stopped imagining. I used to spend many nights watching Alpha Centauri sparkle, spy onto the surface of Venus through my telescope, and imagine UFOs flying through the cosmos. Most of all, I would wonder what planets were circling around those distant stars. Were they ones full of life like our own planet? Were they barren wastelands like Mars? Gas giants like Saturn? This mystery fuelled my imagination. I found myself telling stories of new worlds and alien life to everyone I knew.

So why did I stop looking at the stars and imagining extraterrestrial worlds? One simple word: reality. Becoming a teenager, they started telling me to stop living in a fantasy land and start living in reality. Their vision of reality was simple: study hard, get a job, buy a house, get married, have children. To me, their version of reality was a living nightmare. It was primarily based on luck and left little time for imagination. I ignored their lectures and continued to go out and look at the stars, allowing their red, yellow, and blue surfaces to inspire and comfort me.

One day, they told me I was no longer allowed to look at the stars. They deadlocked the doors, gave away my telescope, and kept me from going out. They said it was time for me to grow up and face reality. I put up a fight to keep my imagination, but they fought harder to destroy it. They drained my imagination of its many weird and wonderful worlds through lectures of how important a good job was and keeping the door locked.

The last few strands of my imagination were torn up the day they got me a job at a local shop. The wage was bad and couldn’t even cover my weekly expenses, but they said it was a start and would one day get me a house. I did all I could to get out of there. I applied for countless better paying jobs, but got none of them. That local shop closed down not long after my fortieth unsuccessful job application, leaving me jobless. Their version of reality had backfired, leaving me worse off than I had been when my imagination ran wild.

I went out to look at the stars again. Tears formed in my eyes as I looked up at Venus. Seeing it again brought me back to, a time before reality had set in. I remembered all the nights I spent with my telescope, exploring the surface of other planets, looking for UFOs, wondering what else could be out there. Looking at the stars again, all those dreams and possibilities of life beyond our own planet returned. As they did, my imagination reignited. Stories of first encounters and journeys to the stars ran rampant in my mind.

The day I stopped looking at the stars was the day I stopped imagining. Now, looking at them again, my imagination has returned. Now I write down what other these alien worlds look like, weaving them into stories that make them real. They continue to try and crush my imagination but now use them as motivation to keep me going. For as long as I continue to look at the stars I will continue to imagine, something reality doesn’t offer.


Words by Cameron Lowe.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

‘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!

The Secret History

The Secret History, published in 1992, is the debut novel of Donna Tartt. It’s written from the point of view of Richard Papen, the main character.

At the start of the story, Richard leaves his hometown in California to attend Hampden College, a college for wealthy, elite young adults. Having studied Ancient Greek in high school and loved it, he tries to enrol in the Ancient Greek class at Hampden but is told that it’s unlikely he’ll be accepted. This is because there’s only one Classics teacher who only accepts a limited number of students (five) for the Ancient Greek class, and the class is already full. But Richard manages to persuade the teacher, whose name is Julian Morrow, to let him join the class. Richard quickly finds that Julian is trying to breed intellectual elitism into his students.

Richard very quickly becomes fascinated by his classmates, who are each eccentric in their own unique way. They are also removed from the rest of the school population, and also have bizarre and slightly dangerous reputations, like the Greek scholars they’re trying to emulate. Richard becomes fascinated by two of the other students in particular: Henry Winter, an intelligent student who is the unofficial leader of the group; and Edward “Bunny” Corcoran, whose obnoxious and crass behaviour often causes tension. When Bunny discovers that the group (minus he and Richard) has murdered a stranger in their intellectual pursuits and strangeness gone wild, it’s Henry who proposes the they should kill him to keep him quiet.

And kill him they do.

Bunny’s murder is mentioned right at the start of the novel, so it’s not a typical whodunit story. It’s in fact an inverted detective story that delves into the reasons why Richard, Henry, and the other students kill Bunny, and how they deal the consequences.

The Secret History reminded me a lot of The Catcher in the Rye, mainly because Richard resembled, in my mind, Holden Caulfield. He’s not very trustworthy, often telling lies and creating excuses – traits that Holden possesses. But Richard does have a moral compass, shown when he experiences shock and guilt in his part of Bunny’s murder.

Richard and the other students also take drugs, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and often don’t sleep unless they are incredibly sleep-deprived or have taken sleeping pills. Richard and Bunny are the only ones who are not rich and/or receiving trust fund payments.

You might think that I have a rather low opinion of The Secret History. But I actually have a high opinion of it. It’s really well-written. Tartt has a very conversational style, which I like. The dialogue is realistic as well, and there are good, lengthy descriptions of places, which I like. And even though most of the things Richard and the others do are questionable, they are fundamentally unique, each with their own personal history – they’re not just two-dimensional characters.

4/5


Words by Callum J. Jones

Photo by Dogancan Ozturan 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

‘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.

‘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.

Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay
Markus Zusak
Picador 2018


As a fan of Markus Zusak’s previous work (The Book Thief, The Messenger, and When Dogs Cry) there was no doubt in my mind I’d love Bridge of Clay when I read it. Yet Bridge of Clay raised a number of questions about the book and the evolution of Zusak’s prose style. For me, this book was a change from his others by the sheer literary feeling of the writing. If you’re unsure what I mean by “literary”, perhaps the simplest way to describe it is writing that screams writing. The first page caught me off guard, but it didn’t take long to appreciate the style and story.

If I weren’t a fan of Zusak—or if I’d read the blurb before I jumped in—this is definitely a book I would seek out and read. I am one of six children and so I’ve always been fascinated by large families in fiction and on screen (Cheaper by the Dozen, Septimus Heap, etc.). Seeing someone portray the lives of five brothers is fascinating to me. A lot of these moments and interactions just felt truly authentic and familiar. Although, my family was never quite so wild.

The story is told by Matthew, the eldest Dunbar brother, and follows the younger brother, Clay. Clay has spent his life training, but training for what? This question appears at the beginning of the novel and is repeated throughout. While the others drive, he runs. While jockeys ride horses on the nearby racecourse Clay creates his own race-course or obstacle course, complete with local tough guys charged with keeping him from completing his race. But Clay doesn’t care about winning—the only race he cared about was won and done, the family reluctantly one mule richer for it.

About a third of the way through it becomes clear that Clay’s training isn’t to win at anything, it’s simply a way to help him survive the ‘murder’. The boys, much like Justin Torre’s We the Animals, are a united front against their remaining (and absent) authority figure, their father, who they refer to as the murderer. When the murderer returns, he upsets the entire household, effectively tearing a brother away with his plea to help build a bridge. Clay makes the decision to leave Matthew, Rory, Henry, Tommy, all the animals, and his almost-girlfriend, Carey, to build a bridge with his Dad.

While the novel tells the story of Matthew, Clay, and their brothers, it also delves back into history to bring the story of their parents, Michael Dunbar and Penelope Lesciuszko.

Zusak creates a full and authentic story with his Dunbar boys and the stories of their parents. This is a book that will stir your emotions; it will call up fear and anger and grief. You will grow to adore the Iliad and Odyssey, fall in love with Carey, and wish you could know the Mistake Maker, just as I did.

For readers of The Book Thief, particularly for any readers who dislike or struggle with literary fiction; I would approach this with awareness that this is quite a large book and it may take a chapter or two to find the rhythm. Regardless, this is an utterly beautiful testament to childhood and simply being Australian. This is the story of boys, horses, and surviving whatever life has in store for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell