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Endings - and what a year we are ending today. I see that it's many weeks since I last added to this column, but given the sort of year we've had there's almost a sense of triumph in having got through to this point. A year marked by endurance, as COVID changed all aspects of our lives. For us, lockdowns and isolation scarcely made an impact, because our work from home could continue. But we watched with horror as death tolls mounted in so many countries, and these are still today, as we prepare to enter 2021, reeling under rising infection and death rates where whole communities have lived for months under drastic curtailment of normal living. Even in Australia, the Victorian experience has made us all so aware of how confined life can be, and today spasmodic outbreaks in NSW and border closing are once again impacting on many people.

Not tonight the happy New Year's Eve gatherings, as numbers are severely restricted. No more the beach parties to see the year's close. No more the huge crowds watching fireworks. Tonight we are urged to stay home, or in small groups, to watch one-time major fireworks in Sydney Harbour restricted to a television seven minutes at midnight.

For us personally, the saddest COVID effect was on overseas travel, where our three planned trips were all cancelled - most hurtful the loss of the Oberammergau Passion Play with my treasured invitation to be an Australian press representative at the opening day, but this at least has been simply deferred to May 14, 2022. Or has it? Will we be able once more to travel by then? Financially bad too, as some of our travel had only been booked after what we now learn was an insurance cut-off point, and so not all our booking payments could be returned. And we can't help wondering ... by 2022 in our mid eighties, will we be physically able to travel? So many illnesses, deaths, funerals among our peers this year - a sense of mortality can't be ignored. Maybe New Year's Eve evokes a greater recognition of endings?

In theory, the opportunities for writing were great. Unlimited! But, while David has forged ahead with his new book, I seem to have become stuck in one of those flat periods. It's been good to have some encouragement from publications, poems in journals like Tamba and Polestar, and selection for the huge In My View   West Australian coffee table book of photography and matching writing, a short story in an American online journal with the unlikely title of Potato Soup Journal (yes, it's published in Idaho) a Haiwaian magazine from Tinfish Press, and various other small publications here and there. But work on my major effort right now, a historical fiction murder mystery set in ancient Egypt, has stalled badly, though it's led me into many fascinated hours of research into Middle Kingdom and later in the Egypt of the Pharaohs.

I guess a real disappointment has been the slowness of sales for Marking Time - my major work of 2020. I'd hoped this book might find a broader audience, and it's hard to know how much COVID is responsible. I've worked hard at publicising it, with many author talks and guest public speaking events at libraries and organisations, and very pleasing radio coverage - lots of interviews - but sales have languished in spite of wonderful responses from readers, and some very positive reviews. The writer's lot is not an easy one. Maybe 2021 will be better ...

With this optimistic thought I'll bring this long-delayed update to an end.

And it is - marching on. Time, I mean. It's been a busy six weeks since I last updated this column. Back then, I was musing over COVID and chances of launching my new book. By now I've faced the realities of this corona virus world, and decided that a proper formal book launch really isn't viable. I'm sad to miss out on the CEO of the Cancer Council SA, whose willingness to guest speak at a launch for Marking Time - A Chronicle of Cancer I'd very much appreciated. He and his Promotions Director have been so helpful and supportive about this book that they reinforce my belief that it could indeed be of real value to anyone on the cancer journey. Yet even more than being a book about cancer, it's a book about relationships, and the importance of love in all our lives. Someone suggested that a better sub-title might have been 'A love story.' Simon Bartlett's beautiful art photographs accompany each poem, and  the book is an art as as well as a poetry production.

So, reluctantly, I abandoned the idea of a big launch. Instead, it's available for online buying on this website, and I'm trying to get it into bookshops. Dymocks also have been very supportive, and I'm starting to get bookings on a number of radio programs and also as guest speaker in organisations and libraries. But marketing is hard work and totally exhausting. Sad result is that I've done very little new writing, and that's a frustration for me. I just hope that Facebook and word of mouth may publicise and sell copies of this book - I genuinely believe it has a lot to offer readers, and the feedback so far has been most enthusiastic. That's reassuring!

We did, however, manage a mini-launch (Trybooking, limited numbers and carefully distanced seating) of the 2019 Friendly Street Poets anthology, number 44, which I'd co-edited with Nigel Ford. Kaleidoscope is a lovely book, with some superb poetry by so many of Adelaide's best poets, and a monthly art photograph prefacing each section. Nigel and I look at it with a sense of pride and pleasure, and are just so glad that it's finally been released. The planned April 7 launch was of course a COVID victim, but September 7 was a long-awaited joy.

We look ahead, and wonder what the future holds. Safe, so far, in South Australia,  we watch with horror unfolding events in other countries, and feel for Victorians in their total lock-down.  It's worth our taking the precautions we do, and we need to resist complacency. Even as we enjoy normal life here, and once more get to restaurants, theatres, concerts, it's with the recognition that life is different - and everything is precarious.

 

A strange and terrible time, with COVID-19 ravaging the world, and anguish at home with the sudden death in Brisbane at the end of July of my only grandson, James Lawson Volk. James’ funeral, from which I am  just returning, was both sad and yet celebratory of a much-loved life. It has brought our family close together as we gathered to mourn, and I have cherished the time in Brisbane and on the farm near Kingaroy, and the chance to re-connect with people I love so much.

 So now I return to a mandatory two weeks isolation, result of a northward flight that transit-stopped at Sydney Airport. (Bad mistake in booking my trip!)

  Before that, much hard work preparing the new book, Marking Time – A Chronicle of Cancer, which is now ready for launch and distribution. But how, in this COVID-dominated world? I am thinking in terms of just making it available on my web site, and distributing from home and the publisher (Immortalise Press) until a proper launch can be held. It’s encouraging that the CEO of the Cancer Council SA is willing to launch the book officially, when this can be done. Another launch still in jeopardy is the Friendly Street Poets Anthology, No.44, which I co-edited with Nigel Ford. We are still hoping a smaller launch of this book, with limited numbers, may be possible at the September monthly meeting of the organisation. Perhaps. We’ll see what the coming month brings.

 But in all this woe, a few bright notes, such as the information that my poem, ‘Dichotomy’, has been short-listed for the prestigious ACU Poetry Prize, and the acceptance of several other poems by various journals and magazines. Moments that make me feel encouraged to keep writing, which is such a fulfilling part of my life.

 

 

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