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Karen Crofts

Chapter 13 – The Next Chapter

By | Disability | No Comments
by Lauren Hislop

Click a chapter link (right) to follow this story from the beginning.

With a renewed sense of optimism, I walked to Lou’s office to discuss my new role at Response. I was unable to curb my enthusiasm, as Lou outlined my position, explaining that she wanted me to produce a weekly blog regarding employment and disability. Lou asked me to include my personal experiences of seeking employment as a person with a disability. Fueled with passion, I was eager to seize this opportunity before me.
      Bursting with excitement, I boarded the train to have my regular visit with my mother on the Central Coast. I desperately yearned to share my good news with mum, as I knew she understood how significant work was to me.
      However, my jubilation was short lived. I arrived at her house, sitting at her kitchen table, comforted by the sweet aroma of eucalyptus, mum told me her doctors had found a growth and they suspected she had cancer. The news of my work situation seemed to pale in significance.
      Coincidently it was during one of my visits when my mum found out about her results. As she returned from the doctors, I ran out to the driveway to meet her.
      “Well, I have cancer”. She blurted. Her announcement was eerie. She stated it so matter of fact, in the same manner she would say “I’m hanging out the washing”. I embraced her, pools of tears escaped my eyes. Immediately she pulled away from me. “No!”. She adamantly exclaimed, reprimanding me, “I need you to be brave”.
      From this moment, throughout her cancer journey, I barely showed negative emotions in mum’s presence. I gazed up at the sky, finding irony that there were dark, ominous clouds concealing the sun. The clouds reflected the storm that was about to strike my family.
      My mother had to endure a few months of treatment. During this time my brother Dean, who lived and worked in Sydney, choose to care for mum. So he lived at her house for the duration of mum’s treatment.
      As my thoughts ruminated, for the first time in my life I cursed my disability, as I knew I didn’t have the physical capacity to care for my mother. As her daughter, I believed it was my duty to adopt a carer’s role, a role I was unable to assume.
      During this time I immersed myself in work, it was a saving grace diverting my attention from my mother. Throughout my emotional turmoil, I was fiercely determined to reignite my resilient nature that my mother had instilled in me.
      Under Lou’s imperative guidance, I managed to produce weekly blog posts. As I was a researcher, I was accustomed to writing in an academic style. However now I was a blogger. No longer was I conveying facts, I was also writing from my heart.
      As the emergence of spring returned, so did my mother’s health. She ended her treatment and received the “It’s ok” from the doctor. We were all overjoyed.
      During the Christmas period, I was given a few weeks off from work. Upon returning, Lou informed me she was leaving Response soon and that she was uncertain that my blog would continue. At this point in time, I was physically and emotionally spent and in April just before Lou’s departure, I resigned from my position.
      A week after, mum and I went to Norfolk Island for a week to celebrate the restoration of her health. This was a sacred time that I spent with mum. As the ocean breeze gently touched our faces, we indulged in the carefree living of the occupants. Watching the sun fade over the ocean, I was blissfully unaware of the horrific event about to unfold in my life.
      After the dawn of the New Year, my bowels ceased functioning. This resulted in me being diagnosed with a partial bowel obstruction and hospitalized for ten days, which proved to be one of the most disempowering experiences I had.
      Hospitals are ironically not the most hospitable environments, especially if one has a disability. I always prided myself for being an autonomous woman. However, in this environment, my independence was stripped.
      Most nurses were beacons of humanity. However there were some nurses who were quite hostile and, sadly, I was dependent on their mercy.
      Anticipating that some nurses wouldn’t really understand the nature of my disability, I had papers explaining my disability was purely physical, I was intelligent. I wrote that if they couldn’t comprehend my speech, I could type my message on my iPad. Unfortunately some nurses refused to read my sheet.
      My partner Dudley, my mum or my workers would be with me during the day. However when night fell, I was left to confront some nurses antagonistic attitudes on my own.
      One evening, I felt extremely nauseas and I needed to go to the bathroom. As I was incredibly weak, I called the nurse to assist me in walking there. Once she returned me to my bed, I sat up due to feeling ill. Immediately her eyes flamed with rage, aggressively ordering me to lay down. Terrified, I tried to explain that I felt that I could be ill and that I was unable to lay down. Clearly she didn’t grasp my message. Unsteadily I handed her the paper with my explanation. While desperately trying to type my message on the iPad, she flung the paper back at me, storming off. I called my partner in between my sobs and heard him say he would come in. When he arrived, we both talked to my regular night nurse. While she was understanding, I was compelled to apologise, wondering whether other captives apologise for their abusers actions.
      Thankfully my specialist figured out how to compel my bowel to function normally again and I was discharged. Once home, although my body had recuperated, my mind remained tortured from my experiences. Any slightest indication that something may be wrong, petrified, I would assume I was on the verge of having a bowel obstruction. However, in reality my physical health was fine. Due to my mental state, I was diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress.
      My recent health crisis compelled me to reconfigure my priorities. For the majority of my life, I placed prominence on employment. However now, I wanted my health to be placed at the forefront. I started engaging in activities that nourished both my mind, body and soul. As I began to nurture my body, a renewed sense of wellbeing washed over me.
      Last year I was approached by Hunter Writer’s Centre to write my memoirs through blogs. Upon agreeing to this, I couldn’t fathom that it would give me a renewed sense of confidence in my abilities. Reflecting on my triumphs and trials reignited my tenacious, creative and resilient spirit.
      Towards the end of the year my friend Linda told me of an employment opportunity involving converting documents into Easy English for people with low literacy.
      Linda explained I would need to do a two day course in learning how to convert documents into easy English. After I completed the course, Linda offered me work in converting NDIS terms into easy English. As I never converted documents into Easy English before, I was quite nervous trepidatious. However Linda was extremely pleased with my work and is contracting me to do more in the coming weeks.
      Also due to my traumatic experiences in the health system, I plan to become a health advocate for people with disabilities. I believe I can use my experiences as a woman with a disability to help other people in similar situations, enabling them to preserve their dignity and rights throughout the duration of their hospitalisation.
      I’m currently planning to establish my business as a contractor. I’m in the process of acquiring my own website, intending to promote my own skills.
      Eager to embrace the possibilities offered me, with bated breath, I eagerly await to see how my next chapter unfolds.
Grieve Comp anouncement, boat in mist

Announcement – Grieve Competition 2018 Finalists

By | Grieve
Grieve volume 6 cover photo

Congratulations to the 110 writers listed below. These poems and stories are published in Grieve Volume 6 available from the Grieve Project  website. Here is the list of 22 prizewinners who have won the prizes kindly donated by our sponsors.

Title First Name Family Name
4pm Sara Crane
A black point Niko Campbell-Ellis
A Day in October Kim Waters
A hard won Spring Tahra Baulch
A Japanese Airman Forewarns His Wife Brett Dionysius
A Letter Anahata Giri
A Love Letter to My Incarcerated Sister Trixi Rosa
A tea-rose for Frieda Louise Wakeling
Ashes Gillian Telford
Bendalong Michele Seminara
Black News Anthony Levin
Blood and bone Justine Hyde
Blue Deb Godley
Blue Karen Wickman-Woldhuis
Broken Decima Wraxall
Burial Connor Weightman
Cairo Natalie Holder
Camp David Thérèse Murphy
Chemo days Trisha Pender
Choosing Gail Hennessy
Circumference of desire Jenny Pollak
Circumspection Paul Hetherington
Cold Karen Lieversz
Comfort Steve Evans
Custard Lindsay Watson
Custodian Norm Neill
Dear Diary Richard West
Debt for Life Barbara Rosie
Detritus Joan Katherine Webster
Ether Jo Withers
Eulogy Grace Dwyer
Even Richard James Allen
Everything I need to know Susan Bradley Smith
Everywhere Jo Gardiner
Fairy Dust Louise Baxter
Family portrait Grace Dwyer
Farewell to Billy Duluth Lesley Carnus
Fathom Nicole Sellers
Fells Philip Radmall
First season Jane Gibian
Grief Is Kim Anderson
Grieving is Overrated Mark Bromhead
Guilty gratitude Christine Burrows
Hashtag Karenlee Thompson
Heartbeat Emily Usher
Hot and Cold Belinda Oliver
How it is Alison Flett
I have the weight of a life that is substantive and real on my shoulders Sook Samsara
I wish I knew Helen Angela Taylor
In black and white Ian Wicks
In the Quiet Moments Emma Pasinati
Indwelling Ron Pretty
Intermission Jenny Pollak
Kulaluk Paul Drewitt
Let it not be this Jennifer Chen
Let Me Introduce You Vanessa Farrer
Looking for Clark Gable Alexandra Geneve
Lost Jacqueline Damen
Maracas Trixi Rosa
Memoria in aeterna Sandie Walker
Motherless Daughter M Fletcher
My Dear Son Michelle Wong
My Elisa Alexandra Geneve
No one is ever really gone. Tim Hardy
Not Crying, Dancing Linda Stevenson
Not Horses, or Mothers Lisa Jacobson
Not long, my darling Audrey Molloy
On My Mum’s Passing Belinda Paxton
On the hottest midwinter day on record Peter Lach-Newinsky
One Lump or Two Billie Ruth
One Word Rob Selzer
Renovations Sylvia Muller
Residue Judy Mullen
Resting Bitch-Face Thérèse Murphy
Scenes from a Hospital Kate Ryan
Since you Beth Spencer
Sirens Meg McNaught
Skin and Bone Melissa Manning
Small Things Cameron Langfield
Some time later PS Cottier
Sometimes, Love Isn’t Enough Louisa Simmonds
Still Lauren Forner
Stuff going on while I’m paying rent Glenn Aljatreux
Super Hero Fiona Everette
Tears Marianne Hamilton
The day after coming home from hospital Claire Watson
The Hobs of Drought Jan Iwaszkiewicz
The lactic acid in the calves of your despair Ali Whitelock
The Line Our Thread Cynthia Troup
The little ones Christine Kearney
The Skeleton Nicole Melanson
The Stone Jar Chris Lynch
There are days Penny Lane
This big bright land Simone King
Those Days Sarah Bourne
Three Unbearable Things Helen Richardson
Time Alyssa Sterry
Time for Grief Seetha Nambiar Dodd
Tough Love Barbara Hunt
Try Judy Mullen
Two Trees Tanya Richmond
Ultrasound Lisa Jacobson
Vincero, I will overcome Merran Hughes
What About Me? Samantha Noble
Where has my family gone? Michael Cole
Why I can’t talk Eleni Hale
Words out my mouth Kathryn Lyster
Would haves Naomi Deneve
Yiayia Sibella  
Shaynah Andrews Ryan O'Neill

2018 Newcastle Short Story Award prizewinners

By | Newcastle Short Story Award, News, Uncategorized

The 2018 anthology is now on sale

Congratulations to all the prizewinners:

First Prize – sponsored by the University of Newcastle, awarded to Shaynah Andrews (pictured R with Prof Darrell Evans and Ryan O’Neill, judge)

Here is an excerpt from her winning story ‘Not for Me to Understand’:

My blood feels too hot. I want to beat my fists against Dad for treating me like a kid. I smash a cup on the kitchen tiles, half on purpose. There are little bits of glass all around me. Dad and Linda rush into the room.

‘I’m sorry, it was an accident,’ I say.

‘It’s OK, possum,’ says Dad. I want him to yell and scream at me but he is gentle. ‘I’ll clean this up darlin’, just get away from all the glass. Careful now.’

Dad and Linda hover over plastic dustpans. I walk out the front door and ride my pushie to the beach with Ellie behind me.


Shaynah Andrews Ryan O'Neill
Sally Davies and Cassie Hamer

Cassie Hamer (R) won second prize donated by Newcastle Law Society represented by Sally Davies (L)

Megan Buxton Ryan O'Neill and Kate Griffith (sponsor from Westfield)

L to R: Megan Buxton, HWC President, Ryan O’Neill, judge, Kate Griffith from sponsor Westfield Kotara

Wayne Strudwick - award winner NSSA

Wayne Strudwick, Commended award winner for his story ‘Postcard

Shawn Sherlock and Jane OSullivan

Shawn Sherlock, Foghorn Brewhouse donated the Highly Commended awarded to Jane O’Sullivan

Tanya Vavilova and Amanda Shirley

Amanda Shirley from MacLean’s Booksellers donated the Highly Commended awarded to Tanya Vavilova

Author Ryan O'Neill and MJ Reidy - Newcastle Short Story Award

M.J. Reidy (pictured here with judge Ryan O’Neill) won a Commended award donated by Dymocks, Charlestown.

Derice McDonald and Rhona Hammond

Derice McDonald from Macquariedale Organic Wines donated a $120 wine pack awarded to Rhona Hammond, local writer’s award.

writers - local winners within the Newcastle Short Story Award 2018

Local Award Winners Shaynah Andrews, Edyn Carter and Stephanie Holm

close up of an elderly person's hand

Writing About Significant Loss

By | Grieve, News

Sometimes writing about the loss of a close family member can feel too hard because the enormity of all you have lost might stop you even starting. You may feel that in trying to describe it all you lose the sense of the person. What about writing about one aspect of the person? Start with a small physical characteristic or a small feature you loved about him or her – their smile, the way he sat to read, chat, write; the way she dressed or cooked or performed a regular chore. Below, Maree Reedman writes (in Grieve Volume 5) about hands as a recurring image which creates a clear and intimate portrait of her father. Enter your poem or story/essay into the Grieve writing competition.

My Father’s Hands
Maree Reedman

Long, tapered fingers,like candles.
Not a musician,though your sister
tried to teach you the piano.

A gardener
of fruit trees and roses
until you toppled over
the rosemary; the builder
of a mustard bookcase for my childhood
and my adolescent home;
a maker
of home brew
and pongy dog stew.

Your half-moons purpled
with blood as I held
your hand
while you snored,
mouth open
you always slept

My brother tried to close your lips
when you left,
off to go on that long-awaited
honeymoon with Mother,
the one you never took.
Man's hand in his lap

About the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2018

By | Newcastle Poetry Prize

About the Newcastle Poetry Prize

The Newcastle Poetry Prize is a significant cultural achievement and is a testament to the commitment of its sponsor – the University of Newcastle – to celebrate literary excellence in Australian poetry.

In September 1980, Peter Goldman stood in the middle of Civic Park, Newcastle, during the Mattara Festival and handed out an A4 photocopied anthology of poetry to passers-by. The collection featured poems from local Hunter writers, with contributors ranging in age from six to eightyone. This humble anthology paved the way for the first official Mattara Poetry Prize in 1981, which has gone on to become the most prestigious poetry competition in the country, and is now known as the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Today the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of the major events on the literary calender in Australia, bringing entries from across the nation.

Each year, local and national poets compete with internationally recognised names and no less illustrious has been the list of judges casting their eye over the entries. The association with Newcastle is no accident. The Hunter Region has a long history of fostering poetry and an active community of local poets who punch above their weight nationally in awards, publication and events. In the words of the late Novocastrian poet, Bill Iden, “Newcastle’s environment makes its poets”. Co-ordinated by the Hunter Writers Centre (a not-for-profit organisation since 1995), the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most important literary competitions in Australia. This is made possible through the generous provision of the prize money by the University of Newcastle and through funding from Create NSW.